Tuesday, October 3, 2023

A rich history at Myall

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Sunday, May 7 saw a strong crowd gather at Myall for the unveiling of the Myall Historical Timeline and Myall Remembers service personnel honour board. The day was the fifth attempt to hold the event since 2019. With the pandemic behind us and the flood water receded, attendees braved the frigid conditions to soak up the rich recent history and live music. 

Traditional stewardship of the land in the area was the Barapa-Barapa tribe, with European influence escalating after Major Mitchell passed through in 1836. Mitchell reported on the fertility of the land and suitability for irrigation. In subsequent years, the area was settled by pastoralists.

In 1853, the paddlesteamer ‘Lady Augusta’ sailed up the Murray from South Australia to Echuca. Sir Harold Young, aboard the Lady Augusta, described the country upstream of Swan Hill for 20 miles and 40 miles downstream as “a vast plain of reeds without visible high ground of any kind, or trees; the river course perfectly safe, open and deep.” From the Myall plains, early settlers commented on their clear view of paddlesteamers on the Murray.   

The Myall Hall was opened in 1912 and marked a new era for the village. J.A. Kelly and Sons had a general store with plans to establish a farmer co-operative. Kelly screened moving pictures in the hall, attracting large crowds of up to 300.

Sunday’s event saw attendees enjoying a barbecue expertly cooked by Gary Napier and taking in the music styling of the Murrabit music group, HumnStrum, and the Gay Charmers, who are celebrating their 64th year. 

John McNeil was M.C. for the event and had a long history with the hall, with attending and being M.C. for many local dances more than 60 years ago. John gave a brief insight into the early shenanigans that were reported to have occurred at the hall. One such event involved a horse and gig that was tethered to the substantial fence outside the hall. The larrikins involved uncoupled the horse from the gig, before passing the gig poles through the fence and recoupling the horse. 

Stuart of the Gay Charmers recalled his memories of the hall. “Playing here at the hall brings back old memories,” said Stuart.

“Garnet Robinson and I used to come here 60 years ago.

“Before we were married, my wife was a school teacher at Cohuna. I remember Garnet and I sitting here, and she was sitting outside in the ute correcting exam papers.”

After a performance by the Gay Charmers, George Rathbone gave a detailed account of his involvement in the Australian Light Horse Association. George described himself as a bit young to an original light horseman, but became involved about 20 years ago when the numbers of the original servicemen were dwindling. A group of polocrosse players decided while the knowledge existed in the few remaining servicemen, they would “get trained up” and recreated the original gear to carry on their legacy. 

An employee at Elders in Deniliquin that frequented stations up towards Hay assisted in locating original saddles and bridles that sat in woolsheds from when the father or grandfather returned from the war. This allowed for authentic recreations of those pieces to be made at a saddlery in Shepparton. George also gave a history of his family’s involvement with two brothers serving in Egypt and the Gaza Strip, Henry paying the ultimate sacrifice in a charge on the Gaza Strip. 

Graham and Marianne Cockcroft, who were the driving force behind the day, presented the audience with the names and locations of the local service personnel who were featured on the honour board. Graham recounted how the original honour board that he would stare at in state school contained four fallen servicemen. After the second world war, the honour board was sent to Bendigo with the names of those who served in the recent conflict to be included. The business performing the work wiped off the original names without recording them. Restoring the lost names had been a passion of Graham’s, to see them remembered. Councillor Ross Stanton performed the official opening of the new honour board. 

The day also included displays in the former Myall church that opened as the Myall Heritage Museum in 2005.

The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper 11 May 2023

This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 11 May 2023.


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