Francis Joseph Griffin was born in 1881 in Scotland, the eldest in a family of 11 children. He was one year old when his family migrated to Melbourne. He served in the military from about 1902 with the Victorian Scottish Regiment, and enlisted for the First World War in 1915. He was married and had two sons. He was promoted to Captain in April 1916. Then at Pozières he was wounded and suffered a severe fracture of his left arm, and he was returned to Australia for rehabilitation. He recuperated over 1917 and returned to France to active service. He was gassed in March 1918 during the German Spring Offensive. Returning to the lines again, during one of the battles of Ypres in September, he suffered a gunshot wound to his left leg, and a wound to his head. He was invalided to England and at the end of the war returned to Australia. The shrapnel in his head was never removed. Frank Griffin was advised to farm, and spent some time working on Toomuc Valley Orchard together with two other returned soldiers. When Col. George Hodges Knox, of Yuulong, decided to reduce his land holdings in Upper Beaconsfield, he offered 45 acres to Frank Griffin, as long as the Closer Settlement Board agreed to the purchase within two months. Knox declared that he was keen to leave because he had enough of orcharding and wanted to run sheep in Gippsland. This property was situated on the eastern side of the corner of Split Rock Road and Salisbury Road.

This orchard, in contrast to the others in Upper Beaconsfield, had good reports from all inspectors. Eighteen acres of the property were an orchard with 1630 apple trees, and a further 20 acres were cleared. The local inspector noted that "the orchard generally is one of the best in the Beaconsfield District and when in full bearing it should be producing from 6000 to 7000 cases of fruit yearly." The Board valuer declared that "this orchard is a good deal above the average of orchards offered for Soldier Settlement and I would recommend its acquirement by the board." It didn’t deter the board that there was no house on the block, and they agreed to pay a premium rate of £34 per acre.

Griffin took possession on 1 November 1920, and because of the lack of accommodation the family, now with three children, rented ‘Lyndhurst’, a house on Salisbury Road. His wife Jane’s relatives were builders, and they found a cottage in Mordialloc that would suit the family, and it was to be transported to Upper Beaconsfield on horse drawn wagons. Jane Griffin, a lady with dignity, and rather proud, was worried what the neighbours would think about them acquiring a second hand cottage. Her relatives assured her that they would transport it during the week, when few people were about in the village. As it happened, the transport arrived on a Sunday morning and she was further upset when told that the men had stopped outside the village hall and had their lunch there! Soon the cottage, named Kamarooka, had an attractive veranda along the north side, and other rooms were added as they children grew up.

This settler’s file does not contain much information about his early years on the block, but it seems that Griffin received a number of advances from the Board for the house and other implements.

The decline in orcharding and the Great Depression made it difficult for Frank Griffin to make a living. He received numerous notices from the Board reminding him when instalments were due. In 1939 his lease was adjusted and most of the outstanding debt written off. He still had to make half-yearly payments equal to £1/week, but still ran into arrears with that. He was in a difficult position. While he said that he could obtain outside employment, he would have to neglect the orchard, putting the next year’s crop in jeopardy. By now he was in his late sixties, and his war injuries were giving him trouble. Despite his late payments he received good reports from the inspectors. One year the inspector noted "credit is due to this man for the manner in which he maintains the orchard with practically no income." In 1942 Griffin wrote to the Board, "I would like to express my real gratitude for the considerate treatment given me by your department." While he might have had the help of his two sons in the earlier years, they both enlisted in the army in the Second World War, and his son Malcolm tragically died of scrub typhus in New Guinea in 1944. His name is on the Upper Beaconsfield War Memorial. In March 1950 Captain Griffin wrote to the Board that he was unable to meet his next instalment, as thrips had destroyed his whole crop, and that generally "the property has proved to be not a very productive one, and I have been unable to amass any reserves to meet an emergency like this. Also my health has been very poor during the past few years." Just a month later Kamarooka was up for auction, however, Dr James Darling bought it pre-auction. It fetched a good price and enabled Capt. Griffin to pay off his lease. Kamarooka burnt down in June 1993 when a hole in the concrete firebox caused the house to catch fire.

 

NOTE

Many family sections show only the children who were associated with Upper Beaconsfield.