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.

Friday, 18 August 2017

NFHM post 3

Week 3 -  Is Nancy Cato's All the Rivers Run- a saga which spanned eight decades and four generations.
Orphaned after a shipwreck off the Victorian coast in 1890, the beautiful and spirited Philadelphia finds both love and adventure aboard a paddle-steamer on the Murray River.
Sent to live with her guardians Uncle Charles and Aunt Hester at Echuca, she invests some of her inheritance in the paddle steamer PS Philadelphia. Her life is changed forever when she meets the paddle steamer's captain Brenton Edwards. Delie is torn between the harsh beauty of life on the river with its adventures, and the society life in Melbourne with her blossoming career as a painter.

It is the image of river life that is the backdrop to the story. 
At the time Echuca was Australia's largest inland port, and the paddle steamers were responsible for the majority of goods transportation to the inland. At its peak, nearly 200 steamers plied their trade on the Murray, Darling and Murrumbidgee Rivers.
Supplies were carried by steamers to remote rural properties, and farm produce transported back to ports like Echuca to connect with the railway system and ultimately the cities and the sea ports. 
The paddle steamers lasted into 1900s till improved road and rail services replaced the river trade. 
Yanga wool loaded on the PS Trafalgar at the station wharf
The main or major cargo was wool. Steamers transported the wool clip when the water levels were up and the flow most reliable, from pastoral stations like 'Yanga' near Hay in New South Wales. Wool from 'Yanga' was transported by steamer to Echuca. The stations were veritable small towns.
Details of 'Yanga' at the turn of the century
The 'Yanga' woolshed was erected 8 miles west of the homestead in the 1850s. The site, normally above flood level at a point where the deep water was suitable for a wharf, was chosen to take advantage of paddle steamer transport to ship the wool to market. 
The 'Yanga' shed with machine stands on the left and blade stands on the right
The woolshed had 40 shearer stands, a pen capacity of 5,000 sheep, and could store 2,000 bales of wool. On a single day it shore 5,000 sheep and pressed 96 bales.
And the family history link - with a tradition of sheep farming, ancestors shore around the district and up into New South Wales. Family folklore had Old Tom involved in the shearers' strife and the burning of the 'PS Rodney', but more of that next post. 

Friday, 11 August 2017

NFHW post 2

Week 2 - “Careful he might hear you” - Sumner Locke Elliott wrote this haunting tale about PS and his aunts, custody battles, secrets. PS lives with working-class Aunt Lila and Uncle George on week-ends, where he is happy playing with children, running about, speaking up. While at posh Aunt Vanessa's on week-days, it is a regimen of private school, piano and riding lessons, and lonely indoor play with fancy toys. He's miserable and when he objects, Aunt Vanessa sues for complete custody. Will anyone listen to him? And will he take on Vanessa's challenges to find out who he is and to love someone?

The well-known 1983 movie of the book (Wendy Hughes & Robin Nevin played the aunts) was shot in the salubrious Sydney suburbs of Darling Point and Neutral Bay (at the other end of the spectrum to last week's "Poor man's orange"). 

The local family history connection is - Darling Point. 

Sir Thomas Mitchell built his home ‘Carthona’ on the headland at Darling Point in 1841. Built in the Gothic Revival style, it is still there today.

Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell was born in 1792 in Scotland. His family was not wealthy but he joined the military and was proficient in drawing up plans of battlefields. In 1818 he married 18 year old Mary Thomson Blunt. In 1827 the couple sailed to Sydney and Thomas became Assistant Surveyor General of New South Wales and 2 years later Surveyor General for the colony. During the 1830s Mitchell conducted three major expeditions into the interior of Australia. 
It was his 1836 ‘Australia Felix’ expedition through this region, that lead to its settlement, as settlers followed his wagon tracks north. In 1837 Mitchell returned to England and published the books of his explorations and obtained his knighthood. 
'Carthona' &' Lindesay' on the right (William Stanley Jevons, Wikimedia Commons)
Returning to Sydney in 1841, he purchased ‘Lindesay’ another mansion in Darling Point, and while at Lindesay, he planned ‘Carthona’. The Mitchell family moved into Carthona in 1845, and Mitchell sold Lindesay to his friend Sir Charles Nicholson. 
Soon after Mitchell moved into 'Carthona' he set out on his 4th expedition in search of an overland route to the ill-fated outpost ‘Victoria’ at Port Essington in the Northern Territory. In 1847 Mitchell again went to England and listed ‘Carthona’ for sale along with the rest of his property. 
'Carthona' was described as "the very splendid family mansion with spacious stabling and two acres of ground at Mrs Darling's Point, the present residence of Sir Thomas Mitchell, Surveryor-General.”
'Carthona' today
 Mitchell died of pneumonia at 'Carthona' in October 1855. He left 'Carthona' to his daughter Alice, but as he also left a considerable debt, the family moved out to Woolloomooloo and rented out the property.

Friday, 4 August 2017

NFHW post 1

Week 1 of the National Family History Month Blogging Challenge.

The first author and book is "Poor man's orange" it is Ruth Park's novel published in 1949. "Poor Man's Orange" is the third and final novel of the Darcy Family Trilogy. Together with the first book "Missus" and "Harp in the South", the trilogy traces the saga of the Darcy family over thirty years. An unforgettable family and a cast of unforgettable characters enliven a story that is sometimes tragic but often humourous in a time of poverty and destitution, hope and promise. 
The novels were set in the slums of the inner city suburb of Surry Hills in Sydney and centred on an Irish Catholic family. The Darcys are broken people after Roie their oldest daughter dies giving birth to a baby boy. Roie's husband Charlie takes to the drink to forget his loss, remembering only Roie and forgetting about his children. As they fight for the strength to keep the family together in this hard-bitten Irish-emigrate community, the Darcy's find that what they need most to survive is one another.

Ruth Park was born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1917, and spent most of her adult life in Australia. She was widely read and well-loved for her books which were as equally successful for adults as for children (she wrote the Muddle-headed wombat series). Ruth moved to Sydney and married fellow Australian author D’Arcy Niland in 1942. For a time they lived in the slums of Surry Hills. Ruth was catapulted into fame when she won the inaugural Sydney Morning Herald Literary Competition in 1946, with ‘The Harp in the South’. This book has never been out of print. ‘Poor man’s orange’ was the follow-up in 1949. Her literary reputation grew as she honed her craft, writing fiction and non-fiction, her output of work spanned nearly seven decades. Ruth Park died in Mosman, Sydney in December 2010.
Ruth Park’s "Poor man’s orange" is available as a real book, eBook, DVD or audio book.
My take on the theme is ‘Now & Then’ images of the inner Sydney slums, utilising NSW State Records Authority's Flickr images.

This is Cumberland Place in The Rocks, Sydney, at the corner of Ferry Lane and Pottinger Street. Showing the old worn original steps alongside the newer concrete ones.The "then" photo was taken 1901 and is from the NSW State Records Authority's "Moments in Time". It was taken at the time when the area was part of the gazetted Darling Harbour Wharves Resumption Act 1900.

'Rear of No.2 Walton Place, Sydney' Dated: c.17/07/1900 is from a series of images showing the areas in Sydney affected by the outbreak of Bubonic Plague in 1900. Taken by Mr. John Degotardi Jr., a photographer from the Department of Public Works, the images depict the state of the houses and 'slum' buildings at the time of the outbreak and the cleansing and disinfecting operations which followed. Walton Place was typical of many homes with the outside toilet and open air washhouse, and the style of backyard the Darcys would have lived in.

'View from The Rocks looking south towards Sydney' dated: 1904, it shows a general view of inner Sydney. The landmark (and one of few still present) feature is the Post Office clock tower in the upper left.

< The ghosted image of 'George Street' was taken near the corner of Hunter Street, looking towards Martin Place. There have been many changes to the street and buildings, so I lined up the most recognisable element - the 1880 George Street Post Office clock.
The original clock tower (as mentioned in the 1904 photo) atop the building was removed in 1942 to remove its visibility in case of air raids, and was restored in 1963. 
The "Then" photo is from Ian Collis' "Sydney : from settlement to the bridge" and was taken in 1890, just before the wonderful ornate Romasnesque Societe General House insurance building was erected in the middle of the photo. Below are the 'then and now' images side by side.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Family History Challenge

And the call went out to libraries -

'Who's up for a blogging challenge on a literary theme given that a few of our more well-known authors were born 100 years ago e.g. Ruth Park (okay she was born in NZ but married & lived in Oz), Sumner Locke Elliott, Nancy Cato and Frank Hardy.'

So the plan was for bloggers to post on the literary theme each Saturday through-out the month.

Stay tuned for the first post on Saturday 5th August.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Aveling & Porter roller

Horsham Rural City Council is seeking informationor original photographs of the Aveling & Porter steam roller, that was purchased by the Borough of Horsham in 1924.
The steam roller was purchased to compact the roads prior to sealing with bitumen, and used throughout the 1930s and 40s in the Horsham area.
After being decommissioned by the Council, it was loaned to the Horsham Apex Club, where members painted it in red, green & black, and placed it on display in Apex Park at the corner of Bennett and Natimuk Road.
Following asbestos fears it was removed from the Park and  went to the Wool Factory, and later on to Murtoa.
In 2017 the Horsham Rural City Council regained the steam roller and it is now at the Council Depot.
In the future the Council hopes that with voluntary staff and public help they can undertake the steam roller's restoration to the original colour, equipment and signage. 
If you have any photos or information on the Aveling & Porter steam roller, you can contact Council's Fleet Manager Warren Kennedy on 538209608 during business hours.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Family history on the land

State Library of Victoria is hosting its 14th annual Family History Feast during the National Family History Month. 

Enjoy free information sessions on a range of subjects based on this year’s theme, and learn how Victorian government agencies can help family historians. 

This year’s program is of special interest to country people, as it is on researching maps and land records.

The Program begins at 9.30am when the doors open

Kate Torney, Chief Executive Officer, State Library Victoria

Exploring Koorie history and genealogy
John Patten, Manager Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Museums Victoria

Overview of Public Record Office Victoria land records
Charlie Farrugia, Senior Collections Advisor, Public Record Office Victoria  

Care and preservation of your family history collection
Conservation staff, State Library Victoria


Farmland and manor houses to air fields and hospitals: military property acquisition during WWII
Terrie Page, Assistant Director Access and Communication, Victorian State Office, National Archives of Australia 

From cattle yards to war workers: the plan collection of Bendigo Regional Archives Centre
Dr Michele Matthews, Archives Officer, Bendigo Regional Archives Centre

Family history on the map
Sarah Ryan, Coordinator Map Collection, State Library Victoria

2017 Don Grant Memorial Lecture – Families and land: land settlement and the role of families, Victoria 1870–1940
Dr Charles Fahey, Convener History Program, Department of Archaeology and History, La Trobe University
Introduced by Jan Parker, President, Victorian Association of Family History Organisations (VAFHO)

Enjoy free information sessions on a range of subjects based on this year’s theme, and learn how Victorian government agencies can help family historians.

Family history feast is on Monday 21st August 2017 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

Entry is via Door 3 of the State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne.

The sessions are free, but bookings are essential. You can book online, Phone: 03 8664 7099 or Email:

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Wimmera fiction

The recently released novel "Wimmera" by Mark Brandi is largely set in the Stawell area with references to the Black Range & the Grampians, Barnes Street, the Overland train, Halls Gap with a football team.

It is peppered with late 1980’s social culture - Ita and the 'Women’s Weekly'; 'Spycatcher' (remember MI5 senior intelligence officer/spy Peter Wright’s autobiography and the ruckus it caused?); TV shows like 'Monkey Magic', 'Hey Hey It’s Saturday', 'Wonder Years', and the 'A-Team'; films like 'Witness' with Harrison Ford, and when there was only one 'Terminator' movie. 
The story begins in the long, hot summer of 1989, Ben and Fab are best friends. Growing up in a small country town, they spend their days playing cricket, yabbying in local dams, wanting a pair of Nike Air Maxes and not talking about how Fab's dad hits him or how the sudden death of Ben's next-door neighbour unsettled him. Almost teenagers, they already know some things are better left unsaid. Then a newcomer arrived in the Wimmera. Fab reckoned he was a secret agent and he and Ben staked him out. Up close, he looked strong. Maybe even stronger than Fab's dad. Neither realised the shadow this man would cast over both their lives. Twenty years later, Fab is still stuck in town, going nowhere but hoping for somewhere better. Then a body is found in the river, and Fab can't ignore the past any more.
A foggy morning on the Wimmera River
Part one is told in 12 year old schoolboy Ben’s voice: long, hot days of camping, schoolyard bullying, sexual awakenings, a new neighbour and a sense of the ominous in the surrounding adult world.
Part two is told in Fab’s adult voice: at 28 years old and in the same town working in a shop, with dreams of better things, looking back while trying not to.
Part three is set in the present time, and unravels the full story after a body is found in the creek.

Originally from the Marche region in Italy, Mark Brandi grew up Italian in a rural Victorian town which influences much of his work. Mark graduated from a criminal justice degree and his career includes roles as a policy advisor and project officer in the Department of Justice, before changing direction and deciding to write.
"Wimmera" is his first novel, and won the British '2016 Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger award'.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017


Dimboola Police had an interesting find recently, during a clean-up of an old storage area at the police station. They found the station’s original Charge Book, dating back to 1880, and a Forage Book dating back to 1939.
Entries from 1886, Dimboola Banner
The Charge Book provides an excellent snapshot of early law enforcement in the Dimboola area and, considering its age, is in remarkably good condition.

The Forage Book contains receipts for horse food provided to the police horses that were housed in stables which used to be in what is now the rear yard of the residence next door to the station. 

Dimboola Police Station in Lloyd St, Google Maps
Dimboola Station Commander, Acting Senior Sergeant Darren Sadler, said that they realised very quickly that they’d stumbled upon a “gem”.

“When we started looking through the old Charge Book, we instantly realised we had found something of historical significance. A phone call to the Victoria Police Museum confirmed we had a located a bit of a gem.”

On Monday the 15th of May, Acting Senior Sergeant Sadler, Leading Senior Constable Neil Zippel and Leading Senior Constable Cal Myers officially handed over the items to the Curator of the Victoria Police Museum in Melbourne, where they will eventually go on public display.

Pictured above: Leading Senior Constable Zippel, Acting Senior Sergeant Sadler, and Leading Senior Constable Myers, Dimboola Banner.
 The Charge Book is now of an age where it can be publicly shared. Each page has been photographed, and plans are now in progress to share the contents with the local community.
Copied from the 'Dimboola Banner' 22nd May 2017

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Great celebrations

Great Western are set to celebrate a grand date, as the school celebrates its 150th anniversary.
Great Western Primary School opened as a Common School in February 1867 in a new single-room brick building with a shingle roof on Lot 4, Section 7 of the town. 
80 pupils were crammed on long benches in the Common School
In 1872, the Education Act (1872) was introduced and Common Schools were re-titled State Schools, and Great Western became Great Western State School No. 860. The Act provided for free, compulsory and secular education for all Victorian children to 15 years. 
 A new single-room wooden school building fronting Stephenson Street was built, and opened in May 1881. 
The Church of England purchased the Common School building in 1883, and used it as a church, library, Sunday school and church hall. 
 An Infant room was added in 1923. At the centenary celebrations in August 1967 a pond, wall feature & obelisk were constructed on the south corner. In 1977 a 2 classroom unit was transported onto the site.
The celebrations commence on the 13th October, with a Dinner on 14th, and a parade of vehicles through the ages - from horse-drawn carts to vintage cars.
The School 150th Committee are looking to attract former students and teachers to the weekend and have started a Facebook page