Dear David,

I humbly submit my notes on a branch of the Duffus clan which may be of interest to somebody. Let me know if the format is unsuitable, and I'll correct it. You are welcome to cut or reformat the text yourself if that is more expedient. Mike.

With special notes on Harold Ambrose Duffus & his children.

Notes compiled/edited by Michael Peter Summers (orig. Duffus) March 2000




The following notes are compiled mainly from the data I collected during my visit to Victoria, Australia in January/February 2000. Before setting out, I had planned a simple holiday, and to find my half brothers, if they were still alive. I had no access to the internet then, and I knew no Duffus addresses at all. After poring through the Melbourne telephone directory, and following up every suggested contact, I was startled to find I had so many cousins, and that they wanted to meet me.


When I discovered that I still have a half brother and twelve first cousins, my holiday turned into a pilgrimage, one which took me throughout Melbourne, Warnabool, Koroit, Port Fairey and Yambuk. I was unprepared for what I was to find, so my notes were taken hastily, though enthusiastically. Any errors or ommissions are purely accidental and no offence is meant to my relatives. I would be delighted to receive corrections or additions to these notes, since I hope to amend and update this information in due course. Many photos will be available. My fondest wishes and unreserved thanks to Moya O'Keefe, Joan Duffus, Pat Duffus, Father John McGrath, Ron Duffus, Harold Francis Duffus, and too many others to name.


The Notes


Origins Of The Name. Opinions differ on the meaning and origin of the name Duffus.

One possible meaning is "Dove-house". Other spellings are Dufhus in 1290 AD and Duffous in 1512.


(Source: Father John, son of Maggie McGrath nee Duffus)

Unsubstantiated legend: A French lord called Duffu eloped with the daughter of a Lord ? To avoid scandal Duffu was given title and land.


Other sources say that "Duffus" is a Latinisation of "Duff", an old Scottish name which refers to the black water to be found near Spynie. Also, see Nigel Tranter's "Lost Lordship Of Duffus" and his historical novel on MacBeth.


(As confirmed in "Memories of an Irish Family" & "A Green And Pleasant Land")

George Duffus. Joined Royal Artillery in the county of Banff May, 13 1808. He became a Sergeant. He was posted to Belfast Ireland where he married Elizabeth Cahill. They had several children, brought up as Catholics because of Elizabeth. Later he was posted to Newfoundland, and Elizabeth and the children went too. There they had one more child, called James. Later George was given an honourable discharge and returned to Scotland with his family.


Denis Gleeson. The name Gleeson may come from the french name Glisson.

Denis was a genteel and well educated landowner from Tipperary, Ireland. He was 5'5.5" tall , with hazel/grey eyes and brown hair. He was involved in a fight with his tenant James Hayes who was not paying the rent. James Hayes died as a result. No one knows who killed James, if anyone did. Eleven men were were tried. It is believed that James died while running away, and the exact cause of death isn't clear but a verdict of "a most aggravated case of manslaughter" was found on Denis, his son William, and his brother-in-law Cornelius. Judge Moore sentenced them to be transported for life with "Twelve months hard labour each alternate". They sailed on the "Clyde" from Kingstown Harbour, Ireland in 1838 to Sydney (Port Maquarie?) via South Africa. Their land was confiscated and given to the Hayes family. On April 9, (1846?) Denis was granted his ticket-of-leave.On August 9, 1851 he was pardoned by the Governor of Victoria, on condition that he did not return to the United Kingdom. No longer a convict, his wife and other children were able to join him. Records of their arrival point to 1841, but this date clashes with "ticket-of-leave" & pardon dates. At any rate, Denis became a school teacher in Port Fairey (known just as Belfast) and probably taught his grandchildren, including James Francis Duffus.


James Duffus. Son of George Duffus.

Born in Newfoundland (Canada) in 1819. Went to Scotland with George, then to Sydney as a bounty immigrant on the "Herald" in 1841. Moved to Port Maquarie, NSW, where he met Margaret Gleeson, daughter of ex-convict Denis Gleeson. She was an excellent Irish dancer. Born in Ireland, she too moved to NSW in 1841, together with her mother. James and Margaret married. They moved to Melbourne in 1847 and Belfast not long after. It seems that James spent time at the goldfields, possibly financing him for his business in Belfast (with his Gleeson brothers-in-law) and to begin farming at Yambuk. They moved to Koroit in 1867 and opened a general store. There the last of their nine children was born. James Duffus and Co. opened the "Beehive General Store" in 1868. This store was moved, but remained in Koroit. It sold Drapery, Grocery, Ironmongery, Stationery, Wines and Spirits. The Western Star Hotel was opened on the old site. James Duffus owned this too. He became a 'foundation' councillor of the Borough of Koroit and died in 1883.


James Francis Duffus continued the farming and business in and around Koroit, together with his brother Denis. They also had an auctioneering business and built saleyards along North Street in 1885. They sold this to the O'Brien family in 1887. The Beehive Store was sold to Hailes & Co. in 1888, proceeds used to purchase the Koroit Hotel from the estate of Robert Bruce in 1891. The hotel was an ugly rectangular bluestone building. James Francis had it extensively extended and refurbished, in the Art Deco style. James Duffus became MLA for Belfast in 1894 and remained an MP until defeated by HS Bailey in 1914. As a popular conservative Catholic he helped to impede the rise of the local Labour party. He attempted to get equal funding for Catholic schools. In 1880 he married Ellen O'Bryan and this was to produce eleven children: Francis, Edward, Frederick, Margaret, Catherine, Herbert, Leslie, Leonard, Harold, Ada, Emaline, and Ernest. This makes twelve children. Did Emaline exist?

A year later J F Duffus' brother-in-law Michael O'Bryan came to Koroit as manager of the National Bank . He moved to Melbourne and his descendants are important in the legal profession. James Francis died in 1923 and was buried at Melbourne General Cemetery. His brother Denis died in 1939. Younger brother Patrick ran a general store in Commercial Rd until he died in 1945. The Koroit Hotel was taken over by Mickey Burke. He looked after the Duffus family relics and became a very popular publican. The Koroit Hotel is still known throughout Victoria as "Mickey Burke's" albeit Mickey has retired and moved to Queenscliffe.


Francis James Duffus married Molly McDonald and they had seven children: Len, Jim, Leo, Les, Lil, Ellen, Brian. Of these only Lil survives today.

Edward "Ted" Patrick Duffus never married.

Frederick Duffus married twice, but had no children.

Margaret "Maggie" Mary McGrath (nee Duffus) married Daniel McGrath and they had nine children as follows: Moya, Patrick Daniel (d), Francis James, Thomas Joseph, Margaret Ursula (d), Mary Dorothea (d), John Anthony, Edward Bryan, Michael Jude (d).

Catherine "Kitty" Agnes married William Craven and had eight children: John "Jack" Francis (d), Mary, Harry George (d), Bryan Edward (d. 1917), William "Bill" Kenneth (d), Albert Kevin (d), Norman James, Margaret Jean, Ada Teresa.

Herbert "Bert" Lawrence didn't marry. He died aged 21.

Leslie Stephen married and had two children: Leslie (d), Jean (d).

Leonard "Len" Alphonso married and had eleven children: Frederick (d), James Nelson (d), Leonard Henry (d), Phyllis Celia, Rosemary Violet (d), Noreen Joan (d), Edward George(d), Harold Francis, Brian Keith (d), Margery Ellen (d), Daphne May.

Harold "Boliver" Ambrose. Wives & children listed separately.


Emaline Augustine (died as an infant)

Ernest (who died aged 6 weeks).


(Source: Moya O'Keefe)

More about the children of Maggie McGrath (nee Duffus).

Moya O'Keefe (nee McGrath) born circa 1921. Moya married John O'Keefe (d) and had ten children: Patrick, Laurence, Margaret, Kathleen, Brian, Helen, Eileen, Michael, Brenda, Julianne. Moya lives in Pascoe Vale.

Patrick Daniel McGrath married Dorothy Ballard. Their child was Maureen. Patrick also had a son called Gavan. Patrick has died.

Francis "Frank" James Duffus married Clare? and had four children: Shane, Kathryn, Patricia "Patty", and Elizabeth "Lizzie".

Thomas Joseph McGrath married Betty Love and they had four children: Daniel (killed on the road), Nicholas, Kathleen, Michael.

Mary Dorothea Walsh (nee McGrath) married Thomas Vincent Walsh. Their nine children were: Anne, Lorraine, Bernadette, Mary, Thomas, Pauline, Jennifer & Daniel (twins), John.

Edward Bryan McGrath married Beverly Raymond. Their three children were Kerry-Anne, John Joseph and Lucinda. Mary has died.

Michael Jude McGrath became a priest, but later left the priesthood to marry Marlene Dunn. Their children were Gabriel, Andrew, Brendon & Rosanne (twins). Michael was killed in a car accident in Queensland when another driver lost control of his vehicle.


(Source: Ronald & Michael, sons of Harold Ambrose)

Harold Ambrose "Boliver" Duffus. Son of J F Duffus. Harold was born circa 1895 into a large family, and died in 1972. He married Olive Schmitt/Smith and, according to Ronald, they had four children together: Ronald Duffus, Marjorie Duffus, Harold "Charlie" Duffus, and a female infant who died at 9 months. Ronald doen't remember the name. Was Emaline (previously listed as a sister) this female daughter? Olive died, aged 33 years, of cancer.


Harold's second wife was Queenie and they had no issue. She died too and, eventually, Harold married Marion Claire Vermish. With Marion (known as Claire) he had two children; Delphine and Michael Peter. Harold and Claire separated in the early 1960s and their children saw Harold for the last time in 1964. Late in 1975, when Claire's mother Sarah Hogg (prev. Vermish, nee Leeming) died, Claire and the children changed their name to Summers and left Australia to settle in and around London, UK.


Harold's nickname "Boliver" came from a toy revolver he had as a boy. He called it his boliver. Disappointed that he was too heavy to be a jockey, Harold was at least able to ride horses in the army and was a serviceman in both world wars, joining the 8th Light Horse in the middle of WW1. Harold's brothers Ted, Fred, Les and Len are known to have joined the army too. Very few Catholics from Koroit joined up during WW1, since Catholic sympathy was generally with Irish Independence. Perhaps the sons of an important politician had to set an example, or perhaps they had already left Koroit. Ted went to the Post Office at Cairo. Len was in the 4th Light Horse, and his postings included Gallipoli. It seems that all survived the war, but brother Bert died aged 21. Perhaps he was a casualty. According to wife Claire, Harold was at the famous battle of Beersheba, in Palestine, in which a seemingly impregnable fortress was over-run by lighthorsemen employed as cavalry. It is probably one of the few truly successful cavalry charges ever recorded. Ronald is not certain whether Harold was at Beersheba, but remembers that Harold was posted to Africa and France during WW1. According to Harold's nephews, Harold was with the Australian army unit (from Victoria) which distinguished itself by overwhelming a strong enemy unit, thus reversing an allied retreat. The French town there was so grateful for its liberation that it named its school "Victoria".


Harold contracted Belhazia from swimming in the Suez Canal. He held various ranks in the army. At one point he was a Lieutenant (2nd according to wife Claire, 1st according to Ron) but he was also a Sergeant and a Warrant Officer. Which ranks & when is not clear.


Long before WW1 Harold rode in a horse race, and won. His father, James Francis Duffus, an MP was outraged and took a horse whip to the lad. Later, Harold lost money betting on horse races, so, after the leaving the army in 1932, he set himself up as a bookie's clerk, but again he was unsuccessful. At which he was more disastrous is unclear, but Harold's son Ron remembers the bailiffs taking away the furniture when he was a lad. Harold rejoined the army in 1939, and worked at a veterinary hospital in Maribrynong in Australia. His sons "Charlie" and Ronald also joined up, for WW2. Determined to keep his sons from getting killed he tried to get them posted to the hospital. Ronald did get posted there, but both sons were eventually posted abroad. It is likely that Harold was posted to a training camp at some time during his service. This would fit with Claire's recollection that he had to train British soldiers to ride for special operations.


After leaving the army some time after WW2, Harold worked as a taxi driver, often working the "hungry shifts" to earn money as quickly as possible. This he spent at the race track (horses and dogs) and it was the main cause of estrangement in his third marriage, according to Claire. Harold spent his last years at an old people's home (mainly for soldiers) in Hampton, Victoria. He had TB and died aged 79, of heart attack. Harold, Olive and the infant are buried at Brighton Cemetery , cnr Hawthorn Rd/North Rd, Brighton. Although the compiler of these notes is Harold's (youngest) son, the two did not have the chance to know each other. Nevertheless, the general opinion formed by talking to those who knew Harold, is that he was an affable rogue, easy-going, and popular in the wider family, but a reckless gambler.


Harold's eldest son Ronald Duffus (know as Ron) was born October 30, 1919 in Bendigo. He was a jockey before WW2. In 1940 he was stationed at a veterinary hospital in Maribrynong for 12 months. Later he was posted to Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Darwin and New Guinea. He was in 2nd 8th (Infantry) Battalion, 6th Division. After the war Ron became a panel beater in a motor company, then worked in the spares department. Ron married Phyllis Elliot in 1960. Phyllis died circa 1992. Ron is currently living in Seaford and is a popular member of the RSL.


Harold's eldest daughter Marjorie Duffus was born in Ballarat circa December, 1920. She married an American serviceman (airforce) in Sydney. they went to USA in 1946, but the marriage was dissolved and she married a Canadian called Lucidarme with whom she had at least two children, Ronald James and Jackie (Jaqueline?). Marjorie died in Hawaii circa 1994. Jackie married an American Navy chap and moved to San Diego. Ron is currently living in Hawaii


Harold "Charlie" Duffus was born in 1921. A good mechanic, Charlie "did transport" for the Army about 1940. He contracted malaria during the war, but stayed on after the war ended, training recruits at Ballarat & Bendigo. After leaving the army he worked for the taxation department. He married late in life to Mavis Anderson. There were no children.

After his father (Harold senior) died, Charlie used his proper given name - Harold. He died circa 1997.


Delphine Booth (prev. Summers, nee Duffus) youngest daughter of Harold Ambrose, was born in Melbourne on September 20, 1955. Delphine was unfortunate enough to be a young child in a home which was slowly dissolving around her. Her young mother, Claire, berated Harold for his failure to support his new family. Delphine spent a period with her grandmother "Nan" while Claire tended to her youngest child, Michael. Eventually the whole family lived in Ringwood, Melbourne with Sarah "Nan" Hogg , (Claire's mother) until Nan's death in 1975. Disillusioned with her life in Australia, Claire elected to start afresh, changed the family name to Summers (by deed poll) and emigrated with Delphine and Michael. They finally settled in London in May 1976. Later, Delphine married Peter Booth, a mathematics teacher. They have two children, Nicholas (b. 27/4/1987) and Genevieve (b. 26/5/1991) and are currently residing in Pyrford in Surrey.


Michael Peter Summers (orig. Duffus) youngest son of Harold Ambrose, was born in Melbourne on July 26, 1960. Michael was aged three the last time he saw his father, and 12 when his father died. Aged 15 when the family emigrated, Michael finished school in London then worked in various clerical and computer related jobs until becoming a full-time jazz musician in 1989. Michael married Maria Asunción Vañó Biosca, an English teacher from Alcoy, Spain, in June 1993. They have a daughter, Lara Maria, born October 4, 1997 (in England) and currently reside in Feltham Middlesex, situated between London and Heathrow Airport.


The Surviving Grandchildren Of James Francis Duffus As At February 2000

Lil (see Francis James)

Moya, Francis James, Thomas Joseph (see Maggie)

Mary, Norman James, Margaret Jean, Ada Teresa (see Kitty)

Phyllis Celia, Harold Francis, Daphne May (see Len)

Ronald, Delphine, Michael (see Harold)


Total of 14


Email Mike Summers at