ADHS Newsletter No. 152 SEPTEMBER, 1997

Items of interest –

  • Book – Maryborough Main Drain 1870-1915, by Bruce Osborn
  • Rev Fr Barrett (ex Ararat) and the Landsborough Mission 1917
  • 80 year history of Avoca Presbyterian Church 1944

A great time was had by all who attended our meeting on Sunday, 21st September, which was held at the Lexton Community Centre, and celebrated 200 years since the arrival of Merino sheep in Australia. On this occasion, we joined with the Lexton Landcare Group resulting in a very successful and interesting event on a lovely, sunny day.

At least six of our members went on the first of three bus tours which the Lexton Landcare Group organised on the day. They found the tour most interesting and the excursion, combined with the commentary provided by Cr. David Clark, gave them a greater understand- ing of the work that the Landcare Group have been undertaking since their formation ten years ago. It is interesting to note that Landcare Groups are always interested in the history of their area and our President, Graeme Mills, and Margaret Oulton have provided background histories for the Natte Yallock and Lexton Landcare Groups. The Lexton group had extensive displays in the grounds of the Community Centre and in the Landcare shed, including a relief model of the Lexton watershed.

Meanwhile, the Avoca and District Historical Society had a display of plans of some of the early pastoral runs of the region, plus copies of correspondence between the squatters and the

Commissioner for Crown Lands. Among copies of applications for pre-emptive rights, there were interesting comments about some branches of the head-waters of the Avoca River in 1859. Some streams were described as salt and some as fresh by Mr. Wright from the Crown Lands Office. There was also an extract from Billis and Kenyon in Pastures New, describing how the destruction of native pastures in the late 1840s resulted in erosion in the Western District. The introduction of silk grass from Tasmania, brought in by sheep from that area, coupled with overstocking, resulted in salt areas and gully erosion. The Lexton Landcare Group is one of many working hard to try and repair the damage. Historical Societies can be helpful to Landcare Groups by providing information about the early activities of pastoralists and farmers in their area.

Our President added interest to the day by borrowing from Sandy Troup a pen of Camden sheep, descended from the original flock. The ram was particularly impressive with his spectacular horns and aggressive personality, stamping his feet when anyone came too close! There were even passing motorists on the Sunraysia Highway stopping their cars and coming to have a closer look at these sheep. Our thanks to Graeme for organising this part of the day.

We were pleased to see some of our members who we haven’t caught up with for a while, including Carl and Julie Matthews and Fred Miller. It was also pleasing to welcome members from other neighbouring Historical Societies. The Community Centre was full when our President introduced our guest speaker, Alastair McKenzie, who gave a very comprehensive talk on the development of the Merino sheep industry over the last fifty years. Mr. McKenzie began with a summary of the early years of wool and then concentrated on all facets of the industry from shearing and wool classing, to the development of improved wool presses, in which he was involved, to the marketing of the end product. Mr. McKenzie’s lecture (and he has promised to send us a copy for our library) gave us an indication of the immense amount of knowledge he has of the industry and we were indeed fortunate that he was able to come and speak to us on this topic to celebrate 200 years since the Merino arrived in Australia. Following this talk, a delicious afternoon tea was served.

Our thanks to everyone involved in what turned out to be a day we all enjoyed, including lunch provided for a small charge by the Lexton Landcare and Community Club ladies.

(My grateful thanks to Margaret Oulton for this excellent report and the Society’s thanks to Margaret and Harry, also Graeme Mills, for their assistance with the displays and organisation of this very successful event. Ed.)

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Coming Events – The Society has a busy programme ahead, beginning with the Annual Local History Fair presented by the Central Highlands Historical Association Inc. at the Ranger Barracks, Curtis Street, Ballarat, on 11th and 12th October, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. As a member society of this organisation, we will have a stand at the Fair, where you can meet our members Wendy Taylor, Colleen Allan, Jill Hunter and Dorothy Robinson. The interesting theme this year is Law and Order and will feature displays, records, photos and research advice. Devonshire teas will be available and the entry fee is $2.

This Society will follow the same theme of Law and Order for its display to be held onSaturday and Sunday, 18th and 19th October, at the Avoca Court House, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day as our contribution to the Wool Festival Cath Martin will be in attendance on Sunday with her computer, B.D.M’s, display of books on Ireland, etc., to assist new researchers to get a head-start with their family history via the CD-ROM. Admission charge will be $3, which includes a cup of tea. Donations of scones, cakes, slices, etc., would be appreciated.

On Saturday, 1st November, this Society is to host the quarterly meeting of the Central Highlands Historical Association Inc. at the Lexton Community Centre. Morning tea will be served at 9.30 a.m., prior to the meeting at 10 a.m. Again, we will require our good cooks to provide sandwiches, cakes, etc., for morning tea and a light lunch. Those attending will be invited to visit the Avoca Court House in the afternoon or they can go on a walking tour of Lexton. The meeting is open to all to attend and help from our members would be appreciated.

The guest speaker at our November meeting (on the 16th) will be Mr. Cliff Phelan from Maryborough.

We are to take part in the Petanque Festival on the 30th November by conducting cemetery tours at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Those attending should meet at the Avoca Cemetery and there will be a charge of $2. Our Christmas get-together will take place on 14th December and is to be held this year at the Court House. More details later.

The Society has been delighted to receive notification that its application for a grant from the Australian Council of Archives has been successful and the $200 will be presented to our executive, on 9th October at the Court House. This grant will assist us in preserving and displaying our extensive photographic collection.

Progress on Restoration of the Court House – A successful working bee was held at the Court House on Saturday, 30th August, when the back fence to the property was erected, incorporating the new gate kindly donated by the Victorian Producers Company. Sincere thanks must go to Herb and Dorothy Robinson, Graeme Mills, Keith Hunter and Harry Oulton for their assistance with this task. Thanks, too, to Herb Robinson for the excellent work he has done painting the Court House windows.

The Society extends grateful thanks to the following members for their generous donations to the Court House Restoration Fund: Mr. and Mrs. B. Slater, Miss L. Croft, L. Reid, J. Coombe, V. Intihar, S. Roberts, G. Mills, C. Matthews, B. Reeves, Mrs. R. Clenton, Mrs. N. Eastman, L. Bennett, P. A. Pora, Mrs. P. Boyd, L. Leyden and D. McKenzie.

We warmly welcome new member John BARRETT, of Newtown, Geelong, who is researching Alexander LAING and his wife, Helen REID, and family.

On Saturday, 27th September, eighteen of our members travelled down from Avoca for a day at the Public Record Office repository at Laverton. It is pleasing to report that everyone of them found something of interest to add to their family research. The day was voted such a success that all want it to be an annual event. Special thanks to Ray Wigraft who assisted members with his expertise of the workings of the P.R.O., and also to our President, Graeme Mills, who drove the mini-bus carrying these very keen researchers.

Talks Programme at the P.R.O. – Thursday, 23rd October, 1997 -Why should I use public records? An introduction to archives as a resource for family history research.

10 a.m. – 12 p.m. at Melbourne Archives Centre, Level 2 Casselden Place, 2 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. No charge.

Saturday, 15th November, 1997 – Gold Fever: Sources at the Public Record Office for researching Ballarat and District. The emphasis of the seminar will be on the different sources held at the Ballarat and Laverton Repositories and on mining records. 10 a.m. – 1.00 p.m., at Ballarat Repository, State Government Offices, Cnr. Mair and Doveton Sts., Ballarat. Charge of $22.00. Students and seniors $15.00.

Thursday, 20th November, 1997 – An introduction to the Public Record Office Web Site. How to use the site to keep up-to-date and plan your research. 10.30 a.m.-11.30 a.m. at Melbourne Archives Centre, Level 2 Casselden Place, 2 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. Free but numbers limited to 15.

As numbers are restricted for all sessions, booking is essential. Please contact Bronwyn Fensham on (03) 9369 3244, Where a fee applies, please confirm your phone booking by sending a cheque for the appropriate amount made out to the Public Record Office Victoria. All mail should be sent to Bronwyn Fensham, Public Record Office Victoria, P.O. Box 1156, South Melbourne, Vic. 3205.

A perfect day, new growth bursting forth on the trees and the gardens bright with spring flowers – this was the setting in the Phillips Gardens at Maryborough on Tuesday, 30th September, for the launching of the book, Maryborough Main Drain 1870-1915, by Bruce Osborn, and the unveiling of a plaque by Cr. Geoff Lovett to commemorate the contractors who constructed it. As well as giving an insight into the conditions and hardships endured by the pioneers of Maryborough, the book contains the names of all contractors who submitted quotes, whether successful or not. At the launch, it was suggested that this unique feature of Maryborough should be listed as being of historic significance. The formal part of the afternoon was followed by a conducted tour of the drain before adjourning to Worsley Cottage for afternoon tea.

An interesting leaflet on the Phillips Gardens, available from the Information Centre in Tuaggra Street, tells something of the construction of this drain:

“In 1871, work was started on the paving of the main drain (part of which runs through both Phillips Gardens and Prince’s Park). This was completed in 1898, mainly through government funds. It extends from Derby Road to near the sewerage treatment works, a distance of approximately 3.6 km. It is joined in the south-west corner of Prince’s Park by a section starting in Railway Street, off Majorca Road. This extra length of approximately 1.4 km. was constructed to cope with the flow from Blackman’s Lead. The source of the drain in Derby Road, between Napier and Alma Streets, is well worth the easy climb into the drain.

There is a magnificent bluestone pitcher arch, extending for 6.5 metres, with a span of 4 metres. It was the base for an old bridge that was removed to widen the road some twenty years or so ago. Prisoners used to walk daily, complete with their ball and chain, two miles to a site in East Maryborough, to quarry some of the stone used in the drain’s construction.”

Maryborough Main Drain 1870-1915 is available from the author on (03) 5461 2800 or through the Midlands Historical Society, P.O. Box 265, Maryborough, 3465, at a cost of $12.50 plus postage of $1.50. The book, which is a limited edition, contains 37 pages, 15 illustrations and 2 maps.

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(From The Avoca Free Press, March 21, 1917)

“The Rev. Father Barrett, formerly of Ararat, took charge of the Landsborough Mission on 1st January last. The Mission embraces a wide area, and includes districts which have been taken from neighbouring parishes. Navarre, Crowlands and Elmhurst (formerly of the Ararat Parish) and Redbank and Moonambel (formerly of the St. Arnaud Parish) now form portion of the newly-inaugurated Mission of Landsborough.

A brick presbytery is now in course of erection in the church grounds at Landsborough. The new building will cost £1,000, and this amount is being raised locally. The adherents of the church are contributing generously to the building fund, and it is anticipated that the whole amount will be raised ere the presbytery is finished. Father Barrett, who is highly esteemed throughout the district, has the spacious church in splendid order. He is a first rate carpenter, and often assists the tradesmen who are carrying out the improvements.”

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(From The Avoca Free Press, 13th September, 1944)

Addressing a large congregation at the Presbyterian Church, Avoca, on Sunday morning, Rev. H. J. Saw recalled many important events in the history of the Church here during the past 80 years. Reference was made to the fact that the first meeting of Presbyterians in Avoca was convened by Mr. James Leonard Willox, school teacher, on September 29, 1862. Those present were Messrs. Brown, Campbell, Smith, Johnstone, Mathewson, Swan, Ross and Willox.

After various efforts had been made to establish a church, plans were eventually prepared by the Rev. W. Steel and approved. Meanwhile, services were held in the Town Hall, Avoca then being a Borough. Subsequently the church was built by Mr. Edwards, contractor, of Carisbrook. The opening ceremony was performed by Rev. Dr. Nish on July 17, 1864, and during the following year, the Manse was built. A few later additions, including stabling, were made at considerable cost.

In 1914, said Mr. Saw, the Jubilee celebration of the church was marked by great rejoicing asnd a spirit of Christian fellowship. Right Rev. J. Crookston, State Moderator, who was in charge of St. Andrew’s, Bendigo, came along and delivered an eloquent address. A unique feature at the High Tea on that occasion was a beautiful three-tier cake, presented by Mrs. A. C. Henderson (nee Scott), both names going far back into the history of the Avoca and Wareek congregations.

Diamond Jubilee – The year 1924 was another memorable one, as it was the time of the Diamond Jubilee of the church. Right Rev. J. Crookston once more took a prominent part in the celebration. He was then Moderator designate of the Presbyterian Church in Australia. Mr. Saw referred to the fact that at the service portions of scripture were read by the present superintendent of the Sunday school (Mr. Iles Golder), and Mr. Jack Powers. Splendid singing was rendered by the choir, the accompanying music being effectively played by Miss M. Powers (organ), Messrs. John Powers (violin), Iles Golder, Jack, Harry and Keith Powers (fifes).

Continuing his narration, Mr. Saw said the foundation stone of the vestry was laid on September 30, 1922, by Right Rev. F. H. L. Paton, M.A., B.D., Moderator of the General Assembly of Victoria. In 1937 the present Sunday School was brought from Berrimal and is a valuable addition to Christian work here. He was pleased to be able to say that 11 or 12 young men from the Avoca Church had been appointed Home Missionaries, while five of them – James Haymes, William Cox, J. Valentine, E. J. Petherick and W. Chamberlain – afterwards became ordained ministers. From the Avoca Charge two young church workers in the persons of Misses M. Laing and I. M. Spiers became deaconesses of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria.

The first elders – Messrs. A. Golder and A. Chartres – were ordained on June 21, 1914. Later elders were Messrs. Thomas Connor (assessor), 1918; Duncan McLachlan, John Powers, 1925; J. H. Quayle, William Jardine, 1937. All these gentlemen had given splendid service to the church.

The present Board of Management comprises: Rev. H. J. Saw (chairman), Messrs. I. Golder (secretary), Tom Henderson (treasurer), W. H. French, C. Robertson and J. Gronn.

Mr. Saw gave the children an inspiring address before concluding the service. The juvenile choir, assisted by their Sunday School teachers, sang the following anniversary hymns in a pleasing manner: “God Made All”, “The Living Way”, “Ever Marching Onward”, “The Parting Hymn”. The choir was conducted by Mr. Iles Golder, with Mrs. Golder as organist.