Saturday, March 21, 2020

Infectious Diseases

With the Corona Virus/Covid 19 impacting on our lives, I thought we could look at other diseases from the past and their impact on the community. Infectious diseases had to be notified to the Board of Health and the Shire Council Medical Officers included a list of the diseases in their Annual Report. In 1912, Dr Harkness submitted his annual report to the Shire of Cranbourne for 1911 and it included - six cases of diphtheria in Cranbourne, one at Clyde, two at Lang Lang, all of which recovered. There was one case of typhoid fever at Kooweerup, which unfortunately ended fatally. One case of typhoid fever at Heath Hill, recovering in this instance. Measles was epidemic at Tooradin, Yannathan and Lang Lang (1).  Thirty seven years later in the 1948 annual report, the Shire of Berwick medical officer, Dr Farrell, reported there had been seven cases of scarlet fever, one each of polio, malaria, puerperal fever and tuberculosis and none of diphtheria (2).

If a person was sent to hospital with an infectious disease then it was reported to the local council and this became part of the medical officers report at Council meetings, thus we learn that in July 1910 Mr. T. Roper from Cora Lynn had typhoid (3) and that in March 1917 Harry Evans from Cora Lynn had pulmonary tuberculosis (4).  No privacy in those days.

Koo Wee Rup had seen a diphtheria epidemic in June 1898, in fact a newspaper had the headline A grave state of affairs (5). Dr Bennie from Berwick investigated this and the cause of the outbreak was blamed on night soil (sewerage) contaminating the drains which were used for drinking water (6). He also said the settlers were too poor to obtain proper food and clothing, and have had a very bad season, so that with poor food, poor clothing and tainted water, it is astonishing that the outbreak has not been more extensive (7).

Before antibiotics, other drugs and vaccinations communities tried all sorts of methods to slow the spread of diseases including the hot issue of the moment - Should we close down the schools?  The report of Dr Harkness to the Shire of Cranbourne in 1912 said that the schools at Tooradin, Yannathan and Lang Lang were closed for the measles outbreak and the school at Clyde for the diphtheria outbreak. There was also a diphtheria outbreak at Koo Wee Rup North State School in 1925 and the school building was condemned and classes were held in the hall (8). In July 1919, Bunyip and Longwarry State schools were closed due to Influenza (9). The Spanish influenza pandemic infected forty per cent of Australia’s population, and caused the death of 15,000 Australians. The Australian population at the time was just over five million.

Children were also kept home from school due to chicken pox outbreaks. The Dandenong Journal of October 2, 1930 reported that An epidemic of chicken pox is raging in the town, and over 20 children are away from the school - enjoying themselves, playing in the street (10). This was in Cranbourne, clearly the concept of self-isolation wasn’t being heeded.

In August 1937, Bunyip school was closed due to polio or infantile paralysis as it was known (11). 1937-1938 was an especially bad time for polio in Australia and the majority of the cases were children. Once again, the Dandenong Journal reported on parents whose children were home from school, but not isolated. A feature of the later stages of the epidemic of infantile paralysis has been the co-operation given by parents to the expert Consultive (sic) Council in its effort to restrict opportunities for the spread of the disease. When the schools were first closed, complaints were made that parents were permitting their children to go into crowds, thus negativing the purpose of closing the schools. Since then, however, most parents have been careful to keep their children at home - in the danger area at any rate. There have been some individual cases of parents becoming panicky, but in the great majority of instances this is not so. Even in Parliament care has been taken not to encourage panic (12).

In the summer of 1949/1950 my Dad, Frank Rouse, and other members of the Cora Lynn Scout Group had a camp on Fraser Island in Queensland. One of the boys at the camp developed polio and the whole camp had to be quarantined for a week; because Dad was only young, he thought it was great - an extra week’s holiday, however polio was a serious disease with lifetime consequences.

One of the causes of infectious diseases was insanitary drains. In March 1914 there was a series of reports in the papers regarding the drains at Bunyip. Apparently, the drains were not cleaned during the summer months and thus they became a catchment for refuse water and odorous filth  (13) and this caused disease. The Berwick Shire disputed the state of the drains and said there had been no infectious disease in the town and that statements that disease had entered every house in the town were untrue. The newspaper reports of the state of the health of the town of Bunyip led to a drop in tourism numbers - The Easter holidays passed off very quietly in Bunyip, not half the number of visitors of previous years coming to the town or district. The reason for this is hard to understand, unless it be that many people stayed away because of the absurdly false reports spread by one or two "ratty" individuals that infectious diseases were rampant in Bunyip (14).

Typhoid was also prevalent and after the December 1934 flood there were fears of a typhoid outbreak at Koo Wee Rup, due to the pollution of the water by dead animals. It was recommended to boil all water before use (15).

There were some interesting cures written up in the newspapers in the 1880s and 1890s including drinking absinthe to cure cholera (16). Absinthe had a very high alcohol content, so maybe if you drank enough the pain of the symptoms such as headaches, nausea, abdominal cramps just went away. Another interesting cure was tobacco smoke which could be used as a disinfectant to kill the cholera germ (17).  Of course, we do not recommend taking up the consumption of absinthe or tobacco to protect yourself from cholera or any other infectious disease.

Trove list - I have created a list of newspapers articles on Trove, connected to and used in this article, access it here.

(1) South Bourke and Mornington Journal March 7, 1912, see here.
(2) Dandenong Journal  March 30, 1949, see here.
(3) South Bourke and Mornington Journal July 27, 1910, see here.
(4) South Bourke and Mornington Journal, March 15, 1917, see here.
(5) South Bourke and Mornington Journal, June 8, 1898, see here.
(6) The Argus June 14, 1898, see here.
(7) South Bourke and Mornington Journal, June 8, 1898, see here.
(8) The Argus August 10, 1925, see here.
(9) Weekly Times July 26, 1919, see here.
(10) Dandenong Journal  October 2, 1930, see here.
(11) Dandenong Journal August 26, 1937, see here.
(12) Dandenong Journal  August 19, 1937, see here.
(13) The Age April 9, 1914, see here.
(14) Bunyip Free Press  April 16, 1914 see here.
(15) The Herald  December 11, 1934, see here.
(16) South Bourke and Mornington Journal  November 4, 1885, see here.
(17) South Bourke and Mornington Journal  May 27, 1891, see here.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

1st Cora Lynn Scout Troop By Frank Rouse

The information in this post comes from Frank’s recollections and from his October 2009 conversations with Jack McDonald and Ron Chatfield.

The Cora Lynn Scout Group. 
Mike Kinsella standing at front on the left. Dad, Frank Rouse, is standing at front on the right.

The 1st Cora Lynn Scout Troop was formed in 1945. We met each week in the Cora Lynn Hall. The first Scout Master was Bert Ridgeon. Bert had been in the British Army and this showed in the way he ran the troop. We stood to attention, saluted the flag and repeated the Scouts Promise at the start of each meeting, I promise on my honour, that I will do my best to do my duty to God and the King, to help other people at all times and to obey the Scout Laws. Bert’s favourite game for us to play afterward was “British Bulldog”.

We were well trained in using ropes, tying knots, and lashing poles together. At one stage we built a rope bridge, to span an imaginary ten yard wide creek, in the Hall grounds. The bridge was built in one evening and we walked across it about six feet above the ground. It didn’t fall down on anyone so we passed that test. Tying knots has been a very useful skill I’ve used during my life. Clarrie Leamon started as Assistant Scout Master about one year after the Troop started and he became Scout Master after Bert Ridgeon retired.

The Scout Laws said you had to be 11 years old to become a Scout. However if you were 10 years old you could become a Tenderfoot Scout and you could do all the tests but you couldn’t wear a uniform until you were 11 years old. In 1947, Dudley Fisk, who lived near Nar Nar Goon, started to bring quite a few Nar Nar Goon boys to join the Cora Lynn Scout Troop. Dudley Fisk started a Cub Troop at Cora Lynn, but later he transferred the Cub Group to Nar Nar Goon. This was closer for him and there was no Scout or Cub Group in Nar Nar Goon at that time.

Our early camping experience was at Forest Camp on the Cannibal Creek, where the Tynong North Road met the Gembrook Tominbuk Road. The first time we camped there the regrowth from the 1939 fires was only shoulder high, it is now 50 metres high. Cora Lynn Scouts continued to have camps in that area for several years. We were taken out on the back of Frank Egan’s truck and later by Terry McMillan. Sometimes we rode our bikes out.

From December 29 1948 to January 9 1949 the Pacific Jamboree was held at Yarra Brae in Wonga Park. Five Cora Lynn Scouts attended - Mike and Gerard Egan, Jack McDonald, Mike Kinsella and Frank Rouse. We were joined with the 1st Caulfield Scouts. The Jamboree had quite a few scouts from the Pacific Island nations.

December 1949 to January 1950 Mike Kinsella and Frank Rouse went to the Fraser Island Adventure. We were joined with scouts from the 1st Oakleigh Troop. It was a great adventure, it took four days by train from Melbourne to Brisbane, bus to Maryborough and then taken to the Island on an old cattle barge. We were given our day’s food rations each morning, cooked our own food and slept on a ground sheet in the open. There was a small amount of formal activity, after which we were free to swim and hike. Tourists hadn’t discovered Fraser Island so the Scouts had all the beautiful places to ourselves. One of the Scouts developed polio and we were quarantined on the island for an extra week. Great for us but no good for the polio victim.

Cora Lynn Scouts went to the Greystanes Jamboree in Sydney in 1951-1952 – they were Bruce Reid, Jack and Bob McDonald, Ewan Slater, David and Tony Evans. In 1953-1954 Jack McDonald and Bruce Reid with Scout Master, Clarrie Leamon, went to the Lamington Plateau Adventure. In 1956 Scout Master Clarrie Leamon died suddenly. Gordon Johnson became Scout Master then Gordon arranged that the Scouts would meet in the Cheese Room of the Cora Lynn factory. This became the Scout Hall. Unfortunately, Gordon was killed in a truck smash and his brother-in-law then became Scout Master, followed by Alan Standfield. Jack McDonald assisted Alan for a while. The 1st Cora Lynn Scout Group continued to about 1960.

Known members of the Cora Lynn Scouts. Bob Wakenshaw and Jim Rouse were Lone Scouts, that is they belonged to the Scouting Order before there was a Scout Group at Cora Lynn. Other members (in alphabetical order) John Chatfield, Ron Chatfield, Bill Crowley, Jack Crowley, Steve Crowley, Edwin Dillon, Des Dineen, Gerard Egan, Mike Egan, David Evans, Tony Evans, Geoff Fisk, Allan Games, Neil Hewson, Ron Higgins, Wayne Higgins, Gary Huntingford, Ross Kenny, Mike Kinsella, Terry Kinsella, Frank Lane, Bill McCutcheon, Bob McDonald, Jack McDonald, Trevor Price, Bob Quigley, Gerald Quigley, Kevin Quigley, Bruce Reid, Stan Riches, Frank Rouse, Drew Slater, Ewan Slater, Ron Townley, Keith Wilkinson.

Frank Rouse retired from the Scouts in 1952, when he was 18 and did his National Service.

Note: This was originally in the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society Newsletter and after it was published Des Dineen contacted me and gave me the following information. Notes from Des Dineen -   Edwin Dillon and I were in the CL Scouts under Gordon Johnson (“Skipper”) and Alan Standfield until they disbanded about 1962 when we were transferred to the Garfield Troop with Fred Cox as scoutmaster and Bill Parish was the District Commissioner. Edwin and I went on to become Queen Scouts and Senior Scouts at Garfield. We attended the World Jamboree in the Police Paddocks in Rowville as “Hamarago On the Hill” Troop, a combination of Tarago and Hampton. We also attended Easter Scout camps at Gembrook. They were very competitive and Fred Cox ran a very smooth ship we would always try and win awards for the cleanest camp etc. Others involved were Peter “China” Holland and Peter and Colin Cox.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Railway accident at Koo Wee Rup, Christmas Eve, 1928

The Koo Wee Rup Swamp Historical Society received these photographs from Don Cuff. Don is the son of Gordon and Martha Jean (nee Preston) Cuff. He lived In Koo Wee Rup until 1949 when the family moved. There is more family information at the end of this post. The photographs were taken by his father of the  train accident that occurred at Koo Wee Rup on Christmas Eve in 1928. Forty eight people were injured when a passenger train hit a stationary goods train at Koo Wee Rup. You can see more photos of the accident in The Australasian of December 29, 1928, here and a write-up on the accident in The Argus of December 26, 1928, here.

Engine of the passenger train
Photographer: Gordon Cuff

Just to prove these photos are from the 1928 accident - here's a photo of Engine 906
from The Australasian write-up.

First Class carriage
Photographer: Gordon Cuff

First Class carriage
Photographer: Gordon Cuff

Second Class carriage
Photographer: Gordon Cuff

Train Carriages
Photographer: Gordon Cuff

Smoking carriage
Photographer: Gordon Cuff

Family information supplied by Don Cuff, February 2020.
Don Cuff is the son of Gordon and Martha Jean (nee Preston) Cuff. Gordon was the son of George and Kate (nee Ekins) Cuff and the family arrived in Koo Wee Rup in 1919 and lived in Rossiter Road, next to the State School (before it moved to  Moody Street). Their property was acquired in 1938 for the High School, which due to the War was not taken over  until 1948 and they were still paid at the 1938 price, according to Don.  The family left Koo Wee Rup in 1949.  George died January 15, 1927 at the age of 56 and Kate died August 6, 1948 aged 78. Both George and Gordon were plumbers. Gordon died 1958 aged 52 and Martha died 1994 at the age of 85.

The Prestons had arrived in Koo Wee Rup in 1905 and had a farm on Railway Road, next to the Jeffereys. Martha was the daughter of James and Bethia (nee Milroy) Preston, born 1909. She had two brothers, Robert and Jim. Martha's uncles, Jack and Harry, farmed in Preston's Road and both served in the First World War. The Milroys lived at Invermead on the South Gippsland Highway, previously owned by Christopher Moody.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Letters to Aunt Patsy in the Advocate newspaper

The Advocate was Catholic newspaper which reported on and promoted Catholic interests. It was published from 1868 until 1990. The paper had a children’s column run by Aunt Patsy, which published letters and poems from school children. They had a club called the Magic Fairy Boat Club which the children could join. Aunt Patsy referred to all the children as her nieces and nephews, they called her aunty and referred to all the other children in the Club as their cousins.  The children were also encouraged to collect money for the Fund for Destitute Children, Surrey Hills, an orphanage. Many letters included donations and best wishes to the little orphans. There was also a library that the children could subscribe to. The library stocked Catholic books and magazines.

The start of the Aunt Patsy column.
The Advocate January 6, 1900

Here are some local letters to Aunty Patsy which describe life in Garfield, other local towns and what it was like being a child 100 or so years ago.

This is from 12 year old Mary Goulding, published June 2, 1906.  I live near Garfield, a railway station on the main line from Melbourne to Bairnsdale. The township consists of two grocers' shops, two blacksmiths' shops, one bootmaker's shop, one baker's shop, one coffee palace, one bank, two butchers' shops, and a hotel. We live a mile from St. Joseph's Catholic Church. The Rev. Fr. Byrne is our parish priest. He lives in the presbytery…. My little brother, aged ten, can milk for the last four years. We have fourteen cows, and one horse.

Catholic Church, Hall and Presbytery at Iona.

 Image from 100 years of a faith community: St Joseph’s Iona 1905 -2005 by Damian Smith (The Author, 2005)

Mary Goulding was published a few times and on July 14, 1906, she talked about her school. She attended Garfield State School where Mr. Daly is our head teacher. He is very kind to us. She also had an interesting description of a family trip to Ballarat. On September 8, 1906, Mary had another letter published the weather is becoming gradually milder now and the farmers up here are very busy ploughing their land, and getting ready to sow their crops This land is becoming more valuable lately. Some of it had attained the high price of £40 per acre, and some building allotments were sold at £150 per acre. I saw a motor car passing by a few days ago. It belongs to Captain A'Beckett of Bunyip. We have got some nice sand roads here now, heading to Garfield and Bunyip. On November 17, 1906, Mary wrote I have another little brother, three years old, and he is always watching an opportunity to kill the young turkeys and chickens. This sounds a bit alarming, but perhaps that was normal behaviour for young children in those days!

Mary’s brother Cornelius also wrote to Aunt Patsy, he had an interesting description of the Iona Catholic Church - We have a very nice altar in our church. The statue of the Blessed Virgin is in a little altar at the left-hand side, and all around the church are the Stations of the Cross. Cornelius then goes on to say I had nice little curls when I started to go to school, however he was only six and half so we can forgive him this non sequitur. 

On October 6, 1906, Ellen May Elizabeth Fitzpatrick wrote to Aunt Patsy and described Iona I am going to tell you about Iona. There are three stores, one Catholic church and presbytery; a new Hibernian Hall is getting built, one school (there's a new school nearly finished), one mechanics' institute, a new bank, a cream depot, and a post-office. Ellen wrote again on October 5, 1907, this time about Cora Lynn - There will be a township at Cora Lynn soon. Mr Murdoch is building a store there, and there are a lot of houses going up, too. On September 26, 1908, Ellen wrote about additions to the Church - We have a new organ and two statues, one of Jesus and Joseph, and one of our Blessed Lady. Ellen also wrote on December 19,1908 -   We saw a hawk take lizards and little birds into a hollow tree, so I climbed to see what was in it. When I got up to it there were five young ones in it. We brought them home, but mother would not let me keep them; she said the old hawks would kill the chickens.  In reply Aunt Patsy said I hope you put the young birds back in the nest. Even a mother hawk has feelings, Ellen!

Bridget Quigley of Cora Lynn wrote October 27, 1907, I go to a State school, and am in the fourth class. Our teacher's name is Mr. M'Gibbon. We are milking five cows, and have five little calves. We have about two and a half miles to walk to school.

This letter is from Elsie McKendry of Bunyip and shows the reality of farm life - I had a pet Iamb, but dadda sold it to the butcher; he came and took it away one day I was at school. I called it Daisy. Aunt Patsy wrote - Am sorry you lost your pet lamb. They grow to be sheep too soon (May 22, 1909).

More girls than boys wrote to Aunt Pasty, but here is another from one of her ‘nephews’, nine year old Robert Stanley Jeffers, who had this short description of the Swamp - It is a reclaimed swamp, and farmers all over it grow potatoes, onions, and oats. (July 31, 1909)

Katie Negus wrote from Garfield and enclosed a poem for publication. One of Katie’s poems had been published before, but Aunt Patsy did not like this one and told her You ought to make up your mind to study the best poetry, and it would help you to do better work (January 29, 1910). However, Katie was not deterred by this and wrote a few times more to Aunt Patsy telling about the recent confirmation of herself and her sister Eileen. Katie took the name Agnes as her confirmation name and Eileen that of Anne and then she added I hope with God's help, that we will imitate their lives. Katie also wrote that she successfully passed her exams and was awarded the Merit certificate and Katie praised her teacher, Mr Daly, of the Garfield State School but I think most praise is due to our good teacher, Mr. Daly, who tries very hard for our welfare. (December 17, 1910)

January 20, 1912, Joseph Finnigan from Cora Lynn wrote to Aunt Patsy I have lately taken an interest in reading books, as I am now eleven year of age. We have a children's library at the State school, but I do not care for them very much. Will you kindly send me "How They Made a Man of Johnny," or another suitable book. Aunt Patsy replied Have sent you two boys books. Yes, stick to your own Catholic library.

We will end with this letter from Mary Scanlon which was published on August 22, 1914 - I am learning music, and I go to my lesson every Saturday with my aunty. We have to drive about three miles, and the drive is lovely now, as all the wattles are in bloom; so, if you will let me know where to send some blossom for Wattle Day, aunty and I will send along some. My aunty (N. Cunningham) used to be one of your nieces one time…..Cora Lynn is, a small town ship. It consists of one store, hall, bank, school, factory, and several dwellings, also a very big canal, which sometimes overflows, and does a lot of harm to the residents.

All the letters quoted here are on this Trove list which I compiled, see it here.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Round About Iona 1922

The Advocate of November 16, 1922 had a special pictorial coverage of Iona, see it here.

This is the article, I have reproduced each photo, below.
The Advocate November 16, 1922

The Catholic Church, Iona. 
The Advocate November 16, 1922

St Joseph's Catholic Church was officially opened on December 16, 1900.  
The existing church was opened April 14, 1940.

The Convent School, Iona.
The Advocate November 16, 1922

The school was housed in the Columba Hall, which officially opened on October 28, 1906. The existing hall was opened October 21, 1928 after the original building burn down. A purpose built school was erected at Iona and opened on November 26, 1960.

The Convent, Iona.
The Advocate November 16, 1922

 The Convent, built to accommodate the Sisters of St Joseph was officially opened April 11, 1915

The Presbytery, Iona.
The Advocate November 16, 1922

The Presbytery opened sometime between June and December of 1905

Pioneers' Hall, Iona. 
The Advocate November 16, 1922

The Hall opened  April 26, 1895 and was demolished maybe the 1950s.

The Iona Pioneers' Hall Committee. 
The Advocate November 16, 1922

Back row - left to right - W. Kraft, J. Dowd, W. Browne and C. Grummich. 
Front row seated - R. Grummich, O. Kavanagh and C.J. Donald.

  • Call of the Bunyip: history of Bunyip, Iona and Tonimbuk, 1847-1900 by Denise Nest (Bunyip History Committee, 1900)
  • 100 years of a faith community: St Joseph’s Iona 1905-2005 by Damian Smith (St Joseph’s Catholic Church, 2005) 

Friday, January 31, 2020

French Island - a short history

French Island is not, of course, part of the Koo Wee Rup Swamp, but you can see it from the Swamp, especially if you go to the Swamp lookout tower on the South Gippsland Highway, where the Main Drain enters Western Port.

View of French Island from the Swamp look-out tower at Koo Wee Rup, taken January 2013.

French Island, in Western Port Bay, is the largest island in Victoria and the largest island between Kangaroo Island in South Australia and Stradbroke Island in Queensland (1).  The size of the island has been listed variously as 15,400 hectares or 17, 900 hectares (2). The first European explorer to reach Western Port Bay was George Bass (1771 - 1803), who had left Port Jackson on December 3, 1797 in an open whaleboat, only 28 feet 7 inches long. Along with Bass there were six volunteers and six weeks of provisions. The purpose of the trip was to establish whether Van Diemen’s Land was an island or connected to the mainland. Bass entered Western Port Bay on January 5, 1798. (3) This journey was a remarkable feat of navigation and confidence.

Bass set out from Sydney again on October 7, 1798 this time with Matthew Flinders (1774 - 1814), in the Norfolk and they circumnavigated Van Diemen’s land, thus confirming the existence of the Strait, which was named after Bass. In 1801 the Lady Nelson, under the command of Lieutenant James Grant (1772 - 1833),  and later acting-Lieutenant John Murray (1775-1807) visited Western Port and members of the crew planted  a garden on Churchill Island, prepared the first chart of Western Port and also discovered Port Phillip Bay in January 1802, which they entered on February 14. (3)

Bass, Grant and Murray did not realise that French Island, was in fact an island. It was the French under Captain Jacques-Félix-Emmanuel Hamelin (1768-1839) in the Naturaliste who reached Western Port and circumnavigated and mapped French Island in April 1802, who discovered this. Hamelin was part of a French expedition, under the command of Captain Thomas Nicolas Baudin (1754-1803), whose mission was to map the Australian coast and undertake scientific studies. Baudin was in the Geographe. They named the island Ile des Francais - Island of the French People. The arrival of the French in the area prompted the British to establish a short-lived settlement at Sorrento in October 1803, which was abandoned in May 1804. (3)

In common with other parts of Western Port the first European settlers were sealers and other visitors to French island may have been residents of a settlement at Corinella established in December 1826 and abandoned in February 1828. The first legal settlers, John and William Gardiner who took up the French Island run in April 1847. (4) The land was eventually surveyed and subdivided in the 1860s.  Early industries on the island included the French island Salt Company, operated by Richard Cheetham, from 1869. Saltmine Point is a legacy of this business. (5) Chicory was also grown until the 1960s and when the industry was at its peak there were 22 chicory kilns on the Island. (6)

In the 1890s, Australia was in a depression thus a number of unemployed people were settled on French Island from 1893.  They were given small farms and expected to become self-sufficient. It was not a success - lack of fresh water, lack of roads, poor land, difficulty of shipping in building and other supplies and shipping out produce were some of the reasons for failure. The village settlements were named Energy, Star of Hope, Industrial, Perseverance, Callanan's and Kiernan's (7).  Of course, some of the farmers did succeed and in an article in the paper in 1953 it said there were 35 farming families on the island (8). They had sheep, grazing and crops - potatoes, peas and onions - but dairying was impossible due to the unreliability of getting the milk to market on the barges - which had to battle the tides and the weather. Rabbits were also a source of income with a report in The Age of July 2, 1931 saying Rabbits are numerous, and many trappers are obtaining fifty pairs nightly off Crown land. Great wastage is caused owing to the heavy cost of transport to Melbourne.  During the Great War, over 30 men and one woman, who had a connection to the Island, enlisted (9). 

A bumper crop of pumpkins, grown on French Island, 1901
State Library of Victoria Image H34460

In 1916, the McLeod Prison farm was established on the south-east side of the island. It housed 127 prisoners and closed in 1975 (10). This was another source of agitation for the settlers - escaped prisoners, who even though their aim was to get to the mainland, they sometimes menaced the locals.

Access to the Island was improved when the train line reached Stony Point in 1889, and a regular service to Tankerton on the island was established. Cattle were taken by barge to Corinella or swam across on low tide from Stockyard Point. From around 1940, to supplement the regular ferry, Les Paterson, operated an ‘on call’ service from Tankerton to Stony Point, with his boat, Amanda. Emergencies involved maternity patients, the cartage of coffins and the deceased and the local cricket team (11).

Ken Gartside also operated a barge from Tooradin to French Island from 1946. The Gartsides had 2000 acres on French Island. He was part of the Gartside family who operated the cannery in Dingley from the 1930s to the 1970s (12). 

French Island Barge, leaving Tooradin, 1962. Photographer: Neil Smith.
Neil Smith taught at Tooradin North State School before the Second World War. This photo was donated by his son, Roderic Smith to the Cranbourne Shire Historical Society.

French Island National Park covers 11,000 hectares of the Island (13) and the rest of the land is privately owned French Island is not part of a local government area and so landowner don’t pay rates. However, they also have no electricity, have to use generators, have no made roads and of course rely on the ferry and barges for mainland access. As I said before, the ferry service runs from Stony Point on the mainland to Tankerton. The barge runs from Corinella to Point Leschenault, according to the Parks Victoria visitor guide (14). Théodore Leschenault de la Tour  (1773 - 1826)  was the botanist on Nicolas Baudin's expedition to the Australia that I mentioned previously.

This is the French Island barge, landing at Point Leschenault, French Island.
Photo: Eric Shingles.
Eric and his cousin, Colin Young, the owner of the truck, made two trips to French Island recently to pick up a load of a cattle and a load of sheep, this photo was taken November 27, 2019.

This photo of 'the old State School on French Island'  was entered by Mr Windebank in a competition in Table Talk and was published on April 3, 1930, see here. I am unsure if this was Perserverance, No. 3261 or Star of Hope, No. 3262. See below.

There is one primary school on the island at Perseverance, No. 3261 which opened in June 1896.  It operated part-time with the Star Of Hope School, No. 3262. A letter was sent to the Education Department by a resident, John Christophers, in November 1894 and he said that there were 47 school age children on the Island and this does not include the largest settlement, which I am assured contains from 20 or 30 children more. Both schools were originally wattle and daub huts with thatch roofs, fairly basic. By 1903 the average attendance at the schools were eleven at Perserverance and seven at Star of Hope. In 1907 new schools were erected at both sites (15).

In 1911, the population was 149, 1933 - 204; 1954 - 178; 1961 -  228 and today the population is around 110 (16).

(1) Edgecombe, Jean Phillip Island and Western Port (published by the author, 1989)

(2) Size of the island - Victorian Places website  says it is 154 square kilometres and the French Island Community Association website  says it is 179 square kilometres.

(3)  Cole, Valda  Western Port Chronology, 1798 - 1839: Exploration to settlement (Shire of Hastings Historical Society, 1984)

(4) Billis, R.V and Kenyon, A.S Pastoral Pioneers of Port Phillip (Stockland Press, 1974)

(5)  Edgcombe, op. cit.

(6) Victorian Places website

(7) Victorian Places website

(8)  The Herald, November 28 1953

(9) Casey Cardinia Commemorates: Our War Years

(10)  Edgcombe, op. cit.

(11)  Woodley, Arthur E. Western Port Ferries: past and present (Hill of Content, 1973)

(12) Dandenong Journal, June 5, 1946

(13)  French Island Community Association website

(14)  Parks Victoria visitors guide - scroll down to the bottom of this website to access it

(15)  Vision and Realisation: a centenary history of State Education in Victoria, edited by L.J. Blake. (Education Department of Victoria, 1973)

(16) Victorian Places website

What happened in Garfield in 1920

This is a look back 100 years at what happened in Garfield and surrounds in 1920.

The Bunyip and Garfield Express (BGE) of January 9, 1920 had a complaint about the slowness of the post. The publishers had received complaints about the late delivery of the paper. They wrote that the paper is mostly posted on Thursday, before the mail closes at 6pm, and subscribers should get their papers on Friday, and certainly no later than Saturday. Sometimes they do not receive them until Monday. They leave here on Thursday’s train, but owing to the absurd practice of all letters, papers etc for Garfield, Tynong, Cora Lynn, Vervale and several other places close at hand, having to go to Melbourne first, no doubt that is where the delay occurs. The paper wrote to the Deputy Postmaster-General about the matter and received a response saying that the matter would receive consideration.

Also, in January in the BGE was this – Naturalists and lovers of birds will be interested to learn that a blackbird has made its appearance near the Junction Bridge [south of Bunyip], and has been seen and heard on several occasions by residents in the locality. It is to be hoped that the rare specimen will not be destroyed. (Bunyip and Garfield Express January 30, 1920) Blackbirds were introduced to Victoria in the 1860s by the Acclimatisation Society, they were set free along with other introduced species such as starlings and skylarks in areas such as the Botanic Gardens and Phillip Island. It’s interesting it took around 60 years for the birds to acclimatise enough and make it out to this area.

In the same issue of the BGE was a report of Tobacco growing in Bunyip. It is now illegal to grow tobacco without an excise license and according to the Australian Taxation Office website there have been no licensed tobacco growers in Australia since 2006 (be interesting to know how much ‘illegal’ tobacco is grown, but that’s another story).  Anyway, in late 1919 a syndicate began growing tobacco in a plantation on Old Sale Road. The Syndicate’s tobacco expert is quoted as saying in his 30 years’ experience in the trade he has not handled a better tobacco leaf as grown at present in Bunyip. The syndicate were in the process of erecting a curing shed. (Bunyip and Garfield Express January 30, 1920)

Before trucks and decent roads, all produce was despatched by rail and there were regular complaints about the lack of rail trucks and therefore tons of potatoes just sat on the railway station for days awaiting transportation. Dairy farmers were also unhappy with the railways - a letter to The Argus signed by ‘Dairy Woman’ of Tynong said that the milk train left Nar Nar Goon at 9.00pm, but they had just been notified that for the future we would have to have the milk loaded by half-past 5 p.m. We all strongly object to such an alteration. It means beginning to milk at 3 o'clock, which leaves very little time to plough, to put in the feed to produce the milk. (The Argus August 27, 1920)

Complaint about the time of the milk train at Nar Nar Goon.
The Argus August 27, 1920.

In other railway news the local branch of the Australian Natives Association, a Mutual Society which provided medical, sickness and funeral cover, passed a motion to have the railway line duplicated as far as Warragul. (The Age, February 20, 1920) I believe the last part of this duplication, the line between Bunyip and Longwarry, is being planned at the moment - just a mere 100 years after it was suggested. The other bit of interesting railway news took place in July when 38 empty cattle trucks became separated from the engines because the couplings broke and they travelled nine miles from the Drouin Railway Station until they finally came to a standstill between Garfield and Bunyip. No damage was done.

In August, the Traralgon Record reported on a Court case involving two Garfield North families - fifteen year old Leslie Brew sued E. R. Towt for £99 in damages in the Warragul Court. Apparently, Leslie and Mr Towt’s son were fighting and when young Brew got the best of the struggle, Mr Towt set his dogs on to him and he was bitten on both legs. The Judge awarded Leslie Brew £25 in damages, with costs, and said it was a most cowardly thing to set a dog upon a boy.

As a matter of interest when I was writing this article there was a really heavy hail storm in Melbourne being reported on the television and I came across this in The Argus of July 30, 1920. Horatio Weatherhead of North Tynong wrote into the Nature Notes and Queries column and said in January 1887 there was a hailstorm at Daylesford when jagged lumps of ice nearly a foot long and weighing up to 4lb fell. The damage to windows, roofs and crops was considerable. The remarkable thing is that no one was seriously injured. The hailstorm was referred to at the time as "falling icebergs”.

We will finish this with a report which had the headline A Pugnacious Waiter. Walwin Harold Lucas was charged with assault. This man was employed as a waiter for two days, and in that time he had twelve fights with the customers, in addition to assaulting his employer. (The Herald, April 20, 1920) He was fined 40 shillings on each of the charges or 14 days in gaol. His connection to Garfield is that he had also kept a tobacconist's shop, at Garfield, but on account of his behavior he had been warned by the police to leave. So, clearly customer service was not his strong point and neither was anger management. Plus, I did not know that the Police could ‘run you out of town’, I thought that only happened in the Wild West.