LOVERS of history, and those with an interest in the pioneering days of the Mallee, will enjoy reading the chronicle of little-known tales and facts of the settlement of Sea Lake and Nandaly from 1890, written by the late Thomas Carty.
In his book, Giants of the Mallee, launched in December 2017, Thomas describes how this dryland farming region was first settled for grain growing, tracing its history from the gold fields of Ballarat.
The book comprises 292 pages in 40 chapters, and includes the names of the people settling in the region – the first generation to make Tyrrell, Sea Lake and Nandaly their home.
The well presented publication also includes 270 illustrations, poems and maps of the early settlement, together with both Local and State Government documents of the day.
The author’s son, Brian Carty, said that sadly, other than Major Mitchell, who crossed Victoria on his horse, the history of the Mallee is incomplete, particularly regarding a first-hand account of how the ‘settling’ of the Mallee took place.
“The Mallee of Victoria was the only land available for settlement, and up until then it had been closed – fenced-off – to hold back the vermin, wild dogs, rabbits and ‘roos,” he said.
“In 1886 the ‘easy’ mining of gold at Ballarat was coming to an end, and the Colonial Government of the day wanted to retain the many gold miners in Victoria, and so land settlement of the Mallee was seen as the answer.”
Mr Carty said that a number of miners applied, however initially, very few actually arrived, and unfortunately the Government seemingly forgot those dozen or so farmers who answered that call, and left them to their own means, without any help.
“So these few settlers cleared their blocks, made tracks and bridged the creeks, fenced the land, sowed wheat, and carted the grain to far-off Birchip by wagon, using draft horse and bullocks,” Mr Carty said.
“In 1896, the railway arrived in the region, and after 1900, the farmers implemented the historic open-channel network, bringing water twice-yearly to fill the farmer’s dams across the length and breadth of the Mallee.
“This prevented the farmers from ‘walking-off’ this desert land, particularly in drought times.”
The author first arrived in the Mallee in 1892, brought there by his father Richard Carty, who was one of the first settlers at Tyrrell in 1890.
Thomas was a newly born baby and the youngest child of European descent, and the book describes where his journey began, the stocking of the barest essentials in food and water, seed to plant, the minimal tools to begin clearing the land – all of this carried in a wagon and to a large extent, living off a plentiful land, no sheep, no cattle, but plenty of Malleefowl, rabbits and galahs.
In 1890, Tyrrell was established as the earliest settlement and gateway to the Mallee. Sea Lake ‘began’ in 1893, something that was celebrated with a carnival on Richard Carty’s land, one mile north of the settlement.
Thomas also writes of the building horse-racing tracks, the first football grounds, the community hall that still stands today, all introduced by so few in a distant part of Victoria.
Accounts of other things they built and adversity they overcame in this inhospitable land of minimal rain, dust storms and bush fires, make for a enjoyable and educative read.
The forward of the book features photographs of the Carty men who pioneered the Sea Lake and Nandaly region under which this text is written: “This book is dedicated to those great men who led victorious lives in the face of great odds”.
Giants of the Mallee is available at book shops including Collins Booksellers Mildura and selected newsagents.