Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The mystery of the Quietly Club

I had an email from the Dandenong & District Historical Society asking if I knew anything about the Quietly Club in Berwick. They had received an email on this subject from Maurice Mishkel from Canada, a collector of stamps and envelopes. Maurice had purchased this envelope, below, addressed to Horace Bennett.

I passed the query onto Judith Dwyer and Corrine Brewis of the Berwick Mechanics’ Institute (BMI). The BMI have scanned their Minute Books and Attendance Registers and Judith recognized the art work. The artist was John Warne, a Berwick painter and decorator, who with his brother Charles a plasterer, had started a business in Station Street (now Gloucestor Avenue) Berwick in the late 1880s. In 1901 John married Henrietta Searle, the daughter of Henry and Jane Searle. Henry had operated a blacksmiths on the corner of Wheelers Street and High Street (known as Searle’s Corner) in Berwick from around 1860. Sarah and John had four children - Joseph Thomas (known as Tom) b.1902, Marian Hilda (known as Hilda) b.1904, Jack b.1907 and Samuel Charles b.1910. Tom followed his father and also became a painter and signwriter.

John Warne's illustration from the Attendance Register of June 18, 1894.

From 1893, until she married, Henrietta was the Librarian at the BMI. From the attendance books we know that both Horace and John Warne were regular visitors to the BMI and that John frequently ‘annotated’ the attendance book (see above) Horace’s last visit to the BMI was November 3 1894, and he added Fare the Well after his signature.

Horace's last visit to the Berwick Mechanics' Institute, November 3, 1894.

So what was the Quietly Club? – we don’t know but can only surmise it was a bit of an in-joke with John and Horace and the other lads. Perhaps it was to do with Libraries encouraging silence or the Library may have been quiet after Horace left.

Tarcoola Station is near Pooncarie on the Darling River and was firstly occupied by William Campbell. It was taken over by Charles Nicholson in 1851 and at the time consisted of around 30,000 acres. A series of amalgamations with other properties saw Tarcoola having over one million acres in the 1880s, with 21 workmen employed as well as Managers, cooks, maids, grooms, stable hands, a black smith and Chinese gardeners. Tarcoola was broken up in 1918 into ten leases. We don't know what Horace's role was at Tarcoola. An entry in the Attendance Registers lists Horace as a butcher, so may be that was what he also did at Tarcoola, nor do we know when he arrived at Tarcoola. The only other thing we know about Horace was that he was T.H Bennett, and that it is likely his father was also called Horace.

Horace is listed as a butcher, above, on January 10, 1894 and in the entry, below, of July 18, 1894 there is a reference to Good old Bennett, what price fish, so perhaps he also sold fish?

However as you can see, below,Horace also signed in as H.R.H The Duke of York October 8, 1894 and on November 1 of the same year he was The Humble Horace Bennett - so it does appear he was a bit of a joker.

The entry from March 6, 1894 - there's John Warne's signature and we think Horace Bennett is the father of Horace of Tarcoola. What does B.C.B stand for?

The whole Horace Bennett Quietly Club mystery brings up a few issues – first the importance of networks. There are hundreds of Local History and Heritage Societies in Victoria, many of whom keep in touch through regional networks such as the South Eastern Historical Association. We have our own network here in the Casey Cardinia Region, the Local History Reference Group, who meet quarterly. It’s good to know that if you can’t answer a query, then you can pass it onto someone who may be able to help. Secondly, it brings up the issue that the role technology now plays in Local History – without email we could never have passed around this query so quickly and if the BMI had not decided to scan all their records would Judith and Corrine have had easy access to the original registers and recognized the art work? Scanning has made all these old Registers immediately available at the click of a mouse button and another click can have these images whizzing around the world.

Thanks to Maurice for sharing his envelope and giving Horace Bennett and the Quietly Club a place in our history. I would love to hear from you if you know anything about Horace. The information on Tarcoola Station came from The history of Pooncarie and District by Rob Lans, Thelma Smith and Bill Smith. It was published by the Pooncarie School Centenary & Historical Committee c. 1988.

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