In The News – November 24, 1941

The Portland Guardian of November 24, 1941 heralded the 100th birthday of Heywood, a small town about 25 kms north of Portland.  The article remembered The Bell family and their contribution to Heywood’s settlement.  I recently  introduced to you my family link to the Bells in a Trove Tuesday post – A Matter of Relativity about Amelia Harman.  Amelia married Christopher Bell, a grandson of John and Elizabeth Bell.

John Bell and his wife Elizabeth Morrow, left Ireland in 1841 with eight children in tow, some were adults, and sailed to Australia aboard the “Catherine Jamison“.  Five months after their departure, the Bells had settled at Mount Eckersley, a few kilometres north of Heywood.




Great contributors to Western Victorian racing, the family were good friends with poet Adam Lindsay Gordon.  William Bell was with Gordon when he made his mighty leap at Blue Lake, Mt. Gambier.

The Department of Primary Industries cites the height of Mt Eckersley as 450 feet (137 metres) but that didn’t stop John Bell, at the age of 101, from climbing the volcano, only months before his death.

As a family known for longevity, twin sons Henry and James lived to 92 and 97 respectively.  At one time they were Australia’s oldest living twins.

HEYWOOD IS ONE HUNDRED. (1941, November 24). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 1 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved November 16, 2012, from

All of this is well and good but is it all true?  John’s year of death is recorded as 1885, with his birth about 1787.  That would have made him around 97/98, short of the 101 reported.  Still, if he did climb Mt.Eckersley, to do it aged 97/98  was still a mean feat, but John may not have been a centenarian.  The family notice in the Hamilton Spectator at the time of his death gives his age as 98.

There could also be a discrepancy with the year the Bells settled at Mt Eckersley.  The Bells did arrive on the Catherine Jamieson on October 22, 1841 to Port Phillip.  The newspaper article says they were in Heywood by November 1841.  The Glenelg and Wannon Settlers site states John Bell settled at Mt Eckersly in 1843.

A further reminder to not always believe what you read in the papers.

In The News – September 23, 1870

This is one of my favourite articles about Hamilton’s history.  The Argus of 23 September 1870 reported that on the Sunday morning past, September 18, at 3am “the residents of Hamilton were aroused from their beds by the cry of “Fire!” and a large crowd soon collected in Gray Street…” What follows is a story of a desperate battle to save not only the shops surrounding the grocery story of Nickless and Wells but beyond.

The article gives an interesting insight into how a fire of such intensity was managed in the 19th century.  Many buildings were wooden and there was little or no water pressure.  An early decision to pull down the butcher shop of  Messrs. Brown Brothers to create a gap between the fire and the rest of the buildings in the block was to no avail as the fire was quickly spreading from the other side of Nickless and Wells.  Firefighting attempts were also hindered by the large crowd that had gathered.

DISASTROUS FIRE AT HAMILTON. (1870, September 23). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 7. Retrieved September 22, 2012, from

Hamilton’s main street, Gray Street, is no stranger to fire.  Actually, there seems to have been an unusually large number of fires, causing significant damage often to several buildings in the town’s CBD.  I did a quick browse of Trove and found fires such at these in the following years alone:  1874, 1885, 1888, 1900,  1912, 1914, 1920, 1930, 1932, 1938, 1944.

On August 1, 1962, one of Hamilton’s largest fires occurred when Strachan’s Department store, on the corner of Gray and Brown Street burnt out in a spectacular fire, talked about for years after.  During my time in Hamilton, 1970s and 80s, a large car showroom was destroyed on the opposite corner of Gray and Brown Street.  Since then, I can think of two other fires in Gray Street in the block between Brown and Thompson Streets.  The most recent saw the Target store destroyed in October 2004 by a fire the Mayor of the time, Cr. Don Robertson considered large enough have burnt out the CBD.  What differed between the fire of 1870, with the same potential, and the Target fire was that in the case of the latter,  a $1.2 million ladder platform truck was rushed from Ballarat and thermal imaging equipment came from Portland.  Huge advances from the times of horse-drawn fire-carts!

With the tendency for fires in the CBD, it was no surprise that after a fire in Gray Street in 1932,  Councillor Hughes thought smoke helmets could be of some use to the fire brigade.

SMOKE HELMETS NEEDED. (1932, March 4). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved September 23, 2012, from

In The News – 28 August 1916

The news of 28 August 1916 was typical of the time.  It was two years into WW1, with the Battle of Fromelles in July and then Pozieres. By the end of August, Australians were fighting at Mouquet Farm, France.  Newspapers were full of war news, departures and casualties and the Portland Guardian of 28 August 1916 was no different.

Mrs Thomson of Lower Cape Bridgewater had heard the news her son Private G.E. Thomson was wounded in France.  Families of the 37th, 38th and 40th Battalions were able to send their parcels for the front to 380 Bourke Street, Melbourne.  The parcels were then forwarded to the various Battalions at a cost of one penny per pound.

The Portland Guardian. (1916, August 28). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved August 24, 2012, from

I would like to think the next article was about my 1st cousins 3 x removed, Frederick James and Arthur Leonard Holmes (aka Lennie) of Casterton.  However, while Arthur was still in Australia, not embarking until 21 October 1916, Fred was in France and wounded by this time.

I searched the WW1 Embarkation Roll and Mapping our Anzacs trying to identify the two Holmes boys, presumably brothers. The venue of the social was not mentioned in the Editorial, so I assumed it was in Portland.  The closest I found was Frederick Noah Holmes of Wallacedale and Leslie Holmes of Homerton via Heywood, however, Leslie embarked on August 1.

The Haines family from idyllic Sandy Waterhole on the Glenelg River received news of their son’s passing as a result of wounds.

The Mulholland family of Portland also received bad news from France.

I hope Mrs Carnie got her letters from the front.

Mrs Newman of “Ulymah” Gawler Street Portland, was doing her part for the war effort.  She was the Portland contact for Mr Herbert Daly, an Australian in Paris.  Herbert was collecting socks for those displaced by war, particularly old men.

Newly re-elected Portland Mayor Mr Wyatt received a letter from local boy W.H.J.Baker, serving in France.  Corporal Baker mentions “France is such a beautiful place” and “No wonder Germany wants this beautiful country”.  Read the letter in full here.

On Active Service. (1916, August 28). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved August 25, 2012, from

Corporal Baker enclosed some of his poetry with the letter.  Read the full poem here.

Australian Sons in Egypt. (1916, August 28). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved August 25, 2012, from

Back in Portland, which must have felt a million miles away from the war, unsettled weather prevailed.

The Portland Guardian. (1916, August 28). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved August 25, 2012, from

Wattle Day, on 1 September was fast approaching.  The first Wattle Day was in 1910 and the outbreak of war saw the day celebrated with extra vigour.

The Portland Guardian. (1916, August 28). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved August 25, 2012, from

Canadian born silent screen star Mary Pickford was appearing in “The Dawn of Tomorrow” at the Portland Pictures.

QUEENS OF THE FILM. (1916, April 29). The Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889, 1914 – 1918), p. 5. Retrieved August 25, 2012, from

As mentioned,  Cr James Lewis Wyatt was unanimously re-elected Mayor of Portland.  He was Mayor from August 1914 to August 1917.

[No heading]. (1916, August 28). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved August 25, 2012, from

Victorians, along with the other states, were preparing for their first dose of Daylight Savings. The timing was not exactly how the Act had set out. Clocks went forward on 1 January 1917 and back on 25 March 1917. Daylight Savings did not occur again until WW2 with the years of 1942/3 and 1943/4 each having an extra hour of daylight at the end of the day.

The Portland Guardian. (1916, August 28). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved August 26, 2012, from

In 1914, the Duke of Portland of England announced that the skeleton of racehorse Carbine would return to Australia for the National Museum.  The following article, two years later, announced the skeleton was ready for shipping to Australia.  Finally, in December 1919, the skeleton was ready to leave England, arriving in February the following year.

I have seen the skeleton of Carbine at the former Racing Museum at Caulfield Racecourse and its current home at the National Sports Museum at the MCG.   While standing beside Carbine’s skeleton is not as moving as visiting Phar Lap at Melbourne Museum, it is still an imposing sight.

A video of Carbine’s skeleton being reconstructed when it moved to the National Sports Museum can be seen at the link  –

In The News – July 29, 1929

Although many of the Western District newspapers are not digitised at Trove, it is possible to find articles from the likes of The Hamilton Spectator in the The Portland Guardian,  for example.  On this day 83 years ago,  an excerpt from the Albion newspaper of Coleraine appeared in The Portland Guardian of July 29, 1929.

Prompted by the deaths of many of the early pioneers, the article reflected on the history of the Western District  from the time Major Thomas Mitchell made his way across the land he called Australia Felix 93 years earlier.



Early History. (1929, July 29). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 23, 2012, from

There is a clue in the article for those of you who having trouble finding your Western District family member’s arrival in Victoria.  The writer mentions many people from Van Diemen’s Land making their way to Victoria once news got back the Hentys had pushed up from Portland into the Merino district.  It could then be possible that family members travelled to Victoria via Tasmania where they had resided as convicts or otherwise.

Jenny Fawcett, on her great South-West Victoria genealogy and history site,  has indexed the names of those who travelled to Victoria as part of a Geelong and Portland Bay Immigration Society scheme in 1845 and 1846.  The idea behind that and similar schemes was to bring labour into the colony with those behind the society being squatters and merchants.  Jenny provides a great description of the scheme on her site.

Browsing through the names,there are many I instantly recognise as Western District family names.  Also, a lot of the pioneer obituaries I have read tell of the deceased having come to Victoria via Van Diemen’s Land.

So, if you are beginning to think your ancestors were good swimmers, follow-up the possibility they came to the Western District from Tasmania.  You just never know.

In The News – July 25, 1906

Heavy winter rains in the Western District and the South-East of South Australia left Casterton awash in 1906.  As reported in The Border Watch on July 25, 1906, the Glenelg River reached record levels and evacuations took place.  There was also large stock losses.

I am still working out which “Mr Jelly” carried people to safety.  My ggg grandfather was George Jelly of Casterton, but he passed away in 1896.  He had two sons still living at the time of the floods, William and John and they were both living in Casterton in 1906.

CASTERTON PARTLY SUBMERGED. (1906, July 25). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved July 25, 2012, from

In The News – June 22, 1877

Today’s “In the News” is from The Portland Guardian of 22 June 22 1877 with the featured article from the Hamilton correspondent, filed on June 16, 1877.

The weather in Hamilton at the time was not dissimilar to the current weather and the streets and footpaths were muddy.  The cheeky correspondent suggested that the residents of Hamilton would not be thinking well of the town engineer after their foot drenching walk to church on Sunday.

HAMILTON. (1877, June 22). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENINGS.

Hare hunting was a popular sport of the time, with the weather not stopping the keen participants.

Australian Rules football was well underway in the Western District by 1877.

The papers reported disease of all types.  Typhoid fever was prevalent in the navvy’s (railway builders) camp by the Grange Burn in June 1877 and conditions were far from comfortable.   Diphtheria had also been reported, however, the source was unreliable having given a false report of typhus fever in the past.

HAMILTON. (1877, June 22). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENINGS.

In The News – June 1, 1928

For those of you who have not visited the south-west of Victoria, the following article gives a wonderful description from Camperdown through to Port Fairy.   Published on June 1, 1928 in the Hurstbridge  Advertiser, the correspondent, “Mernda”  journeys by bus to Port Fairy.  There are descriptions of some of the towns and their industries as well as the volcanic countryside.

The former Bank of Australasia (below) was a highlight for “Mernda” in Port Fairy.


Of interest is the Glaxo works in Port Fairy, considered by “Mernda” as a “great success”.  Glaxo produced high quantities of milk powder, from milk sourced from the local area.  In the 1940s, the company name changed to Glaxo Laboratories and still exists today in Port Fairy as GlaxoSmithKline.

Nestle at Dennington, just outside Warrnambool, was another milk powder manufacturer that caught “Mernda’s” eye.  Nestle operated from 1911 until 2005 when Fonterra bought the factory. To read a history of the Nestle factory at Dennington, follow the link

MY TRIP TO THE WESTERN DISTRICT. (1928, June 1). Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), p. 4 Edition: AFTERNOON.. Retrieved May 31, 2012, from