Category Archives: Western District History

The Hungry Eagle

I had to share this story with you.

John Kirkwood was the father in law of Sarah Ann Reed, the niece of Susan Reed, wife of James Harman.  While checking his rabbit traps, John found a large eagle caught in a trap.  He took the bird to the Hamilton home of Robert Stapylton Bree on North Boundary road.  Bree chained the raptor in the garden to keep other birds away but he got more than he bargained for with the bird’s voracious appetite.

The Portland Guardian, (50th Year of Publication.) With which is incorporated The Portland Mirror. (1892, May 18). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved June 14, 2012, from

I wonder what happened to the eagle?

Dozens of articles about eagles and hawks caught in rabbit traps abound found at Trove.  Some eagles still flew with the traps attached and one poor bird was reported with a trap attached  for months.


On sad note, 10 years on, in 1902, John Kirkwood succumbed to influenza.  His obituary appeared in The Horsham Times of October 28, 1902.  John had died in the Hamilton Hospital on Wednesday October 22.  On October 31, 1902, the obituary of John’s daughter, 20-year-old Mary Agnes Kirkwood.  She had passed away on  October 26.

OBITUARY. (1902, October 31). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved July 15, 2012, from



A search of Trove found that in 1902 there were reports of an influenza epidemic.  The Horsham Times reported many cases in the Wimmera area.  Such was the outbreak,  it had an effect on The Horsham Times.

Portland’s History House


History House in Portland is the place to go to search for your ancestors who lived or arrived in the harbour town.  Located in the former Portland Town Hall, History House offers research facilities and a small museum.

The museum has many reminders of Portland’s early history, in particular the Henty family.

It is not easy taking a photo of a long plough in a narrow room with a fairly ordinary camera, but  I had to give it a go as this in the one and only Henty plough.  While it is famous for it being the first plough used in Victoria, its journey since those early days is interesting.


Maybe this picture does the plough more justice than my own.

THE FIRST PLOUGH USED IN VICTORIA, BY THE HENTY BROTHERS, OF PORTLAND. (1910, September 10). Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 – 1954), p. 10. Retrieved July 3, 2012, from

This article from the Portland Guardian of November 18, 1935 describes what happened to the plough after it left the Henty’s possession

HENTY’S PLOUGH. (1935, November 18). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved July 3, 2012, from

Hugh Lennon, who had the plough on display at his factory in Spotswood, was the manufacturer of the Lennon plough.  This was the plough of choice of James Harman in  local ploughing matches.  It was also the plough of choice for the Kelly gang when making armour.

The plough eventually returned to Portland in 1970.

The next photo is of a model of the house lived in by Joseph Henry Porter and his wife, Sarah Herbertson, in Gawler Street, Portland.  Joseph constructed the house and Sarah furnished it.  I like the detail, even down to  pickets missing off the fence.

The obituary of Joseph Porter was in the June Passing of the Pioneers.  It mentioned he was known for his fine craftsmanship.


While this isn’t the best photo, I had to share it.  It depicts the meeting of Major Thomas Mitchell and the Henty brothers, a significant time in the history of the Western District.  My post “Ghosts of Yesteryear” tells the story of this chance meeting.


Mary McKillop spent some time in Portland and an exhibit commemorates this, complete with the spires from the original Roman Catholic church in Portland.


The Portland Rocket Shed is next to History House.  The shed was built in 1886 by George Sedgewick who was the gg grandfather of Ann, a follower of this blog.  Fully restored, the shed has a display inside which includes a rocket launcher  used to fire ropes to boats in distress.


For more photos, better than my own, check out ABC South West Victoria’s report  on History House’s renovation in 2010  There was also a report at the time of Mary MacKillop’s canonization

In The News – June 22, 1877

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volcanoes Revisited

I wrote about the volcanoes of Western Victorian and the South-East of South Australia in the post “Western District Volcanoes – Are They Sleeping?”.  It has been a popular topic so I thought I would share this new video found at You Tube about the volcanoes of Mt. Gambier, South Australia by Geoff Oliver.

This is the first in a series Geoff will present on the Volcanic sites in the area including the south-west of Victoria.  I look forward to seeing if Geoff will visit the Harman Valley.

Old Portland Cemetery – Part 2

“The Cemetery is the first object to greet the ascending tourist.  

This is charmingly situated on the top of the cliff overlooking the ocean

This quote is not from one of the tourist guides I collected while in Portland earlier this year.  Rather, it was written 155 years earlier by James Bonwick in his book  “Western Victoria: It’s Geography, Geology and Social Condition”: the Narrative of an Educational Tour in 1857″  (p.98)

One of the older graves in the cemetery is that of William Wheeler who was born in 1776.


The grave of James Fawthrop was of interest to us.  Earlier in the day we had visited Portland’s Maritime Discovery Centre which houses the Portland Lifeboat captained by James Fawthrop.   Fawthrop and his crew were part of the rescue of the steamer “Admella” in 1859.  His heroics are a legendary part of the maritime history of the stretch of coast from the south-west of Victoria to the south-east of South Australia.

After a search of the Victorian Death Index, I found that James Ward was Fawthrop’s stepson.  Fawthrop’s wife, Jane Rosevear, was previously married to James Ward senior who drowned in Tasmania in 1838.


The following is Captain Fawthrop’s obituary from the “Border Watch” of November 20, 1878.

TheDEATH OF CAPT. FAWTHROP. (1878, November 20). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved June 10, 2012, from


William and Sarah Rosevear were the parents of Jane, wife of James Fawthrop and grandparents of James Ward.  William Rosevear was the coxswain aboard the Portland lifeboat with his son-in-law during the “Admella” rescue.


The largest grave in the cemetery belongs to the Trangmar family.  James Trangmar died in 1888 and was a leading Portland identity.  He had been Mayor, a Lieutenant Colonal in the Western Region Artillery and owned the stations “Morgiana”, “Bochara”, and “Violet Creek” all  near Hamilton.  His home in Portland was “Burswood” bought from Edward Henty


In The News – June 1, 1928

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

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

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

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

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


Old Portland Cemetery – Part 1

During our holiday to Portland in January, we visited the North Portland Cemetery also known as the Old Portland Cemetery.  Thanks to a handy brochure I picked up at the Tourist Information Centre (also available online) it was something we could do as a family.

The guide outlines some of the more notable graves in the cemetery. Each of those graves have a number marker.  There are also arrows pointing to the next grave of interest.  This made visiting the cemetery fun and educational for the small research assistant.  Finding each of the numbered graves and reading the corresponding information in the brochure kept his interest on our circumnavigation of the cemetery.

The number one grave is the Robb family memorial.  William was a local stonemason.

Robb Family Grave

Despite fires in the past, the wooden fence around the Rankin grave still stands, the last of its kind in the cemetery.  The grave belongs to Agnes, Margaret and Charles Rankin

Agnes died from blood poisoning in 1875.

UNIVERSITY LAW EXAMINATIONS. (1875, March 17). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 7. Retrieved May 21, 2012, from




Several members of the Haggestton family lie in the Haggestton plot.  Frederick, Sara, Joseph and John Haggestton, the children of Joseph and Mary Haggestton and Joseph and Mary themselves are all buried here. At the time of Joseph senior’s death in 1907, he owned several properties around Portland.  Nineteen properties, including The Royal Hotel, were auctioned on February 20, 1908.   The Haggestton headstone was vandalised, along with others, in 1986.  It was restored by Parker & Sons, a Portland stonemason.


The graves face out over Portland Bay where many of those buried first entered Victoria.

This unusual headstone dates back to 1841, before the cemetery opened.  It belongs to six-year-old Henrietta Earls.  Her mother Harriet was also buried in the plot in 1854.


I have several more photos to share which I will save for a later post.

Western Victoria Remembers

A little while ago I came across a great video on You Tube that I have been saving for a suitable time to share.  This week I found another with a similar theme.  As this is ANZAC Day, I thought it was the perfect time to share the videos.  Each are about small Western Victorian towns remembering those who served in World War 1. One is the story of the restoration and revitalisation of the old and the other, the unveiling of the new.

Beau Nieuwveld’s video was impressive, not only because of the story it told but it was great to see a teenage boy with an interest in his town’s history.  Not only that, his video was the overall winner of  the 2009 10MMM Youth Film Festival held in Hamilton.

Beau’s town is Dartmoor in the south-west of Victoria.  Faced with the dilemma of many other towns, the trees in the Avenue of Honour were deteriorating.  How could the integrity of the Avenue be maintained while ensuring the safety of the residents?

The result is fantastic.  Family members of the soldiers with memorial trees were happy and the town now has a great tourist attraction!  For more information about the Dartmoor Avenue of Honour, check out the Glenelg & Wannon Settlers website

On October 31, 2009, the people of Rupanyup in the Wimmera, celebrated the unveiling of a new memorial to remember local men who served with the 4th Light Horse at Bersheeba on October 31, 1917.  One of those, Colonel James Lawson is given special recognition on the memorial.

I love this video because of the community spirit it depicts.  Rupanyup is a town of under 800 people and I think they were all there on the day.  I am assuming, but can’t be sure,  that those depicting the Light Horse soldiers were members of the Creswick Light Horse Troop,  a fantastic group of people keeping the memory of the Light Horse alive.

To see the horses at the ceremony is moving as one remembers the heroics of not only the soldiers, but also the horses.  The bond between man and horse was deep.


Easter Touring in the Western District

Easter, with its four day holiday, has long been a popular time for people to get away in the car and travel to a holiday destination.  I spent around 20 Easters in Halls Gap, often overflowing with visitors there for the mountains and the ever popular Stawell Gift.  Just tonight, there as been a steady flow of cars passing my house, as they head off for the long weekend.

The early 20th century was no different.  The advent of the car, gave people a new freedom.  Not restricted to railway routes, they could take off in any direction.  The RACV began producing tour maps and providing driving tips.

In 1912, The Argus proclaimed the educational and health benefits of touring in a car.  Autumn, it suggested, was the  appropriate season to travel.

EASTER OUTINGS. CHARM OF AUTUMN TOURING. (1912, April 3). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 10. Retrieved April 5, 2012, from

It may have been 1912, but the roads of the Western District were considered some of the best in the state.  Anyone who has driven the roads of the Western District in recent years, will find they are now some of the worst in the state.  The Western District of today, obviously does not have the same influence in State Parliament as it did in the past.  But I digress.

Four Western District touring routes were suggested by The Argus. They were similar to those travelled today, only the estimated travel times have changed!

EASTER OUTINGS. CHARM OF AUTUMN TOURING. (1912, April 3). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 10. Retrieved April 5, 2012, from

What were those able to afford a motor car driving through the Western District?  Maybe an E.M.F 30hp.

(1912, April 3). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 10. Retrieved April 5, 2012, from

The Sultan of Shelly Beach

The Walk to Shelly Beach

This was going to be a post about our visit to Shelly Beach in January, a trip to rekindle childhood memories of visits there.  Along with photos and an article which described the beauty of the beach,  I had it covered.

However,  as is usually the case, I could not settle at that.  I had to search Trove for more information on Shelly Beach and what I found has given the post a twist.  You will still see photos and the article about the beach, but I will introduce you to a wonderful character who had a link to Shelly Beach in the 1930s.

Firstly, here is part of the article “Beautiful Shelly Beach” that was going to feature.

Beautiful Shelly Beach. (1939, March 30). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved March 26, 2012, from

When I returned to Trove, I was keen to find a photo of Shelly Beach.   What I found was beyond my expectations.

No title. (1933, June 24). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 5. Retrieved March 26, 2012, from

The caption reads:  “These camels are employed in removing grit from Shelly Beach, near Portland.  Each carries two bags each weighing 2cwt. each and makes 15 trips daily over the sandhills.   The owner is over 70 years old and has four wives”.

On Shelly Beach looking toward Bridgewater

Well I couldn’t leave it there.  Back to the Portland Guardian I went to search “camels Shelly Beach”.  From that I discovered a lot more about the mysterious man with the camels.  Jumping ahead two years from the original picture I found the following “Letter to the Editor” from the man himself:

Camels at Portland. (1935, January 24). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 1 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved March 26, 2012, from

From one letter, so much is learnt.   Sultan Aziz, it seems, was giving rides to tourists on the North beach at Portland during the summer and carting shell grit at Shelly Beach during the winter.  He was working for Mr Vivian Jennings, a local carrier.  Why were the camels being used to cart the shell grit?  The next article explains:

CARTING SHELL GRIT. (1933, May 16). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved March 26, 2012, from

Sultan Aziz appears to have been in Portland from at least 1933, but he did travel around the south-west and into South Australia.  In 1934, he and his camels were the star attraction of the Mt. Gambier Tourist Promotion Association parade on February 21, 1934.  Sultan Aziz arrived the day before after travelling along the coast from Portland.

T.P.A. CARNIVAL. (1934, February 20). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved March 26, 2012, from

From this, we now know that the Sultan had a son, Abdul.

Mt. Gambier embraced Aziz, if the front page of the Border Watch on February 22, 1934 was any indication.  My favourite photo was that of the mayor, dressed in cameleers robes, riding one of  Sultan Aziz’s camels.

MAYOR LEADS CARNIVAL PROCESSION ASTRIDE CAMEL. (1934, February 22). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved March 26, 2012, from

There were five photos on the front page that day, all of which included the camels!

Sultan Aziz  spent at least a month in South Australia selling camel rides at the Mt. Gambier Showgrounds.   It was not a profitable exercise as discussed at a meeting of the Mt. Gambier A & H Society in March 1934.

MOUNT GAMBIER A. & H. SOCIETY. (1934, March 3). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved March 26, 2012, from

On his way back to Portland, Aziz called in at Allendale East, south of  Mt. Gambier.  The camels were once again a source of excitement.

REPORTS FROM RURAL CENTRES. (1934, March 20). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), p. 19. Retrieved March 26, 2012, from

In October 1934, the Sultan applied to the Portland Council to have his camels on the South Beach over the summer, however it Council decided he should stay on the North Beach.

Borough Council. (1934, October 4). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved March 27, 2012, from

This takes us to the time of  the “Letter to the Editor” of January 1935.  The Sultan only stayed in Portland another six months, leaving just as another southern winter hit.  He returned home to Broken Hill.  It may well have been a combination of cold weather and the discontent over his camels he spoke of in his letter.  His trip to Portland made  news in Broken Hill’s “Barrier Miner”.

Long Trek On Camels. (1935, October 5). Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 - 1954), p. 7 Edition: SPORTS EDITION. Retrieved March 27, 2012, from

An interesting part of this story is Sultan Aziz’s age.  The photo I found from 1933, gives his age as over 70.  Eight years later in 1941, he was claiming he was 112 which would have made him 104 when the photo on Shelly Beach was taken! I don’t know about that.

"God Is Good" Says Sultan Aziz. (1941, May 16). Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 - 1954), p. 1 Edition: HOME EDITION. Retrieved March 27, 2012, from

A year later he was back in the news, claiming he, at 113 was the oldest person in the Commonwealth.

SULTAN AZIZ CLAIMS TO BE OLDEST MAN IN THE COMMONWEALTH; 113 YEARS AND IS STILL GOING STRONG. (1942, August 13). Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved March 27, 2012, from

Sadly, age did catch up with Sultan Aziz.  He passed away in 1950.  His age was given as 105.

AFGHAN DIES AT 105. (1950, August 16). Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved March 27, 2012, from

Summarizing Sultan Aziz’s life in Australia through the newspaper articles,  I found he was born in Afghanistan and arrived in Albany, Western Australia via India,  around 1885.  His memories from that time included organising a camel race for His Royal Highness, The Duke of York and Cornwall who would, in 1910, become King George V.

An article from the “Northern Times” , Carnarvan , Western Australia on March 23, 1912, sees Aziz still in W.A. However he was selling his camels and then sailing for South Australia to take camels back overland to Carnarvan.  I don’t think he made it all the way back as he ends up in Broken Hill with a carting contract  around that time. Many other cameleers from Afghanistan were camped at Broken Hill.  He carted goods into central Australia with his camels, working for Sir Sidney Kidman.  At one time he claims to have owned up to 200 camels.  In the 65 years he was in Australia, he must have racked up some miles on his camels.  The trip from Broken Hill to Portland alone was over 900 kilometres.

He had a least one son, Abdul Aziz, who accompanied his father on his trip to Victoria.  Abdul attended school while in Portland and went on to serve in WW2.

In his later years, Sultan Aziz was the caretaker of the mosque in Broken Hill and tended his fowls.

Of course, this is mostly information  provided by Sultan Aziz himself and is still to be supported by other sources.

I also did a search for marriages for Sultan Aziz, because I had to know if he did have up to four wives.  However, I did not find a harem, rather a marriage in 1923 to Bigham Kahn at Broken Hill.  This could be Abdul Aziz’s mother.  It is possible that Sultan Aziz had wives he left in Afganistan, which was not unusual for the cameleers.

It really is a great story of another colourful character to find his way into the Western District of Victoria.  I wonder if any of my relatives saw their first camel or paid a penny for a ride on the North Portland Beach.

Further Reading:

If you would like to learn more about the cameleers who helped explorers and pastoralists venture into inland Australia, the website Australia’s Muslim Cameleers is worth a visit.  There is so much information about the Muslim cameleers, including biographies. Yes, Sultan Aziz’s biography is among them.  One interesting fact is that at least 2000 cameleers arrived in Australia during the fifty years from 1870 to 1920 and 20,000 camels!  Most Australians would know Central Australia today has a lot of camels,but would have no idea how and why they are there.

There is also a book  by Phillip Jones and Anna Kenny, Australia’s Muslim Cameleers.  It includes a biographical listing of over 1200 cameleers.

The Age, on January 3, 2012, published an article entitled Afghans, cameleers and the massacre of Broken Hill.  It includes photos of cameleers and a mining registration form belonging to Sultan Aziz.  This was from 1939 and according to his own calculations at the time, he would have been around 110!  There is a photo, so see what you think.

I also located the WW2 service record of Abdul Aziz.  This was sad to read.  Abdul, born in 1923, enlisted in the Australian Military Service in 1942, aged 18 and later the A.I.F. in 1944.  He was sent to Bougainville in 1945 and after only four months, he received life threatening wounds to his leg, thanks to a shell.  He returned to Australia.

Further on in the service record,  I found a letter from 1958 of Thora Aziz’s application to buy a home with help from Legacy.  Her husband Abdul had died in 1951.  He would have been only 28.  Such a short life for the son of a centenarian.

Shelly Beach


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