Sunday, March 21, 2010


I grew up making late-summer fishing trips to the Woori Yallock Creek that had very many similarities to this story, only I was doing the trip in about 1967, rather that 1897. It shows how little many things changed in that time.

We used to say we were going "DOWN THE WOORI.' The main difference was, we were not so, or not allowed to be so, adventurous, and we never stayed there overnight.

Lately, I found the first surveyor's maps of the stream where it is consistently called the 'Woori Yallock Riverlet' which it does deserve, being more than a mere creek and about half of a river.

The Woori is more a river than is the River Torrens of Adelaide.




[Note: Wilkins Micawber- is a fictional character from Charles Dickens' novel David Copperfield. His name has become synonymous with someone who lives in hopeful expectation. This has formed the basis for the "Micawber Principle", based upon his observation: "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery." So it is also a reference to the hopeful poor who nevertheless make every endeavour to live within their means.]

As to who MICAWBER might be in reality, beyond the then conventional pseudonym, nom de plume, whatever, can anyone give me a clue? Pray tell, for I don't know. Obviously the person was local, at least for the summer, with time on their hands.

First Published: “The Lilydale Express” Friday Jan 22 1897

Dear to memory is many a fishing trip to the Woori Yallock, Yarra and Cockatoo Rivers, as typical of which I shall describe one made at the end of last season with a chum.

The time chosen by us boys for those trips was during the months of January and February, when the fish bite best and it is favourable for camping out all night. After making all the necessary arrangements with my friend about baits, provisions, and so forth, we set out on the appointed day for the ten mile scramble through scrub and undergrowth, through heavily timbered country for the most part. Progress trough these obstacles pretty slow, and it is well on in the afternoon by the time we reach our destination, which is the Cockatoo Swamp, a place high up the river, where the stream divides into two smaller creeks which unite again some distance lower down.

The space between these branches, some fifty acres in extent, is partly submerged and thickly covered with tall reeds and water grass, the home of innumerable wildfowl. Here we decide to make camp, and while one of us gathers sufficient firewood to last the night through and unpacks the swags, the other is told off to secure a dozen straight fishing rods – our mode of night fishing being to have some six lines each, set at intervals along the bank in the most promising looking holes. These are visited every half hour and the fish taken off, one line being usually retained as a hand line.

By this time the sun is nearing the horizon and we are anxious not to lose what is the best biting time that we have no thought of tea until we have all the lines set, a good deal depending on the spots chosen. I have scarcely dropped my first line when there is a tug and a rush of the line upstream. I strive and pull up a beautiful blackfish, a pound and a half in weight. For the next hour we have quick sport, and I have caught ten fine blackfish weighing from half a pound to two pounds.

By this time the biting grows slacker and we find we are very hungry indeed, so leaving all the lines set, with the rods stuck firmly in the bank for fear some big fellow should get away with the line, we adjoin to the camp and soon have the billy boiling and make a meal, the extent of which would amaze any individual who had never walked all day through the bush or slept all night in the open air. Tea over, we make a start round the lines, one carrying a bark torch and bait tin while the other pulls up the lines. The first round we make we get three more fine blackfish and two eels.
By this time it is getting on for midnight and we are pretty well tired out, so making our way to the camp fire we have a pannikin of tea, and then lie down with our heads to the butt of a large tree and our feet to the fire. So we lie awake for some time, telling stories of previous adventures while fishing, and of big catches made in the past.

Later on we doze in snatches; there are countless hordes of mosquitoes singing in Z sharp, and one wonders what they can get to exist on in default of odd fishing parties.

There is something in these night camp outs, miles away from any human habitation, that holds an inexpressible charm. To lie and watch the brilliant stars glittering through the black tracery of tree tops overhead; the deep stillness only broken by a hoarse cry chorus of frogs from the swamp, or the cry of some water-fowl up the river, one seems he were brought suddenly face to face with the reality of the existence of God by the evidence of His handiwork.

Towards the morning a pale grey light shows in the east; the air is very chilly, and the undergrowth is drenched with dew. I wake my chum who has just begun to sleep soundly; and after putting on the billy to boil for breakfast, we go to visit out lines, the result being three more eels and a big blackfish. We fish for some time longer as the fish bite well early in the morning, and then back to camp.

I have a refreshing dip in the river while breakfast is getting ready, and after breakfast we examine our take. I have two dozen blackfish and nine eels, and on comparing, find that I have the largest fish, which subsequently weighed, turned the scale at two and a half pounds.

We fish for another hour, by which time the sun has risen pretty high, and at length finding we get no more bites, we pack up, strike camp, and set our faces for a long, hot tramp homeward, where arrived well fagged, with our hair all wild and frowsy and a sleepy look in our eyes, which does not disappear until we have had a good night’s sleep.

Transcription & layout - Wayne David Knoll - 12 March 2008

IN the same paper - "The Lilydale Express" Friday Jan 22 1897

WANTED – Alderney of Jersey COW ;
State prices and other particulars.
Three varieties; STRAWBERRY PLANTS,
Four varieties; lowest prices. Apply to
Joseph McEwin Jun. “Brooklyn,” Wandin

McEwin's daughter Sarah Jane McEwin married Murdoch McAskell, manager of Fernydale Boys Training Farm, Ferndale Road, Wandin South. I believe the McEwen's lived on land retaken for the Crown by the Government (MMBW) to build Silvan Dam

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

South Silvan Primary School 1934

This photo was taken by Karl Klix of Wandin Yallock in 1934. The one room South Silvan Primary School was then about seven years old. The school building can be seen through the pearly-barked giant gums of the Middle Creek valley of Wandin South, described in earliest records as 'the valley of white gums.' By 1934 the area, once known as Fernydale or Ferndale, was known as Silvan South or Burleigh.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Freddy Woermer, Photographer

Photo, Silvan

Fred Woermer was a photographer who lived in a humpy on the Middle Creek in Burleigh. His home was below the Monbulk Seville road just past the bush half way along from the Gospel Hall towards Ferndale Road during the 1920s, 30 and 40s or so.

My father Ronald Knoll remembers the Freddy Woermer had room in a hollow tree, which he thought might have been a toilet, but his older sister Eily [Whittingham] tells me it was his photographic darkroom. Dad remembers Mt Woermer coming to take the school photographs at Silvan South Primary school, with an old tripod style camera with a black hooded cape which Freddy used to get under to take the pictures. My aunt, Eily Whittingham still has some copies of these early school photographs.
Ferdinand (Ferdie?) WÖRMERwas born in Fitzroy, Melbourne in 1886 son of Johann Ferdinand WÖRMER & Helene Magdalene nee BOBSIEN, who I believe may have come from Hamburg. After his father died in 1888 Ferdie's mother remarried in 1898 to Robert SCHMIDT. I believe that Ferdie had a sister Mathilde who married Alex STRANG in 1914 and lived in Sandringham where their children were born. Ferdie Woermer died in 1950 at Burleigh. Maybe the Strang descendants have more of Freddy's photographs.

The insignia here is taken from the a colourised portrait above, taken in about 1930 or so of Mabel Knoll, nee Briggs, wife of Charles Knoll of Burleigh. The picture is typical of the 1920's style, framed a with gold-painted oval surround. Fred Woermer's signature insignia can be seen on the picture in the bottom right-hand corner. How he managed to do such fine copy and well finished work in a studio in a hollow tree is amazing.

Mabel Knoll - nee Briggs

Mabel Knoll, nee Briggs - probably around 1925.

born c.1904 in Wandin Yallock

youngest daughter of Christopher Thomas Briggs who was the first to grow the then new crop of passionfruit in the region.

1925 married Charles Arthur Knoll at Silvan

Mabel & Charles were close companions to her next sister Emily ADA Briggs who was married to Wandin Sebire.

Two of her brothers were also married to Sebire girls.

Mabel died at age 26 on the 16th Jan 1931 at their orchard off Wiseman Road, (Knolls Lane) in Burleigh

in a tragic accident in the farmyard after being knocked down by freak winds at a storm-blown shed door and thrown under a reversing A4 Ford truck loaded with fertiliser and driven by her husband while trying to get the precious load out of the approaching rainstorm. [ Inquest no. 27/1931. ]

These original photos Mabel are held by the Mont De Lancey museum, in Wandin. Also on display are photos of her parents C Thomas & Maria Briggs, of one of her brothers in 1919 on a motorbike with his wife in a sidecar with another two brothers on a second bike and sidecar. And also a photo of her sister E Ada Briggs wedding day with Wandin Sebire. The Briggs family all seem to have that characteristic oval face with those strong eyebrows.

Buried in the old Lillydale Cemetery where her grave is marked with a headstone as a memorial that reads: "KNOLL: In Loving Memory of Mabel, Beloved wife of Charles Knoll. Died 13th Jan 1931 aged 26 years." Her grave is back to back with that of her parents Christopher Thomas Briggs (1844-1916) and Maria Briggs (1956-1940)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Found HOLLIS grave, Melbourne General Cemetery


For many decades, descendants of the Yarra-Valley-pioneering Hollis family have been searching in vain to find out what happened to the first father of the emigrant family in Australia, John Frederick Hollis. The family has a letter dated 1854 to young Hubert Hollis from Cousin Gus (Augustus Pearman) in England, which spoke of "the melancholy circumstances of your father's death." But for we did not know where or when in 1854 John F Hollis's short life came to an end.

One hundred and fifty years went by and old stories fell off from family knowledge.

There was no death record for him in Victoria. And none were found in any other state of Australia. And no one knew where he was buried, nor where his bones, connected as they are to our bones, might lie. This has been a lack of peace for some of us descendants, as if their was no place for us to rest in peace about our early father, even if there was for John F Hollis.

There is still no death record for him, though his burial details were recently discovered, and the site of his mortal remains indentified.

This is something of the record of how he was found.


4th JULY 2007 Brunswick, Victoria

I am in Melbourne on a break.

Today, I went to the Melbourne General Cemetery to try and find, among others, the grave of Fanny Hollis , aka Elizabeth Frances Simmonds who died, I believe in 4th June 1860 at Crown St, Yarra Berg, Richmond, VIC Alas I failed to find her there. Barbara, do you have her death certificate handy. My copy is somewhere deep in storage and very hard to get at the moment. Does it give her burial place as the Melbourne Cemetery?. I thought it did, but I need to check.

Anyway, The woman at the desk was very helpful, and I explained that Fanny's name was formerly Hollis and she may have been buried under that name. No Luck. In explaining the situation I told her that

'We now knew the date of her husband's death through the date of her widowhood being recorded on her re-marriage to Thomas Simmonds.'

' And what date was that', she asked.

I had my laptop with me so I looked it up. 11 Jan 1854 I told her.

'Hang on a minute', she said.

She went out the back and came back with what I believe was the original burials entry book for that time.

She soon found a Rebecca Hollis recorded as being buried on the 10 Jan 1854.

'I wonder if it is a mistake. And incorrect entry.' she said.

'But it is a day before he is meant to have died', I said. 'And then, I don't think you were allowed to bury people before they died, even back then."

She laughed.

'Anyway, there is no Rebecca recorded in the family'.

[ I see after the event that Rebecca Hollis burial is recorded on the computer date print outs.}

'Sure there is no other entry on that page'.

She looked down the handwritten entries on the list.

'Oh here', she said. 'John Hollis, died Brunswick, Vic age 45 . Buried 12 Jan 1854 ! '

'That's him, I said. 'Buried in the heat of January the day after he died'.

'Yes!' she said, 'But in a Public Grave'. -'You''ll never find exactly where.'

'Why not?"

It says Grave no 216 but no listing of denomination. Those were paupers graves It could be anywhere, and that is reclaimed Land. Burial have been made across those places.'

I believe we have him. In the Melbourne General Cemetery. After all. The entry had been overlooked, and was not made on the computer data base lists

Tomorrow I will go back to try and get a photocopy of that 12 Jan 1854 page.

Happy Hunting


EMAIL Letter from Barbara HOLLIS,

4th July 2007 Casino, NSW

Great find Wayne,

I wrote to the cemetery years ago and ask them to search their records and not here was the answer. It pays to visit and ask more questions doesn't it. I am so excited that a mystery has been solved. Now for Fanny her death cert says buried Melbourne Cemetery 13 June 1860 the 5's & 6's look very similar could it be 1850? I'd say it is 1860 though.
she was born 1813 and 45 at death adds to 1858. Good hunting for Fanny. It must be great being a detective maybe we could open an investigation company!!!

Regards Barb

EMAIL Letter from Barbara HOLLIS

19th July 2007 , Casino, NSW

Hi Wayne are you still on your break in Melbourne? Did you have any luck with Fanny Hollis? Barb Hollis


20th JULY 2007, State Library of South Australia, Adelaide

Hullo Barbara
I am in Adelaide on transit back to Alice.

I found Fanny Hollis yes, And a surprise. Cannot tell all right now. I will send you details.
The burial entry for her has this additional note - under the entry for grave. 11 Jany 1854.

The grave Section and number is an exact match for the so-called pauper grave of John Hollis

So it seems she is buried with John F. Hollis after all and the grave was retrospectively made a private one. Old Simmonds might not have been pleased.

I have located the exact plot, and it is a area of grass in the middle of scattered old Church of England graves.

will send further details and a plan later


Email Letter from Barbara HOLLIS

20th July 2007 , Casino, NSW

Wow that's great news Wayne,
Isn't genealogy hunting fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have just had some photos from Sth Africa and oh the rellies are very dark in colour and seem a lovely lot. I was so excited to get the photos you would have thought they were my rellies. Look forward to the next exciting episode

Regards Barb

Paying Due Honour to our (first) Father and Mother

The deaths, the untimely ends seemed like the fragmentation of something precious, as if the warp and weft of the interwoven edierdown of our Hollis family had come undone, and the stray ends, the broken seems, the orphaned offsprings had been left too thin, to rip apart in the harsh Antipodean winds.

But now I find that the Hollis parents are in their shared grave, lying together as they did in life, resting in peace.

It can only have been through the Hollis children, in the time of grief at their mother's death in 1860, and then all under eighteen, who had the wit and strength to collect the fees and dues to pay for the bruial plot, and to insist on their parents being buried together, even if their step-father was against it, and so ensure that their father's grave also be restored as a plot of respect.

GOING TO THE ORIGINAL BOOKS - for the detail that matters.

NOTE: In respect to original documents in doing history. Melbourne General Cemetery has a computer database which purports to be a complete record of all recorded burials there.

John Hollis' burial was not on that list. Years, and searchings, asking of that resource got fat nothing. One researcher since told me that pauper's burials are not included on that database! Why? But then, Fanny Simmonds was not on the database either. The data base is only as good as the transcibers, and human error and distraction cause oversights, ommissions and flaws. It was only when I had the blessed service of a officer with goodwill and initiative who went to the original books that I got to find out what was really going on.

I asked to have Frances Simmonds death added to the computer database, and watched at the counter while she was entered in to that easy access, but then more enquirers came to the desk and the officer was busy, so we have yet to get John Hollis up there.

But, even then, the computer database would not have included the further record book columns which allowed me to discover the fine print and the backdated detail which led me to deduce that John and Fanny were buried in the same grave after all.

Email Letter from Barbara HOLLIS

19 August 2007, Casino, NSW

Hi Wayne,
Hope your trip was a great success and you are now settled back to the routine of life. You have me intrigued with your email sentence:
" I found Fanny Hollis yes, And a surprise. Cannot tell all right now. I will send you details."
Can you tell me now as I am impatient waiting? Raining here all day and don't we need it.

Regards Barb Hollis

Email Letter to Barbara HOLLIS

20th August 2007, Alice Springs, Northern Territory

Sorry Barbara, a life of intense work has overtaken me here.

The surprise was what I then went on to give away. That the grave was the same number as the one John Hollis was in, after being told it was a pauper burial and we would never know where it was exactly. The grave/graves are in the same section, same number, so the same plot. I believe they are buried together after all. When I asked the woman at the desk what the addition of the date (11-Jan 54) meant in the normally empty column (in the record-book), she said it probably meant the grave had changed from being a public one (Pauper's) to a private grave. She was going to confirm for me my reading of these documents, as she found my interpretations surprising, though convincing on the evidence. She was as excited as I was, as she did not usually get to see such breakthoughs. I did not arrange for anything to be sent on, addresses etc, so I need to contact her. She gave me exact photocopies of old grave maps and I have worked out the exact site of the grave plot. It is in an area filled with soursob and grass, with a few remnant graves scattered about between pepper trees. This lovely grassy treed area is framed by heavy crowds of block graves of old stone on every side.

I want to call for family contributions of money to get a memorial stone and plaque placed in the grave. I imagine this would be on the horizontal as in a lawn cemetery, though I have not made full inquiries about whether a vertical/ upright headstone is permissible,

I wrote a screed proforma for how I imagine it might go,


[ The PLAN ]

Draft Screed Proforma for A MEMORIAL STONE

Here, waiting the promise of God, lay the mortal remains of

John Frederick HOLLIS -yeoman farmer, (very briefly) of Melbourne
born: - c.1808 Cane End, near Caversham on Thames, Oxfordshire (nr Reading)
died, a pauper, 11th January 1854 Brunswick, Victoria, - 3rd child &
2nd Son of William Hollis, Esquire & his wife Elizabeth nee Pottinger
of “Lashbrook Farm” Gentlefolk, Yeoman Farmers on 450 acres at Cane End

and also his wife
Frances Elizabeth (
late Simmons) HOLLIS nee CLOSE
[ married 8th July 1840 at Old Church, St Pancras, London ]
Born c.1813, Shiplake-on-Thames, Oxfordshire (near Reading)
Daughter of Francis James CLOSE, auctioneer & Mary Ann nee Bullock
Died 4th June 1860 Crown St, Yarraberg, Richmond, Vic. (by then the wife
of a second husband, Pennsylvania-born Thomas Simmons, brickmaker)

The Hollis’s emigrated on 1st August 1852 on the ship “Chalmers” from London arriving in Hobsons Bay on the 22nd November 1852 with their six children:

1. Hubert John HOLLIS: (1841-1888) – pioneer farmer of Wandin Sth (Burleigh)
2. Arthur HOLLIS: (1842-1909) fencer and carter, of Mooroolbark
3. Frances Elizth HOLLIS (1843-1928) m. John Thomas SMITH, brassfounder
4. Edward HOLLIS (1845-1892) of Richmond - died Beechworth Asylum
5. Edith HOLLIS (1846-1892) – m. William Henry GRASS - of Richmond
6. Lucy HOLLIS (1848-1891) – m. John CURTIS - of Richmond

Early parishioners of St Stephens Anglican Church, Richmond

Erected by descendants in humble thanks for their
brief lives, for the sacrifice they made to be Australian.

“The seed must go down to the ground and die if it is to bear much fruit.”

written by Wayne David Knoll 10 July 2007, Brunswick, Victoria