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  Glenmaggie Weir has resulted from the damming of the Macalister River, a few kilometers below its junction with Glenmaggie Creek. The now flooded shallow valley once comprised rich alluvial flats dotted with farms and the small settlement of Glenmaggie.
      Blocks in the township first went on sale in August 1877. A map shows that most of the buildings were clustered around what is now the southern end of the road bridge leading to Licola. As most of these buildings were set into, or were sited below, the embankment here which now forms part of the lake edge, they along with the farms were gradually drowned as the waters rose in the 1920s.
      The idea of creating an irrigation supply in this part of central Gippsland was not new. As far back as 1886 the Shire Engineer had suggested that the Macalister could be dammed but it was not until small farms were created as a result of the Closer Settlement Act early this century that real demand for concentrated water supplies became insistent.

      It is probably fair to say that the greatest demand for irrigation water came from the closer settlement farmers in the Boisdale district after 1912. One clause in their farm contracts stipulated that they supply the government owned Maffra Beet Sugar Factory with a minimum of ten acres worth of beet (later reduced to five acres). To achieve this they needed more water than came from the natural rainfall.
      A disastrous drought in 1914, when dust was said to be six inches deep in Boisdale’s main street, made the plight of these farmers worse. Those who survived joined together as the Boisdale Beetgrowers Progress Association and it was this body which engaged in a vigorous negotiation with the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission which resulted in an agreement in 1919 to establish an irrigation district comprising some 12,000 acres.   Two sites were considered for a dam. The first was on the Avon River at Valencia Creek but this was eventually rejected in favour of the Glenmaggie valley on the Macalister. The Avon’s flow, though dramatic in flood time, is less regular over time; as well it was realised that the Macalister site would provide a larger basin covering nearly 4,900 acres.

      Once the decision was finalised, work commenced almost straight away. Although not large by modern standards, the wall construction presented a major challenge as only human and horse power were really available. It has been claimed that at peak times 400 horses were being used. The huge quantities of cement, for example, had to be carted in from the Heyfield railway station by the Drew family, using three teams.
      The concrete at least was mixed in a giant steam driven mixer, but half a dozen men were employed just to supply the engine with sufficient wood to keep it running and it required human energy to direct the stream of concrete down the great flumes to wherever it was needed.
      While work was undertaken on the river bed, the flow was diverted through a new course, which required labour to cut. Later the river ran through the pipes in the wall which were to become the outlets for the two major channels of the scheme.
      As work increased a small village, officially named "Glenmaggie Dam", sprang up beside the construction site. Most homes were of a temporary nature. Some families lived in tents but others made more ‘substantial’ dwellings from tin, bark and bags. Toilets were communal affairs. There was a post office and a school (with up to eighty students) held in the hall which also served as picture theatre, church, dance hall and town meeting place. The settlement had its own cricket and football teams. Many residents had gardens, plentifully supplied with fertilizer from the horse teams.

     The farmers whose properties were to be inundated did not have an easy time of it. Though there was general acceptance of the need for the dam, there was also a feeling that the landholders were being unjustly sacrificed, without genuine compensation, for the good of others. For a start they were given no set date by which they could expect to have to leave, which meant that forward planning was difficult. Then there were many arguments about compensation. The government authorities did their best to undervalue the properties, even at one point claiming that some farmland were of lesser value because it was subject to natural flooding!
However by the end of 1925 the inevitable had been faced and all farms vacated. Some farmers chose this opportunity to retire; others bought into properties elsewhere. Buildings were offered for sale and removal; several were taken to Maffra where they became the residences of SRWSC employees.
      The last building to close in the old Glenmaggie township was the hotel. When the slowly rising water finally reached the bar a last round was consumed and that was it. The township did continue for some years as a smaller entity several hundred metres higher up the bank, where a number of buildings had been relocated.
     The first water to be delivered from the weir arrived on the Boisdale flats in 1925. The water level in the weir was raised in 1947 with the addition of floodgates attached to the top of the wall. This was to create an additional supply for the new Soldier Settlement districts of Nambrok and Denison. Later works have included the strengthening of the wall by anchoring it more firmly to the base rock and the building of a small hydro-electric power generating station.

      The school closure and destruction by fire of the general store virtually ensured the demise of the original township. However, residential areas have developed north of the Licola bridge at Glenmaggie itself and at Coongulla, on the northern shore. A number of caravan parks, ‘hobby farms’ and holiday resorts have appeared along the southern shore.

      For a full description of life at Glenmaggie see Barraclough & Higgins, A valley of glens (Bairnsdale, 1986)


 The Big Flood: Thursday 28th June 2007









These pictures were taken a week after the actual day (it was impossible to reach the weir except by helicopter at the time).  Four flood gates were still open; debris washed down from the Macalister Valley formed what appeared to be a solid mass behind the wall.

Details of photographs - top left downwards
[MSBM] refers to Maffra Sugar Beet Museum archives

  • View from wall site back up the Glenmaggie Valley just before the commencement of building, 1919 [MSBM]  

  • Commencement of works to stop flow of Macalister River [MSBM]

  • Partially completed wall; flying fox towers clearly visible [MSBM]

  • Men's tents, Glenmaggie Dam "township" [MSBM]

  • Former Glenmaggie village nearly completely under water [MSBM]

  • Preparing the outlet tunnel [MSBM]

  • Creating outlet channels using horse-drawn scoops [MSBM]

  • (x  2) A week after the major flood of 28/06/2007 [Jeremy Hales]

Page modified 25/01/2011