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The forgotten story behind ‘Mount Franklin’ mineral water

View north along the elevated area that includes some overgrown Lime Kiln foundations. Limestone Creek is to the right. The shed in the right background is part of the abandoned ‘Mount Franklin’ mineral water pumping infrastructure.
View west across the largely mined out lime tufa quarry (where the spiny rush is growing). The elevated area beyond includes overgrown stone foundations of the Lime Kilns. Limestone Creek runs south along the near side of the background eucalypts.

Early Lime Kilns and Spring on Limestone Creek:

The forgotten story behind ‘Mount Franklin’ Mineral Water

Barry Golding*, Andrew Shugg & Stephen Carey*

*Federation University, Australia

A tantalising line in squatter, John Hepburn’s diary on 5 March 1848, cited in a biography of Hepburn (Quinlan 1968, p. 145) provoked Barry Golding’s interest several decades ago. It read simply, ‘Sent Harry to Jim Crow for a load of lime’. Jim Crow in the 1840s was the name of the district around present-day Mount Franklin in central Victoria north of Daylesford. The mountain was likely Lalgambook to Dja Dja Wurrung people, but before 1843 was widely referred to as ‘Jim Crow Hill’. Given there were likely only very limited limestone bands within the Lower Ordovician bedrock, it led to questions about whether, where and how the lime used to help build Hepburn’s mansion in 1848 was manufactured locally during the 1840s, and from which local limestone deposits.

Our article seeks to bring together all that is known to answer these questions and draw some conclusions about ‘what next’ for the site. We tease out the fascinating history of the mineral spring that quite recently lends its name to the best-known bottled water in Australia, now branded ‘Mount Franklin’ and owned by Coca Cola Amatil. It also chronicles the history of the adjacent former Lime Kilns located within the footprint of the former Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate (1841-49). We also identify how the associated deposits of limestone were likely formed, mined and turned into lime for building until the 1870s.

Given Mount Franklin’s stated commitment to ‘do the right thing’, we identify an opportunity for  the site’s unique history and heritage to be acknowledged and for a publicly accessible mineral spring to be restored on the site.

Acknowledgments

We are grateful for the advice and assistance of local historians, Eric Sartori, Gary Lawrence, David Bannear and David Endacott. We thank the current owners of the spring and Lime Kiln site, Frank and Linda Carroll, for giving us permission to access the privately owned site. This is a work in progress and we welcome new information and advice about any of the many gaps in our account.

Location and land status

The Limestone Creek Spring, also called ‘Gilmores/ Gilmour’s’ and more recently ‘Mount Franklin’, is one of many previously recorded mineral springs, most of which occur within 50 km of the Daylesford and Hepburn Springs region, that is promoted as the ‘Spa capital of Australia’.

The Limestone Spring and what we now confirm as the adjacent Lime Kiln site and limestone tufa deposit are in 2020 located immediately south-west of the present junction between the Midland Highway and Limestone Track in the Parish of Yandoit, within the northern part of the Hepburn Shire. The privately owned site fronts onto the west side of the Midland Highway and the east bank of Limestone Creek, 17 km north of Daylesford and 10 km south of Guildford.

Limestone Track to the east historically continued to the north west of the site, approximately paralleling Limestone Creek for several kilometres until it merged with Whitlock’s Road. The former northerly continuation of the Limestone Track is clearly visible in contemporary aerial photos. The current bitumen ‘Limestone Road’ connects Yandoit and the Midland Highway south of Guildford.

In the 1970s the mineral spring was in a privately owned paddock just west of the Midland Highway .The mineral water flowed out of a large pipe close to ground level with occasional large and audible gas bubbles, therefore also called ‘The Bullfrog’ by some locals. Locals then suggested that some of the rubble amongst the blackberries on the site was derived from the former Lime Kilns.

The Lime Kilns appear on several survey and geological maps produced between the late 1840s and the 1860s. The Lime Kilns were marked on Crown Allotment 3, Section 6A (previously section 6) of an 1862 survey map, but the mineral spring was not located. Thomas Fleming was the Crown Grantee in 1862 via purchase at a Crown Land Sale. The site was purchased by the current owners on 20 October 1987. In 2020, the site includes a  shallow, hummocky depression, where the original lime tufa deposits have been mined, and the stone foundations of several former Lime Kilns. An adjacent area to the south enclosed by a high wire fence includes former mineral water tanks and associated shedding from the 1980s. This was the former site of the mineral spring.

The historical evidence base from the 1840s

John Hepburn’s 1848 diary entry about lime being obtained from Jim Crow suggested that the Lime Kilns were operating during the late 1840s. The Jim Crow district of the 1840s referred to the area around Mount Franklin, including the 50 square mile Aboriginal Protectorate that operated from 1841-49 within an approximate 5 mile (8km) radius centred on present day Franklinford.

Detailed mapping of The boundaries of the Mount Franklin Aboriginal Reserve by Claude Culvenor in 1992 confirmed that the Mineral Spring and adjacent Lime Kilns were well within the Aboriginal Protectorate when its boundaries were surveyed in 1849. This being the case, it seemed likely there would be some mention of the Lime Kilns in the voluminous correspondence of the Aboriginal Protectorate.

The ‘smoking gun’ as to how, why, when and by whom the Lime Kiln was commenced and operated during the 1840s has not yet been located in the official Protectorate records. However, when Chief Protector of Aborigines, George Robinson visited Assistant Protector Edward Parker at his Mount Franklin Protectorate Station between 21-24 Sept 1847, he expressed a frank and negative opinion of what he saw on the Station in his personal diary. In the process, Robinson alluded to Parker personally profiting from lime produced on the Protectorate.

Robinson’s diary extract, below, provides a broader context for Robinson’s general irritation, and his specific suspicion that Parker was selling but not properly accounting for the sale of stone and/or lime produced. Robinson reported in September 1847 that there were:

… 30 natives on [Protectorate] station. … Wheat sown, Footrot in sheep … [flour] mill out of order and wheat sent to Hepburn’s [flour mill near Kingston on Birches Creek] to grind. Miserable place … orphan children. Parker [has] plenty pig, geese and cattle … Parker sells stone instead of lime. Parker to account for money for lime …. The first Presbyterian [actually Church of England] church at the Lodden (sic.) is a barn and shearing shed.

A full account of the Loddon Protectorate Era Flour mill alluded to in this quotation has been separately and recently posted as a blog by Barry Golding at https://wp.me/p3nVDL-tw. It would seem that Parker was operating several ‘small businesses’ aside from the flour mill and lime kiln and was in receipt of the profits of the wool and meat produced on the expansive Protectorate and Aboriginal Station.

By 1853, not only were there were perceptions that Parker was benefiting financially in this way, but there also existed concerns that the Aboriginal Station of the 1850s was too large, given the diminishing number of Aboriginal people at the station. The pressure for land from gold-mining families in the district led by 1853 to a flurry of government surveys that divided part of the Aboriginal station area, including the Lime Kiln site, into small Crown Allotments.

An 1853 ‘Plan of Allotments Laid out at the Lime Kilns at the Aboriginal Station Mount Franklin’ (CPO E74, 1853) is reproduced in David Rhodes’ 1995 study, An historical and Archaeological investigation of the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate Station and Aboriginal Reserve (p. 101). The plan shows two, long rectangular ‘Lime Kilns’ at the western edge of one small allotment on the eastern edge of Limestone Creek. It also confirms that the Lime Kilns, at least to 1853, were still regarded as being within the bounds of the Mount Franklin Aboriginal Station, which operated in the same area for some years after the Aboriginal Protectorate system was disestablished in late 1849.

Rhodes (1995, p. 65) reported that he had made an attempt to locate the site of the Lime Kilns by comparing the positions of the structures, the creek and road alignments on historic plans with the [1995] course of Limestone Creek and existing road alignments. Rhodes concluded that:

Although the alignments of the adjacent roads have been altered, the course of Limestone Creek has not changed significantly, making it possible to pinpoint the kiln site in relation to the creek. Limestone can be seen outcropping in the creek banks at this point, but the surrounding area has been ploughed over, obliterating any trace of the kilns. (p. 65)

Rhodes (1995) also noted that the Lime Kilns were not listed in the official Protectorate building returns. In contradiction to Rhodes, our observations show that the surrounding area has not ‘been ploughed over’, evidence of foundations of the Lime Kilns remains, and that the lime tufa crops out in the adjacent paddock and also in the base of the shallow quarry. The creek was so overgrown with blackberries in 2020 it was not possible for us to see the limestone outcropping in the creek banks though Andy Shugg recalls it in outcrop there several decades ago.

Madden’s (1976) La Trobe University Honours Thesis, The Loddon District Aboriginal Protectorate (p. 33) suggests that the Lime Kilns in question were operating as early as 1842 but were not necessarily being operated directly by the Station. Rhodes (1995, p. 33) cites correspondence from Parker to Governor La Trobe (7 February 1851: VPRS 1851/341) who stated that the Lime Kilns were, by 1851, being operated by a contractor, who was at that time applying to build another two kilns.

If the Lime Kilns were operated as a semi-private business by Parker or a contractor, they would probably not have been established earlier than 1842 and were certainly operating by 1847.

The historical evidence base from the 1850s

A ‘Plan of Country between Guildford and Mount Franklin’ dated 15 October1856 appears to show two lime kilns. A ‘Map Allotments of Land on the Jim Crow Creek near the Lime-Kiln and North of the Proposed Township, Parish of Yandoit’, dated 5 May 1855, shows an oval-shaped body of limestone then outcropping on the junction between Limestone Creek and a tributary coming in from the south-east.

A very detailed ‘Plan of Allotments Laid out at the Lime Kilns North of Section XII of Lands Laid out at the Aboriginal Station Mount Franklin’, dated 20 June 1855, shows five allotments each of about one acre, all of which extended west to Limestone Creek. Four of these allotments are rectangular and extend east onto the main north-south road. There is a hut marked on allotment 1. Two adjacent lime kilns are close to Limestone Creek on Allotment 2. No structures are marked on allotments 3, 4 or 5. Allotment 5 is roughly triangular with its north-eastern boundary forming the edge of the original Limestone Road.

An 1856 survey, ‘Country lots on the Limestone Creek, Parish of Yandoit County of Talbot’ (MAP NK 2456/258, Surveyor General’s Office, 25 April 1856, on line through Trove), clearly shows four rectangular blocks each of approximately one acre in an area marked ‘Lime Kilns’. Each allotment fronted onto Limestone Creek as well as the main Castlemaine – Daylesford Road (now the Midland Highway). These blocks are very similar to those shown in the 1853 survey, though the position of the Lime Kilns was not marked on the 1856 map.

What is known about the adjacent mineral spring?

Unlike the limestone deposit and the Lime Kilns, what became known as ‘Gilmore’s Mineral Spring’ at Limestone Creek was rarely mentioned or mapped. It is mentioned as an aside as a ‘spring’ associated with the limestone in Ulrich’s (1866) geological report. The name ‘Gilmore’ comes from a farmer who lived near the Lime Kilns before selling up and moving from the area in 1877. Exactly where the spring was located before or after 1877 in relation to the lime tufa deposit is not known.

Most of the over 100 mineral springs now recorded in Victoria were discovered and later systematically documented during an era of extensive mining activity within 50 km of the best-known cluster around Hepburn Springs beginning in the mid-1850s. Many springs were renovated from the 1920s when bores were put down and pumps were added to some springs that did not issue to the surface naturally. Beginning during the early 1900s, a list of registered mineral springs in Victoria was created, all mapped and ascribed a unique MS (Mineral Spring) number to avoid confusion about names. Gilmore’s / Limestone Creek / Mount Franklin Mineral Spring is numbered MS 009.

 

Until the late 1860s, what is now widely known as ‘Mineral Water’ in Australia had not been popularised or bottled in Victoria. Maund’s paper on ‘The Mineral Waters of Victoria’ (5 April 1855) noted that he had received two specimens of ‘acidulous water’, ‘one from Hepburn near Castlemaine and another from the banks of the Merri Creek’ [in 2020 the Donnybrook Mineral Spring, 1 km north of the Donnybrook railway station in the Shire of Whittlesea]. A third spring, Maund had been told, existed at Ballan.

Contrary to popular folklore, what are in 2020 collectively known as ‘Hepburn Mineral Springs’ were not the first mineral springs to be discovered, popularised and commercialised. Many, including those which bubbled naturally into creeks, such as still occurs at Deep Creek near Eganstown, would have been known and used by Aboriginal traditional owners. The first pastoralists arriving on the Bellarine Peninsula in 1837 reported the existence of mineral springs at Clifton Springs. In 1864 the ‘Clifton Mineral Springs Company, Drysdale Limited’ was set up to collect mineral water and erect baths.

A chemical analysis of water that was later bottled and marketed in Melbourne as ‘Ballan Seltzer’ is reported in The Argus (14 Sept 1867, p. 5), as taken ‘from a spring near Ballan’. The Bacchus March Express (21 Sept 1867, p. 4) noted that the spring was situated ‘… in a somewhat wild and inaccessible locality a little off the track of the old Daylesford road … 100 yards from the Moorabool River’. This ‘Ballan spring’ water was probably taken from a third spring mentioned by Maund, now called Gunsser’s Mineral Spring MS 070.

The 1867 Bacchus March Express article records that while the ‘Ballan spring’ had only very recently been ‘introduced to the public’, its existence had been known for several years. The article noted that ‘The proprietor of an adjoining station has been in the habit of bottling it in large quantities for his own use and that of his friends, and that occasional parties have visited the spring‘.

… to drink its waters, with more or less admixtures of stronger potations. Like a good many other local treasures, it has been ignored, simply because it is local. … Messrs Joske and Morton have already commenced the erection of premises suitable for bottling the water, and in the course of a week or two it will have become a recognised beverage in Melbourne.

Several of the early Geological Survey of Victoria reports including those by Taylor and Newbery refer to the existence of mounds associated in central Victoria with several mineral springs. In 1930 Foster mapped some of these mounds and undertook analyses of the tufa. Mounds associated with mineral springs were mapped on some of the Geological Map Sheets including Korweinguboora. Baragwanath’s (1947) ‘Special Report, Gold & Minerals’ (G83) also mentions ‘mounds’, called ‘lime tufa mounds’ in Shugg’s (2004) PhD thesis, which analysed and discussed these mounds in considerable detail.

Baragwanath noted in his 1947 report that:

In the neighbourhoods of Glenluce, Lyonville, Glenlyon and Spargo Creek the remains of former springs can be seen. These comprise mounds sometimes a few feet above the general level of the surrounding country. The mounds are composed of travertine [a form of limestone deposited by mineral springs, sometimes hot springs], deposited over countless ages while springs discharged normally. Eventually the springs became sealed off. In a number of cases bores were put down, and at comparatively shallow depths travertine was passed through and supplies of mineral water were available for pumping.

Baragwanath’s explanation would appear to apply also to Gilmore’s (Limestone Creek) Spring. The relatively large (approximately 100 metre) but thin (perhaps 3 metre thick) lens of lime tufa which was mined on the site was undoubtedly deposited in situ from calcium-rich waters over a considerable interval. The spring that caused the deposit may have still been seeping through the deposit or into nearby Limestone Creek before the 1840s. It is possible that locals may have used the mineral water, if a spring discharged at the Limestone Creek site during Gilmore’s time in the district (i.e. before 1877), as the Spargo Creek Spring was used prior to 1867.

Evidence of the mineral spring from the past four decades

Gilmore’s (Limestone Creek) Mineral Spring is comprehensively described by Andrew Shugg (2004) in a report to the Victorian Mineral Water Committee, along with a description of what he calls its associated ‘calc-tufa mound’. Tufa is a variety of limestone formed when carbonate minerals precipitate from discharging groundwater. Tufa can contain fossils including shells, wood, leaves and their imprints. Though no such fossils were visible in hand specimens collected from the Limestone Creek site from the limited accessible outcrop in 2020, leaf and grass impressions have been noted by Shugg (2004) from other, similar mounds. Many of the hand specimens collected from the base and margins of the quarry comprise alluvial gravel cemented with carbonate. Keppel, Clarke, Halihan et al. (2011) studied tufa-mound springs in the Lake Eyre area. They noted that despite similar formations being found worldwide, few intensive studies of the formation and ongoing evolution of these structures exist.

Andy Shugg (1996) had undertaken a comprehensive study of Mineral Spring Water in Victoria. Table 2 in Shugg’s report lists ‘Victorian commercial mineral water, the sources, location, owner, licensed and authorised extraction rates (1993)’. Spring MS 009 located within the Hepburn Shire at ‘Limestone’ then had ‘Coca Cola APD’ listed as the owner and extractor. APD, Australian Property Developments, appears to be an Adelaide-based development and construction organization.

The year of last extraction of water was 1985/6 despite 35Ml/day being the authorised extraction volume from bores on the site. For laypeople, 35 megalitres is a lot of water: equivalent to 14 Olympic-sized (50-metre) pools.

Appendix D in Shugg (1996) listing all registered Mineral Springs in Victoria confirms that seven registered groundwater bores, six of them Mineral Water (MW) bores, had then been sunk at the Limestone Creek Spring (MS 009) site to extract the water. The seventh was the number of the previous mineral spring on the site in the groundwater database.

Shugg (2004, p. 4) provides detailed hydrogeological information about the mineral water from the Limestone Creek mineral spring. He observes that:

The mineral water is a sodium bicarbonate type … although the cations calcium and magnesium also occur in significant quantities. The water has around 3000 mg/L bicarbonate, 300-600 mg/l chloride, and with a total dissolved salts concentration of 4,000-4,500 mg/l, it is one of the more saline of the mineral waters from the Daylesford area.

The gas in the mineral water was, unsurprisingly, 98 per cent carbon dioxide.

Eric Sartori contends that ‘A unique mineral water spring flowed up through the limestone to the surface, near the present Midland Highway. In the late 1980s a water bottling company purchased the land, put down a bore into a saline aquifer and ruined the spring. This was environmental vandalism’.

Sartori’s contention is supported by the evidence. It appears that during the 1970s a casing was placed in the hole of the previous mineral spring, which would have previously been flowing out naturally into a hollow or ditch. An unsuccessful later attempt was made to clear the bore and enlarge the hole. In the process, it appears that all that was achieved was enabling drainage of reflux from the evapotranspiration of the area on the mound. The deep drilling subsequently undertaken by Scalex and later by Coca Cola sealed the fate of the previous mineral spring.

Precisely what happened to destroy the spring aquifer and/or lead to its abandonment as a pumping source is beyond the scope of the present paper. However, it might be a story worth investigating and telling in the future. One possible brief explanation is that as consumer tastes changed, the relatively high salinity as well as calcium and magnesium in the Limestone Creek mineral water was less desirable, less palatable or less commercial than that of other mineral water, and particularly freshwater bores that were being developed by Coca Cola as well as Pepsi after the 1980s. It likely became more profitable to bottle tankered still water, which involved less treatment and less inconsistency in comparison to natural mineral water.

The geology of the spring

CBA45E16-FA45-4788-A178-716647004A2C

Alluvium and travertine occur at the surface overlying Ordovician bedrock at the Limestone Creek site. The travertine was formerly burnt for lime, and remains of the kilns may be seen on the alluvial flats. The existence of the spring and its accompanying limestone sinter mound was noted by Newbery (1867), while Ulrich (1866) included the lime kilns on the Geological] Quarter Sheet. The spring is located around 22 km from recharge areas at the crest of the Dividing Range.

 A portion of Ulrich’s (1866) geological map shows that the general area around the Lime Kilns consists of approximately north (340 degree) trending Ordovician bedrock, with north trending quartz reefs exposed on the ridges. The Lime Kilns in 1866 are shown as a sizeable rectangle located on the alluvium on a consolidated allotment, though no mineral spring is marked. The deposits that were quarried to produce the lime are not marked on Ulrich’s map. However, a note on the map reads, ‘Small patch of freshwater limestone, its margin consists of a breccia of slate and quartz cemented by lime.’

‘Breccia’ is a rock containing angular fragments. The lime tufa at Limestone Creek incorporates  variable proportions of mostly water-worn sandstone pebbles in the limestone and would not be called a breccia.

Eric Sartori notes in an unpublished report (pers. comm.) that Brough Smyth briefly mentions a limestone deposit north-east of Franklinford in his The goldmines of in 1882-3 Victoria report. It is possible that this might instead refer to ‘Murph’s Spring’ also NE of Franklinford and reportedly with a tufa mound. A geological plan of Ferguson (1911) had three kiln sites marked between the creek and the mound.

 Andy Shugg (2004) summarised the known geology, hydrogeology and recent use of the Limestone Spring as follows (lightly edited).

Ulrich (1864) drew attention to the lime kilns at the mineral springs on the Geological Quarter sheet 15 SE with the note that about 70 metres around the spring there was about 3 metres of travertine consisting of fragments of slate, sandstone and quartz in a calcareous matrix with some iron oxide.

Newbery (1867) also drew attention to the spring and noted the carbonate mound deposited from the alkaline earths, and its similarity with several other spring mounds exist such as at Spargo Creek, then referred to as one of the Ballan springs. Later, Ferguson (April 1911) noted that there was a white scum on the water suggesting active deposition of travertine. Near the small alluvial flat were the remnants of old lime kilns. The tuffaceous limestone originating from the spring covered an area of 0.5 hectare and had an average a thickness of 3 metres. Ferguson (1911) considered that the spring had been flowing for about 5,000 years based on the thickness of travertine deposits.

At some stage the spring was improved, and a bore was established from which the mineral water flowed. Local people used to fill bottles from the spring.

In 1976, Scanex Minerals cleaned out the existing bore, drilled 6 further bores and conducted a testing program. [Bores] Yandoit 10003 and 10004 were sampled in between June and December 1979. Further bores Yandoit 10005, 10006, 10007 and 10008 were drilled at the site of the spring for Associated Products and Distributors P/L. Analysis of pumping tests carried out on the test bores indicated transmissivities between 10 – 110 m2/d and storativity values from 0.002 – 0.011 (Szabo, for Scanex Minerals Pty Ltd, 1979). Later AGC (Australian Groundwater Consultants) conducted further testing at the site for the Coca Cola bottling company.

The private bores … drilled at the spring … penetrated around 35 – 50 m of deeply weathered rock, before entering a sequence of hard Ordovician sandstones and graphitic shales. Later deep bores to 150 m were proposed to develop the mineral water in 1980. In May 1980, consultants to the Coca Cola Company requested a permit to extract mineral water at a rate of 100 m3/d (36.5 ML/annum). In response, the Victorian Geological Survey recommended that extraction be subject to the following conditions;

  • The licence should be reviewed after two years,
  • Three observation bores should be constructed and monitored and,
  • That the interference with flow in Limestone Creek be ascertained.

Landowners downstream of the spring development complained to the Department that there was a possibility of diminished creek base flow resulting from pumping from mineral water extraction from the bedrock and this would impact on their stock and domestic entitlements and environmental flow in the stream.

Mineral water from Gilmore’s (Limestone Creek) Mineral Spring was at one stage extracted and bottled by Coca Cola. The name of the spring was changed to ‘Mount Franklin’ as part of a re-branding exercise. The last water extraction occurred in the fiscal year 1985/1986. The label “Mount Franklin” has the best-known bottled water brand in Australia.

Despite the name, the product ‘Mount Franklin’ water or mineral water has no current relation to nor contains and water from the Gilmores / Limestone Creek / Mount Franklin mineral spring. Sadly, the mineral spring that used to be used by locals on the roadside until 40 years ago has been destroyed. The area where the mineral spring was and where the holding tanks and associated shedding were constructed has been fenced off.

 Shugg (2004) summarised the then ‘Status’ of the Limestone Creek Spring, as below.

The spring was improved, and mineral water flows from a 150 mm bore casing. The bore was deepened and improved by Scanex Minerals (Szabo) in 1978. The bore was used for commercial purposes for only a short period till 1986. The site is no longer used for the commercial extraction of mineral water and is not developed for other purposes. In June 2004, the site [had] not been used as a mineral water source for nearly two decades. Two water storage tanks still exist, and the bores and several sheds are still maintained on site. Large amounts of spring tufa still exist at the site. It is comprised of hard dense light yellow – grey earthy or clayey calc-sinter and white porous calc-sinter with remnant structures after vegetable material.

Local knowledge suggests that during the process of ‘improving’ and deepening the spring for commercial extraction of mineral water, improper use of casing and/or pumping led the water to become contaminated by salt.

How was the ‘lime’ actually produced?

 All of the above does not explain to a layperson what calcium-rich rocks were actually used to manufacture the lime on the Limestone Creek site, how the lime might have been made and how and where it might have been used.

What follows uses a number of online and published sources from other lime kilns in Victoria and elsewhere to try to address these topics. A deeper understanding may follow more detailed field work, including a proposed subsequent survey for the Victorian Heritage Register.

Much of the general information below has been gleaned from two reports.

  • A hand-edited, unpublished document from a talk given by Joanna McClellan in 1986 to the Royal Historical Society titled Lime burning: An Early industry in Victoria.
  • A 50+ page report published by Heritage Victoria in 2000 titled An archaeological and historical overview of limeburning in Victoria, by Jane Harrington.

Insights from McClellan (1986)

McClellan identifies four main sites of ‘early’ lime-burning installations in Victoria: Limeburner’s Point, Geelong; Walkerville; Coimadai and Fossil Beach near Mornington. Most of the earliest sites were on the coast where shells or shell-rich sediments provided the calcium carbonate-rich raw materials.

Coimadai north-east of Bacchus Marsh (along with the Limestone Creek Lime Kiln) being inland sites developed on deposits from freshwater springs, are exceptions. Both had lime kilns operating by the 1850s. A post with original words by Anders Hjorth, available on line via the Federation University Industrial Heritage site, suggests a possible connection between the Coimadai site and the Lime Kilns near Mount Franklin, as Coimadia’s early (1850s) lime kilns were operated by a ‘Mr Brown’ while the Lime Kilns near Mount Franklin were known as ‘Brown’s lime kilns’ in 1858. Additional interest in the Coimadai deposit derives from its associated mineral spring and reported presence of large megafauna bones within the limestone. Some of what Hjorth is included below since it identifies the context for lime making on similar, though larger, deposits during the same era the Limestone Creek deposits were being worked.

“In 1861 I had occasion to call at Coimadai, for a couple of bags of lime. Shortly after leaving Toolern I entered on a very devious track, through primeval but not dense forest; found the kilns, in the front of which there was a small cleared space, but looking west, towards Coimadai flats, the vision was interrupted by a forest of gum and box trees, undergrowth, and reeds. I have often tried to form a theory accounting for the presence of fossilised bones embedded in the rocks of the limestone quarries at Coimadai.

Through the kindness of my son-in-law (Mr. A. Allen) who has been working in the limestone quarries at Coimadai, I have obtained several fossilised bones of various dimensions, some of them being very large—big enough to have belonged to some gigantic dinosaur of the past.

From what can learn, the first white man to make Coimadai his domicile was a Mr. John Hopgood, who lived in a hut on the left bank of the creek, opposite to what is now known as the sodawater spring. That was somewhere in the [18]fifties. Mr. Hopgood was also the discoverer of the lime deposits which were at first worked in a small way by him and his sons. After a while, the Messrs. Browne, Gamble and Munroe got possession of the deposits, and worked them on a larger scale, supplying the Messrs. Cornish and Bruce, contractors for the construction of Mt. Alexander railway, which was then building, with a large quantity of lime; that would be about 1860.

Between 1860 and 1863, about 50 men were employed, in the various vocations connected with the burning of and carting away of the lime. A local squatter, (Mr. Brown) [dissolved the partnership] and Gamble sold out to his partners for £1000. Immediately after he opened up a lime deposit on a hill opposite, which is now known as Mr. Burnip’s. Mr. Gamble did not seem to have stayed long here, but meeting Mr. Burnip at Bendigo he informed him of the existence of the deposit, which, with the block it was on, was secured by Mr. Burnip. It seems that, about the middle [18]sixties, Brown and Munroe, abandoned their interest in the lime kilns, which were afterwards for some time worked spasmodically by F. Gulliver, sen., and his sons, as well as by Mr. T. Hopgood’s sons.

The output mostly went to supply local demands. In the [18]seventies, a Mr. Blair, owner of limekilns near the Heads, on the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay, got possession of Coimadai lime deposits, but from what I can learn, he did not display much activity by increasing the output. In the [18]eighties, Mr. P. Alkemade, a native of Holland, who had a good deal of experience as a builder and contractor, as well as of opening up lime deposits in other parts of the State, obtained possession of part of the quarries.

At that time things were commencing to boom in Melbourne, through the influx of borrowed money; a number of ramshackle buildings were demolished, to be replaced by palatial structures. Mr. Alkemade, being an active, energetic, man with insight to the future, managed to get capital by floating a company, increasing the number of kilns, and fronting them by what was, for the locality, an imposing structure of rubble masonry. The company was floated under the name of The Alkemade Hydraulic Lime Company and inaugurated in bumpers of champagne and other joy conducers.

As Mr. Alkemade had only got possession of part of the deposits, a Mr. Debly took up the other part about the same time, and also fronted his kilns with rubble masonry, and porches where the burned lime could be drawn in all weathers. Those porches, in after years, when Mr. Debly had abandoned his portion of the quarries, often became the abode of non-residential employees of the Alkemade’s, who were, by “Rambler,” in one of the local papers, designated as “cave-dwellers.” During the building boom in Melbourne, things were correspondingly booming at Coimadai, and a considerable number of men found employment in the various vocations required for the production of and getting away the lime, which, after being carted to Bacchus Marsh, was railed to Melbourne.

In 1892, the boom collapsed, and the output at the kilns gradually declined, and ceased altogether as far as the Melbourne supply was concerned, a few bags went weekly to Bacchus Marsh, mostly carted by Mr. P. Alkemade, sen.. … [After his accidental death] the output having now almost become nil, with no immediate prospect of mending, Mr. Alkemade’s four sons (Cornelius, Robert, Peter and John) bought all the company’s interests, price I do not know. They managed gradually to increase the output, by supplying other parts of the State, as well as Melbourne with lime, which had by this time got a good reputation. Year by year the business kept extending; production having also been cheapened by the introduction of various labor saving appliances, and the turning out of a first-class article suitable to builders.

I understand that the weekly output now averages from 600 to 700 bags. Mr. Debly abandoned his part of the quarry when the boom burst. In the quarry today, consisting of a great pit, I am informed there is yet any quantity of stone to be obtained. The first settlers to obtain land on Coimadai flats … were attracted by the opening up of the lime deposits, as, in 1861, Mr. Bennett, before he got his block, had a small store, with a wine licence, a little below where the hotel now stands. … Mr. Bower was of an energetic, if somewhat sanguine, disposition, and assisted in furthering and developing the resources of Coimadai. He opened up a mineral spring on his property, erected machinery, for the treatment and bottling of its water, and forwarded the product to Melbourne, but did not seem to have taken too well with the public, and the attempt to establish a trade in that direction was abandoned.”

Returning to the coast, before 1840, McClellan suggests most of the lime around the shores of Port Phillip was manufactured in ‘bush type’ kilns. They employed a shallow pit filled with fuel on which the broken stone (typically coastal deposits of shells or dune limestone) was placed. The whole thing was covered with sod or bricks to retain the heat, and the fuel was fired perhaps through a channel. Though the process was inefficient and the product was contaminated with ash and unburned material, it was ‘good enough’ for early use in the building industry.

According to McClellan, ‘properly constructed’ kilns, exemplified by one built at Geelong around 1847, consisted of a vertical brick -lined shaft, a vaulted tunnel and long retaining wall. The stone and fuel were laid in alternate layers and fired from below as the lime was calcined. effectively being roasted by strong heat. The lime was raked out the bottom through the draw hole at the back of the vaulted tunnel. Theoretically such a kiln could be operated continuously by adding more layers of fuel and stone, thus creating a ‘running kiln’. By the mid-1840s sufficient lime was being produced in the Geelong area for a shipping trade to develop that took lime to Launceston.

By 1841 there were ten lime kilns on the Mornington Peninsula, at least some of which were likely to have been ‘properly constructed’. By 1849 there was a special wharf for the approximately 25 lime boats on the Yarra. Despite all this activity the output of the Victorian lime burners was not sufficient to meet the huge boom in the construction industry of the 1840s and particularly the 1850s. Overseas lime however was three times as expensive as the local product.

By 1858, McClellan (p.30) notes, half of the 47 state-registered lime kilns in Victoria were around Geelong and Mornington, with ‘the rest at Mt Franklin, Coimadai, Port Fairy, Portland, Sale and Hamilton’.

In 1860 a report on the lime resources of Victoria (Victorian History Pamphlets, Vol. 16, p. 18, cited by McClellan, p. 11) ‘a team of experts’ stated that ‘new sources of lime have recently opened up inland one at Mt Franklin and the other at Coimadai’.

Insights from Harrington (2000)

Harrington systematically lists the main lime production methods and kiln types. They are summarised, below, from the simplest to the most advanced. Particular attention is given to the method we might anticipate was used at the Limestone Creek site. Given the era, the position of the lime tufa deposit ‘on the flat’ and the possible stretched rectangular form of the kilns, as suggested on one of the early survey maps, the ‘pit burning’ method seems the most likely means of manufacture at the Limestone Creek kilns.

  1. Heap burning: burnt in a heap or pile of alternating layers of stone and wood on the ground
  2. Pit burning: as above but in a ground pit. Typical pits are around 2.75m X 2.5m, sometimes with a trench to provide a draft for the fire. Sometimes the edge of the pit is reinforced by flanking stone. Extended versions of the simple pit excavation, called ‘pye’ or ‘clamp’ kilns in Britain, were longitudinal pits (up to 20m long) with channels in the bottom. They had the advantage of being easier than shaft kilns to construct, and more expedient if the need was temporary and more efficient in terms of fuel consumption per load of lime. Kilns of this type from the 1840s in Scotland were referred to as ‘clamp or horseshoe’ kilns, in an online article, ‘Lime burning in clamp kilns in Scotland’s Western Central Belt: Primitive industry or simple but perfectly adequate technology.
  3. Intermittent kilns: either Flare kilns which involve burning lime over a grate or mixed-feed kilns.
  4. Continuous kilns.

The location map and list of lime kilns in Victoria in Harrington does not include the Mount Franklin site, thought it does show the Coimadai site and another at the 1870s Ebenezer Aboriginal Mission site near Dimboola. Maps from other sources as well as oral histories suggest that possible other lime kilns may have existed north of Limestone Creek in the Carisbrook, Talbot and Joyce’s Creek areas.

Who operated the lime kilns and lived in the Limestone vicinity from the 1850s?

Several early references in newspapers dating from the 1850s make mention of the locality ‘Limestone’, the Limestone Creek kiln site and the sale of lime from the Lime Kilns, on what is sometimes referred to as the Mount Franklin (Jim Crow or Mount Franklyn) site. Several of these articles during the 1850s make reference to ‘Brown’s lime kiln’ and to ‘C. Brown’ as the lime kiln owner or operator, but later (until 1877) the kilns was apparently owned by Mr Gilmour / Gilmore.

Christopher Brown was referred to in 1864 (Farmer’s Journal and Garden Chronicle, 1 July 1864, p. 8) as ‘… an old and respected inhabitant of the [Loddon District, Mount Franklin]’. Brown was at that time leaving the district, having ‘lived on the summit of the hill above the township reserve’ in ‘Kildare Lodge’.

This following information from primary sources is placed in chronological order.

  • Advertisement: 28 Dec 1855: ‘Lime: Fresh from the Mount Franklyn Lime Kilns, Jim Crow, and free from either sand, loam or other deleterious matter. The undersigned will have a constant supply of the above from this date. Price nine shillings per bag of three bushels for quantities over ten bushels’ [NOTE: 1 bushel approx. 25kg] (Mount Alexander Mail, p. 1).
  • 10 May 1858: ‘The telegraph party are at work to connect Jim Crow to the main lines, they have got as far as Brown’s lime kiln, near the Mount Franklyn’. (Mount Alexander Mail, 15 May, p. 3).
  • Advertisement 12 July 1858: ‘Roche Lime 8s per bag of three bushels or 6 pound per ton, Slaked [ditto]. 5 shillings [ditto]. Or 4 pounds per ton at the Mount Franklin Lime Kilns’ (more costs listed in delivered in Castlemaine)’. (Mount Alexander Mail, p. 4).
  • 9 May 1859: ‘Transfer licence of No. 3 and No. 4 allotments of the Mount Franklin Lime Stone Quarry’. Also ‘for sale’ advertisement: ‘The Quarry, known as the Upper Lime Stone, together with four substantial kilns, stone built shed, tools and tramway for conveyance of wood and stone and every other convenience for carrying on the extensive trade already established, apply to Newcombe and Laver Timber Merchants , Castlemaine or to C. Browne Esq. , Mount Franklin 599c’ (Mount Alexander Mail, p. 1).
  • 19 Aug 1859: ‘Mr Honey obtained a publican’s licence for the Lime Kiln Hotel on the Ballarat Road from Castlemaine. This house will, if well conducted, prove a boon to travellers between Castlemaine and Daylesford’. (Mount Alexander Mail, p. 4).
  • 9 Sept 1859: ‘John Honey, landlord of the Mount Franklin Lime Kiln Hotel.’ (Mount Alexander Mail, p. 2)
  • 27 June 1863: at a meeting of ratepayers of the parishes of Yandoit and Mount Franklin chaired by E. S. Parker Esq., J. P. ‘Mr Christopher Brown read the first resolution’. (Mount Alexander Mail)
  • 7 Dec 1874: A ‘terrible accident … on the road between Franklinford and The Lime Kilns’. Death of a boy aged 11, son of My James Gilmore ‘ … a famer residing near the Lime kiln’. (Mount Alexander Mail, p. 2).
  • 8 Dec 1877: Sale of the ‘property of Mr Gilmour of Limestone near Franklinford which consists of freehold lands with crops of wheat and oats, the limestone quarry, house, livestock farming implements, etc.’ (Mount Alexander Mail, p. 2).

In summary, the 1850s appear to have been a time of considerable activity in the Limestone area, including output from the lime kilns and the building of a hotel.

A separate ‘Clearing out sale notice’ (found on Trove) records that the sale was scheduled for 10 Dec 1877 as ‘Mr Gilmore of Limestone is leaving the district in consequence of ill health’. It included the whole farm, including ‘4 blocks of 1 acre each, known as the ‘Lime Kiln Lot’’. The improvements listed include ‘The Lime Kilns, Quarry etc’, noting that ‘its value [as a farm] is enhanced by the lime deposits and its never failing stream of water’.

 What is on the site in 2020?

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An of the site in May 2020 confirms that whilst much of the higher-quality limestone has been mined, there are significant, scattered outcrops of poorer-quality lime tufa within the area mostly covered by spiny rush and blackberries. There are also broken and overgrown foundations of rock walls toward the north western edge of the site which were probably part of the original lime kilns. A boundary fence separates the depressed, quarried out area from the elevated grazing land to the north. Several small outcrops of solid grey limestone crop out in the paddock. The spiny rush (Juncus acutus) on the quarry site is indicative of waterlogged and saline ground conditions.

Stephen Carey made the following geological notes after a May 2020 site inspection.

The modern expression of the limestone deposit consists of the quarry, now overgrown with spiny rush and briars, and scattered outcrops in the adjacent paddock to the north. No exposures were observed in the paddock to the south. The quarry is very shallow, being  ̴1 m deep. In the quarry, limestone crops out in the walls on the northern and eastern sides, while elsewhere limestone is present as low mounds of spoil. In the northern paddock, small, low outcrops, generally <1 m across, occur across a broadly horizontal surface with numerous metre-scale depressions which stretches from the fence at the northern edge of the quarry about 60 m further north to a shallow grassy gully. At the head of the gully are the ruins of a small stone building.

The limestone is highly variable. The following descriptions are based on field examination only. The purest occurrence observed is an essentially two-dimensional exposure in the northern paddock halfway along the fence and 1.5 m into the paddock. It appears to be massive, except for common centimetre-scale pits on the surface, though the lack of vertical exposure makes this uncertain. It is a grey lime mudstone, according to the classification of Dunham (1962). Where vertical exposure is available, that is, in the quarry walls, as well as in some discarded blocks, a distinct to diffuse, centimetre-scale, horizontal stratification is present. Many of the quarry occurrences, including spoil, have a component of rounded terrigenous gravel, mostly small-pebble-sized. At the extreme, the rock is a terrigenous conglomerate cemented by lime micrite.

Conclusion

All of the above points to a poorly known geological deposit that is unusual for Central Victoria. It occurs together with the overgrown remains of several historic, very early Lime Kilns dating from the Aboriginal Protectorate era of the 1840s. The Lime Kilns were most likely established between 1842 and 1848, and initially operated to the likely benefit of Edward Parker. The Lime Kiln business operated by Brown and later Gilmour appears to have boomed during the early Gold Rush years. The site to the south in 2020 includes an abandoned mineral spring, associated bores and pumping infrastructure.

The lime kilns operated on a busy intersection under several owners or operators at least until the 1860s that at one stage included a small settlement and hotel. The formerly reasonably large but shallow, lenticular, lime tufa deposit on the Limestone Creek site was developed in situ from the surface expression of a calcium-rich mineral spring. Though the deposit has largely been mined out and the former quarry area is in 2020 overgrown with spiny rush, briars and blackberry, the remains of the several original lime kilns on the site are important historically and worthy of closer survey and formal recording.

The associated, formerly delightful mineral spring may have been destroyed by apparently botched boring and pumping associated with 1980s commercial groundwater extraction by commercial operators including the Coca Cola Company. The historic mineral spring previously called ‘Gilmours’ on the site, was renamed ‘Mount Franklin’ by the company just prior to its destruction, when pumping and water extraction ceased.

While the water associated with ‘Mount Franklin’ brand lives on under the ownership of Coca Cola Amatil and has become nationally iconic and incredibly profitable to the Coca Cola company, no water has been extracted from the original site for approximately 35 years. The ‘Mount Franklin’  mineral spring is no more and the area has  become an overgrown and forgotten eyesore on the side of the Midland Highway. There is no signage on the site.

No one would know that the registered, arguably vandalised and now abandoned natural mineral spring on the site is the one today originally associated with the ‘Mount Franklin’ water brand. There is some irony that the Mount Franklin water web site in 2020 stresses it wants to do ‘… the right thing for the Australian environment now and for future generations … While we celebrate our great land, we do our part to protect it to. … We’ll stay determined to keep finding ways to lighten our touch on the environment, to protect the land dearest to our hearts.’

In our opinion, there is a case here beyond our historical narrative and anticipated heritage survey of this unique and important historic site, for a long-term recovery and site management plan. The recovery plan might involve removal of weeds and replanting of the Limestone Creek-side precinct, removal of unused or unnecessary modern infrastructure, some sensitive on-site historical and geological interpretation of the spring, the lime tufa deposit and the Lime Kilns, and reinstatement of a publicly accessible, roadside mineral spring.

Given the ‘Mount Franklin’ commitment to do the right thing, such a plan might be developed with support from Coca Cola Amatil as the most recent commercial operator on the site, in consultation with the Dja Dja Wurrung traditional owners, current land owners, the Hepburn Shire, other local landholders and community stakeholders.

Loddon Protectorate Era Flour Mill

CB7CE30E-32ED-4468-9DB4-CBF7675F7620Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate-Era (1840s) flour mill on The Mill Stream south of Franklinford

Preamble

One of the earliest water-powered flour mills in Victoria operated within the bounds of the Aboriginal Protectorate site south of Franklinford during the 1840s. This account seeks to consider previous and new evidence to establish where it was built, when and in what context. In doing so it seeks to distinguish between the Protectorate-era mill and a later, nearby flour mill from the Swiss Italian settler era of the 1860s. There is a case for this 1840s water-driven mill, perhaps one of the oldest in Victoria, subsequently being documented and recorded in the Victorian Heritage Register. I encourage anyone who reads this and has new evidence to support or refute my conclusions, to email me.

Previous evidence

Edgar Morrison, in The Loddon Aborigines (1971, p.48) recollected that:

In the horse and buggy day … each Boxing Day a group of neighbours of all ages from Franklinford and Yandoit would congregate at the old Mill Spring about half way between Franklinford and Shepherd’s Flat [under] … the spreading willow trees that grew nearby. Near by a strong flow of crystal clear water issued from the hillside, forming a pool fringed with watercress. From thence, the water gurgled down the grassy slope before plunging into the Jim Crow Creek about 20 chains to the westward. … Since the earliest colonial days it has borne the name Mill Spring.

A generation ago the older citizens could remember carting wheat to an old Flour Mill, the wheel of which was operated by water from a race branching northward from the Mills Spring stream. … Fragments of the water-wheel are still discernible as well as a few crumbling walls of the mill itself. Yet before that structure was built, the spring had long borne its present name. … Gabriel Henderson (1854-1944) … attributed the name to the fact that ‘a small flour mill, operated by a water wheel was erected there by Mr Parker when he first came to the district’. An early survey map corroborates Mr Henderson’s statement. A position southward of the natural watercourse is defined as “Ruins of an old Mill”. At this time (1843-44) they used to grow wheat in what they called the Swamp Paddock – and ground it somewhere nearby. … One wonders what became of the two steel hand mills [Parker] had brought up from Melbourne in 1840. It is tempting to wonder whether the small flour mill erected on the Mill Spring race was in fact a combination of the old hand mills. …

The new evidence

The new evidence, below, confirms much of what Morrison wrote. However, it appears that the ruins of a stone ground flour mill powered by water from the water race branching northward from the Mill Stream that Morrison refers to is different from and two decades later than what was likely a water driven, steel flour mill operated by Parker from a shorter race to the south of the Mill Stream.

On 28 November 1842 the Chief Protector of Aborigines, George Robinson visited the Aboriginal Protectorate on the slopes of Mount Franklin. Robinson wrote that he:

… visited the crater at the mount called Willum-parramul [‘place of the emu’], otherwise Jem Crow [Mount Franklin]. It is an ancient crater of large dimension. … Had a fine view. This morning visited the spring at the establishment a mile and a half distant. In the evening attended corrobery (sic.) of Malle condeets [literally ‘men of the mallee country’]. … At the conclusion both men and women singing together … After viewing … I went to the house. The Jajowrong had remained to a late hour.

This mention of Robinson’s visit to ‘the spring’ at the Protectorate and its approximate location approximately 1.5 miles from Parker’s 1842 house site suggests he had perhaps visited the spring on the Mill Stream rather than what is now known as ‘Thomas’ Spring’ on the flat near the current Franklinford Cemetery. On a visit five years later, Robinson mentions (in September 1847) that ‘the mill’ at the Protectorate station was out of order and that wheat being grown on the Protectorate was being sent instead to Hepburn’s mill (that operated from the 1840s on Birch’s Creek near Kingston).

John Hepburn’s mill is reasonably well documented. He had established his flour mill around 15 km to the west below present day Hepburn’s Lagoon near Kingston in 1841. Hepburn’s flour mill was still operating on 1 March 1860 when Captain Hepburn donated most of the prizes for the local Agricultural Society Show and allowed the use of the then three storey brick and stone mill for the occasion. Hepburn died five months later, on 7 Aug 1860. The mill declined and was abandoned during the 1860s and a new, much bigger mill (the current historic ‘Anderson’s Mill’) was built on Birches Creek at Smeaton by the Anderson brothers ,using the same water source from Hepburn’s Lagoon via Birch’s Creek.

The new evidence available on the Protectorate suggests that by 1850 Assistant Protector Edward Parker or a contractor was operating the flour mill as a private business. Parker appears to have been doing similarly with a Lime Kiln, also established during the 1840s next to present day Limestone Creek, again within the footprint of the Aboriginal Protectorate.

Parker was questioned in 1853 about the financial and other arrangements in place on his Mount Franklin Aboriginal Station, established after the Aboriginal Protectorate was abolished in December 1849. There was concern by 1853 that an Aboriginal Reserve of 50 square miles was ‘disproportionately large’ given that the area had become ‘very rich gold country’. There were suggestions that some portions ‘which, with the greatest advantage to the public and the least injury to the aborigines might be surveyed for sale’. Parker’s responses (reported in Council Papers, The Argus, 14 June 1854, p.6) include mention that he had:

‘… also supplied the [Aboriginal] establishment with flour and occasionally meat at prices fixed by the Commissioner of Crown Lands, being at his request, calculated merely to cover the cost of production. In 1852 the price of flour and meat was 2d [2 pence] per lb [pound] for the whole year’.

These responses suggest that flour was still being produced by Parker from a flour mill on the Protectorate in 1852, and that it was being sold back to the government. Separately, the government arrangement with Parker was that he was responsible for all of the costs associated with the sheep on his large pastoral property, but was entitled to profit from the wool he produced.

‘Mill Ruins’ downstream of the ‘Old Mill Spring’ are marked downstream of a water course and ‘Spring’ on an undated early survey map published by Morrison in 1971, approximately halfway between Franklinford and Shepherd’s Flat. The map reproduced in Morrison (p.49) clearly shows the location of the mill ruins and what appears to be a short water race leading south off the creek (marked on 2020 maps as ‘Bendigo Creek’) approximately 150 metres before it enters Jim Crow Creek. All of these features are marked within Allotment 4 of Section 6.

The site is today located west of the Daylesford to Newstead Road approximately half way between Franklinford and Shepherds Flat. In 2020 the surrounding agricultural land along the former Mill Stream (today marked on Google map as ‘Bendigo Creek’) is reportedly owned by a land developer. Bendigo Creek runs west under the road before it enters Jim Crow Creek, passing through a series of pools and a watercourse overgrown by blackberries. There is an unoccupied farm house and farm buildings on a rise south of where the water begins to pool.

A former water race to the north of the creek that originally led to a separate water driven, stone ground flour mill operated from the 1860s by Minotti and others is still visible on satellite images and on the ground. The longer northern water race appears to commence somewhat higher up the creek than a previously short water race south leading to a former 1840s Protectorate era mill.

On the ground, there is nothing exposed on the former 1840s mill site to indicate exactly where the mill might have been, though much of the area near the stream including several stone walls is overgrown with blackberries. However, some early survey maps show a sizeable pond dammed upstream of the likely early flour mill site that may have later supplied water to a north flowing water race. In 2020 the sound of water running over a rock barrier hidden amongst the blackberries is suggestive that part of the dam wall that may have fed the 1840s mill may still be in place.

Several large eucalypts are the only obvious remnants of original native vegetation. Most of the wet areas along the creek and former stone fencing are overgrown with willow trees and particularly blackberries. Watercress and other waterweeds cover part of the pool surface. The watercourse and associated pools reportedly lie within a public water reserve that extends along most of the creek west of the road. The water reserve boundaries appear to be delineated by broken down stone and wire fences. As a consequence, grazing stock (in 2020 including several horses) have ready access to the spring, pools and the creek banks. If this is a public reserve it appears that the adjacent landholder may possess or informally exert grazing rights over the area.

Eric Sartori (pers. comm., 31 May 2020) suggests that ‘Parker’s Mill was 10 chain down the flow, long before Pozzi  and Minotti  in 1865’. Sartori suggests, as evidence, the mention a former water powered flour mill in a letter penned by William Bumstead in the Mount Alexander Mail (8 April, 1859, p.5), which refers to a ‘Sale of Land at Franklinford’. William Bumstead then operated the store, post office and bakery in Franklinford in 1859 and was married to Charlotte Woolmer, a sister to Edward Parker’s first wife.

Bumstead’s 1859 letter expressed concern about the way gold mining, particularly the construction of water races, was adversely affecting the public interest. Bumstead was particularly concerned about the way miners had ‘… cut a race to bring them water from Allotment 4 of Sect. 6, through Allotment 3 of Sect. 6 to their claims a distance of near 2 miles, a great part of which is through solid rock.’

Bumstead proceeded to protest that:

Allotment 4 of Sect. 6 is one of the finest springs in the colony and ought not to be sold but to be preserved in perpetuity, for ever, for the public good. Think, Sir, for yourself, of a spring rising to the surface, running ten chains only, and then to drive a mill as this one has done, from whence it is named Mill Ruins Spring on Fraser’s survey, Parish of Franklin, County of Talbot.

The water-driven, stone ground flour mill known locally as Minotti’s Mill is approximately 400 metres NNW of the earlier Protectorate era mill site, powered from the same water source but coming north off the Old Mill Stream. David Bannear recorded and mapped ‘Minotti’s Flour Mill’ as a significant site associated with Swiss-Italian immigration for Heritage Victoria. The water wheel pit with remnants of the stone wheel and water race and associated buildings were recorded in some detail on allotments ‘PT21, 21A and PT58’ in 1998.

Bannear (1998) noted that this later mill was operated by Battista Monotti. The water was conveyed along a race to drive a 16 foot diameter waterwheel. Minotti operated the mill and perhaps the adjoining farm and gold mine with Guiseppi Pozzi. Bannear cites as historical information sources L. & P. Jones’ Flour Mills of Victoria: 1840-1890 and the  Ballarat Courier (10 Oct 1868, p.21).

What flour milling technology might have been employed here during the 1840s?

One of the items of agricultural equipment procured by Edward Parker for use at the original Aboriginal Protectorate site located on the Loddon River at Neereman (6km north of Baringhup_ in late 1840 was a ‘Steel Mill’. Presumably this would have been a hand operated, steel flour mill. The History of Agriculture in South Australia website notes that the earliest wheat grown in South Australia was hand ground with such steel mills.

The first flour stone ground flour mill in South Australia was opened in 1840.

These early mills used stone rollers (mill-stones), imported mainly from France, with a barrel type sieving which only sieved off the bran. Steam power was mainly used, but there were some wind powered and water powered mills constructed with an isolated horse powered or bullock powered plant.

The upper and lower millstones were typically made of a siliceous rock called ‘burrstone’, an open textured porous but tough, fine grained sandstone, or a silicified fossiliferous limestone

Those used in Britain during the second half of the 1800s were usually either:

  • Derbyshire Peak Stones of grey Millstone grit, used for grinding barley, or more often,
  • French buhrstones [or burr stones], used for finer grinding, not cut from one piece, but built up from sections of rock cemented together, backed with plaster and bound with shrink-fit iron bands.

Several Millstones are mentioned amongst ship cargo coming into Australian ports during the 1840s. On 14 June 1841 (p.2) the Port Philip Patriot reported the arrival from Leith of ‘29 burr stones and one mill stone.’ On 1 Sept 1842, 28 burr stones were exported from Melbourne to Hobart amongst  a cargo of sheep and flour on the schooner Truganini.

On 26 April 1841 the Port Philip Patriot reported that a very fine specimen of burr stone had been procured from Port Phillip, but that hitherto most burr stones had been procured from France. By 1844 the Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (4 May 1844, p.4)  again reported that rock had been found near Melbourne that might suffice as a millstone:

BHURR STONE. This stone so valuable in the construction of millstone has been found in the neighbourhood of Melbourne. In texture and geological relations it is said to resemble the costly bhurr stone of France, for which, within the island of Great Britain, a magnificent reward was once offered by parliament.

During the late 1830s it appears that flour imported into Port Phillip came from mills in Tasmania or Sydney which were water or steam driven. On 29 Dec 1841 the Port Phillip Gazette noted that  ‘a flour mill worked by water is in the course of construction at Coulstock’s station on the Plenty [River]’.

The best known early flour mill site in Melbourne was originally operated by John Dight of Campbell Town. He acquired portion 88, Parish of Jika Jika, County of Bourke, on 7 November 1838 on the Yarra River near Dight’s Falls. Over the next few years, he constructed a brick mill on the site and began the production of flour. In November 1843, ownership of the land passed to John Dight and his brother Charles Hilton Dight. In 1864, flour milling was abandoned and the mill was leased to Thomas Kenny. In the mid 1870s, the site was used by the Patent Safety Blasting Powder Co. The Dight family sold the mill site to Edwin Trennery in 1878 and he subsequently subdivided the land. The original mill on the river bank remained unoccupied until 1888, when flour millers Gillespie, Aitken and Scott, operating under the name of ‘Yarra Falls Roller Flour Mills’ constructed a new flour mill and associated buildings on the site.

There is a detailed account in A homestead history (pp.60-62) based on the letters of ‘Alfred Joyce of Plaistow and Norwood, 1843-64’ of  a flour mill constructed by Alfred Joyce, a self-declared expert in ‘millwrighting and engineering’. Indeed Joyce completed a four year apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer and millwright. His apprenticeship indenture papers are dated 25 March 1837 (Joyce’s 16th birthday).

Alfred Joyce, whose homestead was on present day Joyces Creek, claimed in his letters that John Hepburn’s Smeaton Hill station was named ‘after the celebrated hydraulic engineer whom he greatly admired’, and that John Hepburn’s water-powered mill was powered with a ‘pair of real burr stones’ (p.60). John Smeaton (1824-92) was an English civil engineer responsible for the design of bridges, canal, harbours and lighthouses, who also pioneered the use of hydraulic lime in concrete. He also credited by some for inventing the cast-iron axle shaft for water wheels. However Hepburn’s reference to Smeaton is more likely about his birthplace by that name in Scotland.

Alfred Joyce moved to Plaistow in May 1844, setting up his run on Joyces Creek. Joyce  noted that ‘turning the mill by hand was by no means a pleasant contemplation, but we had to go through it for a while until some mechanical contrivance was constructed’ (p.60). Joyce first attempted a wind-driven mill at Plaistow using ‘sails about nine feet across and fixed on the spindle of a small steel mill, fastened to a post that could be turned to the wind as required’. This contrivance worked well early on but ‘the uncertainty of the wind and its occasional violence’ led him to set up an undershot waterwheel on account of ‘little fall’. It was attached to two steel mills.

Given the likely short fall via a short southerly water race off the Mill Stream to the Protectorate mill site, the set up as described in detail by Joyce (summarised below) of a steel mill attached to an undershot waterwheel is the most likely one to have operated on the Mill Stream during the 1840s.

  • Two very strong posts sunk in the ground four to five feet on either side of the water races, firmly rammed round with stones
  • The shaft of the wheel made from dressed log 8 or 9 inches [approx. 20cm] through.
  • The journals of the shaft comprising the well-rounded edges of the log reduced to about six inches [15cm] and running in corresponding dry wood bearings, these moving up or down in a long slot as the water rose or fell and supported on iron bolts passed through the posts.
  • The lubricating material a mixture of tar or grease.
  • A stout chain and grooved pulleys used to connect the power with the work as no other material would have stood the splash of the wheel.

Joyce’s neighbour Mr Bucknall (on Rodborough Vale run) first copied the wind mill and later set up an overshot water wheel in a copious spring coming out of the banks of the elevated plains’, also attached to two steel mills.

Given that Hepburn (from 1841), Joyce  and Bucknall (from 1844) regularly passed through the Aboriginal Protectorate at Mount Franklin and sometimes stopped there on the way to and from Melbourne, and were on good terms with Edward Parker and family, it is likely that their expertise, experience and advice in flour milling might have been useful to those operating the Protectorate era mill. In the 31 Aug 1841 Protectorate report Parker noted that ‘about 35 acres of land have been enclosed and 13 acres prepared for cultivation, and five acres sown with wheat’.

As a postscript, once gold was discovered the need for flour milling increased exponentially. The foundation stone for a steam driven flour mill (Victoria Steam Mill) in Castlemaine was laid in December 1856. Many water-driven flour mills were also established across the goldfields towards the Great Dividing Range from the 1850s, wherever water was available to drive then.

Peaks, Wetlands and Rivers: 2020 Tour Notes

‘Peaks, Wetlands & Rivers’

Hepburn Shire Reconciliation Week

Tour Notes, 2020

Barry Golding, b.golding@federation.edu.au

Detail of the massive and ancient strap grafted river red gum tree on Merin Merin Swamp

The tour is a Reconciliation Week initiative of Hepburn Shire Council. 

  • Hepburn Shire Reconciliation Action Plan Advisory Committee (RAP AC)
  • Donna Spiller, Arts Culture & Reconciliation Officer Hepburn Shire
  • Uncle Ricky Nelson – Dja Dja Wurrung Elder
  • Barry Golding – RAP AC
  • Inga Hamilton, Community Development Officer, Hepburn Shire
  • Peter O’Mara – RAP AC

Why a virtual tour in 2020?

We originally planned to run ‘Peaks, Rivers & Wetlands’ as another ‘on Country’ bus tour during National Reconciliation Week 2002, 27 May to 3 June.

We conducted several days of planning in the field to make the experience of being on Country special. We deliberately chose three sites that participants and other members of the public would be able to later, independently access, enjoy and explore:

  • Mount Greenock Geological Reserve, at Dunach
  • Merin Merin Swamp, at Eglinton north of Clunes
  • Hamilton’s Crossing at Neereman, north of Baringhup

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we were forced to come up with a Plan B at very short notice. Our filming and recording had to be undertaken with great care for the safety of those involved, with low technology, low cost and limited time frames.

Sincere thanks

Our sincere thanks to the RAP AC members and others listed above. A note of gratitude to Inga Hamilton, our filmmaker/editor for skilfully and generously collating  what we were able to film on-site and overlay with studio recordings.  We are grateful to Donna Spiller and Inga for the huge amount of work ‘behind the scenes’ to film, edit and get the three You Tube programs and ‘Welcome to Country’ to completion.

Barry Golding penned these notes to share with anyone who views the programs and is interested in knowing more or physically visiting the sites.

These notes have been made accessible for download as a blog on Barry Golding’s www.barrygoanna.com website via shortlink https://wp.me/p3nVDL-t1

Reconciliation Week Virtual Tour Overview

Presented by Hepburn Shire Council in partnership with Jaara Elder, Uncle Ricky Nelson and Professor Barry Golding AM. Truth telling and reconciling our shared history at contact in the three-part series ‘Peaks, Rivers and Wetlands’.

Time travel back 180 years to three seldom visited environments and events from the early contact period that marked the beginning of unimaginable loss and trauma for Dja Dja Wurrung people. Join Jaara Elder, Uncle Ricky Nelson and Professor Barry Golding as they stand together on the top of the iconic volcanic slopes of Mount Greenock. Explore the tranquil Merin Merin Wetland where kangaroos still graze and visit the deep pools on the Loddon River at Neereman, where traditional owners once camped and fished for Murray Cod.

Welcome to Country – Feel the spirit of Country as Uncle Rick Nelson welcomes you on to Dja Dja Wurrung lands, to commence your Tour of ‘Peaks, Wetlands and Rivers’. https://youtu.be/ERIkKIORQ98

‘Peaks, Wetlands and Rivers’ = PART ONE Mount Greenock  – https://youtu.be/5aav2w6gNyk

‘Peaks, Wetlands and Rivers’  – PART TWO Merin Merin  – https://youtu.be/qmfhOxb2pAM

‘Peaks, Wetlands and Rivers’ PART THREE – Loddon River at Neereman – https://youtu.be/vaL4YnMmfcU

About National Reconciliation Week – 2020

Theme (appropriately) ‘In This Together’

https://www.reconciliation.org.au/national-reconciliation-week/

Reconciliation is a journey for all Australians – as individuals, families, communities, organisations and importantly as a nation. At the heart of this journey are relationships between the broader Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

We strive towards a more just, equitable nation by championing unity and mutual respect as we come together and connect with one another.

On this journey, Australians are all ‘In This Together’.  Every one of us has an essential role to play when it comes to reconciliation as we collectively build relationships and communities that value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures.

When we come together to build mutual respect and understanding, we shape a better future for all Australians.

This year Reconciliation Australia marks 20 years of operations in shaping Australia’s journey towards a more just, equitable and reconciled nation. Much has happened since the early days of the people’s movement for reconciliation, including greater acknowledgement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights to land and sea; understanding of the impact of government policies and frontier conflicts; and an embracing of stories of Indigenous resilience, success and contribution.

2020 also marks the twentieth anniversary of the reconciliation walks of 2000, when people came together to walk on bridges and roads across the nation and show their support for a more reconciled Australia. As always, we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, and Australians now benefit from the efforts and contributions of people committed to reconciliation in the past. Today we work together to further that national journey towards a fully reconciled country.

Throughout this time, we have also learnt how to reset relationships based on respect. While much has been achieved, there is still more work to be done and this year is the ideal anniversary to reflect on how far we have come while setting new directions for the future.

What is National Reconciliation Week?

  • National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.
  • The dates for NRW remain the same each year; 27 May to 3 June. These dates commemorate two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey— the successful 1967 referendum, and the High Court Mabo decision respectively.
  • Reconciliation must live in the hearts, minds and actions of all Australians as we move forward, creating a nation strengthened by respectful relationships between the wider Australian community, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The three sites in brief

The three sites featured in the virtual tour programs include public land that enables you to safely and sensitively access them, as below. All sites are reasonably distant from towns and none have services such as water or toilets.

Please note our safety cautions. Some notes are added, below, to help you find the sites, plan and enjoy your visit. All sites would be ideal on any mild, sunny day (not Total Fire Ban). If you visit Neereman or Merin Merin, note that both are water ecosystems and are therefore more likely to be home to snakes in season.

We include detailed access information for each site, as Google Map-type applications won’t necessarily recognise the sites and might lead you down some  rough ‘goat tracks’.

The Mount Greenock and Merin Merin sites are around 50km from Daylesford (via Clunes) but only around ten minutes driving distance apart. If you have the time and interest, visiting both these sites while in the same area would make sense.

Hamilton’s Crossing at Neereman is around 40km north-east of the other sites (via Carisbrook) on the Loddon River (and approximately 60km north of Daylesford via Baringhup), but is well worth visiting separately for its beauty, giant river red gums and riverine habitat quite apart from its Aboriginal Protectorate association.

  • Mount Greenock summit involves a steep and rocky walk up an exposed, windswept, treeless mountain flank, but with superb views.
  • Merin Merin is an expansive shallow swamp ringed by regenerating tree and shrub vegetation and some ancient remnant trees.
  • The former Neereman Aboriginal Protectorate is located on a very beautiful section of the Loddon River. It is a great place to appreciate nature and to swim in summer.

Mount Greenock

Monument to Major Mitchell on the summit of Mount Greenock, erected in 1936.

Mount Greenock is (today) an almost bald and reasonably steep, rocky former volcanic cone. The views from the flanks of the mountain and from the top and on a good day, are superb. Anticipate a windy (sometime cold) site and a steep, strenuous, rocky walk up to the memorial cairn towards the summit without well-defined tracks. Dress accordingly and wear strong shoes with a good grip. A grazing licence currently allows cows to graze on what is classified as a ‘Geological Reserve’.

Access

Mount Greenock Geological Reserve is actually on a large, approximately rectangular block of public land that includes the mountain and its crater partly bounded by several roads: see outline in red, below.

Red outline map of theMount Greenock Reserve: the recommended access road is to the south west. The former road easement to the summit from the west is not obvious on the ground today.

However, the only recommended safe access to the mountain is via the Union Mine site just off the Ballarat to Maryborough Road.

  • If coming from the south, you will travel via Clunes. If coming from the north you will travel via Talbot.
  • There is a Parks Victoria sign on the east (right) side of the road approximately 12 km north of Clunes (or around 6km south of Talbot) that says, ‘Union Mine & Mount Greenock Geological Reserve’.
  • A short track off the road near the sign leads to a gate. Open the gate and drive in (close the gate behind you).
  • Drive approx. 200 metres along a gravel track and park under the young gum trees near where there is a Major Mitchell display (with quartz gravel heaps from the former Deep Lead mine site alongside) and Mount Greenock right in front of you.

When you arrive, you will likely ask yourself, “Am I actually allowed in? The short answer is, “Yes. It is a public reserve.” However please avoid the grazing stock (and cow pats), leave nothing behind and take only your memories of the incredible vistas away.

The walk to the summit and the Major Mitchell cairn

If the access gate is locked you will see a wooden stile up the slope to help you cross a barbed wire fence onto the huge paddock that includes the mountain (and usually the grazing cows). Keep to the right around the rocky ridge immediately in front of you, and then pick a cow track (or any route that best suits you) to head up the steep, rocky slope towards the summit. To avoid the steepest climb, we suggest you keep to the slightly gentler slope towards the left. Once onto the broad crater rim, head for the big stone Major Mitchell cairn (a smaller rocky cairn is on the furthest edge of the crater). Wander and enjoy the 360-degree views!

Take care walking back down the slope to avoid slipping. Pick your way down the gentler slopes back to your car. Take care driving out onto the busy main road and shut the gate behind you.

Like us, you will probably ask yourself whether cattle grazing is an appropriate use of a publicly owned, iconic mountain in 2020. Maybe if more people knew about Mount Greenock something might be done in the future to remove grazing, sensitively revegetate the landscape, make its steep slopes less prone to erosion and make it more accessible for people to visit and enjoy. This might include interpretation other than about Major Mitchell that includes its important Dja Dja Wurrung connections.

For those that are interested in nature

From the broad summit on a good day you can see a vast swathe of country. The areas that are volcanic grassland now were largely grassland or open woodland in 1836. The main grass on the slopes would have been kangaroo grass and there were lots of silver banksia and buloke in the slopes of the mountain and volcanic grasslands. The areas of native forest now were largely forest in 1836. There are virtually no trees and only a few hardy native species on Mount Greenock, including the thorny Tree Violet bush (Melicytus dentatus) which clings on in rocky clefts despite the grazing.

You will see a broad volcanic crater breached towards the north east. The rocks are mostly scoria and vesicular lava (with gas bubbles). Some rocks are so full off gas bubbles they will float on water. The original ‘ropy lava’ flow structures are still evident in many of the rocks at the surface.

For those who are interested in post-contact history

 The deep lead (Union) gold mine where your car is parked tapped into the gold bearing volcanic gravels that run right under the mountain (the Mount Greenock Deep Lead). The water worn quartz gravels were piled up as refuse as the finer gold bearing material was processed. From the summit you will see white spoil heaps of former mines on the same deep lead heading south towards the Great Dividing Range.

The following is a brief post contact history summarised from the file on the mountain still in the Epsom (Bendigo} Crown files office.

  • The mountain and surrounding area would have been part of the Dunach Forest pastoral run during the 1840s.
  • On 9 Nov 1863 the Lands and Survey Office decreed that the area to be added to the Talbot’s United Town and Goldfield Common.
  • Gold mining during the late 1800s followed the Mount Greenock Deep Lead right under the mountain, extending several kilometres north and south. The white peaks on the south side of the Mount Greenock (below)are where shafts pierced the flanks of the mountain.
Signs of former gold mining on the south flank of Mount Greenock
  • By July 1894 it had been decreed that 360 acres be withheld from leasing and licensing.
  • The Major Mitchell monument was erected with huge fanfare and re-enactment in 1936 to celebrate the ‘Centenary of Discovery’.
  • On 17 March 1992 the mountain and 138 ha around it was declared as reserve, specifically for conservation of an area of scientific (geological) interest, consistent with the Land Conservation Council 1981 decision to zone it N1 ‘Geological Reserve’.
  • By 1997, the main use pf the reserve was for grazing, at which time it was described as ‘very rocky, steep country’.
  • A 2004 map shows Mount Greenock’s old geodetic trig (survey) point and rock cairn to north, and the Major Mitchell Monument to the south.
  • A 2006 Survey Report wrongly concluded that ‘There is no evidence of previous Aboriginal occupation’ on the Reserve.
  • There is an easement for an unused and unmade road from nearby Mitchell Road to the monument. Mitchell’s Road was not named after Major Mitchell, but after William Mitchell whose name is on a 40-acre original title to the NW of the reserve.

Merin Merin Swamp

 

Merin Merin Swamp is a hidden wetland gem now in public ownership around 10km north of Clunes ‘as the crow flies’, but we strongly suggest you follow the all-weather access directions, as below. Being a Game Reserve, you will definitely not take your dog.

Access

The recommended all weather access (including some gravel) into and out of the site is as follows (NOTE: other tracks in, including via the Mount Cameron Road are prone to be boggy or rocky and require high vehicle clearance). Drive slowly and safely on the gravel roads. Again, respect all protected wildlife on the site, leave nothing behind and take only your memories away. Take clothing appropriate to the forecast weather, necessary water and food. Don’t walk on a day of Total Fire Ban.

  • From Clunes, take the Ballarat-Maryborough Road, C287 north towards Talbot.
  • At the locality of Dunach, take the right fork along C288 (the Dunach-Eddington Road) towards Carisbrook.
  • After around 500 metres, turn right onto Fells Gully Road.
  • After around 500 metres, turn left along Wattle Gully Road. This gravel road takes you up to the elevated wetland along the remarkable margin between the rich volcanic plains of nearby Mount Glasgow, and the adjacent native forest growing on the much poorer soils developed on much older shales and slates.
  • Follow Wattle Gully Road for 4.4km until the intersection where you see the ‘Merin Merin Swamp’ sign (where Weathersons Road turns right).
  • Park safely off the road near this intersection and walk onto the reserve via an opening in the fence at the corner near the sign. Where you enter is on the NW corner of the Reserve [NOTE: Return the same way you came in].

The Reserve is an approximate rectangle bounded on most sides by minor roads [Please note that two blocks of land (fenced in) to the south west of the swamp are on private land]. The Reserve is bounded by Wattle Gully Rd to the north, part of Weathersons Road to the west and Middle Swamp Road to the south.

The strap grafted tree in the program might take some finding, but it’s within easy walking distance in from where we suggest you park your car: around 200 metres east of Weathersons Road and 100 metres south of Wattle Gully Road.

The wetland area is prone to be inundated in winter and spring, so wear shoes that anticipate water and mud, and long pants that anticipate snakes. It’s reasonably firm and very enjoyable walking around the shore of the swamp lined by regenerating red gums. Total distance is approximately 5km right around the edge.

For those who are interested in nature

Merin Merin Swamp together with Middle Swamp nearby, receive water via localised runoff from surrounding volcanic scoria cones and plains. Both swamps are locally important due to their high wildlife value. Previous land use had been timber harvesting during the gold rush era and beyond and grazing until the grazing licence was removed in the early 1990s and the area was properly fenced. The area is now a State Game Reserve managed by Parks Victoria. Recent extensive planting of local native species on the margins of the reserve has begun to enhance natural regeneration.

This shallow freshwater marsh contains a combination of Woodland dominated by Eucalyptus camaldulensis (Red Gum) and Open-Sedgeland dominated by Juncus (rushes), Carex (sedges), and Eleocharis (spike rushes). The swamp contains high habitat values due to the mixed age classes of Red Gums present and connection to the west with State forest. There is a very high proportion of introduced species, particularly Phalaris (Canary Grass). This is due to the swamp’s long grazing history.

For those who are interested in post-contact history

There was extensive mining in the region from the 1860s (though not close to the Merin Merin Reserve) and most original red gums were cut to supply the huge amount of firewood and timber the mines and miners consumed. The red gums were more recently used as fence posts and firewood until the area was made a reserve in 1977. Sheep grazing was phased out and ended in 1980. The area was severely burnt in the 1885 bushfires.

A 1987 Ballarat College of Advanced Education Draft Management Plan noted that an Aboriginal ‘canoe tree’ remained in the middle of the swamp, and a midden (oven mound) site and shield tree were also present on the reserve. There are other oven mounds on private land west of the reserve.

In 1989, 20 allotments totalling 202 ha were bought back by the state government at total cost of $110,800, a process that commenced in the 1976 on the basis that the area was of considerable value to wildlife, both for local and resident birds and also for migratory and nomadic species. The map below shows which blocks were bought back in 1989.

Merin Merin map. The purple shaded allotments were bought back by the government in 1989. The green area has not been alienated and is mostly wetland. Your car will be parked on the intersection just off the NW corner of this map. You will see the two privately owned blocks to the south west of the swamp.

Whilst in 2020 there are still two parcels of private land allotments towards the south west of the reserve, the original Parish Plan had 21 other parcels of private and of up to 50 acres that are now part of the 2020 reserve as well as three now closed roads.

In 2008 the area secured a Permanent Reservation of 324 ha for management of wildlife and preservation of wildlife habitat.

The current Game Reserve area was Zoned C5 as part of the Land Conservation Council zoning process along with Middle Swamp as a ‘a valuable part of a chain of swamps used by waterfowl’. Planting of native tree and shrub species in recent years has greatly improved the prospect of this being reinstated as an important wetland habitat on the elevated volcanic plains.

Neereman Aboriginal Protectorate

The images of the Loddon River at Neereman in the film show very old river red gums and long, deep pools at two sites. The site along the Loddon just upstream of the Hamilton’s Crossing streamside reserve, where the Uncle Ricky does the Welcome to Country under the huge strap grafted red gum (detail below) is beautiful. It is highly accessible and the one we provide access details for, below.

Detail of the massive strap grafted river red gum tree in the ‘Welcome to Country’. It’s on the north side of Loddon River about 250 metres upstream (east) from Hamilton’s Crossing.

Hamilton’s Crossing is well within the original Protectorate site, and regularly used by locals and visitors. The site is also an excellent and very amenable  place to swim, fish or bush camp.

Please NOTE: The centre of original 1840-1 Aboriginal Protectorate site that briefly included a ‘cultivation paddock’ is a few kilometers upstream of Hamiltons Crossing. It is only accessible through private property which we obtained for some of the Neereman filming. It should not be accessed for a range of good reasons: to do with its cultural and ecological importance, the currently fragile and erodible state of its steep cliffs and remnant vegetation, as well as its private status and the need to ensure the safety of its stock and crops.

 Access

 In summary, you are looking for ‘Hamiltons Crossing’, (not marked on many maps), right where the Baringhup West – Eastville Road (which you will find) crosses the Loddon River around 8km NW of Baringhup.

Make you way to Baringhup via either Newstead or Maldon. It’s a very spread out small town. From the Baringhup general store at ‘Loddon House’ (the only place for local supplies), head west along Baringhup Road towards Carisbrook, but turn hard right onto Baringhup West Road. There is a right turn after a few kilometers onto Baringhup West – Eastville Road which leads you to the (signposted) Hamiltons Crossing Crown Reserve where you will cross the ford over the Loddon River.

Park on the far (north) side of the Loddon River, and east (to the right) of the road. The river up or downstream is delightful and OK to explore as long as you don’t go through fences. The Loddon runs much of summer here and the gravel banks and pools make great places to picnic or swim.

The huge multi-stemmed, strap grafted river red gum tree featured in Uncle Ricky’s ‘Welcome to Country’ is upstream just a few hundred metres on the same side that your car is parked.

For those who are interested in post contact history

The centre of the former 1840-1 Neereman Aboriginal Protectorate (nominally 5 miles in diameter) is a few kilometres upstream of Hamilton’s Crossing on private land on long, deep pools in the Loddon River. The banks close to the waterline south of this wide and deep section of the river are lined with huge red gums. On the upper banks are a few remnant buloke trees. The flat and sandy area north of the river, where the ‘former cultivation paddock’ was marked in an 1856 survey, is still known as ‘Parkers Plains’ by some local old timers and has recently been irrigated by several huge centre pivot irrigators.

The river banks show no sign of the many wood and bark huts that were constructed for up to 200 Aboriginal people, Protectorate staff and families during the eight months that the Protectorate operated. Edward Parker’s son, Joseph Parker, writing in the Mount Alexander Mail in June 1916, recollected that in January 1840 his family had moved to  ‘the large waterhole’ on the Loddon at Neura Mong,  that he understood to be ‘the Aboriginal word for ‘hide here’ which also ‘proved to be the home of codfish’ (the Murray Cod).

Barry Golding recently found an entry to the word Neereman, spelt the same way, in an Aboriginal dictionary list from Coranderrk from 1909. Coranderrk was a government Aboriginal mission that operated in the post Aboriginal Protectorate era from 1863 and 1924, and to which several Dja Dja Wurrung people were forcibly taken from the Mount Franklin Aboriginal Station in the 1860s.  The entry read: ‘Neereman (high bank; bend in river), Coranderrk, Vic.’

Historical Post script to Neereman

Barry Golding has recently transcribed much of the original hand written Aboriginal Protectorate correspondence relating to the selection, management and abandonment of the Neereman site. Some of it was graphically written by Assistant Protector Edward Parker on site. What follows is a summary based on original records. It seeks to explain why the Neereman site failed, and why it was moved to the better known site near Mount Franklin. As a warning, it’s not a pretty story.

1840 was an unusually (El Nino) dry year. The English seeds and potatoes planted in the cultivation paddock on the Neereman site wilted and failed in the sandy soil and harsh summer of 1840. The Protectorate Overseer, Richard Bazeley quickly determined that  the Neereman site was totally unsuitable for cultivation. The food that had been brought up from Melbourne by cart was running out and Aboriginal people were starving and leaving.

The  Dja Dja Wurrung people from many Clans to the north had been encouraged  or forced to come to the site for their relative safety, but were  forced back onto Country to find food.  However they were also violently forced off the squatting runs, that by the  late 1840 had total encircled the Neereman site. Grazing stock were eating out their staple grassland food, the Myrniong or Yam Daisy. Aboriginal people were also hunted down, arrested or killed if they interfered with the squatter’s sheep and cattle.

The Protectorate was only five miles in radius and unfenced from stock. There was much conflict over access to land, traditional food and water. Many Aboriginal people (and some squatters and their ex-convict shepherds) died in the surrounding area in the violence and murder that followed.

It was difficult or impossible for people from neighbouring Aboriginal Nations, some of whom were at enmity with the Dja Dja Wurrung Nation, to live peaceably and  in such close contact on the Neereman site in the  Christian harmony envisaged by Parker.

Many deadly introduced diseases were rife amongst the Aboriginal people of all ages living on or visiting the site by early 1841. A medical officer sent from Melbourne to inspect the Neereman site found syphilis was widespread and deadly amongst the women, spread mainly through regular contact between Aboriginal women and the squatter’s employees.

Meantime Overseer Bazeley scouted around for a suitable alternative Protectorate site where the soil and rainfall were better,  and where there was  less deadly interaction with the surrounding squatters.

Meantime the deep pools in the Loddon River at Neereman were fished for their huge  Murray Cod and Maquarie Perch, which were dried and loaded onto a waggon. Carts were dispatched to Melbourne to try and obtain desperately needed flour, rice and sugar for the people who were starving.

The Aboriginal Protectorate at Neereman was finally moved from the Neereman site (despite further vehement opposition from the squatters) to a new site deemed more suitable on the flanks the of the Larnebarramul (Mount Franklin) volcanic crater in mid 1841.  The Aboriginal Protectorate with Edward Parker in charge struggled on the new site  for many of the same reasons.

The perceived  advantages of the Mount Franklin cite (centred on present day Franklinford) included  better soil and rainfall than at Neereman. It was also closer to Melbourne and had more thick forest on many of its margins, insulating it to some extent from the surrounding squatters, whose preference was for the former Aboriginal grasslands on the rich volcanic plains.

The Protectorate System was in tatters and politically unpopular with the squatters in the Port Phillip Colony by the late 1840s, and was abandoned in late 1849.

Edward Parker gave evidence to an official inquiry about the condition of Aborigines held some decades later. it also investigated why the Protectorate system failed. In Parker’s, opinion, the system failed mainly because he was not given enough support from the government  to properly implement the Christian side of his civilising mission.

Brief personal reflection by Barry Golding

Anyone who has just read the disturbing post script, above, and who is concerned about First Nations reconciliation in Australia in 2020, will likely have many unanswered questions in their heads. We all need  to keep asking and answering these questions,  in collaboration with the local traditional owners, the Dja Dja Wurrung people and their descendants, for many years to come.

As a non-Aboriginal person living on Dja Dja Wurrung Country for most on my 70 years, I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of this land, past and present, and pay my respects to their Elders and ancestors, past, present and emerging.

I acknowledge the generosity, knowledge and wisdom of Dja Dja Wurrung Elder, Uncle Ricky Nelson. Working with Uncle Ricky on Reconciliation initiatives with the Hepburn Shire over the past few years has been a great joy and inspiration. I am delighted that two of the film clips are dedicated to Uncle Ricky’s  late and great father.

In writing and reflecting on all this, I (Barry Golding) pose just one  unanswered question,.

Why has the Neereman site and what happened here effectively been lost or forgotten in the ensuing 180 years?

 

 

 

 

 

The COVID Waggon: Researching during lockdown

Rolling toward the apocalypse …

The ‘covered waggon’ was long the dominant form of transport in pre-industrial America and became an icon of the American Wild West. My first play on these words is about the US slowly rolling towards a post-industrial COVID19 apocalypse. I watch with genuine horror at what I regard as Trump’s completely botched, inhumane, prehistoric and incompetent response to national leadership to this pandemic.

And I thought his denial of climate change was bad enough. As evidence in the case of the pandemic, look at almost every other national leader’s response and compare the US infection and death statistics. It’s not about testing and it’s not about ‘Chinese’.

To me it’s a reminder of the slippery slope towards fascism associated with American exceptionalism, that has been a major plank of the US Republican Party since 2012. Whenever I see Trump talking in front of increasingly silenced or emasculated experts I think of the parable of the ‘King and his new clothes’. Thank goodness we still have democracy in Australia and the tattered remnants of a free press.

Every day my main ‘go to’ news site, The Guardian Global. Each week day I read Mark Kiser’s WTFJHT (What the Fuck Just Happened Today) posts, all related to the US Presidency and hot linked to press articles. Anyone can register to receive a free daily post or tip the blogger,  highly recommended, see  http://www.whatthefuckjusthappenedtoday.com/ . 21 May 2020 was Day 1217.

Looking under the covers …

Secondly and on a slightly lighter note this COVID-Waggon post is about letting anyone interested look under the ‘covers’ of my waggon and have a sneak peek at what I’m currently working on, thinking about and writing in late May 2020.

It used to take years to research and publish, including articles about random things each of us might have an interest in. I’ve been collecting stuff for decades and filing it away for a quieter and simpler time. Both are currently possible for me, and that time has come with joyful and productive retirement from paid work, heightened by the current pandemic. The advent of fairly idiot proof posting platforms and  powerful online searchable resources like Trove has simplified things immensely.

There are advantages and also pitfalls of being able to trawl the internet and public library sites and post so immediately and personally in this way. At 70 I’m more concerned about making stuff accessible than risking reputation and the risk of important stuff in our landscape being lost forever.

You’ll quickly sense an overarching theme in a lot of what I choose to research and write. For me it’s about using evidence to find the truth and write stories about what happened In this country, including locally in Southern Dja Dja Wurrung country at and beyond contact. It’s also about acknowledging and working with First Nations descendants to reconcile and do something to redress the huge ignorance and denial of the long tail of colonial dispossession.

What reading inspires me …

Sandra Pybus’ ‘Truganini: Journey through the Apocalypse’ is my current seriously riveting and highly recommended bedtime reading. My main source of post contact inspiration in recent years, as for Pybus, are the transcribed journals of George Augustus Robinson. Like her, the journals help me connect what is, what was and what transpired in this landscape and land that was so violently taken and that I have by birth inherited.

In Pybus’ case the Tasmanian journals are readily accessible in Plomley’s  well edited and indexed 1162 page ‘The Friendly Mission’ and its companion volume of papers. I agree with Pybus, paraphrasing her words, that it is incredibly difficult but morally necessary to liberate the stories of the original people trapped within Robinson’s overwhelming self regard, in order to do some justice for first Nation Australians whose lives were extinguished for ours.

I’m my case in Victoria, my best go to sources for the 1840s are again the Robinson Journals, transcribed with minimal editing by Ian Clarke. They are sadly in need of proper and accurate editing, indexing and addition of maps that would help locate the similarly apocalyptic incidents and stories. Friends I ride with cuttingly say if I was ever to go on ‘Hard Quiz’ George Robinson would be my only special subject. I loathe his mission  but reluctantly respect Robinson for doing the hard yards and recording what otherwise would have been lost.

This is a good Segway to ‘Creating autoethnographies’ by Tessa Muncey, my best single accessible book source of academic and writing inspiration in the past decade. In many ways Robinson is something of a self made autoethnographer. He seeks to write, albeit in an opinionated, self serving and uneducated way about all that he is seeing, hearing and experiencing, but it sometimes tells us much more about him.

So if any of this whets your appetite, have a read of whatever other pages or posts interest you on this site.

What else is on the waggon?

I’m meantime collaborating with local friend, author and publisher Gib Wettenhall to research something more like a book, we anticipate will be fine grained, fresh, illustrated, local and place based focusing on the first five years between 1836 and 1842 in southern Dja Dja Wurrung country in the Upper Loddon River catchment. Like good Slow Food, this book will take us time to write. We are well into our second year of field, oral history and literature research but this is a seriously big project.

If you don’t have a copy of our locally published Great Dividing Trail ‘Goldfields Track Guide’ (that Gib won a statewide history award for), buy one via the GDT website. It will to keep you informed and safe whilst exercising during and well beyond this pandemic, and the next.

With bike riding friend and retired local geologist Dr Stephen Carey, I’m researching the history of the Limestone Creek Lime Kilns north of Mount Franklin. They were started in the mid 1840s on the footprint of the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate on an unusual limestone deposit formed over hundreds of thousands of years on a calcium rich mineral spring. Hopefully we’ll publish a paper about it.

With long time friend and Fed Uni colleague Associate Professor Annette Foley and Dr Helen Weadon, we are working on a series of journal papers on the back of field research in four local Men’s Sheds with both shedders and significant others of shedders conducted just before the pandemic. One paper is out for peer review to an international journal and we are working on another likely for Australian Journal of Adult Learning. A third paper is planned with colleague Dr Lucia Carragher in Ireland looking at the impact of Mens Sheds on significant others.


Going stir crazy in lockdown?

Going stir crazy in lockdown?

Recent and forthcoming radio, YouTube and TV programs

  1. For anyone interested in Mens Sheds within and beyond Australia, the Australian Men’s Shed Association recently commissioned a series of programs on The Shed Wireless as part of its response to the global pandemic, that forced 2000+ Men’s Sheds around the world to close their doors. To 19 May 2020 four programs had been posted that include four approximate 15 minute segments with Barry Golding being interviewed by Aaron Kearney and David Helmers (CEO, AMSA) about the history of the Men’s Shed Movement, The segments cover the early history (#1), events leading up to and beyond the formation of the Australian movement (#2 & #3) and its internationalisation (#4). You’ll find these segments within these programs at  http://mensshed.org/theshedwireless
  2. The COVID-19 pandemic required the Hepburn Shire Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) to creatively put our painstakingly planned 2020 RECONCILIATION WEEK TOUR: ‘Peaks, Wetlands and Rivers’ on line. What follows is advance notice of the forthcoming three programs. ‘This virtual tour supported by Hepburn Shire Council and to be made widely available online for Reconciliation Week is enlivened by collaborative on site description and narration by Dja Dja Wurrung Elder Uncle Ricky Nelson, and Professor Barry Golding. Join them as they stand together on Country sharing the history at contact in a three-part series of short films. For more information contact Donna Spiller, Arts, Culture and Reconciliation Officer, on 5321 6498 or dspiller@hepburn.vic.gov.au. My sincere thanks to all those involved (Donna, Inge, Uncle Ricky, Peter O’Mara) in bringing this to fruition. Our plan is to run a later on-site version when it’s deemed safe. Meantime Mount Greenock, Merin Merin wetland and Hamilton’s Crossing on the Loddon River are precious public reserves that anyone can visit independently with appropriate care.
  3. Much lighter and funnier, i strongly recommend Ray Martin’s series of programs on ABC TV Wednesday evenings, 9pm or via iView  https://iview.abc.net.au/show/at-home-alone-together.

Abduction and child stealing: Re-examination of Mitchell in Dja Dja Wurrung Country, 1836

 

Preamble to a discussion about invasion  in 2020

Major Thomas Mitchell is widely acknowledged for his journeys of exploration and discovery of ‘new lands’ in inland Australia, albeit ones that had already been named, mapped and cultured by First Nations peoples for tens of thousands of years.

Critically interrogating Major Sir Thomas Mitchell’s achievement as inland Victoria’s preeminent colonial explorer including calling it and what followed an invasion is sort of like putting your favourite dog down or burning the family photos. Denying and destroying something inherited and passed down through generations is simply not done.

This account deliberately restricts itself to Mitchell’s 1836 expedition across Dja Dja Wurrung country. The Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Nation was one of around 250 separate and different Nations at contact. In outline it is located in central Victoria encompassing the southern catchments of the Loddon and Avoca Rivers.

For those unfamiliar with the area referred to in this narrative, Dja Dja Wurrung country is bounded in the south by the Great Dividing Range and extends all the way to the southern Mallee. It roughly encloses an expansive oval area bounded (clockwise) by present day Creswick, Lexton, Navarre, Donald, Charlton, Boort, Marong, Malmsbury and Bullarto. Larger former gold towns included within its footprint include Maryborough, Daylesford, Castlemaine, St Arnaud and Wedderburn.

So why is it important and why does it matter? 

Truth telling is an important part of any process of reconciliation. During the era of colonial exploration there was huge public interest and uncritical admiration for explorers and their deeds. One only has to see the huge monument erected on the top of the hill above Castlemaine to the ill conceived and clumsily executed Burke and Wills expedition, to understand how much the public cared for explorers, even after abject failure and death.

It is salient to recall that all of the dozens of those who followed Mitchell’s expedition’s wagon wheel tracks into and across Dja Dja Wurrung country to Mitchell’s promised land, Australia Felix, had a copy of Mitchell’s itinerary with them. Indeed Hepburn, Gardner and Hawdon’s overlanding party were fully briefed on their route south towards Melbourne by Stapylton on the Murrumbidgee near Gundagai as Stapylton was heading home and north with the expedition’s wagons.

A century after Mitchell and those that followed in his footsteps there was a rush to erect new monuments and re enact their achievements and heroism. The monuments on the top of Mount Greenock above Talbot in 1936 and to Hepburn in Smeaton in 1938 are good examples. Australian Prime Minister Joseph Lyons spoke to the three thousand assembled in Smeaton for the centenary celebrations in 1838. He used words that made the invasion of Dja Dja Wurrung lands and Australia more generally sound like a benign, bloodless coup.

Captain Hepburn, who, with his flock of sheep, his cattle, and his horses, crossed from New South Wales to the fertile land round Smeaton, where no white man had been before. … Compared with most other countries, Australia was young in actual years, it was old in experience. It was something to be thankful for that our history had been written not in blood but in the pioneering achievements of our forefathers.

A song was composed about the Dreaming Hills of Smeaton to acknowledge those pioneers who transformed ‘the pristine wilderness’ where ‘joy and peace together reign’.

The uneasy part for me, as an older white male who lives in an inherited invaded landscape of southern Dja Dja Wurrung country just five kilometres down the road from Smeaton (recently adorned by a suitably wooden statue of John Hepburn that the birds have roosted above), is to go beyond the now standard and important recognition of First Nations ancestors and Elders past and present.

My point is that we need to interrogate and recognise what actually happened here, what is officially and inappropriately acknowledged and commemorated, and also what is not. The next steps aside, from evidence-based truth telling, public education and some strategic renaming in the landscape, include one or more belated Treaties and restitution with Australia’s First Nations people.

Monuments are almost always erected to and by the victors and directed to the universally male expedition leaders, and also those first men to come behind them and seize Aboriginal land, including John Hepburn. There are almost no monuments to Aboriginal people who played often unrecognised but heroic roles leading, guiding, supporting and mediating such expeditions, and certainly none to those who were killed bravely resisting and defending their lands, families and clans.

There are few monuments to those who were typically forcefully and brutally moved off Country, killed and vanquished. Thus the use of the gentler term ‘settlement’ and the convenient fiction that people did not live on the lands we inherited or simply faded away. In fact some miraculously and heroically survived. The recent move by Hepburn Shire to support Erica Higgin’s idea of a memorial avenue of trees honouring  the tens of thousands of Aboriginal people who died in this way on Country is a welcome move in the right direction.

The gravesite of Yuranigh, another of Mitchell’s Aboriginal assistants in the countryside of his ancestors northwest of Orange I visited a few years ago is a notable exception to these generalities. It the only known site in Australia where Aboriginal and European burial practices coexist and one of the few where acknowledgement is respectfully commemorated. Yuranigh joined Mitchell’s fourth expedition in inland Queensland in 1845. The tombstone, placed with Mitchell’s support after the great man’s  death in 1850 acknowledges Yuranigh’s ‘courage, honesty and fidelity’.

There are virtually no monuments to the Aboriginal peoples and identities whose lives and Country were taken in the typically violent and brutal process of exploration, conquest and seizure of their lands. My hope is that the few people who read this account will share my view that even after 184 years, it is important as part of Indigenous reconciliation to honestly document what happened and to acknowledge that descendants of the losers and wounded in the battle for Country in our community are still suffering, hurting and grieving and owed dignity, respect and understanding.

My account was penned on 29 April 2020, exactly 250 years since Captain James Cook planted the British flag on the shores of Botany Bay. The celebrations planned and funded by the Australian government in 2020 to commemorate Cook’s arrival and mapping of Eastern Australia have fortunately been dealt a serious blow by the COVID19 epidemic.

Unbeknown then to the people of the Dja Dja Wurrung Nation in central Victoria, 66 years before Major Mitchell’s 1836 triumphant tramps across their country, Captain James Cook had already declared the continent legally empty and had claimed it for the British.

These expensive and jingoistic national celebrations ignore the fact that Cook actually landed in Australia several years earlier in 1777, first on Bruny Island off Tasmania’s south east coast. By 1780 when the British flag was finally hoisted near present day Sydney to ward of the French colonial intentions there had been around 60 other European landings all around the Australian coastline.

As a precursor to the first physical invasion of their lands locally, the Dja Dja Wurrung people in central Victoria had experienced several waves of a deadly smallpox pandemic that the invaders had somehow introduced to the continent.

It was far deadlier than the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, and perhaps also arrived in one of their less well appointed overseas convict ‘cruise ships’. Smallpox was the first of many introduced deadly pandemics that decimated Australian First nations peoples. Smallpox alone is likely to have killed as many as one half of the Aboriginal people living on the Murray-Darling River system of southeastern Australia between 1789 and 1820.

Mitchell’s two transits through Dja Dja Wurrung Country in 1836

This account is based mainly around insights from original transcripts from Thomas Mitchell’s 1836 diary as well as those of Granton Stapylton, Mitchell’s second in command, published in 1986 in Stapylton with Major Mitchell’s Australia Felix Expedition 1836  edited by Alan Andrews. Mitchell’s huge exploring party plus wagons loaded with two huge boats destined for an elusive (and non-existent) inland sea lumbered twice through their country.

If one imagines Dja Dja Wurrung country to be a rough oval, Mitchell’s expedition made two roughly parallel transits of approximately 80km across the oval around 80km apart. These transits crossed the upper and middle parts of river catchments now known as the Avoca and Loddon.

Mitchell’s total entourage of 23 European men became the first of dozens of troupes of invading explorers, then ‘overstraiters’  (from Van Diemen’s Land via Corio and Melbourne) and ‘overlanders’ (from Sydney) to set foot on,  transit and  ‘take up’ (seize) Dja Dja Wurrung country during the next five years.

Mitchell’s first transit, essentially southwest across the Wimmera, began after they crossed the Loddon River south west of Pyramid Hill in early July 1836. They exited west of present day Paradise on their way to the southern coast via the Glenelg River to Portland. Their second transit in October 1836 went approximately northeast from Lexton  to Sutton Grange in the central east.

During both transits a poorly known and tragic drama was playing out within Mitchell’s 1836 expedition. The drama does not make for easy or comfortable reading. Even though my narrative is restricted to sanitised evidence in the diaries of Mitchell and Stapylton as the two lead invaders, their own words paint a disturbing and self-incriminating picture.

Their second transit was on their journey back to Sydney. By then the expedition had actually split into two, with Mitchell’s lighter party heading home as fast as possible to break the news about the potential pastoral wealth of Australia Felix.

The rest of the party led by the second in charge, Granton Stapylton followed up with the wagons with an increasing distance between the parties, and also with his growing resentment and distrust of Mitchell and his motives. He actually called himself ‘Man Friday’ and rightly anticipated that all the credit would go to Tarzan, Mitchell.

The current narrative provides only brief contextual information from original expedition records about the country they travelled through. Instead ,it particularly focuses on the way two Aboriginal women (referred to in the original diaries as ‘gins’) were treated. Kitty was mainly referred to as ‘Pipers gin’, Piper being Mitchell’s invaluable Aboriginal guide.

came to the expedition as Piper’s wife. She joined the expedition at Lake Cargelligo after the lead Aboriginal man, Piper, temporarily left to ‘marry’  her. Kitty and Turandurey’s contribution to the expedition was huge, a fact finally acknowledged during the celebration of NAIDOC week in 2019, as below.

Kitty proved a wonderful guide, both on her own and also with Piper. She knew where to locate water and negotiated with the People they met on their way. It was she who she was tall and strong, but had a blind eye (opaque and white), likely from surviving smallpox.  … Kitty and Turandurey showed Mitchell where Oxley’s earlier survey and exploration party reached the Lachlan River and pointed out that they rescued one of Oxley’s men who nearly drowned there. They also mentioned three early white men on horseback and their boats on the Murrumbidgee. This advice by Kitty and Turandurey reminded the white explorers how keenly ‘strangers’ were observed on country. It also asserted their knowledge and ownership of place. Both Kitty and Turandurey frequently went ahead to negotiate. They answered Mitchell’s questions, providing cultural explanations: for example, as to graves and birthplaces. Kitty became an important scout for gossip and intelligence, faithfully reporting back to Mitchell.

Turandurey was a Wiradjuri woman with a totally blind young daughter, Balandella, mainly referred to as the ‘Picaninny’. The records and this narrative confirm that both women were being shamefully treated before, during and after both transits.

The term ‘gin’, ‘Jin’ (or djin) retained in the original documents as it refers to Aboriginal women is now acknowledged as an offensive term pertaining to ‘having sex’.

‘Pickaninny’ is a word applied originally by people of the West Indies to their babies and more widely referring to small children. It is a pidgin word form, derived from the Portuguese pequenino and subsequently used in Canada and the US as a racial slur referring to a dark-skinned child of African descent. In Australia it tended to be used in colonial texts to refer to Aboriginal children.

A fuller account of the abduction and later separation and kidnapping of The widow and the child was published by Jack Brook in 1988. It helped me tease out some of the missing contextual detail. It is important to note that Brook was more forgiving of Mitchell’s explanation of what I regard as a shameful abduction and unconscionable child stealing in my own narrative.

The first transit, May 1836

‘Kitty’ had, by the time this narrative begins, as the expedition crossed the Loddon River north east of present day Wedderburn, become a wife to John Piper, the unpaid Aboriginal guide and mentor to Mitchell. Both women and Piper played invaluable roles safely guiding the party out and back.

All three are conspicuously missing from the officially listed party of white male expeditioners. Turandurey and her daughter, Balandella had been ‘picked up’ on the Lachlan River north east of Booligal around two months beforehand on 2 May as teased out in more detail below.

We have no record of what actually transpired from a Wiradjuri perspective. Only Mitchell and Stapylton record the circumstances in which Turandurey and her blind daughter had originally been abducted.

Stapylton records that while travelling down the then deep, wide but dry Lachlan River in present day western New South Wales they arrived at water, where they : … much alarmed and put to flight a small family of wild Blacks. A remarkable instance of courage and true affection was displayed on this occasion by a little girl, who while the others fled, hesitated to stay behind by the side of her sister who was totally blind’. It later transpired that the sister was actually her mother, Turandurey.

Mitchell’s diary on 2 May 1836 neatly flick-passes the responsibility for the abduction to an ‘old Aboriginal man: ’ … having found two ponds of water we encamped beside them. … A fire was burning near the water, and at it sat a black child about seven or eight years old, quite blind. All the other natives had fled save one poor little girl still younger, who, notwithstanding the appearance of such strange beings, as we must have seemed to her, and the terror of those who fled, nevertheless lingered about the bushes, and at length took her seat beside the blind boy … a dog so lean as scarcely to be able to stand, drew his feeble body close up beside the two children, as if desirous to defend them. They formed indeed a miserable group, exhibiting, nevertheless, instances of affection and fidelity, creditable both to the human and canine species. An old man came up to the fire afterwards, with other children. He told us the name of the water-holes between that place and the Murrumbidgee, but he could not be prevailed on to be our guide. Subsequently, however, a gin who was a widow, with the little girl above-mentioned, whose age might be about four years, was persuaded by him to accompany us’.

Three weeks later the mother and child (who Mitchell also referred to as ‘the widow’  were still accompanying the expedition. When Mitchell departed for the Darling River on 23 May he directed Stapylton, who was to stay at the depot camp, to ensure ‘the widow had rations and that every care should be taken of the child’. Furthermore, Turandurey was to be prevented from ‘going back’, for in Mitchell’s words, to move the child could prove ‘injurious’ to her.

Stapylton records that the child was soon after seriously injured when she became ‘entangled in the bullock team and was thrown down the draywheel passing over and fracturing the creature’s thigh in two places.’ Stapylton saw a ‘providential’ upside of the accident, writing that he sensed it would prevent:

… collusion between the mother and some wild tribes of which there was evident signs of commencement, with what views it would be difficult to say except to our disadvantage. The mother is now at all events now a feature and it shall be my province to keep off the Black Gentry.

The ‘Black Gentry’ perhaps refers to two young Aboriginal (Wiradjuri) men who also joined Mitchell’s party. Because both were called ‘Tommy’, to distinguish between them, Mitchell gave them chronometrical surnames: ‘Tommy Came- First’ and ‘Tommy Came-Last’.

Arrival on the Loddon River

There are only occasional brief mentions of what Stapylton calls ‘the two black gins and the picaninny’ until they absconded on the night they camped on the stream they called the ‘Yarrayne’, now known as the Loddon River.

Stapylton was actually pleased they had ‘boulted (sic) so much the better’, but noted that Mitchell ‘… seems vexed about it. Why I am utterly at a loss to conceive. They were utterly useless to us and moreover a severe tax upon the flour bag [their food reserves]’.

In the same diary entry, Stapylton waxes lyrical of the then unnamed Australia Felix. He writes that: ‘The country promises well. Distant Hills to the southward [towards Dunolly] and westward [towards Charlton] … and fine rising level land up to the base of them’.

Anticipating that a future survey of the southern Australian coast would provide ‘fine outlets to the ocean’, Stapylton prophetically sensed they had:

… discovered a paradise unequalled in New Holland, and for as much as I know superiar (sic) in point of extent and fertility of any in the world. Pyramid Hill will perpetuate the discovery it is a land mark on a vast plain that can never be mistaken and must always convey and association of ideas which will improve on the memory, the circumstance of this expedition and the name of its leader. His Man Friday will not share the same good luck.

Mitchell records that the party ‘… crossed a deep but narrow stream flowing between high grassy banks … the plains beyond it were five miles in breadth, and of the best description’. Later to be known as the Loddon River, then dubbed the Yarrayne by Mitchell, it was a name he somehow understood that the Aborigines associated with the river.

As he approached the Loddon Mitchell wrote about the ‘Black-butted gum and Casuarinae [that] extended back to the mountains and forests’. He also noted the reappearance of Xanthonia (= Danthonia: a Wallaby grass) and was particularly impressed by the appearance of Anthisteria (= Themeda, Kangaroo grass). As in much of his diary, he was more interested in the plants in the landscape than the people.

While the deliberately fire-managed native grasses were dancing alongside the Loddon, Mitchell and Stapylton’s minds were turning to Greek literature and legend to put their mark on what they saw and sought to name through Greek classical and colonial lenses.

The  names he chose locally, most that are still used, commemorate a mix of Greek classical  heroes (such as Macedon, Alexander, & Campaspe), Scottish places ( e.g. Grampians) and military heroes from his time serving in the war on the Iberian Peninsula  in Europe (e.g. Beckwith & Greenock).

Mitchell hinted to Stapylton that he might appropriately call  ‘… this beautiful little [Loddon] river Ilyssus‘. His choice  was in reference to an ancient Greek narrative about Queen Dedo’s [=Dido’s]  forming a new colony in Africa. Michell was well aware that as he was the first European to venture into these ‘new lands’ shortly to be colonised that had re-naming rights over the already named mountains and rivers.

Ilissos  was Dido’s other name and also the name of a former stream in Athens. A fourth Century BC text refers to  the Illisos as a ‘little stream delightfully clear and bright; I can fancy that there might be maidens playing near’.

Mitchell’s allusion to the Greek story of Dido refers to her flight from her father, King Pygmalion in Phoenician Tyre (today in Lebanon). Dido founded a new colony which became the city of Carthage in North Africa (today’s Tunis) around 825 BC. The back story goes that Dido’s party of exiles travelled via Cyprus and seized about eighty young women who were prostituting themselves on the shore in order to provide wives for the men in the party.

I’ve added this detail to try and illustrate how Mitchell justified the violence that was being perpetrated. Winners in war and colonisation tended to take it all, including the women . He  knew the Dja Dja Wurrung  people and their rich grassland would soon colonised for king and country. It was for him and his party to do what he perceived as necessary to create and mark a path for others to follow. Picking up and discarding Aboriginal guides along the way was seen as essential and de rigeur for many Australian explorers.

Back in the real world the exploring party continued their journey southward, moving well south of Turandurey’s home Country and camping on  the Loddon Rivers north east of present day Wedderburn. The planned the next day to cross the river and move west into Dja Dja Wurrung country. Unsurprisingly, the mother and child figured it was time to made a break for home. Assisted by Kitty, they stealthily left camp in the middle of the night.

Mitchell and his party’s attempt to easily cross the Loddon River via a log bridge the next day  were thwarted by a remarkable overnight rise in the Loddon River. Meantime Piper had been missing for a day and ‘brought back one of the Jins and the Picaninny having tracked them to our last encampment’.

Mitchell was relieved, as according to Stapylton, Mitchell sensed ‘they might have made the wild blacks acquainted with our camp arrangement and that at night an attack might be made of the most serious consequences to us’. Stapylton noted that:

These Jins took their measure [of escape] very cunningly having left in the middle of the night during a very severe frost aware … that it would prove almost impossible to track them. They are shockingly frost bitten however in the feet and the mother [Balandella] would not come up tonight. There she is alone without a fire in the bush, and her feet described as being in a most dreadful state I think she will die the poor devil. What then shall we do with the Picaninny? It would have been much wiser to let them go when they desired it and damn their collusion with the tribes. The other Jin (Kitty] returned this morning with her feet in a deplorable state. Thus we are saddled with two useless devils who must be carried on the drays.

The next day on 6 July Stapylton noted that at ‘9PM Jin and the child again joined us this is a fixture now. I suppose she must have crawled about 15 miles on her hands and knees’. Putting aside the offensive language, the lack of compassion evident in their actions leaves me gobsmacked.

By 8 July they were camped on the Avoca River just west of Logan. Mitchell was impressed by the fitness of the land (for’ taking up’) and foresaw that it would ‘eventually become part of a great empire’. The country he was crossing would by Spring 1836 on his way home, be named for its perceived fertility, a land he considered was blessed by fortune, Australia Felix.

The ‘gin’ (Turandurey) is next mentioned briefly, again in very derogatory terms by Stapylton on 17 July having passed west out of Dja Dja Wurrung country. Stapylton writes while crossing broken country near present day Callawadda, the ‘Jin capsized from the top of the dray not hurt but she truly is an unfortunate bitch. Picanniny held on well.’

During the following month the expedition headed south west including down the Glenelg River and along the  coast to Portland. To Mitchell’s complete surprise the Hentys had arrived there as overstraiting pastoralists two years before and had already built houses. William Dutton had been living nearby, sealing with his Aboriginal wife for eight years since 1828.

Having resupplied, they started to head back towards Sydney, jettisoning the big boat near Mount Napier, increasing the mobility of the boat carriage and smaller boat across the swampy Western District volcanic plains.

The second homeward transit, October 1836

By 12 September 1836 whilst camping on the Wannon River towards the southern end of the Grampians, Stapylton writes that Mitchell as expedition leader had ‘resolved upon making a start home [towards Sydney] with pack horses and leaving me behind to bring up the expedition to the settlement’. By this stage the bullocks hauling the heavy wagons were starting to show the strain.

The revised plan was for Stapylton and the rest of the party to remain there ‘for one fortnight in order to give time for the bullocks to refresh then to proceed on his track’. Stapylton angrily noted he found Mitchell impenetrable in terms of his communication and guessed he might have been ‘meditating [him] mischief’.

Indeed Mitchell had decided to cruelly separate the mother and child and set off ahead with Turandurey’s daughter. Stapylton records Mitchell’s advice that ‘The Mother Jin stays with me [Stapylton] until I receive further directions respecting her’.

Mitchell writes of his arguably dubious rationalisation of the child’s abduction and separation a week later on 19 September.

When about to set out I observed that the widow ‘Turandurey’, who was to remain with Mr Stapylton’s party and the carts, was marked with white round the eyes (the natives’ fashion of mourning), and that the face of her child Ballandella was whitened also. This poor woman, who had cheerfully carried the child on her back, when we offered to carry both on the carts, and who was as careful and affectionate as any mother could be, had at length determined to entrust to me the care of this infant. I was gratified with such a proof of the mother’s confidence in us, but I should have been less willing to take charge of her child, had I not been aware of the wretched state of slavery to which native females are doomed. I felt additional interest in this poor child, from the circumstance of her having suffered so much by the accident, that befell her while with our party, and which had not prevented her from now preferring our mode of living so much, that I believe the mother at length despaired of being ever able to initiate her thoroughly in the mysteries of killing and eating snakes, lizards, rats and similar food. The widow had been long enough with us to be sensible, how much more her sex was respected by civilized men than savages, and, as I conceived, it was with such sentiments that she committed her child to my charge, under the immediate care, however, of Piper’s gin.

By the time Stapylton’s party including Turandurey re-entered Dja Dja Wurrung country near present day Lexton on 8 October, Mitchell’s advance party with her daughter Balandella in tow were approaching the Goulburn River north of Seymour. One can only guess at the likely heartbreak involved in this tragic separation as both mother and daughter mourned their separation. The brave explorer diaries are curiously both silent during the rest of the trip towards home.

The route home for both parties was something of a route march on a bearing of approximately 60 degrees magnetic. Their journey through the already densely populated, well watered and fertile volcanic country of the Dja Dja Wurrung in the upper Avoca and Loddon River catchments took them past Mount Greenock (near Talbot) into the Mammeloid Hills beyond Mount Beckworth and on to recross the Loddon River near present day Newstead.

Stapylton wrongly understood the Loddon to be a tributary of the Wimmera, but accurately described, then as now in the vicinity and downstream of Newstead, as:

A considerable stream … running between high rocky (grass) banks bare of timber forming a cavity for a river the size of the Murray. … The river frontage and the luxuriant flats on its banks and the splendid Downs to the South and Eastwards with the forest ground immediately adjoining would render in a most desirable spot for a grant [presumably for himself after the success of the expedition, which neither he nor Mitchell received].

Beyond Newstead the traverse towards present day Castlemaine took both parties over ‘a stoney barren range’ before crossing ‘a good stream running south [Campbells Creek] good forest hills and valleys’. Mitchell’s advance party found a way over the range through Expedition Pass past the southern end of Mount Alexander. They had time to take a southern detour beyond Dja Dja Wurrung country to climb and rename Mount Macedon, the ‘Mount Wentworth’ of Hume, though not marked as such on Hume’s map.

From Macedon’s summit Mitchell was again very surprised to see that the southern coast of the Port Phillip Colony was already being settled: there were white sails of ships at harbour on the north end of Port Phillip Bay. The embryonic settlement of ‘Batmania / Bearbrass’ that was renamed Melbourne a year later had again got under Mitchell’s radar.

Mitchell realised then that it was likely that  overstraiters would advance north into his fertile icon, Australia Felix from the southern coast even without news of his discovery. It was therefore timely for him to head straight home on a track largely identified by Hume and Hovell in 1824.

The back end to this tragic abduction

The next time the mother or daughter are mentioned in Stapylton’s diary is on 12 November when back in (squatter) settled country beyond the Murrumbidgee. He notes that ‘Turandurey has grown enormously fat which should speak well of the care we have taken of her & to the best on my recollection no improprieties with her as a female have ever taken place. She was married the night before to King Joey and she proceeds … to the Lachlan. The picaninny is kidnapped away to a station ten miles distant’.

Though he actually uses the term ‘kidnapping’ Stapylton seeks to distance himself from any responsibility for Turandurey’s evident pregnancy, adding, ‘With this I have nothing to do or much to say nor will I let those who projected this measure and carried it into execution be responsible to themselves and members of the public’.

In Mitchell’s later memoirs he obscures the reality of the abduction and his later action of separation, child stealing and dealing. Mitchell does not actually state that Turandurey ran away. Instead he wrote that ‘the widow was inclined to go back’ for she was ‘far beyond her own country’. He continues with an explanation that confirms that the mother, Turandurey knew all along of Mitchell’s wicked  intention to abduct her child.

I intended to put her on a more direct and safe way home after we should pass the heads of the Murrumbidgee on our return, I could not detain her longer than she wished …[She] seemed uneasy under an apprehension, that I wanted to deprive her of this child. I certainly had always been willing to take back with me to Sydney an aboriginal (sic) child, with the intention of ascertaining, what might be the effect of education upon one of that race. This little savage, who at first would prefer a snake or lizard to a piece of bread, had become so far civilised at length, as to prefer bread; and it began to cry bitterly on leaving us.

For Mitchell, this abominable act that was played out over six months was capped off by this dreadful, cruel and primitive social experiment. Mitchell records that he ‘took the little picaninny’ to Sydney and ‘introduced her to his home’.

Mitchell gushed that Balandella ‘was a welcome stranger to my children, among whom she remained, and seemed to adopt the habits of domestic life … con amore’, an Italian expression meaning ‘with love, tender enthusiasm or zeal’.

Nevertheless Mitchell soon tired of the experiment and palmed Balandella off to a ‘Dr Charles Nicholson’ when he and his family returned to England on 9 May 1837. There, Thomas Mitchell waited for the accolades to flow in and wrote and published his heroic opus about finding a new and happy land Australia Felix, ripe for the taking. There is no mention of her again by Mitchell.

Major Mitchell is seldom remembered for any of the above. Instead he is comprehensively lionised and commemorated by means of countless monuments in the Australian landscape along with several peaks and a high Plateau in the Grampians. A well known Australia cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri) and a lesser known rodent, Mitchell’s Hopping Mouse (Notomys mitchellii, the latter currently ironically thteatened by habitat destruction associated with European settlement in Australia, also takes his name.

Angus McMillan also named the Mitchell River in Victoria in Mitchell’s honour in 1839. McMillan went on to lead many well-documented massacres of Kurnai people in Gippsland between 1840-1845. The former electorate of McMillan named in McMillan’s honour was therefore renamed ‘Monash’ in 2018. It is never too late to remove inappropriate names. The community consultation process seeking to remove the racist Creek name ‘Jim Crow’  is underway in 2020.

Balandella later ‘fell into service’ (= became a domestic slave) as a nurse to Nicholson family members, had a daughter to a labourer in 1846, and afterwards married an Aboriginal (Darkinjung, South Coast NSW) man, John Barber in the late 1840s. Some of her descendants are still living in the Hawkesbury area.

Ballendella is a tiny rural locality near Rochester in Victoria that likely takes its name from Ballandella. Her mother Turandurey is acknowledged by one street name in Balranald, NSW and a remote surveyed locality in the County of Lowan in the western Wimmera. John Piper was rewarded for his contribution with ‘certain material possessions’. Mitchell later got a Knighthood, while Piper got a brass plate inscribed ‘John Piper, Conqueror of the Interior’.

Stapylton is acknowledged in the landscape he surveyed with a Gold Coast suburb and several mountains (one near Brisbane and another in the Grampians). He was was fatally speared by Aborigines almost five years later on 31 May 1840 while surveying in the vicinity of the Border Loop on the present New South Wales Queensland border. Two of the perpetrators, who were effectively resisting the survey and acquisition of their lands, were hung in Brisbane in July 1841.

When anyone drives around northern and western Victoria in Dja Dja Wurrung country and sees the prominent stone Major Mitchell monuments with their brass arrows pointing to the way the Major went, it would be well to remember that Mitchell was also a self confessed Aboriginal child stealer. Mitchell was also officially sanctioned for his unnecessary dispersion (massacre) of Aborigines during this same expedition on the Murray.

State-sanctioned Aboriginal child stealing and domestic slavery continued in Australia for another 150 years until the 2008 National Apology to the many Stolen Generations. Few people in 2020 know that Kitty or John Piper, along with Turanduray and Balandella  also passed through this country.

The long tail of dispossession in Australia: Captains John and Robert Hepburn

 The long tail of colonialism in Australia: 

An interrogation of the family histories of two former Scottish sea Captains: Robert & John Hepburn

Barry Golding b.golding@federation.edu.au & Robert Hine

5 April 2020 

Introduction 

What follows is our collaborative attempt to connect some complex family histories leading to Robert Hine (born in 1971) who lives in present day Tasmania. Our account illustrates how family histories become entwined with broader, often complex international and social trends, in this case with the long-term impact of slavery, colonialism and First Nations dispossession on two Hepburn family members who migrated from Scotland to become squatters on Aboriginal lands in Australia by the mid 1800s.

Our intention is to illustrate that Australian people have complex histories and multicultural heritages, in this case involving a West African slave on a Jamaican sugar plantation, Aboriginal Tasmanians, Van Diemen’s Land convicts, a Scottish folk hero and outlaw, as well as Scottish and English free settlers.

Some of the key individuals in our story include Captain John Hepburn (1803-1860), after whom the Hepburn Shire in Victoria, Australia (where Barry Golding lives) is named, and a cousin and also former sea Captain, Robert Hepburn born in 1782, around two decades before John and almost two centuries before Robert Hine. Our story and the family connections go back to Scotland, Africa and Jamaica in the 1700s, and unfold in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL, now Tasmania) during the 1800s.

This is our work in progress. We have drawn on a wide range of primary and secondary sources as well as oral histories, all of which are prone to error and inaccuracy. In Robert Hine’s words:

It is difficult to discover the true line of descent from family records and oral histories available today. Online ancestry sites can be inaccurate. There is also the possibility of some inbreeding in the original Jackson/ Pearce/ Hepburn line, and it is possible that some original documentation has been changed or substituted for close or fabricated records. We look forward to advice on what we’ve got wrong and what is missing.

 How this blog came about

Barry Golding has previously written about John Hepburn in his ‘Beyond Contact’ page on www.barrygoannna.com. He was prompted to research and write about Captain Robert William Hepburn by an unsolicited but welcome email on 8 February 2020 from Robert Hine. Robert’s email to Barry read:

Hi mate, haven’t read your [Beyond Contact blog] story yet, I will, but I just wanted to let you know I am a direct descendant of Captain Robert William Hepburn and his Daughter / granddaughter Jacobene or Jacobina. ‘Bene’ is what she went by. Married name Pearce. … I am Aboriginal through Jacobene’s daughter. I live in Hobart and while I can’t give you all the answers, as much history has been destroyed, I might be able to help you with stories passed down.

A follow up email from Robert Hine included a photograph of himself as a child, above, and a striking photograph, below, of Captain Robert Hepburn, that does not correspond to Lucille Quinlan’s claim of an unmistakable and persistent Hepburn family stereotype, ‘fair of complexion and blue-eyed, with hair that tends to wave crisply about the temples’, that appears in the opening paragraph of her 1967 book, Here my Home: The life and times of John Stuart Hepburn 1803-1860, master mariner, overlander, founder of Smeaton Hill, Victoria’about Robert’s cousin.

Background to John & Robert Hepburn’s Scottish ancestors

Lucille Quinlan’s book starts by painting a picture of ‘The Hepburn’s of Smeaton, Australia’ as descending from a long line of Hepburn’s of exalted calibres, including Scottish military heroes and lairds on huge estates. In fact the Australian Captain John Hepburn was the son of a Thomas Hepburn (1778-1857) a poor fisherman. John Hepburn’s reflected on his life age at 50, describing himself as ‘a mere adventurer cast upon the world since I was thirteen years old. For want of education, my progress was slow’.

John’s mother, Alison Stewart died when John was age four. It was John Hepburn who paid for his father’s tombstone in the Whitekirk, Scotland burial ground, curiously without his mother’s name but with the name of Agnes Whitecross, Thomas’ second wife. One of John’s much younger stepbrothers, Benjamin Hepburn (1826-88) emigrated from Scotland as a 23 year old to join John on the Smeaton Hill run in Australia.

When one puts ‘Smeaton Hepburn’ into a Google search in 2020, the’ Smeaton Nursery Gardens & Tearoom’ is one of the first listings.  The gardens, on the site of the likely former ‘Smyrton’ castle and later Smeaton Manor and Estate in East Lothian in Scotland, remains a working farm of 450 acres set in the Scottish countryside.

Prominent amongst the other ‘Smeaton Hepburn’ Google listings is the ‘Castles of Scotland’ website. It records that on the Hepburn Smeaton lands in the 1500s:

Adam Hepburn of Smeaton [was] supported [by] Mary Queen of Scots, and fought at the Battle of Langside in 1568, and is mentioned in a Summons of treason in 1567. Master Patrick Hepburn of Smeaton was a magistrate for the burgh of Haddington, and on a commission. … John Hepburn of Smeaton [in the 1640s] … was appointed as commissioner of the committee for purging the army within East Lothian. In 1661 Patrick Hepburn of Smeaton, Francis Hepburn of Beanston, and others, were on a commission for judging of Janet Hogg, spouse to George Harlaw in Linton, ‘guilty of the abominable crime of witchcraft’.

The original expansive Hepburn property in Smeaton, East Lothian passed by marriage to the Buchan’s when Elizabeth Hepburn, heiress of Patrick Hepburn of Smeaton, married George Buchan of Letham and the family took the name ‘Buchan-Hepburn’ from 1764. Their son, Sir George Buchan Hepburn, built the mansion in the 1790s. He was a lawyer and baron of the exchequer, and was made a baronet in 1815, four years before he died. Sir Thomas Hepburn-Buchan, 3rd baronet, was Conservative MP for Haddingtonshire from 1838-1847. The family held the property until 1934 when it was sold to the present owners, the Grays.

The very extended and dispersed family that Robert and John Hepburn were born into in the late 1700’s and the early 19th Century respectively had fallen on much harder times than this landed, privileged and knighted offshoot of the Hepburn family. In Lucille Quinlan’s words:

With the conquest of Scotland and England, the Hepburn fortunes declined. Then followed the agrarian and industrial revolutions and the long wars against Napoleon, with all their far reaching social consequences. The clan increased in spite of diminishing fortunes, so that more of the Hepburn’s were driven into renting small farms from richer cousins, or working at humble occupations in the villages around.

Both Robert and John Hepburn found a way out of the likely very limited local employment opportunities and went to sea for a living, both becoming sea captains, and adopting the title ‘Captain’. Near where Barry Golding lives in 2020 John Hepburn’s nautical legacy lives in the Captains Creek winery, Captains Gully Road.

As we will learn later in our account, it was the lure of the sea that had led several of Robert’s (MacGregor and Hepburn) forebears into rising through the ranks to become ship captains, including in the West Indian slave trave and the Royal Navy. By the time Robert and John rose to the rank of ship captains, slavery and the slave trade in North America was beginning wane, the military conflicts on the Iberian (Spanish) Peninsula had cooled off, and the new colonies in Van Diemen’s Land and Port Phillip on the other side of the world required ships to service them. They also provided the opportunity for many former ship captains with adequate capital to give up a lonely life at sea, spend more time with their wives and children and ‘take up’ huge acreages never dreamed of in Scotland.

In both cases, the land in present day Tasmania and Victoria was ‘taken up’ directly, sometimes with force and violence, from Aboriginal people. These acts of dispossession, which are still known euphemistically as ‘settlement’, were sanctioned by the colonial government. For very good reasons, neither John nor Robert documented what role they or their ex-convict employees actually played in this dispossession.

Some of this background helps explain how John and Robert Hepburn’s separate trajectories led them both go to sea and to later emigrate from Scotland and ‘take up land’. However it did not account for Robert’s complexion that was far from Anglo.

Robert Hepburn’s family background

Barry Golding looked at Quinlan’s one paragraph mention of Robert (p.17), describing him as a cousin of John Hepburn’s from Fife. As yet we are unable to identify their actual relationship, but it is clear that the areas in which they spent their childhoods was a reasonable distance apart. Fife is a Scottish county north of the Firth of Forth: East Lothian is the county to the South of the Firth. By road the distance between where Robert was brought up and John’s birthplace is around 60 miles (100 km).

Robert had settled in Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) for one year before John Hepburn sailed the Diadem up the east coast of Tasmania in January 1829. Quinlan described Robert as:

… a man of some substance, with sufficient capital to work the land, he had obtained the maximum government grant of 2,000 acres, situated on St Pauls Plains. Later he obtained 500 acres more to open a whale fishery at Oyster Bay … [Robert Hepburn was] very much a Hepburn in temperament and attitudes … and a reputation for having quarrelled with his neighbours and estranged members of his own family.

An online search confirmed that the St Pauls Plains area that Robert Hepburn farmed after he arrived from Edinburgh with his wife and eight children in 1828 is in the eastern Tasmanian Midlands close to the present day small town of Avoca. Hepburn set up a whaling station in 1829 at the foot of ‘The Hazards’, a mountain range now located within the Freycinet National Park on Tasmania’s east coast.

The Oyster Bay whaling station grant to Hepburn in 1829 included nearby Picnic Island that he used as a breakwater for his boat. The Oyster Bay Aboriginal tribe before this dispossession had frequented the island for many thousands of years, travelling across from the mainland in barks canoes or swimming. Their shell middens on the Western end of the island still contain the remnants of countless shared meals of seal, birds, crayfish, abalone, oysters, and other shellfish. When the whales weren’t running, Robert Hepburn would set his convict labour to work mining sandstone from the island.

 Barry Golding was prompted to look back into Robert Hepburn’s ancestry. The first surprising detail was his birthplace in ‘Wilkins Estate, St Dorothy, Jamaica’ on 28 January 1782. When he searched further he discovered that Robert was the ‘illegitimate son of Mary Ann Roy’ and son of Captain William Hepburn, born in 1738 in Scotland and who died in Fifeshire, Scotland ‘without surviving legitimate sons’ from his marriage to Penelope Willikin Newell. However there is a record of a daughter of William and Penelope, Penelope Newell Hepburn, born 13 years before Robert on 28 October 1769, who lived to adulthood and was Robert Hepburn’s half sister.

It transpires that the ‘illegitimate Robert by Mary Ann Roy (who perhaps died shortly after his birth) was given the Hepburn surname and sent to Scotland to be raised by his grandmother [Mary Olipher Hepburn, 1705-92] the widow of the Reverend Patrick Hepburn [1701-72] and after her death in 1792, by an aunt.’ Given that Robert’s father’s family were from East Lothian, it seems likely that being brought up some distance away in Fife might have been a deliberate strategy, given the then shame of illegitimacy, heightened by the fact that his mother was a young black slave.

Further searching revealed that Robert Hepburn’s mother, Mary Ann Roy, was born in Jamaica in 1766, daughter of Gregor MacGregor and a Jamaican sugar plantation slave, Isabella Diabenti. The Roy surname appears to have been taken from MacGregor’s forebear, Rob Roy MacGregor, a Scottish outlaw (1671-1734) in the ‘Robin Hood’ mould who became a Scottish folk hero. Gregor MacGregor (c.1742-1799) was a ship’s captain in the West Indian slave trade and son of Ranald McGregor (1706-1786). Rob Roy MacGregor was in turn Ranald’s father and therefore a great grandfather of Robert Hepburn.

Isabella Diabenti, whose African origin appears to have been ‘Koromanti’ in present day Ghana, was thus Robert Hepburn’s grandmother. Mary Roy would have been age no more than sixteen years when she gave birth to Robert. Koromanti (derived from the name of the Ghanaian slave fort Fort Koramantine in Ghana) was the English name for enslaved people from the Akan ethnicity from the Gold Coast in modern Ghana. Jamaican sugar planters used the term ‘Koramanti’ to refer to slaves purchased from the Akan region of West Africa.

The preamble in Robert Hepburn’s will, below, refers mostly accurately but somewhat hyperbolically to his proud outlaw and slave lineage.

This is the last will and testament of me Robert Hepburn of Roys Hill in the district of Fingal, Tasmania, Esquire, lineal descendant of my Father, Captain [William] Hepburn, of the family of Hepburn of Keith, East Lothian, Scotland, and my Mother, Mary Ann Roy, Great Grandson of Rob Roy McGregor, and by my grandmother Isabella, Princess of Diabenti, lineal descendant of the King of that nation of the Gold Coast of Africa. I am prince of Diabenti, King of that nation of Africa.

Robert Hepburn’s descendants

Robert Hepburn married Jacobina Hosie (born in Scotland 3 July 1884) on 18 May 1805 in South Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland. Jacobina and Robert had nine children between 1806 and 1824, eight of whom survived to accompany their parents to VDL / Tasmania following Robert’s retirement from the Royal Navy on 13 March 1827. Robert had been the Captain of a ‘revenue cutter’. The US Revenue Cutter Service (USRCS) was set up by George Washington to collect customs and taxes and to prevent smuggling.

Robert Hine suggests he was related to Robert Hepburn through Robert’s daughter, Lillias Hepburn, born in Scotland on 7 May 1817 and who died in Brighton, Tasmania in 1913 at the age of 96. Lillias married convict Matthew Frederick Pearce and had a daughter Jacobina Elizabeth Pearce.  Convict records show that Pearce had been transported from Liverpool, England, arriving in VDL on 14 January 1842.

Jacobena Elizabeth Pearce married William Isaac. Jacobena had a daughter, Mary Thelma Eliza Jackson born 23 Dec 1865. It seems that Mary’s biological father was not Isaac, but Captain George William Jackson who then worked then the prison orphanage. Not a lot is known about Jackson’s early life aside from being the son of Major J. S. Jackson, barrack master in Sydney who came to NSW in February 1823 in the Cumberland. In April 1831 George Jackson was appointed master of the cutter Charlotte, in which he made many voyages to the Aboriginal settlement at Wybalenna on Flinders Island. In September 1835 Jackson was appointed master of the Eliza, resigning to become a pilot in Sydney. There is evidence Jackson returned to Hobart from England in March 1846 in his wife and children. In 1846 Jackson was registered to the master and owner of the schooner Flinders.

Mary Jackson married William Joseph Bedford, son of Joseph Bedford and Sarah Briggs in 1886 in Pontville, Tasmania (As an aside, one of their six children was given the Christian names ‘Robert Hepburn’). Sarah Briggs (born in Victoria, 1865, died in Echuca, Victoria, 1890) appears to be the Aboriginal connection to present day (2020) Robert Hine.

Sarah Briggs’ grandmother, Wore-ter.moe. Te yen-ner (given the English name ‘Margaret’) was born (twin to Fanny) on 5 June 1843, the daughter of Mannalargenna of Plangermaireener Nation Pakana from Cape Portland, Tasmania. Sarah’s husband was Joseph Leonard Briggs, born approximately 1808. Many Victorian (Koorie) and Tasmanian Aboriginal (Palawa) people have Briggs ancestry.

The University of Tasmania website entry for Mannalargenna suggests he:

… was about 55 years old when he met [George] Robinson on 1 November 1830 on the Anson’s Plain, inland from the southern end of the Bay of Fires. His country was Tebrikunna, now known as Cape Portland, in the far northeast of Trouwunna and he was the leader of the Pairrebeenne clan. Mannalargenna had four daughters and two sons and he is a direct ancestor of the majority of Aboriginal people in Tasmania today. Robinson considered Mannalargenna as being of ‘superior intelligence’, and there is no doubt that he was revered as a formidable warrior and seer amongst his people. He was extremely fond of smearing himself all over with grease and red ochre and he maintained his long locks of hair and beard with this material.

After losing his first wife he married Tanleboneyer who was one of Robinson’s early guides. Mannalargenna and his wife accompanied Robinson on his journey around the island from 1831 to 1835. He did not conform to Robinson’s wish to wear clothes and remained in his preferred ochred and naked state until he died.

Born about 1775 Mannalargenna had lived half of his life in a world of uncontaminated cultural traditions and the other half he experienced the full impacts of the British invasion. On the arrival of Robinson’s vessel to Big Green Island in October 1835 Mannalargenna cut the physical symbol of his role and status – his long ochred hair and beard. This seems to have been a final act in the face of his loss of connections to country and traditional practice. In the face of a life of exile in what his people believed were the islands of the dead. Mannalargenna died at Wybalenna [Flinders Island] on 4 December 1835 … Robinson attributed Mannalargenna’s death to him cutting off his long ochred and greased hair and claimed that this sudden change had led to catching cold and catarrh. As a final act of insensitivity Robinson buried Mannalargenna’s body on the burial ground in a coffin and allowed his enemies to participate in the service.

Robert supplied the following information on his complex ancestry during the most recent century.

I was born 7 April 1971 in Townsville Hospital according to my Birth Certificate. I have been DNA tested with my father, due to adoptions in the Bedford family, and if I wore a wig I would be a dead spit for my mother when she was a child. My mother was known by the name Maree Susannah Atkins (born 28th November 1939 at the Hobart Fire Station). But her real name was Maurie Susannah and her twin sister was Nancy, both were born on the 28 October 1939. Mum was secretly adopted by her aunt, Vildred Phyllis May Bedford. Her twin sister was secretly adopted by her uncle, Claude Hepburn Bedford.

Their real mother, my genetic grandmother, was Nancy Bedford, born in 1922 to William Robert Hepburn Bedford. William Robert Hepburn Bedford’s World War 1 enlistment papers describe him as of dark complexion and he was discharged as ‘not likely to become an efficient soldier’. This discharge reason was common with many Aboriginal or part Aboriginal soldiers in WW1. I share the same Grandmother as Tasmania’s most eminent Aboriginal photographic artist (Professor) Wayne Quilliam and his brother, contemporary Aboriginal artist Mick Quilliam.

Robert has spent much of five decades painstakingly uncovering and exploring his genealogy and cultural heritage. Some of the Aboriginal detail remained under the government ‘radar’ for very good reasons during two hundred years of Stolen Generations. Loss of identity for many Aboriginal children was a deliberate government strategy which started in Tasmania with white settlement and dispossession in 1803, became endemic everywhere in white Australia, and was only formally acknowledged with the National Apology in 2008. Robert Hine regards this process of reclaiming identity for himself and family as being a critical plank in national reconciliation. Mick Quilliam wrote in the Indigenous Law Bulletin in 2011 that:

Just as I was influenced by my grandparents and parents, I encourage everyone to explore their cultural heritage regardless of race. Ultimately, it is us who shape and influence our children in future generations so their identity is not lost. Encourage your children to explore, understand and appreciate their cultural background – be proud of who you are.

Robert Hine writes that:

I ran into Aboriginal Professors Marcia Langton (University of Melbourne) and Maggie Walters (University of Tasmania) at an Aboriginal shell necklace exhibition. I showed them a photo of my mother, standing with a group of other children. Both professors looked at each other and said, “That’s Cootamundra, your mother is a Stolen Gen child”.  Every time there was a family function, my adoptive grandmother, who I still regard as my grandmother, would say over and over again, “If anyone asks you why you have darker skin than them, tell them you are part Indian”. This was drilled into us. Perhaps it was due to my mum being taken, or due to the fact they were still taking children up until 1975 in Tasmania. The photo on the left, below, is my mother’s aunt to whom she was adopted, Vildred Phyllis May Bedford. The photo on the right below is my real (genetic) grandmother, Nancy Bedford.

In summary

Robert Hine’s ancestry, from our account, includes English, Scottish (Hepburn & Macgregor), African, English convict and Palawa (Aboriginal Tasmanian) connections and several adoptions.

Our account illustrates how revealing the truth about sometimes hidden or denied parts of our ancestry can help explain to our families and children who we are, where we come from, and what shaped the difficult decisions our very diverse forebears made. It is also, for Aboriginal and other Australians, an important and essential prerequisite to mutual understanding and national reconciliation. This is our intention for sharing this blog more widely with others.

 

How will the COVID-19 pandemic play out?

I was recently asked by Mark Winston, CEO of US Men’s Sheds Association to give my opinion as to ‘How will it [the COVID19 Pandemic] play out?’ it was a good question to focus my mind on this cold and wet autumn Australian morning. What follows is an elaboration on my brief personal response to Mark. It was published on 5 April 2020 but updated on 13 April as the situation across the US rapidly worsened.

But first, for essential balance amongst the challenging  ‘horseman of the apocalypse’  times  globally there is some  good news and positive observations from here in rural northern Victoria. Australia appears by 13 April to have flattened the curve.

The early April 2020 rain had led to a serious autumn soaking of the bush, paddocks and also our garden. We are still picking the last of the summer crop, have abundant and diverse tomatoes, quinces, Jerusalem artichokes (below) and carrots. We are still picking  zucchini, french beans, sweet corn, silver beet, beetroot, parsnips, onion, basil and grapes.

What is in excess we share. Foraging in the bush and on local roadsides has turned up blackberries, pine mushrooms, apples, pears and pyrethrum daisies (below).

Yesterday I planted some of the over winter garden vegetables: garlic, broad beans, kale and cabbage, and a few vegetables that will thrive well into autumn: lettuce, radish and coriander.

Having our daughter home whilst grounded internationally by the current crisis is a beautiful, unplanned  bonus. Daily food becomes something we can all enjoy and celebrate, albeit in restricted social isolation.  Riding  my bicycle in splendid isolation on deserted rural roads and walking in the bush and deserted rural countryside remains a safe, celebratory and therapeutic possibility.

Car outings are restricted to essential shopping and medical appointments and social distancing and hand washing become important. Meetings have been replaced by on line forums, email and phone.

I took a photograph in earl April,  below) of the Daylesford main street (20km from home) in mid week of the school holidays.

It has not looked as bare as this since I arrived in Daylesford in the mid 1970s. Most shops are closed aside for food and essential services, and for the first time in many decades there are absolutely no tourists in sight.

At home in Kingston there has been lots of bread making, baking, preserving and heaps of dehydrating (all varieties of fruit leather, plus apples, figs, mango, banana, paw paw, pineapple and tomatoes). A home made quince liquor will be ready a few months down the track and a roadside blackberry liquor made with some of my otherwise barely drinkable homemade 2009 pinot wine with added vodka is already a great nightcap.

In summary. as retirees beyond paid work who own our own home, have a shed full of wood for the winter and food in the garden and preserved, we are OK. Yes, our superannuation will have taken a very big hit ( I have deliberately  decided not to look and check), but at least we have some.m

Many people in Australia and around the world have no cash reserves, are living in close proximity to others, have no home, fiscal buffer or income, often combined with underlying chronic physical and mental health problems and sometimes huge debts. In theory as a 70 plus year old I am theoretically in a high risk category, In practice, my real concerns are with and for others.

In the big scheme of things we are infinitely more privileged as individuals, as a family and as Australians generally than the vast majority of people in  the world. We debated over dinner last week as to how we should feel about this privilege and whether it should include guilt and shame. In this rural area we have very good nearby medical facilities, excellent mobility, communications, government services, energy, a reliable supply of food and a relatively caring and sharing community, family and friends. The last three are what matters most in adversity.

My response to Mark’s big question at the top of this blog was that I guess everywhere in the world will be affected and transformed differently, but everywhere its effect and our response to it  will necessarily be from the bottom up. How fast the virus spreads is up to us, dependent also on the commitment of resources and expertise available for testing and tracing those infected, and on government policies about movement and lockdown.  Those regions, families, peoples, nations and communities already wracked by inequality, poverty and conflict will suffer most. There will be many deaths perhaps in the tens of millions, much misery and suffering, and a very long tail of recovery involving people, community and economies. All of this is a tragedy.
We will need to learn heaps of important lessons about our interconnectedness and the need to act more in the common and community good. The recent bushfire crisis in Australia brought some of this home to Australians and the world, that we are already in a climate crisis together.
As an adult educator, I sense we will learn heaps of hard lessons from this dreadful and challenging experience.
Each nation is tackling the response to the crisis differently, and the shape of the curve that tracks infections and deaths mirrors these different responses. We would do well to look carefully at these trends and learn from them.
I sense there was a longer period of denial and hesitation to act in a timely and appropriate way in some countries at the top, most particularly in the US,. This pandemic can only be solved in the long term by evidence and science. The anti-science stance of the US  President, combined with  his shambolic national response to the evidence of its spread and it’s deadly nature for older and health compromised groups had by 13 April led to the virus to become rampant and deadly right across the  US.

The Guardian article on 13 April 2020  by journalist, Ariel Dorfman notes his earlier warnings about the dangers of Donald Trump’s attack on science in 2017. Now Dorfman says that ‘even those dire predictions did not go far enough as the president’s response to Covid-19 begins to play out’ in the US:

Today’s chaotic and bumbling response to this emergency [in the US] is no accident, but deeply rooted and systemic, the direct result of a pattern of callow benightedness that verges on the criminal and that goes back to the very start of Trump’s regime, embedded in the very recalcitrant anti-intellectual DNA of this president and his followers.

If, back in October of 2017, Trump seemed a remote, albeit inadvertent, disciple of the fascist general who shouted “Long live death!” all those decades ago as democracy was being destroyed in Spain, today I see him as someone far more terrifying: the personification of one of the horsemen of the apocalypse, the one riding the white horse of pestilence.

I can only hope  that the wisdom and expertise of health experts and other levels of government in the US and other nations will hold us in reasonable stead over the long haul. In some other countries including the US and Brazil, health experts are publicly contradicting their Presidents to try and minimise the infection rates and flatten the deadly curve.  Without a vaccine this global pandemic will exercise its deadly will on its own timeline, with the peak reduced and the curve flattened  if people and governments are responsible and rational and learn from the early mistakes.
Given my particular interest and expertise in older men’s well being. many older, isolated men in the Men’s Shed demographic will be impacted very severely. Men’s Sheds everywhere are now totally locked down
These are incredibly difficult times. I sense that worst is yet to come, including for peoples across Africa, Asia and South America as well as many countries and states in Europe, the Pacific and North America where poverty is endemic and some governments are in denial.
Business, economics  and work as usual are neither morally or economically rational, in my view. Our economy is built on trust and our environment on sustainability, which have both turned out to be more fragile than many of us had imagined. We live in a web of life, and in a global pandemic, can still get seriously entangled in the web of disease and death caused by a tiny, infectious, rampant virus.
I should stress in conclusion that none of us including me are experts in any of this. We are in relatively uncharted waters.
I do note that  this is not the first pandemic that has decimated people on the Australian continent aside from the Spanish flu. Smallpox was introduced  here by the colonial invaders and caused great suffering and huge loss of life in two pandemics from 1789  and the early decades of 1800s, particularly along the Murray-Darling river systems of inland Australia. By 1840 syphilis in the area I now live in was endemic and deadly amongst Dja Dja Wurrung women, introduced first by sealers and whalers and later by convicts, labourers and squatters. Other introduced diseases hitherto unknown in Australia including pneumonia, tuberculosis, whooping cough and diphtheria  have since caused huge mortality amongst First Nations people in Australia and many other areas of the ‘New World’ aside from the widespread murders, rape and violence associated with colonial conquest and dispossession.
I mention this because the descendants of those same First Nations peoples in Australia are in 2020 much more likely also to be prone to the current pandemic and on average have more limited resources or medical facilities to cope with its deadly onslaught.
Importantly all the best meantime to people and their families who chance to read this or choose to forward it on to others.
Thank goodness we have a democracy in Australia  where we are free to speak our minds and share it publicly in this way without the fear of persecution. Unlike in the US, we have national and state governments that have mounted a relatively swift, united, evidence based, humane and timely approach. Having a relatively well resourced, accessible, affordable  and equitable public health system in Australia is a huge bonus.

Reflections on one month holidaying in Iran

This is a reflection  on a recent one-month, self-organised holiday in Iran. When I decided to visit, the first question people asked is ‘Why on earth would you go there?’ Thus account was first written for (and published in) the PIMA Bulletin 26, September 2019.

In brief, it was a huge privilege to be so warmly welcomed as a visitor to such an interesting and important part of the world. It was mid summer and there were very few other Western tourists, but locals were universally keen to open their hearts, their minds and their country. While the official Australia government advice is ‘reconsider your need to travel’ it was for us totally safe on the ground as independent travellers.

I cried when I was so warmly and unconditionally welcomed as an outsider to go into a Friday Mosque within the ancient Tabriz Bazaar. Most of the fears about being Moslem in the world are totally irrational. We were welcomed more warmly and unconditionally than any outsider, particularly any Moslem, would be welcomed be Australia.

It was necessary to find ‘Plan Bs’ to get around the crippling US sanctions, re-imposed when the US government unilaterally walked away from the existing international agreement limiting nuclear activity. This involved making bookings through third party companies and countries, getting a local debit card, and accepting that several commonly used vectors of international communication and funds transfer would not be possible.

The negative press and irrational fear about Iran was at its height while we were there, with the US reportedly coming within ten minutes of launching a military attack in the Straits of Hormuz. Not wearing shorts, the need for women to wear a scarf in public, and the gender segregation of swimming in pools, are the main obvious necessary compromises for travellers. Iranian women can now do most things aside from being the President, a judge or ride a motorbike and attend a men’s football (soccer) match.

Iran as an Islamic Republic very dependent on fossil fuels is not without its problems, but in most respects it is a very safe, clean, modern, highly educated and literate society. Previous civilisations have removed most of the tree cover and many modern Iranian cities are severely drawing down the water table by pumping. The landscape has a stark beauty, from the extensive snow-covered mountains over 4,000 metres above sea level, to the extensive deserts and the small amount of forests along the Caspian Sea margin in the north.

The public transport systems (metro systems, airports, rail services) are very good despite the sanctions. In western terms everything is incredibly cheap, but the sanctions are biting harshly into its people and economy.

Bounded to the west by protracted military conflicts in Iraq, also to the east in Afghanistan, and to the south at enmity with some of the pro-American Gulf States, Iran sits in a geopolitically difficult context in 2019. It is still living the dreadful legacy of a horrific and pointless conflict with Iraq (1980-88) that ended with millions of deaths and stalemate. While it has little appetite for more military conflict, it has intervened to support several nations and peoples (rightly or wrongly) fighting other liberation struggles in North Africa and the Middle East. It is understandably concerned about being dragged unwittingly into other conflicts by the major powers.

The literary, technological, political and present day legacy of the achievements of the ancient and highly developed Zoroastrian civilizations and the Persian Empire are evident everywhere. This is a very proud country, whose main crime in the past century has been to stand up against provocation and attempts at regime change engineered largely outsiders, most recently including the US.

Of the many countries I have been to in the world, this is the country I have learnt the most from. I came away humbled by the warm welcome and the ongoing indignities its proud and patient people have been forced to endure, and are currently reliving. Iranians find themselves in 2019 in a very conflicted and contested geopolitical context, being forced to develop a national ‘learning and coping culture’ necessary to preserve and also transform their ancient traditions and modern civil society.

If you do go to Iran, and I encourage you to do so to see and learn for yourself, you will learn as much about the relative poverty and backwardness of many aspects of our own culture, lives and nations as you will about Iran. You will also learn to better accept, understand and appreciate religious and cultural difference, at home and abroad, rather than fear and dislike based around irrational fear and misinformation.

Reflecting back & looking forward: AONTAS (Ireland) & ALA (Australia)

Reflecting back & looking forward’:

Research completed in Ireland & in progress in Australia, October 2019

Barry Golding, b.golding@federation.edu.au

This post summarises research I recently undertook for the peak national Irish adult education body, AONTAS on the occasion of their 50th birthday celebrations. It also summarises  somewhat similar research in progress during 2019 for Adult Learning Australia (ALA), as part of ALA’s 60th birthday celebrations during 2020. A similar summary was published in the PIMA Bulletin 26, September 2019.

The completed AONTAS research in Ireland

Two years ago the peak adult education body in Ireland, AONTAS, as part of its 50 year celebration, put out a tender for someone to comb through their journal, The Adult Learner journal and antecedent Journals and write a history based on the evidence in the journal. I was attracted by the challenge of what I would learn as a consequence, not by the very modest amount they had allocated to undertake this huge task. To my surprise they liked the bid that I crafted with statistical wizard and old friend and colleague, Dr Jack Harvey. Our bid was leveraged off the partly quantitative methodology employed by Roger Harris and Sandra Morrison in their 50-year thematic study published in the Australian Journal of Adult Learning (Vol 50, Special Edition, pp.17-52) in 2011. Part of the method we used in crafting the narrative for our AONTAS research product was to consult key players to reflect back on their experience and cast forward.

Systematic analyses of past publications including journals combined with critical reflective narratives from key players are excellent opportunities for organisations to take a breath and critically look back as well as cast forward. Too often we look for solutions for recurring problems that our past actions have actually created (or worsened), without critically reflecting on what caused the problem in the first place.

A year later and my article was published as a peer reviewed article in the Adult Learner 2019  journal, see link. Its full reference is Golding, B. & Harvey, J. (2019). ’50 Years of AONTAS: Developments in the field of adult education in Ireland as reflected in the contents of The Adult Learner and its antecedent journals’, The Adult Learner, 2019, pp.21-56. The complete 2019 edition including our article is at: https://www.aontas.com/assets/resources/Adult-Learner-Journal/ALJ2019/15010_Aontas_Adult_Learner_2019_WEB.pdf

The in progress research for ALA in Australia

I approached Adult Learning Australia (ALA) early in 2019 with the idea of doing something similar to the above research for their 60th ‘Birthday Celebrations’ in 2020. Again it would be a very big job with 168 journals and 1,031 articles from 1,450 authors over 60 years. Again, it was leveraged in part on the Harris and Morrison (2011) 50-year study, but oriented more towards a history of how and why the national adult learning vision of the 1940s has to 2020 not been realised. While some Australian States took up the challenge and the national government wrote policies and published reports, there was no real commitment to implement a national system. The rest was plain hard work, with a long trail of policy and exhortation without funding or follow through. My aim is to produce an evidence-based research article for peer review and publication in the 2020 Australian Journal of Adult Learning (AJAL).

As part of the same 2020 ‘ALA turns 60: Looking back and casting forward’ project commissioned by ALA, I am also assembling a set of around 35  ‘Cameos’, edited by myself but constructed from contributions provided from a number of key players in adult learning in Australia and overseas, in response to 10 questions. These key players have been asked to provide critical, honest and succinct responses to the following questions.

1. Please add (below) your name and current title (to be included at the top of the Cameo):
2. Please summarise (below) your current affiliations or achievements associated with ACE and/or ALA:
3. Please summarise (below) your main past affiliations or achievements that are associated with ACE or ALA:
4. What do you regard as ALA’s most important achievements?
3. What do you regard as the main issues facing adult learners in diverse community settings in 2019?
4. Have you any suggested solutions to these adult learner issues?
5. What do you regard as the biggest current or future ‘hurdles’ facing ALA (or other peak national ACE organisations) in promoting ACE?
6. Have you any suggested solutions to these national peak body hurdles?
7. What do you regard as the main current or future ‘hurdles’ facing academic journals (such as AJAL) in the field of ACE?
8. Do you have any suggested solutions (below) to the hurdles facing ACE journals?
9. Please feel free to add (below) anything else you think is pertinent to ALA’s history or its 60th anniversary:
10. Please feel free to add anything else (below} you think is relevant that you’d like to see included in, or added to your Cameo.

The intention is for the Cameos, once in a form contributors agree with as ‘Final’, to be circulated (in part or in full) by ALA, such as by posting to the ALA website, and adding to ALA Quest newsletter or AJAL during 2020 as part of the ALA 60th Birthday Celebrations.

The Research Link to the Adult Learner  journal article:

Golding, B. & Harvey, J. (2019) ’50 Years of AONTAS: Developments in the field of adult education in Ireland as reflected in the contents of The Adult Learner and its antecedent journals’, The Adult Learner, 2019, pp.21-56, complete edition available at: https://www.aontas.com/assets/resources/Adult-Learner-Journal/ALJ2019/15010_Aontas_Adult_Learner_2019_WEB.pdf

Muriel’s Wedding

Muriel’s Wedding

Barry Golding

 Posted 21 Sept 2019

Preamble

As a young child born in 1970 and brought up in rural Donald, Victoria, Australia I was fascinated by my mother’s sister, my urban Auntie Muriel. I was particularly puzzled, given Muriel was single (at least as I long could recall as a young child), by her wedding photo. This why I have called this narrative ‘Muriel’s Wedding’, after the iconic Australian film of that name released in 1994, but more of that later.

I sent an earlier version of this document out to family members to ensure this was accurate and appropriate for wider circulation and my sister Judith Hastings generously added a few missing ‘pearl’s. I am posting this 99 years after Muriel’s was born (in 2020).

A century on, very few of Muriel’s former close friends or relatives are still alive, and I sense her story is worth telling for others to hear and learn from. There is much in here which will inform our children and grandchildren about the very different world in which I  grew up.

If there is anything in this narrative that is factually wrong, that requires correction or amendment, or that inappropriately violates confidentiality, I am responsible, so please let me know. While Muriel was a private person in life, I sense it is perhaps time to ‘come out’.

Context

Muriel ticked lots of fascinating and different boxes that took me a long time to understand and connect just some of the many threads. This narrative is my attempt to celebrate and do justice to just a little of Muriel’s life seven years after her death in Donald, Victoria on 22 September 2012 age 92. If Muriel were born today she would likely have had many more opportunities to publicly express and explore her many differences across her lifetime.

My account consists of my personal recollections augmented from recollections from my elder sister, Judy Hastings, buttressed by documentary evidence. Only a small amount of Muriel’s records survived her last tumultuous decade, including those that were recovered in a flood-damaged and smelly state by my sister, Judy Hastings. Muriel and my mother Joan were forced out of the Goodwin Village aged care home by the unprecedented Richardson River flood in Donald during January 2011. Some other family and war records that inform this account were found via online searches as well as via www.ancestry.com.au.

What Muriel squeezed into the first 80 years of her life, as this narrative seeks to document, is truly remarkable. Between 1970 and 2000, aged between 50 and 80, Muriel and her dear, lifelong friend, Beryl Braddock, undertook at least fifteen extended international trips and many more interstate trips.

In her final decade Muriel separated from Beryl, sold up their shared double storey home at 11 Lucerne Crescent in Karingal, Frankston, lived on her own in successive rental properties in Ballarat, In her ‘Fourth Age’ of dependence reluctantly went into the Goodwin Homes, a comprehensive aged care complex in Donald. When Mue and Mum got flooded out of there in January 2011, they experienced a difficult and prolonged relocation to the ‘Dunmunkle Lodge’ aged care home in Minyip until the flood damaged Donald facility was repaired.

In her final days Muriel sat quietly in the Goodwin Homes, silently fuming as carers read her the international news in the papers, including about Paris, assuming that this old lady had no idea where it was. In fact Mue had been to Paris at least five times.

Daughter of Mary and Ralph Lane

Muriel was born in Marrickville, New South Wales on 16 July 1920, the eldest of three children, including my late mother (Joan, born 12 Feb 1922, died 5 April 2011) and my late uncle, Ralph Lane (junior). There is a wonderful photo of Mue and Joan as children, both with snowy white hair with their mother Mary Lane, my Nana. Much of Mue’s early childhood was spent in Sydney, where her father’s ships returned to dock including at Garden Island Naval Dockyard in Sydney Harbour.

Mue and Joan were to spend much of their childhood and adolescence on the move between multiple schools in Sydney and on the Mornington Peninsula, and also with an absent naval father. Pa (Ralph) Lane, also called ‘Snowy’ as on account of his blond hair as a child, spent his entire working life of 50 years in the Royal Australian Navy, much of it away at sea including a dozen years at war.

Born in East Ham, England, part of Greater London, on 21 August 1897, Ralph signed up as a ‘Boy 2ndClass’ on 1 June 1912, initially serving on HMAS Tingara, a three-masted clipper ship propelled solely by ‘two acres of canvas’. Launched and operated as the Sobraonafter plying the Australia – UK cargo and passenger route for many years, it was purchased by the Commonwealth Government and fitted out as a boy’s training ship, to become permanently moored in Rose Bay until decommissioned in 1927.

Ralph served on ships in and beyond both World Wars, for 30 years between 1915 and 1945 as a ‘telegraphist’, manually sending and decoding messages sent in Morse Code. During World War 1 he served on the battle cruisers Australia, New Zealandand Indomitable. He was also present at the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow in 1918.

In World War 2 he served on the HMASCanberra, Australia, Hobartand Shropshire. He took part in the ‘Battle of the Coral Sea’, 4-8 May 1942 as well as ten other major naval battles in the Pacific. I recall him being farewelled on discharge from the Royal Australian Navy as a Lieutenant Commander on 3 April 1956, six months before the Summer Olympic Games in Melbourne. Of the first 500 boys enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy (formally created only one year before in July 1911), Ralph (called ‘Jerry’ by his fellow seamen) was the last serving member. His long and valuable military service was acknowledged in 1951 by an M.B.E. (Member of the British Empire).

Some of Ralph’s post war years were based at the HMAS Cerberusnaval base in Crib Point on Westernport Bay, training many other communications sailors. The Frankston area was therefore the logical Lane family base and became Mue’s home for most of her life, aside from her early years in Sydney and her later years in Ballarat and Donald. The first house Judy and I remember was ‘4 Cranbourne Road, Frankston’ backing onto the train line to Crib Point. Later it was at ‘23 Kelso Street, Frankston.’

In his spare time ‘Jerry’ was active in the Frankston Yacht Club, a passion taken up strongly for a time also by his son Ralph and also Muriel. At one stage Mary and Mrs Glowery (the wife of a naval colleague of Pa Lane’s) ran a part time tea and sandwiches shop in the then ‘Log Cabin’ near the Frankston Pier.  In later life both Nana and Pa Lane became passionate croquet and lawn bowls players respectively.

My childhood recollections

My older sister, Judy and I used to go down to our grandparents in Frankston during summer school holidays to give our parents a break. Muriel then lived with her parents, Mary and Ralph Lane, and we slept in the same room as Muriel in the red brick house at 23 Kelso Street. Curiously for us as young kids, Mue had a different surname. ‘Sherwood’ was the surname Muriel retained until she died in 2012. While her death certificate states ‘divorced’, if Muriel was here she would dispute this.

As young kids we innocently asked lots of inappropriate questions including ‘Who is that man was in your wedding photo?’ and ‘Why aren’t you still together?’ The standard, defensive answer from both her and her mother, Mary, was that he was a no good drunk and the subject was quickly changed.

Muriel was incredibly generous to Judy and I as kids. She took us to the snow for my first time at Mount Donna Buang. She took us into the Sherbrooke Forest around Mount Dandenong to search for lyre bids. She tapped into my interest in rocks and fossils, generously taking me to Fossil Beach at Balcombe Bay near Mornington and also to scour the 5-6 million year old Loveniaand shark tooth-rich shoreline and cliff deposits in the Miocene Beaumaris Sandstone. We went panning for rubies and zircons in the table drains at ‘Foxey’s’ Hangout (on the corner of Balnarring and Tubbarubba roads on the Mornington Peninsula). We collected zeolite crystals from amygdaloidal cavities in the basalt on the cliffs at Cape Schanck.

Mue walked with us, talked with us and tapped deeply into our childhood interests. She played endless games of cricket with us in the back yard and on the beach. We stuck thousands of used matches on trays of various shapes and sizes in geometric patterns. She bought us bamboo ‘hula hoops’ when they were the craze from the late 1950s and ‘did the hula’ better than we did.  She organised bottle-collecting forays for Judy and I amongst the ti-tree on the Frankston foreshore. We got to keep the money from the sale of the bottles from the ‘bottle-o’ to buy sweets and ice creams.

At Frankston we first saw black and white TV (that only began in Melbourne 1956) and regularly watched GTV-9 ‘In Melbourne Tonight’, hosted by Graham Kennedy between 1957, with Bert Newton from 1959. We excitedly went to the Skye Road Drive-In Theatre and sat through one memorable, humungous thunderstorm. Judy and I both recall Mue calming our childhood fears by telling us that each thunderclap was God moving another piece of furniture. Mue was nominally Church of England but was definitely not a churchgoer.

It was all stodgy English food in the Lane household at Cranbourne Road and Kelso Street, all prepared by Nana. Given Pa spent much of his life at war with ‘the Japanese’, it never included anything remotely Asian. Mue could sort of cook for herself and make coffee but food preparation and entertaining for others was not up there as her main priorities. When they were together Beryl was the cook. They both enjoyed getting out (in Beryl’s case, ‘dressing up’ with full makeup) and also eating out.

We spent endless summers at the former Lane family owned ‘Bathing Box’ on the Frankston beach, swimming and hiring the plywood paddleboards, exploring the inky and grossly polluted Kananook Creek where it enters the bay. We watched people catch fish and dive off the Frankston pier. We walked the rocky shores to collect shells and worn coloured glass around Canadian Bay. We looked for Lyre Birds in Sherbrooke Forest, visited Stan and Anne Lucas’ apple orchard at Tyabb, visited her taxidermist friend Eileen at the Melbourne Museum, and sat and watched Muriel talk and smoke with her close Frankston friend, Marj Whykes in her rambling timber house on Skye Road, while us kids played under the cypress trees.

There were lots of things about Muriel that set her apart from other women I knew from my sheltered Rechabite Methodist upbringing in rural Donald. Mue was a chain smoker of cigarettes. She enjoyed a beer or shandy on a hot day with her father and sometimes a sherry before dinner. Before she turned grey she always had short-cropped, fair hair and almost always wore slacks. She was fiercely independent and there were no men in her life aside from her brother and father, both called Ralph. Like her young brother Ralph, she shared a passion for playingfootball.

This was around 75 years before Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs played their first women’s match (in June 2011) that kicked off the AFLW (Women’s) football league in 2016. There is a wonderful photo of Mue as a young woman age 26 in 1946 alongside the passionfruit vine at the then family home, ‘4 Cranbourne Road, Frankston’, wearing a Melbourne football jumper, long football socks and lace up football boots about to kick a football. She was excellent at kick-to-kick  well into her 40s. If only Mue had been around to play today for Melbourne in AFLW.

Ralph junior, born ten years after Muriel on 16 March 1930, died on 29 May 2014 was also a keen and talented footballer. He played 71 games as a ‘wingman’ for Melbourne in the VFL between 1951 and 1956, including in the winning 1956 Grand Final team, and later with suburban McKinnon in the Federal Football League, including three premierships between 1957-9. Muriel took me to several of these McKinnon matches, always loudly barracking with great passion for her brother and his team and abusing the other team and particularly the umpire. Mue kept following the football, barracking for Melbourne … and enjoying the ground passes that came her way … once Ralph become Ground Manager at the former VFL ground in suburban Waverley.

Mue was a bright, independent, engaged and worldly young woman in a world where women usually took second or no place. Her hobbies, appearance and dress would have marked her out in that era as what was then called a ‘tom boy’. She matriculated and was Dux of Frankston High School. She began training as a primary school teacher but quickly found she had little patience with what she called ‘snotty-nosed kids’.

Mue enjoyed sailing, mainly with the men, on Port Philip Bay. Judy and I recall she also enjoyed gardening, mowing the lawns at Kelso Street and tending the garden, particularly the camellias and hydrangea. Her serious hobby, which we as kids participated in, was collecting stamps. ‘First Day Covers’ were shared with other collectors from all over the world. I became aware through the ‘Gibbons World Stamp Catalogue’ and Mue’s many stamp albums of the world of valuable, old rare and misprinted stamps, stamps with watermarks, overprinting, perforations and curious postmarks.

This was my first window also into the many different countries around the world. Stamps were material evidence of how the national names had changed over time with the demise of the British and other colonial empires. In later life Mue gave it all up and disposed of her extensive album collections, but continued to collect stamps for many years including for my nephew, Lachlan Hastings.

During my childhood years Mue worked in the accounts branch of ‘Tas Pickett’, a former tobacco manufacturing and distribution company then located at 95 Lennox Street in Richmond. Nearby was the four-storey, red brick ‘Pelaco’ shirt factory, with its distinctive neon sign above. Mue would usually commute via train from Frankston to Richmond, packing a lunch that often consisted of baked bean sandwiches, leaving her car at the Frankston railway station car park. In the earliest of times I recall, the car was a green Morris Minor. Part of her remuneration package comprised the company cigarettes (for her) and tobacco (for Pa Lane’s ‘rollies’). When Muriel left the company she was thanked with an inscribed silver tray.

Later Mue worked in the back office of the ‘Safeway’ supermarket, still located in Balcombe Road, Mentone. Her job as a ‘comptometrist’ operator is now an obsolete profession. In the days (during the 1960s) prior to calculators, large companies employed people to run adding machines all day, checking the figures that would be entered in the General Ledger. The now extinct mechanical adding machines she used were called ‘comptometers’.

Mue loved reading. Books that my sister Judy recalls her reading were mainly the leather-bound English classics: Jane Austen, Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott, as well as books about military battles from World War 2. Like her father, she enjoyed doing crosswords and always kept a Dictionary, World Atlas and Thesaurus handy.

Muriel almost never wore a dress aside from the one in her wedding photo. There was always a battle between her and her sister (my mother) Joan when it came to her dressing ‘appropriately’ for formal family occasions like weddings. ‘Mue’ as we called her, was more at home in a boiler suit fixing the car. She treated her car like a child, lovingly changing the oil, servicing the engine and polishing the chrome and duco.

I recall at one stage she drove what I think was a ‘Nissan Bluebird’ and also a Nissan ‘Cedric’. Her choice of Nissan cars was in part dictated by family connections via Beryl. Beryl worked ‘pulling petrol’ and doing front of garage work at Jackie Proctor’s Motor Garage in Playne Street, Frankston. Jackie, a totally bald, safety obsessed, self promoting motoring enthusiast was the brother of her very good friend, Joy Proctor and was also the Frankston Nissan dealer.

During my early teens Beryl moved into ‘the sleepout’, a separate flat renovated by Pa Lane at the back of the family house at 23 Kelso Street in Frankston, joining the family for some meals. Ralph spent his retirement days sitting in his chair smoking and doing cryptic crosswords. He did not cope well with retired life out of the armed services in a house shared with two strong and independent women and a relatively flighty Beryl. Mary had run of the house, budget, children, family and kitchen for all of their married life and Pa was literally a duck out of naval water. Nana would growl and scowl, ‘Get out of my kichen!’ whenever anyone, including the husband she called ‘Jer’, ventured in.

If Muriel and Beryl had been around to be part of the same sex marriage debate and subsequent legislation their lives and life opportunities might have been very different. When I asked my mother about their relationship in my early 20s she asked me never to utter the ‘L word’ and insisted they were just close friends. The beautiful truth is that they loved and cared for each other deeply for decades and became inseparable lifelong friends in an era where nothing could be spoken about love outside of heterosexual marriage.

Pa escaped to and loved the solace of his backyard shed and vegetable garden, making and fixing stuff. He built us some wonderful wooden boats. Once the navy and recreational sailing were over he developed a strong loathing of the sea. He would spit in it every time we walked along the seashore, guaranteeing he might one day be encouraged to swim in it if it got over 100 degrees (Fahrenheit), but only on 30 February, a day that for some reason never came around.

Pa Lane gradually developed signs of dementia. The symptom I remember best was his habit of saying ‘Yesssss’ and smiling, regardless of the question that was posed. Muriel actively supported and acted as a staunch carer and advocate of both her parents through the final difficult decades of their shared later lives and the health issues they both faced with increasing dependency.

Pa’s lonely life in a dementia ward at Mont Park Military Rehabilitation Hospital came to an end when Mue got him moved to Seaford Nursing home so Mary and Ralph could be together. They died within three months of each other after celebrating their 60th Wedding Anniversary together.

When I went away to boarding school at Wesley College in the mid 1960s Muriel and Beryl would drive down from Frankston to meet me while I took day leave to visit Albert Park Lake. In 1966 I recall a memorable meeting at the then iconic ‘Rob’s Carousel Restaurant’ on the Lake next to the golf links. They were decked out in headscarves in Beryl’s low convertible sports car, perhaps a Datsun 1600 Roadster, an indelible image I now associate with the Thelma and Louise film. They took the then very revolutionary ‘drive up’ option, ordering their food from their convertible with a telephone similar to the typical speaker set up in the then very popular ‘drive-in theatres’.

Some Rob’s Restaurant patrons from the same era recall it as ‘the grooviest, funkiest thing in the 60’s when everyone else was being deadly serious … with swizzle sticks, fancy match books, saucy waitresses in leotards offset by patrons in grey cardigans and patent shoes.’ Rob’s (that opened in 1963) was the Hard Rock Café of the 1960s. It was reputedly revolting food in the revolving restaurant part, but we mainly drank thick shakes in the car. Muriel and Beryl, then in their 40s, were right up there amongst it all as I joined them as a self-conscious, clumsy, acned adolescent in my Wesley College school uniform.

Mue also kept contact with her nearby brother Ralph and his wife June (nee Kennedy), but particularly her nephew Chris (born 1957) and her nieces Elizabeth (known as ‘Libby’, born 1960) and Catherine (known as ‘Cathy’, born 1962), regularly visiting their family home in Bayview Road, Beaumaris. Similarly with Judy and Wayne’s children, Sean and Lachlan Hastings but it was less often that Mue came up to Donald. In part this was because Mue was often not on the same ‘wavelength’ as my father Jack and she was not afraid of vocally standing up for her sister, my mother, Joan. When Mum married and moved to Donald with Jack in the middle of a prolonged drought, Mue felt like it was like moving to the end of the flat, dry earth.

In the years I was at university, travelling interstate with Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band and moving to Daylesford in the mid 1980s, my trips down to Frankston and regular contact with Muriel dropped right away. In the same era my younger brother Peter (born 1955) spent much more time with my grandparents and also with Mue and Beryl.

Peter developed a close lifelong friendship with them both. In the decades that followed between 1970 and 2000 Muriel and Beryl winged away as often as they could, often swinging home via the Golding family home in Columbus, Ohio and later in El Paso, Texas. Mue maintained regular contact over many decades also with Peter’s first three Golding children (with first wife Martina: Sarah, Simon and Hannah, particularly when they were based in the US) as and well as with Aaron, Joan and Walter (with Diane).

It was much later in Muriel’s life that I go to know Muriel more comprehensively as an adult. Mue and Beryl purchased adjacent apartments at Seaford before moving to their shared house in Karingal after her parents died. Muriel nominally lived downstairs and Beryl lived upstairs.

My understanding is that Muriel was increasingly pressured, including by my mother, not to be in a position where she was responsible for Beryl beyond her 80s. What eventuated was that after around 50 years together they agreed to part ways and sell up their jointly owned home in Karingal.

Beryl moved back to Bundaberg in Queensland to ‘return to roots’ and be nearer to her family, particularly her niece Heather Smith and her extended family. Muriel moved into a rental property off Wendouree Parade in Ballarat. Despite this late, painful (and I consider an unnecessary and tragic) separation, Muriel and Beryl either fondly corresponded by post or rang each other almost every day. The letters from Beryl were always lovingly addressed to Muriel as ‘Dearest Madame’.

Mue’s choice of Ballarat was a compromise. It was around half way (in travel time) between Melbourne and Donald. At that stage Mue was still mobile and driving her own car, though many scratches and scrapes began to miraculously and spontaneously appear. Ballarat had a very good range of services including comprehensive health care. Mue accurately surmised that moving straight to Donald would be imposing on my mother’s ‘home patch’, and Joan was adamant she did not want to take on the full responsibility of looking after Muriel.

During her late 80s Muriel would poor scorn on what was then called ‘Wendouree Village’ (now Stockland) Shopping Centre where she spent lots of time wandering and window shopping with the support of her walking frame, saying there were ‘too many old people’ there. Mue gave up smoking in her 80s soon after she moved to Ballarat, but she was increasingly limited by a painful hip and shortness of breath. Mue enjoyed telling the story about her Ballarat doctor who asked, “How much exercise do you do?” replying, “I walk to the car, park outside the shop, go in, go out and walk back to car.”

Jan and I live at Kingston only 25 minutes drive out or Ballarat, and when Muriel moved to ‘8/464 Wendouree Parade, Lake Wendouree’ I was still working at the local university the other side of Ballarat at Mount Helen. It was relatively simple to swing by on the way home as need be, usually once a week, or for Muriel to drive out and pay us a visit. Jan also dropped in regularly when shopping in Ballarat and did important essential tasks for Mue. We developed something of a routine where I would have a beer and chat and do anything that needed doing around her house on the way home from work.  Sometimes Joan would drive down to stay with Muriel and we’d often have dinner at the Golden City Hotel.

Mue missed Beryl desperately. While she was still mobile I was able to organise several visits by Muriel to Bundaberg. It involved two flights to Bundaberg via Brisbane. I would pick her up and make sure she got safely to the airport gate. At the other end her niece, Heather, met her. The aged care home in Bundaberg cooperated by providing a fold up bed for Muriel.

Increasingly Mue had become limited in her mobility and by her late 80s her walking and driving range shrank. The crunch came when Muriel was approaching 90. Muriel had a fall in early 2010 that fractured her hip, forcing her to cancel her last visit to see Beryl. The doctor who operated on her hip advised that she would ‘not be able to live independently after her rehabilitation’.

The family checked out several aged care options before Mue decided, with some trepidation, to join her sister Joan already at the Goodwin Village in Donald. While the sisters were close in some ways they were both used to getting their own way and not always good at being social together in community settings. Muriel usually tended to bite her tongue, but Joan could be very and inappropriate and insensitive.

The move wasn’t easy or simple psychologically for either of them. Joan was showing several early signs of dementia and was becoming very ‘prickly’. Mum sometimes became jealous when her lifelong friends also became Muriel’s friends, but overall it worked out better than Mue going into an unknown home with strangers elsewhere. The disbursement of Mue’s furniture, car and other belongings in Ballarat was by contrast relatively simple. She sat on the seat of her walking frame and dispassionately pointed out with her stick where things should go: ‘bin, keep, recycle, donate to the Salvos’.

Muriel’s 90thBirthday was a celebratory purple patch in her later years. By that time on 16 July 2010 she was well settled into her own room in the Goodwin Homes, in a room well away from Joan, and it was time to party with friends. Muriel got dozens of cards wishing her well from extended family as well as lifelong and recent friends.

Joan’s card said, ‘Yes, 90’ and wished her a Happy Birthday and happy celebrations’. Beryl’s card from her niece, Heather and ‘Beebe’ was to ‘Our dearest and fondest Madame, on the very special occasion on this year’s special Birthday. One card for Muriel was signed by 18 of Joan’s Donald friends, many who were also in the Goodwin Homes.

Mue’s sister, my mother Joan, died the following year in April 2011. Joan had not been coping with the forced relocation to Minyip and was struggling with worsening symptoms of dementia. Mum became seriously ill around the time of the move back to Donald. She accurately vowed she was not returning again from the Donald Hospital to Minyip. Joan’s husband, my father Jack (John William Golding) had died unexpectedly in Ballarat nine years before (26 April 2002) from the poorly managed side effects of surgery after an operation for bowel cancer.

The evidence from Mue’s papers

Muriel had many lifelong friends whom she and her sister Joan socialised with on the beach at Frankston during and immediately after the Second World War (1939-45). There is a photo of Muriel and Joan Lane (later Golding) sitting on the boat ramp outside the family Bathing Box in Frankston with Joy Proctor (later Joy Osmond who later lived in Warracknabeal) and Marjorie Whykes. The unpowered former bathing box with its canvas changing room and cold shower was the first one on the left where the extension of Wells Street hit the coast, in 2019 close to the site of the ‘Waves on the Beach’ Restaurant.

There is another photo of my maternal grandfather, ‘Pa’ (Ralph) Lane beside the family ‘Dodge’ car with Thurza Barclay (who later lived at Mitiamo), whom Muriel still visited in Bendigo in her late 80s. ‘Thurza Jane Barclay’ was on the electoral roll in Frankston between 1949 and 1952.

One photo Muriel kept amongst the small number of personal mementos a photo of a ‘Major James, Kaitaichi, Japan’, in shorts, hat, rugby jumper and the then ubiquitous cigarette dated ‘October 1946’. The 34thAustralian Infantry Brigade was briefly stationed at Kaitaichi in Japan and was responsible for the Hiroshima Prefecture from early 1946. On 13 February 1946, Australian troops, the vanguard of a 37,000-strong British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF), disembarked at the war-devastated Japanese port city of Kure. Finding who Major James was remains a mystery.

In a small notes diary amongst Muriel’s papers was a tiny newspaper cutting that read:

LANE, on July 27th, 1978, at Carrum Private Hospital, Lt Comd Ralph Lane MBE, Royal Australian Navy (retired), devoted husband of the late Mary Lane, devoted father of Muriel, Joan and Ralph, loved father in law of June and Jack, dear pa of Judi and Wayne, Barry Peter and Tina, Christopher and Libby.

Muriel and Beryl’s first ‘round the world trip’ flying BOAC in 1970 lasted 14 weeks. Their trips overseas, mainly to the UK and Europe were generally made in the cooler winter months between March and September. Sometimes they booked organised tours but most of it was done the ‘old way’ before the internet by letter and phone. They travelled incredibly lightly with tiny backpacks. In Europe they often travelled on a Eurail Pass, frequently saving on accommodation by overnight journeys.

In 1973 they went via Dubai flying QANTAS and included a visit to then West Berlin. 1983 they flew Singapore Airlines and included visits to Greece (which they loved and returned to several memorable times), Turkey and Sri Lanka. Their 1987 trip flying ‘Thai International’ included Canada. In 1995 their overseas trip included Ireland and Switzerland.

Undaunted at the age of 80 (and in Beryl’s case. 82), their six week overseas trip in 2000 included an ‘Exotic’ European Tour which took in East Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria and London, travelling via the ‘Chunnel ‘to France and coming back via the US including Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and El Paso.

In between they travelled to many destinations within Australia mainly during winter up the Australian east coast, where they sometimes visited Beryl’s parents and other relatives in Bundaberg. Sometimes they holidayed with Mue’s parents who typically spent a few months each winter escaping the winter on the Queensland south coast at Tewantin.

With the passing of her one surviving parent in 1978 ,Muriel and Beryl were freed up to travel further and more often. In 1979 they spent seven months in Europe (including Greece again) and the UK. With her nephew Peter and family based permanently in the US  their travels increasingly included extended visits to them at in the US, at Columbus, Ohio and later at El Paso in Texas.

Amongst Mue’s papers were the many postcards Jan and I had sent to her when travelling, many with the overseas stamps removed for sending on to Lachlan Hastings. Several survived that we sent during 2011 to ‘Dunmunkle Lodge’ in Minyip from Dubai, Helsinki, Tallinn, Ireland, Glasgow, Nottingham, Samoa, Nottingham, Thessalonica and Athens as well as from Kakadu. Mue would look out and give Jan and I postcards decades old that they had kept as a memento of their extensive travels. Mue loved travel.

Mue kept regular and close contact with Tony and Margaret Mattin, Lane relatives from Wooten, Beds in England whom they visited the UK and who also visited Mue whenever they were in Australia.

Other strands in the story

 Beryl Braddock

 Beryl, often called ‘Beebe’ was Muriel’s lifelong close friend. ‘Beryl Alice May Braddock’ was around two years older than Muriel, born 6 February 1918. Her father was Joseph Braddock, in 1914 working with the Queensland Railways Department. Her mother’s maiden name was ‘Kate Helen Matilda Whittaker’. Beryl’s parents were married on 11 March 1914 at the Bundaberg Methodist Church. Beryl was a regular churchgoer and a supporter of church ‘fetes’ for much of her life.

Beryl’s maternal grandparents were ‘Mr and Mrs F. E. Whittaker’ of Dundowran near Hervey Bay. Joseph Braddock’s parents were also from Bundaberg. A photo of the Braddock’s double storey weatherboard family home, usually described as Queenslander’, was amongst Muriel’s files, located at 32 Maryborough Street, Bundaberg.

Jim Sherwood

Us kids never met Jim Sherwood, and no one talked about him. This account is all from records publicly available on line, in an attempt to belatedly paint a picture of his life including post ‘Muriel’s wedding’.

Muriel and Mum when pressed, referred to her former husband as ‘Jim’. James Vern Alf Sherwood was roughly the same age as Muriel, born 6 October 1920. His father was Ted Sherwood and his mother was Margaret Peterson. Margaret was listed as his next of kin during his time in the army, then living at 2 Julian Flats, Bronte. Muriel and Jim were married the same year I was born, 1950.

Jim’s Australian War Service Records confirm he enlisted age 21 on 17 December 1941 and attained the rank of Sergeant in the AIF before he was discharged on 13 March 1947. Half of his military service (580 days) was to postings overseas including to Bougainville between 1945-7.

I was surprised to find how relatively recently Jim actually died, on 21 June 1992 then age 72. The Electoral Roll gives some idea of where he lived and what he did for a living. In 1958 he was a ‘railwayman’ in North Sydney. In 1962 his address was ‘C/ Mrs V. Newman, ‘Surfside’, 2 Dundas St, Coogee’. By 1963 he was a ‘farm worker’ in Biloela in Queensland. By 1977 Jim was a ‘storeman’ in Eastlakes New South Wales.

Jim’s death notice in June 1992 revealed that his final address was ‘Bundanoon’ in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. The notice reveals he was, at the time of his death, the ‘brother of Veri, Margaret and Ted, loved uncle of Robert, Jim, Robyn James (deceased) and Anne’.

‘Jim Crow Creek’ Information

Brief overview of evidence about the name ‘Jim Crow’ Creek

Professor Barry Golding AM

 b.golding@federation.edu.au

This is a very brief summary of what we know from the historical record about the origins and racist connotations associated with the naming of ‘Jim Crow Creek’ in the Central Goldfields of Victoria during the early 1840s.

A longer version with sources is also available by following this link, JemCrowAugustBG2019

I have added these documents to help inform the public about how our ‘Jim Crow Creek’ got its name, and to provide evidence that I believe argues for a process leading to a future name restoration.

Our local traditional owners, the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Nation, have requested that the offensive and racist name be changed for this significant, life-giving feature of their generously shared traditional lands.

‘Jim Crow Creek’ is a 26km long ephemeral creek, draining 123 square km of country, formed by the confluence of Sailors Creek and Spring Creek at Breakneck Gorge in Hepburn Regional Park, two kilometers north-west of Hepburn. A Streamside Reserve near Franklinford also shares the same name.

The creek flows in a northerly direction from steep, forested gullies to undulating grazing land and alluvial flats where it enters the Loddon River below the Guildford Plateau at Strangways, 8 km downstream of Guildford. As with other significant features in the local landscape, it had a previous Dja Dja Wurrung name.

The name ‘Jim Crow’ was likely first given to the mountain (previously known as Lalgambook,now called Mount Franklin) by squatter John Hepburn (or less likely Alexander Mollison) after April 1838. Its crater and the areas around it was also called Larnebarramul(literally ‘nest of the Emu’).

Later the creek, district, goldfield and, at times, the Aboriginal Protectorate, ‘Tribe’ and individual Aboriginal people were also called ‘Jim Crow’.

Part of Mollison’s run was called ‘Jumcra’ from 1840, on land that later become the Loddon (Mount Franklin) Aboriginal Protectorate from 1841.

Edward Parker, local ‘Protector of Aborigines’ used the term ‘Jim Crow’ Hill when referring to the mountain in his 22 September 1839 report.

‘Jim Crow’ was a widely used and racist, derogatory term used to describe black, mostly enslaved people in America in the 1830s.

A popular and catchy song ‘Jump Jim Crow’, sung in the 1830s by a black-faced US white minstrel negatively caricatured a clumsy, dim-witted slave. It became a huge hit with audiences worldwide.

An English poem similarly adopted and disseminated the US ‘Jim Crow’ theme to the British and colonial public from 1837. Called ‘The Jackdaw of Rheims’, it created a modern fable about how the crow (jackdaw) got its name ‘Jem Crow’. Again, the main character is a persecuted and dishevelled black crow.

The second last line of poem, above, makes clear, that empires, invaders and conquerors routinely bestowed new names on old geographical features.

George Robinson, ‘Chief Protector of Aborigines’ diary (14 Feb, 1840) noted ‘… a hill Mr Hepburn calls Jem Crow … on account of the small hollows about it’.

John Hepburn was previously a widely travelled international sea captain, including to the US. Like Mollison, by 1840 he would have been well aware of its racist connotations and familiar with both the popular song and poem.

The Jim Crow character in the song transferred to the now repealed ‘Jim Crow Laws’ that became part of several US state constitutions. The Jim Crow Lawsmandated the segregation of public schools, public places, public transportation, the segregation of toilets, restaurants, and drinking fountains for whites and blacks, in place from 1877 to the 1950s in the US. Understandably, in 2019 use of the term ‘Jim Crow’ is very offensive in the US.

The name of a former ‘Jim Crow Mountain’ and National Park near Rockhampton in Queensland was legally restored to Bagain Queensland in 2018 in collaboration with the Darumbal Aboriginal people and the local community.

There are other instances in Australia where similarly racist and offensive place names, such as ‘Nigger Creek’ have been officially expunged in consultation with the community and traditional owners as part of Indigenous reconciliation.

The Hepburn Shire and Mount Alexander Shire are actively engaged and supportive, with the traditional owners, in initiating a Reconciliation process to lead towards restoration of a more appropriate Dja Dja Wurrung name for the Jim Crow Creek.

‘Reading the Country at Contact’, Basic NAIDOC Tour Notes, 26 May 2019

Grounded in Truth: ‘Reading the Country at Contact’ Tour

Hepburn Shire Reconciliation Action Plan  (RAP) Tour Notes

A National Reconciliation Week 2019 Activity

Sunday 26 May 2019, 8.45am-4pm

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia. At the heart of reconciliation is the relationship between the broader Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. To foster positive race relations, our relationship must be grounded in a foundation of truth.

Join Adjunct Professor Barry Golding, and Dja Dja Wurrung Elder, Uncle Ricky Nelson for this one-day bus tour.

This tour invites you to experience a range of important sites in the Dja Dja Wurrung landscape where there is evidence of contact from the late 1830s between the peoples of the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Nation and the invading pastoralists, including John Hepburn, after whom the Shire is named.

There are seven stops, some as short as 20 minutes total time off the bus, so please follow instructions on the day to unsure we get to see all we planned. Most of our stops are on roadsides. To remain safe, please stay on the LEFT side of the road off the bitumen at each of these stops

ARRANGEMENTS: Registered participants will meet outside Daylesford Secondary College, Smith Street, Daylesford at 8.45am for departure no later than 9.00am. There is safe car parking outside the school. These tour notes with a route map (superimposed on an 1840s sketch map as well as an 1847 survey  map) will be provided on the bus. The tour notes prepared by Barry Golding that form the basis of the narrative during the tour will be posted after the tour in a ‘Reading the Country at Contact’ blog at www.barrygoanna.com

The two buses will return back to the starting point by 4.00 pm. We will visit, pass through or hear about a wide range of immediate post-contact sites that were significant between 1836 and 1841 in the Franklinford, Guildford, Strangways, Newstead, Neereman, Joyce’ Creek, Glengower, Campbelltown, Smeaton Plain, Smeaton, Kooroocheang and Kingston areas.

NOTE: All of what we see is on roadsides, ‘seen through the fence’, or in some cases with generous, one-off permission from landholders. Gaining permission for private entry on tours like this is a rare privilege.On no account should participants later trespass with others on private property or later contact private landholders to seek out what we look at from a distance.

PLANNED ITINERARY  (Please help us to keep to time …)

  • Board buses from 8.45am, Daylesford Secondary College, Smith Street.
  • Sharing of reasons for coming on the tour and expectations: on the bus.
  • 00am: Depart, travel towards Castlemaine, pass Mt Franklin (Lalgambook, withLarnebarramul volcaniccrater) to right; PASS second Protectorate site, June 1841-Dec 1849 to left).
  • PASS the Lime Kiln (on left), operating in the 1840s, supplied lime for John Hepburn’s House via the ‘Limestone Road’
  • Stop 1:30am: arrive at The ‘Big Tree’, Guildford, John Hepburn and family passed through here, April 1838.
  • 30 to 10.15am: Welcome to Country & Smoking Ceremony, Dja Dja Wurrung Elder Uncle Ricky Nelson; Welcome by Hepburn Shire Mayor, Don Henderson. Toilet available opposite the Big Tree.
  • Stop 2:45am-11.05am:The Loddon Valley at Strangways (considered but rejected as a Protectorate site, early 1841).
  • 15am brief Toilet Stopin Newstead & ‘Morning Tea’.
  • Stop 3:35am-12.00pm: The ‘Major’s Line’ October 1836 crossing on the Loddon at Newstead (later the Gold Escort route to Adelaide): Roadside stop opposite Mount Tarrengower, view towards Gough’s Range (Robinson & Parker reconnaissance trip, Feb 1840) and Neereman (Nov 1840-June 1841 Protectorate Site: 6km beyond Baringhup.
  • Stop 4:15am-12.35pm: Roadside stop above Joyce’s Creek opposite Moolort Plains, near remnant Buloke (Casuarina) trees to discuss the nature and importance of places where different ecosystems intersect.
  • Stop 5:55pm-1.25pm White Graves, the first burial associated with the 1840 Middle Creek Massacre, 1 km south of Campbelltown on Strathlea Road; narrative about Middle Creek, The Bloodhole’ 1840 massacre site..
  • 35pm brief Toilet Stop, Campbelltown Hall.
  • 45pm: PASS Aboriginal oven mounds (right) in private property woodland beyond Campbelltown fire station.
  • Stop 655pm-2.30pm: Roadside Lunch, Red Gums, Smeaton Plains, Williams Road, ‘A favourite place for the Aborigines’, described by G. A. Robinson in Feb 1840.
  • 40pm: PASSformerKooroocheang Swamp [private] (on right).
  • Stop 7:50pm-3.20pm: Hepburn Family Private Gravesite, off Estate Lane, below Mount Kooroocheang, [NB: Smeaton House is a private residence].
  • 3:30pm-3:40pm:Toilet Stop Smeaton Reserve
  • 40pm depart for Daylesford Secondary College, arrive by 4.00pm.

Map 1: March 1840 Edward Parker Rough Sketch Map, from E. Morrison, Frontier Life in the Loddon Protectorate, 1967, p.19. Most are pre 1840 sheep runs established mainly on the Coliban and Campaspe on Dja Dja Wurrung. When Parker drew the map he was likely unaware of the main branch of the Loddon. The ‘Polodyul or Loddon River’ shown is likely the stream called ‘Jim Crow Creek’ in 2019. Our tour route is marked in pink.

Parker Sketch Map 1840

MAP 2:  Main 1847 Base Map: copied from inside cover of ‘A Homestead History’(Reminiscences of Alfred Joyce 1843-64, Ed. G. James, 1942), redrawn from an 1847 Upper Loddon survey Map,

Upper Loddon Map 1847 (annotated 2019)

  • Our tour route is marked in pink; present day ‘towns’ in green; 2019 creek, river and mountain names added.
  • RUNS: Smeaton Hill(John Hepburn, from 1838); Glengower(Dugald McLachlan, from 1839); Plaistow (Alfred Joyce from 1843); Tarringower (Lauchlan McKinnon, 1839-41); Rodborough Vale (Thomas Chirnside 1839, Donald McKinnon then E. G. Bucknall from 1844); Boughyards (Alexander Mollison from 1837, Alexander Kennedy from 1840).
  • Note how quickly things had changed in the footprint of the current (2019) Hepburn Shire between 1840 and 1847.

‘Reading the Country at Contact’, May 2019, Extra Notes

 

Narrative for ‘Reading the Country at Contact Tour’

Hepburn Shire, NAIDOC Week Activity, 26 May 2019

Feedback and suggestions are welcome via b.golding@federation.edu.au

What these notes contain

These notes have been prepared by Barry Golding for tour participants to access later as a post at www.barrygoanna.com.  Further insights are provided on the site’s ‘Beyond Contact’ page and other posts.

These notes tease out Barry Golding’s tour narrative at the seven stops on the tour. There is also some narrative about places and sites we passed by between stops on the tour. Uncle Ricky’s important and complementary verbal narrative is not included in these notes.

Tour Rationale

  ‘to learn about our shared histories … [as an approach towards] reconciliation … grounded in truth’.

Tour invitation

…. to experience a range of important sites in the Dja Dja Wurrung landscape where there is evidence of contact from the late 1830s between the peoples of the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Nation and the invading pastoralists, including John Hepburn.

Tour Maps

The two base maps mentioned below, included separately in the tour notes, illustrate how quickly white invader knowledge of the ‘lay of the land’ in the footprint of the current (2019) Hepburn and Mount Alexander Shires improved between 1840 and 1847, as well as how quickly stations were created and new boundaries were established.

Map 1 (p.3 of participant notes): Parker’s March 1840 Sketch Map taken from E. Morrison, Frontier Life in the Loddon Protectorate, 1967, p.19, includes Hepburn’s (1838) run as well as earlier runs on the Campaspe and Coliban: including Mollison (1837), Orr, M[u]nro (1838-43), Thorn[e]loe & Ebden.

Parker Sketch Map 1840

MAP 2 (p.4 of participant notes) Main 1847 Base Map: copied from inside cover of ‘A Homestead History’(Reminiscences of Alfred Joyce 1843-64, Ed. G. James, 1942), redrawn from an 1847 Upper Loddon survey Map,

Upper Loddon Map 1847 (annotated 2019)

  • Our tour route is marked in pink; present day ‘towns’ in green; 2019 creek, river and mountain names have been added.
  • RUNS: Smeaton Hill (John Hepburn, from 1838); Glengower (Dugald McLachlan, from 1839); Plaistow (Alfred Joyce from 1843); Tarringower (Lauchlan McKinnon, 1839-41); Rodborough Vale (Thomas Chirnside 1839, Donald McKinnon then E. G. Bucknall from 1844); Boughyards (Alexander Mollison from 1837, Alexander Kennedy from 1840); Holcombe.

Travel towards Castlemaine

PASS Mt Franklin (Lalgambook) & Larnebarramul  (Mt Franklin crater) to right; PASS later Protectorate site, to left).

The main ‘Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate’ site was centred to the left of the road around present day Franklinford from June 1841-Dec 1848. Edward Parker was the Assistant Protector for the NW part of then Colony of Port Phillip. Hundreds of Aboriginal people (max 200 at any one time) lived or came here for safety, food and shelter whilst the Protectorate operated.

The central Aboriginal Protectorate area, radius ‘1 mile’, was for cultivation. A ‘larger 5 mile ‘radius (that went NS from approx. Hepburn Springs to Strangways, EW approx. to Glenlyon to Werona) was anticipated to be for traditional food gathering including hunting and fishing.

At the time the Loddon Protectorate closed only 30-40 Aboriginal people were living there. From April 1850 Parker was permitted to operate the Loddon station as a pastoral lease on the one square mile of land between Franklinford and the foot of Mount Franklin.  [often called the ‘Loddon’ protectorate (a) because the earlier (1840-1 Protectorate) was on the Loddon River (Polodyul or Pul-er-gil yal-loke) 30km to the NW, at Neereman 6km North of Baringhup, and (b) because the current ‘Jim Crow Creek’ catchments was sometimes called the ‘Loddon’, being part of the Loddon catchment).

The last of the Aboriginal people living at the ‘Loddon Aboriginal Station’ in 1863 were forcibly removed to Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve near Healesville, which operated until 1924. In 2019 there are approx. 2,000 Dja Dja Wurrung descendants from around 20 apical ancestors who survived to the 1860s. Henry Harmony Nelson is Uncle Ricky Nelson’s apical ancestor.

To the right is Mount Franklin. Its peak was likely called Lalgambook. Its crater was usually referred to as Lar–ne-barramul, literally ‘place of the emu’, likely on account of the shape of its nest shaped crater. The original names are far from certain.

George Robinson first visited Edward Parker’s new Protectorate station site here (in June 1841) on 19 Nov 1841. He described it as being:

… on one of the sources of the Lodden (sic.), at a place called Willam.be.par.re.mal, a short distance from Lal.gam.book. The appearance of the place on approaching is rather pleasing; it is however surrounded by broken forest ranges containing abundance of game.

Robinson provides several variations of the Aboriginal name in his diary that same week. On 21 Nov 1841 he wrote that: ‘The hill at Loddon station is called Wil.lam.be.par.ra.mal(emu house). The creek or branch of the Lodden (sic) is called Lulgambook’.Robinson wrote on 28 November 1841 that he had:

… visited the crater at the mount called Willum-parramul, otherwise Jem Crow. It is an ancient crater of large dimension. … Had a fine view.

Hepburn climbed its peak soon after his arrival in April 1838 to get a better sense of the local topography. Called (and likely dubbed) ‘Jem Crow Hill’ by Hepburn, most likely because of a popular 1830s Poem, and 1830s minstrel song that referred to it as ‘Jem Crown’ and ‘Jim Crow’ respectively. It became Mount Franklin following a visit by former Van Diemen’s Land Governor, John Franklin in December 1843. The very negative, racist historic connotations of the term ‘Jim Crow’ arguably call for the original name of the Creek and the later name of the mountain (once clarified) to be restored.

PASS the Lime Kiln (on left),operating on the northern edge Aboriginal Protectorate of during the 1840s. It supplied lime via the ‘Limestone Road’ for John Hepburn’s mansion built in 1848-9. Likely the deposit was accumulated from as carbonate rich water from a mineral spring, colloquially referred to as ‘Limestone Spring’ or ‘The Bullfrog’ until it was tapped for spa water tanks built on the site in the 1980s.

STOP 1: The ‘Big Tree’, Guildford

 John Hepburn and family passed through here on the way to Kooroocheang, April 1838.

‘The Big Tree’: one of the largest Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) in Victoria (height 32 metres; basal diameter 3m: age at least 500 years). It has a large branch graft on its northern side. The brass plaque records Burke and Wills camping here on their ill-fated northern expedition.

It is listed as a tree of State significance on the National Trust’s Register of Significant Trees of Victoria for its “outstanding size, curious fusion of branches, as an outstanding example of the species and as an important landmark“. The National Trust regards its conservation as vital to the local community and the State as a whole.

Due to its great age, numerous hollows have formed within the tree, providing habitat for many creatures. This tree is an eco-system which sustains a vast range of bird and animal life including magpies, rosellas, lorikeets, parrots, kookaburras, wood ducks, boobook owls, honey eaters, numerous species of insects, native bees and possums.

Already an ancient giant when the first white invaders arrived in the late 1830s, the Big Tree has played an important part in the cultural and social life of the Guildford community. This tree survives as an important symbol and a link between our community and its traditional owners, the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal people.

John Hepburn likely camped nearby on his way to ‘take up his run’ around Kooroocheang in April 1838.

Welcome to Country & Smoking Ceremony, Dja Dja Wurrung Elder Uncle Ricky Nelson; Welcome by Hepburn Shire Mayor, Don Henderson.

STOP 2: The Loddon Valley at Strangways

This site was considered but rejected as a second Protectorate site in early 1841.

At this point we are on the fertile Loddon River flats. This was a former, important Aboriginal highway. To the south up the ‘Jim Crow Creek’ is a small amount of reasonably good volcanic soil that later became the centre of the former Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate. Opposite is the Guildford plateau, an elevated volcanic plain, which was grassland at the time of contact.

The current road between Newstead and Franklinford followed a narrow tongue of volcanic grassland that would also have been an Aboriginal highway between patches of forest on the older shales and slates.  These river flats are on the same highway that Thomas Mitchell crossed and camped at near present day Newstead in October 1836, later be referred to as ‘Mitchell’s Line’.

During 1837 several pastoralists used this river highway in to explore for new country to invade beyond already ‘taken up areas’. One group including Aitken (at Mount Aitken) swung up past Mount Macedon (Terawait) and Mount Alexander (Leanganook), along the Loddon and back to Corio via Ercildoune. Another group including Thomas Learmonth explored north from Buninyong, via Dowling Forest along the Loddon and back to Melbourne via Kyneton.

The huge quartz pebble to the right of the road came out of the gold bearing gravels on the edge of the Guildford plateau, an indication of how much bigger the stream buried by the basalt was several million years ago.

This area near the former Strangways railway yards (behind Don Hepburn’s house, perhaps a distant relation) became important in the early 1841 as Edward Parker looked for a Plan B right here as the original site at Neereman proved unsuitable. Lyon Campbell and other local squatters strongly objected. The objection was mainly because this area was already taken up by stations and was too close to what had become the main ‘overlanding’ highway on Mitchell’s Line between Sydney and Portland.

Uncle Ricky talks about the big picture of Dja Dja Wurrung people, the Clans, Moieties. Language and Kulin Confederations.

STOP 3: The ‘Major’s Line’

Thomas Mitchell’s October 1836 crossing on the Loddon at Newstead (later the Gold Escort route to Adelaide): Roadside stop opposite Mount Tarrengower.

View north towards Gough’s Range (Robinson & Parker reconnaissance trip, Feb 1840 and Neereman (Nov 1840-June 1841 Protectorate Site) 6km beyond Cairn Curran Reservoir & Baringhup.

We are now pretty much on the ‘Major’s Line’, one marked by the wheel ruts of the huge wagons as they headed back from Portland to Sydney in October 1936. A few days before he had climbed and named Mount Greenock near Talbot. Once of the volcanic plains he took a compass bearing to bring him out south of Mount Alexander, which took him north of Mount Cameron, through Strathlea to Newstead then through Expedition Pass near Chewton.

We know a lot about this area in 1840 because of the incredibly detailed (and accurate) diary records of George Robinson, Chief Protector of Aborigines (1839-1850) who came here through with Edward Parker in Feb 1840. They were loaned a cart by John Hepburn and ventured down from Hepburn’s Station via the Smeaton Plain, the Stony Rises (near ‘Tuki Trout Farm’), Campbelltown, and Joyce’s Creek to where it joins the Loddon (now beneath Cairn Curran Reservoir) and to Newstead. Below Newstead they described the still massive pools downstream that John Hepburn referred to in February 1840 as ‘the fishponds on the plains’ on account of the huge Murray cod and Macquarie perch in the big water holes downstream of Newstead.

They climbed to the western edge of a rocky range (now Gough’s Range) between Mount Tarrengower and the Loddon, ’20 miles north of Koretanger’ giving them a vantage point, Robinson describes the scene in detail on 21 Feb 1840:

Near to where we stood was the last of the Mameloid [breast-like] hills … red gums, sho oak [Allocasuarina], white gum, honey suckle (Banksia) trees. The low plains were mottled or carpeted with flowers in full blossom, patches from 1 to 2 acres of white everlasting flowers and then patches of an acre or more of yellow … or the beautiful blue flower with clumps of honey suckle and gums, and the pea green reeds of the Lodden (sic), like a broad green ribbon running in a tortuous line among the varigold and beautiful landscape, the glassy surface of the water shining between the branches of the trees.

To the north is Mount Tarrengower, (called ‘Salus’ by Mitchell), thankfully retaining its original name. Where there were no trees there was lots of Kangaroo grass. (Themeda). In many places on this Feb 1840 journey, typically on the edge between the woodland and the plain, Robinson noted many ‘bark huts of the natives’ and ‘ovens’. Just to the north of Cairn Curran Reservoir is Lauchlan McKinnon’s ‘Tarrengower’ Homestead.

Uncle Ricky talks about the relations between the Dja Dja Wurrung peoples, the explorers and the pastoralists.

STOP 4: Roadside stop above Joyce’s Creek (Knee-rarp) opposite Moolort Plains.

This stop is near remnant Buloke (Casuarina) trees, where we discuss the nature and importance of humans living in places where many different ecosystems intersect.

For the next 10 km we drive south along the eastern edge of Joyce’s Creek, a ‘lateral stream between the edge of the Moolort (volcanic) Plains and the Campbelltown Forest (on the old, rocky and relatively infertile Ordovician bedrock). Joyce’s Creek like the Loddon River, was then a well-travelled and settled Aboriginal highway. Robinson reported many camp, huts and ovens ‘where the natives had been’, with many freshwater mussel and emu shells. Robinson was ‘at a loss to account for the [immense number of] wheel and cattle tracks we now met with’ near Strathlea until he realised he was actually on the Major’s Line.

Uncle Ricky talks more about the food resources here.

This area was an ecotone: teeming with food resources in every direction: Emu, Kangaroo and Yam Daisy on the Moolort Plains; Murray cod and Macquarie perch in the massive pools in the Loddon downstream of Newstead to the north; possums and small mammals in the river red gums along Joyce’s Creek and forests to the east; rich fauna and flora in the Banksia and Buloke woodlands Blackfish and freshwater mussels in the creek; 30 large wetlands on the Moolort plains with a whole range of aquatic plants, birds, yabbies.

ON the way south the bald volcanic hills gradually come into view, Powlett Hill to right, then Moorooklye, Stony Rises and Kooroocheang to far left.

STOP 5: Graves associated with the 1840 Middle Creek Massacre

This stop is 1 km north of Campbelltown on the Strathlea Road.

The memorial grave is to the left of the road on private property. On the opposite (west) side of the road verge opposite the graves is a stand of unusual and inedible Osage oranges (Maclura pomifera)

A brass plaque on the grave displays the following text:

HERE LIE THREE UNKNOWN PIONEERS OF THIS DISTRICT.

A COOK ON GLENGOWER STATIONKILLED BY THE ABORIGINES IN 1840.

A TRAVELLER KILLED BY MIS-ADVENTURE BY THE STATION DOGS IN 1841.

AND A YOUNG EMPLOYEE,

DIED FROM NATURAL CAUSES IN 1841.

MAY THEY REST IN PEACE.

The three European people buried in the Pioneer Memorial Graves were all associated with the Glengower run. This spot was first used as a burial ground following an initial disturbing incident and burial by Dugald McLachlan in winter or spring of 1840, and again in 1841.

The third burial, unrelated to the violence associated with the first and second burials, is the grave of the young son of the original informant about the massacre story, Donald (‘Rhu’) McDonnell.

The first burial is that of a cook at the Glengower station who was killed by a band of Jadwajali Aborigines returning to the Grampians after obtaining greenstone axe blanks from Mt William, near Lancefield. The Aborigines are said to have called at the station for food when McLachlan and the stockmen were away mustering sheep for shearing, and only the cook was present in the cookhouse. The cook is alleged to have added Plaster of Paris to a damper he had cooked for the Aborigines, which once ingested would have caused a horrible and painful death. An altercation allegedly followed and the Aborigines are alleged to have murdered the cook, hanging his body in the cookhouse on a meat hook. When McLachlan returned he immediately organised a punitive expedition comprised of Glengower and neighbouring Smeaton Hill stockmen.

McLachlan buried the cook, whose name is not known, at the present gravesite only 800 yards north-east of the homestead. In expectation of a reprisal raid, McLachlan released his savage hunting dogs into the station grounds (he purportedly used for hunting dingo) after nightfall. About a year after the cook’s murder in 1841 the dogs, savaged to death an unnamed visiting itinerant traveller, who was buried beside the murdered cook. The third grave is of George McDonnell, the son of shepherd (and the original informant of the oral history) Donald McDonnell, who died of natural causes in 1841.

McLachlan was well known amongst his contemporaries as very hard and ‘austere’ man. He was very fond of using guns and hunting dogs. He was described as ‘austere’, grasping, ruthless and uncompromising of men and beast even by his contemporaries.

On Middle Creek, Glengower (on private land) is ‘The Bloodhole’, the site of an 1840s Aboriginal massacre that took place approx. 8km to the west.

The Aborigines thought to be those associated with the death of the cook were tracked down with McLachlan’s dogs and they hid in the waterholes on Middle Creek. On seeing the approaching men on horseback with guns, the Aboriginal men jumped into the creek to swim to the other side or hide under water. The mounted men from the station including McLachlan fired on the Aborigines in the water. Some had hollow reeds to breathe through while submerged, which still grow at the site today. By the time the firing stopped at least 12 Aboriginal men were dead and floating in the bloody water. The place (on private property) is still known locally by some residents as ‘The Blood Hole’ or ‘Slaughter Hole’.

STOP 6: Smeaton Plains, Williams Road (do NOT leave the road reserve and enter private land)

  ‘A favourite place for the Aborigines’, described by G. A. Robinson in Feb 1840.

Robinson writes on 14 February 1840 that being a fine and pleasant day, John Hepburn took him to the top of Kooroocheang. Hepburn then:

Showed me a plain with some open forest on it, 3 miles [5km] from his house in N [northerly] direction. Said it was a favourite place for the natives. He has seen 30 women on the plains at a time digging murrnong while the men went into the forest to hunt kangaroos, opossums, &c. which are abundant.’

After dinner that same day, being summer the evening would have been light. Robinson:

‘… rode out with Mr Hepburn to the place of the native camp aforementioned. Rode over some beautiful country. The Mameloid [‘breast like’] Hills has a natural appearance when seen from the plains. And so the hills in the distance than when viewed from the top of Koratanger. The trees from Kor.ra.tanger looked diminutive but when we came to them found them large, 2 and 3 feet diameter at the butt, with large umbrageous branches . Well covered with foliage, they stood at a distance of from 20 to 50 to 50 yards and the whole which was about half a mile square, had a park-like appearance.’

Robinson’s use of term ‘park’ to describe what was an Aboriginal Australian woodland was common amongst many British squatters and explorers familiar with parks created in the ‘old country ‘around country houses and estates.

The creators of this deliberately managed Australian park were still living and cooking underneath the trees in this 1840s landscape. Robinson continued:

‘We saw the remains of from 30-40 screens or shelters of boughs where the natives had been. Also several of the native ovens or fireplaces where they baked their murrnong. Some 10 feet in diameter. … Returned through another part of the native camp. Saw some more native huts or screens. Rode round the S end of Koretanger. The dogs killed a native cat, dark color and white spots’.

PASS former Kooroocheang Swamp [private] (on right).

Several oven mounds described by Robinson have been recorded in the vicinity the former Kooroocheang swamp. Jack Sewell recalls plentiful freshwater crayfish in the swamp before it was drained in the 1960s.

There are historic records of the Brolga (Grus rubicunda) nesting around the swamp, indeed the word Kooroocheang is thought to reference the brolga. ‘Turkey Hill Road’ north of Powlett Hill references the former Bustard (Ardeotis australis) common on the local grasslands before the introduction of sheep and cattle as well as  hunting. 

STOP 7: Hepburn Family Private Gravesite

This site must be accessed from a gravel car park on the south side of Estate Lane, below Mount Kooroocheang, Please note that Smeaton House nearby is strictly a private residence.

John Hepburn’s decision to replace his first timber house and commission a huge new, 20 room, double storey mansion was announced in his journal on 2 April 1849. That day his family had shared ‘a pleasure party’ with neighbours on the nearby Kangaroo Hills.

The Smeaton House mansion has for the past 130 years been the private home to the Righetti family. The mansion complete with verandahs on three sides of the lower storey, stables and a coach house was finished by the end of 1850, just before the first discovery of gold at nearby Clunes. Unsurprisingly, the mansion is highly classified by the National Trust but remains private.

The Hepburn family graveyard on a nearby picturesque knoll is now owned and maintained by the National Trust. There is public walking access across privately owned paddocks to the Hepburn Graves via a car park recently constructed south of the cemetery on Estate Lane. John Hepburn was buried here in 1860. The pallbearers at his funeral comprised the men of the Creswick and District Roads Board.

At the time of Hepburn’s death in 1860, just 20 years after Mitchell’s wagons rolled through this Dja Dja Wurrung landscape, the telegraph had arrived and the railway was advancing from Geelong towards Ballarat. The first 1851 gold rush in nearby Clunes was then only nine years old, but by the 1880s had spread for 100km in every direction and totally transformed the landscape and society.

Only three of John Hepburn’s ten children plus his wife Eliza (died 1869) are buried in the family graveyard: including the two children who came overland in 1838, Alice (died 1865) and Thomas (died 1859) as well as George (who was born at the property in 1838 and died 1903). Other Hepburns buried there include the family of John Hepburn’s brother, Benjamin who died in 1888.

Aside from the Hepburn family graves and inscriptions, the exotic trees within the fenced off cemetery as well as the views are sublime (on a fine, sunny day).

One view is towards Mount Moorookyle, another is towards Mount Kooroocheang. A third vista south overlooks the valley of Middle Creek, locally called ‘Captains Creek’, through scattered, remnant, ancient woodland eucalypts.

 

Mitchell ‘discovers’ Dja Dja Wurrung’s Australia Felix

 

Mitchell passed twice through Dja Dja Wurrung country in Winter and Spring of 1836. This account focuses on the implications of Mitchell ‘discovering’ the highly productive, carefully created, and responsibly managed Dja Dja Wurrung grasslands, that he otherwise took to be empty and ripe for subsequent picking by European invaders.

NOTE: Much of my account was added on 24 September 2018 to my much longer and wider historical and autoethnographic narrative on the ‘Beyond Contact’ page.

Major Thomas Mitchell’s 1836 traverse across what is now inland Victoria is important as part of the wider historical narrative by virtue of being the first European to describe and give (mostly new European) names to most of the inland rivers and mountains of northern and Western Victoria, including those rivers already mapped, named and cultured by Dja Dja Wurrung peoples for around one thousand generations.

Mitchell’s diary, published in Three expeditions into the interior of Eastern Australia; with descriptions of the recently explored region of Australia Felix and the present Colony of New South Wales, records his 1836 overland expedition of ‘exploration’ from Sydney via the Murray River then south to Portland, returning via Western Victoria and present day north eastern Victoria.

While Mitchell made some notes about the local traditional owners he encountered, his main interest was in describing, naming and ‘opening up’ a country’ he regarded as essentially uninhabited. That said, his 25 man official party including his second in command, G. C. Staplyton carried a total of 36 firearms. The men were dressed in red woollen shirts and grey trousers crossed by white braces, ‘giving the men somewhat of a military appearance’ (p.2) as they set off, in Mitchell’s words, ‘to traverse unexplored regions, peopled, as far as we know, by hostile tribes’ (p.3).

The expedition anticipated using boats along and in order to cross some larger inland streams including the Murray and Darling Rivers, which they carried in a boat carriage. The several heavy wagons left their wheel ruts discernable for several decades after their expedition. The track the wagons followed was often already an Aboriginal highway, and the expedition’s track across Victorian’s northern plains quickly followed by squatters, sheep and cattle later became known as the ‘Major’s Line’.

Twice during this 1836 expedition Mitchell passed through Dja Dja Wurrung country, twice crossing the Loddon River. The first traverse and river crossing was in mid winter (late June and early July, 1836) whilst heading southwest between Pyramid Hill and the headwaters of the Richardson River. The second time the expedition crossed the Loddon River near present day Newstead in late September 1836, on router between Mount Cole and Mt Alexander as the expedition was heading back towards Sydney. Mitchell named what is now known as Mount Alexander (to the Dja Dja Wurrung, Leanganook) ‘Mount Byng’, though the name did not stick. Admiral John Byng, an English Royal Navy officer was court-martialed and shot dead by a firing squad in 1757.

Unlike Chief Protector of Aborigines, George Robinson, Mitchell not only took the country to be uninhabited but also prepared and predestined for European intrusion by a then unknown cause. Mitchell came close to identifying the then unknown explanation for such extensive areas of open grassland on what later became the heavily grazed and cultivated plains of northern and western Victoria when he wrote that:

On highest mountains and in places the most remote and desolate, I have always found every dead trunk and the ground and any living tree of any magnitude also, the marks of fire; and thus it appeared that these annual conflagrations extend to every place. (p.328)

What Mitchell described were grassland, woodland and forest ecosystems carefully and deliberately created and managed by thousands of years of regular and systematic Aboriginal burning to encourage and sustain their desired food plants and animals.

On 30 June 1836 Mitchell was towards the north end of Dja Dja Wurrung country when he climbed to the top of Pyramid Hill and described:… a land so inviting, and still without inhabitants! As I stood, the first European intruder on the sublime solitude of these verdant plains, as yet untouched by flocks or herds; I felt conscious of being the harbinger of mighty changes; and that our steps would soon be followed by the men and the animal for which it seemed to be prepared’ (p.159).

The ‘fine plain’ Mitchell and his wagons passed across the next day was covered with what both he and Robinson called anthisteria, now known as Themeda triandra, ‘Kangaroo’ or ‘Oat’ grass, also covered in places by what Mitchell recognised as banksia and casuarina, and what Robinson respectively called ‘honeysuckle’ and ‘oak’. By July 5 they passed a lofty hill Mitchell recorded as Barrabungale (likely present day Buckrabanyule, unbeknown to Mitchell the sacred home of the feared ancestral giant serpent, Mindi). By July 6 the party were on a river Mitchell named the Loddon, because ‘… of its resemblance in some respects to the little stream in England.’ On July 10 they crossed and named the Avoca River, and on 13 July crossed and named the Richardson River after his botanical collector, John Richardson, who had an unplanned swim when his horse slipped during the river crossing. By July 19 they has encountered another river they ascertained from the locals to be the Wimmera.

By late August 1836 the expedition had passed north of (and renamed) Gariwerd the Grampians, and travelled along the Glenelg River, launching their whaleboat to explore the wide and navigable lower parts of the river. They came onto the southern Australian coast downstream of present day Nelson close to the present day South Australian-Victorian border. On 29 August Mitchell’s party was ‘astonished’ when one of the expedition’s Aboriginal members (not listed but invaluable amongst the ‘official’ expeditioners) whom Mitchell called ‘Tommy Came-last’ came to him with the unexpected news of fresh cattle tracks, the ‘shoe marks of a white man’, ‘portions of tobacco pipes and a glass bottle without a neck’. Mitchell understood that whalers and sealers had for several decades made camp along the same stretch of coast on Portland Bay, but the presence of cattle tracks astounded him. In Mitchell’s words, ‘How cattle could have been brought here I did not understand’. At anchor in the bay they found the answer: ‘The Elizabeth of Launceston’ and on shore ‘a considerable farming establishment belonging to Messrs. Henty’ that had been in place for at least two years. Mitchell wrote that Henty ‘was ‘importing sheep and cattle as fast as vessels could be found to bring them over’ (p.241).

The return journey towards Sydney took the party south of the Grampians, and apart from Mitchell’s personal side trip to climb and name Mount Macedon, on a steady north-east bearing across the ‘open downs’ of the Western District volcanic plains. The expedition re entered Dja Dja Wurrung country as they crossed the Great Dividing Range between Mount Cole and Mount Greenock (close to present day Talbot), both of which Mitchell renamed. Mitchell’s wagons skirted the base of Mount Greenock and headed northeast towards the open volcanic plains north of present day Clunes towards present day Newstead on a compass bearing of 60.5 degrees. The intention was to head for ‘Mount Byng Pass’, effectively at the south end of Mount Alexander that had been in the expedition’s sights on the horizon for several days. The dozens of smooth, grassed, breast-like volcanic hills visible to the east of the summit of Mount Greenock Mitchell called the Mammeloid Hills. On 25 September 1836 as the party lumbered across this vast Aboriginal grassland, Mitchell wrote: ‘In travelling through this Eden, no road was necessary, not any ingenuity in conducting wheel carriages wherever we chose’ (pp.276-7).

As the party headed north-east onto the open grassy plains, Mitchell climbed a nearby ‘smooth round hill’, likely what later became known as Mount Cameron, to get the lay of the land and try and map the course of the many small northward flowing streams. Mitchell’s party:

… entered on a very level and extensive flat, exceedingly green and resembling an English park, bounded on the east by a small river flowing to the north-west (probably the Loddon) and abrupt but grassy slopes beyond its right bank.

 Mitchell’s was correct in assuming it was the Loddon, the same river he had crossed around 100km north approximately three months earlier. Mitchell’s description on 28 September puts the party close to present day Newstead and heading through belts of forest and grassland towards present day Castlemaine. On 29 September the party found a route through the steep wooded ranges for their wagons, down onto the ‘more open granitic country at the foot of Mount Byng [Mount Alexander]’ near present day Chewton, naming it ‘Expedition-pass’. Mitchell was confident ‘that such a line of communication between the southern coast and Sydney, must, in the course of time, become a very considerable thoroughfare’.

At this point, at the foot of Mount Alexander, whilst waiting for repairs to the wagon carrying their boats, Mitchell resolved to take a side trip from his wagon train ‘to the lofty mountain mass which appeared about thirty miles to the southward’ (p.281). From this mountain, that Mitchell called Mount Macedon after Philip of Macedon in honour of the fact that he was able to view Port Philip from the summit, he could see signs of European activity at the Port Phillip settlement in the form of ‘white objects which might have been either tents or vessels’. Port Phillip had been briefly settled near Sorrento on 1803-4, then left mostly undisturbed by Europeans until the previous year, 1835, when settlers from Tasmania led by John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner (who incidentally had been at the Sorrento settlement as a child) established what became Melbourne on the lower reaches of the Yarra River.

On the return journey towards Sydney across what are now the northern plains, Mitchell went ahead to ensure he was first with the news of his discovery of Australia Felix, ‘the better to distinguish it from the parched deserts’ that Mitchell ‘had wandered so unprofitably, and for so long’ in Western New South Wales. Mitchell wrongly took this Eden wrongly to be ‘still for the most part to be in a state of nature providing a fairly blank sheet’ for subsequently being carved up by European towns and lines of communication. The expedition’s return route approximated the current Hume Highway, fording the Goulburn River near present day Mitchelton and the Murray River near present day Albury. Mitchell buried letters of instruction to Staplyton who followed behind him with the wagons. As Hawdon along with Gardiner and Hepburn were heading south on the first ever overland journey with herds of sheep and cattle towards Port Phillip in late 1836, they encountered Stapleton who was also crossing the Murrumbidgee River near present day Gundagai on his way back to Sydney.

Danish and Icelandic Men’s Shed update August 2018

Mænds Mødesteder (‘Men’s Sheds’) in Denmark

 Background

Men’s Health is formally acknowledged as an issue in Denmark in the first official report on Men’s Health In Denmark, titled ‘Men’s health: The health status of men in Denmark and a review of effective interventions for promoting men’s health.

Mænds Mødesteder (in Danish, effectively ‘Men’s Meeting Place’) is an initiative of the Forum for Maends Sundhed (Men’s Health Society), Denmark. The Society is a multidisciplinary organisation dedicated to the field of men’s health in all its aspects. The Society is a member of ‘European Men’s Health Forum’ (EMHF) and ‘Global Action of Men’s Health’ (GAMH).

When The Men’s Shed Movement book was published in 2015, only one ‘Men’s Shed ‘(Mænds Mødesteder, Stevns, opened April 2015) was listed. Mænds Mødesteder are still growing in Denmark. To date (August 2018) there are approximately 30 open or soon to open and most have their own website. Each ‘Shed’ that wants to have a site can post activities and write about their shed or add pictures. The site is www.mmdanmark.dk. On this website you also can see the guidelines for any municipality or other interested organisation that wants to open up a Mænds Mødesteder https://www.mmdanmark.dk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/M%C3%A6nds-M%C3%B8desteder-drejebog-nettet.pdf

Sincere thanks to Mie Møller Nielsen Head of Office (Head Office, 74, 3.sal
1620 København, see 
www.sundmand.dk) based in Copenhagen, Denmark for the updated information below.

Mænds Mødesteder in Denmark
 to August 2018

At the moment there are approximately 30 Mænds Mødesteder open or soon to open Below is a list by year of where and when a Mænds Mødesteder has opened in Denmark (or is soon to open, to August 2018) since the program started in 2015.

2015: 7 opened, one has since closed

2015 Feb.          Mænds Mødesteder – Sjakket Bornholm

2015 April         Mænds Mødesteder – Billund
2015 April        Mænds Mødesteder – Stevns

2015 April         Mænds Mødesteder – (Trige, Frydenlund og Herredsvang, Vandtårnsområdet i Aarhus)

2016: 11 opened, 2 have since closed

2016 Feb.         Mænds Mødesteder – Skaldborg Mandeklub Aalborg

2016 March     Mænds Mødesteder – Odsherred

2016 April        Mænds Mødesteder – Bryrup

2016 June        Mænds Mødesteder – Horsens(closed)

2016 June        Mænds Mødesteder – Glostrup

2016 Aug         Mænds Mødesteder – Høje-Taastrup(closed)

2016 Sept         Mænds Mødesteder – Brøndby

2016 Sept         Mænds Mødesteder – Kjellerup

2016 Oct          Mænds Mødesteder – Sønderborg

2016 Nov        Mænds Mødesteder – Greve

2016 Nov         Mænds Mødesteder – Ringsted

2017: 7 opened

2017 Jan          Mænds Mødesteder – Esbjerg

2017 Feb          Mænds Mødesteder – Tårnby

2017 Feb          Mænds Mødesteder – Frederiksberg

2017 May         Mænds Mødesteder – Egedal

2017 Sept        Mænds Mødesteder – Korsør

2017 Sept        Mænds Mødesteder – De Fynske Alper (Faarborg-Midtfyn)

2017 Nov         Mænds Mødesteder – Silkeborg

2018: 4 opened to August (3 in development*)

2018 Feb          Mænds Mødesteder – København N.

2018 March     Mænds Mødesteder – Rebild

2018 April        Mænds Mødesteder – Pusterummet (Holstebro)

2018 May         Mænds Mødesteder – Farvskov

*2018                  Nørresundby (Aalborg)

*2018                  Randers

*2018                  Haslev (Faxe)

We don’t know exactly how many men (in total) are using the Mænds Mødesteder, but we expect it to be around 700 men. There now is a Mænds Mødesteder in every region in Denmark, and 22 out of 98 municipalities has a Mænds Mødesteder in Denmark, with some municipalities already having more than one.

Karlar í skúrum ‘Men’s Sheds’ in Iceland

Men’s Sheds in Iceland is a project of the Icelandic Red Cross. Karlar í skúrum is a direct translation into Icelandic from ‘Men´s Sheds’ or ‘Men in Sheds’. They have started one Shed which now has 30 members and a waiting list has started to form. All the information about Men´s Sheds in Iceland accessible on line is in Icelandic. Therefore this brief English update.

There was a formal opening gathering on 1 June 2018 and Barry Sheridan, CEO from the Irish Men’s Sheds Assocation came across from Dublin and attended the opening. There was some coverage on national television and Barry was interviewed: see http://www.visir.is/k/vtv44af3779-4bb5-40a6-9587-86985a78f22e Also, there was article about the opening in a national paper: scroll down to the article on page 24 of the following link: http://www.visir.is/paper/fbl/180606.pdf

Sincere thanks to Hörður Sturluson, Project Manager, Icelandic Red Cross [ email hordur@redcross.is]. Hordur would welcome any feedback globally ‘… about the best way to make Sheds be sustainable by themself. We are planning to start some more Sheds and there is interest around the country. Does anyonehave any documents about that?

Creswick Shire Hall, Kingston

Creswick Shire Hall in Kingston

 The Creswick Shire Hall, Kingston: The story in brief

Creswick was first incorporated as a Roads District in 11 January 1859, and became a Shire on 31 Dec 1863. The Creswick District Roads Board built the original double brick hall in Kingston, then set back off street frontage, some time between 1860 and 1863, after which it became part of the Creswick Shire and the more convenient and larger centre for its administrative base. New rooms and the current (2018) street façade were added to the 1860s Hall in 1911 to create the current Creswick Shire Hall 1911. After the Borough of Creswick (incorporated on 19 Nov 1858) was united with the Creswick Shire (on 29 May 1934), the local government administrative centre reverted back to Creswick. Some Council business and meetings were held at the Creswick Shire Hall in Kingston until the after the end of the Second World War, when the Municipal Offices were finally moved to the Creswick Town Hall.

The largely vacant Creswick Shire Hall in Kingston was then briefly offered for use to post-war industry, and then for local community purposes. From the late 1950s into the 1970s it became the venue for the Kingston District Youth Club, during which time many of the internal brick walls were removed. In the late 1970s the Creswick Shire sold the hall in a public tender process to Barry Golding in 1979, to be renovated internally and modified as a private home. On 20 January 1995 the Shire of Creswick was abolished.

 Creswick District Roads Board Hall (constructed between 1859 and 1863)

The actual date of construction of the original Hall during the 1860s has not been firmly established. What is known is that the decision to build the hall was discussed at a Creswick District Roads Board meeting in 1859. This meeting was held at the then recently constructed Kingston Hotel, next door and south of the current Hall. At that time around 25,000 miners were estimated to be in the area.

On 8 June 1863 the Creswick District Roads Board met to select ‘the requisite furniture for the Board room’

The 1863 Minute Book (Sept 1863 to Dec 1865, VPRS 003795/P /0000) records at the 23 Sept 1863 Creswick Road District meeting, that a public meeting had previously been held in Kingston on 17 Sept 1863 to elicit public opinion on dividing the District into Wards or Ridings. On 24 Dec1863 the Shire minutes record that ‘proclamation of the Shire was on the eve of issuing.’ The Proclamation of the Creswick Shire was read on 7 Jan 1864.

The Shire Hall in Kingston is mentioned a few years later as the venue for the refreshments following the first service (held in 1864) in the bluestone Holy Trinity Church of England in Kingston following its completion. Previous to that date, the Anglican Church services were held in the wooden Kingston Mechanics Institute, itself destroyed by fire in August 1982.

The first election of the Creswick Shire Council was held in the former Creswick District Roads Board Hall in 1864, Kingston then being central to the then mainly rural Shire.

Addition of a new Hall on the front of the former hall in 1911

The Shire continued to use the original Hall as its base from 1864 until 1910, when it was agreed to add two new rooms to the front of the 1860s Hall, for a cost not exceeding 500 pounds, to be paid in instalments over five years.

On 4 August 1910  a Notice of Motion was put at the Shire Council Meeting  that two new rooms be built in front of the Hall and the present building renovated.

On 5 Sept 1910  (Minutes Book p. 472) it was agreed after debate, to investigate purchasing a strip of land from the estate of the late Mm (William) Kenna and allow larger rooms to be built, and also to consult with an architect about the design.

On 6 Oct 1910 (Minute Book, p.476) decision was taken to to get out plans and specifications for Shire Hall improvements, with alternatives either stone or brick foundations.

On 1 Dec 1910 Tenders for the Shire Hall renovations were received and the 689 Pound tender from H. Armour tender was accepted for the whole works, with Council repayments budgeted  over seven years. There was some debate in Council as to whether this would be practicable or whether it would be better to sell the original building and procure a bigger site.

The decision to add the new hall onto street frontage was made possible by procuring the narrow strip of land from Mr William Kenna on a separate, new title to the south of the existing easement. Given that the sides of allotment that the Hall is on are not at 90 degrees to the street frontage, building right to street frontage means that many of the angles on the stonework and decoration on the front to the 1911 building (evident in the irregular shape of the front alcove) are several degrees away from square.

The two new rooms were constructed with external cavity brick walls and each had a chimney and fireplace with pressed metal ceilings. The walls were rendered with hard plaster. Given that the new hall had higher subfloor clearance and better side ventilation it was in relatively good condition when sold by the Shire in 1980 compared to the older 1860s’ hall.

A Certificate of Title separate from the one the Hall itself is on dated 13 April 1911 confirms a narrow easement was created in 1911 on a separate title the full length of the block on the south (driveway side) of the Shire Hall 25 units wide and 499 units long, noting ‘a special railway condition contained in grant to John Haylock’.

John Haylock is recorded in 1854 as one of the approximately dozen early land owners around Kingston and presumably held the original title before Kingston township was subdivided. John and Anne Haylock were a farming family from Thurlow (near Haverhill) Suffolk, England landed in Australia on 24th August 1852. Their family of seven made their way onto the goldfields of Victoria and made their home on a 96 acre allotment which they purchased adjoining the village of Kingston .

On 6 April 1911 Venetian Blinds were  ordered for the ‘New Rooms’.

On 1 June 1911, (Minute Book, p.569) there were discussions about  Coronation Celebrations. The President suggested the planting of two trees in front of the Shire Hall on Coronation Day, one to commemorate the Coronation of His Majesty King George V and the other the reign of King Edward VII along with a suitable guard to protect them.

A new council table and chairs were procured in 1912 for the main Council ‘Board Room’ and insured along with the ‘stables’ then behind the building.

A photograph taken in approximately 1914 shows the completed 1911 Hall with a hitching post for horses on street frontage. A flag pole is also evident (the base for the flag pole is still in place to the left of the 2018 side entrance. There was a walkway along the northern side of the hall with a ‘Rate Collection’ sign above it. A large Shed is visible behind the Hall on the northern boundary. One of the two oak trees planted in 1912 in front of the hall, then approximately 3 metres in height (details below) was protected by a surrounding picket fence.

The elm trees lining the main street of Kingston north of Victoria Road and the extensive Avenue of Honour (as well as the two oak trees planted outside the Creswick Shire Hall in 1912, see below) predate the Avenue. The Victorian Heritage Council Avenue of Honour Heritage listing (VHR H2343) notes that:

The Avenue of Honour, Kingston is of local significance for its relationship with the local street planting of elms along the main street of Kingston and with the Shire Hall building. This council planting, which appears to predate the Avenue of Honour, extends to the north from Victoria Road and provides a visual continuation of the memorial planting. The small town of Kingston was the administrative centre of the Shire in 1918 when the Shire of Creswick established a committee to provide an avenue of honour to district servicemen. This resulted in the location of the Avenue of Honour at Kingston rather than in the larger town of Creswick.

The two oak trees either side of the bus shelter outside the Shire Hall in 2018 were planted to commemorate the reign of Edward VII (who was King from 1901 until his death in May 2010) and the Coronation of George V in June 1911 (The coronation of George V and Mary as King and Queen of the United Kingdom and the British Empire took place at Westminster Abbey, London, on 22 June 1911).

The largely vacant Creswick Shire Hall, Kingston, 1934 to 1959

After the Borough of Creswick (incorporated on 19 Nov 1858) was amalgamated with the Creswick Shire (on 29 May 1934), the local government administrative centre reverted back to the much larger and more central Town Hall in Creswick. Some Council business and meetings were held at the Creswick Shire Hall in Kingston from 1943 until the late 1940s. The largely vacant Hall was then briefly offered for use by post-war industry. Mr L. Gross of Gross Knitting Mills addressed the Council in 1948 with a proposal that the hall be leased or sold as required for industry or housing purposes. The Council was agreeable in principle, but stipulated that consistent with the prevailing policy of employing post-war males if it was to be used for industry, it should be for male workers only.

Internal modification by Kingston and District Youth Club 1959-1979

The information about the former Shire Creswick Shire Offices, Kingston that follows (from 1959 to 1980) is from documents in the original file now held at the Public Records Office in Ballarat (File VPRS 15564/P/0001).

  • On 13 May 1959 Kingston District Youth Club sought Shire of Creswick permission to pull out internal walls and put in new ceiling hangers in the newer, front part of the hall, with a detailed plan (see Photo of the Plan).
  • On 21 May 1959 Shire Council gave permission to undertake these alterations, but requiring at least 18 inches of existing brickwork to be left in place, forming a buttress to the other brick walls, and using truss-type girders rather than oregon hangers in the original plan. This work was carried out, effectively creating one large open space on street frontage in the 1911 addition and another large room behind it including the original 1860’s Shire Chamber.
  • On 12 July 1960 a letter was sent from Shire of Creswick to C. J. Lay, as Secretary of the Kingston District Youth Club, noting that the Youth Club was responsible for keeping the Hall in good repair while remaining in occupancy, and that the Club is responsible for all charges, such as lighting, sanitary services and repairs. They also noted that a check had been made ‘… of the double doors which were taken from the inside of your hall, but each door is only 2 foot wide. Both have had a glass panel in the top. We also have two single doors each 2 foot six wide’.
  • On 16 March 1961 the Youth Club applied for permission to also remove back walls of older, original building, to create one room, with an attached plan. This work was formally approved on 22 March 1961 but was (fortunately) never actually carried out.
  • In 1964 the previous, shorter-term Kingston and District Youth Club lease was confirmed for a further period of 10 years in a letter to the Club from the Council via Mr A. W. Hives.
  • On 22 Feb 1965 an application was made via Council from the Youth Club to connect water to the Youth Club rooms.
  • On 25 Jan 1968 permission was given to the Youth Club to ‘clean up the old scrap seats’ at the rear of the Kingston Youth Club and to sell the scrap cast iron.
  • In 1970 a letter was sent via Mrs M. E. (Mollie) Charleston of Kingston and District Youth Club seeking permission to paint the front of the building and renew some of the spouting, which was granted.
  • An extension of the previous lease of the Shire Hall for the Kingston Youth Club was granted in a letter via Mrs J. B. Lindsay dated 16 May 1974.
  • On 4 December 1978 youth organisations and community welfare groups in the Creswick Shire were formally invited to submit, in writing, proposals and submissions for the use of Kingston Shire Hall, Main Road Kingston. The council made it clear that it was prepared to consider making the hall available by sale or lease on attractive, negotiated terms.
  • On 8 Feb 1978 Graham Carrery wrote to the Council wanting to purchase the building for a restaurant or a private dwelling.
  • On 4 Dec 1978 local youth organisations and community welfare groups were invited to submit, in writing, proposals and submissions for the use of Kingston Shire Hall, Main Rd Kingston. The council stressed it was ‘… prepared to consider making the hall available by sale or lease on attractive, negotiated terms’.
  • Gary J. Bunn wrote to the Creswick Council on 14 December 1978 with a long letter explaining that he wanted to purchase the hall as a venue for those people of the district interested in cinema and the creative arts, as well as to secure it from further neglect as a concerned neighbour.
  • Again on 3 April 1979 Gary Bunn wrote to the Council reiterating his intent in his previous letter requesting to buy the Hall.
  • On 4 May 1979 Creswick Council sought Local Government formal approval to offer the Shire Offices for sale, noting that ‘the Kingston Shire offices are very old and in very poor condition and would require a considerable expenditure to be incurred to reinstate it’. This consent for sale was formally granted on 26 June 1979 by the Secretary for Local Government.
  • Tenders were called for sale of the Hall on 27 Aug 1979, closing on 3 Oct 1979, requiring details of proposed usage to be provided with the tender. Five per cent of the tender price was required for inclusion as part of the tendering process.
  • Barry Golding tendered for renovation as a private residence.
  • Gary Bunn placed a tender for the hall to be used as a venue for those people of the district interested in cinema and the creative arts.
  • The higher tended was accepted and the formal transfer of title to the former Hall was expedited to Barry Golding by March 1980. 

Conversion to a private home from 1980

At the time of purchase in 1980 the two interconnected halls, though the brickwork was structurally sound, were in very poor condition internally, due to a combination of old age, poor maintenance, Youth Club modifications, leaking roofs and spouting and vandalism.

  • The original 1911 pressed metal ceilings in the front rooms, already damaged by the brick wall removals, were beginning to rust out and collapse because the valley gutter along the front roof was leaking.
  • The only water to the property was by a badly rusted galvanized pipe to an enameled cast iron sink then fitted into a kauri pine draining board in the now (2018) laundry.
  • The original 1860’s flooring, with 1 1/8 inch thick pine floorboards were very badly rotted towards the back on the main 1860s hall and particularly the back two rooms. This was caused by lack of external cutoff drains, leaky spouting, minimal sub floor clearance, inadequate sub-floor ventilation, a partly breached roof, smashed windows and accumulation of washed in debris. There was a tree growing out of the floor (and out the window) of the main former council chamber room.
  • The hard plaster lining the inside of all 1860 brick walls (including several layers of rotting wallpaper) above the 1.5 metre dado was badly peeling and cracked for many of the same reasons as above as well as rising damp.
  • Several of the original features including the huge 1860s fireplace in the main hall and the tiled 1911 entrance had been covered over by the 1960’s renovations. Stud walls covered by masonite had been put over the badly peeling original walls in the main 1860s hall.
  • Youth Club modifications still in place in 1980 in the 1860s hall included a platform supporting a boxing punching bag, fittings in the floor and ceiling for Roman Rings and other gymnastic equipment as well as a badminton net.
  • Break in and vandalism by local young people and ‘bikies’ was extensive. Most internal doors and external windows were smashed, rotting or missing. Billiard balls had been thrown around the walls in the 1911 front hall badly denting the still intact hard plaster.
  • Fire surrounds and hearths, where they still existed, were very badly damaged.
  • The lath and plaster ceiling in the south 1860’s back room and the back floors in both back rooms were not repairable. The only original unpainted, 1860s Baltic pine ceilings that could be retained are still in place in the back study and hallway of the current (2018) residence.
  • The back yard was full of rubbish and overgrown with blackberries, elm suckers and weeds.

On a positive side, the building was still structurally sound; minimal work was required externally; power and water services were still connected; the roof was essentially intact; the five brick chimneys (including one double chimney) were intact; the missing roofing iron was easily replaced; the original telephone connection was easily reinstated; wire screens put in by the Youth Club sill protected most of the window openings (even where the glass had been smashed) and external doors made it possible to ‘lock up’ the building.

Council requirements for the 1980s renovation

Plans for renovation were drawn up by Madin Lyons Associates (architects) in Ballarat and submitted to the then Shire of Creswick in 1980. The schedule of work was to:

  1. Repair downpipes, install spoon drains.
  2. Check subfloor clearances and ventilation
  3. Repair / replace windows and doors
  4. Remove internal linings, repair solid plaster
  5. Rewire as necessary
  6. Install septic tank, plumbing fixtures, supply and waste pipes
  7. Construct stud wall partitions (as shown on architects plan: essentially to replace brick walls that had been removed in the 1960’s)
  8. Make good ceiling to Bedroom 1, Workroom
  9. Rebuild fireplaces to CSIRO recommended specifications
  10. Insulate ceiling, space, 75mm fibreglass recommended.

The Council, having owned the building for over 100 years, gave approval in 15 Feb 1980 with a set of caveats that:

  • A complete and effective system of stormwater collection and disposal is provided to the building
  • The walls and floors of the bathroom are lined with impervious material
  • Flywire screens are fitted to the bathroom and kitchen windows.
  • Doorways of minimum width (bathroom 700mm, Laundry 740mm, all other doorways 800mm.

1986-7 Addition of an upstairs bedroom

On return from Darwin in early 1985 and a third child born in May 1986, Barry Golding and Janet Bracks decided to create a fourth, upstairs bedroom.

The Shire of Creswick rate notice for 30 Sept 1986 indicated a Site Value (SV) of only $2,900 and a Capital Improved Value (CIV) of $7,000 (in 1981 the then Council rates were only $85 per year, and the Water Rates were only $55 per year).

In June 1986 Maddin Lyons, Ballarat architects, drew up plans to create a new upstairs bedroom above the laundry and part of the southern front bedroom. This involved changing the roofline, adding a staircase, building in cupboards and providing a small door to provide simpler access to the roof space. These plans were approved by the Creswick Council on 11 August 1986.

Most of the structural and carpentry work including the solid, single run staircase was undertaken by Paddy Caulfield, with the finishing including plastering done by Barry Golding.

The only contested modification post these renovation (identified by the Shire Building inspector in 1987 during an on site inspection as part of the process of gaining a Certificate of Occupancy in 1987) was a Regulation requiring the floorboards in the bathroom to be covered by an impervious material. An application to waive this requirement was formally granted by the Building Referees Board. A formal ‘Certificate of Occupancy’ was granted on 17 August 1987.

Jack’s 1936 Wesley College Diary

Jack’s Wesley College Diary, 1936

Barry Golding, 10 August 2018

Context

After both my parents died: my mother, Joan Ethel Golding, in April 2011, my father’s (‘Jack: John William Golding’s) small, purple Wesley College 1936 school diary surfaced. Dad was born on 17 April 1920 and died 24 April 2002 aged 82 years.

Like many historic diaries, whilst this 1936 diary was not originally intended for later reading and analysis, it provides a fascinating window into what my father, ‘Jack’ (John William) Golding was experiencing as a rural adolescent, turning 16 years of age whilst away from home in Melbourne at Wesley College in 1936. He was then in the Boarding House, in Form 6A studying for the then ‘Leaving Certificate’ (Year 11) in the interwar period.

It is of particular interest to me as it provides new insights for me about a father who seldom talked on a personal level about his early life. It also allows me to reflect on my own experiences of a similarly difficult adolescent boarding house experiences (including bullying) in the same School thirty years later, albeit in very different social and political times during the mid 1960s.

The only living people mentioned in the diary (to my knowledge) in 2018 were Jack’s younger sister (and only sibling), Doris Jones, born in Donald in 1925, and now in her 90s and still living in Donald. Doris was able, in the process of writing this historical narrative, to clarify whom some of the people were who are mentioned in this 1936 diary. However Doris, being five years younger than Jack, was only 11 when he was away at boarding school in 1936.

I have added some of back stories in [square brackets], mainly from family histories as well as from online searches. An asterisk indicates this was a person whom I remember personally. The ‘Back to Donald’ Souvenir ‘Past and Present’, published by the Donald Times newspaper in October 1936 was particularly useful.

It is possible I have got some of this wrong and look forward to being corrected: via b.golding@federation.edu.au in future updated versions. All of the bullying my father and I experienced was in the context of the Boarding House and did not involve teaching or Boarding House staff. I understand that Wesley College in 2018 is thankfully very different from what my father and I experienced. The then Boarding House on the St Kilda Road site closed in 1980 and the school began to become coeducational in 1978, with the first Year 12 coeducational class graduating in 1990.

I contacted the school in 2018 via the Wesley Old Collegians Association to ask whether anything had been done to acknowledge the impact of past bullying on Wesley College students and families, and received no response.

What was in the diary?

As soon as I opened the diary the ‘blotting paper’, necessary in those days to mop up the excess blue or black fountain pen ink, and used during 1936 to write the entries, dropped out. Indeed on 28 July 1936 Jack received, in the mail from home (with a silk handkerchief), a ‘Conway Stewart’ (a then major British writing instrument brand) fountain pen. On that day, in lighter blue ink, Jack’s never good writing improved somewhat, observing as he wrote that ‘… he was trying to hold it correctly’.

Also loose in his diary was a small, undated newspaper cutting, with the header ‘YOUTH FOUND SHOT IN BED’. The one paragraph article tells the sad tale of a 16-year-old Swan Hill boy found dead in his bedroom. One can only guess the back story and why it was collected by Jack as an item of interest.

He went to Swan Hill for an entertainment and returned home and went to bed. … A pea rifle had been used and the shot penetrated his heart. The youth died in an hour. He had been depressed since his mother died five months ago.

The diary covers the period from when Jack left Donald by train to go to boarding school in Prahran on 10 Feb 1936, to end of Term 3 on 11 Dec. On his February train trip from Donald to Melbourne Jack was:

… met at Spencer Street Station by Uncle Bill [presumably W. G. Pearse] at 6.30, had tea and arrived at college at quarter to 8. Unpack and go downstairs. Am nicknamed “Snoops”. Eric Bartless shows me round. Weight around 8 stone five pounds.

The last full day entry in the boarding house, before he took his school suit down to the dry cleaners on 10 December, reads:

Tonight we have high tea. I dress up as the “mad hatter”. I act the fool with three ?xxx? on. We run around the block afterwards. I swim after school and do 46 yards underwater. I get a celluloid Father Christmas of the high tea cake on Mr Brown’s table as a souvenir.

There are eager and interesting entries of up to six lines for each day for the nine months between. Jack deemed the events of 31 July so interesting he inserted an extra page and breathlessly filled both sides as follows.

Today one of the greatest events in boarding school history is disclosed. George Davey, Charles Dunning [a member of the Wesley College First 8 rowing tea] and Buxton were concerned. Last Friday afternoon a gentleman asked for 9 Wesley boarders to accompany 9 girls to a dance. They were to go with Scotch [College] boys but the boys could not go. The three boys broke bounds after lights out and went to the dance at twelve thirty. The three boys return with the person who came to ask for the boys before at 6.30.in the meantime the boys went to the dance and went to supper at the home of the chap who brought them home in his car. The masters so how found out, other schools knowing of the happening as well. The boys have been seeing Mr Brown, Mr Stewart [Headmaster 1933-39] and Mr Kennedy all the week. The boys would have been expelled, but the boys pleaded, with the help of masters successfully. Tonight Mr Stewart talked for a quarter of an hour about the happening, about the bad traditions of the school, about bringing in new ones, about the bad habit of messy dorm beds. He spoke as well as Mr Kennedy of their knowledge of similar happenings and the consequence of breaking bounds. Mr Stewart spoke of his association with Wesley for many years, how he had seen Wesley grow through his long association and of his wish that bad traditions be discontinued. He spoke of mistreatment of new boys and how he wished it to be discontinued. I consider Dunning and Buxton. Mr Kennedy (Plug) said he know boys had misfiled leave slips purposefully, that he had found this out in connection with breaking bounds and that the boys concerned would be gated [meaning confining (a student) to the grounds of a college as punishment] for the rest of the term. There are several boys concerned. Mr Kennedy tells us that Mr Stewart has granted us another monthly weekend (we should not have one till next weekend …. I tore my pyjamas in a scrimmage after pulling Mellor’s bed off. He pulled my bed off first (put to it by old boys). The vice at present is dice. They toss Roddy and Johns to see whose newy out of myself and Mellor eats two laxative pills and who eats aspros. I make out I eat the aspros.

This extra entry gives a vivid glimpse of the hierarchy of old boys and new boys, and of the way life, including bullying and intimidation, played out in the boarding house out in the 1936 dormitories after ‘lights out’. Other entries in the diary, discussed as one of the diaries ‘emergent themes’ later, confirm that Jack was subject to persistent boarding house bullying. I found it somwhat similar three decades on, with bed rolling Jack mentions (having you and your mattress upended onto the floor, often in the middle of the night) still common three decades on. The same horsehair mattresses were still in the dormitories during the 1960s.

Jack’s family was not wealthy enough to afford more than one year (that turned out to be his final one) at Wesley College. My own family was just able to afford the final two years for me in the same school boarding house in the 1960s. My sister Judith had also been booked in to board at MLC, but ended up staying in Donald to undertake her Matriculation class in order to ensure the Year 12 class achieved minimum numbers to run. Somewhat like my father, I came to Wesley to board only for the final school two years to a boarding house hierarchy and friendship groups that were firmly established. It sometimes felt, after ‘lights out’, like the culture of violence in the Clockwork Orange movie of 1975. I wish my father had been able to talk about what he had experienced at the time. I only found out many years after my school days that my parents, despite putting on a brave face for me, had both sobbed when they dropped me off when they saw how rugged the Boarding House dormitories looked in the mid 1960s.

Each date in Jack’s diary Calendar had been individually crossed off with the school holidays blocked out. Most of the teaching staff listed in the front of the diary had had their nicknames added. Mr Stewart, mentioned above, was the School Headmaster as well as ‘Stewy’, and Mr Brown, one of the 16 listed Assistant Masters was known by his initials as ‘VK’. Greenham was ‘Bar’, Gwillim was ‘Pips’, Hargreaves was ‘Jock’, Hattam was ‘Teary’ and Hulme was ‘Stiffy’. Mr Kennedy (‘Plug’) was the [Boarding] Housemaster. A. A. Phillips* (‘Tosh’), the English master later became a well known Australian writer, critic and teacher, best known for coining the term ‘Cultural Cringe’ in his pioneering essay, The Cultural Cringe (1950), which set the early terms for postcolonial theory in Australia. ‘Tosh’ was still teaching at Wesley College, and taught me what was then called ‘clear thinking’ in my English class 30 years later. ‘Nertz’ Lesser*, nicknamed on account of his large nose and ‘Franksy’ A. A. Frank* (the Gymnasium Master) were also still on the staff. One can only wonder about ‘Poufta’ McBride in a era or homophobia. I recall that when I was an adolescent during the 1960s being sternly reprimanded by my grandfather for using the ‘p’ word, without then fully understanding its meaning.

I have chosen to illustrate the diversity and depth evident in the necessarily brief daily diary entries (with only six lines available on week days and three on weekends) by writing under the emergent themes under a series of sub headings.

What was happening in the world in 1936?

The Great Depression of the 1930s broke when my father, Jack Golding, was ten years old. It had a devastating effect on the world nations and peoples, rich and poor, for much of that decade. Unemployment reached a peak in of 32 per cent in Australia by 1932. The National Museum of Australia summarised the situation by 1932, as below.

The immediate effect was on individuals and families: children with not enough to eat; men, the traditional breadwinners, humiliated and powerless; women scrabbling to hold families together. Suicide rates increased dramatically. In the absence of unemployment insurance, charity groups became the only source of relief but were unable to feed the overwhelming numbers of hungry. National income declined by a third. More than 40,000 men moved around the country looking for work: setting up shantytowns on the edges of communities and camping in parks. The few jobs that did become available were cruelly fought over. By 1932, more than 60,000 men, women and children were dependent on the ‘susso’, a state-based sustenance payment that enabled families to buy only the bare minimum of food.

 The decade of the 1930s been particularly hard for Australian rural communities. Australia experienced high inflation from 1919 to 1920 and then a severe recession until 1923. With the economy then based on agricultural production, Australians identified prosperity with the land. Returned soldiers were resettled on rural blocks and more than 200,000 government-sponsored British immigrants arrived, many moving to country towns.

However, in the mid-1920s, just as Australia’s rural economy began to recover, so too did European countries affected by the war. The United States, Canada and Argentina began producing agricultural surpluses for market. This created a global oversupply of Australia’s major exports: wheat and sheep.

The collapse of the banks in the 1930s and its effects on people’s economic and business confidence personally affected my grandparents and parents and often became intergenerational: my parents never borrowed money from the bank and nor did I.

My family home community, Donald, in the flat and often dry wheat and sheep country of the Victorian Wimmera was also adversely affected, as was the family hardware business, W. J. Golding & Co. The business was effectively a Donald offshoot of Rowe and Sons, first established in my grandfather’s (Walter James Golding’s*) hometown of St Arnaud where his father and grandfather had been gold miners. A Donald branch of Rowe and Sons was opened in 1908. My grandfather, Walter, became manager of Rowe and Sons and Golding in 1912. I have a thick slab of glass at home with the huge (now renovated) gold leaf letters ‘and Golding’ applied, that was unearthed during shop renovations in the 1980s. The same business operated as W. J. Golding & Co in Donald for much of the same century. My late parents, Jack and Joan Golding, in partnership with my aunt and uncle, Doris and Graham Jones* managed the business after my grandfather retired, My elder sister Judith, and her husband Wayne Hastings in turn carried on the same family business for several decades.

The period between the First and Second World Wars, whilst my parents were growing up, including whilst Jack was away for most of 1936 at Wesley College Boarding House, was a time of increased world tension. In 1935 Hitler had unilaterally canceled the military clauses of the Treaty of Versailles, signed in 1919 to conclude the First World War. In March 1936, two months into Jack’s 1936 diary, Hitler denounced the Locarno Pact and began remilitarizing of the Rhineland. By July 1936 the Australian Federal Government had announced an increase in military training strength, in response to the rise of facism in Europe.

And this was only part of the story of 1936. In the same year William Cooper, a Yorta Yorta elder founded the Australian Aborigines League just prior to the 150 year national ‘celebration’ in Australia: of convict ships arriving with British criminals, and later with economic refugees including my forebears. In the same year the last Tasmanian thylacine died in captivity in a zoo. Contrary to popular and convenient belief in 1936, Donald’s First Nations people, the Dja Dja Wurrung as well as the Palawin people in Tasmania have survived.

Jack and his family connections

 My father was a family man devoted to his relations and friends of the family in and beyond Donald. Donald is where he was born and where he was to live for most of his 82-year life, aside from several years training and serving overseas in the Air Force during World War 2. Many of the Pearse and Golding relatives lived in and around Donald and St Arnaud respectively, as well as in Ballarat and Melbourne, as mentioned in Jack’s diary.

The ‘Address Page’ in his diary lists (in order of entry, with added annotation):

  • George Lance*, Geelong College, Geelong [George was the same age as Jack and then a student at Geelong College and a lifetime friend of Jack. George’s father, Mr S. (‘Steve’) A. Lance, was a motor mechanic and the earliest motor garage proprietor in Donald. His business, the ‘Premier Motor Garage’ was next door to my grandfather’s (W. J. Golding & Co’s) shop, and his wife was a Pearse. My grandfather, Walter Golding and Stephen Lance formed a partnerships called ‘Lyric Picture Company’ to show pictures, on a Pathe-Biograph projector they bought for 100 pounds. Initially the pictures were shown in the Motor Garage as there we then no safe, purpose-built picture theatres in 1915. George Lance was born in Donald in August 1920 and died in Ballarat in July 2015. Visiting George and his wife Joan on the way through Ballarat in the 1950s-60s was part of my own childhood).
  • Mrs Trawin, 44 Paxton St, East Malvern [the Californian bungalow is still on the same block. This is likely ‘Aunty Kate’ Trawin. Trawin’s were a St Arnaud family connected by marriage to William Golding as far back as 1859. Olivia Golding (nee Trawin, perhaps officially spelt Trewin), my Golding grandfather’s mother died in St Arnaud in 1941].
  • Methodist Ladies College [An all-girl Methodist School and Boarding House in Elsternwick, with close links to the then all-boy Wesley College].
  • Mrs W. G. Pearse, 41 Mathoura Road, Toorak, to become Jack’s favorite weekend escape in 1936. The slate roofed mansion is still there behind a high ivy hedge. Mr W. G. (William Geake) Pearse, who was known in the family, by virtue of his non-agricultural profession, as ‘Banker’ Pearse, died in Melbourne in 1937, the following year. W. G.’s wife (Mrs Isabella Elizabeth Pearse, nee Palmer), referred to by Jack as Auntie ‘Lizzie’, died three years later in 1939. Their daughter, known in the diary as ‘Mollie’ Pearse, was one of W. G. and Isabella’s seven children. Mollie’s husband E. G. Spencer was killed in World War 1. Confusingly for family historians, ‘Mollie’ had the same birth and Christian names (born in 1890 as ‘Amelia Geake Pearse’) as my own grandmother (born 11 December 1897). Mollie died in Melbourne in 1957. Mollie’s daughter Margaret was also living at home during 1935. Folklore has it (pers. comm. via Michael Greenham, Dartmoor District Museum in 2019: Mollie’s late husband, E. G Spencer was Michael’s great uncle) that Margaret was diabetic and died from an ‘episode’ at their Toorak home.
  • Mrs D. Crone, 44 Canterbury Avenue [no suburb given. This likely Auntie Leonore (Crone’s) home. The Crone’s were butchers in Donald for many decades. W. G. Pearse’s daughter, born in 1897 as Leonore Victoria Pearse, married David Crone from Donald, and died in Bruthen in 1959. Crone’s phone number ‘W2482’ had been added to the Memoranda section of the diary.]
  • Douglas Bligh, 47 Ebden St, Kyneton. [The address is the same as the former Methodist Church in Kyneton. A ‘Reverend Bligh’ was a former Donald Methodist Minister, and Douglas was likely his son.]
  • ‘Peggy’ [no surname], ‘Stonycroft,’, 140 High St, Northcote. [Peggy Browne, likely with Donald connections, is the only ‘Peggy’ mentioned in the diary, in association with Alison Lelean [the daughter of then Donald (medical) Dr Lelean.]

On arrival in Melbourne Jack was greeted by ‘Uncle Bill’, almost certainly W. G. [‘Banker’] Pearse. On his first day at school he also met Owen and David Parnaby* as well as Lawrie Maddock. [Reverend P. Parnaby was a Donald Methodist Minister: Owen and David were their sons. Owen (1921-2007), aged 15 in 1936, later became long-serving Master of Queens College at University of Melbourne (between 1966 and 1986). David Parnaby later became a well known forester in many places across rural Victoria: Indeed ‘Dave’ was the Chief Forester for the Forests Commission in Daylesford when I first moved there in the mid 1980s. Dave and Shirl’s son, Harry introduced me to bats and wildlife research, and I helped him enroll on his first day at Monash University, later to take out a PhD in bats. Dave gave me a part time job as a (then unemployed) rural 26 year old on the RED (Rural Employment Development) Scheme [an early, Whitlam-era, ‘Work for the Dole’ scheme during the mid-1970s recession]. My job looking at hollow dependent mammals and birds in the Wombat Forest later became my Masters thesis in Environmental Science. How the world turns, but often reconnects intergenerationally.

Lawrie Maddock was perhaps the son of William Francis Maddock and Eliza Maddock, of Toorak, Victoria. Their Laurie Maddock later became a member of the Royal Australian Artillery, one of over 2000 Allied prisoners of war (POW) held in the Sandakan POW camp in north Borneo, having been transferred there from Singapore. A Warrant Officer Class 2 Lawrie Maddock, aged 25, died as a prisoner of the Japanese on 24 July 1945. ‘Maddock’s phone number, ‘Windsor 7132’, had been added to the back of Jack’s diary.

On the first weekend Jack took leave from the boarding house and went out to ‘Auntie Lizzie’s’ (Isabella Elizabeth Pearse’s) at Mathoura Road for Saturday afternoon and evening, and then to ‘Auntie Kate’s’ on Sunday afternoon.

For his second weekend, ‘Uncle Bill’ phoned him to arrange to take him to the pictures. This theatre outing with Uncle Bill may have been with W. G.,’s eldest son, William Nicholas Pearse* (whom I called ‘Uncle Nick’), who would have then been 26 years old. On Sunday he went to Uncle Will’s, but only ‘Margaret’ and  her sister, ‘Auntie Mollie’ were home. ‘Auntie Mollie’ was the war-widowed daughter of W. G. Pearse (born in Creswick in 1861) and Auntie Lizzie.

Mollie had married Edward George Spencer (son of the Frederick and Mary Spencer [nee Morrison], farmers from Dartmoor in 1917. E. G Spencer likely met Mollie when he went to Laen and Lawler Presbyterian Church as the missionary preacher immediately prior to World War 1). Mollie’s younger sister, Leonore, was my Grandmother Golding’s (born Amelia Geake Pearse’s) bridesmaid.

That evening on his second weekend in Melbourne, Uncle Bill took him ‘… to St Kilda and to his wife’s home for tea. An evening at [Mrs W. G. Pearse’s] Mathoura Road spent very enjoyably.’

Aside from writing regularly to his then girlfriend, Enid Hancock, Jack also wrote regularly to home as well as to ‘Grandma’ Golding in St Arnaud. Enid Hancock was the daughter of Mr Harry Hancock of Donald and sister of Cliff Hancock*. Enid is mentioned over 20 times in the Donald Times newspaper between 1931 (when she ‘gashed her foot on a bottle’) and 1949, with her ‘approaching marriage’ to Vernon Brand. We know from these newspaper entries that Enid was a horse rider, a swimmer, a Girl Guide and a cyclist with links to the rural community of Laen. The year 1936, whilst Enid was Boarding at MLC in Melbourne, is the only year without a newspaper entry.

One early letter from Jack went to his cousins, Barney Pearse* (in Donald) and another to Chandler Percy. Some food parcels, including grapes (likely from Eric Golding’s* Mildura fruit block), arrived at the nearby Prahran station during his first month away from home. Clearly the grapes were not allowed in the dormitories, as on 12 March he wrote: ‘Have a dorm feed. Go down [drain] pipe and get grapes from locker 74.’

On the night of 21 March Jack went to Luna Park, but noted that the fudged, official leave excuse was ‘Go into the Times Theatrette’ then at 283 Bourke Street in Melbourne CBD. He noted other Wesley boys were there. The next day he walked to the (very recently opened) ‘Shrine [of Remembrance] and Botanical Gardens. Met the Weinberg family [Weinberg’s later had a small business in Donald and a farm between Donald and Cope Cope’, adding without explanation, ‘Lylia knows too much’.

In early April, ‘Uncle Jack’ [John Frederick Pearse*, Mollie’s younger brother, born 1891, died in Donald in 1976, and my idiosyncratic and favorite Uncle] and his wife ‘Aunty Vera’* (born Vera Adele Button, died 1960] visited Jack at school: ‘I show them over the school buildings. They are impressed . [In the 1930s the George & Alfred Nicholas brothers, of ‘Aspro’ fame, donated money for the construction of new buildings. The building work commenced in late 1933. The new swimming pool and gymnasium were completed in 1934 The new school was dedicated the following year in May 1937] have paid 175,000 pound to make Wesley what it is. They are still paying’.

The weekend before Easter Jack sees: ‘Mr Bligh, Mrs [Bligh], Doris [Golding, his sister], Douglas and Enid Hancock [from Donald, the latter boarding at MLC] at front fence. In afternoon I go to the Museum and walk around the city’.

On his first weekend back after the Easter holidays Jack goes out again to Mathoura Road. Uncle Ged* [W. G. Pearse’s, brother, Geddie Thomas Pearse born 1893, died 1966] is there’. He later goes ‘… to the Village Theatrette with [Mollie’s daughter] Margaret Spencer. We play cards. (I end up with three pound 16 shillings in debt [This is a huge debt for its times, unless, as was the tradition with some card playing devout Methodists who were discouraged to gamble, a theoretical debt]. I had late leave, got back to school at 11 o’clock’. On Wednesday 22 April Jack writes: ‘Walk into the city and see an exhibition of photography at the Athenaeum Theatre (upstairs, called ‘Salon Photography’). The next day he visits perhaps the same ‘photographic exhibition (Collins St)’.

During his second week back at school after Easter, Jack noted that: ‘It is only one week to the exams’, but otherwise seemed unconcerned about this fact. By Friday of that same week he sounded as if he was at a loose end, writing: ‘No item of sufficient interest to grace the page of this, my 1st regular diary took place today’. He rang Mathoura Road to again spend the weekend there. On the Saturday: ‘I go to the ANZAC march at the Shrine. We (except for Margaret and mother) go out to Uncle Darby’s for tea. Barbara and I do not fight. Uncle Ged’s foot is to be given ray treatment on Tuesday’. On Sunday: ‘Go to church in Toorak Road in morning (Centenary service). Go for drive in car in afternoon. Meet Mrs Cook, widow of Donald Minister. Do not go to church in evening, Write home.’

On most June weekends after the May holidays, Jack went out to Mathoura Road for the day. On 5 June he arrived for dinner unexpectedly as: ‘Laurie forgot to tell them I was coming. [On Saturday] I go with Auntie Mollie to city. Aunty goes to Carlton and Collingwood football. I go to School Scotch versus Wesley [football]. I have tea in Prahran. I go down to Luna Park. Meet Roddy’s girlfriend “Shirley”’.

On Sunday 21 June Jack was again back at Mathoura Road, including tea for Barbara Crone’s 14th Birthday, having written ‘… had fish and chips from Prahran (interesting)… ’ on the Saturday evening.

The following weekend he thankfully gives the people at Mathoura Road a rest, writing beforehand ‘… to Auntie Kate asking if it will be convenient to have him for the [monthly leave] weekend and possibly some of the Monday’. The same week he writes to his girlfriend Enid, ‘including a paragraph praising Charles Wilson’.

Jack spent the whole rainy weekend with Aunty Kate, going to the pictures in Gardiner with her on Saturday and having two very late nights without further elaboration: ‘In bed at 2am Sunday and 1.30am Monday. Cath’s [Trawin’s] boyfriend Harry was also staying at Trawin’s for the long weekend and they all went out with Auntie to see the picture ‘Top Hat’.’ [a 1935 American screwball musical comedy film featuring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers].

On 1 July Jack writes: ‘Receive a letter from Mother. Father has not had time to write. He is stocktaking’ This was a time consuming, annual end of financial year audit of stock, still a huge job during my childhood. He spends the following Saturday in the city unsuccessfully trying to find out ‘where Bernard Hogan is employed’. He meets ‘Barbara Crone and Margaret Spencer at Manchester Unity corner. We go out to Pearse’s for dinner with them. I stay for tea. In the afternoon I go with Barbara and see “Mutiny on the Bounty” [A 1935 American drama film directed by Frank Lloyd and starring Charles Laughton and Clark Gable]. Margaret has a lot of people out for tea’.

On July 6 Jack receives ‘… a letter from Margaret Brownell and Alison Lelean (on an invitation card) inviting me to an evening on 25th’. A later diary entry records the evening was ‘given by Alison and Margaret (Peg) at Mr/Dr Brownell’s. I have a good time’.

Two weeks after he posted home his First Term report book he met up with his Mother, Amelia, Uncle Os [John Oswald Pearse] and Auntie Het [Henrietta Fleming Pearse] at the Victoria Palace [where they often stayed, then in little Collins Street], ‘… having tea with them at the Criterion [Hotel in Collins Street]’. Os was down to have his tonsils out at St Ives Hospital [then on Wellington Parade. East Melbourne], so they all stayed down for the week, meeting up with Jack again on the weekend, including a visit to the Shrine [officially opened only 18 months before, on 11 Nov 1934]. On the Sunday he went ‘… out to Mrs Trawin’s with mother [Amelia]. Before[hand] I show her over the school, kitchen and other buildings.’ Amelia went back to Donald by car with Mr Arthur Moore [then Donald Auctioneer and Station Agent] on 21 July, and Jack again visited Het and Os at the Victoria Palace on 23 July.

Jack was back at Mathoura Road on the weekend of 26 July, ‘to Mr & Mrs Chellew’s for Mrs 70th Birthday, to Aunties for tea, Church at Toorak Road.’

During the week of 10 August his father Walter came down to Melbourne ‘… to have his books audited’. On the Tuesday he had ‘… tea in the cafeteria of the Victoria Palace. [Walter] is going to see John Calhoun [Donald Doctor] in hospital injured in football Friday and then out to Auntie Kate’s to see all out there’.

The first three weekends after the September holidays Jack was back at Pearse’s at Mathoura Road. However his request to go to Mrs Bert Bassett’s Silver Wedding Anniversary [Bert, B. M. Bassett managed a Donald family hardware business then in opposition to Golding’s hardware business. In 1936 Bert was also President of the Donald Shire] on the evening of 26 Sept was denied by Mr Kennedy. He was, however allowed leave to go to the Melbourne Show with his father on 24 Sept, also meeting ‘Mr Rowe’ there, noting that his cousin, Ivan Pearse was there with the YAL [Young Australia League: an Australian organization promoting nationalism and patriotic values]. He also saw ‘Mr Dunstan and brother Premier’ [Sir Albert Dunstan from nearby Cope Cope, was then Victorian Premier, from April 1935 to September 1943, and also from September 1943 to October 1945] at the Melbourne Show.

Jack and the bullying in the boarding house

There was evidence of a lot of early bullying towards Jack, that continued on and off in the Wesley College Boarding House for the whole school year. Some of it was evidently due to the fact that he was a ‘newie’ and therefore (un)fair game for bullying by the ‘old boys’. Even when I was in the same Boarding House in the 1960s, violence and intimidation through bullying, mainly directed at lower status and vulnerable ‘new boys’ by ‘old boys’, beginning with ‘initiation’ were rife.

On Jack’s second day he writes: ‘Initiation begins. I tell joke and because I do not sing get dozed’. Likely this is a reference to being bull-dozed or bullied, but I invite feedback from anyone who knows better. On the third day he writes: ‘At night have an aeroplane ride but back unsteady, Asked to get cascara [laxative] pills. Get painfully dozed.’ On the next day he writes: ‘Do many duties for past students’. At the end of the first week he writes that he was: ‘ … Reprimanded about my form of address’. On the weekend he reflects that: “Boys are given 24 hours to confess guilt”.

In his second week Jack was feeling somewhat more positive, starting the week with the entry: ‘No trouble today. The questions (33) we had to answer [presumably by the older boys] were stopped by the headmaster’. Again in the fourth week: ‘Day spent without incident’ as well as: ‘Old boys do not bully much now’. However the bullying had resumed by March 16. ‘Old boys give me two doz. They are becoming very frequent’. Again on April 6: ‘School down here is now becoming regular routine. Except for “old boys” bullying’.

With Easter at home in sight his spirits lifted. His diary entry on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Easter read: ‘What a day! School runs smoothly. Not even an argument with an old boy. No lines. All homework done … I go down to Prahran and buy chocolates etc. for mother and an Easter egg for Doris. I also have a haircut. Eric Bartlett gets my [train] ticket at Tourist Bureau.’

‘Fun’ (with violence) after lights out resumes two weeks after the Easter break. On May 2: ‘Old boys make “newies” crocodile into the Junior Regatta.’ On May 6: ‘… the boys make a lot of noise after lights out. Midgely crows, clucks, bow wows etc. Sykes imitates Big Bertha [a type of super-heavy World War 1 German howitzer], motor racing etc.. Dozes are becoming a punishments (for nothing) unreasonable.’

The Friday of that same week was a big day on the Public School Calendar: the Head of the River on the Barwon at Geelong. Jack had written to his friend, George Lance and arranged to meet him there. He had ‘… dinner, 1/9 at the ‘ABC’ café [then in Moorabool Street, Geelong]. I go to river, see George Lance, Mrs Lance, Mrs Parnaby, Wrigley family, grandfather, Uncle Eric [Golding] and Auntie Flo’. Jack travels back to Geelong by train the next day for the final of the boat races, seeing Cath Trawin at Nestles beforehand. Wesley had won the first heat on the Friday but on the next day was beaten by Geelong College in the final.

In mid June Jack notes that: ‘Roddy and Bowen are caught smoking by Mr Pescott in the afternoon. They pay a visit to Mr Kennedy. Mr Kennedy is going to meditate a couple of days before his decision’. (As a post script, Roddy and Bowen later got the option of ‘… 5 ‘whacks’ or 25 lines. They take the ‘lines’ option but do not deliver, the punishment then being blown out by 26 June to 250 lines) [Use of the cane in some schools persisted very late. There was an actively used caning register in some Ballarat public schools when I began secondary school teaching in Ballarat in the late 1970s].

On 18 June there were more adolescent pranks. Jack writes in breathless journalese: ‘The boys push a car owned by a boy from Newman College. It was left yesterday because it would not start. The car started and the car careered around front plot many times Sykes and NAME BLOCKED OUT ring leaders. Policeman on bicycle turns up. Boys scatter. Prefects on balcony take names. Mr Stewart comes out. I go to back turf and play football.’

On 30 July bullying by old boys in the boarding bouse was still happening, confirmed by: ‘The old boys are rather cruel still, especially Rodwell’ [James Rodwell rowed at Number 6 in the 1936 Wesley Eight at the Head of the River, His friend Dave (D. H.) Parnaby rowed as stroke]. Again on 9 July: ‘The old boys bully. I have a wrestle with Jimmy Rodwell. I come out loser but I am not touched at all for 10 minutes (because I would not swap knives)’.

Whilst swimming on 21 August Jack came back to his room ‘… to find blankets underneath mattress, drawers changed, pyjamas knotted etc., Money has been stolen daily for the last few days including 1/ from mine’.

On 26 Oct ‘Davey, Dunn and Elms ‘… take my slippers off at the bottom of the front turf. I have to come back to school and sit through prep with only one slipper. One slipper returns during prep’ [‘prep.’ was a supervised, ‘preparatory’, evening time for doing homework].

The Boarding House bullying was there right to the end of the year. On 26 Nov Jack writes: “I will not compete in a game in dormitory on Thursday night in which the blinds are pulled and they crawl on the floor with loaded socks swinging at each other. The result is that I am outlawed and bullied. They throw my bed out the window. Roddy goes down [drain] pipe and retrieves it.’ The next day again: ‘My clothes and everything in the wardrobe are thrown about twice today by Roddy and ?Crong? respectively.’

Jack struggling with his school studies (but developing some diversions)

Jack started his Leaving Certificate studies and boarded at Wesley College for just one year in 1936. Many boarders would have started several years earlier. ‘Old boys’ towards the top of the rigid Boarding School hierarchy were likely better adapted to the very different teaching and living arrangements than he experienced as a newbie 15 years old boy in Form 6A, and also less bullied.

 

Jack was impressed and amused in his first week of classes: ‘Teachers very amusing. History master knows history off by heart, he relates story of about 20 murders straight off’’. In the second week he had his first gym session and noted that he was ‘… Getting into the way of the school and beginning to get a grasp of the new subjects’. By his third week he bravely writes: ‘Have not yet got home sick. I think only those who are used to being a long time away from home get home sick. [School] Still a novelty.’ He rationalised that he was ‘… kept occupied at prep times, not even time to write letters’, and prophetically complained that: ‘Homework too much is the curse of all school life’.

By his third weekend away from home Jack began to sound despondent: ‘[Satur]day spent reading papers, reading “The Term of his Natural Life” etc. Time hangs heavily on hands. I have not met (accidentally) anybody I know from Donald yet.’ On Sunday: ‘ Go down to Port Melbourne (walk) to visit warships. A great crowd there. Father arrives city 3.15 and he comes with me to Adamson at night’. [The warships he saw almost certainly included the recently commissioned light cruiser, HMAS Sydney, that would later be lost in action in 1941].

A few weeks later, on 18 March Jack noted that: ‘The day is drizzly and makes one forever worn out. Am beginning to look forward to seeing Donald again’, but again bravely adding: ‘Not homesick.’

On 24 March he received a letter from home ‘… enclosing birth certificate and authority to learn dancing, also authority to come home (at) Easter’. His first school report arrived on April Fools Day, with Jack remarking that most boys seemed ‘… more sober about observing (the Day)’. The report, however, was no April Fools Day joke, and disappointed him, tersely adding, ‘It is not as good as I expected’.

Whilst his school studies may have been mediocre his Monday dancing classes went ahead in leaps and bounds. By 4 May 4 he is up tempo and writes: ‘I go dancing in evening and show great improvement. Quickstep and Waltz have been mastered by most after five lessons’.

By mid May Jack was ‘… looking forward to going home. Uncle Eric* [Golding: my grandfather’s brother from Mildura] is up there with his wife and family.’ After the late May school break the regular Monday dancing classes resumed. On 8 June: ‘I go dancing. We learn many new steps. I have two dances with dreadful partners. One has knees bent the other is not flexible. I have improved during the holidays.’ The following Monday evening he goes dancing again ‘…. at 7.30. It finishes at five minutes past 9. We are to meet, lane at side of Fawkner Mansions [still on the corner of Punt Road and Commercial Road in 2018] at quarter to 10. Charles Dunning does not turn up. We report back. His absence is not noticed.’

The pressure of school and particularly schoolwork was becoming evident by mid year. On 9 June: ‘I have a heap of prep. Lots of English, one of Economics, two of Bookkeeping, one of History. About four or five hours work. All to accomplish in two hours.’ A week later after school, Jack goes to Camera Club that includes a lecture by Mr Porter about developing. ‘I do not find anything to do after Camera Club. I have a large amount of homework tonight.’

By 22 June the dancing has moved on to ‘… a new form of rhythm dancing. It is the first time I have ever heard of it’. Dancing was still a regular Monday evening fixture in mid July, but Jack, in the lee of his recent, bad school report for Term 1 wrote that: ‘I do not think I will go dancing next term but my parents leave it in my own hands’. Camera Club on Tuesday had moved on to printing photographs and was still a weekly event. Jack continued to swim at least weekly in the College’s heated pool.

Jack claims in between to have studied hard, but perhaps a little belatedly in the week before his August exams. He found the English paper easy ‘… but time was too short, 2 hours for 5 questions’. The British History exam ‘… was no too bad but I know very little about it. The paper was so long I could not complete it’. Similarly for the Bookeeeping exam: ‘The exam paper was too long to finish in an hour and a half’. Whilst he ‘swatted hard’ for Commercial Principles and had no time to study Economics, he optimistically wrote both papers ‘are not too bad and I should pass.’

The 2nd term exam results came out on 24 August and were not good (see Result table, below), but Jack was trying to be upbeat, writing: ‘My exam results are greatly improved on last term, a couple are worse.’ Jack’s results for first term, included below as recorded in the back of the diary with his later results for 1936, were also disappointing. Jack was no scholar in relation to these subjects. A copy of his report book was posted home on 5 July.

Jack’s resolution, with his final exams only six weeks off, to ‘work hard’, was written on the first day back into Term 3 studies. But it was evident that his interests and skills perhaps lay elsewhere in the natural and technological sciences. He remarked on 29 September about ‘… a lecture from Professor Hartung in aid of University Women’s College (1/ admission). The subject was “How nature makes her colours”’.

The next week he visited Myers ‘Progress House’ in Elizabeth Street, which a Trove Search (The Argus, 3 October 1936) reveals opened that same week, showcasing “Where your happiest “home dreams” come true in a most practical manner- demonstrating the very latest in Building, in Interior Decorating, in Home Furnishing, and even Gardening’.

The same day he visited ‘The Model Dockyard’ that, an on line search shows:

… was a business founded by Captain E. H. James in 1932. Situated initially in Flinders Street, the shop became so popular that it relocated to larger premises at 469 Elizabeth Street soon afterwards. By 1936 it had moved to the basement at 216 Swanston Street, where it would remain for over 20 years, becoming something of a Melbourne institution and popular destination for both children and adults alike on trips into the city. The shop sold complete models, model maker’s lathes and other tools, kits, castings for models and blueprint plans, as well as a large catalogue of other model making supplies.

On 15 October Jack went to an ABC concert in City Hall under the baton of Dr Malcolm Sargent [an English conductor, organist and composer. Being popular in Australia with players as well as the public, Sargent made three lengthy tours of Australia and New Zealand in 1936]. ‘MLC is represented, Alison Lelean and a few other girls I have met from time to time were there.’

Jack again ‘swotted’ for the November Leaving Certificate exams, but perhaps too little and too late, writing on 29 October that: ‘History seems to be a favorite for me, for studying, not as a subject’. The next day: ‘I start the morning by not being able to see properly, everything flickers before my eyes. I have a splitting headache, probably occasioned by long hours of swotting. (?) I doubt it’. On the Sunday before exam week the terse diary entry reads quite honestly: ‘I endeavor to swat, almost unsuccessfully’.

The next day, before the Tuesday Melbourne Cup Day Holiday Jack laments with envy that: “Harry Brownell is going on a bike tour including Mt Dandenong. I wish I had a bike down here now.’ He later noted that Wotan, a 100/1 outsider, won the Cup that year.

Jack took ill the next day, experiencing ‘… a sore throat in the morning and get a headache. I am in school sick room’. By Thursday ‘the salts’ he was taking reduced his temperature, admitting: ‘I have my books with me but I do not study. Sister’s very nice and a charming conversationalist’. By Friday: ‘I feel like jumping out of bed (I do a couple of times). My mother and father and [sister] Doris come down for cricket. They come with grandfather in his Dodge car.’ On Saturday: ‘My mother and sister come to hospital. Doctor comes and lets me get up at dinner time. I go and see ‘Showboat’ [a musical in two acts, with music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, first performed in 1927] at Regent with Doris (father and mother at Victoria [Hotel], but get to see Uncle Will. I am back at school at 8 o’clock. Matron expected me for tea. I go to bed in hospital.’

By the following week Jack is belatedly swotting English and History, accurately writing that: ‘My History chances are 10 to one against me passing’. After the History Exam Jack accurately predicts: ‘I do not think I will pass.’ The next day he writes: ‘I swot Commercial Principles a little (very little) … I do know the work fairly well afterwards’. On the Monday after the exam he (accurately) predicts: ‘I really expect to pass. I will be really surprised if I don’t. I try to study Economics.’ After the Economics exam Jack writes that: ‘The Economics exam was pretty stiff. But I may pass or fail’. Again, an accurate prediction, with a mark of 50%.

The entry on 17 Nov, in the middle of the exams only a month from the end of the school year is perhaps something of a disappointing bolt from the blue. ‘I receive a letter from father in the morning telling me I will not be back at school next year’. The next day Jack seems to have lost his belief in passing, and writes: ‘I don’t study in prep but read a novel. I go for a swim after school. I swim 47 yards underwater’. The next day as the mediocre results start coming, in he contemplates as he writes: ‘ I shall probably sit for supps’ [supplementary exams] and writes to Enid, for ‘… the first for 6 weeks’.

With the exams finished Jack goes ‘… to see “Monte Carlo Russian Ballet “at her Majesties Theatre with all the boarders and the resident Masters at Mrs Stewart’s [Headmasters wife’s] expense and to her home for supper. … I come back to school in McFarland’s Buick Coupe’ [1936 was the first year that Buick offered the sport coupe body style on a Special chassis. Only 2,003 were built. 1936 was the year that ‘Buick’s turnaround’ began. ‘There was so much new for 1936 – dramatic new styling, hydraulic brakes, slanted v-type windshield, bullet-type headlamps, turret top bodies, independent front suspension, new alloy pistons and improved water temperature control’]. Jack goes out to Mathoura Road for the second last time on 21 Nov, spending ‘… morning shopping with Auntie Mollie, Uncle Ted [Barney Pearse’s father]’.

The penultimate weekend at school is spent at Auntie Kate’s. On the Sunday they go down to Mentone with ‘J. Bright, Uncle Alby etc’ [Uncle Alby was Leonore’s husband]. We have a swim in the sea.’ In the last week Jack, as he predicted sits a supplementary exam in History and (accurately) predicts he will not pass. (When he learnt he got 45% in the last week of school he wrote: ‘Tough luck’).

On the final Friday the whole school goes on an excursion by train to Yallourn [a complex of six brown coal–fuelled thermal power stations built progressively in the La Trobe Valley from the 1920s to the 1960s]. ‘We inspect open cut, power house, briquetting works.’ Jack goes out to Mathoura Road for the final weekend.

Jack’s 1936 School Leaving Certificate results by Term

Subjects 1st Term Marks 2nd Term Marks 3rd term Marks
History 37 37 39 + 45
Bookkeeping 47 55 59
English 35 56 56
Economics 30 54 50
Commercial Principles No exam 44 56
Averages 40.25 49.2 53.2

Getting home and away on holidays

Easter of 1936 was Jack’s first chance to get home to Donald from boarding school, and he squeezed a lot into five days, going straight to ‘… see Dorothy Beckham and Enid. Both looking well. Go down street in evening. Go to Chandler Percy’s’. On Good Friday he rode his bike and then went ‘… to see Norman Wrigley in hospital. In afternoon play tennis at “Bassett’s” with Barney [Alfred William Geake Pearse, born 1919, then 17, Bob [Robert Wyatt Pearse, born 1921, then also age 15] and Tom [Thomas Francis Pearce, born 1923, then age 12]’. On Saturday he goes down to ‘Grandma’s’ [Olivia Golding’s, in St Arnaud. Olivia was widowed when her husband, William Golding, died three years before on 14 April 1933 in St Arnaud] for the afternoon and stays for tea, noting that: ‘The shops are open here in St Arnaud. I see a portion of tennis tournament [A St Arnaud annual fixture for many decades to the present in 2018]’. On Sunday he went twice to [Donald Methodist] church. On Monday Jack visited Ivan [Pearse’s] for the day and went ‘… shooting, in morning with double-barreled 12-bore shotgun (Ivan’s) and in the afternoon with my four-ten. We did not shoot anything except grass parrots’.

When Jack returned to school on Easter Tuesday he noted that he was leaving ‘… all at home well’, and that returning to school was ‘like coming home’. On his 16th Birthday soon afterwards (17 April 1936) Jack received a letter from his mother, Amelia, whom he quotes as saying your ‘Father (is) feeling quite old having a 16 year old son. Also (enclosed is a) postal note for 2/6’.

The long, two-week break home in late May was again packed with action in and around Donald, though it started slowly. On the Saturday he writes:‘ The town is very quiet, very little to see or do.’ On Saturday after Church he had ‘… a talk with Alison Lelean and Peggy Browne’ who he joined for a game of tennis the next day. On Monday Jack ‘… kicked around the town and at the [Golding’s] shop’, then ‘in company of Chandler in afternoon’, writing that ‘Chandler is too shy’.

Social tennis was repeated in Donald several times that week, on Tuesday morning ‘with Alison and Peggy (i.e. Margaret)’ and in the afternoon ‘… with Enid, Curtis and other girls and boys. They come around for afternoon tea’. On Thursday the tennis was at Jean Bassett’s and included playing with Harry Willey [Willey’s were long time residents of Donald]. ‘I stay out at Bassett’s and go to ‘Prize Giving’ [a then tradition associated with attendance and contribution to the Methodist Sunday School]. Alison sings in Fijian (to fill in space). I sleep at Bassett’s.’ The next day Jack played at farming: ‘On the morning I go on horseback from Bassett’s to round up some sheep and bring them to the homestead. In afternoon go droving and shifting sheep. Also I drive Ford truck a little bit’.

On Wednesday of his first week of holidays, Jack also went ‘… out in the car (Dodge) with Mother, Alison, Peg and Dorothy Beckham to Jean Bassett’s and in the afternoon went shooting with Bert and Chandler’. Things hotted up on the weekend with ‘… a dance and “sav and roll supper”, where he caught up with Barney [Pearse] and Lawrie also Ron Curtis and ??Flip?? Hancock’.

The second week of the holidays it was more (or less) of the same: tennis, afternoon teas and shooting with Chandler’s .22 [rifle] and his own .410 [second smallest caliber of shotgun), mainly at tins and bottles’. Wed 17 May was Enid Hancock’s 16th birthday ‘… and we (about 16 of us) have afternoon tea at Cullen’s (to celebrate at Mrs H. Hancock’s expense)’. The next evening ‘I go to a social in aid of the Queen of Agriculture with Harry Willey. Have a jolly good time’. [Rose Black eventually took out the 1936 crown. In 1936 there was also a ‘Queen of Soldiers’, ‘Queen of Sport’ and ‘Queen of Railways’].

On the Friday morning: ‘Go out to the depot [Donald rubbish tip] with Harry. In the afternoon I go down to Grandma Golding’s [in St Arnaud]. I have a drive of the car. I go to a ball at Richavon in aid of the Queen of Agriculture’. The Saturday was wet but jam-packed with indoor social events at the Methodist Parsonage, playing ‘… table tennis with the girls at Brokenshire’s, At Adams’ for an evening. I have a good time, arriving home at nearly 2 o’clock [am Sunday]’.

The Sunday before heading back to school was the usual: Church and Sunday School, then a walk with Peggy, Alison and sister Doris. Tea was at home with lots of visitors: ‘Alison, Margaret Spencer, Laurie, Barney, Gwen, Mr Bassett’.

Jack received a letter from his mother on 21 August ‘… that I can go down to Warrnambool to ??Nell’s?? for the holidays’, later taking the train down from Melbourne, proudly wearing his new purple Wesley College blazer. The next day Jack and George Lance ‘… inspect the city, and study wireless and microscopy. I go to Childers Cove shooting. We did not shoot anything’. Blind Freddie could see that the business-oriented subjects Jack was studying (badly) at school were a long way from his interests in these new, practical technologies.

That evening he, George and Mrs Lance went to see the picture ‘Rhodes of Africa’ [a 1936 British biographical film charting the life of Cecil Rhodes]. Over the next few days there was more microscopy and messing about with George Lance with ‘… the [crystal] wireless set’ as well as going down to see the Golding relatives in Port Fairy. Aside from making a crystal set [from 1920, crystal sets were superseded by the first amplifying receivers and became obsolete for commercial use,, but continued to be built by hobbyists, youth groups, and the Boy Scouts, mainly as a way of learning about the technology of radio] and listening to the wireless, they both ‘… caught and photographed insects under the microscope. We take photographs at night, of needle points and aphis knees with home made attachment for taking prints of things’. The crystal set they made, presumably from a kit, ‘… has a guaranteed thousand mile reception’. [George would go and develop his passion for electronics, radio (and later TV) post-war to establish the well-known ‘Lance and Yorke’ business in Sturt Street, Ballarat.

One week into the holidays Jack met up with Mrs [Vida] Golding and Geoff who came [from their home in Port Fairy. Auntie Vida had married Rupert William Golding, my grandfather’s brother, in 1924] to Warrnambool for Geoff to have ‘his sight fixed’, before going up to Donald on Saturday with George Lance and his mother via Lake Bolac and Ararat. ‘Down the street’ in Donald that night they met up with Bert Reeves, Harry Brownell, Alison and Arthur Lelean. ‘I do a little rifle shooting after visiting ‘War Museum’. One morning they threw boomerangs, another morning playing social tennis, another Jack was riding his bike.

Next day: ‘George and I see a little of the town and visit Sproats to see lake. Little lake [Buloke] in the morning, Big Lake [Buloke] in afternoon’ [That year the Richardson River had ‘run a banker ‘and filled both lakes]. On Monday night Jack goes to: ‘University extension lecture, “Has the League of Nations Failed?’ with Bert Reeves [The League of Nations was founded in 1920, after some notable successes and some early failures in the 1920s, the League ultimately proved incapable of preventing aggression by the Axis Powers in the 1930s]. The rest of the week in Donald he spent a lot of time also with Harry Brownell and Harry Willey, again: ‘… going out to Sproats’ and also to ‘Devon Park’ [Pearse family property where Jack’s mother was born] and one of the Trollop’s with grandfather’.

On a third trip to Sproats it was time to ‘play up’, writing proudly that: ‘4 of us’ (Harry Willey, Jennie, Hannah and Marjorie Bronte) buy Garrick [Australian brand] cigarettes and smoke’. That Saturday evening at a Blind Concert they all ‘… smoke at interval’ and later ‘… take the 2 gals home’, arriving home just before midnight. Perhaps to appease his sins before returning to school on the Monday by car, on Sunday Jack went to church twice as well as to Sunday School. As a post-script, for most of his adult life Jack was a Rechabite, a devout non-drinker of alcohol.

The trip back to school in Melbourne was by car and train. The car trip from Donald to Ballarat (with ‘Mother and Grandfather’, where they visited relatives ‘Hopkins, Powell, Jenkins’) took around three hours (‘from 2 minutes to 9 to just before a quarter to 12’). From Ballarat Jack took the Melbourne train, leaving Ballarat at 6.06pm and arrived back at school in Prahran at 10.10pm. On his first day back, there is evidence that Jack had likely had a stern talking to whilst at home, writing: ‘I have formed a resolution to work hard and to lead a good Christian life’, with the word ‘good’ having been inserted later before the word ‘life’.

 Several times during 1936 there are diary entries that refer to the then Australian military build up. On 27 July he went to Myers to see an Imperial Airways [the early British commercial long-range airline, operating from 1924 to 1939] exhibit of model aircraft. On 21 September he went to a series of lectures on Post-War Germany lasting over two hours, writing presciently, ‘I find it very interesting. It shows Germany up in a bad light.’ 

Jack’s tight school finances

Being away from home at boarding school for Jack meant being on a tight personal budget, then carefully recorded in pounds, shillings and pence on the Monthly ‘Cash’ pages in the back of the diary. His family was far from well off and Jack was always very careful with his money.

We know he went down in Feb 1936 with 12 shillings. Within a week he wrote in his diary: ‘ Spent 4/6 on second hand books. Funds getting low. Liabilities more than assets.’

His cash reserves were supplemented by ‘pocket money’ of 1/9d (around 20 cents in 2018 decimal currency), and augmented in March with a ‘gift from Aunty Lenore 2 shillings, Father 2/6’. A recurring early expense was one shilling for a locker key.

By mid year it was time for a top up, with ten shillings from father, 2/6 from grandfather and several 4 shilling ‘undisclosed’ entries during June, from their timing likely from W. G. Pearse or Auntie Mollie. Things were pretty tight, as Jack even recorded finding 4 pence in a wardrobe. By July there were 2 shilling contributions from Auntie Het, and 1/6 from his mother. By September, Jack had 22 shillings for safe keeping by the Housemaster, Mr Kennedy. One pound went in exam fees in October, later reimbursed from home.

 

The diary entries often mention finances. On 11 June ‘I receive a letter from home stating two singlets and three sets of underpants have been sent and asking me to ask for money to buy a pair of slippers. I go to Prahran. No parcel at station. I price scarves in shops.’ A week later: ‘I receive a letter with 7/6 enclosed to buy a scarf. I buy one [in Prahran] at Foy and Gibsons [one of Australia’s earliest department store chains] for 4/11’.

‘Lines’ as punishment

A full page of details about ‘ lines’: a then common, mindless but time consuming punishment for school misdemeanors, was written into the ‘Memoranda’ page, summarized in the table below, by date, the number of lines required to be written as punishment, sometimes including who gave the lines (House or Prefects), plus the offence that Jack committed to receive the lines. In one case he received corporal punishment: three ‘whacks’, presumably by cane.

The entries on 1 and 2 July tell the extended caning story.

Tonight [1 July], Mellor, Price and Bridgeborn were to have a run around the passages. We start off. Rodwell calls us back. I stop, the others keep going around the corridor. Mellor misses the step near the pastor’s study and goes in and hits the table. Mr Pescott comes round. I hide in the drying room. We go round and lock the study. I get my first whacking (X3).

The next day [2 July] ‘… is the first public school football match. Scotch won by about five goals. I yell myself hoarse. I get six whacks from each of Rodwell, ?Crang?, Bowen because I do not stay behind the goals the whole time’.

Jack writes on 12 May: ‘Have not had any lines since 28th [April]. Also I have not been whacked so far this term (touch wood)’.

Jack’s Lines in 1936 (exactly as recorded in his diary)

Date Number

of lines

Who from? Offence
Feb 25 50 House No books ready to begin prep.
March 15 50 House For being in bed in nude.
March 23 100 Prefects Because a boy flicks nail file in spare
April 7 50 House Because out of dorm after “flicker”
April 22 50 House Because boys make noise in prep.
April 27 100 House For coming to tea without tie tied
April 28 100 ?? Because boys make noise in prep.
June 24 50 Prefects For shifting a table in common room
June 30 50 Being doubling for not doing on 24th
July 1 3 whacks from Mr Kennedy for running in passages, but I did not let him know I did not …
July 9 100 Prefects For coming into spare late.
July 30 50 For coming down to breakfast late
Aug 7 50 For fighting in JR (common room)
Aug 8 50 For coming back after 2 minutes to (after pictures)
Oct 21 100 For passing note in prep.
Oct 29 100 For arriving assembly late
Nov 10 50 Caught on the stairs at 8 o’clock
Nov 26 100 For forgetting I was on letter duty

Jack’s physical activity

I knew my father in mid life as a good swimmer and extremely good at swimming very long distances under water, something I learned from and copied myself. In his second week at school as a 15 year-old adolescent boy Jack practiced swimming 25 yards underwater for a ‘wager’ (bet) with Douglas James that he won. By the end of the year he was doing close to 50 metres underwater!

Jack tried rowing for the first time in his third week away, writing: ‘It’s a fine sport. David Parnaby is in first crew. Bowen is in seconds.’ He liked it so much he went rowing four days that same week.

In the fourth week at Wesley Jack went in the school swimming trials and came third in the open 50 yards breaststroke. Swimming was certainly his forte and he also enjoyed cycling, but like me, he was certainly no land athlete. The same week he wrote that: ‘I am getting quite good at rowing’, some of it in a ‘practice team four’ that he later noted was ‘… the equivalent of about a fifth eight’. On the weekend of 14 March Jack went out with Auntie Mollie and had a ‘… three-mile swim along the Yarra from Grange Road Bridge to the Boat Houses near Princes Bridge, returning to Toorak by bus’.

Perhaps he got a bug from the lower Yarra River swim? By late March Jack was feeling ‘… off colour all day. See matron after school. Temperature 103.4 [F]. Influenza, headache, stiff in every limb. Go into hospital. Matron is rotten. Am not allowed tea. First meal I ever missed.’ Two days later and still in hospital, being administered ‘rotten salts’, Jack writes: ‘Am notified mother will be down [from Donald] and out [to see me] in afternoon. Mother calls, also grandfather, walks in, walks out and gives me 5 shillings.’ Jack’s mother, Amelia, returned the next afternoon with ‘… some oranges, 4 or 5 apples, carton of nuts and dancing pumps [shoes, tyoically with a low-cut front, the vamp, and without a fastening] (13/9). Also 2/ shout. Mother takes 7/ of mine home for Easter.’ The hospital stay lasted a total of six days, finally being allowed out on Monday afternoon ‘to Mentone with Uncle Jim and Uncle Alby’, where he ‘… saw sharks off Black Rock’.

Jack returned to the boarding house that evening … to dancing, involving a misunderstanding that Jack described as a ‘dickens of a row’. It seems the hospital matron wanted him in bed early and not dancing. The cold lingered almost until Easter.

Jack regularly barracked at the school football, but there is no mention of football otherwise when he was picked (on 16 July) ‘.. to play for Wesley’s “open” thirds against Grammar’ on the following Saturday. Jack played ‘… full forward in the left pocket’, a position he recalled with ironic glee to anyone who asked him about his non-interest in football decades later. Jack mentions football practice a few times in the weeks that followed, but has a sore leg at the time of the Saturday 1 August match and acts as goal umpire for the Wesley (seconds) match against Geelong Grammar. Football interest and participation disappeared without trace for much of the rest of his life.

Out of the blue on 4 August the boys get ‘… a talk a little about self abuse (masturbation) and about habits of boys, any generous character etc.’

By August 13 Jack wrote that: ‘I can now swim 34 yards underwater.’ A few days later, by swimming across rather than the length of the pool, he beat his record ‘by doing 52 yards (four widths of 13 metres each)’.

He was very aware of his weight. On his first day at school he weighed 8 stone five pound. August 27 he was 9 stone, 12 pounds, 14 ounces, height 5 foot eight inches.

In late September Jack tried out for the House athletic sports, trying the ‘weight putt (20 feet), long jump (14 feet) and hurdling (3 foot hurdles)’. Jack was disappointed that ‘… I can only [high] jump 3 foot nine inches’. He tried out a week later for the 880 yards but pulled out at 440. Trialing later for the 440 yards, he was not a runner and came last. He was less interested in competing and much more interested in using his camera to ‘… photograph chaps hurdling, jumps long and high’.

Not satisfied on the day of the last unsuccessful athletics trial, Jack challenged: ‘Bickart to a high jump. I cede him nine inches and beat him. I cede him 4 feet in long jump (am beaten), I cede him 200 yards in 880 yards (am beaten). I cede him 15 yards in 100 yards (am beaten). I was thoroughly worn out after 2 hours sport.’

Just before the end of the year it was time for what might now be called for ‘sex education’. On 25 Nov he wrote with wonderful but innocent juxtaposition: ‘Dr Featherson gives us a lecture on development of children in the vaginal cavity. He tried to tell us embryology that we all knew (at least I did). I get a letter from Enid’. The next day: ‘We get another sex lecture’.

Jack discovering girls

Unsurprisingly, as an adolescent boy of 15-16 years in 1936, Jack had a keen interest in girls generally and for much of the year, Enid Hancock in particular. In his third week away Jack went to the Plaza and saw [Shakespeare’s] ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’, remarking with some disappointment that ‘… only two groups of girls from other schools there’.

On 15 May Jack writes about coming home on the train to Donald for the May holiday ‘with MLC “dames”’, and seemed put out that the conductor removed the first class ticket holders (Mildura girls) from second class compartment that was [WORD ERASED] Margaret Taylor and [Jack’s then girlfriend] Enid’.

Throughout the 1936 diary Jack carefully records whenever he writes to and whenever he receives letters from Enid (as well as from home), but seldom mentions if or when he meets her. On 24 July the letter room Enid ‘… is of eight pages (small leaflets). I receive a different envelope and paper every time. Her grandfather died Sunday’.

Jack recorded on 5 August that: ‘I have not received and answer from Enid yet. I wrote July 29 in answer to an invitation to come to the pictures Saturday next’. On Thursday 6 August he records: ‘I receive a letter “note” from Enid. I answer it.’ And the picture invitation to the Capitol Theatre does happen on Saturday, with ‘… Enid, Winsome Warne and a Scotch boy’.

All mention of Enid, including letters between them, stopped for a month including during the September Holidays in 1936, but correspondence resumed, with a letter received from Enid on 23 Sept. He was clearly not only counting the number of pages but also the number of letters, noting that he had received ‘Enid’s 12th letter’ on October 1. One of the few times Jack mentions going out socially with Enid was on 9 October, albeit accompanied by other MLC girls, Joan Thompson and Geoff Risby, and again the next day when the same four again went to the pictures at ‘Hoyts Regent, Collins Street (seats 2/2 a piece), seeing “Follow the Fleet’ [a 1936 American musical comedy film with a nautical theme starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers], as well as ‘Don’t Gamble with Love’ [a 1936 American drama film], going afterwards with Enid and friend to the Victoria Cafeteria. ‘She [Enid] goes home to MLC about 7.30 and I walk in easy stages back to school (Not because I am low in funds).’

The table below suggests that the relationship with Enid had cooled by October. At the Combined Public School Sports on 31 Oct: ‘I meet Pegg Brownell and spend most of the day with her. I meet George Lance and on with him for five minutes. I also see Enid but do not speak to her. Alison is there but we do not see her’.

A page and a half of spare space in the back of the 1936 diary is devoted to a fascinating table chronicling the two way correspondence between Jack and his then girlfriend Enid Hancock from Donald, then also away at boarding school at Methodist Ladies College (MLC) in Hawthorn, reproduced below.

Jack’s record of two way correspondence between Enid Hancock and himself

(as written in his 1936 Wesley College Diary, pages 127 & 137)

Received Pages Sent Pages
March 2 1 March 4 4d
March 21 3 March 21 4
April 28 1 April 30 3
June 24 2 June 25 5
July 13 3 July 20 4
July 24 4 July 29 3
August 6 1 August 6 1
August 15 2.5 August 15 2
August 20 2.5 August 22 2
August 26 2 none sent
Sept 23 1.5 Sept 28 1
Oct 1 4 very small Oct 4 2
Oct 8 2 small Nov 13 2
Nov 25 2 small

 

Men’s Shed Movement Book availability 2019

The Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men book, Edited by Barry Golding, was published in 2015 by Common Ground Publishing in Champaign, Illinois.

The book is available for order in 2019 paperback for US$25  (postage is extra) or US$15 as a pdf copy (with colour photos) via the following link: https://cgscholar.com/bookstore/works/the-mens-shed-movement?category_id=common-ground-publishing. The book is also available for order on line via Amazon, as well as in Australia through the Angus and Robertson on line store.

The Men’s Shed Movement book was nominated for the Australian Journal on Ageing Book Award for 2017. One of the reviewers said ‘The book will be a valuable resource for those looking into the contribution of Men’s Sheds to society in the future’

Reflections on a Lifetime in Dja Dja Wurrung Country

Reflections on a Lifetime in Dja Dja Wurrung Country

This is a reworking, updating  and expansion of a paper I originally created for a 2004 ‘Black Gold’ Conference in Castlemaine that included an inspirational corroboree on Leanganook, Mount Alexander. The original paper was dated 23 October 2004 and called ‘The Great Dividing Trail and its associations with Djadjawurrung country’ .

Barry Golding, Federation University Australia,

May 2018

Abstract

I have lived in Djadjawurrung country virtually all my life. I have become increasingly and acutely aware – from a range of experiences, people, sources and interactions over a lifetime of 68 years – of the many ways Aboriginal people have shaped, and continue to reshape, white understandings (an ignorance) of Australia generally, and understandings of the Indigenous and cultural heritage of the Central Highlands of Victoria in particular. Given my lifetime living, working and re-creating in this Dja Dja Wurrung landscape, my paper traces the origins of my own, ongoing personal awakening to Dja Dja Wurrung associations and presence in the local landscape and community with an emphasis on what transpired here after contact in 1836. It starts from the uneasy silences behind the meaning of stone axes and cooking ovens found and experienced in wheat paddocks during my childhood in the Wimmera during the 1950s. My paper identifies some possible ways to continue to heal the ongoing, contested appropriation of Aboriginal land in Australia. It identifies the potential for local and collaborative exploration, understanding and interpretation of the many layers of shared heritage with the Dja Dja Wurrung people and local communities.

Introduction

I firstly acknowledge the traditional owners of the land I have lived in for most of my life, in Donald, Daylesford, Kooroocheang and Kingston, the Dja Dja Wurrung Nation Elders and and peoples, past and present.

My aim in this presentation is to touch on how I have become aware, as a non-Indigenous Australian, of the need for all Australians to have access to better information about history and heritage in all its forms. In particular I acknowledge the pressing need for all Australians to acknowledge, read and constantly reinterpret the many and ongoing Aboriginal connections between this land, our partly shared (but often poorly acknowledged) past and our shared and (sometimes contested) present. This is in addition to the need to provide present day Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians with better opportunities to recover and replenish land, people, community and culture.

I will start with a brief explanation as to how my thinking has been shaped by my experiences of being born, living and working in what I now recognise as Dja Dja Wurrung country for most of my life. I will then turn to some aspects of the local contact period that we have most information of through written records – particularly relating to the setting up of the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate at present day Franklinford prior to the white re-discovery of gold. I will conclude by looking specifically at some Aboriginal connections and narratives that might be enhanced by other people following in the footsteps of many others that have walked this country for millennia and undertaking their own journeys of reconciliation.

Early experiences that shape my narrative

 

Like most Australians, I have fortuitously discovered Aboriginal connections in spite of the difficulties rather than because they were there for all to read. Most of my connections come through narrative – and are therefore best expressed in these words in the same way. I was born into a white community in the 1950s prone to silences about many things. The closest one could safely get to acknowledge the Aboriginal past during my teenage years was to collect and display ‘objects’ in museums. Tom Griffiths neatly teases out the ‘History and Natural History’ world I was born into on his Hunters and Collectors book from 1996.

Like all Australians, I do have a history and a culture, but like most Australians there was a time when I wasn’t sure what it was. I remember in my early 20s being stuck for words, in Germany ironically, while performing with Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band as part of Australia’s folklore presentation at the World Cup Soccer finals in 1974, when someone first asked me “Tell me about your culture”. Like the majority of Australians, my maternal and paternal families were basically Anglo – but some did get their hands dirty locally within Dja Dja Wurrung country. My great grandfather, William Golding, was a gold miner at the Lord Nelson mine in St Arnaud: the last major goldfields township in northwest of Victoria. The road beyond St Arnaud leaves the rocky, often dry, and mined out hills and passes the Woolpack Hotel past the optimistically named, now ‘ghost town’ of New Bendigo, before dropping onto the apparently endless, flat plains towards the Murray River and beyond into the vast Australian inland. About 40 km north of St Arnaud is a flat little town on the sluggish, rarely flowing and now highly saline Richardson River. This is Donald, my original hometown. It is now wheat and sheep country, but it has not always been so.

All of that country between where I now live in Kingston on the rolling, well-watered, high altitude, volcanic plains, and the flat and dry plains around Donald form part of the traditional country of Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal nation. The Donald Bush Nursing Hospital where I was born is on a billabong of the Richardson River, which forms the boundary between the adjacent Jardwadjali country, one of around 25 distinct Aboriginal nations in Victoria and several hundred in Australia at the time of contact. Dja Dja Wurrung country stretched east west from near Bendigo to Avoca, from the Great Dividing Range to near Pyramid Hill.

 

My paternal grandmother was a Pearse whose family had fled rural poverty and religious oppression in England and made a new start – first on the goldfields in Ballarat and later as ‘selectors’ in the Aboriginal lands appropriated in the Wimmera between the 1840s and 1860s. My family was therefore implicated in part of the original and convenient exterminating act that invoked terra nullius. They were certainly involved in sheep grazing of former Aboriginal grasslands as well as clearing the country of the Buloke (Casuarina) and Black Box (Eucalyptus largiflorens) woodlands for broad scale wheat cropping – at the same time as John Hepburn was helping build the back part of the former Creswick Shire Hall I now live in – as Chair of the previous Creswick and District Roads Board in 1859. Indeed the Board members were Hepburn’s pallbearers in the funeral procession through nearby Smeaton when he died in 1860. All of this happened just over 20 years after John Hepburn came overland from Moruya in New South Wales to ‘take up country’ in April 1838 near present day Kooroocheang with his family and several thousand sheep. Again, ironically, Hepburn built his house alongside several large Aboriginal ovens in a land (an Australian Felix and Eden of Major Thomas Mitchell in 1836) that had been declared legally empty and was regarded as theirs for the taking.

I have started with this brief but wide ranging reflection on family to illustrate the point that many white Australians, including myself, have lived all of our lives in landscapes and environments shaped by thousands of years of Aboriginal history but greatly changed by relatively recent dispossession. We generally have few narrative ‘hooks’ that date back to the time or nature of contact on the frontier. Though my ancestors lived relatively recently on the frontier, and my own house was built only 22 years after first local contact, understandings and interpretations of these environments and what happened here are neither easy to find in accessible or accurate histories, nor easy to accept or embrace. And yet non-Aboriginal people such as myself born in the 1950s were only two life spans away from the times and events of Aboriginal contact. Ivy Sampson, daughter of Thomas Dunolly, a Dja Dja Wurrung man taken as a child from the Mount Franklin Aboriginal Station to Coranderrk near current day Healesville in 1864, died less than 20 years ago in 1987.

The tragedy is that many Australians, black and white, often take much of a lifetime to make sense of the poorly documented but shared connections with this relatively recent Aboriginal history. My awakenings began early from the ground up and were at first fragmentary. As a young child I was fascinated by the many Aboriginal stone axes and grindstones made from Mt William greenstone and Grampians quartzite respectively – turned up by ploughing, and typically stored on farm tank stands in the Donald area. There were a few photos in the local museum of ‘King Johnny’ with a brass plate and patronising captions. But for me as a teenager in Donald in the 1960, my only first hand contact with Aboriginal Australia was one Aboriginal railway worker originally from remote Warburton in Western Australia and one Aboriginal family in St Arnaud. Only 100 years after the original dispossession, Donald in the Wimmera, was, like many towns in the area, an almost totally white, Anglo community, in a landscape comprehensively shaped, named and cultured by whites.

 

The first inkling for me of the scale of prior Aboriginal settlement came from my efforts as a teenager to map the distribution of Aboriginal ovens across the countryside – so obvious in red soil paddocks with their fertile, black soil and fragments of baked clay. While many farmers had known of their existence for decades, no one had bothered to map them. By the time I was sixteen I had mapped 160 ovens across the Donald Shire in a distinct pattern that hugged the Richardson River valley and the former shorelines of Lake Buloke. Though the pattern was there and the stone artefacts were everywhere, very few people acknowledged that people or culture had been here, let alone survived. In part it was because the later narratives of pastoralism (and in the Central Highlands area, gold) tend to become hegemonic rather than recent historical veneers.

Wider experiences and horizons leading to an interest in the Franklinford story

 

In between leaving Donald and moving to the Daylesford area in the 1970s I had other transformative experiences in my travels elsewhere in Australia – that forever changed my childhood impression that Australia’s Aboriginal connections and diverse communities were only history. As a touring musician with Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band, in the 1970s in the hundreds of towns and cities we did concerts in across Australia I was constantly confronted: by the reality and diversity of contemporary Aboriginal Australia. Naively in retrospect, I was surprised to encounter large Walpiri speaking communities in Yuendumu 300 km north west of Alice Springs on the edge of the Tanami Desert, barely 20 years since pastoral contact. There were ‘fringe dwellers’ living in poverty in many inland Australian and outback towns in all Australian states and the Northern Territory, Torres Strait Islanders on Thursday Island, Aboriginal communities on Cape York and on the Queensland railways, Aboriginal stockmen in western Queensland as well as in parts of all Australian capital cities. Closer to home, Yorta Yorta people who had walked off Cummeragunja Reserve in 1939 were living in humpies on the Murray River near Echuca in Victoria just an hour’s drive from Donald.

I was stunned by a disproportionate number of Kooris then denied from the national census, work and education – but over-represented in the prison population. The deeper one dug and the more one travelled, the more Indigenous connections were visible – in the people, the communities, the names of places, and the vegetation. But most of all at that time I was confronted by the hard truth that the ‘traditional’ Australian ‘folk’ music our band played was at best only traditional in a very narrow and incredibly superficial sense, and at worst a blatant contemporary lie.

In my early days post-band in Daylesford in the 1970s I started searching for links that I knew from experience elsewhere, would likely be found everywhere – if I knew where to look and looked hard enough. I found the physical connections in many places. On the old geology maps of the Ballan and Werona areas geologists had found, recorded and marked several native ovens. When I went to these sites I found stone scatters including axe head fragments. When teaching at (now) Daylesford Secondary College I was alerted by students to what turned out to be over 20 Aboriginal ovens on private property in the Smeaton, Campbelltown, Kooroocheang and Werona areas. In the Daylesford museum I came across huge collections of photos and artefacts as well and busts of named Aboriginal people. Through them I became aware of the great research and thinking done by Edgar Morrison from the 1960s[1] in teasing out the history of the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate from the original records. Morrison left monuments and other commemorative clues in the landscape that I now realise were there to guide later others in their attempts to make some sense of a history that was otherwise either denied, or apparently lacking sense.

I also realise now -from re-reading his work, that Morrison was in some small sense politicised by his experiences and faith in the late 1960s, as the then Methodist church sided with the Wik people – in unsuccessfully resisting one of the last of many ‘successful’ major grabs for Aboriginal land by mining companies. I recall with shame playing what we then called ‘traditional Australian music’ in the company town of Weipa in the early 1970s to a company-assembled, white-only audience of miners and their families for the Queensland Arts Council. The company had deliberately rigged up a hessian screen to, as they said, to keep ‘the darkies out’. As we started playing, the hessian dropped and countless young black faces encircled the paying audience through the wire mesh fence. At this point what little was left of my south eastern Australian, ‘hunters and collectors’ view of Australian Aboriginal history as stone artefacts – that I had been brought up with, was getting pretty shaky indeed.

In my reading of Edgar Morrison, he was also making links between what had occurred on the frontier in his own community of Franklinford in the name of Empire, God and progress just over 100 years before, and what was occurring in the same year, 1968 to another Aboriginal nation on a northern frontier to the Wik people – this time with serious concerns from parts of the church about justice and equity. It was, in part, these efforts to recognise Aboriginal land that led within a decade to limited recognition, in some States and Territories, including the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act (1976) –and later in both the High Court Mabo (1992) and Wik (1996) decisions.

For those who don’t know, and apologies for those that do, the story of how the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate came to be set up at Franklinford in 1841 is worth briefly recounting, particularly given its relevance to the gold rush period that followed almost immediately after the Protectorate’s demise by 1849. The Aboriginal Protectorate System[2] was set up as a result of a British Parliament Select Committee Inquiry into the Condition of Aboriginal Peoples during 1837. Lord Glenelg, then Secretary of State was one of the chief initiators of schemes to protect the inhabitants of British colonies. He ordered that the Protectorate be confined to the Port Phillip District, then, like this part of present day Victoria, a part of the former colony New South Wales.

The underlying basis of the Protectorate lay in the refusal of the British Government to recognise prior ownership of Australia by Aboriginal people. In effect Aboriginal people were regarded as being under British sovereignty from the outset, though with almost no legal or constitutional rights. The Protectorate system was a gratuitous offer of ‘protection to which they derive the highest possible claim from the sovereignty which has been assumed over their Ancient Possessions’ [Glenelg to Bourke, 1837]. The idea was hatched at a time of increased hostility and conflict between invading European settlers and the Aboriginal landowners. Its instigation was widely and sometimes savagely criticised by the popular press and the many overlanders turned squatters on the rich, Aboriginal managed, volcanic grasslands in the then Port Phillip colony.

Four Assistant Protectors were appointed in Britain in December 1837 including Edward Parker, previously a Wesleyan minister and teacher. None had any prior experience of Aboriginal people and all were recruited directly from the United Kingdom. The Chief Protector, George Augustus Robinson most recently from the floundering Flinders Island Aboriginal Station, was appointed Chief Protector. He had played a pivotal role in the previous decade in ‘successfully’ coercing and forcibly removing Indigenous Tasmanians to Flinders Island.

The stated aim of the Protectors in the Port Phillip colony was to:

watch over the rights and interest of the natives and endeavour to gain their respect and confidence … protect them from any encroachments on their property and from acts of cruelty, oppression and injustice.

The Assistant Protectors’ specific brief was to attach themselves to the tribes of the District (in Parker’s case, the area about Mount Macedon ‘and the country to the northward’) until they could be persuaded to settle in one location. Once ‘settled’ they were to be taught European agricultural, technological, social and religious practices. It was assumed that the Assistant Protectors would learn Aboriginal language and customs but achieve their aims by moral and religious (Christian) instruction.

All Assistant Protectors arrived in Sydney in August 1838 and arrived in Melbourne in January 1839. Parker left Melbourne in August 1839 but proceeded only as far as Jackson’s Creek near Sunbury where he built a hut for his young family. Parker briefly occupied a site at Neereman (on the Loddon River downstream of Baringhup and upstream of O’Brien’s Crossing) from November 1840 to June 1841. Parker had firmly noted in 1840 that …

I deem it my duty respectfully but firmly to assert the right of Aborigines to the soil and its indigenous productions, until suitable compensation be made for occupation by reserving and cultivating a sufficient portion for their maintenance.

Each Assistant Protector was, at least in theory, to create an inner reserve of one square mile for cultivation purposes, as well as a station and an outer reserve of five miles in radius for ‘the hunting ground of the natives’, with no nearby squatter’s stations and as far as possible from the major lines of communication. In June 1840 Parker was asked to set up a proposed reserve on the Loddon River ‘near a hill called by the natives Tarrengower’. Though the site was already occupied and the reserve was disputed by the squatters Dutton and Darlot, by February 1840 twelve permanent Aboriginal dwellings had been built at Neereman. For a range of reasons, including Neereman’s perceived unsuitability for agriculture, a new site for the North West Protectorate Station was decided on at ‘an old sheep station of Mr Mollison’s called Jim Crow Hill[3]. Located at Larnebarramul (‘House of the Emu’), at the time of the Station’s establishment, the land was owned by the Gunangara gunditj clan of the Dja Dja Wurrrung Aboriginal Nation, though occupied by Mollison, one of the invading squatters. The boundary of the inner square mile reserve around the Protectorate Station was nevertheless proclaimed by Governor Gipps in 1840.

The full history of the Mount Franklin Protectorate could and should fill several books. Suffice to say in his brief paper, the history of the original Aboriginal Protectorate and later Aboriginal Station at Franklinford spans 23 years between 1841 and 1864. Parker’s census of 1841 listed 282 Aboriginal people. This number was far from ‘pre-contact’ as a consequence of well documented conflict with Europeans – including deliberate killing, post-contact European diseases and particularly evidence of one or more major smallpox epidemics which originated and were spread from the vicinity of Sydney soon after the arrival of the First Fleet: (see Noel, Butlin, Our original aggression). There were two Aboriginal institutional interventions in the now Franklinford area, both with strong Christian missionary underpinnings: the first, the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate at Franklinford (1841-1849), and a later one, the Mount Franklin Station from 1853 to 1864 at the base of Mt Franklin. These institutional policies and practices were administered by three government organisations: the Aboriginal Protectorate (1839-49); the Office of the Guardian of Aborigines (1850-59) and the Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines (1860-1870).

By 1843 the Protectorate system was in disarray: hampered by colonial bureaucracy, a legal system that gave Indigenous people minimal rights and hostility from both squatters and Aborigines. It was, in part, Parker’s favourable reports on the Loddon River Protectorate Station in 1843 and also in 1845 which saved the Protectorate system, at least until a NSW Parliamentary Select Committee recommended its abolishment in late 1849. By 1854 the Aboriginal Protectorate had been dissolved and all that remained were an enclosed paddock which continued to be used as an Aboriginal School, but was closed by the Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines in 1864. The Township of Franklinford was subdivided on the same site as the Protectorate in 1858-59. The remaining Aboriginal children were forcibly moved in 1864 to Coranderrk near present day Healesville. Most of the voluminous records from these events are still preserved in State and National archives.

On a visit to the Commonwealth archives in suburban Brighton with Koori students in 1989 I was particularly taken by the incredible irony in an original copy of handwriting exercise – penned by an Aboriginal woman, Ellen, at Franklinford on March 3,1864, just before the closure of the Aboriginal School at Franklinford. The lines she repeated down the pages were ‘Duties demand attention and method’, ‘Valour can do little without prudence’ and the acutely ironic words, ‘Compare past woes with present felicity’. On January 28 of the same year Edward Parker ‘most earnestly deprecate[d]’ the Central Aboriginal Board ‘any attempt to remove the young people now attached to the Aboriginal school’. Parker stressed that such removal could only be effected by coercive means’. In a separate document the Guardian of Aborigines, William Thomas separately argued against ‘the breaking up of the Franklinford Station altogether after 25 years’, noting that ‘… there is scarce a year but 2 or 3 afflicted blacks are brought here to die from the surrounding country – we may justly say in the interim, other refuge have they none.’

Making Indigenous connections to the contemporary local landscape

Knowing what had happened in the Daylesford area, including to the Dja Dja Wurrung nation in a contemporary Australian nation that was intent of having a party to ‘celebrate’ 1988, the Bicentenary of the arrival of the first permanent white settlement at Sydney Cove seemed to me like a huge contradiction. That year at our adopted home, as a form of public protest the Creswick Shire Hall in Kingston, we got a sign writer to write ‘Australia was settled, mapped and cultured before 1788: Don’t celebrate’ on a sign facing the street.

In 1988 I left a secure secondary teaching position in Daylesford to take up a contract at the School of Mines and Industries in Ballarat (SMB), helping to set up the first TAFE Aboriginal programs in Ballarat with guidance from the recently established Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative then in nearby Eyre Street. I was an experienced teacher and a recently Accredited Amateur Archaeologist with Victorian Archaeological Survey (VAS). I had a good knowledge of Aboriginal sites and stone artefacts, but still had a lot to learn about Aboriginal nations, people and culture. The SMB experience taught me much and brought me to another realisation: that around 300 Aboriginal people, many with Stolen Generations backgrounds, then lived in Ballarat and District. The late Alec Jacomos worked carefully and sensitively with many of our students with institutions involved in previous the Ballarat Children’s Homes, Many knew little or nothing about their parents, families, culture or land and were seeking to identify their lost or fragmentary Aboriginal connections. Molly Dyer from Horsham taught in our Aboriginal Welfare Study programs and one day brought her mother Marg Tucker, featured in the Lousy little sixpence documentary from 1983 about the Stolen Generations, to the SMB TAFE auditorium. Several Ballarat Aboriginal people had multiple connections to several Stolen Generations. Some others had links – some clear and others less clear – to families from the ‘Mission and Central Station’ era that followed around 20 years after the demise of the Protectorates. Some Victorian Aboriginal people could trace their roots back to the late 1800s at Lake Condah and Framlingham, Ebenezer and Cummeragunja. Some also were Dja Dja Wurrung descendants via Coranderrk. One day in the mid-1990s I recall looked in the Bendigo phonebook and found a ‘T. Dunolly’ – which clearly indicated to me how close it all was to home. And then there were the oral histories.

My ‘scratching around in the landscape’ as I call it, took in several new local sites in the Kooroocheang, Franklinford and Campbelltown areas. I fondly recall wagging school teaching one sunny afternoon in 1987 with the late Rex Morgan – wading in our underpants – to closely explore the Larnebarramul (nest of the emu) lagoon at Franklinford. David Rhodes’ invaluable study of the archaeological history of the Protectorate was aptly dedicated to Rex. I found that combining public tours with narrative and documents from the 1980s to the present made aspects of the Aboriginal history literally leap out of the local landscape in ways that many people had not heard or experienced.

In one sense the Great Dividing Trail (GDT) and Association that I championed and became President of for many years came out of those experiences of reading the country in the early 1990s. It also came out of parallel and debilitating experiences from fifteen frustrating years of losing countless environmental battles about forest values other than for cellulose, but in retrospect winning a lesser number of wars with governments over the same issues. It was timely for me to work with communities to help create something positive to hand on. And in just 25 years we the GDTA, have achieved much. The GDT concept also came out of my reading of the national Environmentally Sustainable Development (ESD) debates, that around that time suggested a potential for sustainable tourism and a small number of other profitable enterprises predicated on the overlap between what is economically and environmentally sustainable.

So how might local government and non-government organisations improve the still woeful knowledge of what happened in ‘settled’ Australia and improve contemporary understandings and narratives of land, culture and community? As part of the valuable RAP (Reconciliation Action Plan) process currently in train in many organisations, I argue that it is essential to to expose Australians to the ongoing and contested appropriation of Aboriginal land in Australia, by telling what happened here, and importantly telling it wherever possible with and by Aboriginal traditional owners, on country and on site. There are many opportunities for local and collaborative exploration, understanding, narrative and interpretation of the many layers of shared heritage in the Hepburn and other Shires, with the Dja Dja Wurrung people and local communities.

As one illustration only, there the Murnong (Microseris scapigera) also known as the Yam Daisy’ that still grows in places in the bush and on some protected roadsides. [4] Much of the information in this account comes from one of the great early research works of ethnobotanist, Beth Gott, now in her 90s. A preferred traditional food of Aborigines in central and western Victoria, the Murnong is the Wurundjeri/ Wathaurung name. Once recorded in its millions in the carefully fired and managed Aboriginal grasslands and open woodlands in all States including Tasmania and Western Australia and tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions, it is now impossible to find on grazed land. For those not familiar with the Murnong, it is a perennial herb, springing up from a swollen tuber resembling in shape a small round radish or tapering carrot. The Murnong lies dormant in high summer, but in autumn a rosette of upright, smooth leaves develops and the tuber begins to shrivel to produce flowers, on long stalks, first characteristically bent downwards.

By mid-summer, all that is left is the dried flower stalks and the buried tuber. The old tuber was bitter and less edible in early winter, though the food source was so valuable it could in effect be used year round. Gathered by Aboriginal women using a digging stick: in some areas 8kg (enough to feed a family for a day) could be collected in an hour. They were washed and usually cooked by heating stones in the fire and covering them with grass with earth over the top. When roasted they are sweet, very delicious and nutritious. Indeed, 100 gm of murnong contains 264kj of nutritional energy (compared with 285 kj for a Jerusalem Artichoke and 335 kj for a potato). Oven mounds were called mirrn’yong mounds, which seems to indicate that murnong was the most cooked food in them.

Aboriginal burning practices during the dry season did not harm the tubers. The deliberate burning kept the volcanic grasslands open for herbivores, cleared dead vegetation, leaving open ground, fertilised by ash, suitable for new growth. Introduction of sheep: 700,000 in Victoria by 1840, led directly to the loss of this major Djadjawurrung food resource, since the plains and open forests where it preferentially grew were also areas where murnong was most abundant. As an interesting aside, John Hepburn already had Murnong cultivated in his garden when Aboriginal Protectors Robinson and Parker stayed with him at Smeaton Hill in February 1841. The loss of the Murnong in the Aboriginal grasslands with the introduction of sheep led directly to a need for many Aboriginal people to accept the dole of flour and sugar from Europeans. The cessation of Aboriginal digging and burning limited the Murnong spread. By 1860 the Yam Daisy was sufficiently scarce for younger Aborigines around Melbourne to be uncertain of its identity.

But that is not the end of the narrative. Enter the Long-billed Corella (Cacatua tenuirostris), described by the Robinson as Chief Protector of Aborigines in an area between present day Smeaton and Campbelltown on 18 February 1840 in such numbers as resembling a large white cloud in their tens of thousands. In the same diary entry – to set the scene – Robinson observed a familiar geological scene but a less familiar, present day botanical and ecological covering. ‘These hills are thinly grassed and very stony … occasional fragments of quartz strewed on the ground on the E verge of the plain … timber as usual sheoak [Casuarina], Cherry [Exocarpus], honeysuckle [Callistemon] and wattle [Acacia]’. The next italicised e diary entry is particularly telling. ‘Some places where the natives have been … saw places where they had roasted and eaten the [Freshwater] mussel … There is one thing certain. This Eden is not occupied.’ (italics added).

Studies of the Long-billed Corella in 1986[5] confirmed that ‘… a precipitous decline in both range and numbers …. occurred at the time of European colonisation.’ (p.7). By the 1950s the Long-billed Corella was in such low numbers it was considered endangered. After much research it was found that ‘the food item on which the corella originally thrived was the same underground vegetable extensively utilised by the aborigines (sic) of south-eastern Australia’ (p.8). Importantly,

its disappearance from the plains and rivers was one of the factors contributing to the rapid demise of aboriginal populations in south eastern Australia. This abundant plant disappeared within one or two growing seasons after sheep and cattle began grazing where it grew. Once the yam disappeared from an area, we believe [that] the corella populations very quickly declined through starvation and in many places the corellas were exterminated because of this.                                                     ( Best, Sinclair & Alexander, p.8)

This one complex but insightful story attempts to illustrate how one plant and its complex ecological associations with a bird continue to be disrupted over hundreds of years later. Stories like this might be able to be used to alert people as to the way our natural environment, like our human community, retains and presents evidence of present and past changes – if only we are sensitised to read and understand them. Similar complex stories lie in many other parts of our material and cultural artefacts with Aboriginal connections, including through native plants and animals, in named features in the Australian landscape, in historical documents, in paintings, poetry and literature. But most of all, the stories, along with the lies and silences I was born into in the 1950s, remain embedded mostly in people’s life experiences. Contributing actively and positively to everyone’s Indigenous and environmental narrative is (and should be) a critically important task as part of Indigenous Australian reconciliation.

In so many senses the history of this great land lies in a reading and understanding of the present. It resides in using and valuing the place names and their meanings. Some well known features have worn several other names in 150 years that each tells their own story. There mas be as many as three Dja Dja Wurrung names, including Larnebarramul (nest of the emu), Willamebarramul, ‘place of the emu’ or Lalgambook. ‘Jim Crow’ as John Hepburn called the same mountain sounds superficially quaint but is historically racist, and was called Mt Franklin following Sir John Franklin’s fleeting colonial visit. It is ironic that the best-known Australian spring water in 2018 comes from the same mountain that has no spring or natural water source within the Mount Franklin Reserve other than off the roof of the public toilet,

 

I also contend that our ways of better understanding the local and regional nations. languages, peoples and environments, such as through a renewed interest in Indigenous foods and plants, as well as through improved land management through Catchment Management Authorities, Aboriginal organisations, Landcare and Bushcare help us not only better understand what knowledge was lost, but enhance what there is to protect and regain. Not surprisingly, the longer we live in one place or district and the more sensitised we get to reading and managing the land, the more indigenous (with a small ‘i’) we become. It is interesting that over recent decades the configuration and size of many amalgamated and restructured local government areas across Victoria has begun to resemble some pre-contact Aboriginal national boundaries, divided as now by natural catchment and river boundaries.

In some cases we can only imagine what was lost including in the open (now potato) country towards the top of the Great Dividing Range. This area’s deep and well-watered volcanic soils – until the start of the gold rushes in the 1850s around Dean and Mollongghip – supported some of the grandest stands of trees in Victoria. By the end of the same century they were virtually gone: for building, fuel and pit props for the mines and associated industries

To give some idea of the nature of such missing forests, and particularly the irony associated with their loss, the small patch of tall timber on basaltic substrate topping Wombat Hill above Daylesford was cleared for the present day Botanical Gardens – on the 60 acre ‘police paddock’ reserved for that purpose in 1860. The Daylesford Council minutes on 21 May 1863 record that the initial beginnings of the present day botanical gardens in Wombat Hill were observed: when two young oaks’ were planted ‘… to commemorate the Wedding of King Edward VIII, then Prince of Wales, to Princess Alexandria. A bonfire consisting [of] 20 of the largest trees that grew on the hill amounting to 1000 tons of wood was lit.’ Prior to the clearing of the hill, huge gum trees reputedly up to 20ft [6m] in diameter grew on the hill and wombat burrows were numerous amongst their roots. Today the trees regarded of national heritage significance on the hill include Californian redwoods and Bhutanese pine trees.

Conclusions

My main conclusion is that local heritage has many layers, and that understanding the first Aboriginal layer is essential to understanding the many other heritage layers. Pastoralism, timber and gold in the footprint of the current Hepburn Shire have impacted hugely on Dja Dja Wurrung people and environment. What we classify and value today as heritage will continue to change as community knowledge about what happened here in the contact period changes. Large and significant collections of Aboriginal artefacts at SMB in Ballarat were discarded during the 1950s when local authorities lost interest in them. It is only recently that the many layers of mining, forestry, built and natural heritage in our region have come to be mapped, valued, restored and interpreted. It heartening that in 2018 there is finally an appetite for swapping stories about Dja Dja Wurrung associations and people, both past and present, that have for too long ignored or denied.

There are thousands of pre-contact Aboriginal sites across the region – most of which are found on the more fertile plains and volcanic remnants outside of the forested areas where, as now, living off the land was most productive. Based on the demographic evidence outlined in Noel Butlin’s book, Our original aggression, the volcanic grasslands in the north of the Hepburn Shire supported one of the highest pre-contact Aboriginal population densities in inland Australia, at least until several waves of smallpox (that preceded Mitchell’s contact in 1789 and 1830) apparently reduced them to the relatively low densities observed at the time of pastoralist invasion.

Whilst it in important for our past to be interpreted, the desire publicise heritage in all its forms needs to tempered by the need also to respect the rights and privacy of the traditional owners as well as the current title and land-holders. There are many instances in Australia where exposing sites to tourism – without proper consultation and safeguards – has resulted in loss and damage to the very thing people came to see and experience. It is important that we respect other people’s special places as we expect others to respect ours. It is important always to recall that most non-Indigenous Australians came here as refugees of one sort or another. We owe it to the first Australians – in 2018 and beyond – to work collaboratively to put right whatever we can – and particularly to create new, more inclusive and more sustainable communities and cultures. Working together with communities on a Reconciliation Action Plan is but one way.

[1] These include Early days in the Loddon Valley (1996) and Frontier life in the Loddon Protectorate (1967).

[2] Summarised from Rhodes, D (1995) An historical and archaeological investigation of the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate Station and Mount Franklin Aboriginal Reserve, Occasional Report No. 6, Aboriginal Affairs, Victoria.

[3]Lalgambook to the Djadjawurrung, later named Mount Franklin after the visit to the area of the former Governor of Tasmania, Sir John Franklin and Lady Franklin in December 1843.

[4] Gott, B, 1983, Murnong- Microseris scapigera: a study of a staple food of Victorian Aborigines, Australian Aboriginal Studies, 1983-2, pp.2-18.

[5] Best, L, Sinclair, R and Alexander, P (Eds.) (1986) Proceedings of public meeting to discuss ‘Long-billed corella management and crop damage’, Narracoorte, SA.