The Norton Family

James Bowden Norton was born in England in 1874.

James Bowden Norton

James Norton’s  journey to Lorne started when he heard that money could be made in South Africa, in the mines, and the lure of fighting in the Second Boer war, where there was a demand for men to enlist. Both these options held a great deal of appeal, and he is listed as serving in 1899.

He met his wife Ruby, a daughter of a wealthy skin merchant, and they married in 1908. Cyril was born six months later, obviously a premature baby! James took his small family back to England and then proceeded to travel to Australia in 1912, leaving his wife to follow two years later with Cyril and newborn Arthur.

James Norton arrived in Fremantle and made his way to Melbourne, where he secured a job on a farm in Winchelsea. Five more children arrived Charles, Robert, Helen, the only girl and always known as Nell, Frank, Ernest and lastly Wilfred, known as Bill.

In 1921, James journeyed to Lorne with his three eldest sons and set up a makeshift camp on the banks of the Erskine. He had a cart and dray, two draught horses and two pack horses. He built a timber slab hut above the river. Ruby and the three remaining children left Winchelsea to join her family at Lorne in 1922.

James used to cart bricks and supplies from the ships that came to the pier. He also cut and delivered firewood and spent a lot of time in the forest, hunting rabbits and ducks for his family.

The Norton children were an assorted bunch in colouring, temperament, and features. Cyril and Arthur were not as tall as the others and had pale skin. Arthur was known all his life as Fiery, for obvious reasons, and Ernst was Rusty, for his head of red wavy hair, like Frank. They all had a very strong will and a fine temper. Nell, as Helen was called, had lovely curls and grew to be tall and angular. All learnt to be reliable and resilient, practical, and fiercely independent. They hawked their wares of fish, rabbits and vegetables around the local Guest Houses.

Norton Family circa 1924 (back) Cyril, (middle) Arthur, Ernest, Ruby, James nursing Fran, (front) Helen (Nell), Robert

 James was a harsh man, and a distant father, who metered out stern punishments and ruled his family with a good dose of severity and, at times, fear. In 1924 he developed stomach cancer. He bid his family farewell and rode his horse over the Otways to hospital and died at the age of 50. He is buried in Colac.

The family was destitute, and Ruby was forced to sell the animal skins that she had brought from South Africa, her one link to her home. Cyril became a fisherman at a very early age. Mr Stribling owned the Lorne Hotel at the time and bought a wooden fishing boat for Cyril to use and provide fish for the hotel. Cyril was an independent thinker with definite views of the world. Arthur joined Cyril on the boat. Later, Frank, Ernest and Wilfred all became fishermen. Arthur, Frank and Ernest all followed Cyril to enlist, and all served overseas. Ernest was a Rat at Tobruk.

Robert, being a carpenter, did not enlist but was assigned to the Civil Construction Corps to build hangars and accommodation for the airmen at aerodromes all over Australia. Ruby passed away in 1939 and is buried at Lorne.

Rusty Norton receiving football trophy from Margery Lawrence

 For all the Norton sons, there are few boys to hand down the Norton name. Cyril had one son who never married.  No Issue. Arthur had two sons and two grandsons. Frank had two sons. No male issue from any grandsons yet. Ernest had two sons. Only male issue from one son. Bob, no continuing male issue, all granddaughters. Wilfred one son and then all granddaughters. Helen married Sam Trickey. One of her daughters married Don Stewart, Father of Ian.

(Source, Vicki Norton 2024)