Excerpts from Edition 223 of Pyrenees Pioneers for publication on the website.
Visit to Maryborough Cemetery
On Sunday, 15th May, members gathered at the impressive gates at the entrance to the Maryborough Cemetery in Argyle Road and enjoyed a walking tour with Eileen Courtney as our guide. These ornate wrought-iron gates were manufactured in Ballarat and erected in the early years of the existence of this second cemetery for Maryborough, which opened in 1858. (An earlier Cemetery, said to contain some 400 graves, was on the eastern slopes of Bristol Hill, and closed in 1858. A memorial cairn was recently erected to mark this historic site and in memory of those who lie there.) A contract to re-paint the gates was let in 1869 at a cost of five pounds.
Though there are many graves in the cemetery which tell the history of Maryborough, our tour concentrated rather more on the unusual. These sites included the only family mausoleum there, that of the McCullough family; W. G. McCullough being a very early ironmonger in High Street. In 1874, he built the Exchange Building on the site of his original 1854 store. He also worked diligently with others to establish a Presbyterian Church in the town. Although the Mausoleum is quite large above ground, we learned that inside there are stairs leading to a lower level. It apparently cost one thousand pounds to build in 1908.
The earliest existing headstone, which can be found in the C. of E. section, is dated early in 1858. This is a good quality stone and the inscription is in perfect condition. Across in the small Jewish section, another headstone gives a later date in 1858. The inscription on this stone is all in Hebrew and Eileen has succeeded in having the date translated, confirming that this is the second oldest headstone there. The inscription on another reads "Raphael Caro who was murdered on the West Charlton Run and interred on the 26th August in the year 5618 aged 40 years".
A most unusual story was told of a grave in the C. of E. section, that of a European migrant who committed suicide. The Roman Catholic priest declined to officiate at the burial and the Anglican vicar stepped in to officiate. However, the details of the deceased cannot be read on the front of the headstone - they are inscribed on the back of it! The brother of this migrant lies in the plot beside him, with its normal headstone. Here and there we saw graves marked simply by a large rock at the
head of the grave and a much smaller one at the foot - hence headstone. Another grave Eileen showed us was that of John Le Leiver Rogan, a miner, who died aged 102 in 1985. Several of his sons were
eminent public servants in state and local government. Abraham Robinson died in 1885 aged 58, and had been a foundry owner responsible for many of the cast iron fences around graves and throughout the district.
In one particular section of the cemetery, which was totally bare, Eileen explained that this area was "cleaned up" by one of the local Service Clubs as a "special project". They commenced by rooting out all of the cast iron grave markers and throwing them into 44-gallon drums to avoid their mowers being damaged! How would you describe such people? Infidels or Vandals maybe. Eileen explained that a broken column on a grave indicates a life cut short; an angel looking upwards is watching the soul as it moves heavenwards; whilst an angel looking down is meditating.
Eileen was deeply moved by the story of a young lass who died whilst saving her little brother from drowning. (1 think this lass was very, very obese, and the family charged people to look at her - in other words, she was their breadwinner). For years, she had lain in an unmarked grave but, in recent times, Eileen has been responsible for having this grave done up in a most attractive and unusual design, with a small headstone. Another local lady has been moved to do some restoration work in the section set aside for little babies. She has outlined each tiny grave, filled in the area with attractive toppings, placed a name where she can, and added little decorations. Our tour concluded at the very new Garden of Angels, where those who have lost children can sit and meditate in a quiet and peaceful setting. It was here that we thanked Eileen for a most interesting tour and wished her well with her future projects.
(Supplied by Lorna Purser, with a small contribution by Tony O’Shea.)
JUNE MEETING:We reproduce here the first instalment of Christine Worthington’s talk. The remainder will appear in subsequent editions, as space permits.
Prahran Mechanics' Institute
Victorian & Local History Library
140 High Street, Prahran
(PO Box 1080, Windsor VIC 3181)
Ph/fax: 9510 3393
The Prahran Mechanics' Institute celebrated its 150th Anniversary in 2004. The little library, that began as a reading room and meeting place for the local community, has endured many storms through its long life - which has at times hung in the balance.
Through dogged perseverance, community support and some wise management the Institute became a centre for adult and technical education, and now contains a specialist lending collection.
Managed by a committee of seven and operated by a staff of three (two-full time, one part-time), the not-for-profit Prahran Mechanics' Institute has demonstrated the ability to adapt to changing times, formed vital partnerships, and promises to be a useful and vibrant library service well into the future.
1. Background to Mechanics' Institutes
The origin of the mechanics' institute movement is attributed to Dr. George Birkbeck of the Andersonian Institute, Edinburgh, Scotland. In 1801 he began a series of evening lectures for skilled labourers about steam pump technology. In those days skilled labourers, tradesmen and artisans were generally known as "mechanics". The lectures were very popular because they were offered free at a time when educational opportunities were available only to the wealthy. The lectures developed and lead to the establishment of facilities dedicated to workers education - the Edinburgh School of Arts in 1821 and the London Mechanics' Institute in 1823. Soon there were hundreds of mechanics' institutes spread throughout the British Isles.
Thus the mechanics’ institute movement was a movement based on educational values and one could say that this was the birth of adult education, technical education and lifelong learning. Birkbeck himself saw benefits to individual workers in providing them with opportunities to increase their knowledge and skills. Others who followed had loftier visions of social change via education of the working classes. There doesn’t appear to have been a religious basis to the institutes, though it was felt that education had the potential to bring wisdom, which in turn might bring morality. I believe
that the temperance movement, and other similar organisations were big fans of the mechanics’ institute movement, because it was thought that if the rowdy young men of society had the opportunity to receive some education and culture in the evenings, they would be less likely to be going out and getting full and making nuisances of themselves.
Institutes appeared then throughout the British Commonwealth. Mechanics' institutes (also referred to as athenaeums and schools of arts) were especially popular in 19th century North America, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
Australia’s first mechanics’ institute appeared in Hobart in 1827. Considerable numbers of institutes appeared in New South Wales and Queensland (mostly called "schools of arts"). But in Victoria the popularity of mechanics’ institutes was astounding - there were over 1050 institutes in the state of Victoria alone. It really must have felt as though everywhere you went there was a mechanics’ institute. This is remarkable since they were not formed by a central body, but sprung up out of individual communities by the donations and subscriptions of the local residents. In colonial Victoria the institutes provided remote communities with their first libraries and reading rooms, public halls and meeting places, and activity programs for self-improvement. Apart from some government funding in the late 1800s, which mostly dried up with the 1890s depression, mechanics' institutes relied on their members’ subscriptions and the generosity of their local communities. As municipalities and their public facilities developed, mechanics’ institute libraries were absorbed into public libraries or closed altogether. Around 500 of the halls remain today, in varying states of usefulness and repair. Only six of the original institute libraries remain in full operation in Victoria today – Ballarat Mechanics' Institute, Berwick Mechanics' Institute, Footscray Mechanics' Institute, Maldon Athenaeum, Melbourne Athenaeum (formerly Melbourne Mechanics' Institute) and Prahran Mechanics' Institute.
According to the Victorian mechanics’ institutes bible – Pam Baragwanath’s If the walls could speak – the Avoca Mechanics’ Institute was established in 1871 in the former post office building and at one time had a membership of 90 and a library of 1200 items. The Institute and building appear to have been gone by the 1920s. (To be continued in next edition.)
1880s TEMPERANCE ACTIVITIES IN AVOCA & DISTRICT(continued from Edition 222)
Hope of Timor Juvenile Temple No. 62
December 1882: (recently formed) J. Du Bourg, - Medcalf, - Krasquill, - Tregonning, S. Du Bourg, J. Ballantine.
January 1884: Superintendent Mrs. Murphy
(Not listed 1887-89)
Samson Lodge, Talbot No. 270
(Not listed January 1882)
January 1884: Rev. J. Grey, W. Ross, John Crump
(Not listed 1887-89)
Security Lodge, Amphitheatre No. 169
January 1882: J. Brown, J. Wilson, Sister M. Roberts
(Not listed in January 1884)
Star of Glenmona, Avoca Lead No. 192:
January 1882: Wm. Marshall, E.P. Bostock, W.G. Glover
January 1884: W.J. Glover, C. Chamberlain, W.G. Glover
(Not listed 1887)
May 1889: W. Marshall, Sister Marsden, J. Birch c/- J. Marsden
Star of Hope, Chinaman's Flat No. 95:
January 1882: Jessie Ballantyne*, J. Hornsby, J. Wilkins.
January 1884: A. McPhee, E. O'Farrell, J. Quick
* Later spelt Ballantine)
(Not listed 1887-89)
(Supplied by Helen D Harris OAM To be continued in next edition)
Copies of this complete 6-page newsletter are available at a cost of A$3.50 including postage within Australia, or A$5.00 overseas. Send order plus remittance to the Treasurer, ADHS Inc., PO Box 24 Avoca VIC 3467.