Have you ever wondered how places get their names? What is the connection between family names and places? One such connection is between Bells Beach and Bellbrae.

The Bell family story is an interesting one; John Calvert Bell and Frances Ellen Bell (both from prominent western district families) had five children - Clara Irene Stewart Bell, Naomi Frances Woolbrook Bell (Mid), Honor Calvert Otway Bell (Queen) and (Mary) Kathleen (Girlie) Bell, along with their two brothers Harold and John (who died in infancy).

The family were residing at Calder Park, Mount Duneed in 1894 - we know this through the admissions register where Honor was enrolled on 20 January 1894. Clara and Naomi were both enrolled the following year in 1895. Given the distance of 20km between Sacred Heart and their home, it is to be expected that they were at least weekly boarders.

We know that her mother Frances died in 1901 at Miss Murray’s Private Hospital in Myers St, Geelong and at that time, John moved his family to Torquay. Their property included over 3000 acres between Torquay and Anglesea, the house Addiscot and over 700 acres of coastal land.

By this time the girls were sent to board at Loreto Abbey, Mary’s Mount. Clara, Naomi and Honor enrolled from Feb 1900, followed by Kathleen in 1908.

John married Frances’s sister Irene in 1908, who had been helping to care for the children since Frances’s death.

Clara and Honor continued their association with deep catholic faith, with both entering the Loreto Abbey Convent, Clara in 1909 becoming M. Aluigi and Honor taking M. Andrew as her name in religion in 1916. 

When Harold was killed on the battlefield in Belgium in 1917, Mother Gonzaga Barry wrote an extremely heartfelt letter of condolence to his father John Bell, showing a level of friendship and respect between M. Barry and John.

What became of the other Bell children? Naomi married an Irish Sea Captain in 1919 and sadly died in Dublin in 1920, from complications after surgery.

Kathleen (Girlie), the youngest, stayed on at Addiscott with her father and stepmother Irene. When Irene died in 1938, the house was sold and Girlie moved to a tin cottage, without any electricity on the 400 acres of remaining land. She died in 1978 having become practically a recluse after her parent’s death.

Loreto Mary’s Mount has a wonderful collection of letters and ephemera from the sisters to each other. Amongst the collection is this wonderful hand written program for Distribution of Prizes at Sacred Heart School, December 17th 1896 and a great photograph of two of the Sisters outside the Bell Town House, of which now only the dining room remains as the Chapel at Grace McKellar.

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