Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Lost Post Offices of Australia - Dubbo (2830)

Up until the explorer John Oxley passed through the area, that was later to become Dubbo in 1818, the land belonged to the Wiradjuri people who were custodians of the the rich river flats around the the Maquarie River. It didn't take long after John Oxley reported on this bountiful land that in 1824 squatters moved into the area, immediately moving sheep and cattle on to the rich pastoral lands and driving off the traditional owners. Things remained static until Robert Delhunty, who between 1829 and 1833 moved onto land around 4 miles south of the present town and named his property 'Dubbo', (the aboringinal word meaning 'red earth'), that the town started to thrive. The first shop opened in 1841 and by 1846 the NSW Colonial Government decided to establish a Police presence in the area, so in 1847 a Police residence and lock up were built.  

Now we all know you can't have a town without postal services, so in 1848 the first Post Office began operations from Mr Serisiers's store, making him Dubbo's first Postmaster (however from 1847 there was an 'ad hoc' service from Wellington). In 1849 the township of Dubbo was declared and the first land sales began to take place. Even though the town was situated in a prominent area and had a viable crossing of the Macquarie River, the population numbered only numbered 47 in 1851. 

In 1862/3 the Court House moved again to new premises in Macquarie St and it also seems to be when the Post Office also moved to into the new Court House premises. In 1866 however, with the arrival of the telegraph from Wellington, tenders were put out for the construction of a new Post Office and in 1867 the new Post Office was completed.  

The town continue to grow and in 1872 the town had grown to 850, becoming the major commercial, manufacturing and service centre for western NSW. It was also in 1872 that Cobb & Co. took over the mail run from Wellington to Dubbo to Bourke with a twice weekly service, utilising a two horse coach. The town was now thriving and its status was confirmed as the 'capital' on western NSW when the railway finally arrived in 1881 and the population quickly grew to 3200.

Around 1885 NSW Government architect, James Barnet  was commissioned to design, not only the new Post & Telegraph Office, but also a new Court House. Dubbo was certainly a town on the move. The new Post Office, completed in1887, was designed in Barnets Italian Renaissance style, using cement rendered brick, ornate archways, slate roof and the imposing clock tower, very similar to the Maitland Post Office.

This lovely building was handed over to Telecom in 1982, (who have since restored it to its former glory) when Australia Post moved into a more functional purpose built building in Talbragar Street.

The people of Dubbo now have a generic, somewhat bland, Post Office (that is now getting close to 30 years old!) and although functional, it has not got the classical design of a James Barnet original building, a building that has complemented the Dubbo streetscape for over 123 years.

I don't think people will be commenting on the current Post Office in another 100 years.

This blog is nowhere near complete and I will have to spend full day at the Dubbo library to fill in some large chunks of the missing postal history of Dubbo.  

Friday, February 26, 2010

Last Of The Summer Wine

Since 1830 when William Kelman picked the first wine grapes on John Busby's 'Kirkton' Estate, the Hunter Wine Region has been producing some of Australia's finest wines. Some of those wines, especially the Hunter Valley Semillons, have a lineage that can be traced back to the original vines that were first intoduced into Australia by John Busby from the Burgundy and Hermitage regions of France.

So once again this week I was back working in this beautiful region, picking up cartons of wine from some of Australia's leading cellar doors, including McGuigans, Oakvale, Lindemans, McWilliams and Tullochs. Also visiting some of the smaller 'boutique' producers, such as McLeish, Mt View and Irongate. The one thing that they all have in common, they sell some of the worlds best wine.    

This week also marks the end of our summer, so armed with my new go anywhere friend, the Sanyo S1275 I tried to capture the last week of  summer as it is played out in the Hunter Valley wine region. Although the vines are still green and lush, all the fruit has now been harvested and now the vines will soon go dormant as the cooler weather becomes more prevalent. The vigmerons all agree that this seasons crush should make the 2010 vintage a standout success and continue the great reputation of Hunter wines      

So it really doesn't matter what time of the year you visit the Hunter Wine Region, be it in the middle of winter or during the heat of an Australian summer, you will be able to not only photograph this magnificent region, but you can also taste it as well.

I wonder if  William Kelman realised 180 years ago as he sat on the verandah of Kirkton Estate, overlooking his new vineyards, that he was to be a pioneer in the Australian wine industry and his vines would become recognized as unique to the region.

Yes this week was the last of the summer wine, but a new vintage is just around the corner


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lunch Breaks In Photoshop

Once again I was lucky enough to be able to get out and about during my lunch breaks and photograph some of the best scenery in NSW, much of it located around Lake Macquarie. Situated 150 kilometres north of Sydney, Lake Macquarie covers an area of 110 sq kilometres, which makes it the largest coastal lake in Australia. This also makes it the largest permanent saltwater lake in the Southern Hemisphere! 

Being such a large body of water there are also ample photographic opportunities for the amateur photographer to get out and capture some of the beauty of the lake.

The photo's showcased here were taken around Swansea, Belmont (on the eastern shoreline) and Bolton Point (on the western shoreline) and were taken using my new pocketsize friend, the Sanyo S1275 camera.

Although the natural beauty of the area is enough to hold the eye, for something a bit different I decided to play around in Photoshop to see if I could achieve something just that bit different. Using the programme  "Photoshop Tutorials - Watercolor Painting Effect" (which is a free programme and can be found at -

While some photographic purists frown on excessive use of Photoshop post editing and prefer the lens to capture the moment, sometimes it good to experiment, just to see where you can go using modern computing power as an artform.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Ghosts of Post Offices Past - Pelican Flat (Swansea, 2281)

Pelican Flat (or Swansea as it is better known as these days), is a small thriving community located on the southern side of the  Lake Macquarie entrance and has quite a rich and somewhat unique postal history. It is a history that has more twists and turns than the Pacific Highway that bisects the town. 

It was the death of one the local coal mining ventures that eventually became the catalyst for the settlement of Pelican Flat.

When the New Wallsend Mining (Coal) Company, located at Catherine Hill Bay (NSW)  collapsed in hard financial times in March 1876, the township supporting the mine started to die off as well and so on the 3rd September 1879, the then Catherine Hill Bay postmaster, Mr Robert Talbot, requested that he move the Post Office to the settlement  that had grown around the entrance to Lake Macquarie. After an inspection by the Postal Inspector, where he found all that was left at Catherine Hill Bay was basically three men and a lazy dog, he agreed to move the Post Office to the new settlement of Pelican Flat, so on the 1st December 1879, Mr Talbot officially became the Postmaster of Pelican Flat.

Supported by local industries, such as timber getting, fishing, boat building and mining the fledging town prospered with the Pelican Flat Post Office growing with the community by providing, not only postal facilities, but also money order facilities and even operated a branch of the Government Savings Bank. The mail was transported and returned twice weekly (Tuesday and Saturday) to Charlestown via Belmont, using the previous Catherine Hill Bay contractor by horseback. 1883 heralded the arrival of the much vaunted telegraph and which now connected Pelican Flat to not only Australia, but also the world (well at the least those parts on the map that had a reddish hue!). With this also heralded the arrival Mr Gwynne as the Telegraph Station Master, appointed by the Department and still operated out of Mr Talbot's premises. Not one to pass up the opportunity to make a quid, Mr Talbot offered the adjoining building to the Post Office as the 'new' telegraph office and pocketed an additional 8/- per week in rent!       

In 1887 the residents petitioned the NSW Colonial Government to change the name to Swansea to reflect the growing confidence of the community and so on 1st November 1887 Postmaster-General, officially approved the change of name. The name Pelican Flat was quickly discarded to the history books 

Despite the community having a Post & Telegraph Office, Police Station, Public School, Pilot Station, Harbour & Rivers Department, hotel and other supporting businesses, the Post Office operated at a loss, in 1887 the balance sheet looked like this;

Revenue - £91.14.11
Costs     - £160

So on the 2nd August 1888, Swansea Post Office was downgraded to a non-official Post and Telegraph Office, Mr Gywnne was posted to Carrington and the telegraph equipment was sent to Belmont (along with the assistant morse operator, Mr Williamson). This put Mr Talbot back in charge of the Post Office, with he and his wife Annie holding this position until February 1897, when ill health forced the sale of the Post Office.

The sale of the Post Office resulted in the first of many changes, as each new Postmaster/Postmistress, moved the Post Office to their business or in some cases, to their own private residence, but it was always along Main Street.

Then in 1948, due to the increasing population, approximately 3,000 permanent residents (swelling to 5,000 during the holiday season), Swansea, on the 7th December 1948, once again became an Official Post Office. However, the 'new' Post Office staff had to wait until 1958 to get a building of their own.

That building, a former billiard hall at, No. 5 Lake Road, served  Australia Post until they unveiled their brand new $462,000 building (at No.7 lake Road) on the 17th November 1986, with the former being demolished to facilitate the new site works. The current Post Office (the 6th) was, at the time, cutting edge design and reflected the image the Australia Post was projecting to the community during the 1980's,  that it was a vibrant 'in touch' organisation on the move. 

Swansea Post Office is still an important hub of the local community and is still basically performing the same essential service that Mr Talbot commenced at Pelican Flat over 130 years ago! 

I would like to thank George Boyd, LMCC Library & The East Lake Historical Society Inc. for all their patience & assistance in helping me compile this blog.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

When The Drought Breaks

Although it may be a bit premature to declare the drought broken, my trip to Tamworth (NSW) this morning was greeted by a steady soaking rain. Hopefully it is a sign that the current drought  is breaking and maybe give our farmers some hope that 2010 will be a year when the stock is fattened and the headers are are full.

But, I think I'll just let Henry Lawson put my pictures into words;  

Rain In The Mountains

The valley is full of misty cloud, 
It's tinted beauty drowning,
The Eucalypti roar aloud,
The mountain fronts are frowning.

The mist is hanging like a pall,
From many granite ledges,
And many a little waterfall,
Starts o'er the valley's edges.

The sky is of a leaden grey
Save for where the north is surly,
The driven daylight speeds away,
And the night comes o'er us early.

But, love, the rain will pass full soon,
Far sooner than my sorrow,
And in a golden afternoon,
The sun may set tomorrow.

- Henry Lawson (1889)


Monday, February 1, 2010

Australia's Riviera

I'd like to be a Tram-man, and ride about all day,
Calling out, "Fares, please!" in quite a 'ficious way,
With pockets full of pennies which I'd make the people pay.
But in the hottest days I'd take my tram down to the Bay;
And when I saw the nice cool sea I'd shout "Hip, hip, hooray!"
   But I wouldn't be a tram-man if ...
      I couldn't stop and play.
         Would you? 
 CJ Dennis (A Book For Kids - 1921)

What a grand day it must been when Mr Cary from the Excelsior Land Company smashed a bottle of champagne over wheel of the locomotive and declared the £15,000  tramway officially open on the 7th March 1891. The 100 or so invited dignitaries made the 6 minute trip from Fassifern Station  and were greeted at Toronto by  Mr Samuel Fisher (owner of the Toronto Hotel) who had prepared a banquet to celebrate this momentous occasion. This tramway was only one of three privately run ventures in NSW, with the others being at Parramatta and Rockdale in Sydney.

A day trip to the Toronto picnic grounds was a special day indeed and with the Excelsior Land Company selling land throughout the boom years of the 1890's the tramway's future seemed assured. While the early years proved productive for this privately run venture, with the economic downturn of the late 1890's, the standard gradually fell away, even to the point where locomotives were replaced by horses to complete the 5klm journey and so local residents started to demand that the Government take over the operation. 

So it was on the 28th May 1911, NSWGR reopened the totally refurbished railway, including a new station at Toronto, new tracks and upgrading of the bridges to mainline standard, capable to taking any of NSWGR's rolling stock.Once again Toronto had became a day trippers delight with visitors coming from Newcastle and some as far away as Sydney, to partake in the pleasures of what was described as Australia's Riviera.

However, with the advent of the private motor car, the fascination of a long train trip to Toronto fell away and so on 30th March 1990 the last diesel electric train left Toronto, to be replaced by a bus service (ironically called 'The Train'). 

Today the entire length of the railway is a is an easily traversed bike/walk track, which is sealed all the way and is quite a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. The old rail tracks are still visible through the encroaching scrub and there are many points of interest along the way.

So grab your camera, grab a picnic lunch and spend an enjoyable day along one NSW most historic railways, the railway to Australia's Riviera. 

 Further reading on this subject can be found at