In The News – 8 February – 13 February 1901

I have an interest in the weather, not just for today or the coming weekend but also historically.  Participating in Melbourne University’s Climate History newspaper tagging project involving tagging Trove newspapers articles about weather events, it became evident the weather behaves in a cyclical nature.  If it has happened before it will happen again, droughts, floods and storms.

Taking my interests a step further,  investigating how weather events effected my ancestors can add greatly to their story. That is why the Victorian bushfires of 1901 are of interest as the Byaduk district, where many of my ancestors lived, was heavily affected.  The weather was similar to two days in my lifetime,  Ash Wednesday on 16 February 1983 and  Black Saturday on 7 February 2010. On each day, fires blazed across Victoria.  

The first reports of fire came through on 8 February 1901.  The following article from The Argus describes the weather of 7 February 1901.  The descriptive language takes the reader to that day.  The heat was oppressive, the wind was strong and dust storms crossed the state, causing an unnatural darkness.

HEAT AND GALES. (1901, February 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 5. Retrieved January 29, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10533956

Fires had sprung up throughout the Western District.  Early reports from Branxholme were tragic with one death, stock killed and houses lost.  I have family links to three families who lost their homes, the Millers, Storers and Addinsalls.  George Miller, a racehorse trainer, lost his house and stables and no doubt his horses.

HEAT AND GALES. (1901, February 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 5. Retrieved January 29, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10533956

The two-day race meeting at Ararat was held in stifling conditions. A fire started at the course on the second day, with horses receiving burns.  Later the wind picked up and ripped iron off the grandstand roof, sending the ladies within running for shelter.

HEAT AND GALES. (1901, February 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 5. Retrieved January 29, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10533956

Fires started across Victoria including Warrnambool, Alexandra, Wangaratta, Buninyong, Yea and Castlemaine.

DESTRUCTIVE BUSH FIRES IN VICTORIA. (1901, February 8). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 6. Retrieved January 30, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14337694

The articles below report on homes lost at Byaduk, but hardest hit was Byaduk North.  My relatives were closer to Byaduk further south and while they were lucky not to lose their homes but terrifying anticipating the fire’s approach.  The fire travelled at a great pace, coming within a mile of my ggg James Harman’s property Mount Pleasant, on the Hamilton-Port Fairy Road, reaching the properties of the Christie brothers just to the north. As well as James and his wife Susan Reed, my great-grandmother Sarah Elizabeth Harman, and her father Reuben James Harman were living at Byaduk but lived further south again in the Byaduk township.  Numerous other family members lived in the area from the Byaduk Caves through to the Byaduk township.  

TERRIBLE BUSH FIRES. (1901, February 9). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1931), p. 7. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4818069

DESTRUCTIVE BUSH FIRES. (1901, February 9). Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (NSW : 1851 – 1904), p. 2. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64452557

The Hamilton Spectator reported twelve homes destroyed at Byaduk North leaving just three remaining.  Most were close to the course of the Lyne Creek running to the west of the township. The Free Presbyterian Church was lost and the Byaduk North Hotel was under threat.  In the days after the fire, the hotel served as a refuge for the homeless.

BYADUK NORTH HOTEL c1906. Image courtesy of the Museums Victoria Collections http://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/766487

BYADUK NORTH HOTEL c1906. Image courtesy of the Museums Victoria Collections http://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/766487

The homestead of Richard Thomas Carty at Brisbane Hill, a large property to the north of the township of Byaduk North, was destroyed.  While running for the creek, after escaping the homestead, Mrs Carty’s dress caught fire was fortunately quelled.  The Cartys rebuilt and the replacement homestead Dunroe  still stands today.

"ALONG MACARTHUR ROAD." Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 - 1918) 9 February 1901 .

“ALONG MACARTHUR ROAD.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 9 February 1901 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article226087594&gt;.

 

"THE VICTORIAN BUSH FIRES." Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907) 23 February 1901: .

“THE VICTORIAN BUSH FIRES.” Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907) 23 February 1901: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71463761&gt;.

The fire burnt through the Monivae Estate with a large loss to fences and livestock and burnt within a mile of Hamilton.  On the other side of town, closer to the Coleraine railway line, the Hamilton Racecourse fell just short of the fire’s path.

"MANY FAMILIES HOMELESS." Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 - 1918) 9 Feb 1901: 18. .

“MANY FAMILIES HOMELESS.” Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 – 1918) 9 Feb 1901: 18. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article198084151&gt;.

Other areas throughout the Western District felt the brunt of fire on 7 February 1901.  This photograph from Birregurra shows the devastation in that town.

THE VICTORIAN BUSH FIRES. (1901, February 23). Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 – 1907), p. 38. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71463761

Portland was also under threat with fire circling the town.  The fire did not stop until it met the sea.

VICTORIAN BUSH FIRES. (1901, February 11). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 – 1931), p. 5. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4818536

Buninyong near Ballarat was one of the worst areas hit.

BUSH FIRES IN VICTORIA. (1901, February 9). The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23853766

THE VICTORIAN BUSH FIRES. (1901, February 23). Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 – 1907), p. 38. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71463761

Macarthur had losses as did Princetown on the south coast.  At Timboon, bullock teams from the local sawmill were lost.

FIRES IN VICTORIA. (1901, February 12). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), p. 6. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article54558042

FIRES IN VICTORIA. (1901, February 12). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), p. 6. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article54558042

By 11 January, aid for the homeless was on the agenda and at Branxholme a public meeting was held to discuss such matters.  Authorities discovered the fire near Branxholme, which was probably the same fire to hit Byaduk, was accidentally started by a travelling tinsmith fixing a trough at Ardachy Estate.

THE BUSH FIRES. (1901, February 11). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 5. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10534297

A meeting was called at Byaduk for 18 February 1901, and ggg grandfather James Harman donated £2 2/ to the fund for the homeless.

"BUSH FIRE BELIEF FUNDS." Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 - 1918) 21 February 1901: .

“BUSH FIRE BELIEF FUNDS.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 21 February 1901: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article226090204&gt;.

The fire was so strong and relentless, old residents were drawing comparisons to Black Thursday almost fifty years earlier to the day on 6 February 1851.

TELEGRAPHIC. (1901, February 12). Kalgoorlie Western Argus (WA : 1896 – 1916), p. 32. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article32205605

Today and for the past few days, the temperature has struggled to reach 20 degrees. In 2009, the temperature was more than twice that.  Future summers will have days like today,  but there will be days again like 6 February 1851,  7 February 1901, 16 February 1983 and 7 February 2009.  It is the nature of the weather.  Let’s hope the devastation is not repeated.

In the News – 15 January 1944

From Saturday 15 January 1944, Victorians were counting the cost of disastrous bushfires that burned out of control a day earlier, Friday 14 January 1944. In Hamilton, the losses were particularly heavy in what were and remain, the worst fires in the history of the town with fifty homes destroyed.

"BLACK DAY FOR HAMILTON" The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954) 15 January 1944: .

“BLACK DAY FOR HAMILTON” The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954) 15 January 1944: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article206785522&gt;.

There was some warning.  December had recorded below average rainfall and the temperatures were very high over Christmas and New Year.  The weekend prior had been hot with temperatures around forty degrees.  Friday 14 December and Saturday 15 December were both declared days of total fire ban across the state except the Mallee.

"BUSH FIRE DANGER" Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953) 13 January 1944: 4 (EVENING). Web. 14 Jan 2017 .

“BUSH FIRE DANGER” Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953) 13 January 1944: 4 (EVENING). <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64387965&gt;.

The Hamilton Hospital admitted more than forty people and some later died.

HAMILTON AREA LOSS £270,000. (1944, January 19). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 4. Retrieved January 18, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11821239

 

CATASTROPHIC FIRE AT HAMILTON. (1944, January 15). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 4. Retrieved January 18, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11816144

Of the fifty homes destroyed, two belonged to my relatives.  On a trip to Hamilton, I visited Mum’s first cousin and mentioned the 1944 fires to her husband, then his eighties. His family the Lovell’s lost their home in the 1944 fires.  He disappeared from the room and returned with a clump of fused pennies, all he had left after the fire, a “memento” he had kept for over 60 years.  I found a similar account in The Age of 20 January 1944,

"Nineteen Patients in Hamilton Hospital" The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954) 20 January 1944: .

“Nineteen Patients in Hamilton Hospital” The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954) 20 January 1944: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article206793515&gt;.

The Lovell’s house was around three kilometres from the main street, Gray Street.  The Argus reported the closest the fire got to Gray Street was just 500-800 metres from the Post Office.  Having lived in Hamilton, I find this unimaginable, particularly the thought of roofing iron blowing into the main street.

MANY LIVES LOST AND ENORMOUS DAMAGE IN BUSH FIRES. (1944, January 15). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 1. Retrieved January 18, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11816061

Another of my family members to lose a home was Mrs E.Diwell.  That was Louisa Spender, wife of  Ernest Diwell, a son of my gg grandparents Richard and Elizabeth Diwell.  Ernest passed away in 1939 and Louisa remained at their home, described as “off ” Penshurst Road” on the 1942 Australian Electoral Roll.  They actually lived to the southern end of Rippon Road which could be described as “off” Penshurst road.  Penshurst Road is to the east of Hamilton and not far from where I used to live.

Something to consider is this was wartime with many men serving overseas. With limited manpower, it was not surprising women were fighting side by side with men.  I mentioned the fire to Nana and while she did recall it, she had no other knowledge of it.  She was living Melbourne then and working at the Munitions factory at Maribyrnong prior to her marriage in 1945.  Also, her immediate family lived on the northern side of the town which does not seem to have been in the path of the fire.  When I mentioned women fought the fires, she gave me a, “Of course!” type of reply.

Hamilton was not the only town ravaged by the fires of January 1944.  Nearby Dunkeld (below) lost more than forty homes and buildings, and twenty homes were lost at Colac.

THE SCENE AT DUNKELD. "Bush Fire Victims Carry On" Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 - 1954) 26 January 1944: .

THE SCENE AT DUNKELD. “Bush Fire Victims Carry On” Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954) 26 January 1944: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article224839776&gt;.

Derrinallum (below) was hit by what The Australasian described as the “January Holocaust”.

"WESTERN DISTRICT FIRE AREAS STILL SCENE OF RUIN" The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946) 27 May 1944: 6. Web. 14 Jan 2017 .

“WESTERN DISTRICT FIRE AREAS STILL SCENE OF RUIN” The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946) 27 May 1944: 6. Web. 14 Jan 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article142418919&gt;.

The following article from The Sydney Morning Herald summarised the day of Friday 14 January 1944.

FIRES IN WIDELY-SEPARATED ZONES. (1944, January 15). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 9. Retrieved January 18, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17878294

Even beachside suburbs of Melbourne had fire running through the ti-tree, forcing hundreds on to the beaches.

FOURTEEN DEATHS IN DISASTROUS BUSH FIRES IN VICTORIA. (1944, January 15). Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved January 18, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article68837972

In the News – 13 January 1905

Western District pioneers were exposed to most of the elements Australia offers including flood, drought and fire.  Each had its own devastating effect on their lives and livelihood, particularly those on the land.

By summer 1905, my Harman family of Byaduk had already experienced bushfire,  Fires in 1888, 1896, 1901, and 1902 had seen the loss of stock, grazing land and life.  Bushfires today are just as devastating but the pioneers of the 19th century and early 20th century did not have the weather forecasting, firefighting equipment and communications now available.  When a fire went close to their homes at Byaduk on 11 January 1905, one can only imagine how they managed.

The fire broke away in the stony ground near the Byaduk Caves and travelled southerly at a rapid pace.

NEAR BYADUK CAVES.

NEAR BYADUK CAVES.

The first Harman hit was George Harman, son of James Harman.  His property Quetta was on the north-eastern corner of the Hamilton-Port Fairy Road and what is now Harman’s Road. The fire crossed the main road on to his father’s property Mt Pleasant and Frank Kinghorn’s The Island next door. Alfred Harper, lost all the timber for a new house, while others lost haystacks. Forty men were fighting the fire but wind changes made it almost impossible for them.  The Portland Guardian reported on the fire on 13 January 1905.

HEAVY LOSSES AT BYADUK. (1905, January 13). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved January 11, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63691042

In the News – December 8, 1909

I’ve heard many stories of pumas living in the Grampians, but a bunyip?  In 1909, a Mr A. J. Campbell of Armadale wrote to the “The Argus” suggesting such a creature was residing in the Black Swamp near Pomonal.

NATURE NOTES AND QUERIES. (1909, November 26). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 4. Retrieved December 5, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10749956

That letter led to a report in “The Argus” on December 8, 1909 about the strange creature of the  Black Swamp.  An expert had arrived and an attempt made to identify the creature.  Dudley Le Souef, an interesting character from an even more interesting family, and then director of the Melbourne Zoological Gardens, got within 20 yards of it and confirmed that the bunyip was in fact a seal.  A seal would not be that surprising in a seaside town but Pomonal is around 150 kilometres from the sea.  Browsing through the newspapers at Trove, I found many references to bunyips, with musk ducks commonly mistaken as were wombats and platypus.  I also found many accounts of “inland seals” around the country, also mistaken for the mythical bunyip.

SEAL NEAR THE GRAMPIANS. (1909, December 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 12. Retrieved December 5, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10752746

An explanation to how the seal could have come to be so far inland, was found in “‘The Argus” on December 21, 1909.  The idea of a seal in the Grampians had created some interest and the “Naturalist” who authored the article encouraged people to visit the little known tourist destination.  He even recommended tourists picnic beside the Black Swamp.  That would be okay if you were not scared of bunyips!

THE GRAMPIANS. (1909, December 21). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 5. Retrieved December 7, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10755530

Looking at maps of the Grampians, I believe the seal’s path along the Wannon possible, but in the depths of the Grampians, where the Wannon ends, it seems the seal would have had to have travelled overland and along smaller creeks to meet up with the Mount William Creek.

At the time of his sighting, Le Souef offered a £10 reward to anyone who could catch the seal and deliver it alive to the Stawell Railway station.  Hopes were up that by the end of summer, the swamp would have dried enough to assist the seal’s capture, however a query to the “Nature Notes” in “The Argus” on May 20, 1910, closed the story.  Until now.

NATURE NOTES AND QUERIES. (1910, May 20). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 9. Retrieved December 7, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10857617

In the News – November 16, 1929

On this day in 1929, The Argus reported that my gg uncle Charles James Harman, then a Flight Lieutenant with the R.A.A.F., working as a Liaison Officer in London, had the once in a lifetime opportunity to ride in an airship, the R101.

I was fairly happy when I found this article at Trove as Charles is one of my favourite and most interesting relatives and I have enjoyed discovering some of the adventures he had during WW1 and also post war.  Life for Charles in London was a long way removed from growing up in Byaduk and his stories far more romantic than those of his relatives back home… new ploughs,  prizes at  agriculture shows, the rain etc.   I also couldn’t wait to tell my Nana about Charles’ airship experience.  He was her uncle, but she said she never met him.  She knew he had gone to war, but that was about all she knew, or as was her way, that was all she was going to tell me.

Australians in R101. (1929, November 16). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 21. Retrieved November 14, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4050667

The R101 was still in testing when Charles Harman had his ride, with its construction completed only a month earlier.  It was close to 237 metres long and was like a luxurious hotel in the air.

The R101 never made it to the trial flights in India.  In fact, the airship was en route to India when it crashed over France on October 4, 1930.

TERRIBLE AIR TRAGEDY. (1930, October 6). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 9. Retrieved November 15, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4204227

Coincidentally, one of those killed was also an Air Liaison officer with the R.A.A.F, working in the same office as Charles in London, Squadron Leader William Palstra.

TERRIBLE AIR TRAGEDY. (1930, October 6). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 9. Retrieved November 15, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4204227

Also a coincidence (or was it), Charles Harman was controversially dismissed from his post later in the month of October 1930, but that is a story for another time.

The following video is fantastic.  It shows both stills and moving images of the R101 including the luxuries facilities inside.

In the News – November 16, 1922

The Portland Guardian of November 16, 1922, reported much excitement surrounding the town’s birthday celebrations beginning that day, including “Back to Portland” celebrations.  Former residents had started to return and reacquaint themselves with old friends.

Portland's Gala Week. (1922, November 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved November 15, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64027013

One article “Coming Home” , is reminder of how useful newspapers are in assisting our research.  Included is a list of all those who had indicated they would be attending the reunion.

Each name includes the present town of residence, some with an address.  The following are just a few of the names:

(1922, November 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 4 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved November 14, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page6065696

Other well-known names included Henty, Holmes, Kittson, Malseed and Silvester.

Advertising. (1922, November 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved November 14, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64027014

Advertising. (1922, November 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved November 15, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64027000

In The News – September 16, 1904

An article in The Portland Guardian on September 16, 1904 made me smile.  Today, when politicians of all levels of government are questioned about the frequency of their overseas trips or their questionable expenses, the  concerns of the  “Guardian” seem humble in comparison.  Also,  the tone of the article may have been different if an invitation had been offered to the Editor to take part in what was titled “The Riding Party”.

In an earlier edition of the “Guardian”, it had been reported that the local Councillors had set off on horseback and buggy that day, with the intent to inspect a road and also Grant Bay, not far south of the town.  The “Guardian” found out later that the real reason for the outing was to hunt rabbits.

Established August 1842. (1904, September 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved September 15, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63689870

Another article which caught my eye was that of the “Sparrow Match”.  The Narrawong Gun club had organised the match at the cricket ground and there was a large attendance.

Established August 1842. (1904, September 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved September 16, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63689870A story on the Penshurst Gun Club by Phillip Doherty for the Mt Rouse & District Historical Society, shed some light on this activity.  Sparrow catchers collected the birds for the gun clubs and on the day, they were released and shot for sport.  This was also done with starlings and pigeons.  The introduced birds had become pests and this was seen as killing two birds with one stone, so

  The sighting of a starling in the Portland area was also mentioned in the “Guardian” of September 16.  Established August 1842. (1904, September 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved September 16, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63689870