30 December, 2012

Seeing things from a different angle

This week we are holidaying in Torquay which is about 15km west of my usual haunt at Barwon Bluff from which I check out our southern coastline. It is a little too far from the river mouth to claim that the flora and fauna are directly related to the Barwon, but it does provide an angle for some photos which I haven't really noticed before.
Last night after dinner we went to White's Beach for a wander and I took the camera. The view to the west, looking back towards Torquay township and the sunset was of course spectacular.

Sunset view looking towards Torquay and Point Danger
In the opposite direction the view is equally expansive, but would need to be photographed at dawn to achieve the same impact with the light...and let's just say, I'm not a morning person....
Barwon Heads Bluff

White's Beach looking towards Barwon Heads Bluff
The bird life in the area is not so different to that at Barwon Heads with the same mixture of introduced and native species whilst the various man-made lakes which lie behind the dunes and throughout the golf course host the expected water birds.
The view from the opposite direction: looking towards Torquay from Barwon
Heads Bluff
With any luck I'll get a chance to investigate a little more closely over the next few days....




24 December, 2012

A Christmas perennial

With the imminent arrival of Christmas and most of the shopping (if not the cooking) out of the way, I thought it would be timely to write a post with a Christmas theme. The problem was, I was a little short of ideas as to what I should write. As far as I am aware, the Barwon isn't exactly a huge focus of Christmas festivities for the various communities along its length.
A quick Google search provided me with everything I needed to know about booking Christmas accommodation in Barwon Heads, but that was not what I was looking for. I toyed with the idea of featuring some of the many Christmas barbeques and picnics which are held on the banks of the river but thought that perhaps the locals wouldn't be too keen on having their celebrations interrupted by a strange woman with a camera.
So, what was my angle? Last year I went with a mistletoe theme which has been one of my more popular posts, but this year I needed something new. The weather yesterday was - to say the least - rather warm, so after dinner with the family in tow I headed down for a sunset stroll along the river banks. We rambled along towards Breakwater, applying liberal amounts of Aeroguard in a futile attempt to keep the mozzies at bay and then stopped at the bridge while the kids poked around in the water with sticks (my apologies to the fishermen below the breakwater for the noise!).
In no particular hurry - and still with no ideas for my Christmas-themed post - we headed past the golf course and into the stand of sheoaks a few hundred metres before the boat ramp. Then, as we rounded a corner Sarah made an interesting discovery. One of the sheaoks had been decked out in baubles, tinsel and a home-drawn message:
The Jansen's Christmas tree
 The Barwon it seemed now has its very own Christmas tree and I had found my Christmas post for 2012! But who had perpetrated this wilful act of Christmas cheer and why?
Well as it turns out, that was quickly explained. While I snapped a few shots and the boys investigated the baubles, Sarah read the note, whipped out her iPhone (well, opened the Internet browser. The phone itself seems to be firmly enough attached to her hand that it may need surgical removal at some point) and pulled up the blog address provided.
The mystery tree decorators were the Jansen family, the link was to their blog Perennial and it seems that they and the kids had decided some bauble bombing was in order and that the Barwon was the place to do it.
A Christmas message
Rather than repeat the story, I would suggest you go and have a look at the blog for yourself or better still if you're a local, go for a wander and have a look at their tree and then leave a comment on the blog. The kids (Sam and Milly) are dying to hear what people think of their tree!As for us, with the light fading fast and the bats gliding overhead, we completed our loop and headed for home.
I did stop at one point once we had crossed back to our side of the river to take some shots of the possum who lives in the trees near the boat sheds, but it was rather dark by that stage, he was too high up the tree and I discovered that it was very hard to get a clear shot in virtual darkness whilst writhing continually in an attempt to dislodge the dozens of mozzies which had suddenly materialised when I stopped to take my photos.
Moorabool Street at Dusk
Well, the temperature wasn't quite so warm today and I needed a run to offset the impending effects of Christmas. It also occurred to me that there was an extra photo I needed to take, so I plotted my route to finish at the "Christmas tree" and had the support crew meet me there. While they waited for me to drag myself around 12km of scenic river views, they did a little housekeeping, replacing a few fallen baubles and straightening up the tinsel.
Finally, I staggered to my goal and we dragged out the camera.

Sarah, Connor and Fionn under the tree


 Happy Christmas Jansens! From the Mitchells!



12 December, 2012

Oh baby!

Well it is certainly that time of the year and having just hosted two kids' birthday parties I know how the various feathered denizens of the Barwon must feel!
Now that I can actually get back to the river without the need of walking aids, I've been able to cover a bit of ground - although not as far or as fast as I'd hoped during this morning's rather warm run. The most obvious seasonal change I've noticed is the explosion in the bird population which has resulted in a number of rather cute photo opportunities which are the justification for this post.
Firstly I noticed a couple of Dusky Moorhen chicks at Balyang Sanctuary a couple of weeks back, but headed back today to take some clearer shots:
Dusky Moorhen mother and chicks at Balyang Sanctuary
 There were several different pairs of birds, each with up to three chicks.
Next I came across a White-faced Heron chick and a pair of Pied Currawongs nesting not far from Barwon Valley Golf Course (photos of these are on the Birds Nests page).
During a ride last week-end I came across a family of Australian Wood Ducks beside - appropriately enough - the duckpond at Queen's Park.
Australian Wood Duck family
They weren't overly impressed by my arrival and rapidly headed for the opposite side of the pond. A few weeks earlier I saw an older brood who were paddling about opposite the boatsheds, however I haven't seen them of late.

More Australian Wood Ducks
This afternoon I also came across a number of impending parents including a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and a neighbouring pair of Long-billed Corellas who had each set up home in different branches of the same large eucalypt at Balyang Sanctuary (again, see the Birds Nests page). Actually, I was interested to see the cockatoo was present. During an earlier visit, at which time it was presumably looking to secure some spacious family accommodation, it appeared to be facing some stiff opposition from a scouting party of bees, who indeed may have felt they had some prior claim as this particular hole was used as a hive in a previous season. The cocky didn't seem too perturbed and just shook its head when the bees got too close or perhaps when the buzzing in its ears became too loud. Today there was not a bee in sight.
Not far away a pair Mudlarks was sharing adjacent branches with a couple of Willie Wagtails who predictably spent quite some time trying to convince me that their nest was nowhere nearby.
Willie Wagtail nesting on the Barwon at Balyang Sanctuary
Of course I have both seen and heard various other young birds over the last few weeks and have also seen a number of as yet unidentified nests. With any luck I'll be able to snap a few more pics and find out who's living in those nests!


30 November, 2012

Taking the heat

Well summer is certainly here! With an estimated top temperature for Geelong of 38°C and the mercury creeping up to 37° by 4:30pm it was certainly a warm day for a ride around the river. I started out at a balmy 28°C and kept to the shade as the temperature continued to climb.
In a - currently futile - attempt to add some photos to my newly created bird nests page, I was riding relatively slowly and scanning the overhead branches. I was also trying to ride in a relatively straight line, not collide with other cyclists or pedestrians and - oh yes - keep an eye out for snakes at the same time.
Well, I didn't run anyone down and I suspect it was too hot even for the snakes. I was making frequent stops and did discover several nests, but with no-one appearing to be home I couldn't tell who they belonged to.
I also spent quite some time chasing the perfect bird shot for this year's Barwon calendar. As I lurked amongst the tangled lignum a raven appeared and perched in a nearby eucalypt. (Don't ask me what sort, it's just too darn hard to tell them apart!) It perched for a while, beak open and then left me to continue my sneaking around in the undergrowth.
Raven aka Crow
Over an hour later and still not sure I got the right shot, I headed off again. I stopped briefly at a couple of nests I'd seen last week, snapped a few shots of some ducks on a branch and kept going.
Just before the boat ramp I spotted a Grey Butcherbird - also with its beak gaping. It struck me as odd that I hadn't ever noticed birds doing this before. A little further down the track and I saw a Starling. The same again, and then I came across a small group of Mudlarks. Their beaks were also open, however as they didn't stop shouting the whole time I was nearby so it was a little hard to tell what they were up to.
Grey Butcherbird
Finally, as I headed back past the boatsheds it soon became apparent that all the Silver Gulls (aka seagulls) which were usually scattered along the riverbank were all camped out under under one of the ash trees and yes, you guessed it! A good number of them had their beaks hanging open.
Silver Gull aka Seagull

By now I was fairly sure I was onto something and a quick Google search when I got home proved what I had suspected (and plenty of people probably know already): birds pant or gape when they are hot!
I soon discovered that birds - like dogs - do not have sweat glands, so they rely on other means to dissipate heat. The basic mechanism is still evaporative cooling and in birds this occurs through the mouth by panting - although heat exchange through unfeathered skin (such as legs) also occurs. Some (but perhaps not all?) non-passerine birds (ie those which do not belong to the order Passeriformes) also use a technique called "gular flutter" which involves vibrating the floor of the mouth and the upper parts of the throat.
Another quick Google search told me that ravens, butcherbirds, starlings and mudlarks were all passerines. Great, but what about the seagulls? Well Google didn't want to tell me about the specifics of Australian seagulls and the seagulls didn't mention it either. They just stood in the shade with their beaks hanging open.
From what I did find, gular flutter varies depending on the mechanics of each species' throat but in all cases it is more energy efficient than panting alone. Pelicans can do it, herons can do it too and so do cormorants, ducks, pigeons and a variety of other types of gull, so I guess the seagulls can also.
White-faced Heron chick
I now notice that whilst the adult White-faced Heron I saw was not gaping, the chick in the nest did appear to be.
Of course, the other side of the thermoregulatory coin is keeping warm when the weather is cold. Feathers provide obvious protection, but legs are also very important. In some species, leg veins and arteries are located closely side-by-side so that cool venous blood returning to the body is warmed via heat exchange as it passes arterial blood leaving the core.
Another obvious means of heat retention is of course, covering the bare skin. So, when you see a seagull or a duck standing on one leg, it is most probably not a poor little cripple, it is just a bit cool. Additionally, sitting down to cover both legs, tucking your beak into your side, fluffing up your feathers and facing downwind to minimise the surface area exposed to a cold breeze are also good ways to reduce heat loss if you are a bird.

Pacific Black Duck
Clearly the above photo is not a recent one, with all the ducks I saw during my ride either standing firmly on two legs, or (perhaps the best option) in the water.


17 November, 2012

The Willows

As promised, in this post I intend to pinpoint as closely as possible the location of the camping spot on the Barwon known as The Willows which was so beloved of Geelong Grammar in the 19th century as well as being popular with both the wider community and Grammar's long-time rival, Geelong College.
Part of the problem with trying to locate the spot was simply the extensive number of willows which were planted along the banks of the river during the 19th and early 20th centuries. And these weren't just incidental plantings by individuals but rather, were introduced as part of civic beautification programs and - ironically - to control bank erosion across an extended time period.

Willow on the river bank below Barwon Grange
By the 1930s however, there were problems in some parts of the river and money was being provided by the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission to clear the willows from the upper reaches of the Barwon where they were clogging the flow. By contrast, downstream at Geelong and beyond, willows were still being planted. On 19th February, 1934 the Geelong Advertiser reported that recent plantings of willow had taken well and were now 6 ft high.  Then again, articles such as The Tragedy of the Barwon which appeared in The Argus of 14th May, 1949 highlighted the problem with willows.
But in the latter half of the 19th century when the boys from Grammar and College were honing their rowing skills on the lower reaches of the Barwon or whiling away their weekends around a campfire under the drooping branches, there was little concept of the problems ahead.
All of this meant that pinning down the precise location of a campsite simply known as The Willows was not exactly an easy process, but here is what I found:
The publication Light Blue Down Under: The History of Geelong Grammar School by Weston Bate made the following statement:

On the river their favourite breakfast place was The Willows, 8 kilometres downstream past the Barwon Breakwater, called simply 'the break'.


Willows and other exotic plantings immediately below the breakwater and the
 remnant chimney belonging to the "Willows" fellmongery of Dan Fowler
The Illustrated Heritage Guide to the Geelong College noted that:

The Willows was the name of a popular picnicking location on the Barwon River six miles downriver from the boat shed.

A little plotting using Google Earth showed me that - assuming the course of the river has not changed significantly in the intervening years - the two distances mentioned are only a few hundred metres apart...in the middle of Reedy Lake. Possible perhaps as there seem to be some areas not completely waterlogged, but unlikely as this was a publicly accessible picnic ground.
By contrast, many of the indirect references I located, pointed to the site being on the north bank of the river near Wilsons or Coppards Road, perhaps on the bend which is located between the two. My reasoning in thinking this was firstly, the place names mentioned in the poem Anabasis of the Alice by James Lister Cuthbertson which I mentioned in a previous post and I quote:

No check, no stay at The Willows
That redden in tender bloom,
But forward - and St Albans
Fades in the river gloom;
The crew in the poem are rowing from Barwon Heads to the school boat shed in town. An earlier part of the poem sees them enter Reedy Lake and then race another crew before rowing past The Willows and then 'St Albans', the stud built in 1873 for James Wilson, the famous racehorse trainer. His poem "Easy All" refers to cows grazing in nearby fields and "A Lament For The Willows" declaims:

No more do the thoroughbreds cluster
And stand in the cool of the shade,
To dream of the Flemington muster...
'St Albans' Homestead from Boundary Road
This surely refers to the bloodstock at St Albans Stud and is consistent with the following passage from the Church of England Grammar School Geelong History and register 1907 which states:

From Goat Island to the Willows the river is at its broadest and best; indeed, half-a-dozen eights could row abreast on the magnificent Long Reach, with its willow bordered shore....But what need of words: the Willows are the Willows, and for ever enshrined in the hearts of all true Grammar School Boys, who, one and all, feel to the successive proprietors of St Albans a deep debt of gratitude for allowing them, in Bean Lean's language "wood and water".

View downriver from the end of Boundary Road
Next, I found a newspaper report from September, 1903 detailing the accidental drowning of an 8 year old boy - incidentally a student at Geelong Grammar - who was on a boating excursion with the school at The Willows. The article refers to the event having occurred near the Geelong Racecourse which at that time as GC Magazine noted and I quoted in my previous post was:

on Barwon River flats off Tannery Road on the opposite banks to the end of Wilsons Road.

So, The Willows was on St Albans land near the Geelong Racecourse and I figured that "the magnificent Long Reach" between Goat Island (the small island over which the aqueduct passes) and The Willows was the broad, straight stretch of the river extending from somewhere downstream of Boundary Road to a bend about halfway between Wilsons and Coppards Road.
Looking up the "Long Reach" from Wilsons Road
Then, finally,  on the History of Australian Rowing website, I stumbled across an online version of Karen Threlfall's Fair Play and Hard Rowing: A History of The Barwon Rowing Club 1870-1990. On pages 3 and 4 of Chapter 4 is an extended description of a rowing excursion to Barwon Heads written (of course) by Cuthbertson. In it, is the following passage:

...and soon running beyond Goat Island and the bend, which leads to the Long Reach. At this point the river is wide enough to row six eights abreast and for a mile and a quarter runs quite straight. The view from off the Australian tannery is very fine, right ahead lies the long stretch of bright blue water, terminating in picturesque clumps of withered yellow reeds, crowned with the pale green lines of the willows, which are now in the glory of their spring foliage. Coming down to the end of the reach, the boat travels opposite the side of Mr Crozier's splendidly grassed paddocks, which are here bordered for half a mile by willows. We run our boat up the cutting, at the end of the paddock, and get out for breakfast at the spot which is so well known and liked by Grammar School boys. We collect large bundles of dried lignum branches, boil our billy, cook our chops, and make coffee of a most satisfactory description. Could anyone wish for a better camp?

Now, it didn't take long to ascertain that "Mr Crozier" was John Crozier, owner of 'St Albans' subsequent to James Wilson. Well that fitted.  A few more quick measurements on Google Earth and I came up with a location which was at the bottom of Coppards Road almost exactly where I guessed from Cuthy's poems and some of the other sources.
Probable location of The Willows. Click to enlarge
Well, that solved that problem. I still have no explanation for the two sources suggesting that the site was some 2 to 3km further downstream in Reedy Lake, but am reasonably confident that I now have the right spot. The next problem however, is taking some photos. I know that Coppards Road runs into the lake, about 1km short of the river channel. I don't currently have a kayak, so an on river approach isn't appealing, which leaves a stroll of just over 1.5km across private land...
I'll keep you posted...

08 November, 2012

And they're off and racing!

In attempting to chase down the popular 19th century camping spot along the Barwon known as "The Willows" which will be the topic of my next post, I came across  some other places and dates which relate to the land along the river and its historical uses. The first of these was the Geelong Racecourse which today is in Breakwater a short distance from the north bank of the river, however this has only been the case since 1909. Prior to its moving to the present site, the track was located on the opposite side of the Barwon at Marshalltown (now the suburb of Marshall). According to GCMagazine the Geelong Racing Club was established in 1865 and was located "on Barwon River flats off Tannery Road on the opposite banks to the end of Wilsons Road".
A map of the town and district of Geelong dated 1848 (held by the State Library of Victoria) shows the racecourse as having its northern boundary level with today's Reserve Road, its southern boundary a little north of Boundary Road and extending from the river on the east to a point a few hundred metres short of the Barwon Heads Road on the west.
On 4th March, 1869, an invitation was issued by the club to Prince Alfred the Duke of Edinburgh to attend a race meet at the course. The Duke who was no stranger to the region having visited the Austin's property 'Barwon Park' and opened the bridge across the Barwon at Winchelsea the year before, accepted the invitation.
By the time of the Duke's visit, which occasioned a public holiday and a huge crowd, one grandstand was in place and another temporary structure was erected for the event. The Duke and his party arrived in Geelong by train and were then whisked to the racecourse by carriage.
In 1872, the first Geelong Cup was run at the track. The horse which won that inaugural race was The Flying Scud which as it happens was trained by one James Wilson - owner of the famous St Albans Stud, located on the opposite bank of the river.
Geelong Racecourse, Marshalltown, c1900. Image held by the Victorian
State Library
The race meetings at Marshalltown drew patrons from as far afield as Melbourne, Ballarat, the Bellarine Peninsula and Colac, all keen to enjoy a day at the races. To accommodate this interest, a branch line from the railway line to Colac was built to the racecourse, running special services only on race days. It branched off from the main line somewhere near today's Marshall Station, crossed Barwon Heads Road and curved around to terminate inside the racecourse grounds. More detail can be found on this page of the Rail Geelong website.
The race track at Marshalltown however, was not without its problems. Situated on low-lying land beside the river, it was of course prone to flooding and by 1905 it was deemed to be too far from the centre of Geelong and a decision was taken to move to a new location at Breakwater. The last race meeting was held on 13th January the following year.
A little later in the year on 1st July, the land on which the former racecourse stood was handed over by the government to the Geelong Harbor Trust - a newly formed body who decided to develop the land as an experiment in agriculture: Sparrovale Irrigation Farm. A quick Google search will generate quite a bit of information about the farm over the years so I won't repeat it in detail, but will settle for a brief outline.
The entrance to Sparrovale Farm, Marshall
Sparrovale Farm (yes, this is now the accepted spelling and I note that the road signs have been adjusted to match in recent times) was named after Edward Rogers "Ned" Sparrow, secretary of the Geelong Racing Club and was set up as a model farm to prove that using the best farming practises of the day, what was otherwise viewed as waste land could be turned into a profitable farming venture. To do this, the land - about 1077 acres which included the former racecourse and surrounds - was drained and an irrigation system installed. A manager's house was erected near Sparrowvale Road and additional land allocated for employees' cottages. A nursery was established along with a poultry run, calf sheds, milking sheds, cattle pens and other dairying facilities. Horses and pigs were also bred whilst some of the land was given over to cultivating crops.
Things however, did not always go according to plan and after the property was flooded in 1909 and again in 1911. As a result, a levee bank was built to protect the reclaimed land from the inevitable flooding. This can clearly be seen from above to the present day. To aid construction, a tramway which also served to transport goods within the farm was extended along the line of the old railway branch to the banks of the river before, travelling some distance downstream. Construction of the levee began in January, 1912 and continued until funds dried up in September, 1915.
In 1916 however, the media of the day reported damage to the levee banks during another flood event. A further setback occurred in 1915 when a significant amount of cash was stolen during a robbery on the property.
Ultimately, the venture was not as successful as the Harbor Trust had hoped. The Trust itself struck difficulties and in 1933 new commissioners were installed. The property was maintained for a further three years until 1936 when it was decided to sell. The new owner of Sparrovale Farm was Mr W H Bailey, the son of Stephen E Bailey of Suma Park, Queenscliff. Stephen was educated at Geelong Grammar and in fact would have been at the school in the era dealt with in my previous three posts. He would surely have known where The Willows was!
The back of Sparrovale Farm from across the river at Wilsons Road
His son meanwhile, seems to have made a going concern of Sparrovale Farm for almost twenty years before selling up in 1955 to Mr C O Lorimer of Remirol Park, Ocean Grove for the sum of  £70,000. By this stage the property extended to some 1,400 acres and it was remarked at the time that Mr Lorimer was intending to establish a dairy herd on the land.
By 1964, the property had changed hands once again and at this time was established as an incorporated company under the name of KM Briscoe & PR Briscoe & GB Perkins & HG Perkins, also known as the Sparrovale Pastoral Co. In 2000, the farm was winning awards for their sheep and then in 2005 for their cattle. I believe Sparrovale is still a privately owned property.
Anyone wanting more historical detail the Sparrovale Farm page of the Geelong and District History Site is a good place to start.

05 November, 2012

The River Poet

I guess that not too many Australian rivers can boast of having their own poet, however during a recent search to see what - if any - poetry had been written about the Barwon, I was surprised to discover, not just the odd ditty, but an entire book of verse titled Barwon Ballads and School Verses.
The author of these lyrical tributes was of course, none other than James Lister Cuthbertson whom I discussed to some extent in my previous two posts: The old Light Blue and The school of the Barwon. In brief, he was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1851 and arrived in Australia in 1875 where he took up the position of Master of Classics at Geelong Grammar School. He soon established a close relationship both with the headmaster John Bracebridge Wilson and with the boys under his care.

James Lister Cuthbertson taken from Barwon
Ballads and School Verses, 1912
Amongst the various legacies he left to the school was the precursor of the Corian, the school's annual magazine. He was a regular contributor both during his time as a teacher and after, signing his pieces as "C". Another lasting legacy was the introduction of the house system, along which lines the school is still largely organised to the present day. Inter-house music, debating and in particular sports competitions are stalwarts of the school curriculum. But even prior to this, in Cuthbertson's day, the Grammar boys were encouraged to participate in outdoor activities and "Cuthy" himself was a more than willing participant in this part of the curriculum. His love of rowing, hiking, camping and the outdoors was frequently expressed in his poetry and much of this also reflected the time he spent on the Barwon:
 
Which camp is best, taken from Barwon Ballads and School Verses, 1912
The above poem describes the various camping spots used by the the school (and others, including Geelong College), between Fyansford and Barwon Heads and is typical of the way he described the river and the surrounding countryside. His verse generally reflected the 19th century public school values of the day and much of his description of the Australian countryside could equally be applied to his Scottish homeland. One of his favourite camping spots and a recurring theme in his poetry was a place known as The Willows, which was (as mentioned in the previous post) in the vicinity of the Saint Albans Homestead. Whilst today's view of willows along Australian waterways is anything but flattering, the citizens of the 19th century saw them very differently.
And yet despite the English cliches, he also showed a great appreciation for his odd antipodean surroundings. He repeatedly referred to gum trees, ti tree and in particular, the golden blooms of the wattle trees. He also showed an acute sense of humour and a degree of local knowledge, when in discussing the "joys" of camping he noted "mosquitoes that bite like a dog".
On numerous occasions he described extended excursions to Barwon Heads and back with crews rowing into the night or starting out well before dawn. His poem The Anabasis of the Alice is a good example. In fact, he often gave the name of the boats crewed by the boys. There was the Cleopatra, the Iris, the Daphne, the Argo and of course the Alice which was mentioned on more than one occasion and even carried the crew of '89 to victory in the Head of the River - held that year on the Yarra.
But beneath all the eloquent words and the tales of sporting prowess, Cuthbertson was a troubled man. He was a homosexual working in a boys' boarding school in an era when being gay was a crime. I can find no public suggestion of impropriety of any sort either then or now. The introduction to the posthumous publication of "Barwon Ballads" says only that "little has been said of Cuthbertson's relations to the school in which he spent so large a part of his life. This is a matter that belongs to the school, and finds its appropriate place in the school records; but for the general public it has little concern".
Of course, Wikipedia is not so constrained and describes his battle with alcoholism, noting that the boys were assigned to look after him when he was incapable of doing so himself. This was known as "Cuthy duty". Whilst his friend John Bracebridge Wilson was headmaster, he enjoyed a relatively protected position and was even promoted to acting headmaster upon Bracebridge Wilson's death, however it appears that the new headmaster Leonard Hartford Lindon was not so tolerant and as I mentioned previously, Cuthbertson soon departed.
He spent his retirement, after a brief return to England, first in Geelong and then in the Melbourne suburb of Cheltenham. He spent holidays travelling to Queensland, fishing in South Australia and writing. Throughout the rest of his life he maintained his connection to the:
 
"...fair school, that in our hearts is queen,
With purpling ivy mounting o'er its tower..."
 
Geelong Grammar School, view from Maud Street, 1895. Image held by the
Victorian State Library
And this view of the south face of the school taken in 1895, less than a year before his departure was probably what Cuthbertson had in mind when he penned the following short verse:
 
THE SOUTHERN WALL
Strong tendrils of the ivy plants
That mantle on our wall of gray,
That brighten as the sunlight slants
Across the hills at dying day,
You image well the hearts of those
Our sons who do not break or bend,
But fight until the battle-close,
And die or triumph in the end.
 
Cuthbertson spent about 15 years in retirement before his sudden death on 18th January, 1910 as a result of an overdose of the barbiturate Veronal - a sleeping aid. At the time he was staying with a friend in Mount Gambier.
Four years after Cuthbertson's death in 1914 when Grammar moved to its present site in Corio, one of the newly opened boys boarding houses was given his name. Cuthbertson House or "Cuthy" as it is known stands overlooking the ovals and Limeburner's Lagoon as a lasting tribute to one of the school's most influential masters.
Cuthbertson House, Geelong Grammar School. November 2012
Cuthbertson House foundation stone, November 2012
For those interested in reading more of Cuthbertson's Barwon Ballads and School Verses the book can be downloaded in PDF and a variey of other formats or read online through the California Digital Library here.



03 November, 2012

"The school of the Barwon"

In my previous post, I looked at the early days of Geelong Grammar and at the old school building in Maud Street, Geelong. Aside from its relative proximity to the Barwon and the probable use of bluestone from quarries along the river in its construction, the school has close historical ties to the river which date back formally to 1870 when boys from the school took up rowing. In these early years, they made use of the Barwon Rowing Club's boats, honing their skills in preparation for taking on the best that the Melbourne public Schools had to offer. In 1873 and realising the talent amongst the school boy rowers, Barwon held scratch four races in which both Grammar and Geelong College took part with Grammar winning the event which did not go unremarked in the newspapers of the day.
The current crop: a Grammar crew on the Barwon January, 2012
In 1874 Grammar formally established its own rowing club and bought its first boat. The following year saw the arrival at the school of James Lister Cuthbertson - a master who would come to define rowing at Geelong Grammar and significantly influence the Victorian School Boys Head of the River - the longest-running school boy rowing event in the world. The Head of the River dates back to 1868 and was first held, not on the Barwon, but on the Yarra River between Melbourne Grammar and Scotch College in Melbourne.
Geelong first competed against the Melbourne schools in 1874 but did not contest the Head of the River until the following year. It was another three years before they took home the title, winning for the first time in 1878. These early races were all held on the Yarra River in Melbourne, however in 1879, following Grammar's win the previous year, the race was held for the first time on the Barwon River in Geelong. From this time the race moved back and forth between the Barwon and the Yarra until 1948 when it moved permanently to Geelong. This continued until 2001 when the race moved to the Olympic standard course at Nagambie.
Until 1900, the Head of the River was contested by coxed fours in boats of varying styles (for details see Wikipedia), however after this date the race was contested by crews of eight. This would have been well received by Cuthbertson who spent much of his 20 year teaching career at Grammar, lobbying the collective headmasters of the public schools for just such a move.
Grammar crew on a very rainy Barwon. Training isn't always sunshine and picnics
Hired by the school in 1875 "Cuthy" was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1851. He studied for the Indian Civil Service at Oxford but had a change of career plan when he failed one of the required exams. Possibly encouraged by the fact that his father managed the Bank of South Australia in Adelaide for a time, he came to Australia where he took up the position of master of classics at Geelong Grammar. He returned to England in 1882 to complete his degree at Oxford which he did in 1885 and then returned to resume his position at Grammar.
In addition to his academic duties, Cuthbertson enjoyed the outdoors and was a keen bushwalker, often spending his weekends taking groups of boys hiking at Mt Moriac, the You Yangs or the place he spent the most time - the Barwon.
During rowing season he would often head out on a Friday with a crew of four or eight boys and they would row downstream, sometimes staying over night at one of several popular camping spots such as The Willows (which as far as I can tell was on the river in the vicinity of the St Albans Homestead), Campbell's Point (extends prominently into Lake Connewarre from the north bank), Cormorant (can't pin this one down, but would guess downstream of Campbell's Point) or at Barwon Heads. Once at the Heads, Saturday would be spent lazing on the beach or hiking in the surrounding area before the long pull back upstream to Geelong. It was perhaps these extended training sessions along with Cuthbertson's passionate interest in rowing and in his students which saw Grammar become the strongest school in the APS between the years of 1878 and 1895, winning the Head of the River no less than 12 times in this 18 year period including a run of six consecutive wins between 1885 and 1890.
Looking towards Campbell's Point (right) from Ash Road, Leopold
Following the death in 1895 of his much respected colleague and headmaster, John Bracebridge Wilson, Cuthbertson acted as principal for the remainder of the year. A new appointment was made early in 1896 but it soon became clear that he would not enjoy the same relationship with the new principal that he had with Bracebridge Wilson and he agreed to leave, however he maintained close ties with the school until his death in 1910.
To the present date, Geelong Grammar has won the Head of the River no less than 33 times, a record surpassed only by Scotch College who have held the title on 40 occasions and are the current champions.
James Lister Cuthbertson is remembered today by the school primarily in the senior boys boarding house at the Corio campus which bears his name and in the Cuthbertson Health and Wellbeing Centre, but he was also, a poet of note whose published works are contained in the volume "Barwon Ballads and School Verses." Some of those verses will be the subject of my next post.

01 November, 2012

The old Light Blue

The next couple of posts I intend to write are of interest to me for several different reasons, not least of which is that they closely involve my alma mater - Geelong Grammar. Not however, the Grammar of today, spread far and wide across Geelong and the state of Victoria, but rather Grammar in its earliest days as a school.
Initially catering to only 14 boys, the Geelong Church of England Grammar School was established in 1855 in Villamanta Street, Geelong West with the support of the then Bishop of Melbourne, The Rt Rev. C. Perry. The following year it moved to Knowle House in Skene Street, Newtown before relocating once again in 1858 to its purpose-built campus in central Geelong.  The new school and its grounds were located on the block of land bounded by McKillop Street to the north, Maud Street to the south and Moorabool and Yarra Streets to the west and east respectively - perfectly situated on a ridge line overlooking Corio Bay to the north and the Barwon River to the south. The town centre was nearby with both the bay and the river providing easy access to a variety of sporting and recreational activities - an aspect of education which the school has always considered an important addition to academic pursuits.

Geelong Grammar School, 1862 showing the front entrance facing
Moorabool Street. Image held by the Victorian State Library
And they did not take long to take advantage of the river's proximity when in 1870 boys began rowing with the Barwon Rowing Club. By 1874 the school had established its own rowing club on the banks of the Barwon and before long were competing with the best.
The school building itself was built by the architect firm of Backhouse and Reynolds in 1857 whose design won a competition for the contract. The brief for the building was that it must cater for 525 pupils and include a residence for the headmaster.  Their building was a quadrangular construction in the Tudor Gothic revival style with the master's quarters contained in the south wing and amenities located in the east. A single story wing faced north with the main entrance off Moorabool Street.
The building is repeatedly described as bluestone and concrete-rendered, however the picture above and another from about 1914 appear to show a bluestone finish with sandstone dressings on the north wing, rather than a rendered finish. By contrast the sections of the building which remain today (the south and east wings) are definitely concrete-rendered. Whether only part of the building was rendered or this was added later, I don't know.
Also unknown (by me) are the origins of the building materials used to construct the school. This is somewhat of a contrast to many of the historic buildings around Geelong and along the Barwon, however given the date of construction and the sourcing of materials for other buildings from this period, I would hazard a guess that the bluestone was quite quarried somewhere along the Barwon.
This image of the school taken some time after 1914 also appears to show
bluestone with dressed sandstone on the north wing. Image held by the
Victorian State Library
 Like much of the original building, the first occupants are long gone. The first headmaster was the Rev. George Oakley Vance who resigned in 1860 when the school closed as a result of funding issues. It had only been in its new premises for two years, however one of the masters - John Bracebridge Wilson - who had joined the staff in 1858 managed to keep the student body together, teaching 40 students in rented premises until, in 1863 with 58 day students, 2 boarders and Bracebridge Wilson as its principal, the school reopened at its McKillop Street campus as the grammar school. Presumably to avoid a repeat of earlier problems, the new-look Grammar saw a number of changes. A restructuring took place which also included the drawing up of a new constitution. This change in direction was driven by a new group of trustees including prominent Western District names such as Chirnside, Armytage and Manifold as well as that noted Geelong citizen and owner of Sladen House - Sir Charles Sladen.
Over the latter half of the 19th century, the school continued to build its reputation and by 1911 had outgrown the Moorabool Street campus. The decision was taken to sell both this campus and land which had previously been earmarked as a potential school site in Belmont and move to 400 acres of land on the banks of Limeburner's Bay in Corio.
The move took place in 1914 and the old building and grounds were sold to the Geelong City Council who had planned to use the building as a town hall - a plan which never came to fruition. Over the following years, the grounds were gradually subdivided and sold and in 1916 the west wing which included the main entrance was demolished. The north wing and quadrangle area were put to use as a factory whilst the remaining south and east wings became the private hotel called Dysart.

The remaining south wing of the school (facing Maud Street) in 1930 known as
the hotel Dysart. Image held by the Victorian State Library

In 1954 the building was sold once again, this time returning to its educational roots, when it became the Reformed Theological College, in which capacity it still operated in 1986 when I sat my HSC German oral exam in the building.
According to the Victorian Heritage Database, the north wing was demolished in about 1960, leaving only the east and south wings which the Theological College occupied until 1999 when they relocated to another former Geelong Grammar campus at Highton.
This remaining section of the building comprises 47 rooms including three bathrooms, a large kitchen as well as living and dining rooms. After the departure of the Theological College, it was sold once again, passing through the hands of a number of private owners before most recently being put on the market in June, 2011 by its owner of ten years, Norm Lyons - a local businessman.
The former Geelong Grammar in October, 2012
The sale of the property finally took place in May, 2012 and settlement is due to occur some time within the next few weeks (November, 2012). The buyer is an undisclosed local investor who, the agent stated, plans to renovate the property and continue its use as a private residence. A subsequent article in the Geelong Independent of 7th September suggested the building will be developed into student apartments. The sale price was undisclosed but is believed to be somewhere in the vicinity of $2.45 million.
Going once! Going twice! Going three times! Sold!

29 October, 2012

...and they went down to the River Barwon...

Whilst researching my recent posts on Geelong's criminal classes, I came across an article which made reference to a visit to Geelong by the English evangelist John Wroe.
Wroe was the founder of the Christian Israelite Church which he established in England in the 1820s after recovering from a serious illness. Claiming to have visions, he gave up his farming life and took to preaching and prophesying. Initially he joined a sect which had been established by the prophetess Johanna Southcott, soon convincing them that he should lead them and that he was the new messiah.
Wroe must have been a seriously convincing speaker as he is described as a small man with a slight stoop, piercing eyes and scruffy appearance.
Backed by a variety of wealthy merchants, they built a temple and a large house for Wroe and developed strict codes of conduct. Diet and clothing even down to jewellery were dictated and conventional medical care was not allowed. Shaving was forbidden as was the graven image. They believed that the ten scattered tribes of Israel would be reunited at the second coming of Christ and followed the teachings of both the Old and New Testaments, observing both the Jewish and Christian sabbath, attending divine service on both Friday and Sunday evening. Only through complete compliance with Christ's laws could followers expect resurrection.

The only known depiction of the prophet John Wroe
In establishing his mission, Wroe underwent public circumcision and dictated the same for all his male followers. He further decreed that seven virgins should be chosen from amongst his followers to accompany him on his missionary journeys and there were suggestions made by his critics that there was a definite sexual element to his religious practises. Perhaps not surprisingly, support for Wroe's movement waned somewhat when two of the "virgins" were rumoured to have fallen pregnant in 1830.
He was forced to move away from his base at Ashton-Under-Lyne and there was a riot when he attempt to return to his home town of Bradford. Finally he settled at Wakefield where his followers built Melbourne Hall for him. From this base, he concentrated his efforts on spreading the word further afield, travelling to parts of Europe before making his way to the US and Australia.
 He first preached in Sydney and surrounds in 1847, but returned a few years later in September, 1850, arriving on the ship Digby. By this time, the Israelite movement was well established in Australia (indeed this was the strongest branch of the sect and still exists in Sydney and Melbourne to the present day) and Geelong was no exception. A report taken from the Geelong Advertiser noted that during his visit in 1850, Wroe addressed a local gathering of followers at their temporary chapel in "Welsh's old store" which as far as I can tell was possibly located in Corio Street roughly opposite where the Scottish Chiefs now stands.
Wroe was accompanied by followers from Melbourne and local leaders from Geelong addressed the throng which had gathered to hear him preach. So well attended was the gathering that "a great many were obliged to go away".
It was soon after on 9th December, that the foundation stone of a more permanent chapel was laid in Spring Street, Geelong West, close I gather to the corner of LaTrobe Tce.
Christian Israelite Sanctuary, Spring St Geelong West. Image held by the
Geelong Historical Records Centre
 So, the connection between the Christian Israelites and the Barwon River?
Well it was probably during his 1850 visit to Geelong that the following sequence of events (described the in the Horsham Times Friday of 5th August, 1904) were alleged to have occurred.
[NB: as can bee seen from the comments below, a letter debunking the following article is alleged to have been in circulation at the same time. I can find the 1918 reference to this letter, but not at this stage, the allegedly published letter.]

A PREDECESSOR OF MR DOWIE
The commotion occasioned by the public utterances of the Rev. J.A. Dowie has recalled to the minds of many old Victorians the sensation that occurred many years ago in connection with the visit to Port Phillip of John Roe, the leader of the Israelite movement, the followers of which were commonly known as the "Bearded Prophets," whose headquarters were in England. Following upon the gold discoveries a band of these reformers came from the old country, and settled in Melbourne and Geelong. They were peculiar in their dress, inasmuch as the men allowed hair to grow to great length, which they then plaited and rolled round their heads as the Chinese do with their "pig-tails." Their head-wear usually consisted of "belltoppers" composed of white silk, but the hats were not so high as those worn by other folk. The rims of the hats had an all round width of 5 inches. The women belonging to the sect appeared in public with "poke bonnets" of a style that was fashionable in the days of Queen Elizabeth. When intimation was given of the intended visit of John Roe great preparations were made for conducting services in various parts of the colony, and it was stated that the prophet would perform a number of miracle and indicate that he was an inspired man such as St. Paul or any other of the apostles. Geelong was selected as the centre of a great public demonstration in connection with the visit of John Roe, who, it was promised, would imitate Christ by walking across the Barwon River. A Sunday afternoon was selected for the performance of this miraculous felt(sic). As the hour of 3 o'clock approached thousands of persons assembled on the banks of the river to await the arrival of Roe and his band of long-bearded followers. In due time they hove in sight, and when they marched to the northern bank of the Barwon near the bridge leading on to the
Colac road [this was the Barwon Bridge at the bottom of Moorabool Street] loud cheers were given, followed by cries of "Bravo, John Roe." Great excitement prevailed as the prophet divested himself of his outer garments and approached the water's edge preparatory to trying to walk across the stream to the north bank. At this point the river has a depth of about 60 feet, but nothing daunted the prophet Roe pulled off his Wellington boots, and then performed a number of movements similar to those of a person dancing a sailor's hornpipe. The assemblage viewed this performance for several minutes, and finally there were loud cries of "Walk across, John." One of the henchmen of the miracle worker responded by saying "He has not yet got the spirit to work;" and then Roe danced another fandango, to the great amusement of the assembled thousands. Finally he placed one foot in the water, and after a deal of splashing brought it back to dry land, and then placed the other foot in the stream also subsequently withdrawing it. Roars of laughter followed, and then the prophet turning to the throng exclaimed: - "Brethren, I cannot walk across the river to-day, because I have temporarily lost the faith, but next Sabbath, D.V., I will pass over the water to the opposite side." On hearing this announcement the people rushed the prophet and his party, and assailed them with sods and other soft missiles. The followers of Roe hurriedly picking up their paraphernalia, hastened towards the township, followed by by the crowd, which included gold-diggers from Ballarat, shepherds from the surrounding stations, sailors from the ships in the bay, and about 200 aboriginals from neighbouring mia-mias. Accompanying the blackfellows were about 50 dogs, which joined in the uproar by loud barking. During the stampede into Geelong a number of persons were knocked down and trampled under foot, and it was not until Chief Constable Carman and Constable Collins - a notoriety in the police force of those early days, and who afterwards distinguished himself in connection with the pursuit of the outlaw, Captain Melville -  assisted by a strong body of mounted men, arrived on the scene that order was restored, and John Roe and his followers were escorted to a place of safety. On the departure of the "prophet" for other fields, his adherents organised for the carrying on of the work originated by him, and at one time their community numbered about 200. The leaders of the movement preached for many years on the Geelong wharves, and they also held public gatherings on the Eastern Beach, in the Market Square, and Botanic Gardens. They built a sanctuary in the early fifties in Spring Street, Geelong West, and the structure still exists in that thoroughfare but it is not now utilised for "worship." The community as a sect is extinct, for as the enthusiasm died out its members joined with other denominations in the conduct of service on more modern lines. Mr. John Stoneham, one of the most respected citizens of Geelong, a gentleman who was noted for his philanthropy and general charity among all classes, was a leading spirit in this movement, to which he remained up to the time of his death. He conducted a temperance boarding-house on a hill-top near the Yarra Street pier, and proved himself a friend to needy immigrants arriving from the old country.

An 1850 engraving of the Barwon Bridge looking north west to the site where
Wroe attempted his miracle. Engraving by Ham Brothers Engravers.
Image held by the Victoian State Library
It seems that the expectation or perhaps just the hype around the event was quite high, as a crowd of thousands would have accounted for a significant proportion of Geelong's population (even allowing for those who came in from outlying areas) which in pre-Gold Rush 1851, stood at just 8,000 people.
Clearly the good citizens of Geelong and surrounds did not suffer fools gladly and were less than impressed when the promised miracle was not forthcoming. Despite this early setback, the Christian Israelites flourished in Geelong until 1873 and were known colloquially as "bearded-prophets" or simply as "Beardies". A second, probably less high-profile visit took place in 1853 which seems to have gone unnoticed in the media. However the sect was not without its critics and did from time to time rate a mention in the newspapers. Most notably in 1863 there was unrest when "Beardies" clashed with citizens - in particular one Allan Stewart - who found their teachings and writings blasphemous and obscene. Words were exchanged and a few hats squashed, but violence was avoided.
Wroe paid a return visit to Geelong, arriving on the Shalimar in 1862 as an elderly man of about 80. According to the Ballarat Star of 29th November, he was "attended by a short-hand writer, who takes down the precious doctrine that falls from his lips." Lips however, which were soon to be silenced as the prophet died at the Christian Israelite Sanctuary in Fitzroy on 5th February the following year.
From 1873 however, there were no new converts and their numbers declined until 1918 when the chapel was demolished and remaining worshipers either dispersed or attended the sanctuary in Fitzroy, a suburb of Melbourne which is still in use by the sect today.

27 October, 2012

Jail break!

As I alluded to in my post A model prison there were numerous escape attempts at the Geelong Gaol over the years, several of which were at least for a time, successful. One of the most daring - and which conveniently had at least a little relevance to the Barwon - happened at 1:30am on Tuesday 8th October, 1889 when Frederick "Josh" Clark and Christopher "Christie" Farrell made their getaway. This was no spur of the moment decision, but an escape which was months, possibly years in the planning. Both men had arrived in Tasmania as convicts under the old transportation system and with the arrival of the gold rush had made their way to Victoria where both are separately documented as preying upon those returning from the gold fields. By 1889 both were recidivist criminals with extensive records. Farrell was over 60 and Clark was of a similar age. By 1888, both men were serving 14 year sentences in Pentridge Gaol in Melbourne - Farrell for the attempted murder of a police officer during his arrest at Fitzroy in 1887.
Through what the media of the day referred to as "systematic malingering" both prisoners had convinced authorities that they were frail enough to warrant transferring them to Geelong Gaol which at that time was being used as a hospital facility for aged and infirm prisoners. Once there, the pair appeared to behave in an exemplary fashion for some months with Clark working in the blacksmith's shop and neither attracting any untoward attention. Until that was, they made their bid for freedom.
The west wing, ground floor. Farrell's cell was at the far end, second from the left.
Clark's was third from the end on the right
In the early hours of the morning, with only two warders on duty and only one of those on watch, Clark called out to Warder Cain that he needed a drink of water. Cain brought the requested water and passed it through the bars to Clark who occupied cell 13. As he did so, he was grabbed from behind by Farrell who had escaped from his cell - number 7 - which stood almost directly across the hall. Clarke quickly emerged from his cell then Cain was pushed inside and restrained. They then took the warder to the cook's room where they left him gagged and bound to a bed, awaiting discovery by his sleeping workmate and the morning shift.

Cell 13 from which Josh Clark escaped. Without the iron bar
across the trapdoor it is easy enough to reach the exterior lock
Authorities later suspected that a key had been passed to Clark from outside - possibly via his window - or as suggested by the media, Clark himself may have produced the key during his time in the smithy in anticipation of their escape.* When the opportunity arose, he called the warder, then whilst Cain was getting the requested water, Clark secured his own release by the simple expedient of opening the trapdoor in his cell's main door, reaching through and using the key on the lock. Once free he quickly unlocked Farrell's cell before returning to his own and waiting for Cain to return.
Christie Farrell occupied cell 7 at the time of the escape
In any case, with the warder out of the way, the pair headed for what the papers described as a partially completed wing (presumably some renovations or an extension were underway but I can find no mention of such). There, they climbed an unfinished wall and made their escape and despite the feverish attempts of the police to recapture the pair, it seems that Farrell and Clark managed to slip through the net of those searching for them.
However, whilst their escape from the gaol had been planned in detail, neither seemed too sure of what to do next - or that is what Farrell wanted the police to think. Realising that every road out of town was being closely watched they travelled by night and hid during daylight. Not having been free in the town for the last 36 years, Farrell later stated he struggled to gain his bearings, but by daylight, they found the Barwon and followed its bank. They struggled up and down hills and stayed out of sight - not an easy task if the photos below are an accurate depiction. At some point they decided to head for Ballarat.

The view from Queen's Park in 1880
 There is no mention of exactly how far they followed the river, but it would be reasonable to assume that they stayed on the north bank at least as far as Fyansford as this was the easiest point to cross the Moorabool and leave the district in the direction of their intended travel. However, progress was slow and by Wednesday evening they were still near Geelong.

Near Queen's Park, 1882. It is easy to see why the escapees felt they travelled
constantly up and down hill
Prior to Clark's recapture but after his own, Farrell claimed to have left Clark at this time on the Barwon Flats "in a moribund state" and headed to Ballarat alone to look for some old mates. (As far as I can ascertain, the Barwon Flats were the low-lying area of land near today's Moorabool Street Bridge and including Belmont Common and surrounds).
Meanwhile, the search for the pair continued unsuccessfully throughout the rest of the week, despite reported sightings. Information concerning a pair of suspicious travellers at Meredith on the 13th October, proved false when the "suspicious looking men" reported to police were found to be "a pair of Indian hawkers".
However things were not quite as Farrell would later have had the authorities believe. Clark was anything but moribund and had not been left on the banks of the Barwon gasping his last. In truth, the pair had travelled as far as Buninyong together, presumably living rough and avoiding the main road. At this point, they had a falling out over the fact that Farrell refused to exchange his prison clothing for less incriminating civilian attire - a decision which was ultimately responsible for his downfall. Understandably, he did not have a change of clothes available and was reluctant to draw attention to their whereabouts by stealing some as suggested by Clark.
A depiction of the well-known bushranger Harry Power in 1880. This prison
uniform would be similar to that worn by Clark and Farrell. Note the
button-up legs for ease of use when in irons and the arrow
stamp on the leg with the letters P and D, marking the wearer as a felon
As a result they went their separate ways, Farrell to Lake Wendouree to look for his old mates and Clark to Ballarat where he was given food by an ex-prison mate who worked in a bakery. Still not trusting Farrell, Clark made haste to get out of the district and headed north west out of town.
Farrell meanwhile, discovered that his mates had moved on in the 12 years since he had last seen them and like Geelong, found Ballarat much changed. His next move was to head for New South Wales. His first attempt to locate the road which would take him towards the border in fact saw him heading back towards Geelong! Realising his mistake, he returned to Lake Wendouree hoping to pick up the correct road and to get back into the bush. At this point he was soaking wet from recent rain and had not eaten in four days being, he later claimed, too proud to beg and not into petty theft.
Regardless of their intentions, neither man remained at large for long. Farrell was the first to be recaptured at Lake Wendouree on that morning of 16th October. As he tried to make his way out of town, two young men saw him and became suspicious. He had found an old overcoat but was still wearing his uniform. He had attempted to disguise his pants by covering the broad arrow insignia with cloth. In the end, it was the distinctive cabbage tree hat marking him as a prisoner which gave him away.
Example of a cabbage tree hat. These were made by prisoners from
palm fronds and could be sold to earn money. Worn by the working class
across the country, a black band on Farrell's hat marked him out as an
escaped prisoner.

The men quickly informed Police Constable Muldarry who approached Farrell and questioned him as to his identity. Farrell gave a false name, denied being one of the escaped prisoners and refused to accompany the constable to the station, at which point he produced a knife stolen from the gaol. Muldarry was wounded in the ensuing struggle, but with the help of the two informants was able to subdue Farrell who at the time stated: "I wish I had done for you, and then I would be hung, and then it would be all over; I am tired of my life." He was taken back into custody where he had his first meal in four days, was interviewed and returned to Geelong by train.
Farrell's statements to the contrary notwithstanding, the authorities thought it likely that Clark was also somewhere in the Ballarat area and in this they proved correct. His re-arrest however, took a further two days by which time he had travelled some 20km or so north west of Ballarat and had holed up in an unoccupied hut near Mount Boulton. Like Farrell, he was spotted by a pair of boys who felt that something was not right and, all too well aware of the reward on Clark's head, made haste to tell the authorities in the form of Mounted Constable Tobin (or Loton depending on which newspaper report you believe).
Under cover of darkness, Tobin and a young man from the locality approached the hut where the constable forced his way through the locked front door. On his own, with the young recruit slow to appear on the scene, he forced a second door and struck a match. On seeing a figure he believed to be Clark on the bed, he quickly attempted to restrain him. This resulted in a struggle during which Clark tried desperately to reach the mantle piece where he had placed the second knife from the gaol. Tobin however, managed to handcuff Clark and had subdued him before his assistant arrived on the scene. Once restrained, Clark denied he was the escaped prisoner from Geelong but was forced to admit his identity when Tobin pointed out his identifying tattoos.
He too was taken back to Geelong where both men received an extra two years on their sentences as a reward for their efforts.
A subsequent inquiry into the escape was held on 31st October, 1889 which saw the governor of the gaol reprimanded and the warders on duty demoted - this despite Farrell's saying that the warder Cain had fought like a lion and should not be punished for is failure to prevent their escape. The whole affair was a litany of lax procedures, poor maintenance and general ignorance stretching all the way to the top with the warders claiming that requests for maintenance were ignored and the governor blaming a lack of staff and worn facilities capable only of containing infirm prisoners, not dangerous criminals such as Farrell and Clark. The external walls of the gaol were not manned at all during the night and only two warders shared night duty inside the building.
In a classic case of stable doors and absconding horses, thirteen prisoners sentenced to long terms were transferred to Pentridge and the cells were immediately fitted with external metal bars which would have prevented the prisoners from opening their outward-swinging doors even if they had managed to obtain a key. In fact, Clark's cell was already fitted with an external bolt but it was not standard practise to use it.
Afterword:
By the time of his death in Geelong Gaol on 4th August, 1904, Clark who had arrived in Tasmania in 1847 at the age of 18, had amassed sentences equating to 85 years and 7 months and had spent more than half his life in gaol. He was 75 years old. When inside, he was generally a model prisoner. Outside he was a known sneak-thief, burglar and receiver of stolen goods. He also went by the names of Josh Clark and Joseph Clark, but was most commonly known as Josh. In 1891 whilst occupying a cell on the top floor of Geelong Gaol, Clark made one last, unsuccessful escape attempt, but was discovered when he or a cellmate dropped a brick as they were attempting to cut their way through the exterior wall.
Like Clark, Farrell was also transported to Tasmania, arriving in 1848. By 1851 he was in Victoria and had turned bushranger at which time he and the well-born Owen Suffolk (aka George Mason and known as the Convict Poet) teamed up to form the "Suffolk Gang". They held up two mail coaches including the Portland-Geelong coach which they bailed up near Bruce's Creek in May, 1851.

Depiction of Farrell and Suffolk waiting to hold up a mail coach, by GD Bruny
Of the 48 years he spent in New South Wales and Victoria, he was at liberty only for about two years in total. More than half of the years he spent in custody were served in irons. After the escape attempt in 1889 he remained in Geelong Gaol, dying at the age of 70 on 1st September, 1895. Like Clark, he also used a number of aliases including Thomas Connors, Charles Farrow and Charles Shaw, the latter being the name he gave to Constable Muldarry at the time of his arrest in Ballarat.

*In 1923 a large brass key which proved to be a master key from the era of Clark and Farrell's escape was found when grounds west of the Geelong Supreme Court were being cleared. Its rough-cut appearance suggested that it was an illegal copy and it was widely believed that this was the key used by Clark and Farrell in their escape. A version of events described in the gaol display has an elderly Clark claiming that he threw the key into the grounds on his way to court however, it seems highly unlikely that having been found in possession of such a key, Clark would have been allowed to keep it. A report in the paper a few days after his arrest indicated that he was found with a skeleton key on his person which had been cut from a penny. At the time the authorities were quick to point out that the make of the key was not such as could have been made in the gaol.
UPDATE: on 2nd September, 2016 the Geelong Indy newspaper published an article indicating that what appeared to be a ball and chain worn by 19th century prisoners had recently been discovered on a farm near Bannockburn during an excavation. The article speculated that it could have been shed by Clark or Farrell as they made their escape from the Geelong Gaol and headed towards Ballarat.