Along the Road to Merino Ghosts of Yesteryear. Writing in the "Herald" under the above heading, Mr. E. M. Webb says:- I have been running the tracks of yesterday and calling up the ghosts of a bygone day. And all quite by accident. Just outside Casterton, in the extreme Western District, a signpost tells you that it is 14 miles to Merino. Merino ? You ask yourself. What is there significant about Merino ? There were a few hours to spare, so I turned the car down the Merino road. In a few miles I knew this was no ordinary country. It had an air. Something in the lie of the land, in the quaintness and age of the buildings, in the little settle- ments, seemed to turn back a page in history. I crossed the bridge over the Wannon, and then the thing became plain. Here, in the beauti- ful valley of the Wannon, with its steep, grassy hills and its blacksoil flats, history was made. Here the Henty brothers, our first and stout- est pioneers, found, the paradise they had been seeking. Along here had passed Mitchell on his return from the Glenelg river as he made for Portland. The gallant major had a fine eye for country, and this Wan- non valley surpassed anything he had seen in his long travels. The Hentys had been at Portland about two years when the major and his party arrived. It is doubtful who was the more surprised-the major, who knew nothing of the Portland settlement, or the Hentys, who did not know that the surveyor general of New South Wales was ex- ploring in these parts. The Hentys immediately thought of bushrangers, since there was no settlement be- tween them and Port Phillip. What the major thought he kept to him self, but he was extremely dubious of those young men who hailed him. Fine young men, these Hentys, well brought up, well-mannered and hospitable to the stranger. They offered the major the hospitality of their rough home. Dubiously the major accepted. Edward Henty was away seeing to a shepherd and his flock. Francis did the honors. The Henty cook was a Sydney man and whispered to Francis that this was the surveyor-general. Francis politely offered to take the major's horse. The major stiffly declined. Then he offered to take the major's cloak. This, too, was declined. When the major had seen that the retinue was properly provided for, he condescended to enter the Hentys' rude home. The windows caught his eye. "Ha ! Windows in the bush, I declare !" he exclaimed. The major was a military man, and in those days military men were the salt of the earth. The Hentys, pol- ite and hospitable as they may have been, were mere yeomen of Eng- land. The cook excelled himself, and gave the major a good dinner. Under its influence he thawed. That night, the major and the young pio- neers talked much, and the more they talked the more the major thawed. Next morning they took him over to the sea coast and pressed him to stay until the ship bringing them supplies from Tasmania came in, so that they could provide him with stores of which they were short. The major, who had noted the kind of country the Hentys had cho- son for settlement, asked them how far inland they had ventured with their flocks. Their reply was about 20 miles. He then told them of the wonderful country in the Wannon valley which he had just left, only 45 miles away. 1843 Homestead Still Stands. So John and Francis Henty went up there straight away with sheep, and took up large tracts of land. Edward had some 70,000 acres at Muntham, between Casterton and Coleraine. Francis settled at Mer- ino Downs, and John at Sandford. Here were laid the foundations of the Henty fortunes. In 1840 they sent away wool valued at £30,000. Merino Downs is still in the Henty family, and the homestead built in 1843 still stands. Francis lived at first in a mud hut. He had arranged that his wife should remain at Port- land until he could put up a better home, but Mary Anne Henty was not the sort to take only the good things of life. "If the hut is good enough for my husband to, live in," she said, "it is good enough for me," and she took the first bullock dray from Portland to Merino Downs and turned the mud hut into a home. Grand women these pioneer wives! Stephen Henty's 19-year-old wife was the first white woman at Port- land. She was carried ashore by a sailor from the ship. At the door of her new home she was met by Francis, who said, "Welcome, Mrs. Stephen." Her reply was, "I am your sister, Jane Henty." These things I had read often, be- fore I followed in the Henty tracks to Merino, and later from Merino to Portland. And I remembered par-
ticularly paying more than one visit to the brass lectern in the Church of England at Portland, presented by Francis Henty in memory of that brave woman who was content to share a mud hut with him. The lectern is dedicated to "Mary Anne Henty, who fell asleep, 27th Novem- ber, 1881." As I drove along the Merino road these recollections crowded in on me and became very real-more real than the actual surroundings. It used to be a four-day trip from Merino to Portland by bullock dray. I followed the old track down through Digby (once Emu Creek) and Hotspur, which, then, was Smoky River, and did the trip com- fortably in a couple of hours. But the bullocks only had mud to go through, and I had a firm, although highly corrugated road. It is a good thing sometimes to go back among the ghosts of the past, if only to restore our sense of pro- portion. There is so much that is senseless and ephemeral in modern life that contemplation of the sim- plicity, the loyalty, the courage, the earnestness and high purpose of our forefathers, gives us a better sense of human values and helps us to sort the meretricious from the wise and good. There was a greatness in that settlement of Portland and the Wannon valley that surpasses most modern things. Still, we are what we are, and if we cannot do those big things to-day from lack of oppor- tunity, we can still perhaps, do some little things in a great way and not be lacking.