Well-informed day for Whittlesea Historical Society

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Well-informed day for Whittlesea Historical Society

By Barbara Miller
Guest speakers, Peter Nankervis and Julie Nankervis were the star attractions at the Whittlesea Historical Society’s general meeting on the 19th of May. Peter had invited WHS to hold their meeting at the Arthur’s Creek Hall, which is the original Mechanics Institute. This renovated building has found an exciting new purpose in the Arthur’s Creek community, and WHS much appreciated the opportunity to admire the hall and make use of its facilities.

Peter Nankervis spoke about the history of Mechanics Institutes in general, and the Arthur’s Creek Mechanics Institute in particular. The nineteenth century term “mechanic” meant artisan or working man. The first Mechanics Institute in Victoria was established in 1839, and is now known as The Melbourne Athenaeum. From the 1850s, these institutes spread throughout Victoria, and many of these buildings still exist in small country towns. They were established as places of education and social activity. Lectures, film nights and dances were popular, and a lending library was a normal part of the facilities offered. Over time, some of these buildings fell into disuse, but many have now been rejuvenated and found new purpose. More information can be found about Mechanics Institutes by online searches.

The second guest speaker was Julie Nankervis, who spoke about writing your family history. Julie has ‘walked the walk’ by producing a number of history books for her family. These range from small annual photo books for each grandchild, documenting their activities throughout the year, to large-scale books of photos and information about branches of her family. Julie’s excellent hint was to “think big, but start small”. She encouraged her listeners to begin with a small manageable project such as a family holiday or a birthday celebration. For family history trees, Julie spoke about filling in the family’s knowledge of names and dates with the story of each person – what they did, what sort of a person they were, what their connections to the community and the family were.

The special guest at the 19th May event was Robert Draper, to whom a presentation was made of a photo of Bear’s Castle in the early days. This photo had been gifted to Robert’s father, Chester Draper of Arthur’s Creek, by his children. It was then gifted by Chester Draper to the Yan Yean Primary school when their copy of the photo was destroyed in a fire, and later came into the possession of the Whittlesea Historical Society. Robert said that he was very pleased to receive this item on behalf of his family, and WHS was pleased to return it to its rightful owner.

The event at Arthur’s Creek was a great success for WHS. 16 members and 9 visitors gained knowledge across a range of topics, had a chance to socialise over afternoon tea, and were informed about upcoming WHS events. The presentations by Peter and Julie Nankervis are now available on the WHS YouTube channel, accessed through the WHS website. Check out Whittlesea Historical Society’s next exciting free event ‘My Kitchen Table Talk’. It’s open to members and the general public, at the old Wollert church at Carome Homestead in Mernda, on Sunday the 16th of June from 1 pm to 3.30. Details on the WHS website.