50 towns in 50 days: Skipton, a town of many names

SKIPTON is a town of many names.

Since it was first established as a cattle run back in 1839 – more than a decade before the gold rush started – the town has been named and renamed, divided and subdivided.

But its current calling comes from the English. It is named after Skipton in Yorkshire, England.

During those first years when modern day Skipton was nothing but green pastoral land and vast open spaces it was known as “Bamgamie”.

Settled by three Scotsman, they built a hut on high ground overlooking the Emu Creek, also known as home of the platypus.

Though the hut is no longer, Skipton’s first building is now marked with a cairn in Stewart Park.

Overtime Bamgamie was divided, initially into “Baangal” and Langi Willi” before being subdivided further into “Banongill”, Borriyalloak”, “Mt Widderin” and “Mooramong” – names still common in the region.

It was and remains a pastoral community, holding its first agricultural show in 1859.

Though much of the history remains in the town’s monuments and memorials and in the minds of residents, modern day Skipton is a different place.

But for the horrific floods of 2010 and 2011 it would remain a thriving country town nestled among picturesque countryside. It was idyllic at the very least.

Skipton roadhouse manager Nigel Ponder initially moved his family to Skipton for a five year tree change.

That was 24 years ago.

"It's generally just a good country town," he said.

"We decided to have a bit of a sea change with the idea of a five year plan but that's now stretched out a little."  

The emotional and physical scars caused by the flooding run deep, with many still struggling.

"The recovery has been quite severe," Mr Ponder said. 

"The Corangamite Shire have been encouraging people to spend in Skipton and have been giving out $500 vouchers for for people to spend in the town."

The local hotel remains closed for business, a glaring reminder of what happened and an ongoing burden to the community who rely on it for bringing in out-of-towners.

A year after the first flood struck, hotel leasee Josh Nixon told of the frustration he felt at the loss of the town’s only pub – which served 250 meals a week and catered to more than 30 people a night on the weekends.

“We had been running for three-and-a-half years,” Mr Nixon said. 

“It was my livelihood and I loved it. Now it is just gone.”

The basics

Municipality: Corangamite Shire

Population: 482

First settled: 1839

Main industries: Fine wool

Claim to fame: Skipton is the childhood home of Victoria's longest serving premier, Henry Bolte. The house he grew up in is situated on a sweeping bend of the Emu Creek.

Five fast facts

1. Skipton is named after a town with the same name in Yorkshire, England.

2. Skipton is known as “home of the platypus” and the Emu Creek is a great place to try and spot one or two of the playful mammals.

3. Silent film star Clare Adams lent Skipton a touch of Hollywood glamour when she settled at Mooramong Homestead with her husband, Victorian racing official "Scobie" Mackinnon in the 1930s. Today, the homestead often has open days for public tours. 

4. Henry Kingsley, author and brother of Charles Kingsley, worked on a pastoral station near Skipton in the 1850s.

5. The Skipton Eel factory was one of the first to be established in Australia and is the largest eel factory in the southern hemisphere. It processes and exports over 150,000kg of eel every year.

Five things to do

1. Ride the Ballarat-Skipton Rail Trail all the way into Ballarat (and back if you’re feeling adventurous).

2. Make sure you visit Skipton on the second Saturday of the month for the variety market at the Mechanics Hall.

3. Go for a coffee and a browse through the Skipton Art Gallery.

4. Go platypus-spotting in the Emu Creek.

5. Visit Mooramong homestead to take in the 1930s Hollywood style Clare Adams had it remodelled in the late 1930s. 

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