About this blog

This blog is about the history of the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp and neighbouring areas, such as Pakenham, Cranbourne and Garfield, and any other historical subjects I feel like writing about. It's my own original research and writing and if you live in the area you may have read some of the stories before in the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society newsletter or the Koo-Wee-Rup township newsletter, The Blackfish, or the Garfield township newsletter, The Spectator.
Heather Arnold.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Drainage of Bunyip - 100 years ago this week

Here's an interesting article about drainage (or lack of it ) in Bunyip. The drain went from the Hall, along Main Street to the Railway Hotel and the Hotel's urinals emptied into it and the householders also emptied all their 'bedroom and other slops' into it. Ah, the good old days - very smelly!

Bunyip Free Press    November 19, 1914

Sunday, November 2, 2014

100 years ago this week - Miss Bell, confectioner, fruiterer and caterer.

Feeling peckish? Then call in at Miss Bell's shop in Main Street in Bunyip and you can purchase "hot pies, tea, coffee and cocoa at all hours". You could have done this 100 years ago, as well as buying confectionery, postage stamps and many brands of cigarettes and tobacco. Miss Bell would also hire out crockery, glassware, cutlery and  a marquee for your party.

Bunyip Free Press November 5, 1914

We have met Miss Bell before, In January 1913, she applied to the Shire of Berwick for a permission to manufacture ice cream on her premises. We know from the Electoral Roll on Ancestry database that her name was Margaret. There is a report  of her wedding in the Bunyip Free Press of July 30, 1914 when she married Charles Marsden of Bunyip. Her father is listed as Hugh Bell, a farmer of Bunyip. The wedding took place on July 22 at St Thomas' Church of England in Bunyip and the reception was at the Cafe Cecil 'of which the happy couple are the proprietors' according to the article. I don't know if this was a different premises from her own business, because she was still paying for advertisements in the paper months after she was married, or the same business.

Bunyip Free Press July 30, 1914

What else do we know about Margaret Bell, confectioner? Cafe Cecil was still going in December 1915 as it was supplying the catering for Sports Day. 

Bunyip Free Press December 9, 1915

In the same paper there was also an account of another wedding, that of Arthur Weatherhead to Inez Coombs and they had their wedding reception or 'sumptious wedding tea' at Cafe Cecil after their wedding on November 11, 1915. This was of interest to me as Arthur, the fourth child of Horatio and Eleanor Weatherhead, was my grandmas's brother.  Grandma is Eva Rouse (nee Weatherhead) 

Bunyip Free Press December 9, 1915

Margaret is listed in the 1919 Electoral Roll as Margaret Marsden, Confectioner of Bunyip. Charles is listed as a carpenter. In  the 1924 and 1936 Electorial Rolls  Charles is listed as a farmer and Margaret as Home Duties, living at Tynong, so it seems that by then her confectionery days were behind her.

100 years ago this week - Patriotic Concert

Here's an account of a Patriotic Concert held at Koo-Wee-Rup on October 30, 1914.  The school children put on the concert, well trained by Mr and Mrs Eason and Mrs Morrison. Lots of familiar Koo-Wee-Rup names mentioned including  Colvin, Hudson, McNamara, Johnson and Mickle.

South Bourke and Mornington Journal November 5, 1914

Saturday, October 25, 2014

100 years ago this week - Rabbit Inspector resigns

A report in the Bunyip Free Press of October 22, 1914 said that Mr Kelleher, the Rabbit Inspector had resigned,

Bunyip Free Press October 22, 1914
I believe that Rabbit Inspectors were first appointed under the 1884 Rabbit Suppression Act. The Department of Crown Lands and Survey was the overseeing Government Department. The duties included rabbit extermination on Crown Land and serving notices on land owners who failed to eradicate rabbits on private land.   Rabbits were first introduced into Australia in 1859, when 24 wild rabbits were released near Geelong. They soon became a major problem throughout Australia and in 1950 there were 600 million rabbits in Australia.

Michael Kelleher was officially appointed on December 17, 1912 and his resignation dated from November 15, 1914 according to the State Government Gazette, where all Government appointments were listed.

State Government Gazette December 27, 1912

State Government Gazette  November 4, 1914

It appears that the life of a Rabbit Inspector was not  always a happy one and some land owners were against them and their methods as this article from the Pakenham Gazette attests.

Pakenham Gazette November 11, 1914

Friday, October 24, 2014

A short overview of the drainage of the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp.

Drainage works on the Swamp began in the 1850’s on a small scale and in 1875, landowners formed the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Drainage Committee. This Committee employed over 100 men and created drains that would carry the water from the Cardinia and Toomuc Creeks to Western Port Bay. You can still see these drains when you travel on Manks Road, between Lea Road and Rices Road – the five bridges you cross span the Cardinia and Toomuc Creek canals (plus a few catch drains) which were dug in the 1870’s. 

It soon became apparent that drainage works needed to be carried out on a large scale if the Swamp was to be drained and landowners protected from floods. The Chief Engineer of the Public Works Department, William Thwaites, surveyed the Swamp in 1888 and his report recommended the construction of the Bunyip Main Drain from where it entered the Swamp in the north to Western Port Bay and a number of smaller side drains as well. A tender was advertised in 1889. Even with strikes, floods and bad weather, by March 1893 the contractors had constructed the 16 miles of the Drain from the Bay to the south of Bunyip and the Public Works Department considered the Swamp was now dry enough for settlement. In spite of this, the Public Works Department was unhappy with the rate of progress and took over its completion in 1893 and appointed the Engineer, Carlo Catani to oversee the work.

Catani implemented the Village Settlement Scheme. Under this Scheme, all workers had to be married, accept a 20 acre block and spend a fortnight working on the drains for wages and a fortnight improving their block and maintaining adjoining drains. The villages were at Koo-Wee-Rup, Five Mile, Cora Lynn, Vervale, Iona and Yallock. Many of the settlers were unused to farming and hard physical labour, others were deterred by floods and ironically a drought that caused a bushfire. My great grandfather, James Rouse, a widower, arrived on the Swamp with his nine year old son Joe, in 1903. James, who had been a market gardener in England, was part of a second wave of settlers who were granted land as they had previous farming experience.  By 1904, over 2,000 people including 1,400 children lived on the Swamp. By the 1920s, the area was producing one quarter of Victorian potatoes and was also a major producer of dairy products.

 No amount of drainage works could protect Koo-Wee-Rup from the 1934 flood

The original drainage works were completed in 1897 but later floods saw more drainage work undertaken, including widening of the Main Drain and additional side drains. None of these works protected the Swamp against the Big Flood of 1934. The entire Swamp was inundated; water was over six feet deep in the town of Koo-Wee-Rup and over a thousand people were left homeless. Another bad flood hit the Swamp in April 1935 and yet another one in October 1937. A Royal Commission was also established in 1936 and its role was to investigate the operation of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission regarding its administration of Flood Protection districts, amongst other things. The Royal Commission report was critical of the SRWSC’s operation in the Koo-Wee-Rup Flood Protection District in a number of areas and it ordered that new plans for drainage improvements be established. The subsequent works saw the creation of the Yallock outfall drain and the spillway at Cora Lynn, the aim of which was to take the pressure off the Main Drain in flood times and channel the flood waters directly to Western Port Bay.

Today we look at Swamps as wetlands, worthy of preservation, but we need to look at the drainage of the Swamp in the context of the times. Koo-Wee-Rup was only one of many swamps drained around this time; others include the Carrum Swamp and the Moe Swamp. To the people at the time the drainage works were an example of Victorian engineering skills and turned what was perceived as useless land into productive land and removed a barrier to the development of other areas in Gippsland.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Koo-Wee-Rup Brass Band

From Mickle Memories by David Mickle - April 1919: An Enthusiastic meeting in the Koo-Wee-Rup Hall resolved to form a band. Mr G. F. Hopkins presided as Chairman. George Wain was elected President, H.D Mills as Secretary and the following signified that they would join the band - Vernon Mills, A. Purnell (the railway stationmaster), W. Ellett, Billy Ellett, Jack Dalley (injured in the level crossing smash later), D. Blackwood, H. Ellett, F. Boag (Frank or Fred they had  a boarding house in Rossiter’s road near Keighery’s old store) Alf Jeremiah, H. Legge, L. Poole (either Lawson Poole of Tooradin or his cousin Lawson Poole of Cranbourne) 

Others who volunteered for the band were A. C. Colvin (Froggie), Harris D. Mills, Tom Jack, W. Holt, W. Dyer (probably the potato inspector) Ray Mills (Vern’s brother), E. and B. Coates,  Bill Petters and Jim Gardiner (mentioned as the Scottish lamp lighter).

Patrons elected were Cr D. MacGregor, Shire President at the time; J.T. O’Brien, a Councillor who lived at Yallock;  W. C Greaves,  A. Cameron, E Simpson Hill,  a Councillor from Tooradin way; D.J Bourke of the great Bourke Brothers of Monomeith and  J. A Mickle, my uncle.  Quite a turn up of local enthusiasts to work and assist the band.       

I don’t know how long this band went for - they were still going in 1923. In 1923, Mickle also mentions the Koo-Wee-Rup Choral Society. In July that year they performed the play Robin Hood, conducted by Madame Bredin.  Dave Mickle writes that at the full dress rehearsal he took his first flashlight photograph. The flashlight consisted of magnesium paper that was set alight by a match - the flash paper was on a metal tray and went off with a great flash. Dave was doubtful that the first flash worked so he decided to take a second photograph using two sheets of magnesium but many of the Choral Society were so frightened by the first experience they refused to take part a second time!

I was also interested to find that in 1932 Koo-Wee-Rup had a Mouth Organ band, with five performers and with Miss Mavis Colvin as pianist.

Cranbourne had Brass Band, which was founded in May 1899 and we have the Minutes book of another Cranbourne Brass Band which was established on March 24, 1928 - the Minutes book ends in 1934; I don’t know how long the band went on for after that. At the other end of the Swamp, the Iona Brass Band was formed in 1909 and disbanded about 1916 when half their members enlisted in the War.  

Koo-Wee-Rup Brass Band 1919

Koo-wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society photograph