Tag Archives: Sir William Irvine

ThrowbackThursday: Black Friday, Warrandyte, 13th January, 1939

#ThrowbackThursday – Today marks our 80th journey back in time. In recognition of that, we are going to time travel back 80 years to the small holiday resort town of Warrandyte before it had been absorbed into an outer suburb of Melbourne. It is Friday, January 13th, 1939; Black Friday.

In the days preceding, Melbourne has experienced some of its hottest temperatures on record: 110.8 °F (43.8 °C) on January 8th and 112.5 °F (44.7 °C) on January 10th. On Black Friday, temperatures will reach 114.1 °F (45.6 °C), which will become the hottest day officially recorded in Melbourne for the next 70 years until it is surpassed on February 7th,  2009, Black Saturday, 46.4 °C (115.5 °F). Unofficial records show temperatures of around 117 °F (47 °C) were reported on the Black Thursday fires of 6 February 1851.

The summer of 1938–39 had been hot and dry, and several fires had broken out. By early January, fires were burning in a number of locations across the state. Then, on Friday 13 January, a strong northerly wind hit the state, causing several of the fires to combine into one massive front.

Bush Fires: A pictorial survey of Victoria’s most tragic week, January 8-15, 1939. Published in aid of the Bush Fire Relief Fund by the Sun News-Pictorial in co-operation with its newsagents. (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)

In the Eltham district, the fires raged from Tuesday to Saturday morning and occurred in the Eltham, Warrandyte, Yarra Glen, Strathewen, Queenstown, Kinglake and Whittlesea districts.

At Etham, the fire begins on Friday morning in the vicinity of Mr. C.A.  (Clarrie) Hurst’s Eltham Poultry Farm and Hatchery in New Street (present day Lavender Park Road), one of the oldest in the State, consuming some fowl pens and killing many birds. The fire-bell is rung, and all the firemen of Eltham, together with most of the male residents turn out to fight the flames. Speeding before a strong and searing north wind, it passes on to Mr. H. Rutter’s house at Yarra Braes. It is while the firemen are at Mr. Hurst’s property that the fire attacks Mr. Rutter’s house. Despite desperate efforts, the home is burned to the ground. It then crosses the valley, and threatens Killeavey in Laughing Waters Road, the home of Mrs. J. (Beatrice) Morrison, daughter of Sir William Irvine.

The fire-fighters reach Morrison’s before it is consumed, and make desperate efforts to save the property. They fight the fire there for three hours, and had checked it several times before the house is ultimately destroyed. Only a lack of water prevents the house from being saved.

Mrs. Morrison is currently away on holiday, but her uncle, Mr. Neville Wanliss, with his wife, together with Mrs. Phillips, two boys and a girl, are spending a holiday there. They see the fire approaching, and take refuge in the river, where they remain for several hours. About 4 p.m. they emerge and are seen by Mr. Evans, who takes them in his car to “Kooringarama,” Eltham, where they receive dry clothes. First aid is given to Mrs. Wanliss, whose foot was badly burned. She is now in a private hospital. Although Kooringarama guest-house is not in danger from the fires, a number of the guests have become nervous, and are leaving for Melbourne.

After a desperate effort by more than 50 men for more than an hour, fire fighters save the houses of Mr. W. Linacre and the Laughing Waters Poultry farm owned by Mr. G.W. Petre, the Swedish Consul, but the beautiful home of Mr. A. S. Austin, nearer Warrandyte, was burned, also the home of Mr. Smith, in Mt. Pleasant road.

The fire leaps the river at three points between Mr. Rutter’s and Mrs. Morrison’s where it continues to advance rapidly, racing through tinder-dry grass and forest almost as fast as the wind itself, demolishing every habitation in its path. It joins another fire, and the two converging bush fires sweep down on Warrandyte about 2 p.m., razing nearly half the houses in the district within an hour. It is believed 100 homes have been lost. So sudden is the onslaught of the fire that few people have the opportunity to save more than the clothes they wear.

Women and children are being hurried to the safety of the river shallows, where they wait fearfully throughout the afternoon. Every able-bodied man in the district is engaged in the vain fight against the flames.

The first warning that Warrandyte had was a billow of smoke which rose and people had barely time to realise the warning significance of the smoke when the red glow of the flames was seen.

Sweeping across from Eltham and Templestowe, it leaps from hill to hill. Only a hard fight saves the stores of the town.

The first residence attacked is the shop and store of Mr. J. Kenny, on the northern outskirts of the town. His house and store only feed the flames for a matter of minutes. The fire then advances up the main street, missing the cafe of Mrs. Jones, opposite Kenny’s. A ten-roomed house owned by Mr. C.Blair, and adjoining Kenny’s store, is also destroyed. At the rear of Jones’s cafe and home, the houses of Mrs. McCulloch and McAuley are destroyed.

The experience of the head master of the local school, Mr. M. Isaac, and his family, is typical of the experiences of scores of other families in the town.

Mr. Isaac is resting on his bed, when a tradesman warns his wife. She rushes in and rouses him. They begin to gather clothes together in suitcases. Suddenly a shout is heard. “Run for your lives!”

Hurrying out they see fire racing toward the house. In a moment the flames are licking at the walls of the house. With their few hastily packed cases Mr. and Mrs. Isaac, their daughter, and a grandchild, grope their way through the smoke to their car.

“I can’t see to drive,” Mr. Isaac exclaims. Some shout: “It doesn’t matter whether you can see or not, drive!”

The car is driven into the smoke, crashes into something—a horse-drawn vehicle, Mrs. Isaac thinks she hears a horse whinny in panic—but the car presses on, and presently the party emerge from the smoke.

Mrs. Isaac and the children flee to the river with their few possessions, while her husband goes to join the fire-fighters.

The fire races round the slope of the hill behind the main street of the township, burning house after house as it speeds.

Meanwhile the second fire, on the other side of the river, wipes out Pound Bend, and sweeps up the gullies behind the river cliffs to Kangaroo road, and Artist’s Hill, which is dotted with homes all surrounded by thick bush.

Here the fire displays wanton freakishness, razing a brick house here and leaving a wooden building a few yards away unscathed. Scores of such freaks of fortune occur, aided as the day wears on by strange changes of wind.

It blows first from the north then from the west, from the south-west, from the west again, then switches round to the east. Burning this way and that before the vagaries of the wind, the fire several times threatens to destroy whole groups of dwellings only to sweep back on its tracks and leave intact buildings it was thought impossible to save.

One after the other, three wooden churches Presbyterian, Anglican, and Roman Catholic, go up in flames and collapse. All the houses on the western side of Pigtail Hill are burned.

With the destruction of the whole township apparently inevitable, more than 200 residents have taken refuge in the river. Many of them carry their house-hold goods with them, until the river banks are fringed with sewing machines and other portable household articles. Sweeping through the town, the fire destroys the shop and store of Mr. W. Jones, crosses the road, licking up houses in its stride, and sweeps through two miles of lightly-grassed country to annihilate South Warrandyte. Both the school, and the hall, and at least 20 dwellings are lost. The fire then advances on Croydon, where it later burns itself out.

This aerial view of Warrandyte was taken after the disastrous fire swept through the township on the tragic Friday the 13th. Bush Fires: A pictorial survey of Victoria’s most tragic week, January 8-15, 1939, p21.

The refuge provided by the river alone prevents a heavy toll of life. The speed of the fire frustrates all efforts to save property, although there was no big timber to feed It. As it sweeps over Melbourne hill to the north of the town residents receive ample warning to evacuate their homes before the fire descends on them. In the country between Warrandyte and Croydon numbers of cattle and horses are caught by the fire and injured. Later, Constable Bercherson, of Warrandyte, has to go out and destroy over 60 fire-maimed animals.

Of Warrandyte itself only the cluster of a dozen or so buildings round the post-office and the hotel-a few stores, guest houses, a garage, and another group about the bridge across the Yarra, are left standing.

Half the houses in Warrandyte were destroyed when bush fires swept through the popular holiday resort, which is only 15 miles from Melbourne. This view from a burnt-out home shows a part of the town which was saved. Right : Mountains ablaze in the scenic Grampians, in the vicinity of Hall’s Gap (Western Victoria).  Bush Fires: A pictorial survey of Victoria’s most tragic week, January 8-15, 1939, p22.

Officers from the gas works branch of the St. John Ambulance Association have arrived in the stricken town and render first aid to fire fighters overcome by heat and smoke. During the afternoon food for 100 persons is rushed to the township from the city and made available at a local hall which, together with the hotel, has escaped destruction.

First aid was given to Mr H. G. Houghton, whose eyes were smoke inflamed, by Mr W. Jackson, a St. Johns Ambulance officer. Mr Houghton’s home and orchard disappeared in the fire at Warrandyte. Bush Fires: A pictorial survey of Victoria’s most tragic week, January 8-15, 1939, p45.

The fire fighters have been insuperably hampered by the absence of water. There is no reticulation system in the township. Most of the residents depend on rain water collected in tanks for their supplies. Only the hotel, and a few of the more pretentious homes in the district, have pumping plants to draw water from the river. These, for the most part, are electrically driven, and early in the afternoon the fire severed the town’s electricity supply.

Only at the hotel is there any considerable storage of water, and this is poured on to the post-office, saving it after an hour’s struggle.

South Warrandyte and the homes in the town standing in heavy timber, are the worst affected parts, a clean sweep having been made of the town’s dwellings. The towns-people watch helplessly while building after building disappears in smoke and flame.

Hundreds are homeless at Warrandyte after the blaze on January 13. Bush Fires: A pictorial survey of Victoria’s most tragic week, January 8-15, 1939, p20. Above: Fire-fighters keeping watch during a temporary lull in the blaze at South Warrandyte. Upper Left: First-aid by the roadside was given to many victims. Mr Alan Hook is treating Miss Inez Moore’s burnt feet. Upper Right: A Warrandyte family, whose home was destroyed, leaving by car with the few possessions they could save. A tribute to their courage is the fact that they can still smile in the face of disaster.
Saturday, 14 January

The fire burns itself out this morning, and only at Wonga Park is there any danger from a future flare. There is plenty of food available for the 200 odd victims, who have been provided for at the Masonic Hall, but there is urgent need for more blankets and clothes.

We find the town stark and devastated. Piles of tin and chimneys are all that remain of more than 100 dwellings. Along the road, stock caught in the fences give evidence of the speed and destruction of the fire.

Reported missing Friday, Mr Frederick Topping, 72, pensioner, of Warrandyte, has been found dead among the ruins of his home near his packed goods. It appears that the fire, which blazed through the town in 20 minutes, came on him before he could make his escape. Mr Topping was for many years the Warrandyte correspondent of “The Advertiser,” and was an active worker in all public movements for the good of that town. He was also an authority on cricket, and a great cricket enthusiast.

Only the presence of the river saved many others in the hills.

Alarms are sent out at 10.45 for more volunteers to fight the blaze at Stony Creek between Warrandyte and Kangaroo Ground, and there is a fear that if the wind changes, Kangaroo Ground will be in serious danger.

Several artists have lost houses at Warrandyte. In Mr Adrian Lawlor’s home, more than 200 of his paintings were destroyed, and Mr Henry Hoile lost all his pictures. The building known as the “Old Studio,” in which the annual art exhibition has been held in recent years, was burned. It was owned by Mrs Connie Smith.

Later in the afternoon fires in the Warrandyte, Eltham and Kangaroo Ground districts are brought under control. Seventy-five men are standing by a fire at Christmas Hills. At Research the fire is being kept to the gullies.

Warrandyte and district has received a paralysing blow. Apart from the destruction of homes, hundreds of acres of orchards, which provide the district with its means of livelihood, have been scorched into unproductiveness, and substantial relief is an urgent necessity.

It is unfortunate that the Eltham Fire Brigade did not have enough hose to reach the place where the fire started, for they might have put out the blaze before it did any further damage. The nearest fire plug was near Mr. Percy Leason’s property in New street, and from this the firemen ran out 1200 feet of hose – all they had – but it was still 300 feet short. Nevertheless, the fire fighters, both members of the brigade and volunteers, working under Capt. W. Allan, Lieut. A. Parsons and First Constable O’Donnell did splendid work. They were on duty continuously from Friday to Sunday, and on Friday afternoon were reinforced by volunteers from the city. There were three casualties. Mr. W. Deards cut his foot; Mr. Berry, the sustenance officer, tripped in some burning ashes at Morrison’s and severely burned both hands; while on Sunday, Mr. G. Carver twisted his ankle while descending a step hill to fight a renewed outbreak near Beauty Point.

Residents of Eltham freely made available their cars, and trucks for the carriage of fire-fighters to the danger points.

Too much praise cannot be given to the ladies of Eltham for the manner in which they rallied to give assistance. When volunteers began to arrive early in the afternoon, and women and children from the Research and Warrandyte districts were brought into the town for safety, Mesdames E. M. Andrew, Ford, Pyke, Parsons, Browne and Crick formed a nucleus of workers, which soon increased by many more, who provided meals for the 150 volunteers who made the fire station their headquarters, and also for the five families who had taken refuge in Eltham. The latter were fed at the fire station, and were provided with sleeping accommodation at the Eltham Hall. They were returned to their homes on Saturday, with a hamper of food for each. The Eltham ladies were cutting sandwiches, preparing tea etc., from early on Friday afternoon until 2.30 a.m. on Saturday morning, and were back at the station by 6 a.m. on Saturday. Ninety men were supplied with food donated by local people, but later on supplies were sent out by the Red Cross Society.

BACKGROUND

Bush Fires: A pictorial survey of Victoria’s most tragic week, January 8-15, 1939, pp2-3.

THE WEEK REVIEWED

THE fiercest bush fires Australia has known since its discovery are quiescent at the moment, and Victoria, in the comparative coolness of the change which came with rain on Sunday night, has begun·to count its losses.

In the fiery eight days, from Sunday to Sunday, at least sixty-six men, women and children have lost their lives in forest fires, or have succumbed to burns and shock; many others have died from heat; and several serious cases of burns are being treated in hospitals.
Two babies in Narrandera district have died, and ten others are in hospital, because of milk soured by the record temperatures of those eight days.

Forest damage totals at least a million pounds, and incalculable damage has been done to the seedlings which were to have been the forests of the future.

Water conservation will be seriously affected by the silting-up of reservoirs and streams from which protective timber has been taken by the all-engulfing flames.

More than a thousand houses have been destroyed, and these, with 40 mills, and schools, post-offices, churches, and other buildings, represent a loss of at least half a million.

At least 1500 are homeless. For their aid, money raised in appeals has now passed the £50,000 mark, and the biggest relief organisation ever set up in peace time has swung into operation.

The First Hint

Victoria’s first hint of what was to come appeared on Sunday, January 8, when most parts of the State awoke to find a blistering day awaiting.

At 12.20 p.m., when the thermometer reached its highest for the day, 109.6 degrees, the first fire victims were at that moment going to their death on a bush track five feet wide off the main road to Narbethong.

They were the forestry officers Charles Isaac Demby and John Hartley Barling, who went to warn Demby of his danger when he parted from his companions, and was himself surrounded by the treacherous fire.

It was not until 8 o’clock next morning that the tragic news was flashed throughout the State.

Searchers found the two charred bodies close together, one seeking protection in the nook of two logs. Barling’s watch had stopped at 1.20.

In the meantime, tragedy was spreading its cloak.

By Monday, big fires were raging at Toolangi, Erica, Yallourn, Monbulk, Frankston, Dromana, Drouin South, Glenburn, and Blackwood, with smaller outbreaks at many other centres.

In the ensuing week, while women and children were evacuated as fast as the flames would permit, Erica-scene of the 1926 fire disaster-thrice escaped doom by a change of wind.

Indeed, those who have been in the fire country these past days say that the numbers of times a change of wind has saved towns from destruction is amazing.

In the towns they speak of miracles.

Monday’s Miracles

The escapes from Monett’s Mill at Erica and from the Hardwood Company’s Mill at Murrindindi, near where Demby and Barling went to their death, were Monday’s miracles.

Twenty came out alive from each mill. At the first a 60ft. dugout provided an oven-like refuge; at the second, 12 women and children survived in the smoke-filled gloom of a three-roomed cottage while their eight men, their clothes sometimes afire, poured water on the wooden walls. Three houses out of ten remained when the fire had passed.

Record Temperatures

Sunday had been the hottest Melbourne day for 33 years; Monday dropped to a 76.1 degree maximum; but Tuesday dawned hotter than ever, the mercury reaching 112.5.

By now rumor was racing ahead of fact; whole towns were being reported lost; the alarm was raised for scores of missing persons. But fact soon overtook rumor, and within a few days the staggering toll began to mount to a figure beyond the wildest imaginings of the panic-stricken.

Six died from heat on this torrid Tuesday, and the fires spread in a wide swathe from south-west to north-east across the State. Fish died in shallow streams.

A curtain of smoke hid the sky from all Victoria, and hung far out to sea. It alarmed passengers on ships. On the Ormonde, on the voyage to Sydney from Burnie, women ran on deck, believing fire had broken out in the hold.

Days later the smoke reached New Zealand.

In Melbourne thousands of fire-volunteers were leaving in cars: vans, motor-buses-anything reliable on wheels-to aid the country in its grim fight.

In the fires at Rubicon and. Narbethong, seventeen were facing death this day. But not till Wednesday, when Melbourne breathed again in a cool change, while the country still sweltered in temperatures up to 117 degrees, did the news come through the tree blocked roads.

A woman and her little daughter, trapped on the road, were among those who died. Their bodies, and those of menfolk with them, were found strewn out at intervals along the road, where the furnace of the surrounding fire had dropped them in their tracks as they ran.

Twelve died at a Rubicon mill, five on the road at Narbethong.
At Alexandra, not far distant, a baby was born while the fires raged, and stretcher-bearers brought in the injured.

On Thursday the State Government voted £5000 for the relief of fire victims. The Governor (Lord Huntingfield) and the Lord Mayor (Cr. Coles) visited some of the stricken areas, and dipped into their pockets personally. Later, the City Council, too, voted £5000.

Friday, The 13th

Friday, the Thirteenth, justified its evil name.
A blistering northerly came early in the morning, presaging destruction, and forcing the mercury to a new record of 114 degrees.

Racing fires killed at least ten in those terrible 12 hours.
Four children were engulfed in the furnace at Colac. Panic drove them, uncontrollable, into the smoke-filled road when the fire raced down behind their home. They choked to death.

In other parts fires were joining to make fronts of scores of miles.
Kinglake was being menaced on two fronts, £60,000 worth of timber was going up in smoke in Ballarat district. Warburton was surrounded. Residents at Lorne, favoured resort, were being driven to the sea-front by a fire which destroyed at least 20 homes. Healesville, with flames visible from the town at one stage, was in a trough between two fires which burned four guest-houses, seven homes and left its surrounding beauty-spots wastes of bowed-over, blackened tree-fern fronds; with its famous Sanctuary, however, intact.

Most of Omeo was destroyed this black day: Noojee. while 200 residents crouched in the river, was being reduced to a waste of buckled iron and smoking timber; Erica was once again saved by a change of wind.

Beneath a pall of smoke, the Rubicon victims were buried at Alexandra.

Friday night and the early hours of Saturday saw the streets of beleagured towns strewn with exhausted fire-fighters. Their flails beside them, ready for the next call, they lay where exhaustion overtook them-on footpaths, beside lamp-posts, in gutters, in cars, under trucks.

Saturday’s dawn brought clear skies and lower temperatures in many parts, and from the burnt-out areas came a great rush of tragic reports. The death-roll rushed past the fifty mark with incredible speed.

Some had been trapped on roads, others at mills; some, after burying their treasures, had clung too long to the places they had made their homes for many years. Four men lost their lives because one went back for his dog.

By Sunday, when the first of the saving rain came, nearly another score of names had been added to the list.

Summer 2019: A year of anniversaries

This summer, not only do we mark 80 years since the Black Friday bushfire of January 13th, 1939 (2 million hectares burnt, 650 buildings destroyed, 71 lives lost), but also 50 years since the last bushfire to burn parts of Eltham and district on January 8th, 1969. And on 7 February it will be 10 years since we endured the hottest day ever and the disastrous Black Saturday fire (450,000 hectares burnt, in excess of 3,500 buildings including 2,029 homes destroyed, 173 lives lost). Stay safe and diligent everyone, let’s hope 2019 does not add to this trend.

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IN MEMORY OF ALL VICTIMS OF BUSH FIRES

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References

@warrandytehistoricalsociety

 

ThrowbackThursday: Official Opening, Eltham High School, October 13th,1928

Feature photo: Eltham High School, 1944 (donated by Gordon Tonkinson; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back 90 years to Saturday, October 13th, 1928. We have been invited to attend the official opening of the new higher elementary school building at Eltham along with about 1,000 parents and children.

The school was originally opened on January 26, 1926 with 60 pupils and Mr. John Stewart as headmaster. Classes were initially held in the State School building in Dalton Street and the public hall in Henry Street. Apart from guaranteeing sufficient pupils, the Education department also required the local residents provide an area of land of eight to ten acres and a cash guarantee of £1,200 though this was ultimately reduced to £600 given the land was purchased at £90 per acre. It has taken nearly three years of hard work by the community to achieve this aim but finally the big day has arrived, 12 months after tenders were first advertised, which cost £5,000.

The day is cast in glorious sunshine. With a pleasant breeze and a maximum of 58 (15° C), Eltham is looking its best. There is an air of gaiety and excitement about.

Unfortunately, those visitors who have arrived by train are somewhat unimpressed with the railway station surroundings. On the vacant allotment right alongside the station is an assortment of rusty kerosene tins-about 15 of them-and the fences adjoining are in a thoroughly disgraceful and disreputable state, and have been for some months. In addition, several of the trees at the approach to the railway have died for want of attention, and hoodlums-said to be of local extraction-have deliberately destroyed several of the barrels enclosing the trees. Not so long ago the nearby swings were also vandalised and what was left of them were removed by an indignant resident.

However, as we approach the school grounds, beautiful hedges of hawthorn in full bloom greet us before entering the gates. Just inside the grounds are row after row of quince trees, between the leaves on the branches the fruit beginning to show. No doubt a tasty treat will soon be provided for the boys and girls during breaks in the day.

Dotted about the school ground are small picnic parties enjoying life in the beautiful sunshine to the fullest extent. The sound of music supplied by a section of the Returned Soldiers’ Band from Anzac House.

In the marquee there are small tables dotted about with groups of people sitting around them. The tables are decorated with posies of early Victorian period made with forget-me-nots, daisies, picotees, heavenly blue, stock and wallflowers. The posies are the handiwork of Mrs. H. Rutter, wife of the president of the Eltham Shire, and the sweet-smelling blooms come from the beautiful garden at “Yarra Brae,” Eltham, the home of Cr. and Mrs. Rutter. They are greatly admired and sought after. As we cast our eyes further around the scene we see a group of children chatting with Mrs. Hooley (nee Miss Sweeney), a former teacher at the State School in Dalton Street.

In the lead up to today’s carnival, a number of people have been struck down with the flu, including various committee members; Mr. John Stewart, the headmaster, amongst them. Fortunately the good weather has invigorated him sufficiently well enough to join us but disappointingly, the Governor of Victoria, Lord Somers, who was intended to perform the opening ceremony has also been laid low and forbidden to leave Government House. In place of His Excellency, we learn that Sir William Irvine, Lieutenant-Governor and a fellow local Eltham resident has agreed to step in.

We also hear word that Cr. H. Rutter, president of the shire, was called away unexpectedly to England earlier in the week to fulfill an important business engagement in connection with the firm with which he is associated. The acting president, Cr. A. H. Price, will stand in to represent him.

An interesting little ceremony is now taking place near the flag pole. Mr. Stewart is announcing that Mrs. George Phillips, of Eltham, has presented an Australian flag to the school. The gift, remarks Mr. Stewart, is a most acceptable one, and it is a kindly and generous act. Mr Stewart requests Mrs. Phillips unfurl the flag and cheers arise from the onlookers as the new flag flutters bravely in the breeze at the top of the pole.

A sports carnival has also commenced for the boys and girls prior to the arrival of Sir William Irvine. It is scheduled to run throughout the afternoon, interspersed among other activities.

ELTHAM HIGHER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL which was officially opened on October 13, 1928. (1928 ‘ELTHAM HIGHER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL’, Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), 19 October, p. 2. (AFTERNOON.))

Punctual to time, Sir William Irvine arrives and is greeted with cheers as he, in company with Mr. J. Lemmon (Minister of Education), Mr. W. H. Everard, M.L.A., and Mr. C. Hansen (Director of Education) take up their positions at the entrance doors of the school whilst the band plays the National Anthem. Also present are Mr. H. G. Fryer (president of the Teachers Union), and Councillor A. H. Price (representing the Eltham Shire Council).

Upon completion of the National Anthem, Mr. Stewart apologises for the absence of Cr. Rutter but states it has afforded him the pleasure of welcoming Sir William Irvine, who had so kindly assented, at very short notice, to take the place of Lord Somers, and whose presence at the gathering had been looked forward to by residents of Eltham.  Mr. Stewart says he believes Sir William Irvine would ably fill the gap caused by the absence of Lord Somers, which is met with applause by those standing around us.

Mr. Lemmon, is next to speak and he too is received with cheers. He also thanks Sir William Irvine, who has come at such short notice to take the place of His Excellency, Lord Somers, and whose inability to attend is greatly regretted. He expresses hope on behalf of all of us in attendance that the illness of the Governor would be of short duration; to which several people call out “Hear, Hear!” Mr. Lemmon expresses his own pleasure to be present in order to take part in the opening celebrations connected with the Eltham Higher Elementary School. He is pleased to see that the representative for the district, Mr. W. H. Everard, is out and about again, which is also greeted by the crowd with a “Hear, hear!” He states that Mr. Everard has well and faithfully represented our electorate for the best part of a decade, and was a man who looked well after the interests of the people whom he represented. More applause follows. He continues to state Eltham is one of 48 similar schools scattered throughout the State in addition to 38 high schools. We are told that only 25 years ago pupils received no more than an elementary education at the hands of the State, whereas today students to the number of 13,000 are catered for in the higher elementary and high schools. The cost of education had increased during that period from £750,000 annually to £3,000,000. Mr Lemmon says that the amount might seem large, but in his opinion, it is money well spent.

Mr Lemmon then congratulates the school committee on the excellent work it has done, and he trusts that parents will also take an active interest in the school and those who attend, allowing the latter to remain in school after they have attained the age of wage-earners. He recalls he has often heard the glories of Eltham spoken of, and from what he has seen of the place today, the encomiums passed thereon are well justified and deserved. This is met with much applause.

Mr Lemmon continues with a reference to one of the greatest men who had ever given his services to the empire, the late Lord Haldane, who had said that the purpose of education was to develop an appreciation of culture for culture’s sake, and also to further the application of science to industry. He reminds us that Lord Haldane had further said that a democracy which failed to provide equality of educational opportunity, was not a real democracy at all.

Mr. Lemmon concludes his remarks saying it is the wish and desire of those entrusted with the education of our boys and girls in Victoria to carry out those fundamental principles which had been advocated by Lord Haldane, who had been one of the greatest educationalists the world had ever possessed.

Sir William Irvine now steps forward and addresses the gathering.

“Fellow citizens of Eltham,” he starts with. Even though he regrets very much the cause for him being among us this afternoon, he feels a distinct honour to be called upon to open one of the higher elementary schools in this State. He says he is an enthusiast in all matters pertaining to education, and in his opinion it did not matter if the cost of education was increasing, as he feels quite sure that the return would be well worth it.

“I believe that the seeds you sow in the minds of the young produces the most certain results.”

“Such schools present the young with opportunities of rising not merely to technical and industrial efficiency, so that they may make more money or higher wages. That is a useful object and may be the aim of the majority who enter this and other schools but there is something higher.”

The more chances given to the rising generation in the way of education, says Sir William, the better for all concerned. The community will undoubtedly benefit thereby in the long run. Let the children be well equipped for a calling in life, and it would be well for all concerned. The new school at Eltham opens the door to higher education, and it is a door open to rich and poor alike. No matter how much people might disagree so far as political issues are concerned, they could all agree on the point that young people should be given every available opportunity to rise to greater intellectual levels. He continues in saying there need be no cause for apprehension, even if the cost of education rose to an even greater extent-than the figures which have been quoted this afternoon. It was the aim of education to bring the minds of people into paths of thought leading to vistas of intellectual truth and beauty. Secondary education should be a means of drawing out the creative intellect of the youth of this fair country, in order that their efforts would lead towards the benefit of all, so that their minds might be uplifted above the sordid cares of ordinary life, and so that they might enjoy the priceless heritage of English history. By possessing courage, energy and determination there was no goal which might not be reached.

Sir William then declares, with great pleasure indeed, the Higher Elementary School at Eltham opened to resounding cheers.

Mr. Lemmon calls for three cheers for the new school, which are heartily given, mostly from the lusty throats of youthful Elthamites and boys and girls from adjacent towns.

Mr. Everard, M.L.A., expresses pleasure at being present at the afternoon’s function-the first official function he has been able to attend for 10 weeks. He desires to thank the good people of Eltham and throughout the other parts of the electorate of Evelyn for their kindly thoughts of him and the many inquiries made during his time of sickness and trouble. The kindly feelings and thoughtfulness of the people are greatly appreciated by him. He is also pleased to see present among others, Mr. Hansen, the Director of Education and Mrs. Hansen. He states it is necessary for men to have their wives with them “sometimes,” in order to look after them, which is met with laughter. Whilst regretting the unexpected and the regretted absence of Lord Somers, he says it is gratifying to have in our midst such a man as Sir William Irvine, who had responded to the call at short notice.

Someone in the crowd calls out for a singing of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow,” when reference is made to the Lieutenant-Governor, but the response is somewhat disappointing, the popular air being started in different keys in various parts of the crowd resulting in discord.

Mr. Everard then calls for a cheer for Sir William, which is heartily given. Mr. Everard raises another laugh by responding “Thanks, that’s all right. It was better than the song.”

At the conclusion of these proceedings the party undertakes a tour of inspection of the class-rooms, afternoon tea following in a marquee. Groups of four are allotted to each table, and home delicacies in the shape of scones, sandwiches and cakes are partaken of under the chairmanship of Mr. Stewart.

Mr. Hansen says he thought the time an opportune one on which occasion might be taken to return thanks to all those who had worked so hard in order to make the opening the success it undoubtedly is. The attendance of such a large crowd shows that the people are taking an interest in their new school. He says we have an ideal foundation for a complete plan of a new building, which he trusts would eventually develop into a high school. The school has a fine body of teachers capable of imparting the necessary instruction to the boys and girls who attend the school. Mr Hansen continues by saying when he first saw the site on which the school was to be erected, he expressed the opinion that it was one of the beauty spots of Eltham, and he was of the same opinion still.

Mr. Hansen explains that the school building, designed with a Moorish style architecture is the only one of its kind in the State. Eighty children are at present attending the school and it has accommodation for more than 100 pupils.

Mr Hansen also thanks the ladies of Eltham, particularly for the energetic and valuable part they had taken in connection with the school opening, and he moves accordingly.

Mr. Everard seconds the vote of thanks, which is carried with much acclamation.

Mr. Stewart makes a suitable response on behalf of the ladies, who had worked hard from the inception of the movement right up to today. He notes Mrs. Phillips and Mrs. Burgoyne were “the chief conspirators,” which is greeted with laughter. He adds that these ladies had been assisted very ably and capably by an efficient band of workers, who left no stone unturned in order to ensure today’s success.

Lady Irvine, wife of the Lieutenant-Governor, also presents two beautiful pictures for hanging on the walls of the Higher Elementary School, in connection with the opening proceedings. One represents a Dutch girl and the other is entitled “Mother and Child.” Lady Irvine takes a keen interest in matters connected with the school. The gift of the pictures is greatly appreciated by Mr. Stewart and all those interested in the progress of the scholastic establishment.

As a finale to the day’s celebrations an enjoyable dance is to be held in the public hall in Henry Street later in the evening. The entertainment has been organised by the united efforts of district social and sporting clubs working in co-operation with the school committee. Decorations in streamers representing school colors brighten the interior of the hall, and greenery has been artistically used to tone down the brighter colors. Smart and Aumont’s orchestra (violin, piano and mandolin) are to supply the music and Mr. J. Glen will officiate in his usual capable manner as M.C.. Supper will be provided later, and the entertainment will wind up at midnight. Should be lots of fun.

Are you going to join us there?

Main entrance, Eltham High School c.1960 (Photo donated by George W. Bell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

References:

Heritage Excursion: Killeavey Walk and Talk – Saturday 5th November

Saturday, 5th November, 2016 at 2.00pm

Jane Woollard’s book Laughing Waters Road Art Landscape and Memory in Eltham devotes several chapters to the property Killeavey situated on the Yarra River at the end of Reynolds Road, Eltham. Jane has written about the natural history and indigenous history of the area and stories of the family who lived at Killeavey for many years.

Killeavey was the home of Sir William Irvine, Victorian and Federal Parliamentarian and Supreme Court Judge. Later it was the home of his daughter Beatrice Morrison, a significant figure in the Eltham community. The original house was destroyed by fire and its replacement was demolished by Parks Victoria. Its sits high above the Yarra River and contains significant garden remnants. The surrounding bushland is valued for its significant plant communities.

Detail showing the Killeavey stretch of the Yarra River from ‘The Symbiogenesis Project: Laughing Waters 2011 by Aviva Reed and Paul Kalemba (Public Art Collection: Nillumbik Shire Council)

In September 2011 we visited Killeavey but without the benefit of the information more recently available from Jane’s research. We are fortunate that Jane will be joining us on this walk. There will be an extended stop at the house site for a discussion on the environment and history of the area. Inside the cover panels of Jane’s book is a reproduction of the complete artwork from ‘The Symbiogenesis Project: Laughing Waters 2011 by Aviva Reed and Paul Kalemba, as displayed in the Eltham Town Centre.

This walk will start at 2 pm on Saturday 5th November at the corner of Laughing Waters and Overbank Roads, Eltham (Melway ref 22 F 9). It will be a short walk of about 1.5 km along a bush track.

This free walk is open to the general public as well as Society members.

Dogs are not permitted on Society excursions.

Phone number of contact on the day is 0409 021 063

The Eltham Cemetery – ‘A Currawong Takes Flight’

Two long-term residents of the Nillumbik Shire met for the first time late in 2011, a meeting that later resulted in the commissioning and creation of a recently installed sculpture in the Eltham Cemetery.

Michael Wilson, a recognised goldsmith, jeweller and sculptor has created this sculpture for Harold Mitchell AC, a patron of the arts, founder of the Mitchell Foundation and a successful businessman, who has also contributed his skills to many major cultural organisations.

‘A Currawong Takes Flight’ - Sculpture by Michael Wilson
‘A Currawong Takes Flight’ – Corten steel and bronze sculpture by Michael Wilson, 2015, commissioned by Harold Mitchell AC for Eltham Cemetery

Unveiled on Wednesday 1 July 2015 it is the first of the Eltham Cemetery Trust’s Grand Estate Sculptures. Titled ‘A Currawong Takes Flight’ and constructed in Corten steel and bronze it recognises two of Eltham’s native species: the Red Box Eucalypt tree with its soft green scalloped shaped leaves and the Pied Currawong with its adept flight patterns and melodic chortle.

As the purchaser of one of the Grand Estate Plots in the Cemetery, Harold Mitchell AC intended to commission an artist to design and make a contemporary sculpture. He subsequently commissioned Michael Wilson to create a piece that would reflect the unique environment and artistic heritage of Eltham.

Plot No. 6 is located at the highest point of the fence-lined border between Montsalvat and the Cemetery. This is close to the last bronze sculpture by Matcham Skipper, titled ‘Young Man Awakening’, which was commissioned by the Eltham Cemetery Trust to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Cemetery, which was established in 1858. This sculpture is intended to express a sense of awakening to life as it depicts a rare and endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly as it lands on a youth’s hand.

The last bronze sculpture by Matcham Skipper, titled ‘Young Man Awakening’, which was commissioned by the Eltham Cemetery Trust to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Cemetery, which was established in 1858. This sculpture is intended to express a sense of awakening to life as it depicts a rare and endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly as it lands on a youth’s hand.
‘Young Man Awakening’ – Bronze sculpture by Matcham Skipper, 2008, commissioned by the Eltham Cemetery Trust to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Cemetery

As Matcham Skipper was a mentor and early supporter of Michael Wilson’s developing artistic talents the creative connection between these two installations is most appropriate. Michael considered the Mitchell commission was an opportunity to create a very special work to reflect the beauty of the Eltham environment and the local community.

The Eltham Cemetery is a peaceful natural environment set in natural bushland adjoining Montsalvat and is the tranquil resting place for members of many well-known local families. Pioneering families represented include Shillinglaw, Brinkkotter, Bird, Carrucan, Sweeney, Hunniford, Knapman, Falkiner and Wallis. More contemporary names include Knox, Ford and Fabbro. Sir William Irvine, a former Premier and Chief Justice of Victoria is also buried there.

Unveiled on Wednesday 1 July 2015 it is the first of the Eltham Cemetery Trust’s Grand Estate Sculptures. Titled ‘A Currawong Takes Flight’ and constructed in Corten steel and bronze it recognises two of Eltham’s native species: the Red Box Eucalypt tree with its soft green scalloped shaped leaves and the Pied Currawong with its adept flight patterns and melodic chortle.
Detail of ‘A Currawong Takes Flight’