False Alarm

Reading the list of newspapers waiting to be released by the NLA’s  Trove,  I noticed the Port Fairy Gazette would not be far away.  Out of interest, I ran a search for “Port Fairy” and bingo many “coming soon” articles came up.  As my Harman and Bishop families lived in Port Fairy at various times, I went straight for a search on “Harman”.  Eleven matches came up with nine  relevant to my Harmans.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw one of the article previews:

Mr James Harman, Byaduk, aged 85, died last week. He landed in Port Fairy in 1853 and…..

It looked like it could be my ggg grandfathers obituary.  I search for his obituary every time Trove releases a new paper.  To date all I have found is the following snippet from The Argus:

COUNTRY NEWS. (1916, August 22). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 8. Retrieved August 29, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1630566

Brothers Walt, George and Jonathan all had lengthy obituaries why not my ggg grandfather.  Even the shadow dweller, brother Alfred had a Family Notice when he died!.  It did seem that my only chance was to search the microfilmed Hamilton Spectators at the Hamilton History Centre .  The hard part about that is getting to Hamilton.

Trove’s release of the Port Fairy Gazette (1914-1918) happened today and yes, the much-anticipated article was available.  I clicked on the link.  This is it, I thought.  What did I find?

Personal. (1916, August 24). Port Fairy Gazette (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 2 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved August 29, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88010281

Twelve more words than the preview.  Only 12 words.  How can I expect any more in The Hamilton Spectator?  How I can ever expect to find any mention of the death of my ggg grandmother Susan Read, wife of James, who died in the same year?

On the bright side I found a couple of good Bishop related articles and a nice article about my gg uncle Charles James Harman prior to his departure for Egypt during WW1. So far, only 1916 is available but  based on the results so far, I think I’m bound to find more when the other years become available.

It was a big day for Trove today with 13Victorian titles released and another Western District paper,  the Portland Observer and Normanby Advertiser (1914-1918) was among them.

Also of interest to me are the Flemington Spectator (1914-1918) and the Wangaratta Chronicle (1914-1918)Sarah Harman and her husband George Adams lived in Flemington and so far I have found plenty of “Adams” matches in the Spectator but none for Sarah or George yet.  Herbert George Harman, nephew of James Harman was a reporter for the Wangaratta Chronicle for over 50 years and I have found matches for both him and his father George, mostly to do with their Masonic activities.

Portland’s Immigration Wall

Portland’s Immigration wall  is a great way to remember those ancestors who first set foot in Australia at the harbour town.  Located on the “Ploughed Field” opposite the Portland hospital and overlooking Portland Bay, the wall has plaques unveiled by grateful descendants of early pioneers to the south-west of Victoria.

The “Ploughed Field” is where Edward Henty ploughed the first sod of earth in Victoria in 1834 with the Henty plough, on display at Portland’s History House.

Some of the families remembered:

Both William and Isabella Robb are buried at the Old Portland Cemetery.

I know a little of Richard and Jane Price thanks to their grandson’s marriage to my first cousin 3 x removed.  Allan James Price married Ada Harman, daughter of Alfred Harman, in 1911.  One of the organisers, Lynn Price,  invited me to the unveiling of the plaque and family reunion in 2009.  I met Lynn via the Rootsweb Western District mailing list.  It was disappointing I was unable to attend as a lot of time has gone into remembering the Price family.  This is seen at the Price family website.   It has photos of the reunion as well as a later event, the unveiling of headstone for Richard and Jane at the Heywood cemetery in 2010.

For more information on how you can see your family on the Immigration Wall, go to the Glenelg Shire website.

I hope one day plaques will be on the wall for my ggg grandparents James and Sarah Harman and William and Margaret Diwell and daughters Elizabeth and Sarah Diwell, all of whom first set foot on Australian shores at Portland Bay off the “Duke of Richmond“.

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.

Portland’s History House


History House in Portland is the place to go to search for your ancestors who lived or arrived in the harbour town.  Located in the former Portland Town Hall, History House offers research facilities and a small museum.

The museum has many reminders of Portland’s early history, in particular the Henty family.

It is not easy taking a photo of a long plough in a narrow room with a fairly ordinary camera, but  I had to give it a go as this in the one and only Henty plough.  While it is famous for it being the first plough used in Victoria, its journey since those early days is interesting.


Maybe this picture does the plough more justice than my own.

THE FIRST PLOUGH USED IN VICTORIA, BY THE HENTY BROTHERS, OF PORTLAND. (1910, September 10). Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 – 1954), p. 10. Retrieved July 3, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38361343

This article from the Portland Guardian of November 18, 1935 describes what happened to the plough after it left the Henty’s possession

HENTY’S PLOUGH. (1935, November 18). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved July 3, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64290884

Hugh Lennon, who had the plough on display at his factory in Spotswood, was the manufacturer of the Lennon plough.  This was the plough of choice of James Harman in  local ploughing matches.  It was also the plough of choice for the Kelly gang when making armour.

The plough eventually returned to Portland in 1970.

The next photo is of a model of the house lived in by Joseph Henry Porter and his wife, Sarah Herbertson, in Gawler Street, Portland.  Joseph constructed the house and Sarah furnished it.  I like the detail, even down to  pickets missing off the fence.

The obituary of Joseph Porter was in the June Passing of the Pioneers.  It mentioned he was known for his fine craftsmanship.


While this isn’t the best photo, I had to share it.  It depicts the meeting of Major Thomas Mitchell and the Henty brothers, a significant time in the history of the Western District.  My post “Ghosts of Yesteryear” tells the story of this chance meeting.


Mary McKillop spent some time in Portland and an exhibit commemorates this, complete with the spires from the original Roman Catholic church in Portland.


The Portland Rocket Shed is next to History House.  The shed was built in 1886 by George Sedgewick who was the gg grandfather of Ann, a follower of this blog.  Fully restored, the shed has a display inside which includes a rocket launcher  used to fire ropes to boats in distress.


For more photos, better than my own, check out ABC South West Victoria’s report  on History House’s renovation in 2010 http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2010/02/17/2822431.htm.  There was also a report at the time of Mary MacKillop’s canonization http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2010/10/12/3035824.htm

Old Portland Cemetery – Part 2

“The Cemetery is the first object to greet the ascending tourist.  

This is charmingly situated on the top of the cliff overlooking the ocean

This quote is not from one of the tourist guides I collected while in Portland earlier this year.  Rather, it was written 155 years earlier by James Bonwick in his book  “Western Victoria: It’s Geography, Geology and Social Condition”: the Narrative of an Educational Tour in 1857″  (p.98)

One of the older graves in the cemetery is that of William Wheeler who was born in 1776.


The grave of James Fawthrop was of interest to us.  Earlier in the day we had visited Portland’s Maritime Discovery Centre which houses the Portland Lifeboat captained by James Fawthrop.   Fawthrop and his crew were part of the rescue of the steamer “Admella” in 1859.  His heroics are a legendary part of the maritime history of the stretch of coast from the south-west of Victoria to the south-east of South Australia.

After a search of the Victorian Death Index, I found that James Ward was Fawthrop’s stepson.  Fawthrop’s wife, Jane Rosevear, was previously married to James Ward senior who drowned in Tasmania in 1838.


The following is Captain Fawthrop’s obituary from the “Border Watch” of November 20, 1878.

TheDEATH OF CAPT. FAWTHROP. (1878, November 20). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved June 10, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77564021


William and Sarah Rosevear were the parents of Jane, wife of James Fawthrop and grandparents of James Ward.  William Rosevear was the coxswain aboard the Portland lifeboat with his son-in-law during the “Admella” rescue.


The largest grave in the cemetery belongs to the Trangmar family.  James Trangmar died in 1888 and was a leading Portland identity.  He had been Mayor, a Lieutenant Colonal in the Western Region Artillery and owned the stations “Morgiana”, “Bochara”, and “Violet Creek” all  near Hamilton.  His home in Portland was “Burswood” bought from Edward Henty


Old Portland Cemetery – Part 1

During our holiday to Portland in January, we visited the North Portland Cemetery also known as the Old Portland Cemetery.  Thanks to a handy brochure I picked up at the Tourist Information Centre (also available online) it was something we could do as a family.

The guide outlines some of the more notable graves in the cemetery. Each of those graves have a number marker.  There are also arrows pointing to the next grave of interest.  This made visiting the cemetery fun and educational for the small research assistant.  Finding each of the numbered graves and reading the corresponding information in the brochure kept his interest on our circumnavigation of the cemetery.

The number one grave is the Robb family memorial.  William was a local stonemason.

Robb Family Grave

Despite fires in the past, the wooden fence around the Rankin grave still stands, the last of its kind in the cemetery.  The grave belongs to Agnes, Margaret and Charles Rankin

Agnes died from blood poisoning in 1875.

UNIVERSITY LAW EXAMINATIONS. (1875, March 17). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 7. Retrieved May 21, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11513825




Several members of the Haggestton family lie in the Haggestton plot.  Frederick, Sara, Joseph and John Haggestton, the children of Joseph and Mary Haggestton and Joseph and Mary themselves are all buried here. At the time of Joseph senior’s death in 1907, he owned several properties around Portland.  Nineteen properties, including The Royal Hotel, were auctioned on February 20, 1908.   The Haggestton headstone was vandalised, along with others, in 1986.  It was restored by Parker & Sons, a Portland stonemason.


The graves face out over Portland Bay where many of those buried first entered Victoria.

This unusual headstone dates back to 1841, before the cemetery opened.  It belongs to six-year-old Henrietta Earls.  Her mother Harriet was also buried in the plot in 1854.



The Sultan of Shelly Beach

The Walk to Shelly Beach

This was going to be a post about our visit to Shelly Beach in January, a trip to rekindle childhood memories of visits there.  Along with photos and an article which described the beauty of the beach,  I had it covered.

However,  as is usually the case, I could not settle at that.  I had to search Trove for more information on Shelly Beach and what I found has given the post a twist.  You will still see photos and the article about the beach, but I will introduce you to a wonderful character who had a link to Shelly Beach in the 1930s.

Firstly, here is part of the article “Beautiful Shelly Beach” that was going to feature.

Beautiful Shelly Beach. (1939, March 30). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved March 26, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64392283

When I returned to Trove, I was keen to find a photo of Shelly Beach.   What I found was beyond my expectations.

No title. (1933, June 24). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), p. 5. Retrieved March 26, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4744401

The caption reads:  “These camels are employed in removing grit from Shelly Beach, near Portland.  Each carries two bags each weighing 2cwt. each and makes 15 trips daily over the sandhills.   The owner is over 70 years old and has four wives”.

On Shelly Beach looking toward Bridgewater

Well I couldn’t leave it there.  Back to the Portland Guardian I went to search “camels Shelly Beach”.  From that I discovered a lot more about the mysterious man with the camels.  Jumping ahead two years from the original picture I found the following “Letter to the Editor” from the man himself:

Camels at Portland. (1935, January 24). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 1 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved March 26, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64287962

From one letter, so much is learnt.   Sultan Aziz, it seems, was giving rides to tourists on the North beach at Portland during the summer and carting shell grit at Shelly Beach during the winter.  He was working for Mr Vivian Jennings, a local carrier.  Why were the camels being used to cart the shell grit?  The next article explains:

CARTING SHELL GRIT. (1933, May 16). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved March 26, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article72660392

Sultan Aziz appears to have been in Portland from at least 1933, but he did travel around the south-west and into South Australia.  In 1934, he and his camels were the star attraction of the Mt. Gambier Tourist Promotion Association parade on February 21, 1934.  Sultan Aziz arrived the day before after travelling along the coast from Portland.

T.P.A. CARNIVAL. (1934, February 20). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved March 26, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77960150

From this, we now know that the Sultan had a son, Abdul.

Mt. Gambier embraced Aziz, if the front page of the Border Watch on February 22, 1934 was any indication.  My favourite photo was that of the mayor, dressed in cameleers robes, riding one of  Sultan Aziz’s camels.

MAYOR LEADS CARNIVAL PROCESSION ASTRIDE CAMEL. (1934, February 22). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved March 26, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77960232

There were five photos on the front page that day, all of which included the camels!

Sultan Aziz  spent at least a month in South Australia selling camel rides at the Mt. Gambier Showgrounds.   It was not a profitable exercise as discussed at a meeting of the Mt. Gambier A & H Society in March 1934.

MOUNT GAMBIER A. & H. SOCIETY. (1934, March 3). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved March 26, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77960562

On his way back to Portland, Aziz called in at Allendale East, south of  Mt. Gambier.  The camels were once again a source of excitement.

REPORTS FROM RURAL CENTRES. (1934, March 20). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), p. 19. Retrieved March 26, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article47544800

In October 1934, the Sultan applied to the Portland Council to have his camels on the South Beach over the summer, however it Council decided he should stay on the North Beach.

Borough Council. (1934, October 4). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved March 27, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64286951

This takes us to the time of  the “Letter to the Editor” of January 1935.  The Sultan only stayed in Portland another six months, leaving just as another southern winter hit.  He returned home to Broken Hill.  It may well have been a combination of cold weather and the discontent over his camels he spoke of in his letter.  His trip to Portland made  news in Broken Hill’s “Barrier Miner”.

Long Trek On Camels. (1935, October 5). Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 - 1954), p. 7 Edition: SPORTS EDITION. Retrieved March 27, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article46707350

An interesting part of this story is Sultan Aziz’s age.  The photo I found from 1933, gives his age as over 70.  Eight years later in 1941, he was claiming he was 112 which would have made him 104 when the photo on Shelly Beach was taken! I don’t know about that.

"God Is Good" Says Sultan Aziz. (1941, May 16). Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 - 1954), p. 1 Edition: HOME EDITION. Retrieved March 27, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article48407504

A year later he was back in the news, claiming he, at 113 was the oldest person in the Commonwealth.

SULTAN AZIZ CLAIMS TO BE OLDEST MAN IN THE COMMONWEALTH; 113 YEARS AND IS STILL GOING STRONG. (1942, August 13). Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved March 27, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article48401748

Sadly, age did catch up with Sultan Aziz.  He passed away in 1950.  His age was given as 105.

AFGHAN DIES AT 105. (1950, August 16). Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved March 27, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49578554

Summarizing Sultan Aziz’s life in Australia through the newspaper articles,  I found he was born in Afghanistan and arrived in Albany, Western Australia via India,  around 1885.  His memories from that time included organising a camel race for His Royal Highness, The Duke of York and Cornwall who would, in 1910, become King George V.

An article from the “Northern Times” , Carnarvan , Western Australia on March 23, 1912, sees Aziz still in W.A. However he was selling his camels and then sailing for South Australia to take camels back overland to Carnarvan.  I don’t think he made it all the way back as he ends up in Broken Hill with a carting contract  around that time. Many other cameleers from Afghanistan were camped at Broken Hill.  He carted goods into central Australia with his camels, working for Sir Sidney Kidman.  At one time he claims to have owned up to 200 camels.  In the 65 years he was in Australia, he must have racked up some miles on his camels.  The trip from Broken Hill to Portland alone was over 900 kilometres.

He had a least one son, Abdul Aziz, who accompanied his father on his trip to Victoria.  Abdul attended school while in Portland and went on to serve in WW2.

In his later years, Sultan Aziz was the caretaker of the mosque in Broken Hill and tended his fowls.

Of course, this is mostly information  provided by Sultan Aziz himself and is still to be supported by other sources.

I also did a search for marriages for Sultan Aziz, because I had to know if he did have up to four wives.  However, I did not find a harem, rather a marriage in 1923 to Bigham Kahn at Broken Hill.  This could be Abdul Aziz’s mother.  It is possible that Sultan Aziz had wives he left in Afganistan, which was not unusual for the cameleers.

It really is a great story of another colourful character to find his way into the Western District of Victoria.  I wonder if any of my relatives saw their first camel or paid a penny for a ride on the North Portland Beach.

Further Reading:

If you would like to learn more about the cameleers who helped explorers and pastoralists venture into inland Australia, the website Australia’s Muslim Cameleers is worth a visit.  There is so much information about the Muslim cameleers, including biographies. Yes, Sultan Aziz’s biography is among them.  One interesting fact is that at least 2000 cameleers arrived in Australia during the fifty years from 1870 to 1920 and 20,000 camels!  Most Australians would know Central Australia today has a lot of camels,but would have no idea how and why they are there.

There is also a book  by Phillip Jones and Anna Kenny, Australia’s Muslim Cameleers.  It includes a biographical listing of over 1200 cameleers.

The Age, on January 3, 2012, published an article entitled Afghans, cameleers and the massacre of Broken Hill.  It includes photos of cameleers and a mining registration form belonging to Sultan Aziz.  This was from 1939 and according to his own calculations at the time, he would have been around 110!  There is a photo, so see what you think.

I also located the WW2 service record of Abdul Aziz.  This was sad to read.  Abdul, born in 1923, enlisted in the Australian Military Service in 1942, aged 18 and later the A.I.F. in 1944.  He was sent to Bougainville in 1945 and after only four months, he received life threatening wounds to his leg, thanks to a shell.  He returned to Australia.

Further on in the service record,  I found a letter from 1958 of Thora Aziz’s application to buy a home with help from Legacy.  Her husband Abdul had died in 1951.  He would have been only 28.  Such a short life for the son of a centenarian.

Shelly Beach