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LifeStyle Wimmera - - INSIDE -

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

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