Bullock Dray
Bullock Dray
James Charles HAMILTON (1836-1927), was born near Ormiston in the county of Haddington, about twelve miles south of Edinburgh, Scotland in 1836, the son of Francis JAMILTON and Janet Lennox GIBSON. The HAMILTON family, including five year old James arrived in Melbourne in November 1841 on the ship "Allan Ker". His father, Francis HAMILTON, and his brother-in-law Thomas GIBSON established the pastoral runs of "Bringalbert," about 68,000 acres and "Ozenkadnook," about 38,000 acres, north of the present-day settlements of Edenhope and Apsley. The two runs were north-west of the Glenelg River and north of Casterton in south western Victoria.

Maps of the area

Map of Lowan County showing Lake Bringalbert, north of the Glenelg River.

Map covering the journey from Lake Bringalbert to Portland on the south coast.

Maps showing the pastoral runs of this area

In his book "Pioneering Days in Western Victoria", published in 1923, when he was 87, James HAMILTON recalled his first bullock dray trip in 1848, at the age of twelve, from Ozenkadnook Station near Apsley, to Portland on the south coast, when there were no roads, only tracks.

Portland was our market town in the early days. My first visit there was after the shearing of 1848. My father had about a thousand sheep, mostly ewes, and took them out of my uncle's flocks that year, but as we had no shed, they were shorn in my uncle's shed. After shearing, we started with our load of wool and eight bullocks for Portland. There were no roads in those days, only tracks leading from station to station. We made Newlands the first day, Mr. Ballantyne being a friend of my father's. I was the bullock driver, my father walking alongside me. Mr. Ballantyne was unmarried, and lived alone at Newlands. I remember an incident that happened there. I was sitting on the sofa, playing with the cat, and not taking much notice of the conversation. For want of better amusement, I slipped the elastic band of my cabbage tree hat round pussy's neck, and pushed her quietly off the sofa. The poor cat got a fright, and went round the room like a circus horse. Mr. Ballantyne and my father both jumped up, calling out, "What's that?" Finally, pussy made a bound for an open porthole, which served to give light to the room, and disappeared with my hat. I never saw it again, but as we were leaving in the morning, Mr. Ballantyne came out, laughing, with a new "cabbage tree" to replace the one his cat stole from me. We got to Mr. Wallace's station, Elderslie, that day, and the next stage took us to the Dergholm boundary. This was part of the Roseneath run owned by Simpson and Ralston, Tasmanian people. The Ralstons are long since out of it, but a descendant of Mr. Simpson's still holds a part of this at one time very large run. We journeyed on through Nangeela, Mr. William McPherson's station. He was a fine, kind-hearted man, and an old pioneer, having taken up his country about the time the Hentys took up Muntham and Merino Downs. We came on to Dunrobin, then owned by Murray and Addison, and camped that night at the Deep creek, three miles from Casterton. We started early next morning, and soon reached the township, which consisted of a public house, store, and a few small huts. A man named McKinlay was the owner of the public house, called the Glenelg Inn, and the store. He was afterwards drowned in the Dismal Swamp, S.A. The inn was built of slabs principally, and had a shingle roof. There was also a blacksmith's shop in the township. In those days there was no bridge over the river, but the water was shallow enough for us to cross without damaging the wool. We had to cross the Wannon two miles further on, at a place called the Major's Ford, as Major Mitchell had crossed there in his journey through Australia. We got across safely, and camped that night at Bryan's Creek. Next day we got to the Emu Creek, where Digby is situated, and camped there for the night. Digby at that time had a public house, store, blacksmith's shop, and a few huts. We had to ford the creek there, too. The hotel was kept by Richard Lewis who prospered so well that he bought the Rifle Downs station. While on a visit to England, he bought the celebrated blood stallion, King Alfred the sire of many a grand steeplechaser, and one of the best horses ever brought into Victoria. He also bought a very fine stamp of a draught stallion, "Agronomer." Both these horses stood at Rifle Downs for a number of years. From Digby we made the Smoky River next day. This was our worst crossing-the black mud and slush running a long way out at each side of the channel. On getting through, we camped at the township, now called Hotspur. It was much in appearance like the other townships I have described. The public house was kept by Hector McDonald, who afterwards shifted to Portland, and built the place well-known as Mac's Hotel. Our next stage brought us to Heywood. Here there was a bridge, and having nothing to stop us, we drove past the township and camped for the night.

Heywood differed little from the other places we passed through as to the buildings. We got to Portland next day, and took our wool to Mr. Stephen George Henty's yard. Mr. Henty was the leading wool broker and merchant in Portland at that time, and doing a splendid business. Two other merchants were also doing business in that line Messrs. Flower and Must, and Mr. Cruikshank. My father sold his wool to Mr. Henty for something under a shilling a pound. Wool had to be well washed, clean and bright to bring a shilling, the average price of good washed wool being about eightpence. Greasy wool was unsaleable. We took up our quarters at the London Hotel, a little square stone building facing the sea, which is still there, but much improved since those days. In the morning I was up early, and had a walk to the seaside, where I found dozens of skeletons of large whales, this being, as everybody knows, the Messrs. Henty's whaling station. Many people considered that Mr. William Dutton, who was also a whaler, was the first man to settle at Portland. Some years after this, in the year 1859, I was at Mr. Dutton's farm, but had no conversation on the subject. I was then on a visit to Mr. Adolph van Hermet, at Boolwarra, on a fishing and quail shooting expedition.

Portland at the time of our visit was a nice compact town built mostly of stone. Some of the business places were Messrs. Crouch and Trangmar, iron merchants; Messrs. Muir, Smith and Hutchinson, drapers; saddler, John Finnigan, who returned to his early home after many years residence in Harrow, and died a few years ago. Mr. Bermingham carried on a tan yard, and some of his family are the owners of Mullagh station, near Harrow. Dr. Sutherland had a fine practice, and a very pretty, nicely arranged chemist shop. He was at that time our nearest doctor. His family afterwards lived in the Harrow district occupied principally as Braziers. Nearly every business in Portland was represented by shrewd practical men, and it bid fair at that time to be one of the foremost towns in Victoria. Since then trade has been diverted, and Portland has for many years languished; but in the near future railway connection with the Wimmera and South-Eastern districts must give it an impetus towards prosperity. The Revd. Thos. Elyord Richardson was the Presbyterian minister in 1848, and used occasionally to visit our district. He resigned his charge in Portland, and established the "Portland Guardian," of which I possess a copy dated 1849. The Revd. Wm. Wilson was the Church of England minister, and I understand his son George has lately come into a fortune and a title.

We had to get our stores together for our return journey, enough to last us a year-all kinds of provisions and clothing, and we reached home in due course.

"Pioneering Days in Western Victoria" - A Narrative of Early Station Life
by J. C. Hamilton, 1923.