Showing posts from July, 2010


Some interesting snippets of information from a comprehensive article written by a Mr. Walter? Gale in 1927 called Pioneers of the district - History and Prophecy. Gale discusses Aboriginal habitation, native fauna, and the preparation and eating of the Bogong Moth (info). He goes on to discuss the early explorers of the area, Currie and Lhotski and Canberra's first 19th century European settlers.

Two items of particular interest to me in the article is the mention of a stand of gum trees at the foot of Mount Ainslie (post here) where James Ainslie first folded 700 sheep as he established Campbell's Duntroon Estate (post here) and Canberra's link with the weeping willow which droops over Napoleons grave at St. Helena (info)...
The Sydney Morning Herald - 9 May 1927

National Library of Australia (here)
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The 1920s saw considerable progress in establishing Canberra as a city, with particular attention being paid to building the new Provisional Parliament House and it's grand opening by the The Duke and Duchess of York.

Late in the day of 9 March 1927 the Duke planted an English Oak (Quercus robur) and a Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii) on either side of Federal Avenue (now Kings Avenue) near the corner with Capital Circle (now State Circle), as the initial plantings of Coppice (info) No. 5.

HRH The Duke of York - Canberra 1927
In 1931 the Commonwealth Government made available funding to plant 74 additional trees on the 1.7 hectare (4 acre) site. To provide relief work for the unemployed during the Great Depression and complete the planting of the coppice the government utilised Sustenance Workers to complete the project.

Sustenance workers were men during the Great Depression (info) who were required to labour on government projects in order to receive sustenance (principally food …


When I was a young man I spent a fair bit of time exploring the mountains and plains of Canberra's Brindabella Mountain region. Of particular note was the abundance of small beautiful black and vivid bright yellow striped frogs. One literally only had to look near a creek, soak or bog and there they would be. Around any water source the sound of  frogs permeated the air.

Only officially described in 1953 the Southern corroboree frog (Pseudophryne corroboree)(info here) is now so rare that amphibian specialists seeking them can take weeks to locate an individual frog. The territory for the frog is restricted to a tiny 10 km² area in high country sub-alpine Sphagnum Moss bogs where it has adapted it's lifestyle and breeding functions to endure the climactic extremes of hot dry summers and frozen, snow covered winters. Unusually the frog over-winters up to 300 metres from the bog in bushland under logs and fallen bark and walks overland more like a lizard than a frog with it'…


Bushranging by escaped convicts on the limestone plains of present day Canberra was an emerging problem in the early days of settlement exasperated by the lack of permanent government authority. The southern plains of the colony of New South Wales were effectively law-less.

From one interested in the welfare of the southern districts came a call for mounted police to be stationed nearby to protect the "respectable settlers" of the Limestone Plains. This newspaper article from the Sydney Herald dated 29 September 1834 laments the fact that settlers had to report bushranger activity in the area to the government authorities in either Goulburn or Inverary Park, Bungonia, both being over 50 miles(90 km) distant...

National Library of Australia (here)

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In the following newspaper clipping from the Canberra Times dated 2 May 1951 W.P. Bluett from "Koorabri" Brindabella writes to the Canberra Times concerned with a spate of tree deaths in the Canberra area. He relates a story of a meeting in 1912 with Frederick Campbell, the owner of Yarralumla Station (post here), who himself describes an unusual tree death event that occurred on his property in 1888. He relates the subsequent land clearing of the dead timber by the use of a small Aboriginal tribe that was residing on Yarralumla at the time...

National Library of Australia (here)

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Portraits of Canberra's convicts is a series of photos I took of the displays in the convict built barn at Lanyon Homestead interspersed with convict paintings and drawings. The physical descriptions of the convicts from the individual convict's records give us a glimpse of not only crime, sentence and age but also how they looked, what tattoos and scars they had and in some cases their mannerisms such as how they spoke.

The instrumental soundtrack the 'Fairytale Waltz' is supplied by Marc Gunn a Celtic American musician and podcaster, singer songwriter/instrumentalist who also has an album available for free download (here).

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A little background before the video...

Bordering today's northern suburbs of Canberra is a working remnant of Canberra's pastoral history, "Elm Grove". This fine merino wool property was established by James Gillespie next to his parents 1852 property "Horse Park" when he and his wife Isabella built a timber cottage on Portion 186 Parish of Goorooyarroo in 1882.

James was a well known personality in the Ginninderra district and he was involved in the establishment of the nearby Mulligan's Flat School (post here). He also wrote a regular news article titled "Ginninderra Notes" for the Goulburn Evening Penny Post under the pseudonym “The Wizard”.  For 40 years this column strengthened community development and political activism in the Ginninderra region and today provides a unique record of district events.

James lived on Elm Grove until he died in 1926 and Isabella until her death in 1938. Harold Gillespie (1890- 1974), their son, worked the p…


Walnuts were being imported into the colony in the early 1800's and by at least 1838 they had made their way to the Limestone Plains. Walnuts, after importation, I would have thought been a luxury item in the colony. The walnuts from the clipping below were imported from Valparaiso Chile (info).

The Sydney Herald - 16 October 1840 National Library of Australia (here)
I was visiting Lanyon homestead (post here) recently whilst they were repairing the stonework in the walls of the "old kitchen". The old kitchen was the original L'anyon Estate homestead and was built circa 1838 by James Wright during the heyday of his pastoral and agricultural empire at Lanyon. The exposed stone "blocks" held a little surprise, 170 year old walnut shells.

These shells were interred during the construction of the original homestead after having already had a long sea voyage to Australia and then being transported the arduous trip from the Sydney colony to the Limestone Plains. Wer…


The best living evidence of Aboriginal occupation of today's Australian Capital Territory exists in the form of an abundance of scarred trees left dotting the Canberra landscape. These scars were made by the purposeful removal of bark to be used in the manufacture of canoes, coolamons (vessles), and warriors shields.

The Aboriginal process of removing bark does not harm the tree but does leave the inner "heartwood face" exposed leaving a distinctive "scar" as the outer bark of the tree over the following centuries tries to "cover" the dead heartwood wound. The wound on this tree in Kambah is the "typical" one metre ecliptic scar found locally on trees in the ACT.

I have driven by this particular tree 'thousands' of times in my life and have never noticed it before today because of the growth of branches from below and beside the face of the wound.

The dried, dead "heartwood face" on this tree readily burns and has been blacke…


Gibraltar Falls is one of the largest and most accessible waterfalls in the Australian Capital Territory. From the top to the bottom of the falls the Gibraltar Creek cascades 50 metres before entering a narrow 800 metre granite-walled gorge. The headwaters of Gibraltar Creek originate at 1,320 metres above sea level, which is well above the snow-line, before descending to 720 metres on the valley floor below the falls.

The area is very significant not only for it's natural beauty but also it's heritage aspects, having been an important location for the original aboriginal inhabitants. A rock shelter, axe grinding grooves (post here) and stone artifact scatters in the area show a long history of indigenous inhabitation of the Gibraltar Valley.

European settlement in the mountainous area first occurred in the late 1890's by the Woods family. They called their property 'Gibraltar Creek'. and until the Corin Dam Road was established in the 1960's the station was very…


A nearly extinct plant clings desperately for survival at 550 meters above sea level on the eastern banks of the Murrumbidgee River at Canberra. Originally discovered in Tuggeranong in 1997 "Muehlenbeckia Tuggeranong" was first described (info) from a single female plant and six male plants that were found in the Murrumbidgee River Corridor at Pine Island (post here) in the Australian Capital Territory. In May 1999 one more male plant was discovered a short distance from the other seven plants. This brought the total to 7 male and one female plant known to exist.

Tuggeranong Lignum is a sprawling woody shrub that grows to 1 meter high in a loose tangled mound of wiry stems extending between 1-2 meters across. The plant has singular green ovoid leaves that grow at intervals along the length of the stem. The flowers are cream-green on a lax spike. Flowering occurs from December and late March annually. It grows in medium to course textured alluvium, mainly quartzitic sand and g…


The competition to design the new Federal Capital City of Canberra in 1913, having 136 entries, ended with the decision to award Walter Burley Griffin (1876-1937)(bio) the win for his blue-print of a geometric design cleverly worked into and around the plains and hills of the Molonglo River. Landscaping on a grand scale would provide a man-made recreational lake as the centerpiece to the Australian Government's Federal "Parliamentary Triangle".

Walter Burley Griffin
The hills and mountains of Canberra in Burley Griffin's plan define three axes, a water, a land and a municipal axis. Circles, triangles and semi-circles connect avenues and boulevards that cross the lake forming radial spokes emanating from the seat of government on Kurrajong (Capital) Hill. The central lake was to be semi-circular and the east and west basins circular. Burley Griffin's sketches however prompted discussion as to whether the design had other deeper meanings.

National Library of Australia…


The term for an armed robber in colonial Australia was "bushranger" and the Australian Capital Territory region had more than it's fair share of them. The word bushranger first originated from an article published in the Sydney Gazette in February 1805 mentioning that a cart had been stopped by three unknown men "whose appearance sanctioned the suspicion of their being bushrangers".

After this time the term bushranger was used to describe any criminals who attacked travellers in the Australian bush. John Thomas Bigge (1780-1843)(bio) described bushranging in 1821 as "absconding in the woods and living upon plunder and the robbery of orchards." Charles Darwin (1809-1882)(bio) also recorded in 1835 that a bushranger was "an open villain who subsists by highway robbery, and will sooner be killed than taken alive".

On 1 June 1866 the entire town of Michealago on the outskirts of the Australian Capital Territory was taken hostage by a bushranging…