Trove Detective: Samuel Young’s Diary: By Royal Mail Coach

Day 3: Roughing the Track from Cunninghame to Orbost

Thursday, March 27, 1902.                                                                       Coach & Horseback.


Lakes Entrance, Cunninghame. State Library of Victoria a07337

Next morning, he (Samuel) rises at 6.30 a.m. and is charmed with the delightful situation of Cunninghame and thoroughly enjoys an half hour’s stroll about it on this sunny morning. Rain and clouds seem to be things of the past. In the forefront is the open ocean then a streak of sand hills on which summer houses are erected and through which the Channel Entrance is cut, then the Reeves River with its backwaters and the township on the banks thereof whilst behind all are rough high cliffs covered with timber.

SLNSW_SamYoung_Page 13_crop copyFrom Samuel Young’s Diary, 1902, page 13. (SLNSW)

The sketch and the portrait (photo) at the top show the aspect of the place (including Lake Tyers, Saw Mill, Aboriginal Station, Lake Tyers House, Ninety Mile Beach and Sand with arrows showing the direction to Orbost and Cunninghame).


At Hospital Creek, Cunninghame on Orbost Road (Harvey, unknown date) SLVic  H2009.100/510

After a hasty breakfast the child bids goodbye to his Ballarat companion and jumps on the box seat of the strong built conveyance which has pulled up at the door and on which is painted the usual words “Royal Mail’. It is drawn by 3 horses and loaded up with kerosene, chaff, a cart wheel, bread and other commodities. There are two other passengers on board -Mrs Cameron and her baby from a small township called Marlo, 10 miles south of Orbost. It starts off punctually at 7.30 a.m. and at once enters the forest and soon passes Roadnight’s, formerly a popular seaside resort town but now deserted. Until Orbost is reached, the coach bumps and jolts along a forest track winding in and out amongst the mountain ash, ironbark, gum, she-oak, stringy bark, geebung and honeysuckle trees, often colliding with them and tearing the bark off. Owing to the previous rain there is no dust but many trees are still burning and in places the telegraph line may be seen trailing along the ground. The first object of interest is an old man kangaroo which hops painfully across the track having been severely scorched by the fire.

SLVic_Lake Tyers_0_427438Blacks’ Arm, Lake Tyers, Victoria. (Rose Stereograph Co.) SLVic H32492/3716

The placid looking Lake Tyers called by Bishop Moorhouse, the beautiful Lake, is reached after a 12 mile drive. On its waters are thousands of wild fowl disporting themselves. On one shore is the prettily situated Lake Tyers House, a famous resort for honeymooners and on the other shore are the Sawmills and an Aboriginal Mission Station. Only a narrow strip of sand, over which the coach crosses, separates it from the Ocean.  A sketch* and portrait are shown on the following pages. No stay is made here excepting to throw on the ground a few letters and parcels. The coach startles mobs of cockatoos, black jays, parrots, and now and again a few wallabies, which hop away lazily. The drive is enjoyable, the heat of the sun being shaded by the trees and the tired feeling not having yet begun.

At 12.30, a halt is made at Hospital Creek where a first class dinner is obtained for the journey to and fro. The coach from Orbost drives up a few minutes later and disembarks its passengers, amongst whom is Rev. Scott who has acted as chaplain for so many murderers at Pentridge Stockade. The drivers now exchange coaches and the horses are all changed, 4 fresh ones taking the place of the 3 others. The new driver is the son of the proprietress, has only one eye and although not so fearless as the previous driver, MacNamara, is very careful. After another 10 miles of the same country Hall’s Tyldesley Hotel is reached, the only place between Hospital Creek and Orbost, and there Miss Coltman, with whose family the boy (William) boards, speaks to the child and introduces her fiancee, who is also a Cameron. She seems a nice girl but that night the boy informs the child that he thinks she is mad. During the afternoon , the child nurses the baby to relieve the mother who has stuck gamely to the task all through that long, slow, sleepy, silent drive and is complimented on his performance but he has to modestly acknowledge that he does not have much practice.

Trove_1885_Lake TyersSketch of Lake Tyers, The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil 24 August 1885, page 130 (Trove)

A lady and gentleman on horseback pass by and grin at the child’s occupation as they recognise him, by the family resemblance to the boy. They turn out to be friends of the latter, Miss Watt and Mr Moseley, the local solicitor.  All that have been passed are on the way to Bairnsdale for Easter holidays. At length, after a sharp, steep turn Orbost appears in sight and is quite refreshing to the eye with its rich, river flats covered with maize and lucerne crops, dotted with well built farmhouses and the Snowy River winding its way through them to the sea. The straggling township is on a slight rise a few hundred yards across the river and the road into it is just as unimproved and rough as an other part of the track from Cunninghame. Five minutes later a suspension bridge is crossed and the coach ends its journey at 5.15 p.m. The next moment, the boy (William) appears round the corner and welcomes the child (Samuel). During the next hour, tea is demolished and the child is introduced to the Coltmans and their boarders, the Bank manager and Mr and Mrs Watt.

SLVic_OrbostBridge_0_1982081Bridge over Snowy River, Orbost (Harvey, 1890) SLVic H2009.100/119

***To be Continued***

Somethings don’t change. Bush fires are an integral part of the Australian landscape. Samuel has been travelling through the scorched countryside and similarly, we have been watching the devastation caused by the Blue Mountains fires, in the last few days with Sydney shrouded in smoke. There’s not much on Trove about these 1902 Gippsland fires. Today, we hope that many more lives are saved. The images above are from the State Library of Victoria and Trove. Samuel’s Diary would have been very different if he had travelled on 28th March, 1900 when the Steamer ‘Glenelg’ was shipwrecked at Lake Tyers during a terrible thunderstorm, with only three survivors. Samuel & William are about to set off into mountain country as they make their way towards Bombala where their journey takes a few rather unexpected turns.


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