Trove Tuesday – A Whale of a Time

I stumbled across this little gem only because it shared a page with an article I believe is about the sister of my ggg grandmother Ellen Barry.  That article from The Argus of June 1, 1849,  mentions Mary Walker, the married name of Mary Barry.  Why do I think it is about my Mary Walker?  Aside from the fact she was living in Melbourne then, the article is under the heading “Police Office” with Mary and another woman described as “two notorious termagants”.  My Mary Walker caused an immigration agent to lose his bounty on her, thanks to her disruptive behavior on the voyage from Ireland to Port Phillip.

As I rolled my eyes at possibly another discovery of a misdemeanor by one of the Barry girls, I noticed this little snippet two columns over.

Domestic Intelligence. (1849, June 1). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 1 Supplement: Supplement to the Argus.. Retrieved September 23, 2012, from

Great news for the whales! At last, their winter home in the seas off the south-west of Victoria was safe to visit again.  Whaling was a huge industry at both Portland and Port Fairy with Portland’s first whaling station established in 1833 and  Port Fairy’s in 1835. By the 1840s, few whales existed and whaling was no longer considered commercially viable and the whaling stations closed.

As the article notes, by the end of the 1840s, whales were appearing again.  Today, their descendants visit the waters of Warrnambool, Port Fairy, and Portland and have become a huge boost to tourism during the colder months.  Warrnambool particularly has benefited from whale watching, however this year the main attractions have made only brief visits, preferring Port Fairy, with daily sightings close to shore of up to 13 whales.   Portland too has had whales and over the past few days, a whale and her calf have been off the breakwater, oblivious to the slaughters over 170 years ago.

2 thoughts on “Trove Tuesday – A Whale of a Time

  1. of course I had to look up ‘termagent’ – ‘a mythical deity popularly believed in the Middle Ages to be worshiped by the Muslims and introduced into the morality play as a violent overbearing person’.
    I have read the rules which ship’s captains imposed on the poor brave people who paid 70 guineas to cross the oceans – “up by 7am and bed made” etc, so it is possible that Mary was sick or crabby or her bio-rhythms were down and she had a bad day that earned her the muslim god insult. Maybe the captain liked her and she didn’t like him. Termagent has now entered my personal dictionary thanks MR. Great post as always.


    • Yes, I had to look it up too Ann. So many great words get lost and I’m sure I can use “termagent’ in everyday conversation. Apparently there were a group of girls on the “Orient” that generally made a nuisance of themselves for the duration of the voyage so they agent missed out on about 20 bounties!


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