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John Pearce: Fisherman, and Mary Ann Addicott

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On the bank of the Mordialloc Creek in 1888.

On April 6, 1880 a petition signed by sixteen men was presented to the President and Councillors of the Shire of Moorabbin to have "certain persons" removed from the banks of the Mordialloc Creek. These "persons" were living on the right bank of the creek between Point Nepean Road and the Mordialloc Jetty. In the view of the petitioners "these persons had become a nuisance by their mode of living and are a reproach to the township". They asked that these persons be given notice to "quit the public grounds that they occupy and disgrace." (History of Mordialloc, 1927)

The persons concerned included John Pearce and his family. John was one of several fishermen living at Mordialloc who fished the bay and creek. Mary Ann Addicott and John Pearce had their first child shortly after Maryís eighteenth birthday in 1855 when John was thirty six. The child was named Thomas. He later drowned in the creek when he was sixteen years old. Although Thomas was able to swim he was known to suffer from fits so it was thought he may have fallen into the creek during a seizure suffered while attending to fishing nets. The inquest report noted that "he was found drowned without any marks of violence on his body."

John and Mary Ann went on to have another eleven children. Their names were: Frederick 1857, Ann Watson 1861, John 1863, William 1866, Susan Anna 1869, Richard Henry 1872, Euphemia 1873, Edith 1874, Oliver Henry 1876, Alfred Ernest 1878, and Alfred 1880. The last child lived for only an hour and died five days before his mother. Mary Annís death certificate indicates that she had had diseases of the liver for two to three months and that the liver had ruptured in the last week of her life. She was forty three years of age when she was buried in the Cheltenham Cemetery on March 19, 1880.

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Oliver Pearce at Black Rock repairing his fishing nets.

A descendent of Mary Anne Pearce tells the story that he and his brother often baited their fishing lines with food to catch ducks. On one occasion their grandmother when walking across the yard did not see the taut fishing line. She tripped and fell heavily to the ground. He said, "She died shortly afterwards." (Joy 1997:5)

The complaint to the Shire about the living conditions of the Pearce family was made only a few weeks after Mary Annís death and the death of her son. John Yoeman, a council officer sent to investigate the substance of the petitionersí claims, noted this fact in his report. He pointed out that as soon as his business in the neighbourhood became known inhabitants told him "the petition was got up by persons of a malicious inclination." Twelve of the sixteen petitioners were rival fishermen not living on Crown Land and one of the remaining four withdrew his name. Two men, Messrs Lystra and Rennison entered a counter petition. John Pearce, Yoeman noted, was a widower with six children and two other fishermen, Henry Hayward and William Hayward had a licence to live on the land and had paid the necessary fees until 1881. His enquires established without exception that they were "sober, industrious, hard-working men". He concluded, "From all I could gather respecting these fishermen who have been on the place and paid license for the last twenty years, I would respectfully suggest that they be allowed to remain." He signed and dated the report 22/5/1880. (Joy 1997: Appendix)

The History of Mordialloc (1927) written many years later noted, "Quite a row of residences were occupied in what is now known as the Park on the bank of the creek. One of the eyesores of the place at this time was a small cottage alongside the creek close to the bridge on the north side held under a fishermanís licence by Johnny Pearce, who reared two families there. In spite of many protests, he remained there until his death (the only power able to move him)."

Three years after the death of Mary Ann, John remarried. His second wife was Maria Mason, a widow with three children. Together they had two children, Ethel 1884, and Arthur 1887. John died at seventy years of age on November 28, 1909 at Sea View Crescent, Black Rock. Causes of death were noted on the death certificate as cancer of the liver and exhaustion. He was buried in the Cheltenham Cemetery the day following his death.


  • Joy, S. (1997) Mary Anne Pearce (1837-1880) and John Pearce (1819-1909) of Mordialloc, Victoria, Australia. [Manuscript].
  • History of Mordialloc (1927) The Standard Newspapers Pty Ltd, Cheltenham.

Article Cat. People
Article Ref. 86

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