Tag Archives: Hamilton

Last Ride

Each regiment formed upon a squadron frontage in three lines from 300 to 500 yards apart, and every man was restless, excited, and resolute for victory.

At 4.30 the two regiments moved off at a trot. Surprise and speed were their one chance, so no time was lost in breaking into a gallop. For what seemed to be a space of minutes the Turkish fire ceased, as if the garrison was wondering what the approaching horsemen had in mind. Then swiftly realising that they were out for business, the whole line burst into a flame of fire.

But the Australians were not to be denied, much less were their glorious chargers in the mood to hesitate. As if entering into the spirit of the great game, with ears pricked and manes flashing back, they headed in a wild scamper into the setting sun.

As they reached the Turkish front line trenches, the leading troopers dug in their spurs and their mounts cleared the obstacle in their stride”   

P.Goldensted. (November 11, 1933). The Sydney Morning Herald, p11 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17023181.

The outcome, achieved in just under 60 minutes of wild riding,sheer bravery and maybe a touch of madness, saw the 4th Light Horse Brigade, consisting of the 4th and 12th Light Horse Regiments, capture Beersheba in one of the most important offensives of  WW1.

Eight hundred Australian Light Horsemen waited on a ridge about six kilometres from the town of Beersheba, hidden from the Turkish troops.  At 4.30pm on October 31, 1917, under the orders of Lieutenant General Harry Chauvel, they moved forward, first at a walk, then a trot, gradually quickening until the order of “CHARGE” was given, and 800 horsemen urged their horses, tired and thirsty from travelling overnight, into a gallop.

THE CHARGE AT BEERSHEBA.  Image courtesy of the Australian WAr Memorial.  Image No, A02684  http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/A02684/

THE CHARGE AT BEERSHEBA. Image courtesy of the Australian WAr Memorial. Image No, A02684 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/A02684/

The Turks, expecting the Australians to dismount and fight one on one at the first trench, watched with surprise as horsemen, with only bayonets in hand, rode resolutely with no intention of stopping.  They cleared the first trench, then the second. As the first squadron approached the third trench and dismounted,  gun fire raining upon them, a bullet hit a 28-year-old farmer from Byaduk in the Western District and he died where he fell.

Walter Rodney Kinghorn, the youngest child in a family of 12, was born in Byaduk in 1888 to Francis Kinghorn and Elizabeth White.  Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914 and 20 days later at Broadmeadows, 26-year-old Walter Kinghorn enlisted, one of the first from the Hamilton district to do so.  Prior to that, life for unmarried Walter consisted of farm work at Byaduk, like his father and brothers before him.  His future had looked mapped out for him, but with no wife or children, the offer to see the world was all too enticing.

On August 22 1914, the people of Hamilton demonstrated the patriotic feelings that abounded as they bid farewell to what they then thought was the remaining quota of Hamilton district volunteers preparing for departure overseas.  Those in the streets that day described the scene as “stirring”.

THE EXPEDITIONARY FORCE. (1914, August 22). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 6. Retrieved April 19, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119865290

THE EXPEDITIONARY FORCE. (1914, August 22). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 6. Retrieved April 19, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119865290

It was not just men leaving Hamilton.  Fourteen horses, donated by prominent local breeders, including James Learmonth of Melville Forest, also said goodbye to their breeding grounds and like the men, were oblivious to what lay ahead of them.

The mood was buoyant and locals provided gifts for the men including cigarettes and a box of cigars, from Mr Short, brother-in-law of Private Maurice Tilley.  The parade moved along the streets of Hamilton to the Town Hall, accompanied by the Hamilton Pipe Band.

THE EXPEDITIONARY FORCE. (1914, August 22). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 6. Retrieved April 19, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119865290

THE EXPEDITIONARY FORCE. (1914, August 22). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 6. Retrieved April 19, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119865290

 

Walter spent time training at the Broadmeadows Camp until  October 19, 1914 when the men and horses of the 4th Light Horse sailed aboard the steamer HMAT Wiltshire bound for Egypt.  With him were Tom Henderson, Maurice Tilley and William Niven of Hamilton and John Francis of Yulecart.

Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.  Image No. A04186  http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/A04186/

HMAT WILTSHIRE. Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Image No. A04186 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/A04186/

 

FEEDING HORSES OF THE 4TH LIGHT HORSE ON BOARD HMAT WILTSHIRE. Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.  Image no. PS0008 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/PS0008/

FEEDING HORSES OF THE 4TH LIGHT HORSE ON BOARD SS WILTSHIRE. Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Image no. PS0008 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/PS0008/

They arrived at Port Said, Egypt on December 10, 1914 and work began to unload the horses and set up camp.

THE 4TH LIGHT HORSE UNLOADING AT .  Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.  Image no.  PS0384 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/PS0384/

THE 4TH LIGHT HORSE UNLOADING AT PORT SAID, EGYPT. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Image no. PS0384 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/PS0384/

 

Walter Kinghorn’s service record gives no clue to his whereabouts from the time the steamer docked in December 1914 until January 2, 1916 when he was recorded as being in Heliopolis.  The only other listing was that he was a driver with 4th Light Horse Transport from the time of his enlistment until July 5, 1916.

4th LIGHT HORSE TRANSPORT.  Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.  Image no.  B00752 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/B00752/

4th LIGHT HORSE TRANSPORT. Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Image no. B00752 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/B00752/

If Walter remained with the 4th Light Horse after their arrival, he would have travelled with them to Gallipoli during May 1915, minus the horses, as infantry reinforcements.  The regiment spent six months in the trenches at ANZAC Cove before returning to Egypt to discover the regiment would be split up.  Horses had limitations in the desert with water supplies an ongoing concern.  Two squadrons left for France, while the rest remained around the Suez Canal.

Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial Image no. PS0800 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/PS0800/

Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial Image no. PS0800 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/PS0800/

Walter spent time at the 4th Light Horse Regiment Headquarters at Heliopolis before falling ill late in May, 1916.  He spent a few weeks in hospital before joining the 1st Light Horse for a month at Tel-El-Kebir.  Then on to the  1st Double Squadron at Serapeum, Egypt in July, where he remained for four months.

There was still reshuffling among the Light Horse regiments and the 4th Light Horse joined with the Imperial Camel Corps to form the 3rd Camel Regiment at El Ferdan, Egypt in November 1916. Walter was with the camel regiment for three months.  On December 27, 1916, Henry Langtip wrote in his diary “Got camels issued today.  I don’t like them at all but I suppose one will get used to them“, but the following day…”On camels for the first time today and it was great fun as several fell off”.

4th LIGHT HORSE REGIMENT BATHING HORSES & CAMELS,  MARAKEB, PALESTINE, 1917.  Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial Image No. J00425 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/J00425/

4th LIGHT HORSE REGIMENT BATHING HORSES & CAMELS, MARAKEB, PALESTINE, 1917. Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial Image No. J00425 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/J00425/

 

With further reorganization to the mounted brigades in early March 1917, Walter returned to his role as a driver with the 4th Light Horse Transport, then camped at Ferry Post on the Suez Canal.  He was also promoted to Lance Corporal.   For some reason, at his own request, Walter reverted from driver to trooper on May 26, 1917 while in Tel El Fara, Palestine.  That decision may have sealed his fate.

4th Light Horse in Palestine c 1915.  Image courtesy of Picture Queensland, State Library of Queensland Image no. 182314 http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/47940236

4th Light Horse in Palestine c 1915. Image courtesy of Picture Queensland, State Library of Queensland Image no. 182314 http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/47940236

 

In the months leading up to the attack on Beersheba, on two occasions the Allies had unsuccessfully tried to take Gaza but a different tack was in the planning.  The Light Horse would come from a another direction, the East.

Harry Langtip wrote on Sunday October 28, 1917, “We are ready  to move out to attack Beersheba at a moments notice.  We have had a lecture from the Colonel and he tells us that we are going 30 miles tonight and 30 miles again the next night” (p37 of transcript).

On October 31 he wrote “We rode all night to get right around Beersheba, 32 miles in all…Our horses ready to go into the line to attack within the next few minutes.  It was a terrible ride in heavy dust all the way.  The horses have still got the saddles on and I don’t know when they will get them off…”

 

 

The Road to Beersheba (Oct 1917).  Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial Image no.  A02788  A02788

THE ROAD TO BEERSHEBA (Oct 1917). Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial Image no. A02788 A02788

 

Soon they were on the move as the charge began.  Aloysius Cotter of the 4th Light Horse, wrote home  to his sister in Gippsland about the charge.  He recounted burying his head in his horse’s mane as they galloped directly into the barrage.

OUR SOLDIERS. LETTER FROM PALESTINE. (1918, February 28). Foster Mirror and South Gippsland Shire Advocate (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129511784

OUR SOLDIERS. LETTER FROM PALESTINE. (1918, February 28). Foster Mirror and South Gippsland Shire Advocate (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 3. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129511784

Thomas Hoskisson, of the 12th Light Horse Regiment wrote home to his brother in N.S.W. about his experience.

HOW THE LIGHT HORSE FOUGHT IN THE CAPTURE OF BEERSHEBA. (1918, December 5). Camden News (NSW : 1895 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article136790912

HOW THE LIGHT HORSE FOUGHT IN THE CAPTURE OF BEERSHEBA. (1918, December 5). Camden News (NSW : 1895 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article136790912

 

Walter Kinghorn was one of the brave troopers at the head of the charge.  His father Francis received a letter from Major James Lawson, a hotel keeper from Rupanyup prior to the war, describing  Walter’s last ride.

THE LATE LANCE-CORPORAL WALTER KINGHORN. (1918, May 9). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 4. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119501800

THE LATE LANCE-CORPORAL WALTER KINGHORN. (1918, May 9). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 4. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119501800

As members of the 4th Light Horse dismounted and fought the Turkish soldiers in the trenches, the 12th Light Horse passed them by and continued on to Beersheba clearing the way for the remaining squadrons to move forward, resulting in the capture of the town.  Horses wasted no time drinking from the wells, another advantage of taking Beersheba.  Some horses that had survived the grueling gallop, dropped dead from exhaustion after drinking.  Behind them, on the path they had travelled lay fallen horses, taken down from underneath their riders.  Considering the number of troops involved and the risk taken, the casualties were considered light with 31 men killed and 36 wounded.  The loss of horses was higher, with 70 killed and at least 70 wounded.

Seven other men died at the same trench as Walter from Troopers to Officers , and they were buried close to where they fell.  Eight white crosses marked their graves.

Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.  Image no. H15569  http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/H15569/

Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Image no. H15569 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/H15569/

 

The 4th Light Horse Quarter Master Sergeant James French managed to craft a memorial plaque for the grave site, using scrap metal, the debris of war.  During the 1920s, the plaque was donated to the Australian War Memorial, but not before approval was given by the eight families.

 

Memorial at Beersheba. (1918, May 14). Gippsland Farmers Journal (Traralgon, Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88057978

Memorial at Beersheba. (1918, May 14). Gippsland Farmers Journal (Traralgon, Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88057978

 

Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.  Image no. H15570  http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/H15570/

Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Image no. H15570 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/H15570/

Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial Image no.  RELAWM06330  http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/RELAWM06330/

Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial Image no. RELAWM06330 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/RELAWM06330/

He may have been thousands of miles from home when he died,  but a touch of Byaduk, family and friends was not far away from Walter.  Also in Palestine was the No. 1 Squadron of the Australian Flying Corp (A.F.C.) and among the ranks was Charles Harman, Walter’s brother-in-law.

 

No. 1 Squadron Mechanics at work in Palestine. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.  Image no.B01646  http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/B01646/

No. 1 Squadron Mechanics at work in Palestine. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Image no.B01646 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/B01646/

The A.F.C.’s role in Palestine was mainly surveillance, taking photos of the war front and military objectives, such as this photo above Beersheba.

Aireal View of Beersheba taken from the plane of No 1 Squadron AFC.  Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.  Image no. B02020 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/B02020/

Aireal View of Beersheba taken from the plane of No 1 Squadron AFC. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Image no. B02020 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/B02020/

 

Charles Harman, 10 years older than Walter, married Walter’s eldest sister Catherine in 1905, but he would have known Walter all of his life.  After all, Charles’s grandfather James Harman and the Kinghorns had neighboring properties and in 1907, James and Jonathan Harman stood with Frank and Elizabeth Kinghorn for a photograph with other Byaduk pioneers.  The two families had known each other for 50 years.  Even while they were overseas, letters to Walter and Charles would have told them the news of the marriage of Walter’s brother David Kinghorn to Charles’ cousin, Charlotte Harman in 1915.

Charles Harman was a Sergeant with the A.F.C. No. 1 Squadron mechanics.  The mechanics made a memorial plaque and Charles erected it on Walter’s grave.  A touching gesture and most likely one of the most difficult times of Charles’ war service.  During the 1920s, the plaque was returned to the Kinghorn family after Walter and the other men were exhumed and buried at the Beersheba War Cemetery.

Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.  Image No.

MEMORIAL PLAQUE MADE BY THE MECHANICS OF THE NO. 1 SQUADRON AFC Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Image No. B02143 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/B02143/

 

In contrast to the deserts of Palestine, back at home in Western Victoria, the spring grass was abundant, lambs were fattening and the local P&A Agricultural show season was underway.  News of Walter’s death, however, began to reverberate from Byaduk by mid November, 1917.  His death was felt as far away Trawalla, west of Ballarat,  home to Walter’s sister Flora. Reports appeared in both the Ballarat Courier and the Ripponshire Advocate.

FOR THE EMPIRE. (1917, November 17). Riponshire Advocate (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119573918

FOR THE EMPIRE. (1917, November 17). Riponshire Advocate (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 3. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119573918

 

TROOPER W. KINGHORN. (1917, November 16). The Ballarat Courier (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 1 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73334841

TROOPER W. KINGHORN. (1917, November 16). The Ballarat Courier (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 1 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73334841

 

In the Hamilton Spectator, Frank Kinghorn gave thanks to all those who had paid tribute to his youngest son.

Advertising. (1917, December 1). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 7. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119860038

Advertising. (1917, December 1). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 7. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119860038

 

When Major Lawson corresponded with Frank Kinghorn the following year, he too paid tribute to Walter and reassured Frank that Walter had played a part in the “finest charge in the annals of modern warfare”.  Little consolation for Frank, then in his 80s.  He died in 1919.

THE LATE LANCE-CORPORAL WALTER KINGHORN. (1918, May 9). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 4. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119501800

THE LATE LANCE-CORPORAL WALTER KINGHORN. (1918, May 9). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 4. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119501800

Byaduk suffered the loss of 14 men during WW1 and the community moved to remember them.  Described as a historic day for Byaduk, on June 28, 1918, the families of the local men that served, planted trees for an Avenue of Honor. Those who had paid the supreme sacrifice carried a laurel wreath on their plaques. One of Walter’s sisters, most likely Fanny, planted his tree.  Mrs Hilda Harman, aunt of Charles Harman planted one for him, while Charles’ sisters Julia and Alice planted trees for the other Harman brothers to serve, Reuben Edward and William Loud.

A cousin of Charles Harman, Isabella Harman had two brothers-in-law serve, Denis and Michael Bunworth.  Denis was killed only a month earlier in France.  As Isabella’s husband, Jonathan Bunworth planted a tree for his brother Michael, he could never imagine that within two weeks, Micheal’s plaque too would bear the telling laurel wreath. Michael was killed on August 1, 1918 in France.  The deaths of the two Bunworth boys was also felt by the Kinghorns as Walter’s brother Frank jnr. married Denis and Michael’s sister, Johanna.  Three families intertwined through marriage and united in grief.

BYADUK AVENUE OF HONOUR. (1918, July 13). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 8. Retrieved April 22, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119504179

BYADUK AVENUE OF HONOUR. (1918, July 13). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 8. Retrieved April 22, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119504179

 

In 1922, a  War Memorial was officially unveiled at Byaduk to remember the fallen.  A fitting tribute to the men from Byaduk who served and died.

HAMILTON. (1922, June 14). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 15. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4627391

HAMILTON. (1922, June 14). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 15. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4627391

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In nearby Hamilton, the brave ride of the Light Horsemen at Beersheba was also remembered, with a row of  14 Aleppo palms planted along Alexandra Parade in 1920 as a tribute.

 

025 (600x800)

Unveiled in 1995, a memorial stone close to the palms completes the Beersheba memorial.  Water Kinghorn’s name is beside Dunkeld boy, Edward Womersley, who died of his wounds in the days after the charge.

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027

 

To the horses of the Australian Light Horse, especially those from the Western District that never returned to rolling green pastures, but instead only knew sand, dust, flies, heat and death, their bravery and endurance should never be forgotten.

Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.  Image No. H12486  http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/H12486/

Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Image No. H12486 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/H12486/

 

While in no way can the adrenaline, fear and the scale of the charge at Beersheba be recreated, the Australian film “The Lighthorsemen” does go some way to depict the events of October 31, 1917.

But nothing can go past recollections of those that were at Bersheeba such as the following poem by  Trooper Arthur Beatty of Sassafras written in 1918 remembering those buried in a “Bedouin camping place”

 

beersheba

ORIGINAL POETRY. (1918, September 21). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946), p. 53. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article140212130

ORIGINAL POETRY. (1918, September 21). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946), p. 53. Retrieved April 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article140212130

 

SOURCES

Roll of Honour – Walter Rodney Kinghorn

Embarkation Roll – Walter Rodney Kinghorn

Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Casualty Details – Walter Rodney Kinghorn

Australian Light Horse Studies Centre – Roll of Honour Walter Rodney Kinghorn

Australian Light Horse Studies Centre – Embarkation Roll – 4th Light Horse Regiment – A Squadron – HMAT Wiltshire

Australian Light Horse Studies Centre – The Battle of Beersheba

The AIF Project – 4th Light Horse Regiment, A Squadron Unit Details

A.W.M – 4th Light Horse Regiment

The Desert Mounted Troops at Beersheba

Transcript of Diaries of Henry “Harry” Langtip

Beersheba: The Charge of the 4th Light Horse

The Australian Light Horse Association – Mounted Troops

Australian Reserve Forces Day Council – The Charge at Beersheba

A.W.M. – The Charge of the 4th Light Horse Brigade at Beersheba

 

This post was written for the 2014 Trans-Tasman ANZAC Day Blog Challenge.  Click on the link to read some great ANZAC day tributes from other bloggers.  To read my previous ANZAC Day posts, click on this  link…Trans-Tasman ANZAC Day Blog Challenge – 2011-2013.

 

 


Trove Tuesday – New Year’s Eve

A week on and it is New Year’s Eve, so let’s go back to the towns of the Western District to see what was happening as year’s end, thanks to Trove.

A Warrnambool is a popular New Year’s Eve destination today and a little livelier than 1915.  After a tragic year, there was hope for better things in 1916.  Now we know that they did not come.  Sorry, this article is a little difficult to read in parts.

NEW YEAR'S EVE. (1916, January 3). Warrnambool Standard (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73865946

NEW YEAR’S EVE. (1916, January 3). Warrnambool Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73865946

Just as Warrnambool had the local brass band playing, so did Coleraine.

Coleraine Albion. (1916, January 6). Coleraine Albion and Western Advertiser (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119606431

Coleraine Albion. (1916, January 6). Coleraine Albion and Western Advertiser (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119606431

Hamilton residents had an evening of outdoor silent films to enjoy on New Year’s Eve, 1915. There were also many activities to look forward to the following day, including several race meetings, with trains running from Hamilton.

Advertising. (1915, December 30). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 5. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120408582

Advertising. (1915, December 30). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 5. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120408582

Those who attended enjoyed New Year’s Eve pictures enjoyed the humorous “Josie’s Legacy”, the dramatic “Winthrop Diamonds” and an offering from Pathe’s Gazette.  Mr. and Mrs. H.A. Palmer accompanied the films with incidental music.

    OPEN-AIR ENTERTAINMENT. (1916, January 3). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 4. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120408747

OPEN-AIR ENTERTAINMENT. (1916, January 3). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 4. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120408747

The grassy hill within the Hamilton Botanic Gardens is a perfect place for an outdoor picture theatre.

HAMILTON BOTANICAL GARDENS

HAMILTON BOTANICAL GARDENS

Despite having a late night, Hamiltonians were up early on New Year’s Day to take part in the many activities available, such as the Winslow races, sports days and day trips to coastal towns.

NEW YEAR HOLIDAYS. (1916, January 3). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 4. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120408772

NEW YEAR HOLIDAYS. (1916, January 3). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 4. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120408772

As 2013 draws to a close, may 2014 be a good year for you.  Happy New Year.

Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no.  H99.166/327 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/16626

Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H99.166/327 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/16626


Trove Tuesday – Christmas Eve

What could I share for a Christmas Eve Trove Tuesday?  Something Christmassy of course.  With many new Western District newspapers now at Trove, I thought I would see what was happening on Christmas Eve in the towns that missed out on a mention in the Christmas posts from the previous two years.  The year was 1915 and country was suffering with WW1 and drought .

Coleraine put on the usual Christmas Eve of last minute shopping and the Coleraine Brass Band.

Coleraine Albion. (1915, December 30). Coleraine Albion and Western Advertiser (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119606385

Coleraine Albion. (1915, December 30). Coleraine Albion and Western Advertiser (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119606385

COLERAINE.  Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. H32492/2813 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/63071

COLERAINE. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H32492/2813 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/63071

Business was brisk at Casterton and the Casterton Times took the opportunity to rib the pessimists of the district, who I can only imagine had predicted doom for Christmas trading given the events of the time.

Casterton News. (1915, December 23). The Casterton News and the Merino and Sandford Record (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2 Edition: Bi-Weekly. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74767421

Casterton News. (1915, December 23). The Casterton News and the Merino and Sandford Record (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2 Edition: Bi-Weekly. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74767421

HENTY STREET, CASTERTON.  Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. H32492/2770  http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/63173

HENTY STREET, CASTERTON. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H32492/2770
http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/63173

Because of electricity restrictions due to the war, some of the shop displays could not be highlighted as well as earlier years.

Castern News Printed Monday and Tuesday Evenings. (1915, December 30). The Casterton News and the Merino and Sandford Record (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2 Edition: Bi-Weekly. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74767457

Castern News Printed Monday and Tuesday Evenings. (1915, December 30). The Casterton News and the Merino and Sandford Record (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2 Edition: Bi-Weekly. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74767457

You would be hard pressed to find most of these goods in a shop in Penshurst these days, but in 1915, Chesswas’ had it all.

Advertising. (1915, December 18). Penshurst Free Press (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119562126

Advertising. (1915, December 18). Penshurst Free Press (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119562126

For those in Hamilton, if a buggy shaft broke or a horse lost a shoe over Christmas, shanks’ pony would have had to suffice until January 3rd when the coachbuilders, farriers and blacksmiths of the town resumed after their well earned Christmas break.

Advertising. (1915, December 15). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 4. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120407611

Advertising. (1915, December 15). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 4. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120407611

To finish this Christmas Eve Trove Tuesday post, may I say Merry Christmas to all of you, I greatly appreciated your continued support.

Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no.  H82.96/168 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/110126

Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H82.96/168 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/110126


Nellie Bligh’s Dog’s Eyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ham pool

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

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

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

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

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

Now, have you worked out the title yet?

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


Trove Tuesday – Christmas Music

The Hamilton Brass Band has played a big part in lives of some of my family members, especially the Diwell and Gamble families, and there are still descendants of those families in the band today.  Another family member, Frederick Hughes the husband of my ggg aunt Martha Harman was a long-standing leader of the Hamilton Brass Band.

With Christmas just around the corner, I thought I would share this little snippet found at Trove, from the Hamilton Spectator of December 22, 1917.  An annual tradition for the band, was to play on “Kennan’s corner”, (the corner of Gray and Thompson Street) on Christmas Eve.  Freddie Hughes, a Hamilton jeweller, was band leader.  Interesting not a Christmas Carol in sight on the program.

CHRISTMAS MUSIC. (1917, December 22). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 4. Retrieved December 9, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119860771

CHRISTMAS MUSIC. (1917, December 22). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 4. Retrieved December 9, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119860771

Band music is my blood, so  I just had to find a rendition of one of the pieces on the play list, “Sunshine of Your Smile”, to take me to Kennan’s Corner, Christmas Eve, 1917.


Trove Tuesday – Toy Sale

One of the great things about the “I’ve Lived in Hamilton, Victoria” Facebook page is that it’s given me a good excuse to read more of the recently added Hamilton Spectator (1914-1918) at Trove.  As a result, I have been able to find out more about businesses, home owners and general town history.

It was while reading a Hamilton Spectator, that I cam across this wonderful advertisement from November 1917 for  Thomson’s Department Store, a Hamilton institution and well remembered by many members of the Facebook group.  The store opened in 1863 and remained pretty much in the same form until the 1980s when the store began a transformation that eventually saw it disappear altogether and become an arcade of shops by the 1990s.

Advertising. (1917, November 29). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3. Retrieved December 3, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119859911

Advertising. (1917, November 29). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 3. Retrieved December 3, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119859911


Trove Tuesday – Fido, A Family Favourite

This week, I want to revisit one of my earlier Trove Tuesday posts, “Fido’s Feat”.  To refresh your memory here is Fido’s story again and then, a lovely postscript to his story:

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Amazing Story Of Canine Courage And Endurance. (1954, September 14). Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved December 10, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article24008716

Amazing Story Of Canine Courage And Endurance. (1954, September 14). Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved December 10, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article24008716

I recently told you about a Facebook group I set up called, I’ve Lived in Hamilton, Victoria, that was, and still is, offering me “A Pleasant Distraction”.  I’ve posted a few Hamilton stories from Western District Families, and one of those was Fido’s story.  So, it was a thrill to hear from Alan Moon’s children, Graeme and Diana, members of the group.

Growing up, the story of Fido’s feat was a family favourite, with Graeme commenting that he didn’t think anyone else knew the story their father often told them as children.  He recalled being “amazed” at the brave dog’s journey from Port Fairy to Hamilton.  Diana told me she would ask her father to tell her the story over and over.  Thank you Graeme and Diana for sharing your childhood memories and for adding to Fido’s wonderful story.

If you are wondering how the Hamilton group is going, it’s going mad.  To give you an idea, one of my favourite quotes comes from Helen – “This site is better than Candy Crush”.  There are now over 1600 members and hundreds of photos.  A “Back to Hamilton” is becoming more of a reality each day which is exciting.


Trove Tuesday – I Had A Dream

It’s Melbourne Cup time again and I love that it falls on Trove Tuesday.  There are many ways to pick a winner and around Melbourne Cup time, you hear them all.  Some go for numbers, the name, the colours or maybe an omen.  Often after the event, punters will claim they dreamt up the winner, and as the “Sound” from the Hamilton Spectator suggested in 1894, they are often not game to declare their selection prior to the race.  But not so John Cameron.  Back in 1894, farrier John Cameron of Lonsdale Street, Hamilton, claimed his Melbourne Cup selection came from a dream and he was happy to share his vision.

The 1893 Melbourne Cup winner was Tarcoola and it was that horse’s name that came to Cameron in his slumber.  He recalled seeing a newspaper listing previous Melbourne Cup winners including Archer for 1861/62 and Tarcoola 1893/94.  So convinced that he had dreamt the winner, he took a Caulfield Cup/Melbourne Cup Double, Paris into Tarcoola.

The “Sound” recounts the most famous prediction emanating from a dream, the winner of the 1870 Melbourne Cup.  The winner Nimblefoot,  the dreamer his owner Walter Craig, owner of Craig’s Hotel, Ballarat.

mcmc1

Melbourne Cup Dreamers. (1894, October 31). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved November 5, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65397112

Melbourne Cup Dreamers. (1894, October 31). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved November 5, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65397112

Are you wondering if John Cameron was a winner?  The first leg of his double come in, Paris in the Caulfield Cup.  The Melbourne Cup winner was Patron, with Tarcoola  unplaced.

PATRON, 1894 MELBOURNE CUP WINNER, Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no.  IAN08/11/94/20-21e  http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/254730

PATRON, 1894 MELBOURNE CUP WINNER, Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. IAN08/11/94/20-21e
http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/254730


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”.

skipton

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.

skipton4

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.

skipton7

skipton8

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.


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