Local Support Assisting Refurbishment of Heritage Centre

The extension and improvements to the Heritage Centre in Murchison are now complete and we have officially passed our building inspection. There is some outside asphalting to be attended then the major works will be finished.

Members are now working on creating new displays, re-arranging the layout in the Gallery and generally setting up everything to be ready to function once again as a Resource Centre. The new facilities will mean we will be better able to cater for our visitors.

Furnishing our new meeting room is underway and the Lions Club of Murchison & District have generously supported us by a gift of funds that will cover the purchase of four new tables. The Lion’s Club work consistently fundraising for lots of projects both locally and further afield so it is heart-warming to have this sponsorship when there are other demands on their hard earned income. Lion’s Club President, Peter Elford presented the cheque to Historical Society members, President Kay Ball and Treasurer Lyndon Gregory at a recent meeting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Historical Society have obtained some excellent secondhand glass cabinets to assist in displaying artefacts more attractively and again we received great support locally from the Supa Valu store owners, Derek and Glenys Pearson who allowed us the use of their transporter to deliver the cabinets to the Heritage Centre. It was all hands on deck and took almost all day to achieve as the units are quite big, heavy and made of glass so needed some experienced and careful handling. We now look forward to setting them up to show off our historical items!


Hard to say when we will be open to the public again as there is much to do, but we are working towards late January or early February next year. We will advertise when the Grand Opening will be!

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Remembrance Sunday at the Ossario


Every year on Remembrance Sunday in November, hundreds of relatives and friends gather in Murchison for a special ceremony to remember the 130 Italian Internees and Prisoners of War who died on Australian soil during the Second World War. Their remains are housed in the attractive Mediterranean style stone building known as the Ossario within the Murchison Cemetery.

This photo was taken on the 9th November in 2014 at the picnic gathering after the Commemoration of the Italian War Dead at the Murchison Ossario. These families are all internee descendants and friends who have been telling their stories to Mia Spizzica who is conducting her PhD studies on the Internees. Mia is interested in finding out more about the Internees and also the Ossario.

If you have a story about the Ossario or know of families who helped to build it please contact Kay Ball email: balljk4@bigpond.com at the Murchison Historical Society or Mia Spizzica via mobile: 0400 200 235 or mia.spizzica@monash.edu.



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Number One Channel Now Pipeline

Work on Channel No. 1 Murchison between the supply channel and Chinaman’s Hill Road is now complete with water delivered by pipe instead of open channel. It is great to have clean clear water available and to say goodbye to channel  leaks. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Working on the pipeline. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA No more open channel.

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Some Special Visitors to the Ossario


View of  the Ossario and Bell Tower from the Western side

The Ossario, nestling quietly in the corner of the Murchison Cemetery is the resting place of 130 Italian POW’s and internees who died on Australian soil during the second World War. It is a unique place and so it is always exciting to learn more about its history.

Recently I had the privilege of meeting two interesting people there who each have a special connection with the Ossario. Mia Spizzica is conducting studies for her PhD on the Italian civilian internees of World War 2. Mia had arranged to meet an Italian gentleman at the Ossario by the name of Mr. Avelino Crespan who was the builder of the extension to the rear of the Ossario and I was able to join them.

It was a great pleasure to walk around the Ossario with Mia interviewing Avelino and to find out about the work he did there.

The original chapel area and bell tower of the Ossario was opened in 1961 and the remains of the Italians were interred in a crypt below. In the early 1970’s due to damage by flooding, it became necessary to build an area to the rear at ground level and for the caskets to be housed there safe from flood waters.

The stone for the extension was acquired from the same quarry as the original building and the roman roof tiles were also a perfect match.

The small lead lined caskets were reclaimed from the crypt and stored in the chapel area while the work was in progress. The steel framework that supported the compartments was retrieved and then the crypt was filled with sand. Once the extension was complete, the steel framework was placed in the new area and again available to house the small coffins. Also, the attractive polished Blackwood plaques were replaced which bear the names of the Italians who are resting there.

The new area for the caskets was completed in 1974. It blends perfectly with the original chapel and bell tower at the front.

Most people would be familiar with the front of the Ossario but not so familiar with the rear of the building which is also very appealing. It is an example of skilled craftsmen who made sure the stonework was of a high standard and that the addition complimented the original section.

We look forward to Mia completing her studies as after that she is hopeful to produce a book from the research she is undertaking. It was a great pleasure to meet Avelino and hear his story.

Kay Ball,  President, Murchison & District Historical Society Inc.


Mia Spizzica and Avelino Crespan

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Local Connections to Cowra

During World War 2, Cowra in NSW, was the site of a Camp for Japanese, Korean, Formosan and Italian Prisoners of War.


The 5th of August this year was the 70th anniversary of the Cowra Breakout when over 1100 Japanese soldiers stormed the perimeter fence in a mass attempt to escape. As a result of this event and during the subsequent round-up of POWs, 4 Australian soldiers and 231 Japanese soldiers died and 108 prisoners were wounded. Historically the episode is recorded as the only land engagement on the Australian mainland during WW2.

Improvements at the site of the Cowra Camp completed for this Anniversary, now tell the story clearly and are very well presented.

A shelter, set on the rise giving a sweeping view over the Camp site, houses several information boards telling many aspects of camp life and the people held there.

Other signage is to be found at significant sites by following designated paths throughout the compound.

What is intriguing to note on one of the first interpretive signs, is the layout of the camp; four separate compounds housing prisoners of different nationalities with a wide corridor down the centre called the Broadway. This was also the configuration of the POW Camp at Murchison.


Also of note was that the Cowra Camp was Prisoner of War Camp No. 12. As mostly referred to as Cowra Camp rather than as Camp 12, this was a surprise and of interest as Murchison POW Camp was Camp 13 and both were constructed mid 1941.


Another feature at the Cowra site is a replica of the guard tower. Standing at the base of the tower visitors can hear an audio presentation all about the Camp.


Also in Cowra is the Japanese War Grave Cemetery.

Even if you have visited Cowra before, it is well worth a return visit to see the improvements at the Cowra POW Camp No. 12 site.


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Success in Obtaining Grant Announced

When information about the availability of a grant for security measures was forwarded to the Murchison & District Historical Society from Member for Benalla Dr. Bill Sykes’ office, the timing was most appropriate as we were about to start our extension project at the Heritage Centre.
The Society has been successful in obtaining a grant of $1,367 though the Coalition Government’s Community Safety Fund towards a security alarm system in the Heritage Centre. Bill Sykes and Steph Ryan, Nationals candidate for Euroa visited the nearly completed Heritage Centre on Friday the 29th August to see the improvements and to make the announcement of our success in obtaining the grant.
Steph Ryan said, “Effective crime prevention requires residents, communities, businesses and all levels of government to work together to improve safety. Everyone needs to play their part, and we can all take some simple steps to secure our own property and get involved in local community action to help drive down crime.”
The redevelopment project is nearing completion with the major building works complete and only minor finishing to be attended inside the building. External landscaping and paving will soon be undertaken.
Members will be busy in setting up our displays again, furnishing the new function room and organizing the Heritage Centre so it will operate more effectively and give visitors a better experience.
We are delighted with the improvements and look forward to be open again so we can share the improved Centre with the Community.

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   John Ball, Steph Ryan, Bill Sykes, Lyndon Gregory and Kay Ball outside Heritage Centre

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                         Nearly completed extended and redeveloped Heritage Centre

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Family History Always Popular

Murchison Historical Society receives many enquiries from people researching their family history and a recent enquiry was in connection to the Roberts family, a very notable family in both Rushworth and Murchison. In particular, a handsome memorial stands in the Murchison Riverbank gardens as well as two memorial plaques in Christ Church Anglican Church in Murchison honouring the death of Lt. James Charles Roberts who was killed at the Boer War.

Memorial to Lt. James Charles Roberts Riverbank Gardens Murchison

Memorial to Lt. James Charles Roberts Riverbank Gardens Murchison

James was born in 1872 and Baptised in St. Pauls Anglican Church Rushworth as his family were storekeepers in the town. He attended the Primary School in Rushworth and his secondary Education was undertaken in Melbourne where he gained his Matriculation Certificate from Carlton College.
In later years his family lived in Murchison and ran the Coffee Palace that was situated opposite the present day swimming pool and he attended Christ Church Murchison regularly.
After graduating from Melbourne University as a Civil Engineer, James spent some time working on the family farm at Moora then returned to University to study medicine.
He was a member of the Murchison detachment of the Victorian Mounted Rifles and went to South Africa to serve in the Boer War. Sadly, James met his death in February 1900 during a fierce battle at Rensburg South Africa, when greatly outnumbered by the enemy.
His parents were John Henderson Roberts and Ellen Sayers (Roberts) and they had 10 children.
Jennifer Vallely who is enquiring about the Roberts family, is keen to know if there are any Roberts family in the area. Her father’s name was Colin Henderson Roberts and his father’s name was Albert Victor Roberts who married Anna Maude Draper (Roberts). Albert was James Charles brother born 1874.
Jennifer can be contacted by email: jenv55@bigpond.com Please get in touch with Jennifer if you are related to this family.

Lt. James Charles Roberts killed at the Boer War (Image courtesy Australian War Memorial)

Lt. James Charles Roberts killed at the Boer War (Image courtesy Australian War Memorial)



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