Frederick Biggs (1869 – 1918)


Frederick Biggs

Over the past few months I have spent some time trying to work out what happened to my grand uncle Frederick Biggs. My father mentioned that one of his uncles had disappeared and they did not know what had happened to him. Remembering those words made me curious so I went searching for him.

Frederick Biggs was born on August 15, 1869, at Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst to Margaret Henderson, (then aged 29) and Stephen Biggs (then aged 42). (NSW BDM 1869/002004.) With five girls already born into the family, the birth of a boy there was an expectation that his arrival would be celebrated but there is no newspaper notice of his arrival. This is no doubt due to the death of his three year old sister, Caroline, only seven months earlier.

In rapid succession he was joined by three more brothers, Henry (1871), Charles (1873), Francis (1881) and another sister Emily (1877).

After his childhood there is no definite record of what happened to Frederick. A search of numerous records eventually revealed a Frederick Biggs listed as a traveller staying at the Victoria Hotel Colac. He lived at the Victoria Hotel in the main street from around 1914 until his death in 1918, becoming a well known personality in the area. He turned out to be my Grand Uncle Fred.

Winning at Billiards

Winning at Billiards

In earlier years he had been a clerk with G S Mackay, a Barrister and Solicitor in Warrnambool. He then took the opportunity to go into partnership with Max Vermish, establishing the firm of Vermish and Biggs, piano importers and tuners. He initially spent a considerable amount of time travelling between various centres in the Western district in connection with the piano business.

His main residence became the Victoria Hotel and he became a respected and well known personality in the area. The Colac Reformer, dated 27 April 1915 , reports his win in a local billiard game.

He died on 31 August 1918 from appendicitis and subsequent pulmonary embolism. He was only 49 years old. He was buried in Colac Cemetery on 2 September 1918.

His death was reported in a number of newspapers in Victoria. The size of his funeral and the newspaper article show the high regard in which he was held:

Article image from the National Library of Australia's Newspaper Digitisation Program

Article image from the National Library of Australia’s Newspaper Digitisation Program

There is no mention of his family in any of the funeral notices or on his death certificate. Max Vermish published a thank you note following his funeral.

His will was written while in hospital on 27 August 1918, just four days before his death. The will leaves the business in the hands of his partner Max Vermish and the rest of his estate to his two sisters. Emily and Alice, confirming that he was definitely my great uncle.

Will Biggs F

His grave at Colac cemetery is well maintained with a headstone that is discoloured and a little difficult to read. “In memory of FREDERICK Ernest Son of the late Stephen and Margaret Biggs of Lewisham NSW. Died 31 August 1918. Aged 49 years. If anyone is traveling through Victoria take some time to visit Colac cemetery to spend a few moments remembering yet another one of our ancestors.Fbiggs Colac