Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Les O’Riordan’s recollections - early township buildings

In 1968, Dave Mickle interviewed seventy-six year old Les O’Riordan. John Leslie O’Riordan was born on August 26, 1892 and is said to be the first white child born in the Koo-Wee-Rup Village settlement. His father, John O’Riordan, opened a store in the town in 1890 - it was a tin shed at the rear of what is now Light’s garage.

Les married Margaret Colvin in August 1918 and they lived at Mallow, the head quarters of the Historical Society.  Margaret’s brother, A.C Colvin (Andrew) opened a cycle shop in the town in 1911 and later became an Agent for Ford Cars. Les died in 1978 and Margaret in 1955.

Some of the interview with Les is published in Dave’s book Mickle Memories, but we also have the notes from the interview at the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp  Historical Society, so what follows is a combination of both.

This is the map that Dave Mickle drew up  whilst talking to Les O'Riordan.

Rossiter Road
From the corner store going northwards (or down towards Bayles) On the left there was Thomson’s butchers shop, Ross the saddler, Bergin the bootmaker and Turner’s sweets shop, which was  just before Jack Gray’s house. Next was Keighery’s bootmakers and saddlery.  Still going north there was a timber building housing the London Bank (later moved to its current location – the ANZ bank). When the bank moved, Ben Darlington operated his radio shop from the site (where the car yard was).  Just over Gardiner Street was Mrs Greys’ shop,  then the Presbyterian Church and the Memorial Hall.

Station Street
Back to the Rossiter Road/Station street corner - the corner store was built for Bullocks, then owned by Finnigan, Battersby, Malouf, W.A Stephenson, Ernest Cougal and Ernest Williams. Along Station Street was the new London Bank, then a small paddock and Joe Morrison’s black smiths shop.  Next to Joe Morrison was Colvin’s cycle works and his Swastika cafĂ© which he leased to the Misses Gallagher in 1922.  The swastika was originally a symbol representing well being and was used by many cultures until the rise of the Nazi Party in the 1930s. In the 1920s in Koo-Wee-Rup it was just a symbol of good luck, nothing sinister.

Station Street in Koo-Wee-Pup - the small building on the left is the Post Office. Next to it is the Swastika cafe.

Molly O’Riordan’s post office was next - it was described by Les as a small square building under a large pine tree, clearly seen in the picture, above.  This little post office was removed and Colvin’s built a garage (Albons).  At the rear of this site, the O’Riordans had built a coffee palace some years previously. It burnt down on the late 1920s/ early 1930s.  O’Riordan’s residence and store were next, on the corner of Moody Street.  A room at the back of the store was used as the first hall.  Behind the hotel was Wilkins (later Johnson) bakery and Johnson Brothers (later De Vries) butchery.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Leslie and Ivy Cochrane

Cochrane Park in Koo-Wee-Rup is named after Leslie James Cochrane.  Mr Cochrane died on April 25, 1972. His funeral was held on April 28 at the Presbyterian Church and attended by an estimated 1,000 people with another 700 people attending the service at the Springvale Crematorium.

Leslie was born in Bentleigh in 1894 to David and Lucy (nee Burgess) Cochrane. The family moved to Caldermeade when he was eight. He enlisted in the First World War on May 2, 1916 at the age of 21. He was in the 46th Infantry battalion and saw war service in France. He returned to Australia in February 1918 and in the December of the same year he married Ivy, the daughter of Harry and Sarah Wildes of Yannathan.  Leslie and Ivy moved to a soldier settlement block on the Pakenham Road.  After the war, as well as running the farm, Mr Cochrane began a life of community service. He joined the Cranbourne Shire Council in 1930, representing the Koo-Wee-Rup Riding until 1964 and was Shire President on four occasions. It was said he never missed a meeting.

Mr Cochrane also represented Gippsland West in the Legislative Assembly from May 1950 until May 1970 for the Country Party. He held various Parliamentary positions and was the Country Party ‘whip’ from 1961 until 1970.  When he died, the Premier, Sir Henry Bolte; the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Clive Holding and the leader of the Country Party, Mr Ross-Edwards, each presented a short eulogy on Mr Cochrane in the Victorian Parliament. In fact, Sir Henry pointed out that Mr Cochrane was the last surviving member of this Parliament who served as a member of the Australian Infantry Forces during the First World War. Mr Cochrane was also the President of the Westernport Memorial Hospital Board and he was awarded a Life Membership for his work with the R.S.L. He was a Past Master of the Koo-Wee-Rup Masonic Lodge and an Elder of the Presbyterian Church and was awarded an O.B.E in 1971.

Leslie and Ivy had two children - Irene (Mrs Jack Haw who died in 2001) and Stewart who died in 2000.  Mrs Cochrane was also involved in community organizations such as the Presbyterian Ladies Guild and attended the first Koo-Wee-Rup Red Cross meeting. She was Foundation President of the Hospital Ladies Auxiliary and was awarded a Life Governorship of the Hospital in 1974. Mrs Cochrane died in September 1986, aged 91.

Cochrane Park was developed by the Apex Club in 1980 on Railway land. It was then taken over by the Lions Club who named it for Leslie Cochrane.

The two photograph are from the Koo-Wee-Rup Sun May 3, 1972 from a report about Mr Cochrane's funeral.

Monday, May 12, 2014

National Service by Frank Rouse

National Service was introduced in Australia in 1951, in response to the Cold War and the rise of Communism. The first intake was in April 1951 and it was abolished in November 1959. It operated again from 1964 until 1972.  This is Frank’s story of his National Service.

Photo: Frank Rouse, on the left, and George Jones on the right.

I was called up in the third intake, at the end of May 1952, when I was 18. This intake took in men from Gippsland.  I spent three months at Puckapunyal, where we lived in a hut with 15 others, eight beds down each side. During the three months we learnt to march and handle a rifle and learn the rifle movements. We had to guard the transport depot, I had the midnight to 4.00am shift and the men from the regular Army used to just ignore us and just walk in. At the end of the three months we did a three day march, 20 miles per day, in full uniform with a 303 rifle, back pack and two ground sheets. We slept with a ground sheet on top of us and it was very cold at night. We received our rations in the morning and had to cook them during the day. Each Unit had a Bren gun which also had to be carried.

During this three month camp I was chosen to attend a march through Melbourne. Only three from my hut were selected. We got the bus to Melbourne and lined up with hundreds of other service men and military bands at the top of Swanston Street, near the old CUB brewery. We marched the length of Swanston Street to the Shrine where we were given refreshments and I caught up with Mum and my sister Dorothy, who had came up from Cora Lynn for the day. It was interesting to march through the crowds and to hear the people cheering.

After that, if you lived near a Drill hall, such as the one at Warragul, you had to attend every Friday for two hours for two years. Because I lived at Cora Lynn I had to attend two three week camps. They were at Scrub Hill near Puckapunyal.  At the first camp, I volunteered to be a driver and drove the Doctor (a Colonel) around in a Jeep. At the second Camp, I volunteered to be medical orderly, as I had done First aid training in the Scouts.  First thing in the morning was a medical parade where I treated minor ailments, made toast for the Doctor and did whatever else I was ordered to by the Doctor. The majority worked on Artillery, alongside the regular Army, and they operated 5½ inch guns which had a twenty mile range.

In 1954, the Queen visited Warragul and as I was still doing my National Service a day guarding the Queen was a day off my National Service.  I rode up from Cora Lynn on my motor bike to the Drill hall where we were assembled. We were inspected to make sure our uniform was correct, issued with our 303 rifles, and then marched over the railway bridge and along the highway to about where C.S & J.S Brown’s garage is (near Napier Street)

From there we were spread along the edge of the road (the old Highway) over the hill and almost down to the railway crossing, on each side of the road. We were stood ‘at ease’ by about 9.45am and we waited for the Queen’s entourage. We waited, unable to move or leave our positions. It was a very good thing that we had better bladders then than we have now.

At about 11.45am the word went out that the Queen was coming and we stood to attention ready to ‘present arms’. The entourage flew past at about 50 miles an hour. We marched back to the Drill hall where we handed over our rifles and we were dismissed.

Other locals who did national service with me were George Jones, from Warragul; Aub Goodman (Vervale), Kevin Batchelor (Bunyip), Mulga Shelton (Pakenham), Butch Giles (Trafalgar),  Stan Riches (Garfield), Ian Chatfield (Nar Nar Goon) and Kevin Wilby (Modella).

I asked Dad how he felt about his National Service and he was very positive about it as he said it was interesting, the other blokes were all a similar age and had a farming background or worked in saw mills, so they all had a similar outlook. Dad had been boy scout so he was used to camping and he was already used to hard work as he had been working on the farm full time since he left school at the end of Form 4, so he found the work easy and what’s more he got paid seven shillings per day, whereas he was paid nothing at home.   Heather Arnold.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Garfield Railway Station

I have written before about how the construction of the Sale Railway line was the seminal event in the establishment of the town of Garfield.  The Gippsland line to Sale was opened in stages - Sale to Morwell June 1877 (the material for this stage was shipped along the coast to the Port of Sale); Oakleigh to Bunyip October 1877; Moe to Morwell December 1877;  Moe to Bunyip March 1878 and the last stretch from South Yarra to Oakleigh in 1879. Originally, the only Stations between Dandenong and Bunyip were Berwick and Pakenham. However a number of timber sidings developed along this line including the Cannibal Creek Siding built in 1885.  In May 1886, the Cannibal Creek Post Office was established at the Railway Station and this changed its name to the Garfield Railway Post Office on May 16, 1887. The name Garfield came from the assassinated American President, James Garfield, who was shot July 2, 1881 and died September 19, 1881.

View of the Goods Shed at the Railway station in 1920. The Garfield Hall is in the background.
Berwick Pakenham Historical Society photograph

In the book Rigg of the Railways: Station Masters of the Victorian Railways the author Tom Rigg lists the following Station Masters as having served at Garfield.
McLean, Roderick  February 1910 to August 1911
Finnie, Norman  July 1912 - August 1917
McCauley, John Alexander  June 1918 - March 1920
Lanigan, Patrick  September 1919 - February 1919
Mather, James  around 1920,1921
Stewart, Francis David   March 1920 - September 1921
Lang, Elmo Thomas  December 1921 - July 1923
Marks, John Alexander July 1924 - January 1927
Bently, Leslie George  December 1926 - June 1928
 Callaghan, Henry Richard  July 1928 - January 1933
Hosking, Henry Towers  January 1933 - September 1937. Due to economic depression wife was caretaker part-time at Garfield.
Smith, Arthur Leslie  June 1942 - December 1944        
Graham, Norman Joseph      December 1944 - December 1954. I couldn’t find anyone listed after 1954, but my mother says that a Mr Tighe was the Station Master around the late 1950s/ early1960s.

This is a view from the Station towards Main Street Garfield - taken in the 1980s.

Apparently, Station Masters were classified according to the Station to which they were appointed and Garfield (in 1923 at least) was a Class 8 station, as was its neighbours Tynong and Nar Nar Goon. Bunyip was a Class 7 and so must have had more freight and was therefore busier.  There are other Railway Station employees listed in various sources prior to 1910 but it does appear that Garfield wasn’t busy enough for a permanent Station Master until then. For instance, in Bill Parrish’s notes on the history of Garfield (held at the Berwick Pakenham Historical Society) he lists James Godfrey as ‘Porter in charge’ at Cannibal Creek siding in October 1885 and he became the Post Master in 1886. The Post Masters and Mistresses at Garfield were all Railway employees until around the end of the First World War, when the Post Office moved from the Railway Station.  Bill also lists a Mrs Thomson as being the Station caretaker in 1904.

1965 Garfield Railway Station diagram from

Over the years, all sorts of produce was loaded at the Garfield Railway Station - livestock, milk and other dairy products (such as cheese from the Cora Lynn factory), chaff and timber. There was a spur line that went off the main line to the Goods Shed and loading area (where the car park is now on the Highway side of the railway line)
 My Dad, Frank Rouse, used to load potatoes there. All potatoes in the 1940s and until 1954 had to be sold through the Potato Board and had to be loaded at a prescribed loading area, in this case Garfield.  They were loaded onto the rail and sent to Spencer Street railway yards where the marketing board had their shed. They were then sold by the Board. If you sold ‘out of the Board’ you were up for massive fines. Farmers were given a quota for the week, for instance seven bags (each bag was 150 lbs or 65 kg, later on they were reduced to 50kgs)  and that was all you were allowed.

The railway trucks could take 12 tons but before they were loaded they had to be inspected by the Potato Inspector, Jack Stalker. Apparently, he was a fan of the VW Beetle, so if you wanted to get your potatoes passed you just talked about VWs or if you told him you were a ‘bit worried about them’, and then he would just pass them. If they weren’t passed then you had to empty the bag, remove the bad ones and re-pack them and re-sew the bag. The farmers had to load the railway trucks themselves and some railway trucks had doors but others were like carts, with a wall about a metre or so high and in this case the bags had to be lifted by hand over the wall and then stacked in the truck. Sometimes the produce just sat there for days before they were picked up. The Potato Board finished in 1954 and after that you could sell them where you wanted. Dad and his brother Jim used Dan Cunningham as an agent and they also later loaded at Nar Nar Goon. If you sold them interstate they could be delivered by truck.

In the 1950s, the line was duplicated from Dandenong to Morwell and also electrified due to need to transport briquettes from Yallourn to Melbourne. In 1954, the electrification process was completed as far as Warragul and it was on July 22 in that year that ‘electric traction’ commenced according to the Victorian Railways Annual Report. Duplication works were completed in stages with the Tynong to Bunyip section opened in August 1956. The Bunyip to Longwarry section still remains unduplicated due to the need to widen the bridge over the Bunyip River.  Due to the increased number of trains (it was estimated that briquette transportation would require an additional 20 trains per day, over the existing seven) the level crossing which was basically opposite the Picture Theatre was closed and the overpass was opened in 1953. The Thirteen Mile Road used to continue over the railway line to the goods yards and this was closed perhaps around the same time or maybe earlier.

The Goods Shed was originally built around 1905 and a weigh bridge was erected in 1919.  At 2.00pm on Thursday February 21, 1924 the Station was destroyed by fire.  The Argus reported that a few milk cans were rescued from the goods shed. A number of parcels, including two bicycles and a perambulator, and a quantity of passengers' luggage, were destroyed, in addition to departmental records. Both the Station and the Goods Shed were rebuilt at the time but they were then demolished some time ago and replaced by the banal and tacky structures that pass for railway architecture today. They were still there in December 1989 - if you want a nostalgic look at them, then check out this website ‘When there were Stations’ -  


  • Rigg of the Railways: Station Masters of the Victorian Railways by Tom Rigg (published by the author in 2001)
  • The Electric Railways of Victoria : a brief  history  of the electrified railway system operated by the Victorian railways 1919 to 1979 by S.E. Dornan and R.H Henderson (Australian Electric Traction Association, 1979)