DOWLING, Frank “The General”

(1852 – 1943)

Born in 1852, Frank Dowling was Bishop Owen Dowling’s grandfather. We don’t know when Frank Dowling came to live in Bendoc, but it is thought to have been some-time in late 1800s, say 1885-1890.

Frank Dowling was married to Jessie Mackenzie and they had five children together. Cecil Dowling was Frank’s youngest son and the father of Owen.

It is not known how long Frank and his wife lived in Bendoc, but Bishop Owen thinks most of the younger family lived there until Jessie became pregnant with the fifth child, Cecil.

When Cecil’s birth was projected, Jessie wanted to go to live in Melbourne and bring up the family there. It seems Jessie’s stepmother had a big hand in this idea. Bishop Owen believes that Frank took them by bullock dray to Glen Wills, then by coach to the railway at either Orbost or Bairnsdale, and from there the family travelled to Melbourne.

According to a letter from Bishop Owen (who now lives in the Canberra, ACT), Frank Dowlng did not like the “influence of his mother-in-law”, so he returned to Bendoc to live in the then Mustard’s pub and look after their accounts, as well as keeping his gold interests. He had earlier been an accountant at a butter factory in Gippsland (possibly Sale – Bishop Owen is not certain on this point), Frank turned out to be one of the few people in Bendoc who could read, write and look after accounts. He came to be known as “The General” because so many people sought his help in writing letters and with their affairs.

Bishop Owen says Frank no doubt helped with the accounts of the Victoria Mine. as well as other mining ventures, and Frank was convinced that Bendoc would one day prosper as a flourishing centre of goldmining.

Bishop Owen is always pleased to hear anything local people of Bendoc may remember of Franks and his gold mining “proclivities”, as is Bishop Owen’s older brother Ken, who also likes to accumulate information about him. We know that Frank continued to live in Bendoc apart from his family in Melbourne from 1900 onwards, contributing his talents to many important community projects in and around Bendoc and Delegate.

According to Bishop Owen, Frank (aka “The General”) lived in a small room on the veranda of Mustard’s Pub (now known as the Commercial Hotel) in Bendoc from many years. The room he used is now used as the Post Office. That’s quite a small room! Anyway he had his 90th birthday there in 1942. Frank continued to play quite an important part in life and development of the community. Perhaps the most significant were the letters he wrote on the community’s behalf to petition the governmen for a road connection from the Bonang Highway to Bendoc, and, he turned the first sod when the road’s construction began.

He served for a number of years as Secretary and bearer of other office positions in the Bendoc Progress Association and took an intrest in the formation and building of our beautiful and much loved Union Church. These are important contribution to he community and the road and church have not changed much since Frank’s time, except for maintenance work. We also believe “The General” was Secretary of the Delegate Race Club, and his connection with the area continued with his daughters, Louisa and Ruby, who were nurses at the Delegate Hospital for a time.

Frank’s sons went on to pursue careers in other parts of Australia: the eldest, Hugh, became a bank manager in Western Australia, Val prospered as a businessman and shirt manufacturer in Melbourne, while Cecil (Bishop Owen’s father) Frank’s youngest son, also worked as a bank officer, bringing up his family of three boys in Melbourne. Bishop Owen was the youngest of Cecil’s sons and the connection with our area was revived when he became Bishop of the Anglican Church in the Goulburn-Canberra region. This brought him to Delegate many times for special occasions and he brought his children and grandchildren to Bendoc to see were Frank lived in isolation from the rest of the family for more than forty years, although he did correspond with his grandson Hugh when Hugh was in the army. Hugh rode up to Bendoc on his motorbike to vsit his grandfather before he went away to fight in World War II.