23 May, 2013

Let there be lights!

Okay, for the moment at least, it is time to leave the 19th  century behind (I will return) and have a look at the ultra-modern. Well, modern for Geelong.
A sunny May day - possibly one of the last for the season - so I thought it was time to head to the river for a few shots which might present me with a plausible blog topic. As I was about to head out the door to grab a coffee and decide which direction to take, an email appeared in my inbox which made the decision for me (see "The thrill of the chase").
Barwon Heads it was! So, off I trotted intending to clear up the other matter asap, snap some photos and get that coffee. Well, as usual on a sunny day, the Barwon Heads Bluff was spectacular and the river was literally sparkling. As for a quick trip, well, it didn't quite work out that way, but eventually I got what I was after - and a couple of pictures too, but no immediate inspiration blog-style.
My next stop was Tait's Point, always good for a panoramic shot or the odd bird snap. Being a little windy, the birds seemed mostly to have blown away but the view was clear...and the germ of an idea was finally beginning to form..
Looking towards Geelong from Tait's Point
I took the shots I was after and headed back to town. My next stop was under the James Harrison Bridge and a short walk:
View across the Barwon from between the Moorabool St and James Harrison Bridges
then the top of the Belmont Escarpment and Seaview Park,
View across the river from Seaview Park
before heading round to Barwon Boulevard.
The 19th century meets the 21st century: chimneys and a spire, light towers
and a crane
By now, I was running a little short of time but made a final dash for Montpellier Park where I knew from past experience there are some of the best views of Geelong to be had. And I was not disappointed! By this time I had definitely decided upon a topic, but the question was how far could I take my idea? Well, for the moment, this is as far as it goes, however the weather is looking good for tomorrow so we shall see...

The bay, the Barwon and the "the lights"
Oh, and for the record, yes if enlarged enough you can see the lights in the photo from Tait's Point.

17 May, 2013

"The best fertilizer is the gardener's shadow"

As is often the case in the course of researching a post for my blog, I sometimes come across a snippet of information which provides a clue as to what my next post might be. This was the case with the current topic.
As I scoured the contents of the 19th century newspapers on Trove, looking for details of River(s)dale and Captain Foster Fyans (hopefully more of which later...), I came across an article from The Argus of 8th December, 1866 which described some of the industry springing up along the banks of the Barwon at "Marnoch Vale" (aka Marnockvale) and downstream towards the township of Geelong.
Not surprisingly there were tanneries, flour mills, a woollen mill and even a ropeworks. The Riversdale Windmill was described as being to the left of the bridge leading to the Barrabools (Princes Bridge) with Captain Fyan's house to the right, but another thriving business was also listed which until now I hadn't seen mentioned - a Chinese market-garden.
A little searching around and I discovered that the Malay Immigration Society of Geelong were responsible for the arrival of a ship in 1848 carrying Chinese immigrant labourers to work for squatters in the district. Others arrived with the gold rush, before drifting into market-gardening when when it proved a more reliable source of income.
The Chinese were renowned as hard workers, establishing themselves on the outskirts of town and along the Barwon between Marnockvale and Breakwater. One garden was located below the Roadknight property on the river flats and in 1902 a snippet in The Argus mentions an assault on a Chinese man at a market garden in South Geelong. Much later, The Argus of 11th March, 1935 indicated that the home of a Chinese market-gardener at Breakwater was burnt to the ground as it was located outside the jurisdiction of the Geelong Fire Brigade.
Closer to town, one of the earliest market gardens was established on the river flats at Marnockvale between the West Melbourne Road (Marnock Road) and Rocky Point. The publication "The Earlier Days of Newtown and Chilwell" compiled by Charles S. Walker in 1958 describes some of the gardens in the area. The Chinese at Marnockvale would sell their vegetables either from their door or by pushing their wares in handcarts to the populated areas of Newtown and Chilwell and in town each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The intervening days were spent cultivating, harvesting and preparing their vegetables for sale.
Handcart similar to those used by Chinese market-gardeners in 19th century
Geelong. Photo taken from the English-based Scale Model Horse Drawn
Vehicle Forum
The Argus of 8th December, 1866 describes the garden at Marnockvale thus:
The Chinese novelty...is chiefly remarkable for lack of beauty. Than its rickety make-shift surroundings, it would, perhaps, be difficult to find anything more distasteful to the eye or unattractive to the imagination; yet the Chinese garden is a feature in the district of much practical significance, and it stands as a reproach to the much-vaunted intelligence of the Anglo-Saxon, who, unable to detect a flaw in his own national character, can see only the beam in the eye of the children of Confucius.
Ah-Sam, who represents himself to be the head-man, has six acres under garden cultivation, for which he pays 14 a year. The land, formed of two slopes, north and sough, runs parallel with the river, and in the centre, on top of the rise, and at about fifty feet from the Barwon, there is a Californian pump, worked by three men by treddle motion. In a comparatively short time, sufficient water can be pumped up to flood the whole six acres; but, with an eye to economising labour in seasons when so much moisture is unnecessary, Ah Sam has constructed slabbed pits at every few yards along the various paths, and the water, as it flows from the shoot, passes along the different channels, and fills these pits before it can overflow the ground generally. At the present season all the ground is watered by hand - two stalwart Chinese filling large watering-pots at the pits, and with one in each hand sprinkling two vegetable beds simultaneously. All the young plants are mulched with long grass, and in some places a temporary paling roof is erected over the beds, to protect the more tender plants from the scorching rays of the sun during their early growth. "Next month," observed Ah Sam, "no rain; then (pointing to the river) give plenty water all over. Now plenty cabbage make no much money. Next two months make 14, 15 perhaps 20 a week." The ground appears to be manured chiefly with horse-dung. The land is anything but of good quality but the garden, which contains all kinds of kitchen vegetables, is beautifully kept, and the produce generally looks well. Besides Ah Sam, who appears to do the work of two men, and plies his feet vigorously at the pump, there are three Chinese labourers generally at work.
A second article from the Geelong Advertiser of the same year likewise describes the system of pits and channels used for watering and drainage, remarking in typically patronising fashion that "The affair is simple and efficacious; there is no pretence to engineering about the matter. No particular notice is taken of delicate gradients, and possibly no theory of gravitation ever disturbed the ideas of the projectors."
 As to the tools used by the Chinese in their work it was remarked that one  [man] was "...recreating with a sort of Armageddon-looking rake, with teeth of satanic length..."
A Chinese harrow (image from the Museum of the Riverina) which may have been similar to the tool described
The journalist also seems surprised by the Chinese knowledge of manuring to improve the soil and goes on to suggest that the European settlers would do well to follow their example stating that "It is not complementary to see Chinamen setting us an example, but as the example is a good one, it ought to be followed".
Then, in an almost prescient echo of modern concerns it points out that a thriving local market-gardening industry on the banks of the Barwon and Moorabool Rivers would reduce the reliance upon food grown in other areas of the colony.

Looking across the original Prince Albert Bridge towards West Melbourne
Road, c1860-1879. Scouring works are visible but not the market gardens
Such was the Anglo-centric view of Chinese industry in the early years of settlement at Geelong but whilst the temporary nature of their buildings may not have appealed to the European eye, there can be no doubting their perseverance. In October, 1867 a serious flood raised the Barwon to such an extent that much of the land from Geelong to Barwon Heads was said to be underwater.
Approximately the same view as the above photo as it appears today
The tanneries and wool scours at Breakwater suffered badly, with significant property damage and loss of stock, particularly to those on the south bank of the river. Captain Fyans was forced on to higher ground and an auctioneer living at the bottom of Yarra Street had to remove his family to safety by boat when his house was inundated. Ah Sam and his colleagues were not immune either, with the Gippsland Times of 3rd October stating that:
The Chinese gardeners at Marnock Vale had a very narrow escape of their lives, the water having risen 6ft in a very short time; as it was, they had to wade 200 yards with the water nearly up to their neck.
In his history of Newtown and Chilwell, Charles S. Walker indicates that there was a two-storey hut on the Marnockvale garden, intended to provide protection against high water levels, he states however, that it washed away the first time the river flooded - perhaps during the 1867 event described. The effect on the crops and loss of income must also have been significant.
In addition to the flood of 1867, high water levels were also recorded in 1870, 1893 and 1894 whilst one of the largest floods to hit the Barwon since European settlement was recorded in 1880. This is no doubt in addition to numerous minor flooding events which did not cause significant damage to buildings and infrastructure, but which would still have had a devastating effect on Ah Sam's vegetables.
Looking north west between Rock Point (right) and Marnock Road (left)
with the chimney of the Phoenix Wool Scour in the background
However, Ah Sam and his family were nothing if not resilient. Whilst there is a burial recorded at the Eastern Cemetery for the 14th March, 1903 (I am assuming this to be the same person), his garden lived on. In 1904 The Argus reported two local boys caught stealing peas were handed over to police after trying to escape by jumping into the river, then in 1930 Mr Ah Chee (presumably a relative), was fined for tampering with three water meters on his property.
Whilst there is nothing in the media to indicate exactly how long the garden remained at Marnockvale (or even if it was the only one), by the mid 1930s the number of Chinese-operated market-gardens began to decline significantly, so it is likely that Ah Sam's garden was also consigned to history.

09 May, 2013

The Riversdale Tragedy

As alluded to in my post Where did it all go? I have dealt with the topic of murder in relation to the Barwon before. These cases (which received media coverage at the time) were within living memory, however  the case which recently caught my eye dates to a much earlier period and at least indirectly involved the Roadknights. Well, to be more precise it involved the property Barwon Crescent, the home of William Roadknight from the 1840s and by 1876 owned by his son Thomas.
In the mid 1840s, William built a large brick home for the family to replace the more modest "Barwon Cottage" in which they had previously lived.  His eastern neighbour on the opposite side of Pakington Street was the lawyer, pastoralist and politician Charles Sladen Esq. whose residence - known as Sladen House - was built only a few years after Barwon Crescent in 1849/1850. To the west was the one-time property of Captain Foster Fyans, known as River(s)dale and it was from this that the Bendigo Advertiser took the title for its article of 15th February, 1876. The title which I have also used for this post.
William also established an orchard which from later context, I believe was located on the low-lying land between the river and the bottom of Pakington Street. Today, this area of river flats forms part of the park lands along the river trail. It has been revegetated with native plantings and Barwon Water has recently made several changes, removing a boardwalk which ran from the stairs at the bottom of Pakington Street.
Looking west from below Pakington Street across what may have been the
Roadknight orchard. The chimney of the Austral Paper Mill is in the
middle distance
In 1876 however, it was an orchard which the Roadknights had leased out to a market gardener by the name of William Stenton and his family. According to newspaper reports, on 11th February, 1876, Stenton and his adult daughter were picking fruit in the orchard at about 2:30pm. The pair returned to the house in which they were living (by implication I am thinking this may have been the older Barwon Cottage, as Thomas and his family were living at Barwon Crescent at the time).
On her way back down to the orchard, the daughter heard cries of "murder!". The report posted in various newspapers including the Queenslander of 26th Feb described the events which then unfolded thus:
She [the daughter] rushed up there and found her father standing over her mother and holding her by the hair, battering her head on the stone door-step. He then took off his boots and struck her a terrific blow on the temple. The daughter screamed and ran to Mr. Roadknight's house, but there were no men about. The alarm was sent to Sir Charles Sladden's(sic) residence, which is opposite, and that gentleman's groom, named Hinchcliffe, rushed over to Stenton's and saw him. Stenton seized a log of wood and made at Hinchcliffe, who ran for the police, informing several of the neighbours on the road, several of whom ran down, and the first man there found Stenton lying on his back a few yards from the house, with his throat cut from ear to ear, and still grasping a razor in his hand.
This image, held by the State Library of Victoria was first published on 19th
February, 1876 in the Police News
The Colac Herald of 17th February and Bendigo Advertiser of 15th February give broadly similar accounts, but have Stenton attacking his wife and chasing his daughter before once again setting upon his wife who returned inside against the daughter's advice. The mother then died in her daughter's arms in the bedroom where she had taken her after the first attack to dress her wounds. Stenton it seems then grabbed a razor and slashed his own throat before staggering outside. He was still alive when concerned neighbours began arriving, however by the time a doctor was summoned it was too late.

Current path leading from the river flats up to the bottom end of Pakington Street
But what drove him to such lengths? According to the same articles, some months prior to these events, much of Stenton's crop had been damaged by flooding. Whilst there is little in the papers which indicates a significant flooding event in the months prior to Stenton's death, there was mention of sheepskin sales being low in early June as a result of flooding along the Barwon. Perhaps it was at this time his crop was damaged. Furthermore, according to the Queenslander, at about this same time, one of Stenton's three sons ran away to sea.
The resultant stress, it was believed, so unhinged his mind as to render him a "dangerous lunatic". As a result, in December, 1875, the local magistrate's court committed Stenton to be confined at the Kew Lunatic Asylum.
The Kew Lunatic Asylum in its early years, image held by the State Library
of Victoria

One can only imagine the stigma associated with having an "insane" relative in the 19th century and one who furthermore was the family's chief bread-winner. This is not to mention the inconvenience of having their father and husband incarcerated in Melbourne. Why he was not committed to a local facility is not made clear, however perhaps Kew - opened only five years earlier - was seen as the state-of-the-art facility at the time.
Likewise, Geelong Hospital had its own "lunatic ward" which was first mooted in 1867 and finally established in 1872. Ironically in view of the events at Barwon Crescent, an article appearing in The Argus of 15th March, 1869, quoted Charles Sladen as saying that the hospital trustees did not have the power to approve the erection of such a ward on hospital grounds as this was outside the scope of the original intention for their use. Eventually it seems, his opinion was overruled and the ward built. Prior to this time, Geelong's mentally ill patients were housed at the Geelong Gaol about which I have blogged previously.
However the question remains as to why Stenton was sent to Melbourne for treatment. An article published in The Argus on 16th February - after the deaths of William and his wife - indicated that William had been admitted to the asylum suffering from depression and insomnia on 9th December, 1875, but that he was neither "dangerous nor destructive". After a week or two his symptoms were greatly alleviated and his physical health -which had not been good- improved. He was keen to return home.
Closer to the river, the land has been revegetated and the Barwon River Trail
runs through it, however further back a creek or drain runs below the steep drop
from Pakington Street and the area is choked with reeds as well as ash, elm
and poplar which no doubt date back to the 19th century
Regardless he remained there a few weeks longer until his family, learning of this improvement in his condition, successfully secured his release on a two month trial on 12th January, 1876. However, upon returning home, some reports claimed he would often fly into a rage, threatening his family with violence whilst others indicated that he was quiet and refused to see guests, but until the afternoon of his death, he used no force and caused no physical injury.
In a sad adjunct to the whole affair, it was indicated that Stenton's eldest son was soon to be married, the banns due to be posted a third time only two days after the death of his parents. The wedding, it was stated, would have to be postponed.

06 May, 2013

Loss of face

Representing the human face in pictorial form has long held a fascination for mankind and some of the oldest depictions of faces can be found in Australia's indigenous art. Examples have been found which are believed to be tens of thousands of years old. I can find next to nothing about any remnant Wathaurong art, so am not able to say whether depiction of human faces was part of their historical artistic culture - or for that matter whether there is any pre-European art associated with the Barwon. (If anyone is able to enlighten me, I would be interested to learn. And for that matter, I have also wondered if there is a creation story associated with our Barwon as there is for the northern river of the same name.)
I have noticed over the last few years however, that modern graffiti and carvings often do involve the depiction of a human - or at least a humanoid - face and that quite a few examples can be found along the Barwon (and in one case, the Moorabool River).

The aliens have landed?

I found the above carving in a eucalypt on the Moorabool near Batesford whilst the two below are "decorating" bridge pylons at Merrawarp Road near Ceres.
Graffiti on the Merrawarp Road Bridge
Graffiti on the Merrawarp Road Bridge

From memory, this rather grumpy-looking face was on a tree not far from the old Albion Woollen Mills in Geelong.
Tree graffiti beside the Barwon
On the other hand, there are also some things in nature which resemble faces - or parts there of. Some trees when they lose branches form a scar which resembles an eye. As the tree matures, this results in in multiple "eyes" on the tree's trunk. The wattle below gave me the idea for this post some time ago.
An "eye" in a wattle tree at Fyansford
And then there are just those odd coincidences of nature:
Found this guy in a sawn off stump in the Brisbane Ranges near Anakie Gorge
The scream? A rock at Anakie Gorge
Then finally, on Saturday afternoon we headed over to Balyang Sanctuary for a short run with the boys and to snap a photo of the bright yellow smiley face with the tag "smile minotomy" which has adorned one of the pylons of Princes Bridge for months (if not years). This was a face which I was sure I'd photographed before but search as I might, I couldn't find the shot. No problem, I would just take a new one...
...but of course, after all that time and just when I wanted a photo, the graffiti police had shown up and the yellow smiley was now a dark grey blob on a light grey, concrete pylon. Typical! I'm not a huge fan of graffiti art and it is by its nature transitory...but surely after all those months....