This blog provides information, stories, links and events relating to and promoting the history of the Wimmera district.
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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
LOSS AND APPREHENDED DEATH OF THREE CHILDREN.
(FROM THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR, AUG. 21)
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.
END.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Lost in the Bush events Day5 (Tuesday 16 Aug 1864)

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

On Tuesday 16th one of the men took the news, and the recently returned squatter Dugald Smith recently returned from a journey, now took command of the search and as a consequence, a more organised party followed the tracks. 

It was with difficulty that the men pursued the tracks through the heath for about 30 miles, the searchers found evidence of Frank being carried by the other two children in turn. They came across one pair of socks (the children later saying they took them off the first night but they disappeared during the night) they also found their night's shelter under a small bush.


The correspondent from 'The Hamilton Spectator' stated that it was Tuesday evening when the party thought the tracks were no more than 5 hours old and the children a short distance ahead. 
 
The men were disappointed when they were obliged to halt the search at nightfall. Their sorrows increased as clouds drew in. They camped on the tracks, and during the night there was a succession of heavy showers, and for the tracks which were discernible were now obliterated, every vestige washed away.
Duff hut replica

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Lost in the Bush events Day4 (Monday 15 Aug 1864)

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

This post comes from the August 1864 recount by Rev. Patrick Simpson - 
'On Monday, at dawn of day, the searchers returned to their willing labour, all of them desponding, many of them quite hopeless ; for, as is common in this unsteady clime, on Sunday night there was keen frost, so it was argued, and with reason, that little ones so unsheltered and unprovided would not thus long survive. On this day however, two men, far apart from others, actually came upon the children’s track. Afraid to lose sight of it, they would not for a moment leave the track ; they spent the night on it.' 

The tracks that the two men came across was about 10 miles from the home station. Dugald Smith, the squatter, returned to Spring Hill on Monday evening.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Lost in the Bush events Day3 (Sunday 14 Aug 1864)

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

By Sunday 14th in excess of 36 men were involved in a systematic but unsuccessful search, the largest party was under the direction of Mr Andrews (it was Andrews who provided the 'Hamilton Spectator' correspondent with details for the melancholy article, in a later post) who resided at Spring Hill. 
***  
Background: All In. A feature of the Lost in the Bush search was the manner in which everyone downed tools and lent a hand to assist. At the time, the country was sparsely populated, settlement was on a handful of large squatter runs.
The searchers would normally be engaged in daily tasks - shepherding, feeding stock, milking... so the absence of the men would have had a profound effect on the running of the farming operations.
  •  The nearest town to the east was Horsham 45kms away. Horsham's first school, the National school opened in January 1857. In 1865 there were around 30 houses making up the town. The population in 1861 was 270, and in 1871 (shortly before the land was opened up for selection, with its resulting population influx) the number had only reached 294.
  • In the west the only hamlet was the border crossing point at Apsley, (60kms) a post office was established there in 1849, and it was surveyed in 1851.
  • Supplies arrived by bullock wagon from either Melbourne or up from Portland. The stations were basic, virtually self-sustaining settlements.