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Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer Chapter XII page 4

Recollections of a Victorian Police Officer by Sup John Sadleir

(full text transcription)


In flood time the River Wannon is a considerable stream. When I knew it first it was not bridged anywhere along its course. At Bochara, in the fifties, better known as Quigley’s Falls, there was a causeway a little above the Falls, formed of boulders thrown into the bed of the stream until the level of the river banks was reached, the surface being made fairly even by smaller stones and gravel. This causeway, except in time of highest flood, offered a safe crossing for all vehicles, for at ordinary times the water found its way through the spaces between the boulders. I can conceive of no causeway, constructed as such insignificant cost being so effective, nor do I remember seeing any construction of the kind outside the Western District. I believe the design was suggested by Mr John Makersey of Kenilworth , one of the early members of the Dundas Road Board. I remember his pointing out two essential conditions to be observed in forming such a structure:- (1) The boulders on the down stream should be so extended as to receive the waters that poured over the causeway at flood-time, so preventing the foundations from being washed away; and (2) The upper surface of the causeway should slope a few inches against the current. With these conditions observed the highest floods passed away without any injury to the causeway, not even displacing the loose gravel on the top. This may be a small matter to refer to in these Recollections, but I have often wondered, in later years, that the municipal authorities in districts like the Upper Goulburn and others were like conditions existed, had not adopted some such simple and effective plan, instead of waiting for years until the Government supplied funds to erect bridges at greater cost, many of these bridges going down before the first heavy flood.


I have stated that the Wannon River was subject to high floods. On one occasion, when the stream was at his highest, a too venturesome carter tried to cross the causeway and was swept down stream in the rushing waters. Constable Charles Johnson - the man who took a foremost place in the destruction of the Kelly bushrangers at Glenrowan in later years - jumped into the river to the rescue of the carter. Johnson reached the man, and although there was the imminent danger of both being carried over the eighty-foot Falls, the constable held on to his man and brought him safe to land.


My friend Cuthbert Featherstonhaugh was a man of many sides. In the later fifties few men were better known or more popular in the Western District than he. He could sit a buck-jumper, ride in a steeplechase, or handle a team of half-broken colts with any man. It was said that every bone in his body - except his neck - had been fractured at one time or another. His method of breaking in young horses to harness was simplicity itself - to him. With his team of four he simply let them go, while he, seated firmly in his trap with reins in hand, guided them as best he could across the rolling downs of the Muntham Estate, of which he was manager. The country was unfenced in those days, so he and his horses could take any line they chose. Of course, the pace could not last, but it was the horses and not Cuthbert that first gave in. Then on the return journey, as he approached the homestead, the horses no longer full of go, he whipped off their winkers, and the last half-mile was made in record time.

One day, coming to the Wannon he found it in flood and the stream above the causeway too strong and deep for him to attempt to cross in his buggy. But get over he must, so lifting the buggy on to the handrails of the small footbridge spanning the river, the naves of the wheels resting on the rails, he worked the buggy safely to the other side.

Since those days Cuthbert has been many things - parson, squatter, explorer and mining prospector, and still lives, held in high regard by numerous friends.

It was in the early ‘sixties that the first Shire Councillors for Dundas were elected. Their work was new to them and to their officers. One of these officers sought my advice as to the necessary books and the manner in which they should be kept. I did not feel competent to advise him, but I showed him how my own office records were kept. He thought that with this information, and with the addition of Letts’s Diary, he could carry on. After a year’s trial the unhappy man committed suicide.

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