31 December, 2016

Baaaaaaaaaa humbug!

In previous years I have occasionally come up with a "Christmas" themed blog post towards the end of the year. This year as I considered my options, an idea came to mind. Sheep!
Sheep are not usually associated with Christmas - except if you live at Meredith - and Meredith is not generally associated with the Barwon River. As I have discussed in previous posts however, Meredith lies on the banks of Coolebarghurk Creek which is a tributary of the Moorabool River and at Christmas sheep are all the rage.
So, with this in mind, we headed off to Meredith to snap some photos, oh, and had a short walk along the creek while we were there. So, here are a few of Meredith's "Christmas sheep" to end the year:

I think perhaps the red sheep has partaken in a little too much Christmas cheer!

These were just some of the sheep  to be found in Meredith this year. There were sheep at the hall, sheep at the shop, sheep at the churches and even sheep at the pub! Not to mention the members of the flock gracing the fences of any number of houses in town.
A very "Merrydith" Christmas everyone!

29 December, 2016


In November, 2016 the Meredith History Group held its monthly meeting at 'Ballark', home of the Molesworth family for more than a century. Today's 'Ballark' is the remnant of one of the original squatting runs established on the east branch of the Moorabool River in the earliest days of European settlement.
The original license for the property was taken up in 1838 by John Wallace. Wallace was born at Nairn in Scotland and as a boy, travelled to van Diemen's Land in the 1820s to live with his uncle. Like many during the late 1830s, he crossed Bass Strait from van Diemen's Land, bringing stock to graze the thousands of acres of grassland they found along the creeks and rivers of the region. Initially he camped near Anakie, but dry weather encouraged him to move north in search of some protection in the form of more heavily timbered country and he eventually settled upon a site on the east bank of the Moorabool East Branch.
Looking north up the Moorabool Valley with 'Ballark' land to the east
According to Victorian Squatters (Spreadborough & Anderson, 1983), the Ballark run was originally gazetted at 17,000 acres, however as was often the case, this was divided into two smaller properties in 1853. Wallace retained the lease for 'Ballark No. 1' whilst that for 'Ballark No. 2' was taken up by squatters by the name of  Cuthbert and Hammond . Their tenure however was short-lived and by 1861 this lease was also in Wallace's name. Both licenses were forfeited in 1872, by which time in addition to the pre-emptive right for the run, he had purchased the freehold to several thousand acres surrounding his homestead.
In 1843 John married Elizabeth Smith. With the exception of a few years during which he resided in Geelong at Rannoch House, the property remained the family home until John's death on 24th October, 1882 at the age of 71 suffering a bout of pneumonia. Accompanied by a substantial cortège, he was buried with Elizabeth (died 1862) in the family's private cemetery on the property, overlooking the Moorabool River.
Wallace is also remembered in his native Nairn where a bandstand was erected overlooking the coastline. A plaque at the site reads: "Erected to the memory of John Wallace a native of Nairn who died at Ballark Australia, 1882. A pioneer who became on of the most successful and respected pastoralists in the Colony of Victoria. Ballan Shire Historical Society 1991."
Memorial to John Wallace at Nairn, Scotland. Image taken by Allan Maciver,
23rd February, 2012
According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, volume 6, 1976, upon the death of his father, John's eldest son Donald Smith Wallace (1844-1900) inherited the pre-emptive right to 'Ballark' and later purchased the remainder of the estate. The year following Wallace's death, an auction notice appeared in the Ballarat Star of 13th September, 1883 announcing the sale of 'Ballark', the size of which at that time was estimated at 7743 acres. Presumably Donald was the purchaser.
Like his father, Donald was a grazier. Educated in Melbourne, he gained experience in the industry before taking up significant pastoral holdings in Queensland. In 1878 he returned to Victoria where he made an unsuccessful attempt to enter politics at the 1880 election before returning to Queensland where he held the Seat of Cleremont in the legislative assembly of that state from 1883 until 1888. Despite this, he spent little time in the state, instead returning to Victoria where he held a seat on the legislative council from 1889 to 1894.
Despite his involvement in politics, Donald's real interest was horse racing and during the period from 1881 to 1898 he was involved as a committee member of the Victorian Racing Club. Whilst he owned several thoroughbreds and achieved success in a number of high-profile races, without doubt his most successful horse was Carbine - winner of the 1890 Melbourne Cup. A New Zealand bred stallion, from 43 races run, Carbine won 33, ran second in six races and third in a further three, failing to place only once due to injury. His Melbourne Cup win saw him carry a weight of 66kg - 24kg more than his nearest rival.
Carbine prior to his departure for England, 1895. Image held by the
State Library of Victoria
Injury forced Carbine into retirement in 1891 and he was put out to stud, first at 'Ballark' before being sold in 1895 and taken to England. His success as a sire was as outstanding as his racing career with over half the Melbourne Cup winners between the years of 1914 and 1978 being descendants of Carbine. Amongst the most famous horses to trace their lineage back to Carbine are Phar Lap and Makybe Diva.
Despite his racing success and his vast business interests, falling wool prices and several poor seasons led to mounting debts which forced Wallace to sell off first his Queensland and then most of his Victorian interests. Donald died at 'Ballark' on 27th May, 1900. He was survived by his son John Vivian Wallace, born in 1880 in Victoria to Donald and his wife Ida Australia (nèe Thorn) who had married in Queensland in 1877. Like his parents and wife, he was buried in the little cemetery overlooking the Moorabool River.
The Wallace family cemetery at 'Ballark', November, 2016
Following Donald's death, the property remained in the hands of his trustees before finally in 1915 it was put on the market. The purchaser was a Mr Phil Lock who almost immediately placed the 2,500 acre estate back on the market. This time, the purchaser was Mr John Molesworth of St Kilda, formerly of Mount Napier (Ballarat Star, 28th September, 1915). The Molesworths undertook significant renovations to the original homestead in order to fit the property out as their family home.
The Molesworth family trace their origins to England and count amongst their descendants some members of the British Royal Family. John was the great-grandfather of the current occupant - also John - who continues to work the property, lives at the homestead to the present day and will be followed in due course by his own son - James.
Ballark homestead November, 2016
Like the Wallaces, the Molesworths bred sheep and also found success as horse breeders producing, according to John, 100 winners of their own. The original John was succeeded at 'Ballark' by his son John Robert Nassau 'Bob' Molesworth, born 30th April, 1910. Details of Bob's life including his training as a jackaroo in Outback Western Australia, a distinguished military career as a pilot and a lifelong involvement with the local community, serving on committees and as a member of the Ballan Hospital, Ballan Racing Club, Ballarat Show Society and the CFA at Morrison's, can be found in the obituary written by his son-in-law Barry Lazarus and published in The Age, 27th July, 2006. Bob died on the 1st July, 2006.
 Today as with many of the old properties in the district, the focus has moved to rehabilitating the land which has served the family for so many generations. To this end, over 100,000 trees have been planted at 'Ballark' in the last 13 years. Another initiative is fundraising in the form of shooting parties held on the property, with the money raised going to help local sporting clubs, continuing Ballark's ongoing interest in sport and the local community.

18 December, 2016

'Lal Lal'

As outlined in my previous post, Archibald Fisken Jr arrived at the Port Phillip settlement with his family in April, 1840 at the age of eleven. By the time he was 17 his uncle - Peter Inglis - had placed Archibald in charge of running two of his estates; the 27,339 acre Warrenheip Run and the 18,313 acre Lal Lal Run. Between the two runs, they were estimated in 1849 as having the capacity to run 3,000 head of cattle and 2,000 head of sheep.
Archibald was said to be an accomplished horseman and according to his obituary, published in The Argus, 14th June, 1907 he was the first to drive a vehicle - presumably a horse and cart - through the dense forest then surrounding Mt Warrenheip. In the early days, Fisken lived in a slab hut and with the outbreak of the gold rush in 1851 found himself struggling to maintain his enormous estate as many of his employees abandoned their posts to try their luck at Ballarat and beyond.
He soon realised however, that a lucrative market for his stock had opened up in the form of the stream of diggers passing through his property on their way from Melbourne, Geelong and surrounds to the goldfields.
Archibald Fisken, 1892. Image held by the State Library of Victoria
His beef was particularly popular with the diggers. The stream of diggers may also have ensured that the tradition of breeding pigs at 'Warreneep' - probably begun in the 1830s by the Levitt brothers - was continued by Fisken. In 1856 The Star was advertising pigs of all sizes for sale on the property. Despite being short-handed, it was this windfall that came with the gold rush along with his continued hard work at increasing his stock holdings and improving productivity which enabled Fisken in a relatively short space of time to pay back the purchase price of both properties.
On the 4th January, 1859, having secured his position as a squatter, Archibald married Charlotte Emily Macnamara, the second daughter of a Sydney politician, by this time however, the carve up of the big estates had begun and 'Lal Lal' and 'Warreneep' were no exception. In 1859, blocks of 'Warrenheip' land were being offered for sale whilst two years earlier in 1857, 'Lal Lal' land was also thrown open for purchase.
It is also worth noting that when the sale of allotments was announced, there was a concerted public push which resulted in the land which included the spectacular Lal Lal Falls being set aside as a public reserve. In September, 1860 the petitioners were successful with 1,250 acres gazetted for public use, however in December, 1868, this was revoked with the reserved area reduced to only 200 acres. Nonetheless, the area remained popular with the public not only as a picnic spot but also with photographers and artists who continue to record images of the falls to the present day. In 1858 renowned landscape artist Eugene von Guerard sketched the falls  and in 1882 photographer Fred Kruger snapped his version of the scene.
Lal Lal Falls, 1866 by Archibald Vincent Smith. Image held by the
State Library of Victoria
In the mid 1860s a racecourse was established near the falls. So popular were the races that in 1886 a branch line from the Geelong-Ballarat Railway was constructed to convey racegoers to and from the track. The line operated for more than 50 years with the last race meeting held in 1938. Marcus Wong's Rail Geelong website shows a number of images of the Lal Lal branch line.
As closer settlement continued, in 1862, the Lal Lal run was divided in two, with the 'Lal Lal West' portion of the estate - the land to the west of the newly opened Geelong-Ballarat Railway line - passing to George Irwin and then to Mackay and sons the following year. That lease was eventually forfeited in 1872. The lease of the remaining land passed in 1865 to George S Morrow and was forfeited in 1870. This of course, excludes that land which had been purchased by Fisken and which extended to as much as 10,000 acres, a far cry from the 45,652 acres encompassed by both stations in 1849. Fisken's freehold land became known as the Lal Lal Estate. It was here that he built a homestead, one source suggesting that the old slab hut was incorporated within its walls.
Throughout his time in the district, Fisken came to be regarded as an expert in the field of cattle breeding, managing stock for Sir Samuel Wilson of 'Narmbool' and establishing stock and station agencies in both Ballarat and Melbourne. He served in various public offices including as a Justice of the Peace, was an elected councillor and the first president of Buninyong Shire as well as serving as returning officer first for the electoral district of North Grant, then for that of Ballarat East in the Victorian Legislative Assembly.
In 1873 however, he took up residence in East Melbourne, leaving the running of 'Lal Lal' to his son, Archibald James which enabled him to pursue his business interests in other areas.  Archibald Fisken died at East Melbourne in 1907 at the age of 77.
Whilst it is reported that the estate remained in the hands of the Inglis/Fisken family through six generations, it would seem from contemporary newspaper reports that the estate for a time passed out of family ownership. On 14th January, 1888 it was stated in the Bacchus Marsh Express that Mr Thomas Bent, M.L.A. had made arrangements to purchase the estate.
As well as being a politician (and eventually Premier of Victoria) Bent was also a land speculator. He did not take over the running of the estate, instead installing a tenant before placing it back on the market within months. On 29th March, 6,000 acres including the homestead was put up for auction. Whilst around 600 acres sold, about 5,000 acres, including the homestead did not and the following month, the remaining land was advertised for lease (Ballarat Star, 29th May, 1888).
Within a few years however, the property must have passed back to the Fiskens, as from the early 1890s Archibald James Fisken was once again indicated as the property owner in various newspaper reports. Unlike his father however, he remained on the property where continued to run the estate until his death at the age of 56, in 1923 after an extended illness. It was he who in 1911 built the 16-room Edwardian homestead which stands on the property today, overlooking an ornamental lake which was formed by damming the Lal Lal Creek. The extensive garden was established around the same time, however some buildings - such as the stables - date back to 1858.
Lal Lal homestead, built in 1911 by AJ Fisken. Image taken from the
Federation-House site on Wikispace
Like his father, Archibald James was involved in local affairs, serving as councillor and president of Buninyong Shire. He also took a keen interest in cricket, fielding a Lal Lal Estate team which competed against other local sides. At the time of his death, Archibald's estate was valued at £19,000 with personal property valued at £7535. His beneficiaries were his widow Beatrice May (neé Wanliss) and his only son Archibald Clyde Wanliss "Clyde" Fisken.
The stables at 'Lal Lal', 1968. Image from the JT Collins collection, LaTrobe
Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria
Schooled at Ballarat and then Geelong Grammar, Clyde served in the British armed forces during the First World War and was awarded the Military Cross for bravery before returning to 'Lal Lal' to run the estate. In 1923, upon the death of his father, the property passed to Clyde and the following year he married Elspeth Anne Cameron, the daughter of a prominent wool broker at Ross in Tasmania,.
Like his father and grandfather before him, Clyde was elected to the Buninyong Shire Council and also served as president on a number of occasions. From 1934 - 1937 he served a term as the member for the federal seat of Ballarat before taking up a position as the founding chairman of the Australian Meat Board. Throughout the remainder of his life, Clyde served in a number of prominent public roles, but always maintained his interest in 'Lal Lal'. He died on 20th June, 1970, survived by his wife Elspeth, son Archibald John (known as John) and three daughters.
Archibald Clyde Wanliss Fisken. Image held by the
National Library of Australia
The estate of course, passed to John who by that time was married with a family of his own. His wife was Patricia Irene Falkiner of New South Wales whom he had married at St John's Church, Toorak in Melbourne on 3rd May, 1951. The event was reported in The Argus the following day, accompanied by a photo - to use the stereotype - of the happy couple. Their engagement the previous year was also noted in the society pages of The Argus (1st December, 1950).
Their family grew to include two sons and two daughters and it was their second son Geoff who took over the running of the estate after John's death on 8th August, 1989. Geoff Fisken was the final member of the family to own 'Lal Lal' where he lived with his wife and three children and it was he, who in 2014 sold the property to Tianyu Wool Industries, a Chinese wool company. At that time, the property extended to 2,000 hectares - or just under 5,000 acres. The company - headed by Mr Quingnan Wen - spent $2.54 million renovating the homestead and is developing the property as an example of world's best practise in farming techniques.
Today, the homestead is available for hire as a reception venue.

14 December, 2016


Whilst researching some details for my "Making Tracks" series of blog posts, I gathered quite a bit of information about some of the properties through which the track from Steiglitz to Ballarat passed, however it did not relate directly to what I was writing, so I saved it for later. The properties in question were the 'Ingliston', Warrenheip and Lal Lal Runs of Peter Inglis which are the subject of my next posts.
The squatting run which came to be known as 'Ingliston' was not within the Barwon catchment region, but rather, lay along the upper reaches of the Werribee River, however the squatter who lent his name to the property did have substantial land holdings within the Barwon Catchment, so this post will look at all of those holdings, 'Ingliston' being the first.
The Fisken-Inglis family - including Archibald Fisken Senior, his wife Eliza (née Inglis), their children and Eliza's brother Peter Inglis - arrived in Port Phillip in 1840 aboard the ship Dauntless. Amongst the children was the Fisken's 11 year old son Archibald Jr.
Peter Inglis was a merchant from Glasgow, Scotland, but once in Australia he decided to turn his hand to squatting. On 1st November, 1841 he took over the lease of a run on the upper Werribee River which he named 'Ingliston'. He had purchased the lease for the property from its original holders, Dr David Henry Wilsone (a Melbourne MD) and John Campbell who had taken up the run in 1839. Known simply as Wilsone & Campbell's Run, the pair had established a homestead on the property at Cornong Hill and were running 4,000 sheep on the land. In 1841 however, Wilsone died. Without his business partner, Campbell was forced to give up the lease which was taken up by Peter Inglis who took on not only the property, but the stock and equipment as well. When the run was gazetted in 1849, it consisted of 14,440 acres which extended from the present site of Ballan, south to the Werribee Gorge area, taking in the land along the banks of the Werribee River and stretching past Fiskville to the west.
Peter Inglis, 1872. Image held by the State Library of Victoria
Inglis was unhappy with the original site of the house and as a result, had it removed to Nimbuk, or Inglis Hill as it came to be known. The now heritage-listed homestead still stands today on Ingliston Rd, about 10km south east of the town of Ballan. Living with Peter at 'Ingliston' were his sister, brother-in-law and their children - the Fiskens - who had arrived in Australia with him the previous year. Archibald Fisken Sr's role was to manage a store on the property which supplied the station and those in the vicinity in the days prior to closer settlement.
 His son, the younger Archibald Fisken, was educated both at Scotch College and by private tutors whilst also learning the ropes of running the station from his uncle, becoming an accomplished horseman and stock-handler at an early age. Archibald Sr, died in 1854 and was buried in the private cemetery on the property at 'Ingliston'. His wife Eliza had died in 1845. Archibald Jr - now in his twenties - remained working with his uncle.
During the 1840s, in addition to developing 'Ingliston', Peter further expanded his pastoral holdings, first adding the lease for 'Warrenheip' and then that of Lal Lal Station to his growing empire. Some sources indicate that Peter acquired the 27,339 acre Warreneep lease as early as 1842/3, however the earliest contemporary mention I can find of the run in association with Inglis is 1848. The spelling of name varied over the years with Warraneep, Warrenheep and Warrenheip all being used at various times. The name is believed to be a corruption of the Wathaurong word "Warrengeep" meaning "emu feathers" and described the appearance of foliage on Mt Warrenheip as seen by the indigenous people of the district.
Gazetted in 1849, its grazing capacity at that time was indicated as 2,000 sheep and 1,500 cattle. The property extended from the Leigh River in the west, where it adjoined the Yuilles' Ballarat Run, south past today's Yendon township where it bordered the Mt Boninyong Estate of Robert Scott and 'Lal Lal', the other Inglis/Fisken run. To the east it formed a border with the Peerewerrh Run of William Henry Bacchus and with Wyndham to the north.
Section of map showing the location of the squatting runs of the Inglis and
Fisken families. Image taken from Victorian Squatters, Robert Spreadborough
& Hugh Anderson, 1983
 A retrospective article in The Star 18th January, 1870 stated that the lease for 'Warreneep' was originally held by the Levitt brothers who set up a pig-growing enterprise. Their endeavours however, were unsuccessful, with some of the pigs escaping and running feral in the surrounding bush. According to the same article, following the Levitts' departure, the leasehold for 'Warreneep' was taken up by a group of investors named Welsh, Verner and Holloway who hired a manager by the name of Haverfield. This source also stated that Inglis took up the Warrenheip Run in 1843, however the publication Pastoral Pioneers of Port Phillip (Billis & Kenyon, 1974) indicates that in 1842 the 'Warreneep' lease was held by partners Cornish and Taylor who were definitely in the district but were not mentioned in the 1870 retrospective. An index of the superintendent's correspondence 1839-1851 confirms that Cornish and Taylor were at 'Warraneed'(sic) in 1841. Billis & Kenyon indicate that 'Warrenheip' was in the hands of Inglis by 1846.
A sketch by Eugene von Guerard, 5th February, 1854 showing a distant view of
Mt Warrenheip, sketched on the banks of the Yarrowee River flowing through
Inglis' Warrenheip Run. Image held by the State Library of Victoria.
*See note below
His acquisition of the Lal Lal Run by contrast would seem more certain. This appears to have occurred during 1846 when it was transferred from John Whitehall Stevens. In October of that year however, Stevens was still stating his address as 'Lal Lal'. The first mention of Inglis as leaseholder, appeared the following month, suggesting the transfer did not occur until late in the year.
Prior to Inglis and Stevens, the first European settlers to occupy 'Lal Lal' were Messrs Blakeney and George S Airey who appear to have been in occupation until about 1843. At 18,313 acres and estimated as capable of running 1,500 cattle, it was not as large as large as 'Warrenheip', however their shared boundary meant that the two properties were run conjointly. This boundary with 'Warreneep' lay to the north west of the run which extended from Williamson's Creek and the Mt Boninyong Run in the west, to Woolen Creek (a tributary of the Moorabool River) to the east. To the south it bordered the Narmbool and Borhoneyghurk Runs whilst the Peerewerrh Run of W.H. Bacchus'and 'Borambeta' held by the Bradshaws lay to the north.
At a mere 17 years of age, the younger Archibald Fisken was put in charge of both 'Warreneep' and 'Lal Lal' where he lived in a slab hut, thus beginning his successful career as a grazier. His uncle must have had confidence in the young man's abilities because on 4th April, 1848, he departed for London on the ship Stag, leaving Archibald in charge. Whilst in England, Inglis married Margaret Ord of Glasgow. In later years, it was claimed that the couple had known each other prior to Inglis' departure to Australia and that she had been unwilling to come with him at that time. Presumably through his endeavours in the colony he had proved himself worthy and she consented to return with him to Victoria where they settled at 'Ingliston'.
A view of the Rowsley Valley looking north towards 'Ingliston' from Glenmore
Rd, March, 2014
Once back in Victoria, Inglis concentrated his efforts on 'Ingliston', leaving the other properties to his nephew Archibald. Upon his turning 21, Warreneep and Lal Lal Runs were formally transferred to Fisken's ownership with the expectation that their purchase price would be paid back to his uncle when he was financially in a position to do so.
Peter Inglis died at 'Ingliston' in July, 1869 and was buried in the family cemetery located on the property. His wife Margaret survived him by many years, living until 1905 when she also was laid to rest with the other members of the family. At the time of their respective deaths, the media of the day were at pains to convey the kindliness of both Peter and Margaret and to express the esteem in which they were held by the community. 'Ingliston' passed to their two sons.

*This sketch most probably formed the basis for the well-known von Guerard painting Warrenheip Hills near Ballarat 1854, held by the National Gallery of Victoria. The location from which von Guerard made the sketch was located in 2015 by George Hook. His discovery is described in the following blog post by Historic Urban Landscape Ballarat