Back to the Main Drain – Cora Lynn, Vervale and Iona

5th Nov 2015. Main Drain, Vervale (Photo taken from the 13 Mile Rd/Pitt Rd bridge looking upstream towards the 14 Mile Rd/Little Rd bridge at Iona). Author’s collection.

My cousin, Howard, and his mum, Muriel WINTER* (nee FALLON) kindly offered to take me on a tour of the old sites of my grandparents:

For Mum’s side, the WINTER family—Cora Lynn, Vervale and Iona farms,

and, for Dad’s side, the COGHLAN family—Cora Lynn General Store,

all situated around the Main Drain on the Koo Wee Rup swamp, West Gippsland, Victoria.

Our grandparents, William Thomas Rupert (WTR) and Catherine WINTER (nee SELLARS) and their eleven children lived on at least three different farms in this area from about 1913 to 1939 with a hiatus between about 1917-1920 where they ‘appear’ in Fairfield, running a butcher’s shop.

My paternal grandparents, Peter and Grace, ‘Doll’, COGHLAN and their two children, Jack (my father) and Nance, managed the Cora Lynn General Store from 1925-1935.

*Muriel married my mother’s brother, Dudley WINTER

After a warm welcome by Aunty Muriel at her home in Koo Wee Rup, the three of us set off….

As can be seen from the Google aerial view of our target area below, the land is agricultural as it was when our forebears were there. But instead of potatoes and cows the paddocks are full of asparagus; a more profitable crop these days.

2015 Author’s version of target area with aid of Google Aerial view.

First stop the Cora Lynn farm, Culdees..,

The available electoral rolls, courtesy of, for this area place the WINTER family on a farm on ‘Sinclair’s Rd, Cora Lynn’ from at least 1926-1931 (possibly 6 yrs before in 1920 as Mum said they left Fairfield when she was 3, and 3 years after, up to 1934). This was the farm known as Culdees as mentioned in my first post, 98 today…well she would have been. Fortunately, with Howard’s local knowledge, he knew Sinclair’s Rd was now the northern part of Bennetts Rd.

Along this section of Bennetts Rd we sighted a dilapidated farm house.

We stopped and wondered….Could it be Culdees?

5 Nov 2015 Ruin of farmhouse on Bennetts Rd (formerly Sinclairs Rd), Cora Lynn. Author’s collection.

Abt. 1920-1931 ‘Culdees’ Cora Lynn. WINTERS’ family home. Author’s collection








The roof line was the same.

There was a room built into the end of the verandah with the same configuration as Culdees.

But the house looked too small.

Could the difference be in the camera optics from 1920s to 2015?


We both wanted to believe it was where our parents spent much of their youth but we couldn’t be sure.

Mum rode her horse to school, the Convent school in Cora Lynn (in Convent School Rd I presume), from this location. I can now see on the aerial view above that it would have been very easy to stop off at the half way mark to school, the Cora Lynn General Store, and buy some lollies from that nice boy Jack COGHLAN.

WTR was a member of the 1921 Bunyip Cricket team as documented in the photo below. Unfortunately, there’s been a few fingers pointing out WTR in this photo over the years.

1921 Bunyip Cricket Club. WTR WINTER standing, far left. Private collection.

1921 Bunyip Cricket Club (Back of photo) Left to right. Standing: W WINTER, Lutmen, Holgate, Ted Nash, R Flett, H Parke, F Hodge Sitting: Barnes, W Watson, Smith, Harcourt, Fatty Harrison


Next stop, Vervale…

The WINTER farm in Vervale (from early 1930s – 1937) was on the other side of the Main Drain to Culdees. (At some stage in 1937 WTR managed the Macalister Hotel in Maffra.)

The address on the electoral rolls for this period of time was ‘Garfield Rd, Vervale’.

Once again, with Howard’s local knowledge, he knew that Garfield Road was now Thirteen Mile Rd. He also knew the exact location of the farm.

The farm was on the north east corner of Bunyip River Road and the Thirteen Mile Road (see below, at the site of the sheds). Note the picture is distorted; the corner is actually at right angles.

There was no old farm house to ponder on this spot.

2015 Google Street View, of Vervale farm. Corner of Thirteen Mile Rd and Bunyip River Road.

The Bunyip River Road runs parallel to the Main Drain on the north side and the Main Drain Rd runs parallel on the south side. The photo at the start of this post is taken from the bridge over the Main Drain to the right of the above Google street view.

On seeing the great expanse of flat land and the farm’s proximity to the Main Drain, I can appreciate the devastation the 1934 floods must have caused to the WINTER property.

The further we drove around the swamp the more we noticed the apparent importance of sheds. And the bigger, the better it seemed. Great silver monoliths housed all manner of farming paraphernalia: brightly coloured tractors, irrigation equipment and hay stacks.

Most of the roads were unmade and the bridges across the Main Drain were quite sparse in number. The distances travelled could be longer than expected if one of these bridges was out of action. No wonder Mum had to know how to ride a horse before she could go to school across the Drain when they lived in Cora Lynn.

The manicured paddocks of asparagus spears popping out of beautiful dark, peaty soil were in contrast to the other feature of the landscape, car wrecks. It seemed whenever a car gave up the ghost it sat in the car wreck cemetery near the property’s sheds.

Why all the ‘Mile Roads’?

The Mile Roads are markers as to the distance along the Main Drain from Western Port Bay. Cora Lynn is at the Nine mile mark, Vervale, the Thirteen mile mark and Iona, the Fourteen mile mark. Very civilized.

Next stop, Iona….

We dropped by the Catholic church, St Joseph’s, and the neighbouring hall, Colomba’s, both facing the Main Drain. This is where our forebears practised their faith, danced jigs, and did some of their schooling.

2015 Google Street view of St Joseph’s Iona and St Columba’s Hall.

After the family moved to Vervale, Mum continued her school days at St Joseph’s Iona. At that time the school was in Columba’s Hall.

The hall was also used for dances and fundraising events. It is also where my grandfather WTR WINTER, died suddenly on 20th August 1939, at the age of 64 (2 July 1875-20 Aug 1939). He was buried in the cemetery of his birthplace, Sunbury.

According to a cousin, he dropped dead whilst ‘dancing with Mrs Whelan’. Poor Mrs Whelan!

The Catholic school at Iona opened in 1914. Below is an early photo of a ‘Group of children attending St Joseph’s school Iona 16.12.1915’. This was at the time of the WINTERs first period on the swamp.

1915 ‘Group of children attending St Joseph’s School, Iona’. Private collection.

Mum’s three eldest siblings are in this photo: Irene (2nd back row), Billy (2nd back row, 3rd from right) and Leo (Back Row, 5th from right).

Billy Winter 1915 Iona school photoLeo in 1915 school photo


I’m not sure where the family was living at this time.

In the late 1930s, Mum’s parents had a farm up the road from the Church, near Corcoran Rd, Iona. This is the farm house below.

Late 1930s IONA Farm near Corcoran Rd. WTR and Catherine WINTER with their youngest daughter, May.

Mum didn’t have much to do with this farm as she was away helping her father’s sisters, the proprietors of the Royal Hotel in Sunbury.

Not being enamoured with working behind the bar, Mum left Sunbury in 1938 or 1939 and started her nursing training at St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, following in the footsteps of her sisters, Phyllis and Dorrie.

Grandma’s dangling petticoat in this photo always made Mum giggle.

Last stop, the General Store at Cora Lynn…

Dad’s father, Peter COGHLAN, managed this store (no longer a store) from 1925 to 1935. It’s on the northwest corner of Nine Mile Rd and Bunyip River Rd, on the Main Drain.

5 Nov 2015 The building at Cora Lynn that was the General Store. Author’s collection.

The COGHLANs, originally from Bullarto, near Daylesford, came to Cora Lynn in 1925. I’m not sure why they made the move but I think it was because their farm wasn’t performing too well in Bullarto.

Peter already had experience in store keeping as his forebears had run the Bush Inn in Bullarto.

Up and moving to a more prosperous area seemed a pretty common thing to do in those days. The number of moves my grandfather, WTR WINTER, made in his lifetime needs a whole blog post to itself!

The Google Street View below shows a small drain across from the old store. To the left of the drain, out of view, is the Main Drain.

2015 Google Street view of Building that was Cora Lynn General Store

Below are a few ‘happy snaps’ of the family in front of the store around 1930: My grandparents Peter and Grace COGHLAN, their children, Jack (my dad) and Nance and their cousin Alan LEE (visitor).

Perhaps a new family car?

Abt 1930 Jack COGHLAN, Alan LEE, Grace ‘Doll’ COGHLAN, Nance COGHLAN, Peter COGHLAN. Cora Lynn General Store. Private collection.

Dad, having finished his schooling, worked in the store alongside his father, Peter.

Abt 1930 Alan LEE, Nance and Jack COGHLAN. Cora Lynn General Store. Private collection.


1930s Peter COGHLAN and Nance COGHLAN in front of Cora Lynn General store. Private collection.

1930s Alan LEE and ? in front of Cora Lynn General Store. Private collection.

And some WINTER and COGHLAN sporting prowess…Howard’s father, Dudley WINTER and my father, Jack COGHLAN were in the Cora Lynn Cricket Team, as pictured, in the early 1930s.

1930s Cora Lynn Cricket Team. Dudley WINTER Back row, 2nd from left, Jack COGHLAN, sitting on ground, on right. Others unknown. Private collection.

Then the floods of 1934 hit Cora Lynn. No doubt the store suffered badly with its proximity to the Main Drain.

Below are a few not so ‘happy snaps’ of the COGHLANs and their store during the 1934 floods:

1934 Floods Cora Lynn store. Peter COGHLAN standing in water. Others unknown. Private collection.


1 Dec 1934 Floods. Cora Lynn bridge and General Store.

The COGHLANs left Cora Lynn a couple of months after the floods.

On leaving, the ‘Cora Lynn and District Friends’ presented them with a clock to show their appreciation of service to the community.

22nd February 1935 Clock presented to the COGHLANS on their departure from Cora Lynn.

Plaque on front of clock








Peter COGHLAN was a fund raiser; for the Daylesford Hospital whilst in Bullarto and for the Warragul Hospital whilst in Cora Lynn.

P Coghlan raising funds Cora Lynn

Lastly, we visited the Bunyip cemetery where Aunty Muriel’s forebears and many of the ‘swamp’ community are buried.

One grave I realized later I should have looked up was the third eldest in the WINTER family (Mum and Dudley’s brother), Leo Talbot WINTER, who died of Tuberculosis at the age of 21 on 8th July 1926 at Cora Lynn.

Next time…

As we criss-crossed the Main Drain that day I began to appreciate the significance of this geographical landmark in my parents/grandparents’ lives. It divided the small hamlets and their farms with the only access to either side being small bridges at intervals of about 2 miles (3.2 km). So, if one bridge was ‘out’ it was a long way to the next one.

An overflow of this important drain and/or damage to the small bridges could isolate the mostly farming communities for days as it did in the flood of 1934. It was a lesson in the importance of good drainage!

I now understand Mum’s diligence in poking sticks into the dirt under our house checking for water build up. She knew, first hand, the damage water could do to a property.

Finally, a big thank you to Howard and Aunty Muriel for the tour and your hospitality!

Please, readers, feel free to contact me or write a comment at the end of the post if you have additional and/or different information or memories, or have a query or just want to give me some feedback.

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12 Responses to Back to the Main Drain – Cora Lynn, Vervale and Iona

  1. Ruth says:

    Hi Margaret,
    It’s amazing how you have managed to find out and piece together all these facts and so much interesting information about your forebears. I especially like the interweaving personal anecdotes, for example the one about your grandma’s dangling petticoat. They add such a wonderful personal touch. Your family members were very community minded. That must make you proud.
    Thanks Margaret for sharing this with us.

    • Marg says:

      Thanks Ruth. Yes, the forebears showed concern and an awareness of a wider community which they instilled in us. We were very lucky. We’re also lucky to have the photos which gives some flesh to ‘their story’. Cheers, Marg

  2. Bern says:

    Thanks again Marg for your great write up. Driving around the main drain with Howard and Aunty Muriel was special in itself. I love seeing the old photos. I hadn,t seen the cricket one of Dad and Uncle Dud before. Nice socks Dad! The floods must have been a very hard time for the family. Great writng Marg. Bern x

    • Marg says:

      Thanks Bern. Yes, Howard commented on Dad’s socks too. He thought they may have been his footy socks although I don’t think Dad was into footy. It is great to get the photos out of the albums and display them like this. It’s amazing to think that the school photo of Auntie Irene, Uncles Bill and Leo is 100 years old! Cheers, Marg x

  3. Sarah Winter says:

    Hi Marg, Howard’s daughter Sarah here. He sent me this post via email- what a great read! Thank you! It’s so wonderful seeing the old photos and imagining the life back then. I’m sure grandma Muriel would have absolutely loved being taken around, too!

    • Marg says:

      Hi Sarah! Thank you for your lovely feedback. I’m so glad you enjoyed the read. Blogging is a great way to get the family history, photos and all, ‘out there’, making it so accessible. I heard so much about the Main Drain when I was a kid it was great to put it into context with the surrounding landscape and as you say, imagine what life was like then. And it was great to catch up with your dad and grandma. I found some Winter relatives in Ireland last year which I’ll tell you about eventually. So stay posted! Cheers, Marg.

  4. Geoff Coghlan says:

    – Don’t think I ever heard the story that Grandad Winter “died dancing with Mrs Whelan”!.
    You’re becoming a very adept blogger.
    – look forward to the next slice of family history!

  5. Rosemary says:

    This would have been a very interesting trip for you Margaret. The Main Drain was new to me and I didn’t realise that our grandparents ran the store in Cora Lynn for 10 years. The old photos are magic and I loved seeing Mum in her stylish outfits. I wonder if it was their car.
    Cheers, Rosemary

    • Marg says:

      I believe it was their car…I seem to remember Dad saying so. The day on the ‘swamp’ was terrific and gave me a good sense of the country community they enjoyed. Your Mum does seem to be dressed up doesn’t she and looking good! Maybe they were were going for a drive into the city. Looks like Grandpa has his driving outfit on. Thanks for the comment x

  6. Doreen Johnstone nee Muir says:

    Hi Margaret, Doreen Johnstone (Muir) here. I’m enjoying reading your wonderful blogs which Sue Need (Muir) introduced me to last week. Your dad looks just like I remember him. I’ll never forget that enormous aerial in Box Hill for the radio shack. I’m hooked now, so keep writing. This is fantastic. Best wishes, Doreen

    • Marg says:

      Thanks Doreen. Lovely to hear from you. Glad to hear you’re enjoying the blog. It’s a great way of getting the family history ‘out there’. There’s still so much to tell…watch this space! Fancy you remembering the aerial. Dad was mad keen on that ham radio. Cheers, Marg.

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