McGennans renew family ties

THERE’S usually a skeleton in every family’s closet but for the McGennan family it’s one with a glass of whisky to its lips and perhaps a cheeky smile on its face.

Organisers of the McGennan family reunion on the weekend revealed that Henry “Harry” McGennan, a former Warrnambool mayor after whom the foreshore McGennan car park is named, was probably a bootlegger before he came to Warrnambool.

Sally J. McGennan Burke, who wrote the McGennan family’s history in the 2011 book A Tale to Tell, said Harry McGennan was the publican at the Boggy Creek hotel at Curdievale in the early 1900s before the family moved to Warrnambool, where Mr McGennan ran the now ddemolished Criterion Hotel.

The Curdievale area was notorious for illegal whiskey production in the late 1800s and Mrs McGennan Burke said her great-grandfather appeared to have been involved in the underground trade.

However, that disregard for government’s alcohol taxes did not stop Harry McGennan from going on to make a big contribution to the south-west community, not only in local government and on the Warrnambool foreshore trust, but also in lawn bowls.

Mrs McGennan Burke, of Phillip Island, said Mr McGennan was on the board that established the City Memorial Bowls Club and was a driving force in the establishment of the Country Week bowls competition.

Another member of the McGennan clan, Helen Williams, of Melbourne, humorously recalled the era when the McGennan car park had been a popular “parking spot” for local youth.

Only about two branches of the McGennan family still live in Warrnambool, those of cousins Andrew and Brian McGennan, but more than 20 other clan members strengthened their ties to the city at the weekend reunion.

ehimmelreich@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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