St. Arnaud

These notes are from a happy exchange between myself and cousin Donna Hewitt Dansick Santlucia in December 2018. Donna invited me to a Hewitt family celebration of Aunt Mary’s 90th in St Arnaud on January 20, 2019. We were discussing the Hewitts of St Arnaud and our own family connections of which mine are the Hewitt-Gleesons of St Arnaud …

NOTE ON PICS: I’ve dived into the archives and found and also added some pics at the end of this post. On some of the older St Arnaud pics I really am quite unable to name the identities. If you are able to add any corrections, omissions, comments, pics or info please do so under COMMENTS at the very bottom or email me (michaelhewittgleeson … at … Feel free to pass on this link to family or those who you think may be interested. Very best wishes, cousin Michael.  …

Date: 13 December 2018
From: Michael Hewitt-Gleeson

Subject: My version …

Dear Cuz Donna,

My understanding from my grandmother I called Sammy, who raised me, who you knew as Auntie Elsie is that the Hewitt’s of St Arnaud seat all started with her parents John and Mary Hewitt around 150 years ago.

Elsie May Hewitt had a brother called Percival. They were two amongst 11 siblings most of whom died young. My father was Elsie’s son, Martin, known as Mickey.

Your mother, Mary, is the daughter of Percival and Ethel. Percival had taken over the St Arnaud property left by his father, John.

Percival, Uncle Percy to me, also had John, Alan and George, Mary’s brothers.

After Percival, John took over St Arnaud. He married Margaret from Kerang. They were Uncle Jack and Aunty Margaret to us.

Because of my distance from the family when overseas for many years I don’t really know the later generations.

My last big contact (besides your brother Steve’s recent party) was Aunt Elsie’s (Sammy’s) 80th Hewitt Reunion at St Arnaud back in 1974. Wow! That’s 44 years ago!

So, my partner Francesco (Franky) and I are looking forward to Aunty Mary’s 90th in January.

Michael x

Reply from Donna, 15 December, 2018

You’ve done well.  Uncle Jack and Margaret moved to Kerang to farm.

John Jr. took over the farm after Jack and Margaret both passed away.

Their children Theresa and John and sisters are attending.  Trisha, Bernadette, Marie, Maureen and Colleen.

Maureen lives in Swan Hill. The others are scattered around Melbourne and country areas. Mum has had a lot of contact with them.

As with all our family, they have experienced the loss of siblings.

I hope the above information is correct, we only ever seem to meet at funerals.

Uncle George married Melda and farmed near grandpa’s farm. George is 96 now and Melda, a few years younger, has a dry and fine sense of humour while George has always been a quiet man. …

They have 9 children, their eldest Raymond, a wonderful man died a month after Dad, his wife Aileen still lives in the town. Kevin their second eldest has taken over the, farm, and the other kids live in and around Melbourne and Geelong and hopefully will be attending. They are Lynette, Julie, Carmel, John, Peter and Karen. Kathy lives in Grafton.

Uncle Alan married Maureen and they have 6 children. Alan is 92 and was a prankster. He and dad, back in the day, were a formidable team when it came to jokes. Maureen is 90, an earth mother, and very sweet.

Chris has taken over the farm, their eldest Suzanne lives in Geelong, Debbie lives in St Arnaud. I think Tim and Brendan in Ballarat and Andrea in Bendigo, but not totally sure.

We have lots of cousins, they are good people, all good to their elderly parents and their families and it’s a tribute that many attended the major birthdays of their aunts and uncles.

Of course there are a million grandchildren and great grandchildren.

I had the blessing of my grandmother Ethel for 4 short years, but I remember her vividly.  And of course the glorious and marvellous Elsie who stepped in and loved us. You, Terry and Wendy had her heart unconditionally.  But weren’t we lucky to have had her in our lives.

We have been blessed by our ancestors, by their bravery, work ethic and honesty. Our cousins have all in some form carried that on.

Chris’ mother Rosa will hopefully be coming with us, and it will be quite the culture shock for her and if Franky becomes overwhelmed, they’ve got each other and Chris’s fumbling attempts in Italian!

I may have some of this info back to front, but I think I have covered the main characters fairly well.

Donna xx

From Michael, 16 December, 2018

Thanks so much Donna,

How enlightening! It’s also quite a family saga, isn’t it. Good TV material I reckon.

Except for my close relationship with your brother, Steve, I feel remiss that I’ve had such little contact with the Hewitts over the years and perhaps I should’ve been a bit more pro-active in making family contact. I suppose I have been away a lot and that’s my poor excuse. Here’s a little more info on me and my travels.

Sammy (Elsie) had two kids, my dad, Martin (Uncle Mickey to you) and Doris who was Wendy’s mum. Doris was also quite a character and she and I were very close. Both Doris and Mickey had their mother’s wicked sense of humour. We were all very close growing up.

I was away a lot. Boarding school at Rupertswood, Sunbury, when I was 8 to12 and then I got called up for Vietnam when I was 20 (1967). I was surprised by the quality and effectiveness of the training I received in the army, especially on lateral thinking skills, and I became quite interested (obsessed?) with the subject, academically as well.

In 1974 I went to New York and studied further. I built a career and was based there for many years. I met my partner of 16 years, Bryan, a New Yorker. He returned with me to Australia in 1991. Sammy had passed by then but Bryan and dad (both addicted sun-worshippers) became best mates which made me very happy to see. Later, Bryan moved to Sydney and has been with his partner, Keith, for 15 years. In the meantime, I met Francesco not long after he arrived in Melbourne and we’ve been domestic partners (official!) for ten years now. Franky is now my heir. We are all a close knit alternative family and Franky and I stay with Bryan and Keith on our many visits to Sydney. Somehow, we always end up at the beach!

Franky is from Pompeii just out of Naples. He did a law degree at Naples (I think to prove a point to his parents) but didn’t pursue it. He travelled Europe and then crossed to the Southern Hemisphere to SE Asia and finally Melbourne. Since we met he’s done a couple of psychology degrees at Melbourne Uni including a Master’s in Positive Psychology, which is very au courant.

However, being Italian, he has started a car-and-scooter-hire business. In 2 years he has built it from one car he bought as an Uber driver to (last count yesterday!) 35 cars and 36 scooters. Madonna!

Franky also has an excellent sense of humour so I’m a very lucky man who has enjoyed lots of laughs pretty much every day of my happy life 🙂

In October we went to Paris to see Cousin Pamela on my mother’s side (the Baroness Dillon-Corneck), then to Berlin and to Rome where Franky’s family now lives. It was his mama’s 80th and we all met up for a classic al fresco lunch by the sea at Anzio. Franky’s brother Gabrielle, is a translator with the government. He speaks 5 languages including Arabic. His lovely wife is Gabriella, from Ecuador, and their two young boys Samuel and Santiago. Just before our October visit to Italy the four of them visited us for a couple of weeks. We celebrated Gabrielle’s 40th and had a great time showing them all around Melbourne and Sydney.

Enough about me. I’d love to know more about you, Donna, and your own Italian adventure.

Con amore e grazie,

Cuz Michael

PS  Here are some recent pics  …

Me recently at a friend’s wedding.

Franky, (since 2022 my marriage partner) at your brother Steve’s party a few weeks ago

An artist’s rather strange portrait of us both.

From Michael, 16 December, 2018

Here’s more …

My brother, Terry, and I were close even though we lived apart for many years. He was a gregarious and friendly man and Terry, Dad and I were (in)famous for our Scrabble and Monopoly marathons. They were loud and raucous, funny, haggling with lots of outrageous cheating and skullduggery. We never gave in, we formed quick and disloyal alliances to outwit each other during the game and the three of us were appalling in our behaviour and disregard for the rules. We had many hours of fun over many years right up until Dad died in 2003. Sadly, Terry died a few years ago in 2015. He had not been well. His son is Alexander. A fine young man but taught all our bad habits and now plays cards accordingly.

One amusing bit I meant to tell you. When I was in New York, in the 80s, I was in the diplomatic social circle for a while as a result of a UN education project with my school and I met a number of displaced royals from various European houses whose families had fled the various revolutions earlier in the century and dispersed to Paris and New York. Many of them were low on resources and I loved putting on my military mess kit and medals and rocking up to the various Grand Balls at The Plaza and Pierre and seeing the old dowager duchesses and princesses with the odd stone missing from their fading tiaras and dilapidated gowns.

It was the end of an era but I love history and enjoyed it for a few years. They are all gone now, of course.

At that time, I had the opportunity of acquiring (for a little $$$) a title from a very ancient royal house and so Dad was made an hereditary Peer of Anjou (French origin). He chose the title, Count de Saint-Arnaud! I remembered how Sammy had said there was a tinge of Snowdon blood in her line and alluding to a vague blue-blood connection. She was prone to exaggeration so I never gave it much thought. But now Dad had a title of his own. Being hereditary, I was able to use it in New York and it was very useful opening social doors.

Of course, Australia is so very republican these days so his Countship was of little social value for Dad here and he never used it … except on one occasion. He was driving through country Victoria and pulled over by the local young cop for speeding. On handing over his licence the cop said, “Wow, are you a real count? I’ve never met a real count before”. Dad smiled politely adopting his idea of a noble nonchalance. “Do you have a castle? What does being a count entitle you to?” Dad asked, “Are you still going to book me?” The officer said, “Yes, of course”. So Dad replied, “Well, it entitles me to f@#k all then, doesn’t it”. 

It was a favourite story which we made him tell at every family party and we always laughed until we cried. I’m still tearing up at the memory. Hahah.

Michael x

Reply from Donna, 16 December, 2018

I have memories of your father laughing  and telling jokes, and Terry patiently ride hopping with me at Luna Park. When I stayed with Elsie our usual haunts were the Shrine and Luna Park. Then back to her flat where she would tell stories about  growing up with Grandpa and songs they sang.

As for me, I grew up with 3 brothers: David, Terry and Steve.  David married Anne and lives in Fairhaven, they had 4 daughters, Lisa and Ainsley have passed away, Shanelle and Allison have 6 children between them and Dave and Anne run a fabulous B&B.

Terry died in 2013, he had a complicated life, married twice and father to Dylan, Caitlin and Luke. Dylan had the same complicated life and died in 2000.

Of course, you know my brother, Steve.

As for me, well, I was the kid that stood on the sidelines asking who are you people and why am I here?.  All I wanted to do was grow up and travel. Geelong was parochial, limiting and I had no desire to marry a local lad, live in the burbs and raise brats.

But I did semi conform, Mum had been a nurse, she loved every moment, so I decided carry on the nursing torch and entered Geelong Hospital as a student nurse.

That lasted 3 months, I would stagger back to the nurses’ home convinced I had contracted all manner of disease. Although I enjoyed the freedom of living away, it was not me.

So I got a job at the local library and saved my pennies till I had enough to fly away.  I arrived in London in October 1979 and immediately loved it, felt right at home and was able to truly be myself.  Travelled everywhere, whenever I could, after 5 years away I decided to return home. But I missed London, and returned in 1989 and stayed till 1998.  Worked as a legal researcher in law firms, sadly most of the clients were crooked oil companies and sleazy insurance firms and there was a disquiet within me, asking again why am I here?

Back to Oz, but this time to make a career and life change, I studied Kinesiology and Hypnotherapy and started practising in 2001. It has been fulfilling, incredible and exhausting. I tended to avoid serious romance, I had everything I needed, I worked 2 jobs to ensure I could keep a comfortable roof over my head and pay bills.

I spent years working with clients with physical and mental disabilities, working on programs to enable them to find careers that matched their abilities.

Wanting to focus more on my practice, I took a job at Optum, an EAP facility working 3 hours a day front of house and helping with online admin. That’s where I found myself sitting next to a dark, swarthy, Italian scoping psychologist named Chris. In between client crises, we struck up a friendship and realised we had loads in common. He was leaving a disastrous marriage and I was a relationship tragic but somehow we became a couple.  

We were married on my 60th birthday, quite an achievement, a bride and a senior citizen all on the same day.

We both love travelling, we walked the French Camino in 2016 and the coastal Camino this year. I love Spain with my whole heart and hopefully many more trips to come.

Chris has a  27 yo son Dante who married the lovely Melissa in October.  We live in Essendon in a newish apartment and life all round is good.

That’s a potted version of my life thus far, and once we’re through all the family celebrations, we want to have you and Franky over to share more stories and drink nice wine.

See you soon.

Donna. Xx


I believe this is Mary Hewitt, wife of John Hewitt of St Arnaud and therefore the Hewitt matriarch. If so, she is my great-grandmother and mother of Elsie May Hewitt, my grandmother whom I called Sammy. I had heard many stories about her mother from Sammy, their busy family life on the property at Gowar East, the great fireplace, the peppercorn tree, the hair-raising trips to Donald in the ‘jinka’ and also about her Irish grandmother who lived with them, Mary’s mother, and her famous ghost stories. I am awed by their amazing courage, resilience and their place in founding our St Arnaud history.

This pic shows three generations of Hewitts on the St Arnaud property. Taken, I am guessing, around 1899. Mary Hewitt on the right. Her mother further to the left. The rest are the children. It’s a guessing game as to who is who. Any ideas? I’m guessing Florence on the far right with her mother, Mary. And to the left, that’s Elsie May (my grandmother b. 1894)), the littlest one in the white ‘pinny’, in front of her own Irish grandmother.

This pic features the men and I think that’s our founder, John Hewitt, on the far left. I’ve thought about John Hewitt for many, many hours over the years. Trying to imagine what he was like in my mind. He was born 100 years before me and died in 1923. I would’ve loved to have met the great man. I’m guessing he’s a bit impatient in the pic, slightly annoyed at submitting to be photographed and wanting to get back to his farm. Of course, I might be quite wrong. I also assume that’s Mary’s mother, the Irish grandmother, in the middle. Does anyone know her name? Once again I can’t identify the others but I think it’s a great family pic. Circa 1921. The third man from the left looks like the Cole boys, John and Jimmy, and so it might be their father, Norman (?), husband of Auntie Molly.

I think this is the next generation in the early 1940s (?). Again, the two boys on the right look like they are Johnny and Jimmy Cole, to me. Maybe that’s their mum, Molly, with them. Again, I’m guessing. But also a nice family pic and the newer cameras show a little more clarity.

Between the two world wars, Elsie owned Elenara, 2 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda. It was one of Melbourne’s premium private hotels in pole position opposite St Kilda beach. Doc Evatt and other luminaries of the time lived there. Dad grew up there and here’s a pic of him, a bit of a St Kilda lad with cigarette in right hand, walking along the beachfront, near St Kilda pier. He was a redhead and a sharp dresser (all his life). He was about 15 here a couple of years before he signed up for WWII.

When Sammy gave me this photo of herself with her first grandson (me), Michael Anthony, she told me, “It was love at first sight”. Although she was known for her marvellous powers of exaggeration I like to think she was being ‘strictly forensic’ on this occasion. It must have been in 1947 a few months after my birth in May. She had a great sense of personal style.

Aunty Flo (Florence Hewitt) was Sammy’s older sister and my favourite aunt and led me to believe I was one of her favourites, too. She lived in Dandenong Road, East St Kilda, near CBC St Kilda, when I was a student there in the early 60s. I would have lunch with her every Monday. She always made my favourite –  fish and chips and a vanilla slice. She bought me my first car when I was 18 and the deal was that I took her Prahran Market shopping on Saturday mornings followed by counter-lunch at The Inkerman in Balaclava. We had a lot of fun as she was a very experienced and  successful businesswoman with a lot of wisdom and a great sense of humour. She is pictured here with the birds and on a holiday with cousins Bill and Alma Reeves.

This is my brother, Terry, and I around 1959. After my parents split, we re-grouped as a family with Dad, Sammy, Terry and myself. At this time we lived in Prahran in inner Melbourne. We both went to the local St Francis Xavier parish primary school and Dad also had me inducted into the St John Ambulance Brigade as a cadet in the Greville Street branch. I liked it a lot and never lost a patient. Terry was famous for his lovely smile and being a very loveable boy. Happy times.

I am proud of this tryptich which I call War Is Hell. It shows three cascading generations of Aussie diggers, all in their war zones, and all drinking beer. The top pic is my grandfather, Joseph Gleeson of St Arnaud (middle) seated with his mates somewhere in WWII. Next is his WWII son, Martin Joseph Peter Hewitt-Gleeson of St Arnaud (middle), my dad, with his mate, Peter Garrett (left) and another mate on the right, obviously operating under cover. Then third pic down, his son in South Vietnam, Michael Anthony Hewitt-Gleeson of West St Kilda, (far left) upholding all the established family military traditions, in the mess, in Vung Tau (1969).

Elsie’s husband, dad’s father, my grandfather, Joseph Peter Gleeson of St Arnaud.

Elsie May Hewitt, whom I called Sammy, with her two children, Martin (aka Mickey, my dad) and Doris (my Auntie Dossie). Pictured here at Tullamarine as part of a family sendoff for me heading off to study lateral thinking in New York in the 70s. Sammy raised me with Dad and was the most important person in my life. When I was in Vietnam and all the years I was in New York she wrote to me every week with news of the Hewitts and Reeves and Coles and her (possibly exaggerated) victories at her croquet club.

Although dad found no reason to use his gifted title in Australia, it was useful for me in New York socially and in the UN diplomatic set while working hard to establish the School of Thinking in the 80s. Without any sponsorship or government funding I had to use my wits and resources to get the job done. John Hewitt was always a reliable role model for me as I thought often about his foundation work in St Arnaud 100 years before. Pic here in New York in the 80s at the Order of Saint John Investiture Ball with Alexandra Forbes of the Forbes publishing dynasty. Talented Alex is an established song-writer and publisher and we are still very good friends.

Below: Michael and Liza Minelli at the same event. Please forgive this quite uncalled-for name-dropping 🙂


Martin Joseph Peter Hewitt-Gleeson, Count de Saint-Arnaud, Peer of Anjou, Knight of Justice of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. Born in St Arnaud on 15th November 1919 and died in Melbourne on 9th August 2003. He served in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) on two fronts in WWII, the Middle East and New Guinea. His personal motto was Nemo perfectus est which he always espoused  … “nobody’s perfect”.

At that time, my dad my brother and I discussed together the offer of dad’s Angevin title and we agreed to legally change our names from ‘Gleeson’ to ‘Hewitt-Gleeson’ to formally and irrevocably recognise Elsie May Hewitt and the indefatigable role she has played in all our lives as mother, de facto mother and grandmother. She was delighted and since then our family name has legally been ‘Hewitt-Gleeson de Saint-Arnaud’.

Dad chose the ‘tower’ for his coat of arms as it offered the possibility of a higher view of things if one was willing to make the climb.

Picture by Steven Danzig

Count Martin’s hereditary and designated successor, Michael Anthony Hewitt-Gleeson, Count de Saint-Arnaud, Constable of Anjou (1984), Knight of Justice of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Doctor of Philosophy. Born in West St Kilda on 22nd May 1947. This is a picture taken by cousin Steve (Hewitt) Danzig in around 2005. Steve and I have been very close since I returned from New York to Australia in 1990.

The Hewitt-Gleesons rarely use the title in Australia because of its anachronistic irrelevance in this country. It is simply a family possession recorded in this context, as a matter of fact, for those who may be interested.

Brothers, Michael and Terry, at dad’s home in Glen Iris in 1997. Sadly my ‘little brother’ Terry died after a long illness and far too early in 2015.

Terry’s son, Alexander, with Terry and dad, all horsing around at the family home in Glen Iris in the 1990s – son, father and grandfather Hewitt-Gleesons.


24th June, 2020 in Melbourne. Franky’s 40th Birthday. Our last outing before lockdown.

At that time, Franky was legally deeded heir to my title including the right to appoint his own successor. He was also created an hereditary Knight of Justice in my School of Chivalry. Long live Count Francesco … Auguri!

Count Francesco’s Arms are the Tower of Saint-Arnaud upon the Angevin Field of Lilies under the Count’s Coronet of 9 points and the motto … Nemo Perfectus Est.

1 September, 2020 during 4th Stage Lockdown in Melbourne.


Delayed by two years of pandemic lockdown, Franky and I were married on Thursday 6th January at the Melbourne Registry Office. We celebrated a long alfresco lunch at our favourite Bistrot D’Orsay in Collins Street and a penthouse suite at The Sofitel for a few days.

Maitre’d Simon at Bistrot D’Orsay with more bubbles …