Trove Tuesday – Let it Snow

Since Western Victoria is experiencing a cold snap with snowfalls around Ballarat and the Grampians in the past 24 hours, I thought a snow theme for Trove Tuesday appropriate.

This treasure found at Trove is a postcard from Ballarat in 1909.


Snowfalls on the hills around Ballarat and surrounding districts are not uncommon, but the snow rarely settles in the town.  Mt William, the highest peak in the Grampians gets a snow cap some winters, but for a short time only.  Further west, it is less likely to snow in Hamilton and from memory, in the eighteen years I lived there, it may have snowed once, but it was closer to sleet than snow.  I have never known it to snow as it did in July 1901, when snow fell for around nine hours in Hamilton.  It would have been a beautiful sight.

HEAVY SNOW IN THE COUNTRY. (1901, July 29). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 6. Retrieved August 20, 2013, from

HEAVY SNOW IN THE COUNTRY. (1901, July 29). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 6. Retrieved August 20, 2013, from

With Trove’s help, I found a photo of a snowman built at Hamilton in 1901, held by Museum Victoria.

HAMILTON 1901. Image courtesy of the Museums Victoria Collections

In 1905, heavy snow saw high jinx in the streets of Ballarat that got out of hand resulting in a revolver wielding publican and the Mayor, Councillor Whykes suffering concussion


FALLS OF SNOW. (1905, September 8). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved August 20, 2013, from

FALLS OF SNOW. (1905, September 8). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved August 20, 2013, from

In 1910, Hamilton saw another heavy snowfall.  Such was the novelty, snowballing in the streets took priority over opening the shops.  A large snowman was built on nearby Mt Pierrepoint.

SNOW MAN ON A MOUNTAIN. (1910, October 11). The Border Morning Mail and Riverina Times (Albury, NSW : 1903 - 1920), p. 2. Retrieved August 20, 2013, from

SNOW MAN ON A MOUNTAIN. (1910, October 11). The Border Morning Mail and Riverina Times (Albury, NSW : 1903 – 1920), p. 2. Retrieved August 20, 2013, from

Well, this post is my 52nd Trove Tuesday post.  I did it.  I managed to post every Tuesday since Amy Lehmann launched Trove Tuesday on August 28  last year.  Next week, we celebrate Trove Tuesday entering a second year and I will share some of the most popular posts from the past 52 weeks.


R is for…Riddiford

I had considered “R’ week of the Gould Genealogy Alphabet Challenge an opportunity to trot out my Riddiford family as they are, strictly speaking, not a Western District Family.  However, after initially being excited at the prospect of bringing together their rich history,  I soon realised I had too much information to give a summary while still doing justice to the many stories I have found.

Now how am I going to tell you about the family of fabric workers from Gloucestershire, dating back to at least the 1500s, who spread across England, into Wales and then Canada, the United States, and Australia?  I really want to tell you about the criminals, including Dinah Riddiford, the oldest woman to hang in England in the 18th and 19th century and the convicts transported to Van Diemens Land, Sydney and Norfolk Island.

Then there is the story waiting to be told of the Riddifords of New Zealand, original settlers in the country, with Daniel Riddiford arriving in 1840 and making a large contribution to the pastoral history of the country.  Descendants of the Wellington pioneers have gone on to climb Mount Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary, sit in the New Zealand parliament, play cricket for New Zealand  and direct, write and produce for film and television, just to name a few.

NINE GAMBLE DEATH TO SEE ROOF OF THEY. (1952, February 23). Examiner (Launceston, Tas. : 1900 – 1954), p. 14. Retrieved September 6, 2012, from

Or there are the Riddifords that immigrated to Australia arriving to South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria.  These included one of the most renowned Australian Riddifords, Walter Riddiford of Broken Hill.  The former miner and mayor of Broken Hill had the Riddiford Arboretum in the town named in his honour.

MAYOR 7 TIMES ALD. RIDDIFORD WINS HONOR AT £1000 A YEAR. (1954, December 17). Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved September 5, 2012, from

I also would like to tell you about my Riddiford line including my ggg grandfather, Charles Riddiford, a tailor and policeman who died in the Saunderton Union Workhouse at Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. And his son Thomas Cooke Riddiford, some time publican and butcher who immigrated with his family to Canada in search of a better life, only to return to Buckinghamshire a few years later.

I will, however, get the chance to tell you the story of my grandfather and great-grandfather, Percy and Tom.

Thomas William Cooke Riddiford, the fourth of eight children, was born in 1875 at the Crown Inn, Aylesbury Road, Cuddington, Buckinghamshire not long after his family had  returned to England from a failed venture to Brant County, Ontario, Canada.

While still a baby, Tom’s parents Thomas Cooke Riddiford and Emma Piddington moved the family to Clerkenwell, London where Lily Beatrice was born in 1877.  Again, the move seems to have been another failed attempt to find a better life for the family, as they had headed back to Cuddington by 1879.  Thomas senior resumed his role as publican of the Crown Inn.  Emma’s father, a victualler, also had links to that pub and others in the district.  In 1883, Emma died aged 34 and Thomas was left with eight children to care for, with three under five.

How does a family manage after such a tragedy?  By the 1891 UK Census, the consequences of Emma’s death had become evident.  On the night of the Census, the two youngest children, Ernest Arthur, 11 and William Leonard, 10, were at the Aylesbury Union Workhouse.  Youngest daughter Florence, 12, was living with her grandmother, Jane Piddington, and Lily, aged 14 was a servant for an Aylesbury hairdresser.  My great-grandfather Tom, then 16 was boarding at the Plough Inn, Haddenham, working as an apprentice butcher.

Where was Thomas senior by this time?  He had moved on.  To Manchester in fact, working as a cab driver and living with his new wife, Sarah Browne, and their four-month-old son, Arthur.   The saddest part of this stage in their lives is that I have never been able to find any trace of Ernest beyond the 1891 Census and his time in the Workhouse.  My grandfather named a son after his younger brother.  A tribute maybe?

Tom junior got on with his life, making a move to London working as a fully qualified butcher.  He married 18-year-old Londoner Caroline “Queenie” Celia Ann Kirkin on February 7, 1896, at St Barnabus Church, Kennington, London.  By the time of the 1901 UK Census, the couple was living at 169 Cromwell Road, Kensington with three sons.  Tom was working for himself as a butcher.

In 1903,  the family suffered a loss with the death of two-year-old Horace. Percy Ronald Riddiford, my grandfather, was born in Leytonstone in 1904 before a break of six years when Reginald was born in 1910 at Edmonton.  That is where the family was living at the time of the 1911 UK Census, 54 Raynham Road, Upper Edmonton.  Oldest son William was 14 and working as a metal polisher, Cyril 13, was attending school and working as an errand boy for a greengrocer.  Father Tom was still a butcher, working for Universal Stores.

The former Riddiford home, possibly their last in England,  is the cream house with red flower baskets.

Something must have nagged at Tom. A feeling like his father before had felt.  How could he make a better life for his family?  In 1906, he had travelled alone to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on what appears to have been a reconnaissance trip, but he returned to London.  In 1912, Tom’s cousin Aubrey Frank Riddiford immigrated to Australia, settling at Heyfield in Gippsland.  This may have been the catalyst for Tom to pack up the family and sail to Australia aboard the “Commonwealth” arriving in Melbourne on September 15, 1913.  Many of the passengers were Assisted Immigrants and I would assume the Riddfords were among them.

SLSA: B 69878

SS Commonwealth 1911 at a pier at Adelaide.
Courtesy of the State Library of South Australia, B69878

The Riddifords moved to Smeaton, just north of Ballarat.  Lillian Ivy, the only girl in a family devoid of women, was born in 1914.  War broke out and in 1915 Bill enlisted for his new country, followed by Cyril in 1916 and Ern in 1918.  Bill was hit by an Army ambulance in France and was sent home an invalid in 1917.

ALLENDALE. (1917, July 21). The Ballarat Courier (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 10 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved September 6, 2012, from

In 1922, Stanley was born at Smeaton, 26 years younger than his oldest brother Bill.

By the end of the 1920s, the Riddifords moved into Ballarat, residing at 97 Humffray Street South.  Tom and Queenie then moved to 619 Humffray Street where they remained until their deaths.

The Riddiford Family of Ballarat circa 1929
Back: Cyril Victor, Lillian Ivy, Percy Ronald, Reginald Leonard
Front: William “Bill” Thomas Frederick, Thomas William Cooke Riddiford, Stanley Gordon, Caroline “Queenie” Celia Ann Kirkin, Ernest Arthur Harold.

This photo is very special because of the circumstances in which I came to have it.  Mum and I visited an antique shop at Newlyn, north of Ballarat. We spotted some old photos with the penciled name “Riddiford” on the cardboard frames.  There were three, including the family photo and a wedding photo of my grandfather and his first wife Mavis McLeish.  The shop owner was able to tell us how he acquired them, but it’s a long story.

Thomas passed away in 1957 aged 81 and Caroline in 1962 aged 83.  They are buried at the Ballarat New Cemetery.

The boys and Lillian married, and all but Bill had children.  But there were few descendants as the seven children produced only 16 grandchildren, seven of them by my grandfather!  Of those, there were five girls and nine boys.  Seven of those boys were my grandfathers!

The most successful of Tom and Caroline’s descendants to date has been Ern’s son Leonard Riddiford.  Len gained a scholarship to Melbourne  High School and then studied physics at Melbourne University.  During the late 1940s, he travelled to Birmingham to work on the world’s first synchrotron under Sir Mark Oliphant’s guidance, while completing his PhD at Birmingham University.

ATOM STUDY IN AUSTRALIA. (1952, August 22). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved September 6, 2012, from

To think the Riddifords were the last branch I researched.  As they arrived in 1913 and with my main interest being 19th-century Australian history, I considered them newbies.  But when I did seriously begin researching the name I couldn’t stop, not returning to research my other families for months.  The research experience was also very different from my other families.  While  I have little information on my Victorian pioneer families prior to their departure from England, I have easily found information on the Riddifords from a variety of sources.

I have also had the pleasure of tracking my grandfather and great-grandfather right through to the 1911 UK census when my other families left soon after the 1851 Census.  It has also given me a greater understanding of English history, geography, and records.

The Riddifords of New Zealand consumed a lot of my time and Papers Past got a workout.  There are over 54,000 “Riddiford” matches at the New Zealand newspaper archive compared to  3449 on the same search at Trove and I have spent months just on this branch trawling through articles and books about the history of New Zealand.

Although I still have some brick walls,  I can safely say that Riddifords everywhere are related.  Like a jigsaw, all the pieces have come together to form a picture of a family who today can trace their links back to those early Gloucestershire cloth makers and, if my theory is correct, back to the Flemish cloth workers who arrived in Gloucestershire from the  1300s-1500s.  That is another facet of the tale I had intended to share.

A book on the Riddiford family history would be the best way to do the stories justice.  I have even considered a One-Name study or at the very least, a blog. I don’t think I can manage any of those options at the moment.  While writing Western District Families has given me an outlet for most of my families, it has also presented a problem. My Riddiford research has fallen into a state of neglect.


It is was not only genealogists who welcomed online records.  Tabloid newspapers soon became fans too. This was evident in 2010 when a journalist wrote on the ancestry of Kylie Minogue.  Numerous newspapers and magazines ran with the story chiefly because Kylie had not one but several criminal ancestors.  Who were they?  Well they were Riddifords!  Yes that’s right Kylie and Dannii Minogue are Riddiford descendants.

Many Riddifords knew this prior to 2010 and I had myself read that the Kylie and Dannii’s mother was a Riddiford.  It was actually her grandmother Millicent Riddiford, one of the Welsh Riddifords.  Millie arrived in Australia in 1955 with her husband Denis Jones and their children.  By my calculations that would make the Minogues my 7th cousins, as we share  6 x great grandparents Thomas Riddiford and Arabella Trottman.  Distant I know, but the 8-year-old research assistant is very proud of his link, even if the kids at school won’t believe him.

An article from the Daily Mail of February 2, 2010, describes the Riddiford/Minogue relationship – Hangings, Sex Assaults and Deportation: Meet Kylie Minogue’s Criminal Ancestors…

I would like to trace the Minogue line to see if Kylie and Dannii descend from the Minogue family, pioneers of Cape Bridgewater in south-west Victoria.  They too may have Western District Families.

Call it a family myth, but another piece of trivia Riddifords like to hang their hat on, is the link between Ronnie Barker and L.E Riddiford Grocers in Thornbury Gloucestershire.  The story goes that while Barker was filming in Thornbury, he was so inspired by the grocers store in High Street that he created the show Open All Hours.  If you look at the L.E.Riddiford website you will understand how this comparison may have come about.


This would be Edward Joshua Riddiford, born in the Hutt Valley, Wellington,  New Zealand in 1842, son of Daniel Riddiford and Harriet Stone.  Educated in Australia at Scotch College, Melbourne, Edward spent time on cattle stations in Queensland.  He often visited Australia and on at least one occasion bought stock from the Learmonths of Ercildoune near Ballarat.

Evening Post, Volume X, Issue 134, 25 July 1874, Page 2
Papers Past –

The reason I particularly like Edward Joshua Riddiford is for the relationships he forged with the Maori people.  This quote from Edward’s biography by Roberta Nicholls for Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand sums him up well:

“At Te Awaiti and Orongorongo Edward Riddiford interacted constantly with the local Maori population, as he had done when he was a child. He spoke their language, employed them, shod their horses, and bartered domestic products, foodstuffs and clothing for crops and wild pork. He played cards and drank with the men; he slept with the women. Out of admiration for his forceful leadership, commanding personality, and physical prowess the Maori called him ‘King’. Because of his influence, Riddiford was able to acquire Maori land for leasehold or freehold on favourable terms.” (from the biography of Edward Joshua Riddiford, by Roberta Nicholls, Te Ara – The Encylopedia of New Zealand)


If you are a Riddiford descendant you are more than welcome to join our Facebook group. Search “The Riddiford Family” at Facebook and you will find us. There are 130 Riddifords from all over the world.  Many have commented on how they thought were the only Riddifords, rarely coming across others with the same surname.  That’s what I used to think growing up in Hamilton in the 70s and 80s.  Mum, Dad, and I were the only three Riddifords anywhere in the world except for Grandpa and Grandma Riddiford and my uncles in Ballarat.  How wrong we were!

Spring Fashion

Spring has arrived and a girl’s thoughts turn to a new season’s wardrobe. This was no different in 1940, 1900, and even 1860 with retailers promoting new season’s trends from as early as July.  Ladies in Western Victoria would have required their woollens for a few more months, but a new Spring outfit was necessary for the milder days and social outings.

Mr David Jones was offering a “Grand Show” of spring wear at his shop on Main Road, Ballarat in 1858.

Advertising. (1858, September 15). The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 – 1864), p. 1. Retrieved August 26, 2012, from

In 1862, the Old Criterion Store on Main Road Ballarat offered 1000 parasols for sale, perfect for keeping the Australian sun’s harsh rays at bay.

Advertising. (1862, October 13). The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 – 1864), p. 1. Retrieved August 26, 2012, from

A sample of spring fashions from 1878.

Spring Fashions. (1878, September 7). Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 – 1872), p. 7. Retrieved August 26, 2012, from

Spring fashions for the elegant lady of 1885.

[No heading]. (1885, August 24). The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil (Melbourne, Vic. : 1873 – 1889), p. 133. Retrieved August 26, 2012, from

The following article appeared in the Portland Guardian on August 1881 and offered spring fashion tips for the ladies of the Western District.  White, all shades of red and heliotrope were the colours of the season.  Grey was the new black and black was back.  Cashmere and plaid wool fabrics were popular as were ribbons and beading for embellishment.

THE LADIES’ COLUMN. (1888, August 31). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING, Supplement: SUPPLEMENT TO THE PORTLAND GUARDIAN. Retrieved August 26, 2012, from

The 20th century arrived but fashion was so last century.

THE LADIES’ COLUMN. (1905, July 25). Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 – 1954), p. 6. Retrieved August 31, 2012, from

Fashion began to evolve during World War 1.  One change was dress length, with hems going up to save material.  An interesting website Fashion Era offers further examples of fashion during this period.

SPRING FASHIONS. (1915, August 4). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 12. Retrieved August 31, 2012, from


These dresses from 1918 show traditional styles were still popular.

Spring Fashions. (1916, September 2). The Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889, 1914 – 1918), p. 7. Retrieved August 28, 2012, from

But things were changing and this dress, also from 1918, is an example of that.

COMING FASHIONS. (1918, July 10). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 12. Retrieved August 28, 2012, from

I love this stylish advertisement for Allans The Drapers of Fibrace street Horsham from 1927.

Advertising. (1927, September 2). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved August 29, 2012, from

Fancy the Phryne Fisher look?

FASHION FORECASTS. (1928, August 3). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), p. 8. Retrieved August 29, 2012, from

I can’t resist sharing more of the wonderful 1920s fashions, again from the Horsham Times.

Advertising. (1929, October 4). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), p. 9. Retrieved August 29, 2012, from

Another stylish look, this time from 1930.

Woman’s Interests. (1930, July 3). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 – 1954), p. 6. Retrieved August 29, 2012, from

The Great Depression saw a rise in the number of sewing columns in the newspapers.  This article gave advice on how to recycle a frock.  The full article is here

“THE ARGUS” SHOOPING PAGE. (1930, August 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 12. Retrieved August 26, 2012, from

Patterns were back for Spring 1935.

Gay Patterns for Spring Frocks. (1935, August 14). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 15. Retrieved August 29, 2012, from

World War 2 saw a dramatic drop in the number of “spring fashion” articles in the papers, more so than the Great War.  The years 1942, 1943 and 1944 had very few and those I found were mostly for sewing patterns.   Families relied on coupons to buy goods, there was rationing of goods including fabrics and the fashion houses of Paris closed.  If a woman wanted to keep up appearances, there was little alternative but to make a frock or remodel one from last season.  The latter half of the 1940s saw a rapid increase in fashion articles as women turned again to the fashion stages of Europe for inspiration and cast aside their drab wartime clothing.

BE CHIC… but coupon canny. (1942, October 17). The Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), p. 7. Retrieved August 31, 2012, from

A few bright notions to cope with a war budget. (1942, January 10). The Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), p. 24 Section: Fashion Portfolio. Retrieved August 31, 2012, from

Shock, horror “Hems to go higher” in 1952.  Just wait until the 60s!

Hems to go higher. (1952, May 21). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 5. Retrieved August 26, 2012, from

I could have continued to the 1960s but that would have gone on for some time as I do like the fashion particularly from the latter half of the decade. I could have gone on to the 70s too.  While fashion from that decade was much maligned during the 1980s, anyone who saw Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo was reminded of the great fashions of the 1970s.  I think the 1980s would have pulled it up though. Agreed?

Looking at fashions of different eras is beneficial to the family historian especially if you are trying to date photos.  It also gives us some idea of what our female ancestors might have endured for either the sake of fashion or managing with what was available.  The long, impractical dresses of the 19th and early 20th century make me think of my ggg grandmothers on farms, getting in and out of buggies and tending fires for washing and cooking.  Consider how your grandmothers or great grandmothers managed during the Depression when money was tight or  World War 2 with coupons and rationing.  No wonder my Nana was good at sewing, darning and knitting. It was a necessity.

***If you are interested in learning how your female ancestors washed their big dresses during the 1850s, the Sovereign Hill Education blog has great posts on washing, drying, and ironing.

St. Patrick’s Day in Western Victoria

There is plenty of Irish blood flowing through the veins of the people of the Western District, particularly the south-west.  Port Fairy (formally Belfast), Koroit, and Killarney, in particular, saw the settlement of large Irish families.

The earliest Western District St. Patrick’s Day reference I found was from the Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser, from March 4, 1843.  Enthusiastic preparations were underway for a dinner on March 17th.

LOCAL INTELLIGENCE. (1843, March 4). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 3. Retrieved March 16, 2012, from

St Patrick’s Day was for a time, a public holiday and races were popular, both the horse and human kind.

HAMILTON. (1858, March 19). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved March 16, 2012, from

In 1869 at Portland, the Rechabite Society fete for the Band of Hope children was a feature of the day.

ST. PATRICK’S DAY. (1869, March 18). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS. Retrieved March 16, 2012, from

The Horsham Times of March 20, 1903, explains the reason behind the wearing of a green ribbon on St. Patrick’s Day and the story of St Patrick. The people of Horsham went to the races on March 17, 1903.

ST. PATRICK’S DAY. (1903, March 20). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved March 16, 2012, from

At Warrnambool, in 1914, plans were underway for the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration, which included a parade in the afternoon and a concert in the evening.

ST. PATRICK’S DAY. (1914, March 14). Warrnambool Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 3 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved March 16, 2012, from

Finally, a reporter for the Star in Ballarat in 1858, observed that while the English barely remembered St. George’s day and the Scots were not interested in Halloween, the Irish would never let St Patrick’s Day be forgotten.  The Irish miners would be pleased St. Patrick’s Day is still celebrated today, minus the public holiday.

Local and General News. (1858, March 18). The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 – 1864), p. 3. Retrieved March 17, 2012, from
MLA citation

New Year’s Day in the Western District

Less than a week on from Boxing Day, a popular day on the calendar for sports and racing, the Western District pioneers were back at it on New Year’s Day.  Most towns had a sports carnival or race meeting or both and the townsfolk flocked to them.

The Turf Inn, just north of Ballarat, had a busy day on New Year’s Day 1858 with sports and pony races held in the vicinity.

THE TURF INN. (1858, January 2). The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 – 1864), p. 3. Retrieved December 29, 2011, from

At Warrnambool, New Year’s Day 1859 was celebrated with games on Flagstaff Hill, including rounders.  A game of shinty, a Scottish game like hockey, was also enjoyed.

DOMESTIC INTELLIGENCE. (1859, January 3). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved December 29, 2011, from

The Caledonian games were a popular New Years Day outing for the people of Ballarat in 1861.  I can relate to the poor shop assistants watching the passing parade of happy people enjoying the public holiday.  I have worked more public holidays than I care to remember, in fact I am working today.  I must say while it is annoying at times, I don’t find myself  thinking as the 1860s employees did “wishing all manner of ills to the exacting master whose behests precluded them from mixing in the throng of light hearts and merry faces that swept past the doors…”

NEW YEAR’S DAY. (1861, January 2). The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 – 1864), p. 2. Retrieved December 30, 2011, from

Smythesdale, just out of Ballarat, managed to attract three to four hundred people to their sports day in 1862, despite many other activities threatening to draw people away.  Some of the more interesting sports were catching the pig with the greasy tail and treacle and bread eating competitions.

SMYTHESDALE. (1862, January 3). The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 – 1864), p. 2. Retrieved December 30, 2011, from

At Digby in 1863, the local school children held their annual festival and indulged in many cakes and other sweet treats.

DIGBY. (1863, January 6). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved December 30, 2011, from

I could not imagine a government today, state or federal, holding an election between Christmas and New Year.  On December 30, 1865, a general election was held in Victoria, but the timing was not tactical, but due to the dissolution of the fourth government of Victoria on December 11.  New Year’s Day 1866 was spent enjoying the local cricket match and waiting for election results.

NEW YEAR’S DAY. (1866, January 4). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved December 30, 2011, from

The church bells rang out over Portland at midnight on New Year’s eve 1866, with local boys out on the streets singing “Old John Brown”.  The first day of the new year was hot and outdoor activities were again popular.

NEW YEAR’S DAY. (1867, January 3). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved December 30, 2011, from

In 1869, New Year’s Day saw al fresco dining at Bridgewater and Narrawong.  The correspondent reported he had not seen so many picnics on one day, including one held for the Baptist Sunday school children and a large gathering at Mr Henty’s paddock.

THE NEW YEAR. (1869, January 4). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS. Retrieved December 30, 2011, from

The Australian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil ran a picture of Portarlington on New Years Day, 1879.

(1879, January 18). The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil (Melbourne, Vic. : 1873 – 1889), p. 172. Retrieved December 30, 2011, from

Finally an article from Port Fairy, a popular holiday place then and now for people of the Western District and a place I have celebrated New Year’s Eve on several occasions.  In 1927, visitors to the town had swelled, including a party of several hundred Koroit residents on their annual excursion.  Beaches, fishing, cricket, and boat trips to Julia Percy Island kept the holidaymakers entertained.

HOLIDAY RESORTS. (1927, January 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 23. Retrieved December 30, 2011, from

Happy New Year!

A Pioneer Christmas 1850s Style

Imagine arriving on an immigrant ship to Melbourne or Portland in December.  After enduring the arduous voyage for months, passengers would have set foot in their new country faced with an Australian summer and then reminded Christmas was just around the corner.  My Mortimer family arrived in Melbourne from England on December 14, 1852,  just 11 days before Christmas.  Having known only a cold and maybe white Christmas and possibly losing track of the months, they may have felt a little confused.

Judging by the newspapers of the 1850s, however, it seems that the new arrivals embraced the “new” Christmas of clear skies and sun and a chance to get outside and enjoy the day.

ARRIVAL OF HIS EXCELLENCY SIR H. BARKLY. (1856, December 26). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 4. Retrieved December 15, 2011, from

GEELONG. (1858, December 28). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 6. Retrieved December 15, 2011, from

CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS. (1859, December 27). The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 – 1864), p. 1 Supplement: SUPPLEMENT TO THE STAR.. Retrieved December 13, 2011, from

On Christmas Eve, 1859, Main Road Ballarat was abuzz with activity.

CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS. (1859, December 27). The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 – 1864), p. 1 Supplement: SUPPLEMENT TO THE STAR.. Retrieved December 15, 2011, from

As well as shopping for ducks, geese, and turkey for Christmas lunch, some last-minute Christmas shopping could be done at Miss Kitchen’s Fancy Toy Warehouse or Rees and Benjamin Watchmakers and Jewellers.

Advertising. (1859, December 17). The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 – 1864), p. 3. Retrieved December 13, 2011, from

Advertising. (1859, December 20). The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 – 1864), p. 1. Retrieved December 13, 2011, from

In Portland, shoppers may have spent Christmas Eve with their fingers crossed for the draw of the Christmas cake lottery at Holmes Confectioners in Gawler Street.

Advertising. (1859, December 19). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 3 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved December 15, 2011, from

“No Title” Melbourne Punch (Vic. : 1855 – 1900) 2 August 1855: 173.

Not everyone was enjoying the new style of Christmas.  This illustration was entitled “A New Chum’s Christmas…The Pleasures of Memory”.

“A NEW CHUM’S CHRISTMAS.” Melbourne Punch (Vic. : 1855 – 1900) 1 January 1857: 3.

In 1859, the editor of  The Argus lamented that Christmas was not the same in Australia without the snow and mistletoe.  I like his prediction that in one hundred years,  Australians will have forgotten the “old” Christmas and have given Christmas a new feel with eucalyptus and acacia decking the halls.  If only he could see Christmas now as he would see that many of the English traditions of Christmas still exist and we still grapple with the idea of a hot lunch on a hot day,  but we just do it anyway.  The tradition continues.

(1859, December 26). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 4. Retrieved December 16, 2011, from

The Horsham Times Goes Digital

(1891, January 6). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved November 23, 2011, from

It’s great to see issues of  The Horsham Times going online at Trove.  I was very happy when I immediately found articles about family members.  While I did have some family in Horsham, I have found a lot of articles about the Cavendish area which I am hoping will help with the Hadden and Mortimer families.

When fully released, issues available will cover the period 1882-1954.  This will be a great resource for researching the Western District.  There is more to look forward to.  New titles for the 2011-2012 financial year will include:

Ararat Advertiser (1914-1918)   NOW AVAILABLE

Casterton News and the Merino and Sandford Record (1914-1918)  NOW AVAILABLE

Colac Herald (1914-1918) NOW AVAILABLE

Mildura Cultivator (1888-1920) NOW AVAILABLE

Warrnambool Standard (1914-1918) NOW AVAILABLE

If you haven’t visited Trove lately, these are the titles from Western Victoria already available:

The Ballarat Star (1865)

Camperdown Chronicle (1877-1954)

The Kerang Times (1889-1890)

Kerang Times & Swan Hill Gazette (1877-1889)

Portland Guardian (1876-1953)

Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (1842-1876)

The Star (Ballarat) 1855-1864

Happy reading!