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, 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

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.

The Commercial Bank re-opens at Nar Nar Goon, 1903/1904.
Adelaide Observer, July 30, 1904.

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.