Martha Clendinning

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Charles A. Doudiet, , 1850s, pencil on paper.
Courtesy Art Gallery of Ballarat, purchased Purchased with funds from the Colin Hicks Caldwell Bequest, 2004.
Henry Winkles, Untitled [inside view of tent], 1850s, watercolour, pencil on paper.
Courtesy Art Gallery of Ballarat, Purchased with funds from the Colin Hicks Caldwell Bequest, 2004.


Martha (Holmes) was born on 22 February 1822 to Martha Molloy and Charles Holmes who had married on 10 April 1821 at Prospect, Garryduff. Martha married George Clendinning on 12 August 1845 at Kilmegarenagh. Martha was part of a wider family group who travelled to Victoria from Ireland, arriving in Australia on 1 January 1853. Martha emigrated with her sister Sarah Annie Holmes who had married Thomas William Lloyd of Ballywilliam, Co. Sligo on 31 July 1851. The families met with disaster when their vessel was shipwrecked near Geelong and they almost lost all their belongings. [1]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Thomas Lloyd and George Clendinning made up a party and went to the Ballarat gold diggings, leaving their wives in Melbourne. Martha and her sister decided that they would join their husbands. They determined to open a store on the Ballarat Diggings, so they hired a cart, provisions, and set out arriving in Ballarat after their husbands who arrived in Ballarat on 1 March 1853. The ride out of Melbourne was bumpy, Martha declaring she would sooner walk all the way than endure the jostling and jolting on top of the cart. She became known as the ‘lady that walked to Ballarat’. Martha soon learnt that life on the diggings was different, often living alone in a tent. She described many incidents, among which was one of the first church services at St Paul’s, Bakery Hill, where she pondered the purpose of the boughs of gum leaves near the altar. She soon learnt that these were to swat the masses of flies that swarmed into the building in hot weather! A Protestant Irish woman, Martha took an active interest in community affairs. She was a member of St Paul’s Church of England, treasurer of the Ladies Benevolent Clothing Society, and was one of the 26 women who helped establish the Ballarat Female Refuge in 1867, the first institution of its kind for single mothers on the Australian goldfields. Martha donated a valuable collection of pressed ferns to the Ballarat Horticultural Society according to their annual report in 1878. Prior to the Eureka battle Martha Clendinning was asked by Alfred Black, the “Minister of War” to surrender her guns. She claimed that she had a piece of the Eureka flag which was given to her by Dr Alfred Carr.

Her daughter Margaret born June 1847 at County Mayo, Ireland, married Colonel Robert Rede in 1873. Margaret and Robert Rede had the following issue: Geraldine b. 1 Dec 1873; George Clendinning Rede b. 1875, d. 1879; Roger de E Strange b. 1878; Violet Holmes b. 1880 (married Teague); Parton Ludovik Herbert b.1882; Fairlie Margaret Hebe b. 1884. Martha and George Clendinning later moved to Melbourne. They lived in Toorak where Martha continued to be active in community affairs and charitable institutions. Martha Clendinning died in 1908 at Ardale aged 86 years. [2]

Post 1854 Experiences

Martha Clendinning has a piece of the Eureka Flag.


One of the oldest members of St Pauls church is the person of Mrs Clendinning, widow of the late Dr Clendinning, died last week in Melbourne and she will be buried in Ballarat today.The remains will be brought to Ballarat by the morning train?[3]

See also

Women of Eureka

For a detailed account of the Holmes family history see Holmes Late of Moycashel. [4]

Arthur Holmes born 3 July 1876 of the family of Holmes of Moycashel, was descended from Robert Holmes of Garryduff (son of Richard Holmes, who was an Officer of Cavalry in the Army of William III in Ireland).

Further Reading

Corfield, J.,Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.

Dorothy Wickham, Women in 'Ballarat' 1851-1871: A Case Study in Agency, PhD. School of Behavioural and Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Ballarat, March 2008.

Dorothy Wickham, Blood, Sweat and Tears: Women of Eureka in Journal of Australian Colonial History, 10, No, 1, 2008, pp. 99-115.

Dorothy Wickham, Women of the Diggings: Ballarat 1854, BHSPublishing, 2009.,_Sweat_and_Tears:_Women_at_Eureka

Clare Wright, The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, Text Publishing, 2013.

Dorothy Wickham, Not just a Pretty Face: Women on the Goldfields, in Pay Dirt: Ballarat & Other Gold Towns, BHSPublishing, 2019, pp. 25-36.


  1. Dorothy Wickham, Women of the Diggings: Ballarat 1854, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2009.
  2. Dorothy Wickham, Women of the Diggings: Ballarat 1854, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2009
  3. The Ballarat Courier, 20 January 1908
  4. Burkes Landed Gentry, p. 325

External links