ADHS Newsletter No. 165 NOVEMBER, 1998

Items of interest –

  • Tour of Avoca township (Watford House, Lalor’s Pharmacy, Classen’s Furniture Complex)
  • Petanque competitions
  • Photos of former Avoca policemen wanted
  • “Ballykissangel” and other Avocas, including Avoca, Iowa, USA
  • A Brief History of the Avoca Croquet Club
  • News from Avoca (1856)


We were blessed with a beautiful spring day for our meeting held at the Court House on Sunday, 15th November, when, after a short general meeting, the more energetic folk attending set off on the walking tour of the historic township of Avoca, with our President as tour guide. Not being a local, your Editor enjoys these opportunities to get a better understanding of the town, which was well-known to her ancestors. The pamphlet obtainable from the Information Centre guides you to the various sites of interest, and the excellent plaques on each site give a brief outline of its history.

The most unique of the buildings we saw was Watford House, down by the river. Built in the 1850s, it was imported from Switzerland, with every piece numbered, and was originally erected in High Street next to the Avoca Hotel. In 1870, it was moved on red gum rollers down to its present site. This attractive two-storey home has quite a Swiss appearance.

Lalor’s Pharmacy dates from 1854 and still serves the local community. In 1860 it was known as the Apothecaries Hall and was owned by William Goodshaw. From 1889, George G. Towl was the owner until Mr. A. G. Lalor bought the business in 1900. Mr. Lalor’s descendants still own the building and it is here that the Avoca folk of today leave their prescriptions in the mornings; these are then sent to Maryborough to be made up, and the folk return to Lalor’s in the afternoon to collect their medicines.

Classen’s Furniture Complex, built in 1862, still stands today, looking as though Mr. John Classen himself might step out the door at any moment – it has not changed at all over the years and the shop looks very smart today painted in heritage colours. It was here in this complex of shop, workshop and family home that John Classen and his son, Herman, made hand-crafted furniture, some of which can be seen in St. John’s Church, furniture repairs were done, and pictures framed.

Apart from the official history of the town being imparted to us, the tour also became a walk down memory lane for those who had grown up in the area, which added much interest to our stroll in the sunshine. Along the way, the garden lovers among us stopped to admire the roses and other blooms which are adding so much colour to the town scene at present.


Please mark Sunday, 13th December, in your diaries and come along to our Christmas break-up at the Court House, from 12 noon. We ask you to bring your own picnic lunch and a sweet or cake to share afterwards, also a small gift to exchange costing no more than $3.

Please note that the Court House will be closed from 13th December, 1998, until 20th February, 1999 whilst our vast collection of index cards is being put on to a data base.

We will commence activities in the New Year with the Annual Garage Sale at the Court House at 9 am on Saturday, 20th February. So, once the Christmas festivities are over, have a tidy up and pass on your unwanted goods to the Society. Remember, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!


The annual Petanque Competitions are to be held at Avoca on 28th-29th November, and members of this Society will conduct two cemetery tours for visitors on the 29th. Our thanks to them and to those who acted as guides when members of a neighbouring Probus Club visited the town recently.


We are grateful to Denis Strangman for his excellent efforts in creating a Web page for us on the Internet. Your Editor (who is not on the Internet) now has a copy of the page and the way it links researchers up with our newsletters and other avenues of information regarding the history of our area. Wendy Taylor reports that she receives an average of three enquiries per week for the Society through her E-mail address. Our ‘site’ can be found at:



We extend a warm welcome to the following new members:

Frank and Noelene RANSOME, of Wendouree. Rose and Murray LITTLE, of Box Hill, who are researching the BURGE family.

The Society is most appreciative of the generous donations to the Court House Restoration Fund received from the following members: Mr. and Mrs. Ransome; Anonymous; D. McKenzie and P. Grasso.


The local policeman at Avoca, Gary Nelson, is building up a collection of photos of policemen who have served at Avoca over the years. If you can help Gary with this project, contact him at the local Police Station, High Street, Avoca.


“In The Eye of the Camera : Images of the Australian Family from Colonial Days to the Present” is the title of an interesting exhibition currently being held by the Royal Historical Society of Victoria at their historic headquarters, the Old Royal Mint, 280 William Street, Melbourne. This exhibition is part of the Australian Family statewide project and is drawn from the Society’s rich Images Collection. The photographs range from intimate family portraits to rare historical images, some of national significance, and explores many facets of family life here from the pioneer days of colonial settlement to modern times, as captured by the camera. The images are complemented by family papers such as pioneers’ letters and diaries drawn from the RHSV Manuscripts Collection. Admission is by donation.


The next RHSV State Biennial Conference is to be held on the weekend of 20th-21st February, 1999, at the Longerenong Campus of the Melbourne University, Dooen, via Horsham. The theme will be “Chaff to Diesel” and speakers include Prof. Weston Bate, Ron Falla, Whimpy Reichelt, Richard Steere, Russell Green, Bob McIlvena, Dr. Goff Letts and Peter Grenfell. Conference cost is $25. At the Conference Dinner on Saturday, 20th, the Ian Woodroffe Lecture will be given by Bryan Small, who will speak on “Tottington – a Microcosm of Pastoral History in Victoria”. Cost for dinner $20. There will be an interesting bus tour on Sunday, 21st, to the Ebenezer Mission, Jeparit Museum, Little Desert Lodge (includes lunch), returning through the Little Desert and passing Mount Arapiles. Cost for tour $25. It is important to book with the hosts, the Western Victorian Association of Historical Societies Inc., through the Secretary, Lindsay Smith, P.O. Box 777, Horsham, Vic. 3402, phone 03 5381 0081, before 29th January, 1999. It is pointed out that this is a busy weekend in the area, so early bookings for accommodation are advisable.


The History Institute is conducting a Summer School of Historical Research over three days, Wednesday 27th – Friday 29th January, 1999, during which time researchers will visit archival repositories, learn information access and develop research skills. Cost is $250 for three days, or $100 per day. Register at the History Institute, 254 Faraday Street, Carlton, Vic. 3053.


Fans of the TV show, “Ballykissangel” will have enjoyed the beautiful scenery in and around the village of Avoca in County Wicklow, Ireland, which was the setting for this series. It was just a sleepy hamlet until the making of the film there transformed the village into a mecca for tourists. And it is reported that the visitors quite expect to find Father Peter Clifford in attendance at the church, which is high on every tourist’s list of places to see. The close-knit population of 850 of Avoca now hosts some 400,000 visitors a year.

Another place of the same name is in New South Wales, south east of Mona Vale, there is one in Tasmania on the South Esk River, and your Editor found another Avoca, a gold ghost town, high in the mountains of the South Island of New Zealand, between Christchurch and Greymouth.

Now, thanks to the Internet, we have found yet another Avoca in the middle of the United States of America. On 7th November, the following message was received by our Assistant Secretary, Wendy Taylor, from Mervin and Noyon Schaaf as a response to our Web page:

“Greetings from Avoca, Iowa, USA. We are a community of about 1600 people located in the centre of the United States about 50 miles east from Omaha.

Avoca was plotted and staked out as a town in June, 1869. We are located on a hill between the East and West Nishnabotna Rivers which merge and become the Nishnabotna River about one mile south of the town. We too were named after Tom Moore’s poem (Meeting of the Waters, Sweet Vale of Avoca). Our Historical Society has just completed the restoration of our Court House which was built in 1887. It was placed on the National Register of Historical Sites in 1982. It was completed and dedicated July 4, 1998. It is very interesting that two communities located half way around the world from each other would have so much in common.

Sincerely, Mervin Schaaf, Avoca, Iowa, 51521, USA.”

It is indeed interesting to find another Avoca, let alone one where the local historical society has been busy restoring the old Court House. And the wonders of communication today via the Internet are quite remarkable.


Please note that this is the last newsletter you will receive for 1998. Your first newsletter in the New Year should arrive in your letterbox at the end of January – early February. Meantime – We wish our members and their families all the Joys of the Christmas Season.


Caring for Your Records. Proper care of historical and family records, whether at official repositories, the local historical or genealogical society, or your home, is of vital importance. Unfortunately, pests don’t know the difference between a valuable document or photograph and a piece of scrap paper. So prevention is better than cure. It is imperative, therefore, to create an environment which does not attract pests in the first place.

Among suggestions listed in “Memento”, No. 8 of June, 1998, the magazine of the National Archives in Canberra, are the following steps we can all observe:

* Make the building insect-proof by sealing all cracks and crevices, especially gaps round pipes which come through a wall, and also gaps between skirting boards and the floor.

* Check for silverfish and carpet beetles in incoming material.

* Do not bring plants or cut flowers into the area as these may harbour pests.

* Kitchens and eating areas should be located away from collection and storage areas to keep out cockroaches and mice.

* Keep the storage area clean, free from accumulated dust, food scraps, discarded packaging, scrap paper, etc., which all attract pests.

* Clean up dead insect bodies lying about, as these attract carpet beetles; these pests are very partial to Bogong moths.

Remember that, without proper care and precautions, it does not take very long for tiny teeth to devour, and so ruin, valuable documents and records.

* * * * *

A Brief History of the Avoca Croquet Club

(as told in a Souvenir Booklet on Avoca, 1974)

“The Avoca Croquet Club was formed at a meeting held in the ladies rest room, on 6th November, 1929, ten ladies being present. The late Mrs. Wood was elected President, and the late Mrs. Bevan Secretary. Play was held at the public park.

Since 1948, at the invitation of the Avoca Bowling Club, the Croquet Club has played on the present green. Each Monday and Wednesday, throughout the season, 10 or 12 members meet to play social competition.

Thanks go to our former and present members who established and help carry on the worthy game of Croquet. Long may it continue to function.

Office bearers during the 1974-75 season are – President, Mrs. F. McQuillen; Secretary, Mrs. N. Morris; and Treasurer, Mr. C. Ross.”


Not to know what happened before one was born is to remain a child. Cicero (106-43 BC)


NEWS FROM AVOCA, 6th November, 1856 (As reported in The Mount Alexander Mail on 21st November, 1856)

” In mining matters we are looking up, as, though our deep sinking on the Avoca Lead is at a stand still until the whims in course of erection are completed, yet the various shallow works at Avoca proper and the neighbouring localities are much improved in their aspect. This is owing partly to the number who have returned from Dunolly.

In local matters we have been quite alive this week. The Wesleyan body held a large and highly influential meeting in their neat brick chapel, in aid of funds for missionary purposes. The Rev. B. S. Walker presided. Amongst the most eloquent speakers were Messrs. Richards, Meaden, and Lucas. I am led to understand the liberality displayed is most creditable to the zeal of the meeting.

Some time ago memorials and counter- memorials emanated from Maryborough, Carisbrook and Avoca, relative to the proposed removal of our camp to one of the former places. It was then understood our Acting Governor pledged himself no change should be made until the new Parliament met; now, however, if I am correctly informed, an order has reached our authorities to close the treasury and remove to Maryborough! – just like the bungling way everything is done under our present rulers. Why remove it to Maryborough? In what would the change benefit the community? Where is the necessity for the change to that arid township? I can well conceive that some slight change might have been made to meet the crying necessity of the monster rush at Dunolly, a month or so ago, before it began to dissipate – or perhaps even now – but the contemplated change seems merely one to meet popular clamour, without conferring the desired benefit – it will not even have that result, or I am much mistaken. The Avoca people have, at all events, no idea of losing the camp under such circumstances, and they have accordingly moved in the matter with zeal. On Thursday a public meeting was held, and Mr. Barnett, being voted to the chair, explained the objects of the meeting to be for the purpose of retaining the camp at Avoca. The meeting was addressed by Mr. Barnett and others, and resulted in a committee of sixteen, to draw up a memorial embodying such a view of the subject. On Friday the committee met and adopted a memorial to the Governor, which I understand leaves this post. Until the camp, or any portion of it, is removed, for better reasons than can be assigned for its removal to Maryborough, let it remain where it is.

It was proposed a week or two ago to remove the Local Court to Dunolly. The members, while recognising the rights of the latter named people to have a court of their own, saw much injustice in the removal of the one here. The usual communications took place between the court and town, and yesterday a letter from the Colonial Secretary came to hand, intimating if the M.L.C.’s would not move, the court must remain! and if the Dunolly people wished a court, they might pay their own clerk, when the Government would condescend to appoint a chairman! The miners of Dunolly have cause for gratitude.

The Avoca Cricket Club, in course of formation for a month or so past, is now in working order, and last week they had their first game. It is an amusement calculated to draw together the scattered remnants of our society, and to awake that spirit of sociality which should always exist in a country so isolated as is ours. Herald.”