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Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Gorae Story

My grandmother Althea Clara Long was part of the Clay Family which lived at Gorae, near Portland in country Victoria. In November 1981, Centenary Celebrations were held at the Gorae School, and a booklet was published. (Althea had attended the Bolwarra State School.) The late Annette Downes edited the publication, The Gorae Story: Children Dears, It’s A Good Country. My great-uncle, Arthur Clay, was acknowledged as one who had shared his memories.

In 2019, we sought permission to reproduce this 1981 publication. Mrs Downes is believed to have passed away some years ago.


It is with pleasure that I accept the request by Mrs Downes to write the Foreword to this book.

To review the activities of a century is a major task which has been made difficult by the failure of people to record events as they happen over the years, like today these events appeared to be common place and much of the day living of the early days is lost.

The celebrating of a century is a time when we pay tribute to the many people who have served the community. This book is the tribute to the early settlers of Gorae. Not only is it a history of the settlers and settlement of the area, but also it recognises the important role that the Gorae State School has played in developing the future citizens of the area. The School should be justifiably proud and pleased to celebrate its Centenary.

Education has seen many changes in the last 100 years. The Gorae School has experienced these changes, both in location and advancement in the field of education. Two important factors have been responsible for the services of the school. Firstly, the School has been fortunate since opening to have the services of dedicated and respected teachers who have taken great pride in the achievement of their pupils. Secondly, these teachers have had the support of a generous and education minded community, only too willing to assist their children and the School.

In recent years the community and the School have fought hard to retain the School and determination demonstrates the strength of this community to its children.

The Gorae area, has been for many years, renowned for its rich agricultural land. This potential has been fully utilised by the industrious farmers who have settled, cleared and developed the area over the last hundred years.

To the settlers, who opened up the area and fought the hardships of flood, fire and disease must act as an incentive to the present generation to strive further ahead to enable the future generations to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

It has been a marvellous effort by Mrs Annette Downes to complete this book in time for the Centenary Celebrations. There is no doubt that the publication will remain as a valuable reference to present and future generations, and I feel sure it will bring a great deal of pleasure to a wide circle of people who have been associated with the Gorae area.

J.E. Benbow, A.I.M.A
Shire Secretary
Shire of Portland


We gratefully acknowledge the co-operation of the History Section of the Education Department in supplying us with valuable copies of letters and old documents. We deeply appreciate the work of the Research Officers, Vincent Williams and Diane Harrop, in compiling from their records, such a comprehensive history from 1880 to 1957. We have drawn from their material in telling the story of our school and in parts we have quoted freely from their work.

We thank all those who have shared memories with us, especially Tom Wilson, Tim Hodgetts, Marj Compton, Ethel Chapman and Arthur Clay.

We are indebted also to the folk who made their family albums available to us so that we could show these people of another era.

The Committee of the Centenary Celebrations extend their sincerest thanks to all those people who have given such willing support on this momentous occasion. We have received so many gifts in so many ways; money, materials, foods and no less important, time and effort.

We also have the warmest appreciation for the enthusiasm and encouragement of our teacher, Adrienne Anson and her husband Bruce.

Members of the committee organising the celebrations are as follows:- Chairman, Cr L. Downes; Secretary, P. Delany; Assistant Secretary, B. Alexander; Treasurer, G. Rose; Projects Committee, Geoff Rose, W. Pridham, I. Ralph; Fundraising and Advertsiing, J. Ralph, W. Pridham, Glenys Rose; Centenary Book, A. Downes, B. Alexander, R. Pedrazzi; Centenary Garden, G. and C. Taylor.

A Time Capsule has been prepared and placed in a concrete block in the school grounds, so that comping generations may know a little of the history of this “Good Country”.

It is situated 12 metres from the east boundary and 38 metres from the north fence line.

It’s A Good Country

Our friend started school here 80 years ago and was looking back over the long years between. They were good years, he told us. Nobody had much money, not much money at all, but they were friendly years. You could always be sure of a welcome and a helping hand. The poorer the people, the more ready they were to give and to share what little they had.

Mrs Levett used to say, “Children dears, we won’t starve, it’s a good country”.

Yes, it’s a good country.

Annette Downes. 14-11-1981.


Gorae means Kangaroo. Wally Carter used to explain it in his deep aboriginal voice as he pronounced the gutteral “g’rru” sound of the kangaroo.

Wally’s grandparents had been amongst those people who hunted their way through the Gorae forest on their journeying between Wallacedale and Portland, camping beside the swamps and water-holes, sometimes leaving behind their flints, and axes of Coleraine stone.

Wally was a well known footballer and cricketer and a popular identity around the Western District. In his younger days with Con Edwards he had been employed at “Sunnybank”, clearing forest and digging dams. He would return as an honoured guest, to yarn beside the fire, then sit up to the piano and play and sing in a rich bass voice.

His grandparents, who may have seen the Henty’s Thistle sail into Portland Bay on November 19, 1834, could never have imagined the change.

Gorae Forest

In 1834 some of the land to the north west of Portland was an open forest of grand old messmates, with very little undergrowth – you could see a mile through the trees. Around the swamps and in the gullies the timber was heavy and the undergrowth dense.

There were swamps that held water for most of the year, and areas of white gum, where moss and native grasses grew in profusion. As well as the kangaroos and emus and native life we know today, there were koalas in the trees, and dingoes were plentiful.

The Henty Brothers turned to the forest land for grazing cattle, and they built cattle yards on the white gum rise that later became “Sunnybank”. Various settlers through the years held grazing rights up to the 1930s, Thomas Hodgetts being amongst the last. Grazing and the frequent burning off to promote growth of grass brought about the change to heavy undergrowth and thick sapling scrub that we know today.

Then, as the Township of Portland began to grow, the need for building materials brought the timber workers into the bush. The first would have been the splitters, with their broadaxes, camping around the swamps, supplying the endless demand for shingles for roofing, palings for walls or fences, and posts, rails and beams. Almost every settler would have begun as a splitter to secure an income.

After the sawmillers came, their mills were located throughout the forest, now unmarked and unknown, except for relics of machinery, like the old steam boiler on Boiler Swamp Road. It would be hard to locate the situation of the Benbow mill, at Jacky’s Swamp. Yet there, in the mill settlement of 1889, a little baby Lottie Benbow was born. Now as Mrs bond, she lives in Heywood.

A more permanent sawmill was started by one Robert Hollis, perhaps before 1870. Around it, he selected a farm, and lived there with his family. From the mill timber, he built his own house, a house for his son Willie, and several small one-gable cottages for his workers. One of these buildings later became the first school house.

In later years, in the 1920s and 30s, Joseph Tasman Pedrazzi operated a mill, from which he supplied much timber to Warrnambool. A feature of his mill was the “sawdust track” – one mile of sawdust that paved the way from his farm to the mill.

In 1946, Ern Hann, on his return from service in the Air Force, purchased this “site”. (When a mill is sold the transaction is centred on the area of forest from which the mill draws timber). Ern moved the operations to his property. A man of energy and strength, Ern worked hard, but sadly, paid the price of his war service when he contracted leukemia. George Thomas was the next owner and after a few years he moved operations to near the Heywood Road, where Ponting Bros. now conduct the business. As a hobby, George Thomas had an extensive aviary.

Another mill, in long and continuous operation, is the one at the railway crossing, owned now by Ken and Elvie Douglass, and known as Gorae Sawmills. Charles Clay, and his son, also Charles, came from Cobden in 1875, and soon began operations here. Milling has been almost continuous since. For a time Alf Hogan milled there, and then Arthur Clay and Arthur Pitts, both members of the original family, made Clay and Pitts Sawmillsa household word.

During the boom time of orcharding and apple export, most of the orchardists had their own mill plant for cutting the fruit boxes.

Ellis Griffiths was the forest foreman in those days, and after his retirement, H. Hodgetts (Tim) held the position. Both were careful guardians of their territory.

The Forest Commission of troday is more scientific in its approach, although the first of the Silvaculturally Treated areas took place in the 1930 depression, when unemployed men where these men were camped are still referred to as the “Single Men’s Camp” and “Married Men’s Camp”.

The wattle bark territory is the forest is worth mentioning. Bark was a secondary ingredient for treating hides to make leather, until modern chemical methods came into use. The black wattle, which is still prolific, provided excellent bark for tanning. The wattle strippers part of the forest scene as the wattles were cut, stripped and the bark tied in bundles for the tanneries.

Our forests were never able to provide the tall timbers required for piles for the piers in the harbour. These had to brought from further-a-field. But, with the coming of the railways, the sleeper cutters moved into the forest. The sleeper caters moved out the timber, turning the unmade roads into impassable quagmires. Local farm boy, Clarence F. Stuchbery, before leaving for the 1914 war, used the farm horses for sleeper carting.

At this time the Heywood-Dartmoor railway was under construction, and the sleepers were being cut in the Gorae forest.

It is hard to imagine the scene at the Gorae siding at that time, for this was where the sleeper workers made their homes – slab huts, bark huts, tents – sometimes a bark hut over a tent, and from here their children went to the Bolwarra school. There were the Hayes family, the Bakers, the Edmunds, the Mortons and others. Their settlement was big enough to have the baker call daily in his high baker’s cart loaded with bread. Arthur Clay recalls how one day, with Stan Baker and Willy Hayes, he was coming home from school, the baker’s cart passed them and, on that very rocky hill before the railway crossing, the back doors of the cart flew open. A hundred years of bread lay in the mud before the baker discovered his loss. He picked it all up, scraped the mud off with a penny, and went on with his deliveries.

A men left the little settlement early in the mornings. At the end of the day’s work, the sleepers were carted to the station and laid in their separate piles. Then the inspector would come, examine every sleeper carefully, and if they were perfect, he would hammer on the crown stamp. If one was not perfect, it was rejected, and the cutter was not paid for it. A good cutter could cut eight sleepers a day, for three shillings each, which was good wages in 1914.

One of the sleeper cutters, Jack Morton, could always cut his eight sleepers, wielding the broad bladed axe, although he worked under a great disability. He only had one arm.

Another family of Bakers also lived at the little settlement – the father worked on making the road. His daughter, Fran recalls the showers of rocks and sticks as the men blasted the foundations. He left to go the war, leaving the mother and six children living in this isolated spot. Fran who lived of her life in the Mallee, returned many years later and married Arthur Pitts from the sawmill.

Bush fires have always been a source of danger to forest and settlers alike, and though we record no tragedies, fires periodically leave their mark. In 1901 the newly built school, and all records, were burnt before the building was ever used, and many farmers suffered losses. In March 1928, the school children were evacuated in a nearby orchard, and the school and church grounds were blackened. One of the worst disasters occurred in January 1939, when a fire swept through Gorae from west to east, and several unoccupied buildings were burned. These days we owe much to the volunteer Rural Fire Brigade and the Forest Commission for our protection.

The Selections and School 2532

It is impossible to write a history of the early settlers of our district. History necessitates an accurate record of events, researched and written with date and place. But our early settlers left no records. They moved out from the Portland area as the land was taken up, following the bullock tracks of the timber getters, or carving their own tracks through the forest. Choosing their patch of scrub, they set to work at once to clear it. They had no time for records, and did nothing to earn a place in the news columns of the day – they did not take titles to their land until they had to.

So, our history can only begin with government records of the first school and the first title, both in the 1880s. Anything before that can only be gathered from memories and tales told long ago.

Who was Jimmy Grey? A little swamp by the side of the road, a mile from the school, is still remembered as the Jimmy Grey Swamp. Who was Scholfield? Bell’s Creek was originally known as Scholfields Creek. We can only guess that Scholfield, who had a tannery in Portland, gathered wattle bark along the creek. Where did Archibald Turner live? His children enrolled in the first school in 1881, but no land or title bears his name.

It was the size and location of the swamps that made the map of Gorae into a series of odd shaped, odd sized blocks dotted through the forest, joined by winding roads. The first orderly subdivisions were made in 1934 when a seris of 40-acre blocks was opened for selection between the railway line and the Gorae road. The area was extended a few years later, so that the eastern end is now open farmlands. It seems that the school, the church and those old selections in the central area will always be priviliged intruders in the jealously guarded forest.

Those first selectors, as they moved into that ridge of forest to the north west of Portland, required one thing – water. So nearly every selection was centred on a swamp. The earliest were able to choose the biggest and the best, not only for water, but the scrub on the swamps offered less resistance to their axes and ploughs. Later, when the high ground was cleared, they took on the mammoth task of draining the swamps, and digging by hand miles of drains which were, in places, 10 feet deep. Nor was clearing the land a task for the faint-hearted! Axes and saws, picks and shovels, were used, until they might afford man powered block and pully, or horse power to work the same. These were the means of clearing until the roar of the bulldozers invaded the forest in the 1950s.

Allotment 1, Levett to Baker

In the year 1847, F.F. Levett and Wm. A. Crouch took out a leasehold on 100 acres of land somewhere east of a line between Lyons and Mt Richmond. Two years later Levett became the sole owner of the lease which was known as Richmond, Karackabit or Nine Mile Forest. As Gorae is nine miles from Portland, we make a guess that the area may have taken in a long strip along what is now the Nelson Road. When leaseholds gave way to selections, Levett took up an area which may have been on the eastern extremity of his lease. Of one thing we can be sure. In 1880 the title of Allotment 1 was taken out in the name of Francis F. Levett.

The Levetts lived there for a time and moved, first to the 90-acre block which Tom Collyer bought, then nearer the river on land that Higginson’s selected many years later.

One Levett girl married Tom Kent, and their boys Ernie and Ned attended the school. The Cummins family, who were next to occupy Allotment 1 had children at school.

Sometime in the early 1890s the Bell family came with their children, Alicia and Amy, James and John, knows to their contemporaries as Lishie and Lottie, Jimmie and Jackie. Mr Bell was active in school and church affairs. His name is remembered, for the little creek that flows down through “Sunnybank”, runs under a substantial railway bridge and flows into the Surrey at Narrawong. It is still known as Bell’s Creek.

About 1900, Willie Hollis moved from the mill premises and came to live there. His children were Elsie, Annie and Ernie. Ian Benbow is Elsie’s grandson. He is the Portland Shire Secretary at the time of our Centenary and, appropriately he is writing the foreword to our story.

In 1904, Henry Cowper Williamson, from Pinevale, over the road, was looking for a home for his bride. He bought Allotment 1, and their children, Raymond and Elsa and Ron are on the school register. The family moved to the “Poplars” as Bolwarra. Ron’s family still live at Heathmere.

Mabel Phillips and her parents were living in the house in 1915.

In 1920, Reg Hol;mes brought his family to Gorae. He worked on the Williamson properties for over 25 years, and lived in the Henry Williamson house until about 1930. During those years his family did not have far to run to school. When they moved, it was to their own property, a mile or so away.

In 1941 Clarrie and Vera Atwell came from Rainbow and went into share farming with H.C. Williamson. When Williamson sold, they bought the orchard and house.

The eastern part of the property was sold to Lindsay and Linda McKenzie. They built a house and their sons Kevin and Bruce grew up in Gorae. Lindsay and Linda moved away, and now, in 1981, they are working in missionaries in New Guinea. Dave and Barbara Teal, with Roslyn, came from Timboon and became the new owners. Meryl arrived later. Dave was President of the Gorae Tennis Club, and it was through his efforts the tennis court was completed.

In 1979 E. Alexander and Sons bought from Teals, and Bill and Jenny Pridham became tenants. From there Tracey and Danny have gone to school, and Bill has become an enthusiastic worker for the centenary committee. David and Kerry Alexander begin their married life as the present residents.

Meanwhile, the house on the hill remained the home of the Clarence Atwell family for 30 years. Ethel, Ian, Lionel, Marion and Olive came with their parents from Rainbow. Sadly, Marion died while still a school child. Lorraine and Ron were born after the family arrived here. After they left school, Ethel, and later Olive and Lorraine worked on the home orcahrds, became adept as apple packers, and indoors, shared the work of the telephone exchange.

The Atwells built a cool store and combined orcahrding and dary farming operations.

Mrs Atwell took over the post office and telephone exchange in 1947, and was Postmistress until July 3, 1971, when the post office was closed. On that day, Mrs Atwell sorted the last mail at 10am – at 1pm the family moved to retirement in Portland. The new owners, Don and Gwen Hutchinson, continued with the telephone until the coming of the automatic exchange. (Don’s name appears on the Gorae school register in the year 1942).

During the time the Hutchinsons owned the property, the orchard was removed. Various tenants occupied the house at that time, a group of young people lived there in a commune for a while. The present owners are Neville and Leanne Baker, with Andrew, Terry and Shane.

Allotment 6. R. Hollis to M. Compton

In 1840, then first Robert Hollis came from England. He worked for the Hentys and lived on various cattle runs in the Portland and Bridgewater districts.

The second Robert was three years old when the family arrived from England, so that he grew up along with the very young settlement. It was this Robert who moved into the Gorae forest, selected land and began sawmilling. Here again we can only guess at the beginning. Certainly by 1881 there was a small settlement, as the owner and mill workers occupied huts there. The demand for the school was on this site, and one of the huts, even past its prime, was provided for classes in 1881. The school was situated on the south side of the drain.

The Hollis family grew up here. There were Robert, Ted, Willie, Arthuir, Johnnie, Albert, Lizzie, Agnes and Eva. The younger members of the family would have been in the first class.

The third Robert was born in 1858 and remained in Gorae. His descendants can now claim seven generations to have lived in the Portland district.

The Hollis property was purchased by John Read Heddich, son of Rachael and Richard Hedditch, who were the first school teachers in Portland.

They taught at the Church of England School in 1841. John’s son, Edwin Waldy, married Mary Turnbull (Polly) Stewart in 1905. She was a Scottish school teacher who boarded at the Hedditch’s home in Kentbruck. Waldy was teased for years for hiding along the road to catch a glimpse of the “new teacher”. After their marriage they set up home at Gorae, and raised two daughters, Marjorie Stewart and Doris Jean. Waldy was a Methodist lay preacher. Her served with Portland Shire as councillor for 11 years, from 1935 to 1946, and was Shire President for two terms.

Marjorie, over 70 years later, still lives in the same place. Her life-long friend and neighbour, Ethel Hollis (Chapman), a mile away along the road, also lives on the site of her childhood home – truly a life-long friendship! Neither has lived anywhere else. Marjorie married Sam Compton from Mt Richmond and they had two children, a son Sudney and a daughter Jean. In 1941 Sam joined the army and after three months training was sent to fight with the 2nmd/2nd Pioneers. He and his unit were captured in 1942, and for three years he spent his captivity working on the infanous “hell on earth”, called the Burma Railroad. He supervised to return home and lived till over 70, although his health was broken.

Syd married Lorna Doig and they have a son and a daughter, Brian and Jenny, who both attended Gorae school. Syd moved to Heathmere, but still works half of his orchard that the Comptons inherited. Jean married Dave Beard, and their children, Ly7nette, Glenys and Graeme, also attended their grandmother’s school. Jean and Dave still live on the home property in Marg and Sam’s first home.

Doris married Ted Alexander who, as a boy of 19, had come to work at “Sunnybank”. Twice he went away up country to work on the wheat harvests, but returned to Gorae where his enterprise and sense of responsibility were always in evidence. For a time he was in charge of the railway trucks of applies that left the Gorae siding. He bought a block of land at Heathmere, and before he left “Sunnybank” he made several coppers-full of cherry plum jam, with which to stock his larder, and flattened out dozens of kerosene tins which he used to clad his first shack. There he lived alone, walking every morning to work at W.J. Williamson’s opposite the Gorae school, then home to Heathmere to work his own black. With his two horses, Chip and Belle, he worked his land, carted wood and made his way.

Ted and Doris were married in 1930 and had six children. The two eldest, Betty and Don, stayed with the Comptons, each for 12 months, to attend the Gorae school. When Don married, he settled on a Gorae property. His brother, Reg, married Lynette Redfern, and raised their family on the Alexander half of the Hedditch property. Reg and Lynette have three children, David, Rosemary and Sharon. David married in September of this year, and is making his home in Gorae.

From his humble beginnings in the kerosene tin shack, Ted Alexander saw the partnership of Alexander and Sons grow to a thriving apple growing, cool storage and wholesale business. His family continued to expand the business and the Alexander industry owns orchards at Gorae and Heathmere, the old Gorae Cool Stores at the railway, and considerable grazing properties. His grandchildren, David and Grant, are now working for the firm.

The Hedditch home was the home-away-from-home over many years for the teachers who boarded there. Girls, straight from College, found a warm welcome, with friendship that has lasted through the years. School children too were given a home. Harry Aldis, an English boy, came in 1927 and stayed for many years. Reg Hedditch, well known Estate Agent today, remembers with pleasure the year of 1932 that he spent at the little school.

Allotment 2 and 3. C. Clay Jnr and Jnr to Stuchbery

The Clays took out a title for this property, “Sunnybank”, in the year 1898. That was the year they sold the place, having continued the selection for 20 years without a title. They had come from Cobden, where they are shingle splitters, and arriving in Gorae, selected, not a swamp, but white-gum slopes beside the creek, including in the area the relics of Henty cattle yards.

Their first home was in a slab hut at the eight mile water hole and from there the children attended the Bolwarra school, which at that time was situated near the Heywood Road – Gorae turn-off. Lizzie Clay would tell how they used to see the aboriginal children playing in the swamp across the road.

When sufficient land was cleared on “Sunnybank”, Charles Clay Snr built a small two-roomed cottage with a shingle roof on Allotment 2, and here they brought up their fasmily. The elder son, George, was born in Brixton before the family left England in 1856. Mary and Charlotte married and left the district. Hannah married John Hollis. Their younger son, Charles, and two of the girls, Lizzie and Sarah remain with the Gorae story.

When Lizzie was in her teens, she went “into service” at “Prospect” – that is, she was a housemaid, in the Upstairs, Downstairs tradition, in the home of Thomas Must, businessman, importer, one-time Mayor of Portland. For her monthly day off, she would walk home to “SAunnybank”, and on one occasion, lost in the dark, she spent the night in a tree for fear of dingoes. How welcome was the crowing of roosters next morning, to guide her home!

At that time, Fred and Harry Stu8chbery were also working at “Prospect”, Fred asnd Henry were younger sons of William Walter Stuchbery who, in 1852 left his prosperous brewery business in Buckinghamshire had arrived in Victoria with three small sons. Four Australian sons were later added to the family.

At first they set up a general store at Kyneton, supplying the needs of miners on the gold route to Bendigo. Later they moved to Hawthorn and the older boys settled in Melbourne and grew rich. When Fred was five years old, in 1872, William Webster brought the three younger boys to Portland – Fred, Harry and Alf. Albert followed later and settled at Cockatoo Valley. For these young men, prosperity came more slowly.

Fred started work at “Prospect” when he was 15. At 19 he was head gardener and coachman. Fifty years later he still drove a pair of stylish horses and his own garden was a showplace.

Fred Stuchbery married Lizzie Clay and they lived in the little white cottage near the big house. in that little stone house, Victor was born.

Back at “Sunnybank”, Charles Clay Jnr had married, and bought one of the mill houses from Hollis, moving it onto Allotment 3 where an old slab hut was standing. The old oak tree in the front garden was planted in 1887. The Clays began the mighty task of clearing the land and farming until gold was discovered in Western Australia. They had been involved in the gold rush scene before, having worked at Walhalla where they are splitting timbers for mine shafts.

So the Clay family sold their farm to Lizzie’s husband, Fred. Charles Jnr arranged a syndicate to finance the excursion, with several local farmers contributing, and set out for the West, seeking fame and fortune for all. He returned, without fame, without fortune, and bought a small farm near the Gorae siding. Frank Ryan lives in the home he built, and Ron Herbertson owns another, Clay selection. Charlie Clay settled to clear his land, started dairy farming, planted an orchard, and started a sawmilling business that is still operating, with Ken and Elvie Douglaqss as the present owners.

In 1898, Fred and Lizzie Stuchbery moved to “Sunnybank” with their children, Winnie, Vic, Ruby, Clarence and Clara. They dragged a little, old, original house alongside the mill hut, added a skillion at the back, later another at the front, and that was the family home for 30years, when a new house was built. Their’s was a sad story – Winnie and Ruby died as young married women, Clara and Nancy, who was born in 1906, both died as school children and Clarence was a victim of the First World War. All except Winnie were pupils at the Gorae school, but her son, Val Petersen, lived with the Stuchbery family after his mother died, and he blo9nged to the Gorae school. Val served with the military forces in the bitter years of the Kokoda rail in New Guinea.

Fred Stuchbery, with his years of training in landscape gardening at “Prospect”, cleared the land, and planted hedges and orchards and a beautiful garden. With his son, Vic, they milked cows, raised pigs and grew vegetables, which Vic would “hawk” in the wagon as far way as Myamya. There were 40 acres of orchard in production, with permanent employment for at least six men, and seasonal work for more than a dozen, living in huts under the pine trees.

Vic Stuchbery was 10 years old when he came to Gorae. In 1915 he married Lily Tubb, who had spent her childhood in King Street, in the heart of Melbourne. What a change to the heart of Gorae, where she spent the first day of her married life, learning to bake a batch of bread. Their family, Clare, Annette (Nette), Betty, Ernest and Clarence were the second generation to belong to the school while there were 12 in the next. Betty married Joe Stevenson, teacher 1949-52, Joe worked for several years doing special work with aboriginal children at Lake tyers and Esperance. Their children spent part of their school days there.

Clare married Garn Taylor, their family are Jeanette (Beauglehole), Alan and Ruth (Atwell). Ruth and Ron made history when they married; they had both been pupils at the school. This is the first local romance we can recall since Hannah Clay and married John Hollis.

Nette’s family, Ray, Joy and Joan Downes,. Ernest’s family Dianne, Rosemarie and Geoffrey, and Clarrie’s family, Leanne, Pamela and Neville, are all named on the school register.

There is still another generation of Clay-Stuchbery descendants at school. Joy;s family, Darrell, Nicola and Gavan Ralph, are the fourth. Nicole, 11, Gavan, 6, attend the same school as their great grandfather did, 83 years ago.

At Sunnybank now the apple trees have all died out. Clarrie and his wife Claire extended the property when they purchased Hodgett’s adjoining block. They now run a dairy herd on the whole area.

Neville is the youngest of the fifth generation to live on the property.

Allotment 2A and 4 of 4. Hodgetts and Mortons

The name of Hodgetts is to be found in Portland records of 1847, in papers relating to William Dutton; so the Hidgetts can claim a long association with our history. John and his wife moved into the Gorae area and lived in a bark hut at Hodgetts Swamp, near the southern end of the Elbow Ford Road. They raised a family of eight children, Pat, Lavinia, Mary, Charlie, Lizzie, Kate, Jack and Tom.

John Hodgetts was a splitter, as were most of those first pioneers who moved into the forest. They supplied the growing town with roof shingles and palings. The choice of a good splitting tree was important in their trade, and a story is still told of the competition between the men in the bush. Jack Hodgetts and Charles Clay were going home from work one evening, when both noticed a very large tree. One man remarked to the other that he would hate to have to split that tree, and the other man agreed wholeheartedly. But at daybreak next morning they met at the very same tree, both wanting to be first to secure a first rate splitting tree. The art has not been lost. In recent years, John Hodgetts’ grandson, Tim, splt shingles for a house in Cape Nelson Road.

John Hodgetts took up a 68-acre selection adjoining the Clay property. A large patch of jonquils marks the site of the home they built. The house stood until about 1920, and in the days of the sleeper cutters, the Hayes family lived there for a while and the Tucker family lived in tents nearby.

John’s youngest son, Tom, was also a timber man and when the Portland pier was being built, he was an overseer to fellers, selecting trees for piles in the Grampians area.

Tim married Agnes Hollis, daughter of Robert and known to most of the district as “Aunt Sis”. They had no children of their own, but when the children of Jack Morton, sleeper cutter, were left homeless on the death of their parents, the Hodgetts became foster parents to Harry.

Harry Morton started school in 1921. He married Thelma Schemeld, and they parents to 11 children. Six of them came to Gorae – Peter, Lorraine, Barry, Philip, Graeme and Winston – the others went to North Portland by bus. Peter’s daughter was enrolled for a while in 1970, and Belinda, Graeme’s daughter, began her schooling here in 1980.

Harry and Thelma made their home on the eastern side of the road, on part of a 600-acre property that Tom Hodgetts had selected. Philip and Denis, with their families, now live in the two houses on this part of the property, carrying on the Gorae tradition of continuing family ownership.

The large area, however, has been divided into several smaller farms. In the north east corner live Les and Elvie Beauglehole. Les belonged to the school of the twenties.

Section 5

Willie Atchison and his wife Mary (Hodgetts) were living on their little farm, when her brother Tom selected the 600 acres which almost surrounded it.

Their family Jack, Jim, Eileen and Roby were enrolled at the school for a short while – about 1912, but we are told, that because of differences with the teacher, their mother took them by buggy to Bolwarra. Never-the-less, they were part of the closeknit community that was Gorae in those days.

In the 1930s, Ken Johnson’s parents owned the farm, and later the O’Dea family were owners. They were active and energetic members in Gorae affairs, and Kevin, Eddie and Patricia were pupils at school. The property has changed hands several times since, and is now owned by the Collins family.

Further south, Ernest Stuchbery, who had built his first homer at Bridgewater, bought land that had belonged to Murray Holmes. He returned with his wife Olive and children Diane, Rosemarie and Geoffrey, to live at Gorae. The children rode their bokes three miles to school.

Some years earlier, however, Stan and Edna Philips had ridden four miles every day. Their home was on the Dark selection – allotment 11 – now owned by Morris’s.

All the others in that area – Dart, Berry, Oakley, Trigg, Morris and many others have been taken by bus to North Portland.

Allotment 4 Section A. Cochrane to Alexander

Returning to the old settled area … There is a little 40 acre farm, allotment 4, tucked away in the back corner of E. Alexander and Sons place. The Cochrane family selected there, and Allan Cochrane and his two sisters remained there for 50 years. They never could make a living from so tiny a farm, never more than partly cleared, Allan earned their living cutting timber and quarrying stone, but in his old age this was too much. It would still be possible to find some of his work – near the stone quarries at the Tub Swamp. There might be found numerous large stones, uncovered, and drilled for blasting, but never finished. He is remembered some 50-60 years ago, a little old man in a long overcoat, leaning heavily on two long bush sticks, emerging from his small, isolated bush home.

He was a volatile little man, easily ruffled and quick to rise to five feet of outraged dignity. Stories of Allan Cochrane are legend among the older folk today. Here are two:-

A chestnut horse wandered onto his farm, drowning itself head first in his well. Thinking he recognised the animal, he went to Tom Hodgetts and asked if his horse was missing. “No”, said Tom Hodgetts. “It is not my horse, but if you’ve got a horse in your well, I’ll help you pull it out”. They dragged the unfortunate animal out, and Hodgetts still claimed he had never seen the horse before. “But”, as Allan recounted the story, “I’ve never seen Hodgetts on his chestnut horse from that day to this!”

A notorious late night visitor, Mr Cochrane would arrive at a neighbouring farm, stick in one hand, lantern in the other, and stay long into the morning hours. One night the “Sunnybank” folk could stay awake no longer, so asked him to go home. In high dudgeon, outside the door he danced around proclaiming – “Bryant and May are not dead yet! Bryant and May are not dead yet!”

Allotment 7. The Collyer Home to Bylsma

This little farm, hidden from the main road and isolated from its neighbours, has a very important place in our history. It was the home of Thomas J. Collyer, the first school teacher.

The Collyers were not the first to live on the selection.

The Levett family had lived there; this house was burnt down.

Tom Collyer’s parents came from the Isle of Wight and arrived by sailing ship in Portland Bay, on January 20, 1855. They went straight to the goldfields at Linton where they kept a store. Tom was born at Linton in March 1856. It is said that as a toddler, he had to be tied to a chair leg to save him from wandering off into the mine shafts.

When Tom Collyer first began teaching at Gorae, he walked daily from Portland, until he found lodging at Gorae.

After five years he acquired a home, a farm and a wife. The block he bought was near thge school, but he had the long walks to Bolwarra during the time the schools worked on a half time basis. For two years he endured an even longer trek to Mt Richmond.

He married Elizabeth Hollis, known as Lillian. Their son, Leslie, was killed in the first war. Daughters, Florrie and Muriel, married brothers from Cockatoo Valley – school teacher Bob Stuchbery and his brother Fred. Ruby lived in Bacchus Marsh and Mildred is still living in Yarrawonga. Violet was the only one to remain in Gorae.

Sadly, as so often happened in those days, the first wife died, and left with six children, Mr Collyer soon found a new wife. He married Sarah Clay from “Sunnybank”. Three more children came into the family. Edna did not marry. Hannah (Cowland) and Phil carried on the family profession of school teaching.

When Phil was three was three years old he gave us one serious Little Boy Lost story; for three nights he was lost in the dense scrub, somewhere between his home and what is now Reg Alexander’s property. Excited barking from Vic Stuchbery’s dog brought the rescuers, with Joe Pedrazzi first on the scene. A few days later, all dressed in their Sunday best, they posed for a re-enactment. So now we can know the people as they were.

Lizzie Clay composed a poem, her husband Fred set it to music, and it was sung around the pianos at their musical get-togethers:-

Into the deepening shadows went
A little boy with heart intent
To meet his parents on the way
No thought had they that he would stray


Lost in the bush, a little child
Lost in the bush, so tough and wild
How his little heart was throbbing
Sobbing, sobbing, sobbing

Tom Collyer moved on to other schools, then made his home in Portland where he spent many years as secretary of the Portland Butter Factory. He lived to a grand old age, in spite of the long hard walks on his younger days.

In the first war years, Violet married Fred Gilyear, a west country Englishman, remembered with affection for his ventriloquist’s doll. It always spelt kitten with two i’s (eyes) and sang Sweet Adeline at the school concerts which were such a feature of Gorae life in those pre-television days. Fred and Violet bought the home farm and that was when the land acquired its title. Their children Les, Harold, Eileen and Norma, grand-children of the first teacher, spent all their school days at School 2532.

One night, in 1952, Violet, who was now a widow, was attending yet another school concert with her girls. A faulty kerosene lamp at home did its worst; their house was totally destroyed by fire. This was the second house on that property to burn. So the Gilyear family moved to Portland, and the last contact with them was when Norma, now Mrs Reg Beavis, held the mail contract in the 1970s.

Bob and Margaret Penny built a new house and lived there for a time. Later Colin and Lettie Atwell with their children Helen and Colin were owners.

Klass and Dorothy Bylsma now own the property and the school bus took their children to a Portland school.

Allotment 8. R.H. Hollis to Chapman

About 1905, Robert Hollis Jnr, who had grown up on the mill property, married Myrtle Mulholland. Born, Dickson, she was now widowed with a daughter Laura (Geard) and a son John. Johnnie was a well known worker with the Forest Commission in the Gorae area for many years.

Rob Hollis took up Allotment 8, built a house at the five-roads corner and set out dairy farming and apple growing. There were two girls, Ethel and Adeline. The younger daughter, Adeline, married Reg Wilson, son of Tom Wilson in our story, and they lived at Bridgewater and then Heywood.

Ethel married Norman Chapman. Norman was born at Heathcote and came to Gorae in 1924. He began his working days here with Herb Treloar, using a team of horses to pull logs from the bush for telephone poles.

Ethel and Norman spent their life together on the home farm. Their daughters are Hazel, Valma and Marilyn. This time Valma was the daughter who stayed on the home farm. She married Leigh Higginson and their children Sandra, Gary, Dale and Denise were the fourth generation of the Hollis family on that property.

Leigh and Valma selected an adjoining block, 8a, which included the site of the Levett home of long ago. Poplar trees and clumps of tony daffodils marked the place long after the house had gone.

There have been tragedies and heartbreaks through the years. In 1913 Ernie Hollis was killed carting logs with a bullock team. In 1932, Norman’s brother, Albert, 24, was bringing the horses in from the paddocks. A thunderstorm broke and Albert and the two horses were killed by lightning.

Allotment 30

The Jennings farm next door to Taylors, has an interesting place in our history. First settled by Bodgers, this enterprising man was clever with his hands, and was apparently a good farmer. Bodgers had in their home, a large brick bakers oven. Mr Bodger baked bread and took it to Heywood, where he hawked the bread around the streets, pushing a two-wheeled hand cart. Ralph and Bill Bodger attended our school.

The farm in those days was quite large – a a wire fence surrounded 700 acres that reached close to Bylsmas and Chapmans, and included some very good timber land. Mr Bodger was selling out and offered the 700 acres to neighbour Stuchbery for £90. Stuchbery could not find the money, nor could Bodger’s on-in-law, Bilson. Most of the valuable land went back to the forest, and in 1918, a title was taken out for 200 acres only, by Bob Jennings. The Jennings family owned land at Bridgewater, and they, like their neighbour, used the river property for summer pasture for their cattle. So every October they moved to Gorae, with their cattle, and in the autumn made their return trek to Bridgewater. So, for the summer months only, Maisie and Edie, Sam, and Beryl were pupils at Gorae School. Sam married Betty Oldfield, daughter of one of our church ministers, and continued the annual move until they went to live in Portland about 1950. Since then the house has been unoccupied.

Allotment 9. Gardiner to C. Taylor

Gardiner was a bachelor. He selected 80 acres on the rich flats of the Surry River. He lived in a little house on the Heywood side of the river. When the Dicksons moved in, they built on the present site, and pulled the little two roomed house alongside, from across the river. The houses are still standing. Annie and Rene, Oliver and Alec Dickson walked to the school at the Holmes Road site, with their cousins, Johnnie and Laura Mulholland from Hollis’s.

Before 1910, Fred Stuchbery bought the property from Dicksons and worked it along with “Sunnybank”. The dairy herd and various members of the family made seasonal moves back and forth. Winnie Stuchbery and husband Ern Petersen lived there until he left for the war, they moved to their own home further down the river. It was the first home of Vic and Lily Stuchbery in 1915, and was occupied by other members of the family and workers through the year. In 1941 Garn Taylor married Clare and purchased the farm. Jeanette, Alan and Ruth travelled the five miles to school on their bicycles.

Allotment 10. Williamson to J. Ralph

Hugh C. Williamson was born in Crewe, in England and emigrated to Tasmania. He made his mark in the history of Tasmania for he was the builder of the first railway. It was a unique construction for its rails were made of wood.

He heard that Portland was to become the capital of Victoria, so he followed the way of the Hentys and so many others of the pioneers and crossed the strait. Portland obviously did not come up to his expectations, but he decided to stay in the district and presently moved with the other pioneers into the Gorae forest. The land he selected was centred on a hundred acre peat swamp, which grew prolific crops at first, but has been prone to fire over the years. In the 1920s it smouldered for three years, and in the drought years of 1967-68 it was a constant meance of bush fire, as well as a source of unpleasant smoke, as it burnt from October until June.

The Williamsons built a house, planted pine trees around it and named in “Pinevale”. They also planted a few apple tree in the garden. There were three boys and two girls in the family. Ethel would surely have been among the pupils in the early years of the school, being the youngest of the family – born in 1890. We cannot be sure whether the older children, William, Juliet, Henry and Frank ever enrolled as the name Williamson does not appear on the first letter requesting a school in 1880.

Juliet never married. We are indebted to her untiring efforts to raise money for the little church on the hill. Ethel was a school teacher and taught at her home school from 1913-1918. William (W.J.) was a lawyer and a member of parliament, so he never made his home in Gorae. However, he owned a large part of the Williamson holding, and he noticed that the “Pinevale” apple trees grew well. So he planted an orchard, which covered 11 acres on the hill where the Downes now live. This was the first commercial planting in the district.

Another small, two roomed shack was built on the same site, and W.J. in his retirement, often camped there, often camped there. This shack became the first home of Nette Downes (Stuchbery) and son Ray, until husband Les returned from war service in the Navy, having negotiated the purchase of the property from somewhere in the Pacific.

Their association with the school is told in the Stutchbery story. Les was chairman of the school committee for 20 years. He was spent the last 11 years serving as councillor in the Portland Shire.

Frank Williamson built his house near the old home at “Pinevale”. Max started school in 1915, followed by Nora, Joyce, Mabel and Francie. They moved to Portland about 1925.

When the Frank Williamsons moved to Portland, part of the house was taken to Sinclair where Max had settled. What remained was not often occupied.

W.J. built a cottage on allotment 27 nearby – a very odd shaped block that takes in three swamps and a road frontage.

A number of families lived here, one of which was the Radleys. Verna Radley was born while the family lived there, and she is now Mrs. Ted Treloar, Bill and Ruby Roberts (nee Atchison) were also occupants, and it was the first home for the Atwells in Gorae. It was pulled down and the material used for the Downes home in the austere post-war years.

Tom Howell bought “Pinevale” in 1939 and worked the orchard from Portland. Harry Aldis and his wife Mavis lived in the house for a while. Patricia Land (Cook) attended school while her parents were tenants. For several years after the war, Perc and Ruby Pedrazzi lived there while their own house was being built.

In 1971 Tom Howell sold to Ian and Joy Ralph (nee Downes). They sold their home in Portland, where Ian had worked as a wool valuer with the first Portland Wool Brokers. Their family are also included in the Stuchbery story. Ian and Joy, in partnership with Les and Nette Downes, have an apple growing and fruit and vegetable wholesale business.

Allotment 11. Pedrazzi to D. Alexander

Andrew Pedrazzi came from Zurich in Switzerland and first settled in Tasmania. Gold fever brought him across the Bass Strait to Bendigo. There he met and married Annie O’Brien. Annie’s family had owned a hotel in Glenrowan and there, believe it or not, the Kellys came to drink. Fortunately it was in the days before they reached notoriety.

How and why the Pedrazzis found their way to Gorae we may never know. They settled on a selection adjacent to the Dry Hole in 1875. Their son, Joe, was the seven years old.

Andrew Pedrazzi signed the petition asking for a school in Gorae. Interestingly, he signed his name “{edrezzi” and he gave his occupation as “splitter”. The school was opened in time for his son Joe and daughter Teresa to be among the first pupils.

Joe married Sarah Beauglehole and they had five children. The two older boys, John and Dick, died as young men. John had made his career as a schoolteacher. Annie married and moved to Portland, and Ern and Perc settled on their own farms later.

Joe Pedrazzi was a Shire Councillor. He ran a successful sawmilling business and was also in the forefront of orchards, planting only a year after W.J. Williamson. Sarah Pedrazzi conducted the post office.

In 1953 Ted Alexander bought Allotment 11. His son, Don, married Beth Hayes and they came to live there – another member of the Hedditch family came back to Gorae. It was at this time that the name of Beth’s brother, Neville, appeared for a while on the roll.

Allotments 17 and 18. ‘The Old Man Swamp’ Pedrazzi to B. Donovan and P. Delaney

Ern and Perce Pedrazzi had bought adjoining blocks , which were first selected by Frank Williamson. Known as ‘The Old Man Swamp’ it was black peat soil that the Pedrazzis farmed into good grazing land.

Ern married Laurel Holmes and their three children, Valerie, Gayle and Ross, grew up here. Ern went into the nursery business, using his good black soil, and specialised in growing pines. With the opening of post-war soldier settlement blocks, there was a tremendous demand for pines on the timberless Western District country. Thousands and thousands of Gorae pines have changed the landscape of Western Victoria. Ern and Laurel retired and went to live in Queensland.

Their property changed owners a few times. Then, in 1979, Bruce and Denise Donovan came from Bolwarra with their three girls – Kylie and Jodie are both attending school, while Kelly is still at home.

Perce Pedrazzi married Laurel’s sister Ruby, and their two girls, Helen and Wilma, are past pupils. Ruby has always had a strong feeling of community involvement and Gorae is indebted to her for the years she spent here. Though living in Portland, she still looks on Gorae as home. A number of teachers also recall the years they boarded with Ruby, most of them young men, who are still grateful for her homely care. Ruby and Laurel are descendants of Price, who at one time worked the Hollis Mill.

Their property also changed hands with non-resident owners. In fact, there were so many empty houses in the district, the future of the school seemed doomed. Then Paddy and Pam Delaney moved in with four little boys, and joined wholeheartedly in school and community affairs. Greg and Paul have moved on to Technical School, but Brendon and Marcus are still attending here.

The Delaneys, Donovans, Bakers and the Pridhams moved in just in time – or there would have been no Centenary!

The Dry Hole

The hub of Gorae is the Dry Hole Water Reserve. The school and church are there, and several homes are clustered around.

It has not always been a dry hole. At times it has been the camping ground and watering place for bullock teams; at other times, when it was dry, the nearby settlers used it to grow their vegetables.

On the north side of the Dry Hole, between it and the Downes orchard, there is an old well covered with scrub. Here the King family lived in a little two-roomed cottage. Jack King was a competition axeman – his most prized possession was his “match axe”.

The Dry Hole has only a small catchment area, but in wet years water came from the Cherry Tree Swamp on the other side of the road.

It was a popular swimming spot for the local boys. it has been the subject of a few private family feuds, and at times, noisy public meetings over its administration. One long lasting disagreement was about the drain between the two waterholes. Each evening Landowner 1 unblocked the drain to allow the water to flow out of the Cherry Tree Swamp – each morning. Landowner 2 arrived to block the drain to keep the water on his side of the road. Eventually, roadmakers built a sweeping curving road, which effectively blocked the drain, and the Dry Hole is now often dry. The electricity power lines crossed overhead and the vegetation was pushed aside, leaving an ugly scar where there was once a lovely spot.

Following World War II the community decided to provide themselves with sporting facilities – they even planned to build a hall, which never materialised. However, they obtained the use of the Dry Hole Water Reserve for recreational activities. A cricket ground was cleared and used, until the cricket association decided there was really too much slope on the ground, and abandoned it. Tennis courts were planned – it took 20 years of spasmodic effort and by 1980 one court was opened for use.

Allotment 19 and 19A. R. Holmes to G. Rose

A.T. Pedrazzi had selected the eastern end of Old Man Swamp – his mill site was on a corner of the block. Reg Holmes and his wife acquired a block beside the mill and built their home there when they moved from Henry Williamson’s.

Came the war years, and the boys enlisted:- Frank and Murray in the Army, Stephen in the Air Force. Murray served in Palestine and Syria. He was captured with the 2nd/2nd pioneers in Java and was a prisoner on the Burma railway. He returned home, but died soon after as a result of his dreadful experience.

Mr and Mrs Holmes later moved to a block near the railway line – now Trigg’s Mart – and Stephen, with his wife Violet, moved into his old home when he returned from war service. He worked for several years felling logs in the forest, often alone, and using a clever contrivance of a bicycle tube to work the other end of the cross-cut saw. There were no chain saws even then. Their three daughters, Margaret, Norma and Denise, had grown up when the family moved to Portland in 1962. Stephen and Vi then had owned the whole of allotment 19. This they sold to Allan and Gwen Rooke, who lived there for five years. Their tiny girls, Judith and Carol, used to walk to school.

In 1967 Geoff and Glenys Rose became the the new owners. Glenys became the Head Teacher here in 1969-1970 and in those years taught her daughter Tracey. Evan might claim to be the youngest schoolchild ever. While very tiny he often slept in his cot behind the piano.

The Rose family built a new home and Eric and Angela Hollis moved into the old house. Corey Hollis, now in the second grade, is a distant relative of that first Hollis family.

Allotment 12. H. Stuchbery to Noel Hann

Earlier in this story, we left Harry Stuchbery, assistant gardener at Prospect in Must Street. Some 12 years later, in 1897, he is loiving in Gorae, married to Bessie Hazelwood, and father of three children.

And he writes a letter to the “Honourable Gentlemen of the Education Department”, and begs to have the Gorae School moved to a more central place, signing the letter along with R.G. Beauglehole, T. Wilson and Delanhunty. Willie, Ivy and myrtle Stucbery just couldn’t get to school because of the distance. Three years later the school was moved – not a quarter of a mile from their home. Willie Stuchbery joined his cousin Clarence, and Les Collyer at school. All three died in the Great War of 1914-1918. The Henty Stuchberys left Gorae in 1905 and made their last home in Clarke Street, Portland, where Mrs Stuchbery had a midwifery hospital. Many a baby in the twenties first saw the light of day from a clothes basket in the Stuchbery front room.

David Hann acquired the Gorae property. The house disappeared and no-one lived there until after World War II. Ern Hann returned from service in the Air Force and built a home. He started a sawmill and worked the fram. Vera Wiltshire became his wife. Their children were David, Margaret, Elwyn and Marion. The family were all active in Gorae school and community life.

Ern fell victim to his war service and died, still a young man.

The George Thomas family moved into the house and bought the Mill. Walter and Evelyn attended Gorae while they lived there.

A new house on the property is occupied by Noel and Frances Hann – their children are the fifth generation of Hann to live at Gorae. The old house, renovated, is the home of the newest Gorae pupil, Jason Wade.

Further west, Bill and Myrtle Hann live on the original Hann property. From here, their Aunt Rosamund had waited for the school to come to that more central position, and from here Bill and Ern, Russell and Eunice came the two and a half miles to Gorae, in the “central” position.

Before the next generation was ready for education, the Gorae West School was opened and the long distance for the Hann and Beauglehole families was over.

Tom Wilson. Allotment 13-14. T. Wilson to Barret

Tom Wilson was untiring in his efforts to have the school moved to within reach of his family. Nor can we blame him, for he had 11 children to educate. We have no reecord of any Wilsons on the school register, except Annie, who appears to have attended for a while in 1920.

Florrie, Fred, Lizzie and Tilly (Matilda) were of school age when the school was moved to Holmes’ Road corner, so it appears their names were lost in the school fire. Mary, Jim, Tom and Syd were also pupils at the school. Alice (Mrs sam Kennedy) and reg (who married Adeline Hollis and lived in the old home in the first years of their marriage), were under school age when their mother died and the family moved to the Bridgewater Lakes in 1911.

Their association with the school had not ended. In 1935, Mary returned to the Gorae property with her husband Tom Wilson (no relation). Their children Reg and Coral attended school here. Then in 1975-76, another Tom Wilson, son of Jim, was the school teacher at 2532.

Other children have attended the school from his allotment. After Reg and Adeline Wilson moved to Cape Bridgewater, Frank Wakely bought the property, and in 1946 Bill and Ralph came to Gorae. Thirty years later, Bill’s son, Brett, spent a few years here.

Anne Delahunty was a contemporary of Tilly and Florrie Wilson, and lived nearby, on Beauglehole’s Road. Her father, John, was killed in a forest accident at the age of 43.

The Beauglehole Family

The Beauglehole family was at the greatest disadvantage while the school was held in the Hollis building, and even at Holmes’ Road, it was three to four miles distant. Richard C. Beauglehole wrote this letter to the M.P., Mr McLeod, in 1897, showing how urgently the school was needed.

His school age children at that time were Rose, Ethel, Jack, Sam and Arthur. It was four years before the school was moved nearer, and by that time Rose and Ethel has passed school age. It would seem that only Sam and Arthur had the advantage of the school in its western position. When the next generation was ready for school, the building had moved further away.

George’s daughter, Kitty, started school in 1915, followed by Jean, Les and Dave. Robbie, son of Richard Jnr, began in 1921. Then came Mervyn and Cliff, the widely acclaimed field naturalist, our most famous pupil.

In the thirties Sam’s children came along – Jim and Laurie, then Lucy and Doug, who moved on to the Gorae West School.

The School: The First 30 Years

In February this petition went to the Minister of Education requesting that a school be erected in the Gorae area, or that the Bolwarra school be moved nearer, because there were no fewer than 30 children deprived of education.

We know that the Clay children were attending the Bolwarra school, but it seems unlikely that the Hollis’ or Pedrazzi’s would travel the six to seven miles. But, apart from these, this list of family names is the only clue we have to the children whose names were registered on the first roll of School No 2532 at Gorae. All the school records of the first 20 years were lost in a fire that burnt the school in 1901.

We are, however, indebted to the Research Officer of the History Section of the Education Department for copies of letters written in those years. From these letters we can put together an interesting picture of the school in those days. At first they considered moving the Bolwarra school nearer, but after 18 months further consideration, decided to rent a 12-foot by 24-foot cottage from Robert Hollis, and open Gorae School 2532, with Head Teacher Thomas J. Collyer operating half time with Bolwarra. That meant he taught two days at Gorae, three at Bolwarra, and the next week three at Gorae and two at Bolwarra.

Gorae school opened officially on September 9, 1881, but it seems, in their eagerness for learning, classes actually began in August.

Mr Collyer began the long walks between his home and the Bolwarra School. When school began after the summer holidays the next year, Mr Collyer wrote to the Department asking for a small weekly allowance so that he could keep a horse. It was about six miles between the two schools and the road was bad, impossible to walk in winter without wet feet, and in summer too hot to walk. It was injuring his health.z

The Department supplied that a horse allowance was not granted when the schools were less than seven miles apart.

In April, Mr Collyer tried again. He had ascertained that the distance was six and a quarter miles in a straight line. He wrote that only two and a half miles of the road was surveyed, the remainder was a very winding track through dense forest. The forest was so thick he could not travel in a direct line, and the windings of the track made the distance more like eight and a quarter miles. And he wrote with some emotion. “I can safely say a worse road could not be found in this district”. But even the inspector was not sympathetic. Mr Collyer was a young and vigorous man, (a volunteer artillery man). “I cannot set that he needs a horse”, he wrote. The application for the horse allowance was again declined.

In February 1884, Mr Collyer made another attempt, because the Bolwarra School had been moved into the “ballroom” at the Caledonian Inn.

The application was sympathetically considered and the allowance was granted.

He must surely have been most grateful. Before the year was out, Bolwarra numbers had declined to five pupils, and the school was closed. Gorae has nine scholars. So they re-opened the Kentbruck school, and Mr Collyer operated both these schools for the next two years. Bolwarra rallied, their school was re-opened, and Mr Collyer returned to Bolwarra-Gorae, half time.

It was not until 1902 that Gorae became a full time school, and the long days of travelling ended. For 21 years, he had operated two schools, and had travelled hundreds of miles, on foot and on horseback.

Mr Collyer left his scholars a lasting lesson in self reliance, and the words he used were, “Fight your own battles”.

Travelling was not easy for the children. One parent wrote that “at present we are sending our children at the risk of their lives through a dense forest with no road which will be impossible to do in winter”.

Nor could teaching conditions be considered idyllic by today’s standards. The mill-house school was most unsatisfactory. We might even wonder how so many of our ancestors survived.

On December 12, 1893, the Department received this letter from H.C. Williamson:

“Sir, I have the honour to state that the building now used by your Department as a School is unfit for the children to meet in. It is in such a condition that when the wind blows the whole building rocks, when a high wind occurs it is at risk of the children’s lives to remain in it.

“Also, when it rains half of the floor is covered with water and remains so until the rain ceases, so that between the damp under their feet and draughts through the holes in the walls, the children are frequently suffering from colds.”

Mr Collyer sent in this report = “The school building is old but a short time ago, Mr Hollis secured it with stays. The inside needs a little repair – lining wants tightening and tacking, and paper on walls needs a little repairing”.

After that, the Department requested Mr Hollis to attend to the repair work. He did. It cost two pounds 10 shillings.

Four years later, Mr Cameron, M.L.A., made this comment – “The building rented from Hollis is certainly a tumbledown rookery”.

Numerous letters were written asking the Department to rent a room, descreibed as most suitable, with two large windows, a brick fireplace and lined with pine boards. Successive owners, Mr Bell, Mr Hollis and Mr Williamson, all made the offer, which was never taken by the Department. Apparently the Department never knew that the locals took the matter into their own hands and the room was used for a time.

Times were tough and it is hard to guess how long the old mill house would have remained as the official school building, had not Mr Tom Wilson, Mr R.G. Beauglehole and their neighbours decided to take action. The long battle of the east and west began.

The first letter was signed by these two men, also Harry Stuchbery and John Delahunty. They had 13 children. “We the undersigned beg to have the Gorae school shifted to a more central place, as it is too far for the children of this locality to walk to it. And if the Government would not build a school, we would build one ourselves providing the Government would allow us a piece of land and send us a teacher.”

The Government was not ready to co-operate, so they approached D. McLeod, M.P. – we have printed the appealing letter that Mr Beauglehole wrote.

Collyer sent in a list of children attending school, and those who would attend, and the distance from the existing and proposed school. There were 36 names on the lists.

The school inspector supported the move. He was of the opinion that, if the school were removed as requested, it would be of greater usefulness than it was. He recommended that Mr Beauglehole be informed that the Department was willing to have the school removed if the inhabitants agreed to erect a building, sufficiently large enough to hold the children.

The Department agreed, and a reserve for the school site was arranged.

Nine months later, in September 1900, the inhabitants had done their homework. “Indeed, in proceeding to sum up the cost of erecting a building, substantial and comfortable, of dimensions as laid down by the Department, we find that the amount required is, in consequence of the rise of building materials, considerably more than we anticipated. In fact, since the erection of the building falls on only a few of us, the share allotted to each is more than some of us can really afford to pay”.

Inflation and building regulations even then! However, they had an alternative suggestion. There was an unused school building at Trewalla falling into disrepair – iron had blown off the roof, the door was open – it would be much better in use, than standing open. They respectfully begged that they be allowed to remove the building at their own cost, taking all due care in taking it down, removing it and re-erecting it.

On January 11, 1901, the task was completed. Mr Collyer moved all his books, the school records, the ink and the chalk. All was in readiness for the opening of the school year.

It was early February, the hot wind blew, and with it came a bush fire. The building was burnt – it had never been used.

In his usual precise manner Mr Collyer reported to the Department, “I have also to report that the school building recently removed and re-erected here has been totally destroyed by fire. I have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient servant, Thomas Collyer”.

So they had to start again.

Mr Ewan Cameron sent a covering letter with a petition to the Secretary for Education and stated their case concisely. “The building rented from Hollis is certainly a tumbledown Rookery and the recent bush fires have burnt down the one the people built. They cannot afford to build another as they have suffered by the fires”.

With the depth of feeling, with Cornish eloquenmce, Mr Beauglehole wrote the petition to Mr Cameron: “Dear Sir, I send you a line concerning school at Gorae which we got through Mr Mcleod we had to pull iot down and rebuild it ourselves at our own expense, four of us, the other neighbours would do nothing as their children are going to a school the government is renting from Mr Hollis, which is not at all central and about five miles from Mr Beauglehole, the building they are using is not allfit as it is falling down and propped up, unfortunately the school got burnt we ever used it we now ask you to do all in your power for us to get the government to erect us another school on the same site which is central to all if the Government will not erect a new school there is an old school at Kentbrook which will never be used there again could be removed we are not able to erect another school and our children are very badly off for schooling has they have never had any schooling”.

The petition carried the signatures of those four long suffering parents, for whom we have the utmost sympathy; Wilson, Beauglehole, Stuchbery and Delahunty, although, probably to hasten the despatch of this urgent appeal, the last three signatures are in Mr Beauglehole’s handwriting.

In April, the Department advised the Hon. E. Cameron M.L.A., that it was not prepared to erect a new school house. However, if the parents agreed to construct a school house, the Department would lease it and pay rental two years in advance.

Our records have it that Mr H.C. Williamson wrote offering to provide a school but it seems the offer was not taken up. Wilsons and Beaugleholes were acknowledged owners of the building and Wilson collected the rent.

They held working bees in those days too. How they worked. The new school house was ready for occupation in just six weeks.

The wheels of government turned more slowly. A lease agreement was made, with the rent at seven pounds ten shillings per annum. On August 9, 1901, the Head Teacher was instructed to take occupation, which he did on August 20. This was exactly 20 years from the time he first occupied the temporary mill house.

We would like to thank they all lived happily ever after. Certainly they were happy days for the boys and girls – the Wilson boys and Mary, Sam and Arthur Beauglehole, the younger Collyer girls, Stuchbery’s, Mulholland’s, Dicksons and Pedrazzi’s aznd Bodgers.

The first entry in our new register, commenced after the fire, was the name of Edna Collyer, followed by John Pedrazzi in 1905.

Ern Pedrazzi, Hannah and Phil Collyer, Ethel and Adeline Hollis, Dorsi Hedditch, Ray Williamson, all began their school days there.

Then in 1911, another movement began, once again to divide the community.

On one side, to the west, were T. Wilson, D. Hann, J. Pedrazzi, Devlin and the Beaugleholes – R.G. Beauglehole, whose beautiful handwriting now shows his advancing years, and George and Richard, for a new generation of Beaugleholes was coming on.

To the east, were the families of W. Hedditch, F.E. Stuchbery, H.C. and F. Williamson, W. Atchison, Collyer, Hollis and Bodger. With this letter we see signs of a new era – Mary Hedditch and Sarah Collyer had signed the petition – and the petition is the only typewritten one on our file.

The residents of Gorae West and Mouzie had come to understand that there was a movement on foot to shift the school about a mile eastward, to place it in a more central position. They considered that the school was then in as central a position as could be when the convenience of all children who attend, or soon would attend, was considered.

The opposing group of parents said that the move would bring the school within reach of several families with childrenm, who were then beyond walking distance of the school. Whereas the change would not take the school out of the prescribed distance for any children attending.

The District Inspector, J.C. Lowrey, stated that “The educational interests of the locality will be best served by removing the school to the more central site selected”.

Three acres of land on the Dry Hole Water Reserve were reserved for State School purposes, and on February 6, 1913, the school was on the site and ready for occupation.

A scale model replica of this building is being officially opened in the school grounds on Centenary Day, November 14, 1981. Geoff Rose and his band of helpers at “working bees” have taken six weeks to build it.

The School: The Years that Came After 1913-1923

The long tug of war between the parents in the central area and those to the west was resolved – but those in the west, who for the first 20 years had no school, had still a distance of from three to five miles to travel, over a road that remained a bush track for another 20 years.

So the children from the west rode horses to school and stabled them by day in yards made from fallen trees – Stewart, Devlin, Jean, Les and Dave Beauglehole, Willie, Ernie and Russell Hann, Robbie, Mervyn and Cliff Beauglehole all in turn travel;led by horse.

The rest, on foot, emerged from overgrown bush tracks from various points of the compass. Val Petersen, and, in the summer months, the Jennings, from over on the river four miles away, made short cuts through the bush. The Hollis girls, the Hedditch girls and the teachers who boarded there, came their various tracks and made their way beside the planing fence, along the “Old Girl’s Garden” at Williamsons. The second generation of Stuchbery girls, and Harry Morton, padded up the main road, clambering fallen logs to cross the creeks in winter, up to their boot tops in dust in summer.

In the thirties the era of the push bike began and life was becoming easier.

And, for the Gorae West people, in September, 1937, the long, long trek was over. The school at Gorae West was opened, with seven pupils registered. The first on the roll was Iris Devlin. But by then the little school that had caused so much striving and disappointments had moved to its last site, and Tom Wilson had the final word.

For 10 years it had stood beside the Wesleyan Methodist Church. Barefoot boys, and girls in black boots, sat at the long desks, and the teachers sat on the high stool behind the desk, with the sloping top and the little cupboard at the back. Miss Ethel Williamson for five years, Jack Davies for three – not till he left was the peach tree at the door able to grow – every stick that grew was used for “cuts” for naughty boys. The children smudged their pages with ink from the rows of ink wells, and the little ones scratched on their slates.

They were shocked that beautiful little nine years old Nancy Stuchbery should have died. There was sad news from the war front too, because the boys from the school of 1898 – Leslie Collyer, Willie Stuchbery and Clarence Stuchbery went to the war and never came back – or came home, but never to survive the effects of gas in the trenches.

There were happy days too. The war ended and everyone set out to build a bright new world.

The Victorian Government built schools – hundreds of them – one room with three windows at the back, one at the front, a porch and a store room, until nearly every rural district had a brand new school.

In January, 1922, W. Hedditch, correspondent for the School Committee, wrote to the Department, requesting the erection of a new school house. He stated: “the grounds for making this application are that the present (leased) building is not worthy of the name of a school and that the building and seats are inadequate for the children attending and others coming along”.

The Minister for Education, the Hon. Sir Alexander Peacock, made a tour of the Western District and its schools in January 1922. At the Gorae School he was presented with a deputation from the residents requesting the erection of a state-owned building.

A promise was made by the Minister, whereby a school room to accommodate 50 children would be provided as soon as funds were available.

The new building was erected on the existing site by August 7, 1923, for £700.

The lease of the old building was terminated on September 23, 1923. Correspondent Hedditch, in March 1924, requested the Department to inform the owners of the formerly leased school house (still on the site) that “it is dangerous and in the way of a garden of the school”. (Do we detect a note of hostility still?)

The building was promptly removed in July 1924.

Then they held an auction, and the people all came to bid. The square iron tank went to “Sunnybank””, and the little school – Tom Wilson bought it, and took it to the Bridgewater Lakes where they used it for a kitchen.

The opening day at the new school was a grand occasion. The local M.P., W.J. Williamson, was there, and the Department of Education was represented. Everybody stood outside the door while they decided who should be first to enter. They decided to choose the youngest child, so they lined up the five year olds – Francis Williamson, Stephen Holmes and Nette Stuchbery. A bewildered and nervous little Nette led the way into the school, and everyone followed.

That night a grand concert was held in the school and the Gorae Minstrels made their first appearance . With their black faces, their jokes, and excellent harmony singing, not forgetting the ventriloquist’s doll, they were an instant success, and later held more concerts in Gorae as well as Heywood and Portland. Names to be remembered in the Minstrel Singers are, Vic Stuchbery (Massa) with Hurtle and Stacey Finck, Ern Petersen, Fred Gilyear, Fred Stuchbery, Norman Malseed, Ted Alexander, Willie and Tom Phillips. Polly Hedditch and Lily Stuchbery were pianists.

60 Years And The Struggle To Survive

In September 1901 a letter was sent to the Department and the parents commented with confidence that “There is a good number of children coming on at Gorae and a prospect of a school being kept open here for some years to come”.

In the years that followed there have been many times when there has been much less reason for confidence. In 1915 there were 19 children attending school. In 1924 there were 15. Then a sudden decline began when the four Williamson girls moved to Portland. Six years later, numbers were falling below the required seven.

A Ministerial order was given on September 19, 1933, that the school would be closed. This order was later cancelled for the Head Teacher, Mary Renshaw, informed the Department in November 1933 that more children were expected to attend after the Christmas holidays. The parents had taken strong action! They “recruited” children; nieces, nephews and friends were brought to their homes to keep up the school attendance. Betty Alexander, Clarrie Swanson, Reg and Mac Turnbull, Nancy Evans and Don Alexander all helped through difficult years.

In the early years, Secondary Education would have been an impossible dream. In 1916 John Pedrazzi lived with his grandparents, and was able to go to teacher training. In 1929, Clare Stuchbery attended the Portland Higher Elementary School, and boarded during the school week with Sarah and Tom Collyer. On Friday afternoon she travelled by train from North Portland to the Gorae Station, where she was met by the new Family Ford, or she walked home.

In 1932 a new opportunity arose; courses became available from Fitzroy Correspondence School, so that year, Steve Holmes and Nette Stuchbery, having finished Grade 8 and attained the Merit Certificate, began “First Year Intermediate” studies by correspondence. They were followed a few years later by Betty Stuchbery. The correspondence pupils were required to attend school under the general supervision of the head teacher, but were responsible for working and dispatching their own weekly assignments.

The next to attend Portland Higher Elementary was Ernest Stuchbery, who after finishing eighth grade at Gorae, was enrolled in Portland and rode by push bike the nine miles to and from school every day.

In 1943 the status of the Portland School became the Portland High School, and the opportunity to begin High School after Grade 6 was available to country children. Some children at Gorae stayed on to eighth grade, but in 1944, Clarence Stuchbery and Sid Compton were the first to move on to Form 1 at High School after Grade 6, riding their bikes as far as the Gorae siding to board the bus. Jean Compton and Valma Chapman, in their turn, also made the long ride.

In 1948, the bus route came through Gorae – no child was further than two miles from the bus, and primary school education ended at Grade 6.

In 1981, there is a choice of High School, Technical School or Community College for those who board the Ansett bus each morning. The children are saddened by the recent death of their loved driver Ivan Milich.

For those earlier years, memories are cherished of owner-driver Eddie Kempton, who was friend and father figure to them all, and did the round for 21 years.

The move to secondary education after sixth grade, in 1944, meant that the children were spending a shorter time at country schools, and this had an effect on overall numbers. The all-time low happened in May 1949. Miss Darcy had come from Melbourne and did not enjoy her experience in this far away forest. She returned to Melbourne and resigned. For four months there was no teacher. The older children went to Gorae West, while Olive Atwell did her “prep” class by correspondence.

In 1950, the parents were called in to make a momentous decision. The consolidated school was being opened in Heywood, all all district schools were given the option of continuing or closing in favour of the large school. Although the consolidated school offered new opportunities and greater facilities, the parents then, as now, cherished the little school and voted to retain it.

Prospects at Gorae were good in those post-war years – the attendance rose to 15 during that decade, and maintained an average of about 11, until 1979. That was the year that Adrienne Anson had the unique school of seven small boys.

There have been no regrets that the school did not move into the consolidated scheme. There has been a very active mothers’ club over the years, and equipment and teaching aids have been kept to a high standard, while the teachers have all had a good personal relationship with the pupils of their little school.

There has also been a keen community involvement, and we are all proud of our achievement for the Guide Dogs of the Blind. For three years Walkathons were held. The 1980 walk covered 25 kilmometres, and tiny Preps and grandmothers joined in the long hike. $1550 was raised, and the Guide Dog Associated has named a dog “Gray” in honour of the school.

The community has also demonstrated the total co-operation of the whole district in a year of preparation and activity, which culminates on November 14 and 15, when we celebrate the memory of our school and a way of life that we still value.

The Church

Three people met together on January 21, 1896, and decided that a Wesleyan Methodist Church should be built in Gorae. These far sighted people were Mr David Hann Snr, Mr High C. Williamson and his daughter Miss Juliet Williamson. They resolved that, with the addition of Miss James, they should form themselves into a building committee, with H.C. Williamson as Chairman, Miss Juliet as Secretary and Mr Hann, Treasurer.

They lissued subscription list cards to begin raising the necessary funds, and opened an account with the Union Bank. An application for one acre of land from the Gorae Water Reserve was applied for, and granted, the survey fee being £1/19/-.

Plans were drawn up by a Melbourne architect, Mr Mackey, free of cahrge. Mr Bell, who had by now joined the committee, ordered hardwood from Rosenblooms Saw Mill, and obtained prices for other materials, which were duly obtained from Pitts, Hogan and Jarrett. The total cost of the building was £100.

A fund raising picnic was held on Boxing Day 1897, and along with a sale of gifts raised £14/15. The subscription list must have proved successful, and with Miss Williamson’s enthusiastic and untiring efforts their endeavour was rewarded.

In January 1898, Rev. J.W. Edwards conducted the first church service. Some of the original gifts donated to the Church are still in use – a beautiful pair of cane seated chairs from Mrs D. Hann and an organ stool from H.C. Williamson. A reading desk, and pulpit front, donated by Mr William Jarrett is still in the church but no longer in use.

The organ must have come later, for, at a meeting in 1906, a donation of £3 for the organ was received from Miss Williamson. This small organ has been removed from the Church as a larger organ was purchased about 1920. In 1950, the present organ was brought in Hamilton where it was being used in the Gray Street Church of England while the pipe organ was being repaired. At the 1906 meeting, at which Rev. William Hunt was present, they resolved to take out insurance with the United Insurance Group. Spouting would be acquired when some more money became available.

During the next 20 years the Boxing Day Picnic became an annual event and people came from all over the Circuit for the festivities in Williamson’s hay sheds.

Very little money raising or maintenance work was done until Rev. D.W. Risstrom arrived in 1949. By then, the white ants had played havoc. Mr C.G. Pumpa was engaged to completely reblock the floor, and repairs studs, lining and bearers damaged by white ants. Provision was also made against rabbits getting under the building. Spouting, eventually placed in position, cost £3/5. Grants from Conference Funds and donations provided money for the renovations, and Mr Risstrom also initiated a Ladies Guild which remained active, until 1976. Street stalls and catering were their main fund raising activities.

Rev. Risstrom also re-constituted the Church Trust. In 1917, Mr Waldy Hedditch and Mr D.J. Hann had been elected to the Trust to replace previous members. I(n 1949 Mr Risstrom held a meeting with the one surviving trustee, Mr D.J. Hann. The meeting was held in the cow yard. Mr Hann resigned in favour of his son Bill, and at a later meeting in the Church vacancies caused by the deaths of Hugh C. and Henry Cowap Williamson, and Waldy Hedditch were filled by Vic Stuchbery, Sam Compton and Les Downes. Les was appointed Secretary – a position he still holds after 32 years. The other members of the Property Board at present are Don and Reg Alexander, Sid Compton and Clarrie Stuchbery.

The “attempt to save the church from collapse and to reconstitute the trust” was successful and paint and repair work continued even to the erection of a girls toilet. In 1955, Mr Len Doig was paid £200 foe building a Sunday School room at the rear of the Church.

In 1961, Rev. Mick Grant proposed further alterations. The picture window was put into the front doorway and an entrance made at the side. New flooring was put down. The pulpit and communion table were moved from the south end to the north. Members of the Portland Church of Christ did the interior furnishing.

Mr Bert Hayes built another small room adjoining to accommodate the Sunday School which, at that time, had an enrolment of some 20 puipils. Families from Gorae West travelled up to seven miles for Church and Sunday School. Small Sunday School classes had operated for short periods in the early years of the Church. In 1936, Mr Waldy Hedditch offered his home for use as a Sunday School, and it met there for more than 10 years, with one teacher and a class of a dozen children aged three to 13 years. In 1946 the Sunday School moved back to the Chruch and waxed, then waned, until 1980 when it faded out for want of children.

The Church, first known as Wesleyans, became Methodist at union within the Church, and in 1976 moved into the Uniting Church in Australia. The congregation has produced leaders in the Church community. Waldy Hedditch, David Hann, Vic Stuchbery, Ted Alexander and Annette Downes have all been accredited lay preachers, and taken many preaching appointments in the Portland and Heywood circuits.

The congregation has also been recognised for the enthusiasm of its singing, and has been fortunate in always having a good organist. Winnie Stuchbery was one of the first, and was an accomplished pianist by the time she was 12. Mrs Hedditch, “Mrs Vic” and Mary Renshaw each acted as organist, and in 1934 Clare Stuchbery – now Taylor – played for her first service. She has been the Church organist continually since 1946.

The Apple Industry

At first , every settler planted his garden with a few apple trees that had strange names like Filbaskets, and Crow’s Eggs, or Annie Elizabeth, and these old gardens survived for many years.

in 1885, W.J. Williamson made the first commercial planting of 14 acres on the hill opposite where the church and the school now stand. He planted Jonathans, Sturmers, Five crowns, Stone Pippins and Permains, and some of these, now 97-years-old are still being harvested.

The following year, 1886, Fred Stuchbery, gardener at Must’s, obtained and planted for Pedrazzi one acre of trees near the old blacksmith’s shop (which still stands, giant bellows and all).

Other plantings may have taken place over the years. Williamsons started their own nursery and raised hundreds of trees for their orchards.

It was in the years 1908-1910 that people started planting apples in a big way. Perce Pedrazzi used to recall how, as a little boy, he would watch the bullock teams clearing the land for the Williamson orchard near his home.

Vic Stuchbery told the story of how his father ordered 2200 trees. They arrived by train – “truck loads of them”, and it was two years before they had enough ground ready to plant them all out. At the same time, Henry and Frank Williamson, Hedditch, Hollis, Clay, Beauglehole and Pedrazzi planted big areas, and extended over the next 15 years. Hann’s orchard was planted later.

The fruit was sent to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane markets, and was also exported to England and Germany. Everything was loaded into railway trucks at the Gorae Railway Station – whether they were going to Hamburg or to Hamilton, filling a Weekly Times order. Six or more trucks would stand in the station, and horse-drawn wagons and drays would pull alongside to load.

In the orchards, the apples were put into boxes strewn on the ground. The picking bag was made from a chaff bag, a loop each end to go over the picker’s neck, and a tie at the waist.

Carted into the apple sheds, the fruit was tipped onto long sloping benches, and the apple packers hand sized and wrapped them, packing them in ordered patterns in the five or six cases lined up before them. The cases were made from timber that was usually cut at the orchardist’s own sawmill before the season started. Then, while the packers were filling cases, the case-maker was alongside, expertly nailing the cases, to keep up the supply.

Often the packers worked late into the night, by lantern light, to keep up the orders – 300 to be loaded on Monday for the Esperance Bay, bound for Southampton – 600 on Thursday for the Largs Bay for Hamburg, and so on. The record consignment of apples that left on one train was 110 tons.

When the war began in 1939, export finished; a Government Apple and Pear Board was formed, to purchase and market all apples grown. By this time there were about 1200 acres of orchard in the Gorae, Heatmere, Portland, Heywood area, and all the fruit produced was brought to the Cool Stores. Four grading machines were installed- hand operated graders, and Ab Holland turned the wheel to keep the applies moving on the belt. Four packers worked on each grader. Several of these were local women, five Stuchbery girls and Mrs George Phillips. The youngest worker was Ted Treloar – now the prominent rose-grower, then a “little tacker” of 13, standing on a box to reach his bench.

W.J. Williamson was in charge of operations, Jim Richards was his store “manager”, and Albert Robins, inspector.

After the war the Apple and Pear Board was disbanded, and growers had to find their own markets. The motor truck operations increased. Export was tried again for a few years, but packing costs and freight increased. Cases required were either imported pine, and then later cardboard try packs. Inspection laws became so strict that not even the slightest defect was allowed, and soon export from Gorae ended.

By now it was necessary to build a cool store to keep the industry viable. The biggest orchards built stores – smaller ones went out of production. Then it became necessary to move into bulk handling. Several orchards did this, but many acres of trees fell to the bulldozers.

Now the whole Portland district can only account for 160 acres, and only three or four families are engaged in full-time orchard and wholesale activities.

Royal Mail Service. His and Her Majesty’s Services

In the days of Queen Victoria, Her Majesty’s mail services did not extend into the forbidding trees and unmade roads of the Gorae Forest.

In 1881, Edward Huxley of Bolwarra was writing to the Board of Education, on behalf of Robert Hollis of Gorae, advising that arrangements for occupying a building for school purposes at Gorae, would be completed in a fortnight. Mr Huxley apologises for not communicating sooner. “I beg to state that I receive my letters very irregular”.

On August 18, 1897, when moves were being made to move the Gorae school to a site further west, Mr R.G. Beauglehole gave his address as “c/- Messrs Campbell & Sons, Jular Street, Portland”. Messrs Campbell & Sons were the Portland grocers who kept most of the district in flour, tea and other meagre needs, but whose account often reached substantial proportions. Whenever a few pigs were sold, the farmers were able to “pay off a bit of Campbell’s account”. Apparently, Campbell’s foreclosure forced at least one pioneer from his land. Messrs Campbell provided a useful receiving point for the few letters that might come their way.

His Majesty, King George, was able to provide a better service for his loyal subjects. In 1914, Mr R. Hedditch (Dick) contracted to carry the mail to the far flung outposts of Gorae and Cashmore. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, sometimes on horseback, or in his buggy, he travelled through Cockatoo Valley, disappeared into the lonely bush at Lloyd Stuchbery’s, crossed the Elbow Ford, and came out onto the Gorae Road, a mile from the Church. The school had not, as then, completed its perigyrations, and was further afield. Near the church, Mr Hugh C. Williamson built a small post office, where his daughter, Miss Ethel Williamson served as post mistress. There was just room to open the door and squeeze into the little sorting bench, and a very convenient size for the local larrakins to upend – which they did!

After the school finally came to rest alongside the church, Miss Williamson moved in as school teacher, and the mail sorting moved into the school building. It was always an exciting moment for the pupils as the red wax seal was broken and the contents of the mail bag scattered over the floor. Even after Mrs Joe Pedrazzi took over as post mistress, she arrived at the school to meet the rail carrier and sorted the mail – most of which school children carried home in their school bags.

Mr Dick Hedditch carried on his long, lonely way, faithfully three times a wek, in rain and cold, heat and fire. True to tradition, His Majesty’s mail always came through on time. It is said that one could set one’s clock by the coming of the mailman. His faithful little chestnut mare, Peggy, travelled the 30-odd miles for 16 years and knew every step and every stopping place on the way. In later years Dick’s son, Syd, often relieved with the horse and gig until they gave up the contract after about 20 years of faithful service.

In 1943 the sorting was moved as Mrs Pedrazzi’s home, and her well beaten walking track on the edge of the Dry Holes were overgrown. Mrs Pedrazzi was post mistress for over 20 years, until they moved for a brief, but well earned retirement in Portland.

So the post office moved across the road to the home of Clarrie and Vera Atwell, who also provided more than 20 years of service until they retired to Portland. The Gorae Post Office then closed.

In the 1930s the private mail bag was introduced and a roadside service was available for an extra fee. This was used by most residents between the siding and the school, and roadside service from Portland continued after the office closed.

Friendly carriers continued, and the service came daily. We keep things in the family out here. Dick Hedditch happened to be a brother to resident Waldy. The first lady contractor, Elsa wiltshire, was Vera Hann’s sister. Les Downes’ brother, Jack, called in at various homes for a cup of tea, or cherry chat, on his round. Claire Stuchbery’s father, Frank Fallon, dropped off the mail, and the bread and meat, and odd pieces of machinery ordered in emergency. Norma Gilyear (now Beavis) had the round for a period. Now Maureen Murrell is the contractor.

But Queen Elizabeth II has relinquished her role. No longer the Royal Mail Service, Australia post arranges our deliveries with efficiency. No longer are our letters delivered to “Gorae, via Portland”. Gorae has lost its iodentity with the Postal Department. Roadside Delivery 1060, Portland, 3305 will find the school. And if we post a letter in Heywood it will go via Geelong.

One thing we have not lost – the cherry smile, a friendly wave, a burst on music on the car radio, as Maureen Murrell stuffs our numbered, regulation – white mail boxes with paper and goes on her way.

We collect the mail – there are newspapers – the daily, a couple of locals, a farm paper or two. There are letters from Readers Digest and Time Life – with offers that we must not live without. There is “To the householder” mail offering bargains at hardware sales to fortunes in pine forests. There is not much personal mail. STD phone calls are easier. But there are plenty of bills – petrol bill, machinery bills, farm supplies. The only bill we don’t get is the grocery bill – you pay cash at the supermarket.

The breakthrough in communication really happened with the telephone. In 1927 the lines came down from Gorae West, and the switchboard was installed at Pedrazzi’s. Wires were strung in the trees and connected houses within a mile or so of the exchange.

The party line was the main interest of the system. Looped to insulators on the trees, it followed the teacher’s track to Hedditch’s and on as far as Taylors and Jennings, on the river. At its peak this handy instrument connected seven subscribers, who, by turning the handle in a series of long or short bursts, in morse code, could call any others ubscriber on the line – at no charge. For instance, if your number was S, then three sharp rings would be the only call you would heed – or perhaps should heed. In common with party line services around the world, the thought the someone may be listening, inhibited conversation. But in spite of this small inconvenience, the party line kept communication open between neighbours. One story which may only be legend, has come down through the years. Number 1, two shorts, called H – four shorts, to tell her that his sow had had piglets, and how many would he keep for H, before he offered to sell the others. A sharp, clipped voice interrupted, “Save one for me, boy!” Subscriber A was not going to miss a bargain.

The exchange also had its ring code – but there were certain hours for ringing – from 9 till noon, and 1pm till 6pm weekdays, and weekends off, except for an hour on Sunday. Only the inexhaustible good nature and patience of the operator allowed more. One story will pay tribute to the postmistress and her husband. Mrs no 6 was Group President of CWA, and was stranded with a flat battery at Yambuk late at night. So about midnight, exchange was roused out of bed with a call to No 6 – but he was fast asleep on the other side of the house. So Mr Exchange got dressed, and went off the waken Mr 6 to go rescue his wife.

In 1934, another party line, connected to the Portland exchange at the railway line, served the lower end of Gorae, from Clay & Pitts Mill to “Sunnybank”, with seven subscribers also.

In 1967, the electric power lines reached out from Portland. Gorae added its gala function to the others around the district, welcoming the lighting up.

In its wake came the automatic telephone exchange, continuous service, dial telephones, STD.

But for us it cost a little more of our identity. Half of Gorae was connected to the Gorae West exchange, the other half to Heathmere.

Pigs to Market

Home again, home again, jiggety jig.

Mr Tom Wilson went to visit Mrs Levett. He learnt that she had a litter of piglets for sale, so he bought two. That, of course, was easy. The difficult part was that Mr Wilson had arrived on horseback, and home was 20-odd miles away, up on Cape Bridgewater. Of course the pigs arrived home safely. Simply place two small pigs in two bran bags .. they don’t squeal much in the dark … then tie the bags together at the top, sdling the bags across the saddle, and 20 miles further on, the little pigs settle happily in their new sty.

It was five o’clock in the morning on that cold July day in 1904. It was dark, so dark that Fred Stuchbery could barely see the horses ears in front of him. He was driving the wagon through Hawkins’ paddock along the railway line, for that was the shortest way to the North Portland Station where he was to have his precious cargo loaded before the train left at seven o’clock. He knew he must be somewhere near the gate out of the paddock, but it was dark. There was no warm glow from a Softwood Factory then to guide his way. Nowhere in the forest will we ever see it quite so dark as it was then, for even on the most cloudy night now, the lights of Heywood and Portland reflect from overhead and glow softly in the remotest places. In the pitch blackness of that morning, the man got down from the wagon and stumbled through the sodden grass until he reached the fence, then moving this way and that, he located the gateway. He turned to the wagon, but which way in the darkness? More than the chill of morning sent a shudder through his bones at that moment. He must reach the train on time.

Loaded on the wagon were five baconers, dressed and ready for the Ballarat market. All the day before they had worked to kill the pigs. (No one ever killed a pig when there was an R in the month, so it was pig killing season). By evening the pigs were slaughtered, scalded and scraped, and laid in their shrinking pinkness in the bottom of the wagon. What now, if they didn’t reach the station in time? What did one do with 900 pounds of raw pork when no-one owned a refrigerator?

He stood, peering into the darkness, listening intensely, every sense alert. Then it came. It was just the merest tinkle of a chain as one of the horses stirred. All was well, and five little pigs went to market that day.

Horse Stories

Stories of bolting horses were always good for a laugh, after the event of course. There was the day when Arthur was standing on the spray pump like Ben Hur driving his chariot, when Tiger bolted, tipping his driver into the Sunnybank dam. There was the day when Ron was bring in a load of kerosene cases full of Jonothans. Tiger bolted again and there as a stream of broken boxes and apples from the far corner of the orchard to the shed.

Then there was Brownie, who hated to back up. Dick had to get the dray loaded so he was determined that Brownie could reverse. The old horse reversed all right, full speed half way across the yard and into the shed wall. The full speed ahead, he bolted down the drive, straight through the fence at the corner. He stopped in the middle of the paddock with the dray on its side and the top wheel spinning.