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.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Top award for the Stick Shed

Local icon - the Murtoa Stick Shed - is being placed on the National Heritage List next to natural places such as the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and the Great Barrier Reef; other built heritage places - the Sydney Opera House, Port Arthur Historic Site, and Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building, and alongside our other local listing – the Grampians.

Australia's national heritage comprises exceptional natural and cultural places that contribute to Australia's national identity and encompasses those places that reveal the richness of Australia's extraordinarily diverse natural heritage.
This is Australia’s highest heritage honour, The Stick Shed, becomes just the 101st place of Australian cultural significance to be National Heritage listed.
The Stick Shed (The Marmalake No. 1 Grain Store) was born out of desperation and inspiration. Initially a temporary emergency building, it was erected during 1941 when the war prevented exporting the wheat harvest overseas. The Australian Wheat Board was left with a valuable resource a huge stockpile of grain, but insufficient, adequate storage for it.

Work started in September 1941 on a building designed to hold over 3 million bushels (92,500 tonnes) of wheat. The design was based on the same angle a pile of wheat forms naturally. Nearly 600 unmilled hardwood poles were used to hold up the roof.
The wartime restrictions meant that only raw, local and recycled materials were available, labour and machinery were scarce. Builders had to rely on ingenuity to overcome problems and shortages, they adopted common bush techniques to brace the poles.
What the builders erected was an adequate storage facility which has outlived its intended lifespan, but they also unintentionally created a serene cathedral-like interior amongst its forest of poles.  

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt said National Heritage listing meant the grain store was recognised as a significant part of Australia’s history and ensured it would be protected and celebrated for future generations. 
The Stick Shed is open this weekend on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm, as part of Muroa's Big Weekend - don't miss Australia's 101st National Heritage Site.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

What's on the For Sale sign?

Historic property Kout Narin is for sale. An interesting aspect is the variant spellings of Kout Narin, from - Koot Narin, Koot Nareen, Kout Norien, Court Nahring, and the homestead area as Second Kout Narin.
The homestead in 1980, from the National Trust
Kout Narin on the banks of the Glenelg River near Harrow was originally taken up in 1840 by Thomas Norris as a 400,000 acre pastoral run. This was one of the largest of the early pastoral holdings in the colony at Port Phillip.
Edward Willis & Charles Lambert Swanston (Charles’ father and Edward’s father-in-law was Captain Charles Swanston a colonial merchant and banker after whom Swanston Street in Melbourne was named) acquired Kout Narin station in October 1846 as ‘The Glenelg River Grazing Company’. Later in April 1848 they subdivided it into Kout Narin and Kadnook. (Kadnook was subdivided into Kadnook and Buckle Kupple in August 1857, then Kadnook further broken up into Kadnook and Tallangour in August 1864, Tallangour was divided into Tallangour and Lake Paddock in April 1874.) Kout Narin was further subdivided in September 1852 into Chetwynd and Pigeon Ponds (Moree) and again in September 1859 divided into Chetwynd, Mooree (or Pigeon Ponds), Koolomurt and Wellat(t). Willis and Swanston retained a part known as Koolomurt in 1859. Swanston kept Mooree in 1859. At Koolomurt, Willis formed one of the finest merino studs in Victoria. 
The Woolshed above Salt Creek, 1974 from SLV
Second Kout Narin was part of the original Rickett’s Run or Longlands. It was first occupied in April 1840 as ‘The Glenelg Sheep Establishment’. Thomas Rickett occupied it from 1843. Ricketts Run was broken up into Clunie, Longlands and Second Kout Narin. Second Kout Narin was on the right bank of the Glenelg. A two-room slab house with a shingle roof was erected in 1846.
The original slab cottage in 1980, from the National Trust
 In 1855 Richard Brown Broughton leased Kout Narin Station from Thomas Hamilton, where he subsequently erected the woolshed and the colonial homestead, integrating the early stone house of c1848. Broughton got the freehold for the Second Kout Narin property in June 1863. He changed the name from Kout Narin to Kout Norien.
From the curving driveway towards the rectangular house with a shallow flight of steps leading up to verandah, past garden beds, taken by an unknown photographer some time during the 1960s, copyright is undetermined, from SLV
 The early colonial style rectangular plan homestead of brick and stone with distinctive roof form, glazed verandah and colonial regency details was built in 1855 with the second storey portion added at a later date. The stone was quarried on the property. The homestead was placed on the Victorian Heritage Register in 1959, and the outbuildings added in 1980.
The stone-rubble stables with latticed openings, 1980 from the National Trust
The stone-rubble cookhouse, 1980 from the National Trust
Enclosed homestead verandah


The associated outbuildings, slab hut and slab woolshed, form an important pastoral station group, and are examples of early vernacular construction methods.

The following set of photographs was taken by John Collins in the 1970s, and are from the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.

The homestead
The homestead showing the quoins around the doors
The timber slab woolshed and its split picket sheep yards with the pickets wired together. Although dilapidated the woolshed is still in use.

The stone-rubble cookhouse and adjacent meat-house
Kout Narin is to be auctioned on Friday 12th September in Hamilton and is expected to reach $1.3-1.5 million.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Footprints to the Wimmera

‘Footprints: the journey of Lucy and Percy Pepper’’ is an exhibition by Public Record Office Victoria that uses public and family records to trace the lives of an Aboriginal family in country Victoria in the first half of the twentieth century.
Percy & his family, c1912, from the Watkins family
It focuses on the life of Percy Pepper. Missing two fingers following a work accident, Percy with his sick wife Lucy try to make a life for themselves and their seven children, while constantly on the move across Victoria in search of work. Deemed half-castes and thereby precluded from living on Aboriginal missions, the Peppers endured constant hardship.
Original letters, photographs and public records reveal a family plunged into poverty; their attempts to 'make good' and catch a break in white society frequently thwarted.
One of about 40 Aboriginal men who enlisted in the First World War, Percy fought in France where he sustained head wounds in a shell blast. Following his discharge he was one of the few Aboriginal soldiers to secure a soldier settlement block – and with it the hardships faced by many soldier settlers.
The Pepper family's generational story is one of hardship and resilience, of sorrow and loss – and a remarkable parable about the strength of family in the face of adversity.
The exhibition has special significance in the Wimmera, as Percy’s father Nathaniel Pepper had lived on the Ebenezer Mission at Antwerp. 
The ‘Footprints’ exhibition will be on display at the Dimboola Library and Dimb-E Shop in Lloyd street from Thursday 18th till Tuesday 30th September. 
An official opening will be held in the R.S.L. Hall in Lloyd Street on Wednesday 17th September at 7pm. (RSVP to Dimboola Library Ph: 5391 4452 by 12th September)

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Lost again

"Child lost on Goolumbulla" is a poignant depiction of a quintessential Australian story of a helpless child lost in the bush, and the flurry of fear, hope and energy in the ensuing search. It is a forlorn but absorbing excerpt from "Such is life" written by Joseph Furphy in the 1890s.

"Such is life : being certain extracts from the diary of Tom Collins", is the splendidly farcical, tragical reminiscences of Tom Collins, philosopher and rogue (the author Tom Collins is a known pseudonym of Joseph Furphy). As Tom drives his team across the plains of the Riverina and Northern Victoria, he gets wildly entangled in the fate of others, recreating the humour, the pathos, the irony he knew as part of life in the bush. His is that tough-talking, law-dodging world of the 1880s, where the swagmen and bullockies slept out under the stars with 'grandeur, peace and purity above; squalor, worry and profanity below'. These inspired yarns, 'fatally governed by an inveterate truthfulness', are woven into one of the greatest books of Australian literature, combining a genius for story-telling with a wry wit and a deep feeling for the harsh sun-baked land and the people who worked it. "Such is life" is a classic of the Australian Outback.
 The story of "Child lost on Goolumbulla" is based on just one scene from "Such is life", but that one scene has produced a short film and an audio. They were gifted to the Library by
Andrew Furphy (who was prompted by the recent "Lost in the Bush 150th anniversary), a direct descendant of Joseph Furphy, the motivator of the idea and producer of the film The audio and the film are beautifully narrated by John Derum who also acted in the film. Shot on Thelangerin, near Corrong, (just down the literary road from
'Banjo' Paterson's Hay and Hell and Booligal) north of Hay in N.S.W., the film evokes that vastness of the Outback.
'One Tree Plain' & the road to Corrong

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Lost in the Bush events Day10 (Sunday 21 Aug 1864)

A series of posts chronicling the daily experiences of the 'Lost in the Bush' children

The Lost story doesn't end at Day 9 when the children were found, there was a transition period as they recovered.  
On Sunday 21st they were taken to their parent’s hut about 16 miles away. The trackers were given money by a squatter and by Duff. The children were treated by Dr Archibald McDonald from Horsham who visited 22 hours after they were found. On the third day after they were found Rev. Patrick Simpson the Presbyterian minister accompanied Dr McDonald. It was from this visit that we get the best firsthand account of what happened, as Rev. Simpson wrote a letter to The Weekly Times & Messenger which was printed on 10th September 1864.
As a postscript it also contains a letter from Dr McDonald which details the children's conditions in medical terms: 
'on my arrival at “Spring Hill”, I found the children, who had been lost for nine days and eight nights, did not require much attendance from me. So judiciously had Messrs Smith and Wilson acted, and instructed those who had charge of the little wanderers, that I had but to recommend a continuance of their system of treatment. I found the children much emaciated, their eyes unnaturally bright, and their cries for food incessant. Although this was about twenty-two hours from the time of their being found, their expression of countenance and eager requests for food were very painful to those around them. Their pulses ranged from 120 to 140, being small and jerky ; their tongues were coated with a yellow fur, which remained for three days ; their little feet showed many deep wounds from the chafing of their boots and their legs were covered with scratches from the prickly heath through which they had travelled. About midnight they fell asleep, and slept soundly for six hours, and on awaking, appeared much improved in strength, and were not so clamorous for food. Since then they have progressed favourably, and on the 24th, when I last saw them, had so far recovered, that a little attention to their diet was all that was required.'

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Lost in the Bush events Day9 (Saturday 20 Aug 1864)

A series of posts chronicling the daily experiences of the 'Lost in the Bush' children

Early on Saturday 20th Wilson, Duff, and Kenna his stepson resumed the search where Wilson had left off, and were assisted by the trackers. The superiority of the Aborigines was apparent, and the search continued at a much more rapid pace as the trackers read off the signs of the children's journeying. It was the trackers who found where the children had slept, had fallen in the dark, and with failing strength were unable to carry Frank.

Searchers approached a rise resembling the one near the station, they guessed the children would make for it, and on the further side before a vast ocean of dark and dreary heath stretching to the horizon, they found discarded broom tied with rope.
About 3pm Wilson saw fresher tracks crossing their trail like an X, he called to the trackers who corroborated his view, thereby saving 3 days tracking, within a mile they came across a clump of stringy-bark saplings where the children had spent the previous night.
Duff and Wilson both rode ahead at times. It was approaching sunset when Duff rode ahead of the other searchers to higher ground and saw a clump of saplings, closer he saw a covering moving in the wind and found the children asleep, Frank in the middle wrapped in Jane’s dress. The arrival of the others woke the children, Isaac attempted to sit up and speak but could only groan feebly “Father” and fall back. Frank asked why they had not come sooner. Jane could not open her eyes, only murmured “Cold, cold”. They had walked over 4 miles on the final day.
Emaciated, weak and barely able to speak the children were given crumbs of bread and taken to a waterhole where they were much revived before proceeding to the nearest hut 8 miles away, where they were reunited with their mother about 8pm. Putting the children to bed, Jane was heard saying her prayers as she had each night.

The waterhole as it is today, at the Nurcoung Bushland Reserve

Monday, 18 August 2014

Lost in the Bush events Day8 (Friday 19 Aug 1864)

A series of posts chronicling the daily experiences of the 'Lost in the Bush' children

On Friday 19th the children had been missing for a week - spare a thought for their mother Hannah who has been waiting at home for word of the children. 
Alexander Wilson, the squatter, joined the search. Alexander was born in Antrim, Ireland in 1820 and emigrated to Australia in 1839 (Rev. Simpson described him as "a man of great colonial experience and remarkable acuteness").  It is unknown where he had been for the previous week. At the time the Wilsons had a number of properties, and Longerenong & Ashens were both a couple of days ride away. It was also in 1864 that Alexander had the grand 2-storey Vectis homestead constructed.
Vectis homestead 1864-1935 (SLV collection)
Before the day was far advanced, Alexander Wilson found and followed a track slowly but surely, often on his hands and knees, pegging as he went, so that the track might afterwards not be lost . 
The party returned from Mt Elgin during Friday night (variously referred to as Dickey, Jerry & Fred or Dickey, Red Cap and Tony).

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Lost in the Bush events Day7 (Thursday 18 Aug 1864)

A series of posts chronicling the daily experiences of the 'Lost in the Bush' children

On Thursday 18th the men again searched in vain for tracks of the children.  In desperation, one of the men rode north to near Mt Elgin station approximately 30 miles away on the other side of the Little Desert to recruit black trackers. 
Different versions of the story have either Duff himself riding to Mt Elgin, or Peter McCartney of Nurcoung as the man who knew of the trackers and offered to bring them back. Either way, it was our 'Paul Revere' ride - 60 miles on horseback through desert, some of it in the dark.
With the large crowd out at the Memorial site yesterday (17th August 2014) for the Community Afternoon Tea, it is fitting to include here a description of the original unveiling of the monument - 
A worthy recognition of one of Australia's heroines, Jane Duff, was made on Friday at Nurcoung before a large gathering. The brave act of the young girl is now a matter of Australian history, but the younger generation has since thrilled to the deed of a little girl in the long ago.
Fine weather attracted 800 people, principally from Natimuk, Goroke, Gymbowen, Nurcoung and Mitre. From 1:30 to 3 p.m. a programme of children's sports was keenly contested. A working bee of Natimuk citizens had prepared the ground on Thursday and the result was an excellent running track. The road was beflagged at, approaches from Natimuk and Goroke and flags were put on the trees on the reserve to form a circle for the ceremony. Everybody was delighted with the function, which proved a great success and a fitting climax to a brave deed.
From the front page of 'The Horsham Times, Tuesday 30th April 1935.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Lost in the Bush events Day6 (Wednesday 17 Aug 1864)

A series of posts chronicling the daily experiences of the 'Lost in the Bush' children

On Wednesday 17th after the overnight rain, it was as they feared, the men could find no tracks, and searched fruitlessly all day.
This day marks the last information from the 'Hamilton Spectator' correspondent, who evidently returned home to file his story. The article was syndicated to a number of newspapers including 'The Argus' in Melbourne, and has since been reproduced at various times due to its melancholy outlook, seen as priming the readers for the next chapter of the story where they anticipated having to inform the readers that the children were dead. The article is below

The Argus Saturday 27th August 1864
One of the most heart-rending occurrences which has ever happened in this district, has taken place within the last few days in the neighbourhood of Harrow, by which it is feared, indeed deemed nearly certain, that the lives of three young children have been sacrificed under most touching and melancholy circumstances. On the morning of Friday, the 12th inst., the children in question, aged from five to nine years, belonging to a carpenter named Duff, a steady, respectable man engaged in his trade at the Spring-hill Station, belonging to Messrs. Dugald Smith and Co., situated between Harrow and Apsley, started from their home to go to a hill a short distance away, to cut heath to make brooms. They had been in the habit of doing this before, and no apprehensions were entertained of danger. It was ten o'clock in the morning when they left, and they were expected back early in the afternoon. The hours passed away, however, without their making their appearance, and a little before sundown, they being still absent, the father started off in search of them. He reached the heath where they were supposed to be, but found them not. He searched for several hours, but, full of apprehensions for their safety, he was compelled to relinquish his search and return home. Early the following morning, the alarm was given. All the men on the station turned out, and every possible assistance from the neighbouring stations of Messrs. Affleck, Wilson, and Sinclair was given. During Saturday and Sunday there was no less than thirty-six men on horseback searching in the most systematic manner. The largest party of these was under the direction of Mr. Andrews, residing on the Spring-hill Station, to whom we are indebted for these particulars. But it would seem that a smaller party first struck upon the tracks of the poor little wanderers. From these tracks it was found how they had got lost. It was evident that they had been tempted to go to a heath situated some distance farther away from their home than the one usually frequented by them. This heath they had reached, but on leaving it, probably late in the afternoon, they had started in a directly opposite direction to that in which, their home lay. They had gone due north, until intercepted by a fence, when, apparently, quite puzzled, they had wandered off in a north-easterly direction. The ground was very sandy, so that their footprints were plainly discernible. The brush was composed almost entirely of mallee scrub and heath, being in some places of a dense and almost impenetrable nature. When once the tracks were hit upon, they were followed up with the utmost possible energy. Unfortunately, no black fellows could be got to assist in the search, but some experienced bush hands were among the party, and the track was keenly pursued. For thirty miles through the dense scrub the track was followed, the footsteps of the little children being more or less discernible in the sand. The sufferings of that poor trio will, as far as human foresight goes, never be known, but it will require little experience of colonial life to understand how great they must have been. Of food, they could have had absolutely none. There are no yams there, and although there are a few quondongs on the stunted trees, they are too bitter to be eaten, and would furnish no nutriment whatever. The youngest child appears to have been first knocked up, for after a time the three pairs of feet are reduced to two, the smallest being evidently carried by the others in turn, for here and there the footprints of the three are again seen. Once the searchers came upon a little pair of socks, which had been thrown away, probably to give ease to the sore and blistered feet of one of the lost ones. It was surprising for how long a time they must have wandered on without stopping, for, in a space of many miles, they had only stopped once, when they sought shelter under a small bush, and had lain down, most likely for a night's shelter. As we have said, the track was followed for thirty miles, and the men were still on it on Tuesday night, when it was so fresh that the most experienced of the party thought it to be no more than five hours old, and it was concluded that the children were only a short distance ahead. However, to follow the tracks in the dark was impossible, the horses were quite knocked up, so it was determined to camp on the tracks, and it was hoped that the search would be continued with vigour and success in the morning. These hopes, alas! were doomed to disappointment. During the night there was a succession of heavy showers, and when the morning broke, it was found that every vestige of the track had been washed away. The search was continued with undiminished assiduity but no vestige or track could be discovered, and it was at length relinquished, when all hope was given up that the poor lost ones were alive. The melancholy bereavement has had a sad effect on the father and mother, and the affair has thrown a gloom over the whole neighbourhood. The eldest child was a boy, aged nine ; the second, a girl, of seven ; and the youngest, a boy, only five years of age.