AGAINST the horrific backdrop of the war to end all wars, it’s actually a love story – and it involves the great grandfather of the one-time Carlton Caretaker Coach (and now Assistant Coach (stoppages)) John Barker.

In another life, Barker donned the boots for old Fitzroy – one of two clubs for which he’d tally 168 matches through 13 seasons in the AFL – and along the way, his maternal connections were often mentioned.  His grandfather Claude Curtin, the 97-game Fitzroy and North Melbourne forward of the 1930s and ’40s, was after all the nephew of John Curtin, the Australian wartime Prime Minister.

But Barker’s paternal ties were less well-known – even though the surname ‘Hindmarsh’ often surfaced in family discussion - hence his recent interest in seeking the help of this correspondent to determine the truth behind his father’s lineage.

“I was always mindful of the name ‘Hindmarsh’. At all the family functions you’d hear bits and pieces mixed in with Chinese whispers – one that ‘Hindmarsh’ was a German name dropped for ‘Barker’ - that would feed into what supposedly happened with Frank and the original Hindmarsh in England,” Barker said.

“I’d heard a little bit about Hindmarsh and it got to the stage where I sat there thinking: ‘You know what? It’d be great to piece it all together’.”

As has now been discovered, the Barker family story is juxtaposed against the bleak backdrop of World War One. It’s a tale sourced to the town and civil parish of Wilton in Wiltshire, England – a place with a rich heritage dating back to the Anglo-Saxons - for it was in Wilton in 1917 that the lives of Barker’s great grandfather Frank Barker and Alice Hindmarsh (nee Macey) would be inextricably intertwined.

Alice Mabel Macey, the second of ten children of Henry Macey and Rose Lever, was born in in 1891. Her formative years were spent at the family home at 118 West Street, Wilton.

In early 1913, Alice married fellow Wilton inhabitant Ivan Harold Hindmarsh. Five years prior to the wedding, Ivan, then a blacksmith’s boy, enlisted with the UK Royal Navy. According to the navy’s Register of Seamen’s Services, he was schooled aboard the sailors’ training ship Impregnable for 12 months – only to be invalided with acute rheumatism in 1909.

Between 1913 and 1916, Alice and Ivan raised three Hindmarsh children of their own – sons Harold James (born 1913), Henry George (born 1915) and Cyril Frank (born 1916).

Then tragedy struck.

On June 3, 1916 – three months to the day prior to Cyril’s baptism - Ivan Harold Hindmarsh, aged 24, lost his life. The circumstances of Ivan’s death remain unclear, but when he was laid to rest in Dinton his wife was left to grieve with three boys six and under.

And life would soon take another dramatic turn for the widowed Mrs Hindmarsh.

Frank Barker’s childhood days are largely unknown, but he was still based in Collingwood when he “re-enlisted” for war on July 2, 1915. Then 35 and a half years old, Frank declared his occupation as cooper, having been apprenticed for almost seven years with G. Withers & Co. at Eastern Hill. He also declared his widowed mother as Mrs Emily Barker of Southey Street, Sandringham (formerly 9 Kemp Street, Croxton).

It should be noted here that Frank, a feisty character, confessed to being previously “convicted by the Civil Power”, ie for assaulting Civil Police for which he was discharged from Broadmeadows military training camp for a four-month period (reduced to two) from February 1916.

The following April, Pte. Barker disembarked the ship Anchises in Suez - but by early June was aboard another vessel, the Franconia, which ferried him from Alexandria to Plymouth.

From there he was transferred to the 8th training battalion at No.9 Camp, Hurdcott in Wiltshire – not far from where Alice Hindmarsh was adjusting to life as a widowed mother.

Soldiers at Hurdcott like Frank were trained for the end purpose of supporting the troops on the battlefields of France and Belgium. That said, there appeared scope for some downtime.

At some point, the soldiers stationed at Hurdcott cut out a ‘chalk badge’ in the ground in the shape of Australia – a badge since restored by the Map of Australia Trust.

Commercial photograph off “Aussies’ National Game, ‘Two Up’, Hurdcott Camp". Australian soldiers stand in front of the huts of Number 9 Camp, 8th Training (Infantry) Battalion, 1st AIF, at the foot of a hill in which an outline of Australia had been cut into the chalk with the word ‘Australia’ in the centre. (Image Australian War Memorial POI258.001)

It was whilst in No.9 Camp that Frank went AWOL for four days, after failing to answer the roll call on the morning of August 26, 1917 – a misdemeanour that cost him 13 days’ pay.

One can only assume that Frank’s reason for absconding was to further his recently-struck relationship with the widowed local woman Alice Hindmarsh, who was now pregnant with his child.

On November 3, 1917, within the confines of The Register Office in Wilton, Frank Barker, then 33, married the 26 year-old Alice Mabel (nee Macey) Hindmarsh. It seems that the Barker surname was adopted by Alice’s three sons to her first husband.

Marriage certificate for Frank Barker and Alice Mabel Hindmarsh, The Register Office, Wilton, Saturday, November 3, 1917. 

Within six weeks of the wedding, Frank left for the Front – and in the New Year, sometime between January and March, Alice gave birth to their daughter Beatrice.

On May 26, 1918, Acting Lance Corporal Barker of the 3rd Machine Gun Battalion was wounded in the field by a gas shell. Briefly hospitalized, the soldier returned to the fray and battled on until November when the guns finally fell silent over Europe.

Almost a year to the day after being hurt in battle, Frank boarded the Melbourne-bound steamship Karagola in England, disembarking June 12. Two months later he was formally discharged from duty - and in August sought assistance from the Commonwealth Department of Repatriation to grant free passage to his wife, daughter and three stepsons.

A few days before Christmas 1919, the family were reunited in Melbourne when Mrs Barker and her children – Harold (six), Henry (four), Cyril (three) and Beatrice (one) - disembarked the Orvieto from London.

Manifest for the passenger steamship Orvieto, acknowledging Alice Mabel Hindmarsh/Barker, her infant daughter and three sons.


Frank and the clan took up lodgings in a Georgian terrace at 732 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy – and around 1922 husband and wife relocated to 13 Austin Place in inner city North Brunswick. Three years later, they were domiciled at Lewis Street, Coburg, where they remained at least until 1928. The 1934 electoral rolls then have Frank Barker (cooper) and Alice Mabel Barker (home duties) living at 16 Gilbert Street, Coburg, and again in 1936 - only this time with their sons Harold (John Barker’s grandfather) and Henry, and Harold’s new wife the former Miss Lavinia Harvey. 

In time, Harold and Lavinia Barker would raise three children of their own - Eniz, Frank and Max (John Barker’s father).

At some point either in the late 1930s or early 1940s, Frank and Alice vacated the Gilbert Street abode and relocated to Corio. Then it was onto Kyneton in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges - and it was here in 1946 that Frank Barker died at the age of 67 and was laid to rest in Kyneton Cemetery.

In the immediate years following her second husband’s passing, Alice remained a presence in the area - initially living at Kyneton Racecourse and later by the Calder Highway at Malmsbury. By 1963 she was back in the big smoke – reunited with her daughter Beatrice, now a cook by profession, at 25 Hodgson Terrace, Richmond – and there she remained until her final days.

Memories of Alice endure for John Barker, whose hazy childhood recollections are of a formidable elderly lady.

“I saw Alice a lot at the home in of Eniz, my Dad’s oldest sister . . . she had a really big house in East Coburg that backed on to the Merri Creek and as her husband was a car collector there would have been 25 cars down the backyard,” Barker said.

“I also remember my Dad talking about how strong Alice was. I can remember him telling me she had one Christmas left in her for about four or five Christmases.

“She was a tough old girl. When you look at her life and what she lived through there’s no doubt she had a lot of fight in her.”

The above photograph was taken at the East Coburg home of Noel and Eniz Peachman (John Barker’s paternal aunt) around 1980. The elderly lady in the middle of this photograph is Alice Mabel (nee Macey)  Hindmarsh/Barker, John’s paternal great grandmother. John sits on his grandfather Harry Barker’s knee. At the far left is John’s older brother Joseph.

Alice Mabel Barker died in Richmond at the sprightly age of 91 in January 1982. On the 12th of that month, the English immigrant who lived through two World Wars, The Great Depression and the losses of two husbands, was laid to rest at Fawkner Memorial Park.

It’s more than 100 years now since fate intervened in the lives of Frank Barker and Alice Hindmarsh – and in reflecting on his newly-discovered link with the Hindmarsh family name, John Barker has found an even greater empathy for those who came before.

“It’s an extraordinary story. It’s awesome to now know where the pieces fit and I wouldn’t have believed it if you hadn’t completed the research,” Barker said on reflection.

“My little brother lives in London and I intend to go to Wiltshire to see where the Hindmarshs lived.

“As it’s turned out, my exact bloodline is Hindmarsh - but at the end of the day my great grandfather raised my grandfather and his siblings, and I’d never change my surname out of respect for Frank.”