George Dickie – Shire President 1878-1879, 1887-1888 & 1896-1897

On the 23 January 1871 Bacchus Marsh is proclaimed a Shire and to celebrate the 150 anniversary, the Society is remembering some of our past Shire Presidents.

George Dickie – Shire President 1878-1879, 1887-1888 & 1896-1897. Courtesy of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc. Collection.

George Dickie was born in Stamford Hill, London in 1831. This is where the western hill of Main Street, Bacchus Marsh derives its name.

Stamford HillHackney/Haringey

Located north of Stoke Newington, Stamford Hill is one of London’s most distinctive quarters, with its highly independent community of perhaps 20,000 Hasidic (Haredi) (used to be referred to as ‘ultra-Orthodox’) Jews.

In the 13th century this was Sandford Hill, where a sandy ford crossed a tributary of the river Lea. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries its elevated situation attracted wealthy merchants, notably Moses Vita Montefiore, an Italian Jew who died here in 1789.

Stamford Hill also has residents of black African, black Caribbean, Turkish and Kurdish heritage.

Courtesy of Hidden London.

He arrived in Melbourne in 1853 and went into business as a baker in North Melbourne.

Seeking help for Davey and Dickie’s Bakery in North Melbourne. Courtesy of NLA, TROVE Website – Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), Thursday 24 April 1856, page 1.
Building a Family and business in Bacchus Marsh

He moved to Bacchus Marsh in 1857 and worked for Thomas Pearce and on the 19 February 1863, George married Ellen Ross Anderson in the Presbyterian Church.

Notice of the marriage of George Dickie and Ellen Ross Anderson.

Courtesy of NLA, TROVE website. Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 – 1918, 1935), Saturday 28 February 1863, page 10

They had 2 sons and 5 daughters, all but one survived to adulthood.  In 1867 George ran the Border Bakery in Bacchus Marsh, a business he purchased from William Watson. In later years he expanded his business and operated a General Store.

Advertisement for George Dickie’s Border Bakery.

Bacchus Marsh Express (Vic. : 1866 – 1943), Saturday 16 May 1868, page 1.

Courtesy of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc. Collection.

Advertisement for George Dickie’s Border Bakery.

Bacchus Marsh Express (Vic. : 1866 – 1943), Saturday 30 December 1871, page 2

Courtesy of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc. Collection.

Maddingley Park was another of George’s special interests while living in Bacchus Marsh.

George died on the 19 September 1904 and is buried in the Maddingley Cemetery.

If you are related to George and have some family stories and photos to share we would like to hear from you on our Facebook page. Help us celebrate our past community leaders.

Margaret Love – Shire President 1976 to 1977

23 January 1871 Bacchus Marsh is proclaimed a Shire and to celebrate the 150 anniversary the Society is remembering some of our past Shire Presidents.

Margaret Love the first female Bacchus Marsh Councillor and Shire President.

Courtesy of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc. Collection.

Margaret Love was born in Ballarat and she attended Ballarat Teacher’s College. Several teaching posts later she found employment at Bacchus Marsh Primary School.

Whilst married with two small children she was Bacchus Marsh’s first female councillor and went on to become our first female Shire President. A true trailblazer!

On council Margaret campaigned on greater representation for youth and young parents.

If you have some stories or photos of Margaret when she was on council we would like to hear from you on our Facebook page. Help us celebrate our past community leaders.

Christmas Break 2020

To many this will have been one of the most challenging years they have faced in their lives to date. In years to come, historians will be studying the pandemic and how it impacted on all our lives. What we did during the lockdowns? What we did to protect our most vulnerable? How our local, state, national and even international leaders responded to the public health crisis? How it impacted on our communities and how we coped?

Christmas 1866
Print: Wood engraving Dec 1880. Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

Take a break – a small moment to imagine what Christmas in the Marsh was like in 1866. The following excerpt appeared in the Express newspaper in the year that it was first published. This was the first time it reported on community activities and news following Christmas Day – Tuesday, 25 December 1866. Enjoy.

On Saturday 29 December 1866 on page 2, the Bacchus Marsh Express reported:

NEWS OF THE WEEK. The Road Board will be called upon at its next meeting to express an opinion upon the question of what action they should take to secure the speedy fulfilment of the Government scheme of irrigation for this district. We have been informed, by a very good authority, that the survey of this scheme is being carried out with great vigour, and that every indication of the intention of the Government to commence the construction of the dam, &c., as soon as possible, is given by the particular instructions received in regarding avoiding infringing on private property. As the hon. Mr. Verdon is believed to have succeed in obtaining ample funds from the English capitalists for the purposes of the Victoria Water Supply Department, it now only remains for the districts entitled to a share of such money to promptly and firmly bring their claims before the Government; and there cannot be a doubt that unless Bacchus Marsh and district take this course, some more energetic residents in other localities will be able to claim the first consideration of the Government, We believe that all parties are agreed upon the great importance securing a complete scheme of irrigation for this district, and are willing to make the guarantee required to obtain it, and although differences of opinion may exist as to the adequacy of the government scheme to meet our requirements, yet these should not stand in the way of such an exhibition of vital interest in the subject of irrigation as Mr. Young desires the Road Board to make. We trust, therefore, that the proposition of which that gentleman has given notice, and which will be found in another column, may meet with the cordial support of the Road Board.

Christmas Day was made a thorough holiday of at Bacchus Marsh, although the weather was most oppressively hot. A great number of persons assembled in the neighbourhood of the Limekilns, where a picnic was kindly provided for the school children of the neighbourhood by the teachers of the Sunday School at the Limekilns. Addresses were delivered by the Messrs. Pearce, Mr. Sinclair Murray, Rev. J. C. Sabine, and Mr. W. Watson, and the children enjoyed themselves as well as the extreme heat would permit. There were about seventy children present, and something like the same number of adults.

There was an entertainment partaking of the character of a “harvest home” at Mr. Louis Scott’s residence, Parwan, on Christmas evening. A large company was present, and dancing was indulged in until “daylight did appear.”

Sports were held at McCanny’s Hotel, Bacchus Marsh, on Boxing-Day, and were very successful. The winners of the several events are as follows:- Quoits, and Standing Jump, Cuthbertson; Pole Leap, Pat. Murphy; 100 Yards Race, and Hurdle Race, Hopgood; Hop, Step, and Jump, McCrae; Standing High Leap, Martin Cain; Boys’ Race, Tuomy; 50 Yards Race, for boys under 6, W. J. McCanny, first, A, Murdoch, second.

The Boxing-Day Sports which were announced to come off at the Court-house Hotel, have been postponed till Now Year’s Day, in consequence of the Subscription Sports at McCanny’s Hotel having attracted the attention of the public on Boxing Day.

A serious accident happened in Bacchus Marsh on Boxing Day. A son of Mr. William Watson, baker, &o., fell into a well some twelve or fourteen feet deep, and full of water to the very edge. This well is situated on a vacant allotment close to Mr. Watts’ boot warehouse, and has long been a terror to parents whose children were in the habit of approaching it, as it is entirely unsurrounded with anything to ward off the incautious footsteps of children. Owing to the recent storm, moreover, a small lagoon has been formed round this well, and the consequence is that its position cannot be clearly seen, and there is, therefore, the greater danger to anyone who may approach what seems to be a mere harmless puddle, On the day in question, young Watson was engaged in the juvenile pastime of swimming a boat, and, in reaching over the water to regulate its movements, unfortunately fell into this unprotected well, from which he was only rescued in an insensible state, after having twice risen to the surface, by Mr. Rolston, photographic artist, who had taken up his temporary quarters in the immediate vicinity. Happily, the boy recovered, after the application of the usual remedies. We think that, after this mishap, so nearly proving a fatal one, the owner of the property upon which this well has been dug, will surely feel it to be his duty to either fill it in, or else properly protect it. At the last meeting Of the Road Board, Mr. Watts complained that the storm water was allowed to lodge in this spot, and the Board has now a reason to interpose its authority to obtain the filling in of this water-hole.

Races were held at Pyke’s Flat on Boxing-Day, and were witnessed, we have been informed, by three or four hundred persons. The Maiden Plat was won by a mare belonging to Mr. Turner; the Hurdle Race by Mr. Johnson’s horse Fivey; the Trotting Race by Mr. Frank Hanna’s mare Kate; the Hack Race led to a dispute, which has been referred to Bell’s Life; the Pony Race was won by Mr. Clerk’s Kitty. We regret to have to state that two accidents happened in the Hurdle Race. Mr. Bishop, a jockey who rode a horse of Mr. Cuthbertson’s, was trampled upon by the animal, and rather severely cut about the face. The other accident happened to a horse belonging to Mr. Brooker, which dislocated its shoulder, and had to be shot.

Mr. Bence, butcher, Bacchus Marsh, imparted something of a Christmas aspect to his shop this week by the exhibition of a very fine fat sheep, weighing 73 lbs., although it was quite a young animal; indeed its weight was not so remarkable as the extraordinary development of fat for such a young sheep. It came from a flock of Leicester belonging to Mr. W. Anderson, and no doubt the favourableness of the present season for the rearing of sheep had much to do with the production of this unusual specimen.

There will be a special undress parade of the Bacchus Marsh troop of V. V. Light Horse today at four p.m.

Mr. W. Anderson holds a sale on the Marsh to-day. The Myrniong and Ballan sales will not be held next week, owing to the holidays.

There was a meeting of members of the School Committee on Thursday night. The only business done was the passing of a resolution agreeing to call for tenders for the lifting and relaying of the floors of the building. It was agreed to adjourn the meeting till Monday evening, at 8 o’clock, when any tenders that might be received would be considered.

We beg to call attention to the Concert and Ball, which will take place in the Mechanics’ Institute on Monday night. The concert will be very enjoyable, we make no doubt, and the old custom of “dancing the old year out and the new one in” could not be indulged in for a better object than to aid the funds of the Institute.

The Sabbath School Picnic to be held according to custom on New Year’s Day, is exciting pleasurable anticipations. We remind all concerned of the fact that the children are to assemble at the Presbyterian Church at half-past 8 o’clock.

We are authorised to state that County Courts will be held at Ballan, on Tuesday, 10th February, and at Bacchus Marsh, on Wednesday, 20th February.

We remember a story told of an old woman who desired to expend equal sums upon the purchase of bread and gin, and sent her daughter to carry out this intention, but before her messenger had proceeded far upon her errand, the old lady called her back, and said—”bring all gin, for bread is so confounded dear I can’t afford to buy it.” This anecdote has been brought to our mind by the present keen competition on the Marsh in the sale of flour, and consequent cheapness of bread, for certainly, had this ancient dame been a resident amongst us, she could not have availed herself of such an excuse for indulging her liking for gin; albeit she might be of opinion that “if bread is the staff of life, gin is life itself,” as another well-known anecdote affirms.

The following Crown lands are open for leasing at Ballarat on and after the 27th instant (Thurs-day last):—Agricultural area of Gorong, parish of Gorong, county of Grant, south-easterly from Ballan, on the south side of the Werribee River Section 15, allotments 1, 2. Agricultural area of Merrimu, parish of Merrimu, county of Bourke, on the north bank of the Werribee River, between Djerriwarrh and Coimadia Creeks, midway between Melton and Darley, from four to ten miles from Bacchus Marsh-Section 22, allotments 20, 22. Plans can be seen at the several country post-offices.

Leases for Crown lands, under the 12th, 13th, and 14th sections of Amending Land Act, are lying at the Receipt and Pay Offices, Ballarat and Melbourne respectively, for Horace Walker and Patrick Kiernan. The former leasing 40 acres, and the latter 112 acres 10 perches, both in the parish of Bungal, area of Ballan.

Mr. John Robertson has obtained the contract to supply rations to prisoners confined in the Gordon’s lock-up.

An advertisement, calling for tenders for the supply of forage to Police Stations, will be found in our advertising columns. We find the following particulars in reference to these contracts in the Government Gazette, and publish them for the benefit of whom it may concern. At Bacchus Marsh, Melton, Myrniong, Gisborne, and Gordon’s, the estimated quarterly consumption for police horses at each station is 900 lbs. oats, 90 lbs. bran, 1,260 lbs. hay, and 800 lbs. straw. At Ballan and Blackwood, these several items are doubled. For further particulars we refer to the advertisement.

How things have changed.

Thank You everyone

The Society and its members thank you for all your support throughout 2020. In particular, those who followed and shared their photos and stories via this Blog and our Facebook page. The response and desire for local history has been overwhelming. Learning about our local heritage on slow burn.

We wish you all a happy and safe festive season.

George Gibson Paterson – Shire President 1871

The Bacchus Marsh Shire was constituted a shire on 23 January 1871.

It was previously proclaimed The Bacchus Marsh and Maddingley Road District, which was divided into electoral sub-divisions by an Order on 20 May 1867.

This council was abolished in 1994 as part of a statewide program of local government reform enacted between 1993 and 1995. The reform process reduced the number of councils from 210 to 78. The Shire of Moorabool was appointed as a successor in law in 1994. Any rights, assets and liabilities of the abolished council has been assumed by the Shire of Moorabool as its successor in law.

Public Records Office of Victoria

As we celebrate the 150th Anniversary on the formation of the Bacchus Marsh Shire we will remember some of our past Shire Presidents over the next few months.

The first Bacchus Marsh Shire President – Mr George Gibson Paterson 1871.

Courtesy of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc. Collection.

George Gibson Paterson was the first Shire President who served from the 23 January 1871 through to the 15 November 1871.

George was born in 1825 in Scotland, married Marion Brown in 1849 and emigrated to Australia in the 1850’s. Five of their children were born in Bacchus Marsh.

Early service to the District

Prior to George becoming a Shire President he had been a Chairman of the Bacchus Marsh and Maddingley District Road Board 1865, 1866, 1867, 1868 and 1870. He was noted as getting a road put through to the Pentland Hills and upgrading Main Street.

He was a Merchant Tailor and conducted his business from his shop in Main Street, Bacchus Marsh. His shop was located where the Far West Pizza shop is today.

George died on the 17 November 1907 and is buried in the Maddingley Cemetery, Bacchus Marsh.

The Death Notice for George Gibson Paterson – Bacchus Marsh Express – Saturday 23 November 1907 on page 2.

Courtesy of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc. Collection.

George remembered

Supporting his death notice Bacchus Marsh Express reported:

The late Mr. George Gibson Paterson was a man of superior ability and qualifications in every way. He came to Bacchus Marsh in the later 50’s, and lived into the fourth generation, which knew little of him – a fate which befalls all who get past say 55, and Mr. Paterson was in his 83rd year. He was diligent in business almost up to the last, when illness of a paralytic character set in. In Road Board and Shire Council days of what may be called the. formative period he was broad-minded and influential. He rightly pushed on the formation of the main road through the Pentland Hills while main road subsidy lasted. His colleagues of those days – ex-Crs. George Grant and Michael O’Connell – still survive, and helped in that work, for which the present generation has to thank them. Mr. Paterson was President once or twice, and left the Council to go to Melbourne. Before he left he got the present main street graded to its present levels; the late Cr. Dickie got the asphalt footpaths, and his son, the present Cr. Dickie, should get both re-constructed, say in 1911, on Flinders street principles, but with tarred metal instead of wooden blocks. Work towards that by cobbling repairs, to reduce superfluous material now on the street. And so one generation handeth on to another the ever recurring burden of large public works upon small resources. The late Mr. Paterson was appointed a J.P.; but he declined to accept, as he saw no public need for it, and he had no personal ambition. He was a native of Ayr. His widow survives him, also three sons and three daughters, the wife of Mr. W. T. Lewis, of the Education Department being one of them. The funeral on Monday afternoon was private, after the manner now frequently adopted. The Rev. G. P. Rees officiated at the grave in Maddingley cemetery, and Mr. Wynne was the undertaker.’ 

Bacchus Marsh Express, Saturday 23 November 1907, page 2

If you are related to George and have some family stories or photos to share we would like to hear from you on our Facebook page. Help has bring these past community leaders to life.

Betty Olive Osborn (nee Roberts) – 1934–2020

The Society mourns the loss of a Life Member – Betty Olive Osborn (nee Roberts).

Photo of Betty and her husband Bruce, when the Maryborough Midlands Historical Society visited Bacchus Marsh Historical Society in 2012. Courtesy of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc Collection.

Betty Osborn (nee Roberts) was a young female journalist ahead of her time.

After marrying Bruce Osborn, Betty moved to Bacchus Marsh, Victoria. Here began her abiding interest in local history.  Betty was an early member of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society.

In May 1969, Betty Osborn and fellow Society members began researching the Bacchus family history, eventually finding Captain Bacchus’ great granddaughter, Mrs Mona Denny in England. An early positive outcome of these endeavours was the donation to the Society of Captain Bacchus’ Militia Badge, Mourning Ring & family photo in October of 1969, followed by a $200.00 donation towards the preservation of Captain Bacchus’ grave. A very warm regard developed between the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society and Mrs Denny who was very grateful for the interest shown in her Bacchus ancestors.

In 1980 the Society, through a bequest, established the Mona Denny (Bacchus) Memorial Trust.

The Trust honours Captain Bacchus’ descendant, Miss Mona Denny, and her desire to foster the work of the Bacchus Marsh Historical Society.

Bill Payne, Jean Oomes and Betty Osborn were the first trustees of the Mona Denny (Bacchus) Memorial Trust.

The Trust has supported a number of Historical Society endeavours in the ensuing years, including many of its publications.

Betty Osborn’s ‘A History of Holy Trinity, Church of England, Bacchus Marsh’ was published in 1971, (republished in 1977).  The book cost only $1.00 and all proceeds were dedicated to raising funds for the restoration of Captain Bacchus’ grave.

A History of Holy Trinity, Church of England, Bacchus Marsh, By Betty Osborn, 1971.

 In 1973, Betty published ‘The Bacchus Story: A History of Captain W.H. Bacchus and his Son’.

The Bacchus Story: A History of Captain W. H. Bacchus, and his Son, By Betty Osborn, 1973

That same year, the Osborn’s moved to Maryborough with their four children: Robyn, Diana, Cathy and Philip.

Betty was made a life member of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society, and she was also a member of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria.

An accomplished journalist and local historian, Betty Olive Osborn (then Betty Roberts) was known as the ‘girl reporter’ of the Argus newspaper in the 1950s.

In 1951, a young Betty Roberts took herself to the Argus offices to enquire about a career in journalism. She was advised to complete her matriculation at University High School, keep up her typing and short-hand, and return the following year. Betty began work as a secretary for the Weekend Magazine at the Argus in 1952, and noted that – unusually – men and women journalists were being paid equally. That year, she wrote a report for the paper on the itinerants living at Melbourne’s Dudley Flats (now the exclusive Docklands development site), who survived by scavenging from the tip. She took photographs for the feature herself, using her mother’s box brownie camera.

Feeling there was little prospect for a career in journalism, Betty enrolled to do a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Melbourne, but on the eve of her first week as a law clerk was offered a cadetship with the social pages of the Argus. She accepted, but continued at the university as a part-time Arts student. She remembers, on returning to the Argus: ‘Virginia Gerrett, of Sydney, was in charge of the Social pages… She had replaced Gladys Hain much to the consternation of all the women journalists who considered Freda Irving as the heir apparent. Freda cooled her heels briefly on the Weekend Magazine where her deep voice would often have telephone callers referring to her as “Peter Irving”. This greatly appealed to her sense of humour.’

Under Freda Irving, Betty worked with Kath Coyne, Grace Hutchinson, Cynthia Strachan, Elaine Young and Julie Sparrow. In addition to the usual social pages fare, Irving encouraged her young proteges to investigate stories of importance to women, and to write detailed profiles of women in the news. The cadets were expected to look the part, with hats, gloves, and appropriate evening wear when necessary. In 1955, Betty Roberts won the Australian Journalists’ Association’s Montague Grover Prize for cadet journalists. She was soon transferred to the general staff:

“For a start I didn’t have to worry about hats and gloves any more. Ellie Knox, the Town Hall roundswoman, and I were the only women in a sea of men, young and old. The newsroom was a vast open space with the day chief of staff Laurie Kerr’s office at one end, an array of reporters’ desks in the middle and the subs tables at the northern end where a door led to the printery. Once opened, the noise of the old linotype machines could be heard clattering away and in the distance the compositors could be glimpsed, quietly going about arranging their leaden trays of type. How close we all were, journalists and printers, bringing out the news of the world to the people of Melbourne”.

Betty was assigned to cover nearly every session of the Legislative Assembly as a gallery reporter in 1956 – ‘competition was fierce and I can remember being absolutely appalled when I came upon the Sun political roundsman rifling through Lance [Loader]’s papers one day’ – and made the most of the parliamentary library for her studies. She remembers: ‘There was not one woman in the Victorian Legislative Assembly that year and the only woman I recall coming into the press gallery was Rose Kinson from the Sun’. Outside of parliament, Betty was given a number of reporting tasks, including coverage of a Coroner’s Court case in which Frank Galbally was representing an Italian man whose wife had been stabbed to death.

To her delight, Betty Roberts was assigned to cover the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. She spent a great deal of time at the Olympic Village in Heidelberg, chasing up stories on famous (and infamous) international athletes. Just six weeks after the closing day of the Games, the Argus folded.  Betty wrote for the Sun, but the Argus was the paper she truly loved. She returned to full time study at the University of Melbourne.

Courtesy of The Australian Women’s Register

OSBORN (nee Roberts), Betty Olive 1934-2020

Loved wife of Bruce (dec). Devoted mother of Robyn, Diana, Cathy and Philip. Mother-in-law of David, Edward and Zorana.

Adored Grandma of Jonathan, Nathaniel, Bohwen, Dashiell, Sienna, Grace and Lewyn.

Life and Love – know no end.

The Funeral Service for the late Mrs Betty Osborn will be held at the Jubilee Chapel, Cnr Clarendon and Inkerman Sts Maryborough, on Tuesday 15th December, 2020 at 2pm. A private cremation will follow the service.

No flowers by request,
Donations to the Midlands Historical Society in lieu would be appreciated.


Courtesy of The Age Tributes.

Tributes for the family can be left at the The Age Tributes link above. Betty and her family resided in Bacchus Marsh for eleven years and lived opposite the Manor House. If you have any stories or photographs relating to Betty’s time in the Marsh, we would love to know. Please share on our Facebook page.

Darley Military Camp 80th Anniversary – Online Community Project 2020 Ends

Thank you to everyone who followed our Blog and Saturday Facebook interviews and articles on the Darley Military Camp. We have enjoyed bringing this history to you and reading your comments. To all of the participants, thanks for your contributions!

Today we end this project with sharing some final photos of unnamed service personnel. All courtesy of the Society’s Collection.

Servicemen – Balliang Volunteer Defence Corps – 13th December 1942 – names unknown.
Three Servicemen at the Darley Military Camp – 17 November 1940 – names unknown.

Servicewoman during World War II – Name unknown.

Serviceman at the Darley Military Camp in World War II – name unknown.

Airforce Serviceman at the Bomb Dump in the Pentland Hills – name unknown.

Three Airforce Personnel at the Bomb Dump in the Pentland Hills – names unkown.

If you happen to know a person or maybe some history about the photographs, please let us know and make a comment on our Facebook page now.

Stay tuned to next Saturdays new online history project!

Adrian Oomes – A Community Remembers 2020

This week Katrina Lyle (nee Oomes) reflects on her Father’s experiences as a Dutch Medical Serviceman who came to Bacchus Marsh during World war II.

As a young sergeant in the Medical Corps of the Royal Netherlands Indies Army, (KNIL)  Adrian Oomes could not have imagined just how important Darley Camp was to become  in shaping the direction of his life.

A photograph of Adrian Oomes in uniform during World War II. Courtesy of Katrina Lyle’s Private Collection.

Born in May 1918 at Breda, in the south of the Netherlands, Adrian had completed compulsory national service prior to the German occupation of his country.  Many young Dutch were keen to do their bit in the Allied war effort and when the opportunity arose following the liberation of Breda in October 1944, Adrian volunteered for military service.

While the war in Europe was in its final stages, the  war against the Japanese occupation of South East Asia, including  what was known as the Netherlands East Indies (NEI), had reached a critical point. The Dutch government wanted to raise a standing army of two hundred thousand, over half of whom  would be sent to the East Indies.

War Facts in Brief, Melton Express (Vic. 1943 – 1954), Saturday 18 August 1945, page 3.

Courtesy of NLA, TROVE website

More Dutch Coming to Midlands: Friday 13 July 1945, Newspaper: Birmingham Daily Gazette, County: Warwickshire, England, Page: 4

The goal of Netherlands East Indies force was to join the Allies in subjugating the Japanese, and then to re-establish safety and order in the NEI under Dutch administration. While Japan officially surrendered on  August 15 1945, Japanese forces continued to be active in the Indies  until  November that year. Many Dutch had faced years in Japanese internment camps and their safety was a priority. The Dutch government moved quickly to mobilise its military, and used Darley Camp to house and train troops as a springboard for the Indies. Dutch military personnel from the Indies had been at Darley since 1943 and had participated with the Allies in the fight against the Japanese.

Adrian arrived at Darley Camp mid 1945. Prior to that time, he was based at Wrottesley Park near Wolverhampton where the Dutch had maintained  a military presence, the  “Princess Irene Brigade” during WWII. As was later to happen at Bacchus Marsh, Dutch soldiers formed strong bonds with the local community. Adrian developed a keen interest in the Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club and was thrilled when, years later, he could follow their fortunes on SBS.

 On arrival at Bacchus Marsh, Adrian recalled marching in formation from the railway station, through the township, past the Express Office (where a photo was taken)  and on out to Darley Camp. By 1945, Darley Camp had housed thousands of Australian and international military personnel. As Cr Con McFarlane noted in his outgoing speech as Shire President of September 1945:

Fears that the advent of Darley Camp would have unpleasant effects on civilian life in Bacchus Marsh had proved unfounded. During the past five years soldiers of many nationalities had passed through and the town had been particularly fortunate in not having some disturbances (seen elsewhere).”

The Bacchus Marsh community had provided social and practical support for the visiting soldiers and they had reciprocated, sharing many sporting, social and significant events. The newly arrived Dutch soldiers were no exception. On the 18th of August 1945,  the Express reported:

One of the most pleasant interludes of the two holidays (VE and VP Days) was a disciplined march through Bacchus Marsh streets on Thursday by a couple of hundred singing Hollanders from Darley Camp, whose predilection for choral singing was one of the first things noticed on their arrival some weeks ago.

1945 had been a busy year in the household of Shire President Con McFarlane. Unfortunately, Mrs McFarlane was in increasingly failing health and was not able to support her husband in the many civic duties of his presidential year – which encompassed  both VE Day and VP Day. His daughter Jean was sometimes called upon to accompany him to social events.

In July, Jean was one of 40 local debutantes presented at a ball hosted by the Patriotic Society with shire councillors and other notable community members in attendance. The event typifies the way in which the local community took Darley military personnel into its collective embrace. Sgt  Dyball, an AWAS physical training instructress, had been invited to judge and award two  prizes to the dancers. The debutantes were presented to Capt. Schram de Jong, newly arrived from Holland to command the NEI troops at Darley. The debutantes then mingled with the throng of other dancers, including the NEI troops.

HOLLANDERS SING AT DEBS’. RETURN BALL. (1945, September 1). The Express, Melton (Vic. 1943 – 1954), p. 6. Retrieved November 16, 2020.

 At the end of August, the debutantes hosted a “return ball,”  for the ladies of the Patriotic Guild, shire officials and others who had been in attendance at the debutante ball. It was Dutch Queen Wilhelmina’s birthday and directly after the debs and their partners sang God Save the King, the Dutch soldiers, including Adrian Oomes, sang the Dutch national anthem.  The gesture expressed alliance between the Dutch and Australian forces. Perhaps Adrian recalled this event  so vividly because it was first time that he  had danced with Jean McFarlane.

 Adrian and Jean did not meet again until a chance encounter in Main Street one Saturday at lunchtime. Jean found Adrian hungry and puzzled by the strange cultural practice of  shops shutting promptly  at 12.00 noon.  

Can I help you? she asked.

I would like to buy something to eat, he replied.

A moment passed.

Oh, she said. You were that soldier.

Yes, he answered, and you were that girl.

Jean invited Adrian home for the midday meal at the McFarlane farm,  just a short walk down The Avenue of Honour. In those days, midday meals were the main meal of the day, especially among farming families. 

Mrs McFarlane, confined to her home and often needing extensive bed rest, was pleased to meet the young Dutchman who brought such entertaining stories from the outside world. A friendship developed between Adrian, Jean and her family.

While at Darley, the Dutch troops were “hardened” in the rugged terrain surrounding Darley Camp. All units, including the medical units, were gearing up for active conflict. By 1946, his time at Darley Camp completed, Adrian was relocated to the Dutch Headquarters in St Kilda Road. From there he joined a contingent of Dutch troops heading for Batavia (Java) in early 1947.

The Dutch had originally believed that once the Indonesian people were liberated from the Japanese, Dutch governance could resume, if not within the old colonial status quo then with a new role acceptable to the Indonesians. But it was increasingly clear that the Dutch were not fighting Japanese inspired extremists but a legitimate and evolving Indonesian nationalist movement.  As the British and the French would find, the time of European colonial power  in South East Asia was over. For the Dutch, the lesson was a protracted one.  Political agreements punctuated by periods of fierce conflict characterised 1947-48.  Adrian’s role was to provide medical support and supplies and he  worked  directly with Dr  The Bing Tjouw.  He later recalled that snipers were a continual hazard as the militarily overwhelmed Indonesian nationalists  had perfected a kind of guerrilla warfare.

Dr The Bing Tjouw.

Courtesy of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc. Collection.

Adrian and Jean wrote to each other during this time and occasional parcels of tea from the Indies would arrive at the McFarlane household. As part of the demobilization of Dutch forces, Adrian returned to Australia in 1948. The long journey to Melbourne culminated in a crowded troop train trip from Brisbane. Adrian had time to contemplate his future. Should he return to the Netherlands as his parents expected, or would he begin a new life in Australia? As the train inched along the Spencer St platform, the train’s window slowly framed a waiting Jean McFarlane. Wherever his future lay, she would be a part of it.

Jean and Adrian on their wedding day at St Bernard’s Catholic Church on the 16th of May 1949. Courtesy of Katrina Lyle’s Private Collection.

Jean’s mother lived to see the young couple engaged but passed away on Christmas Eve 1948. Jean and Adrian were married at St Bernard’s Catholic Church on the 16th of May 1949.

After briefly returning to Dutch headquarters in Melbourne, Adrian began working at the Lifeguard Milk Factory. He then joined his father-in-law, Con McFarlane, on the dairy farm. 

Adrian passed away on the 16th December 1997 and Jean on the 27th of February 2009. The couple had  two children, Adrian and Katrina.

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Allan Comrie – Community Interviews 2020

A portrait photograph of Allan Comrie, remembering Bacchus Marsh in WWII and the Darley Military Camp.

Courtesy of Allan Comrie’s Personal Collection.

Allan was born in 1940 so he was only a young kid when the Darley Military Camp was established. He remembers watching soldiers marching out to the Camp from the family farm in Raglan Street Darley. The front of the house faced onto Gisborne Road. Pat Whelan had a market garden on the Lerderderg Gorge Road and he would go with him sometimes and watch the soldiers do their training and exercises.

His cousin, Nellie Whelan married Don Wicks, an American soldier stationed out at the Darley Camp. They met at one of the Saturday night dances held at the Mechanics Hall in Bacchus Marsh during the war. In 1945 Don returned to Australia to marry Nellie and they moved to Portland Oregon USA and started their family. 

Kevin Whelan, Noel Whelan, Patricia Comrie, Allan Comrie, Lorraine Whelan.

Courtesy of the Catholic Museum of Bacchus Marsh.

American Hamburgers

They returned to Bacchus Marsh and opened an authentic American style drive -in hamburger joint. Just like from the show ‘Happy Days’ your order was placed on trays that were fixed to the car window. It was a real hit with the locals because most hadn’t seen a real hamburger before. After four or five years they decided to go back to America. Nellie is 96 years old and still lives in Portland Oregon sporting a broad American accent.

American Army Soldiers from the Darley Military Camp, during World War II.

Courtesy of John Hannah’s Private Collection.

Allan remembers that compared to our Australian soldiers, the American soldiers had plenty of money. One of the locals had the lucrative taxi business transporting American soldiers back to the Camp.

Learn more about Allan’s memories of when the soldiers came to Bacchus Marsh. Find out how many locals remember the Hamburger Shop. How did the local taxi service work and who made all the money? Check out our Facebook page now.

Bacchus Marsh Community Bank Grant

Bacchus Marsh Community Bank Supports Local History and Heritage

Ian Prince presents a $7,000 grant to members of the Society’s Executive.

(left to right), Cathy Pevitt (Vice-President), Chris Bronchinetti (President), Barb McMillan (Secretary), Bruce Carboon (Treasurer), Ian Prince (Manager BMCB). Photograph courtesy of Bacchus Marsh and Community Bank.

A big thank you to the Bacchus Marsh Community Bank for the very generous Grant of $7,000. This will enable us to have the Bacchus Marsh Express newspapers from 1946 to 1954 digitised and placed on the National Library of Australia (NLA) TROVE Website.

Why only to 1954? The editions from 1955 remain under copyright to Fairfax Media.

Some very forward thinking Society Members all those years ago saved the Express newspapers. This began 30 years of projects for the Society and the Mona Denny (Bacchus) Memorial Trust. The Trust purchased the Express newspapers and had them bound in yearly books.

Express Newspaper

Bound copies of the Express Newspaper founded in 1866 in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, Australia – Courtesy Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc. Collection

After the binding was completed, Gwyn Moore (deceased Life Member of the Society), took them weekly to the State Library of Victoria to have them copied to microfilm. This was a long term commitment by the Society to preserve the Express from 1866 to 1986.

The Express gets digitised on TROVE

As part of the 100th Anniversary of the Great War the Australian Government had many early Australian newspapers digitised and placed online. In this project they digitised the Express from 1866 to 1918 using the microfilm and placing it online. In addition to this, they also used Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to allow searching of the digital files using text. The consequences were ground breaking for researchers. It provided a highly valued and well utilised research tool for everyone. Access was also free!

Public Records Office of Victoria Grant

The Society received a Public Records of Victoria (PRoV) Grant in 2018/19 to digitised the Express from 1919 to 1945 online. Now with this new grant from the Bacchus Marsh Community Bank we will be able to digitise the Express from 1946 to 1954 and have it all online by early 2021.

Extending digitisation of the Bacchus Marsh Express will strengthen the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc’s. ability to effectively support individuals and community groups with research. It strengthens identity and connection within our community.

Support the Bank that supports our local heritage.

The Brave 39th

Plaque remembering the 39th Infantry Battalion “Raised at Darley Camp October 1941“, which is mounted on a large rock in Darley Park. Courtesy of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc. Collection.

Over the past few months we have learnt how the community dramatically changed when the soldiers came to the district, but what about the soldiers. This week learn about the 39th Australian Infantry Battalion that trained at the Darley Military Camp.

39th Australian Infantry Battalion
EventKokoda Trail Campaign
Battle HonoursAmboga River
Eora Creek-Templeton’s Crossing I
Kokoda Trail
Sanananda Road
Campaign HonourSouth-West Pacific 1942-43
Commanding OfficersConran, Hugh Marcell
Honner, Ralph Hyacinth (Jump)
Owen, William Taylor
Decorations1 DSO; 2 MBE; 7 MC; 4 DCM; 10 MM; 11 MID; 1 DSC
ConflictSecond World War, 1939-1945
ReferencesAWM52/8/3/78: 39 Battalion war diary
– Austin, Victor, To Kokoda and beyond : the story of the 39th Battalion, 1941-1943(Carlton, Vic: Melbourne University Press, 1988)
– Brune, Peter, A bastard of a place : the Australians in Papua : Kokoda, Milne Bay, Gona, Buna, Sanananda(Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, 2004)
– Brune, Peter, We band of brothers : a biography of Ralph Honner, soldier and statesman(St Leonards, N.S.W. : Allen & Unwin, 2000)
ConflictSecond World War, 1939-1945
Unit hierarchyAustralian Army
39th Australian Infantry Battalion
Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.

The 39th Infantry Battalion was raised in Melbourne in 1921 and was often referred to as the “Hawthorn-Kew Regiment”. Formed during the Great Depression, when little money was spent on national defence, the battalion initially had few volunteers.

In 1937 it merged with the 37th Infantry Battalion, forming the 37/39th Infantry Battalion. A few years later it merged with the 24th Infantry Battalion, forming the 24/39th Infantry Battalion. Between October to November 1941 the 39th was raised as a single unit, comprised mostly of young men of 18 or 19 years called up for national service.

Off to War

They were trained at Darley Military Camp, which they left by train on 26 December 1941 to embark on HM Troopship Acquitania in Sydney Harbour, where a convoy was assembled. The convoy arrived in Port Moresby Harbour on 3rd January 1942 and the battalion occupied a camp site at the Seven Mile Aerodrome. Their role was to defend the aerodrome from attack by the enemy. More time was spent as wharf labourers and digging defensive positions.

“B” Company became the first white troops to cross the Kokoda Track to provide a garrison on the aerodrome at Kokoda on 7 July 1942. On 21 July 1942 Japanese troops landed at Buna and Gona, with the intention of crossing the Owen Stanley Ranges to capture Port Moresby, which they would use as a base to attack Australia.

On 22 July 12 1942 a Platoon of “B” Company became the first unit to face the Imperial Japanese Army in Papua. The 39th Australian Infantry Battalion is the only unit to have Kokoda listed as one of their Battle Honours.

The 39th Remembered

On 3 July 1943 the 39th Battalion, after numerous battles, was removed from the order of battle and ceased to exist as a military unit. At the time little recognition was given for the major role it played in saving Australia from a Japanese invasion in 1942.

August 1942 – Wounded members of the 39th Australian Infantry Battalion making their way back along a jungle trail to the base hospital. They are all suffering from gunshot wounds sustained in the fighting against the Japs in the Kokoda area. To reach the hospital area they had to walk for nearly six days through thick jungle. Identified is VX137545 Raymond Cecil Burmeister, third from right, wearing glasses.
Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial Collection.

Learn more about the brave 39th Infantry Battalion via the 39th Association website and our Facebook page now.