Category Archives: Western District History

St. Patrick’s Day in Western Victoria

There is plenty of Irish blood flowing through the veins of the people of the  Western District, particularly the south-west of Victoria.  Port Fairy (formally Belfast), Koroit and Killarney in particular saw the settlement of large Irish families.

The earliest Western District  St. Patrick’s Day reference I found was from the Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser, from March 4, 1843.  Enthusiastic preparations were underway for a dinner on March 17th.

LOCAL INTELLIGENCE. (1843, March 4). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876), p. 3. Retrieved March 16, 2012, from

St Patrick’s Day was a public holiday and races were  popular, both horse and human.

HAMILTON. (1858, March 19). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved March 16, 2012, from

In 1869 at Portland, the Rechabite Society fete for the Band of Hope children was a feature of the day.

ST. PATRICK'S DAY. (1869, March 18). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS. Retrieved March 16, 2012, from

The Horsham Times of March 20, 1903, explains the reason behind the wearing of a green ribbon on St. Patrick’s Day and the story of St Patrick.  The people of Horsham went to the races on March 17, 1903.

ST. PATRICK'S DAY. (1903, March 20). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved March 16, 2012, from

At Warrnambool, in 1914, plans were underway for the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration which included a parade in the afternoon and a concert in the evening.

ST. PATRICK'S DAY. (1914, March 14). Warrnambool Standard (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved March 16, 2012, from

Finally, a reporter for the  “Star” in Ballarat in 1858, observed that while the English barely remembered St. George’s day and the Scots were not interested in Halloween, the Irish would never let St Patrick’s Day be forgotten.  The Irish miners from those time would be pleased to see St. Patrick’s day is still celebrated today, minus the public holiday.

Local and General News. (1858, March 18). The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), p. 3. Retrieved March 17, 2012, from
MLA citation

Another “What the Dickens?” Moment

To mark the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, I posted about Alfred Tennyson Dickens who lived in my hometown of Hamilton.  Entitled “What the Dickens?“, the post describes my amazement that a son of Charles Dickens could have lived in Hamilton.  Alfred left the town due to the accidental death of his wife Jessie.

Yesterday I was in Hamilton for several reasons, one of which was to visit the Hamilton Old Cemetery in search of the grave of Jessie Dickens and as a result, I had another “What the Dickens?” moment.

My visits to Hamilton are infrequent day trips so I try to cram in as much as possible. Visits to the cemetery are quick, usually to search for a specific grave or graves. Yesterday was no different, except I had absolutely no idea where in the cemetery Jesse was buried.  With Mum, we headed to the oldest and biggest graves.

We found the grave quicker than expected.  It turns out  the grave of Jessie Dickens is immediately behind my gg grandparents Richard Diwell and Elizabeth Jelly who I have posted about before.  We couldn’t believe we had previously visited the Diwell plot before, unaware the grave of the daughter-in-law of Charles Dickens was right behind. As we were earlier unaware of the Dickens link to Hamilton, we had not made the connection.

What I couldn’t believe was that I had missed the grave immediately behind Jessie’s. It was that of Stephen George Henty one of the Henty brothers, Victoria’s first settlers.  Stephen, thought to be the most influential of the brothers, was the first to settle inland from Portland, at Muntham, Merino Downs and Sandford stations.



Both the Diwell and Dickens headstones were chosen by heartbroken husbands, shattered by their wives premature deaths. Jessie was only 29, thrown from a horse-drawn carriage on Portland Road in 1878 and Elizabeth died at 44 due to complications of childbirth in 1900. I have updated the “What the Dickens?” post with a photo of Jessie’s grave.

When I came home I checked the photos I already had of the Diwell grave, and sure enough, you can see the two other graves in the background.  One of these photos appears on the post “Elizabeth Ann Jelly“.

The thing that struck me was that within a distance of about 6 metres lay the remains of 10 people.  Great Victorian pioneers, Stephen George Henty and wife Jane and their son, Richmond; the wife of the son of one of the greatest novelists of all time and my gg grandparents, Richard and Elizabeth Diwell and four of their children, Ralph, Rebecca, Ernest and an unnamed baby.  Wow!


New Site – Settlers in the Glenelg & Wannon Region of SW Victoria

Today I heard the South West Victorian content on the Ballarat & District Genealogical Society website now has a stand alone site.  Entitled “Settlers in the Glenelg & Wannon Region of SW Victoria” there is plenty of information for those with Western District families.  Hosted by Daryl Povey, I have used the site so much in it’s former guise.  Daryl intends to keep expanding it too. Some of what you can find includes:

  • Articles
  • Maps
  • Town Histories
  • WW1 Memorials
  • Pastoral Runs
  • Links, lots of them

I first “met” Daryl through the Rootsweb Western District of Victoria mailing list over 10 years ago and I quickly found he has a vast knowledge of Western Victorian history.  If anyone has a question for the list, Daryl is never far away with an answer.  He has helped me out a number of times.  It is also worth joining the mailing list if you have Western District links.  It doesn’t have as much traffic as it used to, social media has something to do with that, but you will find some wonderful people like Daryl, just an email away willing to help with your queries.

As a result of the changes, the Casterton & District Historical Society now has a new link.  I have updated my Western District Links page with the new sites.

Back to Hamilton February 24, 1923

After months of planning, Saturday February 24, 1923 was the first day of the “Back to Hamilton” celebrations, an event which ran until the following Sunday, March 3.

"BACK TO HAMILTON.". (1923, February 19). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved February 21, 2012, from

A variety of activities were planned including band recitals, back to school visits, ancient and modern dance socials and terrier coursing.

Visits to beauty spots around Hamilton were a feature as were “picture entertainments” .  I wonder if that included films of “Beauty Spots” as proposed in the following article.  Such a film was discussed during a meeting of the National Roads Association who were looking at development of roads through the Grampians to enhance tourism .  It was thought that a  film would be a way to show off the area and reinforce that good roads were necessary throughout the Grampians.  It was suggested the film be screened during the “Back to Hamilton” celebrations.

Roads to Grampians. (1923, January 30). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved February 23, 2012, from

Over the first weekend, Hamilton was full and visitors were enjoying the celebrations in fine weather.

BACK TO HAMILTON. (1923, February 26). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved February 21, 2012, from

Many visitors arrived by train and were welcomed by bands playing “Home, Sweet Home”

"BACK TO HAMILTON.". (1923, February 27). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 11. Retrieved February 23, 2012, from

Crowds gathered in the Hamilton Botanic Gardens to listen to band recitals in the bandstand on Sunday February 25.  On the following Tuesday, children gathered in the gardens for sports.


Councillor Noske spoke to the gathering declaring “Hamilton was destined to become a great town” and the council’s focus was on closer settlement.  A parade was held on the Tuesday afternoon which included Thomas Cawker of Casterton driving a four-in-hand coach, old pioneers his passengers.

Back to Hamilton. (1923, February 28). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 14. Retrieved February 23, 2012, from

The “Back to Hamilton” was a roaring success, with a profit of £189/11/9.  A very healthy sum for an event which one would imagine was not for profit.  I wonder where the money ended up?

Miscellaneous. (1923, April 9). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved February 23, 2012, from

It was during the following year, 1924, when a committee  formed to organize a “Back to Horsham”, gave some clue how such a big profit came about.  While a similar event in Stawell was mostly subsidized,  Hamilton visitors were charged for many events, including a trip to a dry Wannon Falls.

Back to Horsham. (1924, August 5). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved February 23, 2012, from

In The News – February 8 – February 13, 1901

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This photograph gives us some idea of the devastation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What the Dickens?

Today marks 200 years since the birth of writer Charles Dickens.  Growing up in Hamilton in the 1970s and 80s my limited diet of Dickens consisted of a production of “Oliver” circa 1978 by the local theatre group and repeats of an old version of “A Christmas Carol” on one of the two TV channels. Oh, and there was a street in Hamilton called Dickens Street, presumably named after Charles himself.    As there is a Burns, Tennyson, Shakespeare, Byron and Chaucer Street in Hamilton, it made sense to think Dickens Street was part of the theme the early town leaders had  happening.  Or did it?  Those other guys are poets anyway.

Having missed a copy of the first edition of a book by Hamilton researcher John McKay in 2007,  The Streets of Hamilton , Western Victoria,  Australia: A History of the People behind the Names, which had a limited print run, I was lucky enough to have Dad snare a copy of the revised 2nd edition in 2009.  It is a terrific book, and as I am familiar with all the street names, it was interesting to read who the streets were named after, with some surprises.

The biggest of those was that Dickens Street, Hamilton was not named after Charles Dickens, rather his son Alfred D’Orsay Tennyson Dickens.  Why?  Because he lived in Hamilton? What?  The son of one of the world’s most famous novelists could not have lived in Hamilton, my hometown Hamilton, a million miles from the world of Charles Dickens.

Unbelievable but true.  In fact, I find it a little mind-boggling that Alfred Dickens walked the streets of Hamilton 100 years before I did.

Alfred came to be in Australia as his father has sent him off to make his fortune, just as he did with his youngest son Edward Bulwer Lytton Dickens (aka “Plorn”), who lived in New South Wales.

UNLUCKY PLORN DICKENS. (1939, November 4). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 13. Retrieved February 6, 2012, from

Alfred’s travels led him to Hamilton where he set up an auctioneering business with Robert Stapylton Bree known as Bree, Dickens and Co.  They were in partnership from 1875-1882.

John McKay mentions a property at 32 Collins Street, Hamilton  which Alfred rented before building his own home next door.  The house is very familiar to me and I have been along the street  many times, so to think that the son of Dickens lived there is almost unbelievable.

It was an accident which claimed the life of his wife, Jessie Devlin, that saw Alfred Dickens leave Hamilton.

(1878, December 23). The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 – 1889), p. 5. Retrieved February 6, 2012, from


Alfred packed up his two daughters and went to Melbourne.  He was known for his elocution skills and he began giving lectures on his father’s works.  It was on a trip to New York as  part of a speaking tour to England and the U.S. that Alfred died.

MR. ALFRED T. DICKENS. (1912, January 4). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 7. Retrieved February 6, 2012, from

First Issue, August 20, 1842. (1912, January 5). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved February 6, 2012, from

I feel a bit ripped off that it took so long to find out about Hamilton’s brush with Charles Dickens.  But I feel I am not alone.  There would not be many people who either live or have lived in Hamilton that  would know the story of Alfred, except for local historians and those who have read John McKay’s book, of course.  Maybe we would know more of him if he had lived out his years in Hamilton, which it appeared he was preparing to do when Jessie met her death.  So on this day, the birthday of Charles Dickens, let us also remember Alfred and his time in the Western District.

St Stephen’s Church, Portland

During our recent trip to Portland, while the fish were biting, I managed to sneak away for a walk around the town of Portland.

One building I visited was St Stephen’s Anglican Church on the corner of  Julia and Percy Streets.

St Stephens Church Portland

The foundation stone was laid on March 24, 1855.

St Stephens Church Foundation Stone

The Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser reported on the laying of the foundation stone.

Local Intelligence. (1855, March 26). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved February 3, 2012, from

I wonder if the reporter still had a job after overlooking the lunch that followed the ceremony.

I was impressed that the organisers of the day were able to secure Lieutenant Governor of the Colony, Sir Charles Hotham for the event.  However, after reading some articles about Hotham at Trove, and fitting the Portland visit into his timeline, I realised then he probably was trying to get as far away from Melbourne as possible.  The heat was on.  I would also imagine the Henty brothers’ connection to the church may have also been a factor.  Incidentally, Hotham was dead by the year’s end, having caught a chill, which exacerbated his already failing health.  This extract was published in the Empire (Sydney 1850-1875) on the same day as the report on the foundation stone ceremony and the tone is similar to other reports on Hotham at the time.

VICTORIA,. (1855, March 26). Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1875), p. 5. Retrieved February 3, 2012, from

Despite the church receiving a bell in 1864 from Stephen Henty, it was not until 1907 that the bell was hung.

St. Stephens' Church Bell. (1907, July 5). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved February 3, 2012, from

Some histories of the bell may tell a different story of the bell’s origins as local historian Noel F. Learmonth had to admit in his article of October 29, 1951.  After reconfirming the story from 1907 article, he went on to say:

ST. STEPHEN'S BELL. (1951, October 29). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 4 Edition: MIDDAY.. Retrieved February 3, 2012, from

Entrance of St Stephen's Church, Portland

A SHORT HISTORY OF ST STEPHEN'S CHURCH FROM 1869 TO THE PRESENT DAY. (1943, August 30). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 4 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved February 3, 2012, from

I wish I had read this article before I visited.  I would have like to have seen Stephen Henty’s stained glass window.

Interior of St Stephen's Church

The organ on the wall of the altar has been in place since 1882.

In 1953, the church celebrated its 97th anniversary.  The Portland Guardian of May 14, reported on the event and included an extract from one of Noel Learmonth’s books  “The Portland Bay Settlement”.  A nice touch was when the congregation sang “Happy Birthday” to the church.

St. Stephen's Church 97th Anniversary celebrated. (1953, May 14). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: MIDDAY. Retrieved February 3, 2012, from

If you are interested in more history of the St Stephen’s Church, an article from the Portland Guardian of August 30, 1943, “A Short History of St Stephen’s Church from 1869 to Present Day” is worth a look.  It also includes a list of the 1943 members of the Ladies Guild.

In the News – January 19, 1944

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cape Nelson Lighthouse

The Cape Nelson Lighthouse was fully operational in 1884, but calls for its construction came long before.  One of the earliest references I have found to mention a lighthouse at Cape Nelson was in The Argus of January 7, 1864.

(1864, January 7). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 5. Retrieved January 12, 2012, from

On August 8, 1876, the Portland Guardian expressed frustration at the Government not following though on a promise to build the lighthouse.

LIGHTS ON OUR COAST. (1876, August 8). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved January 12, 2012, from

Coastline below the lighthouse

In 1879, the Portland Guardian considered the continual delaying of the lighthouse construction as criminal.

The Guardian. (1879, May 1). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: MORNINGS.. Retrieved January 12, 2012, from

Finally, in 1882, tenders were called for.  The Portland Guardian made the announcement on March 30, 1882 and the article in full explained the plans for the proposed lighthouse in detail.

THE CAPE NELSON LIGHTHOUSE. (1882, March 30). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: MORNING.. Retrieved January 12, 2012, from

Work began later in 1882, but was impeded by strong winds and the lack of skilled workers.  The Portland Guardian offered some great articles at this time outlining the progress of construction.  An article from December 28, 1882 describes the construction of the wall and the assistant lighthouse keeper’s house. Another on July 24, 1883, describes the job of sourcing the stone for the job and talks of a lift that would be used to aid the construction of the tower.

On Monday July 7, 1884 the Cape Nelson Lighthouse was lit for the first time.  The joint honour was given to the then Mayor of Portland, Mr P.W. Shevill and former mayor Mr W.T. Pile who had played a big part in the project getting off the ground.  A dinner was held that evening at Mac’s Hotel in Portland to celebrate.

THE LIGHTING UP OF THE NEW PHAROS ON CAPE NELSON. (1884, July 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 6. Retrieved January 12, 2012, from

An article from the Portland Guardian of July 8, thanks the contractors Messrs. Horne and Slingo, and looks at the history of the lighthouse from the time it was first determined a lighthouse was required, to the first lighting of the lamp on July 7, 1884.

The first Lighthouse keeper at Cape Nelson was William Fish.  His assistant was Henry Murray and the junior assistant, Thomas MacBain.

THE GOVERNMENT GAZETTE. (1884, September 6). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 12. Retrieved January 13, 2012, from

Lighthouse Keeper's residence - Cape Nelson

Assistant Lighthouse keeper's Residence

Today, on the road to Cape Nelson and while at the lighthouse, it is difficult to avoid the presence of wind turbines.  In a strange way, they look almost graceful on the landscape, but I am not to sure what William Fish would have made of them.

The Old and the New

FURTHER READING:  There were some other articles about the Cape Nelson Lighthouse which I did want to include, but I thought I would include the links to them instead.

Portland Guardian – October 7, 1882 – A WALK FROM PORTLAND TO THE CAPE NELSON LIGHTHOUSE SITE –  This article written by the “Traveller” describes a walk from Portland to Cape Nelson to inspect the site of the proposed lighthouse, a round trip of about 24 kilometres.

Portland Guardian – August 19, 1920 - BEACON OF THE NIGHT – “Openlight” describes a visit to the Lighthouse, including a climb to the top.  There are also references to former lighthouse keepers at Cape Nelson, including William Fish.

Portland Guardian – October 3, 1927 – CAPE NELSON LIGHTHOUSE – This article tells of the role of parliamentarian Peter Lalor, of Eureka Stockade fame, in the eventual approval of a lighthouse at Cape Nelson.

Portland Guardian – March 26, 1931 – CAPE NELSON AND ITS LIGHTHOUSE – The correspondent “W.H.M” tells of a visit to the Cape Nelson Lighthouse.  I found this article particularly interesting as it reports on the children of the lighthouse.  He talks of Frank Piper, a boy of around nine, with sight in only one eye, who was educated by correspondence.  A reference was made to an article in The Argus, earlier in 1931, by a Mr Tate.  I managed to track down the article and found it was written by a Frank Tate and appeared in The Argus on February 28, 1931, under the title – OUTBACK PUPILS – A MODERN DEVELOPMENT IN EDUCATION.  This too, was an interesting article discussing early distance education from the time it was introduced in Victoria in 1914 and after in other states.  He states over 13000 students were receiving their school via correspondence in 1931, with many having not seen the inside of a classroom.  Both articles touch on the loneliness of children living in remote places.  Frank Piper did not see another child until he was six years old and became very emotional when he did, according to his mother.

Portland Guardian – June 15, 1939 – CAPE NELSON LIGHTHOUSE – This article recounts the laying of the lighthouse foundation stone at Cape Nelson in 1883 and a time capsule buried within.

Portland Guardian – July 12, 1951 - NATURE NOTES – B.E. Carthew reports on a scrapbook kept by Frank Row, which  documents the life of former Portland mayor William Pile, one of the inaugural lamp lighters at the Cape Nelson Lighthouse.  A clipping from the scrapbook was from the opening of the lighthouse in 1884 and it gives further insight into the day.  There is also a list of lighthouse keepers from 1917 thorough to 1951.

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


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 159 other followers

%d bloggers like this: