Bernard & Winifred McCaffrey

Text and Images: Elisabeth Anderson


Bernard A. McCaffrey was Head Teacher of the Mylor School from 1901 till 1918. Initially the appointment of this Catholic Irishman was said to have been met with opposition within the largely Methodist community, but he was found to be a good teacher and soon won the respect and affection of the local people. He instilled in his pupils a tolerance for one another, encouraged reading and insisted on absolute proficiency in recitation of the multiplication tables up to 16 x 16 as the backbone of their education.

He was given the honour of being Master of Ceremonies at the unveiling of the Mylor Honour Roll at the Australia Day Fair on Mylor Oval in October 1916.

Bernard and his wife Winifred were the parents of eight children. They walked to Sunday Mass at Stirling East – a journey of six miles each way – and the children repeated the walk to attend Confirmation classes at the church. Gifted with a good voice, Bernard sang locally and also in the church choir.

When the time came for the family to move in 1918, a farewell function was arranged by the school families and Bernard and Winifred were presented with a pair of Morris chairs as an expression of their gratitude.

Sourced from “On Fertile Soil” a history of the Stirling Catholic Parish (1987) and “The Light In the Valley”, a history of the Mylor Primary School by Jan Polkinghorne (1994)               


Winifred Mc Caffrey, wife of Mylor School Head Teacher Bernard A. McCaffrey and mother of eight children, said more than once that it would not matter how many children you had, you never got over the death of one.

Sadly, on 28th September 1906 her sixth child, Harry Desmond, died aged just six weeks. His was to be the first grave in the then newly established Stirling Catholic Cemetery in Strathalbyn Road. The infant was buried there on 9th January 1907.

Twelve years later, after 17 years in Mylor, the McCaffrey family moved to Campbelltown. Over the years the grave suffered from the ravages of time and ultimately the plot no longer even resembled a grave. Only the official burial register indicated that this was Harry’s place of burial.

In 2003 the grave was restored and properly marked with a marble plinth and plaque, thanks to members of the Adelaide Hills Catholic Parish and the Mt Lofty Districts Historical Society, the Mayor at that time Mr Bill Cooksley, a grant from the Adelaide Hills Council’s Memorial Fund and financial and material support from a number of individuals and businesses – rarely solicited but gladly given.

Winifred had paid into a funeral fund for so many years, she once remarked that she expected a red carpet and brass band when she died, so granddaughter Christine Beaumont of Mt Barker once recalled. Whether her expectations were ultimately met is not known but one imagines that she would have been very pleased with the ceremony that restored dignity to her infant’s grave, with red camellias, music from cello and flute and song, green ribbons for the family’s Irish roots and tea tree to symbolise the Adelaide Hills. Members of the McCaffrey family were in the gathering.

(Written by Elisabeth Anderson, who discovered this plot in the course of some historical research and then initiated and co-ordinated its restoration).

FOOT NOTE: As a consequence of this event a number of women voiced their grief over the loss of their own infants in the past and lamented the fact that their places of burial had remained unknown to them. As a result, a baby memorial was established by the Hills Christian Churches in the nearby Memorial Garden to bring them some healing.

Do you have stories or memories of Bernard or Winifred and their time in the Adelaide Hills?

Contact us at or drop into the History Centre at the Coventry Library, 63 Mount Barker Road, Stirling.