History of the Property

The historical and local significance of Quilly Park dates back to the mid to late 1800’s, when in October 1870 a gentleman by the name of David Craig selected a parcel of land and settled in the district of Sherwood, County of Mornington – Shire Cranbourne, presently known as Pearcedale. He took final ownership of the property in 1880, after challenging another party who had also attempted to select the same land. The original acreage was then called ‘Craig’s Selection’ and later renamed by David Craig to ‘Quilly Park’, reputedly due to the abundance of quail on the farm.

It was at this time upon settling, David Craig built a small ‘wattle and daub’ cottage on the property, which still stands today. It is historically significant, as it is considered to be one of very few remaining examples demonstrating the early type of housing constructed of local materials during that period. The Cottage is currently recorded as the oldest known farmhouse within the former Cranbourne Shire and amongst the earliest in the West Gippsland region.

David Craig was born in approximately 1840. He came from Moneymore, Londonderry County, Northern Ireland and it is thought he migrated to Australia as a teenager in the gold era of the late 1850’s. Prior to purchasing Quilly Park, he worked as a stockman at the nearby Balla Balla pastoral run, perhaps using the money he earned to purchase his parcel of land.

Upon settling at Craig’s Lane he proceeded to carry out the completion of the original two-room wattle and daub cottage, completing further additions over the next few years. His other improvements cottage, completing further additions over the next few years. His other improvements to the property included the ring-barking of 260 acres of land, the clearing and ploughing of over 60 acres, extensive post and rail fencing, the establishment of vegetable and flower gardens, an orchard of plum, pears and quinces, 3 dams, a dairy, cowshed, pigsties and a fowl house. Quilly Park covered 294 acres in total.

David Craig was a member for the Cranbourne Shire Council from 1887-1900 representing Yallock Riding, Shire President of Cranbourne from 1896-1897, and also a Justice of the Peace for a period of time unknown. His other interests included leasing a blacksmith’s shop in the township of Cranbourne on his own ½ acre block.

He married Anne Wilson (date unknown) from Tipperary County, Ireland and they lived together at Quilly Park until she passed away in 1898 aged 71years. They bore no children.

In 1900 David Craig (aged approx 61years) married Agnes Brodie (aged approx 25years) the daughter of Jane and Francis Brodie from Clyde, and they lived on the farm in the small cottage he had built earlier. Together they had four children – Robert, David (passed away in 1917 aged 14years), Francis (passed away in 1904 aged 11weeks) and William.

After David Craig’s death at Quilly Park in 1914 aged 75years, Agnes continued working the property with the help of their two sons Robert and William, whilst also being actively involved in their local community. She continued to live in the cottage and in 1916 built an adjoining timber house (presently standing and altered). It was thought that at this time her mother Jane, known as Grandma Brodie, came to live at Quilly Park to perhaps help in caring for the Craig children and to also assist in the running of the farm.

Jane Brodie passed away at Quilly Park in 1926, aged 84years. Agnes Craig, David Craig’s widow, passed away at Quilly Park in 1937, aged 62 years.

Robert Craig married Elsie Stevens from Elsternwick in 1927, and they had three children – David, Elaine and Roberta (known as Audrey). Elaine passed away in 1934 at approx 6 months old. William Craig married Helen (Nell) Iles from Somerville and they had three children – twins Shirley and Maxwell, and Betty. Betty was stillborn in 1933 and is buried together with Elaine Craig at the Cranbourne Cemetery.

Both sons continued on at the farm with the help of their wives, milking cows, selling cream to the Dandenong Butter Factory, keeping pigs and running a few sheep. Robert’s family living in the timber house whilst William’s family lived in the wattle and daub cottage. The children, David and Maxwell played for Pearcedale Football Club, Shirley at the local tennis club and Audrey later a member of the Pearcedale CWA.

Many flower shows were attended from 1945-1960 by the family and they competed in cooking, flowers etc. with a dance being held in the evenings at the Pearcedale Hall to wind up a great day. Some of the later flower shows were held at the Pearcedale school. Robert was one of the first students at Pearcedale School, with four generations of the Craig family having attended there since David Craig first settled at Quilly Park in the 1870’s.

William Craig passed away in 1944, aged 39years and in approximately 1946 Nell Craig sold her share of Quilly Park to her brother-in-law Robert and moved herself and children Maxwell and Shirley to Somerville. Robert and Elsie Craig together with their children David and Audrey (Roberta) continued to live in the timber house after Nell moved away.

Audrey Craig married Francis (Frank) Dawes from Carrum in 1954, first meeting when Frank attended his last year of school at Pearcedale in approximately 1950. They had two children, Jennifer and Julie, in the latter half of the 1950’s. Audrey and Frank continued to live on the farm in the timber house with their girls, whilst Audrey’s parents Robert and Elsie lived in the original cottage. Audrey’s brother David left Quilly Park for a brief period and on his return lived with his wife Margaret and their children in a house their father Robert built for him on the property in 1956. It is still standing but no longer part of the current Quilly Park property.

Robert & Elsie continued working the farm until it was put to auction and sold in October 1964, and retired living first in Pearcedale then later Karingal. Robert passed away in 1977 aged 76years and Elsie lived to a grand age passing away in 1990, eight days short of her 92nd birthday.

Audrey and Frank currently live in Frankston South and are enjoying their retirement years, spending time with their children and grandchildren. Their interests throughout the years have included many trips travelling throughout Australia in their caravan, Frank enjoying woodturning as his main hobby, and Audrey a love of crochet, craft, gardening and a current member of the Frankston South CWA.

“Our sincere thanks and gratitude to both Audrey, grand-daughter of David Craig, and her husband Frank Dawes for providing all historical images, material & taking the time to share their stories of Quilly Park ”.

– Richard Anderson, Quilly Park