Home' Sunraysia Daily : Your Sunraysia April 2017 Contents Accompanied by German naturalist Gerard Krefft,
Blandowski set up camp at Mondellimin in 1857 where
he remained for five months, recording and collecting
specimens, with the help of the Nyeri Nyeri people.
He did explore the Darling River area, but his main camp
was at Mondellimin. His affinity with and respect for the
first people provided a rare insight into daily life at this
time in Australia’s history.
“We believe he chose this site because it was quite
sheltered,” Bernadette says, pointing down to the
location at the river’s edge.
“We know his camp was here because the spot was
pinpointed by Adelaide academic Ken Orchard.
“He paddled the river and, using Blandowski’s drawings
of his camp, distances recorded in a journal and the white
cliffs as a guide, confirmed this site as his base.
“This has only come to light in the past 20 years.”
Blandowski worked tirelessly during his five months
at Mondellimin, collecting 17,400 flora and fauna
specimens, many of which would soon be wiped from the
landscape with the arrival of pastoral practices.
Despite his incredible success, he would never return
to the museum. Told that the institution’s collection
of specimens were to be moved to the University of
Melbourne and placed under the control of his main rival
in the field of natural science, Professor Frederick McCoy,
Blandowski made his opposition to the plan clear. >>
1909 State Rivers and Water Supply Commission of
Victoria chairman Dr Elwood Mead unveiled a bold plan
to turn Merbein into a dairying community. The US irri-
gation engineer was keen to have a government irrigation
scheme, as opposed to the private scheme established
by the Chaffey Brothers in Mildura, and he wanted it in
Merbein, or White Cliffs, as it was then known. The region
turned out to be too hot for the cows who failed to thrive.
Disheartened by this, landholders turned to grapes and
citrus, after witnessing the prosperity achieved up stream.
1911 WB Chaffey contracted landowners in the White
Cliffs Irrigation Scheme to grow grapes. He wanted them
for the winery and distillery he planned to build.
1913 Chaffey selected a site at the top of the 30m sand
stone cliff and, in 1913, built the Mildura Distillery and
Winery, consisting of a distillery, boiler house, brandy and
cask store, and a concrete tower. The first grape crop was
ready to go when it opened, and Chaffey was able to produce
his first vintage in 1914. The riverbank below provided the
perfect spot to load barrels on to river transport.
1920 In the late ‘20s, when the depression started
to bite and Merbein’s population almost quadrupling,
whole families began camping along the river because
they couldn’t find a house or afford to pay rent. Bag Town
evolved, consisting of make shift tent dwellings at first,
then more sophisticated temporary structures made using
hessian bags, corrugated iron and bush timber. Chaffey
Landing attracted the majority of the people because it was
a sheltered spot, near the town and close to work on the
developing blocks and the winery above. Living in a tent
or whitewashed bag and tin structure wasn’t so appealing
to the women of the camp, which stretched from Ranfurly
Way right round almost to the Abbottsford Bridge.
1926 WB Chaffey died at his Merbein winery.
1930 Things improved in the late ‘30s, with affordable
public housing becoming available in Merbein. Pressure
was brought to bear on the government to remove the
settlement from the riverfront and two sites in town were
selected upon which to build public housing. Today all that
remains of the encampment are two distinct palm trees,
planted by the Bagtown residents, that do appear strangely
out of place.
1980 Chaffey Landing was named after the founder of
the winery/distillery, WB Chaffey. The name and concept
was conceived by Mildara Winery manager of the time,
Syd Wells, and opened on May 1, 1980. At the time it
enabled passengers on riverboats to walk up the cliffs on a
specially constructed pathway to the winery and visitors to
the lookout (one of the best river views along the Murray
River) to walk down to the river bank.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF MERBEIN’S HISTORY:
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