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.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Rup on film at Rup

The film ‘The Farmer’s Cinematheque’ will have a special one-off screening at the Rupanyup Memorial Hall at 2pm on Sunday 9th October.
‘The Farmer’s Cinematheque’ tells a story that comes from Rupanyup, although it could equally be a story from many other country towns. For more details on the history of the film see this previous post.
There’s a poetic resonance to this event, as the late John Teasdale, creator of most of the archival celluloid interpreted within the film, served many years as the projectionist for the Memorial Hall, in between his farming and his filmmaking. (The Memorial Hall makes a few appearances within the film.)
For information on the film, including a 2 minute teaser, please follow the link.
Admission to the Rupanyup screening costs $5  and includes afternoon tea.
A DVD version of ‘The Farmer’s Cinematheque’ will be launched at the screening, and copies will be available to purchase.

Monday, 22 August 2016

The flow of time

As the rains come tumbling down, people's thoughts turn to the river.
This piece is from the Dimboola Courier: 

The first natural flow in the Wimmera River since 2012 flowed past Antwerp earlier this week and had progressed northwards to a point beyond the Tarranyurk bridge by Friday evening 12th August.

Wimmera Catchment Management Authority said the natural flow peaked at 468 megalitres a day at Lochiel.
Prior to this event the river had dried up to the point where it was just a series of stagnant waterholes linked by stretches of dry riverbed with only the weir pools at Dimboola and Jeparit holding any significant quantities of water in the lower reaches of the river.

The old Antwerp Weir in April 2016 (Dimboola Courier)
The weir, August 2016 (Dimboola Courier)
The only man made structure on the river between the Antwerp and Tarranyurk road bridges is the old Antwerp weir (pictured above) which was constructed of timber and stone in 1903 to create a more permanent body of water for the local community. The weir pool became the venue for the annual Antwerp rowing regattas in the following years.
It is unclear when it was no longer required and fell into disrepair, but a significant amount of the structure still remains.

Proposals were put forward in the early years of last century to construct a similar structure near Tarranyurk to provide a water supply for that area but this never built.

This series of photographs were taken in the vicinity of the Antwerp weir both this week and back in April and they highlight this structure in the dry and with the water flowing. 

The weir in 1903 (SLV)
The historical photograph, taken in 1903, compares with the one below, taken recently from a similar location to show the changes over the last century. The most obvious being the regrowth of trees around the weir itself.
The Antwerp weir in August 2016 (Dimboola Courier)
The water arrived at Jeparit a day later, and will now flow into Lake Hindmarsh. The last inflow into the lake was as a result of the 2011 floods.
The Jeparit Weir, August 2016 (Dimboola Courier)
The last time that the lake itself flooded was in August 1956. At Jeparit, the Wimmera River rose and forced Lake Hindmarsh to burst its bank near Four Mile, when the inflow overwhelmed the ability of Outlet Creek to cope with the huge volume, and was further  compounded by the wind and waves forcing the water towards the south. Hundreds of acres of wheat crops were affected, several roads were cut, two families were forced from their homes and 30 others were threatened.
The old Jeparit road bridge in 1956, from the north bank (L. Hounsel)
The historic photograph shows the water up to the corbels of the old road bridge over the Wimmera River.The photo below shows the struts and pilings visible below the corbels.
The old Jeparit road bridge in November 2007, from the south bank

Friday, 19 August 2016

Re: when Works does not work

This is a re-post of a blog from the National Library of Australia, illustrating why digital preservation and preservation of digital is so important
"When Works does not work : a journey from convicts to digital preservation"

While 1788 was ages ago, and paper resources can last for centuries, it is amazing how quickly hardware and software can date and become obsolete.

So make sure your data doesn't sink out of sight, and ustilise a digital life-preserver.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Game on

Conducted against the backdrop of the Suez crisis and the Hungarian Revolution, the Melbourne Olympics known as 'The Friendly Games', commenced on 22nd November 1956. 
The Games were centred around the Melbourne Cricket Ground and in terms of gold medals, were one of the most successful ever for Australian athletes. Athletes such as Betty Cuthbert, Shirley Strickland, Murray Rose and Dawn Fraser dominated their events. 
Television was introduced in Australia in time to broadcast the events, and thus made sure their success became part of Australian sporting history.
Melbourne secured the right to host the Games back in 1949 and organisers immediately set about a building campaign.
The Olympic rings still suspended above Alamein Road
A self-contained Olympic Games village of 788-840 solid brick, brick veneer and pre-fabricated concrete houses accommodated up to 6,000 athletes and officials during the Games. 
It was built on the site of a former swamp in West Heidelberg, by the Victorian Housing Commission on a 117 acre (30 hectare) site 7½ miles (14km) from the main Olympic Stadium (the MCG). 
Some of the Games housing in Southern Rd
The houses were a mix of single, semi-detached dwellings, and a number of row hoses. Each house had (what was then) a modern bathroom with shower, bath and basin, with hot and cold water from gas bath-heaters.
The Olympic shopping centre today
Facilities provided for the Games include 3 sports grounds, shopping centre, bank, post office, medical & dental centre, police, station, barber shop, and clothes mending & shoe repair centre. 
The community hall (now a leisure centre) was the venue for films, concerts, dance and other events for the athletes.
Communication home for the athletes was largely via telegrams which were delivered by local boy scouts.
The Games Village Green with its Olympic bollards
There were dining rooms and kitchens for the different national groups in separate temporary buildings. It was said that the many cooks, chefs & bakers (like Burnetti's) brought in for the Games were the birth of Melbourne's food culture.
The Games Village was planned, so that it become available for conversion to permanent housing after the Games. For years after the Games finished, the Housing Commission estate remained as public housing.
The precinct is now in the City of Banyule and is on their Heritage Register.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Celeb histories

Here is something a bit different – ‘Celebrities and their family histories’

A member of the research team for the popular SBS TV program, Who Do You Think You Are?, author and historian Linda Emery, will share her stories of researching the family histories of Australian celebrities who have featured on the show. Can you afford to miss this episode?

This free event will be held at:

The High Ground,(Level 5) Geelong Library and Heritage Centre, 51 Little Malop Street in Geelong, on Tuesday 23 August 2016 - 6:00pm to 7:00pm
Bookings are essential.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Letters to Dimb

There are currently any number of books concerning the First World War on the shelves at present, but amongst them is one with special meaning for this region - 'Dodging the Devil : Letters from the Front' by George Martindale.

On the 21st August 1914, George Martindale along with many of his peers enlisted for the war in the service of Australia. Part of the 5th Battalion, he served for over 3 years and witnessed some of the biggest and most catastrophic battles of World War 1.

From the very beginning, when George was sent to Egypt to undertake training with some of the first of the enlisted men, he wrote home. He would document his daily life in the war - the events, his feelings and opinions, and send these messages and photographs back to his family. His military experience took him through some of the most notorious battles of the war; He was sent to Gallipoli landing at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915, and fought in the Battle of Lone Pine - eventually being evacuated when the troops were pulled out. He was then sent to France where he was a part of the infamous Battle of Fromelles, where in one night more than 5,000 Australian casualties virtually wiped out his Division (he was one of 90 survivors from a thousand-strong regiment). He went on to Bullecourt, also a notorious battleground on the Western Front, where he was seriously injured - putting an end to his army career.

George sailed to Egypt on the HMAT Orveito (SLV)
George was a prolific letter writer, and described these actions for members of his family in the letters he sent home, forming a collection of his writings that is the basis of this book. His letters tell his story beginning with the excitement of signing up and sailing across the world to fight the enemy, to world weary having seen so much death and destruction. His letters tell the revealing real-life story of Gallipoli, Fromelles and Bullecourt. Through George Martindale's letters we see the First World War through his eyes, and experience the war as he did. And as an added bonus, this book is not just a narrative of the war, but George also wrote about the local gossip, Shire politics, the Wimmera's weather, and the local men he was serving with.

George Martindale was born on the 2nd April 1887 in Dimboola, he was the 2nd oldest of 5 siblings. He had brown hair and blue eyes. George's father Robert was a carpenter, plumber, general tradesman and undertaker who owned a prosperous business in the town. George learnt his trade of carpenter from his father. When war broke out he enlisted on 21st August 1914, because he signed up in Melbourne he ended up in the 5th Battalion whereas most of his friends from Dimboola joined the 8th Battalion.

A flake of a shell fired by the battleship the 'Queen Elizabeth', found near Sedd-el-Bahr, Chanak, Gallipoli Peninsula. Private George Martindale is with the rifle. The photo was taken by war correspondent C.E.W. Bean in May 1915.
In a letter to his mother George wrote: "Mr Bean took a snapshot of me standing near a fragment of 15" shell - it only weighed about a couple of hundredweight. There were 3 of us there. You'll know me - in the centre - laden like a pack mule of infantryman - an awful wreck I look." 

After serving for approximately 3 years he was very seriously wounded at Bullecourt on the 9th May 1917, losing his right eye and a portion of his skull and brain. He returned to Australia as permanently unfit for service, he continued to suffer from fits and seizures as a result of his head wound, one of these seizures proved fatal and he died on the 2nd of April 1922 (his birthday).

George Martindale’s war experiences reflect a litany of our nation’s hallowed trials. He may well have become one of the great writers of twentieth century Australia had his life not ended prematurely as a result of the injuries he sustained on the Western Front.

George’s letters were a gift to his family, but more so to posterity. They retain the scent of the trenches, and the stains of no man’s land. In them he honoured his mates, cherished his heritage and condemned falsities. His letters allow us to look back more than 100 years, and for his words to reach out to future generations.

There is even a short YouTube promo to 'Dodging the devil'

Thursday, 4 August 2016

To visit or not to visit

Spencer Street Passenger Yard, 1884 (SLV)
I was looking for something totally different, when I came across the "Victorian Railways tourist's guide : containing accurate and full particulars of the watering places, scenery, shooting, fishing, sporting, hotel accommodation, etc. in Victoria ; also a new and complete railway map showing all the present and projected lines" edited by Joseph Pickersgill, published by Sands & McDougal in 1885, and available online via Trove at http:/​/​​nla.obj-268214772

It describes the towns and cities in Victoria at the time, and really was not that complementary about this area, especially as it was a 'tourist guide'.

Which is not famous for anything in particular, and about six miles further on is
This important place lies in undulating country on the Concongella Creek, a tributary of the Wimmera River, and to the north of the Black Range, and is the centre of a magnificent wine-producing district. Here, amongst other smaller ones, is the justly celebrated Great Western vineyard (Best's), famous for its extensive cellarage, and above all for the excellence of the wines of all kinds produced there, which have taken prizes at most of the World's great Exhibitions. A visit to this place will amply repay the tourist's time if only to
"Sit 'neath the shade of the spreading vine,
And drain a deep draught of Great Western wine,"
From Great Western to
Also known familiarly as Pleasant Creek and the Reefs, is about 8 miles, being 19 miles from Ararat, 76 miles from Ballaraat, and 176 miles from Melbourne. Stawell is a large and somewhat straggling place, the streets in the old part of the town in particular being narrow and tortuous. In fact, the top end of Main Street (the Collins Street of Stawell) is as crooked as a dog's hind leg.

One wonders whether the author got a sample of some Best's sparkling, as he/she is a bit scathing of everywhere else, and it continues -

Eight miles north-west of Stawell, and on the line of railway, is a pastoral township of the smaller type. The native name is Djarrah, which means a job of work. It is only noticeable as being the starting-place for
A place of about equal calibre. The only reason for mentioning these out-of-the-way townships is that the road between them passes through Rose's Gap, a gloomy, precipitous gorge in the Grampians, well deserving a visit, whose native name, Barregowa - meaning Middle of the Mountain - sufficiently indicates its character.
Quitting Glenorchy, the train passes the little townships of LUBECK and MURTOA, and proceeds to the comparatively large town of
The most important and the liveliest place in this part of the country. It is the centre of a flat agricultural and pastoral district, some of the finest grazing land in the country being in the neighborhood. The botanical gardens, as in the cases of Koroit and Stawell, were laid out by Mr R.P. Whitworth under the supervision of Mr W.R. Guilfoyle. Horsham has two newspapers, the 'Times' and the 'Wimmera Star'. The town possesses no special attraction, except to those who wish to see pastoral country, and it is questionable whether it is worth coming so far to see so little. It may be remarked that it was in this part of the colony that the late Marcus Clarke gained his colonial experience.
The pastoral centres of Dimboola and Tarraginnie lie still further afield, but whether to visit them or not is purely a matter of choice. 
Steam train passing through farm land c1890-1900 (SLV)
So what were the chances of getting a special excursion train to visit the Wimmera in the 1880s, based on this guide?

Monday, 18 July 2016

The Church, the Hotel, the Society

This week's curly question was: where did the name for the Blue Ribbon Road originate from?

It is the road runs north for over 50kms, from Horsham to its terminus at Fryatts Rd, near Willenabrina.
It passes through the Greenland Dam, Kalkee, Garup, Sailors Home, Murra Warra, Wallup, Cannum, Aubrey, and Crymelon localities.
Some maps call it the Horsham-Kalkee Rd, for the section to the Borung Highway at the Blue Ribbon Corner.

But why 'Blue Ribbon'? This is the question that no-one - long-time residents or historical societies - seem to have the answer for.
The best guess so far is from Marj, who believes it relates to the Temperance Movement.

The Temperance Movement was a social movement upholding the ideals of an alcohol-free lifestyle, through moderation or banning the consumption of alcoholic beverages. The Movement became more radical, advocating the legal prohibition of alcohol – teetotalism. It was particularly important and developed in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It saw temperance halls and coffee palaces as an alternative to hotels, they ran lectures and films upholding family values and discouraging drunkenness, successfully implementing early hotel closing times (6 o’clock swill) which didn’t lead to a curbing of consumption. The Movement’s role began being wound back in the 1950s and 1960s in more relaxed liberal times.
Members of the Temperance Society would take the Pledge to either become a teetotaller – a soldier of the Blue Ribbon Army, or the White Ribbon – for women of the Women's Christian Temperance Union.
The Society promoted alternatives to alcoholic drinks like ginger beer, creamy sodas, and sarsparilla, served in Temperance bars and coffee palaces. 
It also gave rise to the popularity of aerated waters and cordials, and led to the establishment of a number of localised cordial factories and manufacturers (whose old bottles are now rare collectors' items).
Callawadda's old cordial factory
In October 1883 the people of Cannum East met in the Wallup Free Church to establish a branch of the Blue Ribbon Army. Other branches sprang up in Clear Lake, Jung, Horsham, Rupanyup, Nurrabiel, Pimpinio, Kalkee, Warracknabeal, and other areas.
There was a close link between the Society and the local churches, often meetings were held in the church buildings. Both the Kalkee Wesleyan Church (built in 1885) and Wallup Presbyterian Church, faced the Blue Ribbon Road. The Wallup Presbyterian Church was first held in the Wallup State School, till a church was built across the Wallup Church Road in 1910. Anglican services were also held in the church in the 1930s and 40s. 
Wallup Presbyterian site 1910-1973 with the school site behind
Both the Cannum East (1875-1955) at the corner of Matheson & Antwerp Rds, and the South Cannum Presbyterian churches at the corner of Boundary & Cannum Church Rds were further east.

The Women's Christian Temperance Union water drinking fountain erected in 1911 in Warracknabeal. It was inscribed with the Union's motto: "For God, home and humanity". The fountain was given to the Borung Shire and originally located at the Town Hall. In 1939 it was transferred to Anzac Park (Photo I. Phillips).
So if people were against drinking, where were the hotels they were campaigning against?  
One would be the Blue Ribbon Hotel on the Blue Ribbon Corner. It was originally known as Patterson’s Wine Shanty, but by 1889 it was called the Blue Ribbon Hotel. 3 acres Allotment 68A in Wallup Parish was sold to Alexander Patterson on 5th January 1882. (The Pattersons owned a number of surrounding allotments). 

By 1884 the intersection was called 'Patterson's Corner'.

 The hotel was also a 'Post Office' from 1899 (a mail bag was dropped off there).
It was 'Patterson's Blue Ribbon Hotel' when it was destroyed by fire in April 1903. A new 5-room Blue Ribbon Hotel was erected, but it had its licence surrendered by December 1925, and then, on 12th January 1926, it again burnt to the ground, not to be resurrected again. 

"The HorshamTimes"  Friday 15th January 1926, page 6.

The site of the Blue Ribbon Hotel
It would be interesting to know how many participants at the 'Blue Ribbon Raceway' were aware of this conjecture?
We would be interested in hearing from anyone who could confirm or refute this hypothesis.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Such was life

This month the State Library’s “Our story : Such was life” is ‘The Mallee

In Victoria’s north-west lies the Mallee; a dry, hot region featuring sand dunes, salt bushes, shrubs and a ‘strange dwarf gum tree, Eucalyptus Dumosa, usually called Mallee…The tough land and climate certainly made an impression on Dr. Neumayer, a surveyor who recounted his experiences in 1864, ‘I can readily imagine why most people speak of this part of the country with a certain dread for there is actually no grass and no water to be found’…Over the years the land has endured its share of rural disasters, namely plagues (rabbits, mice, grass hoppers), drought and dust storms. Today its 100,000 occupants mainly reside in major towns like Mildura, Swan Hill and Kerang, but the Mallee is also dotted with smaller towns with delicious names such as Patchewollock, Cowangie, Boinka, Underbool, Piangil, Walpeup and Manangatang…In 1995 the State Library received a collection of photographs from the Rural Water Corporation (State Rivers & Water Supply Commission) which span the late 19th century to 1980. The thousands of images document Victoria’s water use and include many from the Mallee and Wimmera, which feature in this post.

Unfortunately some of the records have little or no information attached, they were grouped together under titles like:  [Wimmera - Mallee District] [picture], or [Wimmera region] [picture] with Accession no(s) RWP/1855; RWP/1870; RWP/1884; RWP/1883;RWP/1906; RWP/1862; RWP/1873; RWP/1926; RWP/1895; RWP/1932; RWP/1881; RWP/1878; RWP/1871; RWP/1872; RWP/1896; RWP/1923; RWP/1860

And Summary Descriptions: Shows sand drift on a Mallee farm, crops on Mr. Black's property, sheep at drinking storage at Dumosa, crops near Murtoa, ploughing at Murtoa, Miss Lodwick in her father's vegetable garden at Timberoo, interior of wheat storage shed in Murtoa, abandoned homestead at Galah, horses drinking from bore-water trough, Consolidated State School at Murrayville, bowling green at Ouyen, sand and crops at Patchewollock.
For some, it is easy to positively identify - for example the 'ploughing at Murtoa' can only be the 'RWP 1870' as the Stick Shed is visible in the background.
Ploughing at Murtoa (RWP 1870)
Likewise 'interior of wheat storage shed in Murtoa' is 'RWP 1884' a great shot of inside the Stick Shed.
Interior of wheat storage shed in Murtoa (RWP 1884)

Sand drift on a Mallee farm (RWP 1906)

It gets trickier with descriptions like 'abandoned homestead at Galah'. This is possibly 'RWP 1883' if you consider the building to look abandoned or derelict. Galah was a siding on the way to Walpeup.
Possibly abandoned homestead at Galah, it is RWP 1883

Another photograph which could be 'crops near Murtoa' or 'crops on Mr. Black's property' is 'RWP 1855'.  Mr Black's property was at Timberoo - north of Patchewollck and south east of Walpeup, and south west of Ouyen. Looking at the health of the crop and the vegetation in the background, it looks more like the Wimmera, than a really good year in the Mallee.

RWP 1855

From another catalogue record comes this graphic photograph, likely to be - 'wind erosion and sand drift at Patchewollock' and the gentleman, one of the commissioners - McClelland, Greenwood, Stafford, McNab, Fitzgerald, Hall, Rogerson, Welch, Godkin or East. It was taken during Royal Commission on Water Supply in 1936.
RWP 589