Monday, 4 January 2021

More on Nick Gadd's Melbourne Circle

I've written about Nick Gadd's Melbourne Circle project before and you can check it out here and here.

Now you can read his book.

Read all about Nick's book here

Friday, 6 November 2020

And they're racing at Flemington, November 1956

Argus, 7 November 1956

This photo features Mrs Patricia Poole of East Coburg, according to the Argus newspaper.

I've checked all the usual sources and can’t find any evidence of her being in Coburg, so probably she lived in the area for a short time only. 

It's possible her husband was Stanley Philip Poole born in Northcote in 1917 (died Heidelberg, 1981). If so, then she’s Patricia Wright and they had been married for fifteen years when this photograph was taken.

If anyone can tell me any more about Patricia Poole or the Poole family in Coburg, please get in touch. 

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Chinese market gardens near Newlands Road, 1961


Coburg Courier, 10 October 1961

This photograph was taken almost 60 years ago and it's hard to believe now that there were once flourishing Chinese market gardens where the Coburg Olympic Swimming Pool now stands.

For some years I've collected information and stories of various Chinese individuals and families who lived in the Moreland area. 

Along the way, I've collected anecdotes, like those you see here:
The Chinese lived next to Pentridge past the convict-built bridge in Gaffney Street. They grew vegetables and lived in a building which would not be permitted nowadays. They fertilised their vegetables with human and animal excrement. Their English was mangled but the vegetables were brilliant. The old man also sold dim sims, squatting on the footpath outside Drum’s Hotel. He had some sort of steaming device. I have never tasted a better dim sim since.’ (Watt family member, Fine Crotchet and Common Sense)

Where the baths are, there used to be Chinese who grew their own vegetables. We used to buy most of our vegetables from them. We hardly had to go to Sydney Road at all.’ (We thought we had nothing to say: Stories from Newlands and its people, 1990)

I lived near Coburg Lake and we used to swim there and stole carrots from the Chinese gardens at the back of Coburg Lake until we saw the pan man tip the pans on the gardens. Never ate carrots for a long time. (80 year old, Facebook)

Where the swimming pool is now, the Chinamen owned it. They grew pumpkins and all kinds of vegetables. The larrikins would get hold of the pumpkins and throw then down Murray Road. I don’t know what happened to them, the little devils.’ (Watt family member, Fine Crotchet and Common Sense)

This is an ongoing project. It began when I recorded and researched the men buried in the Chinese Section of Coburg Cemetery. More than two hundred men were buried there between 1908 and 1922. Mostly they were middle-aged men from the impoverished Canton region of southern China, who arrived in Australia before the overthrow of the last Chinese emperor and before Sun Yat-Sen declared China a republic in January 1912.

From there my interest grew and although I've moved on to other projects unrelated to either the Chinese or Moreland history, I'm still interested in pursuing the story of the Chinese in the Moreland area.

If you have a story you can contribute or a resource you can recommend, please let me know.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Street lighting, Brunswick, late nineteenth century

Gas lighter. Image courtesy Moreland City Libraries. Lantern slide no.352.

I'm not sure of the identity of this lamp lighter, but his duties were to light the street lights of an evening then turn them off later in the night.

Coburg's stock inspector in the early 1900s was one-armed James Deeker, who also acted as the Coburg Council's part-time lamp lighter. It must have been a tricky task for a one-armed man and it involved later hours - he'd light the lamps each night at nightfall then turn them off at midnight, presumably then riding home in the dark. 

Friday, 14 August 2020

Selling newspapers on the corner of Blyth Street and Sydney Road, Brunswick, post 1880

Newspaper seller known as 'The General', Blyth Street. Lantern Slide no. 400. Courtesy Moreland Libraries.

It's a great image, isn't it? 

I wonder how many of you noticed the bluestone pavers at the Blyth Street and Sydney Road intersection. Or the bluestone gutters running down the east side of Sydney Road (and presumably on the other side of the road, too). Part of our area's iconic bluestone heritage. 

My eye was drawn, too, to the young man boarding the cable tram. He's wearing a boater, so it's likely to be summer, or at least warmer weather. Another vote for it being summer is that the boys on the left looking at the photographer are shading their eyes from the sun.

Then I wondered whether there were clues in the photo that might give a more accurate year for the photograph. Moreland Libraries has dated it post-1880. (Presumably they were working from the introduction of cable trams along Sydney Road but that wasn't until 1887).

I think it is likely to have been taken in the 1890s. I worked from the name on the shopfront just behind the tram - J. Rough. And on the side of the building I could just make out the words 'Estate Agent'. 

Sands and MacDougall Street Directories (every five years is online at the State Library of Victoria) reveal some of the answers.

In 1885 J. Rough is not listed, so it has to be later than that. He's also not listed in 1900. But he is listed in Sydney Road, Brunswick as an architect, in the 1890 Directory.

It was when I consulted the 1895 SMD (Sands and MacDougall Directory) that I came closest to having a date for the photograph. In that year, James Rough is listed as an estate agent at 505 Sydney Road, Brunswick. There probably wasn't much call for architects during the 1890s Depression. Whether Rough found working as an estate agent any easier is impossible to tell.  
All we know is that he was gone from that location by 1900.

So where does this leave the dating of the photo? 

Until lockdown is over and it is possible to look at hard copy versions of the SMDs (they were produced every year), I can only give a rough time period and my best guess is some time between 1891 and 1899. 

I'd be very interested in hearing from anyone else who can identify something else in this image that might date it more accurately.

And I'd love to know the story of the 'General'. I don't suppose that will ever happen, but you have to admit, the sight of an older man in a bowler hat and three piece suit, no matter how shabby, is intriguing...

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

We've faced a pandemic before. Influenza. 1919

The Influenza crisis made its presence felt in Australia from the time troops returned home from the war in Europe at the end of 1918. 

Our local area was not immune. 

In Brunswick, the Albert Street State School was used as an emergency hospital to begin with, but then, as the crisis deepened, the hospital moved to Broadmeadows where it was managed by the Brunswick Council.

Broadmeadows Influenza Hospital, No. 2 Ward, 1919. 
Courtesy Moreland City Libraries. Image O3.4.

Horse and drag transporting staff from the Emergency Influenza Hospital at Broadmeadows to Bell Street, Coburg, 1919. Courtesy Moreland City Libraries. Image O3.1.

I've written about the influenza epidemic in Coburg before and you can read about that here and here and here

As you can imagine, there were many deaths among returned servicemen and some were given an official military burial at Coburg Cemetery, even though they were not from the local area.

They were:

Died October 1918
4675 Pte William Henry Bullivant
2134 Pte John Burrell
5655 Pte Henry Matson
2893 Sgt R.W. Saunders
5199 Pte Francis Edward Sandie

Died January/February 1919
2913 Pte William Alfred Bushby
5658 Pte Albert Roy Butler
6382 Gnr Kevin McAloon
2536 Pte Wm G. Hefford

Died March/April 1919
2810 Sgt Robert Moore
4790 Pte Thomas F. Donnelly
3755 Cpl Henry Fitzpatrick
1399 Pte Percy Harold Ostler

Died in May/June 1919
2276 Pte Arthur O’Dell Lowes
24420 Driver Christopher M. McKinstry
506 Driver John Sandy

Died in July/August 1919
4559 Sgt Thomas Jones
5450 Pte James Joseph Cleary
367 Cpl Edgar Alfred Bell
3809 Cpl William Robert Fuller
2060 Tpr Athelstane Thomas Rowland
11815 Driver William Ness Law
6286 Pte George John Johnson
Sgt Charles Curtis Dedman (died Sep-Dec 1919)
2536 Pte William G. Hefford

Thursday, 25 June 2020

The faces behind the naming of Harding Street, Coburg

This street was made in the very earliest days of Coburg (when it was still called Pentridge) but was first listed in a Sands and McDougall Street Directory as Harding Road in 1872. By 1911 it was known as Harding Street.

Street Names of Coburg tells us that the street was named for John Harding, listed in the 1868 Directory as a Sydney Road farmer located where the street began, so it's likely that it was an access road to his property in its very earliest days.

John Harding was a devout Methodist and a very early Sunday School teacher (as early as the mid-1840s, according to Richard Broome in his comprehensive history of Coburg).

I came across a photograph of this early Coburg pioneer taken in old age in a 1904 Jubilee History of the Methodist Church in Victoria and Tasmania. 

The volume also included photos of John's son Thomas and his wife Parysatis (nee Kendall), also stalwarts of the Coburg Methodist Church scene of the day.

At first I assumed that all three Harding family members were alive in 1904 when the church history was published, but this was not so.

John Harding died in December 1894 and is buried at Coburg Cemetery with his wife Elizabeth, who predeceased him. (She died in 1877.) They are buried in Methodist Section A, Grave 157.

Their son Thomas died in 1900 aged 69. He, too, is buried in the Methodist Section A (Grave 272) at Coburg Cemetery with his wife Parysatis, who died in 1910.

Parysatis Harding's unusual given name is spelled many different ways in the Victorian birth, death and marriage indexes. I can imagine that this was a constant cause of frustration for her. Parysatis was the name of a Queen of Ancient Persia. There were two of them - one was the mother of Cyrus the Younger and the other married Alexander the Great. I don't suppose there was anyone else in Coburg with that name, although the couple did call one of their daughters Parysatis and the name carried on for at least another generation.

Parysatis Harding was the daughter of another Coburg pioneer and member of the Coburg Methodist Church, John Buck Kendall, of whom I will write in a later blog entry.


Even though I was looking through the Jubilee history for completely different reasons, I now have a gallery of photos of early residents of both Brunswick and Coburg. It is worth remembering that church attendance was almost universal in the 19th and early 20th centuries and that much rich local history material can be gleaned from the pages of church newsletters, histories such as this one and in newspaper articles.

I'll share some of my finds with you over the next few months and hopefully some of you reading this will recognise names and faces and can add to the stories of their lives.