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

Hamilton’s WW1 on Facebook

The “Hamilton’s WW1” side of Western District Families is growing all the time, although it mightn’t be obvious if you rely on a subscribers email or your RSS feed to notify you of a new post. As Hamilton’s WW1 and the Pioneer Obituary Index are set up a little differently than the main part of the blog, new content on those pages does not trigger an email or listing on your RSS feed, or show in the timeline you are reading this post from.

Until now, finding new soldier profiles meant you had to keep checking back at the site and then go through the lists of names on the “Hamilton’s WW1” tab at the top of this page.  Nobody wants to have to do that. To overcome the problem, somewhat, I have set up a Hamilton’s WW1 Facebook page to post soldier profiles as I write them.

I did consider posting new profiles to my Facebook group I’ve Lived in Hamilton, Victoria but not all members have an interest in military or family history.  Or I could have posted new profiles to my Western District Families page, but as the name suggest it covers the Western District and I didn’t want to have an overload of Hamilton content.



An added extra for those who “like” the page is a daily “100 years ago in the Hamilton Spectator…” post to give us a feel of how life was in Hamilton and district during the war years.  The Hamilton Spectator was published six days a week during WW1, so on the seventh day I will  post other content relevant to Hamilton’s WW1.

After around three weeks, there is already a lot of content and thirty-eight “likes”, not too bad in a short space of time.  However, with Facebook’s mysterious algorithms used to decide how many people actually see each post, thirty-eight “likes” is not enough to ensure the stories of  Hamilton’s WW1 soldiers are not forgotten.

You can find Hamilton’s WW1 Facebook page here, or look for the link in the right-hand sidebar of this page.


What’s News?

While organising Western District Families new pages, the blog posts have been neglected.  So I thought I would give you an update on what’s happening at WDF and let you know of some family and local history events coming up in the Western District.

Hamilton WW1 Memorials

The Hamilton’s WW1 pages have had a boost with the addition of the WW1 Memorials of Hamilton.  Currently only outdoor memorials are included but I would like to move on to the various honour rolls around the town.  On each page, you can now view photos of the memorials and the names of those remembered.  If a soldier’s name is underlined on the any of the memorial pages, you can click on the name to read that soldier’s profile. The memorials are:

Anzac Avenue

Anzac Memorial Planting

Australian Light Horse Memorial

Clarke Street Memorial Avenue

Hamilton Sailors and Soldiers Father’s Association Memorial

Hamilton War Memorial

There are now forty-eight Hamilton soldier profiles available.  The most recent additions are Military Medal recipient, Arthur Percy Bell Underwood, along with Edgar Richmond Stevenson who was killed in Belgium on 4 October 1917.  His brother Alexander John Stevenson died of wounds eleven days later and I’m working on his profile.

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Facebook Happenings 

Western District Families’ Facebook page has now passed 1500 ‘likes’ which is well beyond my expectations.  It’s been great to connect with people who may not have found the blog otherwise.  I have also enjoyed the personal accounts that come when I post photos of Western District historic buildings and homesteads.  The interest in history is also great to see.

That interest is evident with the Facebook group I set up, I’ve Lived in Hamilton, Victoria.  It is going from strength to strength, now with close to 4,500 members.  We have thousands of photos of Hamilton’s past and great stories to go with them.  Even if you haven’t lived in Hamilton, but may have family links there, you are most welcome to join and ask questions.  There are many people willing to help answer questions about Hamilton’s past.


I updated all the links on the Western District Families Links page recently so, fingers crossed, they are all working now.  If you find a link anywhere across the blog that doesn’t work, please feel free to contact me.  There are so many over the 300+ posts, it gets hard to keep track of them.


It’s a privilege to have Western District Families now archived at Pandora, Australia’s web archive.  The National Library of Australia started Pandora and since its beginnings, the State libraries have joined in preserving websites with Australian content.  It was from the State Library of Victoria that I heard the news.  It’s reassuring to know that Western District Families will still be available for all to read into the future, even if WordPress disappears.

Mortlake Historical Society – Hatches Matches and Dispatches

Join the Mortlake Historical Society on Sunday 18 October for a tour of Mortlake’s bluestone churches, such as the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian church (below).  More information is available on the Mortlake Historical Society’s Facebook Events page.  Give the society’s page a “like” while you are there and support one of the most active societies in Western Victoria.


mortlake presbyterian church

ST. ANDREW’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, MORTLAKE, 1968. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.

Horse Power

There are two memories I have when I pass the intersection of Hiller Lane and Ballarat Road in Hamilton.  The first is a fall from my bolting pony at the intersection in 1975, metres from the Hamilton Pastoral Museum fence on one corner of the intersection.  That’s were the other memory comes in.

The Hamilton Pastoral Museum was born in the same year as me, 1968, which is seems right because it’s where I first got the idea I liked history.  The museum is under 500 metres from where I grew up, so I used to walk or ride my bike up the road when the museum was open for a rally.

The little church below, was originally the St Luke’s Lutheran Church built in 1861.  One of the early pastors was Pastor C.G. Hiller, hence the name of the lane, and his manse still stands just across the road from the museum.  I remember when I first stepped inside the church, sometime around 1976, and was taken back to the district’s pioneer past with a collection of household objects and the like, all once common place but new to me. Outside the church, steam engines chugged and men in hats admired old tractors and farming equipment.  I loved it.


HAMILTON PASTORAL MUSEUM, 1974. Image courtesy of J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.

HAMILTON PASTORAL MUSEUM, 1974. Image courtesy of J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.

The Pastoral Museum collection has grown out around the church over the years and is a credit to the volunteers. In 2017, they will host the National Historical Machinery Association annual rally.

The museum holds three rallies each year with the next on Saturday and Sunday 17 and 18 October.  The theme of the weekend is Horse Power.  You can see heavy horses, a tractor pull, machinery demonstrations, a blacksmith and much more.  Further information is available on the Hamilton Pastoral Museum Facebook page.

While you’re there, less than 500 metres on from the museum is the Hamilton South Lutheran cemetery on the Chatsworth Road.  It’s also well worth a visit, especially to see the impressive Noske family vault.

Terang Historic Homes 

As part of History Week 2015, on 25 October from 1:00pm you can take part in an a self-guided walk/drive of Terang’s historic homes including Keayang, below.  More details from the Terang & District Historical Society website.  They also have a Facebook page, so drop by and give it a “like” – Terang & District Historical Society Facebook page.

"KEAYANG", TERANG.  Image courtesy of J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.

“KEAYANG”, TERANG. Image courtesy of J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.

Mt Rouse Historical Society, Penshurst – Open day 

The Mt. Rouse Historical Society at Penshurst is another active Western District society.  On Saturday 24 October, the society is holding their spring Open Day.  There will be memorabilia from the Penshurst Butter Factory, historic maps, photos and histories.  Also, you can take part in a guided tour of the historic town and have chance to win a society membership. For more information, go to the Mt Rouse Historical Society, Penshurst Facebook page.  Give them a “like” too.

While in Penshurst take a trip to the top of Mt. Rouse and wonder at the beautiful landscape.  In one direction you will see the Grampians, in another Mt. Napier one of the district volcanoes.  And if you want to know more about the volcanoes, Penshurst is also home to the Volcano Discovery Centre, another great place to visit.



Unlock the Past Horsham Seminar

Exciting news for family history researchers of Western Victoria, especially those researching their German heritage.  Unlock the Past are holding a seminar in Horsham on 31 October with a focus on German, English and Australian research.

I’m sure there are many of you with Western District family links who also have some German heritage.  Many German immigrants travelled from South Australia to Western Victoria settling at places such as Tabor and Hochkirch (Tarrington).  Living in Hamilton, German surnames are common place and its sad to consider what the grand-parents and great-parents of Hamilton’s German descendants endured during of WW1.  The WW1 profile of Bernard Herrmann gives evidence of that.  His mother Caroline, born in Australia of German parents, sent three sons to fight for the British Empire, with one, Bernard never to return.  Yet at home in Hochkirch and surrounding settlements,  Caroline and others of German descent were suffering shocking persecution, including a change in the name of Hochkirch to Tarrington in 1918.

ST. MICHAEL'S LUTHERAN CHURCH, TARRINGTON. Image Courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria

ST. MICHAEL’S LUTHERAN CHURCH, TARRINGTON. Image Courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria

The Unlock the Past seminar in Horsham is a great chance to hear two experts, Eric and Rosemary Kopittke, speak on the subject of German research. And what a bargain. A $20 fee includes a two-course lunch, morning and afternoon tea.  I’ve been to an Unlock the Past event and had a great time.  They are professionally organised and lots of fun, you might even win a prize. For more information and the full seminar program, go to the Unlock The Past website.


Trove Tuesday – A Venerable Couple

While researching Hamilton soldier Samuel Winifred Trigger recently, I stumbled across this wonderful photo at Trove of Samuel and Eliza Trigger, grandparents of Private Trigger, published in the Weekly Times on 14 April 1917.

"A VENERABLE COUPLE." Weekly Times (Vic. : 1914 - 1918) 14 Apr 1917: 10. Web. 15 Aug 2015 .

“A VENERABLE COUPLE.” Weekly Times (Vic. : 1914 – 1918) 14 Apr 1917: 10. Web. 15 Aug 2015 <;.

Further searching at Trove uncovered the obituaries of Eliza and Samuel, published in the Port Fairy Gazette on 18 March 1918 and 15 April 1918 respectively, and with the help of various records, I was able to find out a little more about Eliza and Samuel.

Eliza was the daughter of Charles Whittaker and Catherine Totterdale and was born in Naae, Ireland around 1823.  After the death of Charles Whittaker, a Battle of Waterloo veteran, Eliza’s family moved to Somersetshire, England.  That is where she met Samuel Trigger, formerly of Devonshire.  They married in 1847 at Bridgeport, Somersetshire and their first child Emily was born around 1848 in Somersetshire.  They then moved to Avening, Gloucestershire and another daughter, Christina was born in 1850.  Samuel was working as a miller and the family lived in Ball Street, Avening.  Another child, a son Henry, was born before they departed Plymouth in 1852 for Australia aboard the Eliza.  The family arrived at Portland on 9 April 1853.

Firstly, Samuel and Eliza settled at Mt Taurus north of Warrnambool, and Samuel worked as a sawyer.  They eventually moved to the Macarthur/Warabkook area where they remained for the duration of their lives.  Eliza passed away on 6 March 1918 and Samuel, only weeks later, on 1 April.  They were buried at Macarthur Cemetery.  The last piece of significant news they most likely received was that of the death of their grandson Samuel Winifred Trigger at Mouquet Farm on 16 August 1916.  The family received notification almost a year later, on 11 July 1917.

After I found the photo of Eliza and Samuel, I posted it to the Facebook group “I’ve Lived in Hamilton, Victoria”, knowing a lot of Trigger descendants are members of the group, many I know personally.  Therefore, after reading the obituaries of the couple, I was not surprised to learn that when they passed, Samuel and Eliza left four sons, two daughters, thirty-one grandchildren and thirty-eight great-grandchildren.


Census Returns of England and Wales, 1851

FreeBMD. England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837-1915 

FreeBMD. England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index, 1837-1915

National Library of Australia – Trove Digitised Newspapers

Pubic Record Office of Victoria, Index to Assisted British Immigration 1839-1871



More Soldiers, More Sorrow




Writing the profiles of the Hamilton WW1 soldiers has highlighted the month of August of 1915, 1916 and 1918 as particularly sad times for the town’s residents.  There was heaving fighting at Gallipoli during August 1915 with the battle of Lone Pine, the Charge at the Nek and the attack on Hill 971 and Hill 60.  During July and August 1916 there was heavy fighting at the Somme, France with the battles at Fromelles, Pozieres, and Mouquet Farm.  During August 1918, there was the Battle of Amiens.  Many Hamilton men lost their lives during those months.

You can now read forty profiles of Hamilton’s WW1 soldiers from the tab at the top of the page “Hamilton’s WW1“.





Currently, I’m working to finish the profiles of the men who died during August, particularly those for whom it is now 100 years since they made the ultimate sacrifice.

The stories of Albert Sheehan, Arthur Lewis and Claude “Dot” Douglas are particularly sad considering they watched the occupancy in their tent diminish. Thirteen men occupied their tent at the start of their Gallipoli campaign.  By the beginning of August, only the three Hamilton mates were alive.  As the month passed, one by one, Albert, Arthur, and Claude did not return.  By the end of August 2015, their tent was empty.


Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Image no. P00649.004

Image Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Image no. P00649.004


There is also the story of Lieutenant Edward “Ted” Henty of the 8th Light Horse Regiment (8th LHR), grandson of Stephen George Henty.  Before departing overseas, he married his sweetheart at Hamilton’s Christ Church. Ted was killed during the charge at the Nek.  A son he would never know was born in the months after his death.  Also killed at the Nek and with the 8th LHR was William Hind, who at the time of his enlistment was beginning his career in the printing industry with the Hamilton Spectator.  One man, an officer from an esteemed Victorian family, the other a private of working class blood, but each with so much more to offer.  They bravely gave their lives in what was one of the most futile battles of WW1.


"DISTRICT HONOUR ROLL." Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 - 1918) 23 Sep 1915: 6. Web. .

“DISTRICT HONOUR ROLL.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 23 Sep 1915: 6. Web. .


With each profile, I attempt to uncover how the enlistment affected the family and the town’s residents and how each lost man was remembered.  In some cases, the shock of the loss of a son saw the death of a parent soon after, as was the case with the father of Arthur Lewis.  Other men had wives and children. I’m writing the profile of William John Clyde Kirkwood, a man who sits on the edge of my family tree with a Kirkwood link through marriage. The effect of his death on his children reverberated for well over a decade.  Parents and wives had exhausting ongoing correspondence with the Defence Department, often for years, sorting out pensions, medals and personal effects.  Some had to get around administrative challenges of incorrect names given at enlistment or the death of the listed next of kin.  There were also the men who returned home, like William Brake and Albert Davies (below) who never fully recovered from their war experiences.



STANLEY & ALBERT DAVIES. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Image no. DA15721


It is a privilege to research the stories of the Hamilton’s soldiers.  It’s easy to feel an attachment to them and in a small way feel the sorrow of their families, in the reading of their service records, letters published in the Hamilton Spectator, and looking at photographs of young, fresh faced men with innocence in their eyes.  One such soldier was Stan Niddrie (below) a quiet country lad, at home on his horse with his dogs bringing up a flock of sheep. He also shared his thoughts in letters home to his sister.  Nineteen at the time of his enlistment in September 1915 and just 5’4″, Stan would stand six feet tall during his service, working his way through the ranks, reaching Sergeant just before he was killed near Villers-Bretonneux in August 1918, only months from going home.  Stan’s eyes would have seen much during his three years of service, their innocence taken away.


STANLEY ROY NIDDRIE. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Image no. DASEY1899

STANLEY ROY NIDDRIE. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Image no. DASEY1899


The stories of the men, each from different backgrounds, with different war experiences, and different fates, all end the same.  There were no winners from The Great War and we really don’t understand what those that lived it endured.  Albert Lewis, writing home after the Gallipoli landing so rightly said, “I am certain there is not a single person in Australia who can near realise what their boys went through”.




Port Fairy Cemetery – Part Two

I promised a second Port Fairy Cemetery post months ago and finally, here it is.  Considering the number of photos I have from my January 2014 and 2015 visits, there could be a third and maybe a fourth installment.

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Clara Atkinson died in Port Fairy on 8 April, 1873 aged fifty-one.  Her husband John Henry Atkinson a chemist, ordered a headstone to remember not only Clara but the two babies the couple lost in 1856 and 1858.

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“Family Notices.” Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876) 21 Apr 1873: 2 Edition: EVENINGS. Web. 12 Jan 2015 .

If it wasn’t for the words “San Francisco” on the headstone, this post would have been much shorter.  Seeing San Francisco on a headstone in Port Fairy stirred the “how” and “whys” in me and I had to find out more.  Baby Lucy Jane Atkinson passed away in San Francisco on 28 June 1856.  She was buried at the Lone Mountain Cemetery in San Francisco aged one month.

Two years later in Warrnambool, on 30 October 1858, Clara and John lost another baby, Clara Bevans aged fifty days.

The Atkinsons seem to have arrived at Hobson’s Bay on 14 July 1858 from San Francisco aboard the Mary Robinson as cabin passengers.  If those passengers were the said Atkinsons, Clara would have been heavily pregnant with baby Clara.

“SHIPPING.” The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954) 26 Jul 1858: 4. Web. 12 Jan 2015 <;.

Searches for a John Henry Atkinson, Chemist at Trove brought up many references to Sandhurst (Bendigo) where a John H. Atkinson had a spot of bother in the courts, leading to insolvency.  I was beginning to wonder, first if that was the same John H. and secondly was there a link to an important and influential resident of Bendigo from the 1860s, Harry Leigh Atkinson who at the time of his death was considered one of the largest landholders in Victoria?  

Using Trove and records from, I began to piece the jigsaw together. The only solid clue to John Henry Atkinson’s past came from his death notice that stated he was the brother of the Portland Shire Secretary, Edwin Atkinson and that John died in Exmouth, England.

“Family Notices.” Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953) 1 Apr 1887: 2 Edition: EVENING. Web. 12 Jan 2015 .

That information was useful as I was able to find the following information about John’s will:

“Wills and Bequests.” Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic. : 1885 – 1939) 2 Sep 1887: 7. Web. 12 Jan 2015 <

Suddenly I had the names of nieces and nephews to trace and the clue of Nafferton, Yorkshire which led me to the 1841 UK census.  Brother of John, Edwin Atkinson helped me find John’s birthplace, Kilham in Yorkshire and his baptism in March 1822. His parents were Thomas Atkinson and Harriet Parkin. Checking the 1841 census, I found a John Atkinson “druggist” aged 20 living at Kilham.

Back at Trove, I found a man by the name of John Henry Atkinson of Launceston qualifying as a chemist in 1849.


“[No heading].” The Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 – 1859) 14 Mar 1849: 2. Web. 13 Jan 2015 <;.

Less than six months later, a John Henry Atkinson was a cabin passenger aboard the Spartan bound for San Francisco from Launceston.

“Shipping Intelligence.” Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 – 1899) 1 Aug 1849: 7 Edition: AFTERNOON. Web. 12 Jan 2015 <;.

With the knowledge about Kilham, Yorkshire, I discovered John had another brother, Thomas Parkin Atkinson which led to the name of another brother, Dr. Alfred Atkinson.  With that confirmation that John, Thomas, Edwin and Alfred Atkinson were cousins of Dr. Harry Leigh Atkinson.

“Family Notices.” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 21 May 1866: 4. Web. 13 Jan 2015 <;.

With that solved, I was still interested in why John was in San Fransisco.  I discovered a reason when I read the notice of Dr Alfred Atkinson’s death at Eaglehawk.  Alfred went to Bendigo in 1862 after many years in California.

“THE BENDIGO ADVERTISER.” Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 – 1918) 17 Mar 1876: 2. Web. 13 Jan 2015 .

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The Webb family headstone remembers parents William and Elizabeth Jane Webb and their children William Robert James and Edith Gertrude.

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William Webb Sr was born in Wiltshire around 1830.  He arrived in Port Fairy about 1852 and married Elizabeth Jane Francis in 1858.  They had eleven children including William Jr and Edith. Edith passed away in 1875 aged two and her brother William Jr passed away in 1886 aged twenty-six.  In 1911, mother Elizabeth passed away aged seventy-two years.

William Webb Sr passed away in 1919 having lived to the age of 89 years.  During his life, he established himself as a leading citizen of Port Fairy, spending forty years on the Borough council with a record seven terms as Mayor.  From the Victorian Heritage Database, I found William established an iron casting business in Gipps Street, Port Fairy with his brother Henry in the 1850s that included carriage making and a horseshoe forge. He later moved the business to Sackville Street.


“Cruelty to a Horse.” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 8 Jul 1919: <;.

“BOROUGH OF PORT FAIRY.” Port Fairy Gazette (Vic. : 1914 – 1918) 22 Feb 1915: 4 Edition: EVENING. Web. 11 Jan 2015 .

Seven members of the Gibson/McKechnie family were buried in the following plot.


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John Gibson was a President of the Port Fairy Shire and was a renown breeder of stock horses at his property Leura. He married Sarah Ann Taylor in 1856.  They had a large family and one of their first losses was daughter Margaret in 1877 aged six.  The following year Ann passed away aged eighteen.

John died in September 1887 only a month after being elected shire president.  Only the week before, his eldest son Thomas Edward Gibson had died as a result of an old injury.

“Brevities.” Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 – 1954) 5 Oct 1887: 3. Web. 18 Dec 2014 .

“Wills and Bequests.” Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic. : 1885 – 1939) 16 Dec 1887: 4. Web. 18 Dec 2014 <;.

In 1889, John’s daughter Alice Gibson married Richard Stirling McKechnie of Balmoral.

“Family Notices.” The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946) 23 Feb 1889: 53. Web. 18 Dec 2014 <;.

In 1890, a son Richard was born to Alice and Richard but he died in the same year and was buried in the Gibson plot.  Alice passed away in 1894 and was also buried in the Gibson family plot. Richard McKechnie remarried to Jessie Ireland of Port Fairy.  At the time, he was living at Lagoon Lodge, located to the west of the town.

David Gibson was the next member of the family to pass away, on 24 June 1895 aged thirty-one.

John Gibson’s wife Sarah Ann died in 1899 at Port Fairy.  She was buried in another grave with their youngest son Charles James Gibson who died in 1902 aged twenty-three.  Also Sarah’s mother Ann Taylor who died in 1909 aged eighty-seven.

As I moved away from the grave, something caught my eye on the bottom right-hand corner of the headstone – “G. Harman, Port Fairy”

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There is only one G. Harman of Port Fairy I know of and that is ggg uncle George Hall Harman whose own headstone in the Port Fairy Cemetery is below.  He was buried with his wife Rebecca Graham and their headstone remembers their daughter Edith who died in 1866 at Byaduk.

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The following headstone originated out of tragedy.



On a Sunday morning during December 1886, Annie Edith Searle daughter of nurseryman Henry Searle and Phoebe Robins of Port Fairy, drowned at Boarding School Bay, just west of the township.

“THREE LADIES DROWNED.” The North Eastern Ensign (Benalla, Vic. : 1872 – 1938) 19 Jan 1886: 2. Web. 19 Dec 2014 .

Mother Phoebe, passed away on 19 April 1909 aged eighty-seven and her husband Henry Searle passed away eight months later, on 27 December aged eighty-six.

“PORT FAIRY.” Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 – 1924) 7 Jan 1910: 4. Web. 11 Jan 2015 .

In 1922, another daughter Alice Amelia was buried in the plot, passing away at the age of sixty-three.

“Family Notices.” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 19 Jan 1921: 1. Web. 19 Dec 2014 <;.

The following grave is that of infant Robert Vincent Ware.

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Robert Ware was the two-year-old son of James Ware and Jane Mailor and was born in 1854 at Belfast.  He died in 1856.


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From the 1856 Victorian Electoral Roll,  I found that James Ware was a licensed victualler and was a leaseholder on the corner of James and Bank Street , the location of the Caledonian Inn in Port Fairy. Construction of the inn began in 1844.



James and Jane had at least another three children after Robert’s death, Susan, Alice and Mary Ann. They were born at Port Fairy and Rosebrook. I’m still to find what happened to James Ware, but I do know that by 1894,  Jane had moved to Melbourne, taking up residence at Bella Vista in East Melbourne where Susan passed away in 1894 .

“Family Notices.” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 5 Mar 1894: 1. Web. 14 Jan 2015 <;.

Looking at the 1903 Victorian Electoral Roll, the Ware’s may not have been guests at the luxury boarding house Bella Vista, as Mary Ann’s occupation was listed as “boarding-house keeper.”

Jane Ware passed away in Sydney on 17 September 1900.  She died at 71C Darlinghurst Road, at that time operating as a boarding house.

“Family Notices.” The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946) 29 Sep 1900: 55. Web. 14 Jan 2015 <;.

Daughter Mary Jane stayed on at Bella Vista and  passed away in 1939.


“Family Notices.” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 10 Feb 1939: 10. Web. 17 Jan 2015 <;.

The headstone of Abijah Brown is one of the most distinctive in the Port Fairy cemetery.

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The 1856 Victorian Electoral Rolls shows that Abijah was at that time the licensee of the Stag Hotel in Sackville Street.



Abijah’s nickname was ‘Clockey’ because of the large gold watch and chain he wore and he took over license of The Stag hotel, Port Fairy in 1855. Pamela Marriott in her book “Time Gentlemen Please,” mentions Abijah was a jeweller which explains his gold watch.  Abijah was also a councillor for a short time.  Prior to going to the Stag Hotel, he ran the Plough Inn at Killarney.  He died on 19 July 1862.


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The men buried in the last two graves of this post had family links through marriage.

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Rupert Kirk was a former army captain who purchased over 300 acres of land at Land Cove, Sydney in 1831.  He established a soap making business and named his property Woodford Park. He was also the father of William Musgreave Kirk buried in the Port Fairy Cemetery (above).

“Classified Advertising.” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842) 13 May 1841: 4. Web. 20 Dec 2014 <;.

RUPERT KIRK. Artist: Maurice Felton Surgeon. Sydney / del.t March 27th 1841.” Image courtesy of the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

Rupert passed away on 8 March 1850.

“Family Notices.” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) 11 Mar 1850: 3. Web. 20 Dec 2014 <;.

Only weeks earlier, Rupert’s son William Kirk married Hannah Lindsay in Sydney.

“Family Notices.” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) 26 Jan 1850: 3. Web. 20 Dec 2014 <;.

William was living in Mudgee, N.S.W. after his marriage in 1850

“Advertising.” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) 6 Mar 1850: 3. Web. 20 Dec 2014 .

Alos at that time, William’s sister was living in the Port Fairy district, marrying Horace Flower there in 1850 as reported by The Argus on 19 October 1850.  William  Kirk was in Victoria some time from the early 1850s living by the Merri Creek near Woodford.  He died there on 11 July 1855.

“Family Notices.” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 18 Jul 1855: 4. Web. 20 Dec 2014 <;.

Hannah Lindsay, William’s wife passed away on 2 December 1864 and was buried in the same grave.

“Family Notices.” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 13 Dec 1864: 4. Web. 20 Dec 2014 <;.

As mentioned, there is a link between William Kirk and the next grave’s occupant, Lloyd Rutledge.

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If you believe in ghosts, Lloyd Rutledge’s grave is a must see especially if you visit on the night of 17 December when Lloyd is said to appear each year at his grave. Lloyd was the younger brother of William Rutledge who arrived in Port Fairy around 1843 and established William Rutledge & Co. a mercantile company shipping goods to and from England. William Rutledge had married Eliza Kirk, a sister of William Kirk (above) in Sydney in 1840.  That marriage was most likely the catalyst for William Kirk and his other siblings to move to Victoria.

When William Rutledge first arrived in Australia in 1829, he settled himself in Sydney and once established brought his siblings in Ireland to Australia.  Lloyd followed him to Port Fairy and worked with him at William Rutledge & Co.  In 1852, Lloyd returned to Sydney to marry Isabella Bennett, daughter of Richard Bennett.

“Family Notices.” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) 6 Aug 1852: 3. Web. 20 Dec 2014 <;.

The Rutledge, Bennett and Kirk family were all intertwined through marriage.  William Rutledge married Eliza Kirk, maternal aunt of Lloyd’s wife Isabella Bennett.  Isabella’s brother Richard Bennett Jnr wrote the articles that make up the book “Richard Bennetts’ Early Days of Port Fairy.”

Only a month before Lloyd and Isabella’s wedding, William Rutledge sent Lloyd to Portland on a mission.  Desperately in need of labour, William wanted Lloyd to meet the incoming immigrant ship Runnymede.  Accompanying Lloyd was Thomas Browne, better known by his pen name  Rolf Boldrewood , the author of “Robbery Under Arms.”   Supplied with blank forms of agreement from William, Lloyd boarded the ship and signed up seventy passengers for work, ignoring the police interest in his activities.  Boldrewood wrote about the event in an article entitled “Desirable Immigrants” published in The Australasian on 8 July 1905.

“TOBTLAND.” Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 – 1857) 2 Jul 1852: 3. Web. 20 Dec 2014 .

  Lloyd was a racehorse owner and steward.

“VICTORIA.” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954) 10 Oct 1854: 3. Web. 17 Jan 2015 <;.

He also rode in races and these results from 22 February 1856, show him running third at the Portland races aboard “Tross”.

“THIRD DAY, THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 21ST.” Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876) 22 Feb 1856: 1 Supplement: SUPPLEMENT TO THE PORTLAND GUARDIAN.. Web. 17 Jan 2015 .

Also racing was “Alice Hawthorne” who was later one of Victoria’s leading racehorses, competing  in a NSW vs Victoria match race in 1857, a forerunner to the first Melbourne Cup in 1861   You can read more about Alice by clicking on the link on her name.

In 1855, Lloyd had a two-storey home constructed in Port Fairy and named it Cooinda.  It was there in 1858 that Lloyd’s life would end at just thirty-one years of age.  Partial to a drink, Lloyd was climbing the stairs of Cooinda after a drinking session when he fell backwards down the stairs and broke his neck.


“Family Notices.” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 21 Dec 1858: 4. Web. 12 Jan 2015 <;.

Cooinda moved into the hands of the Finn family of Port Fairy.  In 1918, they sold the house.

“PROPERTY SALES.” Port Fairy Gazette (Vic. : 1914 – 1918) 9 Sep 1918: 2 Edition: EVENING. Web. 15 Jan 2015 <;.

Cooinda fell into a bad state of disrepair.  It was known locally as the “haunted house” with Lloyd said to appear at the top of the stairs each 17 December.  In the 1950s, the house was demolished.  It was from then that Lloyd supposedly moved his annual “appearance” to his graveside.  More information on an investigation into paranormal activity at the grave site is on the Port Fairy Cemetery website.

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Australian Electoral Rolls (Australian Electoral Commission) –

Bennett, Richard and Critchett, Jan Richard Bennetts early days of Port Fairy. W.I.A.E. Press, Warrnambool, Vic, 1984.

Marriott, Pamela M Time gentlemen please! : an history of Western District inns, 1840-1915. Pamela M Marriott, [Flemington, Vic.], 2001.

Port Fairy Public Cemetery website


Launching Hamilton’s WW1

It was time I considered how Western District Families could commemorate the centenary of WW1. A project was selected and work began, however another idea presented itself. A list of names in two editions of the Hamilton Spectator from 1917 and 1918 and some potted histories of Hamilton soldiers I wrote for the I’ve Lived in Hamilton Facebook group saw “Hamilton’s WW1” come to fruition.  The first installment of “Hamilton’s WW1”  is now available, the story of Hamilton’s Anzac Avenue and the men commemorated at a now all but forgotten landmark in Hamilton.

Each of the faces in the photo below have a story to tell. They are some of the early Hamilton enlistments and immediately I recognise twenty-two year-old Hamilton College and Geelong College educated John “Paddy” Fenton (back row, 3rd from right) and George McQueen (centre, 2nd row from front) a thirty-five year-old widower, both killed in France. Others among them were also killed, some wounded and others suffered psychologically but as they gathered at Broadmeadows in 1915, none could imagine the path ahead. What was in store for them or the man beside them. But they were “Hamilton Boys” and they would give it their all and they did.


'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