Tuesday, 20 October 2020

'Native Cats' or Quolls in the Casey Cardinia region

I came across this snippet in the book Early Days of Berwick (1), first published in 1948. It was referring to farming areas around Berwick - The native cats were a pest amongst the poultry but they appeared to contract some form of epidemic and they died out and now appear totally extinct (2). What are native cats? They are a type of quoll, a carnivorous marsupial - the Eastern Quoll - Dasyurus viverrinus - and were described by a writer as - the colour of native cats varies greatly. I have seen them practically all black, except for the characteristic white spots, but in others the colour has been grey, brown, bluey-grey, yellow, and a mixture of the above colours, but always with the white spots (3). They are about 60 cm in length, including the tail. Eastern Quolls are considered to be nearly extinct on the Australian mainland, but still exist in Tasmania (4).

Quolls or 'Native Cats'
Wild cats, c. 1880s. State Library of Victoria Image H29681/2

I did a search on Trove to find any references to quolls in the Casey Cardinia region in newspapers. The first report came from October 1872. This was a sad account of a farmer, named Wilhelm Tinzmann, of Dandenong, who committed suicide in October 1872 by drinking strychnine. He had legally obtained the poison from a local chemist to kill 'native cats'. Thirty four year old Wilhelm had been suffering from great pain in the head and had been desponding of late (5).

In April 1880, there was a report on the activities of the Acclimatisation Society, later called the Zoological and Acclimatisation Society, who had released Californian Quail into Victoria and they reported that it has succeeded wherever the scrub, as at Gembrook, is sufficiently dense to enable it to escape from its numerous enemies, in the shape of hawks and native cats (6). The activities of this Society were reported on regularly and in another report from April 1886, the Society was sent one white native cat, from Mr Staughton, near Pakenham to add to their collection (7).

In October 1884 there were various reports about the tragic death of eleven year old Edward Williams of Tynong who died after having been bitten by a snake. Edward had put his hand into a hollow log, in which he thought a native cat lay concealed, only to find that it actually contained a four foot tiger snake (8). This happened at eight o'clock in the morning and shortly afterwards he began to feel the deadly effects of the poison, and his father, alarmed at the lad's appearance, hurried with him to the railway station, and took him to the Alfred Hospital. The boy was quite insensible when admitted, at about two p.m., and was evidently dying. He expired very shortly after admission (9).

In 1899, the West Gippsland Gazette reported this story, which took place at an un-named location in Gippsland - A boy, son of a selector climbed a high white gum after a magpie's nest, but slipped from a bough, and, falling, just managed to catch a limb, from which he hung by his hands. After making repeated efforts to draw himself up he abandoned the endeavour as hopeless, and remained hanging, calling for help all the time. When he had been in this position for about a minute, a native-cat crept along the limb and smelt at his fingers. It then bit them. The boy shrieked at the animal, but it took no notice,and set deliberately to work to eat his hand. After the third bite, the youngster let go; and fell to the ground, breaking a rib and stunning himself in the fall. When he recovered consciousness, the cat had descended the tree, probably with the intention of resuming its meal if conditions were favorable. But the boy left (10)

A story was published in 1907 about life on the Koo Wee Rup Swamp, shortly after the Village Settlements were established in 1893. The story outlines the trials and tribulations faced by the settler and his family including the native cats killed the fowls.... and a vagrant kangaroo dog stole the baby out of the gin case cradle, and only dropped it after a two mile chase through the ti-tree (11). The last part  is particularly interesting given what happened to Lindy and Michael Chamberlain's baby, Azaria, in 1980.

This story was published 1912, but took place some time before and is a perfect example of why rabbit traps are now illegal - A mate and I were rabbiting in the Beaconsfield district, Victoria, and in one week we bagged [trapped] four sheep, one native cat, two opossums, one water-rat, one flying squirrel, one curlew, two magpie larks, and several hares. In addition, to these we also trapped a farmer's pet wallaby and our own fox-terrier dog. The animals that made the most noise were the hares, which screamed like terrified women. Native cats, as a rule, quickly tore themselves away, leaving behind a bunch of fur, and perhaps portion of a leg. Probably the week's trapping was even more varied, because several ot our traps had entirely disappeared — chains, pegs, and all. On another occasion we trapped a bull-frog (12).

The Australasian from August 1940 published this memory - "In the early 'nineties," writes Mr. A. H. McKibbin (Croydon), "I lived at Lyndhurst, near Dandenong. Immediately opposite our home was a primeval area of redgum bush which was a great stronghold of the native cats. These animals were a serious menace to our poultry, and some mornings I picked up as many as a dozen dead fowls resulting from carelessness in not closing the hen house door as tightly as it should have been shut. My father's method of dealing with these spotted terrors was kerosene case box traps with a drop door set on an internal trigger with bait attached. If the trap was sprung then without doubt the marauder was inside (13).

The Eastern Quoll
The spotted Opossum, 1789.  Engraver: Peter Mazell. 
State Library of Victoria Image 30328102131546/16. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/320121

The articles also talk about various urban locations where these quolls were found. This report is from 1910 -  the common native cat was until a few years ago very plentiful. In the early eighties it was not an uncommon occurrence to capture one or more of these creatures in the old Museum work-shops in the University grounds. The old stone fences around Coburg afforded good shelter, and here they were commonly hunted with terriers. In 1902 a female and two half-grown young ones were trapped by an old inmate of the Immigrants' Home on St. Kilda road (14) and brought to the Museum. In Victoria of recent years it has become so rare that it will soon be numbered with the animals of the past (15).  In 1926 a small colony was reported at Ivanhoe - the journalist from The Herald described them thus with its brownish coat, spotted and mottled with white, the native cat is almost a handsome creature (16)As late as 1956 there was  an isolated colony in one of the wilder parts of Studley Park; and every now and again the body of one is brought into the Museum after being dazzled and knocked over by a car at night on Studley Park rd, or the Yarra Boulevard (17). 

As we have seen, the 'native cat' was not very popular with the early settlers, primarily because they attacked poultry. The quoll would kill multiple chickens in one session, unlike the fox [which] will usually take a fowl and depart, but the native cat is apt to kill a dozen or more before calling it a night (18). Because of this farmers seemed to have engaged in an all-out war against the quoll - they used poison, guns, traps - both rabbit traps and native cat traps - after which the captured animals were either shot or beaten to death. As quolls lived in hollow logs they were sometimes burnt to death if the timber was being burnt and if they escaped from the burning logs they were killed by waiting dogs (19). Interestingly, quolls were not killed for their fur, even though fur from all types of animals, both native and introduced species, was used extensively in the nineteenth century for garments (20). The skins were never valuable; in fact, it was such an unpleasant job skinning them that few men bothered about the skins at all (21).

A simple Native Cat trap
This illustration, plus full instructions on how to make the trap appeared in the 

How prolific were the quolls? A writer to The Australasian from Gembrook on 1905 said - Throughout the county of Mornington (22) the cats disappeared about 24 years ago, when there was about a rabbit to the square mile in it. At that point and previously, there were about 50 cats to the square mile. Now I believe you could not find one. So far as I can remember the grasshopper plague, then the rabbit one, came soon after the disappearance of the cats (23). There was a theory that rabbits may have been responsible for the decline of the quolls and this was both raised and dismissed by a correspondent to The Australasian in 1918 - The mystery regarding the almost total extinction of the native cat, along with the native bear, has been the subject of controversy in this column for many years past. Yet no one has suggested a theory that can be regarded as satisfactory.The suggestion that it was due to the cats swallowing the fur of the rabbits was frivolous. In Gippsland, for instance, the native cats had practically disappeared before the appearance of the rabbit. The latter pest was extremely scarce before '98. Regardless of this fact, there are still people who persist in the nonsensical theory that rabbits were the sole cause (24).

The theory mentioned in the Early days of Berwick that they died of some form of epidemic is also supported by some writers - Despite the war waged against them by men, women, and children in the sparsely settled areas, the native cats seemed to hold their own, but a strange disease broke out amongst them and so many were wiped out that they never recovered from the epidemic (25). In 1940, Mr McKibbon, who shared his memories of the quolls at Lyndhurst also wrote that Epidemics of disease at the close of last century and first years of the present one probably quite unconnected with the rabbit were responsible for the disappearance of native cats, and naturally the increase of the rabbit was facilitated with the removal of this little marsupial carnivore, which previously destroyed large numbers of the young bunnies (26).

In 2014 the Australian Journal of Zoology published a research paper by David Peacock (Biosecurity SA, Primary Industries and Regions South Australia) and Ian Abbott (Science and Conservation Diviosn, Department of Parks and Wildlife, Western Australia) called When the ‘native cat’ would ‘plague’: historical hyperabundance in the quoll (Marsupialia : Dasyuridae) and an assessment of the role of disease, cats and foxes in its curtailment (27). This is the abstract - From an extensive review of historical material, primarily newspaper accounts, we collated >2700 accounts of quolls. We discovered 36 accounts that demonstrate the propensity for quolls to become hyperabundant. The geographical distribution of accounts implies that most refer to Dasyurus viverrinus...More than 110 accounts demonstrate that disease/parasite epizootics occurred in south-eastern Australia, commencing on mainland Australia possibly in the goldfields region of Victoria in the 1850s, or in south-eastern South Australia and south-western Victoria in the mid to late 1860s, and implicate these as the initial primary factor in the regional extirpation of Australia’s quolls. The loss of D. viverrinus populations in south-eastern Australia was reportedly from population abundances and densities that were sporadically extraordinarily high, hence their loss appears more pronounced than previously suspected. Accounts describing the widespread, rapid and major loss of quolls suggest the possible involvement of several pathogens. Ectoparasites such as Uropsylla tasmanica and ticks appear to be described in detail in some accounts. A few others state comortality of Felis catus and Canis lupus familiaris, suggestive of a disease of either or both of these species, such as Canine Distemper Virus, a morbillivirus with a propensity to be non-host specific, that may have caused the decline of the quolls, perhaps vectored by the reported ectoparasites.... Read the full report, here.

The researchers conclude - We emphasise that disease should receive as much focus as the conventional explanatory factors of predation and habitat loss. It would appear then that the book Early Days of Berwick which suggested in 1948 that the native cat appeared to contract some form of epidemic presented a plausible explanation for the demise of the quoll.

Trove list
I have created a list on Trove on articles relating to the 'native cat' in Casey Cardinia region, access it here.

(1) Early Days of Berwick and its surrounding districts: Beaconsfield, Upper Beaconsfield, Harkaway, Narre Warren and Narre Warren North (Berwick Pakenham Historical Society), 3rd edition.
(2) Early Days of Berwick, p. 18.
(3) The Queenslander, June 15, 1938, see here.
(4) Department of Environment and Heritage Quolls of Australia fact sheet, see here
(5) The Argus, October 9, 1872, see here.
(6) The Australasian, April 24, 1880, see here.
(7) The Argus, April 21, 1886, see here.
(8) The Age, October 24, 1884, see here.
(9) Geelong Advertiser, October 20, 1884, see here. The Leader of October 25, 1884 also has an account of the tragic story, see here.
(10) West Gippsland Gazette, February 7, 1899, see here.
(11) Mudgee Guardian, January 31, 1907, see here.
(12) Sydney Mail December 18, 1912, see here.
(13) The Australasian, August 24, 1940, see here.
(14) The Immigrants Home, read about it here on the eMelbourne. 
(15) The Argus, October 4, 1910, see here.
(16) The Herald, April 15, 1926, see here.
(17) The Argus, June 16, 1956, see here.
(18) The Queenslander, June 15, 1938, see here.
(19) The Queenslander, June 15, 1938, see here.
(20) I have written about a furrier, Mrs Mary Jane Gardner and the many types of fur she used in her business in my Victoria's Past: Rescued and Retold blog, here.
(21) The Queenslander, June 15, 1938, see here.
(22) County of Mornington - For Land Administration purposes Victoria was divided into Counties and then into Parishes – all of the City of Casey and nearly all of the Cardinia Shire is in the County of Mornington. Some of the Cardinia Shire north of Emerald, may be County of Evelyn.  The Mornington Peninsula, Bass Coast and Phillip Island are also part of the County of Mornington. You can see a map here
(23) The Australasian, July 29 1905, see here.
(24) The Australasian, April 13, 1918, see here.
(25) The Queenslander, June 15, 1938, see here.
(26) The Australasian, August 24, 1940, see here.
(27) Read the full research paper, here.

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Identical Post Offices - Pakenham East and Elwood

In our last blog post we looked at the Berwick Post Office which was identical to two other Post Offices built in Victoria in the 1880s, Murtoa and Donald. You can read this post here. In this post we will look at two other identical Post Offices, both of which opened in 1925 - Pakenham East and Elwood.

Pakenham East Post Office, 1920s
State Library of Victoria Image H89.105/186

This was the fourth Post Office in Pakenham, or Pakenham East as it was then called. The Back to Pakenham souvenir booklet from 1951 tell us that the post office for Pakenham was originally at the railway station. It moved to the site of what is now Mr J. Lia's butcher's shop , then to the site occupied by the cafe next to the picture theatre, and thence to the present site (1). The building was in Main Street, where the existing (the fifth) Post Office is today. The original Pakenham township was on the Princes Highway near Bourke's Hotel on the Toomuc Creek and the Pakenham East township developed around the railway station which opened in October 1877. There was much confusion between the towns, as this article  from 1912, belows, tells us.

Confusion between the Pakenham and Pakenham East Post Offices

Great confusion occurs in regard to the post offices here. The Pakenham Post-office is situated 1½ miles from the Pakenham railway station while the post-office at the railway end is called East Pakenham. Nearly the whole of the business people reside at East Pakenham. The shire buildings and public hall are also there. During one week over 600 letters addressed to Pakenham belonged to Pakenham East. The postmistress at the latter office has just been notified that £10 per annum is to be taken from her salary and given to the other office for the purpose of carrying the mail to and from the station.

It wasn't just the Post Offices which were rivals as in the early days there was keen rivalry between the 'old' and 'new' towns. Happily that feeling gradually faded away with the passing of the years, With the steady expansion of building along the Highway, Pakenham and Pakenham East are today to all intents and purposes the one town - geographically and in outlook (2). This was written in 1962 and the use of name of Pakenham East faded from the 1970s (3). The Post Office building was demolished in the 1990s (4). 

This photo from the 1980s shows the Post Office when it was called 
Pakenham, with the postcode 3810. 

The identical Post Office that was built at Pakenham East was, as we said, the fourth building there, but in Elwood, it was their first Post Office. The locals had been agitating for  a few years for a Post Office (5) and in 1923 land was purchased on the corner of Glenhuntly road and The Broadway, Elwood for the building (6). It is interesting that Elwood and Pakenham East both had the same Post Office because at the time Elwood had a much larger and growing population. In October 1923,  the Mayor of St Kilda, Cr Allen,  had spoken of the need for a Post Office in the area because  in nine years the population of Elwood had increased from 5,509 to 9,469, and the number of houses from 1,339 to 2,608....At present the nearest post-office to Elwood was more than a mile away, many residents had to pay porterage on their telegrams. It was estimated that at least 2,100 houses would be served by the proposed post-office (7) Compare this to Pakenham East which had a population in 1921 of  324 people and Pakenham of 608. Even twelve years later in 1933, Pakenham East's population was 850 and the old town of Pakenham was 406, still many times less than Elwood's population (8).

The tenders for the  construction of the  Pakenham East and Elwood Post Offices were advertised in April 1925.

Tenders are invited for the erection of the Elwood and Pakenham East Post Offices.

The Elwood Post Office
Image: The History of St Kilda from its first settlement to a City and after, 1840 - 1930, v. 2 (9).

The contract for the Pakenham East Post Office was awarded to the builders, Cant & Bennett of Footscray on May 6, 1925 and it was to be completed by  August 26, 1925. The cost was £2,330. The Elwood Post Office tender was awarded to W. Simmins of Auburn on April 27, 1925, the completion date was September 14, 1925 and cost was £1,835. 

Contracts accepted for a number of projects including the Pakenham East and Elwood Post Offices. 
Click on this link https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/232530228 to see the original document on Trove.
Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, June 4, 1925

There were issues with place names for Pakenham and Pakenham East, as even in 1912 people were addressing letters to Pakenham which should have been addressed to Pakenham East. Pakenham East people seemed to be content with their Pakenham address; though the erection of the Post Office in Elwood had the opposite effect, and was the source of some consternation.

The Age reported in November 1925 that  Residents of South St. Kilda are at present up in arms against the proposal of the Post Office to include portion of their district, from the Elwood Canal to Dickens-street, in the new postal district of Elwood. To consider the matter a meeting of nearly a hundred indignant South St. Kilda residents, lasting nearly two hours, hotly debated the proposal at the Congregational Hall, Mitford-street, St. Kilda. Cr. Dawkins, in moving a motion of protest, said Elwood was a name associated with a swamp, and no one wanted to live near a place where a swamp formerly existed.  The application of the name to portion of South St. Kilda would cause the value of property there to deteriorate in value (10). In the end the locals were allowed to continue using their South St Kilda address, but the mail came from the new Elwood Post Office (11).  The area is now called Elwood. The Elwood Post Office building is still standing and is used as a cafe.

Elwood Post Office, c. 1920s.
State Library of Victoria Image H89.105/84

Trove list
I have created a short list on Trove of articles relating to the construction of the Pakenham East and Elwood Post Office. Access the list, here.

(1) Back to Pakenham March 3-10, 1951 Souvenir Booklet. The booklet was compiled by W.J. Stephenson on behalf of the 'Back to Pakenham' Committee.
(2) From Bullock Tracks to Bitumen: a brief history of the Shire of Berwick, p. 76-77. This book was published in 1962 by the Historical Society of Berwick Shire.
(3) Use of the name Pakenham East, these two examples of advertising from N. N. Webster, Pakenham Real Estate Agents, who had an office on Main Street tell the story of the use of the name Pakenham East in the 1970s. Source: Newspapers by Ancestry.

The Age March 14, 1970.

The Age February 15, 1975

(4) The Post Office was still there in November 1985 as the aerial below was taken then.

However, by the nineties the corporatised Post Office was in the business of leasing back Post Offices rather than building a community facility. The advertisement from September 1997 tells us that the Post Office was now in 'Pakenham Post Office Arcade' which is on the site of the 1925 building, so it had been demolished by then.

The Age September 20, 1997
Source: Newspapers by Ancestry.

(5) The Herald, October 2, 1923, see here.
(6) The Herald, October 11, 1923, see here.
(7) Prahran Telegraph, October 19, 1923, see here.
(8) Pakenham and Pakenham East population figures from the Victorian Places website  https://www.victorianplaces.com.au/pakenham
(9)  Cooper, John Butler The History of St Kilda from its first settlement to a City and after, 1840 - 1930v. 2 (City of St Kilda, 1931), photo is opposite page 116. Thank you to my fellow historian, Isaac Hermann, for supplying me with the photograph. I was looking through this book for research on a story on another blog  I have, Victoria's Past - rescued and retold and I saw this photo of the Elwood Post Office and immediately recognised it as the twin of Pakenham East.
(10) The Age November 18, 1925, see here.
(11) The Prahran Telegraph, December 11, 1925, see here.

Friday, 2 October 2020

Identical Post Offices - Berwick, Murtoa and Donald

The Berwick Post and Telegraph Office and Court House was opened in 1885. It was designed by Public Works Department architect, John Thomas Kelleher. Victoria had two other Post Offices of near identical design to Berwick, one at Murtoa, which opened in 1882 and the other at Donald, which opened in 1884 (1).  The Berwick Post Office is as described as predominatly neo-Gothic, with Venetian influence in the pointed windows, loggia and polychrome brickwork. Red-brown brick with white tuck pointing is decorated with cream brick courses at impost level and red and cream bricks in the Lombardic arch heads at the windows (2). Berwick is not the only Post Office in the region that has identical counterparts, the Pakenham East Post Office and the Elwood Post Office were also identical, read about them here.

The Berwick Post Office.
Image: Berwick Nostalgia: a pictorial history of Berwick 
(Berwick Pakenham Historical Society, 2001)

I cannot find the exact date that the Post Office complex at Berwick opened, but it was late in 1885, because an advertisement for a tender for furniture and fittings for the building was published in early October, 1885. You will notice that the Commissioner of Public Works at the time was Alfred Deakin, Australia's second Prime Minister who served from September 1903 until April 1904 and later served for two more terms (3). 

Tender for the fit-out of the Berwick Post Office complex, signed by Alfred Deakin
South Bourke & Mornington Journal October 7, 1885

The Architect, John Thomas Kelleher, was born in Sydney in 1844 to Jeremiah and Mary Kelleher (4).  The family moved to Melbourne in 1848 and they lived in Elizabeth Street, opposite where the old General Post Office is located. He spent his entire career in the Public Works Department of Victoria and reached the position of the Eastern District Architect (5).  His other works include the Fitzroy Post Office, the Benalla Post Office and the Traralgon Post Office and Court House (6).  John was forced to retire on a pension in April 1894. These forced retirements were usually due to the fact that the officers of the Public Service had reached the compulsory retirement age of 60, even though John was only 50, and it appears that his retirement was due to the retrenchment and reorganisation scheme of the Public Works Department (7). 

John had married Florence Athole Todd (nee Edwards) on December 5, 1889. She was a 26 year old widow and he was 45 years old (8). They had one daughter, Kareen, in 1900. The family lived at Athole in Poplar Grove, Murumbeena (9). Kareen married William Norman Fysh in 1923, the year after her mother died. John died in 1928. The Electoral Rolls show that Kareen and William lived in Poplar Grove, until at least 1980 (10). Kareen was fortunate the house was still standing as in 1907 Poplar Grove was the location of a sensational incident, which was reported in The Age of November 28, 1907.

Several of the residents of Murrumbeena met with a thrilling experience during a remarkable electrical disturbance accompanying a thunder storm of great violence which burst over that suburb in the early
hours of Tuesday morning. Mr. J. T. Kelleher, who resides not far front the Murrumbeena railway station, states that shortly after 5 a.m. he was awakened by a most awful din, accompanied by a confused feeling of being shaken up all over. His wife and little daughter, who were sleeping in the next room, rushed in to him, in a panic stricken condition. Immediately afterwards a little boy from the next house came running in stating that his mother wanted him (Mr. Kelleher) at once, as their house had been struck by lightning. On hurrying to the spot Mr, Kelleher found that the whole of the chimney stuck of a house occupied by Mrs. Pierson had been knocked clean over, from top to bottom. The falling bricks, which were scattered in all directions, had greatly damaged the roof and gutters. A quantity of the iron piping had also been fused, and some furniture and ornaments in one of the rooms had been knocked down and broken. Mrs. Pierson and the children were uninjured, but the former has suffered severely since from nervous shock. Mr. Kelleher said it was a matter of astonishment to him why the lightning had missed his chimneys fully 20 feet, higher, and picked out the smallest and most secluded house on the spot.

Mr. George, a retired senior constable, who lives in an adjacent house, gives an interesting account of his experience during the storm which did the damage just described. He states that he was working in
his garden, as was his custom about day break. when he saw a huge fire ball making straight for Mr. Kelleher's and Mrs. Pierson's houses, accompanied by the most awful clap of thunder. He confessed to being so terrified at the awesome sight that he bolted panic stricken into his own house. Hearing the noise of the thunder bolt striking Mrs. Pierson's house recalled him to his right senses, and he ran out in time to see the bricks of the chimney stack being scattered in all directions (11).

Berwick Post Office and Court House, opened 1885.
Berwick Post Office and Courthouse, November 19, 1967. Photographer: John T. Collins. 
State Library of Victoria Image H90.100/1961

The Berwick Post Office was used until 1983, when a new facility in High Street was built and the Court House closed in 1990 (12). The buildings still exist and have a City of Casey Heritage overlay (13).  The Murtoa Post Office, which was on Marma Street, has been demolished. The existing Post Office on the corner of Haby Lane and McDonald Street was built in 1959 (14).  The Donald Post Office is still there and is still in use. There are photos of the Murtoa and Donald buildings, below.

Murtoa Post Office and Court House, opened 1882.
Courthouse and Post Office Murtoa, 1883. State Library of Victoria Image H9027

Murtoa Post Office, c. 1920s.
State Library of Victoria Image H89.105/167

Donald Post Office and Court House, opened 1884.
Donald - Post Office and Courthouse, c. 1898. Photographer: Sands and McDougall. 
State Library of Victoria Image H27288/3f

Donald Post Office, c. 1920s. 
State Library of Victoria Image H89.105/75


(1) Context P/L Heritage of the City of Berwick: identifying and caring for important places (City of Berwick, 1993), p. 322.
(2) Context P/L, op. cit. p. 323.
(3) Alfred Deakin, read his Australian Dictionary of Biography entry by R. Norris, here
(4) John's parents were Jeremiah Barry Kelleher and Mary Winter (although his father is called John on John's marriage certificate). Jeremiah, whose mother's maiden name was Barry, died in 1905, aged 90. Mary died in 1857, her death notice is below. 

(5) These details about John's life are from his obituary which is reproduced, below.

(6) Context P/L., op. cit, p.232.
(7) The Age reported on his retirement on March 26, 1894 and the subsequect rearrangment of the Architectural staff of the Public Works Department. The report also says that this will complete the retrenchment and reorganisation scheme of the Public Works Department.  Four years ago the wages sheet of the professional branch amounted to £23,000 per annum, and it has been reduced to £11,000. Read The Age article, hereThe retirements were even announced in the paper, see below. 

Adelaide Evening Journal, February 7, 1894. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/200767112

(8) This information is from their marriage certificate.
(9) The Poplar Grove address is from the Electoral Roll available on Ancestry. From 1903 until 1912, they lived at Poplar Street and then in 1913 this changed to Poplar Grove, Murumbeena. The street is now part of Carnegie.
(10) Florence died March 27, 1922. She was the daughter of Richard James and Annie (nee Smith) Edwards. John died September 5, 1928, see death notice below.

There is a report of Kareen's wedding to William Norman Fysh, which took place at St Anthony's Church, Grange Road, Glenhuntly on February 10, 1923 in Table Talk, here. William came from Mile End Road, East Caulfield (now called Carnegie) about a five minute walk from Poplar Grove. Interestingly his parent's surname was spelt as Fish in the Electoral Roll and Kareen and William have their surname as Fish in the Electoral roll from 1924 until 1980 (the last year of the rolls on Ancestry) and they were at 18 Poplar Grove the entire time.
(11) The Age November 28, 1907, see here.
(12) The date of closure of the Post Office comes from the Context P/L report, page 322. The date of the closure of the Court comes from here https://researchdata.edu.au/children039s-court-registers/155646
(13) Read the Victorian Heritage Database citation, here.
(14) Information supplied by Wayne Degenhardt. Wayne is connected to Fred and Gustav Degenhardt, who are amongst the earliest European settlers in the Murtoa area. 

Monday, 28 September 2020

Dipping sheep on Quail Island, Western Port in 1866 by James H. Watson

On June 20, 1927, James H. Watson (1), the President of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Sydney presented a paper to the Historical Society of Victoria - Personal Recollections of Melbourne in the 'Sixties. It was a look at various events and activities of the 1860s including this story - Dipping Sheep on Quail Island. The story was published in the Victorian Historical Magazine, v. 12, June 1928 available on-line at the State Library of Victoria (2). It transcribed below.

The trip to Quail Island took place in 1866 (3). Of interest is a description of Cranbourne at that time and a confession that he was actually responsible for the first release of rabbits onto the Island. 

Dipping sheep on Quail Island by James H. Watson. 
The writer starts the story that he was offered a plantation on a small island in Fiji, but he turned the offer down due to his lack of experience. He then continues the story -
Another island, however, came into view a little later, and one that was nearer home. On it I put in some hard work for six months, and all I got out of it was experience. The fellow passenger that I came ashore with (who has been dead for fifty years and left neither kith nor kin) some little while after our arrival leased Quail Island in Western Port, and put some sheep on it. He had had no experience of stock, and on a visit to me, explained that, if he had a mate, he thought he could make a good thing of it for both of us, my stock-in-trade being youth, strength, and willingness. I agreed to go. I well remember the day, for it was the day the news of the loss of the London (4) reached Melbourne in March, 1866.

We took coach at an hotel in Queen-street, the route being along the St. Kilda-road, turning into the Dandenong-road, passing through Dandenong to the termination of the journey at Cranbourne. I do not know whether the township, as it was called, has grown since the railway went to it, but, when I last saw it, 60 years ago, it consisted of the hotel (a long low weatherboard house, the host being named Duff (5)), the central point of the district. The next was the store, where anything that was wanted could be purchased. Then there was the Presbyterian Church, the minister of which was a brother of the landlord of the hotel (6). Two or three small cottages, and the ruins of another with a big stone bush chimney still standing, completed the town of Cranbourne. The ruined cottage is mentioned because in it lived, or rather existed, the local doctor - a clever man, but one who had the habit that many an otherwise good man has fallen a victim to. The minister kept his books and instruments, and, for special cases, he was sobered up for a couple of days, the hotel being tabooed to him till he had completed the case in hand.

The Grantville coach at the Cranbourne Hotel established by Robert and Margaret Duff. This was the hotel which James Watson visited on his way to Quail Island in 1866.
Photograph scanned from The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire by Niel Gunson.

Having arrived at the hotel, where horses to take us on had been left in the paddock, they were rounded up, and we set off to do the 11 miles which lay between the town and Quail Island, passing the fences of Mr Cameron's run (7), skirting the town, and following a track through the thick scrub over low hills down to the bight of Western Port. This island is directly behind, or north of, French Island, which stood up about 2 miles away. As the shores of the inlet at the crossing-place are low flats and treacherous to walk on, a thick track of tea-tree had been laid, so that the horses got safely to a sapling bridge that connected the island to the mainland. The total acreage was about 1,500 acres of flat open land on the south and timbered low hills on the north, with two good-sized water-holes or lagoons, which were the haunt of water-fowl and ducks. Mud flats lay all round the shore, covered with mangrove.

On this most unsuitable place were about 800 or 900 ewes, with a fair percentage of lambs, and 300 wethers. There were no fences, as there was no necessity for them. I soon learned that the wethers, which had been bought "stores," had brought the squatters' curse - scab - with them, and the whole flock was infected, and it was to help to eradicate this that my services were required. Preparations had been made by having a dip dug out, about 25 feet x 15 feet x 3 feet, on the margin of which several 400-gallon iron tanks were placed on stone foundations, and under which fires were made to boil the water. For several days water was carted in hogsheads on drays and sledges, till the dip was partly filled and the tanks were filled. This was very hard work, as the water had to be hand-loaded by bucket and the tanks filled from the drays in the same way. The dip was easily supplied direct from the hogsheads by pulling out the plug. The water was procured from the water-holes by backing the drays to a sapling jetty and filling the casks by a bucket and funnel. All this was most laborious work, and occupied half a dozen of us from morning till night, but the weather was fine and bright.

Before the dipping commenced, every sheep and lamb on the place had to be "dressed." We rounded them up from all parts of the island where they would be hidden away in the scrub. Our dogs had unfortunately been poisoned by the bait that had been set for eaglehawks which took the lambs, so we had to keep shouting to get them on the run and into a race at the stockyard, when, one by one, they were passed through our hands and dressed with spirits of tar.

The Swan, which transported the wool from Quail Island to Melbourne.
Image: Western Port Wrecks and Maritime Mishaps by Arthur E. Woodley (Lock Haven books, 1992)

I may here say, as I remarked previously, that the island was a most unsuitable place; this was so, because the flat damp ground on the shores gave the sheep foot-rot, and great numbers of them had to be treated for that before being "dressed" and dipped. I have overlooked the fact that all these had been shorn previous to the dip, the wool baled and sent by the regular Western Port trading cutter Swan, owned and sailed by a man named Lock (8), to Melbourne. The fires were made up and burning for the two days the dressing was being done. When that was over, the boiling water was run into the dip, with the result that there was a tepid bath, knee-deep, ready for the sheep, which were put through the race and seized by us who were standing in the water and thoroughly soused and rubbed and placed in a draining race at the opposite end to which they had entered. This took two days, the fires going to keep up the tepid heat. After this was completed and some weeks passed to allow the shear-marks to grow out of the wool and the colour of the dip to disappear (as the American Essence of Tobacco, which was the scab cure used in the dip, had discoloured it), a permit to travel was issued by the inspector (which was necessary before they could go on the roads), they were all sent to the Melbourne yards and sold. Then my days as an embryo squatter (as all kinds of graziers in those days were misnamed) came to an end, and I returned to town to take up again a business life.

I should have stated earlier that an incident occurred shortly after my arrival on the island which at the time was considered most laudable, but, if perpetrated now, would bring the strong arm of the law down on any who did it. It was the receipt of several cases of pairs of rabbits. They were purchased in Melbourne and came from Barwon Park, the station near Geelong of Mr. Thomas Austin (9), and were the offspring of some he had had sent to him in 1859 by the ship Lightning, his importation by that vessel consisting of 56 partridges, 4 hares, and 26 rabbits. As I knocked the lids off the cases, the rabbits scampered off into the scrub. I cannot remember how many there were, but I think about ten pairs. The result of the experiment I do not know.

I may add that Messrs. Herbert Power (10) and Reginald Bright (11) took up the island and had placed a big Highland Scot in charge before we left, as gamekeeper, the intention being to stock it with pheasants, partridges, &c. What success attended it I am unable to say.


(1) James Henry Watson (1841-1934). Read his Australian Dictionary of Biography entry, here.
(3) Mr Watson wrote a letter to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald  of February 19, 1926 on the subject of rabbits and said they released the rabbits on Quail Island in September 1866. Read letter here. See also Footnote 8.
(4) The London foundered in the Bay of Biscay with 220 drowned and 19 saved.  Most of the passengers were Australians returning from England. Read accounts in The Argus of March 16, 1866, here and the Sydney Morning Herald of the same date, here.
(5) Robert Duff  (1827 - 1861). Robert and his wife Margaret (c.1832 - 1902) established the Cranbourne Hotel, around 1860. It was in High Street, where Greg Clydesdale Square is now and was demolished around the 1970s. Read more, here.
(6) Reverend Alexander Duff (1824-1890), read more here.
(7) Alexander Cameron (1815 - 1881) took over the Mayune lease in 1851. At later land sales he purchased 592 acres, the Pre-emptive Right, on the corner of what is now Cameron Street and the South Gippsland Highway and renamed renamed the property Mayfield, read more here.
(8) The cutter Swan and Captain Lock. The following information comes from Western Port Wrecks and Maritime Mishaps by Arthur E. Woodley (Lock Haven books, 1992) Captain John Lock was one of Phillip Island's pioneer settlers, who for a good many years contributed greatly to the early development of the Western Port area. In 1897 Captain Lock was presented with a bravery medal from the Royal Humane Society for rescuing  the sole survivor of a boat upset, off Mornington. The Swan,  built about 1815 as a French cutter, arrived  in Tasmania about 1837 and traded between Tasmania and Victoria until Captain Lock purchased it in Hobart and converted it into a ketch. It was run down by the steamer Queenscliffe, off Cape Schanck in October 1906, fortunately with no loss of life. Interestingly, Arthur Woodley says that Captain John Lock did not commence trading to and from Western Port with the Swan until late 1868 or early 1869 which does not tally with Mr Watson's date of 1866. John Bamara Lock died August 8, 1908 aged 75 (death notice in The Leader August 15, 1908, see here).
(9) Thomas Austin (1815-1871), of Barwon Park, Winchelsea is 'credited' with introducing the rabbit into Australia. His wife Elizabeth (nee Harding, 1821-1910) was a philanthropist, who established the Austin Hospital in 1882. Read Thomas' Australian Dictionary of Biography entry, here, and Elizabeth's here.
(10) Herbert Power - The son of Thomas Herbert Power (1801-1873) who took up the Eumemmerring Run in 1864 - the run went from  around the Dandenong Creek all the way to Berwick. Power Road is named after him. Herbert Power died in 1919, aged 83. You can read his obituary in the Australasian of June 7, 1919, here.
(11) Reginald Bright - a partner in the firm of Gibbs, Bright & Co. He arrived in Victoria in 1852 and died in London in 1920. There is a short obituary in the Darling Downs Gazette of September 17, 1920, see here.

Monday, 21 September 2020

British Newspaper Archive

Casey Cardinia Libraries subscribe to the Find My Past database. It is usually in-library access only, but they have generously allowed our Library members access from home during this Covid-19 lockdown period. You must access the database through our website here https://www.cclc.vic.gov.au/resources-category/family-history/, click on Find My Past (or Ancestry, who have also generously extended their access) and follow the instructions.

The British Newspaper Archive (BNA) is part of Find My Past and can also be accessed from home during this time. The BNA contains 37,000,000 plus pages of newspapers and so you can search hundreds of millions of articles by keyword, name, location, date or title. This is a valuable resource for historians and family historians. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to explore the rich resources of Find My Past and the British Newspaper Archive.

I decided to look at what local, as in Casey Cardinia, news that you could find in the BNA. I put in Koo Wee Rup as a search term and found a number of articles, including the following three. In the Shepton Mallet Journal of July 9, 1926 there was a letter published from Chris Walker about the death of his great uncle, Charles Moody, who had lived at Koo Wee Rup and Pakenham.

Sheptonian dies in Australia at the age of 91 years from the Shepton Mallet Journal July 9, 1926.

To the editor of the Shepton Mallet Journal and City of Wells Reporter.

Dear Sir, - Mr Charles Moody, formerly of Somersetshire – he came from Shepton Mallet – has died at Pakenham, Victoria at the age of 91 years.

His son, Mr William Moody, has asked me to mention this, as land was held in his father’s name in Somersetshire, under the copyhold lease system, and notification of his death will probably be wanted by the parties concerned.

Mr Charles Moody came to Australia in the ‘90s, and took up land on the Koo-wee-rup swamp in Gippsland. He was the brother of my grandfather, Mr Christopher Moody, who died at Shepton, Koo-wee-rup, in 1920. His “Who’s who” is given in “Victoria and its Metropolis’ as follows: -
“Mr Christopher Moody was born in Somersetshire, where he learned farming. Coming to Victoria in 8154 on the ship Morning Star, he went to Rokewood and rented a farm of 200 acres, which he made pay well. He built a flour mill, and carried it on for 12 years successfully; then, selling out, he went to Tooradin on the Koo-wee-rup swamp, which was then under water. He paid £1/10/- an acre for the land, and went to great expense in draining it. He has now 2,100 acres drained and worth £10 an acre. Mr Moody keeps 170 head of cattle, and does a good butter business. He has been a member of the Cranbourne Shire Council for three years, and a Councillor for Leigh Shire for six years, and was offered the chair in the former, but declined it.”

Mr Moody’s estate, most of which has since been sub-divided and sold, is now worth between £50 and £60 an acre, and is some of the richest in the State.

Mr William Moody is the only son of the late Charles Moody, who, with his brother, were  relatives of Mr Christopher Moody, now of Evercreech. Both did very well in Australia.

Hoping you will find these facts of interest,
Yours faithfully, Charles Y. Walker
Melbourne, Australia, May 31st, 1926.

The Clarion of March 10, 1894
The Clarion was a Socialist newspaper, established from 1891 by Robert Blatchford, whose  gift was to be able to write movingly about injustice and inequality and to present a Socialist argument clearly*. It published the following snippet about the Koo Wee Rup Swamp in 1894.

The Victorian Public Works Department has taken the initiative in State Socialism. The village settlers at Koo-wee-rup  - a recently reclaimed swamp - having complained of the exorbitant prices charged for provisions by the local storekeepers, the Department promptly established a government store, selling at only a shade over wholesale prices. At latest, the settlers were highly delighted at the change.

A Biblical Incident Illustrated from the Leominster News and North West Herefordshire & Radnorshire Advertiser July 17, 1896
This was an interesting story about a swarm of bees found in an unusual location by a Tooradin farmer at Koo Wee Rup West or Dalmore as it is now called.

Recently, in Victoria, a farmer residing in Tooradin has taken  a swarm of bees and a kerosene-tin full of honey from inside the skeleton of a bullock, near the Great Southern Railway line, at Koo-wee-rup West. The animal about a year ago became entangled in some barbed wire, and died there, and a swarm of bees came along and made their hive in the carcase. This suggests a similar incident alluded to in the Bible (14th chapter of Judges), where the bees built a hive in the carcase of a lion slain by Samson.

Take advantage of this offer to explore the British Newspaper Archive and see what you can find.


* The information about Robert Blatchford of The Clarion comes from the WCML Working Class Movement Library website https://www.wcml.org.uk/our-collections/creativity-and-culture/leisure/clarion-movement/robert-blatchford-and-the-clarion/

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Mr Elliot's cheque to J. Jackson and Sons of Pakenham

This is a cheque, below, for two pounds, 12 shillings and six pence written to J. Jackson & Sons, by John Elliot (1).  It's a Commercial Bank of Australia Ltd cheque, from the Nar Nar Goon branch. Every picture tells a story as they say, so this is the story behind the various elements of this cheque.

J. Jackson & Sons.
J. Jackson & Sons was a general store and bakery in Main Street, Pakenham. J. J. Jackson and Sons' first advertisement appeared in the Pakenham Gazette on September 2, 1927 in which they stated that they desire to inform the public of Pakenham and District that they have taken over the general storekeeping business carried on for many years by Mr P. O'Halloran and it is their intention to conduct the business on up to date lines, at all times giving the requirements of customers their first consideration.

Jackson & Sons first advertisement in the Pakenham Gazette.
Pakenham Gazette September 2, 1927.

This was a change of occupation for Mr John James Jackson, who had previously been in the coal mining industry at Korumburra. Mr Jackson and his wife Margaret (nee Sutton) had a large family to support - five sons and nine daughters - so it appears the move was designed to create employment opportunities for his sons. The family still operated the store until October 1951, when it was taken over by Mr C. C. Lack (2).

The local paper at Korumburra had this short report on Mr Jackson's new venture into retail.
Great Southern Advocate, August 18, 1927. 

Sadly, Mr Jackson died only 20 years after his move to Pakenham, on April 25, 1948 at 66 years of age. The Pakenham Gazette of April 30, 1948 published the following obituary of Mr Jackson, which I have transcribed below.

Mr John James Jackson's obituary
Pakenham Gazette of April 30, 1948

Obituary - Mr J. J. Jackson
By the death on Sunday morning last of Mr John James Jackson, Pakenham district has lost one of its best known and most highly respected citizens. He had not enjoyed good health for some years and for the last ten weeks had been a patient in the Royal Melbourne Hospital, where he passed away.

Born at Appin, New South Wales, 66 years ago, Mr Jackson was in his younger days closely associated with the coal mining industry, mainly in the Newcastle and Korumburra districts.

Coming to Pakenham from Korumburra 20 years ago, he and his sons took over a general storekeeping business.

Although latterly ill health debarred him from an active part in public affairs, he retained to the last a lively interest in all the local organisations, with which he was formerly predominately associated. He was a Justice of the Peace and a member of the Cemetery Trust, and an enthusiastic worker for the various sporting clubs and the Country Party. The district has benefitted greatly by his public service through the years, and by his death loses a fine citizen.

As an individual, Mr Jackson was a huge friend to many. A man of the highest principles, he delighted in giving a helping hand where it was most needed, and not even continued ill health could dim his cheery outlook on health.

The heartfelt sympathy of the whole community goes out to his widow, four sons and nine daughters in their great loss.

The funeral took place at Pakenham Cemetery on Tuesday afternoon, following  a service at St James Church of England. The church was crowded for the funeral and the attendance was one of the largest seen at Pakenham for many years. Rev. W. P. Daunt officiated at the Church and at the graveside. Four sons – John, Clive, Ray and Norman – acted as coffin bearers and the pall bearers were Messrs J.R. Marshall, R. Ramage, J. J. Ahern, W. Stephenson, E. Sutton, B. Jackson and R. Webster and Dr W.G. Farrell. Messrs W. Garnar and Sons carried out the funeral arrangements.

Mr Jackson's death notice listing his fourteen children.

Mr John Elliot.
Mr John Elliot wrote the cheque, he is listed in the Electoral Rolls as being a farmer, of Nar Nar Goon. John first appears in the Shire of Berwick Rates in the 1898/1899 book, where he is listed as owning 97 acres, Lot 77a Parish of Nar Nar Goon. This property was located on the south side of Bald Hill Road, a bit west of Seven Mile Road. Mr Elliot was married to Josephine (nee Hayes) and they had two sons, Ross and Hector. John and Josephine are buried at the Pakenham Cemetery, Josephine died in 1924, 
aged 62 and John died June 17, 1937 aged 85. This is all I can tell you about the family.

John Elliot's death notice

Commercial Bank at Nar Nar Goon.
This brings us to the other element of this cheque - the Commercial Bank. The Commercial Bank of Australia merged with the Bank of New South Wales in October 1982, to become Westpac. The Commercial Bank in Nar Nar Goon was constructed in 1893/1894. The Cardinia Shire Heritage Study (3) describes the building as a parapeted and stuccoed Italian Renaissance styled bank typical of 19th century branch bank designs. It is significant to the Cardinia Shire as the oldest architect designed commercial building in the Shire, the relative sophistication of its design and for its associations with its early history of the small Nar Nar Goon township.

Commercial Bank, Nar Nar Goon in 2017
Sold by Gerard Collins Real Estate in 2017

The Weekly Times of April 8, 1893 had a list of all the Commercial Bank branches. Pakenham and Nar Nar Goon were listed as agencies of the Berwick bank, The only other Casey Cardinia location was Cranbourne, an agency of Dandenong.

List of Commercial Bank branches in April 1893.

It appears to have been a very short-lived agency as it was closed in August 1893, perhaps due to the economic depression, however, it re-opened as a branch during 1903/1904.

Notice regarding the closure of the Nar Nar Goon and Pakenham Commercial Bank agencies.
South Bourke & Mornington Journal August 30, 1893. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70015880

The Commercial Bank re-opens at Nar Nar Goon, 1903/1904.
Adelaide Observer, July 30, 1904. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/163051331

The Bank Manager at Nar Nar Goon at the time Mr Elliot wrote his cheque to J. Jackson & Sons was Arthur Ahern. Arthur had been transferred from Pakenham to Nar Nar Goon in June 1927 (4) and then in September 1928 he was transferred to Moulamein in southern New South Wales (5). Arthur was the second of eight children of James Joseph and Marion (Trewartha) Ahern. J. J. Ahern was the Shire of Berwick Secretary from 1906 until 1948. 

I don't have the exact date of the closure of the Nar Nar Goon Bank, which possibly took place in the 1970s. In the early 1980's it was the home of Witchetty Grub Children's clothing, established by Maree Cunningham (6).  There was double page spread in the Australian Women's Weekly of March 31, 1982, advertising her garments on offer.

Fashion spread for Witchetty Grub children's clothing, 
made in the old Commercial Bank at Nar Nar Goon.
Australian Women's Weekly March 31, 1982.

The text reads - Nar Nar Goon seems an unlikely birthplace of a children's fashion label, but that's exactly where Maree Cunningham, a Gippsland farmer's wife, faced with dressing her own four children, started to design and make their clothes. Her very first range was produced for three Melbourne boutiques. Today, the Witchetty Grub label, with all its fashion charm, is marketed through some 40 outlets around Australia, and it's still designed, manufactured and dispatched from its all-Australian birthplace, Nar Nar Goon.
From left: Witchetty Grub - Grey check shirt $36, navy flannel shorts $45 and navy jumper $32. Peach sleeveless quilted jacket $47, matching divided skirt $49 and Liberty print shirt $47. Blue quilted jacket $57, matching skirt $42 and shirt $45. Taupe shirt $35, check knickers $48 and grey jumper $32. Black cord dress with detachable collar $74. Red check dress $74.

(1) I bought this cheque on Ebay. Thank you to my fellow historian, Isaac Hermann, for finding it for me.  As soon as he pointed it out to me, I knew there was a story there. 
(2) The first advertisement for Mr Lack appeared in the Pakenham Gazette of October 5, 1951. There was an interview with Clive Jackson, John's son, in the Pakenham Gazette of December 5, 1955 and it appears that he took over the business again in 1955, see below.

Pakenham Gazette December 5, 1955

(3) Cardinia Shire Heritage Study, v. 3 - Heritage Places by Graeme Butler & Associates (Cardinia Shire, 1996), pp. 284-285.
(4) South Bourke & Mornington Journal, June 9, 1927, see here.
(5) The Dandenong Journal, September 20, 1928, see here
(6) Thank you to my mother Wendy and my sister Karen for telling me about Witchetty Grub clothing and it's connection to the bank.