This story starts about 10 years ago when Lake Wendouree was completely dried up. I never imagined a time when I would be able to walk across the area that I had so frequently rowed over. It was a surreal experience. From 2006 the water levels started receding and we did not get adequate winter rains to bring the level back up so that by 2010 the lake was a parched and cracked wasteland. In one of my many walks across the lake bed I stumbled across a relic of a bygone era. I was just past the 1000 meter post and examining some of the massive cracks that had opened up. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glint of glass down a few centimetres on the side wall of one of the cracks. Being a bit of a bottle collector and also not wanting to leave broken glass on the Lake bed I bent down for closer inspection. And there perfectly intact and no longer buried in mud was a lovely little clear bottle. I was thrilled that it was intact and also that it had markings on it:-“J.W.Gear, Chemist, Ballarat,” with a lion rampant embossed on the glass. I took it home and placed it with my growing collection of mementoes salvaged from the dry lake bed.
Fast forward 11 years to when I started researching in more details the men from the club who fought and died in World War 1 and were commemorated on the club’s Honour board. Alan Robertson Scott was one of the last to be researched and in some weird kind of synchronicity, the first line I read was:- “Alan Scott was the son of J.W.Scott . His father was a chemist in Sturt Street, Ballarat.” Suddenly the little 100 year old bottle, found in a random walk across the lake, that just happened to be completely dry for only the third time in history, provided me with a direct link to one of my soldiers! Alan also worked as a chemist assistant with his father so it is highly probable that this little bottle was handed out by either Alan or his father. I haven’t been able to find a photograph of Alan but this bottle will be a lovely memento of him.
Alan was the son of John W. Scott and Mary Scott. His father was a chemist and had a dispensing chemist at 415 Sturt Street. Alan was educated at Ballarat College and Ballarat School of Mines. He was a noted athlete, being the Champion featherweight boxer of Ballarat. He had two sisters who both died young in 1911 and 1912. Alan joined the Ballarat City Rowing Club in about 1910. He elected to the committee in 1912 and was a popular member.
He enlisted in August 1914 and on September 2nd the club president, Lt. Colonel Bennett made a presentation to him at the Annual Meeting of a thermos flask. He was appointed Lance Corporal on 26/7/1915 and Corporal on 24/12/1915. in the 2nd Lighthorse Regiment. He embarked on the 19th of October from Melbourne on the HMAT Wiltshire and proceeded to Eygpt. From there he went to Gallipoli and was wounded there but returned after a month in hospital and served through until the evacuation. He joined the 4th Lighthorse and was promoted to sergeant on the 22/3/1916.He was also wounded at the Battle of Messines receiving a bullet wound to the thigh. Sadly his horse was killed. After his recovery he was sent to Tidworth Barracks as an instructor but was recalled to France in November 1917 owing to the urgent need for men. He was in the line during the German spring offensive and was mortally wounded near in Belgium at a place called Wychaete and taken to the Casualty Clearing Station at Dickebusch on April 29th, 1918 where he died aged just 27.
Corporal A.W.Mitchell of the 2nd Anzac Regiment made the following statement about how he died, to the Red Cross:-“On the 28th of April we went into line and well to the right of Ridgewood near Dickebusch-dug in about 1000 yards from the firing line(we had dug in the night before).Enemy put over a barrage-one of our own Howitzer shells fell short, splinter of which hit him (Scott) in the side of the head-was unconscious for 3 hours-I was 3 yards away from him. Never came to. Taken to Casualty Clearing Station and died the same night. Don’t know where buried but expect outside Casualty Clearing Station.-Scott was a Sergeant and a fine, cool soldier-came from Ballarat-Christian name Alan.”
He was buried at Arneke British Cemetery, Plot 11, Row A, Grave No.10, France.
Commemorated Ballarat New Cemetery on the headstone along with his sisters Elsie and Ethel. In 1923 the club also commemorated him by naming one of the ten new boats the “J.R.Scott.”
In another rather bizarre and but tragic connection to Lake Wendouree, Alan Scott’s grandfather drowned there in 1884.
SUICIDE AT BALLARAT.
Quite a gloom was cast over Ballarat yesterday morning when it became known that Mr John Scott, (father of Mr J. W. Scott, the well-known chemist) had committed suicide by drowning himself in Lake Wendouree. The deceased received an injury in one of the Ballarat South mines some nine or ten years ago, by a cage falling on his head. For this injury Mr. Scott was under the care of Dr Fitzgerald, of Melbourne, for about two years, and since that time deceased has been the subject of occasional fits of insanity. A short time since one of these fits came on, and the opinion of Dr Hudson was obtained as to whether it was necessary to have him removed to an asylum. This, however, was not considered necessary, but the doctor instructed that a watch be kept on him and he would recover. Some six weeks since Mr J. W. Scott travelled with his father to Queenscliff, and Portland, and this had the effect of greatly improving his health. Nothing strange was observed in deceased’s manner until a few days since, when a strict watch was kept on him. He was last seen alive by his son, John, at about half-past eleven o’clock on Saturday night, and as he was not seen after that, the family becoming anxious, the police were communicated with. Search was made and continued all night and all day on Sunday, but without finding any traces. At about half-past ten o’clock on Sunday night the police drags were obtained, and deceased’s sons went out in a boat with the result that after about two hours’ search they found their father’s body in a quarry hole at the Lake near Cain’s malt house, which is the same spot where Mr. Atkinson’s body was found some 15 months ago. Assistance was procured and the body removed to the unfortunate man’s late residence. Deceased was employed by the Warrenheip Distillery Company as malster and was a good workman, temperate in his habits, and well liked both his employers and fellow employees, and also by all with whom he came in contact. He leaves a wife and six children, the youngest being about 14 years of age, but fortunately they are in good circumstances. Three of the family are married. (from Evening Post.)