W is for Walter Sydney Hall

Walter is my other  grandfather about whom I knew little.  Married to Myrtle May Hall for eight  short years before she took off with her daughter, I feel a bit sorry for him left alone in his house at 80 Railway Crescent, Williamstown.

It wasn’t the first time Walter was left alone.    In 1898, when he was 28, he married Hannah Simmonds.  They had no children  and Hannah died from a painful illness in 1910.  Until this month I did not know of her existence.

80 railway
80 Railway Crescent, Williamstown

My grandmother’s description of Walter Sydney Hall  is strangely enigmatic. “Walter, your father, was in the Newport workshops at 15 years and was still in the same employ when he died at the age of 62 years.  47 years in the government workshops – only ever had the one job in his life – and had never been to court in his life.  His one failing was he gambled every thing he ever had and finished up on the wrong side.”

Walter was the 9th of the 12 children of George Hall and Sarah Drake, who owned the drapery shop in Williamstown.    It would have been 1885 when he began work at the Newport Workshops.

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Newport Workshops 1920s
The Newport workshops were the Victorian Railway’s main workshops for just over a century. The later buildings reflecting growth, particularly during 1902-1928 in the period of modernisation,
expansion and the production of locomotives, demonstrate this subsequent important period of development. For many of those years the Workshops were one of Victoria’s largest and best equipped engineering establishments, with up to 5,000 employees on site, building and maintaining steam locomotives and other rolling stock, and also making tarpaulins and other basic stores for railway use. Newport Workshops even made many of its own machine tools, a task which required a high level of technical expertise.


Victorian Heritage Database Report “Newport Railway workshops”

For some reason Walter left his home in Williamstown to live in Stawell in the year of 1915.  He is listed as a Railway Employee and is residing at the home of Mrs Owens in Napier Street, Stawell. This was a fateful move for it was in Stawell he met Myrtle May Lock.


When Myrtle married Walter she was 20 and he was 46.  With the wisdom of hindsight it seems Myrtle’s reasons for marrying were  far from romantic.  She was already an accomplished dressmaker but Walter had a house and from his photos wasn’t too bad looking so why not?

Elsa was born in August 1917.  There are no photos of her taken with her father although there are a number of her with her grandmother Christina and cousin Hayden. Myrtle was very ill after the birth so Elsa was fed Glaxo formula and won a competition as a “Glaxo” baby.  It was considered desirable in those days to have a chubby baby.

The Glaxo baby (my mother)

I thought at first the reference to Walter’s  gambling habit may be a figment of my grandmother’s imagination until I saw a stream of articles on Trove on that very subject.

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The Age, Melbourne 25 Nov 1907

It is rather surprising that 15 years later gambling was still rife in the Newport Workshops.

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The Maitland Daily Mercury Thu 13 Jul 1922

Did the gambling at the Newport Workshops use up all the money Walter earned?  When Kay says he ended up on the wrong side what does she mean?  She said he had never been to court in his life so it is hard to imagine what made her leave Walter.  The following advertisement appeared in the Williamstown Chronicle in 1925

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Williamstown Chronicle Sat 5 Sep 1925

Walter died in 1933 at the age of 63.  His  obituary says that in his younger days he was a champion Australian Rules footballer for Williamstown and was popularly called “Dolly” Hall.  It is sad to think he ended his days alone, poor and in bad health.  The funeral took place from the residence of his brother Henry Hall, Yarraville to the Williamstown cemetery.  Pall bearers were old football colleagues.  No mention is made of his former two wives or his one child, Elsa, my mother.

4 thoughts on “W is for Walter Sydney Hall

  1. My husband worked at a casino here and he was told the casinos in Missouri have to pay in a percentage to go towards recovering gambling therapy. He’s seen people go bankrupt in 6 months. It’s sad to see the damage it does.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Most families have their Walters, and such damage can be left in their wake. My Great Great Grandmother, daughter of the bigamist, married a Grazier from outside Queanbeyan and they were well off. She apparently lost the money at the horse races. My Great Grandmother tried to take her to court to get some money put aside for her younger sister’ education, but they stuck with their mother and I don’t think anything came of it.
    This reminds me that I need to look further into this side of the family and write up my notes. There were a few black sheep on that side. Indeed, you could say a flock.
    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

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