Tag Archives: 1940

The Old Castlemaine Schoolboys Association

This photo appeared in Table Talk on 26th February 1920 recording an event which had taken place on Feb 15th.  Just a group of men having a dinner and Smoke Night in the Melbourne Town Hall.  But the interesting fact is that they all went to school within a few miles of the Castlemaine Post Office  and that there were enough of them to fill the Hall

old boys reunion Table talk Melbourne 26-2-1920

The Association was formed in 1912   Prominent people like Harry Lawson MP and Frank Tate the well known Director of Education were among the early members.  So too was Colonel Fields, whose granddaughters attended the High School later on and are remembered by  some of us who are still around. Mostly the annual reunions were held in Castlemaine but occasional ones were held in Melbourne.

I took the next photo in the front hallway of the North Castlemaine State School in 2003.  It shows the Dux of School, i.e. Grade 6,  a prize awarded each year from 1928 to 1973 by the Old Castlemaine Schoolboys Association.  It was a small  school with only one class for each level from Prep to Grade 6.  But political correctness took over after 1973 when the teachers refused to set the examination to decide the prize winners.  Notice the  emblem for the Association was the blue orchid which grew locally each Spring  in the harshest of grounds

2003 Reunioin Old Schoolboys Association board b


This is the prize awarded in 1940, a leather bound copy of the Poems of Adam  Lindsay Gordon..  The Association’s emblem is on the front cover and a keepsake of one of the real blue orchids has been kept pressed inside the book

The first winner for this school in 1928 was H.L.Stacey.  I’m hoping that someone can tell me about that family.

A Soldier’s Farewell to his Girl

Sepia Saturday’s them for the week  – trains, trams, transport.  But  if  I say trains and transport then the next word is troops.

I prefer to use images from the family albums but this time I am going with my favorite photo from the State Library of Victoria.   It is listed as being from the Melbourne newspaper of the time, the Argus on August 14th, 1940.  However it does not appear in the paper. but  is one of a collection which came from the paper.  Why ever wasn’t it used.  Every photo tells a story and this photo tells a very powerful story.

The unanswered question is – Who are these two central people ?

14th August 1940

14th August 1940

Is she his wife,  fiancee, girl friend ?  Was this an embarkation leave farewell?  Troops were still being sent to the Middle East .  Did he come back safely or was he killed at Tobruk like the driver of the bread van in my home town ?

In this second photo  you can again see her on the shoulder of some strong person.

Aug 14th 1940

Aug 14th 1940

Another time we see the soldiers marching down platform 10A at Spencer St Station  in 1944,  the engine for their train waiting t in the background.

Platform 10A, Spencer St. 1944


Then in 2012  Toni Jordan published her novel Nine Days which was inspired by the kiss photo.  She put her imagination to work to give a story going both back to the past and forward  to the future.  It is so believable and particularly enjoyable to anyone who enjoys their inner Melbourne suburbs and the idea of life as it was,  in this case  inner-city Richmond.

Nine Days by Toni JordanThe photo, with the help of a bit of colour, was used for the cover of the book.

How the novel came about, The Age, Aug 19th, 2012

Review of Nine Days by Toni Jordan in the Age, August 26th, 2012

And a bit of trivia for the young-uns as to those beautiful marcel waves in the first photo.  These days with all the electric wands for straightening and curling you might not know that in the 1930s when these marcel waves were popular, to make them at home you used these torturous butterfly metal grips with sharp teeth which pinched the damp hair together into ridges.  When dry the hair would comb out into waves.

Marcel Waves

Making Marcel Waves

 Go to Sepia Saturday to read more stories of earth-bound transport of every imaginable kind.

Sepia Saturday



Re-visiting “What the children didn’t know”

Happy 200th birthday, Sepia Saturday.

2013.10W.04 I have only been a member of Sepia Saturday for three months which is only 7% of its lifetime.  So I was hesitant about re-publishing a post which was only made two months ago. But writing the post was a revelation to me as I started researching what was happening on the date which was written on the photo. This is a method I will continue to use whenever I know when a photo was taken but hopefully won’t be quite as long-winded in future.Garden party

Our theme for  today is groups of three. These three girls were  prizewinners at Mrs Burnell’s  garden party.in Castlemaine, Central Victoria, on Nov 16th, 1940 . It was part of the way into World War II, when raising money for war effort charities such as the Comfort Fund, Red Cross or Bundles for Britain was the usual reason for holding a money-raising event. It was such a patriotic time, not so long after the last coronation and a new king, with the country at war.  Best dresses and hats were brought out  for this special occasion, and the pram reflects the feeling at the time  with its crown, its Australian flags and red, white and blue bunting.. Crepe paper was the standard material for these creations, willingly constructed by parents. .  And the special doll Elizabeth was  named ,of course, after Princess Elizabeth.

A typical pretty, peaceful, family album picture of the time.  But it is what the picture doesn’t show which makes it interesting to me.  When the two girls on the right got out of bed that morning they had probably been primed to wish their mother a happy birthday.  It was her forty-first birthday.  But they would have been blissfully unaware of the reaction of their parents when they opened their morning newspaper of choice, the Argus, from Melbourne, and its news of the war from England. .Two nights before the worst bombing raid on the city of Coventry was carried out.  Over 4000 homes were destroyed and over 500 people killed. Coventry was the home of the  children’s 90  year old maternal great grandmother.  I don’t know long it was to be before the Australian family  found out that she was alive and well and was to live for another two years. Then on the night of the garden party the Royal Air Force  retaliated by bombing Hamburg.

But the children weren’t aware of this.

The Ruins of Coventry Cathedral
The Ruins of Coventry Cathedral

Also on the other side of the world and on that same day the Warsaw ghetto was closed to the outside world by the Nazis. In the previous month the Jewish people of Warsaw, about one third of the total population , had been rounded up by the Nazis and  confined to a small are of the city, These 400,000 people were held behind three metre high walls topped with barbed wire.  And on this fatal day the gap was closed.  Thirty percent  of the population crowded into two and a half percent  of the area.

But the children in Castlemaine weren’t aware of this

chilldren in warsaw ghetto

or of a group of three children in the ghetto in Warsaw,

The garden party was held at the home of Mr and Mrs Burnell, a beautiful home with a large front lawn suitable for all the stalls and competitions that go with a fund-raising garden party.    It was directly across the road from  Thompson’s Englineering  & Pipe Works, established in 1875, where Mr Burnell was the General Manager.  He had won the MC during WorldWar I.  Thompson’s was the most important business in Castlemaine, commonly known as Thompson’s Foundry  and was spread out alongside the main railway line from Melbourne to Bendigo, an ideal position for transporting the heavy goods which  it made, a wide range of steam-engines, boilers, mining machinery, railway equipment and centrifugal pumps. But during World War II they made  artillery and tank guns, marine engines, circulating pumps and other heavy forging and foundry work.

Making guns for war, what  the children didn’t know.

How's this for a crankshaft ?
How’s this for a crankshaft ?

The  eldest girl in the photos remembers the workmen on their pushbikes, four and five abreast, sweeping up and down the Main Street on their way to and from work. With such a large work force the foundry had a piercing whistle  which screamed out at 7.00am, 7.20am and 7.30am. There was no excuse for being late for work and the whole town and beyond had its own non-negotiable alarm clock.

Small towns are such a web of people and places.  The mother of the two girls on the right had originally come to Castlemaine with her parents as from 1923 to 1928 her father worked in the office at Thompson’s and was Bandmaster of Thompson’s Foundry Band. This is the same man who brought a book on Shakespeare with him when he came to Australia.  The man really did have itchy feet and jumped as bandmaster from one small country town to another several times. The Foundry has had its own brass band since  1887 and 24 members of the band served in World War I, six of whom were killed.  I have no figures for the Second World War.

When is the world going to learn .


Thompson's in 1960
Thompson’s in 1960

And for more interesting stories about groups of three, click on the links in Sepia Saturday.


The Cape Otway Lighthouse

Take one lighthouse, a harbour and some boats, stir in Eric the Red and the City of Rayville, and what do you get ?  Answer –   The Cape Otway Lighthouse.

The Cape Otway Lightstation is the oldest, surviving lighthouse in mainland Australia. The light, which has been in continuous operation since 1848, is perched on towering sea cliffs where Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean collide. For thousands of immigrants, including my ancestors, after many months at sea, Cape Otway was their first sight of land after leaving Europe.                          Quoted fromThe Cape Otway Lightstation

Note  Some readers have questioned the use of oldest above so I have added some further notes at the end of the page.

map - from the beach jpgThe closest settlement to the lighthouse was  Krambruk, later known as Apollo Bay, and some of my ancestors settled in the area. The lighthouse became a place to take visitors.   (1)

Then and now 2

From  the family album -the lighthouse in Jan 1948.             And a recent photo (2)

That tall radio mast has now disappeared.

Walway looking NE

Up the tower in Jan 1948        And the same view to the north-east in recent times.(3)

There were many shipwrecks along the Australian coast and the reefs around Cape Otway had their fair share.. As Apollo Bay was a fishing village the fishing boats became used to turning out to help ships in trouble. Some of the shipwrecks were quite notable.
In September 1880 Eric the Red was heading to Melbourne with American exhibits for an International Trade Exhibition in Melbourne when it went down two miles from Cape Otway with the loss of four lives. There was plenty of wreckage from the Eric to be found along the coast which was salvaged and used in the construction of houses and sheds around Apollo Bay, including Milford House (since burnt down in bushfires), which had furniture and fittings from the ship, and the dining room floor made out of its timbers. A ketch named  the Apollo was also built from its timbers and subsequently used in Tasmanian waters.. Waste not, want not !  A relation, Claud Telford, is reputed at the age of fifteen to have walked to Cape Otway from Apollo Bay on 3 or 4 days to help in the recovery. (just oral history). (4)

Another major shipwreck occurred in 1940. Look at the photo of these survivors photographed beside the distinctive foreshore trees at Apollo Bay.  I found in The State Library of Victoria in a collection from the now defunct Argus under Wartime Rescue Photos. Early in the war a German minelayer had laid 40 mines off Cape Otway, as well as at other select places along the Victorian coast (5)

SurvivorsThese men  have the distinction of having been rescued from SS City of Rayville, the first American ship to be sunk in the Second World War, more than a year before Pearl Harbour . Only one life was lost. The lighthouse keeper at Cape Otway saw the flames from the explosion when the ship hit a mine and billiard players in Apollo Bay heard the explosion. Three boats set out from Apollo Bay and found the ship’s crew had been able to take to their lifeboats. These lifeboats with 37 sailors were then towed back to Apollo Bay, arriving at dawn on November 9th, 1940. (6)
The survivors were well looked after. This photo, loaned to me by a Telford relation whose mother is in the photo, shows a mixture of the sailors, hotel staff and others, taken outside the hotel.

Sailors at Apollo Bay
The ship had been laden with Australian lead from Port Pirie and took only 35 minutes to sink.

(1) View of the Lighthouse from the Cape Otway Lightstation site

(2) Thanks  Flickr

(3) As seen on Flickr

(4) Heritage Victoria has a good description of the incident using the Captain’s own words describing the incident.

(5) Photo of survivors from the Argus collection at the State Library of Victoria

(6)  A detailed report on the City of  Rayville incident

There is also an Age report in 2009 about the diver who eventually  discovered the wreckage and a video from Deakin University exploring the wreckage,

I wonder what became of these sailors and their families ?

Further Notes

They started building the Cape Otway Lighthouse in 1846 and the first light shone in 1848.
It was the second lighthouse completed but is the oldest surviving lighthouse.
It was decommissioned in January 1994 after being the longest continuous operating light on the Australian mainland.
It has been replaced by a low powered solar light in front of the original tower

Meanwhile the Macquarie Lighthouse began as  a tripod mounted iron basket which originally burned wood, and later coal.
A sandstone lighthouse was built and began operation in 1818 but the sandstone eventually crumbled and a new lighthouse was built 4 metres away from the first one, lighting up in 1883 when the following photo was taken.

-Macquarie_Lighthouse_old_and_new  1883
Hey, hey, two lighthouses side by side, switch one off, switch the other on, so depriving NSW of that word continuous..

Woud I be right in saying Macquarie can claim the continuous area title and Cape Otway can have the continuous building/light title !
In 1976 the Macquarie Lighthouse was fully automated