Tuesday, 19 January 2021

The Rocking Stone - 'a tottery lump of granite'

The Rocking Stone is located somewhere between Ferntree Gully and Narre Warren. In 1917 the Melbourne Walking Club made three attempts to locate this natural feature. The efforts were reported in the Weekly Times. The short reports are transcribed below.

The Rocking Stone. Photographer: Charlie Hammond. 
The men are identified as Fred Swords and Cr Robert Kerr on the right.
They are both referred to in the November 10, 1917 article below. 
State Library of Victoria Image H90.72/63. It is dated c. 1900, but it is possibly from 1917.

Ten members of the Melbourne Walking Club on Sunday last sought the "Rocking Stone" that lies on a hillside somewhere between Ferntree Gully and Narre Warren, and they declare that they would have found it but for the "assistance" offered by a local resident. This is the second attempt the club has made to locate the tottery lump of granite, and the members went armed with the best available information as to its whereabouts. It was against their better judgment that they followed a resident who declared that he knew all about it, and their forebodings were justified, for he gave up the hunt after-wasting their afternoon, and once, more they had to return unsatisfied. Their consolation lay in the fact that they had
had a good breezy walk over picturesque country; even if they had not achieved their original aim. A third try will be made on Sunday, November 11, when the elusive rock will be stalked from the Narre Warren side.
Weekly Times November 3, 1917, see here.

Last week I described an unsuccessful effort made by members of the Walking Club  to locate the Rocking Stone, Sugar Leaf Hill. Mr Fred W. Swords, of Dandenong, writes for the benefit of those who intend making another effort as follows: - "Might I suggest that the walkers come to Dandenong by train on Sunday morning, ariving here from the city at 12 noon. Lunch at one of the local hotels, and then take a back road to the rock - a distance of seven or eight miles. There is a good stiff climb to the top of Sugar Loaf Hill with a very fine view of the surrounding country and away to Westernport. The return journey could be made to Narre Warren or Hallam railway stations, a walk of about eight miles. A train could be caught, arriving at Dandenong at 8 p.m. Cr. Robert H. Kerr, "Aura," is on the adjoining hill and if the secretary of the Walking Club writes to me at once I would arrange for Mr Kerr to provide afternoon tea. If the walkers decide to come to Dandenong, I would act as 'guide and friend,' and carry your camera, for I would have to drive, being incapacitated from walking by rheumatism." Mr Swords'  address is c/o "Dandenong Advertiser," Walker street, Dandenong.
Weekly Times, November 10, 1917, see here.

The Melbourne Walking Club officials noted with pleasure the generous offer made by Mr S. W. Swords, of Dandenong, in these columns, to lead them to the elusive rocking stone, and advantage would have been taken of it, but that arrangements were already perfected for a trip from Narre Warren. This was carried out on November 11, when eleven members, accompanied by some lady friends, made the excursion. The day was delightful until three o'clock, then a thunderstorm, with haIl, drove the party to the shelter of a hay-shed for half an hour. Lunch was held at a little creek some miles out, and at about five miles from Narre Warren, and about 5½ from Ferntree Gully station, the rocking stone was
located on the north-west side of a hill. It is a granite tor, said to contain about 9½ tons, and is so balanced on another mass of stone that It can readily be swayed several inches. In shape it is, as Hamlet remarked of the cloud, "very like a whale." After inspection the walk was resumed to Wellington road, along the Monbulk Valley, and so to the Ferntree Gully station, to catch the evening train home.
Weekly Times November 17, 1917, see here.

Fred Swords
This information about Fred Swords and his family, publishers of the Dandenong Advertiser, comes from the Weekly Times of January 13, 1934, see here. The Dandenong Advertiser ceased publication in 1959 (1).
The Dandenong Advertiser celebrated its 60th birthday on January 4. Established by the late James W. Swords in January, 1874, the Advertiser has had a successful career, and was the first newspaper printed in Dandenong, circulating at that time over a big area, including Phillip Island, Hastings, Flinders, the Mornington Peninsula, Bass, Leongatha, Warragul, Emerald, Ferntree Gully, and Cockatoo. On the death of James Swords, the business was carried on by his eldest son, Henry Falkiner Swords, who was later joined by his brother, Frederick Walter Swords, who succeeded to the control of the destinies of the Advertiser on the death of his brother late in 1917. The death of Frederick Walter Swords occurred on July 19, 1923. He bequeathed the business to his wife Joan E. Swords, and his eldest son, James Walter, the present owner. There are two other sons who are connected with the Advertiser, Henry Falkiner, compositor and machinist; and Robt. R. Falkiner, literary representative.

The late James W. Swords came out from the North of Ireland in 1840 on the barque "Theresa," as a writer to the staff of the Port Phillip Gazette. In 1842 he established the Portland Guardian, the first provincial press in the State, and after disposing of it, joined the staff of the Argus in 1846. Later still he left the Argus and established several country newspapers, including the Wahgunyah Watchman, Kilmore Free Press, and the Ballan Reporter. In the latter part of 1873 he went to Dandenong, and
it was on this visit that he decided to establish the Dandenong Advertiser. While on the Advertiser, Fred. Swords frequently rode on horseback to Tooradin to catch the boat to Phillip Island, in order to report the Phillip Island Council meetings. He also rode on occasions to Pakenham, Kooweerup and Ferntree Gully.
Weekly Times of January 13, 1934, see here.

Cr Robert Kerr
Robert Hart Kerr died on October 25, 1944 aged 87. The family property was Aura, in Narre Warren North.  This is his obituary.
Death of Mr. R. H. Kerr
Mr. Robert Hart Kerr, who had been a resident of the Dandenong district for many year died at Cheltenham on Thursday. Born at 236 Collins-street, Melbourne, on May 26, 1857, with his parents, he took up residence at Narre Warren in 1868. He was a member of the Berwick Board of Advice for 23 years. In 1890 he was elected to the Fern Tree Gully Shire council, and represented the South riding for 35 years. During that time he was president on eight occasions, and was absent from only one meeting. He represented the Fern Tree Gully council for 32 years at the annual municipal conference, He was chairman of the Fern Tree Gully and Gembrook Railway Trust for 20 years, and for 58 years was a member of the committee of the Dandenong Agricultural Society. He was responsible for the movement for compulsory registration of motor cars, the introduction of the Pure Foods Act, as well as several important amendments to the Local Government, Act. He was a Justice of the Peace for many years. The funeral will take place to day, leaving W. J. Garnar and Son's parlors, Dandenong, at 10 a.m., for the Boroondara cemetery, Kew.
The Age, October 27, 1944, see here.

(1) Brennan, Niall Chronicles of Dandenong (Hawthorn Press, 1973), p. 137.

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