Category Archives: In The News

In The News – November 24, 1941

The Portland Guardian of November 24, 1941 heralded the 100th birthday of Heywood, a small town about 25 kms north of Portland.  The article remembered The Bell family and their contribution to Heywood’s settlement.  I recently  introduced to you my family link to the Bells in a Trove Tuesday post – A Matter of Relativity about Amelia Harman.  Amelia married Christopher Bell, a grandson of John and Elizabeth Bell.

John Bell and his wife Elizabeth Morrow, left Ireland in 1841 with eight children in tow, some were adults, and sailed to Australia aboard the “Catherine Jamison“.  Five months after their departure, the Bells had settled at Mount Eckersley, a few kilometres north of Heywood.




Great contributors to Western Victorian racing, the family were good friends with poet Adam Lindsay Gordon.  William Bell was with Gordon when he made his mighty leap at Blue Lake, Mt. Gambier.

The Department of Primary Industries cites the height of Mt Eckersley as 450 feet (137 metres) but that didn’t stop John Bell, at the age of 101, from climbing the volcano, only months before his death.

As a family known for longevity, twin sons Henry and James lived to 92 and 97 respectively.  At one time they were Australia’s oldest living twins.

HEYWOOD IS ONE HUNDRED. (1941, November 24). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 1 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved November 16, 2012, from

All of this is well and good but is it all true?  John’s year of death is recorded as 1885, with his birth about 1787.  That would have made him around 97/98, short of the 101 reported.  Still, if he did climb Mt.Eckersley, to do it aged 97/98  was still a mean feat, but John may not have been a centenarian.  The family notice in the Hamilton Spectator at the time of his death gives his age as 98.

There could also be a discrepancy with the year the Bells settled at Mt Eckersley.  The Bells did arrive on the Catherine Jamieson on October 22, 1841 to Port Phillip.  The newspaper article says they were in Heywood by November 1841.  The Glenelg and Wannon Settlers site states John Bell settled at Mt Eckersly in 1843.

A further reminder to not always believe what you read in the papers.

In The News – September 23, 1870

This is one of my favourite articles about Hamilton’s history.  The Argus of September 23, 1870 reported that on the Sunday morning past, September 18, at 3am “the residents of Hamilton were aroused from their beds by the cry of “Fire!” and  a large crowd soon collected in Gray street…”.  What follows is a story of a desperate battle by fireman to save not only the shops surrounding the grocery story of Nickless and Wells but beyond.

The article gives an interesting insight into how a fire of such intensity was managed  in the 19th century.  Many buildings were wooden and there was little or no water pressure.  An early decision to pull down the butcher shop of  Messrs. Brown Brothers to create a gap between the fire and the rest of the buildings in the block was to no avail as the fire was quickly spreading from the other side of Nickless and Wells.  Fire fighting attempts were also hindered by the large crowd that had gathered.

DISASTROUS FIRE AT HAMILTON. (1870, September 23). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 7. Retrieved September 22, 2012, from

Hamilton’s main street, Gray Street, is no stranger to fire.  Actually, there seems to have been an unusually large number of fires, causing significant damage often to several buildings in the town’s CBD.  I did a quick browse of Trove and found fires such at these  in the following years alone:  1874, 1885, 1888, 1900,  1912, 1914, 1920, 1930, 1932, 1938, 1944.

On August 1, 1962, one of Hamilton’s largest fires occurred when Strachans Department store, on the corner of Gray and Brown Street burnt out in a spectacular fire, talked about for years after.  During my time in Hamilton, 1970s and 80s, a large car showroom was destroyed on the opposite corner of Gray and Brown Street.  Since then, I can think of two other fires in Gray Street in the block between Brown and Thompson Streets.  The most recent saw the Target store  destroyed in October 2004 by a fire the Mayor of the time, Cr. Don Robertson considered large enough have burnt out the CBD.  What differed between the fire of 1870, with the same potential, and  the Target fire, was that in the case of  the latter,  a $1.2 million ladder platform truck was rushed from Ballarat and thermal imaging equipment came from Portland.  Huge advances from the times of horse-drawn fire-carts!

With the tendency for fires in the CBD, it was no surprise that after a fire in Gray Street in 1932,  Councillor Hughes thought smoke helmets could be of some use to the fire brigade.

SMOKE HELMETS NEEDED. (1932, March 4). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved September 23, 2012, from

In The News – August 28, 1916

The news of August 28, 1916 was typical of the time.  It was two years into WW1, with the Battle of Fromelles  in July and then Pozieres . By the end of August, Australians were fighting at Moquet Farm, France.  Newspapers were full of war news, departures and casualties and the Portland Guardian of August 28, 1916 was no different.

Mrs Thomson of Lower Cape Bridgewater had heard the news her son Private G.E. Thomson was wounded in France.  Families of the 37th, 38th and 40th Battalions were able to send their parcels for the front to 380 Bourke Street, Melbourne.  The parcels were then forwarded to the various Battalions at a cost of one penny per pound.

The Portland Guardian. (1916, August 28). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved August 24, 2012, from

I would like to think this next article was about my 1st cousins 3 x removed, Frederick James and Arthur Leonard Holmes (aka Lennie) of Casterton.  However, while Arthur was still in Australia, not embarking until October 21, 1916 , Fred was in France and wounded by this time.

I searched the WW1 Embarkation Roll and Mapping our Anzacs trying to identify the two Holmes boys, presumably brothers. The venue of the social was not mentioned in the Editorial, so I assumed it was in Portland.  The closest I found was Frederick Noah Holmes of Wallacedale and Leslie Holmes of Homerton via Heywood, however Leslie embarked on August 1.

The Haines family from idyllic Sandy Waterhole on the Glenelg River, received  news of theirs son’s passing as a result of wounds.

The Mulholland family of Portland also received bad news from France.

I hope Mrs Carnie got her letters from the front.

Mrs Newman of “Ulymah” Gawler Street Portland, was doing her part for the war effort.  She was the Portland contact for Mr Herbert Daly, an Australian in Paris.  Herbert was collecting socks for those displaced by war, particularly old men.

Newly re-elected Portland Mayor Mr Wyatt received a letter from local boy W.H.J.Baker, serving in France.  Corporal Baker mentions “France is such a beautiful place” and “No wonder Germany wants this beautiful country”.  Read the letter in full here.

On Active Service. (1916, August 28). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved August 25, 2012, from

Corporal Baker enclosed some of his poetry with the letter.  Read the full poem here.

Australian Sons in Egypt. (1916, August 28). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved August 25, 2012, from

Back in Portland, which must have felt a million miles away from the war, unsettled weather prevailed.

The Portland Guardian. (1916, August 28). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved August 25, 2012, from


Wattle Day ,on September 1, was fast approaching.  The first Wattle Day was in 1910 and the outbreak of war saw the day celebrated with extra vigour.


The Portland Guardian. (1916, August 28). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved August 25, 2012, from

Canadian born silent screen star Mary Pickford was appearing in “The Dawn of Tomorrow” at the Portland Pictures.

QUEENS OF THE FILM. (1916, April 29). The Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889, 1914 – 1918), p. 5. Retrieved August 25, 2012, from

As mentioned,  Cr James Lewis Wyatt was unanimously re-elected Mayor of Portland.  He was Mayor from August 1914 to August 1917.

[No heading]. (1916, August 28). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved August 25, 2012, from

Victorians, along with the other states, were preparing for their first dose of Daylight Savings.  The timing was not exactly how the Act had set out. Clocks went forward on January 1, 1917 and back on March 25, 1917.  Daylight Savings did not occur again until WW2 with the years of1942-3 and 1943-4  each having an extra hour of daylight at the end of the day.

The Portland Guardian. (1916, August 28). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved August 26, 2012, from

In 1914, the Duke of Portland of England, announced that the skeleton of racehorse Carbine would return to Australia for the National Museum.  The following article, two years later, announced the skeleton was ready for shipping to Australia.  Finally in December 1919, the skeleton was ready to leave England, arriving in February the following year.

I have seen the skeleton of Carbine at the former Racing Museum at Caulfield Racecourse and its current home at the National Sports Museum at the MCG.   While standing beside Carbine’s skeleton is not as moving as visiting Phar Lap at Melbourne Museum, it is still an imposing sight.

A video of Carbine’s skeleton being reconstructed when it moved to the National Sports Museum can be seen at the link  –

In The News – July 29, 1929

Although many of the Western District newspapers are not digitised at Trove, it is possible to find articles from the likes of The Hamilton Spectator in the The Portland Guardian,  for example.  On this day 83 years ago,  an excerpt from the Albion newspaper of Coleraine appeared in The Portland Guardian of July 29, 1929.

Prompted by the deaths of many of the early pioneers, the article reflected on the history of the Western District  from the time Major Thomas Mitchell made his way across the land he called Australia Felix 93 years earlier.



Early History. (1929, July 29). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 23, 2012, from

There is a clue in the article for those of you who having trouble finding your Western District family member’s arrival in Victoria.  The writer mentions many people from Van Diemen’s Land making their way to Victoria once news got back the Hentys had pushed up from Portland into the Merino district.  It could then be possible that family members travelled to Victoria via Tasmania where they had resided as convicts or otherwise.

Jenny Fawcett, on her great South-West Victoria genealogy and history site,  has indexed the names of those who travelled to Victoria as part of a Geelong and Portland Bay Immigration Society scheme in 1845 and 1846.  The idea behind that and similar schemes was to bring labour into the colony with those behind the society being squatters and merchants.  Jenny provides a great description of the scheme on her site.

Browsing through the names,there are many I instantly recognise as Western District family names.  Also, a lot of the pioneer obituaries I have read tell of the deceased having come to Victoria via Van Diemen’s Land.

So, if you are beginning to think your ancestors were good swimmers, follow-up the possibility they came to the Western District from Tasmania.  You just never know.

In The News – July 25, 1906

Heavy winter rains in the Western District and the South-East of South Australia left Casterton awash in 1906.  As reported in The Border Watch on July 25, 1906, the Glenelg River reached record levels and evacuations took place.  There was also large stock losses.

I am still working out which “Mr Jelly” carried people to safety.  My ggg grandfather was George Jelly of Casterton, but he passed away in 1896.  He had two sons still living at the time of the floods, William and John and they were both living in Casterton in 1906.

CASTERTON PARTLY SUBMERGED. (1906, July 25). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved July 25, 2012, from

In The News – June 22, 1877

Today’s “In the News” is from the The Portland Guardian of June 22, 1877 with the featured article from the Hamilton correspondent, filed on June 16, 1877.

The weather in Hamilton at the time was not dissimilar to the current weather and the streets and footpaths were muddy.  The cheeky correspondent suggested that the residents of Hamilton would not be thinking well of the town engineer after their foot drenching walk to church on Sunday.

HAMILTON. (1877, June 22). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved June 20, 2012, from

Hare hunting was a popular sport of the time, with the weather not stopping the keen participants.

Australian Rules football was well under way in the Western District by 1877.

The papers reported disease of all types.  Typhoid fever was prevalent in the navvy’s (railway builders)camp by the Grange Burn in June 1877 and conditions were far from comfortable.   Diphtheria had also been reported, however the source was unreliable having given a false report of typhus fever in the past.

HAMILTON. (1877, June 22). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved June 22, 2012, from

In The News – June 1, 1928

For those of you who have not visited the south-west of Victoria, the following article gives a wonderful description from Camperdown through to Port Fairy.   Published on June 1, 1928 in the Hurstbridge  Advertiser, the correspondent, “Mernda”  journeys by bus to Port Fairy.  There are descriptions of some of the towns and their industries as well as the volcanic countryside.

The former Bank of Australasia is a highlight for “Mernda” in Port Fairy.  To see this building today, follow the link

Of interest is the Glaxo works in Port Fairy, considered by “Mernda” as a “great success”.  Glaxo produced high quantities of milk powder, from milk sourced from the local area.  In the 1940s, the company name changed to Glaxo Laboratories and still exists today in Port Fairy as GlaxoSmithKline.

Nestle at Dennington, just outside Warrnambool, was another milk powder manufacturer that caught “Mernda”‘s eye.  Nestle operated from 1911 until 2005 when Fonterra bought the factory.  To read a history of the Nestle factory at Dennington, follow the link

MY TRIP TO THE WESTERN DISTRICT. (1928, June 1). Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), p. 4 Edition: AFTERNOON.. Retrieved May 31, 2012, from


In The News – February 8 – February 13, 1901

I have an interest in the weather, not just today or on the weekend,  but also historically.  I  participated in Melbourne University’s Climate History newspaper tagging project which involved tagging newspaper articles at Trove  which reported weather events.  This was an  interesting exercise and what did became obvious was the cyclical nature of the weather.  If it has happened before it will happen again, droughts, floods and storms.

Taking it further, I also have an interest in how such weather events effected my ancestors. That is why the Victorian bushfires of 1901 are of interest.  The weather was very similar to two days in my lifetime,  Ash Wednesday February 16, 1983 and  Black Saturday February 7, 2010 and in each case, fires spread across Victoria.  When I look at the  Department of Sustainability Bushfire history of Victoria, I am surprised the fires of 1901 are not mentioned.

The first reports came through on February 8, 1901 of the destruction.  The following article from The Argus describes the weather of February 7, 1901.  The descriptive language used takes the reader to that day.  The heat was oppressive, the wind was strong and dust storms crossed the state, causing an unnatural darkness.

HEAT AND GALES. (1901, February 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 5. Retrieved January 29, 2012, from

Fires had sprung up in the Western District.  Early reports from Branxholme were tragic with one death, stock killed and houses lost.  I have family links with three of the families who lost their homes, the Millers, Storers and Addinsalls.  George Miller, a racehorse trainer, lost his house and stables and no doubt his horses.

HEAT AND GALES. (1901, February 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 5. Retrieved January 29, 2012, from

The two-day race meeting at Ararat was held under stifling conditions.   A fire started at the course on the second day and horses were burnt.  Later the wind picked up and ripped iron off the grandstand roof, sending the ladies within running for shelter.

HEAT AND GALES. (1901, February 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 5. Retrieved January 29, 2012, from

Fires spread across Victoria including Warrnambool, Alexandra, Wangaratta, Buninyong, Yea and Castlemaine

DESTRUCTIVE BUSH FIRES IN VICTORIA. (1901, February 8). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 6. Retrieved January 30, 2012, from

Reading the following article about the fires at Byaduk , it really hit home how my Harman and Bishop families may have been impacted.  Even if they were lucky enought not to lose their homes, the scenes would have been unforgettable.

TERRIBLE BUSH FIRES. (1901, February 9). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), p. 7. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from

In 1901, my great-grandmother Sarah Elizabeth Harman, gg grandfather Reuben James Harman and his parents James Harman and Susan Read were all living at Byaduk.  Not to mention various gg uncles and aunts and cousins, both Bishops and Harmans.  I wonder how they coped.  Did 18 year old Sarah take refuge in a dam or creek with her Grandmother Susan?  Was 70 year James Harman still fit enough to help fight the fires?  These are questions that I will never know the answer to. All I know is they were lucky enough to escape with their lives.

DESTRUCTIVE BUSH FIRES. (1901, February 9). Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW : 1851 - 1904), p. 2. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from

The Australian Town and Country Journal accounts for 10 homes lost at Byaduk.  The Free Presbyterian Church was lost and the hotel caught alight but it seems it was saved.  The homestead of Richard Thomas Carty at “Brisbane Hill”, a large property at Byaduk, was destroyed.  The Cartys rebuilt and the replacement homestead “Dunroe” still stands.

THE VICTORIAN BUSH FIRES. (1901, February 23). Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 - 1907), p. 38. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from

This photograph gives us some idea of the devastation.

THE VICTORIAN BUSH FIRES. (1901, February 23). Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 - 1907), p. 38. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from

Portland was also under threat with fire circling the town.  The fire did not stop until it met the sea.

VICTORIAN BUSH FIRES. (1901, February 11). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), p. 5. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from

Buninyong near Ballarat was one of the worst areas hit as was Euroa and district.

BUSH FIRES IN VICTORIA. (1901, February 9). The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from

THE VICTORIAN BUSH FIRES. (1901, February 23). Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 - 1907), p. 38. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from

By January 11, aid for the homeless was on the agenda and at  Branxholme a public meeting was held to discuss such matters.  Authorities discovered the fire near Branxholme, which was possibly the same fire that hit Byaduk, was started by a travelling tinsmith fixing a trough at Ardachy Estate.

THE BUSH FIRES. (1901, February 11). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 5. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from

Nearby Macarthur also had losses as did Princetown on the south coast.  At Timboon, bullock teams from the local sawmill were lost.

FIRES IN VICTORIA. (1901, February 12). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), p. 6. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from

The fire was so strong and relentless that old residents were drawing comparisons to Black Thursday of 1851.

TELEGRAPHIC. (1901, February 12). Kalgoorlie Western Argus (WA : 1896 - 1916), p. 32. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from

Today and for the past few days, the temperature has struggled to reach 20 degrees. Three years ago the temperature was more than twice that.  The weather will be like today during future summers, but I also know there will be days again like February 7, 1901, February 16, 1983 and February 7, 2009.  It is the nature of the weather.  Let us hope the devastation of each of these past events are never repeated.

In the News – January 19, 1944

On January 19, 1944, Victorians were counting the cost of disastrous bushfires that burned out of control just days earlier.  In Hamilton, the losses were particularly heavy in what would have to be the worst fires the town has seen in its history.

HAMILTON AREA LOSS £270,000. (1944, January 19). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 4. Retrieved January 18, 2012, from

Fifty homes were lost in Hamilton and included those of my family members.  Lives were lost and many were hospitalised.

CATASTROPHIC FIRE AT HAMILTON. (1944, January 15). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 4. Retrieved January 18, 2012, from

On a trip to Hamilton, I visited my cousin and mentioned this fire to her husband, as his family, the Lovell’s lost their home.  He disappeared from the room and returned with a clump of fused pennies, all he had left after the fire, a “memento” he had kept  for over 60 years.  His house would have been around three kilometres from the main street, Gray Street.  “The Argus” reported the closest the fire got to Gray Street was just 500-800 metres from the Post Office.  Having lived in Hamilton, I find this unimaginable, particularly the thought of roofing iron been blown into the main street.

MANY LIVES LOST AND ENORMOUS DAMAGE IN BUSH FIRES. (1944, January 15). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 1. Retrieved January 18, 2012, from

Another resident to lose a home was Mrs E.Diwell.  This was Louisa Spender, wife of  Ernest Diwell, a son of Richard and Elizabeth Diwell.  Ernest had passed away in 1939 and Louisa remained at their home, described as “off ” Penshurst Road” on the 1942 Australian Electoral Roll.  Earlier Electoral rolls had listed Ernest at Rippon Road.  The southern end of Rippon Road could be described as “off” Penshurst road. Penshurst Road is to the east of Hamilton and not far from where I used to live.

Something that must be considered was that this was wartime, with many men away either fighting or POW’s. With limited manpower, it was not surprising that women were fighting side by side with men.  I mentioned this fire to Nana and while she did recall it, she had no other knowledge of it.  She would have been living in Melbourne at the time as she was working at the Munitions factory at Maribyrnong prior to her marriage in 1945.  Also her family lived on the northern side of the town which does not seem to have been in the path of the fire.  When I mentioned the women firefighting, she gave me a “Of course!” type of reply.

Hamilton was not the only town devastated by the fires of January 1944.

FIRES IN WIDELY-SEPARATED ZONES. (1944, January 15). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 9. Retrieved January 18, 2012, from

Even wealthy beach side suburbs of Melbourne saw fire run through the ti-tree, forcing hundreds on to the beaches.

FOURTEEN DEATHS IN DISASTROUS BUSH FIRES IN VICTORIA. (1944, January 15). Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved January 18, 2012, from

In the News – January 13, 1905

Western District pioneers were confronted with all the elements Australia has to offer including flood, drought and fire.  Each had its own devastating effect on their lives and livelihood, particularly those on the land.

By January 11, 1905, the Harmans had already experienced the effect of bushfires.  Fires in 1888 and 1901 had seen the loss of stock, grazing land and life.  Bushfires today are just as devastating but the pioneers of the 19th century and early 20th century did not have the weather forecasting, firefighting equipment and communications now available.  When fire went thought Byaduk in 1905, one can only imagine how they managed with the equipment, or lack of, available to them at the time.

The fire began near the Byaduk Caves.  The first Harman to be effected was Gershom, son of Reuban Harman.  The fire then travelled through part of  J. Harman’s property.  I can’t be sure if this was the property of  James or Jonathan as both owned land around the Byaduk caves area.  Poor Mr Harper, lost all the timber for a new house, while others lost hay stacks. Forty men were fighting the fire but wind changes made it almost impossible for them.

HEAVY LOSSES AT BYADUK. (1905, January 13). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved January 11, 2012, from


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