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Authority record

Riverina and North East Victoria Television Ltd.

  • Agency010
  • Business
  • 1964 - 1985

In 1971, the AMV-4 Television Station (based in Albury) and the RVN-2 Television Station (based in Wagga Wagga) merged to become one company, called the Riverina and North East Victoria Television Ltd.
RVN-2 had officially begun transmission on 19 June 1964 at 7pm, providing the people of the Riverina and South-West Slopes with their own local news and programming. AMV-4 followed just a few months later on 7 September 1964 at 5pm.
Paul Ramsay and the Ramsay Corporation gained a majority control of Riverina and North-East Television Ltd on 3 June 1985 and in November the company formed an alliance with Country Television Services Ltd (Mid-State Television) which soon formed "The Prime Network".

Hilda Mary Hodge Freeman, researcher and writer

  • Agency470
  • Person
  • 1885 - 1937

Hilda Mary Hodge Freeman was born in Gordon, Victoria on the 6 October 1885. Although Hilda occupied a number of teaching positions throughout her life, she was perhaps better known for her contribution towards collecting and researching much of the Riverina's early folk history, which was to culminate in the publication Riverina Reminiscences. Hilda, however, died in 1937 before the manuscript was published.

Hilda first worked as a school teacher in the Ballarat district, then shifted overseas to England, where she accepted a teaching post at the Church Missionary Children's Home in Limpsfield. During her three year stay in England, she also studied a number of summer courses at Oxford University. She then lived and worked in Germany as a governess for Baron Von Klinggraef from January 1914 until she was repatriated in the following September after the outbreak of the First World War.

With an emergency passport she returned to England, then later to Australia, where she lectured and wrote about her experiences in Germany. She finally published her memoirs in An Australian Girl in Germany (1916). Apart from writing, Hilda took a keen interest in theatre production and had authored several one-act plays. Whilst in England she befriended the famous English actor, Henry Ainley.

Hilda settled in Grong Grong with her husband, Alfred Atkinson, in 1917. Hilda, who wrote under her maiden name, was first assigned by the Riverina Group of the Country Women's Association to collect and record the Riverina's early folklore and anecdotal history. The manuscript was to be produced by the CWA, but because of the Depression, not enough funds were available for it to be published. Since the manuscripts in the collection appear to be incomplete, one assumes that Hilda was still working on the project with the view to publication when she died. The manuscript was published eventually in 1985 by her daughter, Brenda Niccol.

Compiled by : James Logan.

Sources : Coolamon-Ganmain Farmers' Review, 1937; Niccol, Brenda, 'Something about the Author' and 'Preface' in Freeman, Hilda M., Murrumbidgee Memories and Riverina Reminiscences. Emu Plains, 1985.

Dr David Denholm

  • Agency237
  • Person
  • 8 April 1924 - 19 June 1997

David Denholm was born in Maryborough, Queensland, in 1924. Thanks to a good teacher at his one teacher school, he won a scholarship to study at Brisbane Church of England Grammar School, where he passed his junior certificate. The failure of his widowed mother's business forced his withdrawal from school before he completed his senior certificate. Equipped with a junior certificate he was immediately employed by the Queensland Public Service in the Department of Public Instruction, where he remained until 1942, when he was called up for war service.

With the 58/59 battalion he fought in New Guinea and on Bougainville, returning at the war's end to the Public Service in Brisbane. From there he transferred to the Commonwealth Bank, learned Russian at night classes, and got involved with the Brisbane Realist Writers' Group and the Fellowship of Australian Writers. Under the nom de plume of David Forrest, he wrote numerous short stories and two novels, The Last Blue Sea (1959), which won the first Dame Mary Gilmore Award, and The Hollow Woodheap (1962).

With the encouragement of his wife, Zita, and with some apprehension, David enrolled as an undergraduate in history at Queensland University in 1964, graduating with first class honours in 1967. He completed a PhD in history at the Australian National University in 1972, and then taught at the University of New England, before being appointed a lecturer in history at Riverina College of Advanced Education in 1974.

In 1979, Penguin Books published his best selling history book, The Colonial Australians, which reveals his adeptness in finding the right question to ask of almost any historical source.

David was a strong supporter of what was then known as the Riverina Archives, chairing the Archives Advisory Committee, and devising subjects in local history which allowed students to get hands-on experience in working with original archival sources. In retirement he put his first class knowledge of the Archives' collections to use as a research assistant for colleagues from other universities, among them Jim Hagan and Ken Turner.

David was particularly fascinated by maps and map making. He devoted much effort to arranging the 12,000 maps held in the Regional Archives, and producing finding aids of utility to historians and other researchers. Among these is a helpful guide that collates the Regional Archives' parish map holdings with those of the Mitchell Library, showing where gaps exist or are filled on a complementary basis.

David died on 19 June 1997, after a short illness. He had continued working on a research project, making use of the resources of the Archives and the Church of the Latter Day Saints family history centre, until some three weeks before his death.

Compiled by : Don Boadle.

Sources : Personnel file of David Denholm, CSU Human Resources, CSU1922, CSURA.

Wagga Wagga Show Society

  • Agency069
  • Community group
  • 1865 -

Founded in 1865, the Murrumbidgee Pastoral Association amalgamated with the Agricultural and Horticultural Association to form the Pastoral and Agricultural Association. Renamed the Wagga Wagga Show Society in 1961, it ran the Night Trotting Control Board until 1978.

The Wagga Wagga Show Society, which operated originally under the title Murrumbidgee Pastoral Association, had humble beginnings comprising of a few district squatters and townsmen. Mr W. O. Windeyer from Wantabadgery had the honour of serving as first President of the Association, while Henry Baylis acted as first Secretary. The inaugural Wagga Wagga Show organised by the Association was held on Wagga Wagga Racecourse on 21 November 1865. The Show catered mainly for cattle, sheep and horse exhibitions and awarded prizes in categories relating to thoroughbred horses, draught horses, Shorthorns, Herefords, merinos and extra stock. For many years the Wagga Wagga Show continued to function primarily for pastoralists, becoming one of the leading and oldest sheep shows in Australia.

In 1874, the Murrumbidgee Pastoral Association was the centre of controversy at the Association's Show dinner, when Wagga Wagga's Police Magistrate, Henry Baylis, made a rather unamiable comment about the integrity of the local press, causing the editor of the Wagga Wagga Express, G. A. Eldred, to storm out in protest. The Wagga Wagga Advertiser, on the 5 September 1874, questioned Baylis's tact, stating that "it was not exactly the place for the introduction of self-interested statements". The paper continued rather sarcastically that, according to Baylis, "reporting was a farce, and was either good or bad according to the amount of exhilarating liquor swilled by the reporter". Notwithstanding, the Association continued on relatively unscathed as Baylis stood his ground over the matter.

The Association broadened its focus in 1884 and changed its name to the Murrumbidgee Pastoral and Agricultural Association. The following year the Association purchased land at the present showground site and relocated the pavilion, poultry halls, press and telegraph offices and grandstand from the racecourse. For a number of years, the Association continued to provide encouragement to the developing pastoral, agricultural, horticultural and industrial sectors. Attendance numbers at the show have always been impressive, with up to 18 000 visitors entering the grounds during its Diamond Jubilee year in 1925. In conjunction with show days, special trains were organised to commute visitors from all over the Riverina and Murray regions to the showgrounds. During 1961, the Murrumbidgee Pastoral and Agricultural Association changed its name again to the present Wagga Wagga Show Society.

The Wagga Wagga Show has developed to become one of the main attractions in the city each year. Although the agricultural theme is still prevalent, the Show offers a variety of exhibits and stalls relating to arts and crafts, food and community information, not to mention the allure of amusement rides in sideshow alley. The fireworks display and crowning and Miss Wagga Wagga Showgirl have always been crowd pleasers. The Wagga Wagga Show Society collection also contains records of the Wagga Show Trotting Club and Night Trotting Control Board, as well as records from the NSW Branch of the Australian Society of Breeders of British Sheep.

Compiled by : James Logan.

Sources : Swan, Keith J., A History of Wagga Wagga. City of Wagga Wagga, 1970; Daily Express Pictorial, Under the Camera - Wagga Wagga - Trade Centre of Southern New South Wales, 1926; MPAA Minute Books, 1869-1947, RW201, CSURA; Wagga Wagga Advertiser, 1874.

Hay Athenaeum

  • Agency193
  • Community group
  • 1875 - 1949

The Hay Athenæum was, without doubt, the centre of literature and the arts in Hay in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Its contribution to the 'mental' stimulus of the township was quite significant, to say the least. The Hay Athenæum Committee first met at The Riverina Grazier office on 15 November 1875. The inaugural meeting, chaired by a Mr Andrew, discussed the feasibility of erecting a temporary building to house the institution and commence operation. For a number of years Committee members lobbied the New South Wales Government to make available the building of the Hay Court House for the expanding Athenæum, in exchange for land which was occupied by the institution at that time. In 1888 a Bill was passed successfully through parliament authorising the exchange, and in April the following year the Committee took possession of the court house.

Over many years the Athenæum staged various social and cultural gatherings and provided educational material on a number of subjects. Facilities at the Athenæum were also made available for other community groups, including the Benevolent Society, Red Cross and Girl Guides. The Athenæum built up a rather modest library collection to cater for the town's reading interests, although the library was only a part of its overall functioning. For several years, Committee members were concerned about the meagre support the institution was receiving from its citizens. As the Committee pointed out in its 1884 Annual Report, members were encouraged to contribute to furthering the Athenæum's aims, rather than viewing it as 'a mere circulating library'. In an attempt to attract new and younger members, the Athenæum changed its direction by opening up a billiard room on 6 May 1911.

Whilst early organisers had egalitarian intentions, management of the Athenæum later became politicised. Subscription costs were capped in order to ensure that everyone had access to the facilities. However, those able to pay larger subscription fees were given voting rights and a place on the committee. In 1895, Committee member Mr F. J. Clancy argued that, because members could not pay the higher subscription fee, there was no reason why they should be denied full voting rights. He argued that working class men should have equal access in deciding the direction of the Athenæum. The Committee had always prided itself on setting the tone for intellectual and moral development in the region, however as Clancy highlighted, the institution at times risked alienating those who it initially wished to serve.

In 1947, the Hay Municipal Council adopted a recommendation from a library sub-committee to amalgamate the library of the Athenæum with the Council's library and transfer the Athenæum building to the Council. Two years later, the reconstituted Hay Municipal Library was fully functional with the new Committee of the Hay Municipal Public Library holding its inaugural meeting on 24 March. One cannot help feel a sense of irony about the Athenæum's demise. The pioneers of the Athenæum envisioned a broader cultural role for the institution, yet the only tangible legacy left by the Athenæum that was still in use was its library collection.

Compiled by : James Logan and Troy Whitford.

Sources : The Hay Athenæum Minute Books, 1875-1958, RW610, CSURA.

Letona Co-operative Cannery Ltd.

  • Agency410
  • Business
  • 1914-1994

The original cannery which formed Letona was built in 1914 by the New South Wales Government as part of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Project-an initiative that focused on the management of water resources in Leeton and the surrounding district. However, the management of the Leeton State Cannery by the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission (WW&IC) came under a lot of criticism from fruit growers by the 1930s. A combination of factors contributed to the cannery's financial woes, including market instability for canned fruit, poor market advice, poor growing seasons, interest repayments, obsolete machinery, competition and reduced working hours. In 1934, the future management of the cannery was the subject of much discussion during a meeting of the Cannery Advisory Board of Management, which was attended by representatives from the WC&IC and several Fruitgrowers' Co-operatives. At some point during that year, the WC&IC indicated to fruit growers that they intended to sell off the cannery by July 1937.

George Enticknap, then Chairman of the Australian Canning Fruitgrowers Association, worked expeditiously with other fruit growers to secure control of the cannery before the proposed date. At a third meeting of the Central Cannery Committee on 6 February 1935, it was resolved that the Co-operative would lobby the government for a speedy takeover on account of favourable prospects for the cannery over the next two years, which would work to the Co-operative's advantage. The Co-operative was surprised by the government's swift decision to sell the cannery one month after the Central Cannery Committee's historical meeting. The takeover was officiated by the passing of the State Cannery (Sale) Act 1935, which became effective from 11 April 1935. A formal Memorandum of Agreement was drafted and signed between the Leeton, Griffith and Yenda Fruitgrowers' Co-operatives and the Leeton Co-operative Cannery Ltd. on 21 June 1935. Jack Brady, who was already acting as Manager of the Leeton State Cannery since 1921, was appointed the first Manger of Letona to oversee its smooth transition.

In its first ten years, the Board of Directors insisted that expenditure be outlaid on modernising and improving the layout of the plant so as to maintain supply and remain competitive with foreign markets. During World War Two, Letona adapted to wartime conditions and commenced processing vegetables in preference to fruit. With so many Letona processors enlisted in the war, Land Army Girls and even children as young as eleven were employed extensively throughout the cannery to keep up with demand. After the war, the cannery returned to processing fruit when vegetable production was diminishing.

Until the 1970s, Letona maintained a policy of accepting and processing all types of fruit, despite an oversupply in canned fruit in markets overseas. Oblivious to global and domestic competition, Letona continued to modernise and expand, employing a large number of full-time and seasonal workers. Letona subsumed the Mountain Maid cannery in Batlow in 1977. However, in the eyes of the NSW Government, the financial position of Letona looked rather dubious by the end of 1981. The Premier and Treasurer recommended to the cannery that they appoint an independent administrator to review its finances and future direction.

The cannery's financial difficulties continued throughout much of the eighties, as Directors were adamant about curing the ailing cannery industry with high expenditure. Unfortunately, shareholders were unable to recognise the declining state of the Co-operative. By 1993, the financial situation at Letona had deteriorated drastically. Despite efforts of public rallying by local citizens, Co-operative members, employees and politicians, Letona finally sunk into receivership on 27 August 1993 and ceased operation on 29 July 1994.

Compiled by : James Logan.

Sources : Tiffen, Robin, Letona: The Whole Story. Koonadan Publications: Leeton, 1996.

Clarence James Daley

  • Agency157
  • Person
  • 7 October 1903 - 2 May 2007

Clarence James 'Jim' Daley was born in Forbes on October 7, 1903. He attended Cowra and Auburn Public Schools, and Parramatta High School followed by two years studying at the Wagga Experiment Farm. In 1923, Jim was accepted into the Trangie Experiment Farm as a special Sheep & Wool student then qualified in Sheep & Wool at Sydney Technical College the following year. Over the next two years Jim worked in shearing sheds as a wool classer.

Jim's career with the NSW Department of Agriculture began in June 1926 when he was appointed Junior Assistant Sheep & Wool Officer, stationed at the Temora Experiment Farm. His duties included overseeing sheep trials and the Border Leicester stud flock. During the next two years, stationed at the Trangie and Yanco Experiment Farms, Jim trained as a lecturer in sheep and wool practices. In December 1928, Jim and the Yanco Dorset Horn stud flock and lamb trials were transferred to the Wagga Experiment Farm where he continued his work with prime lamb development and began competitively showing livestock.

During World War ll, Jim was seconded to Rural Manpower (NSW) to organise labour resources for the wool and meat industries, including shearing and slaughtering, under Wartime Emergency Regulations. After the War he was appointed to an inter-departmental committee which investigated the feasibility of decentralising the slaughtering industry in NSW. Recommendations that slaughter houses operated by local government authorities be located in Wagga Wagga, Goulburn, Dubbo and Gunnedah were made to the Federal and State Authorities. As Abattoir Officer, Jim was instrumental in the construction and establishment of abattoirs at Goulburn and Wagga Wagga and the commencement of construction at Dubbo and Gunnedah before his retirement from the Department on December 7, 1951, after the official opening of the Wagga Wagga abattoir.

Jim retired from the NSW Department of Agriculture after 25 years of service, to set himself up in private business as an auctioneer, and stock & station agent, specialising in sheep classing according to breed standards and stud stock sales. In this private capacity he expanded his repertoire of breed specialities to include Merino and provided services beyond the Riverina.

In conjunction with the Australian Society of Breeders of British Sheep, Jim introduced annual spring auction sales of classed, purebred flock rams and was instrumental in popularising 'ring selling' which became a prominent feature of his career. His services expanded to include travelling to New Zealand in the late 1950s and Tasmania in the early 1960s to purchase stud rams for his local clients.

Handling and close inspection of many hundreds of sheep each year prompted Jim to develop the Daley Sheep Classing Race which he patented in June 1956. Eventually, manufacturing costs became prohibitive and Jim allowed the patent to lapse in June 1971.

He regularly contributed to industry publications and local newspapers, including The Daily Advertiser, Country Life and Pastoral Review, voicing his opinions on the need for breed development, diversity, prime lamb production and pasture improvement. He was instrumental in the development of the dual purpose Bond/Commercial Corriedale, Poll Dorset and South Suffolk breeds.

Jim was actively involved in the Wagga Wagga Apex Club, the Riverina Branch of the Australian Society of Animal Production and the Wagga Wagga College of Technical and Further Education Committee along with numerous sheep breed societies and pastoral & agricultural associations.

Renowned in Australia and New Zealand as a sheep and wool instructor, judge, classer and buyer of Australasian and British sheep breeds, Jim judged many sheep classes at major shows including Sydney, Melbourne and Albury. He was instrumental in developing the sheep and wool industry of NSW, particularly the Riverina and Wagga Wagga district, to meet the changing market demands throughout his lifetime which ended on May 2, 2007, at the age of 103.

Compiled by Debra Leigo

Sources : Papers, Jim Daley, RW290, CSURA.

Riverina New State Movement

  • Agency050
  • Advocacy group
  • 1931-1932

The Riverina Movement was launched on the banks of Wagga Wagga beach on 28 February 1931, when 10, 000 people gathered in an anti-government rally aimed principally at NSW Premier J. T. Lang (1876-1975). Representatives from across the Riverina, including leading pastoralists, graziers, businessmen and politicians joined an army of local protesters, and heard Charles Hardy jnr (1898-1941), leader and chief organiser, deliver an ultimatum to both State and Federal Governments that was, in their eyes, long overdue. In summary, the ultimatum demanded immediate reduction in taxation and financial relief to primary producers. It also stipulated that if neither government acted by 31 March, a referendum would be held deciding the right of Riverina to determine its own affairs.

Much of the enthusiasm at the rally was in support of the charismatic Hardy jnr, who, at aged 33, possessed a magnetic personality and a charm which appealed to the emotions of country people. Born in Wagga Wagga in 1898, Hardy jnr worked at his family's firm, a successful building company, C. Hardy & Co., in Wagga Wagga, which he took over after his father died in 1934. Outside work Hardy jnr took a keen interest in politics, forming the Riverina Development League in 1928, joining the United Australia Association in 1930, and becoming leader of the Riverina Movement a year later.

The success of the river bank rally was repeated in Narrandera a week later. This time 5,000 people attended to hear the same resolutions carried with equal enthusiasm. In the following months other meetings were staged at Deniliquin, Hay, Tocumwal and Jerilderie, which prompted Smith's Weekly to comment: "the countryside is blazing more and more with dangerous passions of resentment against city politicians".

Country people turned on Premier Lang soon after his 1930 plan to repudiate interest repayments from overseas loans valued at just over £950, 000. Lang was already under fire for his mismanagement of the NSW economy. Excessive taxation, mass unemployment and a fall in world prices for primary products only exacerbated the situation in country areas. Lang's repudiation proposal soon became, what biographer Bede Nairn described as, "the epicentre of a social and political earthquake" which brought to the fore a flurry of right-wing, anti-Lang, anti-Labor and anti-Communist forces.

One week after the Narrandera rally about 200 delegates met again and formulated a policy to place the Riverina Movement on a more permanent footing. Hardy jnr had already softened his stance on action. He was no longer advocating secession. He also downplayed the idea that the Riverina would break away and form its own state. What Hardy jnr did want was to abolish all state governments and replace them with self-governing provincial councils. The New England Movement, which had been active since the 1920s, rejected the provincial plan, and instead, continued to push for new statism in the north. Over the following months, Hardy came to blows with the New England Movement leaders on just what model would suit provincial and regional NSW should both regions break away from the rest of the state.

As the 31 March approached, neither State nor Commonwealth Governments seemed to act on the resolutions set forth at the riverbank rally. Riverina Movement leaders now feared that if they did not carry out the threat of secession they would lose support. Some had little idea of how they were going to carry out this task when the time came. The date did arrive, and the movement failed to act. Inevitably, by early April support for the movement began to wane.

By July 1931, up to 60, 000 had signed a petition asking for the abolition of state parliament and the creation of provincial units. In September, a deputation of fifteen men from the Riverina Movement, including Hardy jnr, presented the petition to the Prime Minister, James Scullin (1876-1953). A month later, Scullin resurfaced and denounced the petition, much to the disappointment of Hardy jnr and his fellow new staters in New England. By this stage, the Riverina Movement had already joined forces with the New England, Western and Monaro-South Coast movements as the United Country Movement (UCM), to press for reforms and to establish a political base. Shortly afterwards, consensus was reached between the regional movements to merge the UCM with the Country Party. Not all within the Riverina Movement were happy. For many, the politicisation of the UCM represented a step back from its anti-political idealism.

Meanwhile, the atmosphere in Sydney by early 1932 had become tense. After Lang announced that NSW would be half a million pounds short of meeting its interest commitments, the new Commonwealth government, made up of the conservative-led United Australia Party (UAP), introduced legislation to recover moneys from the State's revenue. Lang contested this in the High Court in April, but the legislation was found valid. Lang responded by locking the doors of the State Treasury, preventing the Commonwealth from viewing its official records. He also tried to appeal to the Privy Council, but to no avail. The State's finances seemed to be on the verge of complete collapse. As a desperate measure to put the State's finances back on track, Lang rushed through parliament a bill imposing a 10 per cent capital Levy on all mortgages. Business leaders were up in arms. A petition was sent to the NSW Governor, Sir Philip Game (1876-1961), pleading that he reserve his assent on the grounds that it would destroy the business community. In response to Lang's recovery bill, the Commonwealth passed legislation to nullify it. On 10 May, Lang issued a circular to all NSW government officials aimed at ensuring that State public moneys be withheld from the Commonwealth. This was the final nail in the coffin for Lang. Governor Game learnt of the circular on 12 May, and the next day, dismissed Lang from office on the grounds that the premier had issued and refused to withdraw a circular which contravened Commonwealth law. A Provisional Government made up of the UAP and Country Party was also formed, and within weeks things settled down.

In August 1933, under the new Provisional Government of NSW, a Royal Commission was convened to inquire into, and report on areas of New South Wales suitable for new states, and to ascertain the opinions of electors in those areas proposing self-government. The Commission met on 18 October, and heard evidence from each movement for approximately fourteen months. When the Commission released its findings in early-1935, it found that three areas, including southern New South Wales (Riverina), were suitable as states, and recommended that a referendum be held to determine the voice of the people. Nothing was done. The NSW Government did not act.

With Lang out of the picture, much of the enthusiasm and idealism, which was witnessed in the early days of the Riverina Movement, had well and truly disappeared. Once the Riverina Movement was subsumed by the Country Party, its programme tended to follow more orthodox lines of piecemeal improvements.

Compiled by : James Logan.

Sources : Blacklow, Nancy, Regional Support for Riverina New State Movements in the 1920s and 1930s, BA (Honours) Thesis, Charles Sturt University, 1992; __, "'Riverina Roused': representative support for the Riverina New States Movements of the 1920s and 1930s", Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society: Special Riverina Issue, Vol. 80, Parts 3 and 4, December 1994, pp. 176-194; Ellis, Ulrich, The Country Party: a political and social history of the party in New South Wales. F. W. Cheshire: Melbourne, 1958; Moore, Andrew, The Secret Army and the Premier: conservation paramilitary organisations in New South Wales 1930-32. NSW University Press: Kensington, 1989; Morris, Sherry, Wagga Wagga: a history. The Council of the City of Wagga Wagga, 1999.

Riverina Community for Nuclear Disarmament

  • Agency238
  • Community group
  • 1982-1984

To understand why the Riverina Community for Nuclear Disarmament was established and active in 1982-84, we must apply a certain degree of historicism to the period. Until the Regan Administration came to office in the United States in 1980, the cold war had entered into a period of detente. The aggressive foreign policy of the Regan administration only had the consequence of renewing cold war tensions. By the mid-1980s, the nuclear arms race had reached staggering and dangerous proportions, as weapons capable of world wide destruction were manufactured at an incredible rate. Australia's contribution to the cold war included military installations, such as Pine Gap, and permission for US warships to enter our ports armed with nuclear weapons. Whilst the Australian Government saw this as a means to insure protection in this region, and an opportunity to cut spending on its own defence needs, it put the nation on a Soviet list of possible nuclear targets. Whether the Australian people liked it or not, they were part of the nuclear cold war.

The early 1980's nuclear disarmament movement was a major political issue, with grass roots community activism driving much of the protest over Australia's role in the cold war. Across local municipalities and regions throughout Australia, the idea of 'nuclear-free zones' was actively encouraged and advocated. While the 'nuclear-free zone' plan was embraced readily across the inner suburbs of Sydney, lobbying in the Riverina wasn't that successful. In 1982, the Riverina Community for Nuclear Disarmament asked State MP, Joe Shipp, to support the proposal of a 'nuclear-free zone' for the Riverina. Uncertain of the implications of such a move, he replied "I'll sit on the fence on that one for a while" (Riverina Leader, 5 May 1982, p. 11).

From the documents in the collection, held at the Regional Archives, it appears that the Riverina Community for Nuclear Disarmament group was particularly strong with educational campaigns. Activities organised included film nights designed to create an awareness of the drastic effects of a nuclear war. In 1983, the Riverina Community for Nuclear Disarmament fell into conflict with the Wagga Wagga sub-branch of the RSL for displaying anti-nuclear information on the notice board at the community library. The then sub-branch president argued that the poster and article on display were "lampooning two of Australia's dearest allies, England and the United States"(The Daily Advertiser, 23 August 1983, p. 9).

What is unique about the Regional Archives' collection is that it represents not only the establishment and work of the Riverina Community for Nuclear Disarmament, but the divisions within a community and nation caught up in the cold war.

Compiled by : Troy Whitford.

Sources : Riverina Leader, 5 May 1982; The Daily Advertiser, 23 August 1983 (RW855).

Reginald W. Sharpless

  • Agency154
  • Person
  • c.1900 - 1985

A chronic asthmatic, Reg Sharpless left England in 1923 in search of a dry place to recuperate. Sharpless settled in Sydney for several weeks, but with no improvement in his health, he was advised to shift to a dryer climate-somewhere west! This meant Sharpless had two choices: Hay or Bourke (these were the two western most extremities of the railway line at the time). The toss of a coin made his decision, and Sharpless headed for Hay by train, a journey which took approximately 20 hours. Within three weeks Sharpless found himself with paid employment on Mossgiel Station, 30 miles from Ivanhoe, as a jackaroo. His only problem was that he had no idea what a jackaroo actually did!

In time Sharpless learnt that his job entailed everything imaginable - he was 'a jack of all trades'. The working day began at 7am and did not finish often until 6.30pm. This was the routine, six days a week, with Sunday being a time for rest and recreation, which, more often took the form of tennis, shooting, swimming or picnicking. His daily duties included sheep maintenance, mustering and droving, crutching, general maintenance of vehicles and equipment, fencing, mending telephone lines and repairing wells, windmills and bores. Sharpless wrote later in his diary that he had been asked to use skills and abilities from at least eight different trades including carpentry, painting, engineering, bricklaying, coachbuilding, plumbing and shepherding. For this type of work Sharpless got board, food and a pound a week in wages.Bogged Wool Wagon

Mossgiel Station was approximately 250,000 acres. Paddock sizes varied from 10 acres to 10,000 acres. These huge portions, in comparison to the 'mother-land', were one of the factors Sharpless had to adjust to. Another was the different flora and fauna. Of these, Sharpless had the greatest difficulty with snakes. He recounts on numerous occasions his first few encounters with these 'joe-blakes', with the winner not always being one Reg Sharpless.

Owing to the enormous distances between properties and people, there were very few occasions when social outings were possible. However, there were two regular events which were never missed by Sharpless and the other jackaroos. These took the form of dances in aid of local hospitals and charities. As a result, people from as far as fifty miles would attend, including Sharpless and his drum kit, which became somewhat of a novelty. Another of his hobbies included photography, and his estimate of six hundred photographs taken during his stay at Mossgiel must have been a conservative appraisal. One of these photographs is the now famous shot of the two bogged wool teams, entitled 'The Bog' (pictured above).

Sharpless remained at Mossgiel Station for a period of two and a half years, before returning to England, as he had promised his family. In later life Sharpless published a book entitled Pommy in the Outback (1982), detailing his stay on Mossgiel Station. Reg Sharpless died in 1985 at the age of 84.

Compiled by: Wayne Doubleday.

Sources: Papers, Reginald Sharpless, RW283, CSURA.

John Alan Gibson and Gibson Family

  • Agency529
  • Person
  • 1904-1979

John Alan Gibson (1904-79), grazier, engineer and lobbyist, was born at Hay, the eldest son of James Robertson Gibson (1868-1941), grazier, and his wife Ada, née Gulson (1876-1943). His grandparents John Gibson (1827-1919) and Marion, née Gemmell (1824-1908), were pioneering closer settlers in the Gunbar district. Together with Alan's uncle, Robert Gibson (1855-1936), they selected land on Gunbar Station, naming their holding 'Narringa'. Robert also was a pioneering irrigator in the Hay district. President of the Hay Municipal Irrigation Trust in 1902-1906 and mayor of Hay in 1892, 1902 and 1903, he unsuccessfully promoted the Murrumbidgee Northern Water Supply and Irrigation bill in 1905 (RW254). Alan Gibson shared his family's interest in irrigation, carrying out extensive irrigation development on his properties, serving as foundation president of the Murrumbidgee Valley Water Users' Association in 1940-45, and sponsoring the Southside Joint Water Supply Scheme (which began operating in 1966). Like his uncle, Alan was mayor of Hay, holding office in 1938 and 1939.

Alan Gibson attended school in Hay and, after winning a University Exhibition and the Gordon S. McLure Scholarship, enrolled in engineering at the University of Sydney in 1923. He was given leave of absence in 1926 to visit Britain and the United States to gain professional experience. He resumed his studies in 1927 and graduated in 1928 with a BE degree in mechanical and electrical engineering. A member of the Sydney University Rifle Club, Gibson was awarded a full Blue in 1927. His jottings suggest that his decision to return to 'Croidon', a family grazing property at Hay, may have had more to do with his personal circumstances than with the availability of employment opportunities for an engineer. In 1930 he married Catherine, née Williams; they had a son, Brough, and a daughter, Elizabeth. During these years Alan Gibson was associated with the Riverina (New State) Movement and its leader Charles Hardy jnr. Along with Hardy, he subsequently was involved in Country Party politics. His diaries (RW3) offer extended commentary on his political activities; his correspondence about these interests is at the Mitchell Library in Sydney (MS2312).

Although Gibson had acquired a large area irrigation farm at Griffith, and won second place in the 1939 Master Farmers' Competition, he apparently found insufficient intellectual challenges in farming and grazing. The demands of a growing family and the onset of drought also seem to have contributed to his restlessness and need to find additional sources of income. In October 1940 he began a consulting engineering practice in Hay. After unsuccessfully attempting to associate it with a larger metropolitan practice, he moved to Sydney with his wife and children and, in February 1942, joined the Ministry of Munitions as an engineer. In November 1945, leaving his family in Mosman, he took up a well-paid appointment in China with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. When UNRRA scaled down its Chinese operations in 1947, he returned to Sydney where he found employment as assistant engineer in the survey and investigations branch of the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission. The work proved congenial, but his health began to deteriorate, prompting him to resign from the Commission's staff in June 1953. The following year he bought 'Keringal', a grazing property on the Murrumbidgee River at Hay. Back on the land, he practised sporadically as a consulting engineer (advising on irrigation and water supply projects) and again became active in community and district affairs. He was a long-standing member of Lodge Murrumbidgee (master, 1939-40), an elder of the Presbyterian Church and a member of the Murrumbidgee Valley Water Users' Association and the Riverine University League (RW64, RW100, RW624, RW953).

Gibson was interested in genealogy, compiling a modest family history with his son in 1974. His records include family papers and other items relating to his forbears. CSU Regional Archives also holds records (RW2128) from Alan's cousin, John Hughes (Jack) Gibson (1895-1971), a grazier who had tin mining interests at Gibsonvale near Ardlethan.

Compiled by : Don Boadle.

Sources : Gibson, Alan & Brough, John and Marion Gibson and their Descendants in Australia 1854-1974, Hay 1974; Atchison, John 'Robert Gibson (1855-1936)' in B. Nairn & G. Serle (eds), Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 8, Melbourne, 1981, pp. 653-4; Clark, R., The Family of John and Marion Gibson, of Narringa, Gunbar 1854-1974, [Gibson family tree], Hay, 1974; J. Alan Gibson papers, RW2298; Killen, P. & Merrylees, C., 'The Murrumbidgee Valley Water Users' Association and the Development of the Snowy Mountains Scheme', Australian Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 3(4), 1990; Boadle, D., 'Regional Water Wars: River Leagues and the Origins of the Snowy Scheme', Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, 80(3/4), 1994, pp. 195-211; Boadle, D., 'Activists, Experts and Intellectuals: a 1950s Rural Network', Rural Society, 10(2), 2000, pp. 153-174.

Merrylees Family

  • Agency538
  • Family
  • 1924 -

Groongal, including Wyvern and Bringagee, was acquired by the Learmonths in 1865. The properties were split three ways in 1893. Bringagee was sold in 1910 to Albert Austin, Groongal was sold in 1911 to Ralph Falkiner, and Wyvern in 1924 to Sims Cooper and later in 1947 to T. A. Field.

Groongal Station has been owned by the Merrylees family since 1924; the records held by the Regional Archives relate to their ownership.

Groongal and neighbouring Benerembah (much of which now comprises the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area) were taken up in 1839 by Henry O'Brien of Yass. In 1848 Groongal comprised 60,000 acres. Subsequent leaseholders included members of the Guise, Alleyne, Harvey and Cockburn families. In 1865 the Learmonth brothers bought the lease, and between 1868 and 1875 built an imposing two storied brick homestead on a commanding site overlooking the Murrumbidgee River. They steadily acquired freehold title to some 300,000 acres embracing Groongal, Wyvern (the eastern part of Groongal) and Bringagee. In 1893 these three runs were carrying 45,000 breeding ewes. Ralph Falkiner purchased Groongal in 1911 and by 1921 held some 124,561 acres. He subdivided and sold the property in 1924, when W.A. Merrylees & Sons of Charlton, Victoria acquired the frontage portion of 37,470 acres.

Groongal has a long history of riparian irrigation; Somerville Learmonth obtaining a license in 1898 under section 12 of 1896 Water Rights Act. In 1916 Falkiner obtained a new license under the 1912 Act to water 100 acres, and this license was taken over by the Merrylees family. They would probably have followed the lead of most of their neighbours and used their pumped water for stock and domestic purposes, with a limited amount of irrigation of natural pasture to provide drought insurance for their stud sheep. However, Dr W.A. Merrylees (1900-69) was eager to diversify production and from 1928 encouraged his father, sister and two brothers to acquire increased water rights. Bill Merrylees' decision in 1935 to resign from the University of Melbourne, where he had been a senior lecturer in philosophy, was followed by the partition of Groongal between himself, his brother Joe and his sister Bell, and the creation of the new partnership of Merrylees & Co. Bill's brother Tom and their parents returned to Victoria, where Tom took over management of the family's Charlton properties. Bill meanwhile pressed on with his plan to convert Groongal into a huge mixed farm-a scheme that alarmed Joe, who wanted to concentrate on establishing a merino stud. Undeterred by his brother's opposition and their bankers' misgivings, Bill and his wife Annie formed a separate partnership in 1938 to irrigate the western portion of the property, known as Coonara (amounting to some 14,750 acres). In 1940 Bill and Annie withdrew from the partnership of Merrylees & Co.; Joe Merrylees and his sister, now Mrs Wilf Diss, formed the partnership of Merrylees & Diss to run the balance of Groongal. In 1951 Joe and Bell divided their stock and movable property, Joe forming the new partnership of J.E. Merrylees & Co. between himself and his wife Rose.

Records in this accession include the annual accounts of W.A. Merrylees & Sons (1923-36), Merrylees & Diss (c. 1941-51) and J.E. Merrylees & Co. (1951-57). The records also document the distribution of assets between Mrs Diss and her brother in 1951 and have entries relating to employees' wages, stock numbers, sheep crutching and shearing tallies, and pumping hours for Groongal (last entry 1962).

Compiled by : Don Boadle.

Sources : Merrylees, Caroline, Brave Beginnings: A History of the Carrathool District Hay, 1983, pp.16-18, 30; Boadle, Donald 'William Andrew Merrylees (1900-1969) in John Ritchie (ed.), Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 15, Melbourne, 2000, pp. 361-362; Client files 11779/81 (1935), M18 (1938), M297, M298, M299 (1940-41), Blake & Riggall records (University of Melbourne Archives); WC&IC license files (NSW Department of Land & Water Conservation).

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