George Edwin Wise and the Western Stores

George Edwin Wise (1850-1933) was my paternal Great Grandfather, the maternal grandfather of my father Reginald George Robson (1915-1980). George was born in Cork, Ireland on 22 October 1850, just a year before his family migrated to Australia in 1851. It is thought that business opportunities in a new land was the reason for the family migration at a time when Ireland was in the midst of the potato famine which caused a depression, increased crime and religious rioting. For Protestants like my Wise family living in Ireland, life was becoming increasingly dangerous.

George Edwin Wise, photo courtesy of Ann Loveridge, Collection of Peter Drury


Baptism/Birth record for George E. Wise, National Archives of Ireland, Dublin

This record gives George E. Wise’s baptism/birth date as 22 October 1850, matching dates placed in Wise family bibles and on the family tree. I think this finally scotches the family myth that George Wise was born aboard the migrant ship which was carrying his parents William McOboy Wise and Ellen Frances Matilda Murray and his siblings, Henry, Michael, James, Ellen and William Wise to Australia. It also negates reports that George Wise was “a native of Waterford, Ireland”.

A small advertisement in an early Australia newspaper alerted me to the September 1851 date for the Wise family’s migration from Cork, Ireland. I then scoured old Australian newspapers for any mention of the Wise family arrival.

Argus, 26 January 1855

Argus, 1 March 1852

The arrival of the Athenian, from London, via The Cape of Good Hope, carrying a large number of English and Irish migrants to Australia captured my eye, with the mention of “William Wise and family”, I have concluded that this ship most probably bought my Irish Wise family to Australia. Among the list of passengers listed I recognise a fair amount of familiar surnames from Cork, including Gillman, Foot, de Courcy, Murray, Martin and O’Brien.

Cornwall Chronicle, 10 March 1852

Maitland Mercury, 10 March 1852

These newspaper articles reveal the passage of the Athenian to Australia, and it may well have been that the Wise family travelled by ship to London to board the Athenian for their voyage to Melbourne. It can only be admired that there were people who opened their hearts and wallets to aid the migration of families and the fact that Mr and Mrs Chisholm were working towards reuniting families in the Colony was to be commended.

Argus, 12 March 1852

I have previously written two chapters on the Wise family, Wise Merchants of Cork, which explains our Irish origins and The Wise Family of Avoca, Victoria which tells the story of George Edwin Wise’s parents, William McOboy and Ellen Frances Matilda Wise’s life in Australia after their migration from Ireland. This final chapter, George Wise and the Western Stores  now completes my trilogy of the Wise family history.

William McOboy Wise (1815-1873) was born in Cork, Ireland, the son of Henry George Wise (1785-1835) and Mary McOboy (1785-1824). William McOboy Wise married Ellen Frances Matilda Murray (1817-1855) on 2 March 1840 at the Protestant Church of Kilnasoolagh, Newmarket on Fergus, Clare and later that day at Ralahine, Clare, the home of Ellen’s parents Michael Murray (1771-1855) and Helen Lynch (1790-), where a Catholic blessing was performed. William and Ellen Wise had five sons and a daughter, Henry Wise (1841-1900), Michael Murray Wise (1843-1903), James Wise (1845-1894), Ellen Alice Wise (1847-1930), William Wise (1848-1924) and George Edwin Wise (1850-1933).

Ellen Wise tragically died on 1 June 1855, just three years after the Wise family arrived in Avoca, Victoria. William never married again. William McOboy Wise was left a widower with six young children to support and bring up at his property in Lamplough, just half a mile from the township of Avoca, in country Victoria. William Wise’s profile from the Digger’s Index at the Avoca and Districts Historical Society (ADHS) is exemplary, and one of the largest in their Index. William was involved in the community as a property manager, auctioneer, gold assayer, Land Assessor, Voting Returning Officer for Avoca, Master of the Hounds, President of the Avoca Turf Club, Post Master, Volunteer Fireman, Steward at the Avoca Annual Races and local butcher and grocer, when he partnered James Kilpatrick, to found the Kilpatrick Wise General Stores in Avoca and Percydale. During the goldrush of Lamplough in 1860 William Wise’s land was occupied by gold-diggers and it would appear that shortly after this “invasion” William went into partnership with James Kilpatrick and moved into Avoca.

William Wise died in 1873, after being thrown from his horse. His moving funeral and cortege to Avoca Cemetery was attended by over 500 people, some travelling many miles to attend. This was also the same year that two of William and Ellen’s sons married, Henry Wise marrying Jane Isabelle Kilpatrick and George Edwin Wise marrying Jane’s sister Agnes Amelia Kilpatrick, in the goldrush township of Avoca. Jane and Agnes Kilpatrick being the daughters of his business partner and Irish compatriot James Kilpatrick.

This chapter will follow the move of several of William and Ellen Wise’s children to country New South Wales and in particular highlight my great grandfather George Edwin Wise’s life, who went on to found G.E. Wise Stores and later The Western Stores of New South Wales. On the way, he made a fortune, setting up his family for life, astutely purchasing country New South Wales and Sydney properties and living an amazing lifestyle; all afforded by his business success and acumen, his sense of fairness, gregarious personality and vast popularity. I believe he had what is considered charism, which today is called “star” quality.

As a small child my father loved to tell family stories around our dinner table and I was always totally absorbed in his ability to bring to life his childhood and tell us about our ancestors. I only wished these special stories were not told on a more regular basis. Dad explained how George Wise’s country stores went on to become the familiar department stores of my youth, Farmer Brothers. He told us that George Wise made money that was beyond anyone’s dreams and he and his family travelled the world first class aboard luxury ocean liners. George Wise also helped set up his many children in large homes, apartments and country properties; a legacy of his generosity during his life. I know for a fact that my great aunts Ruby and Ethel were left well off, both living in gracious apartments with harbour views in Sydney’s eastern suburbs; catching expensive hire cars whenever they ventured out.

George Edwin Wise (1850-1933) was the youngest son of William McOboy Wise (1815-1873) and Ellen Frances Matilda Murray (1817-1855), he married Agnes Amelia Kilpatrick (1851-1924) the daughter of James Kilpatrick (1820-1894) and Eliza Cranwill (1819-1907) at Avoca, Victoria in 1873 and they had eight children, Lily Cranwill Wise (1874-1927), Ellen Murray Wise (1875-1951), Mabel Jackson Wise (1878-1971), Cyril Raymond Wise (1883-1968), Irene Evangeline Wise (1885-1982), Alice Ruby Wise (1887-1980) and Ethel Isabel Wise (1890-1981).

Five Generation Pedigree Chart for George Edwin Wise

Oddfellow Games, Avoca Mail, 7 January 1871

George Wise can be seen involved in this very social sporting and fundraising event in Avoca and it so nicely sets a pleasant scene of peaceful tranquillity in outback Victoria.

Avoca Mail, 19 November 1875

Avoca Mail 29 June 1882

This last snippet from the Avoca Mail newspaper was alarming as it was interesting. I think it is probable that the two Wise daughters mentioned in this article were George and Agnes Wise’s eldest daughters, Lily and Ellen Wise.

I was beginning to try and identify the timeframes for when George and Agnes Wise actually left Victoria for country New South Wales and it may well be that George Wise left his family behind in Percydale, Victoria, whilst he investigated business opportunities in New South Wales.

George Wise’s choices must have been economical, due to the fact that the gold rush was over in Victoria and new opportunities had to be considered with the dwindling population in the tiny gold field town of Percydale. This was a town built entirely in bushland running along Fiddlers Creek, especially for the gold rush population and it was built mostly from wooden houses, shops, pubs, hotels, churches and schools, which were all erected in quick time, to deal with a large expansion in population in a very short time. It was no doubt a sensible business decision for the Kilpatrick Wise Stores to set up another general store in Percydale to deal directly with the inhabitants and indeed several of the children of George and Agnes Wise were actually born in this tiny town that today, is a ghost town, with only a few remnants to show the remains of the gold fields and indeed any occupation of this isolated place. It was so convenient that the children of William McOboy Wise and James Kilpatrick were old enough to take on these new roles in the Percydale grocery store.

My grandmother Mabel Jackson Wise was the last child of George and Agnes Wise to be born in Avoca 1878 and three of her younger siblings were actually born in Percydale; Cyril Raymond “Kelly” Wise in 1883 , Irene Evangeline Wise in 1885 and Alice Ruby Wise in 1887.

From information I have previously shown in my chapter on The Wise Family of Avoca, Victoria, George Wise’s elder brother Michael Murray Wise was also a shopkeeper in Percydale, and it must be assumed that the grocery and supplies business must have been a thriving concern in Percydale. Michael Murray Wise began his own business, The Beehive Stores, probably to show that there was a certain amount of competition between businesses in the township.

It was therefore in Avoca and later in Percydale that George Wise learned the skills to become a major player in the grocery supply business in New South Wales; well, that and a fair bit of luck, were the key factors in his early successes.

I believe George Wise began his grocery business in New South Wales in the country town of Wellington as early as 1884 and by 1889 he had expanded into Coonamble. His small empire grew to take in towns as far north as Tamworth and west to Dubbo and included important hubs such as Bathurst and Armidale.

Alan McRae’s book is an excellent history of The Western Stores and Edgleys. He states that G.E. Wise and Co. was formed in 1889 with George Wise in control of two stores, one in Coonamble and one in Wellington, with managers Mr C.G. Scott and Mr T.H. Cameron being appointed. George Wise bought Coonamble’s Fogg’s Bros. Store in 1888 in a liquidation sale and later another bankrupt opportunity in Wellington, a store belonging to Mr James Wilder was purchased.

New Premises for Messrs. Fogg Bros and Polin, Freemans Journal, 25 January 1879

Insolvency of Andrew Thompson Cochrane, Evening News, 12 August 1879

It can be seen from these newspaper clippings that Coonamble had just come through a three year drought and trade must have been difficult and erratic. However the building of a new store and the sub-leasing of half was evidence of business confidence in the township. The obvious increase in overheads indicates that Messrs. Fogg’s Bros. letting to a saddler, was perhaps the wrong type of business for their new building. It may also have increased their financial woes, to the degree that they too suffered a liquidation in 1888.

The name Wise first appears in newspapers in 1886 in Wellington. George Wise must have travelled north from Avoca to try his luck in country New South Wales, quite some time before that date, choosing to settle in Wellington. George’s grocery business must have flourished and an ensuing sale to Mr P.L. Bernasconi in 1886 sees George Wise later living in Gundagai. This timeframe saw George Wise cashed up and ready to seek another grocery enterprise and Fogg Bros. liquidation sale saw George Wise in the right place at the right time.

Australian Town and Country, 27 February 1886

Gundagai Times, 10 June 1886

Alan McRae writes, “Within weeks of finalising sales in Wellington, George Wise learnt of another owner who had been declared bankrupt in Dubbo, ” and that George Wise, Charles George Scott and Thomas Cameron rode at once for Dubbo.

Thus in a small space of time George Wise had three stores, Wellington, Coonamble and now Dubbo under his control and he had secured two able managers in Cameron and Scott. George Wise now needed to gain his two managers’ loyalty and enterprising spirit for this grocery empire to flourish. This is where George’s acumen and understanding of human nature held him in good stead, when he offered his managers a partnership in the business and the offer that they could pay him back in time for their newly acquired share of the business. Alan McRae writes that Cameron and Scott had courteously informed George Wise that in time, they would probably “go it alone” and establish their own stores, so Wise made the sage offer of a partnership in his business.

G.E. Wise and Co., image courtesy of Alan McRae’s book The Western Stores and Edgleys

George Wise was using the business model his father had set up in Avoca and Percydale and he could see the benefits of loyal managers, particularly with the added difficulties encountered with distance. How could George possibly have kept up with running his stores and the management of them? He also knew about the benefits of including family into the business, once he had established himself. He knew that some of his siblings would probably jump at the idea of joining him in country New South Wales, after struggling with the mass exodus of population after the gold rush was over, now leaving even Avoca in a semi-depression. It is fact that over thirty Wise residents were registered voters in Avoca in the mid 1880, however, by 1910 there was not one Wise resident on the electoral roll.

George Wise had other difficulties to claim his time, he had to organise supply to his new emporium and what better place to organise the supply to his shops than in Sydney, where he could source for himself the best goods and organise his transport system? Thus, by 1890 George Wise and his family had settled into Paddington in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, where George and Agnes and their family welcomed baby Ethel Isabel Wise on 27 May 1890. It would appear also that Sydney was by far easier for George to commute to than Avoca in Victoria.

Baptism of Ethel Isabel Wise, 2 July 1890, St Matthias’ Church, Paddington

How annoying it was to see that the only address left off the entire baptism book was our Wise address? I have encountered this time and time again, with so little information being disclosed. I was not to be disappointed long, after beavered away finding other records.

New South Wales Police Gazette, April 1890/1891

It was exciting to see George E. Wises Paddington address listed as 160 Windsor Street, Paddington and that a Mrs Robson was living next door, could this have been “our” Robson family? George and Agnes’ daughter Mabel Wise married William Elliott Veitch Robson. I undertook more work to find out that Mrs Robson’s husband was James Robson, so at this stage I don’t know if there is a connection with the Robson family of Wollongong.

Sydney Sands Street Index, Paddington, 1890

George Wise’s foray into general stores in country New South Wales was extensive. By 1916 George’s companies would have an interest in stores in Wellington, Coonamble, Dubbo, Bodangora, Gunnedah, Mudgee, Armidale Bathurst, Tamworth and Geurie.

George Wise and son Cyril “Kelly” Raymond Wise circa 1890, image courtesy of Meri Lane,

The Murray Family Photographic Collection

Ruby Wise circa 1890, image courtesy of Meri Lane,  The Murray Family Photographic Collection (note the Oxford Street, Paddington address)

Photographic portrait of Agnes Amelia Wise nee Kilpatrick, photograph from The Robson Family Photograph Collection

New South Wales Gazette, April 1890

New South Wales Gazette, September 1890

George Wise was obviously dividing his time between his duties in Wellington, Coonamble and Dubbo and his home in Sydney. It is admirable that George Wise found time to devote to municipal duties in Wellington. However, time and time again, I have found that the involvement of our family on Councils was equally about expediting local issues that may have been stalling points for their business affairs, rather than entirely civic spirited service to their community.

The township of Wellington was connected by the Main Western Train line from Sydney, opening on 1 June 1880 when the line was extended from Orange. This meant that not only could George facilitate his grocery business from Sydney, he could also catch the overnight train from Strathfield and be in Wellington the next morning, where he would be able to attend to the unloading and the re-stocking of his store. Less than a year later the train line was extended to Dubbo, opening on 1 February 1881. Dubbo then became the main junction for the Main Western Line from Sydney. In 1893 the opening of the Dubbo to Coonamble rail line then linked all train lines to Sydney.

Mabel Wise attends Paddington Superior School, Sydney Morning Herald 8 Dec 1892

It was sad to read about the death of James Wise, George’s elder brother who died suddenly in Avoca aged just 49 years. His obituary is full of wonderful information about his life as an auctioneer and later a butcher in Avoca.

James Wise (1845-1894) was born in Tulla, Clare, Ireland, the son of William McOboy Wise (1815-1873) and Ellen Frances Matilda Murray (1817-1855), he married Mahala Reed (1845-1896) in Avoca on 10 August 1872 and they had five children, Mary Wise (1874-1967), Bertram Reed Wise (1876-1876), Herbert Stanley Wise (1873-1933), Ada Louisa Wise (1880-1966) and Murray Reed Wise (1886-1952).

James Wise, accident, Avoca Mail, 4 May 1894

Death of James Wise, Avoca Mail, 17 August 1894

Argus, 29 August 1894

The following year George and Ellen Wise’s second eldest daughter Ellen Wise married Charles Haddon Richards.

Sydney Anglican Parish Records, Marriage of Charles Haddon Richards and Ellen Murray Wise, 3 January 1895, St Stephens Church, Newtown

Ellen Murray Wise (1875-1961) was the daughter of George Edwin Wise (1850-1933) and Agnes Amelia Kilpatrick (1851-1924), she married Charles Haddon Richards (1873-1922) on 3 January 1895 in Newtown, Sydney and they had three children, Gladys Madeline Richards (1895-1982), Dulcie Marion Richards (1898-1991) and George Cyril Frederick Richards (1900-1914).

Charles Haddon Richards worked for George Wise and Co, later managing Wise Limited’s Gilgandra store.

Sydney Morning Herald, 14 December 1896

It was interesting to find these two newspaper articles from the Sydney Morning Herald, just a day apart. Obviously George Edwin Wise did not make it to his daughter Mabel’s prize giving at Ladies College, Burwood, he probably would have been in hospital, nursing his wounds from the buggy accident, thinking how lucky he was to be alive.

Speech day at Wesleyan Ladies College (M.L.C.), Burwood, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 December 1896

It was wonderful to discover that my grandmother Mabel Wise had won the letter writing prize for Wesleyan Ladies College, Burwood. The Wises had now settled into their home Roslyn House, Liverpool Road, Croydon. It was interesting to see that a Mr Robson was one of the official guest for the occasion, and at this stage Mabel’s future husband William Elliott Veitch (W.E.V.) Robson was an Alderman on Ashfield Council. Was this “our” W.E.V. Robson amongst the invited guests that day or possibly his father? More especially,  because of my knowledge that W. E. V Robson and his entire family were devout Methodists. W.E.V Robson’s father William Robson had laid one of the foundation stones at Wesley College, Sydney University.

I visited Roslyn House in 2013 with my sister Lavinia Chrystal and we were lucky enough to be invited inside the building, only to discover that the main rooms of the house, now a retirement home for Catholic nuns, had been converted into a Catholic chapel. The house appeared very institutionalised and much work had obviously been done to achieve this severe façade. The generous driveway and roundabout was also cemented for utility.

Roslyn House, Liverpool Road, Croydon, 2013

Croydon is a suburb near to Strathfield, which was a main train hub for Sydney. This was where the main train line pushed out west to outback New South Wales and it would most conveniently have enabled George Wise to easily go back and forwards from Wellington to Sydney. I am sure that this move from Paddington, afforded to him by the massive profits his stores were making, allowed George Wise to purchase a large and impressive home for his family. The black and white newspaper photo from 1925 shows some of the former lines of Roslyn House including bay windows and what looks like wrap around verandahs.

Sydney Morning Herald, 11 July 1925

Western Champion 16 June 1899

It would seem that Wellington in New South Wales was in the middle of a building boom. A wonderful story is described in Alan McRae’s book, The Western Stores and Edgleys, whereby Messrs. Cameron and Scott, were now financially in a position to buy into the construction of Wise’s new building, to seal their partnership with George Wise they placed an English silver shilling under the cornerstone of the new store.

Wellington Times, 23 October 1899

This news snippet entitled, New Justices of the Peace is most interesting, as it can be seen that already one of George Wises brothers, Henry Wise of Bodangora, was also appointed a Justice of the Peace in the same announcement as George Wise. Henry Wise ran the Bodangora general store and Post Office for several years, however, I am not sure if it was part of George Wise and Co.

Henry Wise (1841-1900) was the son of William McOboy Wise (1815-1873) and Ellen Frances Matilda Murray (1817-1855), he married Jane Isabel Kilpatrick (1848-1906) in Avoca, Victoria in 1873 and they had one son, Frederick William Kilpatrick Wise (1874-1960).

Dubbo Dispatch, 7 November 1899

Wellington Times, 15 March 1900

Wellington Times, 26 March 1900

Death of Mr Henry Wise J.P. Wellington Times, 29 November 1900

It was sad news indeed for the Wise family and George and Agnes Wise would have mourned this loss keenly, knowing that Henry Wise was married to Jane Isabel Wise, the sister of Agnes Amelia Wise. Henry and Jane Wise are both buried in Wellington Cemetery.

Headstone of Henry and Jane Wise, Wellington Cemetery, New South Wales

South Australian Register, 8 December 1900 (very faded image)

More information about Henry and Jane Wise and their life in Avoca, Victoria is dealt with in my earlier chapter The Wise Family of Avoca, Victoria.

Avoca Mail, 4 December 1900

These newspaper obituaries are such a wonderful source of information, however in some cases there can be mistakes made, such as the mention of two sisters, when, there was only one Wise sister, Ellen Alice Wise, who did not marry and lived to a great age. I do believe that the Wises considered Michael Murray Wise’s wife Kate Wise a sister, due to the fact that she was also born a Wise. Her father George Henry Wise was a brother of William McOboy Wise, so when Michael and Kate Wise wed, it was the marriage of two first cousins.

Ellen Alice Wise moved to New South Wales with her brother William Wise in about 1909.

Ellen Alice Wise circa 1870, image courtesy of Meri Lane’s Photo Collection

Ellen “Alice” Wise circa 1920, image courtesy of Meri Lane’s Photo Collection

William Wise, circa 1920, image courtesy of Meri Lane’s Photo Collection

William Wise (1848-1924) was the son of William McOboy Wise (1815-1873) and Ellen Frances Matilda Murray (1817-1855), he married Annie Wilson McDonell (1867-1901) in 1897 in Avoca, Victoria and they had one child, Dorothy Alice Wise M.B.E. (1898-1984).

William’s wife Annie Wilson McDonell died in 1901. It is believed that Annie never fully recovered from the birth of her only child, Dorothy Alice Wise in 1898. Ellen Wise lived for many years with her widowed brother William Wise, helping to look after her niece. They both moved to Gilgandra, where William managed G.E. Wise and Co’s Gilgandra store for George Wise. Both William Wise and Ellen Alice Wise are buried in Gilgandra Cemetery. Annie Wise is buried in a beautiful grave, surrounded by a metal fence at Avoca Cemetery in Victoria.

Wellington Times, 20 December 1900

I just love that G.E. Wise and Co has now been described as an emporium. George Wise had taken the his business to a new level for country New South Wales, directly catering to the whims and wishes of his successful customer’s expanding wallets. I can see that George’s venture was paying off. His base in Sydney allowed him to procure new products and as a providore he was finding out fine foods, the best tools, fashionable tailoring and an exclusive goods business. Wise’s new shop was cleverly aimed towards the “creature comforts” for women, the employment of Miss Kirton, a Sydney milliner was very clever, as was providing the latest in fashions and toys of every kind for the children.

Wellington Times, 12 April 1901

National Advocate, 4 September 1901

Wellington Times, 31 October 1901

It must have been a very happy time for the Wises in 1901, G.E. Wise & Co shops were absolutely raking in the profits and progress and profit was the bottom line as George Wise continued to look for new opportunities to expand his business.

At the same time there was romance in the air, with the engagement of George and Agnes Wise’s daughter Mabel Wise to William Elliott Veitch Robson, the son of William Robson M.L.C. and Annie Robertson Kippax. William was a solicitor with the firm Robson and Cowlishaw, but like so many in our family he also demonstrated his civic duty, by being elected under the Free Trade Party as an Alderman on Ashfield Council in 1898, serving as Mayor in 1899.

William Robson was a widower, his young wife, Ettie Gorman Cusack Whyte had died tragically in 1899, just a few years after their marriage. It must have been such a difficult time for William Robson, being Mayor of Ashfield at the time. William then purchased land at 33 Tintern Road, Ashfield and built a magnificent Queen Ann styled home for his new wife Mabel. He named his new home Buninyong and this lovely home survives today and has been classified by the National Trust of Australia.

George Wise must have been bursting with pride and joy that his young daughter Mabel Jackson Wise had married so advantageously into Sydney society. This is despite the fact that all the Robson family were staunch Methodists, in fact W.E.V. Robson’s father had been a Methodist Preacher before being elected to the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, a position he held up until his death in 1920.

Even to this day I wonder at the family gatherings, with George Wise the affable, effervescent and jovial personality, combining with the religious and abstaining countenance of William Robson and his family.

Wellington Times, 17 December 1901

Sydney Anglican Parish Records, Marriage of W.E.V. Robson and Mabel Wise, 21 December 1901, St James Church, Croydon

Mabel Jackson Wise (1878-1971) was the daughter of George Edwin Wise (1850-1933) and Agnes Amelia Kilpatrick (1851-1924), she married The Hon. William Elliott Veitch Robson M.L.A, M.L.C on 21 December 1901 and they had four children, William Alan Veitch (1903-1919), Ewan Murray Robson Lt. Col., DSO, MBE, MLA (1906-1974), Kathleen Mabel Robson, (1908-1986) and Reginald George Robson (1915-1980).

George Edwin Wise lists his occupation as a merchant, William Robson, an accountant.

Wellington Times, 23 December 1901

Buninyong, Tintern Road, Ashfield

Wellington Times, 13 January 1902

Wellington Times, 28 April 1902

Wellington Times, 14 July 1902

Wellington Times, 4 September 1902

Death of Michael Murray Wise, Wellington Times, 23 February 1903

There is so much information in this obituary for Michael Murray Wise, George Wise’s elder brother, in just a few words, it helped to describe so much of his merchant and family life in Avoca, Victoria. It would now appear that the only surviving siblings of George Edwin Wise were his brother William Wise (1848-1824) and his sister Ellen Alice Wise (1847-1930). I dealt with Michael Murray Wise and his wife Kate Wise and their family in my previous chapter, The Wise Family of Avoca, Victoria.

Michael Murray Wise (1843-1903) was born in Tulla, Clare, Ireland, the son of William McOboy Wise and Ellen Frances Matilda Murray (1817-1855), he married Kate Wise (1845-1888) at Avoca, Victoria on 1 February 1870 and they had eleven children, Elizabeth Kate Wise (1870-1940), William Mcoboy Wise (1872-1932), Ellen Alice Wise (1874-1875), Frank George Wise (1874-1930), Horace Murray Wise (1876-1880), Thomas Norman Wise (1878-1958), Ellen Alice Wise (1880-1883), Marian Wise (1882-1909), Terence Murray Wise (1884-1961), Kate Wise (1885-1953) and Michael Murray Wise (1888-1888).

Wellington Times, 21 May 1903

Wellington Times, 19 October 1903

Wellington Times17 Dec 1903

Wellington Times, 9 June 1904

Wellington Times, 30 January 1905

Wellington Times, 18 May 1905

Evening News, 9 June 1905

Daily Telegraph, 10 June 1905

Wellington Times, 15 June 1905

Wellington Times, 15 June 1905

U.S. Border Crossing – Canada to U.S. 1895-1906 for George and Edna Wise 5 July 1905 aboard the Miowera.

R.M.S. Miowera, image courtesy of State Library of Victoria circa 1905

Australian Star, 13 June 1905

Brisbane Courier, 7 July 1905

Wellington Times, 10 July 1905

Wellington Times, 9 October 1905

Aorangi, image courtesy State Library of South Australia

George Wise gave two very expansive interviews upon his return to Wellington, New South Wales which were printed in full in the Wellington Times, there are 15 pages of his travel experiences which are an amazing insight capturing 1905 Pacific Island, Canada and America from an Australian tourist’s eyes. I will produce the first interview in full and the second interview I will place at the end of this chapter.

Travelling with George Edwin Wise, Wellington Times, 26 July 1906

Wellington Times, 12 October 1905

This wonderful article about The Procession in Wellington gives a great insight into the leisure and active business life of the township.

Wellington Times, 20 November 1905

Wellington Times, 7 December 1905

Sydney Anglican Parish Records, Marriage for William Hoskins Jnr. and Lillie Cranwill Wise, 11 November 1905, St James, Croydon

Lily Cranwill Wise (1874-1927) was born in Avoca, Victoria, the daughter of George Edwin Wise (1850-1933) and Agnes Amelia Kilpatrick (1851-1924), she married William Hoskins Jnr. (1861-1936) and they had three children, Joan Lillian Hoskins (1907-1960), Richard Malcolm Hoskins (1912-2002) and John Geoffrey Hoskins (1914-1947)

William and Lillie Hoskins settled into their home Iwanora, Liverpool Road, Burwood. William Hoskins, born in Bermondsey, Surrey, England was a mechanical engineer and a founder of the motor car company Larke Hoskins. I have previously written up the family history of Larke Hoskins in my family history chapter on the Robson Family of Sydney.

As a matter of great interest William Hoskins’s partner William Bain Larke, was married to my great aunt Ethel Kippax Robson, a sister to my grandfather W.E.V. Robson, who married Mabel Wise, a daughter of George and Agnes Wise.

George Edwin Wise and my grandfather W.E.V. Robson both sat on the board of Larke Hoskins for many years and I believe George Wise was also an investor in the company, which was involved in the early motor car industry in Australia.

Wellington Times, 12 December 1905

Wellington Times, 22 February 1906

Wellington Times, 25 February 1906, page 1 or 6

Wellington Times, 25 February 1906, page 1 of 6

Wellington Times, 1 March 1906

Wellington Times, 29 March 1906

Wellington Times, 26 April 1906

Sydney Morning Herald, 1 May 1906

Wellington Times, 25 June 1906

Wellington Times, 16 July 1906

Wellington Times, 17 September 1906

Wellington Times, 25 October 1906

Wellington Times, 1 November 1906

Wellington Times, 20 December 1906

Wellington Times, 28 January 1909

George and Agnes Wise and four daughters, aboard the Prince Sigismund, Kobe to Sydney 16 May 1909

George Wise is off on another sea voyage, listed as a merchant. It would appear that travelling with George and Agnes Wise, were their four unmarried daughters, Edna, Irene, Ruby and Ethel Wise.

Wellington Times, 3 June 1909

Wellington Times, 30 August 1909

Wellington Times (continued), 30 August 1909

Evening News, 22 September 1909

Dubbo Liberal, 25 September 1909

“Meanwhile, another string in the story was happening at Gilgandra. It was about 1909 and Mr George Wise sought another business opportunity and a chance to help his family when he purchased the Enterprise Stores. This general store had been operated by Mr J. W. McDonagh in Miller Street and once purchased Wise immediately had his son-in-law take over as manager. George’s brother William Wise, became manager of the grocery section. Two nephews, Frank and William Jnr. Wise took over finance and the combined mercery-drapery departments respectively. George’s family members and relations travelled from Victoria and took out shares in the business. Another stroke of luck came in the form of another bankrupt, this time at Peak Hill, with their Gilgandra store able to buy the stock very cheaply. Several local bullock drawn wagons were despatched to Peak Hill to bring all the stock, which had been boxed up, back to Gilgandra. The business was known at this time as Wise’s Limited.” Alan McRae, The Western Stores and Edgleys

I believe that the son-in-law mentioned in this excellent and informative book of Alan McRae’s would have been Charles Haddon Richards, who had married George E. Wise’s daughter Ellen Murray Wise. As can be seen from C. H. Richard’s send off from Wellington, he was a well-loved and dependable employee of G. E. Wise and Co, who had worked in the iron-mongery department for fifteen years. In his farewell from Wellington, it was stressed that the new store in Gilgandra had George Wise’s blessing and that George had given Richards permission to use the trading name G.E. Wise and Co. The two nephews mentioned in this article are Frank George Wise (1874-1930) and William Mcoboy Wise (1872-1932), sons of George and William Wise’s brother Michael Murray Wise (1843-1903).

It is also probable that another son of Michael Murray Wise, Terence Murray Wise joined his brothers in Gilgandra and was employed by Richards in his Gilgandra store.

Frank, William and Terence Wise had received extensive training in their father’s Beehive Stores in Avoca and ran the shop after their father’s death in 1903. In 1911 Avoca gave a wonderful send off to the young men as they embarked on their new venture, helping to manage G.E. Wise’s Gilgandra store.

Mudgee Guardian, 19 August, 1910

Ballarat Star, 21 December 1911

Wellington Times, 22 February 1912

Wellington Times, 15 April 1912

Leader, Orange, 13 May 1912

This newspaper article confirms the employment of the three “Avoca” residents, sons of George Wise’s brother Michael Murray Wise as Frank George Wise (1874-1930), William Mcoboy Wise (1872-1932) and Terence Murray Wise (1884-1961).

Sydney Morning Herald, 13 April 1912

Marriage of James Alexander Borthwick and Irene Evangeline Wise, 15 June 1912, St James, Croydon

It is hard to put into writing the vision of George Wise, proud father of the bride, walking his daughter Irene Evangeline Wise down the aisle to marry The Hon. James Alexander Borthwick, the son of Scottish Baronet, Lord Borthwick of Whitburgh, Midlothian. George Wise must have been absolutely thrilled with Irene’s marriage and absolutely no expense was spared for the celebration afterwards at the bride’s home, Roslyn House.

The following article is a delight to read, with the train bearers for the bride, Miss Joan Hoskins wearing a Kate Greenaway dress and Honiton cap and Master Murray Robson, pageboy, in a Charles II court costume and plumed hat!

I can’t help but find a comparisons to Jane Austen’s Pride and Predjudice, with poor Mrs Wise having seven daughters needing of eligible bachelors to marry. It must have been an effort to have kept up with their social engagements and all her husband’s business activities. Agnes Amelia Wise nee Kilpatrick was from Irish/English noble lines herself, being related to the Colley family of Kildare, Ireland and the Newburgh family of Dorset, England.

Sadly Edna, Ruby and Ethel Wise never married. Ethel Wise wore an engagement ring all her life, she never disclosed to me the name of her beau, however, she told me that her beau had been killed at Gallipoli during the Great War, and she had never taken the ring off her finger from that time and would wear it till the day she died.

Punch, Melbourne, 4 July 1912

Irene Evangeline Wise (1885-1982) was the daughter of George Edwin Wise (1850-1933) and Agnes Amelia Kilpatrick (1851-1924) married Hon. James Alexander Borthwick on 15 June 1912 at St James, Croydon and they had two children, Sir John S Thomas Borthwick Bt. (1917-2002) and Peter George Alexander Borthwick (1922-1944).

Fox Hills is today a boutique hotel and golf course in Surrey, England

Images of Fox Hills taken by Virginia Rundle, September 2016

Fox Hills, main staircase, below the historic L’orangerie, now a dining room

Evening Telegraph, 16 September 1924

James and Irene Borthwick rebuilt their beautiful gothic revival home Fox Hills and it became a most wonderful home for the Borthwick family who lived there for decades, generously entertaining their guests and always making a fuss of their Australian nieces and nephews. Dad adored his Aunt Irene Borthwick, giving me the middle name Irene in her honour. Today Fox Hills is a boutique hotel and golf resort.

Holy Trinity Church, Lyne and Longcross, churchyard cemetery, headstone for James Alexander Borthwick and his wife Irene Evangeline Borthwick and their son Peter George Alexander Borthwick who died tragically in 1944 serving during World War II, aged 22.

Memorial Tablet to P.G.A. Borthwick, Captain Rifle Brigade, died 1944, Holy Trinity Church

Headstone for Sir John Borthwick (1917-2002) Holy Trinity Church

15 Catherine Place, Westminster, London, Country Life Magazine, 2 April 1948

An interesting find in a journal, Country Life, 2 April 1948 opened up another aspect of Irene Borthwick’s life in England when the magazine included an article on her lovely home in Westminster, London. It must have been a familiar place to my parents who spent a month in London in June 1953 after they were honoured with an invitation to attend the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and all the pageantry that this involved; but that is another story I will enlarge upon, when I write up the chapter on my parents Reg and Vena Robson.

Irene Borthwick travelled to Australia in the mid 1960’s and I can clearly remember her visit, as I can remember the many visits by her son Sir John Borthwick to our Sydney home when I was a child. Sir John was a favourite first cousin of Dad’s when we would all gather around the dining table to be enthralled by their family stories. In 1975 Dad and Mum took my sister Lavinia and me on a European tour of the Greek Islands, France, Italy and England, a highlight was visiting Aunt Irene at her lovely home in Eaton Square in London. Her butler Smith, always at her side. Later in 1982 I was to visit again with my husband Geoff, where we were invited to a lovely dinner, it was delightful to see and hear a very animated Aunt Irene, who was still so excited about the Royal Marriage of Charles and Diana and to hear the stories about the wedding through her great friend Lady Fermoy. Sadly Irene Borthwick died in November, later that year, at the great age of ninety seven.

Wellington Times, 29 May 1913

Wellington Times, 2 July 1913

It would seem timely that T.H. Cameron and G.E. Wise travelled to the Western States of America in 1913, with the storm clouds gathering in Europe, it must have been an interesting time to travel.

Ship’s Manifest for George Wise travelling aboard the SS Tahiti, 12 August 1913, bound for Honolulu, via New Zealand and Papeete

RMS Tahiti, Hocken Collection, University of Otago, New Zealand

Wellington Times, 8 January 1914

It was tragic to read about the death of Cyril George Frederick Richards, only son of George Haddon Richards and Ellen Murray Wise. Eldest grandson of George and Agnes Wise.

Australian Cemetery Index, Burial of George Cyril Frederick Richards, January 1914

This same page of the Cemetery Index also show the death of Cyril’s uncle William Wise in 1924, a brother to George Edwin Wise.

With the outbreak of War declared in Australia, George Edwin Wise’s only son Cyril Raymond Wise, known to everyone as Kelly Wise, was impatient to join the regiments of Australia. Like many others Kelly Wise boarded a ship bound for England and enlisted in the English Regiments. Kelly Wise was well known in the Gunnedah district of New South Wales, owning a property, Collygra. He was an experienced horseman and grazier and his joining the light horse regiment, The King’s Regiment, would have meant he was highly regarded. Kelly Wise was also lucky to have a base in London, his sister Irene Borthwick was now living in London’s Eaton Square.

There was plenty of clippings to find about Kelly Wise and his departure aboard the Moldavia on 6 February 1915.

Sydney Morning Herald, 6 February 1915

RMS Moldavia, circa 1914, later sunk in 1918, image courtesy of Wikipedia

Wellington Times, 8 February 1915

Wellington Times, 15 April 1915

London to Sydney 8 Nov. 1915, Mr G Wise travelling with Mr Richards, aboard the R.M.S. Orontes

It was really amazing to see this travel document for George Wise and Charles Richards travelling aboard the Orontes in November 1915. No doubt George Wise had been to London to see his daughter, Irene Borthwick, but also his son Kelly Wise who would have been serving in the First World War, probably just returned to London from Gallipoli and before his service at the Western Front in France. I would have thought that travelling was quite perilous, especially with the advances in German submarines during World War I and their raiding parties off the coast of England are legendary. However, perhaps for George Wise, life carried on during war time, much the same as it did in peacetime. George Wise was retired from his active role in the Wellington Stores, he was wealthy beyond his dreams, and I suppose if he wanted to travel he could and obviously he did!

I often wondered if George ever returned to Cork in Ireland, did he look up his family there, or had they all migrated by that time? There were certainly some branches of the Wise family who remained behind in Cork, namely George Francis “Frank” Wise and his family.

R.M.S. Orontes, circa 1915, image courtesy of Wikipedia

R.M.S. Orontes, Thirty Three Years of Tireless Service, J.A. Wells

R.M.S. Orontes, Thirty Three Years of Tireless Service, J.A. Wells

Wellington Times, 15 April 1915

Dubbo Despatch, 25 February 1916

Wellington Times, 14 September 1916

New South Wales Government Gazette, 20 October 1916

Wellington Times, 14 December 1916

Wellington Times, 12 March 1917

Sydney Morning Herald, 1 May 1917

Sydney Morning Herald, 25 July 1917

Caribou Monument, Beaumont Hamel, France

Cyril Raymond Wise was an Australian grazier who joined the British Army and fought in the King’s Regiment and later, after suffering from mustard gas poisoning, he served in the Border Patrol driving service trucks to the front line, wanting to see out the end of a terrible war. He first saw service at Gallipoli and probably only survived this because he was part of the British and not the Australian Regiments. Kelly was the only son of George Edwin Wise and Agnes Amelia Kilpatrick, his parents and six sisters waited anxiously for news of his fate during the long and terrible years of the war. He ended the war as a Major, being promoted various times during the war, after beginning as a Corporal. Cyril Raymond Wise, known as Kelly Wise, apparently received his Military Cross at Beaumont Hamel, serving in the King’s Regiment, in a terrible and futile engagement that cost the lives of hundreds of men. Leading the attack, at 8.45 am on 1st July 1916, across No Man’s Land was the Newfoundland Regiment. The British Regiment went in ten minutes later. In the slaughter that ensued nearly 660 men lost their lives that day, most of them from the Newfoundland Regiment. All but 68 men from the Newfoundland Regiment lives were lost that day. In 1921 the parents of those men lost in this battle, together with the British and Canadian Governments, purchased 75 hectares of land at Beaumont Hamel and created a monument in their honour. Today it is guarded by the Canadian Mounties, and respectful tourists are encouraged to view this beautiful yet tragic place. A Caribou monument looks out majestically over the area where the regiments advanced. The trenches are preserved in a park which has not been touched since World War 1. It marks the spot of many unknown soldiers’ graves. Walking among the now verdant fields, the trenches are clearly still visible, as is the barbed wire that marks the division between the Germans and the Allied troops. It is a deeply moving experience to visit a place of such beauty knowing that it is today revered by the Canadians, as a symbol of their loss in WW1. Kelly’s wife, Berthe Ermance Pastre, who we knew as Bepsy, was born in Nantes, France and was his nurse during his recovery from mustard gas poisoning. They later married and lived in Gunnedah and Neutral Bay, up until the late 1960’s. Bepsy nursed Uncle Kelly until the day he died and she passed away just a short time after that. Kelly’s lungs never fully recovered from the poisoning and he spent nearly fifty years gasping for a deep breath.

I wrote this tribute to Kelly Wise in May 2011, just four months after I started my research into the family history. Geoff and I visited the World War I battlefields of Belgium and France in October 2005 when we hired a tour guide, Colin Gillard to take us for a two day tour of both Flanders Fields and the area around the Battle of the Somme and it was quite the most amazing, inspiring and moving experience we could ever have imagined. Colin was a top fellow, an Englishman, who now specialises in tours for Americans and the D-Day Landings at Omaha Beach.

I mentioned to Colin Gillard about my Great Uncle Kelly and how proud my dad had been of his favourite uncle. The following morning Colin had very kindly done some research on Cyril Raymond Wise and he took us to Beaumont Hamel for the most memorable tour around this amazingly beautiful and very sad spot. We could still see the barbed wire and the trenches, Colin pointed out No-man’s Land and it was then that Colin explained that this was the spot where he believed Uncle Kelly had earned his Military Cross.

I always loved the story of Kelly and Bepsy’s romance and remember fondly my visits to Neutral Bay, where they shared a duplex house with his two nieces, sisters Gladys and Dulcie Richards, the daughters of Charles Haddon Richards and Ellen Murray Wise. It was fun to climb up their back garden to the high terraces and admire the harbour views. Kelly kept a telescope on his balcony so he could view the boats, ferries and yacht races on the harbour. Bepsy was always there, lovingly caring for Kelly, and quite adorably in all her years in Australia, she never quite mastered English, and they would chat away in French as Kelly translated for her.

Services of Officers in the Army, London, England

National Archives, London, Medal Index Card for Cyril Raymond Kelly

Major Cyril Raymond Wise’s Sword, presented to him at Buckingham Palace by His Majesty, King George V, when he was awarded the Military Cross, photo image courtesy of Libby Paulson

Major Cyril Raymond Wise, World War I medal display

New South Wales Passenger List 1826-1922 for George Wise and daughters Miss Ethel Wise and Mrs Mabel Robson, aboard the Ventura, San Francisco to Sydney, arriving 2 September 1919.

It was shocking for Mabel Robson who was travelling with her father George Wise and sister Ethel Wise aboard the Ventura that her eldest son Alan Robson was to become ill from appendicitis and die whilst a student at Newington College in Sydney two months later.

Sydney Morning Herald, 22 December 1919

Sydney Morning Herald, 24 December 1919

It was tragic to record the sudden death of W.E.V. and Mabel Robson’s eldest son William Alan Veitch Robson. Mabel was desperately unhappy with the medical treatment her son received with the news that his terrible pain was misdiagnosed by the school doctor and appendicitis was only discovered when peritonitis became fatal. The death of another grandson must have been heart breaking for George and Agnes Wise as well.

Headstone for Alan Robson (1903-19), and his parents William Elliott Veitch Robson (1869-1951) and Mabel Jackson Robson nee Wise (1878-1971), Rookwood Cemetery, Methodist Section

Marriage of Cyril Raymond Wise and Berthe Ermance Pastre, 30 September 1921, St James Church, Croydon, Sydney

Cyril Raymond Wise M.C. (1883-1968) was the son of George Edwin Wise (1850-1933) and Agnes Amelia Kilpatrick (1851-1924), he married Berthe Ermance Pastre (1897-1970) on 20 September 1921, they had no children.

Honolulu, Passenger List for George Wise and daughter Ethel Wise, 8 July 1922 travelling first class aboard the RMS Niagara

Paradise in the Pacific, Dubbo Liberal, 22 September 1922

George Wise’s travel-log was picked up by both the Dubbo Liberal and the Wellington Times newspapers. It would have been fascinating for the locals to read about the exotic places in the Pacific Ocean, George was spearheading a new industry, which, in the next 100 years would become a national pastime of Australians indulging in passenger tourism.

Dubbo Liberal, Paradise in the Pacific, 5 October 1922

Sudden death of Charles Haddon Richards, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 December 1922, aged 49 years.

Headstone for Charles Haddon Richards, Rookwood Cemetery, died 18 December 1922

The headstone for Charles Haddon Richards shows quite incredibly that his widow, Ellen Murray Richards was a widow for nearly forty years. Also buried with the Richards are their two daughters, Gladys and Dulcie.

New South Wales Government Gazette, 23 March 1923


Sydney Morning Herald, 11 February 1924

This death notice I found unexpectedly, Agnes Amelia Wise, died 10 February 1924 at her home Roslyn House, Croydon, aged 72 years. I then found a nice obituary from the Wellington Times.

Wellington Times, 14 February 1924

Death of William Wise, Wellington Times, 28 April 1824

The death of William Wise, must have come as a blow to George Wise, just two months after the death of his wife Agnes. William is not named, which is strange and he was also incorrectly listed as a bachelor, sadly William Wise had been a Widower for many years his wife Annie Wilson McDonell Wise having died in 1901 was buried in Avoca, Victoria. William is buried next to his sister Ellen Alice Wise in Gilgandra Cemetery. Ellen Alice Wise had lived with her brother William Wise for many years. After William’s death, Ellen “Alice” Wise lived with William’s daughter Dorothy Alice Wise Varcoe M.B.E. in Gilgandra. Dorothy was also, like so many of the Wise family, an outstanding member of the community.

Headstone for William Wise (1848-1924), Gilgandra Cemetery

Evening News, 31 March 1927

George E. Wise was accompanied by his unmarried daughters, Edna, Ruby and Ethel, travelled to England aboard the Oronsay, to visit their daughter and sister, Irene Borthwick and her family. Ship life was luxurious and in first class one was expected to dress for every occasion. In most cases, a new wardrobe was purchased for the voyage. Every need for the passengers was thought of, large wardrobe style suitcases were de riguer for the voyage.

Oronsay, launched in 1924, image courtesy of Wikipedia

Oronsay, First Class Upper Deck, Courtesy of National Library of Norway

R.M.S. Otranto, Lounge, courtesy Sydney Heritage Fleet photographs

Sisters ships of the time, the Otranto and Orontes give a good idea of the grandeur and luxury afforded to passengers travelling the world in the 1920’s.

Orontes, Thirty Three Years of Tireless Service, J.A. Wells

Australasian, 16 July 1927

Wellington Times, 27 August 1828

Wellington Times, 28 October 1929

Wise family Wedgewood porcelain dinner table setting, inscribed SAPERE AUDE, when translated, it means DARE TO BE WISE

My parents used this dinner service on all their formal occasions, it was amazing to think that after all these years, I finally found out that it was George and Agnes’ very special commissioned dinner plate service. Sadly there is very little of it left today; time and breakages have accounted for most of its disappearance.

I was Googling George Edwin Wise when I unexpectedly found a book of armorial family crests and was thrilled to find that George Wise and his family featured in it. It is called Armorial Families: A Directory of Gentlemen of Coat-Armour, Vol 2 by Arthur Charles Fox Davis. I wonder whether this was the Wise family crest from Ireland, or just a commission?

Dubbo Dispatch, 4 December 1930

The death of Ellen Alice Wise in Gilgandra at her niece Dorothy Varcoe’s home meant that George Edwin Wise had now outlived all his Wise family siblings. It is wonderful that through obituaries, the lives of all the Wises were recorded in Australian newspapers. Dorothy Alice Wise (1898-1984) M.B.E. married Frank Varcoe, she was the only child of William Wise (1848-1924) and Annie Wilson McDonell (1867-1901). Ellen Alice Wise is buried at Gilgandra Cemerery in a grave next to her brother William Wise (1848-1924).

Headstone for Ellen Alice Wise, Gilgandra Cemetery, New South Wales

National Advocate, Bathurst, 1 March 1930

Daily Mercury, Mackay, 29 August 1933

Sydney Morning Herald, 31 August 1933

Sydney Morning Herald, 6 September 1933

Sydney Morning Herald, 4 September 1933

During my course in Genealogy at the Society of Australian Genealogists, it was drummed into me that “one must not believe everything one reads in obituaries”. In the case of George Wise, his Waterford birthplace is of course incorrect. Information passed down from family members to journalists, though interesting, often cannot be supported and can be the cause of much confusion to later generations.

Gilgandra Weekly, 31 August 1933

Gravestone for George Edwin Wise, who died 28 August 1933, his wife Agnes Amelia Wise, who died 10 February 1924, his daughter Edna Kilpatrick Wise who died 23 September 1951 and son Cyril Raymond Wise died 15 January 1968, Rookwood Cemetery, Anglican Heritage Section

Wise Family Monument Grave, Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney, New South Wales

Gravestone for Berthe Ermance Wise, who died 8 June 1970, Rookwood Cemetery

Gravestone for Ruby Alice Wise, who died 3 May 1980 and Ethel Isabel Wise, who died 1 June 1981, Rookwood Cemetery

Sydney Morning Herald, 6 August 1937

With the death in August 1937 of Mr T. H. Cameron, George Edwin Wise’s business partner, this takes me back when it all started in 1889, when together with C. J. Scott these three entrepreneurial managers started a grocery business in a small country town called Wellington, that would go on to become one of the greatest business successes in outback country New South Wales.

G.E. Wise and Co. was not just a general store, it was a luxury goods emporium, where you could buy just about anything from practically anywhere in the world. George E. Wise had vision; he bought the women of New South Wales the latest in fashion trends, providing milliners, dressmakers and silks, he bought the children had toys that they could never have imagined, and the men in his stores could peruse the shelves and find everything that could ever be wished for their homes and pastoral pursuits, from farm machinery to seeds, fertilisers to tools, G.E. Wise and Co. was there to fulfil every wish that money could buy.

I now think of George Edwin Wise and his motto in life, Dare to be Wise and he certainly did dare. George E. Wise’s story has been the most interesting and enthralling experience to research his family, uncover the past and write up what is probably one of the most fascinating and enjoyable chapters in my family history. I like the style of George Edwin Wise, his friendliness and jovial demeanour meant he made friends with just about everyone, he also knew when to stop and allow others to take over, he knew the value of money, but he also knew the value of leisure and the importance of his family. I can understand now why George Edwin Wise was my dad Reginald George Robson’s favourite grandfather.

Virginia Rundle 5 September 2019


Wise Family Tree, authored by the Late Hon. Irene Evangeline Borthwick

The Western Stores and Edgleys, Alan McRae

Ship’s manifests, various, from subscription website

Orontes, Thirty Three Years of Tireless Service, J.A. Wells

Anglican Parish Records for Sydney, 1818-2011

Wellington Cemetery Records and Photos

Gilgandra Cemetery Records and Photos

Rookwood Cemetery Photos

Trove Digitised Newspapers, in particular I am indebted to this wonderful early Australian newspaper service, my job would have been almost impossible without it. The inclusion of so many precious regional newspapers in this collection is such a boon to family research and historians.

Ann Loveridge and Peter Drury Photo Collections

Libby Paulson, photos from The Kelly Wise Collection

The Murray Family Photograph Collection, compiled by Harriette Alice Wise nee King (1835-1894), the wife of Patrick John Murray (1827-1906), youngest brother of Ellen Frances Matilda Murray, George Edwin Wise’s mother, now in the Photograph Collection of Meri Lane, great grand-daughter of Harriette Murray. Robyn Garis found this Photograph Album in the safekeeping of Adrian and Meri Lane, her brother and sister in law and spied the Wises on many pages, realising these were my Wise family. It is comforting and quite unexpected to have discovered that there was so much contact between our Murray and Wise cousins in Australia, after the untimely death of Ellen Wise, just four years after her arrival in Australia from Ireland. I am so grateful to Robyn Garis, an amazing and most capable writer and researcher, who uncovered a vast amount of information on the Murray Family of Limerick.

New South Wales Police and Government Gazettes

Sands Sydney Directory Index, 1880

State Library of Victoria

Sydney Heritage Fleet photographs

Hocken Collection, University of Otago

Wikipedia Ships’ Images

Caribou Monument, Canadian Mounties Photograph Collection

National Archives of London, Services of Officers’ Lists

Armorial Families, A Directory of Gentleman of Coat-Armour, Arthur Charles Fox Davies

Appendix: Wellington Times, 2 August, 1906

Travels Through Canada, Wellington Times, page 7 of 7, 2 August 1906

2 comments On George Edwin Wise and the Western Stores

  • What a great post!

  • Virginia – great history there! Is George Wise (b.1918 d.2006, also buried at Rookwood, any relation to this family? I’m researching our local rugby league club whom he played for in 1947 and am trying to contact his relatives if possible?! Thanks

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