Tag Archives: The Vagabond

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″


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.

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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:

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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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