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.