... Let Me Count The Ways ...
Portland, 2014

Virtual Exhibition

Facilitating Artist: Vincent Giles


1. Introduction
1.i. Portland
2. The Submissions
2.i. Instagram
2.ii. Historic Objects
2.iii. Other Contributions
3. The Outcome
4. Thanks
5. Links

1. Introduction
Let me count the ways...
... you like about where you live and what you do...

Let Me Count The Ways is a state-wide, community-based art project conceived of by Dr Roger Alsop at the Victorian College of the Arts and, in Portland, facilitated by Sound Artist & Composer Vincent Giles. The idea is that members of a community outside of Melbourne can contribute something that they love about where they live and what they do: activities, objects, people, memories, stories, history, and so on. The choice is entirely up to the contributor, and all contributions will be accepted.

Documentation of the contribution is entirely up to the contributor; it could be a movie taken with a phone or camera, a story – recorded or written, a photograph, some music, a sound recording; the possibilities are virtually endless! And Vincent will be available to assist with documentation as needed!

The project will conclude with an exhibition at Julia St Creative Space, and will include an audio work by Vincent that is his own response to the project, as a temporary resident. All non-offensive contributions will be collected and presented publicly via the internet. This project belongs to the community of Portland and through the documentation will develop an idiosyncratic and beautifully localised history that can be shared with residents from the past, the present, and the future, and also with other participating communities, demonstrating where synergies and divergences exist.

This website will act as a virtual version of the exhibition that took place from July at Julia St Creative Space, and, much like the installation, the audio will automatically play.

Click here to view the notice at the gallery about the project (PDF).

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1.i. Portland

The community of Portland is one of the oldest in the state, and is also one of the busiest shipping and fishing ports. The contributions illustrate a little of what life has been like throughout Portland's history, and what it is like now. For me, this project was a chance to build on the relationships that I developed through the project Heard/Unheard:Flux, which was part of the 2013 Upwelling Festival in Portland, and an opportunity to engage the township in a new and artistically rewarding way. As you'll see, there are themes revolving around the natural world, with people engaging with the gardens and parks, the ocean, and the wildlife. The historic objects show an idiosyncratic and, in my opinion, very Australian approach to township and community that dates back over a century, and the other creative artefacts that were included show how these two things are entwined in the Portland of today.

In engaging with the town, and planning my own creative contribution to the project (in form of an 18 minute looping sound installation in the gallery space), I spent a lot of time talking to people about the project and what they like about it, particularly sonically. I hosted an informal information evening in the first week of the residency, from which a lot of good suggestions were made. I tried to follow up on them, where I could, or use those suggestions and track down sounds that were suggested to me by attendees. In this way, even if people were unable to contribute technologically, their ideas have been captured and included in the audio work.

I also found the historic object stories so engaging that I wanted them included as somewhat of a sonic narrative that drove the entire exhibition.

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2. The Submissions

This section contains the documentation of contributions made by members of the Portland community, broken into sections. Portland is home to a diverse creative community, many of whom were keen to get involved in the project. While the primary submissions were photographs, we also received some poetry and a quilt. The nice thing about all of the submissions was that they creatively demonstrate what these people find so enjoyable about Portland.

2.i. Instagram submissions

In facilitating the project, I utilised Instagram with the hashtag #letuscounttheways to collect submissions from people who can engage in the town and its surrounds on a daily basis. Most also came with short descriptions/hashtags about the photo.

“#portlandoz #pbgproject #dahlia #dahlias #flowers #plants #portlandbotanicalgardens”

“#whiteheron #portlandoz #trumpetyourtownportlandoz #seals #birds”

“Crazy beautiful day #roses #pbgardens #portlandoz”

“#dahlia #portlandbotannicalgardens #pbgproject #flowers #australia #portlandoz”

“#seal #seals #sealions #portlandoz #trumpetyourtownportlandoz #seacreatures #seacreaturesstreetartproject”

“In Portland, counting the ways. Info evening tonight! #letuscounttheways”

“#wow” “Awesomely beautiful sunrise”

This is a photograph of the quilt work received from Shelley (@spincushions)

“Explore. So new for you; the place I call home.” “#letuscounttheways yellow rock, cape Nelson. #portlandoz”

2.ii. Historic Objects

In facilitating the project, I reached out to the Glenelg Shire's Cultural Collections Officer, who has been curating a somewhat similar collection to that envisaged by Let Me Count The Ways over a number of years. In the role, the Cultural Collections Officer has been collecting artifacts relating to the history of Portland and, more broadly, the Glenelg Shire. These stories were fascinating, but we could not obtain the objects for exhibition, instead, we received photographs of the objects, which were attached to the stories about them.

Some of these submissions are just stories, folk-lore if you like, and as such do not contain an image.

Flying the Flag at Sandford

Bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Australian flag, this standard predates the official Australian flag by two decades.
The flag was made by Mrs Mitchell’s great-grandmother, Elizabeth Nicholls (nee Tallack). Mrs Mitchell believed the flag was used as a decoration for the visit to Sandford by Lord Hopetoun (when he was still a Viscount) in the early 1880s.
This may have been at the time of the Royal Visit in 1881, when the Duke of Clarence and the Duke of York visited the shire, but there is no account to support this theory.

Elizabeth Nicholl’s daughter Phillipa (born 1865) sang “Will Ye No Come Back Again” in a concert in honour of Hopetoun during his visit, and following the concert he asked that the young lady and her mother be presented. The following afternoon Hopetoun came to afternoon tea, which was a great honour for the Nicholls family.

Hopetoun did visit the Shire in May 1892, after he became Lord Hopetoun, but it is likely the flag was made for an earlier visit. Mrs Mitchell believed that her grandmother Phillipa was a young girl when she performed for Hopetoun, and Phillipa would have been around 16 years old in 1881.

The 7th Earl of Hopetoun (John Adrian Louis Hope) was born in 1860, and at the age of 23 he was appointed the Conservative Whip in the House of Lords. He became Lord-in-waiting to Queen Victoria in 1885, and in 1889 Hopetoun was appointed Governor of Victoria.

On July 13 1900, Queen Victoria approved Lord Hopetoun’s appointment as the first Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

The flag was originally donated to the Casterton and District Historical Society Inc. by Mrs A.M. Mitchell of Como, WA and in 2005 the Casterton and District Historical Society Inc. presented the flag to the Glenelg Shire Council Cultural Collection.
Portland’s Gold Mayoral Chain

The original elements of Portland mayoral chain were presented to the Town of Portland by Mrs K. E. Mellblom and her brother, then Portland Town Clerk, Mr E. Noel T. Henry on 17 December 1955.

The occasion was the centenary of Municipal Government in Portland, and a ceremony was held at the entrance to Portland Town Hall, the administrative hub of the Town Council.

The central drop of the mayoral chain was donated by Mrs Mellblom and Mr Henry in recognition of their parents’ (Mr and Mrs T. E. C. Henry) for their public service to the municipality.

Mr T. Edward C. Henry was Portland’s Town Clerk from 1888 to 1938. Between them, the father and son duo, Edward and Noel, served as concurrent Town Clerks, working for the Portland municipality for a combined 107 and a half years.
The centre piece of the mayoral chain comprises the Royal Coat of Arms from the Town’s Seal, and on the drop which hangs below, the raised enamel shield bears the various designs included in the Town of Portland Seal. These elements are a whale, a lighthouse, a sailing ship and a hanging sheep (a reference to the Thomas Borthwick & Sons abattoir which operated in Portland for nearly a century).

At the time the chain was created, past living Mayors and the descendants of deceased past Mayors each contributed to a link in the chain. The oval links included the monogrammed initials of each past Mayor and are inscribed with the Mayor’s name and dates of service.

When Portland was proclaimed a City in 1985 the “Town of Portland” ribbon banner on the central drop was replaced with “City of Portland”.�From 1955 to the formation of the current Glenelg Shire in the mid 1990s, a link was added to the chain with the election of each new Mayor. As with the original links, the additional links included the Mayor’s monogrammed initials, and were engraved with their name and years of service.�Since the Council amalgamations and the formation of the Glenelg Shire, the gold mayoral chain is no longer worn for official ceremonies and events, yet serves as a valuable record of Portland’s past civic leaders.
The ‘Betty’ Style Whale Oil Lamp

Portland’s first European visitors were the whalers and sealers who “fished” the south west Victorian coastline seasonally from the late 1820s. The Henty brothers’ interest in the whaling industry brought them to Portland Bay, and saw them establish Portland in 1834 as the first permanent European settlement in Victoria.

Whaling prospered in Portland Bay throughout the 1840s, but later declined, with the last whale caught in the 1860s. The whales were prized for their oil, which was obtained by boiling strips of blubber harvested from whale carcass. The oil had several uses, including fuel for lamps.

Whale oil lamps came in a variety of shapes, styles and designs. The simplest is the primitive looking “Betty” style.�The “Betty” style lamp consisted of a shallow reservoir with a spout at one end in which a wick was inserted.

'Betty', from the German word 'besser', meaning better, was designed to improve the performance of oil lamps by creating a wick holder in the base of the lamp. This improved design allowed the drippings from the wick to run back into the bowl.
The degree of the illumination from a whale oil lamp was dependant on the species of whale oil. Oil from a Sperm Whale burned brightly and clearly, whereas oil from the Right Whale provided less illumination and gave off an unpleasant odour.
Southern Right Whales are now a protected species and can still be seen with their newly born calves along the south west Victorian coast.
Marianne Crouch’s Shells

The shells in this small wooden box were collected by Marianne Crouch (nee Trangmar) in 1875. She gathered the shells on Rosemary Island, a small land mass off the north-west coast of Western Australia. �The box, measuring approximately 10 x 13 cm contains a variety of shells and coral, resting on a bed of cotton wool. A paper label adhered to one side of the box indicates that it once contained a “One Day Princess Clock” from the Ansonia Clock Co., New York.

An inscription on the lid of the box, written by Marianne, indicates that Rosemary Island was “where no white woman was supposed to have been”. Perhaps Marianne really was the first white woman to set foot on Rosemary Island? She was around 55 years old when she visited the island. It is not known why she visited the island, but the death of her husband George from fever in 1877 “between Timor and Port Darwin .... while cruising on the schooner Victoria” suggests they may have travelled or toured by ship around the Australian coast.

Rosemary Island is part of the Dampier Archipelago and part of the Leda Nature Reserve. It is around 1,100 hectares in size. The closest towns on the mainland are Dampier and Karratha.

Marianne was born in Brighton, England in 1821, and arrived in Australia in 1840. She married George Crouch in 1841 and they settled in Portland in 1842. George Crouch was involved in wool export, auctioneering, insurance, for a period was Portland Postmaster, and he served on Portland’s Municipal Council.

After George’s death Marianne moved inland to Condah, and later returned to Portland where she put pen to paper and wrote “Some Recollections of Early Days in Australia – from January 1840 to 1917”. She completed her writings at age 95, and died in 1922 aged 100. �Marianne is celebrated in the 1934 Pioneer Book of Remembrance published for Portland’s Centenary.

The box of shells was donated to Glenelg Shire Council Cultural Collection by Jacqueline Stephens, a descendant of Marianne Crouch (nee Trangmar).
Portland’s Book Rest

Portland’s Book Rest was made by Mr Ernest York of Mildura and presented to the Town of Portland in January 1958. The book rest has since been used to hold Council’s official visitors’ book, which has been signed by many visiting dignitaries including Charles and Diana, the Prince and Princess of Wales during the Royal Tour of 1985.��The book rest is made from Burmese Teak, timber salvaged from a then 97-year- old gun carriage that Mr York had seen on a visit to Portland. The gun carriage was partly submerged on the edge of Fawthrop Lagoon in Portland.

The design was inspired by the Indian tradition of supporting the Koran on a similar cradle-like structure. An inlaid cross of English oak on the top of the book rest pays homage to the Hentys who had insisted on their arrival in Portland in 1834 that a Church of England service be held on the Sabbath. The oak in the cross is from a then 600-year-old beam that was once part of a church in England. The shadow around the cross is ebony from Africa.

Each side of the book rest sits a miniature cannon, each a scale model of the 68-pounder cannon at Portland’s Battery. The cannon barrels were cast by local man Johnnie Johnson from gun metal found at Battery Point. Groups of tiny cannon balls on the base of the book rest hold the cradle in place.

Mr York made a speech to the Portland Town Council meeting of 21 January 1958 when he presented the book rest to then Mayor Councillor Mabel Hedditch. Mr York also presented a wooden bowl to Cr Hedditch, who was the Town of Portland’s first female Mayor. 1958 was in her second year of office. Cr Hedditich described the book rest as an “explicit piece of workmanship, of intense interest to all.”

At the conclusion of his speech, Mr York said “And to you Lady Mayor, may you continue to mother such an unruly lot of boys by your example in the high office you hold.”
Portland Town Hall’s Ceremonial Trowel

One hundred and fifty years ago, on 21 September 1863, this silver trowel was used to lay the foundation stone for Portland’s Town Hall. The task was performed by Chairman of Portland Municipality, William Learmonth.

The ceremonial trowel was made by Kilpatrick and Co and cost 13. It was later presented to Chairman William Learmonth.�The trowel is engraved with details of the event and is still in its original satin and velvet lined case.

The day the foundation stone was laid was a grand occasion and Council declared it a public holiday for the people of Portland.�A procession was led by the town band from Market Square, along Percy Street and Gawler Street, then into Cliff Street. The band was followed by the Volunteer Rifle Corps, various orders of Masons, the Town Councillors, clergy, school children and local citizens.

An estimated one thousand people participated in the festivities. Ironically, there is now no visible foundation stone for the building commemorating the grand occasion. The construction of the hall was not without its problems including delays in completion, contractors being fined, and commissions not paid.

Consequently the official opening of the Town Hall on May 24th 1864, (which was Queen Victoria’s birthday) was a subdued event in comparison to the fanfare of the day the foundation stone was laid. Only fifty people attended the opening of the new hall. �Portland’s Town Hall is now known as 'History House' and is home to the Portland Family History Group and a social history museum displaying Glenelg Shire Council’s Cultural Collection.
Trevor (Smith)’s Green Romper Suit

A family photo with my older brother and sister, reproduced from a slide, shows me wearing this outfit, probably around 1963-64. My mother referred to this outfit as a “Romper Suit” – a shirt top that buttoned to a pair of pantaloons (for the want of a better word!) with elasticised legs. It is possibly a hand-me-down from older siblings or cousins, so it could be more than 50 years old.

This outfit only came back into my possession about 15 years ago. When my oldest cousin and his wife married and were expecting their first baby in 1966, Mum gave them some of the clothes that we had grown out of, including the green romper suit. Their children never wore this, but my cousin’s wife held onto it for over 30 years, packing it each time they moved house – many times, across two states!

The suit is in two pieces – a double-breasted shirt with smocking and embroidered chickens on the yolk; and the pants which button on to the shirt (and button off again for a quick nappy change) The collar and sleeves are edged in ric rac. The brand name is Friedelle, made in Australia. The fabric is described on the label as “ALL TETERON”, and is a 100% synthetic fabric that you wouldn’t want to get near a naked flame.

It seems very old fashioned compared to today’s children’s clothes, both in style and fabric. Children’s clothes now need to be durable and easily laundered. My green romper suit is neither, but remains a link to a very happy childhood.
See details of the romper suit here, and another shot with me (Trevor) in it here.
Major Mitchell's "Australia Felix" as a comic strip

Major Thomas Mitchell’s exploration of south eastern Australia in the 1830s is told in cartoon form in a children’s book published by Australian Visual Education around 1960. The book “Major Mitchell and Australia Felix” is one of the 25 comic strip style books in “The Australian Children’s Pictorial Social Studies” series. This book is number 17 in the series.
The cartoons tell the stories of Mitchell's three exploration journeys – along the Macquarie River in NSW in 1831; along the Darling in 1835; and along a section of the Murray River and south to Portland Bay in 1836. It was on Mitchell’s third journey that he travelled across the north of the Grampians, west to Mount Arapiles, then south along the Glenelg and Crawford Rivers reaching Portland Bay in August 1836. Travelling with Indigenous trackers, Mitchell was surprised to see cattle tracks and evidence of white man’s presence. He thought it possible that whalers were present along the coast, but was confused about the cattle.

On reaching Portland Bay Mitchell was greeted by the Henty brothers. It was a momentous occasion. There were a series of structures, livestock grazing and the Henty’s brig “Elizabeth” in the bay. The Hentys had been permanent residents of Portland Bay since November 1834. Mitchell the explorer thought he would be the first European to explore the region.
The book was purchased for ten cents from a garage sale in Casterton several years ago. The area Major Mitchell referred to as “Australia Felix” (in this context meaning blessed in Latin) lies just to the south of Casterton. The comic strip format may have been designed to further engage children in Australia’s history – an easy to understand format, rather than a lengthy dry volume of endless words.
Victoria’s Centenary Cake

In 1934-35 Victoria celebrated its centenary. To mark the occasion a centenary birthday cake was baked. It weighed 10 tonnes, 50 feet high and 300 feet in circumference.

Made by George Rath of the Astoria Cafe in Melbourne, the cake contained 36,000 eggs; one and a half tonnes of butter; one and a half tonnes of sugar; one and a half tonnes of flour, four and a half tonnes of mixed fruit; and a quarter of a tonne of almonds.

Newspapers of the day reported that the cake also contained 100 gold sovereigns, specially minted for the occasion.��The cake was displayed in a purpose-built building at the Centenary People’s Fair in Batman Avenue, on the banks of the Yarra River. The building was a replica of the cake and was known as the “Birthday Cake Building”.

The cake was eventually cut into 250,000 pieces, vacuum sealed, packed in small decorative tins and sold for one shilling to raise money for charity. The names of the people who bought pieces went into a draw, with the prize being a magnificent centenary birthday clock, which was never claimed. Purchasers of the pieces of cake also had a chance to secure one of the gold sovereigns, which each had a souvenir value of 100.

One of the pieces of cake found its way into the possession of the late Lucy Best of Heywood and was donated to Glenelg Shire Council Cultural Collection by her niece Barbara Quinn in 2010.

The cake has dried out and wasted to about a quarter of what appears to have been its original size. Barbara also donated a piece from the celebratory cake from the 1984 Portland 150th celebrations.
The Portland Town Hall – 150 Years

On 21 September 1863 the foundation stone for the new Portland Town Hall was laid by William Learmonth, Chairman of the Municipality of Portland. The day was a great occasion and Council declared it a public holiday. A procession from Market Square to Cliff Street was led by the town band. The band was followed by the Volunteer Rifle Corps, various orders of Masons, the Town Councillors, clergy, school children and local citizens. About 1,000 people joined the festivities.
Built at a cost of 6173, the new town hall officially opened on Queen Victoria’s birthday, 24 May 1864, but to much less fanfare, with only about 50 people attending the official opening.

An exhibition coming up at Portland Arts Centre commemorates the 150th anniversary years of laying the foundation stone for Portland’s town hall.

A highlight of the exhibition is the original 1862-63 drawings from a Council initiated competition to design the new town hall by two of the three entrants - engineer John Barrows, and winner of the competition, surveyor and architect Alexander Ross. This is possibly the first public showing of these drawings in 150 years.

Also included in the exhibition are photographs showing the changing face of the town hall over time; the trowel used to lay the foundation stone; and portraits of Portland’s past mayors dating from the earliest days of local government in the 1850s to the mid 20th century.

Portland Town Hall housed the administration for the Borough, and later, Town of Portland until 1970.
Now known as “History House”, the former town hall is home to the Portland Family History Group and a social history display from Council’s Cultural Collection. The exhibition will be officially opened by Glenelg Shire Mayor, Councillor Karen Stephens at 5.30 pm on Tuesday. September 17, 2013. Everyone is welcome to attend. The exhibition continues until 11 October 2013.
Bert Vivian Wins Guardian Cup
Over 80 years ago, Portland Rifle Club members competed in shooting events in a bid to win the Guardian Cup.
Over a two year period, four shoots were held each year and competitor’s scores accumulated. On the final shoot on Saturday 21 May 1932 Bert Vivian won the coveted trophy.

Shooting at targets over 300, 500 and 600 yards, Bert was the winner by a point over H. T. Baldwin in conditions that were reported as being ‘imperfect’ in the local newspaper.

Bert Vivian was a long-time member of the Portland Rifle Club. He served on the club committee, and in 1931-32 held the position of handicapper.

The Guardian Cup was donated by the owner of the Portland Guardian, Mr W. O. Pettit. Mr Pettit had owned the Guardian since 1920 and his father was the owner of the newspaper from 1886 to 1993.
The Guardian Cup is one of the hundreds of items donated to Glenelg Shire’s Cultural Collection in 2012 by Bert’s daughter, Miss Betty Vivian.
All of these contributions to Let Me Count The Ways by the Glenelg Shire Council Cultural Collection. Rights reserved. Originally contributed to communityheritage.com.au

2.iii. Other Contributions

Along with these contributions, some local artists contributed their responses to the project.

Shelley Husband To The Sea (2014)

Each block represents something about the sea and the surrounds of Portland.
These are the patterns included:
Shell Collection
Ocean waves
Whale tails
Ever changing sky
South by South West (compass-like) Islands on the Horizon
Sandra Jean Duncan Let me count the ways (2014)

I love to walk these windswept streets that overlook the sea,
The feeling of the icy rain that beats against my skin,
The waves that visit the silken sands, shades of deepest sea. Castles, shells and the seas wondrous reeds beneath our playful feet. Birdsong in the morning, an alarm clock for free,
The tiny perfect blossoms of the almond tree,
The bluestone dark and imposing, bricks speckled with mud and dust, Picnics in the summer sun beneath a shady tree,
Even the pesky seagulls that want all our chips to eat.
Stick fights and flower castles in the gardens our secret world, Following a well loved path along our wild cannel, to an inland sea, The swans and ducks and pelicans and reeds taller than me.
Hidden swings that play beneath the weeping willows,
The memories that remain here, of all those loved and lost,
The place l watch my family grow, a place that has become home.

3. The Outcome

Putting this all together, and then interpreting and responding to the theme of the project myself, resulted in the exhibition at Julia St Creative Space, a short video clip of which can be seen here, along with the sound work I created in response to the project.

LetMeCountTheWays-ExhibitionShort from Vincent Giles on Vimeo.

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4. Thanks

This project would not have been possible without funding, administered through the VCA/MCM. My thanks to Roger Alsop, Lorraine Little, Susie Lyons, Alice Bennett, Rebecca Marriott, Lido Larder Staff, Julia St Creative Space, Catherine Bailey, and many, many others.

LET ME COUNT THE WAYS is a project of the Faculty of VCA & MCM, in partnership with Regional Arts Victoria. The project is funded by the Victorian Government through Arts Victoria.

5. Links

Check here for links to other LMCTW sites, and things of interest.

Let Me Count The Ways homapage

Victorian College of the Arts

All text copyright 2014/2015 Vincent Giles, except where noted. All copyrights reserved by their respective owners.