The Vagabond Tours the Portland District

It’s time to rejoin The Vagabond on his tour of Picturesque Victoria.  Last time we caught up with him, he was touring the town of Portland.   In this instalment, he ventures out to the countryside surrounding the town and he was not disappointed.  I would have to agree with him that the landscape around the town “is the most picturesque and varied scenery”  seen along the Victorian coastline.

With an old Portland citizen, the Vagabond headed toward Narrawong and Heywood.  Looking out to sea he caught a view of Julia Percy Island and Lawrence Rocks.


LAWRENCE ROCKS & JULIA PERCY ISLAND (background). Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. IMP25/12/65/193

LAWRENCE ROCKS & JULIA PERCY ISLAND (background). Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. IMP25/12/65/193

The Vagabond reflected on the early settlement of the district and likened the countryside around him to an English country lane.

vag1Out of Portland , the Vagabond and the “Ancient Citizen” met the colony’s first road, built by the Hentys.  Although the colony was only within the first 50 years of settlement, change was upon it.  The railways had been costly to the hotels along the roadways as noted by The Vagabond as he passed two empty hotels.


After a stop in Portland, The Vagabond set off again for the rugged coastline of Nelson Bay.  The secretary of the Portland Jubilee committee accompanied him, one of many gentleman offering endless hospitality to the acclaimed writer, hopeful for a good word about their town.

vagAs they left Portland, heading West, the travelling party passed “Burswood” the former home of Edward Henty and they admired the unique flora along the roadside.

BURSWOOD. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Colin Caldwell Trust collection, Image no. H84.276/6/44A

BURSWOOD. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Colin Caldwell Trust collection, Image no. H84.276/6/44A

Before long they had reached Nelson Bay and the wrath of the seas below came a little closer than was comfortable. “Below the waves circle one after another – placid and quiet in the outer rings, increasing in speed and fury until they dash in a foaming surf on the rocks and sands at the base of the cliff”


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Ahead The Vagabond could see his destination, the Cape Nelson lighthouse.




PICTURESQUE VICTORIA. (1884, November 22). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 4. Retrieved November 13, 2013, from


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After climbing the 115 steps to the balcony near the top of the lighthouse, The Vagabond looked out to sea at the passing vessels, while the lighthouse keeper, Mr Fisher,told him lighthouse tales.



From the lighthouse, the horse’s heads turned toward Cape Bridgewater.  The Vagabond quipped that the Banks of Portland would not be offering customers overdrafts on that day because all the managers were travelling with him.


The Vagabond stopped to marvel at the Bat’s Ridge cave.  He advised visitors to the caves to take their own candles,  magnesium wire and string.




A little further on and the group arrived at serene Bridgewater Bay and its small settlement.

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Continuing westward they came to Cape Bridgewater and the Blowholes.

CAPE BRIDGEWATER. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H32492/1662

CAPE BRIDGEWATER. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H32492/1662


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PICTURESQUE VICTORIA. (1884, November 22). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 4. Retrieved December 12, 2013, from

PICTURESQUE VICTORIA. (1884, November 22). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 4. Retrieved December 12, 2013, from

BLOWHOLE, CAPE BRIDGEWATER. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no, H32492/1661

BLOWHOLE, CAPE BRIDGEWATER. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no, H32492/1661

Join The Vagabond on his next instalment of Picturesque Victoria, continuing along the south-west coastline.  What did he see that he described as “fearfully sublime” and “grandly weird”?  Find out next time.

Full Article “Picturesque Victoria, Excursions from Portland, No 1”

Trove Tuesday – The Huntress

This week’s Trove Tuesday article from the Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser is not an enjoyable read, but it is a reminder of the changes in attitude towards our environment and the creatures that inhabit it. In 1867, a bird hunting cat was a thing to celebrate but remember this was a time when sparrow matches and other bird shooting was popular, so please think no less of Mrs Simpson of Bridgewater.  The poor bird involved was a “land rail bird”, most likely the endangered Lewin’s Rail, a small native water bird found in the south-west of Victoria.

AN EXPERT BIRD-CATCHER. (1867, September 23). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 6 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved September 9, 2012, from

A Leap Year Dilemma

I thought I would share this snippet from the “Portland Guardian” of February 24, 1904.  The single men of Bridgewater had a lot to think about while milking the cows during the leap year of 1904.

Bridgewater. (1904, February 24). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved February 29, 2012, from

Passing of the Pioneers

Seventeen more obituaries of Western District pioneers join the collection this month, and what a group they are.  I must say I had to pass a lot over, but it will ensure Passing with the Pioneers will be going to at least January 2014!  New papers at Trove has guaranteed that. Obituaries came from the Portland Guardian, Horsham Times and Ballarat Courier.

There are a couple of special ones, those of  James HENTY and Rebecca KITTSON and I highly recommend that you read the obituary in full.  I actually found Rebecca’s obituary rather moving and after driving through the Bridgewater area recently, I have great respect for her family and others that settled there.  To read the full obituary, just click on the pioneer’s name and the obituary will open in a new tab.  Some are a little hard to read, but magnifying the page helps.

I have also included a “young” pioneer who has a family link to me.  Thank you to Rachael Boatwright for allowing me to include a photo of her family member.

James HENTY: – Died 12 January 1882 at Richmond.  I thought trashy magazines today told all, but the obituary of the Honourable James HENTY M.L.C. shared every detail of the last twenty-four hours or so his life.  How can I possibly give a summary of the life of James HENTY, one of the famous pioneering HENTY clan?  Instead, read the obituary, it is great!  Sadly I think James’ life may have ended prematurely, if that is possible at eighty-two, due to a collision with a Newfoundland dog the week before.

JAMES HENTY c1855.  Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. H83.158/2

JAMES HENTY c1855. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H83.158/2

Hugh MCDONALD: Died 30 January 1899 at Portland. This is a timely obituary coming so soon after my Portland trip.  While there, I learnt something of the wreck of the steamer Admella in 1859 and the Portland life boat crew that went to her aid. Hugh McDONALD was one of the brave men on board the life boat during that daring rescue.

William GARDINER: Died 17 January 1904 at Warracknabeal.  William GARDINER, another pioneer with an interesting life.  He arrived in Victoria in 1849 aboard the barque Saxon and spent time in Melbourne, Geelong and the goldfields, before heading to New Zealand.  On his return to Australia, he lived in Port Fairy and Hamilton, working as a journalist, before moving to the Wimmera as a correspondent for the Belfast Gazette.  He like it so much, he decided to select land at Warracknabeal.  He also worked as a correspondent for the Horsham Times and built houses!

Jean McCLINTOCK:  Died 19 January 1904 at Melbourne. While only forty at the time of her death and not an “old pioneer”, I have included Jean as she was the sister-in-law of  Alfred Winslow HARMAN.  Jean married William MILLER and they resided at Rupanyup.  After some illness, Jean travelled to Melbourne for an operation, but she died as a result.

Jean McClintock & William Eaton Miller. Photo courtesy of Rachael Boatwright & family.

Joseph JELBART: Died 17 January 1904 at Carapook. Joseph worked as the mail contractor between Carapook and Casterton up until his death. Prior to that, he had worked as a blacksmith and a wheelwright at Chetwynd, Merino and Natimuk. Interesting coincidence, just as Joseph did, his father and brother both died on a Sunday morning in the same house.

Rachel Forward READ: Died 15 January 1904 at Lower Cape Bridgewater.  Rachel Forward READ and her husband Richard Charlton HEDDITCH arrived in Adelaide in 1838 and settled at Cape Bridgewater from 1845 after a stint teaching at the Portland Church of England school.  They resided at the Lal Lal Homestead.  The  Victorian Heritage Database listing for Lal Lal includes a letter home by Rachel after their arrival at Cape Bridgewater.  Rachel was buried at the Cape Bridgewater cemetery rather than the Hedditch family cemetery at Lal Lal.

Donald McRAE: Died 12 January 1914 at Tooan.  Donald McRAE was born in Inverness, Scotland in 1842 and travelled with his parents to Portland. In 1865, he moved to Muntham near Hamilton to farm with brother. The pair eventually selected 320 acres of land each at Natimuk.  Donald was a member of the Horsham Caledonian Society.

Samuel WALKER: Died 24 January 1914 at  Ballarat. Samuel WALKER was born in Cheshire, England around 1828 and travelled to Australia in 1852.  After his arrival on the goldfields of Ballarat, he set up a soda water factory which proved profitable for him.  He then became a partner in Evans and Walkers and worked as an accountant.  He was also the registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages at Ballarat from 1872.

Selina MILLER: Died January 1917 at Wickliffe. Selina MILLER had resided at Wickliffe for almost sixty years.  She was twice married.  Her first husband was Mr HAIG and her second, George HARRIOTT.

Elizabeth HUBBARD: Died 3 January 1919 at Horsham.  Elizabeth HUBBARD was born in Norwich, England around 1831 and travelled to Australia with her husband, Mathias HARDINGHAM in the mid-1850s.  From Geelong, they travelled to the Horsham area and were two of the first pioneers in that district.  Mathias ran the Horsham Hotel for some time.

Christina FOX: Died 8 January 1921 at Vectis.  Christine FOX was born in Yorkshire, England around 1835.  As a teenager, she travelled to South Australia with her parents.  She married Robert SANDERS who had also travelled with his parents on the same immigrant ship.

John W. DAVIS: Died 24 January 1928 at Horsham.  John or “Jack” as he was known, arrived in Australia as a three old, living in Williamstown and then Stawell.  He played with the Temperance Union Band in Stawell and then moved to Horsham in 1877 to play with one of two brass bands in the town.  Known throughout the northwest for his ability as an euphonium player, Jack was also a bandmaster at Natimuk and Noradjuha.

Rebecca KITTSON: Died 4 January 1929 at Portland. What a grand old pioneer Rebecca KITTSON was.  A colonist of eighty-eight years, she was a month from her 102nd birthday.  Arriving in Melbourne from Ireland aged eleven, she spent the next year in Melbourne, before joining her family at Cape Bridgewater where her father James Kittson had settled.  She married Reverend William LIGHTBODY, a Wesleyan minister in 1852.  This obituary is a must read.  Mrs LIGHTBODY, as she was known for most of her life, was the last surviving member of her family and the obituary gives a glimpse at how the KITTSON’S came to be in Australia.

Obituary. (1929, January 7). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved January 17, 2012, from

Adrian ANDERSON: Died 16 January 1932 at Horsham. This is a first for Passing of the Pioneers.  Adrian ANDERSON was an immigrant from the United States. Wisconsin to be precise. He arrived aged four, with his parents and resided in Western Australia until he was ten.  The family moved to Victoria, where he remained.  He ran a shop in Jeparit before his death in the Horsham Base Hospital.

Agnes Sarah COOK: Died 18 January 1942 at Casterton. This obituary begins “Born in a small house on the banks of the  Glenelg River at Casterton seventy-nine years ago…”.  Agnes was a lady that like the past and the future, knowledgeable about the history of Casterton, she also liked to predict the future.  Agnes married  Robert SYLVESTER and they had four children.

Helen GULL: Died 18 January 1942 at Casterton. Helen was born on the ship Helen during her parents’ voyage to Australia in 1852.  The GULL family became respected pioneers throughout the Western District.  Helen married Frederick PERRY in 1876 and they resided at well known Western District properties, Rifle Downs at Digby and Runnymeade at Sandford.  Frederick later ran the Digby Hotel.

Home from Portland

It was great to get reacquainted with Portland.  Apart from a quick overnight trip about 15 years ago, I had not visited since the 1970s and 80s with most of my time then spent around the harbour and foreshore.  The town really has not changed, but now, compared to when I was a pre-teen on Sunday afternoon outings, I have greater appreciation of Portland’s history.

It did turn out that some of those Sunday afternoon outings were to witness events which are now engrained in the history of Portland.  At one time, around 1979, we drove from Hamilton to Portland just to see a live sheep export ship!  Sounds boring, and it probably was for an 11 year old, but a storm was brewing .  The following months, into 1980 saw protests, black banned transport companies and disgruntled meat process workers from the local Borthwicks abattoir.  The issue was the talk of the Western District and beyond, at a time when the Western District “rode on the sheep’s back”.

Another visit was to see the ongoing construction of the Alcoa plant, now a familiar fixture on Portland’s landscape.  Construction began in 1981 and smelting began in 1986.  The arrival of Alcoa was a milestone in Portland’s history, offering employment and growth.

Over a series of posts I will share some of what we saw on our recent visit, including the early architecture of Portland, the Cape Nelson Lighthouse, Bridgewater and the Old Portland cemetery.

It will be a busy month.  As well as school holidays and extra “real” work for me, there will be a January Passing of the Pioneers and I will be joining my fellow geneabloggers for the Australia Day 2012 blog: Wealth for Toil .   I also will be posting  my family’s stories, which is really why I’m here.  I just get a bit sidetracked.  I will share the stories of Sarah and Walter Harman, two more of the children of Joseph and Sarah Harman.   I am already looking forward to February when school returns, so I can have a rest!

Just to give you a taste of what is to come, this a photo I took of the Cape Nelson Lighthouse Keeper’s cottage.

Cape Nelson Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage

In the News – May 26, 1927

The Portland Guardian of May 26, 1927 reports the death of Mrs Hugh Kittson.  The obituary gives much information about Mrs Kittson’s early life including her arrival in Australia and her marriage.  She was 94 years old and had been in Victoria for 82 years and had many memories of those early times.  As I read her story, I wanted to know more about Mrs Hugh Kittson.  The obituary, as was often the way, did not mention her first or maiden names.  It did say she had travelled to Victoria on the “Intrinsic” with her parents and two brothers in 1840.

Obituary. (1927, May 26). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876-1953), p. 3. Retrieved May 26, 2011, from


After searching death records and Trove, I found that Mrs Kittson was Margaret Jennings, daughter of Cook Abraham Jennings and Hannah Birchall.  She was born in Manchester about 1833.  Her brothers were Samuel and Robert Jennings and the “Intrinsic” had in fact arrived in 1841.   I then discovered stories about two pioneering families of the south Western District I had not heard of before, the Jennings and the Kittsons who were both in the Portland and Bridgewater areas before 1850. I particular enjoyed a Letter to the Editor from the Portland Guardian of January 23, 1877 by Cook Jennings which painted a picture of the 1840s.

Cook Abraham Jennings’ letter gives an  insight into life in the early days of Western Victoria.  He refutes a claim by Thomas Fairburn to be the first person to find freestone at Mount Abrupt near Dunkeld suggesting it was he instead who made the first discovery.   He describes a journey from Portland to Mt Sturgeon and Mt Abrupt almost 30 years earlier.  As a stonemason in Portland, he was keen to source some freestone and after a tip-off, headed to the southern end of the Grampians in 1848, his travelling companions son Robert and an indigenous boy raised by Jennings wife.

CORRESPONDENCE. (1877, January 23). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876-1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved May 26, 2011, from

CORRESPONDENCE. (1877, January 23). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876-1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved May 26, 2011, from

Jennings describes the return journey when “there was no Hamilton…save Mr Beath’s store and Phastock’s public house”.  After difficulty crossing the Grange and Violet Creek he eventually reached Portland and sold off the stone, which was still being used as grindstones 30 years later.

The letter also shows that overseas travel was not out of the question for those early pioneers.  Cook Jennings travelled to Richmond, Virginia in 1858 to lodge a claim on a relative’s will.  Although Cook did come across as somewhat of an opportunist!

Margaret Jennings’s husband Hugh Kittson was himself some sort of trailblazer.  The Irish-born son of James and Catherine Kittson, was reported as the first white person to ride overland from Portland to Melbourne.  Hugh and Margaret had seven children and surnames of their descendents include Johnson, White and Hodgetts.