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.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Water reserves

Green Lake near Horsham will again become an operational reservoir, in an attempt to improve the water quality of its neighbouring downstream waterway Taylors Lake. 
Green Lake is one of the Boga (with Dock and Pine Lakes) group of lakes, southeast of Horsham. It was named by Major Mitchell in 1836. The first embankment on the northern outlet was constructed in 1889, it collapsed in 1911 and was reconstructed in 1915. It was made into a storage of the Wimmera-Mallee Reservoir System in 1933.
Green Lake at sunset
 Recreational water allocations will be increased for Lake Marma, at Murtoa, and Walkers Lake (Avon Plains) near Marnoo, and Rocklands Reservoir will also be benefiting from the recommendations of the state government's regional water-sharing review.
Walkers Lake, from the Avon Plains school
Water previously diverted to Lake Batyo Catyo will resume its natural course along the Richardson River to Walkers Lake which will replace Batyo Catyo as Donald & St Arnaud's recreational lake.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Wimmera in the frame

A team has been scouting the Wimmera for locations to film the movie version of 'The dressmaker' by Rosalie Ham.
The novel's story is set in the 1950s in the town of Dungatar in the wheat fields of the Wimmera-Mallee. So now movie scouts are checking out towns in the district to feature.
Rosalie's plot follows the bittersweet story of a femme fatale who returns to her small hometown to right some wrongs from her past.
Oscar winner Kate Winslet will play the lead as exotic and glamorous Tilly Dunnage, a talented and beautiful misfit, who as a child accused of murder, fled the the small Victorian town of Dungatar. Now she returns from Europe to nurse and reconcile with her mad but ailing old mother. Her reappearance after 20 years is met with suspicion and malice from the eccentric locals until they discover her startling dressmaking skills. Among the most appreciative is the policeman, an enthusiastic seamstress himself. Gradually, she wins over the town with her fabulous creations. Then she falls in love and things start to go terribly wrong. It's a stylish drama with comic undertones about love, revenge and haute couture.
Other stars are Australians Liam Hemsworth (Hunger Games), Judy Davis (heaps of films, including 'My brilliant career') and Isla Fisher (the new "Great Gatsby') will feature in the film.

According to the film's producer Sue Maslin (who should recognise the Wimmera as she was also the producer for 'The road to Nhill'), filming is scheduled to begin in October this year, she and Rosalie have been looking at small towns around the region, specifically places which have grain silos and a railway..well there's an abundance of Wimmera sites with railway lines (operational and not), and even more silos (operational and not).
After finding the correct location the producers will be looking to cast extras, an opportunity for local budding film stars, around August.

More information at the film's website.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

'Lost!' author

As the event leading up to the 150th anniversary of the 'Lost in the Bush' commemoration, the Library will be hosting three sessions with Lost! author Stephanie Owen Reeder.
Lost! tells the story of the three Duff children Issac (9), Jane (7), and Frank (3½) who were lost in the Nurcoung scrub for 9 days and 8 eights in August 1864. The children were finally found by a large search party, with the help of Aboriginal trackers.
Stephanie published Lost! a true tale from the bush in 2009, and it was short-listed for the Eve Pownall Award for information books, in the Australian Book of the Year Awards in 2010.
She was inspired by William Strutt's Cooey, or, The Trackers of Glenferry - a version of the story and illustrated with beautiful watercolours and sketches, and her book features many of his illustrations. What makes Stephanie's retelling of the story different is that she has finished each chapter with an informative section on how children lived in the 1860s, much of it illustrated with works from the National Library's Picture Collection.
Stephanie will be in the area on Thursday 7th August, and is speaking at: 

Goroke Library (30 Main St, Ph 5386 1360) at 10:15am
Nhill Library (5 Clarence St, Ph 5391 1684) at 1:30pm
Horsham Library (Gateway Centre, Wilson St, Ph 5382 5707) at 7:30pm

There will be copies of Lost! and Stephanie's other titles available for sale. Bookings are essential for each session.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Trees falling in the forest

Zumsteins Picnic Ground was one of the locations that were affected by the Grampians bushfire in January this year.

A spruce prior to the fires
Now the National Parks people have confirmed that rangers will remove 80 pine trees, 27 of them at Zumsteins. The trees, nearly 100 years old bore the brunt of the fires which swept through the area. Planted in the 1920s they are part of the heritage of Walter Zumstein. Between 1934-35 Walter & Jean Zumstein built pise (rammed earth/clay) cottages using local earth and stone, and second-hand building materials. Walter was sympathetic to the environment and planted 100s of both rare native and exotic trees.

Radiata pines at the picnic ground

National Parks plan to replant with ornamental species which reflect the historic nature of the area.
Zumsteins Picnic Area and McKenzie Falls are both still closed to the public after the fire damage. Other sections of the National Park have been reopened, with Parks staff monitoring conditions during the wet months.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Overland now

The synchronicity - At the same time that I was researching William David Hamilton's narrative of his overland journey, unbeknown to me was a group of locals was about to re-enact the trip.
The following is from an article in this week's 'West Wimmera Advocate' newspaper.
A re-enactment of the trek will be undertaken by a number of William Kealy's descendants. William Kealy a shepherd, was a station hand on Bringalbert who accompanied the Hamiltons on their overland journey from Bringalbert to Darwin in 1872. William also recorded an account of his travels, and this account was part of the research the group has undertaken to support their endeavours.
The group includes Kealy relatives Sue Close (nee Kealy), Richie Foster, and Jeremy Moore, as well as 6 horses and 3 horse floats.
The group planned to depart on 25th June, and aim to travel 100-150kms per day with the horses, and to drive back from Darwin.

from 'The West Wimmera Advocate'

Monday, 23 June 2014

Library takes the prize

The library has just been successful in winning a Local History Grant from the Public Record Office of Victoria.
The grant will be used to fund the creation of a master disc of the 'Lost in the Bush' film, the replication of the master into DVDs for sale, and to conduct a Premiere Screening of 'Lost in the Bush'.

In August 1864 the three Duff children - Isaac, Jane and Frank - were lost for 9 days and 8 nights in the local scrub, before being found by searchers and Aboriginal trackers.
In 1972 the story was filmed in the same area, utilising local talent and shown in Victorian State Schools during the 1970s. The Library has obtained permission from the Education Department, and sourced the 16mm film stock from the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra, to produce the DVD.
The Library will launch the DVD at a screening on 15th August, as part of the local festivities during the 150th Anniversary of the 'Lost in the Bush' commemoration.
Further posts on 150th Anniversary events in future posts.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Overland 7

The final installment of William David Hamilton's overland journey from Bringalbert to Darwin.
Seldom any rain and always the scarcity of water till we arrived at Newcastle Waters where we encountered our first heavy rains. Travelling became impossible. A loaded pack horse would sink to its belly in mud. A forced halt was therefore made at this oasis till conditions improved.
We had now reached the better tracts of land but my uncle by this time was far too ill to think any longer of settlement. His one idea was to reach civilization.
Whilst fishing at the (K)Catherine river I had my first experience with a crocodile. I was sitting astride a fallen log which was two or three feet above the level of the river and jutted into mid-stream. Placidly I watched the fish swimming round but not touching my bait in the clear water. I happened to glance over one shoulder and there was a huge crocodile between 15 & 20 feet a yard or so from me, his horrible bloodshot eyes hungrily viewing my dangling leg.

Of course he could not reach it as I was so high above the water and in midstream but I was too panic stricken to reason. I dropped my line and bait, ran back along the log and breathlessly sprinted tour camp a few hundred yards off. A couple of days later he or another of his kind got one of our pack horses which by a mischance became separated from the mob while crossing the river.
On again from the Catherine River till finally we covered the last odd 200 miles and reached Darwin where our stoch(k) of horses, less than a dozen of whom had perished, was sold at the phenominal  (phenomenal) price of £50 a head. Darwin at that time was the headquarters of the Pine Creek gold rush.
Suffering endless discomforts and hardships we had traversed with stock over 2000 miles in a vicarious trek across the heart of the continent, almost from coast to coast, taking a little over a year to do the journey.
This to our knowledge was the first successful transcontinental drove ever undertaken.

William was born in New Zealand, he came to Victoria in 1867. He was 15 years old when he accompanied his uncle Thomas Gibson Hamilton (1844-1875) from Bringalbert to Darwin. He played station cricket with the team of aborigines trained and captained by his uncle and sent to England under Thomas Wentworth Wills and W.M. Hayman. He was one of the last surviving original members of the Victorian Mounted Rifles. He died at his home in Riversdale Rd Upper Hawthorn on 11th October 1934 leaving a widow and 5 daughters. He was interned in the Melbourne Cemetery in Carlton.
This story was published in 'The Age' newspaper 11.6.1932.

Monday, 2 June 2014

No dispute, must attend

Don't forget the session on "Disputed Country" at Horsham Library tonight @ 7pm. The event is part of the "Art is...layers of time".

John Deckert of Westprint Heritage Maps will talk about his book chronicling the saga of surveying the South Australian/Victorian border and the ongoing controversy (see the Border Clash post).

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Drung Drung

The "Days of Drung : a history of the Drung district" story was launched at the Dock Lake Reserve in front of a large crowd last weekend,
The weighty tome of 245 pages was written by Helen Curkpatrick and Wendy Donald,
It is filled with many historic and recent photographs and broken into several sections - the history of the district via its schools, churches, bridges, sporting clubs, fires & floods, and importantly it's soldier settlement.
It is evident that lots of research went into compiling the book, and it's great to see local history books with a variety of photographs as pictures tell another story and add another dimension to the depiction of Drung now and then.

The majority of the book is devoted to the families of Drung, telling their stories and history via reminiscences and pictures. It was clear listening to Drung residents and past-residents, that they were extremely proud of their district and fondly remember the events of earlier times.
Many copies of the book were snapped up by the audience, but more copies are available from the Horsham Historical Society. It comes in two varieties - one with colour photographs and one with black & white.