Category Archives: In The News

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10533956

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10533956

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10533956

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14337694

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4818069

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64452557

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71463761

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71463761

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4818536

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23853766

THE VICTORIAN BUSH FIRES. (1901, February 23). Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 - 1907), p. 38. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71463761

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10534297

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article54558042

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article32205605

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11821239

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11816144

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11816061

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17878294

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article68837972


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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63691042


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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10749956

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10752746

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10755530

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10857617


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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4050667

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4204227

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4204227

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64027013

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page6065696

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64027014

Advertising. (1922, November 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved November 15, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64027000


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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63689870

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63689870A 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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63689870


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