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.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Pleasant Creek site

The Pleasant Creek Hospital site has finally been leased. New owner Keenan Quinsee intends to open some of the buildings for Aradale-style ghost tours. More details on the plans in the Wimmera Mail-Times article, and photos of the buildings in the Stawell Times-News article.

Pleasant Creek Centre was the site of the first local hospital in Stawell, which was opened in 1850 (the only hospital in western Victoria between the South Australian border, Ballarat and the Murray River. Local landowners and miners subscribed to its construction. It was reserved in 1861 and again in 1883. Part of the building remains on the site, there were more elaborate alterations in 1881, it featured a Benevolent Ward for elderly miners. The area has a long history of community use, initially as a health service and subsequently as the Pleasant Creek Training Centre, an area where people with intellectual disabilities were accommodated and educated and participated in day programs.

 For many years a school was located on the site as well as accommodation for children, teenagers and latter disabled adults. Following changes to intellectual disabled housing policies, the Human Services Department transferred the clients from the Pleasant Creek Centre into community housing.

Parliamentary legislation removed the final reservation on the land and the 13 hectares was identified as having no further public purpose and had been for public sale since 2008.

Friday, 25 August 2017

NFHM post 4

Week 4 - "Power without glory" by Frank Hardy. 
Hardy's novel of the power machinations in Victorian politics. John West rose from a Melbourne slum to dominate Australian politics with bribery, brutality and fear. It is a tale of corruption stretching from street corner SP bookmaking to the most influential men in the land - and the terrible personal cost of the power such corruption brings. 

The novel covers a wide range of notorious characters from criminals to Archbishops and politicians, wrestlers to gamblers and everyone else in between. 
So much so, that there is a list of the book characters and their real life equivalents

ASHTON, Frank — Frank Anstey, Labor politician and social propagandist BENNETT (The Gentleman Thief) — Hon. W.J. Beckett, M.L.C. 
BLACKWELL, Maurice — Maurice Blackburn, State Labor MP & Federal Labor M.P.
BLAIRE — Sir Thomas Blamey, Army general and Victorian Police Commissioner 1925–1936
BOND, Thomas — Sir Thomas Bent, Premier of Victoria 1904-1909
BRADLEY, Richard — Richard Buckley, notorious criminal
BRADY, William — Bill Barry, Victorian Labor M.P., minister in various Cain governments 
CALLINAN, Police Commissioner — Thomas O'Callaghan, Police Commissioner 1902–1913
CAMERON — Campbell, Cycling Promoter Exhibition
CARR, John — John Cain Snr, leader of Victorian Labor, Premier on three occasions
CONN (Archbishop) — Thomas Carr, Catholic archbishop of Melbourne preceding Daniel Mannix
CORY, Pat — Pat Cody of Australian Distilleries
CREGAN, J. — Jack Cremean, Federal M.P.
CUTTING, Slasher — John 'Snowy' Cutmore, gunman and thief
DARBY, Lou — Les Darcy, boxer
DAVISON, Alfie — Sir Albert Dunstan, Conservative Victorian Premier 1935 -1943 (and local member)
DEVLIN, Dr. — Sir Hugh Devine, surgeon
DWYER, Godfrey — Sir Gilbert Dyett, long-time President of the R.S.L.
EVANS, Bill — Bill Egan, bricklayer
GARSIDE, David — David Gaunson, prominent criminal solicitor
GIBBON, Sir S. — Sir Samuel Gillott, Chief Secretary in the Bent Cabinet
HORAN, Ned — Ned Hogan, twice Labor Premier of Victoria
JOGGINS, Rev. — Rev. William Judkins, prominent anti-vice crusader and preacher
JOLLY, Bob — Bob Solly, Labor M.P. for in Victorian Parliament for many years
KELLEHER, Paddy — Pat Kennelly, M.L.C. Federal Secretary, A.L.P.
KIELY, Michael — Stan Leon, Victorian Member, later Federal M.P.
LAMB, Richard — Dick Lean, manager of Festival Hall
LAMBERT, Percy — Percy Laidler, bookshop owner & theatrical supplier, socialist organiser and orator
LAMMENCE, Frank — Frank Laurence, former secretary of John Wren
LASSITER family — Loughnan family
LEVY, Ben — Ben Nathan, co-founder of Maples furniture and music store chain
LEWIS, Piggy — Piggy Ryan, alias Williamson, gunman and stand-over man
LANE — Jack Lang, N.S.W. Labor leader and Premier
McCORKELL — William McCormack, Queensland Labor Premier
MALONE, Daniel — Dr Daniel Mannix, Catholic archbishop of Melbourne
MANSON, "Plugger" Pete — "Plugger" Bill Martin, cyclist
MORAN family — Mahon family
MORTON, Jim — Jim Morley, communist organiser, journalist with the 'Morning Post'
MURKETT, Kenneth — Sir Keith Murdoch, journalist & newspaper proprietor
O'FLAHERTY, Dave — Detective O'Donnell, Chief of the Gaming Squad
PARELLI — Pellegrini
PARKER, Oliver — Clyde Palmer, 'Truth' newspaper journalist
REAL, T.J. —  T.J. Ryan, Queensland Premier
REDMON, Ron — Ron Richards, Aboriginal boxer
RENFREY, Sugar — Robert "Sugar" Roberts, Mayor of Collingwood
ROBINSON, Barney — Barney Reynolds, a member of John Wren's staff
SANDOW —  Ad Santel, champion wrestler
SOLOMON, Sol — Sol Green, noted bookmaker
SQUEERS, Bill — Bill Squires, boxer
SUMMER, James —  James Scullin, Labor M.P., Prime Minister 1929-32
SWINTON —  Sir George Swinburne, engineer, politician and philanthropist
TANNER, Snoopy —  Joseph 'Squizzy' Taylor, gunman and thief
THE GENERAL - "Major" Taylor, cyclist
THURGOOD — Edward 'Red Ted' Theodore, Queensland Labor Premier of Queensland 1919-1925, federal Treasurer, mining and business magnate
TINN, Ted — Ted Thye, wrestler
TRUMBLEWOOD, Thomas — Tom Tunnecliffe, Labor M.P., Speaker 1937-40
WATTY, Jim — Jack Welsh, Secretary, Milk Distributors Association
WEST family — Wren family
WOODMAN, Paddy — Paddy Boardman, associate of Squizzy Taylor

So it isn't surprising that Hardy faced criminal libel charges in 1951, following  the book's publication. He was acquitted of the charges, arguing the the story was a mix of fact and fiction.
The novel covers a period of 60 years from about 1890, it was set largely in Richmond and Collingwood. It was made into a tv mini-series in 1976, with Martin Vaughan portraying John Wren.

The local connection: Sir Albert Dunstan was born in Donald in 1882, and grew up on the family farm at Cope Cope. He was a close friend of John Wren, who aided by the Victorian Labor Party president - Arthur Caldwell, persuaded Country Party Dunstan to withdraw from the coalition ministry with the nationalist United Australia Party’s Stanley Argyle, and form a minority Country Party government, which Labor would support in return for some policy concessions. Dunstan agreed to this deal, and in March 1935 he moved a successful no-confidence vote in the government from which he had just resigned. He became Premier in April 1935.
Memorial gates at the site of the former Cope Cope Hall commemorate of the first secretary of the Hall Committee, Albert Dunstan
Relating back to last week's blog post, the story was partly set during World War 1 and one of the themes was the decisive conscription debate. John West as a fierce patriot supported conscription, and had fiery arguments with the Irish Archbishop Malone who strongly opposed conscription in view of his enmity to aiding England. 
A conscription referendum in October 1916 failed, New South Wales had the strongest 'No' vote. The country was often over represented with many farmers and farm labourers volunteering to join up.
Yanga woolshed photo
The remains of the PS Rodney in 2006, Photo by D Nultey

And the family history link - with a tradition of sheep farming, ancestors shore around this district and up into New South Wales. Family folklore had Old Tom involved in the shearers' strife and the burning of the 'PS Rodney'.
In August 1894, the Paddle Steamer Rodney was burnt to the water-line by about 300 unionist shearers in protest at it being used as a strike breaker. The Rodney was carrying non-unionist ‘scab’ labour during the Shearers’ Strike industrial dispute. (Trove article on the incident, and mentioning shearing at Corrong Station)
The main protestors were arrested and the trial held in Broken Hill. Checking with Julie at the Wentworth Library's there was no written evidence that Old Tom was amongst those charged. It is possible he was there and had a minor role, but it is just folklore.

The remains of the lower hull of the Rodney survive in the bed of the Darling River upstream of Pooncarie.

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'.