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.

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

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

100 years ago this week - Royal Melbourne Show

Local farmers were preparing their exhibits for the Royal Melbourne Show - 100 years ago this week - as this article from the Bunyip Free Press of September 10, 1914 tells us.

Bunyip Free Press September 10, 1914

I wonder what 'up to date potatoes were?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Bunyip Magistrates Court

The establishment of the Court of Petty Sessions at Bunyip was ‘gazetted’ in the State Government Gazette in an announcement dated February 14, 1905. The first court session took place in Kraft’s Hall which was a privately owned hall operated by William Kraft, of the Gippsland Hotel.  The current Bunyip Hall is on the site of Kraft’s Hall.

The announcement in the State Government Gazette regarding the establishment of the Bunyip Court

The first sitting of the Bunyip Court was held on March 15, 1905. The bench consisted of Mr Cresswell, the Presiding Magistrate, and two Justices of the Peace, Ramage and A'Beckett. The first case concerned Myrtle Morris who was charged with having no visible means of support. Myrtle was remanded to Prahran for a further hearing.  The second case involved a twelve year old, John Mannix, who was charged with endangering property by setting fire to some scrub, which destroyed gates and fences.  He was released into the care of his father who entered a recognizance for the boy's future good behaviour.  This article shows how the legal system has changed (for better or worse depending on your view point) as a 12 year old would never have his name mentioned in relation to a legal trial today.

In another case heard on March 16, 1910 before Presiding Magistrate Harris and JPs A’Beckett and Pearson, George Nicklen of Iona was charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm on his 15 year old niece, Elizabeth Bidwell. The report in the South Bourke and Morning Journal said that he was in the habit of beating the girl unmercifully and the case had been brought under the notice of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. In her evidence, Lizzie Bidwell said her uncle had chained her to a bed for days at a time and he had threatened to hang her with a rope. In the end the poor girl ran away to neighbours who took her to the doctor.  Nicklen denied giving the girl more than she needed and was fined £10.00, plus costs or three months in gaol. Ironically, on the same day the Court fined a man £8 for stealing four heifers or three months in gaol, if he didn’t pay. I don’t know what happened to poor Lizzie Bidwell but it’s sad to think that the Court valued her suffering at about the same rate as the theft of four cows.

The Bunyip Free Press of January 15, 1914 reported that the court was crowded  when four cases of sly grog selling  were launched against an aged Assyrian with the very Anglicised name of  John Ellis. Ellis was represented by Mr M. Davine and had brought his own interpreter as he didn’t speak English. A Revenue Detective, Joseph Blake, had been working undercover in the area and he had visited Ellis on a number of occasions as Ellis had a little shop, with general stock; Ellis also did hair cutting.  Blake alleged that Ellis sold him alcohol, Ellis denied this.  Patrick McGrath, who leased the house to Ellis and had known him for nine years, called Ellis one of the best and straightest men on the Swamp. Mr Davine presented evidence that Joseph Blake was a professional liar and an informer.  In the end, the case was dismissed with the payment of costs; the Presiding Magistrate said we will give Ellis the benefit of the doubt if he will pay costs.  The costs were just over £17 but were reduced to £15 after some haggling; a report a few months later said the costs had been paid.  There was a similar outcome a few months later when Frederick Carpenter was charged with conducting a gambling house in Garfield. The charges were withdrawn on the condition that he paid the Crown’s cost of £15.00.

There are reports of cases in the Court up to 1941 on Trove http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper  and they cover the whole range of legal matters from a committal trial for murder,  theft, assault, traffic matters, debts and failure to send a child to school - in 1914 there was a spate of these and the recalcitrant parents were fined five shillings or 48 hours in the lock up.  I presume that the Court met at the Bunyip Hall, so I would be interested to know if that was the case. According to the State Government Gazette the Bunyip Court closed on May 1, 1981. The announcement stated that the  books and other records of the said Court and of the Clerk thereof be delivered to the Clerk of the Warragul Magistrate’s Court. My parents have no memory of the Court at all, in spite of the fact that Dad has been at Cora Lynn for all his 80 years and Mum has been there since she was married 58 years ago, so perhaps it wasn’t used very often after the Second World War.

The announcement in the  State Government Gazette, regarding the closure of the Bunyip Court  http://gazette.slv.vic.gov.au/

Garfield Hospital

The Bush Nursing Hospital Movement began in 1910 with the establishment of the Victorian Bush Nursing Association (VBNA). At the time the current medical system consisted of big hospitals such as the Royal Melbourne which were run along charitable lines and whose role was to treat poor people, who could not afford to pay a Doctors fee.  There were also private hospitals which only the wealthy could afford. To help offset medical costs Friendly Societies or Lodges were established which people could join for a yearly fee. This gave them access to the Friendly Society doctor and access to medicine dispensed from the Friendly Society Dispensary. There was also a growing move to nurse people in their own homes through what is now the Royal District Nursing Service.  People in the city and the suburbs could have a nurse visit them to help recover from confinements and general illness. This type of service took pressure off the public Hospitals. Lady Dudley, the wife of the Governor General, was aware of these visiting nurses and had also seen first hand the need for skilled nurses in the bush, so from these experiences came the idea of Bush Nursing Hospitals. Lady Dudley promoted and raised money for the idea and thus the Victorian Bush Nursing Association began in 1910.

To obtain a Bush Nursing Hospital, the local community had to raise the money to fund the cost of the nurse’s salary, board, uniform and a ‘means of locomotion’. The salary was set by the Bush Nursing Association at the rate of around £80.00 per annum, the rate of pay for a hospital nurse with five or six years experience. The first Victorian nurse was appointed to Beech Forest in March 1911. Eventually some towns provided cottages for the nurses to provide accommodation for both the nurse and the patient. Koo-Wee-Rup was an early example of this where the original nurse, Nurse Homewood, started work in the bush nursing centre in July 1918; this was later replaced by a Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital. Pakenham’s Bush Nursing Hospital opened in 1926.

According to the book History of Shelley Memorial Hospital by the late Denise Nest, the push to get a hospital in Garfield started about 1930, when Dr Kenneth McLeod proposed the idea. The community raised around £340, but due to the Depression the momentum for Hospital slowed. On December 4, 1940 a meeting was held and the Garfield branch of the VBNA was formed with an Executive and 26 Committee members, so there was obviously a lot of enthusiasm for the idea.  The Committee purchased No. 8 and No. 9 Railway Avenue and a hospital plan was approved. The building could accommodate five beds and would cost about £1500. However the hospital was put on hold due to the War.

A new Committee was elected in December 1944 and it was decided that the hospital would be a Branch of the Warragul Hospital instead of a Bush Nursing Hospital. So in 1945 the Garfield and District Hospital Committee was formed and all the assets of the Garfield branch of the Victorian Bush Nursing Association were transferred to this new committee. From 1946 to 1948 land in Jefferson Road was acquired; some was purchased and some was obtained by swapping the Railway Avenue land with some of the Jefferson Road blocks. All in all blocks 16 to 24 were acquired and plans were drawn up in August 1946 for a 15 bed hospital. This lapsed due to the shortage of material and labour after the War. The Committee went through various changes in personnel, other plans were drawn up but Government finance was not available. By 1948, the Hospital Committee had raised over £2,600. Various submissions were made in the 1950s to the Hospital Commission to get the Garfield Hospital established but to no avail.

However, in January 1944, Mr Emile Shelley, the chemist at Bunyip, passed away and he generously left money for projects for the ‘beautification and advancement of Bunyip’. One idea was a Hospital. In the end, the money that had been raised by the community for the Garfield Hospital, plus the £1,330 realised from the sale of the Jefferson Street land was put together with some of the Shelley Trust money and the Shelley Memorial Hospital Society was established in 1960. The Shelley Memorial Hospital at Bunyip was officially opened on March 19, 1966 and closed on May 1, 1991. The building is now part of Hillview Hostel.