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History tells us so much about life. By reviewing history we are better able to understand what our parents, grandparents and great grandparents endured. This understanding helps all of us to treasure the bounty that we enjoy today. This is a website devoted to the history of an area in the south east of Australia.  The people who lived in the rough bush huts did their best to survive. As with any community there was a small group of individuals who were more unusual than all the rest. Their true stories are the Odd History of South Eastern Australia.

Over many years I have collected and told stories about the interesting historical characters in the local area. My children tired of my repeating these stories around the dinner table. Exasperated, my eldest daughter, Bobbi, set up this website so that I could write these stories down and let the family eat in peace. Little did she realize, that as I researched, I found plenty more to bore them with.  

I have tried my best to authenticate all of these stories.  Wherever possible I have searched for matching vital records, reports and historic maps. You will notice links at the bottom of each article showing references for the information I have used. If I have got it wrong I apologize.  With any event, each individual sees it from a differing view.  I have tried to find the most accurate of these viewpoints.

Annie O’Riley, 2012

Recent Posts

The Sad Life (and Death) of Kitty Counsel

Miss Catherine Mary Counsel was a tiny, sweet natured and deeply religious woman who spent most of her life as a housekeeper for wealthy families in and around Melbourne. Known as Kitty by her friends, her life was inconspicuous, she is never mentioned in newspapers, difficult to find in electoral rolls and barely rates a mention in death notices. Her life may have not have been noteworthy but it was the bizarre happenings after her death that caused me to research this diminutive  lady. Little Kitty came from a well respected family.* Although of Irish stock her grandfather, Loughlin Counsel was[...]

Pit Ponies at the Wonthaggi State Coal Mine

From 1909 to 1968 The State Coal Mine at Wonthaggi employed hundreds of boys and men but they also employed workers who never received a cent, the little horses called pit ponies. These little ponies were not children's pets or riding animals. Often they would be bred specifically for the job as they had to be strong and shockproof. They were taught to react solely to voice commands and they learnt to trot with their heads down. Their size varied from 10 to 14 hands and usually they were thickset and broad across the chest. These were remarkable animals. When the[...]

Bert Barnett and The Wonthaggi Coal Mine Disaster

The following article was published in The Northern Star (Lismore NSW) on Saturday 25th August 1900. "A lad named Bert Barnett, while looking for cattle at Gembrook (Vic) was struck on the head by a falling limb, and rendered insensible. After 24 hours, during which time snow fell heavily, he was found on the ground, with a little dog lying on his breast, and the warmth of its body, it is believed saved his life." Bert was only 11 years old when he was sent out to work for a Mr. Dennis, a farmer at Beenak. He was fortunate that the man[...]

Jerry the Railway Dog

If you have travelled on Puffing Billy in the last few years, you would have seen a grave marker near Cockatoo for a very special little pooch named Jerry. In the 1930's, this little black and white dog took it upon himself to be the mascot of the Gembrook train line. A little stray who was unloved and unwanted he took his destiny in his own paws and taught the train travellers of the hills to love him. Eighty years on and the people of the Gembrook area still talk about this special little dog. From The Argus (Melbourne, Vic)[...]