b. 25 July 1863, d. 6 August 1925
John Phillips
Image: Roylyn Phillips
FatherJames Phillips b. 1825, d. 16 Sep 1866
MotherBridget McMahon b. 1835, d. 25 Dec 1903

Birth, Death, Marriage

John Phillips was born on 25 July 1863 in Lal Lal, Victoria.1,2 
He married Ellen O'Loughlin, daughter of Michael O'Loughlin and Margaret Lee, on 15 April 1891 in St Mary's, Dunnstown, Victoria.3 
He died on 6 August 1925 in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, at age 62.4,5 


Ellen O'Loughlin b. 26 Mar 1869, d. 24 Jun 1951
ChartsO'Loughlin, Michael, descendant chart
Phillips, James, descendant chart
Phillips, Thomas, pedigree chart


John Phillips was a well respected local who worked hard to provide for his family of ten children. He worked for 34 years as a line repairer for the railways, from before he married till a year before his death at the age of 62. He left ten children, but could only have known six of his eventual twenty-two grandchildren.
Birth Puzzle
The exact date and place of John's birth has always been a bit of a mystery. In fact, in 1996, his youngest daughter Eileen admitted she had never known her father's birthday (she was only eight when he died). His birth registration can't be found.

On John's marriage registration, death registration and on most of the birth registrations of his children, his birth place is given as Lal Lal. This is about 20 km south-east of Ballarat. On the birth registration for his son Thomas, his place of birth is given as Meredith. This is about 40 km south-east of Ballarat and half way to Geelong. Meredith is also the place of birth listed for his sister Bridget Phillips, who was born in 1865. Lal Lal and Meredith are both on the Geelong to Ballarat railway line.

Estimates for John's year of birth vary between 1862 for the birth registrations for son Thomas and daughter Annie, and 1865 for the birth registration for daughter Eileen. The only place we have seen a date of birth is in a Victorian Railways list of employees in the Victorian Government Gazette. As this date falls within the range of estimates, we have assumed this to be his correct birthdate.6,3,2,7,8,9,10
Bridget, John and Bridget
When James died, he left his wife Bridget to care for their three year old son John and one year old daughter Bridget. We know nothing of the children's childhood, but by the time John started working for the railways, the three lived together in Nhill. The young Bridget worked as a domestic servant and died in Nhill of typhoid aged 23. Around 1897, John moved with his mother and his young family to live in Turner St, Bacchus Marsh. Bridget (senior) died six years later, on Christmas Day 1903.11,12,13
John and Ellen were married in St Mary's Roman Catholic church in Dunnstown, near Ballarat, in 1891. This is where Ellen was born.

Witnesses to the marriage were Cornelius O'Loughlin and Margaret O'Loughlin, Ellen's cousin and sister.

At the time of the wedding, both of Ellen's parents had died. And as John's only remaining family was his mother, she was the only one of the parents to see them marry.

John was a Catholic because of his Irish mother, the family name Phillips not normally being associated with Catholicism at the time. When they moved to Bacchus Marsh, they were the only Catholic Phillipses there.14,3
John & Ellen Phillips (O'Loughlin)
Image: Roylyn Phillips
Railway Servant
At the time of his 1891 marriage, John listed his occupation as railway servant and usual residence as Nhill. In every other document, such as childrens' birth registrations and electoral rolls, he is a 'line repairer' or 'repairer'.

John was appointed to the Victorian Railways on 19 August 1890 (age 27). His departmental number was 6314. In 1896 he was in the Existing Lines branch and working around Nhill. This was just a year after the line from Dimboola to Serviceton, through Nhill, was completed. Line maintenance would be required soon after construction as the sleepers settled into the ballast. By 1905, he was part of the Way and Works branch and working in Bacchus Marsh.

In 1908, his wife Ellen started working as a gatewoman on the Vallence Rd crossing.

In 1902 John's wage was 7 shillings, in 1914 it was 8s 6d, and by 1921 it was 12s 3d. The significant jump in pay most likely corresponds with extra responsibilities. At the time of his retirement in 1924 after 34 years, John was on a wage of 13s 6d and was in charge of the upkeep of the line on either side of the Bacchus Marsh railway station.3,15,7,2,16,17
Raising Family
Following their marriage in Dunnstown, the couple lived near John's work around Nhill in western Victoria. The three eldest children, Larry, Mary and Tess, were born in Lillimur.

Around 1897, the family moved to Bacchus Marsh. They initially lived in Turner St in what would have been a railway house. There is a Bacchus Marsh railway manifest for April 1897 that mentions a Mr Phillips. It is likely that this was delivery of some or all of the family's belongings in their move from Lillimur to Bacchus Marsh. This is just two weeks before the birth of son Tom. More children arrived while in Turner St, Jack, Joe, Jim and Annie.

The children all attended one of the two local Catholic schools. Either St Bernard's School in Gisborne Rd, or St Joseph's Convent School adjoining St Bernard's church in Lerderderg St. The family is recorded as having made a donation towards the construction of the new convent school.14,18
One Grandparent for the Children
The children would not have known what life could be like with grandparents. Ellen's mother died when Ellen was only three, John's father died when John was only three, and Ellen's father died before John and Ellen married. So John's mother was the only grandparent that any of the children knew, and she died of dementia when the eldest, Larry, was just six.19,20,21,13
The Gatehouse
The gatehouse was right next to the railway line on the south-west corner of the Vallence Rd crossing (this crossing was removed in 2004). It was a small four-roomed house, and the older boys slept in a tent in the back yard.

The family moved there about 1908, with Danny born later that year, and their tenth and last child, Eileen, born in 1911.

The children would play with any children nearby or who were known through school or St Bernard's church. There seemed to be a particularly strong connection with the Vallence family, or more correctly all the Vallence families, in Bacchus Marsh. A number of Vallences lived nearby including Nell, Eddie, Amy and Harry, who were just over the railway line. Lifelong friendships were known between the Phillips children and Vallences. Mary married Bill Vallence.

The wide age range of the children, nineteen years to the day between the eldest and youngest, must have created an interesting household. Larry was working as a hairdresser in Grant St before Eileen was even born. He married when Eileen was just three, and made her Auntie Eileen at age four, before she even started school. During and following the First World War, the children gradually started leaving home to be replaced with visits by grandchildren.22
Gatehouse in Bacchus Marsh 1960
Health and Final Years
John's work on the railways would have been physically demanding. He had a duodenal ulcer and a heart condition and reportedly got puffed on the way from the railway gatehouse to the church. He died of heart failure at the age of 62, having retired only the previous year.

John was described as 'always a hard-working and respectable man'. He was also described as 'a bit grumpy'.

At the time of his death, John left a wife, ten children and six grandchildren, Laurie (Larry's), Dot, Alan, Jack, Reg and Beryl.23,11,24,6


  1. [S244] Victoria Government Gazette, 1836-1997, Victorian Railways list of employees, 4 February 1896, p. 690.
  2. [S358] Eileen Phillips, birth registration no. 223, 17 January 1911.
  3. [S22] John Phillips and Ellen O'Loughlin, marriage registration no. 3056, 1891.
  4. [S270] Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, registry and index, death registration no. 7850.
  5. [S359] John Phillips, death registration no. 7850, 6 August 1925.
  6. [S31] Eileen Redden, personal communication, 16 November 1996.
  7. [S10] Thomas James Phillips, birth registration no. 8018, 2 May 1897.
  8. [S29] Bridget Phillips, birth registration no. 23864, 6 September 1865.
  9. [S1] Peter Phillips and Lyn Dow (and possibly others) have searched for John's birth registration in online BDM indexes, in BDM fiche, in early church records, using many spelling variants for the name, using just the mother's name, using just the father's name, and over a wide range of dates.
  10. [S357] Annie Eileen Phillips, birth registration no. 23661, 25 September 1906.
  11. [S44] Roylyn Phillips, personal communication, 13 March 1996.
  12. [S355] Bridget Phillips, death registration no. 9001, 31 March 1889.
  13. [S34] James Phillips, death registration, 16 September 1866.
  14. [S318] Bacchus Marsh & District Historical Society, personal communication, Christine Bronchinetti 8 November 2013.
  15. [S244] Victoria Government Gazette, 1836-1997, 4 February 1896, p.690.
  16. [S244] Victoria Government Gazette, 1836-1997, 1902, 1905, 1921 and 1924.
  17. [S392] Australia, Electoral Rolls 1903-1980, online, division of Corio, subdivision of Bacchus Marsh, 1908.
  18. [S276] '[No title]', Bacchus Marsh Express, 1857-1983, newspaper, Christopher Crisp & George Land, 17 April 1897, p. 2, viewed 23 June 2014, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88346650
  19. [S54] Michael O'Loghlen, death registration no. 5727, 1 June 1890.
  20. [S47] Margaret O'Loughlin, death registration no. 2885, 15 February 1873.
  21. [S48] Bridget Phillips, death registration no. 18989, 25 December 1903.
  22. [S318] Bacchus Marsh & District Historical Society, personal communication, Christine Bronchinetti 18 November 2013.
  23. [S320] 'Obituary, John Phillips', Bacchus Marsh Express, 8 August 1925.
  24. [S52] Doris 'Nene' Courtie, personal communication, 30 December 1996.