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Clare's pre-war Society Couple: The Christisons

Mr. John Christison and Mrs Christison, of Weerona (Bleak House)

Mr John Christison, proprietor of the Clare Brewery

Mr. Christison was one of the most widely known and highly respected of the businessmen of Clare.

For 29 years he carried on business as a brewer, and under his able control the business of the Clare Brewery expanded very considerably.

He took a keen interest in public affairs, and was always foremost in helping for-ward any movement tor the advancement of the town and district.

As a man Mr. Christison was looked up to and respected by all classes.

Manly, bluff, but genial, be always expressed his mind freely, and his word was his bond.

Letter to Editor by John Christison (extract)

Of a very generous and kindly nature, no legitimate charitable demand made upon him was ever resisted, and there are many who can speak of his bounty unostentatiously bestowed.

Mr. John Christison was 62 years of age, and was a bluff, hearty, honest, good-natured man. He called a spade a spade, and his word was his bond.

When he contested the District of Stanley for the House of Assembly he hit straight, out from the shoulder.

There was no trimming about John-Christison. He answered questions without any equivocation, and everyone knew on what side of the fence he was.

Election claim: Clare a very hotbed of beer

His supporters declared that he was too honest and straightforward to get into Parliament.

The deceased had a particularly interesting career. Mr. Christison had reached the age of 62 years, having been born at Dalbog, Scotland.

As a youth be was in a solicitor's office at Brechan, and afterwards went to an uncle in Gloucestershire.

Later on he managed an estate in the Isle of Wight.

In 1879 he came to South Australia under engagement to the late Hon. J. H. Angas, and managed the Hill River cattle Estate for three years.

Filgate brewery, then Christison Brewery 1882-1916

In 1882 he entered into partnership with Mrs. Filgate in the Clare brewery, (her husband having died), the firm becoming Filgate and Christison, and later on purchased her share, conducting the business up to the time of his death.

Like the late Dr. Bain, he always had the welfare of the district at heart. He was President of the Stanley Agricultural and Horticultural Society, Chairman of the Phylloxera Board, President of the Clare Institute, and a Director of the Stanley Wine Company, of which he was one of the founders.

He was a great supporter of racing, and gave the Brewers' Purse to the Clare Racing Club, and also a cup to the Clare Coursing Club. He was President of -the Golf Club, Mayor of Clare from 1883-1886, and a Freemason.

He had the distinction of being the Coroner who conducted the longest inquest in South Australia—that in connection with the Penwortham case.


Read more: South Australian Mystery. THE PENWORTHAM CASE ; AN OPEN VERDICT, WITH A RIDER.

Mr. Christison has left a widow—Diana, a daughter of the late John Hope, grazier, (died 1880), and sister of Mr. R. E. H. Hope, grazier of Wolta Wolta, Clare (nearby Clare Museum).

In 1896 he had married Miss F. D. Hope, daughter of the late Mr. John Hope, of Wolta Wolta, who survives him. Her father John Hope, a quiet man, owned much land around Clare, perhaps 50 properties, and gave 7 acres to the Presbyterian Church.

They purchased 'Bleak House', possibly the finest house in Clare and renamed it 'Weroona'. It was to be the scene of many celebrations.

For some years Mr. Christison had not enjoyed good health.

In 1909 he and Mrs. Christison visited England, and while there he consulted specialists with reference to his illness. On On his return to Clare from the old country he for a time enjoyed fairly good health, but a few weeks ago be was obliged to take to his bed. and the illness culminated in his death on Monday.

He was undergoing an operation and was under the effects of ether, an anaesthetic at the time, the operation being conducted by Dr. O. W. Smith, and the anaesthetic administered by Dr. Yeatman, when he succumbed from heart failure.

Mrs. (Frances) Diana Christison, M.B.E., of "Weroona", Clare, was the widow of the late Mr. John Christison, who was looked up to and respected by all classes.

The Hope family home "Wolta Wolta"

A Clare citizen all her life, Diana Hope was born in Clare at "Wolta Wolta", the Hope family residence in the beautiful wooded country on the West boundary of the town, a spot selected by her father, pioneer John Hope, where her girlhood was spent amid scenic beauty and the quiet of Nature.

Her late mother held open house at "Wolta Wolta", and on many Sundays there were Anglican Sunday School Classes.

As part of Mrs. Christison's education she paid a visit to Vienna and to Venice, on the Continent.

She was married to Mr. John Christison, then aged 47 years, at St. Peter's Anglican Church, Glenelg in 1896. Their family home was "Weroona", in Clare.

"Weroona", formerly Bleak House, Christison family home in Clare SA

After Mr. Christison's death the business inherited by Mrs Christison was sold to shareholders of a new company she formed, called the Clare Co-Operative Brewing Co., Ltd., which carried on the business from July, 1912.

This sale of shares by Mrs Christison established her wealth and security, even though the sale of alcohol was severely constrained from 1915. The company and new machinery was then sold to a soft-drink manufacturer.

Imbued with a love of the Country, her interests later in life found many expressions. The field of education was dear to her heart, and she was frequently a visitor to schools of all denominations.

Monday evening, July 3 1922, was the occasion on which a Ladies' evening upon 'Notable Women of the British Empire' was carried out by the above society at the Institute Hall, when there was a large attendance.

  • Mrs Christison had charge of the evening, and a comprehensive programme was arranged.

  • The subject really resolved itself into 'Notable Women of the world,' and this aspect was explained by Mrs Christison.

Welcome Home

Upon her arrival back in Clare in January 1935, after a lengthy holiday spent in Great Britain, Mrs. Christison was welcomed by members of several societies with which she had always been associated:

  • Miss Winifred Wien-Smith (secretary of the Clare and District Hospital Aid) presided.

  • In the absence of Mrs. Hawker, Mrs. P. Stacy, spoke on behalf of the Clare Red Cross Society.


Mrs. Christison, in a graceful reply thanked them all for the welcome home and expressions of good-will.

In the course of her remarks she said that on this visit to the Mother country she was impressed by the fact of how near Australia seemed to the old country on account of the fast air services and the wonderful advantages of radio.

  • "The wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Kent was a marvellous sight and a fitting climax to her holiday. It seemed that people in all parts of the British Empire heard the relay of the wedding ceremony just as clearly and distinctly as if they had been an eyewitness in the streets of London.

  • Even on her way out to Australia by steamer —in mid-ocean—Australia seemed very near, for she received on Christmas morning a radiogram from friends in Australia wishing her a happy Christmas.

  • Her friends in England, before she left, laughingly said that now there were such fast and up-to-date air

services she would probably often pay them a visit, in fact, suggested that she would make a solo flight like Mr. James Melrose, in a 'plane of her own".

  • She assured them that this was hardly likely, as she preferred the less strenuous existence and the luxury of a modern liner and the exhilaration of the sea voyage.


“At St. Barnabas's Church yesterday morning two stained glass windows were unveiled. . . The windows, which represent Hope and Faith, are the gift of Mrs. J. Christison, one in memory of her father and mother, and the other of her husband.” [Observer 28 Mar 1914]

Di Christison was 51 when her husband died, and she lived for another 37 years.  Her husband owned the Clare brewery when he died, and she tried to sell it, but when she couldn’t she became actively involved in the company that was formed and ran it until 1916.  Harriet Filgate (Paddy Gleeson’s daughter) had run the brewery earlier with John Christison – and I would have thought running a brewery was quite unusual for women at any time so both of these women must have been pretty gutsy.

Land grants

Neagles Rock Reserve, a gift of Mrs. Christison

Di Christison gave the land for the Pioneer Park, for Neagles Rock Reserve, and for what is now the Caravan Park, which sadly was meant to be kept in its native state but is now a purely commercial venture with hardly a native plant in sight. "

"They were not inconsequential gifts to the town, and she should be given credit for her generosity."

Mrs Christison gave lectures on Animal and bird life and for a lifetime she worked unceasingly as local Secretary to foster the movement for the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Pioneer Park, near the Christison brewery
  1. The Red Cross Society was her greatest work. As Secretary in World War One and supporting many relief funds such as the Belgian Relief, Australian Comforts Funds and Australia Days, she achieved outstanding work for her country.

  2. In World War II she was elevated to President of Clare Red Cross and only retired as the result of advancing years.

  3. Her interest in the life of the people was of outstanding merit. Visits to the sick in homes or in hospital were frequent. An untold number of kindly acts and deeds marked her life and interest for the poor and needy, and for many years she was a member of the Clare Victoria Relief Society.

  4. The outstanding benefaction of Christison Park, a lovely flora and fauna reserve near Clare Showgrounds, in memory of her late husband, was one of her finest achievements.

  5. Pioneer Park: Then only in 1947, the fulfillment of plans to hand over the deeds of a property near the Bowling greens and Swimming Club, plus a bronze plaque in memory of the first explorers and settlers, plus memorial gates and fencing, set the seal upon her magnificent benefaction to posterity.

  6. A staunch member of St. Barnabas Anglican Church, Mrs. Christison's aids to her church were full of substance and character. One important item was the installing of a memorial stone to "Old Martha" in the churchyard, commemorating a well known crippled identity who regularly walked up the hill every Sunday in earlier days.

  7. In final tribute to the finest citizen Clare has ever had, due recognition was accorded by His Majesty the King when in the New Year Honors of 1948, Mrs. Christison was honored by being made -- "A member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, 5th Class."

Two of Mrs Christison family, Rory and Alister Hope, and Rory's wife Carol

The Zonta Club of Clare & Districts unveiled their 2016 plaque on the Zonta Women's Honour Roll on February 22 2017, announcing the late (Frances) Diana Christison MBE as the recipient.

"Mr Christison helped shape Clare, and it’s districts during her lifetime of 88 years, as she generously donated massive amounts of land, money and time to support community events, spaces and preserving local history."

Former Clare & Gilbert Valleys Council Mayor Patricia Jacka OAM and inaugural inductee on the Zonta Women's Honour Roll in 2010 said she was thrilled to have Mrs Christison on the roll.

  • “She was one of the pioneers of the Clare community,” Mrs Jacka said.

  • “Her commitment was just outstanding.”

Mrs Christison was born in Clare in 1860 to John and Isabella Hope, and got married in 1896 to John Christison. She is best known for her benefaction of Christison Park - now known as the Clare Caravan Park. - Story: Scott Murphy


Clare tombstone of John and Mrs Christison

In the Northern Argus of Thursday 19 Aug 1948 it was noted that the illness of Mrs. John Christison, M.B.E., one of the Town's finest citizens, and who was in Clare Hospital, was still causing anxiety to her relatives and friends. During the week her condition had not improved.

ON Thursday, August 26 1948, in the early hours of the morning Mrs. Frances Diana Christison, M.B.E., of "Weroona," Clare, widow of the late Mr. John Christison, died at the Clare and District Hospital at the age of 88 years.  

By instructions under Mrs. Christison's will she was cremated at the South Australian Crematorium, West Terrace, Adelaide, on Monday August 30 1948, when the Rector, Rev. John L. Bond, attended.

So far as we can gather this is the first cremation of a Clare born citizen.

The Urn and ashes were brought to Clare and the full funeral service in St. Barnabas' Church was held on Thursday Sept. 2, at 10.30 a.m.1948. Afterwards the funeral left for the Clare cemetery at 11 o'clock. Messrs. F. W. Forsaith, Clare, funeral directors, were in charge of all arrangements. It was fully expected there would be a large and representative attendance at the funeral to witness the last rites and pay honor to, what one telegram we received a few days ago from Western Australia fittingly said:—she was "Clare's grand old Lady."  

"Ending on a personal note may we say that Mrs. Christison's demise will leave a blank in our lives. For three generations her encouragement, help and progressive thought have always been thoughtful and encouraging, and the loss we feel certain is shared equally by all walks of life in Clare and district."

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