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, 18 January 2018

Hamilton descendants

Via its Facebook page 'Pioneering Days Western Victoria', the call has gone out to all the Hamilton descendants of J.C. Hamilton and his brother Tom Hamilton. The invitation is extended to all residents of the Western District, including the Bringalbert and Ozenkadnook sites. 
Lake Bringalbert
There will be a reprint of J.C. Hamilton's book ("Pioneering days of Western Victoria"), with added feature of Tom's association with the Aboriginal Cricket Team of 1868 including his inclusion into the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame.
J.C. (Joseph Charles) Hamilton was born in Ormiston in Scotland on 11th April 1836. He and his family arrived in Melbourne in 1841, and with J.C.'s uncle Thomas Gibson established Bringalbert and Ozenkadnook pastoral properties. J.C. died at Apsley in 1927, not long after publication of his manuscript "Pioneering days in Western Victoria : a narrative of early station life".
The Group is looking for any direct descendants of J.C.'s younger brother - Thomas Gibson Hamilton was born at Kilmore in May 1844, and died in 1875. His headstone in the Melbourne Central Cemetery reads. "Late of the Bringalbert Station near Apsley who died on the 2nd April 1875. Aged 30 years. His death certificate states he died from Peritonitis after suffering a fever for 3 weeks. He had a son Thomas Gibson Hamilton II was born posthumously in August 1875 and died in 1953. Tom Jnr's mother was Mary Grace Cross (1855-1934).
An earlier series of posts  'Overland' detail Thomas Gibson Hamilton's overland trek to Darwin as told by his nephew.
The flat practice ground in front of the Bringalbert woolshed
The book launch will take place in Edenhope on the shores of Lake Wallace where Tom bought his Aboriginal team from Bringalbert Station to practice with the Edenhope Cricket Club in 1865/1866.

Monday, 11 December 2017

What's old is new again

Sir Robert Menzies was known for his 'The Forgotten People" speeches, credited with helping the Liberals return to power.
The speech rapidly acquired the fame for which it continues to be remembered and invoked. Shortly after it was delivered, it was printed and circulated as a pamphlet by Robertson & Mullens of Melbourne. The next year, Angus & Robertson published a selection of the addresses under the title The Forgotten People and Other Studies in Democracy.
Now, 75 years after the event, it has been reprinted complete with the old style cover.
"The forgotten people : and other studies in democracy" is a collection of essays broadcast weekly by Menzies in 1942. Some of them deal with matters of permanent interest while others are dated by passing events. They have represent a political philosophy which emerged in the changing currents of war.
'From the standpoint of a true patriot and in the spirit of man to man, Mr Menzies examines, in The Forgotten People, many of the problems arising from our present state of war. With moving frankness and sincerity he stresses both the rights and the duties of the people and of Parliament. He states clearly what our position is, what our aims are, and the part that every citizen must play if the war is to be won. He looks toward the future, the post-war world, and shows how we must work and plan to-day to combat the dangers that will inevitably beset to-morrow. He examines the meaning and achievements of democracy; he analyses the implications of President Roosevelt's four freedoms; and he upholds the dignity and the rights of the 'forgotten people', the middle classes, the 'backbone of this country.' This valuable series of talks clarifies our problems and their solution and, while not attempting to lessen the gravity of our present position, glows with confidence that the democratic principle shall prevail.'
Robert Gordon Menzies was born to James and Kate Menzies on 20 December 1894 in Jeparit. His birth was in a room at the back of his father's general store where the family lived.
The land around Jeparit was gradually being cleared of virgin scrub for wheat growing, and money was scarce. James Menzies carted supplies with a horse and wagon to the outlying farms, but it was difficult to make the business pay in such a small pioneering community and many farmers were given food on credit until their next harvest came in.
 Family photo taken on the bank of the Wimmera River - James Menzies with (from left) sons Les, Frank & Robert, wife Kate and daughter Isobel. Miss Annie Drendel is seated at left - from the Jeparit & District Historical Society
In 1899 at the age of four and a half, Robert commenced school at Jeparit. The Menzies children began their education at the first Jeparit school - No. 2988 - in a small timber room that had been shifted to the township from Dimboola North School No. 1875 (formerly Woolshed) in 1894.Robert and sister Isobelle left Jeparit in 1905 to join brothers, Les and Frank, living with their grandmother in Ballarat. They attended Humffray Street State School in 1906.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Victorian artefacts

Victorian Collections is a central portal to the cultural treasures held by museums and galleries distributed across Victoria. Culture Victoria is its sister site.
It is also a free collections management system for Victoria’s cultural organisations and a tool for students, researchers and curious minds.
It has photo entries you can browse, if you hover over an image you get the text description. And we aren’t necessarily talking about promoting your entire collection, you could have some of your most interesting, unique items, enough to tantalise a browser to enquire further and contact you.
a sample page - St Arnaud

Calico flour bag from Bruntons Flour Mill, Rupanyup
Victorian Collections is free for collecting organisations within Victoria. It is designed for Public Organisations not Private Collections, and is a complete, industry-standard cataloguing tool for organisations of all shapes and sizes.

Organisations can bulk-load onto the VC database, and VC do not impose file size limits, and can support most file types, be they audio oral histories, videos or image files. 

Files are provided under Creative Commons licence for non-commercial use. The filea can also be harvested by Trove.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Reviving the Mechanics'

Victoria once had more than one thousand Mechanics' Institutes scattered across the state. In many cases Institute halls were the first public building in a town, and today they are often the last.
Great Western
To obtain a complete picture of the heritage these organisations provided, the Mechanics' Institutes of Victoria Incorporated has been digitising the local records held by halls & institutes.
Records are sometimes held by the halls themselves, or with the local council, historical society, or museum, even with private individuals and trustees.
The digitisation process is funded from both philanthropic and government grant money.

After MIVic have made digital copies, the originals are returned to the records owner or provider along with a digital CD of the records. Copyright remains with the records owner.
Locally, records which have already been digitised are:  Apsley, Corack, Donald, Edenhope, Laen, Langkoop, Poolaijelo, Rich Avon West, St Arnaud, and Stuart Mill.

If you have Mechanics Institute records just waiting for the opportunity to be digitised, contact the Scanning Project Coordinator Judith Dwyer at

Monday, 20 November 2017

Wimmera...Way Back When milestone

This blog reached a milestone overnight, when it ticked over one hundred thousand visits.
From rather humble beginnings back in January 2011, there has now been 100,097 pageviews.
For a blog devoted to the history of the Wimmera, as expected most pageviews come from Australia (54,768), but hopefully the 2,297 Ukrainian, 926 Chinese and 505 Turkish visitors also got something from the posts too.
The most popular themes continue to be railways.
So thanks to you all.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Solving the Wonnangatta mystery

The Wonnangatta murders occurred in late 1917 and in 1918, in the remote Wonnangatta Valley in the High Country in Victoria. The victims were manager of the Wonnangatta station property Jim Barclay, and John Bamford, a cook and general hand on Wonnangatta. While Barclay was a well-respected and much liked bushman, Bamford was regarded with suspicion, and was known to be easily roused into violent tempers. The case has never been solved, but many stories abound.
Wonnangatta Valley
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Wonnangatta murders, Horsham Branch are running a Criminal Investigation session on 10th January 2018
Each participant will receive a copy of one of the five published books relating to Wonnangatta and the murders, and their own “Wonnangatta Casebook”. They then need to read the story, and formulate their theory or theories. Then write up their thoughts in their casebook, thinking about any relevant -
* Clues
* Suspects
* A timeline
* Motives
* Facts

To test their hypothesis, all participants will meet with other contributors in a round table discussion on 10th January at 18:00 hours (6pm) in the Squad Room at Horsham Library.

Places are limited. Bookings are essential and must be made in person at the library to collect your books.

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.