Neil Grant

From Hotels of Ballarat
Neil Grant
Born 1855
Inverness, Scotland
Died 10 February 1900
Rensburg, South Africa
Occupation Publican
Years active 1882-1888
Known for Castle Donnington Hotel (Fitzroy)
Princess Royal Hotel
Home town Ballarat
Spouse(s) Margaret Maule
Children Margaret Alexandria Grant (1877)
John Francis Grant (1883)
Jessie Gordon Grant (1885)
Louisa Maude Victoria Grant (1892)
  • James Grant (father)

Neil Grant was a publican in Melbourne and Ballarat <1882-1888>, and was the first Australian soldier killed in the Boer War.

History[edit | edit source]

Grant married Margaret Maule on 11 April 1876, daughter of Francis and Margaret Maule[1], who had the Princess Royal Hotel in Macarthur Street:

GRANT - MAULE - On the 11th April, at the residence of the mother of the bride, Macarthur street, Ballarat, by the Rev. J. W. Ingis, Neil Grant, youngest son of James Grant, of Gannawarra, to Margaret Maule, eldest daughter of Margaret and fourth daughter of Francis Maule, late of Dunedin, New Zealand. Home and Dunedin papers please copy.[2]

Their first daughter, Margaret Alexandria was born a year later in 1877.[1]

The Grant's had the Castle Donnington Hotel in Fitzroy:

BIRTH. On the 19th inst., Mrs. Neil Grant, of the Castle Donnington Hotel, corner of Webb and Brunswick streets, Fitzroy, of a son. Both doing well. Ballarat papers please copy.[3]

Grant took over the license of the Princess Royal Hotel in Macarthur Street, Ballarat, from April 1882 after the death of his mother-in-law:

William Tulloch and Robert Glover, trustees of Margaret Maule, deceased, applied to have Neil Grant authorised as their agent to carry on the business of the Princess Royal hotel, until the end of the year. The application was granted.[4]

In December 1882, he was given a new license for the hotel.[5]

In 1883, a son, John Francis, was born.[1]

In July 1883, Grant was being considered as a candidate for the council elections:

There appears to be a stir in the north ward of the city regarding the forthcoming municipal election. As has been previously stated, Cr J. Noble Wilson will not offer himself for re-election in August. During the past few days the names of Messrs Alexander Hunter, A. M. Greenfield; M’Donald (of M’Donald and Hughes), and Neil Grant have been mentioned as probable candidates...Three deputations, it is said, have interviewed Mr Grant relative to his becoming a candidate for the vacancy. Each deputation was representative of the publican’s interest. Mr Grant, who is the ex-secretary of the Ballarat Licensed Victuallers' Association, but now a member of the committee, is the owner of property in the north ward. He is carrying on business in the Princess Alice hotel. It is likely he will come forward.[6]

A daughter, Jessie Gordon[7], was born in July 1885:

GRANT.- On the 4th July, at her residence, Princess Royal hotel, Macarthur street, Ballarat, the wife of N. Grant, of a daughter.[8]

In 1888 he is listed as publican in the Post Office Directory.[9]

Another daughter, Louisa Maude Victoria, was born in Ballarat East in 1892.[10]

Grant joined the First Australian Regiment Victoria, and went to serve in the Colonial Military Forces during the Boer War. There was a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm when the soldiers from Ballarat left by train in October 1899:

THE MOUNTED RIFLES. ALSO DEPART. ENTRAINING THE HORSES. Though the West station was not so thronged as in the morning, there was still a large and enthusiastic gathering on the outside platform to witness the departure of the 4.50 train in the afternoon, by which the mounted riflemen selected to go to the Transvaal travelled. The men who travelled were as follows: —Sergeant Neil Grant, Private Hicks, and Trumpeter Thomas, K Company, Ballarat; Adjutant Salmon, Talbot; Privates G. Ebleing and W. Kemmis, Avoca. These men, with their horses, were on the station in time for the 3.15 train, which it was expected they would travel by, but it was found more convenient that the men and horses should travel by the same train, and a horse box being attached to the 4.50 train, the animals were safely got aboard and made comfortable for the journey. The men themselves were, as in the case of the infantry, surrounded by large numbers of persons who desired to shake hands and wish them "good luck," and Trumpeter Thomas, who formed one of the Jubilee contingent, and who was decorated with the Jubilee medal, was fairly overwhelmed with the number of persons of both sexes who wished to have a last word with him. Trumpeter Thomas is the second of his family to go to the war, his brother having left earlier in the day with the infantry. Sergeant Neil Grant also found a large crowd of friends awaiting him on the station, and even the men from Avoca were not forgotten by the crowd, and when the train steamed out from the platform three rousing cheers were given for the little contingent of mounted men, together with exhortations to "give a good account of themselves" while in the Transvaal. Then the crowd departed to face a snow storm that had come on while they were saying farewell, and the station resumed its normal appearance once more. By the 6.45 train from the Western district a dozen other Mounted Rifles from the Casterton and Hamilton companies arrived on their way to Melbourne. These are a fine strapping body of men, and as they made their way to the refreshment rooms the people crowded round them, and were almost as enthusiastic as they had been when the local men were leaving. The riflemen appeared to enjoy the prospect of seeing real work, and on leaving the station they gave three cheers, which were heartily returned by those on the platform.[11]

He wrote about his experiences in January 1900:

Sergeant Neil Grant writes from Belmont, early in the month, to the effect that the force to which he was attached was in hourly expectation of being attacked by the enemy. He mentions that 40 Boers were captured by the Scots' Greys, with a loss of 4 men.[12]

Grant was killed in action at Rensburg, South Africa, on 10 February 1900. the first Australian killed in war[1]:

REGRETS AT BALLARAT. BALLARAT, Sunday. The news of the deaths on the battlefield of South Africa of Major Eddy, Sergeant Neil Grant and Lance-corporal J. Ross has caused great regret. Sergeant Grant leaves a widow and family of 8. He followed the business of agent and auctioneer in Lydiard-street, while Mrs. Grant is the licensee and owner of the Princess Royal Hotel, Macarthur-street west, near Lake Wendouree. The sergeant was a prominent member of the old Ballarat Licensed Victualler's Association, and was also a leading spirit in the Caledonian Society up to the time of his leaving for the war. He was a member of the Mounted Rifles Corps, joining K company in December, 1888. He was a dashing horseman, and an excellent swordsman. A telegram of condolence has been received by Mrs. Grant from the Minister of Defence...As a slight tribute of respect to the memory of the deceased Ballarat soldiers, the flags at the orderly rooms and City Hall are flying at half mast, and flags are also at half mast at Craig's Hotel and others of the principal buildings.[13]
GRANT.—In affectionate remembrance of my dear husband and our loving father. Sergeant Neil Grant, V.M.R., who was killed at Rensburg, South Africa, 10th February, 1900. Age 47 years. "Pro Deo et Patria.” Sleep on, beloved, sleep and take thy rest. Lay down thy head upon thy Saviour's breast, We love thee well, but Jesus loves thee best; Good-night! —Inserted by his loving wife and children.[14]

His wife Margaret died in Ballarat on 23 May 1902, and was buried in the Ballarat Old Cemetery.[1] In her probate documents she is described as being a licensed victualler.[15]

Ballarat. Friday. May 23. Mrs. Neil Grant, widow of the late Sergeant Grant, the first Australian killed in the Boer War, died at Ballarat North this evening.[16]

Memorial[edit | edit source]

A memorial to Grant was placed in St. Andrews Kirk in February 1904:

MEMORIAL TO SERGEANT NEIL GRANT TABLET IN ST. ANDREW’S KIRK. THE UNVEILING SERVICE. St Andrew’s Kirk was crowded yesterday morning, the occasion being the unveiling of a memorial tablet erected to the memory of Sergeant Neil Grant, by the Ballarat Company of the Victorian Mounted Rifles. The officers and men of the Mounted Rifles and 7th Infantry Regiment mustered at the Orderly Rooms, and headed by the regimental band, marched to St. Andrew's, where the western transept had been reserved for them.

The service was conducted by the Rev. T. R Cairns, whose subject was — “The Training of a Soldier,” and he took his text from 2nd Timothy. ii, 3 - “Thou there fore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” In the course of his remarks, the preacher said the true soldier did not spend his time grumbling when things were not as they ought to be on the battlefield, but endured all the hardness as part of his duty. There were others who went about wishing them selves home, and grumbling incessantly. It would be far better our soldiers like this to stay home. Difficulties were sure to come to them, and they should be prepared to take them in the right way. If they could not do so, then it was better that they should keep away from those who were willing to perform their duty when called upon, But how was it that it was necessary for them to endure hardness; because it was good for them to have difficulties and discipline. No boy ever stood at ???ill ???head m???? hits ???ekuts without difficulty and hard work. They could not become soldiers without submitting to discipline and drill, If they wished to be a credit to a profession they might take up, they had to give their time to study, and be prepared to endure a little hardness. To stand in the front rank as soldier or civilian, they had to properly qualify themselves. It seemed to be God’s will in His administration that nothing be secured by them without submission to hardness and difficulty. Unless they ploughed the ground, and performed the hard work of preparation, they could not reap what the ground was capable of producing. Around them there was gold—deep down in some cases near the surface in others—but hard work was necessary to recover it, and so it was in every department of life. For them all there were possibilities, but if they wished to enjoy them, they would have to put forth the energies necessary to secure them. The church had power and strength as far as she put forth the energies requisite to trample down the things eating the heart out of religion. They should all do their best to grapple with difficulties, and to endure hardness to overcome them. Their Lord did it, and they should also do it. if only to be like Him. If manliness was hard to attain, so was holiness, but they, as soldiers of Christ, must endure hardness. They could take ideas from military life. Soldiers endured hardness by standing their ground. It was not easy to do this always, but a soldier of the right kind was prepared to stand, even if he stood alone. And there were times when it had been found just as hard to retire as to advance, and hardness here had to be endured. Again, hardness was endured in long marching, but victory was yonder when the march was finished. In conclusion, the preacher prayed that God would help every soldier and civilian to push on. They recognised that it was hard to be God's people, and to live Christian lives, but it was not impossible, and with God's blessing they would accomplish it.

The congregation then stood, and sang the National Anthem, after which the Rev. T. R. Cairns spoke as follows: "As most of you are aware, a shield in memory of Sergeant Neil Grant, one of the first Victorian soldiers who fell in South Africa, has been placed in the south end of the nave and on the west side. Mr Grant had been connected with the church for many years, and several of his younger children were baptised by me. His family who unhappily have lost both their father and their mother, are still connected with the church, and I am pleased for their sake, and for the sake of their uncle and aunt, who were valued members of our choir, that this memorial had been placed in the church. A single action may often be taken as an epitome of a man's life, and the response by Sergeant Grant to the first call of Britain for help from the colonies, gave proof of that splendid loyalty which bound her children beyond the seas to the heart of the great mother country. "We know what it meant for him to leave a wife and large family, mostly of young children, to go and fight for the honor of Britain, and give his life for the country he loved. We all mourned the loss of these noble defenders of their country, and the least that we who remained at home, and were saved from the horrors of war, can do for the fallen so as to take care that their memory shall be kept green, and so long as the wall of this church remain, so long shall it be known that we as a congregation, had the honor of giving a life for our King and country. It was fitting that comrades of Mr Grant should, by their generosity, preserve the memory of their dear sergeant by this memorial in St. Andrew’s, and I shall now ask the commanding officer of the Ballarat district, Lieut-Colonel Williams, and Captain Anderson of the Australian Horse, to unveil the shield. The two officers named then advanced and removed the Union Jack from the shield, which is of brass and reads as follows: --"The tribute of the officers of the Victorian Mounted Rifles, non-commissioned officers and men to the memory of Sergeant Neil Grant, Ballarat, who died at Rensburg, South Africa. 10th- February 1900." The shield is mounted with the badge of the Victorian rifles worked in brass. When the unveiling had been performed the Rev T. R. Cairns said—" This shield is dedicated to the memory of Sergeant Neil Grant, of the Victorian Mounted Rifles. Mr Bonstead, conductor. then played Handel's "Dead March," the congregation standing. At the conclusion of the service, the military men formed in line, and marched down Sturt street, where they were dismissed.[17]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed 24 May 2022), memorial page for Margaret Maule Grant (1855–23 May 1902), Find a Grave Memorial ID 185523433, citing Ballarat Old Cemetery, Ballarat, Ballarat City, Victoria, Australia ; Maintained by sunset (contributor 48209753)
  2. 1876 'Family Notices', The Ballarat Courier (Vic. : 1869 - 1884; 1914 - 1918), 13 April, p. 2. , viewed 25 May 2022,
  3. 1881 'Family Notices', Fitzroy City Press (Vic. : 1881 - 1920), 24 December, p. 2. , viewed 25 May 2022,
  4. 1880 'POLICE INTELLIGENCE.', The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924), 30 October, p. 3. , viewed 24 May 2022,
  5. 1882 'CITY LICENSING COURT.', The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924), 23 December, p. 4. , viewed 29 Jan 2018,
  6. 1883 'NEWS AND NOTES.', The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924), 12 July, p. 2. , viewed 25 May 2022,
  7. Australia Birth Index, Pioneer Index, Victoria 1836-1888, 1885, Ref. No. 15141
  8. 1885 'Family Notices', The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924), 27 July, p. 2. , viewed 12 Sep 2019,
  9. Victorian Post Office Directory, Wise, 1888, pg.13
  10. Australia, Birth Index, 1788-1922 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010, 1892, Ref. No. 19368
  11. 1899 'THE MOUNTED RIFLES.', The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924), 17 October, p. 4. , viewed 26 May 2022,
  12. 1900 'DISFRANCHISED FIGHTERS.', The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), 29 January, p. 5. , viewed 26 May 2022,
  13. 1900 'REGRETS AT BALLARAT.', The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), 19 February, p. 6. , viewed 24 May 2022,
  14. 1901 'Family Notices', The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924), 9 February, p. 2. , viewed 25 May 2022,
  15. Victoria, Australia, Wills and Probate Records, 1841-2009, Probates, 084/693 - 085/92
  16. 1902 'Ballarat.', The Bendigo Independent (Vic. : 1891 - 1918), 24 May, p. 4. , viewed 25 May 2022,
  17. 1904 'MEMORIAL TO SERGEANT NEIL GRANT', The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924), 29 February, p. 6. , viewed 24 May 2022,

External links[edit | edit source]