In Memory of James Harman

The following advertisement for the 1916 Hamilton Pastoral & Agriculture (P & A) Show reminded me it was the first Hamilton P & A show my ggg grandfather James Harman was not around for. In turn, it reminded me today is the 100th anniversary of James Harman’s death.

"Advertising" Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 - 1918) 29 August 1916: 5. .

“Advertising” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 29 August 1916: 5. <;.

James Harman’s roles with the P & A included exhibitor, judge and committee member.  Over the years he exhibited Lincoln sheep, farm produce, and border collie dogs and judged produce and farm machinery.

LINCOLN SHEEP. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image No. PRG 280/1/17/796

A LINCOLN SHEEP. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image No. PRG 280/1/17/796

Toward the end of the 1870s, when his oldest boys could take on duties on his farm, James had more “leisure” time so he threw himself into a few local farm related activities and the P & A was one of those. Respected by farmers and graziers alike, James could mix with all men including Hamilton Spectator owner George Rippon, grazier and politician John Thomson and businessmen Peter Learmonth, and Robert Stapylton Bree each prominent names in the annals of Hamilton and district.

"PASTORAL AND AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY." Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 - 1918) 17 May 1883: 4. .

“PASTORAL AND AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 17 May 1883: 4. .

In 2011, I wrote The Leader of the Pack on the assumption if all my ancestors came together at one place and time it would be James Harman who would step to the front and lead the group.  Five years on and knowing so much more about James, I have no doubt.  At first I formed my opinion on his place in the Harman family as eldest son and his place in the community as a Wesleyan Methodist Church Local Preacher.  Now, with more issues of the Hamilton Spectator at Trove now giving me 248 tagged articles for James, I know his leadership went beyond the confines of family and the Byaduk community.  

Along with James’ P & A involvement, he was on several occasions President of the Hamilton Farmers Union in the 1880s and the founding president of the Byaduk Farmers Club.  He also was on the Byaduk State School committee, represented the Byaduk community at Dundas Shire meetings and as a leader in the church, attended Wesleyan Methodist Synods representing the Hamilton circuit, always considering the interests of the local church goers.


JAMES HARMAN AGED AROUND THIRTY-SEVEN (1867). Photo taken from the Byaduk Pioneer photo boards in the Byaduk Hall, compiled by Vern McCallum (website

Throughout, James remained humble and during his Farmers’ Union presidency considered he was not worthy of leading the organisation.  But James also said if he joined a committee he gave it everything he had and he was true to his word.  James’ election to chairman of a meeting in 1881 to discuss a possible extension of the railway from Hamilton to Byaduk was just one occasion when James expressed those sentiments publicly.

"RAILWAY MEETING AT BYADUK." Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 - 1918) 15 October 1881: .

“RAILWAY MEETING AT BYADUK.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 15 October 1881: <;.

Such activities meant James was rarely home but always waiting patiently to all hours of the night was his wife Susan.  Susan shared his life from 1852 in Cambridgeshire, through their voyage to Australia as newlyweds and trusted James when he suggested moving north from Port Fairy to select their own piece of Australia.  It was Susan’s death only four months before his own that saw James’ health slip, taking away the vigour that served him so well for eighty-five years.  As Reverend Guard, the then Byaduk Wesleyan Methodist said in the obituary he wrote for James, “Earth had not such an interest for him…”



Trove Tuesday – Hometown News

It was a chance discovery while searching the fifteen or so years of the Hamilton Spectator available at Trove. There in the search results was an article from 1910. That wasn’t expected when only the WW1 years and the decade 1870-9 were available.  Curious, I tried a search of “Harman” and the result was dozens of articles from the 1880s to 1910. Trove had surprised me adding a further three decades of Specs and I couldn’t have been happier.  Since that day a couple of months ago, I have searched, tagged and found out an incredible amount of new detail about my Hamilton district families.  Also, surnames, street names and locations bring such a sense of familiarity when reading my hometown newspaper, even issues from 100 hundred years before I was a resident.

One of the first items of interest I found was an obituary for my gggg grandfather Joseph Harman from 1893. His son James converted to Methodism around 1851 while still in England.  Joseph, entrenched in the Church of England, didn’t share his son’s enthusiasm for Methodism. However, when the Harmans moved to Byaduk in 1863,  the first church built was Wesleyan Methodist and James Harman, by then a Local Preacher, was one of the forces behind the church.  Joseph had little choice but go along to Methodist services, but as soon as a Presbyterian Church was built at Byaduk eighteen years later, he made that church his Sunday morning destination. There were no family loyalties when it came to Joseph’s faith. It would seem that although the new church wasn’t Church of England, it was more to his liking than the teachings of John Wesley. Granted the Presbyterian Church was less than a mile down the road from his home but the Methodist church was only that distance again further on.

"Items of news." Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 - 1918) 30 March 1893: .

“Items of news.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 30 March 1893: <;.

Also found was a rare obituary for a female family member.  Although it doesn’t tell me much about my ggg grandmother Sarah Hughes‘ life, the 400 mourners at her funeral tells me something of the sort of person she was.

"Items of News." Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 - 1918) 23 May 1885: .

“Items of News.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 23 May 1885: <;.


There are also some great articles about Sarah’s husband James Bishop but I’ll save those for a post just about him because he was a character.

Something I enjoy reading in old newspapers is the seemingly mundane day-to-day goings on in a town. Of course, it’s even better when a story includes a family member.  Like the time in 1899 when my gg grandfather Richard Diwell of Hamilton complained about the night soil man.

"HAMILTON BOROUGH COUNCIL." Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 - 1918) 14 October 1899: 2 (SUPPLEMENT TO THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR). .

“HAMILTON BOROUGH COUNCIL.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 14 October 1899: 2 (SUPPLEMENT TO THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR). .

The night soil man Frederick Malster was given the right of reply after the investigation into Richard’s complaint.

"HAMILTON BOROUGH COUNCIL." Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 - 1918) 28 October 1899: 2 (SUPPLEMENT TO THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR). .

“HAMILTON BOROUGH COUNCIL.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 28 October 1899: 2 (SUPPLEMENT TO THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR). .

One of the best finds so far were a number of sketches included in a Hamilton Spectator supplement in 1888. The Spec had the sketches of businesses and scenes of Hamilton made by a Ballarat company. Sketches such as these give us a chance to see how things have changed…



Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 - 1918) 17 April 1888: 2 (SUPPLEMENT TO THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR)..

CORNER OF GRAY & THOMPSON STREETS IN 1888. Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 17 April 1888: 2 (SUPPLEMENT TO THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR).




And how other things have barely changed at all…


"VIEW OF HAMILTON VICTORIA." Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 - 1918) 17 April 1888: 1 (SUPPLEMENT TO THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR)..






Passing of the Pioneers

This month, Passing of the Pioneers enters its sixth year and the great pioneering stories keep coming. While not intentional, the theme for the month is construction with several of the pioneers having worked as carpenters and masons. Two of those were born a year apart at Taunton, Somerset, England and both started family businesses still in operation today.  As you read through, you can click on the names of the pioneer to read their newspaper obituary or other underlined words for further information.

George NORTHCOTT:  Died 23 July 1894 at Merino.  Born in Devon around 1825, George Northcott, his wife and children, arrived in Portland around 1854. They spent time in Portland before George, a joiner by trade, was engaged by T.H.Clarke to construct some buildings in Merino. He built the Farmers Arms Hotel at Merino around 1855. In 1868, George Northcott and my ggg grandfather William Diwell built the Merino Presbyterian Church (below).

MERINO UNITING CHURCH (former St Andrews Presbyterian Church J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.

MERINO UNITING CHURCH (former St Andrews Presbyterian ChruchJ.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.

In 1865, Northcott and Diwell built the first Casterton Presbyterian Church (below)

Image courtesy of the Museum Victoria Collections

FORMER PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, CASTERTON Image courtesy of the Museum Victoria Collections

George built the Commercial Hotel at Merino in 1871, the towns third hotel.  The first tenant of the hotel died, so George took over the running of the hotel and attached Cobb & Co station which he did further fifteen years and become quite wealthy in the meantime.

COMMERCIAL HOTEL, MERINO. Image courtesy of the State Library of South Australia

A few years before his death, George’s wife died and he gave up the running of the Commercial, passing control to his eldest son Henry.  George did not get over the death of his wife and by the beginning of 1894, he health began to fail before he died on 23 July.

James MALLETT:  Died 3 July 1901 at Merino.  Born around 1834, at the age of eleven James Mallett arrived in Portland from Tasmania.  He went straight on to the Henty’s Muntham Station near Merino where he remained for several years before returning to Portland to start a bootmaking apprenticeship.  He married and by 1864 returned to Merino and remained there until his death. He left three sons and four daughters, with a fourth son having died several years before.

Stephen NORMAN: Died July 1901 at Hamilton.  Stephen Norman was born around 1794.  On arrival in Australia, he found himself working for the Henty brothers and was one of their first employees after their arrival to Portland Bay in 1834.  Stephen was, according to his obituary, the first man to plough land for the Hentys at Portland.  Reaching the age of 107 without a sick day in his life and still with all his faculties, Stephen suddenly fell ill at his home in Casterton and admitted to the Hamilton Hospital where he died a few weeks later.

George MAHONEY:  Died 13 July 1902 at Dunkeld. Arriving in Victorian in 1841 aboard the Duchess of Northumberland, George Mahoney began his time in Victoria as manager of Glenmore Estate near Bacchus Marsh. He was there several years before moving to Geelong for a short time before settling at Dunkeld.  A farmer, George led a quiet life away from public affairs although he did keep up an interest in politics and current affairs.  George was eighty-two at the time of his death and left a widow and nine children.

Richard William COLLINS:  Died 13 July 1902 at Hamilton.  Richard Collins was born in Brixton, London around 1840 and arrived in Victoria in 1857.  He settled at Hamilton, working as a carpenter.  He later worked at Mr Allen’s timber yard until setting up his own yard, the “Victoria Timber Yard” in 1879.  After selling the timber yard, Richard and his wife returned to England for a visit and on their return purchased a farm at Mountajup. After only a few years, Richard returned to nearby Hamilton setting up a timber yard on the corner of French and Cox Streets and he operated it until his death in 1902.  A member of the Church of England, Richard left a widow but their marriage was childless.  The Hamilton Brass Band played the “Death March” at Richard’s funeral at the Hamilton Cemetery.

John Weaver GREED: Died 8 July 1903 at Hamilton.  Born in Taunton, Somerset, England in 1834, John Greed married Emma Grinter in 1856.  They continued to live in Taunton with John working as a mason and two daughters were born.  In 1857, John’s parent Charles and Sarah Greed and his younger siblings, left England for Victoria aboard the Balnaguith.  In 1862,  John and Emma and their daughters left England aboard the Lighting for Victoria and on arrival in June 1862 the family headed straight for Hamilton to join John’s parents who had settled there, with Charles Greed running a glazier’s business from Lonsdale Street.  Hamilton was still in its infancy and John was the first to build on the town’s northern hill, land “dotted” with the mia mias of local aboriginals.

John began a carpentry and contracting business and an early job was to build the fence for the then new shire offices as reported in the Hamilton Spectator and Grand District Advertiser on 20 May 1864.  Earlier in the month, the same paper published a business directory and by that time there were two undertakers in the town, George Brownless and John Lobban. From searches of the Spectator from that year, it also seems it was the year when John took up a contract with the Hamilton Hospital and Benevolent Asylum to conduct funerals for them. But it was not until April 1871 before I found the following advertisement for John as both a carpenter and undertaker.

"Advertising" Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 - 1873; 1914 - 1918) 5 April 1871 .

“Advertising” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1873; 1914 – 1918) 5 April 1871 <;.

Interestingly, from around 1880, John Greed’s advertisements included the words “Established in 1861”, however both the 1861 England Census and the Victorian Shipping Records prove John was still in England.



"Advertising" Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 - 1873; 1914 - 1918) 17 April 1880:.

“Advertising” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1873; 1914 – 1918) 17 April 1880:<;.

Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 - 1918) 17 April 1888: 2 (SUPPLEMENT TO THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR). .

Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 17 April 1888: 2 (SUPPLEMENT TO THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR). <;.

The undertaking business tied in well with John’s brother Abraham’s coachbuilding business and one of John’s sons Walter eventually worked for Abraham, a Mayor of Hamilton.  John was a Methodist but converted to the Baptist Church, located close to his home in Collins Street. He was also a member of the Forester’s Lodge and the Oddfellows.  With the latter, he was twice a member of the board of directors. He was also made a Life Governor of the Hamilton Hospital.  Around 1887, John suffered a paralytic seizure reducing his activities and in time leaving him an invalid.  That saw John’s youngest son Frank take over as manager of the business around 1892 when he was twenty.

On 23 June 1903, John Greed was in his room at home with his wife Emma.  She left the room, leaving John standing in front of a fireplace containing a colonial oven.  John fell backwards into the fireplace falling beside the oven but landing on hot iron bars in the fireplace.  He called out to Emma who rushed in to find him in the precarious position.  She managed to get him out and into his bed.  The doctor was called and he treated burns to John’s back, legs and hands but the shock of the fall saw him fall into a coma like state.  Two weeks after his fall, John Weaver Greed died.  On 12 September 1903, the Hamilton Spectator announced Frank was taking over the business.  F.Greed & Sons was born and still operates under that name today with the Greed family still at the helm.



Euphemia McDONALD:  Died 13 July 1907 at Condah.  Euphemia McDonald was born around 1832 at Mull, Argylshire, Scotland.  She arrived in Victoria in 1852, disembarking at Portland. It’s unclear when Euphemia married Alexander Urquhart, but they did have a son Thomas born in 1858.  In the late 1880s, Alexander took on management of Samuel Winter Cooke’s property Condah Hills . In 1901, disastrous bushfires swept through a large area south of Hamilton, including Condah.  Euphemia received severe burns to her hands and feet and was only saved by her son John’s actions of lowering her into a well.  She never fully regained her health and Euphemia died at the age of seventy-five.

Samuel VANCE:  Died July 1908 at Bridgewater.  Samuel Vance arrived at Portland in 1855 from Northern Irelard aboard the Cairngorm.  Prior to his departure, he had served in the British Army.  Samuel worked as a farmer and a contractor for the Portland Shire Council.  During the 1880s, he built the Sea View Hotel at Bridgewater and ran it until the time of his death.

Sarah CAMERON:  Died 8 July 1908 at Geelong.  Sarah Cameron was born in Scotland in 1819 and married Archibald MacDonald and they had three daughters.  Archibald fate is not mentioned but Sarah went on to marry Donald Cameron of Southland, New Zealand who himself had five daughters and two sons.  From NSW they travelled overland to the Colony of Victoria, settling first at Cambellfield near Melbourne before moving on to Morgiana near Hamilton, then called the Grange.  Donald’s uncle had taken up the run only a few years earlier and Donald took over the running of the property.  The Camerons of Morgiana were well known in the Hamilton district  Sarah’s is an interesting obituary as it lists early settlers in the Hamilton district.

Anne BELL:  Died 4 July 1909 at Hamilton.  Anne Bell was born in Ireland and travelled with her parents John Bell and Elizabeth Morrow to Victoria in 1841, arriving at Portland.  With them were Anne’s seven siblings.  The family travelled from Portland to Mt Eckersley near Heywood where they settled.  In 1848, Anne married Henry Barr and with the dicovery of gold, the couple left for the diggings remaining two years with little success.  After their return to Heywood, Henry bought the Heywood Hotel and together Ann and Henry ran a successful business. On 19 February 1865, the stables adjoining the Barr’s hotel caught fire.  As a result of his exertion, Henry fell ill and never recovered, dying in July 1866.  Anne and her family moved to Lake Condah were they remained for the next fourteen years.  After the sudden death of her son, Anne returned to Heywood but eventually sold her interests there and went to live with her children, first John at Lyons between Heywood and Dartmoor and then George at Strathkellar near Hamilton.  Anne fell ill in June 1909 and was admitted to the Hamilton Hospital where she died on 4 July.

John PERRY:  Died 8 July 1913 at Coleraine.  Born in Bristol, England in 1818, John Perry looked set for a career as an artist, but decided to choose an outdoor pursuit working in agriculture.  He married Elizabeth Holbrook at Bath, England on 3 December 1839 and thirteen years later, the Perrys with four sons left England for Australia.  Sailing on the Priam, the Perrys arrived at Portland in 1852.  John’s stock experience in England held him good stead for employment and his services were desperately sort after by Edward Henty at Muntham Station.  However, staying loyal to a commitment he made to Mr A. Munro, John went to work for Munro, managing several stations including Dundas and Bassett.  By 1859, John had entered in to a partnership and purchased land near Ararat.  However, the death of one of his sons at the property saw him sell and return to Branxholme and later Merino Downs working for Francis Henty.

"Merino Downs" Image courtesy of the Museum Victoria Collections

MERINO DOWNS. Image courtesy of the Museum Victoria Collections

Over the next twenty years, John managed various large properties throughout the district.  He eventually retired to Digby and in 1886, Elizabeth died.  John continued painting as a hobby throughout his life.

William DUNN: Died 12 July 1914 at Box Hill.  Born at Taunton, Somerset, England around 1833, William Dunn arrived in Victoria in 1855 aboard the Raven’s Craig.  He spent time in Geelong before riding on horseback to Hamilton where he remained for the next forty-four years.  William was a builder and in 1866 entered a partnership with another builder William Holden and together they set about “building” Hamilton.

Holden and Dunn built some of Hamilton’s grandest buildings, most still standing today.  They included the Bank of Australasia, the Bank of Victoria and the Colonial Bank and the residences of doctors including Hewlett House and  Roxburgh House.  They also built the first brick house in Gray Street owned by Mr S. Radley, the Hamilton goal and many shops in the CBD of Hamilton including a strip of shops running from the corner of Gray and Thompson streets.  Looking at the histories of some of the buildings Holden and Dunn constructed, it seems William Dunn has become the forgotten man of the partnership, with Holden given credit alone. However, newspaper articles from the time and William Holden’s obituary confirm their partnership.

In his personal life, William married twice and left a widow and four children at the time of his death.

You can see more about Holden and Dunn and their work in the slideshow below.

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Richard Thomas CARTY:  Died 24 July 1917 at Hamilton.  Richard Carty was born in Wexford, London in 1842 and at age seventeen arrived in Australia. With little to his name, he tried various jobs before going to the New Zealand gold diggings. After mixed fortunes on the diggings, Richard returned to Australia and took up cattle droving.  He became manager of the Bredelbane Estate near Castlemaine and with that experience, leased Mt Clay Estate near Heywood during the 1860s.  Success from that venture enabled him to lease Bark Hill Estate in 1873.  In was also in that year, Richard married Lucy Hawkins.  In the early 1880s, Wando Vale was subdivided for Closer Settlement and Richard and Lucy moved there, remaining for three years.  On 1 January 1885, Richard took possession of Brisbane Hill at Byaduk.  Richard and Lucy remained at Brisbane Hill until around 1916 when they moved into Hamilton, residing at Montacue in Kennedy Street until Richard’s death.



James LODGE:  Died 31 July 1918 at Casterton.  A son of James Clapham Lodge and Hannah Hudson, James Lodge was born at Richmond, Victoria around 1859.  He became an apprentice stonemason and stone cutter and following his apprenticeship, moved to Stawell working in a stonemason partnership Lodge and Timmins.  In 1884, James married Ellen Murphy and they had six sons and two daughters. Around 1892, James moved to Hamilton, taking up residence in Clarke Street and one of his first jobs was as clerk of works on extensions of Hamilton’s Catholic church St Mary’s. Later he would add a spire to the church.

ST. MARY’S CATHOLIC CHURCH, HAMILTON. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

Churches were James’ specialty, building extensions to Catholic churches in Penshurst, Casterton and Koroit.  He also built the Tabor Lutheran Church and Tarrington school building.  James’ sons followed him into the business, however in 1906, eldest son Harry fell ill and died of inflammation of the kidneys on 17 June.

The years of WW1 were difficult for James.  With five sons, James saw his oldest four boys Gus, Frank, James and Richard enlist. During those years, James won a street channeling contract with the Borough of Hamilton and during June 1918, James and his youngest son Frederick were building the Catholic presbytery at Casterton.  Frederick was eighteen and keen to join his brothers overseas.  However, Frederick caught a cold while working on the presbytery and it developed into double pneumonia and he died on 20 June 1918,  While James was worried about his four sons overseas, it was the son under his own watchful eye who would die.  Despite his grief, James continued  working on the presbytery but around July 21, he too fell ill with a cold. Within days, James was diagnosed with pneumonia and pleurisy and he died during the afternoon of Wednesday 31 July and buried at the Hamilton Old Cemetery.



Just weeks after James’ death, on 24 August 1918, trees for Hamilton’s Clarke Street Memorial Avenue were planted, with the first tree planted in front of the Lodge home in memory of James followed by another four for each of his enlisted sons.  The Lodge boys all arrived home safely from war having served with distinction.  Gus was awarded a Distinguished Service Order for conspicuous bravery at Pozieres. Frank was awarded a Military Medal for his efforts at Pozieres and later a Military Cross for his service at Mont St. Quentin in 1918.  Settling into civilian life, the boys returned to stone masonry operating as Lodge Bros. and in 1928 were awarded the contract to build Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance, employing returned serviceman as labourers.  The business still operates today.


A Freezing Night

In case you haven’t noticed, the weather in Victoria is freezing at the moment. Sub-zero temperatures recorded at the summit of Mount William, the highest peak in the Grampians where snow has fallen in the past thirty-six hours, had me thinking of an event in history 180 years ago today.

On the morning of 14 July 1836, explorer Major Thomas Mitchell and members of his party, left their camp and set off toward a mountain range first sighted a few days earlier. Hoping for a good view to the southwest, the highest visible peak was their target.  The mountains Mitchell would later name the Grampians and the lofty peak, Mount William.

MOUNT WILLIAM BY EUGENE VON GEURARD. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

After reaching the base of Mount William, Mitchell and four men began the steep ascent while the rest of the group and the horses returned to their last river crossing to set up camp.  Arriving at the summit late in the day, the low cloud prevented Mitchell surveying the area.  He was so keen to see the views the mountain had to offer and the measurements he could record, he decided to stay the night.  I’m not sure what his four companions thought of the idea but Mr Richardson would have been glad he’d taken along his daily share of provisions.  That was until Mitchell, realising it was the only food they had, split Mr Richardson’s food five ways.  Not suitably clothed to spend a night in sub-zero temperatures and with no decent rocks to shelter from the cutting wind, they tried to light a fire as the temperature dropped below -1.5 degrees Celsius,

We strove to make a fire to protect us from the piercing cold; but the green twigs, encrusted with icicles, could not by our united efforts be blown into a flame sufficient to warm us. There was abundance of good wood at the foot of the cliffs – huge trees of ironbark, stringybark and bluegum but, had we descended, a second ascent might have appeared too laborious on a mere chance of finding the summit clear; so we remained above. The men managed to manufacture some tea in a tin pot, and into the water as it boiled I plunged a thermometer which rose to exactly 95 degrees of the centigrade scale. We got through that night of misery as well as might have been expected under the circumstances, and we succeeded in keeping the fire alive although, while twigs were blown into red heat at one end, icicles remained at the other, even within a few inches of the flame. In order to maintain it through the night we divided, at eleven o’clock, the stock of branches which had been gathered before dark into eight parcels, this being the number of hours we were destined to sit shivering there; and as each bundle was laid on the dying embers we had the pleasure at least of knowing that it was an hour nearer daylight.

(Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia : with descriptions of the recently explored region of Australia Felix, and of the present colony of New South Wales by Major T. L. Mitchell, Volume 2, Chapter 3.8)

By sunrise, the sky had cleared above them but below was mist. It was still bitterly cold at below -2.5 degrees with freezing winds and icy rocks. At first, Mitchell could only make out a body of water just to the north named Lake Lonsdale.  However, with momentary breaks in the cloud, looking to the west he could see a magnificent mountain range and to the south, flat timbered country.


THE VIEW FROM MOUNT WILLIAM. Image courtesy of Kiri Handreck of Kiri’s Images  (Click on the photo to enlarge)

It was soon time to make the tricky descent and return to the horses, about eight miles from the summit.  It was a relief to reach the riverside camp and Mitchell made the most of the “comforts”,

…we found a large fire and, under a wide spreading casuarina during a delightful interval of about twenty minutes, I enjoyed the pleasures of eating, sleeping, resting, and warming myself, almost all at the same time. To all who would know how to enjoy most intensely a good fire, shelter, sunshine, and the dry soft turf I would recommend, by way of whet, a winter night on a lofty mountain, without fire, amidst frost-covered rocks and clouds of sleet. I shall long remember the pleasure of those moments of repose which I enjoyed on my arrival in the warm valley after such a night. 

(Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia: with descriptions of the recently explored region of Australia Felix, and of the present colony of New South Wales by Major T. L. Mitchell, Volume 2, Chapter 3.8)

It was only a short rest as they still had to return to the main camp, reaching it on the morning of July 16. Not all the party made it through the night on Mount William unscathed.  Two men who had been with Mitchell on earlier expeditions fell ill, Mr Muirhead with fever and chills, and Mr Woods with a lung condition. They recovered after a couple of weeks but Mitchell conceded they were never the same.

MAJOR THOMAS MITCHELL. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.


Major Mitchell and his party moved north from Mt William and skirted the northern Grampians. We’ll join him again next month when the expedition moves south from Mount Araplies to the coast. If you would like to read Major Mitchell’s record of his expedition through Western Victoria, you can find it on the following link to Project Gutenberg Australia from Chapter 3.8 – Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia Journal

Trove Tuesday – Early Settlers

A welcome addition to Trove has been the Weekly Times, Victoria’s favourite newspaper for country readers and still in publication.  The editions at Trove cover the years 1869 to 1954 and with a rural focus, I anticipated its arrival. Familiar with the newspaper, I was sure the Western District would be well represented and I wasn’t disappointed.  The photos alone are fantastic.  I’ve found some great Hamilton photos and have shared those to the Facebook group I’ve Lived in Hamilton, Victoria. Some from the 1950s have included faces familiar to many in the group.

There are also family photos and for Trove Tuesday I thought I’d share this lovely photo of Macarthur Pioneers Frederick Button Huggins and Frances Mary Trowell.  Both born in Kent, England in the mid-1830s, they married prior to their arrival at Portland in 1856, settling at Macarthur two years later.  Frances died in 1920 at Macarthur aged eighty-five and Frederick died in 1927 at Macarthur aged ninety-three.

"EARLY SETTLERS AT MACARTHUR" Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 - 1954) 6 September 1919: 25.

“EARLY SETTLERS AT MACARTHUR” Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954) 6 September 1919: 25.

During the 1880s, there was a mass exodus of families from the Mount Eccles district near Macarthur.  They included the eldest children of Frederick and Frances Huggins, James, Agnes, and Frances Susan.  With them was Henry Condon, husband of Agnes Huggins and my relatives Walter and Lydia Harman and their children.  Tired of the volcanic stones from nearby Mount Eccles covering their selections making the land unfit for cultivation, they were in search of a fertile place with good rainfall, unlike the often drought prone southwest of the state. That place was Omeo in Victoria’s High Country and they settled there from the mid-1880s.  Henry’s uncle John Condon had lived there since at least 1880 and when his first wife Mary Jane died in 1886, he married Frances Susan Huggins in 1888. 

One of the fifty great-grandchildren of pioneers Frederick and Frances Huggins was the subject of a past Western District Families post.  Witness for the Prosecution from 2011, includes the story of the suspicious death of the wife of the Omeo Methodist Rev. Ronald Griggs.  Lottie Condon, a great-granddaughter of Macarthur’s Frederick and Frances Huggins was unwittingly involved. Lottie’s grandparents James Huggins and Elizabeth Skipworth, both from Macarthur, married in 1881 prior to their move to Omeo.  Their daughter Frances Ethel was born in Macarthur and was only a small child when they moved.  At the age of twenty-one, Frances Ethel Huggins married John Henry Condon, a son of John Condon and his first wife Mary Jane. In 1907, Lottie Elizabeth Condon was born at Omeo to John Henry Condon and Frances Ethel Huggins and twenty-one years later became mixed up in the murder trial of Rev. Ronald Griggs. 

The Harman connection with the families continued with the marriage of Walter and Lydia’s daughter Susannah Harman to William Condon in 1898.  Also, Susannah’s brother Henry was a good friend of Lottie Condon’s parents strengthened by their connection with the Methodist Church at Omeo and in 1928, he too became involved in the murder trial of Rev. Griggs.

To search the Weekly Times, you can follow this link – Weekly Times.  If you would like to read more about Frederick and Frances Huggins’ great-granddaughter Lottie Condon and the murder trial of Ronald Griggs, follow this link – Witness for the Prosecution. 


Western District Families is Five Today

Five years ago today I published my first Western District Families post:



It was interesting to revisit 2011 and reflect on where Western District Families (WDF)  is today.  The post also shows how far Trove has come in that time with The Argus and The Camperdown Chronicle my only online newspaper sources for Western District material.  Soon after the Portland Guardian and Horsham Times arrived. Thankfully the number of Victorian newspapers available at Trove has grown, particularly those of Western District origins.  Trove’s growth as helped Western District Families continue and thrive.

Since WDF’s last birthday, I’ve only published twenty-five posts but have been far from idle. In June last year, I launched the Pioneer Obituary Index and it’s been an amazing success with the names of over 600 Western District pioneers now listed. Passing of the Pioneers is having a break but will return in the second half of the year on a monthly basis, so apologies to those who look forward to those posts.

Sharing stories of disaster in Western District’s past was something I wrote of in my first post.  Last month came the story of the Big Flood of 1946. It is now the most viewed post at WDF, knocking the long-time leader, Portland Old Cemetery Part 1 from top spot.  Another post, written in 2013 has hit its straps in the past year. In The News – January 15 – 19, 1944 tells the story of another Western District disaster, the 1944 bushfires. It is now in WDF’s top five most popular posts.

Introducing WDF to Facebook in October 2012 has been a big step forward in taking the stories of pioneering families and local history to a broader audience. It was thrilling when the Western District Families Facebook page passed 2000 followers recently. Ignoring Facebook’s constant invitations to promote my page in exchange for cash, it came about because there is a huge interest in where we came from and what our towns were like in the past.

Another big event for WDF was the launch of Hamilton’s WW1 in April last year. I have since added Hamilton WW1 War Memorials, the stories of seventy-five Hamilton soldiers and last week, Hamilton’s WW1 Nurses received their own page.  Another five soldier profiles are almost ready to go but unfortunately my goal of reaching one hundred stories by Anzac Day will not come to fruition. Currently, I’m concentrating on stories of the men from the Hamilton War Memorial and Anzac Avenue, those who never returned.

'HAMILTON BOYS' c 30 April 1915. Photo Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Image no.DAOD1060

‘HAMILTON BOYS’ c 30 April 1915. Photo Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Image no. DAOD1060

Last year I took Hamilton’s WW1 to Facebook and although the subject attracts a niche audience, with some help from the WDF followers and members of the I’ve Lived in Hamilton group, Hamilton’s WW1 has reached 234 followers. It’s so good the stories of Hamilton’s soldiers are getting out there. Many of the men had long been forgotten.

Exciting news came in September last year when the State Library of Victoria contacted me to include Western District Families in the National Library of Australia’s Pandora Archive.  How could I say no to that?  It means WDF posts now show in search results at Trove and if Western District Families ever ceases to exist, it will always be available at Pandora.

Thank you to everyone who follows Western District Families.  I’m proud my blog has gone beyond a read for relatives and family historians and is reaching people who may never have visited a history blog before.  A recent email from a Western Victorian bookshop asking if WDF  is a book following a customer inquiry has shown me how far WDF has come in five years.

Happy Birthday Western District Families.


The Big Flood

Dressed in a gown of steel grey cloth, trimmed with glacé silk and a “borrowed” tulle veil, Lily Buckland married George Sparrow on 9 April 1916 at Mount Eccles. The wedding was at the home of Lily’s sister and George’s brother, Alice and Charles Sparrow.

Lillian Letitia Buckland was born at Briagolong in 1888, the eldest daughter of William Buckland and Hannah Oakley.  The family lived at Toora in Gippsland. George Henry Sparrow was born at Macarthur in 1891, a son of local residents, Abijah Sparrow and Emma Peters.  The first instance of a union between the two families was the marriage of Alice Buckland and Charles Sparrow in 1913.  How one family from Gippsland and another from the Western District came together is unknown.

George and Lily settled at Lake Gorrie near Macarthur and started their family. Letitia Mavis Sparrow was their first child, born at Hamilton in 1917.  Then Charles Robert born in 1918.  In 1920, tragedy struck the family when young Charles, just two years old, fell on a piece of wire in the backyard. The wire went up his nostril and pierced his brain and although taken to Hamilton Hospital, Charles never regained consciousness.  In the same year, Lillian saw another sister, Olive, marry a Macarthur lad, returned serviceman William Louden Harman.  Seven more children were born to Lily and George over the next ten years, six boys and one girl

A year after the beginning of World War 2, two of George and Lily’s boys enlisted.  Allan joined up on 29 June 1940 and served with the 2/23 Australian Infantry Battalion while Roy enlisted on 14 October 1940, serving with the 63rd Australian Infantry Battalion.  Allan was discharged on 15 November 1945, however, Roy a Corporal continued on after the end of the war.

On Friday evening 15 March 1946, rain began to fall on the roof of the Sparrow’s home, the likes they had never heard before. At home with George and Lily were three of their children, Mavis, Bruce and Ronald. The rain continued through the night and into Saturday night. On the morning of Sunday 17 March 1946, the Sparrow family woke to the sound of water lapping at their beds. Outside, water was rising rapidly around the property and they decided to evacuate.  Leaving their domestic animals and poultry to find high ground themselves, Lily and the children climbed into their jinker with George leading the horse, guiding it along the already flooded roads.

It was increasingly difficult for George to distinguish the dangers ahead in the floodwaters, and not far from the house, a wheel of the jinker fell into a concealed hole and upturned, tipping the passengers into the water.  George tried desperately to save his family but the water was deep and fast flowing. In his attempt to get help, he became exhausted, collapsed and died.

"SEARCH FOR FLOOD VICTIMS" Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 - 1954) 23 March 1946: .

“SEARCH FOR FLOOD VICTIMS” Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 – 1954) 23 March 1946: <;.

A search party was soon looking for Lily and her children. Mavis, Bruce and Ronald’s bodies were found in a hole close to the jinker, the water in the hole was over two metres deep. Lily’s body was found caught in a fence over three kilometres away, such was the force of the water.  Mavis was twenty-five, Bruce twenty-two, and Ronald, fifteen.  Five family members lost in a terrible tragedy. Rumours were flying that were was no need for them to leave, but servicemen who went to the house during the search supported their actions after seeing the high watermark on the walls.  Sadly for the Sparrow family, when one of their surviving sons arrived at the farm the following day, he found the chooks and the household dogs and cats had survived the flood.

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957) 20 March 1946 .

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 20 March 1946 <;.

On the afternoon of Thursday 21 March 1946, the sun broke through the clouds as hundreds made their way to Macarthur’s Church of England for the funeral of the Sparrow family. Among the many floral tributes was a sheaf of flowers sent by the Governor of Victoria and his wife Sir Winston and Lady Dugan, including a personal message for the remaining members of the family.  Just days before they had passed through the Macarthur district, including the Sparrow property, to witness the devastation.

The Sparrow family were victims of one of Western Victoria’s worst natural disasters.  More used to the ravages of fire, residents were to witness rising rivers and creeks over the weekend of 16 and 17 March that soon turned their part of Victoria into an inland sea.

"FLOODS DEVASTATE WESTERN DISTRICT" The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 - 1954) 19 March 1946: 3. Web. 7 Mar 2016 .

“FLOODS DEVASTATE WESTERN DISTRICT” The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954) 19 March 1946: 3. Web. 7 Mar 2016 <;.

The Western District was ravaged by drought from 1939 to 1945 with disastrous bushfires sweeping through the Western District in January 1944.

"TUESDAY, MARCH 19, 1946 AND NOW A FLOOD" The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957) 19 March 1946 .

“TUESDAY, MARCH 19, 1946 AND NOW A FLOOD” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 19 March 1946 <;.

Early in March 1946, parts of Queensland and New South Wales were under floodwaters due to a tropical cyclone. On March 10, cold, wet and windy weather hit Victoria.  At 9:00 am on Monday 11 March, the previous forty-eight hours had produced 52 mm of rain in Port Fairy, one of the highest rainfall totals in the Western District for the period while 36 mm fell at Hamilton.  A cyclonic depression moved across South Australia in the following days before reaching the Western District on Friday 15 March where it stopped.

The forecast for Victoria published in The Argus of Friday 15 March  was for some rain developing from the west and then showers.  At 9:00 pm on Friday night, the forecast was “cold and unsettled with some showers. Some heavy rain, with hail, on and south of the ranges”.  That heavy rain was of tropical proportions falling from Friday night and through the weekend. By Monday 18 March, The Argus reported the floods covered the Western District from Natimuk in the southern Wimmera to the sea, and to the east to Mortlake. Police headquarters at Russell Street Melbourne said that a stretch of water up to four metres lay from Hamilton to the coast.  The map below shows the extent of the rainfall.

"FAMILY TAKEN OFF ROOF" The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) 19 March 1946 .

“FAMILY TAKEN OFF ROOF” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) 19 March 1946 .

There were evacuations from many towns including  Hamilton, Portland, Port Fairy, Warrnambool and Casterton.  Rescuers took to boats trying to save families, many clinging to the roofs of their houses.  Thousands of head of stock were lost, bridges and roads washed away, telephone lines were down and railway lines damaged. There were mass cancellations of trains and buses.  Towns were cut off with little means of communication.

On Tuesday 19 March 1946, The Argus published the rainfall totals from 9:00 am on Saturday 17 March until 3:00 pm on Monday 18 March.


“TEMPORARILY FINE TODAY New Depression Approaching” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 19 March 1946 .

While many communities were flooded, the following were those most severely affected by the big flood of 1946.


Parts of the countryside around Macarthur were under three metres of water stranding families on their roofs hoping for rescue.  Around nine kilometres south of Macarthur, on the Port Fairy Road, a bridge washed away. Stock losses in the district were estimated at 5000 sheep and 500 head of cattle.  There was concern among authorities about the possible outbreak of disease, with livestock hanging on fences in the flood waters. Posing a threat to rescuers were hundreds of snakes swimming in the water.


In the Wallacedale/Condah area, ten houses were evacuated and dairy herds were lost.  Some parts were under three metres of water.  Mr & Mrs Edgar Lacey and Miss Grace Tullett took refuge on the roof of the Lacey home. To shelter from the heavy rain and strong winds, they were able to remove a sheet of tin and climb into the ceiling. With them on the roof, also seeking refuge, were several snakes.  A RAAF Catalina Flying boat was flown in to rescue the trio.  On arrival, the pilot could not find them so he returned to Williamstown, NSW.  Next, a flat-bottomed boat tried but failed to retrieve them. An amphibious car from the Army or Army “duck” was the next plan. Finally, after twenty-five hours, they were rescued but it was several days until the water subsided around their house.

"TOWNSHIP ISOLATED" Examiner (Launceston, Tas. : 1900 - 1954) 21 March 1946: .

“TOWNSHIP ISOLATED” Examiner (Launceston, Tas. : 1900 – 1954) 21 March 1946: <;.

Miles of fencing and roads washed away and there were heavy losses to livestock including horses and pigs.  A beekeeper’s hives bobbed in the water with the stranded bees atop of the boxes. Rescuers saw thousands of snakes while delirious rabbits, marooned on high ground, were caught and their skins sold.

Branxholme had 394 mm of rain from the Friday until the Monday edition of The Argus went to print and the town was cut off by road, rail and telephone. At Byaduk, Mr Tyres rescued seven people from a raft. More were evacuated but were able to return home on Tuesday including Mr and Mrs McCready.  Mr J. Scott and Miss Suttie had their homes flooded.  David Kinghorn was rescued from a haystack.


Hamilton saw the heaviest rainfall since records were first kept.  Up until 3:00 pm on Monday 18 March 219mm had fallen in fifty-fours, the town’s largest recorded total over the same period. The highest previous monthly rainfall total was 311 mm set in December 1930.  The Grange Burn, usually quietly meandering through parts of the town, quickly rose and became a raging river. Around twenty homes near the railway station were evacuated on Saturday 16 March.

Fuel depots near the creek were underwater and hundreds of oil drums from the Shell and the Commonwealth Oil Refinery depots washed down the Grange Burn, accumulating against bridges and fences.  Two other fuel depots were badly damaged. One underground petrol tank pushed its way to the surface. Iron from the fuel depots wrapped around trees and plaster from a nearby factory was spread up to almost 100 metres.  In those days, the Hamilton swimming pool was on the Grange Burn, at the Braeside Weir, close to the fuel depots.



Sheds beside the swimming pool were swept away and the diving tower was on a lean.  At the Ballarat Road and Portland Road bridges, the Grange Burn was between 180 metres to 400 metres wide. The photo below shows the Grange near the Ballarat Road bridge as it is today



A view of the Grange Burn near the Portland Road bridge is below.

'NO LONGER A CREEK', The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950), 20 March, p. 1. (CITY FINAL),

‘NO LONGER A CREEK’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), 20 March, p. 1. (CITY FINAL),

Many bridges and roads around the town were impassable and the drains in Lonsdale Street overflowed. The Hamilton Town Hall became “home” to around seventy evacuees and Mayor Rasmussen called on residents to take those evacuated into their homes.  Water went through twenty-five to thirty homes, reaching a depth of almost a metre in some.  Mr Brimacombe of Martin Street lost all but one of his 250 chooks.

By Monday 18 March, travellers marooned in Hamilton were taken to Portland. Road connections between Warrnambool and Mt Gambier reopened and by Tuesday morning, Ansetts ran a bus from Horsham to Hamilton.  An Army “duck” arrived, using the town as its base.

The photos below, used with permission from Jacinta Hanelt, depict the 1983 floods in Hamilton.  They show the same areas flooded in 1946 and although not has deep as those floods, they give an idea as to the extent of the 1946 floods.  Despite the damage to the fuel depots in 1946, they remained located close to the Grange Burn.

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In forty-eight hours at Warrnambool, 228 mm of rain fell accompanied by gale force winds.  There was flooding along the Russell’s Creek, Merri Creek and Hopkins River.



The 3YB radio transmitter was surrounded by three metres of water and sandbags and pumps were called for. At least seven bridges in the shire were damaged. Nearby Dennington was under water but in South Warrnambool, only four homes required evacuation.  Old residents said they hadn’t seen anything like it.

"Flood Pictures From Inundated Western District" The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957) 19 March 1946: .

“Flood Pictures From Inundated Western District” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 19 March 1946:

During Monday 18 March, the Hopkins River was rising at a rate of thirty centimetres an hour and later that night, the river burst its banks leaving the highway up to 1.2m under water. Meanwhile, Allansford residents were preparing to leave their homes.

WARRNAMBOOL 1946. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

WARRNAMBOOL 1946. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

The water at Mr Cox’s house at Spring Gardens, Warrnambool reached over the window sills (below)

M.COX'S HOUSE SPRING GARDENS WARRNAMBOOL ca 1946. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

M.COX’S HOUSE SPRING GARDENS WARRNAMBOOL ca 1946. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

The following video from Warrnambool Historical Pictures – Alex Wilkins Collection, gives an amazing insight into how the floods impacted Warrnambool and district and includes some dramatic footage.


The road from Warrnambool to Mortlake was cut after the flooding of the Ellerslie Bridge (below)

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957) 20 March 1946: .

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 20 March 1946: <;.

And the road to Port Fairy was also cut, with the following photo showing the situation about five kilometres west of Warrnambool on the Princes Highway.

"DISASTROUS FLOODS IN VICTORIA." Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld. : 1907 - 1954) 21 March 1946:.

“DISASTROUS FLOODS IN VICTORIA.” Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld. : 1907 – 1954) 21 March 1946:.


At Woodford, the local school teacher and his family were stranded in the Woodford Police Station and the post office was underwater (below). A herd of thirty dairy cows drowned.

WOODFORD POST OFFICE "DISASTROUS FLOODS IN VICTORIA." Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld. : 1907 - 1954) 21 March 1946: .

WOODFORD POST OFFICE “DISASTROUS FLOODS IN VICTORIA.” Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld. : 1907 – 1954) 21 March 1946: <;.


At Killarney, stranded cows on patches of high ground, helplessly slipped into the floodwaters as exhaustion overcame them.  There were huge losses to potato and onion crops and Killarney resembled a lake.

"WESTERN DISTRICTS OF VICTORIA FLOODED." Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW : 1911 - 1954) 21 March 1946: 1. .

“WESTERN DISTRICTS OF VICTORIA FLOODED.” Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW : 1911 – 1954) 21 March 1946: 1. .

The six-week-old baby of Mr and Mrs Patrick Lenehan was floated out a window of their house, the baby’s pram a substitute boat.

"FLOODS LEAVE TRAIL OF DESTRUCTION" The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954) 19 March 1946:.

“FLOODS LEAVE TRAIL OF DESTRUCTION” The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954) 19 March 1946:<;.

Stories began to emerge of the heroics in the district. Widow, Mrs Madden and her eight children were saved by Jim Gleeson in his tractor.  Another farmer saved an elderly woman from her cottage and Mr J. Ryan was taken to Warrnambool Hospital after being lifted through the window of his flooded home.

"FLOODS LEAVE TRAIL OF DESTRUCTION" The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954) 19 March 1946: .

“FLOODS LEAVE TRAIL OF DESTRUCTION” The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954) 19 March 1946: <;.

Onion crops were wiped out leaving the vegetables bobbing in water or collecting in silt.  Farmers tried to salvage what they could.

"Green pastures and hard work after floods" The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982) 6 April 1946: .

“Green pastures and hard work after floods” The Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982) 6 April 1946: <

Mrs Madden, rescued with her eight children by Jim Gleeson, returned to her home to begin the clean up.  She is pictured below with her daughter Dorothy cleaning silt from their carpets.

"Green pastures and hard work after floods" The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982) 6 April 1946: .

“Green pastures and hard work after floods” The Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982) 6 April 1946: <;.


At Rosebrook, the Post Office was surrounded by flood waters (below)

"FLOODS IN VICTORIA" Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954) 21 March 1946: 3. .

“FLOODS IN VICTORIA” Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954) 21 March 1946

The bridge over the Moyne River at Rosebrook was also flooded and signals were sent across the bridge as a means of communication (below).

"WESTERN DISTRICTS OF VICTORIA FLOODED." Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW : 1911 - 1954) 21 March 1946: 1. .

“WESTERN DISTRICTS OF VICTORIA FLOODED.” Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW : 1911 – 1954) 21 March 1946


The Moyne River rose rapidly at Port Fairy leading to the evacuation of homes in the east of the town.



Residents in Regent, William and Bank Streets were also evacuated with the water reaching almost a metre in Bank Street and running through houses.  To the west of the town, water was up to 1.5 metres deep.  Thousands of tonnes of potatos and onions were lost and in Port Fairy North, Steel’s bridge gave way.  Every hour, reports were arriving of stranded families.  Power in the town was interrupted for sixteen hours.

"Flood Waters Receding Around Port Fairy" The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957) 20 March 1946: 15. Web. 1 Mar 2016 .

“Flood Waters Receding Around Port Fairy” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 20 March 1946: 15. Web. 1 Mar 2016 .

The concrete wharf where fishing boats were moored broke up, threatening to wash boats out to sea. In the end, five boats were lost. Large slabs of concreted from the wharf were swept away and smashed.



Although it’s not clear, the following photo gives some indication of the torrents of water to rush Port Fairy.

FLOOD WATERS FROM THE MOYNE RIVER, PORT FAIRY. "FLOOD WAVES LASH HOUSES" Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 - 1954) 24 March 1946: 15 (Sport Section). .

FLOOD WATERS FROM THE MOYNE RIVER, PORT FAIRY. “FLOOD WAVES LASH HOUSES” Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 – 1954) 24 March 1946: 15 (Sport Section). .

By Monday 18 March, the threat has subsided slightly but more water was expected to come down the Moyne River and high tide was a concern.  As a result, the fire brigade put all men in the town on standby. The main bridge over the Moyne was still standing but had taken a “pounding”.  The river reached its peak on Sunday and fisherman stood in waist deep water desperately trying to secure their boats, their livelihoods, with some almost drowning.



By Tuesday, houses on the outskirts of  Port Fairy East were still half-submerged. Other families were forced to leave their homes, as weakened walls threatened to collapse while the road to Portland was expected to stay closed for some time.  In the north-east of the town, built up flood waters tore through sand dunes. In doing so, the water escaped to the sea preventing more damage to the town.

The Town Clerk of Port Fairy spoke with John Cain Sr, then Premier of Victoria “Send us some tobacco; there is a famine in smokes here”  Bacon, eggs, potatos and other food supplies were also in short supply.  Two Army “ducks” arrived on Tuesday 19 March with butter, eggs, bacon, tinned meat, yeast and tobacco. Another “duck” was soon dispatched.  After rescuing stranded families (below) the “ducks” distributed food to isolated families and fodder for stock.  They also collected stranded stock, taking them to safety.

"FLOODS IN VICTORIA" Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW : 1876 - 1954) 21 March 1946: 3.

“FLOODS IN VICTORIA” Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954) 21 March 1946: 3. <;

There was almost one metre of water in two of Port Fairy’s hotels, including the Caledonian Inn (below).  The publican of the inn waded into his backyard to rescue his poultry, then placed them in the inn’s attic.  The nearby picture theatre was also flooded.



Jack and Teddy Talbot (below) had a lucky escape as a bridge collapsed just as they were approaching.

The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954) 20 March 1946: 3. Web. 1 Mar 2016 .

The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954) 20 March 1946: 3. Web. 1 Mar 2016 <;.

"Aftermath Of Floods In Western Victoria" The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954) 22 March 1946: .

“Aftermath Of Floods In Western Victoria” The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954) 22 March 1946: <;.

The photo below shows Mrs Woodrup on a flying fox where Steel’s bridge once stood on the Princes Highway at Port Fairy North.

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957) 21 March 1946:.

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 21 March 1946:<;.

Cars replaced boats in the streets.  Frank and Chris Newman, are pictured below taking Mrs B.Bourke home from the shops.

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957) 21 March 1946 .

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 21 March 1946 <;.

Residents in William Street (below) dried clothes and furniture after the water in their street reached a depth of over a metre.  By Wednesday 20 March, wet mattresses and pillows hung over fences, furniture was in front yards and clothes lines hung between houses.  Dairy farmers unable to get their milk out left cans of milk at each corner and all townspeople were allowed a jug each while the local hotels had a good supply of cream.  The damage bill in Port fairy totalled thousands of pounds.

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957) 21 March 1946 .

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 21 March 1946 <;.

The Port Fairy Cemetery was underwater and even by the end of March, the water was still one metre deep. Eventually, pumps were used to drain it.

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Today, there is a reminder of the 1946 flood at the Port Fairy Wharf.



Between Friday night 15 March and Saturday morning 16 March, Portland received 144 mm of rain and low-lying land in the town was flooded.  There was a call to divert the water into the sea to save the electricity and gas supplies, but all electricity and gas were cut.  The sewage works were deluged and the local fire brigade was busy pumping water. The Portland Showgrounds were under 1.5 metres of water.  The town was cut off from Saturday including telegraph and radio communications.

By the morning of Sunday 17 March, the rainfall totalled 203 mm.  Fawthrop Swamp was inundated and parts of Bridgewater Roadwere covered in water. Much of the state’s tomatos were grown in the district with crop losses eventually leading to a shortage.  Local halls and hotels accommodated evacuees.  A “howling southerly breeze” with huge waves hit the breakwater (below).

PORTLAND BREAKWATER c1945. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

PORTLAND BREAKWATER c1945. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.


At Heywood, until 3:00 pm on 18 March the previous fifty-four hours had produced 335 mm rain leaving many people homeless. Travellers were also stranded as the Portland/Hamilton road was cut including at the Fitzroy River bridge.  The local hotel was crowded with evacuees and emergency accommodation was set up in the Heywood Hall.


The Glenelg River rose dramatically at Dartmoor as water flowed into the river from tributaries upstream.  Five hundred yards of a twenty metre high railway bridge (below) was submerged as was the highway after the river’s level rose fifteen metres. Snakes sort refuge on top of the bridge and iron washed into the pylons, acting as a safe haven for insects, spiders and lizards.

DARTMOOR RAILWAY BRIDGE UNDER CONTRUCTION c1915. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

DARTMOOR RAILWAY BRIDGE UNDER CONTRUCTION c1915. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

Old residents agreed it was the worst flood in memory.  The Glenelg River was over 1.5 kilometres wide and only the tops of telegraph poles were visible. While rowing in the floodwaters, Mr Malseed gathered ten rabbits, twenty-four pumpkins and a number of tomatos stuck in trees. Seventy drums that had spilt into the river at Casterton were expected to reach Dartmoor.


Although Nelson only received 30 mm of rain over the weekend, the Glenelg River was rising rapidly as it neared the sea. A boat shed floated down the Glenelg River with two boats still attached. All sheds on the river bank were submerged as was the kiosk. The monument to Major Mitchell on the Isle of Bags was almost submerged.



Rubbish began to collect at the mouth of the river until the water’s force washed the sand bar out to sea. Meanwhile, residents worked hard to save their bridge (below)

NELSON BRIDGE c1907. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

NELSON BRIDGE c1907. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.


"HOW NELSON SAVED ITS BRIDGE" The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954) 22 March 1946: 3. .

“HOW NELSON SAVED ITS BRIDGE” The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954) 22 March 1946: 3. <;.





Coleraine’s rainfall to Saturday 16 March at 6:00 pm was 122 mm.  A flood warning was issued at 2:00 am Sunday morning in the lower part of the town. Bryan’s Creek rose rapidly flooding shops and houses. Stranded Mrs J. Torney and her baby were rescued from the golf course clubhouse.  Over a metre of water sat in the yard of the Post Office (below) by noon Sunday and reached the eaves of some houses.

COLERAINE POST OFFICE. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

COLERAINE POST OFFICE. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

By Monday 18 March, 186 mm or rain had fallen on the town and residents were cleaning silt from their homes. One house, under 1.8m of water in the days before, was left with 50cm of silt. Damage to bridges had blocked the road from Coleraine to Merino and the suspension bridge washed away.  There were also large stock losses and miles of fencing demolished.


At Casterton, the Glenelg River swelled quickly reaching a height of 6.45m on the river gauge.  Seventy drums from the local tip rolled into the river and travelled downstream.  By Monday, there were still fears for the safety of three men. Six streets in the town were flooded and Mr Frank Daley and his eighty-three-year-old mother were rescued by police in a boat.

CASTERTON, 18 MARCH 1946. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

CASTERTON, 18 MARCH 1946. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

Thirty metres of pipe serving the town’s water supply was washed away while the Major Mitchell monument, south of the town, was almost submerged.  At nearby Sandford, the McCormack family were stranded.  On Monday 18 March, police and an Army “duck” tried to reach them. They were later reported safe.

CASTERTON, 18 MARCH 1946. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

CASTERTON, 18 MARCH 1946. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.


Just as the water in rivers and creeks was beginning to ease, the following weekend the rain began to fall again. The totals for the period are below, with towns further east of the original floods affected.

"YEAR'S RAINFALL IN THREE MONTHS" The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957) 27 March 1946:.

“YEAR’S RAINFALL IN THREE MONTHS” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 27 March 1946:<;.

On Monday 25 March, Port Fairy was once again isolated and evacuations were considered. Macarthur was expecting flooding worse than experienced a week earlier and the Eumerella River burst its banks after reaching a depth of over three metres. Families were evacuated at Bessibelle. The towns of Koroit, Hawkesdale and Branxholme were all at risk of flood. At Allansford. the Hopkins River reached the height of the week before but continued to rise before dropping 1.2 metres on Wednesday 27 March.

At Casterton, the police were warning residents the Glenelg and Wannon Rivers could burst their banks. Homes at Byaduk evacuated in the week earlier were again vacated.  At Wallacedale and Condah flood waters still remained from the week before.  An Army “duck” was called to Tyrendarra to save a family isolated by the Fitzroy River and Darlot’s Creek.  Portland was also cut off via the Princes Highway due to water over the road.

Flooding was reported at Beech Forest and residents living along the Gellibrand River prepared themselves to evacuate. By 29 March, there was over half a metre of water on the Ocean Road at Lower Gellibrand.  Meanwhile at Cobden, 63 mm fell on Saturday 24 March flooding paddocks and stranding cattle.  At nearby Cowley’s Creek, stud sheep were rescued from the creek. At Camperdown, a total of 104 mm was recorded over the weekend. Port Campbell, reported its heaviest falls in its history and the township was isolated with over a metre of water over the road. Stranded campers were billeted at the Port Campbell Hotel (below).

PORT CAMPBELL HOTEL. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

PORT CAMPBELL HOTEL. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

By 27 March, the sun was shining in Warrnambool for the first time in two weeks, but the damage bill and impending recovery left a gloomy forecast for the Western District. Before the flood waters subsided on 20 March 1946, The Age reported the total damage bill could exceed £2,000,000.  On 30 March 1946, the Border Watch reported 150 houses were destroyed and 150 sheds damaged.  There were losses to rye grass seed and potato, tomato, onion and apple crops.  One hundred bridges were destroyed.  The damage bill for bridges and roads alone, published in The Age of 5 April 1946, was estimated at £76,500. Of that, £25, 300 was in the Warrnambool Shire.  By the end of March, the Army “ducks”, vital during the disaster, returned to Melbourne.

On 1 July 1946, twenty-seven men from the flood affected areas received silver and bronze medals from the Royal Humane Society for their rescue work.  They included fisherman and policeman. The men presented with silver medals were:

"AWARDS FOR HEROISM" The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954) 2 July 1946: 2. .

“AWARDS FOR HEROISM” The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954) 2 July 1946: 2. <;.

The bronze medal recipients were:

"AWARDS FOR HEROISM" The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954) 2 July 1946: 2. .

“AWARDS FOR HEROISM” The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954) 2 July 1946: 2. <;.

There was a positive to came out of the 1946 floods.  Buckley’s Swamp, a peat swamp burning since the fires of January 1944, was finally extinguished.

"FLOOD'S GOOD DEED." Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953) 1 April 1946: 2 (EVENING). Web. .

“FLOOD’S GOOD DEED.” Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953) 1 April 1946: 2 (EVENING). Web. <;.


Flood Victoria

Glenelg Libraries – Historic Treasures – The Floods of Casterton

Trove Digitised Newspapers

The Age

 18 March 1946

 19 March 1946

 20 March 1946

21 March 1946

26 March 1946

 2 July 1946

The Argus

12 March 1946

18 March 1946 

19 March 1946

26 March 1946

27 March 1946

28 March 1946

2 April 1946

Border Watch

19 March 1946

21 March 1946

23 March 1946

28 March 1946

30 March 1946

Camperdown Chronicle

19 March 1946

Horsham Times

15 June 1920

Port Fairy Gazette

20 April 1916

Portland Guardian

 18 March 1946

 21 March 1946

 25 March 1946

28 March 1946

Williamstown Chronicle

22 March 1946

State Emergency Service – Casterton Local Flood Guide

State Emergency Service – Port Fairy Local Flood Guide

State Emergency Service – Southern Grampians Shire

State Emergency Service- Warrnambool Flood Guide