Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Berwick Quarry and the Wilson family

The Back-to Berwick Quarry Re-union was held on Sunday, March 29th 2009 at Wilson Botanic Park in Berwick. Past quarry workers met to reminisce and there were guided tours of the Wilson Botanic Park. A plaque, commemorating 150 years since quarrying commenced on the site, was unveiled by Les McDonald and Margaret Rossell. Les worked at the Quarry from 1947 to 1967 and Margaret is the President of the Friends of Wilson Botanic Park. Well known Shire of Berwick/City of Casey identity, Neil Lucas, was the M.C. on the day.

View of the Back-to Berwick Quarry from the top of the Amphitheatre.

The quarry was on land owned by the Wilson Brothers, William (1830-1907) and James (1833-1910), who purchased around 630 acres from the Crown in 1854. This land was bounded by the Princes Highway, Lyall Road, Hessel Road in the west to Harkaway in the North. Their sister, Anne (1827-1909) house kept for them. Initially they lived in tents until they built a small one room house, which was later extended and became Quarry Hills. The brothers grew wheat, potatoes and later went into dairying. When William married Euphemia Brisbane in 1859 the land was split diagonally with William’s land fronting the Princes Highway and James’s land facing Harkaway Road. James married Anne Lindsay in 1858 and Anne Wilson married James Buchanan, M.L.C., in 1859.

The basalt quarry at Berwick opened in 1859 when William Wilson gave contractors the right to remove stone. However the quarry expanded after 1874, with the building of the Gippsland railway line to Sale as it provided ballast for the line. Once the line was completed in 1877 William’s son, William Jnr (1860-1936) (pictured right) saw an opportunity to carry on the quarry, so he leased the quarry from his father and quarried stone for road making. William Jnr would drive one loaded dray carrying approximately two cubic yards or 2½ Imperial tons and lead another horse and loaded dray when he delivered the stone to local Councils. He established two crushing plants driven by a Marshall Steam engine. A spur line to the Berwick Railway Station was established in 1890.The rail trucks could convey ten cubic yards of rock and the railway allowed the product to be conveyed anywhere in Gippsland for the re-ballasting of the railway lines and road building. The quarry closed at the end of the First World War and the plant and the railway line was sold to a Cranbourne sand company. The Berwick Shire occasionally obtained stone from the quarry and had installed a small crushing plant for this purpose. In the late 1930s the quarry was leased by George and Ted Daniel. The Daniel brothers had been working a quarry at Lysterfield and when they took over at Berwick they installed a diesel powered crusher plant with a weekly output of 500 cubic yards of crushed rock. Daniel Brothers supplied the Shires of Berwick and Cranbourne. Due to various factors, by the late 1940s more capital was required and the quarry was sold to Bayview Quarries. Roy Ross, the owner of Bayview, installed an electric plant which crushed up to 1,000 cubic yards per day. In 1966, Bayview sold its interests to Boral, who operated the quarry under the company Albion Reid P/L.

During all this time the quarry itself was owned by members of the Wilson family and when it closed in 1978 the owner, George Wilson (1918-2003) and his wife Fay, (nee Duff) donated the 50 acre quarry site to the residents of Berwick for use a public park. The park was to be named Wilson Park in memory of George’s father, also called George (1867-1943) and his grandfather, James. Other land was purchased by the Council from the Andrews family who were descendents of William Jnr and his wife, who was also his first cousin, Annie Buchanan.

Aerial of the Berwick Quarry, before the development of the Wilson Botanic Park.

Work on the Park commenced in 1988, and the City of Berwick aimed to beautify the landscape, provide a place for relaxation and recreation and to create a botanic park with a collection of plants for botanic study. The final plan included an inner and outer trail loop one which focussed on the lakes and the other on the magnificent views, with all the trails being accessible to unassisted wheelchair users. After much work the one hundred acre (40 hectare) Park was officially opened on July 26th, 1992, by the Governor General Bill Hayden. Other features in the Park include a children's playground, a lookout tower, bird hide and Amphitheatre. There is an active Friends group, the Friends of Wilson Botanic Park, who support the Park in many ways - from staffing the visitors centre, fund raising, acting as tour guides, undertaking planting , watering, weeding and other plant handling activities. The Friends were also responsible for the organisation of the Back-to Berwick Quarry Reunion.

Anniversary Lake, Wilson Botanic Park.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Cranbourne Golf Club

A 1980 aerial photograph of the Cranbourne Golf Club, surrounded by farms. The diagonal road on the bottom left is the South Gippsland Highway and the road which borders the Club at the bottom is Huon Park Road. 

Many Golf Clubs around the world had a policy (either written or unwritten) of not accepting Jewish members, and in response to this discrimination Jews formed their own golf clubs – the Potters Bar Club was established in London in 1924 and in the same year Elm Ridge Gold Club was established in Montreal. Jewish golfers in Australia also faced this same discrimination and eventually decided to form their own Club. The first meeting to establish a Melbourne based Club was held in late 1950. Syd Kaufman, called together about 30 of his friends for a meeting and the participants were very enthusiastic about forming a Club. A committee was formed at a meeting held in June 1951 with the priority being to find some suitable land. Land was looked at in Frankston and other ‘sand belt’ areas and it was eventually decided to purchase 230 acres (around 93 hectares) from E.W. Francis, on the South Gippsland Highway, bordering Huon Park Road, at Cranbourne.

1950s publicity for the Golf Club - taken from What’s Golf : the first fifty years of the Cranbourne Golf Club by Les Kausman (full details below)

It was hoped to name the Golf Club Monash, after Major General Sir John Monash, however the Jewish Gold Club in Sydney, which opened in 1950, was already named in honour of Monash, so it became the Cranbourne Country Club. The £50,000 pounds needed to fund the Golf Course was raised by offering 250 memberships at £200 pounds per member. This was eventually raised in spite of the fact that the Foundation membership was restricted to those of the Jewish faith and that many supporters could not afford £200 pounds, which is the equivalent today of over $6,000. Many of the early supporters were not golf players themselves but subscribed so that an opportunity was provided for Jews to play golf if they wanted. In the end there were 249 Foundation members. The first Committee of the Cranbourne Golf Club was elected in May 1953 and the Ground was opened officially in May 1954.

One of the issues from the beginning was whether the Club should be a ‘Jewish Golf Club’ or a ‘Golf Club for Jews’, however the Annual General Meeting of 1956 established the principal that the Club would be a Club where there is no discrimination and would be a Club for everyone.

The full story of the establishment of the Cranbourne Golf Club, which wasn’t all smooth sailing as this blog post may suggest, can be found in the book What’s Golf : the first fifty years of theCranbourne Golf Club by Les Kausman (published by Allen & Unwin, 2003).  The book has some interesting photographs and a full list of the Foundation members.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Proving Ground at Lang Lang

For many people, their only knowledge of Lang Lang is that it is the home of the General Motors-Holden Proving Ground. The Proving Ground was opened in 1957 to carry out automotive testing and development. A vehicle safety laboratory also operates on the site, though the employees probably look a bit different from these two men shown in a 1960 advertisement.

Advertisement from Port of Melbourne Quarterly, July-September, 1960. Page 32.

Before the Proving Ground was opened, the cars were tested on the open roads. However due to increased traffic, the need for various surfaces for the testing and the need for security to test prototype vehicles, GMH saw the advantage of a private testing facility. They looked for land within a 50 mile (80km) radius of the city which was both flat and hilly and found suitable land just out of Lang Lang. The 2,167 acres (877 hectares) was purchased in 1955. From 1957, the Proving Ground has tested every Holden from the FC model onwards.

According to the Lang Lang town community website, since operations began in 1957, Holden test drivers and engineers have clocked up over 111 million kilometres in evaluating prototype, pre-production and current production vehicles on the Proving Ground's varied road system. A total of 454 cars have made the one-way, 100 metre journey into its concrete crash barrier.

Advertisement from Port of Melbourne Quarterly, January-March, 1966. Page 10. If you are unsure what they do at a Proving Ground, click on this image to enlarge it, and it will tell you.

The Proving Ground has a circular, banked high-speed track, a network of ride and handling roads, rough tracks, a twist course, a "rattle and squeak" track, dust road, test hills, a skid pad as well as mud and water baths. These roads and tracks take up only a small part of the land. The majority of the site is still natural bushland and is a fauna and flora habitat, with over 53 bird species recorded and 140 plant species.

Advertisement from Port of Melbourne Quarterly April-June 1966. Page 40, showing an aerial view of the Complex.