Category Archives: In The News

In the News – December 8, 1909

I’ve heard many stories of pumas living in the Grampians, but a bunyip?  In 1909, a Mr A. J. Campbell of Armadale wrote to the “The Argus” suggesting such a creature was residing in the Black Swamp near Pomonal.

NATURE NOTES AND QUERIES. (1909, November 26). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 4. Retrieved December 5, 2011, from

That letter led to a report in “The Argus” on December 8, 1909 about the strange creature of the  Black Swamp.  An expert had arrived and an attempt made to identify the creature.  Dudley Le Souef, an interesting character from an even more interesting family, and then director of the Melbourne Zoological Gardens, got within 20 yards of it and confirmed that the bunyip was in fact a seal.  A seal would not be that surprising in a seaside town but Pomonal is around 150 kilometres from the sea.  Browsing through the newspapers at Trove, I found many references to bunyips, with musk ducks commonly mistaken as were wombats and platypus.  I also found many accounts of “inland seals” around the country, also mistaken for the mythical bunyip.

SEAL NEAR THE GRAMPIANS. (1909, December 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 12. Retrieved December 5, 2011, from

An explanation to how the seal could have come to be so far inland, was found in “‘The Argus” on December 21, 1909.  The idea of a seal in the Grampians had created some interest and the “Naturalist” who authored the article encouraged people to visit the little known tourist destination.  He even recommended tourists picnic beside the Black Swamp.  That would be okay if you were not scared of bunyips!

THE GRAMPIANS. (1909, December 21). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 5. Retrieved December 7, 2011, from

Looking at maps of the Grampians, I believe the seal’s path along the Wannon possible, but in the depths of the Grampians, where the Wannon ends, it seems the seal would have had to have travelled overland and along smaller creeks to meet up with the Mount William Creek.

At the time of his sighting, Le Souef offered a £10 reward to anyone who could catch the seal and deliver it alive to the Stawell Railway station.  Hopes were up that by the end of summer, the swamp would have dried enough to assist the seal’s capture, however a query to the “Nature Notes” in “The Argus” on May 20, 1910, closed the story.  Until now.

NATURE NOTES AND QUERIES. (1910, May 20). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 9. Retrieved December 7, 2011, from

In the News – November 16, 1929

On this day in 1929, The Argus reported that my gg uncle Charles James Harman, then a Flight Lieutenant with the R.A.A.F., working as a Liaison Officer in London, had the once in a lifetime opportunity to ride in an airship, the R101.

I was fairly happy when I found this article at Trove as Charles is one of my favourite and most interesting relatives and I have enjoyed discovering some of the adventures he had during WW1 and also post war.  Life for Charles in London was a long way removed from growing up in Byaduk and his stories far more romantic than those of his relatives back home… new ploughs,  prizes at  agriculture shows, the rain etc.   I also couldn’t wait to tell my Nana about Charles’ airship experience.  He was her uncle, but she said she never met him.  She knew he had gone to war, but that was about all she knew, or as was her way, that was all she was going to tell me.

Australians in R101. (1929, November 16). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 21. Retrieved November 14, 2011, from

The R101 was still in testing when Charles Harman had his ride, with its construction completed only a month earlier.  It was close to 237 metres long and was like a luxurious hotel in the air.

The R101 never made it to the trial flights in India.  In fact, the airship was en route to India when it crashed over France on October 4, 1930.

TERRIBLE AIR TRAGEDY. (1930, October 6). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 9. Retrieved November 15, 2011, from

Coincidentally, one of those killed was also an Air Liaison officer with the R.A.A.F, working in the same office as Charles in London, Squadron Leader William Palstra.

TERRIBLE AIR TRAGEDY. (1930, October 6). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 9. Retrieved November 15, 2011, from

Also a coincidence (or was it), Charles Harman was controversially dismissed from his post later in the month of October 1930, but that is a story for another time.

The following video is fantastic.  It shows both stills and moving images of the R101 including the luxuries facilities inside.

In the News – November 16, 1922

The Portland Guardian of November 16, 1922, reported much excitement surrounding the town’s birthday celebrations beginning that day, including “Back to Portland” celebrations.  Former residents had started to return and reacquaint themselves with old friends.

Portland's Gala Week. (1922, November 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved November 15, 2011, from

One article “Coming Home” , is reminder of how useful newspapers are in assisting our research.  Included is a list of all those who had indicated they would be attending the reunion.

Each name includes the present town of residence, some with an address.  The following are just a few of the names:

(1922, November 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 4 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved November 14, 2011, from

Other well-known names included Henty, Holmes, Kittson, Malseed and Silvester.

Advertising. (1922, November 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved November 14, 2011, from

Advertising. (1922, November 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved November 15, 2011, from

In The News – September 16, 1904

An article in The Portland Guardian on September 16, 1904 made me smile.  Today, when politicians of all levels of government are questioned about the frequency of their overseas trips or their questionable expenses, the  concerns of the  “Guardian” seem humble in comparison.  Also,  the tone of the article may have been different if an invitation had been offered to the Editor to take part in what was titled “The Riding Party”.

In an earlier edition of the “Guardian”, it had been reported that the local Councillors had set off on horseback and buggy that day, with the intent to inspect a road and also Grant Bay, not far south of the town.  The “Guardian” found out later that the real reason for the outing was to hunt rabbits.

Established August 1842. (1904, September 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved September 15, 2011, from

Another article which caught my eye was that of the “Sparrow Match”.  The Narrawong Gun club had organised the match at the cricket ground and there was a large attendance.

Established August 1842. (1904, September 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved September 16, 2011, from story on the Penshurst Gun Club by Phillip Doherty for the Mt Rouse & District Historical Society, shed some light on this activity.  Sparrow catchers collected the birds for the gun clubs and on the day, they were released and shot for sport.  This was also done with starlings and pigeons.  The introduced birds had become pests and this was seen as killing two birds with one stone, so

  The sighting of a starling in the Portland area was also mentioned in the “Guardian” of September 16.  Established August 1842. (1904, September 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved September 16, 2011, from

In the News – August 8, 1919

The Minister for Home and Territories , Mr Glynn announced there would be an Australian Census in 1921.  The chief statistician Mr Knibbs had left for an international statistical conference in Europe to learn how other countries conducted a Census.  He would be looking at borrowing a Power machine to help with the counting.

Portland Guardian. (1919, August 8). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved August 8, 2011, from

The census was held on April 3, 1921.  Thanks to the Hollerith electric machine, an American invention, results were expected in two years!    I’m not sure if this is the Power machine Mr Knibbs was investigating, but it seems he did pick up some tips from his trip to Europe.  On April 4, 1921, The Argus published an interesting article about how the information for the census was collected.

Mr George Albert of Hamilton was found after five days missing.  He was located at Byaduk on the property of Gershom Harman, grandson of Joseph Harman.

Portland Guardian. (1919, August 8). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved August 8, 2011, from

In the News – June 24, 1861

The Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser reported on  June 19, 1861 a meeting at Hamilton of the Separation Movement.  It was the first meeting of its kind in Hamilton following on from a successful meeting in Portland.

SEPARATION MEETING AT HAMILTON. (1861, June 24). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842-1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved June 24, 2011, from

Many well known gentleman of the district where there, men whose names still are evident in Hamilton.  Messers Skene, Learmonth, McKellar and McPherson were all present.

Despite a campaign that went into 1862, the move to separate was unsuccessful.

An article in The Portland Guardian on March 30, 1953 reflected on what might have been if separation had occurred.  The proposed new colony was to be called Princeland with Hamilton as the capital and Portland as the major port.  I would have been born in Hamilton, the capital of the state of Princeland, Australia.  Imagine!

Talk of separation did not go away as seen in this article from the Guardian in 1921.  A push in the Riverina area to separate in the early 1920s saw the suggestion made once again for the south-west of Victoria to also separate.

“WAKE UP, HAMILTON.”. (1921, January 31). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876-1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved June 24, 2011, from

In the News – June 16, 1881


The Byaduk Farmers Club held their annual ploughing match on June 14, 1881. The venue was the farm of the Christie brothers and 13 competitors displayed their finest ploughing techniques.

James Harman was a keen competitor of ploughing competitions and on the day won the Champion class.  His plough of choice was the Lennon made in North Melbourne by Hugh Lennon.  Only the year prior the Lennon plough had made news with the capture of the Kelly Gang.  The armour forged for the gang had been made out of Lennon plough boards.

Reuben Harman, James’ younger brother won the B class.  Reuben was 41 at the time and died only two years later.  He was also a fan of the Lennon.  Another Harman, Arthur came second in the C class with a Hornsby plough and along with his uncle Reuben won a prize for best crowns.

BYADUK PLOUGHING MATCH. (1881, June 16). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848-1954), p. 6. Retrieved June 16, 2011, from

Other notable Byaduk residents to win prizes were William and Alexander Christie and Peter Fraser.  Thanks to Peter Fraser, then an 18 year old, we now have the book Early Byaduk Settlers, a recollection of his life in Byaduk.

Following the match, the participants enjoyed the annual dinner at Hardy’s Temperance Hotel.  As the Harmans were staunch Methodists, the venue would have been seen as most appropriate.

Ploughing matches were a popular activity for farmers in the late 19th century.  They were an opportunity to display skill, show off the latest farming implements and to gather socially with other farmers.  The first ploughing match was held in the Portland area in the 1850s and they appear to have peaked in the 1880s when Inter-Colonial Ploughing Matches were held at Werribee Park and Ballarat.  The sketches below depict the 1882 event at Werribee Park where 3000 spectators were attendance, including several parliamentarians.  Farmers came from New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania.

INTERCOLONIAL PLOUGHING MATCH. (1882, August 5). Illustrated Australian News (Melbourne, Vic. : 1876-1889), p. 120. Retrieved June 15, 2011, from

Ploughing Matches. (1896, January 31). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876-1953), p. 1 Edition: EVENING, Supplement: Supplement to the Portland Guardian.. Retrieved June 16, 2011, from

By the mid 1890s, the Portland Guardian was lamenting the demise of the ploughing match.  This was put down to a number of reason including the move of young people off the land and more advanced implements.  The writer sees horse racing as no match to the social and competitive nature of the ploughing match, which were also free of the “curse of Australia”, gambling.  In the 20th century, the rise of the tractor meant ploughing by horse became almost unknown.  The skill required to plough was not as great as that of horse ploughing and there was no longer a need to demonstrate one’s abilities.  Field days today, allow for the display of the latest farming equipment and techniques filling a void left by the end of ploughing matches.

The Ploughing match results offer another insight into the lives of our Western District families.  They often have a comment on the highlight of the day and list the farmers’ place of residence.

In the News – June 4, 1860

The Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser had a regular feature know as “Table Talk” presenting local news.  The June 4, 1860 edition demonstrates some of the rivalry which already existed between towns in the Western District.

Table Talk. (1860, June 4). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842-1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved June 3, 2011, from

The writer is bemused that the Ararat newspaper, presumably the Ararat Advertiser, could compare Ararat with the three coastal towns, Belfast, Warrnambool and Portland.  Also at the time, money was being spent on the road from Ararat to Warrnambool.  The writer made it clear that while the Government described the road as the Ararat to Portland district road, Portland was in no way benefiting from the money which was being spent on the road.

Land sales were also making news.  The Government was releasing land in the Merino, Tahara and Digby raising concern that by the time the Land Sales Bill went through there would be little decent land to buy.  Further on in the paper several advertisements spruik the land opportunities including this one for acreage at Tahara

A  “superior class” of female immigrants were to making their way to Portland in the following week, the paper reports.  The women had arrived in Melbourne aboard the “Atalanta” and were considered to be “of timely benefit to this town”.

The mail was late in Mount Gambier on June 2, arriving at 2.40pm.  The correspondent surmises that something must have happened to the mailman because when he did arrive, his head was bandaged.

In the News – May 26, 1927

The Portland Guardian of May 26, 1927 reports the death of Mrs Hugh Kittson.  The obituary gives much information about Mrs Kittson’s early life including her arrival in Australia and her marriage.  She was 94 years old and had been in Victoria for 82 years and had many memories of those early times.  As I read her story, I wanted to know more about Mrs Hugh Kittson.  The obituary, as was often the way, did not mention her first or maiden names.  It did say she had travelled to Victoria on the “Intrinsic” with her parents and two brothers in 1840.

Obituary. (1927, May 26). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876-1953), p. 3. Retrieved May 26, 2011, from


After searching death records and Trove, I found that Mrs Kittson was Margaret Jennings, daughter of Cook Abraham Jennings and Hannah Birchall.  She was born in Manchester about 1833.  Her brothers were Samuel and Robert Jennings and the “Intrinsic” had in fact arrived in 1841.   I then discovered stories about two pioneering families of the south Western District I had not heard of before, the Jennings and the Kittsons who were both in the Portland and Bridgewater areas before 1850. I particular enjoyed a Letter to the Editor from the Portland Guardian of January 23, 1877 by Cook Jennings which painted a picture of the 1840s.

Cook Abraham Jennings’ letter gives an  insight into life in the early days of Western Victoria.  He refutes a claim by Thomas Fairburn to be the first person to find freestone at Mount Abrupt near Dunkeld suggesting it was he instead who made the first discovery.   He describes a journey from Portland to Mt Sturgeon and Mt Abrupt almost 30 years earlier.  As a stonemason in Portland, he was keen to source some freestone and after a tip-off, headed to the southern end of the Grampians in 1848, his travelling companions son Robert and an indigenous boy raised by Jennings wife.

CORRESPONDENCE. (1877, January 23). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876-1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved May 26, 2011, from

CORRESPONDENCE. (1877, January 23). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876-1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved May 26, 2011, from

Jennings describes the return journey when “there was no Hamilton…save Mr Beath’s store and Phastock’s public house”.  After difficulty crossing the Grange and Violet Creek he eventually reached Portland and sold off the stone, which was still being used as grindstones 30 years later.

The letter also shows that overseas travel was not out of the question for those early pioneers.  Cook Jennings travelled to Richmond, Virginia in 1858 to lodge a claim on a relative’s will.  Although Cook did come across as somewhat of an opportunist!

Margaret Jennings’s husband Hugh Kittson was himself some sort of trailblazer.  The Irish-born son of James and Catherine Kittson, was reported as the first white person to ride overland from Portland to Melbourne.  Hugh and Margaret had seven children and surnames of their descendents include Johnson, White and Hodgetts.

In the News – May 9, 1910

Recently the National Library of Australia  released digital copies of The Portland Guardian onto their Trove website.  This is very exciting for those researching family links in the Western District and along with the Camperdown Chronicle, Trove users have an opportunity to find out more about their families.

I thought it right that today’s In the News should feature articles that appeared in The Portland Guardian on May 9, 1910.

On Page 2, the lead story is an Obituary for long time Heywood resident Malcolm Cameron.  I have some interest in Malcolm Cameron as he is the father in law of my first cousin four times removed, Emily Harman.

Obituary of Malcolm Cameron First Issue, August 20, 1842. The Portland Guardian. (1910, May 9). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876-1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved May 9, 2011, from

Malcolm was born in Perthshire, Scotland in around 1823.  There is a record for a Malcolm Douglas arriving on the “Glen Roy” in 1854.  Malcolm married fellow Scot Elizabeth Douglas in Victoria in 1860 and they had their first child, Fanny in 1861 at Heywood.  They had a further nine children over the subsequent 21 years.

From the obituary it can be seen that Malcolm Cameron was active in the community as a JP and Councillor .  It mentions Malcolm was lost in the bush a few months earlier.  An article about this appeared in The Portland Guardian and other papers including The Argus on December 8, 1909

Malcolm’s son Malcolm Douglas Cameron was born in 1864 at “Cave Hill” near Heywood and married Emily Harman in 1900.  They had two sons, Oliver and Alan.


An article on Page 2 gives a hint on some major international news of the time.  The Portland Post office would be closed the afternoon of May 9 out of recognition of a day

Death of King Death of the King. (1910, May 9). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876-1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved May 9, 2011, from

of mourning which had been announced throughout the Commonwealth on the passing of King Edward VII on May 7, 1910.  On Page 3, the headlines proclaim,

“Death of the King” with details of the king’s death and further on, the reaction of the Portland residents.

The people of Portland were sent into deep mourning according to this article with flags at half mast and church bells tolling. Miss Allnutt, the organist who is mentioned in the article was a daughter of the minister of St Stephens Church at the time. Arch Deacon Allnutt was Minister for over 30 years.



Skating appears to be a popular pastime of the late 19th Century and early 20th Century.  Two articles about skating appear on Page 2, one announcing the opening of the Portland Skating rink and the second demonstrating the dangers of the sport.


The advertisement on the same page reveals skating was being held at the Free Library Hall and entry was sixpence.  Unless of course one was expert and wished to try the more advanced ball-bearing skates!

The second article relates to a skating accident at Casterton which resulted in a nasty concussion for Mr Allan Rowlands.  If one considers the size of the average country hall, the thought of skaters hurtling around, is rather hair-raising.  No wonder women and children were only allowed to skate in the afternoon, when hopefully it would have been a more refined pastime.

Skating Accident at Casterton First Issue, August 20, 1842. The Portland Guardian. (1910, May 9). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876-1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved May 9, 2011, from




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