SHOW: Oz Iris Convention
From: Dianne Dalla Santa <email@example.com>
After our visit to the Australian Inland Botanic Gardenour destination was
the Mildura Wharf on the Murray River for our luncheon cruise. The cruise
enabled passengers to see the actual water frontages of homes we passed
earlier in the day. The owners of one of the homes, who had been our guide
at the Mills' garden earlier, waved as we passed. A little farther up the
river passengers were amused by the antics of three hapless local youths
who had managed to drive their Subaru ute (light truck) into the river. The
waves created by the Rothbury didn't help help the situation at all.
We will cruise upstream for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, passing
by many gracious homes and properties with river frontage until we reach
Trentham. A roast lunch, including dessert, tea and coffee will be served
as we cruise along. The Rothbury is fully licensed and there is a full bar
service with beer, wine and soft drink available at your expense. An
informative commentary will be given by the captain. We will arrive back
at the Mildura wharf approximately 3 pm.
The river trade played a very important part during the early settlement
days of Mildura. Its craft provided goods, mail, transportation and in
fact, the only contact with the outside world for many years. Today the
river trade has turned to tourism.
The Paddle Vessel Rothbury, along with the Paddle Steamer Melbourne, is
operated as a tourist vessel by the Pointon family, who have operated river
cruises in Mildura for over forty years.
However, she began her career as a large and powerful tow boat. The
Rothbury was built in 1881 at Gunbower, Victoria, and was initially
employed as towing barges for the wool and logging trade.
She was brought to Mildura in 1909 by Permewan Wright and Company and in
1911 was purchased by sawmiller, R.M. Anderson. She was kept busy
supplying logs for the extensive building trade in the new settlement until
the Saw Mill was destroyed by fire.
The Rothbury then teamed up with a Derrick Barge which she towed to its
destination and then provided power from her boiler. The most significant
construction of this team was that of Psyche Pumping Station in 1959.
Captain Alby Pointon purchased the Rothbury in 1968 and restored her for
the tourist trade. During restoration her steam engine and boiler
combination was removed and replaced by a Gardner Diesel Engine. She was
recommissioned in 1977.
In recent years, the Rothbury has gained fame as the fastest boat on the
Murray - her nickname 'the Greyhound of the River.' Although unsuccessful
in her first famous towing race in 1896 against the PS South Australia, in
1988 at Goolwa on Lake Alexandrina she raced against the Coonawarra,
Impulse, Mayflower and Murray River Queen and regained her honour when she
won the race. Since that time, she has won all races that she has entered
Compiled by Mary J. Chandler
We will travel by coach to the Old Mildura Homestead, where early Mildura
had its beginnings. When we leave the Homestead, we will pass, 'Rio
Vista', the home of W.B. Chaffey on our right.
The Old Mildura Homestead.
Situated on the original site in Cureton Avenue, the Old Mildura Homestead
is a reconstruction of the first Mildura Station established by the
Jamieson brothers in 1850. For years its only outside contact had been by
river boat, when the paddle steamers plied their trade along the Murray.
And it was here that the vision of the Chaffey Brothers began.
Canadian, George Chaffey, an engineer with imagination and vision was
encouraged to visit Australia by Alfred Deakin, President of a Royal
Commission to investigate into the possibility and feasibility of setting
up an irrigation settlement in Victoria. The Chaffeys had already
successfully founded irrigation colonies at Etiwanda and Ontario in
California and Deakin was keen for them to do the same in Australia.
When George first saw the Mildura run in 1886 it was drought-ridden and
infested with rabbits and its manager, William McGregor Paterson, held
little hope of selling the property. But George saw beyond the dust and
rabbits to the flourishing vines and fruits trees in the homestead garden.
He had the vision to see the untapped irrigation potential of the Murray
River, and using, first the paddle steamer 'Jane Eliza', and later two huge
pumps built to his down design, river water was carried to the land and
transformed it into the vineyards and citrus groves we know today.
George wired W.B., his younger brother, to sell up their American
interests, and soon W.B. and his family followed him to Australia. In
1887, after many legal battles with the Victorian Government, an Indenture
was drawn by and signed by the Governor of Victoria and the Chaffey
Brothers. In the following October they took possession of 250,000 acres
of land at Mildura for the establishment of an irrigation colony.
Sadly the Homestead and garden fell into ruin in 1936.
The concept of recreating the Old Mildura Homestead went back to 1973 when
the Mildura and District Historical Society approached the Mildura City
Council to zone the land for historic purposes. Plans were prepared and
approved by the State Government, which provided the initial grant. A
building committee was appointed and the Mildura City Council became the
It was officially opened by the Minister for the Arts, the Hon. Race
Matthews, M.P., in November 1984.
The Homestead has been recreated to remind us of our heritage and contains
photographic and historical records from aboriginal times through to today.
Weddings are held in the beautiful rose garden and functions in the
woolshed. It is a place where one can stroll through the grounds to enjoy
the historic display or to picnic on the lawns overlooking the river.
Compiled by Mary J. Chandler
'Rio Vista', the magnificent three story homestead that stands on a cliff
overlooking the Murray River at Mildura, is a symbol of the optimism and
faith of one of the founders of the city, Canadian-born, William Benjamin
(affectionately known as 'W.B.') Chaffey.
W.B. decided to build 'Rio Vista' (River View) for his wife Hattie and
their four children, and construction began in 1889. It was designed by
architects Sharland and Edwards, and its red bricks were fired by local
kilns. Mr. E.N. Wells was in charge of the brick work and the carpentry
was chiefly in the hands of Chapman and Sherring. Much of the fine
cabinet work was done by W. Kells of Ontario, California. The local
Murray Pine and Red Gum was milled by Risbey's sawmills, and red cedar and
other timber, imported marble and the stained glass windows arrived by
W.B. and his family lived at Mildura Station Homestead whilst the house was
being constructed, but Hattie, weakened by the birth of her sixth child,
contracted pleurisy and died before it was completed. The baby died a few
months later. During the hot summer evenings, the family slept in the
underground rooms of the partially built 'Rio Vista' to escape the heat.
On the advice of his doctors, W. B., who was consumed with grief, returned
to California for a break. Six months later he was back in Mildura with
his second wife, also named Hattie, a niece of the first Mrs. Chaffey.
The second Hattie was to have six children of her own, as well as four
lively step-children to look after.
When completed, the mansion boasted wide verandahs and balconies, walls of
cedar and jarrah panelling, a magnificent blackwood and cedar staircase
that Hattie refused to allow the children to use for fear of scratching it,
and the exquisite hand-painted windows imported from England, depicting
birds, flowers and pastoral scenes which features above the main staircase.
It also contained amenities which were unusual for the times; hot and cold
water to each bedroom and bathroom, a septic tank and an inside kitchen.
At first Hattie had the assistance of a cook, two maids, a gardener and a
stableman to run the establishment. But when the 'crash' came in the
1890's and the Chaffey fortunes plummeted, the boys were recalled from
school and William rode to his vineyards on his son's bike (won as a prize)
and worked alongside his men in the field. Hattie and the girls did all
the housework and cooking. The house was put up for sale for One thousand
pounds, but no buyer came forward. Eventually the Chaffeys and Mildura
recovered from the recession and once again many dances were held in the
W.B. and Hattie lived together in 'Rio Vista' until 1926, when W. B. died
at the age of 70. Hattie stayed on in the house until her death in 1950.
In the same year, the City of Mildura bought 'Rio Vista' for Eighteen
thousand pounds to use as an Art Gallery and Museum, and it was officially
opened to the public on May 25, 1956.
An adjoining Arts Centre/Theatre was added, and today the home has reverted
to a Museum featuring antiques, furniture and effects of the 1890's.
After the death by drowning of a Chaffey infant in the fountain, Mrs.
Chaffey had the waters turned off, and in 1936 it was donated to the
Mildura City Council and placed on the corner of Deakin Avenue and Eighth
Street, where it can be seen today. The replica which now stands in front
of 'Rio Vista', was presented as a gift by the Shire of Mildura for the
home's centenary in 1991.
Compiled by Mary J. Chandler
Visit the Alfred Deakin Visitors' Centre where displays featuring irises
and roses are on view.
Di's note: The Alfred Deakin Centre is the tourist industry hub and local
folk are invited to utilise the centre to promote their festivals and
events. Displays of fresh iris and roses ( both festivals were both in
progress) also displays of articles that featured iris eg. vases, plates,
embroidery etc were on display. The centre itself features a large example
of canoe tree which is the remains of a river gum after the Aboriginals cut
a rough canoe from it hundreds of years earlier.
After a busy schedule on this particular day were gathered that evening in
the Sunraysia Room to listen to and see the great slide presentation about
Louisiana irises expertly delivered with wit and skill by Heather Pryor. We
were treated to a stunning array of slides of seedling and named varieties
punctuated with a commentary outlining her breeding program along with
reasons why certain names were chosen for certain varieties resulting in
many orders for Heather's La FOR DAD especially from those of us whose
Dad's have passed away. I know that heather will be reading this so thank
you Heather for being a great guest speaker.
Cheerio again from Dianne who is off again tomorrow to South Australia for
the scheduled 8am arrival on Thursday of her second grandchild. A most
special Christmas gift from our oldest son and his wife.
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