2019 Heritage Day

A Ceremony at Glenthorne

A tiny edition of the New Testament emerged as the highlight of a gathering of the Friends of Glenthorne on the historic property at O’Halloran Hill in early May.

Friends and members of families associated with the property, first settled by Europeans in the 1830s, gathered to celebrate its inclusion in a proposed Glenthorne urban national park – only the second since the city of Adelaide was founded.

The original owner of the New Testament – which is up to 200 years old – was Major Thomas O’Halloran, the Irish immigrant who established the property in 1839 naming it Lizard Lodge. The minuscule text had been in the possession of one of his descendants, Brian O’Halloran, who handed it over to the pioneer settler’s great great great grandson Rob Kirk, returning it Brian said, to its rightful place.

The exchange took place in what would have been the front garden of Lizard Lodge and more recently the mansion Glenthorne, razed after a disastrous fire in the 1930s. Archaeologist Pam Smith who has adopted Glenthorne as a labour of love for years sadly reminded the audience that they were sitting above the bulldozed remains of the mansion, which Army engineers destroyed with explosives after the fire.

Onlookers included descendants, other than the O’Hallorans, of the Porter, Brookman, Drew, Campbell and Keane families – all of whom had been associated with the property for over 100 years, before it became a CSIRO research centre.

Jane and Thomas Porter, who are buried at the nearby Christ Church cemetery, commissioned the construction of Glenthorne in the 1879, inspired by a mansion on the Devon coast in England. The newly built home emerged as a focal point for society gatherings from across Adelaide, as a private dwelling and later as an Army run remount centre for training horses and riders for combat in WWI.

Porter descendants attending the ceremony included Jane Brummitt (nee Porter) who married her beloved Bob at Christ Church in the 1960s, where the original Porters commissioned a stained glass window from the noted pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones. Professor Michael Glenthorne Porter and his wife Susan travelled from Melbourne and John Porter and his wife Mary from Port Fairy in Victoria. Jane donated a palm tree that she planted to replace of a long dead original – one of the few points of orientation to determine from old photographs the actual site of the mansion.

Brother and sister Liz and Bryan McGrath, grandchildren of Norman Campbell who ran the remount centre also attended. Norman’s wife Dora was a prolific writer who lived until just shy of a century, dying in 1982; her description of life at Glenthorne was acknowledged on the day as highly significant, being the only written recollection of a life from more genteel times.

A point not lost on those on the day was how many of those descendants still lived close to the home of their forebears. Brian O’Halloran at neighbouring Halletts Cove, Bob Kirk at Sheidow Park, Jane Brummitt at Leabrook and Bryan McGrath at Aberfoyle Park.

SA Environment Minister David Spiers spoke off the cuff, full of passion for the project he supported previously as the opposition spokesman for the environment. The Mayor of Marion Council Kris Hanna also spoke with enthusiasm for the national park.

The Friends of Glenthorne await with keen anticipation the declaration of their – and Adelaide’s – newest national park.

(Written by Rob Gill, Canberra)

Descendants of the O’Halloran, Porter, Brookman and Campbell families in the front two rows.
Photograph: Alan Burns
Jane Brammit planting the Palm Tree
Photograph: Mary Porter