Beyond the Inscription: A Journey Through Maude’s World

Amidst the hushed whispers of history, a tale of sisterhood, secrets, and a cherished heirloom unfolds. In the heart of Hotham, a leather-bound Bible serves as a silent witness to the enigmatic life of its owner—Maude Paterson.

Maude’s bible

Curiosity piqued by the faded inscription, a journey of discovery begins for a determined researcher, seeking to unearth the forgotten story of Maude and her sister Dora. Through the dusty archives and digital corridors of time, the pieces of Maude’s life slowly come into focus.

Dora’s handwritten inscription on the inside page. Printed by Oxford University Press for the National Bible Society of Glasgow, Scotland.

Her journey begins not in the bustling streets of Hotham, but in the tranquil landscapes of rural Victoria. Born Jane Maude Edith Paterson in 1865, Maude’s roots stretch across oceans, from the Scottish highlands to the English countryside. Raised by her adventurous sea captain father and resilient mother, Maude’s spirit reflects the strength of her lineage.

circa 1860s – Captain Francis Paterson, source

circa 1855 – Hannah Vary, Maude’s mother. source

As the researcher delves deeper into Maude’s past, a portrait emerges of a young woman defined by love and loss. Gifted a treasured Bible by her beloved sister Dora on her eighteenth birthday, Maude’s world is illuminated by the warmth of family bonds amidst the harsh realities of 19th-century life.

Christmas circa 1885 – Francis and Hannah Paterson’s family, source

On December 8th, 1890, Maud wrote a letter to her niece Margaret Helen ‘Madgie’ Russell, daughter of Sarah Helen Russell.

“Dear Madgie, I am very sorry to hear you are sick and disappointed you were not able to come up with Grandma, but you must haste and get well because I want you very much to keep me company when I sit in the garden. The big black dog always comes and lays down near me and the magpie lies on the rug at my feet, with his feathers all spread out to get nice and warm. Then when he is warm, he goes over to the dog and picks grass seed out of him, if the dog’s tongue is out, the magpie gives it a nip.

Grandma and Kennie arrived safely, Claud met the Ozone and Uncle Frank, and Maggie were at the Gem Pier, so they had plenty to meet them. Kennie is in bed; he is sleeping Auntie Dora’s room. It is such a swell room, all the pictures and cards on the walls and red tulle and ribbons all over, but you will see it when you come up. Give my love to Mamma, Daddy, Douglas, Mavis and a big share to my Madgie. Your loving, Auntie Maud. (Jane ‘Jean’ Maud Edith Paterson)

circa 1890 – Ozone at pier, Sorrento, source State Library of Victoria

Tragically, Maude’s story is cut short by the ravages of tuberculosis, leaving behind a legacy shrouded in mystery and longing. Yet, through her words and the echoes of her family’s history, Maude’s spirit lives on, a testament to the enduring power of love and connection.

From the windswept shores of Queenscliff to the bustling streets of Hotham, “Quest for Maude’s Legacy” is a captivating journey through time—a tale of resilience, redemption, and the enduring bonds of sisterhood.

Paterson family grave site Queenscliff source the Paterson family

Last Will, source Public Records Office of Victoria

Probate, source Public Records Office of Victoria

Maude’s link to Hotham may have been through her mother’s family, the Vary’s. James Alfred Vary and Hannah Elizabeth Paterson, nee Vary were siblings. Maude’s uncle James Alfred Vary (1846-1909) had lived at 11 Kent Street, Flemington in 1903.

The next link to the area is through Maude’s first cousin, Alfred Overton Vary, occupation tanner, who lived at 17 Boundary Road, North Melbourne in 1908. Alfred was born in Geelong in 1879, the son of James Alfred Vary and Sarah Emily Skrine. The tannery business was located behind the Vary’s family home, but the Victorian buildings are all a distant memory today. That land is now home to a two-story brick building that covers the whole corner of Macaulay and Boundary Roads. Locals may know it by the massive advertising sign positioned on the roof staring down at drivers and pedestrians heading along Macaulay Road towards Kensington.  Alfred lived in Hotham until 1919, then moved to Brighton.

I wondered if Alfred had been close to his cousin and he was given Maude’s bible after her death. That might explain how her bible managed to make its way, into the collection of the Hotham History Project one hundred and thirty years later.

Her parents had called her Jane Maude Edith Paterson at birth. Jane was the name of her paternal Scottish grandmother. Her sister, Dora called her Maude in her 1879 inscription. Later in adulthood, she was known as Jean Maud Edith Paterson.

Maud’s remains were interred within the Paterson family plot at Queenscliff cemetery, along with her parents and sister Margaret.

I’ve included details Maud’s family members that I discovered on this research journey and they can be found below.

Hotham History Project are honored to be it’s custodian and we intend to give Maude’s bible back to someone directly connected to the Paterson family in the future.

I hope you enjoyed reading the this story and facts including photo of the family home at Queenscliff, connected to Maude and her extended family.

story by Stephen Hatcher, member of the Hotham History Project, 2024.




Story title: Secrets of the Old Leather Bible


In the heart of bustling North Melbourne, amidst the whispers of history, lies a forgotten treasure—a weathered leather-bound Bible. When a determined researcher stumbles upon an inscription dated 1879, the mystery of its owner, Maude Paterson, ignites a quest for truth that spans generations.


As the camera pans over the cobblestone streets of North Melbourne, we meet Emily, a young historian with a passion for unraveling the past. When she discovers the aged Bible in the archives of the Hotham History Project, Emily’s curiosity is piqued. Determined to uncover Maude’s story, she embarks on a journey that will change her life forever.

Through flashbacks and archival footage, we are transported back to the late 19th century, where we meet Maude Paterson—a spirited young woman with dreams as vast as the Australian outback. Raised in the rugged landscapes of rural Victoria, Maude’s life is forever changed when her sister Dora presents her with the cherished Bible on her eighteenth birthday.

But as Maude’s story unfolds, so too does the harsh reality of life in the Victorian era. Battling against the scourge of tuberculosis and societal expectations, Maude’s resilience is put to the test. Yet, amidst the hardships, she finds solace in the enduring bonds of family and love.

As Emily delves deeper into Maude’s past, she uncovers secrets long buried beneath the pages of history. From the windswept shores of Queenscliff to the bustling streets of Hotham, Emily’s journey mirrors Maude’s own quest for truth—a quest that will ultimately lead her to discover the true meaning of family, legacy, and the power of connection.


Family Bonds: At its core, “Secrets of the Leather Bible” explores the enduring strength of family ties, spanning generations and defying the passage of time.

Resilience: Both Maude and Emily must navigate adversity and hardship in their respective journeys, showcasing the resilience of the human spirit.

Discovery and Redemption: Through the pursuit of truth, Emily finds not only answers but also redemption, as she learns to reconcile her own past with the secrets she uncovers.


Historical Flashbacks: Richly detailed scenes transport viewers back to the Victorian era, with period costumes, authentic sets, and sweeping landscapes capturing the essence of Maude’s world.

Archival Discoveries: As Emily sifts through old documents and photographs, the screen comes alive with images of the past, offering tantalizing clues and insights into Maude’s life.

Emotional Moments: From tender family gatherings to heartbreaking farewells, “Secrets of the Leather Bible” is punctuated by powerful emotional moments that resonate with viewers of all ages.


“Secrets of the Leather Bible” is potentially a captivating television series that combines historical intrigue, heartfelt drama, and timeless themes of love and redemption. As Emily unravels the mysteries of Maude’s past, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery—one that will leave audiences spellbound until the very end.

by Stephen Hatcher, member of the Hotham History Project, 2024.