Category Archives: Western District History

Nellie Bligh’s Dog’s Eyes

Unfortunately for those hoping to read about poor afflicted Nellie Bligh with the eyes of a dog, I’m sorry, this post is not about Nellie, but my cryptic title will become more obvious as you read on.  This post is actually about Hamilton and the wonderful Facebook group, “I’ve Lived in Hamilton, Victoria” that has flourished over the past few months.

You may remember my post, A Pleasant Distraction, about the group I had started.   At that time there were 1100 members.  Today we have 1930 members with 2000 achievable by the end of the year.  There are now over 1200 photos and countless posts and comments.

In my earlier post I mentioned we had brought together a post-WW2 social history of Hamilton, but two months later, the time range has gone back, and we now have history from the 19th century also.  A favourite series of photos was of the many beautiful homes and homesteads in and around Hamilton today.  It was amazing the number of stories that came out about those properties and I intend to write a future post about just that.

At times we have despaired at what has been lost, accepting that in some cases progress marches on but in other cases, questioned the rationale of earlier city leaders.

FORMER FACADE OF THE HAMILTON TOWN HALL, BROWN STREET.  Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no.  H32492/2740 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/63929

FORMER FACADE OF THE HAMILTON TOWN HALL, BROWN STREET. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H32492/2740 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/63929

The group has posts on everything from the Fire Brigade to Brass, Pipe and Rock Bands, businesses and transport, schools and sport from hockey to horse racing.  We have ventured out to the towns surrounding Hamilton such as Casterton, Cavendish and Dunkeld.  There are members that have lived in these places but attended school in Hamilton, while those that lived in Hamilton are familiar with the towns, because of  family, friends or sport.

Photos definitely help get the discussion going.  An example is this photo of the Hamilton pool during the height of summer.  It evoked many memories because anyone who went to the pool during  the 1960s and ’70s, and to a lesser extent the 1980s (the diving boards were removed by then), would remember it exactly as the photo depicts. The stories flowed and there are now 175 comments and 267 “likes” to date.  Thank you to Judy Forrest for allowing me to share this classic photo.

Ham pool

But, it’s a humble pie that has been most popular.   Actually, it was a photo of a tray of pies from Kings Bakery, Hamilton. Established in 1916. Kings still operate in Hamilton.  Many ex-Hamiltonians  had mentioned how much they would like a Kings pie again.  Those still in Hamilton responded, and have almost daily, posted photos of the said pies. “Pie Wars” is on.  From my point of view photos of cream cakes entering the battle was pleasing and a King’s cream bun will be a must next time I’m in Hamilton.  (Photos will ensue)

The ongoing pie discussions takes nothing away from the group as it is the mix of history, memories and casual banter between members, that has created a wonderful place for Hamilton people, past and present, to come together and I am proud that the group has evolved in such a way.

On a personal note, the group’s popularity has brought some attention my way, resulting in an appearance in a regular column in the Hamilton Spectator, “Where Are They Now”.  Having read many of these columns over the years, I find it hard to place myself among the well-known former Hamiltonians that have graced the column before me. Also, I continue to find people with links to my family which is great and like others I have rekindled old acquaintances and made many new ones.

Early next year a reunion has been arranged in Brisbane  and will be a great event as many former Hamilton residents now live in Queensland.  The logistics of getting King’s pies to Brisbane is already being considered.  We also hope to see a “Back to Hamilton” sometime in the next few years.

Because of the group’s growth,  I now have two co-administrators to keep an eye on things when I can’t.  Tim and Tony have contributed greatly to the group and I really must thank them for the time they have put in.  And a big thank you to all the group members who have embraced it and have made such positive contributions.  The many photos that people have so willingly shared has been overwhelming, especially the many treasured family photos. I may have started the group, but Hamiltonians near and far have made it what it is now.

Now, have you worked out the title yet?

You can read the “Where Are They Now” article on this link Hamilton Spectator, December 17, 2013(click on the >> at the right hand side of PDF toolbar to rotate the article).


The Vagabond Tours the Portland District

It’s time to re-join The Vagabond on his tour of Picturesque Victoria.  Last time we caught up with him, he was touring the town of Portland.   In this installment, he ventures out to the countryside surrounding the town and he was not disappointed.  I would have to agree with him that the landscape around the town “is the most picturesque and varied scenery”  seen along the Victorian coastline.

With an old Portland citizen, the Vagabond headed toward Narrawong and Heywood.  Looking out to sea he caught a view of Julia Percy Island and Lawrence Rocks.

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LAWRENCE ROCKS & JULIA PERCY ISLAND (background). Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. IMP25/12/65/193 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/95486

LAWRENCE ROCKS & JULIA PERCY ISLAND (background). Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. IMP25/12/65/193 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/95486

The Vagabond reflected on the early settlement of the district and likened the countryside around him to an English country lane.

vag1Out of Portland , the Vagabond and the “Ancient Citizen” met the colony’s first road, built by the Hentys.  Although the colony was only within the first 50 years of settlement, change was upon it.  The railways had been costly to the hotels along the roadways as noted by The Vagabond as he passed two empty hotels.

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After a stop in Portland, The Vagabond set off again for the rugged coastline of Nelson Bay.  The secretary of the Portland Jubilee committee accompanied him, one of many gentleman offering endless hospitality to the acclaimed writer, hopeful for a good word about their town.

vagAs they left Portland, heading West, the travelling party passed “Burswood” the former home of Edward Henty and they admired the unique flora along the roadside.

BURSWOOD.  Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Colin Caldwell Trust collection, Image no. H84.276/6/44A  http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/72455

BURSWOOD. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Colin Caldwell Trust collection, Image no. H84.276/6/44A http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/72455

Before long they had reached Nelson Bay and the wrath of the seas below came a little closer than was comfortable. “Below the waves circle one after another – placid and quiet in the outer rings, increasing in speed and fury until they dash in a foaming surf on the rocks and sands at the base of the cliff”

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Ahead The Vagabond could see his destination, the Cape Nelson lighthouse.

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CAPE NELSON LIGHTHOUSE

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PICTURESQUE VICTORIA. (1884, November 22). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 4. Retrieved November 13, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article6061787

 

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LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S RESIDENCE

After climbing the 115 steps to the balcony near the top of the lighthouse, The Vagabond looked out to sea at the passing vessels, while the lighthouse keeper, Mr Fisher,told him lighthouse tales.

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From the lighthouse, the horse’s heads turned toward Cape Bridgewater.  The Vagabond quipped that the Banks of Portland would not be offering customers overdrafts on that day because all the managers were travelling with him.

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The Vagabond stopped to marvel at the Bat’s Ridge cave.  He advised visitors to the caves to take their own candles,  magnesium wire and string.

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BATS’ RIDGE CAVE

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A little further on and the group arrived at serene Bridgewater Bay and its small settlement.

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BRIDGEWATER BAY

BRIDGEWATER BAY

Continuing westward they came to Cape Bridgewater and the Blowholes.

CAPE BRIDGEWATER.  Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. H32492/1662 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/64872

CAPE BRIDGEWATER. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H32492/1662
http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/64872

 

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PICTURESQUE VICTORIA. (1884, November 22). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 4. Retrieved December 12, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article6061787

PICTURESQUE VICTORIA. (1884, November 22). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 4. Retrieved December 12, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article6061787

BLOWHOLE, CAPE BRIDGEWATER.  Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no, H32492/1661 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/65004

BLOWHOLE, CAPE BRIDGEWATER. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no, H32492/1661 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/65004

Join The Vagabond on his next installment of Picturesque Victoria, continuing along the south-west coastline.  What did he see that he described as “fearfully sublime” and “grandly weird”?  Find out next time.

Full Article “Picturesque Victoria, Excursions from Portland, No 1″


Skipton – The “Local” Horse

In 1941, a horse with links to the Western District  won the Victorian Derby/Melbourne Cup double.  Named after a small town west of Ballarat and with a female owner from Hamilton, Skipton had the two towns on their feet when he crossed the line to win the 1941 Melbourne Cup.

Mrs Myrtle Kitson purchased the colt, sired by Marabou and out of Cupidity, as a yearling.  After some maturing, he was sent to trainer, Jack Fryer.   Myrtle had wanted to call her colt “Monaco”, but had some reservations, so she selected “Skipton” the name of the little town on the Glenelg Highway were she enjoyed stopping on travels to and from Hamilton. (Skipton is often used as a pit stop for those travelling the Glenelg Hwy and a place that members of my family would stop for a cup of tea on their drive back to Hamilton)

HOW SKIPTON GOT ITS NAME. (1941, November 12). The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate (Parramatta, NSW : 1888 - 1950), p. 7. Retrieved November 3, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article107293645

HOW SKIPTON GOT ITS NAME. (1941, November 12). The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate (Parramatta, NSW : 1888 – 1950), p. 7. Retrieved November 3, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article107293645

Myrtle was superstitious, and on the day of the Derby of 1941, she remained back in Hamilton tending the Grand Central Hotel, where her and husband John were licensees.  John and daughter Morva represented her at the races and when Skipton crossed the line as winner of the Derby, they accepted the trophy on Myrtle’s behalf.

OWNER'S DAUGHTER AND WINNING TRAINER. (1941, November 4). The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950), p. 10 Edition: HOME EDITION. Retrieved November 2, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78571281

OWNER’S DAUGHTER AND WINNING TRAINER. (1941, November 4). The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), p. 10 Edition: HOME EDITION. Retrieved November 2, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78571281

After the race, reports came through that Skipton had pulled up sore and was an uncertain starter in the Melbourne Cup the following Tuesday.  The night before the Cup, Skipton was finally declared a starter with William Cooke (Billy) to take the mount.  The late decision, although probably tactics, was the correct one, and Skipton took out the race. Skipton, by winning the 1941 Melbourne Cup, achieved a feat only 12 horses had done before and no horse has done since, winning the Victorian Derby/Melbourne Cup double in the same year.

Like Derby Day, Myrtle not wanting to jinx the horse, remained home at the Grand Central Hotel.  Morva and John stopped at Skipton for a cup of tea on the way to Melbourne, just as they did three days before…just in case it was an omen.

The whole of Hamilton must have listened to the race and many crammed into the Grand Central Hotel that day to listen to the Cup on the wireless.  Much money was bet on the “local” horse .  That and the chance of a beer on the house were reasons enough to take an interest.  The call, by Ken Howard is online on the following link – 1941 Melbourne Cup Call

As Skipton crossed the line, Myrtle declared “Turn it on for the customers”.

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SKIPTON STABLE SECRECY. (1941, November 9). Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 - 1954), p. 8. Retrieved November 2, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59154373

SKIPTON STABLE SECRECY. (1941, November 9). Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 – 1954), p. 8. Retrieved November 2, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59154373

SKIPTON'S OWNER MISSED CUP. (1941, November 5). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 1. Retrieved November 2, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8214714

SKIPTON’S OWNER MISSED CUP. (1941, November 5). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 1. Retrieved November 2, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8214714

It was not just the money of Hamiltonians the rode on the back of Skipton that day.  The Portland Guardian reported that there were big wins in Portland from bets placed on the “local” horse.

Shipton Wins Rich Double. (1941, November 6). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved November 2, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64402269

Shipton Wins Rich Double. (1941, November 6). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved November 2, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64402269

The win gave Billy Cook his first Melbourne Cup, in his eighth attempt, aged 31.   He won the Cup again in 1945, on board Rainbird.  By the end of his career, Cook had won almost every major race in Australia and had received legend status.  He was inducted in to Racing’s Hall of Fame in 2002.

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Not Easy Horse To Train. (1941, November 5). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved November 2, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article45736493

Not Easy Horse To Train. (1941, November 5). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved November 2, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article45736493

The win was not without controversy.  Punters were angry that in the lead up to the Cup, it was suggested that Skipton was unlikely to run.  The price went out and rumours that a big bet of £25,000 was placed were spreading.  John Kitson denied the rumours insisting he only bet £8000, still a handsome wager in those days,  A Sydney owner was quick to criticise  the secrecy surrounding champion racehorses.

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SKIPTON STABLE SECRECY. (1941, November 9). Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 - 1954), p. 8. Retrieved November 2, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59154373

SKIPTON STABLE SECRECY. (1941, November 9). Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 – 1954), p. 8. Retrieved November 2, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59154373

Back in Hamilton, the town was riding on the back of the Kitson’s success.  A “local” horse had won the cup.  To congratulate the Kitsons, a dinner was held, at the Kitsons’ own hotel.

Hamilton Honours Kitson Family. (1941, November 15). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954), p. 6. Retrieved November 2, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78132418

Hamilton Honours Kitson Family. (1941, November 15). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 – 1954), p. 6. Retrieved November 2, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78132418

The following year Skipton did not start his preparation well, with a disappointing  run in the Mentone Cup.  He followed up with a win in the Stand Handicap, pushing him into Caulfield Cup favouritism. However, he could only manage fifth in the race, with Tranquil Star narrowly winning from Heart’s Desire.  Along with the Caulfield Cup, Tranquil Star won the Caulfield Stakes, WS Cox Plate and the McKinnon Stakes in the same season.

Skipton Doesn't Look Spring Winner. (1942, September 20). Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved November 2, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59171794

Skipton Doesn’t Look Spring Winner. (1942, September 20). Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved November 2, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59171794

Despite the defeat at Caulfield, come Melbourne Cup time Skipton was pushing for favouritism after John Kitson placed a rather healthy wager on Skipton, thus giving a hint that the horse was on target.

HEAVY PLUNGE. (1942, November 14). Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 - 1954), p. 6. Retrieved November 3, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article42367898

HEAVY PLUNGE. (1942, November 14). Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 – 1954), p. 6. Retrieved November 3, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article42367898

The task was ahead of Skipton.  No horse since Archer in 1861/2  had won  consecutive cups and the only horse to have won carrying more than nine stone in the 10 years before was the champion Peter Pan.  Punters were willing to stick with Skipton especially after his excellent lead-up win in the Hotham Handicap carrying 9st 4lb, and as they say, records are made to be broken.

The records remained intact.  In what has become known as the Austerity Melbourne Cup, due to WW2 belt-tightening,  a rank outsider, Colonus got up by seven lengths in heavy conditions. Skipton spent the entire race near the tail of the field.  He was then sent out for a spell before his next tilt at the Cup in 1943.

Skipton returned in the Spring of 1943 with the Caulfield Cup his first goal.  That year, because of an overwhelming number of nominations, there were two divisions of the Caulfield Cup.  The first division was won by a roughie Saint Warden and Skipton, showing some of the class of his three old days, won the second division,  Naturally Melbourne Cup favouritism ensued.

After the win, Myrtle and a generous Hamilton punter donated money to the War Loan effort.

SKIPTON'S WAR LOAN EFFORT. (1943, November 1). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved November 4, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64387175

SKIPTON’S WAR LOAN EFFORT. (1943, November 1). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved November 4, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64387175

MELBOURNE CUP FAVOURITE. (1943, October 27). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), p. 15. Retrieved November 3, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article25984915

MELBOURNE CUP FAVOURITE. (1943, October 27). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), p. 15. Retrieved November 3, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article25984915

Once again, Skipton went into a Melbourne Cup with a chance to make history, as the first horse to win two Melbourne Cups and a Caulfield Cup.  Also, only three other horses had won the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups in the same year.  Coming around the back of the track before the horse entered the straight for the last time, it did look as though Skipton could win, sweeping around the field from a long way back as he made his run.  However, as they entered the straight, he was forced wide and with a large weight, he could only managed a creditable but well beaten fifth, behind another favourite in the race Dark Felt.   Skipton then ran in the Williamstown Cup later in November and ran second to Claudette.

That was the last race for Skipton.  He was brought into the stable in early 1944 for an Autumn preparation, with the Australian Cup in mind.  Unfortunately, in early February, Skipton developed heat in his near side foreleg and trained at the beach for several days to take advantage of the salt water.  However it was soon realised  that the injury was serious and an announcement was made that he would not run in the Australian Cup and later, that he would be retired.

SKIPTON RETIRES. (1944, February 10). News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954), p. 6. Retrieved November 3, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article128393096

SKIPTON RETIRES. (1944, February 10). News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), p. 6. Retrieved November 3, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article128393096

Just over a month later Myrtle Kitson sold Skipton at the Newmarket Sales.  He fetched 1,500 guineas as a stud prospect, the buyer Kooba Stud near Scone, New South Wales.

At some point, around the mid 1940s the Kitsons left Hamilton and moved to Glen Iris, where Myrtle passed away on September 19, 1946.  Myrtle left an estate of over £9,000.

Late in December 1948, news came through the Skipton was dead aged 10, the result of a tragic stable accident.

Turf Notes. (1948, December 31). The Charleville Times (Brisbane, Qld. : 1896 - 1954), p. 8. Retrieved November 3, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article76553267

Melbourne Cup winner dead. (1948, December 23). News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), p. 16. Retrieved November 3, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12988791

Melbourne Cup winner dead. (1948, December 23). News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954), p. 16. Retrieved November 3, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12988791

Turf Notes. (1948, December 31). The Charleville Times (Brisbane, Qld. : 1896 – 1954), p. 8. Retrieved November 3, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article76553267

Underrated Skipton was the last horse to win the Melbourne Cup as a three year old and the last horse to win the Derby/Melbourne Cup, a record that is often forgotten.


A Pleasant Distraction

I’ve been a bit distracted from my usual research/blogging regime of late.  Instead, I’ve been indulging in a feast of Hamilton history.  But I haven’t been to the usual repositories, looking at physical records and photographs. I’ve been on Facebook.

In 2008, I set up a Facebook group, “I’ve Lived in Hamilton, Victoria”.  There were a couple of reasons behind it.  I wanted to connect with other Hamilton people and the search features offered by Facebook then didn’t fully satisfy that.  What I was looking for was a central hub, where Hamiltonions could go, find old friends and share memories of growing up in the town.

I was also interested in the power of Social Media to network.  In those days, Facebook pages didn’t exist, only groups, and if a person joined, that action would show on their timeline, much the same as a page today.  My hope was friends would see that post and they too would join the group and so on.  Well it worked, and within a few months we had 1600 members.  It was pretty amazing really.  The unfortunate thing at that time was that it was difficult to get a conversation going among members and then sustain it.

Facebook being Facebook changed at some point, and groups looked like they were on the way out.  Those that weren’t active faced the axe and the Hamilton group, despite large numbers, was one of those.  Eventually all the members were “delisted” and while the group remained, people had to join again.  Problem was, groups became less visible on profiles and most assumed they were still a member or they simply forgot.  Also, if someone joined, it was no longer displayed on their timeline, making it hard to get the word out.

Over the past year, Facebook groups have found their place again and are again visible on members’ profiles and there are “group suggestions” beside the timeline.  A perfect time to get the group happening again.  With just 70 or so stalwart members, I started posting more often.  Then I turned to Trove and I added photos of Hamilton in days of old.  Well, 70 members soon became 130, then 200 and in a couple of weeks we have reached 1100 members.  The photos got the conversation going and the memories flowing.  Once again Trove helped save the day!

A. MILLER & CO. PTY LTD, GRAY STREET, HAMILTON. Circa 1950s.  Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image No.  H91.142/9 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/122523

A. MILLER & CO. PTY LTD, GRAY STREET, HAMILTON. Circa 1950s. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image No. H91.142/9 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/122523

As I  started to read the hundreds of  new posts and the many associated comments, I realised that what we were creating was an online social history of post-war WW2 Hamilton.  Just about every topic has been covered.  Festivals, businesses, milk bars, schools, football and cricket, marching girls and town characters.  One post with a surprisingly large number of comments and likes was about the underground toilets that were in Thompson Street.  There are photos of buildings, houses, bands, Blue Light Discos and sporting teams.  There are newspaper clippings of advertisements and Hamilton events.

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THE GEORGE HOTEL. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no.http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/64135 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/60456

All pure gold.  To have a response from such a large amount of people across such a cross-section of ages would otherwise be almost impossible.  Even if a “Back to Hamilton” was held and each person in attendance recorded two memories, I don’t think you would get such an in-depth view of Hamilton life during the past 60 years.  It would probably just end in hundreds of references to the underground toilets.  I suppose they were a novelty.

So after getting the ball rolling, the group has taken on a life of its own and I can sit back and read the fabulous memories and share in the reunions.  There are people who have not seen each other for 50 years and lost extended family members have also been found.   Some members are relaying stories to older relatives not on Facebook, then coming back with questions or comments.   It’s been amazing.

Another interesting observation has been how our memory works.  It was photos of Hamilton that triggered memories that people thought were long gone and many have commented how they had forgotten so much but it was all flooding back.  As one memory is dug up, it almost always seems to trigger another, unlocked from the deep recesses of our minds.

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GRAY STREET, HAMILTON. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H32492/2033 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/64135

The group has also given me the opportunity to post about the Harman family of Byaduk, the subject of my thesis.  I have had a wonderful result, with new found cousins and confirmation that those I had suspected were cousins, (Electoral Rolls are my friend) are really my cousins.  Also, I’ve been researching  the Hamilton Botanic Gardens for a project that I can never get around to.  My focus is on the animals housed in the Garden’s zoo but there is very little information available, but I knew the animals at the gardens held a special place for all that grew up in Hamilton before 1980, especially the Rhesus monkeys.  I asked if anyone knew the year the monkeys left the zoo,  and while we still haven’t come up with a definitive year I think it will come.  I can then hit past editions of the Hamilton Spectator for articles about their removal.

So well done to all Hamiltonions past and present who have, like myself, found a pleasant distraction while collaborating to create a wonderful reminder of our past.  I believe people have a genuine interest in local history as seen by the increase in Facebook pages such as “Lost Warrnambool” and “Have You Seen Old Ballaarat Town”.  The content, in a user-friendly format,  is something people can relate to.

It will be interesting to see how our group will evolve. If I had the time, I would like to organise the stories into categories and topics to bring them together in some sort of order.  Also, there are many calls for a “Back to Hamilton” something that hasn’t been held since 1954 when the Queen visited the town.  If the past and present residents of Hamilton could embrace the idea of “Back to…” in the wonderful spirit they have shown with the “I’ve Lived in Hamilton” group, I am sure it would be a great occasion in the history of our hometown.


After Many Days

To really get a feel for a time in history, there is nothing better than a diary, letter, memoir or personal account.  Some of my favourite Western District history books are those from pioneer times, such as “The Diaries of Sarah Midgley and Richard Skilbeck” and James Bonwick’s educational tour of Western Victoria in 1857.  There is another on my list that I haven’t shared with you before, “After Many Day’s: being the reminisces of Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh.  Even better, the book is available online. (See link at end of post)

Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh, born in Ireland in 1837, published his memoir in 1918, when he was 81, written, he claims, after much prodding from his wife, Flora and friends particularly a friend from the later part of his life, writer Walter G. Henderson of Albury.   Much thanks must go to them, because their persuading resulted in a  414 page rollicking yarn, packed with places, names and stories from the first half of Cuthbert’s life.  And there are illustrations.

EARLY MEMORIES. (1925, June 12). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved October 12, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16211009

EARLY MEMORIES. (1925, June 12). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 10. Retrieved October 12, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16211009

This is not just a story of the Western District, but of life in Ireland and Germany during Cuthbert’s childhood.  There is also a wonderful description of his passage on a second-class ticket to Melbourne aboard the “Sussex” in 1853.  Cuthbert spent some time in Melbourne before he went to  the Henty’s Muntham Station (p.90) in the Western District, and his account brings 1850s Melbourne  to life.

He outlines his friendship with Thomas Browne/Rolf Boldrewood author of “Robbery Under Arms “(p 40).  He includes the obituary of his father, Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh, who spent time as a Police Magistrate at Hamilton (p.52).  During his time there, Cuthbert senior, resided at  Correagh at Strathkeller, just north of Hamilton.  (Today, Correagh is in excellent condition and was featured in an issue of Home Life magazine, available online)

There are stories of horse breaking, bushrangers, colonial racing and more.

Some of the Western District identities he met included members of the Henty family, Samuel Pratt Cooke, Acheson Ffrench and the Learmonths.  But there were also stockmen, horse breakers and crack riders.

He associated with Adam Lindsay Gordon (p.165), a person he admired for his riding skill and poetry, and there are several extracts of ALG’s verse.

Cuthbert devoted several pages to George Waines (p177) and the trial, that saw Waines convicted and sentenced to hang for the murders of Casterton couple Robert and Mary Hunt.

After Muntham, Cuthbert travelled to Queensland via Sydney.  On the way he dropped in at the Chirnside’s Mt William Station at the foot of the Grampians.  It is was there he saw the “western mare” Alice Hawthorne, in the days when she was beginning her Cinderella story, transforming from station hack to champion racehorse.

After lengthy reminisces of his time in Queensland, past Rockhampton, Cuthbert then focused on his life in N.S.W where he spent two years as an Anglican minister.  He died in Wellington, N.S.W. in 1925, aged 88, remembered as a pastoral leader.

What the critics said:

At the time of the book’s release, the Sydney Stock and Station Journal described the book as “pure Australian”

GOSSIP. (1918, April 12). The Sydney Stock and Station Journal (NSW : 1896 - 1924), p. 3. Retrieved October 13, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article124218838

GOSSIP. (1918, April 12). The Sydney Stock and Station Journal (NSW : 1896 – 1924), p. 3. Retrieved October 13, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article124218838

When Cuthbert died in 1925,  Walter Henderson wrote of his friend and the book he persuaded Cuthbert to write.

CUTHBERT FETHERSTONHAUGH. (1925, July 15). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved October 13, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16210414

CUTHBERT FETHERSTONHAUGH. (1925, July 15). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 12. Retrieved October 13, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16210414

Read “After Many Days: being the reminiscences of Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh” online


Byaduk Methodist Church Jubilee

With the Hamilton Spectator (1914-1918) now online at Trove, I am finding some good articles about my family members. One of those articles included ggg grandfather James Harman  and the Byaduk Methodist Church Jubilee in May 1914.

I have outlined the history of the Byaduk Methodist Church and the part  James played, in the post M is for….Methodist, and this new find further confirms what I knew.  The Byaduk correspondent remarked that James, “who claims and justly so, to be the father of the movement” in the town was present at the celebration dinner.  James spoke, reminiscing about the early days and his time as a lay preacher.  I wish there had been video cameras in those days.  What I would give for that information.

Some of the local pioneers to return for the Jubilee were Thomas Harper, Samuel Clark, John Poynton.  Daniel Tyers, then 94,  was also in attendance at the dinner, joining 200 others in the Byaduk Mechanics Institute.  The evening had a jam-packed program of speeches, recitation and song.

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METHODIST JUBILEE AT BYADUK. (1914, May 9). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 8. Retrieved September 18, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119828889

METHODIST JUBILEE AT BYADUK. (1914, May 9). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 8. Retrieved September 18, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119828889

BYADUK METHODIST CHURCH

BYADUK METHODIST CHURCH

In 1907, some of the early Byaduk pioneers gathered for a photo outside the Byaduk Methodist Church.  In the back row, 2nd left was Samuel Tyers,  James and Jonathan Harman,  5th and 6th (both were listed as J. Harman, helpful) Thomas Harper, 9th from the left.  Daniel Tyers was In the 2nd row, 5th from the left.

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BYADUK PIONEERS 1907, Photographer G. Earney. Image courtesy of the Hamilton History Centre.


Muntham Station

Oh wow…I just had to share this.  Muntham Station, between Coleraine and Casterton, first settled by the Henty family, is for sale and so significant is the property, the agents have set up a stand alone website, www.munthamstation.com to display this beautiful property.  There is a history, photos, plans and a virtual tour of the homestead.  But hurry.  Expressions of interest for the property close on November 1 and the website will probably disappear.

A YouTube clip has also been made and it gives you an opportunity to see the beautiful countryside that Major Thomas Mitchell named Australia Felix in 1836.  The same countryside Mitchell recommended to the Hentys that saw them travel inland from Portland to see for themselves.  They agreed with the Major’s description and settled at Muntham and neighbouring  Merino Downs.

Coincidentally, the Hamilton Art Gallery is currently hosting an exhibition of the works of colonial artist Thomas Clark.  The accompanying website, Exposing Thomas Clark , displays his main works, including Clark’s landscape of Muntham Station.  The Art Gallery will also be displaying works from other colonial artists they hold in their permanent collection, including Eugene Von Guerard and Nicholas Chevalier.  I’m off to Hamilton soon and a trip to the Hamilton Art Gallery is on the agenda.

Now I’m off to buy a lotto ticket…

MUNTHAM.  Image Courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.  Image no.  H94.200/273

MUNTHAM. Image Courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. Image no. H94.200/273 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/217208


The Vagabond…Out and About in Portland

The first installment of The Vagabond’s Picturesque Victoria in Western Victoria, introduced Portland of 1884 and reflected on the history of the area.   The second installment sees the Vagabond, still in Portland and, on a tour of the town.   He admires the Portland Botanic Gardens, soaks up the atmosphere of the Portland North cemetery and visits the inmates of the Portland Benevolent Asylum.

The first stop was St. Stephens Church, undergoing an extension at the time.  The Vagabond noted the church’s opulence, much of it built from Henty money and a memorial stained glass window giving thanks for their generosity had been installed.

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St Stephens Church, Portland

ST STEPHENS CHURCH

The Vagabond mentioned the left hand end of the church was boarded up for extensions and the ivy that gave the church an aged  appearance.  The image below would have been how the church looked in 1884, before the extension began and the church today (above)

ST STEPHENS CHURCH, PORTLAND (c1880).  Image courtesy of the State Library of South Australia.  Image No.  B 21766/101 http://images.slsa.sa.gov.au/mpcimg/22000/B21766_101.htm

ST STEPHENS CHURCH, PORTLAND (c1880). Image courtesy of the State Library of South Australia. Image No. B 21766/101 http://images.slsa.sa.gov.au/mpcimg/22000/B21766_101.htm

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INTERIOR, ST. STEPHENS CHURCH,

Next, the Botanic gardens, the “pride of Portland”.

PORTLAND BOTANICAL GARDENS

PORTLAND BOTANICAL GARDENS

Local residents enjoyed strawberries growing at the back of the gardens but anyone trying to scale the garden’s fence faced ferocious dogs chained at intervals around the perimeter.

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PORTLAND BOTANIC GARDENS

PORTLAND BOTANIC GARDENS

The time he spent  imbedded at the Melbourne Benevolent Asylum, must have  deepened The Vagabonds’ compassion for the unfortunates residing in such institutions.  His visit to the Portland Benevolent society gives a most interesting insight into the  life of the residents.

Nineteen men and one woman, residents at the time of the Vagabond’s visit, were eating supper of bread and butter and tea.  Many were early arrivals to the colony and most had worked for the Henty family …”poor old fellows, they are remnants of a much despised class, not by any means all bad, good mates to each other, who bore the heat and burden of the early days of colonial life”

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The Old Portland Cemetery had the same effect on the Vagabond as it did on me, even though we visited almost 130 years apart…”I love the place” he declared.

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OLD PORTLAND CEMETERY

OLD PORTLAND CEMETERY

In 1884, if one was to remove the churches and public buildings from Portland, there would be little left, according to the Vagabond.  There were ploughed paddocks in the city centre and cows grazing in the streets.

vaga12The Vagabond considered Mac’s Hotel (below) one of the finest bluestone buildings outside of Melbourne.

MAC'S HOTEL, PORTLAND

MAC’S HOTEL, PORTLAND

Fishing was the main trade in Portland when he visited, but The Vagabond could foresee a day when Portland would resemble Scarborough, England.  He noted the relaxed feel of the town where ladies could visit and not feel they had to change up to four times a day, they even could wear their “oldest gowns”.

PICTURESQUE VICTORIA. (1884, November 18). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 6. Retrieved September 16, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article6061545

PICTURESQUE VICTORIA. (1884, November 18). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 6. Retrieved September 16, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article6061545

The photo below is of Portland’s beach around the 1940s.  While villas weren’t lining the cliff tops as the Vagabond predicted, I think he would have been happy that his prophecy had eventuated in part.

THE BEACH, PORTLAND (ca1940-ca1950) Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria, Image No. H86.98/429 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/84638

THE BEACH, PORTLAND (ca1940-ca1950) Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria, Image No. H86.98/429 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/84638


The Vagabond Rocks the Cradle

With introductions out of the way in an earlier post, let’s join The Vagabond’s tour through the Western District for his  Picturesque Victoria series.  “The Cradle of Victoria No. 1″  was the first of two articles about his first port of call,  Portland.

Prior to reaching Portland, The Vagabond had travelled through parts of eastern Victoria and along the Murray River to Mildura.  He then headed south, arriving in Portland in November 1884, just in time for the Henty Jubilee on November 19, celebrating 50 years since Edward Henty settled at Portland, then widely considered as the first permanent European settler at Portland.   Overlooked was that whaler and sealer William Dutton who was feeling pretty settled in his hut in the years before 1834, growing potatoes between whaling trips…but that’s another story.

The article begins with an extensive history of Portland, from the first Europeans to sight land, up until the 1830s.  He discusses the Portuguese, with a reference to the Mahogany ship, thought buried under the sands of a beach between Port Fairy and Warrnambool.

portport1

The Vagabond then turned his attention to the early 1830s and the arrival of the Hentys. He tells a story that I never tire of, that of the meeting between Edward Henty and Major Thomas Mitchell.   The Vagabonds descriptive style makes his account my favourite to date.

 

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Please excuse my photo of a sketch hanging at Portland’s History House depicting the meeting.

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The last section of The Vagabond’s article describes Portland in 1884, starting with the transport available from Melbourne to Portland.  We can take something from this for our family history research.  We record our ancestors movements  between towns or states, but it is easy to overlook how they may have made the trip or the time it took.   While they seem to teleport on paper, there were more practical methods available.

Aside from bullock wagon, dray or foot, one could travel overland from Melbourne on the train, or take the coastal route on a steamer.  The train trip from Melbourne, with stops at  Geelong, Ballarat, Ararat and Hamilton, cost 45s.  The trip was 13 hours.  The ticket price of the steamer was “ridiculously low” according to The Vagabond, with a cabin priced at 12s 6d for passage only.  Food was extra.  The trip was 24 hours with stops at Warrnambool and Port Fairy.  This was his transport of choice but he does suggest that those with a weaker stomach than his own may suffer “mal de mer”

While in Portland, The Vagabond, stayed at Richmond House, the Henty’s first home turned guest house.  The following sketch, from 1884, the same year The Vagabond visited Portland, shows Richmond House at the top centre.

PORTLAND, PAST AND PRESENT Alfred Martin Ebsworth,c. December 17, 1884.  Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Image no. A/S17/12/84/197 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/91532

PORTLAND, PAST AND PRESENT Alfred Martin Ebsworth,c. December 17, 1884. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Image no. A/S17/12/84/197 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/91532

The Vagabond concludes:

port6

This is another beautifully written article by The Vagabond and if you follow the link, you can read the article in full – “Picturesque Victoria – The Cradle of Victoria No. 1

The Vagabond was good enough to include his sources:

PICTURESQUE VICTORIA. (1884, November 15). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 4. Retrieved August 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article6061393

PICTURESQUE VICTORIA. (1884, November 15). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 4. Retrieved August 25, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article6061393

In my next Vagabond post, he will still be rocking around Portland, with a tour of the town he thought had an “atmosphere of bygone days”.


Introducing…The Vagabond

There was James Bonwick with his tour through the Western District in 1857, colonial artists such as Eugene von Guerard and Samuel Gill and there was poet  Adam Lindsay Gordon.  From each of these sources we can learn about Western District life during the 19th century, its natural features, who the people where and how they lived.

Bonwick’s book Western Victoria, Its’ Geography, Geology, and Social Condition: the narrative of an educational tour in 1857y gives a wonderful insight into the small towns of the Western District, the people he met along the way and the flora, fauna and topography of the land.  A town that received a positive report often had residents with church habits that met Bonwick’s approval.

The colonial artists captured the natural landscape,  homesteads of squatters and life on the diggings.  Von Guerard’s “Old Ballarat as it was in the summer of 1853-4″  is recognised as an accurate depiction of the Ballarat diggings.  If you visit the Art Gallery of Ballarat, allow time to be mesmerised by the original and it’s detail.

Adam Lindsay Gordon in lyrical verse described the rugged limestone coast of the south-east of South Australia, the sea, the bush and colonial horse racing.

Then there was The Vagabond, a newspaper journalist who trekked throughout Victoria in 1884 and brought readers of “The Argus“, and beyond, a picture of country Victoria through his eyes in the series “Picturesque Victoria“.

Over the next few months, I hope to share the  “Picturesque Victoria” articles that relate to Western Victoria as they give us a glimpse of the social history of the district.  Looking at The Vagabond’s life I thought it right to tell you something about him ahead of those articles as I believe that knowing something of the man enhances the reading experience.

Some you may know of The Vagabond and his tour through Western Victoria, but do you really know the him?

[John Stanley James, alias] Julian Thomas [pen name "The Vagabond"] Stewart & Co., e photographer.

[John Stanley James, alias] Julian Thomas [pen name "The Vagabond"] Stewart & Co.,
e photographer.

The Vagabond was the pen name of John Stanley James, alias Julian Thomas.  John Stanley James was born in Staffordshire , England in 1844.  In 1872, he left  England for America, changing  his name to Julian Thomas.  After a failed marriage in Virginia he travelled to Sydney in 1875, then began work at Melbourne’s Argus newspaper as a journalist, a profession he had tried to break into in London during the late 1860s.

James immersed himself into his subjects, taking investigative journalism to the extreme.  In 1876, he began a series of articles for The Argus, later compiled and published as the The Vagabond Papers.   By August 1877, there were three series of “The Vagabond Papers” in publication, with 15,000 copies sold in the colony and also republished in Germany.  The premise behind his articles was to take readers into some of Victoria’s institutions and give an often “behind the scenes” insight.

The first article written was “A Night in a Model Lodging-House” on April 15, 1876 and James, then known as Julian Thomas introduced The Vagabond.

A NIGHT IN THE MODEL LODGING-HOUSE. (1876, April 15). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 5. Retrieved August 7, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article7436975

A NIGHT IN THE MODEL LODGING-HOUSE. (1876, April 15). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 5. Retrieved August 7, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article7436975

The article continues with a vivid description of The Vagabond’s first night in a lodging house.  Two weeks later he published “A Day in the Immigrant’s Home”, followed by titles such as “In a Fashionable Church”.

Three Days in the Benevolent Asylum No 1.” showed the lengths James would go to for a story.  He managed to have himself admitted to the Melbourne Benevolent Asylum and spent three days living the life of an inmate.  Three days in the Benevolent Asylum was nothing when James spent a month in Kew Lunatic Asylum writing the series “A month in Kew Asylum and Yarra Bend”, although as a staff member and not an inmate.

Melbourne Benevolent Asylum (1871) photographer :Charles Nettleton (1826-1902).  Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Victorian Patents Office Copyright Collection Image no. H96.160/2724 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/54841

Melbourne Benevolent Asylum (1871) photographer :Charles Nettleton (1826-1902). Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria Victorian Patents Office Copyright Collection
Image no. H96.160/2724 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/54841

KEW LUNATIC ASYLUM (c 1878-1894) Photographer John William Lindt.  Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.   Image no: H2008.59/25 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/41805

KEW LUNATIC ASYLUM (c 1878-1894) Photographer John William Lindt. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no: H2008.59/25 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/41805

My own favourite is “Morning at Flemington“.  The Vagabond arose early and made his way to the Flemington racetrack to watch trackwork and observe the characters that abounded there.  It was his beautiful  description of the city at an early hour that really had me feeling as though I was there walking through the Fitzroy Gardens.

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MORNING AT FLEMINGTON. (1876, October 30). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 6. Retrieved August 7, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5907653

MORNING AT FLEMINGTON. (1876, October 30). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 6. Retrieved August 7, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5907653

Some of the The Vagabond’s other adventures included “Three Weeks in the Alfred Hospital“, “A Month in Pentridge” and “At a Bazaar”.

The following article from the Warwick Examiner and Times, August 18, 1877 describes a meeting between a notorious bookmaker and The Vagabond with the adage”The pen is mightier than the sword” put to the test.  An interesting point of this article is the line “...he replied, with that exasperating Yankee drawl of his…”.  Yes,  after two years in America, John  James had picked up an accent, presumably with a hint of the south given his time in Virginia.  I do think it may have been more by design than an accident.

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INTERVIEWING THE "VAGABOND.". (1878, September 14). Warwick Examiner and Times (Qld. : 1867 - 1919), p. 3. Retrieved August 9, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article82121617

INTERVIEWING THE “VAGABOND.”. (1878, September 14). Warwick Examiner and Times (Qld. : 1867 – 1919), p. 3. Retrieved August 9, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article82121617

In 1877, James went to Sydney to write for the Sydney Morning Herald and then on to New Zealand, New Caledonia, New Guinea and Fiji writing on his experiences.  Some of those were compiled into a book called Cannibals and Convicts.  Say no more.  He then went further afield writing travel articles for The Argus from China, Japan, Canada and the United States.

By 1884, The Vagabond was back in Melbourne ready to set off on a tour of Victoria to produce a series of articles entitled “Picturesque Victoria“.  The first article was “Picturesque Victoria No.1 - Kilmore”.  Giving the reasons behind his journey, he bid adieu to his responsibilities, including the Shakespeare Society, and with his Australian Handbook in his pocket, he departed Spencer Street Station passing then through the suburbs, by the docks, the factories and the Melbourne Benevolent Society, bound for Kilmore .

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PICTURESQUE VICTORIA. (1884, July 19). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 4. Retrieved August 9, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article6053606

PICTURESQUE VICTORIA. (1884, July 19). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 4. Retrieved August 9, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article6053606

As The Vagabond’s tour around Victoria gained momentum, residents of small towns anticipated a possible visit so he could write a glowing report.  Those towns that he did visit turned out to greet his arrival, celebrating with dinners and gatherings, an extra sweetener .

After the tour of Victoria, James went to the Pacific again, visiting Samoa and Tonga.  From 1890-1892 he was the Victorian Royal Commission on Charities.  In 1896, he died in what his biographer John Barnes describes as “squalor” in his Fitzroy flat.

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DEATH OF A WELL-KNOWN JOURNALIST. (1896, September 5). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 4. Retrieved August 9, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article9183574

DEATH OF A WELL-KNOWN JOURNALIST. (1896, September 5). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 4. Retrieved August 9, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article9183574

The only person that truly knew the Vagabond was John Stanley James himself.   Everyone knew him but no-one really knew him.  Even his own employer, The Argus, possibly fooled by his “Yankee drawl”,  fell into the trap of believing his tales of the past.  This is no more obvious than his obituary.  They reported James was born in Virginia, United States, while The Age, closer to the truth, reported him as a native of Wales.

James was born in Staffordshire and maybe if those at The Argus had access to the marvels of today’s technology, they may have found the Warwickshire birth record of John Stanley James.  Also his 1851 Census record. as a six-year-old  living in Warwickshire with his attorney father Joseph, mother Elizabeth and two siblings.  Or the 1861 England Census when he was living with relatives in Liverpool and working in the family foundry,  Or even the 1871 England Census when John James was back in Warwickshire living with his mother and spinster sisters,himself then 26 with no known occupation.

John Barnes wrote that the true identity of The Vagabond aka Julian Thomas was not known until 1912.  The true identity being his name “John Stanley James” although his birth place is still confused.  He created an enigmatic persona with such skill that he was able to keep up the facade to the grave and beyond.  Long after his death may his literary skill be also celebrated.


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