Stuart Murray Canal during maintenance

No, settle down – not an old FLAME, although it did take our breath away when first seen!!

No. 4 flume, one of five that are in place between the Goulburn Weir and Murchison along the Stuart Murray Canal (SMC), has been exposed from its normal under-water location when the canal was drained to facilitate maintenance works by Goulburn Murray Water (GMW). A flume is similar to an aqua-duct or bridge over a drainage depression or creek as part of the canal, carrying water across that natural waterway.

Jarrod O’Brien, Project Office from GMW, supplied some historical detail. “The timber flume was constructed around 1890 and was operational for around 25 years. The existing pipe (subway) structure comprises of approximately 140m of 900mm diameter cast in situ reinforced concrete pipe, which was originally constructed in 1915. This section was built so as to facilitate the decommissioning of an existing timber flume, which until then had been used to carry flows in the canal over a sizeable natural drainage depression. To remedy erosion damage surrounding the downstream headwall, another 25m of 900mm diameter rubber ring jointed (RRJ), reinforced concrete pipe (RCP) was added in the mid 1980’s.

Over the last 35 years, the concrete in the subway has become increasingly degraded. Structural cracks have resulted in leaks, and the integrity of the concrete after a century of use has been questionable for some time. The replacement works currently underway today are being completed to address these issues.”

It may be a very long time before No. 4 flume is again exposed and so fully visible.

Murchison is the site of the first public funded irrigation system in Victoria and the original pump site is still in existence beside the Goulburn River. Further historical detail and photos of the flume in the SMC are a great addition to our irrigation story which is a significant part of Murchison’s varied history.


No. 4 flume

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With some of our hardworking volunteers taking time off during winter to travel and seek some warmer weather, our regular Saturday morning opening sessions at Murchison Heritage Centre will be in recess til the spring.

Although tourist numbers dwindle during the colder months, we welcome visitors by arrangement during this time – group bookings can be organised by ringing Janet on 5826 2363. We are looking forward to hosting several group visits during June and July as we are always keen to share our unique history. The feedback from visitors is always encouraging and they tell us they enjoy learning about Murchison’s surprising and varied history.

Some Historical Society members will still be working behind the scenes with the important tasks of cataloguing, filing family history records, updating displays and revising some publications. We will resume regular Saturday morning openings in the warmer weather with some fresh displays organised and plans for History Week in October, to share nearer the time. Keep up to date by checking this website from time to time or register a link and you will be informed when a new item is posted.

This early photo shows cattle arriving at the cattle yards opposite Gregory's Hotel. Those attending cattle sales were regular guests at the Hotel..jpgThis early photograph shows cattle arriving for the cattle sales opposite Gregory’s Hotel, originally Thorne’s Bridge Hotel.



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Celebrating Heritage Week in Murchison

Heritage Week was celebrated all across Australia in the third week of April.

It was a beautiful autumn afternoon on Saturday 23rd April when Murchison and District Historical Society marked the occasion with the installation of two new interpretive panels in the town.

At the Murchison Cemetery there was a need to renew an ageing information board telling the story of the historic Aboriginal graves of King Charles Tattambo, Queen Mary and Captain John, so significant that they are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

Mr Vincent Peters, King Charles Tattambo and Queen Mary’s great-great-great- grandson, addressed the gathering on behalf of the family thanking the Murchison Historical Society for the invitation to the special unveiling service of the Tattambo Family History and Memorial plaque. He also thanked the Murchison Action Group for the funding the cost of the Interpretive Panel and the people of Murchison for making the family feel so welcome. Vincent expressed that the renewal of the families’ association with the Murchison region in the last few years, since rediscovering the link to Tattambo and Mary, has been a real joy to many family members.

In response to a request to explain the background to Welcome to Country, Vincent said, “Today Australia has a uniqueness with peoples from all over World as its inhabitants. It is estimated that – before colonization – that its Indigenous Nations numbered around 260 with more than 200 languages in use. In this time your country’s borders would neighbour many other countries – so it was usual to speak several languages and have celebration ceremonies for visitors. For Australia’s first peoples the Welcome to Country was a common cultural practice across the continent. It was like a permission visa to enjoy the offerings of the land with the sanction, the hospitality and the cultural exchange of the people you were visiting. All of the Aboriginal Nations had a recognised similar practice.”

Following this tradition he presented a moving account of the Acknowledgement and Welcome to Country.

The panel was then officially unveiled by Vincent and Stan McMaster, President of the Cemetery Trust, witnessed by 5th, 6th and 7th generations of family descendants.  

Kay Ball, Vincent Peters and Stan McMaster at the unveiling of Interpretive Panel at the Cemetery

Kay Ball, Vincent Peters and Stan McMaster after panel unveiled

Following this ceremony, a second interpretive panel was unveiled in the Riverside Gardens which outlined the story behind the Bills Water Trough.

George Bills was a wealthy man who, in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, had a successful business with his brothers making wire bed frames. During his life he was well known for his generosity to those around him who were in need. His wife Annis predeceased George by several years and, as they had no children, when George died in 1927, his Will directed the bulk of his estate to the welfare of animals. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) still administers the Trust today. One of the initiatives of the Trust was to make water troughs for horses and cattle dogs as a memorial to Annis and George Bills. These troughs were distributed all over Australia and overseas, mostly during the 1930’s. With the rise in motor transport the need for water troughs for horses declined and the troughs fell into disuse, as did the trough in Murchison. It spent some time on a local farm and was then retrieved by the Historical Society in 1988 and placed in the gardens where it continually attracts interest from visitors to our town.

The funds for the manufacture and installation of the new information panel were provided by Murchison Action Group (MAG). Gloria Polkinghorne spoke on behalf of MAG and outlined the important role the Group performs on behalf of the residents of Murchison and District. She strongly encouraged people to join this worthwhile Committee.

Gloria, with Kay Ball, President of Murchison and District Historical Society, then unveiled the panel. Afternoon tea was later enjoyed at the Heritage Centre by members of the Cemetery Trust, Murchison Action Group, Historical Society and descendants of King Charles Tattambo and Queen Mary.

Kay Ball, Karen Winter - President MAG and Gloria Polkinghorne

Kay Ball, Karen Winter – President MAG and Gloria Polkinghorne at

Bills Trough Interpretive Panel.



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Wonderful Werribee

Our coach trip to Werribee Park on April 23rd was a great success. The weather was perfect and the Mansion and grounds were looking magnificent.


Werribee Park Mansion



Park Ranger talking to our group

We started our visit with a tour of the Mansion and an introductory talk by the Park Ranger. The Mansion certainly is very grand and the rooms are set up as they would have been used in the late 1800’s. Plenty of information is provided to give a good understanding of life in that era. In the laundry there is an excellent diorama with a laundry maid projected into the scene to give a “live” account of her week and the processes and methods used to cope with the laundering of all the household linen and clothing. It was very well done and full of intriguing facts about the labour intensive tasks involved. The former library now provides an attractive café area where we enjoyed our lunch. The grounds are delightful to stroll through and you can catch The Little Red Train if you don’t want to walk!


Former Library now Café

We also visited the adjacent Victoria State Rose Garden which is very beautiful. Commenced in 1976, the garden fell into a bad state by the mid 1980’s and was under threat of the bulldozer when a local petition against its demise was instrumental in the forming of a Supporters Group. Today the area is well cared for by 150 volunteers and boasts over 5,000 roses laid out in a formal pattern spanning out from a central rose covered pergola.

The history of the property is rich with achievement but also tragedy. Thomas and Andrew Chirnside came to Victoria from Scotland and established a vast pastoral empire. In 1845 during a trip back to Scotland Thomas fell in love with his cousin Mary. However, her parents did not approve the match and so he returned to Australia alone. When Andrew later planned to travel back to Scotland, Thomas asked him to convince Mary any way he could, to come to Australia. When Andrew returned in 1952 he did indeed bring Mary back with him, but as his wife. Thomas remained single the rest of his life.

Thomas and Andrew built an elaborate sixty room Italianate style residence (similar to the Noorilim Mansion at South Murchison) on the rich fertile land beside the Werribee River. Apparently they wanted Mary to live in an outstanding residence unrivalled in Victoria at that time and to showcase their successful lives. The finest materials were used and the house was completed in 1877. Mary and Andrew lived there with their 3 youngest children and thirty servants. Andrew resided nearby at Point Cook until his health was failing and he joined them at Werribee Park. Sadly, suffering illness and depression, Thomas took his own life in 1887.

When Andrew died 3 years later, his son George cared for Mary, the Mansion and the Werribee Park estate. Mary died in 1908 after a horrible accident when her hair caught fire from a bedside candle and she did not recover from her injuries. In 1922 George sold the property and moved his farming activities to Lilydale. This holding later became the suburb of Chirnside Park in recognition of the enterprising family and the many contributions to the surrounding community.

Werribee Park was purchased by the Catholic Church in 1923 and for 50 years was a training college.  During this time 2 large wings were added and today they comprise the Werribee Mansion Hotel.

Premier of Victoria, Rupert Hamer, was instrumental in buying the property in 1973 for the people of Victoria after a plea from local residents that the estate be preserved intact. Werribee Park is now managed by Parks Victoria and is a success as a destination for tourists and locals alike. It is very well maintained and as there is so much to see, easy to enjoy on multiple visits.

If you haven’t been to Werribee Park or it is a while since you did visit, make the effort to go there as it is sure please.


View of the garden


Pergola in the Rose Garden

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Historical Society Annual General Meeting

The well attended AGM for Murchison & District Historical Society was held on Tuesday 15th March. The Executive Committee elected for the coming year are: Kay Ball – President, Lyndon Gregory – Vice President/Treasurer, Margaret Lock – Secretary, Committee members – Janet Clarke, Gloria Polkinghorne, John Ball and Warwick Finlay.

The Society has had a busy year with a wide variety of activities and events, the highlight of our year being History Week when Avionics Engineer Warwick Holmes gave two presentations about the Rosetta Space Program and its connection with the Murchison Meteorite.

After the business meeting Brandon Menzies gave an impressive presentation about the developments at Noorilim Mansion soon to be open to the public. Brandon is the son of the owner Rod Menzies who purchased the property in 1999, and his role is to put in place the needed facilities to be able to offer a great experience to visitors.

The future looks very exciting for this historic and beautifully maintained property and of course the locals are delighted that they will be able to enjoy visits to Noorilim again soon. Arrangements are in the final stages that will mean the public can enjoy guided tours of both the house and extensive gardens or arrange a wedding or other function in a most delightful setting.

Noorilim, just a few kilometres south of Murchison dates from 1879 and was designed by Architect James Gall. It was built by the Winter family who had other substantial properties in the area and is classified by the National Trust. The house reflects the opulence of the time at which it was built and it is one of only a few substantial nineteenth century residences in rural Victoria and possibly the best maintained.

It was a most enjoyable meeting and of course concluded with a delicious supper provided by our faithful catering committee!

Photo 4.jpg                              Photo 2




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Primary School Children Visit Heritage Centre

Murchison Primary School students from grade 2 through to grade 6 have visited the Heritage Centre  recently as they are studying local history and linking that to history of Australia.

It was fantastic to see their enthusiasm and interest. They firstly listened to an overview of the history of the district and then enjoyed the displays in the Gallery area. They asked very relevant questions and took notes to use back in the class-room.

Murchison history is very varied and has many links to the wider history of our Nation,  from the Aboriginal Protectorate, the impact of the Land Settlement Acts of the 1860’s, beginning of irrigation for the State, Day’s Mill, Camp 13 to the Ossario and Murchison Meteorite. There is lots to interest the children and for them to see how our local events are part of the broader history of our country.

We look forward to hosting more school visits in the future.

Children listen to introductory talk and ask questions (2).JPG

Children listen attentively to talk by Kay Ball

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Visitors from Germany.


Ursula and Werner in front of Camp 13 display

We have recently had visitors from Germany at the Heritage Centre, keen to know about Prisoner of War Camp 13.

Werner and Ursula Alt travelled especially to Murchison to discover some detail about the Camp as Werner’s uncle Friedrich Alt and Ursula’s father Heinz Ims were held in Camp 13 during the Second World War. We were able to show them items and documents relating to the Camp, and they were very interested in the art work by Hans Walter von Gruenewaldt.

Warwick Finlay was able to show them where the Camp was located although a close look was not possible as the Camp site is on private land.

Australian War Memorial website and also National Archives website can provide documents and photographs of POW’s from Camp 13 and we were able to introduce this source of information to our visitors which they had not known about previously. Both papers and photos are available for Friedrich and Heinz via these websites.

Werner and Ursula were delighted to find out so much more than they had known before and will now be able to fill in some detail about their family history.

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