Category Archives: On This Day

OTD: Railway Accident at Wattle Glen, 25 Mar 1932

#OnThisDay ( #OTD ) – 88 years ago, Good Friday, March 25th, 1932, a terrible and frightening railway accident occurred for a family on holidays from Cobram whilst passing through Wattle Glen.

As reported on page 1 of the Advertiser, Friday 1 April 1932 and many other newspapers throughout Melbourne and the country.

Railway Accident at Wattle Glen

TRAIN DERAILED IN LEVEL CROSSING ACCIDENT
MOTOR CAR TORN TO PIECES
OCCUPANTS HAVE MARVELLOUS ESCAPES

A sensation went through the district when it became known that there had been a railway accident at Wattle Glen on Good Friday morning. All sorts of alarming rumors were current, and it was a relieved community which learned that, although the train had been derailed and a motor car almost torn to pieces, all the persons who were in the train and car escaped with comparatively minor injuries.
Traffic on the line was completely disorganised for some time as a section of the line had been torn up by the train when it left the rails, and until the line was repaired and the necessary repairs made, a fleet of taxis and a railway bus were used to carry on.

The accident occurred about 11.40 a.m. when the 11.10 a.m. “up’ train was travelling from Hurstbridge to Melbourne. The train was almost entering the Wattle Glen station when the mishap occurred.
Mr. Donald F. Paterson, manager of the Bank of Australasia at Cob-ram, with his wife and two children, had arrived from Cobram on the day before, and had spent the night with Mrs. Paterson’s mother (Mrs. Herbert), whose home is near the station.

Set Out for the Beach

They had decided to visit the beach, and were on their way to reach the Hurstbridge-Melbourne road.

Waited for Another Car

At the railway crossing Mr. Paterson, waited a while to allow another car travelling in the opposite direct-ion, to negotiate the crossing first, and then proceeded. When his car was on the crossing it was struck broadside on by the train.

Hurled Over Culvert

The car was dragged broadside on for some distance, and was then hurled over into a culvert on the west side of the line.
The train, the two leading carriages of which had left the line, continued on, lurching sickeningly as the derailed wheels ploughed up the permanent way.

Post Snapped Like a Reed

The head of the train wobbled from side to side, carrying before it an 18-inch post used to support the over-head electrical equipment. This pole was, snapped like a reed, and did not decrease the speed of the runaway train to any appreciable extent.

All this time the air brakes had been applied, and when the train eventually came to a standstill the leading carriages were canted over at a dangerous angle.

The Injured

The injured were:
Donald Fary Paterson, aged 36 years, manager of the Bank of Australasia, Cobram. Bruises and shock.

Mary Winifred Paterson, his wife, aged 32 years. Broken bone in right foot and shock.

Richard Paterson, aged 6 years, and Betty Paterson, aged 2 years, their children. Slight abrasions and shock.

J. Howse, driver of train. Shock.

Mrs M. Barnes, Hurstbridge, passenger on the train. Shock.

After the Accident

An inspection of the site revealed a mass of torn up line, whilst the car was literally a mass of twisted scrap iron: -The culvert over which the car had been hurled, and where there is a drop of about 12 feet, was badly splintered, and it is a wonder that the train did not follow the car when it went over the culvert.

To the Rescue

Mr. James McCannon, who was working In his garden, nearby, heard the crash and rushed over to give what assistance he could. There were others also in the neighborhood who hurried to the scene.
Mrs .Paterson was limping about, searching frantically for her two children, completely ignoring the terrible pain from her injured foot. Searchers found Mr. Paterson pinned beneath the wreckage of the car, and across his knees was his son, Richard. The daughter Beatrice was found on the road at the crossing, she apparently having been thrown clear of the car at the time of the impact.

In the train were only the driver (Motorman Howse), the guard, and one passenger (Mrs. Barnes, of Hurstbridge).

Driver’s Escape

The driver had a marvelous escape, his cabin being splintered when It struck the pole carrying the overhead gear, but he escaped with bruises and a few lacerations caused by glass from the broken windscreen of his cabin. The roof of the driver’s compartment had been splintered, and the front crushed.

Passenger’s Experience

Mrs. Barnes had a nerve-wracking experience. She was tossed from side to side as the train lurched on its way after leaving the track, sustaining shock and considerable bruising. She was taken to a nearby residence, and after resting awhile recovered sufficiently to return home.

Motorists took Mr. and Mrs. Paterson to the Eltham Hospital, where they were admitted for treatment, and their two children were taken to the home of Mr. Paterson’s mother at Greensborough.

Traffic Interruption

Passengers to Eltham, Diamond Creek on the trains following hear all sorts of sensational rumors of what had happened. At Heidelberg passengers were told that the train was not going any further, but after some time all got aboard again, and the train proceeded to Eltham, where all passengers were again told to get out. They finally re-embarked and were taken to Diamond Creek, from which station they continued their interrupted journeys by taxis and a railways motor bus, which continued the interrupted service. Passengers, who left Melbourne for Hurstbridge at about 11 a.m. finally reached their destination at about 3 p.m.

Restoring the Damage

The aftermath of the railway accident at Wattle Glen, 25 March 1932 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

The railways officials were soon on the spot, and immediately work was started to rebuild the tracks and re store the overhead gear. Work continued throughout the day and all Friday night, normal running being resumed about midday on Saturday.

The derailed carriages were not re placed on the rails until a quarter to 6 o’clock on Friday evening. During this operation one of the large hooks of the steam crane pierced the wood work of a carriage, causing consider able damage.

Mr. Paterson said he did not see the train until it was almost on his car, his attention having been occupied in seeing that another car got clear of the crossing before he negotiated it. Had he not waited for that car he would have cleared the crossing in ample time.
Motorman House said that at this spot the line curved. He was emphatic that he sounded his siren as he approached the spot. His view of the crossing was obscured by sap lings at the curve and he saw the first car get clear, but did not see Paterson’s car as it was on the “blind” side of his cabin.

Mrs. Barnes; who is staying at Cr. J. Ryan’s house, is still suffering very much from shock. Mr. and Mrs. Ryan were in Sale at the time of the accident, but returned as soon as they heard of it.

Mr. J. Howse has been off duty since the accident.

The sub-station at Greensborough was also damaged on account of the heavy surge of current which blew the fuses and damaged the switches. It is expected that the damage to the railways will amount to over £1,000.

It is understood that the insurance on the motor car that was smashed expired the previous week.

1932 ‘THE SCENE AFTER THE WATTLE GLEN SMASH’, Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), 1 April, p. 1. , viewed 15 Feb 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56737545
Reference:

1932 ‘Railway Accident at Wattle Glen’, Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), 1 April, p. 1. , viewed 15 Feb 2020, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56737542

 

OTD: “The game’s on!” Wild Gunfight at Commercial Bank, Eltham, 15 Dec 1949

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 . . .

The Commercial Bank at Eltham, The Age, 16 December 1949, p1

#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.

Scene of the gun battle at Eltham (Vic.), The Daily Telegraph, 16 december, p1

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.

Mr. Lindsay Spears ,Receiving Officer, Commercial Bank of Australia, Eltham, The Age, 17 December 1949, p3

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.

Senior-Constable N. Forbes examining -bullet holes (indicated) in the body of a stolen car in which the bandit escaped, The Age, 16 December 1949, p1

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].

BANK HOLD-UP: SHOTS ECHOED IN QUIET STREET, The Argus, Friday, December 16, 1949, p3

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.

ELTHAM HOLD-UP. — (Left) — Shire employe Percy Williams narrowly escaped a collision as the bandit fled in a stolen car. (Right) A police constable searching in the scrub where the fugitive disappeared after abandoning the car, The Age, 16 December, 1949, p3

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.

SEQUEL
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.

References

1949 ‘Took Pistol From Bank’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 9 December, p. 3. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article244149395

1949 ‘GUNFIGHT IN BANK NEAR MELBOURNE’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 15 December, p. 1. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article244139967

1949 ‘Hunt for bandit switches to city’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 16 December, p. 1. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22798717

1949 ‘POLICE HUNT FOR ELTHAM BANDIT’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 16 December, p. 1. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189482129

1949 ‘-Police Search for Bank Intruder’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 16 December, p. 3. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189482349

1949 ‘BANK OFFICIALS FOIL BANDIT’, The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 – 1954), 16 December, p. 1. , viewed 13 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article248155927

1949 ‘Search of Scrub Proves Fruitless’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 17 December, p. 3. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189481390

1950 ‘Eltham Bank Arrest Leads to Other Charges’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 14 February, p. 3. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187348311

1950 ‘YOUTH OF 19 CHARGED WITH ATTEMPTED ARMED ROBBERY OF BANK AT ELTHAM’, Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954), 15 February, p. 6. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article225452914

1950 ‘Manager’s Gun Used in Holdup at Bank’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 23 February, p. 4. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187348043

1950 ‘”Guilty” plea to pistol theft COURT TOLD OF LAD’S HOLD-UP BID’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 23 February, p. 7. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22812474

‘Australia’s last bushrangers were twins’ by John Sylvester, The Age, April 27, 2019, https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/australia-s-last-bushrangers-were-twins-20190424-p51gqb.html

‘Australia’s last bushrangers: How twin brothers robbed banks across Victoria while bamboozling police by escaping in taxis, bikes and even a canoe – and the one mistake that lead to their capture’ by Sahar Mourad, 9 May 2019 (also includes video of an interview with Peter and Doug Morgan aired on A Current Affairhttps://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/australias-last-bushrangers-how-twin-brothers-robbed-banks-across-victoria-while-bamboozling-police-by-escaping-in-taxis-bikes-and-even-a-canoe-and-the-one-mistake-that-lead-to-their-capture/ar-AAB8N3H?li=AAgfIYZ&%252525253BOCID=ansmsnnews11

 

 

OTD: Farewell Eltham, Happy Birthday Nillumbik; 15 Dec 1994

#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.

Shire of Montsalvat is born by Duska Sulichich, Diamond Valley News, October 26, 1994, p1

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).

Shire now Nillumbik by Natalie Town, Diamond Valley News, November 23, 1994, p3

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.

New shire, city get underway, Diamond Valley News, December 21, 1994, p1

 

@nillumbikcouncil

OTD: Dedication of the Shire of Eltham War Memorial, 16 Nov. 1951

#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 . . .

Meeting at Lower Plenty, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

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..

Lower Plenty School’s welcome, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

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.

The Tower . . Kangaroo Ground, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

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..

Introducing Guard of Honour, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

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.

Meeting R.S.S.A.I.L.A. Representative, Mr. G. Moir, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)
Shire President’s Address, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)
R.S.S.A.I.L.A. Representative’s Address, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)
His Excellency’s Address, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)
Portion of Guests, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

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.”

Presentation, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

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.

Afternoon Tea, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

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.

Afternoon Tea, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

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 *

References

1951 ‘Dedication of Memorial Tower’, The News; The Newspaper of the City of Heidelberg and the Shire of Eltham (Heidelberg, Vic), 23 (?) November

OTD: Unveiling of the Shire of Eltham War Memorial, 11 Nov. 1926

#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.

Shire of Eltham, Soldiers’ War Memorial, unveiled 11-11-26, Garden Hill, Kangaroo Ground (Photo: Tom Prior, c.1926; Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection, No. 406; held in partnership between Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory and @YarraPlentyRegionalLibrary (ELtham Library) and the Reynolds-Prior collection held by EDHS). This image was also used on a postcard and in news reports published in The Argus (13 Nov. 1296, p33) and the Advertiser (19 Nov. 1926, p3). Note the unfinished slate-stones at base and Honour Roll not yet erected.

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 Shire of Eltham War Memorial 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.”

Entrance to the Shire of Eltham Memorial Park, Garden Hill, Kangaroo Ground: carriageway from Eltham-Yarra Glen Road to top of Memorial Park; view to south-east, c.1923
References

1926 ‘Memorial to Fallen Soldiers.’, Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), 12 November, p. 3. (AFTERNOON), http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56660460

1926 ‘ELTHAM MEMORIAL TOWER’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 13 November, p. 33., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3820851

1926 ‘THE ELTHAM SHIRE WAR MEMORIAL TOWER.’, Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), 19 November, p. 3. (AFTERNOON.), http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56660470

OTD: Opening of the new Eltham Library, 22 May 1994

#OnThisDay – 25 years ago #OTD the community celebrated the opening of the new Eltham Library in Panther Place followed by the Shire President’s Picnic.

Aerial view showing the new Eltham Library, 1994. Architects: Greg Burgess and Peter Ryan of Gregory Burgess Pty Ltd. (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)

In 1987 Council set up a Library Review Working Party (which later became the Library Occasional Advisory Committee) with a task to prepare for a new library as the current library, opened in 1971, could no longer cope with growing demand. Council developed a strategy to set aside capital funds, from 1988 annually, to provide for preliminary planning and consultative expenses, with a projected construction completion in early 1997. The community was consulted throughout the process and over 1,000 questionnaires were distributed to library users and non-users seeking their input.

In 1992 the Commonwealth Government established the Local Capital Works Program and Council made application for a grant of almost $900,000, applying the full amount towards a new library. Council funded a further $2 million to build the new library, which enabled the project to be accelerated in completion. The project was commenced in September 1992.

Aerial view showing the new Eltham Library and relocated Shillinglaw Cottage, 1994. (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)

In his address to the assembled guests at the opening, the Hon. Peter Staples, Member for Jagga Jagga said:

“I think you will find that it will become a centre of life in Eltham just as Montsalvat over the years has become a feature and a part of the spirit of Eltham.”

“It will be something that will be shared by people not only in Eltham but in other places for many years to come. I am quite confident in predicting that it will become more of a focus of the life and the culture and the spirit of Eltham than any other public building around.”

Aerial view showing the Shire of Eltham office, new Eltham Library and relocated Shillinglaw Cottage, 1994. (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)

We are all familiar with the meaning of 20-20 hindsight. Well, grab a cuppa and give yourselves a 28 minute time-out to join us in this journey in time to see what great foresight our former Eltham Shire Councillors had for our community.

The video features an introductory look at the new library with the assembled guests and music performed by Eltham High School. A welcome speech is given by Shire President, Cr Pamela Sladden followed by the Hon. Peter Staples, Member for Jagga Jagga. Cr. Robert J. (Bob) Manuell, Chairperson, Eltham Library Redevelopment Special Committee then gives a sometimes humourous analogy of the history of the project’s development from conception to delivery with reference to the Year of the International Family (1994). At the end of the speeches there are scenes of guests looking over the library followed by scenes of the Shire President’s picnic.

Construction of the new Eltham Library, c.1993. (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)
Construction of the new Eltham Library, c.1993. (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)
Construction of the new Eltham Library, c.1993. (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)
Construction of Eltham Library; fitting out stage, April 1994. (Photo: Linda McConnell, Branch Manager of the former Eltham Library located in the Shire of Eltham offices; donated via Yarra Plenty Regional Library. Linda McConnell Collection, March 2018 and held in joint partnership. Digitised from negatives held by Eltham District Historical Society. Print copies held by YPRL and EDHS)