Happy New Year. I hope 2020 was kind to you. The photo below was taken on a New Year’s Day at Erskine House, Lorne. A beach holiday at Lorne was, and still is a popular summer destination for Western District people.
2021 is a milestone year for me because it marks the 10th birthday of Western District Families (WDF). I forgot WDF’s 9th birthday in April 2020 so I best not forget this year.
Before moving on to 2021, a look back at 2020, a good year for WDF. It took a pandemic and lockdowns, but more people visited the site than ever before in 2020, a year when I published fewer posts than ever before. The Western District Families Facebook page also had a good year. We saw some great photos, many with equally good stories. Best of all, from my prompts, the most wonderful stories and memories flowed from the page followers, now almost 10,000 in strength.
Finally, Hamilton’s WW1 Facebook page passed 500 followers despite me not posting there as much in 2020. Because it was a “stay at home” Anzac Day, I posted a virtual Last Post with images of the men from Hamilton who lost their lives during the Great War.
Thank you to everyone who has supported this site and the associated Facebook pages. I still have to pinch myself when I look at the number of WDF followers and the numbers reading my posts. It is much appreciated.
2020 gave me an opportunity to do something I had only dreamt of doing. That was to visit Byaduk, the home of my Harman and Bishop families, and talk to the locals about their town’s history. But as luck would have it, I was invited to speak at Byaduk on Australia Day.
It was an absolute highlight of my time researching and writing about family history and I was able to meet the wonderful Byaduk community, some of whose families have been in the district for more than 150 years. Long time followers will know I have written much about my Byaduk families here and I also wrote a family history Providence: the story of James and Susan Harman and their descendants for a Diploma of Family Historical Studies in 2016. James and Susan were among the first settlers at Byaduk in the year the post office opened in 1863.
Another family history related highlight of 2020 was the opportunity to speak to the Hamilton U3A via Zoom. Putting my big collection of photos to good use, we took a virtual tour of the old Hamilton Cemetery looking at the symbolism of some of the headstones and monuments and the stories behind the graves. It was fun and good to share my passion for the cemetery with others.
HAMILTON (OLD) CEMETERY
As mentioned, I didn’t get many posts published this year but the ones I did, I enjoyed researching. The most significant and moving post of 2020 was from October, The Great Flood of 1870 with a focus on the loss of life at Coleraine. It was a post prompted by a headstone I saw at the Coleraine Cemetery in between lockdowns this year.
I was surprised to find it was not the most viewed new post for the year. Instead, that honour went to the September Passing of the Pioneers post. Looking back on it now, it was the most detailed of the 2020 Passing of the Pioneer posts and included ten most interesting subjects such as Duncan Stewart of Camperdown, Elizabeth Brown of Hamilton, and Barnabas Hamilton of Kirkstall.
The most viewed post of 2020 was again The Big Flood published in 2016 about the disastrous 1946 Western District floods. The high numbers are aided by the hits which come each time there are storms and/or heavy rain in the Western District and people get on the search engines for information. With storms forecast over the coming days, I expect the post to kick off its 2021 views. However, disaster posts are popular. When the Earth Moved at Warrnambool published in 2018 moving in on The Big Flood as the most popular post
A nice surprise came with the most viewed Hamilton’s WW1 post. It was the story of former Hamilton State Scholl teacher Stephen James Filmer, written a few years ago now. I knew of Stephen before I wrote his story. He was the youngest child of the Filmer family of Byaduk and his sister Hazel, the eldest child, married my 1st cousin 4 x removed Absolam Harman of Byaduk. Stephen was killed at Bullecourt in May 2017. I’m so pleased people are reading Stephen’s story.
I can’t promise how many posts I’ll get out to you this year, but there will be some. I can promise the photos will keep coming on the WDF Facebook page and I won’t forget to celebrate Western District Families’ 10th birthday.
Wishing you a happy and healthy 2021.