Born in the Melbourne suburb of Balwyn on 1 December 1877, Robert Arthur Broinowski was the sixth of eight children of a Polish immigrant, Gracjusz (Gracius) Broinowski, and his wife, Jane, née Smith. Jane was the daughter of the captain of an English whaler, while Gracius, who at some time used the pseudonym Gracius Browne, was a salesman for the publisher, Hamel and Ferguson,
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Although there is no evidence that Charles Broughton Boydell had strong religious convictions, or indeed that he was very religious at all, he had excellent family connections with the Church of England. His mother was Mary Phoebe Broughton, elder daughter of the Rt Rev. William Grant Broughton, DD, one-time East India Company official, and chaplain of the Tower of London. Charles’ father, William Barker Boydell,