ADHS Newsletter No. 184, AUGUST, 2000

Items of interest –

  • Bus tour to Castlemaine and district
  • Pilgrimage during 2000 to Gallipoli and the Western Battlefields
  • Obituaries (1934): Nurse Elsie (Peggy) Rowland, George W. Laidlaw

Bus Tour to Castlemaine and District – On Sunday, 20th August, a happy band of members set out on a mystery bus tour of Castlemaine and district. At Newstead, we met our guides, Alleyne and Ian Hockley, and welcomed them aboard. A tour of this town showed that there is more to see than meets the eye when travelling through on the highway. A feature is the way the new community centre has been built between two historic brick businesses and completely blends in with them. The old Court House is the home of the Newstead Historical Society which opens on Monday mornings for researchers.

Heading for Guildford, we saw how the dredging of the 1930s and 1940s levelled the land and completely changed the terrain, though much gold was recovered from the operation.

At Guildford, we parked beside the old railway siding, and were able to cross the old line to see the opening of the El Dorado mine tunnel on the western slope of Guildford Hill. This tunnel under the hill was 8,000 feet long. There were several Chinese camps in this area in the gold-rush days.

Our morning tea stop was at Vaughan Springs, a very pretty place nestled deep in a valley, in the mineral springs area. By the roadside on the steep descent we saw a notice indicating that here the firm of Ball and Welch was first established, before moving on to Castlemaine, and later to Melbourne.

On then through Irishtown to Fryerstown, a ghost town today but once the home to many thousands (15,000 at its peak in 1858), having some 25 hotels backed by five breweries to satisfy the thirsts of the miners. We stopped at the red-brick ruins of the engine house and chimney of the pumping station for the Duke of Cornwall Mine. A plaque nearby, erected by the Cornish Association and the Rowe family, is as much a memorial to the Cornish miners as to the Rowe brothers who first settled the area. The site of a lone grave with a headstone was later pointed out – that of Elizabeth Escott and her daughter Fanny. We learned that, in 1889, a huge flood devastated these areas, with much loss of life.

Nearing Chewton, we paused at the site of the Garfield Water Wheel, erected in 1887 for the Garfield Mine, which was sold in 1898 and changed its name to the Forest Creek Gold Reefs Crushing Works. The huge wheel was once the largest water wheel in the Southern Hemisphere, with its wooden spokes looking rather like a monster bicycle wheel. It was 72 feet in diameter, its axle resting atop two stepped stone walls which encased the lower half of the wheel. Water to turn the wheel was carried via a flume supported by a 790 ft. trestle of saplings.The water fell more than 65 feet from the flume to create the power to turn the wheel,

thus operating the fifteen-head battery which crushed the ore. The wheel was dismantled in 1910 and now all that remains are the two stone abutments which once housed it, a memorial to the masons who erected them. The complete, huge complex must have been an awesome sight in its time.

It was interesting to approach historic Chewton across country and to learn that the old road through the town, with its several bends, and which is now the highway, is protected. Another point of interest is that, in December 1858, a privately managed post office was opened on Post Office Hill in Chewton by a Mr. Evans, and it is still run privately today. The nearby Pennyweight Flat Cemetery is said to have been given that name because of the poor gold yield from the ground there. Some 200 children are buried there in shallow graves, victims of bad water, poor sanitation, and diseases of childhood. Few graves are marked.

Arriving in Castlemaine, we viewed the city from the Burke and Wills monument in Wills Street. From here we could appreciate how the city is situated in a valley, with quite steep hills rising on every side. Descending the hill in Lyttleton Street, we paused to look at the unusual geological strata formation in the rock at the roadside, known as the Anticlinal Fold, which was discovered in 1874. After lunch, we viewed the city again, this time from the other end of town – at the old gaol, circa 1857, which is now a B&B, and also has guided tours of the old facility.

A visit to the former Presbyterian Church (now the Uniting Church) was very much appreciated as we admired the beautiful stained glass windows which once adorned the Methodist Church and are now part of a chapel adjoining the Uniting Church. One window of special interest is said to be the only memorial to lay preachers on the gold fields. Honour boards on the church walls were also of interest as we found names we knew.

A large red brick residence at 31 Gyngell Street was once the home of explorer Robert O’Hara Burke, who was Police Superintendent at Castlemaine before setting out on the ill-fated expedition with Wills.

We were amazed at the size of the property which accommodates Thompson’s Foundry. It is HUGE! David and James Thompson established their foundry in 1875 and it became the largest in the Colony of Victoria, famous for its engineering work for equipment for gold-mining, the railways, pumping stations, etc. Thompson’s Foundry Brass Band was founded on 13th October, 1886, and still performs today, making it the oldest continuous brass band in Australia. Rehearsals are held in their own band rooms on the foundry site.

The beautiful Botanic Gardens, with the ornamental Lake Joanna, were established in 1856 on an unkempt mess of old diggings. Baron Ferdinand Von Mueller, as a leader of the Acclimitisation Society, supplied many seeds and plants for these gardens as he did for many others throughout the Colony at the time.

Our final stop was at the former Court House in Goldsmith Street, now the home of the Castlemaine Historical Society, of which Alleyne is President. It is open on Tuesday mornings for researchers. Here we enjoyed afternoon tea and an inspection of their archives and the work they have had to do to restore the building. At least one of our members came away with some interesting information to add to her family story.

President Graeme Mills thanked Alleyne and Ian for the most interesting and full day they organised for us and made a presentation on behalf of those present on the tour. It was time then to board the bus again, heading for Newstead to drop our excellent guides back at their car, then on to Avoca, where we finished the day with an inspection of the extension to our Court House. Our sincere thanks to Graeme for driving the bus on this information packed day which was much enjoyed by everyone.

Our next meeting will be held on Sunday, 17th September, at 1.30 pm at the Court House. After the meeting, there will be a working bee to complete the new extension to the Court House in readiness for its opening on the 19th November. As already mentioned, those members who went on the Castlemaine tour completed the day’s outing by inspecting the almost finished extensions and giving their approval. The additional space should serve us well but there is much work to be done by Society members before it is finally completed.

A small band of local members are working diligently on both the internal and external painting and other finishing tasks, giving of much time voluntarily. They look to those in our wide membership who cannot help in a practical way to contribute financially so that, on opening day, the building will be debt-free. At the time of writing, we are in need of at least $1,000 to achieve this goal. The Society is most grateful to those who have already responded to this need, and acknowledge with thanks the latest donations from L. Reed, M. Brown, P. Pora and E. Shooter.

Suggested ideas for donation amounts have been – $10 from each member, or the cost of petrol for your car to do the return trip Melbourne to Avoca, or the cost of a night’s accommodation at a motel at Avoca. All donations, large or small, will be very gratefully received.

We are also wondering if there is a spare bar fridge out there which could be utilised in our kitchen area. Please contact Graeme Mills or Wendy Taylor if you can help with this request.

Programme of Society’s Events – The following is a tentative programme for the coming year to enter in your diaries :

Sunday, September 17 – Meeting and working bee.

Sunday, October 15 – Meeting to organise opening of new extension to the

Court House.

Sunday, November 19 – Official opening of new building at 11 am, followed by a

light luncheon at 12.15 pm. Monthly meeting to follow.

Sunday, December 10 – Christmas break-up.

January, 2001 – Possible Federation Trivia Night – date to be announced.

Saturday, February 17 – Garage Sale from 9 am. Meeting in afternoon.

Sunday, March 18 – Visit to Mooramong Homestead at Skipton.

April – Heritage Display – date to be announced.

Sunday, May 20 – Annual General Meeting.

Sunday, June 17 – Daryl Wagstaff to speak.

New Members – The Society extends a warm welcome to the following new members:

Dr. Beverley RODAN, of West Melbourne, who is researching RODAN, STEWART and


Dr. and Mrs. Eric MANNING, of Hamilton, NSW, whose interest is William SKINNER.

Snippets for Researching – Some Web Sites :

http://www.bdm.nsw.gov.au – NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages

http://freebmd.rootsweb.com/ – Free BMD from the Civil Registration indexes for England and Wales from 1837.

www.welcome.to/gwsfhs – Interesting web site of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Society.

Pilgrimage to Gallipoli and the Western Battlefields – Following Anne Young’s interesting talk on the impact of World War I on the community of Avoca and district, our member Lynda Finger (nee Rafferty) has submitted the following account of her very special trip to Gallipoli and France earlier this year:

“An article in the Age in January this year about the New Pilgrims and a photograph of a backpacker looking at the Lone Pine Memorial on which my uncle’s name, Lance Corporal Isaac Webster, appeared, prompted me to enquire about this trip. As my father (Matthew Rafferty) and his brother Peter were also at the Gallipoli landing 85 years before, I was keen to make the pilgrimage and I was fortunate enough to be part of a big contingent

We arrived in Istanbul on Saturday morning, 22nd April, and had two days sightseeing before going to Kesan down on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

In readiness for Anzac morning, we were called at 12 midnight in order to leave at 1 am for our coach trip of one and a half hours to Gallipoli. We arrived there to find that, because of security for Mr. Howard and Mr. Beazley, we had to walk three kilometres to the dawn service at the new site at North Beach. It was a very rough road and it was quite dark. Apparently we were lucky as some of the coaches were five kilometres away and some of the World War II veterans were unable to walk the distance.

The service was a most memorable and emotional one for me, an experience I shall never forget. Unfortunately, some of the younger ones present stood in front of us to take their photos thus stopping our direct view of the platform, but we were able to sing the hymns and hear the service. The Turkish people said that it was the biggest crowd yet – about 15,000 people. To look up at the Sphinx and see the terrain at dawn and picture the scene which confronted our soldiers was awesome.

After this, we went to a 9 am service at the Lone Pine Memorial where I shook hands with Mr. Howard and Mr. Beazley as they came into the cemetery. Here I was able to get a much better position for the service which again was inspiring. I had my photo taken beside Uncle Ike Webster’s name on the memorial. He has no known grave. I saw the third ridge, where he died, in the distance. I was told it would have been the front line, two miles inland.

For the next two days we returned to Gallipoli and visited many of the cemeteries, placing poppies and helping others find their relatives’ graves. The cemeteries are very well cared for with rows of headstones, a little garden in front of each and lawns between the rows. Some cemeteries are quite large and others very small. We walked on Anzac Cove and I saw the trenches just outside the Lone Pine Cemetery, where the 8th Battalion were. I cannot describe my feelings but my memories will last forever.

We then went to France where a most memorable occasion was our taking part in the Rekindling the Flame ceremony which takes place at the Arc-de-Triomphe in Paris every evening. We marched up the Champs-Elysées with some French veterans and two of our group laid a wreath, as did a French Resistance lady. We were then met by the official party and signed the Visitors’ Book.

We visited many cemeteries and museums and I was able to visit my Uncle Peter’s grave at Pozieres (only the second relative to do so since 1916). This is a large walled cemetery, again very well maintained. The headstones in France are tall and a type of sandstone, so are not so easy to read in the cemeteries which are more exposed to the weather.

Other ceremonies we attended were at Herleville, Bullecourt (where Claude and Collette, a French couple, provided us with lunch; Claude has an OAM in recognition of the years he has been doing this for all visiting Australians he knows of), VC Corner (where I laid a wreath), and we visited the school in Villers-Bretonneux which was built by the penny donations from Victorian school children. We crossed the Hindenburg Line and also went to Ypres in Belgium for the evening service at the Menin Gate. This very moving service has taken place every evening since World War I, except during the Second World War.

I have so many more memories of my pilgrimage but by far the most indelible one is the futility of war.

On Anzac morning, before leaving for Gallipoli, I wrote the following poem:

“We have come from Australia, far across the sea

To commemorate those who, for their country, died so valiantly,

Our being here together may help us understand

The sacrifice those young men made in this distant, foreign land.

The memories of this visit, forever we will keep

As we leave them to continue their long and peaceful sleep.”

Lynda Finger

(My thanks to Lynda for sharing with us this deeply moving pilgrimage. Ed.)

Obituary for Nurse Elsie (Peggy) Rowland (from the Avoca Free Press of 29th September, 1934) – News of the death at the Maryborough Hospital early on Tuesday morning, following an illness of less than a week’s duration, of Nurse Elsie May (Peggy) Rowland will be heard with universal regret. A young lady of exceedingly bright disposition, Nurse Rowland was popular among a wide circle of friends, and as a nurse she promised to go far in her profession. Born at Rathscar 22 years ago, she was a daughter of Mrs. Astley, of Taylor Street, Maryborough, and the late Cecil Rowland, and a sister of Raymond, John, Jean and Cecil Rowland. The deceased spent the greater part of her life in Maryborough, and after completing her education joined the staff of the Messrs. Geo. Lucas and Co. About 2½ years ago she resigned to take up nursing, being a popular member of the Maryborough Hospital Staff. An additional pathetic feature is the fact that arrangements had been made for Nurse Rowland to be a bridesmaid at her brother’s wedding, which was to have taken place today. The funeral took place on Wednesday afternoon, the remains being interred in the Maryborough Cemetery.

At a special meeting of the Hospital Committee on Tuesday reference was made to the loss sustained by the institution through the death of Nurse Rowland. The secretary was directed to forward a letter of sympathy to relatives of the deceased.

Obituary for Mr. George W. Laidlaw (from the Avoca Free Press of 29th September, 1934)

The death occurred at Echuca on Monday night of Mr. George W. Laidlaw, a brother of Mr. Robert W. Laidlaw, of Maryborough. Deceased, who was aged 67 years, and leaves a widow and family of four, was born in Learmonth, being a son of the late James and Mildred Laidlaw, of Amphitheatre. The late Mr. George Laidlaw was well-known throughout the Amphitheatre and Maryborough districts. He spent the greater part of his life in New South Wales, and carried on grazing properties at Albury, Inverell, Forbes and Riverina centres.

Wind Storm – Wild Night on Wednesday (26th September) (From the Avoca Free Press of 29th September, 1934) – Tempestuous weather conditions prevailed at Avoca on Wednesday night, the wind being of exceptional violence. A number of trees were blown down. Rain fell during the night, and also on Thursday morning, the registration totalling 46 pts.

(My thanks to Helen Harris for a copy of this interesting old newspaper. Ed.)