Trove Tuesday – Australia Day 1915

Australia Day has not always been 26th January. In 1915, it was celebrated on 30th July in order to raise funds to help sick and wounded soldiers.

Wattle by Caroline Peebles. ca. 1870-ca. 1910
Wattle, watercolour by Caroline Peebles. ca. 1870-ca. 1910


On Saturday 2 October, The Australasian published a letter by a young girl describing some of the sights in the Rutherglen district on that day. It was obviously a memorable day for her. She describes selling wattle “to help the soldiers” in the morning and a ride on the teacher’s motorcycle to see the cars and flags on display.

Times have definitely changed – her teacher would most certainly not be praised for taking “little girls on his motor-bicycle” today!

THE YOUNG FOLK. (1915, October 2). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946), p. 53. Retrieved January 26, 2016, from
THE YOUNG FOLK. (1915, October 2). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946), p. 53. Retrieved January 26, 2016, from

Nathalie Dugay from Dugay’s Bridge, Rutherglen). – “Dear ‘Patience,’ – I was very glad to see my letter in the ‘Young Folk’s Page,’ and I am going to write you a longer one this time. I am in the third grade at school now; my brother Lance is getting on well, too, he’s in the second grade. We have a new teacher since I wrote to you last; but we have only got half-time school now, and I do not like it so well as the full time, as I sometimes forget things the teacher tells me when there is a day in between with no school. Our new schoolmaster has a motor cycle; and sometimes he takes us children for little rides up the road; it is lovely to ride on it. On Australia Day he took two of us in to Rutherglen to see the motor cars and the shops all decorated with flags and wattle; we had a half-holiday; I enjoyed myself very much, I sold some bunches of wattle in the morning at our school to help the soldiers. We had our school decorated with flags and wattle, and the Union Jack, and the Australian flags. My father put a French flag on the longest pole, because it is the flag of his native land. On the days that there is no school our grandma gives lessons in French; we do not know much yet, but some day I hope we will, because my father and grandma speak French as well as English. We have had a lot of rain lately, and the grass is growing well; also the crops. This is very pleasant to see after the drought. I remain your correspondent, ‘Nathalie.’ ” – I must compliment you on your writing, Nathalie; it is so well formed and very clear. In learning French you have a great advantage over most children, as you hear it spoken in your own house by French people; and that is quite the best way to acquire a language. What a good natured teacher you have to give you those rides; it is not every man that will take little girls on his motor-bicycle. – Love from “Patience.”

Trove Tuesday – Bushfires in Emerald

Some areas have floods, we have bushfires!

Fortunately, not all the time, but it is always a summer risk, especially on very hot days with strong northerly winds. Today was hot but not too windy, so the ‘beep’ of the Fire Ready app on my mobile phone this afternoon didn’t cause alarm. It was fairly close to home this time – a stump fire in the Puffing Billy yard according to a friend. It must have been fairly easily dealt with, as it soon disappeared from the app. Not so, many of the much larger fires in other areas of Australia already this summer. Six of our local brigades were reported as sending teams to continue the blacking out and patrolling of the Crib Point fire this afternoon.

Fire was even more of a problem for our early settlers. I have been correcting the text on newspaper articles about earlier bushfires for some time and intend to share some which have links to my family and/or the places they lived in a series of TroveTuesday posts.

There were many fires in February of 1926 and newspapers included quite a bit of information about the firefighting efforts of the local people – including the congregation of one of the churches!

MANY BUSH FIRES. (1926, February 1).The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 11. Retrieved January 14, 2016, from
MANY BUSH FIRES. (1926, February 1).The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 11. Retrieved January 14, 2016, from

EMERALD. – A bush fire broke out in the town on Sunday morning. It began in Ferres Gully, and came up near the house owned by Mr. Walton. Help was forthcoming, and the house was saved. The flames went on and up to the main road, and crossed the road by the Church of Christ. The morning service was in progress. The congregation left the church and beat the flames out in the vicinity of the building. The fire turned back, and burnt a shed at the back of Mr Walton’s house. Men beat back the flames, and made Mr. Paling’s house safe. A number of beaters went to the top of the hill and burnt a break around Mr. Tyrer’s house. A break was burnt along King’s road, and the fire gradually died out. The house occupied by Mrs. Warren in Williams’s Orchard Estate was in danger for a time.

This extract of a much larger article makes it very clear that the bushfire was right in the centre of Emerald.

Ferres Gully is a description not in use today, but it obviously referred to the steep gully between the two present-day sections of Ferres Road. My great uncle George Ferres ran a dairy farm in the far side of that road and from 1922 to 1949 used a horse and cart to deliver milk and cream to houses in both Emerald and Clematis. George’s farm was probably in no danger from the fire which was rushing up the opposite side of the valley.

From Ferres Gully, it appears that the fire crossed the main road somewhere near the present Emerald Co-Op (Mitre 10) store heading up the hill past the Church of Christ ( now the Community House hall) towards the highest point in Emerald, Kings Road.

The quick-thinking members of the congregation who raced out to fight the fire with branches hastily pulled from nearby trees no doubt helped reduce the spread of this fire. Their ‘Sunday best’ clothes are likely to have suffered somewhat in the process, I guess.

I have been unable to identify the reference to ‘Williams’s Orchard Estate’. There is a William St and an Orchard grove in Emerald, but not near the area in which the bushfire was burning.

As an amazing coincidence, whilst I was working on this post, the Fire Ready app beeped again – a ‘bushfire’ at the top of the same section of Ferres Road. It was declared ‘safe’ fairly quickly, but nearly an hour later the app reports that there are still two CFA vehicles in attendance!

We are very fortunate not to have to fight fires the way our ancestors did!

TroveTuesday – Frederick Arthur Roberts, Driver

Where or when my grandfather, Frederick Arthur Roberts, learned to drive is a mystery to me, but drive he did, both during and after World War 1. The first record I can find is from 12th February 1916 when he enlisted in the AIF as a Motor Driver.

Perhaps he was the driver for bread deliveries or supplies when his father moved the family from their 10-acre selections on the “Olinda hill” in 1910 and built a bakery in Monbulk? This seems very unlikely to me on two grounds: affordability and the likely state of the roads in Monbulk at the time!

Fred served as a driver in France in the 3rd Australian Ammunition Sub-Park till early in 1918 when he was transferred to the 3rd Australian Divisional Mechanical Transport Company. His Service Record gives few personal details of his experiences during the war: two weeks leave in February 1918 and the “crime” of driving a lorry at excessive speed in June of that year – deprived of 3 day’s pay!

Drivers were obviously needed to move people and supplies for some time after the War was over, so his return was delayed till the end of 1919, six months after his anxious mother had written asking whether the F. A. Roberts returning home at that time was her son. It obviously wasn’t!

After returning to Australia, Fred presumably spent some time with his family. I have heard that he also spent some time in Queensland, cutting sugar cane. For how long, I have no idea. Perhaps it was to earn sufficient money to buy a car? In any case, it appears that he was back in Monbulk in possession of a brand new car during October 1922, when The Argus reported on this mishap:

Report of Fred Roberts' car accident in 1922
COUNTRY NEWS. (1922, October 28). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 25. Retrieved December 20, 2015, from
"MONBULK - Mr. F. Roberts, of Monbulk, was driving a new motor car from Monbulk to Ferntree Gully across Zercho's bridge at Upwey on Wednesday night when the car struck the side rails of the bridge. But that the rails are strong and withstood the shock of the impact, the car must have fallen over the embankment into the gully below. The front of the car was considerably damaged. Mr Roberts escaped injury."

I have not been able to find any reference to Zercho’s bridge but, from the description in the article, assume it must have been the one pictured below where the old Main Road crossed the railway line before turning left and down the hill towards Ferntree Gully. The present Burwood Highway bypasses Upwey township on the far side of the railway line, the section going down towards Ferntree Gully often being referred to as the “mad mile”.

This might be Zercho's bridge where Fred Roberts had a car accident in 1922
THE BRIDGE LOOKING EAST, UPWEY, VIC.; Rose Stereograph Co; c1920-1954

Car accidents are a great shock and bother today, but at least, most of the expense of repairs is covered by our insurance. I have no idea if there was such a thing as car insurance in 1922. Having what must have been a very expensive car at the time being damaged would have been a great disappointment. The added expense of repairs would have been quite a burden I suspect.

Next post: Fred Roberts – Car for Hire