This fragment of memories was found among the papers of Jim Glover, a founder of the Wonthaggi & District Historical Society. It is written in the vernacular of the day and gives us a sense of actually being in the past, listening to a man tell a story.
Visiting a remote Phillip Island beach in 1926 in search of nautilus shells, Raymond Grayden could not have imagined that one day this beach would draw thousands of tourists each evening to view the little penguins.
By Carolyn Landon
THE years between the wars – 1919 to 1939 – were hard years for the working man in Australia. After the First World War, the British Government sent Otto Niemeyer, a London banker, to tell Australia how to get out of debt. His advice was to slash government funding and wages by 30 per cent.
“The State Coal Mine began sacking many miners and cut wages,” Lyn Chambers wrote in a history of the Wonthaggi Miner’s Union Women’s Auxiliary. “It wasn’t long before they stopped improving safety in spite of thirteen miners being killed between 1930 and 1933. The Union called a strike in 1934 that lasted for five months.”
During that time, the miners and the community rallied together to keep their families’ heads above water. They created a committee that oversaw sub-committees for Relief (wood, clothing, food, fuel), Propaganda (speakers to explain conditions and raise funds), Entertainment (raising funds for food and alleviating stress), and Distribution (sharing food to each according to family size).
FORMER Bass Coast mayor Pamela Rothfield’s history of the Phillip Island cemetery has been shortlisted for the Victorian Community History Awards.
Ms Rothfield, who is secretary of the cemetery trust, has researched and documented the first 73 occupants of the Phillip Island cemetery.
In an article published in the Post earlier this year, she relates that her interest in her own family history expanded into an interest in other pioneer families and the stories held by their descendants.
“I led a few walking tours of some of the graves and found there was great interest in these walks and a desire to know more about our pioneers and the lives they had led.
By Bronwen Davies-Griffith
IN DECEMBER 1878 just months after his arrival in Australia, Welshman Llewellyn Rhun Davies-Griffith applied for allotment 20 in the Parish of Wonthaggi. It consisted of more than 318 acres and he received his Crown grant for it in September 1889. He also applied for the 19 acres in nearby allotment 32a. He received his Crown grant for this place in May 1898.
He and Georgina Hull were married at All Saints Church, St Kilda, in 1880 and made their home on allotment 32a half a mile from Clump Tree Hill in the Parish of Wonthaggi. Six of their seven sons were born while they lived there. Llewellyn and Georgina's Wonthaggi home was a six-roomed weatherboard and plastered house with an iron roof and front verandah. They had four acres of cultivated orchard and gardens, stockyards, sheds, hut and fencing and two waterholes.
THE Criterion was Wonthaggi’s short-lived first newspaper. These front-page editorial cartoons by Cyril Dobbs were published during 1910.
Little is known about Dobbs. According to a citation on Design and Art Australia Online, he contributed to the Bullletin and drew cartoons for a publication called the Gadfly in 1907 when, aged 17, he was living in Melbourne.
If the dates are correct, it means that he was just 20 when he did these cartoons for The Criterion. His connection to Wonthaggi is unknown, but he was clearly pro-union, pro-Labor and pro-miner and anti-capitalist.
This essay was first published in The Plod, the newsletter of the Wonthaggi & District Historical Society.
Mr Bonney's friends jokingly called it The Wilderness but this settler made a wise choice when he selected scrub-covered land at The Gurdies in the 1880s.
By Carolyn Landon
THERE are more people in Wonthaggi this winter coughing and sneezing and blowing and generally taking to their beds than I can remember anywhere. They say it’s been a bad year for the flu: the hospitals and care centres have been declared off-limits to visitors and people have been going around wearing masks or staying home and not going around at all.
Maybe this small selection of advertisements from the local papers of early Wonthaggi will make us all – including me – feel better.
By John Hutchinson and Ray Burtt
IF PINE Lodge still existed, it would be the prime historic building in Inverloch, yet its fame would go wider. The story of Pine Lodge and the visionary who built it during the Great Depression are legendary.
Sitting on seven acres at the comer of Ramsey Parade and Scarborough Street, it cost a reputed $40,000 to build in 1930. It was built on what was known as Graham’s Pine Paddock by Calvert Wyeth, better known as Cal Wyeth. Wyeth had trained as a pilot in World War One but the Great War finished before he could challenge the enemy with his new flying skills.
Racing pigeons was considered a working class pastime, just right for the working men of Wonthaggi.
By Rod Churchill
I’LL TELL a little story. I was born on a farm at Kilcunda. We had pigeons on the farm and so I brought a few of them into Wonthaggi when my parents sold the farm. I started playing cricket with the Workmen’s Club. There were a number of people in the team who raced pigeons.
It took me a while to become interested in pigeons because I was really into cars, racing cars. Back in those days, I had the fastest car around. If you had a fast car, blokes used to come from other towns to see if they could beat you. We used to go out to the Korumburra Road, which was straight and flat and a quarter mile. One Saturday night I was dragging this fellow from Traralgon. There would be cars on either side of the road and we would be dragging down the middle of the road. Well, I finished in front and when I got to the end of the run there were these blue lights flashing. All of a sudden I was pulled over. And who got out of the car but Terry Weir and Billy Studham, two Wonthaggi Policemen. I played cricket with them. And I knew they raced pigeons.
By Carolyn Landon
This is the story of a man whose cleverness and energy helped to shape Wonthaggi. Fred Webb hasn’t been around since 1985, but his presence is felt every day when the mine whistle blows in the middle of town to signal midday, or whenever anyone passes “Webb’s Shed” in McKenzie Street.
This essay is based on a speech Fred gave about his life in Wonthaggi called “A Young Man and his Truck”, plus additional information taken from an essay, Red Wonthaggi, by Carol Cox (Bass Coast Post, November 1, 2014), and Kit Sleeman's explanation of red stone in his PLOD essay Drains (June 6, 2016).
By Florence Guilfoyle
I WAS born at the Gurdies in 1897. My father, Henry Edwards Cole, a surveyor who later worked on the Wonthaggi line, had a property which backed on to the Hurdy Gurdy creek. I had four brothers, twins born in 1893 and two younger brothers.
My grandfather William Henry Cole from Harrow in England was a pioneer of the Hurdy Gurdy and went there in 1885. He lived in a wattle and daub hut on the bank of the creek. Over his hut he planted a grape vine which bore luscious purple grapes for many years.
Pamela Rothfield’s meticulous history of the first 73 occupants of the Phillip Island cemetery provides a moving snapshot of this fledgling society: the vulnerability of babies, children and pregnant women, the prevalence of depression, the high rate of death by accident.
By Merryn Chapman
MY grandfather Bruce Campbell feels that he has grown up in the luckiest family, in the luckiest district, in the luckiest country in the world. Here is some of his story.
Bruce’s grandparents John and Rebecca Campbell leased some land on the banks of the Bass River In 1891. They built a house and a 60-foot-long milking shed using tea tree from the land they cleared.
The house had a dirt floor. Rebecca had to carry water up from the river and cooked in an open fire in the kitchen. As their needs expanded, they just extended the house until it was quite a grand building with a verandah on both sides.
Last shift, Kirrak shaft. December 20, 1968. From left, Unknown, Alan Thompson (mine manager), Gus Pizzol, Giovanni Bordignon, Bill Coulton, Fred Oldaker (?), Bill Bernardi, Frank Zanella, Bill Morgan, Arnado Caile, Unknown, Mario Ghitti, Unknown, Tony Bernardi, Bill Hudson, E. P. Rogan (Deputy Commissioner of Railways), Jim Byrnes (general manager), Jack Battaglia, Ray Williams, Leo Vivian, Paddy Sleeman. Photo: Tom Gannon, Wonthaggi Express.
NEXT Friday marks 50 years since the official closure of the Wonthaggi State Coal Mine. The last shift of miners emerged from Kirrak shaft on the morning of December 21 1968 to be greeted by their fellow workers, a few casual onlookers and a contingent of reporters and photographers from Melbourne.
Descendants of some of Phillip Island’s first selectors will be among a cast re-enacting the first land ballot in Cowes next weekend.
HISTORIAN and conservationist Christine Grayden has received the Museums Australia Victoria Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her 40 years of volunteer work documenting and protecting the heritage of Phillip and Churchill islands. She was presented with her award at Melbourne Museum on August 29.
FOR almost 155 years, the remains of a wooden sailing ship have been buried in the sands of the Inverloch surf beach.
Next month a team of maritime archaeologists and students will begin a major project to discover more about the wreck of the Amazon, a rare example of a mid-19th century wooden cargo carrier.
A musical and acrobatic show in Bass Coast next weekend pays tribute to some of the least likely heroes of the First World War: the musicians who also acted as stretcher-bearers and medics
Two days after leading a crazily brave attack on enemy lines in April 1918, Ernest Berryman of Glen Forbes, was killed in action. He is buried in a French cemetery.
The young private is one of 103 service men and women with connections to the Bass Valley district who will be honoured at the unveiling of a plaque in Bass next month.
The plaque will be unveiled at 2pm on Sunday, October 7, opposite the Cenotaph in Hade Avenue, Bass, followed by a presentation at the local cricket club, where many of the soldiers played cricket before enlisting.
BASS Valley Friends of the RSL secretary Trish Thick says descendants of the Anzacs are warmly welcome to attend both events but they need help in locating them. (The Anzacs’ names are listed below.)
The Wonthaggi & District Historical Society has many hand-written reminiscences which are being transcribed into typewritten form, both for legibility and longevity. They include a series of notes and memoirs written by Arthur Baker. Not much is known about Arthur but his writing is distinctive and quite beautiful, both in content and form.
Carol Cox, who is transcribing the stories, said they were passed to the historical society by Peter and Lorna Hall. In the 1980s they were lessees of a caravan park in East Gippsland where Arthur lived in an old small caravan, and he entertained them for many hours with his stories which he eventually put into writing for them.
Mr and Mrs Hall knew Arthur as a retired wild dog trapper who had a vast knowledge of the East Gippsland Highlands, possibly because his father had been a botanist. Judging from his notes, he was also a miner at some stage.
Arthur is buried in the Marlo cemetery - Mr Hall believes he died in the late 1980s aged in his late 70s.
More than a century after the first Western Port Times went out of business, a new online version is uncovering the rich history of the Waterline communities.
Real estate agents like to accentuate the positive and when it comes to Inverloch their imaginations have run wild. The results of a century of spruiking are on display in a fascinating new exhibition.
The shacks built in the dunes of Harmers Haven and the fibro shacks that followed were holiday homes to a tight-knit socialist community, writes Marguerita Stephens.
Jim Bell never forgot the day the gaming squad raided the Wonthaggi Workmen’s Club with sledgehammers and axes. (Warning: Jim’s stories always contained strong language.)