This blog provides information, stories, links and events relating to and promoting the history of the Wimmera district.
Any additional information, via Comments, is welcomed.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Patching Patche

Great news this week that VicTrack's Heritage Program will be funding the repair of Patchewollock and Kaniva railway station buildings.
Patchewollock - end of the line
The very dilapidated Patchewollock station building will be re-clad, the roof and walls repaired and painted and new guttering and downpipes installed. The Goods Shed will be restored by re-stumping, painting, new guttering and downpipes and structural repairs.
Kaniva's Goods Shed from the station platform
The work on Kaniva's station building and goods shed will commence shortly.
Donald-based heritage restoration firm Onley's Holdings will undertake the task. 

Below: The Patche line still open in 1966, taken from Nick Anchen's 'The right way, the wrong way & the railway : great Victorian railway stories'. It includes a story of crews battling through sand drifts to reach the remote Patchewollock terminus, passing families along the line, who would stop the train in the middle of nowhere, by waving a lantern, to receive their provisions.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Into the land of the Lowan

Its time for another 'Wimmera  in Photographs' Collection Day.
This time it will be held in the Hindmarsh Shire. The Shire covers the pre-amalgamation area covered by the Dimboola and Lowan Shires - in the south from the Wimmera River north to Lake Albacutya and west beyond Nhill - so a fertile area for historic photographs.
The abandoned Detpa Store, adjacent to the railway station
Some of the pastoral stations established in the region were: Albacutya in 1848, Horatio Cockburn Ellerman at Antwerp in 1847, Ballarook from 1847, Lake Hindmarsh (Pine Hills & Tullyvea) to Stieglitz in 1847, Lorquon in 1851, Mt Elgin and its subdivision Lawloit, Nhill in 1847, Upper Regions (Bonegar & Lochiel) in 1848, Woraigworm in 1849, and Yanac-A-Yanac in 1847...over 160 years of history.
As well there have been some significant events - the 1897 storm which nearly flattened Nhill; Big Lizzie's traverse from Outlet Creek along the west shore of Lake Hindmarsh and through the eastern Little Desert; the RAAF base at Nhill in World War 2 - all great photo opportunities, and hopeful there might be some prints or negatives show up during the Collection Day.
Interior of the Woorak West Methodist Church, built in 1886
The Collection Day is Friday 12th June at the Dimboola Library from 10am to 12:30pm then the Nhill Library from 2pm to 5pm.People with historic photos, negatives, and/or slides are encouraged to bring them for scanning. Appointments are necessary. To book, call in at Dimboola Library Phone: 5389 1734 or Nhill Library Phone: 5391 1684.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Honour Roll launch

A momentous day for the Library today, with the launch of the 2015 Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll road show in the Horsham Library.
Standing: Emma Kealy (Member for Lowan), Aunty Nancy. Front: Cr Mark Radford (Horsham City Mayor),  Uncle Kevin (holding the Honour Roll book), Minister Natalie Hutchins
 After a Welcome To Country speech by Aunty Nancy Harrison from the Barengi Gadjin Land Council Aboriginal Co-operative, the Hon Natalie Hutchins MP (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Local Government and Minister for Industrial Relations), introduced Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll inductee Uncle Kevin Coombs OAM.
Along with Lester Marks Harradine and Johnny Mullagh, Uncle Kevin Coombs OAM is one of three Aboriginal people from the Wimmera region to have been inducted to the Honour Roll. He was inducted in 2012, now one of 64 people to have been honoured.
A Wotjobaluk Elder, Uncle Kevin's ancestors lived on the Ebenezer Mission station at Antwerp. Kevin was born at Swan Hill. He became a champion wheelchair basketballer and Australia's first Aboriginal Paralympian in Rome in 1960. Over the next twenty years he went on to represent Australia at another four Paralympics. He also won gold medals for Australia at the Far Eastern South Pacific Games in 1977 and 1984.
Back: Emma Kealy MP, Aunty Nancy, Cr Leo Tellefson (WRLC Chairman). Front: Cr Mark Radford, Uncle Kevin, Natalie Hutchins MP.
Among his many achievements and honours Kevin has received the medal for the Order of Australia, an Australian Sports Medal, induction to the Basketball Hall of Fame, a Deadly lifetime achievement award and a NAIDOC award. Most recently he was inducted to the Australian Basketball Wall of Fame.
Today he is known across Victoria for his work in Aboriginal health and justice. He is a patron of the Onemda Koori Health Unit at Melbourne University and sits as an Elder on the Broadmeadows Koori Court and the Children's Koori Court.
The Honour Roll book and exhibition will remain on display at the Horsham Library until 11th June.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Honouring Lester

The 'Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll' is coming to the Horsham Library.
The Honour Roll recognises the many and varied contributions of Aboriginal people to the identity of Victoria.
Another local Honour Roll inductee is Lester Marks Harradine. A Wotjobaluk Elder who lived at Dimboola, Lester was a sportsman, a returned serviceman, and a film star.
Though he was born in Bordertown, his family had a long association with the Ebenezer Mission Station at Antwerp. Lester was only 8 months old when brought to Dimboola in 1920 to be raised by his aunt. He attended school at Dimboola and Lillimur, and was aged 13 when he left to work on the commercial vegetable gardens that lined the Wimmera River during the Depression.
With the outbreak of the Second World War, Lester enlisted with the 19th Machine Gun Regiment and was transferred to Darwin. He was there when the Japanese bombed the town in 1942. By the end of the war he was stationed at Tarakan in Borneo. After the war Lester became  member of the R.S.L. and was actively involved through Legacy with supporting local war widows. Lester married Leila in 1958 and they had 4 children, he was employed by Victorian Railways where he got his driver's certificate in 1951 and worked until retirement in 1980. Lester died in 2010.

Lester was heavily involved in sport with the Dimboola Football Club, Wimmera Football League, Dimboola Bowling Club, and fire brigade competitions.
A keen cyclist he would ride from, Dimboola to Lillimur to visit family (a 175km round trip).
 In 2010 the Wimmera Football League granted Lester 'Legend' status, he had played for Dimboola in the 40s, 50s and 60s, including 2 senior premierships in 1946 and 1959, as well as a number of Reserves premierships in the 1960s. The Lester Marks Harradine Medal is awarded to the best & fairest in the Indigenous Recognition round.

Lester as Red Cap - still from the film
In 1973, Lester was one of the actors in the 'Lost in the Bush' film. He played the role of Red Cap, with Bill Tregonning who played King Richard, and Ronnie Marks as Tony. (Red Cap was one of the Aborigines brought from Mt Elgin station to help search for the three Duff children in 1864. He was also a member of the 1868 All-Aboriginal Cricket team which toured England).
Bill & Lester during filming
In his later years, Lester shared the stories and the culture of his ancestors with talks to school children, tours of Ebenezer. and donations to the Dimboola Historical Society. He played a key role in the recognition of native title in the Wimmera. Lester was induced into the Honour Roll posthumously in 2012.

The Aboriginal Honour Roll will be launched in the Horsham Library on 4th June at 11am, and will be on display in the Library until the 11th.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Honour boards & memorials

"Looking after War Memorials and Honour Rolls" is a Heritage Skills Workshop presented by the Heritage Council of Victoria, Heritage Victoria in the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The ageing, flaking sandstone headstone of John Bell of Antwerp Station, 1861
Situated in the Horsham Cemetery
This workshop is aimed at owners and managers of War Memorials and Honour Rolls in the Wimmera and Southern Mallee area, and would be useful to members of Cemetery Trusts, local museums, and community halls.

Jeparit's War Memorial


The workshop includes sessions on:
• Documentation and records
• DPC - Veterans Affairs Branch grant programs
• Materials: stones, mortars, inscriptions, gilding, metals
• Care, including cleaning and graffiti removal
• Care of timber honour boards
There will also be a tour of relevant sites to inspect practical examples from the course

Workshop Presenters are David Young OAM, Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne, an experienced heritage consultant specialising in building materials conservation, and Jenny Dickens Heritage Victoria’s Materials Conservation Officer.
Mitre State School Honour Board now in the Mitre Hall
The workshop is on Friday 29th May from 9am to 5pm (registration from 8.45am). 
The venue is the Horsham RSL, 36 McLachlan Street in Horsham. Lunch, morning and afternoon tea is included.
The workshop is free, but Bookings are essential as places are limited, email (including dietary requirements). Enquires 9208 3622

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Starring Mullagh

The 'Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll' is coming to the Horsham Library.
The Honour Roll recognises the many and varied contributions of Aboriginal people to the identity of Victoria.
One of the first Honour Roll inductees was a Wotjobaluk man - Johnny Mullagh (Unaarrimin), his athletic feats made him one of Australia's first international cricketing stars.
Johnny Mullagh was born in 1841 on Mullagh Pastoral Station (between present day Wombelano and Harrow). He worked on both Mullagh and Pine Hills stations as a shearer and as a groom. But it was as a member of the all-Aboriginal Cricket team for which he has been remembered.
A station cricket match at Mt Talbot
Station owners and workers played cricket against neighbouring stations. Thomas Hamilton of Bringalbert started teaching the rudiments of cricket to the Aborigines on the Station in 1864, likewise Edgars on Pine Hills. The Haymans of Lake Wallace formed a cricket club including Aboriginals. In 1865, station cricket was so popular a match was organised between the Europeans and Aborigines. Played near the Bringalbert woolshed, the Aboriginals out scored the Europeans.

Johnny Mullagh and other station Aborigines formed an All-Aboriginal team, coached in Edenhope by Thomas Wentworth Wills (of Australian football fame, the Wills family held Lexington, La Rose & Mokepille stations) and managed by William Hayman.
Englishman Charles Lawrence organised a tour of England for the team in 1868. Led by Mullagh, who batted, bowled and kept wicket, they beat English teams of vastly more experience. 
The team also provided displays of traditional skills - boomerang & spear throwing, and shield parrying. They also successfully participated in ball throwing and running backwards events.
A photograph of Johnny Mullagh, the original hung in the Harrow Hall for many years until it was burnt down in the 1970s.
Mullagh's headstone, Harrow Cemetery
When the team returned to Australia, Mullagh played for the Victorian state side, and the Melbourne Cricket Club for a season, before returning to play for Harrow until his death in 1891. His bat and stumps were buried with him on the crest of the Harrow Cemetery hill.
Rising above racial taunts, Mullagh deliberately hit a catch rather than play in the face of discrimination. He is still remembered in Harrow with a stone memorial, the annual cricket match, and the Cricket Centre named after him.

The Aboriginal Honour Roll will be launched in the Horsham Library on 4th June at 11am, and will be on display in the Library until the 11th.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015


As part of the National Trust of Victoria's "Conflict & Compassion' Heritage Festival, Horsham Library is hosting "Strewth : a book talk".

Men of the 8th Battalion on Bolton's Ridge
Locals John Francis and his wife Gillian have compiled a book which is a forensic look at Horsham’s involvement in World War I. During the war 2,400 district men and women served, with 450 killed in action, and 149 men and 1 women who were decorated. 
The book, covers the area within the Horsham Rural City Council boundary, and includes a profile of those killed and decorated, the soldier’s stories, their letters to home and the diaries they wrote.
The talk is on Wednesday 6th  May 2015  from 7-8:30pm, with a light supper afterwards.

Copies of 'Strewth' will be available for sale and signing by the authors.
For bookings call in to the library or phone 5382 5707.

(The well-known War Memorial's photo shows Private Ted 'Kid' Freeman of Dooen, Private George Clements of Dimboola, Private James B. 'Jim' Bryant of Stawell, Private Samuel 'Sam' Wilson of Dimboola, and Private Robert Hutchinson of Horsham)

Monday, 20 April 2015

Orphans in the family

The Ballarat Orphanage has been in the news recently, with concerns that some children may have been buried in unmarked graves on the former site. Authorities investigated, and reported there were no human remains.
 However the story brings the issue of orphans and wards of the state to the fore. If you are interested in learning more about the plight of children ‘put up for adoption’, then you can attend -
Adoption and Wardship: Using Ballarat's information resources to trace family
The session run by the Public Record Office Victoria is aimed at people interested in learning more about records and resources that are available to help you research adoption and wardship in Ballarat. Join Sebastian Gurciullo from PROV who is hosting a panel of speakers who will share their knowledge on how to research family and personal history, as well as resources, support programs and services that are available.
Information about a range of support organisations that can help you with your research will also be provided and their representatives will be available after the presentations for consultation.
Panel members include:
  • Charlie Farrugia, Public Record Office Victoria
  • Grace Baliviera, Koorie Records Unit, National Archives of Australia and Public Record Office Victoria
  • Sharon Guy, Child and Family Services Ballarat
  • Edith Fry,Central Highlands Library Ballarat
  • Kathleen Anderson, Forced Adoption History Project, National Archives of Australia
  • The session will be held at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (M.A.D.E.), 102 Stawell St South in Ballarat, from 10am, to 2pm on Wednesday 22 April. The session is free, but you do need to book online via PROV
    The Ballarat District Orphan Asylum was built in the mid-1860s it changed to the Ballarat Orphanage in 1909, then to the Ballarat Children’s Homes and was home to more than 4,000 children during its time. It closed in 1968 when the grand original orphanage building was demolished and replaced with smaller cottages. The land fronting Victoria Street was sold to a developer in 2013. There were petitions to save some of the former buildings as a heritage site.

    Wednesday, 1 April 2015

    Cemetery pines

    A number of local Cemetery Trusts received Lone Pines this week, as part of the Anzac Centenary commemorations. They were propagated from the lone pine at the Australian War Memorial.

    3 of the pines
    The potted Pinus halepensis plants are a symbol of the battle which commenced on 6th August 1915, when the Australian Infantry Division launched a major offensive at Plateau 400 at Gallipoli. The ridges had been covered in the Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) which were cut down to cover and line trenches, leaving one solitary tree. It then became known as 'Lone Pine Ridge'. In the 3 days of fighting the A.N.Z.A.C.s lost 2,000 men and the Turkish losses were estimated at 7,000. 

    Lance Corporal Benjamin Charles Smith of the 3rd Battalion sent several cones to his mother in Inverell N.S.W., Mrs McMullen sowed some of the seeds some 13 years later. Of these 2 seedlings were grown - one was presented to the town of Inverell, and the Duke of Gloucester planted the second tree at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. 

    Sergeant Keith McDowell of the 24th Battalion brought back a pine cone to give to his aunt - Mrs Emma Gray of Warrnambool. 4 seedlings were grown and planted at several Shrines of Remembrance in Victoria.
    The Melbourne Shrine framed by a lone pine
    In 1990, two trees were taken back to Gallipoli by veterans who attended the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Lone Pine.