On This Day …

Friday, 11th May 1849

Today I have been reading The Argus newspaper from Melbourne, for this date back in 1849. For those who live in Melbourne, you might this snippet interesting …

Town Allotments.— A considerable number of new allotments have been surveyed and marked out for sale, between the Flag Staff and the Swamp, abutting upon La Trobe and Spencer  streets, and a new street called after Judge Jeffcott. They will not, however, be put up to sale except upon special application, and under any circumstances we should recommend their being withheld, till the removal of the boiling-down establishments has rendered the neighbourhood a little less obtrusive upon the olfactories. We have before noticed the abandonment of the lane system, which has been productive of so much mischief. The streets are all marked out of equal width, but we doubt whether a narrowing of the blocks would not prove a still further advantage, in depressing the tendency to the creation of rookeries, narrow rights of way, and other nuisances. In future, town allotments are only to consist of a quarter acre each, the frontage remaining the same, but going only half-way through to the next street. This, too, appears a  judicious step, and we fancy that the Government will find their account in it, in the shape of an increased proportionate price for the allotments.

Thirteen years after the establishment of the new colony, and this is where they were developing.

jeffcott st

The West Melbourne Swamp mentioned was to the left of this piece of map, and from the little research I have done, the boiling-down works would have been nearby in Footscray. So, at the time of releasing these allotments, I doubt they would have been very attractive to the nose. And I’m not sure what they mean about doing away with the lane system — aren’t there lanes everywhere in Melbourne???

Would you have tried to buy one of these stinky quarter acre lots?

Published in: on 10th May, 2013 at 10:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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Thursday 3rd May, 1804

Trugannini, the last surviving aborigine from Tasmania, 1866

Today is a sad day in our history. It is a day that the Battle of Risdon took place in Risdon Cove, Tasmania.

Tasmania, then known as Van Diemen’s Land, was newly colonised by the English — only the previous year in September, in fact — so the settlement must have still been rather small with only approximately fifty people. Meanwhile another settlement began only seven kilometres away at Sullivans Cove (which eventually became Hobart).

On the day in question a band of 300 aborigines on a kangaroo hunt happened to enter the settlement. The settlers, thinking they were under attack and probably alarmed by the large number of natives, began to fire upon them. Naturally the aborigines retreated, but not before several were killed.

The original accounts state that only two or three natives died with further numbers wounded, but accounts given decades later increased the number to the fifties and even later the number grew to over one hundred.

Whatever the case is, it was a tragedy for the original owners of the land, and a terrible beginning to the complete decimation of the native people in Tasmania. The last full-blooded aborigine from Tasmania died in 1876.

Does it make you sad that some of our ancestors were involved in wiping out a race? I know it grieves me, even if they were not directly my ancestors.

Published in: on 3rd May, 2013 at 11:24 am  Comments (8)  
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On This Day …

Tuesday 5th April, 1932

Phar_LapEighty-one years ago today, Australia’s wonder horse, Phar Lap, died mysteriously at only five years of age. At the time, Phar Lap was the third highest stakes winner in the world.

Anyone who has been to the Melbourne Museum has seen Phar Lap, preserved by the brilliance of taxidermy for everyone to be able to behold this hero. And anyone who has been to the National Museum in Canberra has been able to view Phar Lap’s heart — a heart that is almost double the normal size of a horse’s heart. His skeleton is apparently on show in a museum in New Zealand.

He was a horse that came from New Zealand, and brought for a bargain at 160 guineas, although when the new owner and trainer saw him, they were disappointed. Phar Lap did not look like much. The trainer, Harry Telford, worked with him anyway and although Phar Lap did not win his first race, he quickly began to slide up the ranks of winners.

Phar Lap won 37 out of 51 races over his four-year career. His name was derived from a Zhuang and Thai word for lightning — an appropriate name, I think. When he died so suddenly, it was immediately thought he was poisoned. However it has only recently been proven that Phar Lap was given a large dose of arsenic thirty to forty hours before he died. There was never enough evidence to charge anybody, but it is fairly obvious that the motive had to do with money.

Phar Lap was a remarkable horse that has gone down in history as one of Australia’s favourites.

Have you visited Phar Lap in any of the museums mentioned above? What did you think?

Published in: on 5th April, 2013 at 10:52 am  Comments (2)  
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Monday 22nd March, 1897

391px-EBarton1-1In early Australian history, the country was governed by six separate administrating bodies: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia.

In the late 1800s, Edmund Barton came to the forefront of Australian politics. As a member of the Legislative Council, he showed support for the federation of Australia — joining all the colonies under one government. In his campaigning over several positions he held, he nurtured support for federation amongst the people, and continued to campaign even when he didn’t hold a position.

By 1897 Barton was recognised as the leader of the federation movement. In March 1897, Edmund Barton lead the convention to discuss the constitution for the Commonwealth of Australia. Many further amendments and discussions took place, until the bill for federation finally passed in June 1899. Royal Assent was received in July 1900, and on the 1st January, 1901, the Commonwealth of Australia was officially proclaimed.

Edmund Barton went on to become the first Prime Minister of Australia, and was knighted in 1902, becoming Sir Edmund Barton.

In hind sight, Australian politics is quite interesting, but I must admit modern politics is a big turn-off for me. Do you enjoy keeping an eye on the politics of our country?

Published in: on 22nd March, 2013 at 10:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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Thursday 12th March, 1868

375px-Henry_James_O'FarrellPrince Alfred, the second son of Queen Victoria, the Duke of Edinburgh, was the first royal visitor to Australia. At the age of twelve, he joined the navy, becoming a lieutenant by the time he was nineteen. Three years later he was made captain and given command of the frigate HMS Galatea.

In 1867, Prince Alfred departed for a voyage around the world, stopping at several ports before landing in South Australian in October of that year. He spent five months in different parts of our country — Adelaide, Melbourne, Tasmania, Brisbane and Sydney — and was generally very well received. Let’s face it, what royal visitor isn’t?

That is, until Henry James O’Farrell came onto the scene in Sydney. On 12th March, 1868, Prince Alfred attended a picnic on the beachfront, an event to help raise funds for the Sydney Sailors’ Home. While enjoying his afternoon O’Farrell approached him from behind and shot him in the back. The bullet hit the Prince, missing his spine by two inches and thankfully missing any other important organs.

The city of Sydney was in a tizzy of excitement, mixed with embarrassment after the attempted assassination. O’Farrell was quickly tried and hanged on the 21st April, in spite of even Prince Alfred trying to intervene. O’Farrell was an extreme anti-royalist and anti-British as well, but perhaps had some mental health issues too.

Prince Alfred was successfully nursed back to health by an attentive team of doctors and nurses and he sailed for home in early April. But in memory of the prince and in gratitude of his recovery, a hospital was built and named The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

Published in: on 13th March, 2013 at 10:37 am  Comments (4)  
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On This Day …

Wednesday 9th March, 1870

Photo by Brandon Heyer

Photo by Brandon Heyer

It is the anniversary of the death of Maria Ann Smith (Nee Sherwood), made famous by her strain of fabulous cooking apples — the Granny Smith.

Maria was the daughter of a farm worker and married a farm worker. She and her husband were recruited to Australia by government agents looking for people with agricultural skills.

So, the couple settled in Ryde, near Sydney, which at the time was a big fruit-growing area. The Granny Smith originated when Maria discovered a chance seedling in 1868, thought to be a hybrid of the European Crab Apple and the common domestic apple, and propagated it.

While the new strain of apples were not commercially grown in her lifetime, the Granny Smith was awarded the award for ‘best cooking apple’ at the 1891 Castle Hill Agricultural and Horticultural Show. By 1895 the Granny Smith began a life as an export trade commodity and is now loved the world over.

Hmm, all this talk about Granny Smiths makes me want to cook up a big apple pie … or an apple crumble … with custard! What is your favourite dish or dessert to use Granny Smith apples in?

Published in: on 8th March, 2013 at 10:41 am  Comments (4)  
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On This Day …

Friday 1st March, 1901

Victorian stamp 1855

Victorian stamp 1855

It is interesting to note the history of our postal system in Australia. Something we really take for granted these days, but which began with a single post office in Sydney, opened by Governor Macquarie in June 1810 and run by the ex-convict Isaac Nichols, to sort mail coming into the colony with the arriving ships. Overland mail routes began in the late 1820s and by 1844, every town had a post box. Over the years up until 1900, each colony in Australia set up their own postal system with their own stamps and charges.

After Federation, it was decided to combine all of these services under the one centralised organisation — the Postmaster-General’s Department. This officially began on the 1st March, 1901, and later on not only covered the postal system, but the telecommunications system as well. Until 1913 all the states had their own stamps, but were changed to the Commonwealth standard stamp series from then on.

Australian Stamp 1929

Australian Stamp 1929

In 1975 the Postmaster General’s Department was separated into the Australian Postal Commission (Australia Post) and the Australian Telecommunications Commission (Telecom, or as we now know it, Telstra).

In 1911 it cost one penny to send a letter from anywhere in Australia to anywhere else in Australia and at that time it caused a boom in the number of letters mailed. Now it costs 60c, but there are probably less letters sent due to the popularity of e-mail. Do you still like to send ‘snail mail’?

Published in: on 1st March, 2013 at 10:30 am  Comments (2)  
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On This Day …

Sunday 21st February, 1802

800px-StateLibQld_1_150135_Investigator_(ship)In December of 1801, Matthew Flinders set out with his ship the Investigator to complete a mission of circumnavigating the continent and charting the coastline — a journey which took just over eighteen months. A journey that would hold the joys of discovery and the pain of loss.

On the Sunday in question, along the South Australian coast, water supplies were running low and Flinders sent a cutter to the mainland with eight of his crew, to find and bring back some water. The cutter was glimpsed on its return journey, but within half and hour had not arrived.

A quick search was made, but with fading light, not much could be done. The next morning, a search revealed the shattered remnants of the cutter on the shore, but not one of the men’s bodies were found. A tragic loss for Flinders, as one of them was a good friend, Mr Thistle.

After a few days of searching, Flinders went ashore and fixed a copper plaque in memorial and named the place Memory Cove. The point where the wreck occurred, he named Cape Catastrophe, and the surrounding islands were given the names of the lost seamen: Thistle, Taylor, Smith, Lewis, Grindal, Little, Hopkins and Williams.

The Investigator’s cutter was the first boat to be a victim of the unpredictable coast of South Australia, and since then there have been at least 800 shipwrecks in the area.

Published in: on 22nd February, 2013 at 10:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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Wednesday 16th February, 1983

Fire DestructionWhile this event is not so long in the past, it is still one which evokes strong memories. As a child, thirty years ago, living near the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, I can remember the day that ashes dropped from the sky as I swam in my backyard pool and the atmosphere was filled with the kind of smoky yellow haze that makes the sun appear to be a thousand times bigger than normal.

The conditions that day were much like the conditions in the more recent Black Saturday fires, the day felt abnormal from the start. People died. Homes burned to the ground. Stock was lost.

And yet, I find it interesting that the day was already named Ash Wednesday even before the fires broke out. On the Christian calendar it was marked as the first day of Lent, a period of fasting and praying leading up to Easter, symbolic of Christ’s time in the desert where he faced temptation. Ash Wednesday because believers trace a cross on their foreheads with ash to remind them of our mortality, a sign of mourning and repentance.

I think that nothing can remind us of our mortality more than a tragedy like a raging bushfire which takes lives without discretion. No wonder that many turn to God in times like that.

Do you remember Ash Wednesday? Where were you and what were you doing?

Published in: on 15th February, 2013 at 10:58 am  Comments (3)  
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On This Day …

Saturday February 8th, 1879

Ned_kelly_day_before_execution_photographAustralians seem to celebrate our historical outlaws for some reason. Strangely, we think there is something exciting or even romantic about the bushranging lifestyle. But as I read about Ned Kelly, I almost shuddered. What took place on this day, and the following couple of days would have been quite frightening for those involved.

Imagine, the townsfolk of Jerilderie were sleeping this Saturday morning. While still in the middle of the night, Ned and his gang rode into town, their first stop, the local constabulary. There, they tricked the policemen, locked them in their own cell, took their uniforms and then proceeded to head about town posing as constables protecting the town from bushrangers.

The true constable’s wife was made to hand over all firearms, while dressed in her nightgown and with children to look after. What terror that poor woman must have gone through. On Sunday she had to prepare the courthouse for a church service, but had to be accompanied by one of the gang the whole time.

On Monday they robbed the bank, stealing over  2000 pounds, then proceeded to spend some of it in the pubs about town. The rest of the day they stole all sorts of things, including horses, then vandalised the telegraph office, before finally leaving town at about 7pm.

During his stay in Jerilerie, Ned Kelly dictated a letter complaining of his treatment by the police, part of which reads: ‘…the brutal and cowardly conduct of a parcel of big ugly fat-necked wombat headed big bellied magpie legged narrow hipped splaw-footed sons of Irish Bailiffs or english landlords which is better known as Officers of Justice or Victorian Police…’ Now, I don’t know if there was any truth to his claims of ill-treatment, but I do know that insulting people is not the way to get them on your side. I’d be surprised if anyone took his letter seriously, fifty-six pages long as it was.

How do you think you would have reacted if a gang of thieves rode into your town and held it hostage for the weekend?

Published in: on 8th February, 2013 at 10:58 am  Comments (4)  
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