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: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article68968037&gt;.

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 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page1668019&gt;.

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 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73076468&gt;.

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 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22235082&gt;.

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.

flood24

“TEMPORARILY FINE TODAY New Depression Approaching” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 19 March 1946 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22235127 .

While many communities were flooded, the following were those most severely affected by the big flood of 1946.

MACARTHUR

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.

BYADUK/WALLACEDALE/CONDAH/BRANXHOLME

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: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article92700639&gt;.

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

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.

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GRANGE BURN AT FORMER SWIMMING POOL

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

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GRANGE BURN LOOKING TOWARD THE BALLARAT ROAD BRIDGE.

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), http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78249109

‘NO LONGER A CREEK’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), 20 March, p. 1. (CITY FINAL), http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78249

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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WARRNAMBOOL

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.

WARRNAMBOOL CEMETERY

HOPKINS RIVER, WARRNAMBOOL

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. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/107853

WARRNAMBOOL 1946. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/107853

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. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/107848

M.COX’S HOUSE SPRING GARDENS WARRNAMBOOL ca 1946. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/10784

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: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page1668019&gt;.

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:.

WOODFORD

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: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article62889490&gt;.

KILLARNEY

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:<http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article206797296&gt;.

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: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article206797296&gt;.

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: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47490094

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: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47490094&gt;.

ROSEBROOK

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article140624307

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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article145004487

PORT FAIRY

The Moyne River rose rapidly at Port Fairy leading to the evacuation of homes in the east of the town.

269

MOYNE RIVER , PORT FAIRY LOOKING EAST.

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.

087

PORT FAIRY WHARF ON THE MOYNE RIVER LOOKING TOWARD THE MOUTH OF THE RIVER.

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.

172

LOOKING EAST TOWARD THE PORT FAIRY WHARF, MOYNE RIVER.

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. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article140624307&gt;

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.

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CALEDONIAN INN, PORT FAIRY

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 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article206795566&gt;.

"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: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article48697059&gt;.

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:<http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page1668077&gt;.

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 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page1668077&gt;.

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 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page1668077&gt;.

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.

227 (800x600)

PORT FAIRY CEMETERY

Today, there is a reminder of the 1946 flood at the Port Fairy Wharf.

266

HEYWOOD/PORTLAND

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.http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/97040

PORTLAND BREAKWATER c1945. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/97040

 

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.

DARTMOOR

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. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/239718

DARTMOOR RAILWAY BRIDGE UNDER CONTRUCTION c1915. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/239718

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.

NELSON 

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.

087

ISLE OF BAGS, GLENELG RIVER, NELSON

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. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/211026

NELSON BRIDGE c1907. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/211026

 

"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. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article206798952&gt;.

 

148

TODAY AT NELSON A HIGH CONCRETE BRIDGE SPANS THE GLENELG RIVER

COLERAINE

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. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/304435

COLERAINE POST OFFICE. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/304435

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.

CASTERTON/SANDFORD

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. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/151401

CASTERTON, 18 MARCH 1946. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/151401

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.http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/151401

CASTERTON, 18 MARCH 1946. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/151401

AFTERMATH

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:<http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22237029&gt;.

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. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/62326

PORT CAMPBELL HOTEL. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/62326

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. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article206375340&gt;.

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. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article206375340&gt;.

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. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64407334&gt;.

SOURCES

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

Trove Tuesday – New Year’s Eve

A week on and it is New Year’s Eve, so let’s go back to the towns of the Western District to see what was happening as year’s end, thanks to Trove.

A Warrnambool is a popular New Year’s Eve destination today and a little livelier than 1915.  After a tragic year, there was hope for better things in 1916.  Now we know that they did not come.  Sorry, this article is a little difficult to read in parts.

NEW YEAR'S EVE. (1916, January 3). Warrnambool Standard (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73865946

NEW YEAR’S EVE. (1916, January 3). Warrnambool Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73865946

Just as Warrnambool had the local brass band playing, so did Coleraine.

Coleraine Albion. (1916, January 6). Coleraine Albion and Western Advertiser (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119606431

Coleraine Albion. (1916, January 6). Coleraine Albion and Western Advertiser (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119606431

Hamilton residents had an evening of outdoor silent films to enjoy on New Year’s Eve, 1915. There were also many activities to look forward to the following day, including several race meetings, with trains running from Hamilton.

Advertising. (1915, December 30). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 5. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120408582

Advertising. (1915, December 30). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 5. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120408582

Those who attended enjoyed New Year’s Eve pictures enjoyed the humorous “Josie’s Legacy”, the dramatic “Winthrop Diamonds” and an offering from Pathe’s Gazette.  Mr. and Mrs. H.A. Palmer accompanied the films with incidental music.

    OPEN-AIR ENTERTAINMENT. (1916, January 3). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 4. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120408747

OPEN-AIR ENTERTAINMENT. (1916, January 3). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 4. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120408747

The grassy hill within the Hamilton Botanic Gardens is a perfect place for an outdoor picture theatre.

HAMILTON BOTANICAL GARDENS

HAMILTON BOTANICAL GARDENS

Despite having a late night, Hamiltonians were up early on New Year’s Day to take part in the many activities available, such as the Winslow races, sports days and day trips to coastal towns.

NEW YEAR HOLIDAYS. (1916, January 3). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 4. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120408772

NEW YEAR HOLIDAYS. (1916, January 3). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 4. Retrieved December 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120408772

As 2013 draws to a close, may 2014 be a good year for you.  Happy New Year.

Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no.  H99.166/327 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/16626

Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H99.166/327 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/16626

Trove Tuesday – Christmas Eve

What could I share for a Christmas Eve Trove Tuesday?  Something Christmassy of course.  With many new Western District newspapers now at Trove, I thought I would see what was happening on Christmas Eve in the towns that missed out on a mention in the Christmas posts from the previous two years.  The year was 1915 and country was suffering with WW1 and drought .

Coleraine put on the usual Christmas Eve of last minute shopping and the Coleraine Brass Band.

Coleraine Albion. (1915, December 30). Coleraine Albion and Western Advertiser (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119606385

Coleraine Albion. (1915, December 30). Coleraine Albion and Western Advertiser (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119606385

COLERAINE.  Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. H32492/2813 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/63071

COLERAINE. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H32492/2813 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/63071

Business was brisk at Casterton and the Casterton Times took the opportunity to rib the pessimists of the district, who I can only imagine had predicted doom for Christmas trading given the events of the time.

Casterton News. (1915, December 23). The Casterton News and the Merino and Sandford Record (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2 Edition: Bi-Weekly. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74767421

Casterton News. (1915, December 23). The Casterton News and the Merino and Sandford Record (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2 Edition: Bi-Weekly. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74767421

HENTY STREET, CASTERTON.  Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no. H32492/2770  http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/63173

HENTY STREET, CASTERTON. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H32492/2770
http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/63173

Because of electricity restrictions due to the war, some of the shop displays could not be highlighted as well as earlier years.

Castern News Printed Monday and Tuesday Evenings. (1915, December 30). The Casterton News and the Merino and Sandford Record (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2 Edition: Bi-Weekly. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74767457

Castern News Printed Monday and Tuesday Evenings. (1915, December 30). The Casterton News and the Merino and Sandford Record (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2 Edition: Bi-Weekly. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74767457

You would be hard pressed to find most of these goods in a shop in Penshurst these days, but in 1915, Chesswas’ had it all.

Advertising. (1915, December 18). Penshurst Free Press (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119562126

Advertising. (1915, December 18). Penshurst Free Press (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119562126

For those in Hamilton, if a buggy shaft broke or a horse lost a shoe over Christmas, shanks’ pony would have had to suffice until January 3rd when the coachbuilders, farriers and blacksmiths of the town resumed after their well earned Christmas break.

Advertising. (1915, December 15). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 4. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120407611

Advertising. (1915, December 15). Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 4. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article120407611

To finish this Christmas Eve Trove Tuesday post, may I say Merry Christmas to all of you, I greatly appreciated your continued support.

Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no.  H82.96/168 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/110126

Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H82.96/168 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/110126

On the ALG Trail

It must be said, I am an unabashed Adam Lindsay Gordon fan.  Stories of his horsemanship got me in the first time I visited Blue Lake around age seven, during the mid 1970s. As a horse girl, the idea of a man and his horse jumping over the edge of the lake was fascinating .

Unlike school children of the first half of the 20th century, Adam Lindsay Gordon’s poetry was not on the curriculum by the 1970s and 80s. Therefore, my introduction to his poetry was the 1946 edition of  Poems of Adam Lindsay Gordon found in a second-hand book shop.  By then I had heard of his horse racing deeds, his tragic and untimely death and visited his cottage in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens.  How did a dare-devil horseman write such tender words?  How could a hardened horse-breaker, find beauty in the death of a steeplechaser in The Last Leap?

“Satin coat that seems to shine

Duller now, black braided tress,

That a softer hand than mine

Far away was wont to twine

That in meadows from this

Softer lips might kiss

..

All is over! this is death,

And I stand to watch thee die,

Brave old horse! with ‘bated breath

Hardly drawn through tight-clenched teeth

Lid indented deep, but eye

Only dull and dry”

(Extract from The Last Leap, first published: Sea Spary and Smoke Drift, Gordon, Adam Lindsay, Melbourne : George Robertson, 1867.)

ADAM GORDON. (1911, July 1). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), p. 8. Retrieved February 7, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article58447919

ADAM GORDON. (1911, July 1). The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 – 1929), p. 8. Retrieved February 7, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article58447919

During our recent visit to Nelson, we crossed the border into South Australia to visit nearby Port McDonnell.  Just out of the town is Dingley Dell Conservation Park, site of  Dingley Dell Cottage, once a holiday home of Adam Lindsay Gordon.  On the day, the temperature was in the low forties and a Total Fire ban, forced the closure of the cottage.  That was disappointing as the cottage houses some great ALG memorabilia, but we still could explore the grounds.

IMG_20130104_102218_978

Gordon spent a lot of time writing while at Dingley Dell during the years 1864 to 1868. He published his work “The Feud” in the Border Watch in August 1864 and wrote poems such as “The Song of the Surf”  inspired by the rugged limestone coast.

In 1912, ALG’s widow, Margaret Park, then Mrs Peter Low, recalled Dingley Dell in an interview published in the Chronicle (Adelaide)

ADAM LINDSAY GORDON. (1912, March 30). Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), p. 39. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88693399

ADAM LINDSAY GORDON. (1912, March 30). Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 – 1954), p. 39. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88693399

This is the cottage in 1891.  It was still owned by the Gordon family at that time.

Image Courtesty of State Library of South Australia B16893 http://images.slsa.sa.gov.au/mpcimg/17000/B16893.htm

DINGLEY DELL circa 1891 Image Courtesty of State Library of South Australia B16893 http://images.slsa.sa.gov.au/mpcimg/17000/B16893.htm

Again, around 1907.

dd1

DINGLEY DELL, circa 1907 Image courtesy of the State Library of South Australia B45883 http://images.slsa.sa.gov.au/mpcimg/55000/B54883.htm

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IMG_20130104_102317_671

The day we left Nelson,we continued on the ALG trail  to Mt Gambier’s Blue Lake, site of Gordon’s legendary leap.  Set in a volcanic crater, Blue Lake itself is full of mystery and on the day the water was eddying and swirling. Add the tale of  Adam Lindsay Gordon and it was almost haunting.

DSCN1319

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During Gordon’s life, and the early years after his death in 1870, despite having some published works, his poetry largely went unrecognised.  It was publications after his death that, by the late 1870s, saw him gain critical acclaim in Australia and overseas and his star began to rise.

The Argus. (1877, October 18). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 4. Retrieved February 19, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5941600

The Argus. (1877, October 18). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 4. Retrieved February 19, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5941600

Searching newspaper articles from his life and beyond, it was the mid 1880s that the legend of Gordon really took off.

Try as I might, including searching the Border Watch every year from 1861 until 1885, I could not find any articles from during his lifetime about the “famous leap”.  Obviously there are limited editions of the paper, particularly through the 1860s.  For example the August 30, 1864 edition in which Gordon’s “The Feud” was published is not available.

It was 1881 before I could find any reference at all and it was written as though the leap was common knowledge. Surely I could have found some mention over a 20 year period, even in with limited editions.  Even obituaries at the time of his death did not mention “Gordon’s Leap”.   The  December 31, 1881 issue of the Northern Argus (Clare, S.A.)  included the article Notes of a Holiday to the South East described Gordon’s feat at Blue Lake.

NOTES OF A HOLIDAY TRIP TO THE SOUTH-EAST. (1881, December 13). Northern Argus (Clare, SA : 1869 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved February 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article97285462

NOTES OF A HOLIDAY TRIP TO THE SOUTH-EAST. (1881, December 13). Northern Argus (Clare, SA : 1869 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved February 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article97285462

A  Letter to the Editor in the Border Watch of August 28, 1886 was the next reference I found,  proposed the erection of a monument to Gordon.  From that time on there was rarely an article written about Adam Lindsay Gordon that didn’t mention his leap.

alg7

THE POET GORDON. (1886, August 28). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved February 16, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77547978

THE POET GORDON. (1886, August 28). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved February 16, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77547978

This touching letter from H.W. Varley of Adelaide came with “a couple of guineas” enclosed.

THE GORDON MEMORIAL. (1886, September 15). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved February 7, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77548266

THE GORDON MEMORIAL. (1886, September 15). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved February 7, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77548266

Despite a number of men present on the day of “the leap”, consensus could not be reached on the exact point Gordon jumped the fence.  Nor could they agree to the exact nature of the leap or the horse Gordon was riding, was it Modesty of Red Lancer? Even the exact day is unclear.  The Mt Gambier Aquifer Tours website, suggests it was the day after the Border Handicap Steeplechase during the winter of 1864.  I found the results of that race in the Border Watch of July 29, 1864.  The race was on Wednesday July 27, 1864.

MOUNT GAMBIER RACES. (1864, July 29). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved February 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77009190

MOUNT GAMBIER RACES. (1864, July 29). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved February 17, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77009190

This makes sense as the leap apparently occurred after a bet was placed by Gordon on a “square up” race with the first and second placegetters, Robert Learmonth and William Trainor.

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BLUE LAKE LOOKING TOWARDS THE AREA (ON LEFT) OF ADAM LINDSAY GORDON’S LEAP

The obelisk was finally placed at a site suggested by William “Billy” Trainor one of Gordon’s closest friends and confidants.  It was right that the American Billy, a former circus performer, was at the laying of the foundation stone as was John Riddoch another of Gordon’s confidants.  In the last years of Gordon’s life, he corresponded extensively with Riddoch sharing his deepest feelings.  The letters were published in 1970 in  The Last Letters 1868-1870:  Adam Lindsay Gordon to John Riddoch.

MEMORIAL OF A. L. GORDON. (1887, July 9). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), p. 5. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article46794085

MEMORIAL OF A. L. GORDON. (1887, July 9). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), p. 5. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article46794085

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The same view toward the monument taken around 1930.

Image Courtesy of the State Library of South Australia B72412 http://images.slsa.sa.gov.au/mpcimg/72500/B72412.htm

Image Courtesy of the State Library of South Australia B72412 http://images.slsa.sa.gov.au/mpcimg/72500/B72412.htm

IMG_20130105_100617_888

From Mt. Gambier we crossed the border back into Victoria and the Western District.  We were soon heading for the “Fields of Coleraine”.  Coleraine racecourse was one often frequented by ALG.  Part two of the five-part Hippodromania is the verse “The Fields of Coleraine

On the fields of Col’raine there’ll be labour in vain

Before the Great Western is ended,

The nags will have toil’d, and the silks will be soil’d.

And the rails will require to be mended.

..

For the gullies are deep, and the uplands are steep.

And mud will of purls be the token,

And the tough stringy-bark, that invites us to lark,

With impunity may not be broken.

(Extract from “The Fields of Coleraine”. Published in Sea Spray and Smoke Drift, 1867)

Unfortunately, keeping with  racing parlance, heads were turned for home and there was no stopping at Coleraine (I suppose I had called a rest stop at the Casterton Historical Society, 30 minutes earlier), so I have no photographs of the obelisk in Gordon’s honour beside the Glenelg Highway, east of Coleraine.  A little further on is the Coleraine Racecourse and opposite is Mt Koroit homestead, former home of John Kirby, owner of 1911 Melbourne Cup winner The Parisian.

Before Gordons’s death, he spent time in Ballarat and that is where my ALG trail ended but where it will resume at another time.  However, it was during his time in Ballarat that Gordon suffered his greatest loss, the death of his 11 month old daughter Annie.  He plunged into deep sorrow and moved to Melbourne where he wrote his last poems, his melancholy evident.  Alice’s death, a bad race fall and ongoing financial difficulties saw him sink to his lowest ebb.  He eventually took his own life on Brighton Beach on June 24, 1870 at the age of 36.

When Adam Lindsay Gordon died,  little was written about him, save for coroner’s findings and the standard obituaries, but this moving piece, from the Australian Town and Country Journal  months after his death, by the “Wandering Bohemiem”, a literary writer, brings to light a man many of his Western District contemporaries never saw, and a side only those  of the “supreme brotherhood” would truly understand.  The extract of verse, taken from “A Song of Autumn” published in 1870, was apparently the last he wrote. Clearly written with his dear Annie in his heart it shows the depths he had sunken to.

alg

LITERATURE. (1871, February 18). Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 - 1907), p. 18. Retrieved January 20, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70464980

LITERATURE. (1871, February 18). Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 – 1907), p. 18. Retrieved January 20, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70464980

And Eastward by Nor’ward

Looms sadly my track,

And I must ride forward,

And still I look back,—

Look back — Ah, how vainly!

For while I see plainly,

My hands on the reins lie

Uncertain and slack.

..

The warm wind breathes strong breath,

The dust dims mine eye,

And I draw one long breath,

And stifle one sigh.

Green slopes  softly shaded,

Have flitted and faded —

My dreams flit as they did —

Good-night!— and — Good-bye!

(Extract from  “A Basket of Flowers”, Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes, Bush ballads and galloping rhymes /​ by the author of “Ashtaroth”. [A.L. Gordon]. Melbourne : Clarson, Massina, and Co., General Printers, 1870.

SOURCES:

Adam Lindsay Gordon Craft Cottage

The Adam Lindsay Gordon Commemorative Committee Inc

Brighton Cemetery

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Online

Dingley Dell Cottage

Mt. Gambier Aquifier Tours

Trove Australia

In The News – July 29, 1929

Although many of the Western District newspapers are not digitised at Trove, it is possible to find articles from the likes of The Hamilton Spectator in the The Portland Guardian,  for example.  On this day 83 years ago,  an excerpt from the Albion newspaper of Coleraine appeared in The Portland Guardian of July 29, 1929.

Prompted by the deaths of many of the early pioneers, the article reflected on the history of the Western District  from the time Major Thomas Mitchell made his way across the land he called Australia Felix 93 years earlier.

 

 

Early History. (1929, July 29). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 23, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64270110

There is a clue in the article for those of you who having trouble finding your Western District family member’s arrival in Victoria.  The writer mentions many people from Van Diemen’s Land making their way to Victoria once news got back the Hentys had pushed up from Portland into the Merino district.  It could then be possible that family members travelled to Victoria via Tasmania where they had resided as convicts or otherwise.

Jenny Fawcett, on her great South-West Victoria genealogy and history site,  has indexed the names of those who travelled to Victoria as part of a Geelong and Portland Bay Immigration Society scheme in 1845 and 1846.  The idea behind that and similar schemes was to bring labour into the colony with those behind the society being squatters and merchants.  Jenny provides a great description of the scheme on her site.

Browsing through the names,there are many I instantly recognise as Western District family names.  Also, a lot of the pioneer obituaries I have read tell of the deceased having come to Victoria via Van Diemen’s Land.

So, if you are beginning to think your ancestors were good swimmers, follow-up the possibility they came to the Western District from Tasmania.  You just never know.