Irish Settlement at Bulla Victoria Australia

The area in Bulla, Victoria, Australia where the Fanning family from Thurles Co Tipperary Ireland settled in the 1840’s was established almost entirely by Irish families.

Bulla Shire Hall
Bulla Bridge over Deep Creek built 1869
Bulla Bridge over Deep Creek built 1869

Bulla Bridge built 1869 crosses Deep Creek. The town of Bulla is situated in a valley along Deep Creek, a tributary of the Maribyrnong River. In 1861 there were 136 people in the Bulla census, in 1891 there were 306 and in 1933 there were 174.


The area in Bulla, Victoria, Australia where the Fanning family from Thurles Co Tipperary Ireland settled in the 1840’s was established almost entirely by Irish families.

In the Hume City Council website under heritage citations the former McAuliffe Farm is described “as one of the farms established by Irish families along the Deep Creek at Wildwood, a precinct settled almost entirely by this ethnic group.” The McAuliffes were one of a group of families of Irish origin, which included the Cahills, Ryans, Feehans, Branigans, and (later)the Fannings and Dillons, who established farms in the “Wildwood” area in the nineteenth century, mostly overlooking the grand valley of Deep Creek. The only known non-Irish family in the Wildwood locality was that of David Patullo, originally of Scotland, who established Craig Bank, later Willow Bank(qv.),near the Wildwood Bridge.”

Willow Bank was the home of the Dillons. The Dillons were from Sth Tipperary, most likely from Clonpet Parish. There is a Margaret Dillon at Clonpet. Also at Solohead Graveyard (about 13kms from Clonpet) there is a grave of a Martin Dillon who died 26/2/1843 aged 62. His spouse is a Margaret. I wonder if this could be Margaret Crowe the mother of Martin Dillon Snr?

The Ryans and the Fannings were both from Thurles, Co Tipperary. The Cahills and the Feehans were also from Co Tipperary. Thomas Branigan came from Cullen in Co.Louth and the McAuliffe family was from Co. Limerick.

These families were also connected through marriage. Mary (Daisy) Dillon married William Patrick Fanning, Mary Ryan married James Feehan and Martin Cahill was married to Mary McAuliffe.

Author: Kathleen

I have done an Ancestry DNA test and also have uploaded my test results to GedMatch. My GedMatch kit numbers are A029138 and T470174. Please contact me if we are a match. kathleenmfanningAThotmailDOTcom

4 thoughts on “Irish Settlement at Bulla Victoria Australia”

  1. I taken up a hobby of history of the state of victorias towns and suburbs and i cant believe how much history we have and it is so great to learn about it .i am nearly 67 and never learn that much about our own history at school witch we should have been taught and i can unstand why at our time. I hope our children and our grandchildren are .I love doing it and making a folder of Towns & suburbs and the pioneers of our country .I been looking up the history of Bulla small but history of area amazing thankyou

    1. I am also fascinated by the past. I hope you find lots to interest you on this site and thanks for making contact. Kathleen Fanning.

  2. As I have directed readers of my DICTIONARY HISTORY OF BULLA journal to your website, I only intend to include information in the FANNING entry of which you may not be aware*. I thought you might have seen the following inquest report, but on checking the correction of the digitisation on trove, I believe it was done by a descendant of Johanna Doyle.
    (*Such as Jack Fanning winning the Gippsland Gift despite being as drunk as a skunk and his being a cousin of the record holder for the most goals in a V.F.L/A.F.L. match.)

    Here’s the entry so far, including the inquest report.

    The Fanning family must just about hold the record for the longest residence on a Victorian property,that is Sunnyside, on the south corner of Diggers Rest and Loemans Rds on Tullamarine Island. The family also owned Emu Flat, 6(1) Bulla Bulla, of 346 acres 2 roods granted to W.Fannan (sic) on 7-6-1855, and indicated roughly by Melway 383 H-J 8(south half)-12.

    Google “fanning family history, kathleen” to get Kathleen Fanning’s fantastic history. A heritage assessment on Sunnyside can be viewed by googling “Sunnyside & Outbuidings – Victorian Heritage Database”.

    William Fanning made a grisly discovery near Emu Flat. He found something in a flour sack that had sunk to the bed of Emu Creek (whose name is given below as in the newspaper report.)

    On Thursday, the district coroner commenced an inquiry into the cause of death of an infant child, whose body was found on Sunday last, in the Emeu Creek, It appeared that the child was placed in the water, dead or living, very shortly after its birth and from the circumstance that the body was tied in a bag, in which some stones were put, no doubt could be entertained that the person who threw it into the creek had intended
    to conceal the fact of its existence. Some suspicion attached to a woman who had been living as servant at an out-farm belonging to Mr. Fanning, a farmer, at Bulla.

    The following evidence was taken on Thursday :
    William Fanning stated that on Sunday afternoon he was on his farm, and walking near the Emeu Creek, when he saw a bag in the water. Got it out, and thought, from the bad smell, it contained human remains. Did not open it, but sent information to the sergeant of police, who came and took it, opening it in witness’s presence.
    The place where the body was found was about two miles from witness’s residence. Knew Johanna Doyle, a servant in witness’s employment up to about two months back. Sent her away because he did not want her any longer. She was not living at witness’s own farm-home. There was no woman then living at the out-farm, where she was.

    Mr. James Mc’Intyre, surgeon, made a postmortem examination of deceased female infant, now shown to the jury. Found the body in a bag. It was the body of a full-grown female child. There were no external marks of violence that witness could discover. The umbilical cord was absent, and there was no after-birth in the bag. Believed the lungs had been fully inflated. Found air in them, and did not think the air was the result of decomposition. The brain was absent, the scalp was gone, and the parietal bones were open. Witness thought the child had been dead from a month to six weeks. Could not say what the stomach contained, it was so much decomposed.

    At this stage of the case, tho coroner adjourned until the next day, when the following additional evidence was given :
    Sergeant Nolan, stationed at Sunbury, stated that on the evening of the 6th inst. he received information that a sack, supposed to contain the remains of a child, had been found by Mr. Fanning, a farmer, at Bulla. Went to the place, and Mr. Fanning gave witness possession of the bag containing the child shown to the jury. Opened
    the bag in his presence, and found a child wrapped up in a small piece of cotton and dress lining. The body was in an advanced state of decomposition, There were two stones in the sack. In consequence of information received, arrested Johanna Doyle, now present, and brought her from Lancefield. Examined her dresses, but could not find anything to correspond with the material the child was wrapped in.

    William Fanning, on being re-examined, stated that the woman now present, Johanna Doyle, was in witness’s employ about two years and a half. She lived the whole time at an out-farm, about two miles from witness’s own homestead. She was in the habit of coming over to witness’s house occasionally. Witness discharged her because a man would better do the work she did -for no other reason. Did not observe any change in her figure about the time of discharging her. The place where the bag was found was about seventy or eighty yards from the hut in which she lived. The nearest house, except witness’s was about a mile from the spot. The creek had been running this year, and was running now. The bag was not floating -it was sunk in the water, and resting on the bottom of the creek, in about four or five feet of clear water. The stream was sometimes very powerful in the creek, and the bag might have been carried along, notwithstanding there were a few stones in it. It was an old flour-bag, and there were similar bags kept on the farm, but none of them, nor was this, marked. Had no reason to suspect Johanna Doyle was in the family-way when she left witness’s service, or before. A black boy, an aboriginal native, lived at the hut with Johanna Doyle, but no other male lived there.

    Catherine Fanning, wife of the last witness, had known Johanna Doyle three or four years, during the last two years and a half of which she had been in witness’s service. Believed she was a married woman, and that her husband had gone to Ireland three years before. She was in the habit of coming to witness’s house once or twice in the month. She was discharged because it required a man to go after the cattle. On one occasion witness said to her she seemed to be in the family way, and her answer was that she would be very sorry. Did not observe any difference in her size when witness discharged her. She occasionally complained of being delicate, but she never said she was in the family-way. After she left, witness was at the hut where Doyle had lived before she took her clothes away. Did not see any signs of blood about the place.

    Neither of those two last witnesses gave evidence in a willing manner ; and the coroner was obliged to remind the woman that he had the power to commit to gaol any person who withheld evidence, or who gave evidence in an equivocating manner.

    John Fanning, a young man, son of William Fanning knew Johanna Doyle, but never heard anything about her having been in the family way, or that she had the dropsy. Knew nothing about either the birth or the death of the deceased child.

    Mary Fanning, a young woman, daughter of William Fanning. -Knew Johanna Doyle had been ill for some time, but did not know what was the matter with her. She was able to go about as usual. Knew nothing whatever about the death of the infant found in the bag.

    Tommy, an aboriginal native, belonging to the Darling tribe, gave evidence that he had been living in Mr. Fanning’s employ for the last four years. Knew Mrs. Doyle, and lived at the out-farm in the hut with her. Witness minded the cows, and she minded the paddock and cooked the food. She slept in a back room with her two children. Witness slept over the dairy. One day, about a fortnight before she left, she asked witness for a drink of water. Went into the room and she was sitting on the bed. She did not complain of pain, and witness never heard her groaning with pain at any time. Never saw any signs of a child, and Mrs. Doyle was never laid up for a day. She always got the meals regularly. She was vomiting the day witness gave her the drink of water. She was faint. Never saw any signs of blood about the place.

    Mr. Mc’Intyre, being recalled, stated the child might have been dead for two months, but it was impossible to state precisely. A woman might go about her work after being delivered of a child without its being suspected. Could not state what was the cause of the death of the child.

    The jury returned a verdict as follows :-” That the body was found dead, in a corn-sack, on the 5th of October, in the Emeu Creek ; but there was not sufficient evidence to show who was the mother of the child, or how deceased came by her death.” (P.6, Argus, 11-10-1862.)

    1. Hi Ray,
      My cousin Teresa forwarded this article about the dead baby to me. I have a post that includes your info and some more. It seems probable that William Fanning was having an affair with Johanna Doyle who lived on his property and may well have had several children by her. I was contacted by a descendant of this Johanna Doyle some time ago. Her ancestor gave her father as William Fanning and mother as Johanna!! Unfortunately this woman didn’t ever contact me again. I tried searching records for Johanna Doyle to no avail. So the trail went cold! much to my disappointment. So who did the corrections on Trove. If it was Teresa then this is my cousin.
      Also please tell me more about Jack Fanning and the Gippsland Gift. Where did you find this?

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