Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham
In previous years for our first meeting of the year, we have investigated some treasured pictures from our archives. This meeting we will showcase some of the highlights from new acquisitions and donations throughout 2019, as well as some of our other collections digitised during the year.
These are available due to the consistent efforts of our collections team, who over recent years has been active in scanning and cataloguing a range of images, including to our extensive catalogue on the Victorian Collections website.
Many of images to be shown at this meeting are still awaiting cataloguing online on Victorian Collections and so this will present
their first public viewing.
Our meeting will be held at our usual venue, the Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre in Library Place Eltham. Members and guests are
welcome to attend. Please note our meetings now start at 7.30pm.
Are you familiar with the little yellow and orange brick Op-shop building at 810 Main Road, Eltham, just in front of the Uniting Church (formerly Methodist Church) on the corner of John Street? Nowadays, not many people may realise that this was once the Eltham agency of the Commercial Bank of Australia. Measuring just 3.6 x 4.5 m inside, it was built in 1878 by George Stebbing and is said to have stored gold in the early Eltham-Research mining days.
Well . . .
#OnThisDay – 70 years ago #OTD Thursday, December 15, 1949, the quiet little bank was embroiled in an infamous wild shoot-out between a daring thief and two bank officers. Today, the building still carries the scars ; a bullet hole remains visible in a cedar bench testifying to the events that played out that day.
But let us first time travel back to a few days prior to this incident. It is 3.30 a.m., Friday, December 9. The manager of the Commercial Bank branch at Greensborough, Mr Harry Wallace and his wife are asleep in their bedroom of the little house behind the branch. Harry is awakened by a noise and sees an intruder in a corner of the bedroom. He calls out but the intruder who has switched off the power in anticipation flees through a side door and scarpers down Main Street. Harry summons the police but a search by First Constable Thomas of the Greensborough Police assisted by a wireless patrol car is unsuccessful. A report is filed noting the theft of a .25 calibre pistol from the wardrobe.
Fast forward six days to Thursday, December 15th. It is 1pm and the Commercial Bank has just opened. The branch is only open Mondays and Thursdays from 1-3pm. The morning started off a little cool with some scattered showers but it has fined up and the temperature is now around 61 degrees (16 C). A new grey Singer sports car with soft-top pulls up on the opposite side of the road and a young man, neatly dressed in a dark blue suit, wearing a grey hat and carrying a brief case exits the vehicle. He looks around then crosses the road and walks up the steps and through the door into the bank. There are three people inside; Mr. Jack Burgoyne whose grocery store is situated just 50 yards up the road, Mr. Lindsay A. Spears, the Eltham Agency Receiving Officer and by chance, Mr Harry Wallace, manager of the Greensborough branch.
Jack Burgoyne takes note of the young stranger; thinking to himself he appears nervous.
The man approaches the counter and introduces himself as John Henderson of Greensborough and explains that he wishes to open a new account. He places his hat and £3 on the counter. Mr Spears attends to the paperwork. He asks the young man to sign two forms, which he does but then he withdraws from the counter and starts walking towards the door. Suddenly he spins around pulling an automatic pistol from his right-hand pocket. He exclaims forcefully;
“The game’s on! I’ll take the lot!”
Spears appears to comply by pretending to open a drawer. The man shouts loudly,
“Keep your hand away from that drawer.”
Spears instead reaches for a pistol in his pocket and challenges the man,
“Here it is. Come and get it!”
At the same time, Harry Wallace pulls a pistol from his pocket as well.
The bandit fires a shot but misses, the bullet striking the counter. Both Spears and Wallace open fire and Jack Burgoyne ducks for cover.
As the bandit turns and runs for the door leaving his £3 behind, he fires another shot, which strikes the ceiling. Spears fires back, and thinks he may have hit him in the foot. The bandit flees the bank and heads for the grey Singer car, registration NO-106, parked opposite. Wallace and Spears pursue him to the door and open fire again, striking the car three times around the driver’s door. Spears lets off eight shots and Wallace, seven before his gun jams.
The getaway car initially heads slowly down Main Road towards Bridge Street. About 100 yards down the road, Dave Adams, a PMG employee, who has heard the shots, throws a steel manhole step at the driver. It hits the roof of the car nine inches above the driver’s head and tears the hood. Another witness claims to have seen the door blow open and the driver raise his hand.
The car gathers speed and swings left into Bridge Street racing along at about 60 miles an hour careering recklessly past council employee, Mr. Percy Williams, who is driving a dray along Smarts Road [believed to be Bridge Street].
At the end of the road the Singer fails to get round the sharp turn and crashes into an embankment skidding to a stop outside the home of Mr John Clifford. One side of the car is wrecked. Mr Clifford, an aircraft engineer hears the fast travelling car bump heavily into the road bank at about 1.25 p.m. Hearing the whine of an engine he goes outside to find the grey Singer parked at the side of the road.
Jack George also lives at the corner and hears the car crash.
“The bandit opened the car door, ran 50 yards, and suddenly turned back,” exclaims Jack. “He took something from the car. It might have been a gun.”
In his haste, the bandit drops his grey felt hat, size 6 7/8, on the road and dashes up Sherbourne Road for about 200 yards then disappears into the scrub carrying a brief case and a bundle in which a sailor’s cap can be seen.
About 3 p.m., Mr H.D. Pettie of Mountain View Road, Montmorency is looking through his field glasses and notices a young man walking through thick scrub on private property some distance from his house. The man is wearing a sailor’s cap and disappears along the railway track toward Montmorency.
As the day progresses, ten police cars, one motor cycle, and about 40 police led by Det. Sgt. McMennemin of Malvern CIB are searching for him. They believe he is hiding in thick scrub along the bank of the creek about half-a-mile outside Eltham township. Wireless patrol cars, four mobile traffic cars and the CIB area cars from Malvern and Kew are taking part.
Police check the thief’s car and discover it was stolen from Helen Baxter, of Doncaster Road, North Balwyn from outside Victoria Barracks.
Harry Wallace informs the police that he believes he recognised the bandit as the man who took his pistol from his bedroom the previous Friday morning.
As night falls, armed police are posted at strategic points in the Eltham-Greensborough district. Police in cars are watching the roads. Others are searching the bush and checking passengers on trains. Little do they realise the young man has already slipped out of the net.
YOUTH OF 19 CHARGED WITH ATTEMPTED ARMED ROBBERY OF BANK AT ELTHAM
Weekly Times, Wednesday 15 February 1950, page 6
Detectives who raided a house in Bell St., Coburg, Melbourne, charged a 19-year-old youth, of South Yarra, with attempted armed robbery at the Commercial Bank’s Eltham (Vic.) receiving depot on Dec. 15. Police say they recovered a loaded automatic pistol, diamond and signet rings worth more than £200, a complete set of house-breaking instruments, a sailor’s uniform, and chloroform gauze in the raid.
The youth was charged that while armed with an offensive weapon, he attempted to rob Lindsay George Spears of a sum of money.
He was further charged on six counts of breaking, entering and stealing.
Police allege that the person who tried to hold up Mr Spears in the Commercial Bank receiving depot at Eltham on December 15. escaped in a stolen car, after Mr Spears and Mr Henry Wallace, manager of the bank’s Greensborough branch, had fired at him.
After the car crashed, he escaped into thick scrub and is alleged to have changed into a sailor’s uniform.
On December 9 an automatic pistol was stolen from Mr Wallace’s bedroom at the Greensborough bank. The chloroform pad recovered is alleged to have been stolen from the Dental Supply Company, Plenty Road, Preston.
The rings are alleged to have been taken in a £513 burglary from the shop of James Paton. Sydney Road, Coburg.
Det. Sgt. H. McMennemin conducted the investigations with Senior Dets. R. Newton and M Downie, Detectives l. Dent, R. Rayner, P. Pedersen and M. Handley and First Constable A. Thomas. The youth will appear at Eltham Court on February 22.
Manager’s Gun Used in Holdup at Bank
The Age, Thursday 23 February 1950, page 4
It was stated in Eltham court yesterday that a youth who robbed a bank manager of his pistol, later used it in an attempt to hold-up the bank.
Kay Arthur Morgan, 19, draftsman, of Castle-street, South Yarra, was committed for trial on charges of breaking and entering, and stealing a pistol and attempted robbery while armed with an offensive weapon. He pleaded guilty.
The manager of Eltham branch of the Commercial Bank of Australia Ltd., Henry Clifton Cabot Wallace, said he disturbed someone in the bedroom, in which he and his wife were sleeping, at 3 a.m. on December. 9, 1949. Later he found that his automatic- pistol was missing.
On December 15 a youth, who said his name was John Henderson, entered the bank and opened a new account. As the youth was leaving the bank he turned round with a pistol in his hand and said: — “I want the lot.” Spear indicated a drawer under the counter; and said.— “Here it is. Come and get it.” The youth said:— “Keep your hand away from that drawer.”
Witness said Spear then drew his pistol from his hip pocket. The youth fired at them, and Spear returned the fire. “I pulled my pistol and fired, too” said witness. The youth fired again, ran out to a car and drove off. Witness and Spear fired several shots at the car.
The youth was the accused Morgan, sitting in court, witness said.
Evidence was given that one bullet was found in the celling and the other in the bank.
Morgan was allowed £100 bail on each charge.
But wait, there’s more; another twist
Morgan ended up serving three years for the failed armed robbery and became a notorious criminal. He had twin sons, Peter and Doug and even though only ten years old, Morgan would get his sons to act as lookouts whilst he committed burglaries. The lads became building contractors but when the industry suffered a downturn in 1977 and they were short on cash, they returned to the family business. Over the following 23 months they undertook 24 raids on country and outer-suburban TABs and banks. Whilst robbing one country bank for the third time, just like their father, it all went wrong ending up with a police officer shot. They were nick-named the “After-dark” bandits and are considered to be Australia’s last bushrangers. They were convicted and served 17 years in prison.
#OnThisDay – 25 years ago #OTD Thursday, December 15, 1994 the Shire of Nillumbik was born and the Shire of Eltham was relegated to history after 123 years; the council sacked and three commissioners appointed as part of an overall municipal restructure by the State Government.
The new Shire of consisted of the Central and North Ridings of the former Shire of Eltham, as well as parts of the former Diamond Valley, Whittlesea and Healesville municipalities. The West Riding of Eltham was joined with the former City of Heidelberg to become the City of Banyule.
Originally the Local Government Board’s preferred name was the Shire of Montsalvat. Board member Paul Jerome said “Montsalvat” was a name very familiar to all Melburnians. “We used it for good reason” he said. “This is the arts and crafts colony, this is the conservation area, this is the Green Wedge.” It “will have stewardship of a very important conservation area all the way up to Kinglake National Park. We think that’s a very exciting proposal and certainly one with a lot of community support and interest in having a council with that focus on conservation values.” Ultimately however the name was found to be controversial throughout the community and the Board replaced it with Nillumbik, the locally preferred Aboriginal word for shallow soil (indeed it is).
The transition to the new shire was not an easy experience for some people in our community and especially for some staff of the former Shire of Eltham. An extensive staff restructure was undertaken, resulting in many local community aware and knowledgeable Eltham Shire staff being made redundant. Some actions initiated at that time by the government and commissioners have had longer term impacts. These included the sudden surprise demolition of the Eltham Shire Offices and approval, in controversial circumstances, of a combined petrol station and fast food development on the site; ultimately reversed but leaving the community with a visible reminder to this day of those events. Local elections were not held for three years until 1997 and even then controversy continued resulting in the sacking of that first Nillumbik Shire Council as well. But that is a story for another day.
#OnThisDay – In 1951 #OTD the Governor of Victoria, Sir Dallas Brooks dedicated the war memorial tower and caretaker’s cottage at Garden Hill, Kangaroo Ground.
The tower has been a landmark since 1926 and above the portal on one side are the names of men who fell in the 1914-18 war. On another tablet unveiled by the Governor were inscribed the names of men who gave their lives in the 1939-45 war:-
Archer R., Bates A. L., Butherway J. H., Castledine G. E., Cary A. E., Clark R. C., Clerke A. C., Davies N. A., Dunlop C. D., Feldbauer T., Field K. F., Gahan S. M., Galletiy L. W. A., Guy T., Handley R . H. W., Hanlon H., F. L., Hellens W., Ingram L. S., McDonald E. H., McKimmie G. J., McLean S. C. A., McMahon .J. F., Morris A., Moyes J. A., Mynott L. R., Nichols, M. J., Walters G. W., West P.
The tower rising 50 feet was built by the people and committed to the care of the Eltham Shire Council in 1926. The suggestion of a memorial park was credited to Mr. V. A, Wippell (of Ivanhoe) and of a tower to Mr. B. Hall (of Panton Hill) being a replica of the watchtowers of early England and Scotland. The stone was the gift of Professor Osborne and was quarried on his Kangaroo Ground property. From the same area came the stone for the caretaker’s cottage added in 1951 by the Shire Council and which had charge of the arrangements.
Let’s take a journey 68 years back in time to that moment and join in the ceremonies . . .
Sir Dallas Brooks, is attended by Capt. T. Kirwan Taylor. They are met at the Lower Plenty bridge (the line of demarcation between the municipalities of Eltham and Heidelberg) by the Shire President (Cr. F. .Griffith) and the Shire Secretary (Mr. R. J. Ham). Mr. G . Moir (as vice president) is representing the State branch of the R.S.L..
Hearing that the Governor would be passing the Lower Plenty school on his way to open the Memorial at Kangaroo Ground an unrehearsed “reception” was quickly arranged. Obtaining permission from the headmaster, the school boys’ band got ready. As the Governor arrives at the school they strike up and play the National Anthem, of course! The Governor is pleasantly surprised, thanks the children and grants them a holiday. He then returns to his car and the official party set off on the remainder of their journey to Kangaroo Ground.
At Garden Hill, 30 minutes later there is an air of excitement stirring among the gathered crowd as whispers start passing along the line that the official party have just arrived. In the company gathered around the edifice are numerous residents who remember the original unveiling by Lord Stonehaven on Armistice Day, a few days and 25 years ago.
The approach pathway is lined with children from many of the district schools and men who served in both wars are lining up to form a guard of honor section near the tower. There are veterans and young men and women, wearing on their breasts the colors, medals and other decorations won in battle. In charge is Mr. F. D. Stevens, the president of the R.S.L..
His Excellency finds time to amuse the children with some brief words and shakes hands with every member of the guard and with the next-of-kin of the honored dead.
Following the addresses by the President and Mr. Moir, the Governor in a moving ceremony of dedication releases the flag-covering of the memorial tablet. As the flag falls to the side revealing the new memorial tablet, a simple unforgettable tribute resonates from from tower-top with the stirring bugle note of “Last Post” and “Reveille.”
Mr R.J. Ham, the Shire Secretary then presents the Governor with a beautifully prepared brochure programme and for Lady Brooks, a gold bar brooch on which is mounted a small nugget.
The official party and guests then make their way to the Kangaroo Ground hall where an excellent afternoon tea has been prepared by the wonderful ladies from the various branches of the Country Women’s Association led by the Diamond Valley Group president, Mrs. V. Middleton.
It has been a day packed full of excitement, tears of sadness over our lost loved ones and lots of good things to eat. But now it’s time to return to present day and hopefully reflect upon what those who came before us, wished for us to benefit from.
* Lest We Forget *
1951 ‘Dedication of Memorial Tower’, The News; The Newspaper of the City of Heidelberg and the Shire of Eltham (Heidelberg, Vic), 23 (?) November
#OnThisDay – In 1926 #OTD the community gathered to celebrate the unveiling of the Shire of Eltham War Memorial in Memorial Park, at Garden Hill, Kangaroo Ground.
This uncommon and picturesque war memorial, which affords an excellent view of the surrounding district was unveiled by His Excellency the Governor-General (Lord Stonehaven). The tower was constructed of stone obtained in the Eltham district, and given to the memorial fund by Professor Osborne.
As reported in the Advertiser the next day:
“Garden Hill, Kangaroo Ground, presented a unique scene yesterday afternoon, inasmuch as 1500 people attended to pay tribute to the silent soldiers of the Great War, and at the same time Nature presented to them, in perfect sunshine, one of the most glorious panoramic views to be seen in the Commonwealth. The unveiling ceremony of the memorial tower, erected through the efforts of the ShireofElthamWarMemorial League, is to commemorate the memory of the fallen soldiers who enlisted from the shire.
A Guard of Honor was formed by the school children from Eltham, Panton Hill, Hurstbridge, Kangaroo Ground, Research and Queenstown, as His Excellency the Governor-General and Lady Stonehaven approached the tower, when the National Anthem was sung, followed by the hymn, “O God our help in ages past.” Chaplain Green, of St. Martin’s, Hawkesburn, offered up a thanksgiving and prayer, dedicating the monument to the glory of those who laid down their lives for others.
Kipling’s “Recessional” was then sung, Mrs D. Rodger being organist.
Sir Wm. Irvine said he had been asked, as a resident of the shire of Eltham, to welcome their Excellencies, but they were so well known as to hardly require an introduction in any part of the Commonwealth. From where they stood they could see a large part of the shire, and all felt deep gratitude to those who fell in the Great War.
The Governor-General, in a very impressive address, said there was no more appropriate day to unveil a memorial than Armistice Day. It is a day that brings home to us the realities of the Empire, and from the time the people in Melbourne commenced that morning to pay tribute to God, when the people of the Old Country were asleep, there would be celebrations at every hour of the day in different parts of the Empire. The magnitude of the sacrifice was not, and could not, be fully realised. We live under such free institutions that we do not recognise it until we are in danger. What would our position be if the war had ended differently ? Let us not forget the sacrifice the men made, nobly supported by the women of the Empire. The memorial is worthy of the great memory of the dead, which it seeks to celebrate-a plain, strong, simple tower, typical of the men we are reminded of. It is to be hoped Armistice Day will continue to be celebrated, so that future generations will realise what they have to pay in their time to the State. By the glorious deeds of the men of this country history has been made, which started Australia off with the rest of the nations that contribute to the British Empire.
The Honor Board was then unveiled, disclosing over 70 names.
“Stand Fast” was sounded by Mr J. H. Page, of the Returned Soldiers’ Band, followed by two minutes’ silence, then “The Last Post” and “Reveille.”
The names of the fallen and a description of the tower will appear in next issue.
The reception committee entertained the Governor-General and party to afternoon tea, after which they left amidst the cheers of the people.”
Our excursion is a walk of about 3 km between Montmorency and Briar Hill. When we did a similar walk in 2013, we started with a train trip from Eltham to Montmorency Station. This time we will not include the train trip as an official part of the excursion however some of us will be catching the 2.01 pm train from Eltham on Saturday 2nd November. To allow for this we will meet at Montmorency Station at 2.05 pm to commence the walk.
We will start by viewing the famous Were Street mosaics that depict anecdotes about early residents and traders in this village shopping strip. We will also consider the history of Montmorency station, which is soon to be re-modelled as part of the Hurstbridge line upgrade. On the walk to Briar Hill we will talk about the residential subdivisions of the 1910s/20s that established Montmorency as a suburb. Featured locations on the walk will include the site of the Briar Hill timber mill, Briar Hill overpass where there was once a tiny timber bridge over the railway and St Faith’s Church.
The walk is open to Society members and the general public. Dogs are not permitted on Society excursions.
In 1872 Senior Constable Myles Lyons replaced Peter Lawlor at Eltham Police Station. Earlier in his career, he had taken part in a search (one of many) for missing explorers Burke and Wills. At Eltham, his arrests ranged from minor instances of theft, vandalism and larrikinism to serious cases of manslaughter, murder and attempted suicide. He even tracked down and arrested two Norwegian seamen charged with desertion from their vessel. While conveying a prisoner from Eltham to Melbourne in 1886, he was attacked by the prisoner en route.
It seems that much of the local news in the Evelyn Observer was provided by Eltham Shire Secretary C.S. Wingrove. In 1878, Eltham residents held an “Indignation Meeting” at the Evelyn Hotel, complaining that the reporting had denigrated Lyons’ conduct and had stigmatised the character of Eltham’s inhabitants. They passed a resolution castigating Wingrove and supporting Lyons. Wingrove claimed to have been misconstrued. But in 1887 the Evelyn Observer carried a long ranting vitriolic editorial. It complained about inadequate policing generally, then attacked Lyons personally, saying that (although efficient in the past) he had now become incompetent and needed to be replaced by a younger more energetic man.
Myles Lyons retired due to ill health in 1889 but remained in Eltham until his death in 1899. He is buried in Eltham Cemetery with his wife Flora and five of their children. Four sons moved to Western Australia where two were killed in unconnected railway accidents.
Our Society encourages interest in and the sharing of stories about the local history of the Eltham district in Victoria, Australia