Category Archives: Western District History

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.

 

port2port3

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”.


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