#ThrowbackThursday – Grace Mitchell, a talented artist in later life and baker, managed a pastry shop business near the corner of Mount Pleasant and Main roads, Eltham in the 1950s.
Shortly after her marriage to Arthur Mitchell in 1948, Arthur incurred a head injury from an an accident and was unable to work. Grace realised she needed to be home to care for her husband as well as earn an income. She managed the bureaucracy of council permits, and made modifications to her home with savings to get the business off the ground without having to borrow money.
Grace and Arthur were avid gardeners and would grow, wash and mince vegetables for pasties while Grace hand made and rolled the pastry. They cooked and minced their own meat for the pies and the fruit for the sweet pies came from their orchard at the rear of the property. She also baked scones and cakes.
With weekend visitors travelling to Eltham on the train for days trips, her reputation grew as the spot for afternoon tea. Grace’s daughter Jenni mentions the visit of dancer, Robert Helpmann and U.S. actress Katherine Hepburn in her Grace Mitchell: a short history .
Reminiscences in We did open a school in Little Eltham: Eltham Primary School 209, 1856-2006 a history  include a mention of Grace’s famous pastry shop and the Sunday afternoon visit by Helpmann and Hepburn.
In Anne Edwards 2019 biography of Katherine Hepburn: A Remarkable Woman, she is described as a “grande dame of American actresses, fierce individualist, and Hollywood legend.” A bonafide star she was nominated for twelve Academy Awards and won four. Robert Helpman became world famous as Britain’s most outstanding ballet dancer and subsequently turned his attentions to stage and screen. The two first met in London in 1952 when they appeared together in the play “The Millionairess” on the West End. He subsequently invited her to be part of an Australian tour presenting three Shakespearean plays. In May 1955 Helpmann and Hepburn arrived in Sydney, Helpmann was returning to his native land after being away for 25 years. They were accorded a reception by the Mayor of Melbourne. In NSW Hepburn visited St Matthews Church and Rectory at Windsor and donated £50 to the church restoration fund. She later wrote of her fascination with the blue lakes area near Adelaide and the “extraordinary” lyrebird.
Grace operated her pastry shop for over 16 years. She supported the Shillinglaw Cottage Preservation Campaign to preserve the cottage through its Flavour of Eltham community cookbook published in 1964 and hosted cooking classes in the new Living and Learning Centre
Katherine Hepburn passed way in 2003 aged 96 years. Her trademark was playing strong independent women with minds of their own. Grace Mitchell passed away aged 95 years in 2011.
During the COVID-19 Pandemic State of Emergency Stage 3 lockdown, our Collections team has continued to work in the background from home, digitising material and cataloguing it onto Victorian Collections. Included amongst these items are a number of old audio compact cassette tapes. Even though we say ‘old’ (because they are), many of us are still familiar with these items. Finding the old analog technology still functional to play them is increasingly difficult.
One of the tapes was recorded for us in April 2002 on the occasion of the centenary of Alan Marshall’s birth, by long term society member and local artist, Joh Ebeli (1918-2012). In 1977 Joh undertook to create a sculpture of the face of Alan Marshall. Joh recorded a conversation he had with Alan during one sitting in 1977 at Alan’s studio bungalow, 13 Park Road, Eltham. (The property owned by Alan’s sister was sold shortly after his death and was only recently sold again in March 2020.)
During this pandemic, we have decided to make this audio recording accessible for all to enjoy. It runs for just over 32 minutes and consists of general chit chat and banter between Joh Ebeli and Alan Marshall on various current affairs, matters of the past, artists and Joh’s method of sculpture production.
#ThrowbackThursday – In February 1965, Staffs Railway Store, the oldest business premises in the Eltham shopping district was demolished. Formerly a self-service grocery, restaurant and electrical repair shop, the building for many years housed Eltham’s only ‘family’ grocer and feed store. Earlier it had appeared to have been the town’s bakery. The building had been purchased in late March 1939 by Mr Eric N. Staff. At the time of E.N. Staff’s purchase there were huge bakers’ ovens located at the rear and the building also had a well and four toilets for employees.
When the ‘pictures’ came to Eltham with the opening of the Eltham Public Hall across the road in 1941, Mr E.N. Staff extended the business and opened a milk bar and sweet shop. Further extensions re-established the tea rooms of days gone by. Mr E.N. Staff conducted business for about 15 years before handing over the reins to his son, Ray Staff.
When his son Ray took over, the milk bar and tea rooms were closed for several years but the milk bar and was later re-opened and subsequently became a greengrocers and later again, a restaurant. The tea rooms section was converted to an electrical repair shop about 1955.
Electoral Roll records for 1967 record Raymond Charles Staff at 929 Main Road, Eltham, grocer, and in 1968 at Lot 4, Hillcrest Avenue, Eltham, taxi truck operator. So it would appear that Ray continued to run the business for approximately two years after the original store was demolished and a new supermarket was built.
Today, 929 Main Road is the Nongkhai Thai Restaurant and is precisely where the original Staffs store stood. Even though the facade has been modified at eye level with new larger windows, the upper facade is identical to that of the new Eltham Big Star Food Centre of 1965/66.
But how did the original building, the oldest premises in the 1965 era shopping centre come about? Well let us tell you about a man named Jed . . . well, Luther actually, so let us travel back further in time to 1902; August 12th to be precise, to the Eltham Courthouse.
Appearing before T. Smallman, Esq,. Police Magistrate, and Messrs. W. Duncan and W.J. Taylor, Justices of the Peace is Luther Haley, baker. Wilfred Henry Johnston, by his agent Stanley Ernest Elder has applied for a warrant of ejectment under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1890 against Luther Haley from the bakery premises at the corner of Main Road and York Street.
From the evidence presented we hear that Mrs Burgoyne of Eltham had purchased the property some months earlier from Mr Johnston, which consists of a store and bakery establishment at Eltham occupied by Mr. Luther Haley, and whose lease expired some little time back, and up to the present time, Mr. Haley was not prepared to leave. He informs the court that he is unable to secure at Eltham a suitable house in which to carry on his business, but he is now building a place near the railway station which he expects to be done in about three weeks time, and he is then prepared to give up possession of the premises he now occupies.
Mr Smallman informs the defendant, Luther Haley, that he will have to quit the premises in three weeks from the present date, and that a warrant of ejectment would be issued. However he also informs Mr Haley that he would order the warrant to lie in the office for three weeks from that date.
The premises under construction refered to by Luther Haley in court were situated on the western side of Main Road, near the railway station slightly opposite present day Arthur Street. It was opened around September 1902 as a General Store, Bakery and Tea Rooms.
This was the original building in the present day shopping precinct. At the time the only thing nearby was the railway station. Luther Haley’s business appeared to prosper and he would have catered to not only the locals abut also day visitors by train on Sundays coming up from Melbourne, offering fresh baked produce, tea rooms and summer drinks. The fields across Main Road running between present day Arthur Street and Luck Street were known as Haley’s Paddock and at times were used for community festivities and picnics. A newspaper report on the annual State schools picnic held at Haley’s Paddock on March 11, 1904 described it as “quite close to the railway station, and is quite capable of holding comfortably 10,000 people. With its ample shade shade and hilly surroundings, it is an ideal place for any gathering.” Unfortunately for Luther, just two months earlier his son, Leslie, aged 12 years had gone with a companion to bathe in the Diamond Creek and had accidentally drowned. But that’s another story.
Luther Haley successfully ran his general store, bakery and tea rooms until 1917 when he and his family departed the district and moved to Westgarth Street in Northcote where he changed careers and became a publisher.
It was then taken over by Hannah Lloyd and became known as Lloyd’s Railway General Store from 1917 to 1920. From then it had a succession of owners, one as short as two months until March 31, 1939 when the Grocery Business formerly carried on by Mr. T.K. White of Eltham for the previous eight years was purchased by Mr Eric N. Staff of Research and became known as E.N. Staff’s Railway Store.
The ownership timeline for the store is as follows:
Luther Haley Sep 1902-1917
Hannah Lloyd 1917-c.Feb 1920
Messrs J.R. & N.E. Lee 1920-Sep 1922
A. & E. Copeland Sep 1922-Sep 1925
Mr Price Sep 1925-Nov 1925
Mr Warren Nov 1925?-Nov 1926
A.W.J. Edwards Nov 1926-1931
T.K. White 1931-Mar 1939
Eric Staff Apr 1939-c.1954
Ray Staff c.1954-Feb 1965 then demolished
Ray Staff Eltham Big Star Food Centre c.1965-1967
If anyone has old photos of Staffs store or the shopping district, particularly in the 1930s through 1960s then we would love to hear from you. Perhaps you might consider donating them to the Eltham District Historical Society or if you prefer, we could borrow them and scan them at archival quality and then return them along with a digital copy.
ELTHAM COURT OF PETTY SESSIONS. (1902, August 15). Evelyn Observer, and South and East Bourke Record (Vic. : 1882 – 1902), p. 5 (MORNING.). Retrieved April 16, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64029690
#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 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).
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.
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.
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 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.
#ThrowbackThursday – 50 years ago, the Shire of Eltham Historical Society (now Eltham District Historical Society) worked closely with acclaimed and distinguished Australian author, Alan Marshall in preparing a history of the Shire of Eltham to celebrate its centenary in 1971. The book, Pioneers & Painters: One Hundred Years of Eltham and its Shire, edited by Alan Marshall was the result of that effort and was published in 1971.
Here we see Alan dictating part of the manuscript for Pioneers & Painters to his secretary, Pat Wiltshire, in his bungalow located at 13 Park Road, Eltham in 1970 (now 13 Park West Road). The bungalow was built c.1955 and was Alan’s home from about 1955 to 1980. It is located at the rear of the house, which at the time was owned by Marshall’s sister, Margaret McIntyre Marshall. It is understood the property was sold in September 1981. Marshall died 21 January 1984 and is buried at Nillumbik Cemetery, Diamond Creek.
The Alan Marshall Bungalow at 13 Park West Road, Eltham is registered on the Victorian Heritage Database and is protected by Heritage Overlay, HO 147 in the Nillumbik Planning Scheme, which covers the bungalow and its surrounding site to a radius of 15 metres. It is significant as it was Marshall’s home at the time he wrote Pioneers & Painters and the basic nature of it is illustrative of Marshall’s lifestyle.
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 – 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
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.
The Victorian gold rush came to Eltham in the early 1850s and with it came a crime wave. Local traders called for police protection. This led to the appointment in 1857 of Irish-born Peter Lawlor as Senior Constable at Eltham. In 1859 Peter and his wife Kate were able to move into an official police residence at the corner of Maria Street (now Main Road) and Brougham Street, with stables out the back and a large paddock for grazing across the road. Some of their children went to Eltham Primary School. That 1859 police residence is now the home of the Eltham District Historical Society. The small wooden building on the very corner is a modern replica of the separate police station/office built around 1885-1900.
Cases investigated by Constable Lawlor included murders, stealing (horses, cattle, fowls, watches, linen, clothing), a search for a missing person, and two separate instances of abandoned children seeking help. He was officially commended in 1866 for bringing to justice a man who had indecently assaulted an 11-year old girl. Sadly, there was a similar but unconnected case only a few months later. But events had a lighter side; in 1871 Kate lent her piano to the Snowflakes Christy Minstrels for a Catholic Church fund-raising concert.
Peter was transferred to Prahran in 1872. He died in 1876 and is buried in Eltham Cemetery with four of his children. His headstone was stolen some time after May 1990 but was returned anonymously (broken into three pieces) in August 2013. It is resting on his grave but has not been re-erected.
Our Society encourages interest in and the sharing of stories about the local history of the Eltham district in Victoria, Australia