Did you know?
The Wimmera-mallee-grampians collective represents about a third of Victoria and as such a large geographical region has plenty of told and untold stories.
The region has as much a colourful history as anywhere in Australia.
Lifestyle Wimmera, in tapping into the resources of The Weekly Advertiser and radio stations 3WM and MIXX FM, provides a snapshot of the many curiosities about the region.
1. History is dotted with military stories of great cavalry charges and the last of these came during the First World War at the fortified wells of Beersheba, near Gaza in the Middle East.
Members of the Australian Light Horse mounted infantry, with bayonets drawn, made the famous and successful charge on Turkish positions.
Wimmera troops and horses were heavily involved in the attack, none more so than Rupanyup publican and later stock and station agent James Lawson.
Lawson as Commander of 23 Squadron spearheaded the charge and won a Distinguished Service Order for leadership and valour.
On returning to the Wimmera, Lawson was involved in civic affairs and sat on Wimmera Football League’s tribunal for many years.
2. The west Wimmera can claim to have produced its fair share of notable Australians who went on to influence the Australian cultural landscape.
Of particular note is Penola-born poet John Shaw Neilson.
Neilson grew up in South Australian-victorian farming country, most of the time in poverty, moving in the late 1800s from South Australia with his family to Minimay to Dow Well, west of Nhill, to Nhill and eventually the Mallee.
Neilson struggled through an estimated 200 different jobs in 30 years in Victoria and NSW and on his death fellow poet
James Devany summed him up with ‘the poor working man who has left us a legacy of endless wealth’.
Despite having an obvious command of descriptive writing, failing eyesight curtailed his reading from a relatively early age and he had to dictate many of his poems.
3. Internationally acclaimed and provocative alternative Australian musician Nick Cave was born at Warracknabeal and spent a few brief years there before shifting to Wangaratta.
It is far from unusual for high-profile celebrities to be born in the region.
For example, film star Portia de Rossi was born in Horsham and former Prime Minister Robert Menzies hails from Jeparit.
But during the 2000s Cave, now based in England, announced in dialogue stretching several years, that he wanted to erect an enormous statue of himself on a rearing horse at Warracknabeal.
It never happened, but to this day, people are unsure whether or how far Cave’s tongue was in his cheek.
4. Lake Albacutya in the northern Wimmera is listed as a wetland of international significance but has not had any water in it since 2000. It was last full in 1996.
The lake overflowed and spilled into northern Mallee waterways during wet years of the early to mid 1970s, enough so that adventurers could canoe from the Grampians to the Big Desert.
The lake and nearby Lake Hindmarsh, which has to fill before water gets to Albacutya and is also empty, are the subject of fishing and yabbying legend and were both at one time home to busy commercial fishing fleets.
5. The Wimmera has produced some unique moments in the sport of cricket but none hold a candle to the visit by W. G. Grace, the father of cricket, and his touring English team to Stawell in 1874.
Grace’s team of 11 took on a Stawell lineup of 22 at Central Park. Stawell won the game by 10 wickets.
The scores show W. G. Grace’s XI fell foul of bowlers Samuel Cosstick and John Conway and was all out for 43.
The Stawell 22 did marginally better, all out for 71.
In a second dig, the W. G. Grace team made 91 and Stawell 11-64.
In a twist, the Stawell line-up included Thomas Wills, who grew up at Lexington Station at Moyston, and is considered the founding father of Australian Rules football. Years later he stabbed himself to death with a pair of scissors.
Another notable Wimmera cricket claim came in 1982 when a touring New Zealand team unveiled a potential new star called Martin Crowe in a match against a Victorian Country team.
Crowe made 77 playing against familiar Wimmera cricket stars such as Peter Homden, Ian Morgan, Robert Scott, Barry Ballantine, Don Fritsch, Steve Harvey and Barry Hopper.
Crowe went on to a stellar international career, becoming Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1985, playing 77 tests where he made 5444 runs at an average of 45.36 and 247 One Day Internationals, hitting 19,608 at 56.02.
W. G. Grace