ITALIAN OSSARIO HERITAGE LISTED

OSSARIO BELL TOWER

As a commemoration of 75 years since the end of World War 2, Heritage Victoria engaged Heritage Advisor David Helms to research and compile an assessment on the cultural heritage significance of the Italian Ossario. This resulted in the Ossario being listed on the Victorian Heritage Register on the 1st of October 2020 as a Registered Place (VHR Number H2405). The official statement reads: “the Italian Ossario is of cultural heritage significance to the State of Victoria”.

The Italian Ossario is a sacred place and is located in a peaceful setting in the south east corner of the Murchison Cemetery. The Italian word ‘ossario’ translated as ‘old bones’ is a place of final rest for human remains that have initially been buried elsewhere. The Ossario shelters Italian military Prisoners of War (POW’s) brought to our shores and Italian civilians, thought to be a security risk, who were both resident in Australia and allied territories overseas, and passed away during their imprisonment in Australia.

Entry to the Ossario is through wrought iron gates with sculptured relief on pillars either side. The structure of the building is distinctly Mediterranean. It is quite unique as it was built and is maintained by the Italian Community, not the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as other foreign War Grave Cemeteries are in Australia, such as the German War Cemetery at near-by Tatura and the Japanese War Cemetery in New South Wales.

ENTRANCE TO THE OSSARIO

Prior to its construction, the graves of Italian POW’s from Camp 13 Murchison, were located in the Murchison Cemetery. Each year, beginning in the 1950’s, a Mass of Remembrance was celebrated in the open air at a temporary altar draped with flags, until the Commonwealth Government authorized the building of one Memorial on Australian soil.

The Murchison Cemetery Trust handed over a piece of land, fundraising began and Mr. Luigi Gigliotti, a notable community worker in Kyabram collected 25,000 pounds ($50,000) from the Goulburn Valley Italian Community. Negotiations occurred with the Italian Government, Consuls, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and families of the deceased. This resulted in the remains of Italian POW’s and civilian Internees, previously buried in local cemeteries close to the detention camps in all states of Australia, being interred in one place, at Murchison.

The Ossario was built of Castlemaine stone with Roman tile roof and bell tower, open sanctuary and included an altar of Italian white marble. The crypt below ground level held caskets containing the remains of 129 men and one woman.  Their names are cast in bronze on the wall of the sanctuary and decorative bronze gates completed the building.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is vestibule-of-ossario.jpg
OPEN SANCTUARY

The Ossario was officially dedicated on the 10th September 1961. A memorial to their fallen comrades built by Italian POW’s at Camp 13 Murchison was relocated and placed to the left of the building in 1968.

Following the disastrous Goulburn River floods in the early 1970’s that inundated the crypt, the Victorian Health Commission ordered the caskets to be relocated above ground level. This required extensive alteration to the Ossario in 1974, with the addition of an area behind the sanctuary where the remains now rest. The crypt was then filled in with sand. A memorial on the right side of the forecourt created by Attilo Greco was installed in 1975, dedicated to the armed forces of Italy and funded by the Italian Government. The Ossario is approached by an avenue of Mediterranean Cypresses planted in 1989 each bearing the name of Italian Military Service Organizations.

It is a European oasis in the Australian bush-land, a little piece of Italy.

Consul General of Italy leads the official Procession 2015

A remembrance service with speeches, Catholic Mass and choral singing is held annually on the nearest Sunday to Armistice Day in November. Hundreds of Italian relatives, descendants and friends attend each year, coming from overseas and from all around Australia. Italian and Australian dignitaries attend the Service beginning with a procession and the laying of wreaths on the memorials in the forecourt area and then the singing of both the Australian and Italian National anthems. It is a moving and colourful ceremony, with flags flying, music, and Italians from all the Services wearing their striking uniforms.

Eye-catching Uniforms

This year Covid-19 restrictions caused the annual service to be cancelled. Although unable to attend the memorial service and remember those that rest in the Ossario, we can at least applaud and celebrate the listing of this unique place on the Victorian Heritage Register, a fitting acknowledgment of its value to the cultural heritage of our State and of its importance to the Italian community. It also acknowledges the significant history associated with POW Camp 13 Murchison.

Kay Ball, President, Murchison & District Historical Society

CEREMONY AT THE OSSARIO 2015

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

LATEST NEWS

We are delighted to learn that ROCK ON MURCHISON, our 50th Anniversary celebration of the Fall of the Murchison meteorite in September last year is on the short list for the Victorian Premier’s History Award and Victorian Community History Awards. Winners will be announced during History Month in October.

There have been 176 entries across the nine categories which is the second largest number of entries to the Victorian Community History Awards in 22 years. Our project has been submitted in the Collaborative Community History category and is one of 16 projects on the short list.

We are looking forward with excitement to the naming of the winners! Below is the link to the short list announcement by Royal Historical Society Victoria:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MYSTERY PHOTOGRAPH

DO YOU RECOGNIZE WHERE THIS PHOTO IS TAKEN?

Murchison & District Historical Society have had an enquiry asking if we could help identify this hotel. The photograph is a family gathering of the Tilson, Blann, Dwyer and Morsesse families.

David Tilson was living in Murchison at the time this photo was taken, but it is not a Murchison hotel. One family member thought it was taken at Rushworth but that has not been confirmed.

Some of the family died in Murchison and are buried in Tatura, and Charles Blann was killed in a mining accident and was buried at Whroo in 1870.

Under the BAR sign is the name ‘Charles’ which is probably the first name of the Licensee.

If you can throw any light at all on this mystery, Linda Dunell would be delighted to hear from you – her mobile number is: 0437 586 321.

Kay Ball, Murchison & District Historical Society

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

More About Murchison Meteorite

We can always learn more about Murchison meteorite (Mm), and the many studies completed on Mm over the last 50 years provide the ground work for further research.

In April last year, a Carbonaceous Chondrite meteor, the same rare type as Mm showered down on a little village in Costa Rica (which is south of Mexico and north of Panama and South America). A short film about the incident released recently, connects this event to our Murchison meteorite and gives even more insight to Mm. You will also see a shot of our main street, anniversary stamp, Philipp Heck our guest speaker when we celebrated the 50th anniversary last year and a familiar photo of the Gillick family collection of Mm.

Mrs. Emily Gillick with son Kim looking at Murchison meteorite fragments on the floor of the Murchison Post Office after collecting them in 1969

The following link will show you the film clip.

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/08/watch-space-rocks-impacted-costa-rican-village-more-ways-one

The material from this fresh meteorite that showered over the village of Aguas Zarcas will provide more samples of carbonaceous chondrite for the scientists to study and build on the volumes of knowledge gained from our own world-famous Murchison meteorite.

Kay Ball, President, Murchison & District Historical Society

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

WALK OR RIDE THE HISTORY TRAIL

We have a Rail Trail in Murchison, constructed along the disused railway reserve and opened in 2015. It is worth venturing along the track as it is virtually a history trail.

You can begin either in the town of Murchison at the Impey Street starting point, or at Old Whroo Road on the west end of Murchison, or begin at the Channel Inlet Road end closer to Rushworth. There is adequate car parking available at these locations. The track is suitable for walking, riding bicycles or horses but not designed for motorised vehicles, in fact these are not permitted. The Trail goes for nearly 7kms but you can join or leave at any point.

Dotted along the Rail Trail are six excellent information panels relating facts about particular spots on the track. All tell a different story, often little-known facts about activities surrounding the railway line where the Rail Trail is now situated.

Interpretive sign about the railway

The Murchison Rail Trail is great for an exercise and fresh air experience, all the while improving your knowledge of local history and events in the area over the years!

Sign explaining Doctors Swamp

Plans are afoot to extend the Rail Trail to continue across the Campaspe Shire connecting from Channel Inlet Road at the boundary of City of Greater Shepparton and continuing west towards Rushworth. It will then be possible to safely ride or walk between Rushworth and Murchison without encountering cars or trucks, surrounded by natural bush and views over the Waranga Basin in the future will be a bonus.

So, if you haven’t discovered the Rail Trail yet, venture out and discover the pleasure of a beneficial outdoor activity while learning about some local history. It is not a busy location and easy to practice social distancing.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

WORKING BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

Murchison & District Historical Society is still active behind the scenes during ‘lockdown’ and closure of the Heritage Centre, with various projects continuing by members working from home. We have had contacts from people who have now found the time to follow up on family history, others wanting details of local properties and others reviving memories of time spent in Murchison some years ago.

One such person is John Taylor, a trainee Surveyor employed by the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission in 1953 involved with the building of the Cattanach Canal and was billeted in the abandoned POW Camp 13 Murchison. John has sent some great photographs to the Society of the Bucyrus-Erie walking dragline (commonly referred to as “Monaghan”). This enormous machine replaced the heavy work previously performed by horses dragging a single bucket and human labour at the time of the construction of the Stuart Murray Canal in the 1890’s. Monaghan, which was fitted with a 30m boom, a 5.7m³ bucket, and a 385 HP diesel motor, was able to move a massive 7,186m³ of soil per hour. Monaghan was imported entirely from USA, and was assembled on-site in Murchison. A total of 4,500,000m³ of soil was removed during its 2 years on the Canal.

The huge Bucyrus-Erie walking dragline

The bucket was massive.

John Taylor standing inside the bucket

This mechanisation meant a more direct course to the Waranga Basin was possible compared to the early days when building the Stuart Murray Canal. Then, any elevated terrain was avoided that would entail massive excavation, resulting in a circuitous, meandering and much longer route whereas the walking dragline with its huge bucket, ploughed straight through hills in its path thus creating the shorter, straighter Cattanach Canal.

The ‘Big Cut’ is a rarely-seen section of the Cattanach Canal where the channel cut through a rise just before the Canal enters the Waranga Basin. Here the depth of cut is the greatest on the Canal, up to 19m, resulting in impressive steep cliff-like walls.

The ‘Big Cut’

Kay Ball, President, Murchison & District Historical Society

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MURCHISON METEORITE – back in the news again!

Given that the Murchison meteorite is the most studied of all meteorites on the planet, it is not surprising that it is, once again, in the news!

Image of Meteorite shower

During the 50th anniversary celebrations of the fall of this world-famous and ancient meteorite, Rock on Murchison last September, Professor Tamara Davis, an Astrophysicist, came to Murchison and interviewed locals and visiting Scientists. On Tuesday 5th May the ABC science programme Catalyst went to air entitled Asteroid Hunters, and Tamara includes these interviews that form part of a fascinating show. If you missed seeing the show on television, you can watch it on ABC iview, https://iview.abc.net.au  Catalyst, Episode 21.

Scientists consider that the Murchison meteorite originated from the Asteroid Belt between Jupiter and Mars. When asteroids enter the Earth’s atmosphere they burn up, creating a bright streak of light that we call a meteor and when they land, they are referred to as meteorites. Tamara explores the significance of asteroids in this programme and leads her to discover that they may supply the answer to the question – how did life begin on earth?

After travelling around Australia uncovering lot of facts about asteroids and meteorites, Tamara visited New Zealand to meet Dr Anna Wang and Luke Steller, PhD student, both from University of New South Wales. Murchison meteorite contains organic matter and many amino acids, the building blocks of life, and these two scientists demonstrated that mixing chemicals found in the Murchison meteorite with the very primitive material contained in Thermal Springs at Rotorua, lipid bubbles formed around molecules. These could possibly have been how protocells, early versions of modern living cells, were formed.  This suggests that meteorites, such as the 4.6 billion-year-old Murchison meteorite, could have delivered the building blocks of life to Earth from outer space and mixing with the early volatile surface of our planet, became a chemical blueprint for life forms.

Anna Wang and Luke Steller in Rotorua NZ – image from ABC Catalyst

Rock on Murchison provided Tamara with the perfect opportunity to speak with leading Scientists who are involved in work related to meteorites and asteroids, including world authority on the Murchison meteorite, Dr Philipp Heck from Chicago Field Museum who has studied this meteorite for more than 30 years and was the key note speaker for the talks held over the 50th anniversary weekend. Other Scientists involved in the celebration that were interviewed and included in the Catalyst episode are Craig O’Neill, Ellie Sansom and Gretchen Benedix. Over the two days we were privileged to hear talks by these Scientists, who were four of the eleven who came to Murchison and these talks are now available on-line.

Philipp Heck presentation September 2019 – image K.Ball

To access just enter: Murchison Meteorite 50th Anniversary – Youtube. They are numbered 1 – 11 and are best watched in sequence.  

If you would like your own copy of these excellent talks on USB, they are available for purchase, and so can be viewed without the need for an internet connection. Order via email: murchison-historical-society@hotmail.com or telephone 0475 018 743 (postage is free). The presentations average 20 -25 minutes in length, total viewing time 5 hours. Each talk can be viewed individually and are numbered in order from 1 – 11.  Also available and can be delivered by mail, are the books Space Gem – mysteries of the Murchison Meteorite and the children’s book Sam’s Meteorite.

Space Gem is also available from Collins Booksellers in Shepparton, Melbourne Museum Gift Shop and Royal Historical Society Book Shop in Melbourne.

Kay Ball, President, Murchison & District Historical Society.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ANZAC DAY 2020 – Lest We Forget

John Thomas Lyons of South Murchison, was among the first Australian casualties at Gallipoli.

At just over the age of 16 and travelling with a friend, he rode his bicycle 700 kms to Sydney, where he enlisted in September of 1914.

John landed at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915, and managed to survive the fighting until 19th May when he lost his life during a fierce attack on the Turkish army. He was then 17 years old.

An excellent book by Paul Byrnes, The Lost Boys, relates many stories of underage Australians who died in the First World War. The story of John Thomas Lyons from Murchison, along with an image of a memorial certificate, is included in this extensively researched account of these young boys.

A nephew of John Lyons, Kevin Murphy, after discovering this book, contacted our Society and sent us a wonderful photograph of the Lyons family. This is the only known photograph of John. He is the tall boy standing in the back row, the eldest child of the family.

This was where the image came from, that was placed on the special certificate in recognition of his sacrifice, presented to the family by the residents of Murchison. This memorial certificate proudly forms part of the permanent World War 1 display in the Murchison Heritage Centre.

Although the usual ANZAC Day service held at dawn each year in Murchison was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions, RSL members were still able to place flowers at the memorials in the Riverbank Gardens. 42 crosses and decorative candles were placed in a cross formation representing the servicemen and women from Murchison.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

HISTORY MEANDER

During this time of restrictions, it is still possible to experience the wonderfully diverse local history with a meander around Murchison. Social distancing easy to observe in this peaceful location.

Although our Heritage Centre is closed, you can still learn about our early history by taking some exercise and enjoying the open air in our lovely Riverbank Gardens that are not crowded.

You can walk through the gardens to see the fabulous meteorite murals on the Heritage Centre eastern wall and read the information about the very loud noise it made on arrival.

Murals by artist Jane Spencer

Discover the story of our town by viewing several information boards along the paths and on the river bank viewing platforms.

One of the information boards along the river bank viewing platforms

Across the road in Meteorite Park you can read different stories and amazing facts about the Murchison meteorite, or take a calming wander on the Labyrinth also in Meteorite Park.

Murchison meteorite information panels in Meteorite Park
Enjoy a calming walk around the meteor labyrinth

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2020 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

Annual General Meetings can be dull affairs and poorly attended as some people think they might get roped into a job! But a good roll up, reports that reflected our year’s positive achievements, seeing some wonderful archival photos not seen before of the Goulburn Weir under construction, meant the meeting was not dull.    

Guest Speaker was Paul Borbely, Goulburn Weir Storage Manager who told us the facts and figures about this impressive structure that is over 100 years old; an engineering masterpiece that has International Heritage status. It was great to see the images from the 1890’s when it was being built.

Our past year was dominated by the planning and then the actual delivery of the 50th Anniversary Murchison Meteorite celebrations in September – Rock on Murchison. It was a mammoth effort and our Australia Day Community Event of the Year Award for Murchison and also for the whole of Greater Shepparton acknowledged its success. The town has benefitted from the Event not only with wonderful memories, but with some tangible assets. We have the outstanding murals on the eastern wall of the Heritage Centre building, a labyrinth and new information panels in Meteorite Park, a comprehensive account in the new book Space Gem, and Meteorite Cow was returned to River Bank Gardens in time for the celebration, sporting a newly painted day time scene in keeping with the correct time of day when the Meteorite fell. The $1 Murchison meteorite postage stamp is now part of the Australia Post collection and in the albums of many serious stamp collectors. We have a record of the Scientists talks on film and an amazing recording of the school children’s composition of space music.    

We participated in Greater Shepparton Heritage Open Days in March with our Heritage Centre open over the two days and also guided an Irrigation History Bus Tour. The promotion of the book Lost Boys by Paul Byrnes took place in November. Opportunities to promote our Society were at Day’s Mill Open Day in May, the Anglican Car Boot Sale in October, and street stalls prior to Christmas and on the Australia Day weekend. Website visitors since set up in 2011 total 39,700 and the website promoting Rock on Murchison together with social media received thousands of contacts.

Visitors to the Heritage Centre were up as were the number of groups visiting, plus we estimated 1600 contacts during Rock on Murchison.

Answering requests for family history and other information and regular Saturday morning openings continued as well as the faithful team cataloguing our photographs, document and artefacts throughout the year. Grateful thanks are due to the many thousands of hours given to the work of the Society by our Volunteers.

Nine new members were welcomed this year and three members have moved away from our area so our membership stands at 36.

We increased our range of books for sale with the reproduction of In Search of our Days and From Protectorate to Smaller Premier Town, and publishing Space Gem – mysteries of the Murchison Meteorite of course and 175 Years of Agriculture at Murchison plus the three large display panels complimenting the agriculture story. 

Executive Committee members for the coming year are: President – Kay Ball, Vice President – Warwick Gregory, Secretary – Marg Lock, Treasurer – Bec Hutchinson-White, Committee – Janet Clarke, John Ball and Rob Cornelious. Retiring from the executive team after many faithful years of contribution are Gloria Polkinghorne, Warwick Finlay and Jeff Huddle. We will still be able to call on them for assistance especially when visitors ask those questions that only long-term residents of Murchison can answer!

We look forward to the coming year with more projects planned.

Kay Ball, President, Murchison & District Historical Society

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment