Collection Spotlight:Local Histories: Tootgarook

Collection Spotlight:Local Histories: Tootgarook

Part 1 Early Days.

Image 2 Elevated view of unidentified coastline and ocean art original


Tootgarook is just one of the many beautiful peninsula towns within the Shire of Flinders and today can be found between Rosebud and Rye, although historically the boundaries of these three suburbs are not as defined. Once the home of the Bunurong peoples, the peninsula was visited as early as the 1790s by white explorers, fishermen and bark gatherers. It was the site of the brief Collins Settlement, the first European Settlement in Victoria 1803-1804. Although now the ideas of leisure and the Mornington Peninsula are often inseparable there was little to be had for the early pioneers. At the kilns, on the farms, in the scrub and forest, the daily round was hard, repetitious, often lonely and rarely profitable. The houses of the period reflected their occupants’ way of life. Built of what was handy: wooden slabs, limestone, wattle and daub, and clay, quarried on the site or nearby and locally shaped into bricks and baked. As the years went by when useful material could be salvaged from wrecked or disabled ships it was also used.

Squatters and Pastoralists

From 1837-1841 grazing licences were taken up in the Port Phillip area. Squatting licences of 10 pounds per year were issued for any run. Under this system almost the whole of the Port Phillip District was acquired by squatters. In 1847 the Council gazetted and introduced in 1848 regulations that allowed squatters to purchase pre-emptive rights to their household blocks. Holders of pastoral runs were able to purchase up to 6400 acres of their runs before any land in the locality was made available to the general public. This privilege was given in recognition of their pioneering efforts. Pre-emptive right plans, which had to be lodged with the authorities, survive as important historical documents and show the boundaries of PR Allotments. As well, they often show the locations of buildings, fences, tracks, and descriptions of vegetation and soils in the vicinity. The area of Tootgarook was gazetted December 11th 1850 as an area of 6400 acres.

One of the first peninsula settlers was Edward William Hobson, in 1837 he held land as far as Point Nepean as a ‘squatter under licence’ and applied for a lease of the ‘waste land’ with a rated carrying capacity of 700 cattle and 5000 sheep. A condition of the application was that the applicant must have occupied the land for 12 months. As Hobson was, and had been engaged in Gippsland since 1843-44, someone must have sustained the rights as the original occupant. Hobson had also bought Woolwoolooboolook from George Smith and it is possible that they were partners in Tootgarook too.

Land owners and Leisure

Edward William Hobson’s application was granted, but he wrote to the Superintendent La Trobe ‘begging’ to transfer the licence to James Purves which was signed on July 16th 1850. James Purves, an architect, was the first in a long line of Melbourne businessmen to acquire property on the Mornington Peninsula. The transfer was not affected without friction however, as Hobson wanted payments for improvements to the holding. A visual survey in Purves’s name in 1851 accorded him a frontage of three miles east along the Bay from White Cliffs, to a point somewhere between Tootgarook and West Rosebud and three miles inland. Leisure, as we understand it, came into life of the Peninsula with men such as Dr Godfrey Howitt, J.B. Were, J and J.L Purves, Charles Gasvan Duffy and W.E Hearn. These men were among several remarkably gifted individuals for whom the Peninsula became a retreat from their Melbourne city lives. Purves described parts of his land as beautifully wooded and parklike, studded with banksia. Purves and others used some 15 acres of it as a racecourse and picnic ground. The remaining land fattened cattle and Horses were raced along the beach at low tide. Some records show that on June 23rd in 1869 Mr Purves forfeited in settled district to the Council; others suggest the estate remained with the Purves family until it was auctioned in 1890.


In the early days individual mail deliveries simply did not exist. Mail was collected from the post office by everyone. Initially the mail came from Melbourne to Mornington by a four horse coach, from there to Dromana by a two horse coach, and from there on, by a mailman on horseback. One carried mail to Portsea and back, another to Flinders and back. The inward mail arrived at Dromana at 3pm and the outbound mail arrived at Dromana at 8-9pm. Wally Gibson had the local mail contract for many years and it was a tradition that the mail must go through in all weathers or in the face of any other disaster.

It is recorded that in the year 1858, 180 pounds were paid per annum to Francis Cavell to carry mail from Snapper Point (Mornington) to Tootgarook. Official records show that the first Post Office was opened 18th January 1858 as the ‘Tootgarook Post Office number 165.’ There is a possibility (but it is unverified) that the Post Office operated for a time from the school or teacher’s residence known as the Tootgarook common school with the Teacher Thomas W. Courtney. The name was changed to Rye 1st September 1879.

Early Tootgarook Schools

On the 4th December 1855 The Church of England opened the first Tootgarook school with William B. Wilson as Head Teacher. In 1856 the Denominational Schools Board granted 200 pounds for a school building. The earliest recorded correspondence with the Board of Education is dated 16th July 1867, advising: The ‘Tootgarook common school No. 623’ “Needed aid with the master’s salary, and that the committee wanted it to become a vested school.” The building was 30ftx16ft with stone walls, a wattle and daub kitchen with an “utterly bad” paling roof.

By August 1873 John Cain, Correspondent of the Board of Advice of the Kangerong Road District, requested ‘a SAFE State School,’ to replace ‘a DANGEROUS Church School.’ In November Head Teacher George Ellis enquired about his future position at this still non-vested school. 12th May 1874 one wall fell and a second was dangerously cracked. After only two days the school resumed in John Campbell’s building which consisted of one large room 30ftx18ft, and two small rooms, all rented for 10 shillings weekly. On the 11th of August Departmental Architect and surveyor, Captain F.R Grantham of ‘Mitford’ Flinders, pronounced the building suitable, ‘though lacking a fireplace.’

In May 1875, John Cain recommended walls of local limestone, which was abundant, would improve with age, required very little maintenance and would be cool in summer for the proposed new school. Lime burning was about to be resumed and a great increase in population was anticipated. Thomas Doyle, who succeeded W. O’Connor, as Head Teacher, blamed the leaking thatched roof and lack of a fireplace for his and the children’s frequent illnesses. Thomas Doyle must have requested leave of fourteen days, because correspondence indicated it would not be granted, until he ‘visited the nearest Medical Officer on some Saturday’. This would have been quite a journey of 22 miles to Snapper Point. Between the 31st October – 20th November 1875 the little old school No. 623 closed and the new building, SS1667 Rye, opened  under Head Teacher Thomas Doyle.

The later development of Tootgarook will be continued in part 2.

Image from State Library of Victoria Collection:


Books used for this article:

History and Heritage: Shire of Flinders Heritage Study. Context Pty Ltd. Dr Carlotta Kellaway and Helen Lardner. 1992.

994.52 FLIN CON

Victorian Squatters. Robert Spreadborough and Hugh Anderson. Red Rooster Press 1983.

333.3 SQU

Lime Land and Leisure: Peninsular History in the Shire of Flinders. Charles N. Hollinshed. Shire of Flinders Municipal Offices 1982.

994.52 FLIN HOL

Vision and Realisation: A Centenary History of State Education in Victoria, Volume 3. Education Department of Victoria 1973.

370 VIS

Rye: A Book of Memories Compiled and edited Nell Arnold. Rye Tootgarook Area Committee.

994.52 RYE ARN

Other interesting books on the area:

He Volunteered For Service: The men of Rye and District who enlisted during WW1. Linda Berndt, Danielle Burns and Pauline Powell OAM. Rye Hisotrical Society. 1968.

994.52 RYE MIL

Amongst the old folks: Rye cemetery. Phil Cain and Mick Woiwod. Rye Hisotrical Society. 2007

994.52 RYE CEM

Arthur Dark: My memories of Rye

994.52 RYE DAR

Rye: A short history compiled by N. Arnold on behalf of the Neapean Historyical Societ 1981.

994.52 RYE ARN 

Rye: A book of memories originially compiled by Nell Arnold 1985. Rye Historyical Societ 2nd Edition 2018

994.52 RYE ARN

Rye Primary School NO.1667: A history of the limeburners’ School, village and pioneering families celebrating 125 years 1875-2000.Patricia Appleford.

994.52 RYE EDU

Book Review: The Man Who Lost Himself

Book Review: The Man Who Lost Himself

Review by Michael Canavan
the man who lost himself

Be they Nigerian or phony Tax Officers, they invariably seek to cheat you. Invariably, occasionally, one comes along so cheeky that it becomes a Ripping Yarn, immortal even.

Such was the Tichborne Inheritance. Feckless young Roger Tichborne disappears at sea, believed drown-then again, maybe not. Years later, newspaper adverts appear seeking details: in Wagga, Tom Castro [or is that Arthur Horton?] takes note.

Boldly going forth, and acquiring friends and bankrollers, he stakes his claim to the sizeable inheritance. After a solid start, doubts arise: does he resemble Roger? [facially-mmm; girthwise-no]. He cannot speak French. Indecision.

Two trials later, lasting a collective 291 days [the Final Addresses in the second trial occupied a collective 62 days], the final verdict was delivered in 35 minutes.

A comedown from the time that pictures of The Claimant outsold those of the Monarch.

Robyn Annear’s The Man Who Lost Himself takes us from Villa Castro to Tichborne Hall, from the mountains of South America to the flats of the Murrumbidgee:  the pace is maintained as various opportunists seek to get their dibs on a slice of the inheritance.

It was an Event: nothing was left undone to secure the 140kg “Jolly Sir Roger” his inheritance. Crowd funding supplied the creature comforts of The Claimant [as he was referred to once legal proceedings get underway] and, in an outstanding PR coup, 1500 Tichborne Bonds were issued to enable wealthy True Believers to contribute. A superb potboiler, “The Tichborne Romance” titillated the lower orders. The British populace was enthralled, being treated daily to saturation press coverage of [well recompensed] Colourful Colonials bearing, often wildly contradictory, evidence for and against. Sorting the wheat from the chaff, then as now, was immensely entertaining

Beneath the bluff and bluster, who was The Claimant? He grew into the role, refining his public persona, charming supporters and drawing in doubters. Only those close to him harboured lingering doubts

The Man Who Lost Himself is superb, a single-sitting read. Like a good detective thriller, the reader is gently guided into making-up their own mind regarding the evidence regarding The Claimant. There is never any real doubt as to the final outcome, but, as in any Ripping Yarn, it was done [and written about] with style and panache. The verbosity and colourful language from all concerned made me wonder: if it wasn’t so serious it would make a wonderful comedy.

It remains so well-known because it seems so modern: a core group of supporters sustaining the faith, combined with a flair for publicity has its modern counterpart, alas, not nearly as colourful as the original.

It finally ended in 1898.

The Claimant died on April Fool’s Day.

Meet the volunteers: Siti Suryanata

Meet the volunteers: Siti Suryanata

Welcome back to the PMI for 2020. We’re kicking of this year’s Instituting the Past with a post from one of our newer volunteers Siti- who has been doing an amazing job repairing our damaged books. 


My name is Siti Suryanata.  I am a newbie at PMI.  I joined the PMI in September 2019.  Mostly what I do is book restorations.  Repair them, put in a new binder, or glue them back together to give the book a new life. It feels amazing to do all of that. I am grateful to have found the PMI in so many ways. I really enjoy the environment and great people I volunteer with.

I started volunteering in my children’s library school.  It was fun and I really enjoyed doing some shelving, covering new soft and hard-cover books, restoring books and designing artwork for book sales.

In the past, I helped individuals with low incomes to do their tax returns through VITA and joined Meals on Wheels as a volunteer driver. I currently volunteer for Samarinda Aged Care in Ashburton, along with PMI.  Amazing to know that we can learn a lot by volunteering!

I got married and migrated to the USA in 2000.  I have 2 great children, Jane and Jason. I raised my children in a beautiful town called Essex, Vermont for 16 years. Then, I moved to Melbourne in June 2019 to accompany my children to continue their studies.

In Vermont, as a mom, I stayed home with my children during the day and worked at night in various company such as IBM, Green Mountain Coffee and JP Morgan Chase. I like to meet people, talk and laugh. Meet new people everywhere, make friends.

I love Melbourne! I studied in Melbourne and earned a diploma in Business Computing back in 1988 then continued my study in Indonesia and earned a Law degree from Atmajaya University in 1993. After I graduated, I worked in a bank for about 4 years and switched my career to work as a Royalty and Publishing Manager with Sony Music. It was fun meeting local and international Artists.

In my spare time, I do photography and drawing.

I love cooking as well.

Meet the Volunteers: Irene

Meet the Volunteers: Irene

Irene is our longest serving volunteer, she’s been volunteering for 11 years. The photo is of her receiving her long term volunteer award at the Volunteer High Tea earlier this yearIrene

I started volunteering at the old PMI building in High Street in January 2008 with 4/5 others as I had past experience volunteering in school libraries and after retiring I was interested in helping the PMI.

This is a short description of some of our book processing duties…

We cover different books – soft covers with contact, hard covers with clear plastic and dust covers with a combination of brown paper and plastic. Our group prints spine labels attaches them in the correct place, ensures a barcode is placed on the back, a “date due” slip is inside the back and a “secret” tattle inserted.  The tattle triggers an alarm if the book “walks” out the door by-passing the borrowing counter.

Processing books needs much dexterity, precision and patience especially using contact which can eventuate in a very sticky situation in certain weather conditions.

We are among the first to see new acquisitions in the library and the latest periodicals.  However, the most memorable is the “Watson” collection. A bequest, which took several years to process the many books.

Our small book processing group enjoys meeting each week and working while participating in the lively discussions which emanate.

We hope to continue for many more years.

Book Review: Blooms and Brushstrokes by Penelope Curtin and Tansy Curtin

Book Review: Blooms and Brushstrokes by Penelope Curtin and Tansy Curtin

Review by Penny Wooodward


Subtitled A floral history of Australian Art, this glorious book celebrates and identifies the flowers in artworks by Australian artists. An A-Z of flowers, anemone to zinnia, with nearly 100 beautiful reproductions of paintings and photographs by well-known artists such as Tom Roberts, Margaret Olley and Ellis Rowan and less well-known painters such as ex-convict artist WB Gould and his stunning vase of poppies.

A diverse range of both introduced and native flowers are depicted, from a single button hole carnation in a self-portrait by William Dobell, to a huge cottage garden with hollyhocks painted in 1835 by John Glover. It’s hard to pick favourites, but two of mine are photographs. The first by Christian Thompson, a Bidjara man from Mount Tambor, Queensland. Titled Purified by Fire it is a self-portrait, depicting iconic and beautiful Australian flowers and foliage, like everlasting daisies, and banksias, and in the middle we can just see a face with flames in his eyes.  The second is the cover photo, Blinded, by Polixeni Papapetrou. This luscious highly coloured photo is part of a series called Eden.

The text discusses the flower/s and their history, the painting and the artist. Mother and daughter authors Penelope and Tansy Curtin, provide a detailed background story of the chosen flowers and comment on the part each artist has played in Australian art more generally and the relevance of each painting depicted. This gives deep insights into why the art works are important, how they were created and the artist who created them.  If you want to actually look at any of the original works, a comprehensive List of Works is found at the end of the book, including in which gallery each artwork is hung (although some are from private collections).

I have learnt so much about the flowers, the artworks and especially the artists. As a botanist it is usually the flowers that interest me when I see floral art, but dipping into this book has ensured that I will look differently at floral art, every time I visit a gallery in the future. An important, engaging, beautiful book for lovers of gardens, nature, history and art.

Book Review: All Mine by Peter Edwards

Book Review: All Mine by Peter Edwards

Review by Renee Rollestone

All mine

The story opens in a rural New South Wales town in the mid-eighties. We are introduced to the Caruso Family who are a major organised crime family with ties to every government agency in the country.

We are then taken to present day where Carlo Caruso is in hiding in Canada, wanted for a grisly double murder of two undercover policeman. After seven years, it is decided that a risky transfer back home is necessary for Carlo as his mother is dying and wants to see her youngest son one last time.

What follows is an intricately written story with a formerly famous model, a widowed hermit architect and bikie gangs all coming together thanks to the actions of Carlo Caruso in his past and his present form. The Great Ocean Road and inner-city Melbourne are an evocative backdrop to this saga of obsession, crime and inner demons.

Edwards makes a strong point with his characters that it is the actions and choices that they make throughout their life which define their future happiness. Not opportunities, fame or money. Carlo’s inability to fully recognise his family’s efforts and risks in bringing him home are a common theme throughout the book. It is also a great observation on the consequences of obsession, the horrific impact on the object of it and how one person’s single-minded focus can shatter the lives of many, with lasting scars.

Edwards introduces the characters with care, taking the time for the reader to get to know the protagonists and their pasts. The tension picks up throughout the novel, leaving the reader desperate to get to the end and find out what will be the ending for our characters.

An enjoyable read, a bit slow to start but worth pushing through to the end.

4 out 5 stars.



Collection Spotlight: The Ragtrade in Melbourne

Collection Spotlight: The Ragtrade in Melbourne

melbourne ragtrade

Hi there I am Katherine Davis, I am studying at Victoria University Footscray and completing my placement at Prahran Mechanics Institute for my library Diploma. I am originally from Melbourne but have lived in Ballarat for the past 10 years, I love the regional lifestyle and Ballarat’s history and streetscape.

Before Ballarat I lived and worked in Abbotsford in the textile and clothing manufacturing industry.

Abbotsford and the Richmond environs were home to many dyehouses that produced fabrics for major stores such as Target, Myer and BigW to smaller labels like Stussy, Ripcurl, Volcom and local school uniform makers. The dyeing of fabric and manufacturing of clothes around Abbotsford and Richmond was a vibrant industry in the 8os and 90s. If you are interested in the history of the ragtrade in Melbourne, our collection at PMI will not disappoint. The story of the clothing and footwear trade in Melbourne is a fascinating one.

Here are a few of my favourites from PMI to start with

My life in the Rag trade By Fred Wilkinson

Fibre and Fabric: the wool, cotton textile and allied industries in Melbourne’s West by Gary Vines

Are you a fan of vintage patterns and sewing?

 Madame Weigel : the woman who clothed the Australasian colonies / Veronica R. Lampkin.

Stories of family businesses.

Not by myself: The Fletcher Jones story. by Fletcher Jones.

Pelaco: a visual history of the Pelaco company and brand, a century down the track.

Woven threads: A family story

Dear reader out there do you have some stories of the ragtrade in Melbourne to share?

Or do you have stories about your favourite source in Melbourne to shop for that special wedding silk or button? Does anyone remember Franke Stuart in Hawthorn or the Job Warehouse in Bourke Street?