As I write, we are wearing masks in public and following other rules put in place by our State Government aimed at reducing the spread of coronavirus. Our Premier, Daniel Andrews of the Australian Labor Party, is grilled daily by journalists in a tour de force of accountability by television and traditional and social media. A hundred and one years ago [as the article in the image above shows] borders were closed, people were left stranded and there was blame to share thanks to another global pandemic and Dr Peter Hobbins’ short article illustrates the impact of the ‘Spanish Influenza’ on health workers and hapless victims. Victoria’s Premier then was H. S. W. Lawson, a pragmatic lawyer from Castlemaine and from the Nationalist Party [roughly the equivalent of today’s Liberal Party]. Before radio, television and the internet, Lawson used newspapers and the mail to influence opinion. He governed with various coalitions from March 1918 to April 1924 and was later a Senator and sometime minister in the Australian Parliament from 1928-1934. Interestingly, his entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, does not mention the 1919 influenza epidemic—when 15, 000 Australians died, mostly young men and women, deaths which effectively extended the Great War and its impacts into a fifth year. Lawson’s management of the Police Strike of 1923 without widespread unrest is referred to. So too is his setting up of the State Electricity Commission under John Monash which went on to see the building of the brown coal-fired power station at Yallourn and, over time, the supply of electricity to all parts of the State greatly improving the quality of life in country Victoria. How will history place our current pandemic?
Article [see image]
Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Wednesday 12 February 1919, page 10
A good summary article marking the Centenary of the Spanish Flu Outbreak in Australia
These strange times are a chance to visit heritage places close to home. This week I walked along the track and was amazed to behold a striking building atop the bluestone cliff on one side of the narrow gorge through which the Barwon River flows towards its junction with the Moorabool River. The Fyansford Paper Mill is now a creative hub for artists and open to visitors. There are several helpful websites which tell its story:-
Fyansford Paper Mill Creative Hub video – 17 minutes and well worth the time!
Until the 1880s smoke belched from lime kilns at Limeburners Point near Geelong’s wonderful Botanic Gardens. Overlooking today’s boating harbour there is a sign outlining the history and also a delightful statue of an early lime burner carved from a wooden bollard. Lime burning began on the eastern side of Lime Burners Point. As early as 1838 lime was being sent to Launceston in Tasmania [then Van Diemen’s Land] to make mortar for building walls. Four kilns were operating on the eastern side of Limeburners Point by 1866. Demand for their lime peaked in in 1873 when the quarrying and kilns were run by Blair and Campbell’s Victorian Lime and Cement Company. Soon lime burning moved northwards across Corio Bay to the Duck Ponds area [Hovell’s Creek near the present Geelong Grammar School and Lara] where better quality limestone produced lime that “retained its supportive qualities in wet conditions, whereas the Point lime fell apart.” Today the kilns are buried: the face of one is still visible [see image] as is the top opening of another into which crushed limestone and wood were pushed to combust together. Use of lime mortar ended with the introduction of cement in the late 19th century and the birth of another industry which once flourished in Geelong.
Time I posted to this blog—or my regular visitor will think it has gone the way of all blogs. These strange times present opportunities. I slowed down a little and, while walking the dogs, observed families laughing together as they teach their youngsters to ride bikes in the empty station car park. I finally read the brilliant New Zealand novel “The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton: 830 pages set in a gold rush town in the 1860s with wonderfully sustained dialogue, detail and plot of the times. I scanned slides from trips made in forty and more years ago before the age of mass tourism and [as the image with this post illustrates] the amazing development that has taken place in China since a then-adventurous guided one-day excursion there from Hong Kong in December 1980. I continued making Trove Lists and am getting used to the new, improved Trove website. I also wrote up some research based on items I came across in the archives at work and thought worth more investigation. One recollection by a former pupil of the school read as follows: “ At the end of 1937 there was a paralysis epidemic in Victoria, and it was extremely bad in Melbourne and Geelong. Kids were getting paralysis* like flies. [The school] wouldn’t accept any day boys. For the last term of 1937 I didn’t go to school at all. I had to stay home and work and the first term of 1938 I boarded. Everybody had to board because that was when the epidemic was very bad . As a matter of fact, they had us in tents parked all over the [school sports] oval for 13 weeks. Great fun when you’re 13, living in a tent…”. *Note: Infantile Paralysis or Poliomyelitis is an infectious disease which can, in a few cases, cause ongoing paralysis. Today it is prevented by a vaccine developed in the 1950s.
I hope this post finds readers safe in these strange times. My new Trove List is about “Geelong Quarries”. It’s a bit of a grab bag of items around the topic of quarries dug mainly in the Barwon River valley in Geelong in the nineteenth century. I started it because there are a couple of sites in South Geelong which I believe are filled quarry land, including one of the old wool mills, and there is a Gravel Pits Road in South Geelong also. Geelong was fortunate that its diverse geology meant river gravel beds and other deposits were close at hand in its early days to assist in road making and construction. The List consists of:  Two items regarding a Mr. Melville’s quarry in Geelong in 1848 which tell us that access to stone quarries across the Barwon was impossible in winter months placing Mr. Melville’s [I don’t know where it was] in a monopoly position as he was located on the town or northern side;  six items relating to quarries in South Geelong from 1863 to 1891 and focus drownings and industrial accidents at the quarries and resulting inquests including discussion of who should take responsibility for some sad events. Some inquests were held at the Commun na Fienne pub which still serves cool beer [though closed for the pandemic at the time of posting];  the third set of items refer to gravel pits that were established later in the nineteenth century and onwards elsewhere in the valley and to the west of Geelong at Gherang and Wormbete where supplies were better and cheaper. There was cooperation among councils and roads to the quarries were improved.
Review of ‘The Land of the White Horse – Visions of England’ by David Miles
The ‘White Horse’ of the title is the schematic and fragmented outline of a horse dug long ago into the chalk rock of a north-facing scarp in the hills at Uffington not far south of Oxford in England. David Miles is an experienced and scholarly archaeologist who once ran the Oxford Archaeological Survey and he has dug and deduced all over the place. He has also written other books about the settlement of Britain and knows a great deal about the waves of migration from Europe and beyond by peoples like the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and others and the cultural and other adaptations that followed. His inquiries into when the horse was first dug and by whom take him far and wide. In the archives he discovers a record of a 1950s excavation into the shallow trench that outlines the design. With the permission of the site’s manager, National Trust, he and his scientific colleagues repeat this dig and find dateable material. The date they come up with is 600BC [late Bronze Age], almost 3,000 years ago and much earlier than various antiquarians had been speculating. He then takes us on an odyssey of historic and artistic design adducing evidence from horse-related burial sites across Europe from Siberia to Germany and France showing how the horse came to be introduced to this obscure part of the world and how the significance of the horse and cosmological myths surrounding it may have influenced people to draw such a horse ‘drawing the sun across the sky’. The author also looks at is how and why the shape has been maintained over the many, many generations who have cleared weeds, sheep manure and erosion and through such major changes as the Roman occupation and subsequent Anglo Saxon incursions, and the major land holding changes caused by the Reformation and enclosures. Once, there were annual ‘scourings’: the last one in 1857 was attended by 30, 000 people. Nowadays the National Trust organizes volunteer groups to do it. The shape is surprisingly modern to my eyes and may have changed in unknown ways due to erosion and the effects of the scourings, yet is also clearly ancient and shrouded in cultural influences. We don’t have chalk rock here, but British white horses seem to me to be something of an equivalent of Australia’s avenues of honour. People are still making them, and many have not survived, but they appeal to evolving concepts of community and identity. The book is a enjoyable and wonderful journey across cultural history told with humour and evident enjoyment of his vocation.
Many years ago, from the top deck of the bus on my way to school, I used to see the Thames marshes where the river broadens east of central London. Not surprisingly then I wallowed in this book’s perspective on the history and geography of the tidal River Thames like a “pig in mud”. I also learned about a field of human activity totally new to me. I discovered “mudlarking” has a long history. People have looked for things in the muddy foreshore for generations. Once it was a way to make a living for people on the fringes of society. Today it is the recreation of a determined few. Twice every day, as the tides sweep upstream and down churning, moulding and changing everything in their path over time, the “longest archaeological site in England” is refreshed and revealed. Lara Maiklem has been a “mudlarker” for decades and has investigated many locations. She relates the items she has found to the history of the river from the upstream tidal limit near genteel inner suburban Teddington lock area to the broad and bleak estuary off Southend-On-Sea. Near Westminster she found small pieces of a unique lead type from the days when printing was “typeset”, and printers recycled type. They placed letters in order in small boxes on shelves, the capital letters were put in boxes at the top shelf or “case” and other letters on the lower, hence the origins of the phrases “upper case” and “lower case”. On the foreshore near what was once the site of the Globe Theatre at Bankside south of the City of London, she found fragments of round pottery containers with slots in them in which people entering the theatre placed their entrance money. These “boxes” were then taken round to the “box office” by the ticket sellers. Maiklem also describes finds like the tiny links once used to hold chain mail together and made at the Tower of London. They were probably sluiced out of the royal military workshops in medieval times and can be found on the muddy foreshore outside—provided the mudlarker peers very closely. Sugar loaf moulds probably discarded from the kitchens at Greenwich palace in Tudor times are among the other objects she has found. The book is a beautifully written pen picture and is thoroughly recommended.
Thank you to the almost 400 visitors to this blog in 2019. My best wishes to you all for Christmas and the New Year.
This engraving [from Wikipedia] by Claes Visscher shows Old London Bridge in 1616. In the book reviewed the author explains how the bridge caused silting upstream and to get through the bridge arches meant shooting rapids. The water upstream also used to freeze in winter and there were regular ice fairs. ‘Finds’ like coins the tides reveal on today’s foreshore could date from that time.
This List which can be found on Trove [ https://trove.nla.gov.au/list?id=134604 ] is of items about C. J. [‘Jack’] De Garis’s ventures into property at Corio north of Geelong in the 1920s. As Item 1 in this List – the entry about him in the Australian Dictionary of Biography – describes, De Garis had a colourful life and background. As Item 2 shows, in the 1920s, Geelong [with its sea and rail access] became the site for Ford car assembly business. Its workers would need land on which to build homes. De Garis had been involved with several land development ventures elsewhere and duly became involved in a failed venture called the “Corio Garden Suburb” in the area just to the north of the factory site [Item 3]. In an article [Item 4] widely reprinted in different states, De Garis explained his continuing interest in the land north of Geelong as follows: “…1300 acres of ground at Corio, near Geelong which had been held by [his now defunct] Subdivisions Company, had been acquired by a number of interlocking syndicates, known as the “Ford Syndicate.” This syndicate had reaped the benefit of the expenditure in publicity and other things incurred by the company. He said he had discovered that 660 acres of land near the Geelong Grammar School and 321 acres on the other side of the estate, near the railway line, and both close to the Ford site, had been “overlooked,” and he had succeeded in obtaining options on both blocks by a number of independent land deals which he had made he had succeeded in raising sufficient money to pay deposits on the land…” Because of mounting debts, De Garis killed himself in August 1926. However, the story has echoed down the years. The subdivided blocks of the “New Corio Estate” were sold in the 1970s. As is written in a 2013 news item – Item 16 in this List: “…The New Corio Independent Land Owners Group, set up last year, has been campaigning to overturn bans on building due to zoning restrictions. The estate comprises some 600 blocks of which many were sold around the 1970s by door-to-door salesmen to migrants unaware the land had not been zoned for residential buildings. Prices ran as high as $7000 at the time. The subdivision – situated on the east and west sides of Corio’s Shell Parade and next to Geelong Grammar School – was declared old and inappropriate by the State Ministry of Planning 30 years ago.” The area appears on street plans even though the local authority [now the City of Greater Geelong] says that the area is unsuitable for urban development. Some blocks are being bought by the Council from descendants of the original purchasers. The area is now designated grassland for conservation.
This post introduces a new List I have made on Trove entitled: “The Opening Year of the Geelong to Queenscliff Railway, 1879” The List includes articles on the opening day and the first year of operation of the Geelong to Queenscliff Railway in 1879. The opening day was a gala occasion with the Governor and various politicians [who were in the middle of a political stoush] welcomed by the citizens who had built two arches of tree fronds. The narrow-gauge line was built in less than a year across fairly level sandy terrain for reasons of defence against a potential Russian attack and also to encourage farming and other business in the district. By the end of the year excursionists from the gold mining district of Ballarat were already able to enjoy a holiday by the sea. One article recalls that in March 1879 a house caught fire and: “…The family were retiring for the night, and it was with some difficulty that the children were rescued from the burning house. The detachment of Victorian Artillery under Corporal Mullens, and some of the navvies from the railway works deserve great credit for their prompt assistance in rescuing life and property…”. However, the railway was never heavily used. Part of it remains in use as the wonderful Bellarine Railway a heritage tourism railway which connects Drysdale and Queenscliff, a monument to the endeavours of heritage railway enthusiasts over decades. There is also the Bellarine Rail Trail, a walking track from South Geelong Station diverging from the current railway line beside the Geelong racecourse along the route of the old railway to Drysdale. This section recalls the description in an article widely reprinted in newspapers across the Australian Colonies at the time: “…the train, a lengthy one, having about 3OO visitors of all sexes moved slowly out of the [Geelong] station through the long tunnel on the Colac line, and after travelling about a couple of miles branched off from it, taking a north-easterly direction…”