Filed away in the Heritage Centre are many documents, photographs and items of historical interest and one little treasure is the minute book of the Dhurringile Rural Training Farm Auxiliary Murchison.
Dhurringile Mansion, a substantial and imposing building of 68 rooms built in 1877 by the Winter family, is located half-way between Murchison and Tatura. The property is currently a low-security Prison but its earlier history was that of a Rural Training Farm. Young boys, mostly orphans, were brought from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland after the second world war under a scheme administered by the Presbyterian Church and accommodated in the mansion. The concept of the project was to train boys in agricultural skills on the land surrounding the mansion, and for them to eventually settle in the local farming district. Officially opened in 1951, approximately 100 boys participated in the scheme until it closed at the end of 1964 due to lack of interested candidates.
The ladies of the Murchison Presbyterian Church formed an Auxiliary to support the boys and over the years the Rural Training Farm operated, worked tirelessly fundraising to buy shoes and clothing, furnishings for their rooms, and to provide presents for the boy’s birthdays and at Christmas time. All this and entertainment in the form of concerts and parties was provided in the effort to make life in an institutional setting more homely.
Hand-written in neat script inside a simple school exercise book, the minutes of the meetings are recorded without any flourish or fanfare, and provide an insight into the loving care and concern they had for the young boys. The initiatives of these ladies were very generous and varied, and must have required much time and effort on top of helping to run family farms, businesses and raise their own families. Some of the projects undertaken required reasonably large sums of money, such as purchasing football boots and running shoes for all the boys. The final report written in the minute book conveys genuine attachment by the women to these boys and a real desire for them to do well and find a meaningful pathway in their life’s journey. Some of the ladies remained part of the group for all the 13 years it was functioning.
The picture painted by the words in this little book is truly heart-warming.
The efforts of these Murchison women were appreciated by many of the young boys and some kept in touch for years after they had moved on to employment situations, were married and raising their own family both locally and in Melbourne.
Kay Ball, President, Murchison & District Historical Society Inc.