When the Earth Moved at Warrnambool

It was an ordinary Autumn morning in Warrnambool, 7 April 1903, the Tuesday before Easter.  Children went off to school, businesses opened their doors, and ladies went out to do their shopping.

WARRNAMBOOL c1908. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/386015

The steamer SS Flinders was docked at the breakwater and a monumental mason was working on a headstone at the Warrnambool Cemetery. An angler cast his line off the bridge close to the mouth of the Hopkins River while small boats dotted the water.


FISHING AT THE HOPKINS RIVER. Image courtesy of the Museums Victoria Collections https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/771584

Others, like George and Jane Rolfe of Lyndoch, still hadn’t emerged from their homes and at James Beeching’s Princess Alexandra Hotel, a man was asleep in one of the bedrooms.  As clocks ticked over to 8 minutes to 10:00am, a loud rumbling like cannons discharging, rang out across the town and then the ground began to shake.  It lasted around eight to ten seconds but seemed longer as houses rocked and tanks “oscillated” on their stands.  One of the crosses on St John’s Church (below) toppled and smashed through the slate roof.

ST. JOHN’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, WARRNAMBOOL c1903. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/53807

Ink bottles at the police station spilt, chimneys fell and crockery smashed in homes and shops.  A tank on the roof of the Commercial Hotel split flooding the hotel, and the man sleeping at Beeching’s Hotel woke with a start when plaster fell from the roof.  Close to the Hopkins River, the bottles in the Anglers and Hopkins Hotels shook.  At Lyndoch, George and Jane Rolfe fell from their chairs and books dropped from the shelf onto Jane’s head.

LOOKING TOWARDS “LYNDOCH”, WARRNAMBOOL. Image courtesy of the State Libary of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/386021

The fisherman on the Hopkins River bridge watched as a large wave rolled over the sandbar at the river’s mouth.  The small boats on the river shook so hard, those onboard feared their vessels would fall to pieces as the water around them seem to boil. Looking to the shore they were terrified at the sight of the river banks trembling.

LOOKING TOWARDS THE MOUTH OF THE HOPKINS RIVER. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/62549

At the nearby cemetery, monuments fell, others swivelled on their bases and urns smashed to the ground. The box the monumental mason was standing on toppled and the frightened man clung to the large monument he was working on. The crew of the SS Flinders felt the steamer move and watched the breakwater tremble.

WARRNAMBOOL BREAKWATER c1890-1900 Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/368096

There was an immediate reaction. People ran from homes and businesses in fear of their lives.  In Timor Street, a woman fainted.  Dogs were barking and horses were stirred-up.  At the Warrnambool State School, children rushed for the doors while others jumped out windows.  In the upstairs infant room, the quick thinking teacher Miss Evans closed the door to the room before the young children could stampede down the stairs.  Frightened children cried out for their mothers.

WARRNAMBOOL STATE SCHOOL c1906 Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/336508

It was said that of the 7000 people of Warrnambool, 6500 were out in the streets.  Some experienced a giddy feeling, others were suffering headaches and nerves were on edge.

“THE EARTHQUAKE.” The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954) 9 April 1903: 6. Web. 24 Jun 2018 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article197906248

Damage was greatest in the low-lying areas of the town.  At the cemetery, the damage bill was estimated at £500.  The Bayview Hotel had seven bedrooms with plaster off the ceiling.  Closer to the centre of town, Mona cottage in Banyan Street was partially demolished. The floor of the Warrnambool Town Hall on the corner of Liebig and Timor Streets was littered with plaster as if the roof had lifted and rested down again and a gas pipe was also broken.

WARRNAMBOOL TOWN HALL Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/64477

The earthquake wasn’t confined to Warrnambool.  At Samuel McDonald’s Russell’s Creek home, pictures fell to the floor and clocks stopped. At Koroit three distinct shocks were felt, scaring children and shaking crockery.  At Killarney, Framlingham, and Grassmere houses shook and bottles on shelves fell to the floor.  At Allansford, horses and cattle ran spooked in their paddocks.  Goods were thrown to the floor in a shop in Sackville Street, Port Fairy and as the Port Fairy Court House (below) shook, people ran into the street.  Around 11:00am (Victorian time) shocks were felt at Gladstone and Georgetown, north of Adelaide. 

PORT FAIRY COURT HOUSE. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/233234

Those at Woodford also felt the shaking, enough to unearth ninety-four sovereigns buried under a tree.

“GOLD FINDING BY EARTHQUAKE.” Advocate (Melbourne, Vic. : 1868 – 1954) 25 April 1903: 25. Web. 4 Jul 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article169742657&gt;.

 As the weeks passed, repairs took place and life in Warrnambool returned to normal despite some uneasiness among residents

AERIAL VIEW OF WARRNAMBOOL c1928 Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/20371

Winter arrived but that didn’t stop people getting out and about like on the evening of Tuesday 14 July 1903. There was a concert at the Christ Church Parish Hall in Koroit Street, a group of footballers were meeting at a South Warrnambool hotel, and a ball was in progress at the Oddfellows Hall next to the Ozone Hotel (below).


THE ODDFELLOWS HALL ON KOROIT STREET NEXT TO THE OZONE HOTEL. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/20268

Closer to the river, at the Angler’s Hotel a daughter of the licensee Andrew Pyers was practising the piano and George and Jane Rolfe relaxed in a sitting room at Lyndoch.  Police Constable Trainor was on duty, patrolling near the beach. At around 8:28pm, singers at the concert in the  Parish Hall launched into the song, “Life’s Dream is O’er”.

WARRNAMBOOL CHRIST CHURCH PARISH HALL. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/234738

Just as they sang the lyrics, “Life’s long dream is o’er, life’s dream is o’er, farewell! farewell!”, a loud rumble rang. To George Rolfe, it sounded like a clap of thunder before an intense shock moved his house, again knocking books from the bookshelf.  Constable Trainor by the beach saw a strange light then felt a severe shock.  Back at the Parish Hall, there was a rush to the door with similar scenes at the Oddfellows Hall where plaster fell from the roof and walls. 

At the Anglers Hotel, a falling chimney dropped a large stone through the roof into the fireplace where Miss Pyers played and the lid of her piano slammed shut.  Andrew Pyers and his daughters were terrified as a barrel fell from its stand and rolled across the hotel floor and bottles fell from the shelves.

BRIDGE OVER THE HOPKINS RIVER LOOKING TOWARDS THE ANGLERS HOTEL . Image courtesy of the State Library of Victora http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/386019

At St John’s Church, another three crosses each weighing more than 125 kilograms, fell from the roof. One landed thirty feet away from the church. Nine minarets on the northern wall were damaged.  Across the town, water tanks burst.  In Liebig Street, three chimneys fell at the Victoria Hotel and a large concrete ornament on the roof of Peter Hand’s tobacconist shop fell to the ground. Weighing over 100 kilograms, it just missed a man standing in the doorway.  Nearby, a plate-glass window at Alfred Emery’s drapery smashed and the store window of crockery importer John Villiers also smashed and undoubtedly some of his fragile stock.  

LIEBIG STREET WARRNAMBOOL INCLUDING THE STORE OF JOHN VILLIERS. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/386010

The earthquake lasted only about four seconds but it was intense. As it occurred at night, the damage wasn’t obvious until morning.  Many of the buildings damaged in the first quake were again affected, such as the Commerical Hotel. The area around the Hopkins Valley from the mouth of the Hopkins River again saw the most damage.

AERIAL VIEW OF THE MOUTH OF THE HOPKINS RIVER c1928 Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/20465

Curious holes formed near the mouth of the river.


“THE EARTHQUAKE.” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 16 July 1903

On the western bank. Proudfoot’s Boathouse sustained damage.


PROUDFOOT’S BOATHOUSE ON THE HOPKINS RIVER. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/54159

George Rolfe’s Lyndoch and Reg Selby’s Clifton had cracks in the walls. There were two landslips on the river bank and a large hole formed between Lyndoch and the jetty. At the Hopkins Hotel, cracks repaired after the previous quake reopened and Mr Haberfield’s stone cottage sustained further damage.


LOOKING ALONG THE WESTERN BANK OF THE HOPKINS RIVER TOWARDS THE MOUTH OF THE RIVER. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoira http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/62680

A little further along the river, the cemetery was in ruins, with the damage more extensive than in April. The Argus of 16 July 1903 reported nearly every monument was either out of place, partially or totally destroyed.  Some had snapped at the base.

“THE EARTHQUAKE.” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 16 July 1903: 5. Web. 6 Jul 2018 .

Further along, there was damage to John Ware’s home Weeripnong.

‘WEERIPNONG’ OVERLOOKING THE HOPKINS RIVER. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/234656

Across Lady Bay, the suspension bridge over the Merri River was kinked and there was a crack in the breakwater.  In the CBD, the Warrnambool Town Hall stood up better than during the first earthquake, however, it was thought the wall facing Liebig Street would need rebuilding. Three clocks at the Post Office stopped at 8:27pm and plaster had fallen from the ceiling.

WARRNAMBOOL POST OFFICE. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/304572

The two storey Ocean View Coffee Palace on the corner of Banyan and Merri Streets had extensive damage.  The north wall was knocked out and the western wall on Banyan Street was damaged near the foundations and the building was condemned by the council.  Mayville a stone cottage in Banyan street was badly damaged and Isabella Palmer’s house in Lava Street was a wreck.  The spire at St Josephs Catholic Church had twisted. The Geelong Advertiser of 16 July 1903 reported it was “out of plumb at a distance of twenty feet down from the summit.  The twist has thrown it three inches out”.

ST. JOSEPH’S CATHOLIC CHURCH, WARRNAMBOOL. c1907 Image courtesy of the State ibrary of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/54604

The earthquake was once again felt across the Western District, including at Port Fairy where the shaking lasted fifteen seconds.  Port Fairy folk rushed into the streets, clocks stopped and crockery smashed.  At Illowa, the Mechanics Institute shook and at the Illowa Hotel, bottles fell.  At Ararat, Casterton and Clunes, windows rattled while at Cobden and Hexham there was concern among residents who felt their homes shake.  At Hawkesdale, the quake lasted eight seconds while at Penshurst, a rumbling like thunder was heard and a water tank split at Newfield near Port Campbell.

Other towns affected were Terang, Camperdown Hamilton, Portland, Allansford, Panmure, Purnim and Garvoc. Even at Ballarat, statues at the Mechanics Institute were shaken about 8:30pm, the fire station tower swayed and a hole appeared in Barkly Street.

Fortunately, there were no fatalities as a result of either earthquake.  There were some minor injuries and, not surprisingly, shock.  

After the April event residents were very uneasy.  That was not helped by the link made between the earthquake and the volcanic nature of the area.

“General news” Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 – 1918) 18 April 1903: 24. Web. 13 Jul 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article197943395&gt;.

After each of the earthquakes at Warrnambool, attention turned to Pietro Baracchi, the Government Astronomer.

PIETRO BARACCHI Museums Victoria Collections https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/792772

Baracchi was based at the Melbourne Observatory home to Victoria’s seismograph.

MELBOURNE OBSERVATORY Image courtesy of the Museums Victoria Collections https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/1724584

After the first quake, Baracchi developed the seismograph film but found only slight movement recorded at the observatory at 09:53:40, ninety seconds after it was felt in Warrnambool.  He didn’t have a lot more to offer.  He said there was no prior warning, however, the previous year had seen more tremors recorded than in any other year.  He put that down to a heightened awareness of earthquakes.  He thought investigating the damage may show more about the cause of the quake. 

TOWER HILL c1903 Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/53889

Baracchi’s explanation was not enough and people were demanding answers.  The Warrnambool Mayor invited Baracchi and the head of the Melbourne University Geology Department, Professor John Gregory to Warrnambool to conduct an investigation.  Baracchi declined the invitation saying he was busy at the observatory and it wasn’t his job.  His job was to describe the reading received at the Observatory but determining the cause was the work of Professor Gregory. 

Councillor Russell of the Warrnambool Borough Council said, “the scientific authorities had shown great lack of spirit in the matter and added that if they wanted to know anything about it, they should come of their own accord and not wait to be invited.” Councillor Price agreed, “The matter is of great interest not only to us but to the whole State.”(The Herald 15 April 1903)

Professor Gregory did take up the invitation and arrived in Warrnambool on Friday 17 April visiting those sites with the most damage.  He left town to analyse his findings and prepare a report but before his departure, he attempted to debunk the theories the earthquake was connected with Tower Hill.  He said if that were the case, the centre of the damage would have been around Koroit.

JOHN GREGORY “THE NEW PROFESSOR OF GEOLOGY.” Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 – 1918) 3 March 1900: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article198523079&gt;.

Before the professor presented his report, the second earthquake occurred.  The Argus of 16 July reported on the Melbourne Observatory seismograph readings, “The record, which is made on sensitised paper, showed on development that the earth wave was southerly in its origin, and that, although the shock was somewhat severe for a few seconds it quickly died away. The instrument indicated that the shock was of almost double the intensity of that which passed through Melbourne on 7 April.” Pietro Baracchi wasted no time getting to Warrnambool to inspect the damage from the second quake. He examined the holes at the Hopkins River some claimed was a sign of volcanic activity.  He dismissed the suggestion, putting the occurrence down to closing fissures forcing up mud and sand 

LOOKING AWAY FROM THE MOUTH OF THE HOPKINS RIVER TOWARD THE CEMETERY IN THE DISTANCE Image courtesy of the State Libary of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/60534

Meanwhile, the day after the July earthquake Professor Gregory stated his earlier investigations had led him to believe the first earthquake was caused by a slip in the sea floor off the south-west coast and the second earthquake was likely to have occurred for the same reason.  He didn’t believe it was linked to volcanic activity.  The April 1903 earthquake measured magnitude 5.0 and the July 1903 earthquake measured 5.3.  In September 2015, a magnitude 4.8 quake was recorded in a similar location off the south-west coast as described by Professor Gregory, along with reports of windows rattling in Warrnambool.  The earthquake of 14 July 1903 remains Victoria’s most destructive earthquake with the April event not far behind.  The following photos from The Australasian are an example of the devastation.


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Knowing about the 1903 Warrnambool earthquakes now gives me a greater appreciation of the older monuments in the Warrnambool Cemetery and the fact they still stand today.  



Advocate – 25 April 1903

Bairnsdale Advertiser & Tambo & Omeo Chronicle – 9 April 1903

Border Watch – 11 April 1903

Camperdown Chronicle – 9 April 1903

Geelong Advertiser – 14 April 1903 

Geelong Advertiser – 8 April 190311 April 190316 July 1903

Hamilton Spectator – 9 April 1903

Leader – 11 April 190325 July 1903

Mount Alexander Mail – 9 April 1903

Portland Guardian – 17 July 1903

Punch – 23 July 1903

The Age – 7 April 19038 April 19039 April 190315 July 190316 July 1903

The Argus – 8 April 19039 April 190315 July 190316 July 190317 July 190318 July 190320 July 190313 October 1923

The Australasian- 9 May 190318 July 190325 July 1903

The Herald – 7 April 19038 April 190315 April 190315 July 1903

Weekly Times – 11 April 1903

Weekly Times – 25 July 1903

McCue, Kevin, Historical earthquakes in Victoria: A Revised List, Australian Earthquake Engineering Society

Cemeteries With a View

Over the past two weeks, I’ve visited three Western District cemeteries, each offering great views of the surrounding area.

Firstly, I took a trip to Hamilton and rarely do I visit without taking a drive out Coleraine Road to the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery.  Aside from dropping by the graves of my great grandparents and great great grandparents, the main task on my visits is photographing the multitude of headstones.  I’ve got a long way to go with just over five hundred photos which include a lot of multiples.  But while wandering around the rows of graves it’s hard not to stop for a photo of the view towards volcano Mount Napier to the south.


It’s even better in Autumn


Then there’s the beauty of the many and varied monuments rising up across the cemetery’s expanse.


If you look in the right direction you can even catch a glimpse of one of Hamilton’s beautiful steeples.


This visit I tried to find graves using directions from the Hamilton Cemetery Trust website.  I first went in search of Mary Ryan, one of the Western District’s Wonderful Women.  Mary appeared not to have any family so I’m interested to see if she has a headstone.  She is buried in the Church of England section, a large area running down the eastern side of the cemetery. Although the various denominations are clearly marked, the rows are not and I was soon lost.  I tried using the cemetery site’s mapping on my phone but that wasn’t easy and I tried referring to the large plan at the front of the cemetery.  In the end, I gave up and went back to my random photo taking.  I think I’ve a solution so I’ll try it next time and let you know.

At Hamilton, photos of broken headstones are also on my list like this one belonging to Frances Mary Sing who died a mysterious death in 1881 and her husband Hamilton draper Sam Hing. It includes a Cantonese inscription at the bottom.


Heading home from Hamilton, I had a brief stop at the Dunkeld (New) Cemetery mainly to get some photos of the views towards the Southern Grampians. If you look one way, you see Mount Sturgeon (below).


Look the other way and you see Mount Abrupt (below).


The Dunkeld District Historical Museum has a tour of the cemetery on 31 March and I hope to get along for more photos from this picturesque cemetery.  You can find out about the tour on the Museum’s event page on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/events/904350026381602/

On Friday, I travelled to Willaura, between Glenthompson and Ararat and, of course, called in at the cemetery.  In use since 1917, it’s a relatively new cemetery compared to some in nearby towns. Again it was hard not be distracted by the view of the Grampians.




Those cemeteries with a good view I’ve previously posted about include Portland North, Cavendish Old Cemetery and Old Dunkeld Cemetery.  Currently, I’m working on a post about the Yambuk Cemetery with its own unique view.


Then there’s Warrnambool…the list could go on.


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.



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

Nifty Newsletters

When I visit my local library and see masses of newsletters from the region’s family history and historical societies jammed into cardboard magazine holders, I think that while such a resource would be useful, where would I start?  Being a working mum with limited time, they are just not an option.  Also, membership of those societies would be great as I would receive a newsletter in the mail, but again my current status means I have to give consideration to each membership/subscription I take out.

Luckily some societies have newsletters available on their websites and I can read them easily from home when I choose.  Newsletters online that are the most helpful to my research are from the Casterton and District Historical Society (2005-2012) and the Warrnambool Family History Group (1990-1999 & 2004).  Both include a list of the main topics in each newsletter allowing me to easily select an issue.

The Casterton newsletter, “Historical Happenings” has items relevant to different areas of my research such as the History of the Casterton Racing Club Inc, a series of articles about the Hunt murders and Dance Halls and Orchestras of Casterton.  There is also information about surrounding towns such as Merino, Sandford and Wando Vale.  The March 2011 newsletter even recommends a new magazine called “Inside History.”  I’m sure many of us would endorse that recommendation!  The newsletter opens as a Word document.

The Warrnambool newsletter, “The South-West Genealogist“, includes indexes of Pioneer women of Victoria, school records and a lot of information on Irish settlers.  There are also many birth, deaths and marriages in the regular column “Historicals” and there are 19th-century BDMs notices from the “Hamilton Spectator” which have been most useful.  The newsletter opens as a PDF document.

Thank you to both for providing such a wonderful online resource.

Trove Tuesday – A Whale of a Time

I stumbled across this little gem only because it shared a page with an article I believe is about the sister of my ggg grandmother Ellen Barry.  That article from The Argus of June 1, 1849,  mentions a Mary Walker, the married name of Mary Barry.  Why do I think it is about my Mary Walker?  Aside from the fact she was living in Melbourne then, the article is under the heading “Police Office” with Mary and another woman described as “two notorious termagants”.  My Mary Walker caused an immigration agent to lose his bounty on her, thanks to her disruptive behavior on the voyage from Ireland to Port Phillip.

As I rolled my eyes at possibly another discovery of a misdemeanor by one of the Barry girls, I noticed this little snippet two columns over.

Domestic Intelligence. (1849, June 1). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 1 Supplement: Supplement to the Argus.. Retrieved September 23, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4765656

Great news for the whales! At last their winter home in the seas off the south-west of Victoria was safe to visit again.  Whaling was a huge industry at  both Portland and Port Fairy with Portland’s first whaling station established in 1833 and  Port Fairy’s  in 1835. By the 1840s, few whales existed and whaling was no longer considered commercially viable and the whaling stations closed.

As the article notes, by the end of the 1840s, whales where appearing again.  Today,their descendants visit the waters of Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Portland and have become a huge boost to tourism during the colder months.  Warrnambool particularly has benefited from  whale watching, however this year the main attractions have made only brief visits, preferring Port Fairy, with daily sightings close to shore of up to 13 whales.   Portland too has had whales and over the past few days a whale and her calf have been off the breakwater, oblivious to the slaughters over 170 years ago.

In The News – June 1, 1928

For those of you who have not visited the south-west of Victoria, the following article gives a wonderful description from Camperdown through to Port Fairy.   Published on June 1, 1928 in the Hurstbridge  Advertiser, the correspondent, “Mernda”  journeys by bus to Port Fairy.  There are descriptions of some of the towns and their industries as well as the volcanic countryside.

The former Bank of Australasia (below) was a highlight for “Mernda” in Port Fairy.


Of interest is the Glaxo works in Port Fairy, considered by “Mernda” as a “great success”.  Glaxo produced high quantities of milk powder, from milk sourced from the local area.  In the 1940s, the company name changed to Glaxo Laboratories and still exists today in Port Fairy as GlaxoSmithKline.

Nestle at Dennington, just outside Warrnambool, was another milk powder manufacturer that caught “Mernda’s” eye.  Nestle operated from 1911 until 2005 when Fonterra bought the factory. To read a history of the Nestle factory at Dennington, follow the link http://www.standard.net.au/news/local/news/general/flavours-of-switzerland-linger-a-century-on/2073943.aspx?storypage=1

MY TRIP TO THE WESTERN DISTRICT. (1928, June 1). Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), p. 4 Edition: AFTERNOON.. Retrieved May 31, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57757397

St. Patrick’s Day in Western Victoria

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

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

LOCAL INTELLIGENCE. (1843, March 4). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 3. Retrieved March 16, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71569103

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

HAMILTON. (1858, March 19). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved March 16, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64570752

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

ST. PATRICK’S DAY. (1869, March 18). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS. Retrieved March 16, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64691997

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

ST. PATRICK’S DAY. (1903, March 20). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved March 16, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article72838336

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

ST. PATRICK’S DAY. (1914, March 14). Warrnambool Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), p. 3 Edition: DAILY.. Retrieved March 16, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73467140

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

Local and General News. (1858, March 18). The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 – 1864), p. 3. Retrieved March 17, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66047115
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