Fishing at Lake Albert, c. 1960s, with Kooringal in the background (from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/189/670)

Swampy Plain to Lake Albert

This weekend the shores of Lake Albert will be crowded with people for the annual Lake to Lagoon Fun Run.  The area has been a popular spot for the people of Wagga to pass their leisure hours, whether on the water or off, for over one hundred years.

Swampy Plain

Lake Albert was not the initial name that Europeans gave to the area; instead it had the somewhat uninspiring name of “Swampy Plain.”  The small village that soon grew up in the area also took on that name.

Then around 1866, the name of that watery area was officially changed to “Lake Albert”, most likely in honour of Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, who had died just a few years earlier.  Not that there was probably much to call a lake there at that time.  The long droughts that occurred early on in European settlement had apparently made the area a good place for the local brick makers to get rushes on which to stack their un-burnt bricks.  It was also used as an excellent place to graze cattle, especially as it was on the travelling stock route.

Lake Albert, [Pastoral Map of the Wagga Wagga and Sandy Creek Run, c.1885]

Lake Albert [Pastoral Map of the Wagga Wagga and Sandy Creek Run, c.1885]

Diversions

Due to the persistent nature of a number of local people in the 1880s who thought it desirable to have a recreational area for aquatic sports in the Wagga Wagga district, it was proposed that Lake Albert be developed into an artificial lake of between 150 to 200 acres in size.

Fishing at Lake Albert, c. 1960s, with Kooringal in the background (from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/189/670)

A fisherman watches some swimmers at Lake Albert, c. 1960s, with the new suburb of Kooringal in the background (from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/189/670)

A public meeting held in the Town Hall on 4 June 1886 discussed planning a way in which a diversion from Crooked Creek and Stringybark Creek could be created to supply a permanent quantity of water. The vision at this meeting was for Lake Albert to become a tourist attraction such as Lake Burrumbeet at Ballarat and the inland lakes in Gippsland Victoria. It took almost two decades for this vision to begin to be a reality.

In 1888 the Premier of NSW, Sir Henry Parkes, visited Wagga and after a visit to the Lake Albert School, he was taken the short distance to Crooked Creek to inform him of the desire that the floodwaters which ran into the Murrumbidgee River could be diverted into the lake. The argument put forward was that not only would regattas and other aquatic recreational events be able to be held, but traveling stock would also have necessary water for all seasons of the year.

Almost fifteen years later, there was a further series of public meetings between 1898-1900 with the purpose of getting the Lake Albert project started. At a meeting held in August 1898 the Lake Albert Improvement League was formed and they immediately started lobbying for the construction of a weir, the diversion of a creek on the southern side into the lake and the partial diversion of Crooked Creek into the lake.

In August 1900, tenders were called for cutting a channel from Crooked Creek and for creating a dam across Stringybark Creek. The contractor, Mr Rowston, made every effort to work quickly and to ensure this he employed between 15 and 20 men for the job. This work was sanctioned by the Minister for Public Works and the work was expected to take approximately three months to complete.

The Minister for Public Works advised locals in December 1902 that an additional Lake Albert Water Scheme would be carried out to further the earlier work completed. The cost was not to exceed 475 pounds and local men, horses and carts were to be used.

Success!

In August 1905 for the first time in several years Lake Albert was full of water. It had suffered long and continued droughts which turned the area back into a swamp and even a grazing ground for cattle for a time. The plentiful rains of 1905 filled the lake to a higher level than had been experienced since 1894, making it desirable for the breeding of wild duck and other game.

A Regatta at the Wagga Boat Club on Lake Albert, 31 Jan 1955 (from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574.255)

A Regatta at the Wagga Boat Club on Lake Albert, 31 Jan 1955 (from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574.255)

Over 2,000 fish of various species were transferred to Lake Albert during the summers of 1906 and 1907. These fish were obtained from large ponds near the Murrumbidgee River and in January 1907 it was reported that these ponds were fast drying up and that the fish in these ponds were so plentiful they could simply be transferred to the lake by bucket.

During the following years all manner of aquatic sports were undertaken on Lake Albert. Sailing, canoeing, swimming, fishing and water skiing all became immensely popular. As well as sporting clubs, a number of Service Clubs utilised the idyllic setting for raising funds for charity. During the 1950s, power boat racing became incredibly popular and attracted large crowds.

Every decade whilst Lake Albert has been in use, meteorological anomalies have produced periods of drought and flood. These uncontrollable weather conditions have greatly affected the condition of the lake be it through lack of water, or too much water damaging banks or other structures.

Lake Albert has provided constant enjoyment to residents and visitors to Wagga Wagga for over one hundred years, and while the usage may slightly change, each generation has had a genuine interest in keeping Lake Albert a great recreational area for families to enjoy.

 

References:

The Gormly Index (CSU Regional Archives); The Wagga Express, 25 August 1866; The Wagga Advertiser, 3 June 1886; 7 April 1888; 4 August 1898; 30 August 1900; 30 December 1902; 3 August 1905; 31 January 1907); Tom Lennon Collection (RW1574); Land and Property Information (http://www.lpi.nsw.gov.au/land_titles/historical_research)

Who Will Buy?

While re-processing some correspondence files from the Narrandera Shire Council recently, we came across some fantastic advertising brochures and pamphlets from days gone by.  Some caught our eye with their bright reds, blues and yellows. Others have great photos in them that we just had to share.

Merryweather's Royal Hatfield Automatic Fire Engine

Merryweather’s Royal Hatfield Automatic Fire Engine, specially built for His Majesty the King [from the Narrandera Shire Council Collection, RW175]

 

An Ambulance Waggon for use in the Boer War

An Ambulance Waggon for use in the Boer War [from the Narrandera Shire Council Collection, RW175]

 

The inside of the horse-drawn ambulance

The inside of the horse-drawn ambulance [from the Narrandera Shire Council Collection, RW175]

 

Merryweathers' Automobile "Fire Suds" Machine

Merryweathers’ Automobile “Fire Suds” Machine. For Petrol and Oil Fires. [from the Narrandera Shire Council Collection, RW175]

One statement in a brochure by Latimers Visible Petrol was just too good not to reproduce: “The Hammond Visible Petrol System has been sealed by the British Board of Trade, London, which signifies the acme of perfection.”  Yes – it really does use the word “acme”!!

The Government Authorised Petrol Measure, from Latimers Visible Petrol Ltd.

The Government Authorised Petrol Measure, from Latimers Visible Petrol Ltd. [from the Narrandera Shire Council Collection, RW175]

There were also a few booklets on safety.  Who’d have guessed that OHS was around in 1939?!

The front and back covers of the Safety Review by the Safety First Council of NSW

The front and back covers of the Safety Review by the Safety First Council of NSW, June 1939 [from the Narrandera Shire Council Collection, RW175]

Universal Calamity Impending

“Universal Calamity Impending: The World’s Greatest War” was the news headline in The Daily Advertiser from 4 August 1914.  The phrase sums up well the air of foreboding that we imagine was hanging around on that day. It was on 4 August that Britain declared war on Germany.  And where Britain went, Australia was determined to follow.

With so many interwoven agreements, promises of support and alliances throughout Europe, when the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo the resulting mess was seemingly inevitable. Countries were mobilising even before any declarations of war – Australia included. No one wanted to be caught out. In that Tuesday’s edition of The Daily Advertiser, the editor gave the people of Wagga details on what the Government could offer Britain in the event of war.  Prime Minister Joseph Cook was quoted as saying “the Australian fleet is ready, and at the disposal of the Empire, as it has been and ever will be when our navy is wanted to help the mother country.”

Wagga Wagga Express, 4 August 1914

The Special War Edition of the Wagga Wagga Express, 4 August 1914

The next day, a Wednesday, the Daily Advertiser ran the headline “All Europe in Arms” followed by “Decisive Step By Britain; Great Naval Engagements; Eight German and Three British Vessels Sunk; etc. etc.”  And so it was on.  The editor could hardly understand it:

“Has Germany suddenly gone made?  What possible chance can she have against a combination such as Britain, France, Russia, and Japan?  What has she to gain by going to war?  These are questions which perplex the minds of the majority of thinking people, and even of people who do not habitually use up much mental energy in the effort to think.”

Just as a side note, while the Advertiser did devote one whole page to the outbreak of war in their 5 August 1914 edition, on the other three pages it was business as usual.  Mr A Mitchell, foreman at Hardy and Co’s joinery works, had met with an accident and was in Belmore Private Hospital; George Randall was up before the police court having been drunk and disorderly and had used indecent language in Fitzmaurice Street, and Elisher Sydenham was acquitted after having been charged with “having insufficient lawful means of support” (she had been seen sleeping in Newtown Park (Collins Park)).  The Wagga Choral Society had just held their annual meeting, the painters of Wagga were invited to a meeting that night to form a union, and a fancy dress football team was to meet an “old buffers’ combination” at Mangoplah on Wednesday week.

We think of the world as suddenly being consumed with war between 1914 and 1918 but during those years a lot of people still went to work, played sport, went to gaol, died, had babies, went shopping, and gambled on the horses. The newspapers paint this picture in such an immediate way – they published reports, advertisements, and commentaries almost daily which now provides us with a wonderful way to see life as it unfolded, whether on the world stage or at home in little ol’ Wagga Wagga.

Wagga Wagga Seminar

Carmody's Royal Hotel, cnr Baylis Street and Forsyth Street, c. 1950s

Carmody’s Royal Hotel, cnr Baylis Street and Forsyth Street, c. 1950s [from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/492]

The Royal Australian Historical Society, in conjunction with the CSU Regional Archives, the Wagga Wagga and District Historical Society and the Wagga Wagga and District Family History Society, is holding a two-day seminar in Wagga Wagga on 1st and 2nd August 2014.

The lectures and workshops planned include topics on:

  • Land research
  • History in the virtual world
  • Multicultural local history, including Italian, German, and Chinese immigrants and their presence in Australia’s 19th Century view of history
  • Wellington’s men in Australia
  • Lebanese families in the Wagga Wagga area
  • Chinese migration and settlement in the Wagga Wagga area
  • The Romany in Australia
  • Occupying the land – different types of tenure
  • The CSU Regional Archives collection

If this sounds like your kind of thing, please join us – everyone and anyone is welcome to come.  It is sure to be a very interesting couple of days!

For a seminar programme, please visit www.rahs.org.au/events and select “RAHS Regional Seminar: Wagga Wagga”

Bookings are essential.  To book your place, please call History House: (02) 9247 8001 or email: history@rahs.org.au

When:

  • Day One – Friday, 1 August (8.45am – 5.00pm)
  • Day Two – Saturday, 2 August (8.45am – 4.30pm).

Cost:

  • $30 per day or $50 if you are attending both days
  • RAHS Member: $25 per day or $45 for both days

     Prices include morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea.

Where: 

  • Blakemore Building
    South Campus of Charles Sturt University
    College Avenue, Wagga Wagga

     If you are unsure about where this is, please contact us and we will happily provide you with directions.

140 Years of Bikes

With the Tour de France on at the moment, we thought we would revisit this article on bicycle clubs in Wagga Wagga written for our “At the Archives” page from 2011:

Many people contributed their ideas to bring the bicycle from the German “Dandy Horse of 1816” through to the sophisticated special-purpose cycles of today. The wooden-wheeled iron-tyred “boneshakers,” followed by a very large high wheeled cycle which was nicknamed the “man killer”, likely first made their appearance in Wagga Wagga in the 1860s or 1870s.

As early as 1872, there were definitely bicycles in the Wagga area.  On November 6, 1872, a Grand Bicycle Race was held as part of the sports programme for the Prince of Wales’ birthday at Wagga Wagga.  The advertisement for the event stated that the bicycle race had been added to the programme “by request”; we might assume from this that it had not been the organisers’ original intention to include the race, but that they had been approached by a couple of enthusiasts.

A later article in the Wagga Express noted that three competitors were entered in that particular race. However, the Nov 13th edition of the Wagga Express, following the athletics day, made one short mention of the results of the bicycle race, saying, “Although some bicyclists were on the ground the match did not come off.”

Cyclist Dick Mutton [Wagga Wagga and District Historical Society Collection, CSURA RW5/27]

Australian champion cyclist (c.1900), Dick Mutton of Bathurst (from the Wagga Wagga and District Historical Society Collection, CSURA RW5/27)

The Wagga Bicycle Club

The first Bicycle Club in Wagga was formed in September 1882, with the Mayor, AT Bolton, as President and ED Leyshon as Captain.  Initially, there were 21 members and all was looking very promising.  However, the club had disbanded by 1884.

On November 29, 1887, at a meeting chaired by A Faunce and attended by G Evans, J Boyd, P Hayes, C Douglas and J Gormly, a second Bicycle Club was formed and following a second meeting held on December 5, 1887, it was decided that Wagga Club would join the Bicyclists Union of New South Wales.  Joseph Gormly was Secretary-Treasurer and G Evans, the Captain. The uniform of the club was a navy blue suit and white straw hat with a navy blue band.  Regular races were held at the cricket ground, often in conjunction with foot races.

As interest grew in the sport, a new venue was sought and a twelve acre block at the corner of Fitzmaurice and Travers Streets was obtained for the club’s new track; after considerable work was done on the track, which was named the Trapezium, the first race was held on August 4, 1897.

Track Riders at Wagga [Tom Lennon Collection, CSURA RW1574/612]

Joe Power, Barry O’Hagan, Dennis Tilden, Norm Power and John Demmery on the track, c.1960s (from the Tom Lennon Collection, CSURA RW1574/612)

The Wagga Wagga Cycling Club

The fortunes of the Wagga Bicycle Club waxed and waned through the next fifty years; some years no meetings would be held at all and then an enthusiastic group would gather to reboot the club once again (usually by changing the name of the club ever-so slightly).  The club went into recess during the early 1960s; however, on July 31, 1975, the Wagga Wagga and District Police Citizens Boys’ Cycling Club held their inaugural meeting where discussions took place regarding the formation of a new official Cycling Club.

An organising committee of 11 members was formed to investigate the possibility of track cycling returning to Wagga Cricket Ground; Barry O’Hagan was elected President.  And so, with some hard work by passionate committee members, cycle racing was returned to the sporting calendar.

In August 1976, a ladies auxiliary was formed with Roslyn Tilden as President, and Dianne Poole as Secretary; Jan Lloyd and Shirley Tucker were in charge of records. The funds raised by the hard-working committee were greatly appreciated by the members.

Today the Wagga Wagga Cycling Club is still going strong and has a huge calendar of events each year.

This article was initially compiled by June Dietrich for “At the Archives” [The Daily Advertiser, 12 March 2011].

References: Wagga Wagga, a History, by Sherry Morris; Sydney Morning Herald – 23 Jan 1890, Jan 22, 1926; Wagga Wagga Express – 26 Nov 1872, 13 Nov 1872; The Gormly Index - CSURA; The Daily Advertiser – 23 June 1939, 6 Jan, 1956;Wagga Wagga and District Police Citizens Boys’ Club – Minute Book, 1975-78 [RW171/13 - CSURA]; http://www.waggacyclingclub.com.

MIA Lantern Slides

Jump over to our Flickr site and have a look at some images we’ve recently uploaded relating to the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area.

Settler's Home - Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA)

The images are part of a Wagga Experiment Farm (later, the Wagga Agricultural College) collection of lantern slides. Our assumption is that the slides were originally part of some large photographic collection from which the teachers at the Farm made selections to show their students.

S Richards and Co, Leeton - Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA)

The slides we’ve uploaded so far only relate to the MIA, mostly with a focus on Leeton. Hopefully we’ll soon have the rest of the collection up for your perusal.

At the Races

Did you attend the Wagga Gold Cup on Friday? Or perhaps the Town Plate the day before?  You may have dressed to impress the Fashions on the Field judges or have had a flutter or two.  In all the excitement, did you ever think about the history around you?  Did you wonder about others who for over a hundred years have stood in the same spot as you, screaming out “Go! Go!” during a race?  The generations of women who, like you, had spent weeks working out what they were going to wear?

Horse racing at Wagga Wagga has a history going back over 160 years.  The Murrumbidgee Turf Club was established in 1860 and five years later the land for a racecourse was dedicated; but even before that, horse racing had been extremely popular in Wagga.  The first recorded horse race was organised by publican Ginger Roberts on St Patrick’s Day 1849 (the main prize was a silver trophy worth 50 guineas) which was before the Village of Wagga Wagga had even been officially gazetted!  And who could forget the legendary (read: notorious) Ten Mile Race of 1868?

A crowd turns out for race day, 1966 (CSURA, RW17)

A crowd turns out for race day, 1966 (CSURA, RW17)

Some well-dressed gentlemen walking towards the MTC Grandstand, circa 1900 (from the Michael Pym Collection, RW2735/32)

Some well-dressed gentlemen walking towards the MTC Grandstand, circa 1900 (from the Michael Pym Collection, RW2735/32)

The busy betting ring at the back of the MTC Grandstand, 1959 (CSURA RW17)

The busy betting ring at the back of the MTC Grandstand, 1959 (CSURA RW17)

A very fashionable lady at the Wagga races in September 1955 (from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/259)

A very fashionable lady at the Wagga races in September 1955 (from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/259)

The MTC Gazebo (from the Michael Pym Collection, RW2735/31)

The MTC Gazebo (from the Michael Pym Collection, RW2735/31)

A punter at the Wagga races, 1966 (CSURA RW17)

A punter at the Wagga races, 1966 (CSURA RW17)

A very young-looking jockey at the Picnic Races, April 1955 (from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/256)

A very young-looking jockey at the Picnic Races, April 1955 (from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/256)

Fashions on the Field, 1966 (CSURA RW17)

Wagga Fashions on the Field, 1966 (CSURA RW17)

A race meeting at the Murrumbidgee Turf Club, 1955 (from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/253)

A race meeting at the Murrumbidgee Turf Club, 1955 (from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/253)

Two ladies collecting their winnings at the MTC in 1959 (CSURA RW17)

Two ladies collecting their winnings at the MTC in 1959 (CSURA RW17)

The viewing tower at the MTC, circa 1900 (from the Michael Pym Collection, RW2735/32)

The viewing tower at the MTC, circa 1900 (from the Michael Pym Collection, RW2735/32)

An interesting ensemble at the Wagga races, January 1955 (from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/255)

An interesting ensemble at the Wagga races, January 1955 (from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/255)

Easter and Anzac Day 2014

There’s a few public holidays coming up soon, so this is just a quick note to let you all know which days we will be closed in the coming week:

  • Maundy Thursday, April 17 (from 12.30pm)
  • Good Friday, April 18
  • Easter Monday, April 21
  • Anzac Day, April 25

HAPPY EASTER!!!

Easter! [from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/638]

from the Tom Lennon Collection, RW1574/638

The Magisterial Chair

We recently stumbled across this story in Trove and thought it too good not to share:

The Magisterial Chair at Wagga Wagga

On Monday last Mr. Thomas Hammond, of Junee, was sworn in a magistrate of the territory before Mr. Henry Baylis, P.M. [Police Magistrate], under a writ of dedimus protestatem [sic].  After the oath had been taken, it was of course, competent for Mr Hammond to take his seat upon the Bench, but this was easier said than done, seeing that there was nothing to sit upon.  At present the furniture in the Court-house at Wagga Wagga, belonging to the Government, consists of one chair, or rather the remains of a chair, for it has only three legs and no bottom, and on the whole presents a prospect of anything but security or comfort to the occupant.  Of course it would have been impossible to ask Mr. Hammond to risk his neck on anything of the kind, for, except the position of the Forster Ministry, we know of nothing nearly as rickety as our one Government chair.  After the entire police force had scoured the neighbourhood for some hours, we believe a chair was borrowed, and the first of our new batch of J.P.’s was duly installed.  What will be done should there ever be a full Bench here at one time we cannot conceive and doubt if even the fertile resources for which the chief constable is so noted, and which led to the white-washing of a cell for the accommodation of the jury at the late District Court, will suffice for the exigencies of such a case as we have supposed. – Wagga Wagga Express

The story appeared in “Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Review” on 10 December 1859.

POMMY IN THE OUTBACK – THE SHARPLESS COLLECTION

One of the most interesting and diverse collections of private papers held by the CSU Regional Archives is the Sharpless collection (RW283). Named after Reginald William Sharpless (c.1900-1985), the collection comprises of correspondence, diaries, photographs, newspaper cuttings, memoriabilia and various other items collected by Sharpless during his life.

Born in England, Reg Sharpless worked in his family’s business until 1923. A chronic asthmatic, Sharpless left England aboard the S.S. Narkunda in search of a dry place to help alleviate his asthma. Sharpless settled in Sydney for several weeks, but with no improvement in his health, he was advised to shift to a dryer climate—somewhere west! This meant Sharpless had two choices: Hay or Bourke (as these were the two western most extremities of the railway line at the time). The toss of a coin made his decision for him, and Sharpless headed for Hay by train, a journey which took approximately 20 hours.

Within three weeks Sharpless found himself with paid employment on Mossgiel Station, 30 miles from Ivanhoe, as a jackaroo. His only problem was that he had no idea what a jackaroo actually did! Other obstacles that Sharpless had to overcome included coming to grips with Australian ‘slang’, dealing with dingos and the small matter of learning how to ride a horse.

In time Sharpless learnt that his job entailed everything imaginable—he was literally ‘a jack of all trades’. The working day began at 7am and did not finish often until 6.30pm. This was the routine, six days a week, with Sunday being a time for rest and recreation, which, more often took the form of tennis, shooting, swimming or picnicking. His daily duties included sheep maintenance, mustering and droving, crutching, general maintenance of vehicles and equipment, fencing, mending telephone lines and repairing wells, windmills and bores. Sharpless wrote later in his diary that he had been asked to use skills and abilities from at least eight different trades including carpentry, painting, engineering, bricklaying, coachbuilding, plumbing and shepherding whilst working at Mossgiel. For this type of work Sharpless got board, food and one pound a week in wages.

Mossgiel Station covered an area of 350 square miles or approximately 250,000 acres. Paddock sizes varied from 10 acres to 10,000 acres. These huge portions, in comparison to the ‘mother-land’, were one of the factors Sharpless had to adjust to. Another was the different flora and fauna. Of these, Sharpless had the greatest difficulty with snakes. He recounts on numerous occasions his first few encounters with these ‘joe-blakes’, with the winner not always being one Reginald Sharpless.

Owing to the enormous distances between properties and people, there were very few occasions where social outings were possible. However, there were some regular events which were never missed by Sharpless and the other jackaroos. These took the form of dances in aid of local hospitals and charities. As a result, people from as fas as fifty miles away would attend, including Sharpless and his drum kit, which became somewhat of a novelty.

Another of his hobbies included photography, and his estimate of six hundred photographs taken during his stay at Mossgiel Station must have been a conservative appraisal. One of these photographs is the now famous shot of the two bogged wool teams, entitled ‘The Bog’ (pictured).

'The Bog' (RW283.7.4.49)

‘The Bog’ – This famous photo was taken by Sharpless in 1925 after severe flooding of the Willandra Creek between Hillston and Ivanhoe (RW283/7/4/49).

Sharpless remained at Mossgiel Station for a period of two and a half years, before returning to England in 1926, as he had promised his family. The collection held at the CSU Regional Archives contains much of the correspondence between Sharpless and his family during this period.

In later life Sharpless began compiling his memoirs which documented his experience as a jackaroo, and in 1982 published them as a book entitled Pommy in the Outback. In his epilogue to the book Sharpless says “On the scoreboard of my life, I mark up those three brief years as the most rewarding of the eighty I have been blessed with.” A copy of this book can be found in the Sharpless collection held at the CSU Regional Archives.

Reg Sharpless died in 1985 at the age of 84.

'Smoko' - Reginald Sharpless takes a break whilst repairing windmills on Mossgiel Station (RW283/7/2/18).

‘Smoko’ – Reginald Sharpless takes a break whilst repairing windmills on Mossgiel Station (RW283/7/2/18).