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.

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.

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.

History in the Making

Closed Sign
Archive Closed – Courtesy of Classic Metal Signs

Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the “Social Distancing” rules the Society has closed the Archive, cancelled meetings and all activities.

Our general enquiries email account is being monitored periodically, however, there may be delays in responses.

Our capacity to research is significantly limited, but where possible we will try to provide information.

Please stay safe and take care.