Charabancs and Bunyip Forest Devils

Chapter 5

Published Jan, 2022

Draper family of 'Barton Hill' and friends at the annual picnic at Yan Yean Reservoir c 1920. Left to right: Leslie Stafford ’Staff’ Draper (1909 – 1992), Thomas ‘Tom’ Barton Draper (1903 – 1959), Dave Murphy, Lily Evelyn Draper (1906 – 2003), James Chester ’Ches’ Draper (1905 – 1998), Muriel Blanche Draper (1907 – 2003), Mrs Blanche Draper (nee Hurrey, 1880 – 1968), Joe Murphy, George Edward Draper (1911 – 1993), Sylvia Iris Draper (1913 – 1996). Photo credit Draper family

During World War I, Yan Yean School was being renewed. The old school was in bad repair. The residence was attached, and the teacher’s kitchen door was at the south-west corner of the classroom. At the west end of the classroom was the gallery. It went up about eight steps and the beginners sat there with their chalk and small blackboard. As the teacher Mr. Alfred Babbage had eight grades to look after, his strap was well used. The big girls were given a job of helping the smaller children. The attendance was usually above thirty pupils.

The older and retired citizens would meet at the school gate each morning, after they collected their newspapers at McPhee’s Store – immediately north of the Hurrey property. They were Bertie Goodall, who lived where Lily (Mrs. Greg Brennan[1]) now lives[2], Dan Hutchison, whose ‘posh’ house, ‘Eulomo’, was on top of the hill opposite the school, and Mr. Handcorne who lived in what is now Recreation Road, then called Handcorne’s Lane. Sometimes Alec McPhee joined them. They would discuss the war excitedly and check the casualty lists, which filled most of the two papers – the Age and the Argus.

The new school was built by Thiess Brothers (three). The eastern half of the school ground was fenced off and was the horse paddock. The avenue of sugar gums at Lily’s was planted about 1915. Some were planted in the school ground but removed in recent years. The boys played football in Hurrey’s paddock, north of the school ground, and if there was a game against another school or an under sixteen game, Brian Sweeney or Uncle Tom Hurrey would umpire. Sweeneys lived where Woods afterwards lived, now McPherson’s. It is called Wood’s Lane, but in our day was Sweeney’s Lane. The next road, now Watt’s Lane was McKenzie’s Lane. Four McKenzies went to school with us and Eric, the eldest, went to the war. The McKenzie’s ancestors lived there and were bakers. Their father Jack went to school with my mother (Blanche Hurrey).

The Hurreys came to Yan Yean in the late 1870’s from Wollert, and before that Epping. They had arrived in Australia from Lincolnshire, England to settle on the Swan River. They found the land unsuitable and moved to Tasmania and then to Victoria the year after John Batman came. My grandmother and Auntie Louis, her youngest, lived in the old house, previously owned by the Bett’s family. Jack Hurrey lived on the corner across the road, and Tom Hurrey in the house at the north end – next to McPhee’s Store. Ken McPhee attended school with us. Tom Hurrey’s place was a blacksmith shop, and McClelland was the last blacksmith there.

Our roads were gravel and took a lot of maintenance with washouts on the hills. Jack McKenzie and Bert Hall were the main road repairers for many years. Bert Hall was my mother’s cousin and went to the war. He lived in Jack Hurrey’s house, after Jack died in about 1917. The Plenty Road was pitched all the way to Melbourne with blue stones about one foot in diameter. Each stone was rounded on top due to wear, and the steel tyres of the vehicles made a very loud clatter. A woman from South Yan Yean (now Mernda) used to push a steel tyred wheelbarrow to Preston every Friday, to sell her butter and eggs and buy groceries. Her name was Miss Green. Her brother Tom made soft drinks in his factory.

On New Year’s Day there was always the picnic at Yan Yean Reservoir. There would be special trains from Melbourne, as well as drags, furniture vans and later charabancs[3]. Swarms of people went to the Reservoir, where there was a sport’s program as well as stalls for ice-cream, drinks, food hot water, souvenirs, etc. There was also a continuous program of highland dancing. The bagpiper could be heard at ‘Barton Hill’.

After we left school, Tom and I cleared much of the farm and plowed it up for cropping. We would pull the trees over with a ‘Bunyip Forest Devil ‘[4]. I would then saw them up and split the logs into fence posts. I fenced around the boundary of the “top paddock’, as we called the 200 acres across the road from ‘Barton Hill’. The ‘top paddock’ was selected by my grandfather, under the name of his friend Mr. Donaldson. A person was only allowed to select a certain acreage. Another example of ‘dummying’[5] was the Hall family who owned the land joining ‘Maranui’ on the north. The two boys and their sister, (who became Mrs. Hurrey, my grandmother), dummyed for the Bear family. When the land became freehold, on the advice of my grandfather Charles Draper, the Halls refused to transfer the land to Bears. There were three 80 acre blocks and my grandmother eventually owned the lot and planted an orchard. It was owned by Hurreys until the 1930’s – when McKenzie bought it.

When land was selected, it was paid for to the Crown at one shilling an acre a year, or if third class land, as at Glenburn, six pence an acre a year. The first fences were usually logs, later post and rail fences were put up, and later still wire fences were built.

At school on Monday morning, all pupils were lined up to salute the flag and to repeat the oath of allegiance – which was something like this – “I love God and my country and will honour the flag and cheerfully obey my parents, teachers and the laws.” There was a big flagpole at the school. According to my mother it was sixty feet high and was presented by John Wilson, first caretaker of Yan Yean Reservoir. The second caretaker was George Wilson. Jack Kerr came in 1925.


[1] Gregory Andrew Brennan (1909 – 1979) married Lily Evelyn Draper (1906 – 2003) in 1945.  Gregory’s brother Pierce Joseph Brennan (1907 – 1983) was a co-owner of ‘Brookwood’.

[2] The property situated on Lot 5, section 6, Parish of Yan Yean was originally part of Thomas Walker’s large selections in the area and was purchased by a Mr. Schultz in 1876. By 1894, rate records indicate that the land was owned by John Rice. Rice owned the property until his death in 1902, after which it was managed by the executors of his estate until 1908. While Rice owned the property, he did not live there and the entire property was leased out to Patrick William Ryan between 1894 and 1901, and then to John Daniel in 1905. When it was finally sold, the property was bought by Albert Goodall, who owned it until 1940. Goodall lived in the house and used part of the land (initially 11 acres and later 5 acres); he rented out the remainder. In 1932, he sold the rented land (about 351 acres) to Greg and Pierce Brennan, who owned the ‘Woingarry’ property, which joined Brookwood to the south. Goodall sold the house and the remaining 5 acres to the Brennans in 1941. The House ‘Brookwood’ was probably constructed during Shultz’s occupancy of the land. Source: City of Whittlesea Heritage Study, Volume 3 – Citations, Final report, 24 September 2015.

[3] A charabanc, or char-a-banc, is a type of touring bus, sometimes used as a normal bus.  Charabancs began as horse-drawn vehicles and evolved into elongated motor cars. Each row of seats usually had a door at the end.

[4] The Bunyip Forest Devil by John Cooper and Sons (Ironmongers) was a machine for light or heavy timber-felling.

[5] ‘Dummying’ and ‘Peacocking’ were used by some squatters to oppose selection and retain control of the land. ‘Dummying’ involved the use of non-existent free settlers to purchase land with money provided by the squatter. The land was handed over to the squatter once the title had been completed. Sometimes the squatter was caught out and the dummy kept the land. ‘Peacocking’ involved picking out the eyes of the land, by selecting or buying choice pieces and water frontages, making the adjoining territory practically useless to anyone else.  Source Bruce G. Draper, Early Days

Yan Yean State School No. 697, c 1914 to 1915 Back Row: Tom Draper, Dan McKenzie, Ken McPhee, Chester Draper, Jack Hancorne, Eric McKenzie, Mr Babbage. Third Row: Marge Cooper, Phoebe Andrews, Doris Hurrey, Lily Wilson, Eve McIntosh, Hazel Hurrey, Dora Merrilees, Cathie Draper, Sally Hancorne. Second Row: Evelyn Walsh, Muriel Draper, Dorothy Boyes, Viola McLaughlin, Muriel Olney, Elsie Babbage, Harry Babbage. Front Row: Harold Boyes, unknown, Terry Tighe, unknown, George Boyes, Jack Hutcheson, Harold Welsh, unknown Hurrey, George McIntosh. Photo credit "Yan Yean: A History", by Dianne Edwards, published by the Yan Yean School Council, 1978
Yan Yean State School No. 697, c 1913. Back Row: Don McKenzie, Ken McPhee, George Wilson, Myles Merrilees, Glady Olney, Eric McKenzie, Jack Hancorne. Third Row: George McIntosh, Jack McKenzie, Percy Bradford, Chester Draper, Harold Boyes, Roy Smith, Archie Andrews, Tom Draper, Mr Babbage. Second Row: Sally Hancorne, Phoebe Andrews, Cathie Draper, Jessie Olney, Lily Wilson, Sarah Boyes, Myrtle McIntosh, Eve McIntosh, Hazel Hurrey, Viola McLaughlin, Dora Merrilees. Front Row: Evelyn Welsh, Dorrie Hurrey, Muriel Draper, Grace Wilson, Lily Draper, Muriel Olney, Dorothy Boyes. My father had started his school days at Hazel Glen private school in Chapel Lane, which is now part of the Doreen area. The School was run by Mr. and Mrs. Smith. My father and some other members of the family had each to take six pence to school on a Monday. If there was no money, they were sent home. A State School No. 1666 was opened at Arthurs Creek in 1876. Yan Yean became a State School in 1873. Photo credit "Yan Yean: A History", by Dianne Edwards, published by the Yan Yean School Council, 1978
Yan Yean State School No. 697, c 1911. Back Row: Mr Babbage, Glady Olney, George Wilson, Myles Merrilees, Don McKenzie. Third Row: Harold Boyes, Ken McPhee, Cathie Draper, Ida Wilson, Myrtle McIntosh, Lily Wilson, Hazel Hurrey, Jack McKenzie. Second Row: Jack Hancorne, Sally Hancorne, Doris Hurrey, Chester Draper, Tom Draper, Alec Mann, Walter McDonald. Front Row: Archie Andrews, Roy Smith, George McIntosh. There were over thirty children attending the Yan Yean State School when we Draper siblings started school there. There were eight grades and one teacher – Alfred Babbage who was Teacher from 1909 to 1918. He was strict and used the strap fairly freely. He was also bad tempered but put his whole life into his job. All nine of us gained our Merit Certificate. Photo credit "Yan Yean: A History", by Dianne Edwards, published by the Yan Yean School Council, 1978
On New Year’s Day there was always the picnic at Yan Yean Reservoir. There would be special trains from Melbourne, as well as drags, furniture vans and later charabancs. Swarms of people went to the Reservoir, where there was a sport’s program as well as stalls for ice-cream, drinks, food hot water, souvenirs, etc. There was also a continuous program of highland dancing. Information credit J.C. Draper. Image credit Melbourne Water
Motor Char-A-Banc Trips. All-Day Trips. Yan Yean Reservoir. The beautiful lake, 11 miles in circumference, and with a capacity of 6,400,000,000 gallons, which serves Melbourne with the greater portion of its water supply. Return Fare, 5/ - for each Trip. Image credit Flyer - 'Beautiful Melbourne, Motor Char-a-banc Trips', 1910s, Unknown designer. Source: Museums Victoria, Public Domain (Licensed as Public Domain Mark)
A gum tree of five metres in diameter after being pulled down by machinery described as the 'Bunyip Forest Devil ' five men stand proudly behind it; possibly a display to advertise the machinery at an agricultural exhibition. Image credit State Library South Australia
The Bunyip Forest Devil. The Sydney Mail, Dec 15, 1915. Image credit Google News
Off the main road north to Inverness is the village of Laggan, tiny in size but large in the history of Scottish pipes and drums where the McPherson (MacPherson) and McDonald (MacDonald) families played a large role. Many important Arthurs Creek events were accompanied by the haunting and stirring sounds of the bagpipes, and still are to this day. The Evelyn Observer in 1901 reported that the evening at the Mechanics Institute, Arthurs Creek ‘was interspersed with toasts, recitations, songs and selections on the bagpipes’. J.C. Draper recalled that ' the bagpiper could be heard at Barton Hill’ on New Year’s Day picnics at Yan Yean Reservoir in the early part of the 20th century. Photo credit Pipes Drums magazine edited and published by Andrew Berthoff
The Caretaker’s Residence, Yan Yean Reservoir, Sunday October 8th 1978. Evelyn Hurrey recalled “the stately old home which entertained many of the Governors who attended at the site still stands as a reminder of days gone by … in 1927 Lord Somers visited the reservoir and the flags of all nations flew high to greet hm. Food was set out on a large wooden rectangular table which used to stand as a functional piece in the front garden of the caretaker’s residence” ("Yan Yean: A History" by Dianne Edwards, published by Yan Yean School Council, 1978). James Chester Draper is facing the camera, second from the left, seated. Photo credit Bruce G. Draper
In 1983 the Caretaker's Cottage at Yan Yean Reservoir was opened as a Visitors Centre with the assistance of local families. The invitation reads: Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works Yan Yean Reservoir. The Chairman, Mr Ray Marginson, and Members of the Board cordially invite Mr J. C. Draper and friend to the official opening of the Visitors Centre at Yan Yean Reservoir at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 29, 1983

Got a question or some interesting facts?  Leave a comment and we’ll reply.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Research Tools

Click here for links and descriptions that may be helpful for those doing their own research, or for those who simply want to know more about some of the topics touched on in Up the Creek Victoria


Abbey FamilyAirey FamilyAlfred DeakinAllen FamilyAllwood StationAlma Shanahan (1923-2015)A Mountain Muster by Ian StapletonApologies & Appendages by Ian StapletonApted FamilyArdchattan StationArthurs Creek CemeteryArthurs Creek Cemetery: a History (Revised Edition) by Lindsay MannArthurs Creek Cricket ClubArthurs Creek Football ClubArthurs Creek Fruit GrowersArthurs Creek Mechanics Institute at a GlanceArthurs Creek Mechanics Institute by Bruce G. DraperArthurs Creek Mechanics Institute HallArthurs Creek Methodist ChurchArthurs Creek Post OfficeArthurs Creek Primary SchoolArthurs Creek Rifle ClubArthurs Creek Uniting ChurchAtkinson FamilyAustralian Garden History SocietyBarr FamilyBarton Hill StationBassett FamilyBatman TreatyBear's CastleBear FamilyBegoniasBoadle FamilyBoer warBraeside StationBrain FamilyBrennan FamilyBrock FamilyBushranger BurkeCharnwood StationChristian FamilyChurch of the Irish MartyrsClarke FamilyCleir Hills StationCorr FamilyCraigie Lee StationDeep CreekDishleigh StationDoctors Gully RoadDoreen VillageDraper FamilyDuffy Land ActDunolly Scent FarmEarly BlacksmithsEllis Cottage Historical Precinct by Nillumbik Historical Society on WikinorthiaEltham District Historical SocietyFay Thomas Collection by Yarra Plenty Regional LibraryFernvale StationFlintoff FamilyFrank Dalby DavisonFriends of Burnley GardensFrom Drovers To Daisy-Pickers by Ian StapletonFrom Fraser's To Freezeout by Ian StapletonFrom Laggan To Arthur’s Creek by Ross McDonaldFruit Cool StoresGillian FamilyGlen Ard StationGlenburn StationGlen Donald StationGray FamilyGreen FamilyGrimshaw FamilyHairy-Chested History by Ian StapletonHall FamilyHazel Glen CemeteryHazelglen HallHazel Glen SchoolHazel Glen StationHazel Glen Wesleyan ChurchHealey FamilyHeidelberg Historical SocietyHenry ArthurHerbert FamilyHeyfield GippslandHickey FamilyHickey’s CornerHowitt FamilyHulme FamilyHurrey FamilyHurst FamilyJohn LoxtonKenneth JackKirkliston StationLaidlay FamilyLang Fauld StationLeon Saper (1928-2005)Linton CemeteryLinton FamilyLinton Grange StationLobb FamilyLobbs HillLodgeLodge FamilyMacfarlane FamilyMacmillan FamilyMacpherson FamilyMann FamilyMcDonald FamilyMcKay FamilyMcKimmie FamilyMcLelland FamilyMills FamilyMountain Rescue 1944Murdie FamilyMurphy's CreekMurphy FamilyMuseums Victoria CollectionsNillumbikNillumbik Heritage GuideNillumbik Historical SocietyNillumbik Reconciliation GroupOf Pioneers & Perseverance by Ian StapletonPeter Laycock (1927-2009)Pine Hill StationPioneers and Painters: One hundred years of Eltham and Its Shire by Alan MarshallPlenty RiverPresswell FamilyPublic Records Office VictoriaRAAF Base East SaleReid FamilyRobert (Bob) Mair (1943- )Ronald FamilyRoyal Historical Society of VictoriaRoyal Horticultural Society of VictoriaRunning CreekRussell FamilyRyder FamilyRyders Flat ReserveSchultz FamilyScrubby CreekSeeds of Yesterday : the Fruit of Tomorrow by Pam GoodeyShire of Nillumbik Local Historical SocietiesSlabon FamilySmith FamilyState Library VictoriaSteer FamilyStewart's PondsStewart FamilyStubley FamilyThe Andrew Ross MuseumThe Last Cry by Mick WoiwodThe Melbourne Book written by Clive Turnbull ; drawings by Kenneth JackThomas FamilyTregowan StationTroveUnderwood FamilyUp the Creek : Early Days in the Arthurs Creek District by Bruce G. DraperVersdale StationVerso FamilyVictorian CollectionsVictorian Collections Eltham District Historical SocietyWaitui StationWeatherbeaten Wisdom by Ian StapletonWhittlesea Agricultural SocietyWhittlesea ShowWikinorthiaWild Horses BrumbiesWilliam Jock FraterWinter Majetin AppleYan Yean : A History by Dianne EdwardsYan Yean Primary SchoolYan Yean ReservoirYarra Plenty Local HistoryYarra Plenty Regional Library