Contractor Martino Ferrari

James Lerk | Bendigo Weekly | 06-Oct-2017


When I began this series about Herbert Keck, our readers will recollect that mention was made of how he had approached the Bendigo council in 1890 in respect of depositing the city’s night soil on his land.

A number of times in the past months mention has been made of a Bendigo City Council contractor Martino Ferrari, popularly called Martin.

Ferrari’s name immediately evokes the imagination as to the name’s Italian origins, in fact the name is also found reasonably frequently in the Swiss canton of Ticino. 

Almost immediately following the publicised discovery of gold in Victoria many hopeful immigrants made their way to the colony, including men from the northern Italian province of Sondrio and others from Ticino.

By the 1870s the Bendigo area had a sizeable population of Italian speaking people, from both Italy and Switzerland.

Among these hopeful men was Martino (Martin) Ferrari. Ferrari came from Tirano, Lombardy, Sondrio, Italy where he was born in 1845.

The vast majority of people living in those mountainous areas were poverty stricken, which was one of the motivations to seek their fortunes elsewhere.

Many of the people from the region in question made their way to either a German or English port in order to secure a passage on a ship bound for Port Phillip.

In the case of Martino Ferrari, he secured a passage on the sail and steam paddle ship the Florence Nightingale, docking in Melbourne on April 4, 1865.

Entry into many countries for immigrants during that period did not require a passport, and as long as the person passed health checks they were accepted. 

In the case of Italy, after unification in 1859, a passport was legally required. Passports were issued by the Comuni di Tirano.

However in the mountainous north officialdom was very thin on the ground and many did not comply with the kingdom’s requirements. 

As so great a number of people left that region, it became known in the English speaking world as the “Ireland of Lombardy”.

Young men who did not wish to be drafted left the area, if one was 18 years of age you could not leave when applying for a passport, as there was a requirement of two years compulsory military service.

Had Martino Ferrari completed his military service before deciding to leave Tirano; this question is at this stage unable to be answered?

Half of the young men, from the Lombardy region who immigrated had made their way to Australia.

Upon his arrival in Melbourne Martino’s movements are unknown but it could be assumed that he had first made his way to Daylesford where there were a significant number of Italian speakers at that time both Italian and Ticino Swiss. 

It is possible that there were even relatives in the area, however he went across to the Maryborough goldfield and there met Liverpool born Ann Jane Hitchcock whom he courted. Ann Jane and Martino were married at Chinaman’s Flat on November 19, 1869.

The young Ferrari family moved to Bendigo soon after the mining boom of the early 1870s and he established himself as a carter. 

Many of the Italian speakers in the Bendigo area at that time had become wood cutters and charcoal manufacturers, the majority were still as poor as they were when they were living in their home countries. 

Both wood and charcoal were required by the mining companies. Obviously to be a carter Ferrari had elevated himself financially as he had to have horses, carts and land on which to graze his animals, which then was off Neale Street.

Being a good manager Ferrari gradually increased his numbers of horses and carts and then secured contracts, one of which was collecting the pans of night soil for the City of Bendigo.

Ferrari used to drink at the Durham Ox Hotel on the corner of Sommerville and Townsend streets. 


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