One of the stories from the 2012 project: Who were they? People who shaped Victor Harbor and for whom our parks and reserves are named.
NB Since this page was published we have had correspondence from a descendant of the Swain family amending some of this information. Details are shown at the foot of this page.
Thomas and Ann
The Swain family had a long association with Victor Harbor and it continues to this day.
Thomas Swain was a gardener in Somerset and arrived in Encounter Bay around 1842, taking up land at Sheoak Hills, in the hinterland of Encounter Bay. His wife, Ann Elizabeth Hickey, arrived aboard the Fitzjames on 31 December 1855. She is listed among about 180 single women most from teenage to late twenties: farm/domestic servants, dairy maids, laundresses. Many were from Ireland. Ann herself is recorded as a domestic servant from Carlow, Ireland. Thomas and Ann married about 1856.
In 1857 their firstborn son, John was born at Bald Hills, followed by
Michael (1859), Elizabeth Ann (1861), Jane (1864), Bridget (1866).
The girls married and moved away from Encounter Bay. John and
Michael both married into Encounter Bay families and stayed in the
• The youngest daughter, Bridget was the first to marry in 1889. She married Andrew Henderson, a builder of cottages, including his own Vine Cottage on the corner of Burke and Victoria Streets. Bridget and Andrew had a son and three daughters, all born at
• In 1893 Jane married Joseph Sedunary in Adelaide. Joseph later owned a butcher shop in the town. Joseph and Jane had five children, two sons and two daughters born in mid-north towns and the youngest, another girl, at Victor Harbor.
• The following year, 1894, Elizabeth Ann married William Henry Brealey of Clarendon, at the residence of Andrew Henderson (possibly Vine Cottage). They had three daughters.
• Michael married Elizabeth Dyson in 1892 at her father’s residence in Victor Harbor. Michael and Elizabeth had a daughter and two sons.
John and Emily
The firstborn son of Thomas and Ann, John married Emily Pearce at the residence of Thomas Swain at Encounter Bay in 1879. Emily’s grandparents, John and Tabitha, had arrived from Cornwall in 1851 and lived in a number of places on the Fleurieu, finally settling in Middleton. The eldest Pearce son, Edwin, married Jane Tonkin of Dairy Flat. Evidently, this couple had eloped along the beach to Pt Elliot on Christmas Day in 1857 and were married there. Edwin and Jane had a large family most of whom lived out their lives in Encounter Bay.
In the 1880s when the granite works on West Island were in full swing, John Swain was employed there.
Thomas Swain died in 1898 and it seems that John moved into the family home at Swain‘s Crossing. He became a market gardener and dairy farmer, and no doubt using the green fingers inherited from his father, turned his talents seriously to horticulture. In the early 1900s in The Advertiser of the day, he is reported a number of times among the prize winners for fruit and vegetables at the Victor Harbor Show.
In 1909, a lengthy paragraph in the paper of 2nd December gives a mouth watering description of John’s fruit-growing enterprise on 12 acres alongside the Inman. He had three acres of strawberries planted with 34,000 plants and had already that season sold one ton of fruit, including 700 lb picked in the previous two weeks. Yield for the season was expected to be two tons but ‘he was confident he could sell twice the quantity of this fruit if he had it’.
John and Emily in turn, also had a large family of eight sons and two daughters. One son, Ern Swain became the second owner of Edzell House, and Swain Road runs below this, through the old Lindsay estate.
Frank and Mabel
But it is particularly their third son, Frank (1886–1969), after whom this reserve is named. Frank married Mabel Griffin at her father Charles’ residence at Strathalbyn, on 29 August 1910. Mabel already had a five-year-old son, Lancelot Oliver Griffin. It seems that Frank accepted him as a son, and he became known as Lance Swain. A daughter, Shylie Irene was born at Encounter Bay in August 1911.
Until about 1930 Frank worked as a carter/labourer. An item in The Advertiser in 1922 tells that “he suffered serious injuries to a hand while cutting wood with a circular saw”. Such were the hazards before OH&S!
The current owners of the former Swain home have tastefully preserved the original cottage. It is not hard standing by the modernised home to look out over the Inman and imagine the crops growing there.
Frank and Mabel lived in Hill Street. A former neighbour describes Frank as a ‘humble, quiet, efficient worker’. He remembers him getting up at 4 am in the summertime to water his dahlias. He also tended the dahlias in the Soldiers Memorial Gardens on the foreshore where ‘they grew to 4–5 feet high and made a tremendous display’.
So it’s no surprise to learn that Frank (nicknamed Tup) became Head Gardener of the Victor Harbor Corporation (now City of Victor Harbor). He too, seems to have inherited the green fingers. He is described as a ‘quiet, peace loving man, and was responsible for the lovely gardens which many remember today’ (City of Victor Harbor Community Land Management Plan, Appendix B: Open Space Reserves). A descendant recollects her grandmother Shylie Irene saying that Frank ‘took great pride in his work and enjoyed working for the council’.
In 1944, Mabel’s father, Charles Griffin, died at the Swain’s Hill Street home.
Frank’s and Mabel’s daughter, Shylie married Harry Loveridge at St Paul’s Church Adelaide, on 12 February 1927, and had one child, John Charles Loveridge. Harry Loveridge returned to England and Shylie went to Western Australia, leaving their son to be raised by Frank and Mabel. A neighbour recalled that Johnny ‘used to play loud merry-go-round music’ at the Hill Street home, and this was not appreciated by the neighbours. John married a lass from Waikerie in 1949.
Lance died of tuberculosis in 1931, aged just 25 years. His headstone mentions his parents.
Shylie lived out her long life in WA and died in about 2008. She remarried and had another son there and is fondly remembered by a granddaughter.
Mabel died at Victor Harbor 11 June 1967 and Frank died at Glenside two years later, on 14 May 1969.
Mabel and her son, Lance, are interred in the Victor Harbor Cemetery along with a number of other Swain family members. There is no marked grave for Frank. A descendant plans to erect a headstone for Frank and Mabel there.
- Settlers Around The Bay, Anthony Laube
- Victor Harbor: From Pioneer Port to Seaside Resort, Michael Page
- Trove digital newspapers www.trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper
- Digger database
Thomas Swain was an agricultural labourer from Barrowby, Lincolnshire (not Somerset as stated) who arrived in SA in November 1855 (not 1842 as stated) on board the Robert Clive from the Swan River Settlement in Western Australia. In England, he was convicted of sheep stealing in 1850 and spent three years in Portland Prison before being transported to WA. He was granted his ticket-of-leave on arrival in April 1854 and a conditional pardon was granted in 1855. He was married with six children. There is no evidence of a marriage certificate between Ann Hickey and Thomas Swain.
His daughter Elizabeth Ann Brealey did have three daughters, but her firstborn child was a son, Oliver Roy Brealey born 1896 and died in 1958.
His second daughter’s name was Edith Jane, rather than Jane as was stated.
Michael Swain, Thomas Swain’s son, had two sons and two daughters, rather than a daughter and two sons as was stated. His children were Ida Reeds, Ella Irene Elizabeth, Lawrence Claude Michael and Howard Swain.
John and Emily Swain had nine sons and two daughters, rather than eight sons and two daughters as was stated.