ADHS Newsletter No. 168 MARCH, 1999

Items of interest –

  • Visit to Donald
  • Conservation Workshop 11 September
  • Mr Chidley’s Travelling Portrait Rooms (1878)
  • Mysteria, or the Casket of Neeromantic Gems (1880)
  • Union Church at Lower Homebush opening (1880). Names mentioned: Rev J Kirkwood, Rev J A Ball, Rev J A Marshland, Mr Powell
  • The Avoca Rural Brigade. Names mentioned: G M McKechnie, J.W. Lever, A.B. Porter, R. Reeves Jnr., H. Fraser, C. Reid, E. Brown, W. Robinson, G. Robinson, J. Barnes, R. Robinson, M. Dawson, A. Robinson, V.L. Humphries, J.E. Wardlaw, L. Redpath, W. Schmidt, E. Gollop, J. Hamer, N. Gollop, H. Worthington, J C Reid, A B Porter, R Reeves Jnr, V L Humphries, Councillor Worthington, H Fraser, Captain J Barnes, Ian Dawson, Neil Hamer, Robert Reeves, Ern Barker, Graeme Payne
  • St. Kevin’s Roman Catholic Church, Avoca – a short history. Names mentioned: Rev Goold, Rev R Mulkearns, Rev Fr Claridge, Rev Fr Martin, Fr T Scanlan, Fr P Flanagan, Fr Fiscalini


Visit to Donald – On Sunday, 21st March, ten of our members braved a rather wet day to visit the town of Donald and its History and Natural History Group. On arrival, we were welcomed by their Treasurer, Ken Rye, who gave us a guided bus tour around all the sites of Donald. We stayed in the bus for the most part of the tour due to the weather, braving it only three times when it was necessary. We learnt that the first squatters in the area in 1845 were the Donald brothers, who were the founders of the district. In 1863, Johanne August Meyer put up a shanty but, as he had no licence, he had to continually move it around each day. He later opened the Mt Jeffcott Hotel. Meyer was the founder of the township of Donald. Godfrey Morgan came to Donald from Carisbrook in 1875 and started the “Donald Times”. Another interesting local identity was “Georgie” Ah Ling, 1884-1987, who came to Donald about 1930. Georgie operated a market garden from his shack (which still stands) for about 70 years, until he was injured in a minor traffic accident about 1983/84. He died at the age of 102. A quote in the “Wimmera-Mallee Bulletin” read, “Few men, whatever their station, have written themselves so indelibly and affectionately into the life of any community as this gentle market- gardener has done”.

We paused to visit the old Police Camp Museum and Tourist Information Centre where we saw original dated buildings such as the police camp (1865), shepherd’s log hut (circa 1850), kitchen (1874), skillion (1874), cell (1865), stables (1865) and a brick oven. Next we stopped at the Richardson River to spot a very interesting phenomenon, the Bullock’s Head, which is a natural formation of growth on a tree and looks exactly like a bullock’s head. Along the way, Ken pointed out various buildings such as the school (1872), railway (1883), meat works, hospital, shire offices, and the former Methodist church which is now a shirt factory.

At the Agricultural Museum, we ventured in to get a glimpse of the way things were done years ago. All the exhibits, such as the reaper and mower, “Clutterbuck” oil engine, “Sunshine” harvester, mechanical seed sower, screw wool press, “Fordson” tractor and various drays, gigs, buggies, carts, and a wagonette with the name “Chas Marchment – Stuart Mill” along it, were probably ‘old hat’ to most of the members born and bred on farms but, to a city girl like me, there was a lot to learn. There was a particularly interesting horse-tread winnower used in the 1890s for harvesting. Apparently the poor horse had to get into a very small stall-type box and walk continually along poles to make them turn. I can’t imagine this would have been much fun for the horse. Then I was told that they only did it in short stints so the horse didn’t go crazy!

After lunch at the Court House, the Group’s Secretary, Vivienne Davidson, showed us round their excellent Court House Museum before taking us a little further down the road to their two archive buildings. Here the Group’s President and Archivist joined in and helped to show us their vast collection and very well-equipped research area. Our members then availed themselves of the opportunity to do some research using the microfiche, computer databases and hard copy records.

As this most interesting visit came to a close, our President, Graeme Mills, thanked the Donald folk for their assistance in making this a very successful day, and extended an invitation to them to visit us at Avoca at some future date.

(My grateful thanks to Wendy Taylor, assisted by Lily Mills, for this interesting account. Ed.)


Our next meeting will be held on Sunday, 18th April, at the Court House at 1.30 p.m. As our meetings in December and February were brief, and there was no meeting in March, it is felt that this one should just be a general meeting to catch up on outstanding matters and to plan for our AGM on the 16th May and our “Open Day” on 20th June.

Conservation Workshop – Our Society will host this workshop to be held at the Avoca Court House on Saturday, 11th September, 1999, from 10 am to 4 pm. It is being run by the VCCCM (the Victorian Centre for the Conservation of Cultural Material), which is located at the Public Record Office, Cherry Lane, Laverton. Their experienced conservator and trainer, Caroline Fry, will present the workshop titled “Everything you ever wanted to know about Conservation, but were afraid to Ask!” The workshop will focus on preventative conservation and the factors that cause deterioration of artefacts and information will be given on some low-tech, affordable ways of addressing these issues.

A Family History and Genealogical Showcase Day is to be held on Saturday, 10th July, 1999, from 10 am to 4 pm at the Cultural Hall, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 33 High Street, Yarraville. This event is a free community service and will feature displays, hands on research, demonstrations, Internet on Line, CD-Roms, Italian, Irish, Scottish, Cornish, Spanish and Somerset records and many other aspects of genealogy. For further information contact Ann King on 03 9743 1354.

Correction – In our last newsletter No. 167, page 4, it was stated that the Union Church at Amphitheatre had been sold. This information was incorrect. The position is that the Uniting Church in Victoria is taking steps to obtain a title for the land on which this church stands so that the property can be sold.

Books – The Society has received the donation of a book, “Scattered Light”, a family history – a tale full of love, joy and tragedy, told with dignity, of the life of Joseph Clampett and we thank Mrs. Muriel Clampett for this kind gesture. Joseph was born in Ireland and came to Australia in 1863 on the Marco Polo, and served for a time as a Parish priest at Avoca. Copies of the book are available from Mrs. Clampett at 8 Mather Road, Noble Park, Vic. 3174, for the cost of $5 for postage.

A new book available at good booksellers is “Staking A Claim : Gold and the Development of Victorian Mining Law”, by Ralph W. Birrell. It is published by Melbourne University Press and the recommended retail price is $45. Ralph Birrell was formerly the Director of the Bendigo Institute of Technology and his book covers many facets of the mining industry and explains the many events, starting with the Eureka Stockade, which led to the Mining Act of 1890.

Pioneer Register for Mid West Region of W.A. – The Geraldton Family History Society Inc. has undertaken a project to record the names and details of those people who went to the Mid West region of Western Australia prior to January, 1901. The Mid West region is defined as including the Shires of Carnamah, Chapman Valley, Coorow, Cue, Greenough, Irwin, Meekatharra, Mingenew, Morowa, Mt. Magnet, Mullewa, Murchison, Northampton, Perenjori, Sandstone, Three Springs, Wiluna, Yalgoo and the City of Geraldton Full details cannot be spelt out here but a copy of the information leaflet and submission form can be obtained from the Project Manager, Julia Smith, Geraldton Family History Society Inc., P.O. Box 2502, Geraldton, W.A. 6531. Please enclose a long, stamped and self-addressed envelope with your application. The Geraldton Society Web-site is <http://www.wn.com.au/GFHS>.

Ipswich Pioneer Register – The Ipswich Genealogical Society is now accepting entries for Volume 2, with closing date 30th June, 1999. The area covered is from Boonah, to Gatton, to Esk, to Goodna and surrounds. The first 300 entries received will be accepted for inclusion. For further information, contact the Secretary, P.O. Box 323, Ipswich, Qld., 4395.

(From ‘Relatively Speaking’, Vol. 17, No. 1, Nth. Q’ld. FHA)

Pioneer Register, Northern Tablelands, NSW – The Armidale Family History Group has announced its intention to compile a register of pioneers who lived on the Northern Tablelands of NSW from first settlement to 1901. The geographical area to be covered extends outwards from Armidale, encircled by Glen Innes, Ebor, Walcha, Bendemeer, Bundarra and Tingha. To obtain a submission form, please write to the Secretary, P.O. Box 1378, Armidale, NSW 2350, enclosing a large stamped, self-addressed envelope. Forms may also be printed from the group’s Web site at www.geocities.com/Heartland/Pointe/5525/

(From ‘The Genealogist’, AIGS Magazine, March, 1999)

Research in Canada – The National Archives in Canada have a free booklet, “Tracing Your Ancestors in Canada”, available from 395 Wellington Street, Ontario, Canada KIA ON3, and will answer general enquiries. (From ‘Rootes’, Dec., 1998, Gold Coast and Albert G.S.)

Lutheran Church Archives, South Australia, is the official repository for all Australia. Personal research may be undertaken at $6 per day, or $25 per hour if done by Archives staff in response to letters. A computer printout of a surname in its database is $3 plus postage. Write to Mr. Lyall Kupke, Archivist, 101 Archer Street, North Adelaide, S.A. 5006.

(From Newcastle FHS Bulletin No. 137, Jan-Feb. 1999)

Waterloo Veterans – The Waterloo Society of the UK aims to locate the burial places in Australia of Waterloo veterans. Contact Mrs. Kerrie Alexander, 6 Habeda Avenue, West Dapto, NSW 2530, with details of army record, arrival in Australia, their families, where settled, whether came with a regiment or as immigrants.

(From Newcastle FHS Bulletin No. 136, Nov.-Dec. 1998)

New Release Index – The Central Queensland Family History Association Inc. has issued a new Index to Funeral Notices in The Morning Bulletin, 1988-1997, being over 12,00 entries from this Rockhampton daily paper. Available on 2 microfiche for $12.00 from the Association at PO Box 6000, Central Queensland Mail Centre, Rockhampton, Qld. 4702.

Irish Orphan Girls – 150th Anniversary Commemoration – The special celebration planned for 1999 in Ireland has been postponed until 2000. The organisers, the Tipperary Clans Association, have now been able to enlist some government support, so it is hoped the planning of these celebrations will produce an event to suitably commemorate and honour the 4,000 Irish orphan girls who emigrated to Australia. However, because some people still intend to go to Ireland in September, as previously arranged, they are offering a gathering for a small number of people.

In Australia, these girls are being honoured too. Those who went to Sydney are being remembered on a memorial in Hyde Park, whilst those who came to Melbourne on the Lady Kennaway are honoured on a plaque unveiled at Williamstown on 6th December last.

If your Irish orphan came to Melbourne on board any of the following ships – Lady Kennaway, New Liverpool, Pemberton, Diadem, Derwent and Eliza Caroline, please contact Ron Doble at 113 Yarrbat Avenue, Balwyn, Vic. 3103, phone (03) 9830 4837 or e-mail doble@melbpc.org.au

(From The Genealogist, AIGS magazine, Dec., 1998 and March, 1999 and other sources)

Snippets from “The Avoca Mail” – January 22, 1878 – “It is not often that bullocks indulge in a ‘bolt’, but on Friday last a couple of these animals caused some consternation in the town by striving to run away with a photographer’s saloon. Mr. Chidley, of the Travelling Portrait Rooms, having decided to continue his travels, had four bullocks attached to each of his rooms, and, just at starting, the two leaders of one team became unmanageable, and endeavoured to get away with their load. Before going far, however, they brought the house with such force against a post at the corner of High and Cambridge streets that the post was uprooted and the chain by which the animals were attached to the room broke. Thus freed they ran together for nearly a mile before they were captured. Fortunately the room, which is valued at nearly £200, was not injured.”

From “The Avoca Mail”, Tuesday, 8th June, 1880 – “On Friday and Saturday next an entertainment will be given in the Victoria Theatre by Professor Tregaski and Miss Tregaski. The title of the entertainment is ‘Mysteria, or the Casket of Neeromantic Gems’ and from the reports published of it by the papers of Maryborough, and other towns wherein the professor has performed, we are led to believe that it is one of more than ordinary merit. Two features of the performance are the ‘Bird-cage trick’ and the ‘Aerial Suspension Act’ as performed some years ago in Avoca by Mr. Sylvester; but Professor Tregaski excels Mr. Sylvester in this respect that while in the bird-cage trick as performed by the latter, the canary and cage only disappeared, Mr. Tregaski causes both to disappear and reappear before the audience at the pleasure of the performer. The entertainment has been very successful in other towns in this part of the colony, and has drawn crowded houses at both Maryborough and Talbot.”

Also in the same paper – “The Union Church at Lower Homebush was opened on Sunday last [6th June,1880] by the three ministers of Avoca, who in turn conducted the services appointed for the day, the Rev. J. Kirkwood (Presbyterian) officiating in the morning, the Rev. J. A. Ball (Church of England) in the afternoon, and the Rev. J.A. Marsland (Wesleyan) in the evening. A choir had also been formed to undertake the musical part of the services, and although the members had not had much opportunity of practising, they gave assistance which was much appreciated, Mr. Powell presiding at the harmonium. There were large congregations on each occasion, including, besides local residents, many visitors from Avoca and surrounding localities. The new church, which has been removed from Timor, is a roomy and substantial building, and will suffice for the requirements of the residents for a considerable time. This evening [Tuesday, 8th June] the opening of the church will be celebrated by a tea and public meeting.”

The Avoca Rural Brigade – (From a souvenir booklet of Avoca, published in 1974)

The original meeting of the Avoca Central Bush Fire Brigade was called at the office of G.M. McKechnie (now Ray Henderson’s Avoca Leisure Wear) on Friday, November, 1933.

Those present were Messrs. J.W. Lever, A.B. Porter, R. Reeves Jnr., H. Fraser, C. Reid, E. Brown, W. Robinson, G. Robinson, J. Barnes, R. Robinson, M. Dawson, A. Robinson, V.L. Humphries, J.E. Wardlaw, L. Redpath, W. Schmidt, E. Gollop, J. Hamer, N. Gollop and H. Worthington.

At this meeting, Mr. J.C. Reid was elected President, A.B. Porter Secretary, R. Reeves jnr. Assistant Secretary, and Mr. V.L. Humphries Treasurer. Councillor Worthington and Mr. H. Fraser moved that the brigade be formed and that it be divided into three sections. These sections were No. 1 Creek with Captain J. Lever; No. 2 Creek with Captain J. Barnes, and the Eastern Division under Captain J.E. Wardlaw.

The only available equipment consisted of beaters, rakes, water-bags and axes, along with a ton of courage.

Later captains of the brigade down through the years were – Ned Gollop, Bill Schmidt, Ian Dawson, Neil Gollop and Neil Hamer.

Neil Gollop went on to be group officer of the Pyrenees Group, Region 16, a position which he still holds.

Secretaries since A.B. Porter have been Robert Reeves, Ern Barker and now Graeme Payne.

As time has passed, the brigade has progressed and, in 1944, the Country Fire Authority was formed and they assumed control over all Bush Fire Brigades, thus bringing in much more modern equipment and facilities, up to the present day, of four-wheeled drive tankers and VHF radio.

The Avoca Rural Brigade is extremely proud of the Life Membership Certificate awarded to the late Robert Reeves by the C.F.A. in appreciation of the outstanding services rendered for 25 years as wireless operator and secretary.

Bob Reeves was also one of the main instigators in having the local rural brigade participate in competitive exercises and demonstrations and attending C.F.A. schools, thus giving valuable training and knowledge to young and old members, and bringing them to the forefront in the use of all modern equipment. His goal was also achieved in later years as the brigade has proved that they can more than hold their own in competitive demonstrations and exercises.

St. Kevin’s Roman Catholic Church, Avoca – a short history (from a souvenir booklet about Avoca published in 1974).

St. Kevin’s brick church was dedicated on December 16, 1872, by Rev. Goold, Bishop of Melbourne. The land on which it is built was donated by the late John Kearney. To mark the centenary in December, 1972, about 400 attended an open air Mass celebrated by the Rev. R. Mulkearns, Bishop of Ballarat, assisted by Rev. Fr. Claridge, Parish priest of Maryborough and Rev. Fr. Martin, Parish priest of Clunes. Eleven children made their first Holy Communion, and were the bearers of the bread and wine in the offertory procession.

Previous to the celebrations, a search was made for the foundation stone but none was found. Bishop Mulkearns was invited to unveil a commemoration plaque which was placed on the wall of the church.

Since the centenary, Fr. T. Scanlan, who was Parish priest of Maryborough for 22 years, retired to his home town in Kerry, Ireland, and his place was taken by Fr. P. Flanagan with assistant Fr. Fiscalini. Avoca, Amphitheatre, Timor and Carisbrook are included in the Parish of Maryborough, and the presbytery in Maryborough is the residence of the priests for these churches.