Living History

Today I would like to comment on how family history is not just about people but it also is about the places we live, our homes and also the area or communities we live in and the contributions we make to them.

For example, my wife and I have just moved into what we hope will be our permanent home for the next few years. We have kind of landed our dream job and home. We are currently the caretakers of a property called “Glenbarr.” It is a small heritage listed property of approximately 35 acres on the outskirts of Strathalbyn, South Australia, Australia. Glenbarr was established by William Rankine, a sheepfarmer from Dalblair, Ayrshire, Scotland, who along with his brother, Dr John Rankine were the founders of Strathalbyn,SA

The main house was started in 1841 by William Rankine, and was built in stages, till it reached it present structure. By the end of 1842 the front 3 rooms of the building were completed, using local sandstone for windows and doors & bluestone for the walls. The kitchen was a separate building at the back at that stage (as was common in those days of wood fires). Later in 1856- 7, after he returned from a trip to Scotland, he rebuilt the kitchen and made it a part of the main building and added some more rooms as well (including a dining room). (image courtesy of the “Glenbarr” historical archives)

"Glenbarr" in the mid 1800's

“Glenbarr” in the mid 1800’s

About 1871-3 an upper storey was added, again using bluestone as a building material. The present farm outbuildings were added about the same time.

While William Rankine was active in the town of Strathalbyn his brother, Dr john Rankine played a more prominent part in the affairs of the town.  Four generations of William’s family either lived here or were owners of the property before it was sold to Richard Giles by John Robert Rankine in 1923.

Later in 1932 Richard Giles and his family moved to Adelaide and leased the property out to a James Dodd. In 1935 Daphne Bowman, (Richard Giles niece), took over the lease. In 1945 Daphne bowman bought “Glenbarr” outright and with her English friend, Kathleen Bateman, made “Glenbarr” available first as a camping spot for girl guides and then, after remodelling and developing the barn and the stables,(as they are today), it became a place for school camps, small group activities and functions and also weddings & receptions.

Glenbarr stable 1945

In 1975 administration of “Glenbarr” was handed over to the Glenbarr Bowman Bateman Fondation who still manage it today. The house has been listed by the National Trust and is also listed on the State heritage register of SA. It is one of the oldest if not the oldest house in Strathalbyn. (Image courtesy of Google image search)

While all who have lived here have played a part in the history of “Glenbarr” it goes with out saying that “Glenbarr” has also played a part in the lives of those who have lived here and in their history and the history of the town of Strathalbyn and all those who have come here over the years. Now it is a part of my and my wifes history and that of our family siply because we are here, and loving being here.

For more information on “Glenbarr” you can go to their website: