Buninyong and District Historical Society

Caffrey, Blacksmith & Coachbuilder

c. 1860
Learmonth St, Buninyong

On the adjacent land, to the left of the supermarket, there was a blacksmith, wheelwright and coachbuilder from the 1860s. The Caffrey family operated a carriage factory from about 1870 until the turn of the century, followed in the twentieth century by Bill Burke and his son, who made his last wagon in 1948, by which time the motor car was replacing the horse, and the smithy closed.

Photo of Caffrey Carriage works 1890s

William Caffrey (1834-1881), blacksmith, arrived in Geelong from Ferbane in County Offaly (then known as King's County) with his wife Bridget, as assisted immigrants. They had seven children, born at or near Geelong. William established a smithy in Geelong, but was bankrupted in 1865 (Geelong Advertiser, 9 August 1865). He recovered and moved to Buninyong in about 1870, where he took over the smithy in Learmonth St., on the Geelong-Ballarat highway, a prestige position for trade. By 1874 he was conducting a flourishing blacksmithing and carriage building business. William became a Borough councilor for two terms, and Caffrey Street was named after him, at a time when it was policy of the council that new streets should be named after councilors. He held contracts from local government for the maintenance of Council horses, vehicles and machinery. He died in 1881, aged 47. His son Thomas, born in 1860, who had been apprenticed as a wheelwright, took over the business. By the early 1890s Tom was a Borough Councillor like his father, and Mayor in 1895-6. Tom sold the business and went into hotel keeping, commencing with the Crown Hotel in November 1897. Later he was employed as a blacksmith by H.V. McKay's Harvester Company, in Ballarat and Footscray. Tom died in 1917 and is buried at Buninyong with his wife Elizabeth, daughter of William Whykes, butcher, of Buninyong.

It seems that William O'Brien, painter, Eyre St. took over the business, as evidenced by photo 98-804 in our collection that shows 'W. O'Brien, Coach Builder' in the Learmonth St. premises formerly owned by Caffrey - early 1900s.

Bill Burke, born to Irish parents in 1873, had been apprenticed to James McGrath, a blacksmith in Warrenheip. In 1905 he was Captain of the Buninyong Football Team. By 1914 Bill was paying rates on the smithy in Learmonth St. (buildings owned by G. Brimblecombe, grocer.) Bill died in 1944. His youngest son William had been apprenticed into the business, and from 1930 to 1941 was blacksmith and farrier to the Buninyong Shire (See Secretary's Letter book, 1 August 1941). Bill junior then joined the Army in World War Two 1942-5. After Bill senior's death in 1944, Jack and Mick Lynch took over while Bill junior was in the Army. At this time the Lynchs had shops at Scotsburn, Elaine and Meredith.

In 1948 Bill junior closed his blacksmith shop. He made his last wagon for Ed White of Mt. Buninyong for 48 pounds. Don Bath was his striker, and Bert Sutherland worked for him. Bill took over a blacksmith shop in Bell St, Sebastopol, behind the Atlantic Hotel. He sold up and worked for the railways as a welder. He died in 1959, aged 53.

After Bill's death, his wife Peggy built a house on the site of the former blacksmith shop.

Anne Beggs Sunter,
Buninyong and District Historical Society