Wednesday, 30 December 2015

A day in the Fen Country: Mr Lyall’s Breeding Stations by R. M'D.

The Leader newspaper of March 14, 1868 had a lengthy account of William Lyall's agricultural pursuits in the Fen Country. The Fens in England was a large area marshland which was reclaimed by drainage from around the 1650s to the 1800s. As Lyall's land bordered the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp it was logical name for the area. This article is of interest for  a number of reasons - it gives  a great description of the land between Cranbourne and Tooradin and Lang Lang before the Swamp was drained - it's a landscape that is much different from today when you drive doen the South Gippsland Highway. Secondly there is the total acceptance of aims of the Acclimatisation movement - where fauna from the United Kingdom was introduced into Australia  (the rabbit being the 'best' example of this). Thirdly, I like the rivalry between Cranbourne and Berwick displayed by 'mine host' at Cranbourne.

I have edited the article , you can read the full article on Trove here http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article197424726


It is once in seven years that I visit the fen country. That period I hold to be about the proper interval of time between one visit and another to a district that one is not intimately connected with by either birth or business. It is sufficiently long to note any progressive changes that have taken place in the scenes around one; and it is sufficiently short to enable the memory to recall the exact state of former things. My late visit has been superinduced in this way. Having occasion to penetrate into the County of Mornington the length of Cranbourne, not so much to refresh myself as the little nag that carried me thither,  I pulled up about midday at a respectable place of entertainment 'for man and beast.'
After the usual salutations, ‘and something more’ with mine host, this town, said I, inquiringly, is the capital of Mornington. 'It ought to be' said my sonsie [healthy, robust] friend but at present it is stripped of its dues.' 'How so?' said I. ' Not,' replied he ‘because it lacks any of the natural advantages that are essential to constitute a fine inland toon. We have around us the  finest agricultural land, plenty of wood, and water, honest men and bonny lasses; but that outlandish place, Berwick, has taken the agricultural show from us, for this season.' 'Is Berwick not equally suitable as a showground?' said I. 'Bless, you’ said my friend, 'will William Lyall, with his hares and pheasants and partridges; with his ponies and racers and Punches [type of draught horse] and with his enormous English sheep, and white-faced cattle, go there? Not he; it is too far away, and what can be the good of the show?'


I stood the whole of this lively recital with admirable composure, until mention was made of the ' white-faced cattle,' when former recollections of 'Old Star' and her offspring rushed in upon me, and the disposal of the morrow was very summarily' decided. A few more minutes and I was jogging on my way….. in the direction of- Tooradin, the nearest homestead or 'head station’ as we used to call such establishments, of the father of acclimatisation in Victoria - William Lyall.



This is the Acclimatisation Society's medal - which shows some of the animals introduced to Victoria - deer, ostrich, pheasant, swan, rabbit and  hare.
State Library of Victoria Image IAN20/06/68/8   


My way, for a considerable distance after leaving 'the toon o' Cranbourne,' lay through a track of country extremely dreary and suggestive of immediate action on the part of the Acclimatisation Society, in stocking its heathy hummocks with grouse and blackcock from the 'Land o' Cakes’ Then I wended on through a stunted forest of the unenviable sort of  timber commonly called ‘bastard box,' from which I at last emerged into a prairie of considerable extent, and, as far as I could judge perfectly level. This plain, through some agency that I do not here undertake to explain, is evidently year by year becoming larger.  The trees are decaying all around its margins, and stand there in thousands, branchless and bleached with the action of the weather. And here, as everywhere, else, where this decay of the forest sets in, the pasturage is very perceptibly improved. The surface soil,  in the first place, is being materially enriched with the deposit shed from dying timber; while the subsoil is not only spared the former exhaustion through the medium of the root, but is actually benefited by the presence of that root now in a state of decomposition. 

The improvement which  took place in this Plain of  Sherwood [Parish of Sherwood], since my former visit, may therefore be partly ascribed to this mysterious decay of the forest, partly to the present treatment of the pasturage (sheep grazing), and in a great measure to the free and fertilising action of the sun upon the surface. This plain, in fee simple, I am informed, is the property of an old and well known colonist, who is now for some years absent from the colon - Mr John Bakewell. It does not require the precision of prophecy to foretell that it will become, at some future day, a princely estate. It already, in natural richness and levelness, invites the presence of the steam plough; but while in a sort of reverie…. I arrived at my destination for the day, Tooradin.





This is William Lyall (1821 to 1888) on the left and John Mickle (1814 to 1885), taken in 1853. 
Photo from The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire by Niel Gunson

Mickle, Lyall and John Bakewell (1807 to 1888) were business partners who in 1851  acquired the Yallock Run (based on the Yallock Creek, south of Koo-Wee-Rup). In 1852 they acquired the Tooradin run and in 1854 they acquired the Great Swamp run and at one stage they occupied nearly all the land from Cranbourne to Lang Lang.  Lyall's sister Margaret was married to John Mickle. 


I had the good luck of finding the 'Laird' at home; but the day was too far gone to admit of seeing anything in the way of stock, beyond what some fashionable writers of  the day call 'the sires of the season'  The writer then goes on to describe the horses, including the redoubtable Dockin, famous in every show yard as the first prize Shetlander. He was supposed to be good when first purchased, in his native little island….twelve or thirteen years ago; but he is now known to be good, not wholly for winning so many fields, but for getting an innumerable race of crack animals.

The next day Lyall and the writer reviewed the sheep - These are exclusively of pure Romney Marsh blood, and spring from six or seven ewes and a ram of that breed imported  by Mr Lyall nine or ten years ago. He was induced, I believe, in a greater degree to try this breed on the Fen country from the adaptability its name indicated, than from any personal knowledge he has had of this variety of sheep; however that, maybe, the experiment has resulted to his satisfaction.  The little 'mob' now amounts to about seventy head and all of them, from the patriarch of the flock to the youngest lamb, are in fine blooming health.

They then go to view the white faced cattle and …there beamed the lovely countenances of 'Old Star' and her numerous offspring. There, the old cow stood, on the eve of bringing the thirteenth calf (her fourteenth, should she bring twins) within ten years. At the R.A.S show at Salisbury in 1857, where she stood first as the ‘best heifer in milk in calf’ she was probably as perfect a specimen of the Hereford breed as was ever seen.

The writer then has a number of paragraphs about Lyall’s cattle when they then went to see Lyall’s house, Harewood, which was under construction. Here tradesmen were busy in finishing a mansion, intended for the laird's residence. This is built of brick, on a sand hill, on the very shore of Western Port. We soon toddled up stairs to get a survey of the outlines of the district.  The dimensions of the windows were just sufficiently liberal herein to gratify my curiosity. These I found, when my surprise subsided a little to be somewhere about eighteen inches in breadth, and about four feet in height. 'What on earth' said I, 'induced you to have the windows so small?' 'This, my good fellow, in our climate, is the right sort,' replied the laird.' You never saw a more absurd or unprofitable thing' continued he ‘than first to make large windows to let in the whole blaze of day light and heat upon you, and then to send off the dray for a load of 'soft goods' to keep that light and heat out again’.



Harewood. Photographer: John T. Collins, taken April 1975. 
The photo clearly shows the windows that are about eighteen inches in breadth, and about four feet in height  that raised the curiosity of  the writer.  
State Library of Victoria  Image H97.250/1833 

My eye, by this time, was ranging to the far north, where the Dandenong mountains towered up to the clouds. Nearer to me, in that direction, not a feature was sufficiently prominent to attract my attention.  The whole expanse was one dead solitude….On turning to the south, there, away in the distance, gloomy and sombre, lay French Island and the whole bosom of the calm bay between us, thickly dotted with sea fowl and waterfowl of several varieties, whose names were as unknown to me as was their gabble, which, at moments of apparent excitement, became a perfect 'Babel.' In fact, the whole scene became too grand for a person of my temperament. I began to get a little melancholy.

Off we were again to Yallock, Mr Lyall's furthest away station. It is here the sheep are washed and shorn, for here is a running stream of fine soft water [Yallock Creek], and clean pasture to preserve the fleece, in the interval between washing and shearing, in a state of purity. The woolshed is here, too, but at the present juncture, it is converted into a stable for the colts which are undergoing a slight modicum of training, ere being brought to the hammer during the present month. ….. And, to be candid, I saw something else here that please me more than any sight of thorough-bred colts would. 'The man who makes two blades of grass grow where one grew before is a benefactor to his country.' But at Yallock, four blades are growing now to the one that grew there during my former visit. The various kinds of clovers sown around the swamp and on the sheepfolds are spreading fast and taking possession of every spot of broken surface. The close and cutting treading of the flocks too is polishing and consolidating the surface, and thus effecting a constant improvement. In fact so rapid, now-a-days, is the march of improvement in the Fen country that henceforth I see clearly, if I am , to keep myself properly posted up, I must reduce the period between my visits to one-half its former duration, that is, from seven to three and a-half years.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Mr Ablethorpe's orchard at Gembrook

The Leader newspaper of March 14 1903 had an interesting report on the Beaconsfield, Gembrook and Pakenham Horticultural and Fruit Growers' Association. The report said that it was one of the 'most progressive of  its kind in Victoria' and was one of the largest in the State. The article continues on describing some of the orchards in the area and finishes up with an interesting description of Mr Ablethorpe's farm at South Gembrook, which grew a veritable cornucopia of  fruits and berries.  You can read the full article here on Trove.

Charles and Emma Ablethorpe are listed in the 1903 Electoral Roll at Gembrook South. Charles died in 1904 at the age of 67 and is buried at Pakenham Cemetery. Emma is listed in the 1909 Electoral Roll and Emma is still at Gembrook South in the 1913 Rolls. Emma married Henry Lello in 1919, and they lived in Northcote and she died July 5, 1922 and Henry died three years later. We have met Emma before in this blog as she was one of 30,000 Victorian women who signed a petition agitating for female suffrage in 1891. You can read more about this here.

Here is the account of Mr Ablethorpe's orchard

Twelve years ago Mr. C. Ablethorpe established a 9-acre orchard at South Gembrook, and, in conjunction with his son-in-law, Mr. Warren, this small plantation has been worked without the aid of outside labor. There are some remarkable examples of the district's adaptability to fruit culture, as the trees and plants comprise apples, pears, peaches, oranges, lemons, plums, quinces, grapes, wineberries, tree tomatoes, chestnuts, white and red currants, gooseberries, Cape gooseberries,
raspberries, strawberries, figs, cherries, loquats and other fruits. Some apricot trees were chopped out, and black currants fail to set. Peaches and gooseberries form the leading fruits in this compact but prolific orchard, and the results are attained solely by means of hand cultivation. A vine hoe (a five pronged implement) is used. The orchard  being on a steep slope the soil is pulled over once a year by means of the long prongs, the only other implement used being an ordinary hoe. The growth of tree tomatoes here is remarkable, and as Mr. Ablethorpe often receives up to 14/ per case, and never less than 4/, it is surprising that more attention is not given by gardeners to this ornamental and profitable plant. There are 4000 gooseberry bushes, producing an annual average of 10 tons of fruit, the yield sometimes reaching as high as 15 tons. The fruit trees are planted at 24 feet distances with gooseberry bushes 8 feet apart in two rows between the trees. 

Mention might be made of the work carried on by several other growers in Gembrook and Beaconsfield, but at present Mr. Ablethorpe's orchard may be noted as a remarkable example of what can be done on a few acres in the Gembrook and Beaconsfield districts. Nine acres have practically supported two families for the past twelve years, and the limit of production is certainly not yet in sight.


Gathering gooseberries at Gembrook (c. 1882 to 1902)
Photographer: Charles Rudd  
State Library of Victoria Image H39358/73

Monday, 7 December 2015

Robinson's Grocery store at Pakenham

If you grew up in Pakenham or shopped at Pakenham in the 1950s to 1980s then chances are that you would have shopped at Robinsons Grocery shop or Robinson's 4 Square or Robinson's SSW -  so here is a look at the history of Robinsons in Pakenham.

Stanley Clarke Robinson was born in 1891 to Edward Walton and Emma (nee Basham) Robinson. In the 1914 Electoral Rolls they are listed at Leongatha - Edward is a ‘boot dealer’, Emma, home duties and Stanley is listed as a grocer. In 1914, Stanley married Mary Ellen Knox. As far as I can work out they had five children – Errol Gordon in  1916; Nancy Mary in 1918 (died age 5 in 1924); Joan died in 1922 (not sure when she was born); Jack Stanley in 1924 (died 1945) and Alan Edward  in 1927.
In 1924, they were still at Leongatha (according to the Electoral Rolls) - he was grocer and Mary Ellen’s occupation was Home duties. In the 1925 Electoral Rolls they are both listed at Main Street, Pakenham East (as it was known at the time)

We can fairly accurately pinpoint when they arrived in Pakenham in 1925 by a series of advertisements in the Pakenham Gazette.  


In the March 27, 1925 issue we have the McAfee Bros advertisement as usual.


The next week, April 3, 1925 we have this intriguing ad – ‘Watch this space’


One week later (April 10 1925)  we see that S.C Robinson has taken over McAfee Brothers and he is advertising ‘The House for Good Value’  - grocery, drapery, boots and shoes, produce and ironmongery. 


A small article from the Pakenham Gazette of April 3 1925 confirms the purchase, even though the information about Mr Robinson being ‘late of Sunbury’ does not tally with the Electoral Rolls, however is confirmed by his obituary in the Pakenham Gazette in 1957.


The Shire of  Berwick Rate Books (see above) show that Stanley Robinson leased a shop, grain store and house from David McAfee (or family members) from 1925 until 1949. In 1949 the properties were purchased in the names of Stanley, Mary Ellen and Errol Robinson.




S.C Robinson operated as a general store keeper until around 1953 when he started advertising his new gift shop (see the two advertisements, above)  At the same time (1953) E.G Robinson and A.E Robinson began advertising as General Merchants, so I presume that his sons took over the business and Stanley ‘retired’ to his gift shop. Around November 1958, E.G and A.E Robinson became a 4 Square Grocery Shop. They later became a SSW and then sold to Safeways.


Advertisement from the Pakenham Gazette 1953


Advertisement from the Pakenham Gazette November 1958


Stanley died on September 19, 1957. His obituary (reproduced left, from the Pakenham Gazette of September 20, 1957) confirms that he was an active member of the Presbyterian Church, as well as the Masonic Lodge. There is a  Memorial stained glass window at the Uniting Church in Pakenham, commemorating Mr Robinson, dated 1960, obviously placed there when the new Presbyterian Church was opened on October 1 1960. His son,  Errol, was the Session Clerk and Chairman of the Building Committee at the time of the construction of the new church. There is a report in the Pakenham Gazette of October 7 of the opening.  The dedication ceremony was on the Saturday and the furnishings were dedicated at the service the next day. The list in the Gazette includes the window in memory of Mr S.C Robinson and a pew in memory of Nancy Robinson. There is also a pew in memory of  Flight Sergeant Jack Robinson. 

Jack was the second of Stanley's sons to enlist to serve in World War two - Errol enlisted in the Air Force in August 1941 and was discharged in September 1945; Jack enlisted in February 1942 in the Army and then in 1943 he transferred to the Air Force. He died on January 19, 1945. He was a member of Beaufighter crew engaged in non-operational flight which crashed in a heavy snow storm in Lincoln in England. Alan enlisted in May 1945 and was discharged in January 1947.

Sadly, the day of the small owner operated grocery store is nearly over and this market segment has been taken over by the two big players, Coles and Woolworths, so there would be very few people who could these days list their occupation as 'grocer' like Stanley Robinson could.





This is Robinson's SSW store in Main Street, Pakenham - (circa late 1970s- early 1980s)  It was later taken over by Safeways and is now the IGA. Safeways (now Woolworths)  moved to its new building behind Main Street around 1984.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Bunyip Hotels

In 1847 a  road was surveyed from Dandenong to Gippsland  along the edge of the ranges and when this proved to be impassable in places, a new road, which became the coach route, was surveyed in 1859 by A. Campbell.  This went through Cannibal Creek (around where Bassed road is in North Garfield) and through the old township of Buneep and onto Crossover. The Melbourne to Sale telegraph line followed this route in 1865, which eventually gave the road the name of Old Telegraph Road and where it crossed the Bunyip River was where the aforementioned town of Buneep was established (where modern day Ellis Road would cross the Bunyip River). This town was surveyed in the 1850s - it had a High Street and a Barkly Street (you can see the Survey Plan, below)  In 1857 David Connor selected  a site for an Inn and it was built in the early 1860s, this was called the Buneep Inn (later the Old Bunyeep Inn).  In 1869 John Rhoden became the proprietor, I believe he was a son-in-law of  David O'Connor.



This is the township of Buneep, surveyed in the 1850s.. Click on the picture for an enlargement


The Argus October 23, 1865

This advertisement from The Argus, October 1865 advises that you could catch a mail coach at 5.00pm  Monday to Saturday and have a 36 hour trip all the way to Sale, stopping at Bunyip or the old township of Bunyeep. That would have been a fairly rugged 36 hours!



Bunnyip Hotel, North Gippsland, c. 1880-1885 [David Connor's New Bunyip Inn]
Photographer: Fred Kruger. State Library of Victoria Image H41138/11

Around 1867  David Connor’s New Bunyip Inn, was established. It is pictured above. This was built on the Bunyip River on the Gippsland Road, as the Princes Highway was then called. It was on the south side of the Highway,  just east of A'Beckett Road and the west side of the Bunyip River.  The coach route then changed direction at Cannibal Creek and turned south east to this Inn, and became known as Old Sale Road. A small settlement developed around the Inn, including the establishment of a bakery by William Snell in 1878 and a dance hall erected by Mr Hyne, opposite the Inn. Atr some time another son-in-law of David Connor, took over this Hotel, David Devanny or Devenay  or Deveney depending on sources. He was still there in 1897, but the hotel was closed by the Licensing Reduction Board in 1917.



The red circle,  shows the location of the New Bunyip Inn and the small settlement that surrounded it. 


Dandenong Advertiser, June 14 1917

The closure of the New Bunyip Hotel was announced in June 1917.


Bunyip Hotel, c. 1890 - but is this actually in Bunyip?

This photograph is the Bunyip Hotel, George Stevens, Licensed Victualler. It's location is labelled as Bunyip, but I am not sure if that is the case. It's obviously not the New Bunyip Inn, as the building in the top photo has a sign which says, New Bunyip Hotel, and this is clearly a different building. It is not a forerunner of the Railway Hotel and Gippsland Hotel in the township of Bunyip, as the landscape is wrong and I feel it is unlikely to be the original Bunyip Inn as, I can't see that there would have been enough traffic to sustain such a large building. I believe that this building is not in Bunyip and I am suggesting that it could be the Bunyip Hotel in Cavendish - it's been around since at least the 1860s and modern day photos, show that the 1930s existing building is on a corner like this on  flat ground. More than happy to be proved wrong.


The township of Bunyip moved again after the establishment of the Gippsland Railway Line. The line was completed from Oakleigh to Bunyip in October 1877. This saw the establishment of two other Bunyip Hotels  as firstly the line from Morwell to Bunyip wasn't completed until March 1878, so travellers had to stop over at Bunyip and continue by coach, secondly the hotels serviced the locals and the workers on the railway line. The Hotels were the Butcher's Arms and the Bunyip Hotel, according to Call of the Bunyip.  John O'Brien had the licence for the Bunyip Hotel and in January 1877 he took up the licence for the Railway Family Hotel, once again, according to Call of the Bunyip.


The Argus  May 17, 1881.

John O'Brien's tenure at the Family Hotel didn't last very long as it was sold up by the Sherrifs Office in May 1881, as the advertisement in The Argus, above, attests. I am a bit hazy on the early details of these hotels -  by 1884 there are various advertisements for Lawrence Finch's Gippsland Hotel at Bunyip - this Hotel is still in existence (it's known as the Top Pub); in 1897 Sarah Alice Finch was listed as the licensee  and William Kraft took over, sometime between October 1898 and September 1899, according to the Shire of Berwick Rate Books.   It is pictured below. I don't know when the original building was replaced by the existing two storey brick building.



Gippsland Hotel and Main Street, Bunyip, 1908
Photograph from The Call of the Bunyip by Denise Nest

The other hotel in  Bunyip today is the Railway Hotel - Thomas Stacey is listed as a publican in the Shire of Berwick Rate books in 1890 and he had it for many years, but I am unsure of the connection, if any, between the Railway Hotel and early hotels - was John O'Brien's Railway Family Hotel the same hotel as the Railway Hotel or was it the Butcher's Arms? The original building is pictured below. It was destroyed by fire in 1924 and the new building, which is the existing building, opened in October of the same year.


Stacey's Railway Hotel on Main Street Bunyip, c.1915


Stacey's Railway Hotel, Bunyip c. 1925 

This photograph was taken a year after this building was opened in October 1924, replacing the original building which was destroyed by fire.



An overview of the three Bunyip townships, they moved south each time. Click on image to enlarge.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

T.T. Quist Printers flyers.

The Dandenong and District Historical Society (http://ddhs.com.au)  has donated to us this great collection of Ephemera - some flyers printed by local Dandenong printer, T.T Quist.  They give us an interesting insight into the activities in some of the towns in the local area (when they were just country towns and not suburbs) in the 1950s (and the odd event from the 1920s and 1960s)



Broadcast Ball at the  Beaconsfield Upper Hall. March 16 1956. The Ball must have been broadcast on Radio 3UL. Radio 3UL was based in Warragul  and began broadcasting in 1937.


Carrum Downs is no longer part of the Casey Cardinia Local Government area, but in 1955 when the Rural Fire Brigade held their First Annual Ball, it was part of the Shire of Cranbourne. Once again, the Swing Masters were the Band.




A lecture in aid of the Roman Catholic Church at Cranbourne, held on March 29 1922, at the Dandenong Town Hall. The Guest Speaker was Sergeant Leatch, who had taken part in the landing at Gallipoli. One of the advertisers on the back of the flyer was Lawson Poole, Cranbourne garage proprietor.



It's Daffodil Day at Rawlins' Farm at Devon Meadows, in aid of the Berwick Bush Nursing Hospital.


The Devon Meadows Ladies Club held a street stall in Cranbourne in April 1956 to raise funds. 


This flyer for a Benefit Dance for the Lunt family of Hallam with Grigg's Orchestra. No year, but April 3 1954 was a Saturday, so I believe that's the year.  Who were the Lunt family?


The Hallam Younger Set held a Ball in July 1954 and they had Kennedy's Orchestra. The Badminton trophies were also presented on the night.


The Grand Leap-Year Ball in February 1956 to aid improvements to the Hallam Hall had the Melodians' Super Orchestra.


In 1967 there was Top 40 Dance at the Hallam Hall.


October 5 was on a Saturday in 1957, so I believe that is the correct year for this flyer. Lysterfield Hall was in the neighbouring Shire of Sherbrooke, but the Great Ricardo sounds like he was an exciting performer, so I had to put it in.


Narre Warren Tennis Club, Grand Annual Ball, December 1955, featuring Kennedy's Orchestra. Ladies could get in for  a shilling less than the gents.


Finally, before X-Factor, The Voice, Australia's Got Talents and even before Kevin Dennis New Faces and Young Talent Time there was a talent quest at the Narre Warren Hall (and no doubt every other small public hall across Victoria), in this case to raise money for the Narre Warren Football Club.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

McDonalds Track

McDonalds Track originally went from the Tobin Yallock Bridge (where the South Gippsland Highway crosses the Lang Lang River) to Morwell, and it followed the ridges of the Strzelecki Ranges and was about seventy miles (about 110kms) in length. You can see the start of the track as it is the first turn-off into Lang Lang on the Highway coming from Koo-Wee-Rup, then it went to Nyora and Poowong. Remnants of the track are still named on maps, around Poowong East, Mount Worth (the highest point of the original track) then there is another section around Childers, Thorpdale and Narracan.

The track was surveyed by Assistant-Surveyor George Thomas McDonald. He started in 1860 and it was finished in 1862. It was hoped that the track would provide an alternate route for stock to get from Gippsland to Melbourne. Once they got to Tobin Yallock they could then be shipped from Western Port Bay to Melbourne.  The Argus of January 1, 1863 published a report by McDonald of his progress and he was very confident that with the exception of a few places, a most excellent road may when cleared be had to Gipps Land....there are no creeks to cross, consequently no bridges will be required the ground is almost all good and firm, so that travelling may be performed with safety and comfort at all seasons of the year. The cost of clearing will be the chief item of expenditure, but that, together with the expense of making a few side cuttings ....should not exceed £10,000 pounds. Indeed for that sum I consider that thoroughly good road, one chain wide, could be made, which would be practical for travelling day or night. I specify a road one chain [20 metres] wide because the ridge for a large proportion of the distance would not admit of one wider, and in one or two places it cannot, without levelling, be made wider than forty-five or fifty feet [15 metres].  One of the greatest objections by the public to this road will be the scarcity of feed for stock but as the soil is generally good, I have little doubt that in the course of time hotel keepers along the road will clear and sow paddocks with grass for the accommodations of themselves and others.


Map of McDonalds Track. Source: Pack Tracks to Pastures: a history of Poowong District 
by Ross Hartnell (Poowong Centenary Committee, 1974) 


In the end the track was never used, apparently due to the fact that there were no permanent water holes along the route.  What else do we know about the Track? When McDonald created the track it was about seven foot (just over 2 metres) wide to Mount Worth and from there it ‘narrowed considerably’. All supplies and equipment had to come from Cranbourne. The area was steep, heavily  forested, some trees were 300 feet high  (about 90 metres) and often the surveying party found that they were following minor ridges and had to back track to the major ridge.  McDonald also reported that he had found coal seams along the track.

Sadly for McDonald his hopes of the route becoming a major road never eventuated and no hotel keepers ever came to provide accommodation and hospitality.  It was about 1874 that settlers began selecting land along the McDonalds Track around Poowong, and, by then, the reports were that the track was completely overgrown. Later settlers branched out from there to Poowong East and Poowong North. This area was also opened up by the establishment of a coach track from Poowong to Drouin after the Gippsland Railway was opened in 1878. The other local effect the Track had was the establishment of the township of Tobin Yallock.

The first store and hotel were built c.1867 by William Lyall (who owned Harewood) and located on part of the Tobin Yallock (or Torbinurruck) squatting run on the junction of McDonald’s Track and the South Gippsland Highway. This store and hotel became the nucleus of the town of Lang Lang, as it was officially known, though the locals called it Tobin Yallock. Tobin Yallock would eventually have a church, a Post Office, Mechanics’ Institute and other stores. Its decline began with the coming of the railway when the station, called Carrington (later known as Lang Lang), was built east of Tobin Yallock, in February 1890. By about 1894 most of the businesses and public buildings had transferred to the new Lang Lang based around the railway station.

What do we know of George Thomas McDonald? He came from Dumfries in Scotland and arrived in Victoria in 1853. According to the State Government Gazette he was employed in the Lands and Survey Office in August 1857 and was there until about 1879.  On November 24, 1869 he married Amelia Margaret Mitchell. He was listed in the marriage notice in The Argus as the District surveyor, Castlemaine District. Amelia was listed as the second daughter of the Hon W.H.F Mitchell. Sir William Mitchell was President of the Legislative Council. They had eight children  (not five as is incorrectly reported in Amelia's obituary, left) - Isabel born 1871; William born 1873; Christina born 1875 and died 1883; James born 1877, Allan born 1878; Thomas born 1880 and died 1881; George born 1882 and Sidney born 1885.  The first five were born in Victoria and then the last three were born in Queensland.

In spite of giving birth to eight children in 14 years, Amelia lived to the ripe old age of 95 and died in Brisbane in 1939. I have the impression that Amelia McDonald was a ‘good catch’ and perhaps George ‘married up’ as they used to say. Certainly in the report of her death in The Argus on July 25, 1939 (reproduced here) there is no mention her husband, only her illustrative father.

As the obituary states their daughter, Isabel, married Brigadier-General Cecil Foott. You can read his biography here on the Australian Dictionary of Biography website. Foott was born in Bourke in New South Wales and had a distinguished military career and retired to Beaconsfield Upper where he died in June 1942. Foott is buried in the Berwick Cemetery. He was in an unmarked grave until 2015 when the Narre Warren & District Family History Group discovered this whilst they were doing research into the World War One soldiers buried at the cemetery. The Family History Group, in conjunction with the R.S.L, unveiled a headstone on his grave on April 11, 2015.

Back to George Thomas McDonald - he died on February 3, 1915 aged 79. His death notice listed his address as ‘late of Rocklea and Gladstone districts’.  I can't find an obituary of him. I feel that he is a forgotten man in the history of Victoria, but now everytime you drive past McDonalds Track on the way down to Phillip Island or South Gippsland, then you will know a bit about the man behind the name.

The Queenslander  February 13, 1915



Much of the information about McDonald's survey of the the track comes from the Book - Pack Tracks to Pastures: a history of Poowong District by Ross Hartnell (Poowong Centenary Committee, 1974) 

Monday, 12 October 2015

Arthur Gardiner - Soldier, bushman and good "sport"

I found this interesting article in the Dandenong Advertiser of March 15, 1917. It's interesting because it talks about a few different local towns and areas and because it harks back to the time when this area was all rural and people had to live off the land to survive and when the hunting of native animals was accepted. It also reflects the importance of the British Empire - when bushman like Arthur would join up to fight for the Empire in South Africa - which naturally reflected the time this article was written when other men were also fighting for the Empire - this time in the Great War. So here is the story of Arthur Gardiner - soldier, bushman and good 'sport'. I have transcribed the article, with original spelling. 

Dandenong Advertiser March 15, 1917


The above is a reproduction of a photo of Mr Arthur Gardiner, of Main Street, Pakenham, where he has a thriving butchering business. In his younger days he was in business in the wilds of Gembrook, long before the "iron horse" traversed the beautiful scenery between Fern Tree Gully and Gembrook terminus (and some of the finest scenery in Australia  is to be found in this popular health resort, which is now studded with cosey bungalows and week-end homes) As a "full private" Arthur went right through the Boer War and you can bet your life he played the Boers' game  in getting through rough country, his youthful experience in the Woori Yallock, Upper Yarra, Beenak and Tonimbuk country standing him in good stead. In the "gold old days" when protection was not in vogue, kangaroo. wallaby, wombat and other vermin paid tribute to his skill and mountain lakes and streams contributed to the results of his duck gun and fishing rod, the latter consisting of  a tea -tree stick and  a line  without a floater and an old nut bolt as a sinker. Only quite recently he took a party of four into the wilds of some "wayback  country" and he had to cut a trail half-a mile in length through briars, thistles, stinging nettles, tangled vines and tiger snakes to get to the little rivulet which could be jumped across and they bagged 1 1/2 cwt of blackfish,  ranging from 1lb to 3lbs and 4lbs each . Dingoes, wallabies, wombats and black cockatoo were to be seen in plenty and some of the dingoes gave their last dismal howl.  The photo depicts 'Little Arthur" (he is 6ft long) -  the soldier hunter after  a day when permission was given to hunt deer in the Kooweerup Swamp, where their depredations had ruined many crops. His faithful dogs, Spot and Brindle, are at his feet and the trusty rifle in held in his right hand. The trophy shows one of the finest buck's heads in Victoria and is on view at Mr Gardiner's shop. It is valued at 15 guineas. We are indebted to Mr Rushton, photographer, Pakenham, for the original photo from which this plate is taken.



This is the photograph which accompanied the article. It's  a very poor copy, sorry.

What else do we know about Arthur? His full name was Arthur Joseph Gardiner. The National Archives of Australia has his enlistment paper (part of Series B4418) His Regimental number was 478 and he was part of the Second Australian Commonwealth Horse (Vic) Unit. He enlisted on January 7, 1902 and he was 22 years of age and a Surveyor's Assistant. He was born in Berwick.  His next of kin was his father - James Gardiner of Berwick. He was listed as being 5 feet, 8 inches tall - a few inches less that the 6 feet which was said to be his height in the article. Perhaps his work as a Surveyor's Assistant helped him playing the Boers' game  in getting through rough country. 



Arthur's enlistment paper from the National Archives of Australia.


However it appears that he had enlisted, around April 1900, previously in Tasmania as a Trooper (Regimental Number 55)in the Tasmanian Contingent. If you are interested in Boer War soldiers then the Australians in the Boer War website is a good source of information - this is the website http://members.pcug.org.au/~croe/ozb/oz_boer0.htm

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Mobile Library services

Every week the Mobile Library visits 11 different stops in the Cardinia Shire. The area has had a Mobile Library since 1973 and probably the peak of the service was in the late 1970s/early 1980s because as more Library Branches were built the need for mobile libraries lessened. If you are old enough then you would remember mobile libraries being referred to 'the bus library' as that's what it was - a bus full of books.



Library services in this area were provided for many years by the Dandenong Valley Regional Library Service (DVRLS) which commenced on March 9, 1973. This was a co-operative venture and it served the Shires of Pakenham and Cranbourne and the Cities of Berwick, Dandenong and Springvale. In 1973,  the DVRLS began its mobile service but the individual Councils soon realised that to gain better coverage of their area they should purchase their own vehicle. Thus in  November 1976 the Cranbourne Shire purchased a Library book mobile - the number of stops went from 4 to 15 and the number of loans went from  around 16, 500 in 1974 to 85, 500 in 1977*  a phenomenal increase which showed that people were interested in Library services.


In 1980/1981 the Berwick Pakenham Mobile visited 24 places per fortnight; the Cranbourne Mobile 15 places per fortnight and the Springvale Mobile  20 places per fortnight. This map, from the 1980/81 DVRLS Annual Report shows the branch Libraries and the bookmobile sites.



This is also from the DVRLS Annual Report 1980/1981 and shows the address of each stop and the circulation figures. 



The Cranbourne Shire Mobile timetable in 1984.


In 1987 the City of Berwick ceased Mobile Library Services due to opening of the  Endeavour Library in the May. This meant that the municipality now had static branches (as we like to call them) at Doveton, Narre Warren (in Malcolm Court) and Endeavour Hills.


This is the Mobile at Endeavour Hills in 1979.

As early as 1984 there was concern at the age over the age of the Mobiles in Pakenham and Cranbourne, by then they were both over 10 years old and the Annual Report says a decision  needs to be made as to whether Pakenham and Cranbourne each plan to buy a new bookmobile or  a large vehicle is purchased jointly and shared.  As it was it was not until April 1991 that Cranbourne purchased a new articulated vehicle and less than a year later in January 1992 Pakenham also purchased an articulated vehicle - by that we mean a prime mover and  a trailer. The new vehicles increased loans - Cranbourne loans went from 43,300 to 54,100 in the first full year of operation and Pakenham Mobile loans increased 50 per cent in the first eight months of operation.



This is the Cranbourne Mobile in 1993

The Cranbourne Mobile service ceased in December 1995, following the Council amalgamations of the previous year and the loss of most of its territory to Frankston City Council. Another consequence of the council reform was the disaggregation of the DVRLS as the  newly created City of Greater Dandenong (the old Cities of Dandenong and Springvale) withdrew from the DVRLS in 1995 and so the Casey Cardinia Library Service was created on October 1, 1996,  with the newly created City of Casey and Cardinia Shire.

The Cardinia Shire has continued on with the Mobile Library - a new trailer was purchased in 1999 and it was refurbished in April 2010. The opening of the new Emerald Library in July 2006 meant that the mobile no longer had to visit the township, but Maryknoll became a new mobile stop as did a second visit to Bunyip on the Saturday morning. A new prime mover was purchased in June 2013. Incidentally, in spite of the fact that it is a very urbanised and that traditionally Mobiles service rural areas, the City of Greater Dandenong didn't close down its mobile library service until about 2007. If you want an historical view of the townships the Cardinia Mobile stops at click here.

*The Good Country: into the dawn of a new day, 1968 to 1988 by Fred Hooper