Newry/Upper Maffra community celebrated the centenary of the Upper Maffra
Mechanics Institute building on April 3rd 1982. This article was originally written
to record that event by the late Max
Rowley for the
Maffra Historical Society Bulletin # 32; it is reproduced here slightly amended.
Upper Maffra Mechanics Institute Centenary
Built in 1882, the Library and Hall were added to in
1913, when the present main hall was erected, allowing the former hall to be
used as a supper room.
The question asked by many people is how the building
came to be known as the Upper Maffra Mechanics Institute.
Between 1842 and 1860 the district was part of the
Boisdale Station. During that time the stockyards known as "Mafra", as shown
by the 1860 survey were on a site about two kilometres south of the present
Newry township. From the yards, or 'fold' as they were commonly called, a
fence appears to have run north-east to a point near where the Three Chain
Road crosses the Newry/ Boisdale Road at the recreation reserve. The land
north-west of the fence line evidently was called Upper Mafra and the land of
the south-eastern side Lower Mafra.
During a survey by C.P.Rafferty, a contract surveyor,
in 1861, a triangular piece of land was set aside as a township reserve. The
same survey set aside 640 acres for a Native Police Reserve where the township
of Maffra now stands.
The Rev. Hagenauer, a Moravian missionary, established
a mission station called 'Ramahyuck' on the lower Avon River; the Native
Police Reserve was no longer required. Surveyor George Hastings then surveyed
the area in twenty-seven sections in 1863. This was to become Maffra, the
second 'f' being probably added to Mafra at that time. The triangular piece of
land was sub-divided into blocks in 1867 and named 'Newry'.
Mr James Weatherly, speaking at the Jubilee of the
Mechanics Institute opening in 1933, said Surveyor W.Dawson chose the name
'Newry’ as he was born near Newry in Ireland. A bystander remarked that it was
a paradox that a settlement of Scotsmen should be named after an Irish town!
It does seem that in those early days of land
settlement, Upper Maffra was the title given to all the land outside the
subdivision, hence the names Upper Maffra Mechanics Institute and Upper Maffra
Some of the early residents must have been very strong
in their objection to the name 'Newry'. From the minutes of the Mechanics
Institute, September 1888, the secretary was asked again to inform the Chief
Secretary of the Victorian Government that there was no such place as the
Newry Mechanics Institute, the name being Upper Maffra.
The total cost of the first stage was £394/14/3, as
assessed for the Government Grant, which included the voluntary material,
cartage and value of donated land. Further land was purchased in 1903 for an
extension of the building, which took place in 1913. The present committee
would be grateful if readers have any information about the opening of the
main hall, probably in 1914.
one hundred years the hall and library have been in use, they have provided
the community with many different types of activity. The program of
entertainment in 1898, for example, makes interesting reading. All
entertainments were to be on the Thursdays nearest the full moon, no doubt to
help the public attending to have some light instead of complete darkness for
the journey home afterwards. The program for the year conducted by the
committee included two concerts, two socials, two lectures and a bazaar. In
1890 permission was granted for the Catholic divine service once a month.
Around the 1920s must have been a busy time for the
committees. The main hall became a picture theatre (the projection room was
removed from above the entrance as late as 1975). From our minutes it appears
that pictures were not always profitable as the promoters changed often. At
one time the projection equipment was offered to the Institute Committee for
purchase or lease. In 1926 electricity vas connected to the hall; the purchase
of a wireless set was considered, but no action was taken.
Probably because of lifestyle changes, it was moved
that the library be closed on the 5th September 1931 after forty-nine years
serving the community. The importance of the library service is possibly hard
to realise today, but being before the main era of wireless and the major
development of the motor car, people were very dependent on a library for
Cost incurred at the Jubilee dance in 1933 read very
differently to what we spend on a present day function. The orchestra from
Traralgon cost £5/5/0 with car hire £3/3/0. Mr Taverner of Maffra catered
supper at 1/6 per head if guaranteed 150 people. Admission charges for the
evening were 4/- gents, 2/- ladies; an entertainment tax was charged by the
government on admission and this came to £3/15/3.
With the passing of the first 100 years and the
important part the Mechanics Institute has been in the life of the Newry/Upper
Maffra community being recorded, it is hoped future generations will continue
to support the hall as committee members in the same way as residents have
done in the past.
Max provided us with several documents relevant to
the Mechanics Institute. Here’s part of one:
Extracts from the Licence issued by the Chief Secretary of Victoria to the
secretary of the Mechanics Institute 27th May 1919:
(the building was licenced) .. as a place wherein may be
acted, represented, performed, and exhibited for hire, gain, or reward, any
Interlude, Tragedy, Opera, Comedy, Stage-play, Farce, Burletta, Melodrama,
Pantomime, or any Stage Dancing, Tumbling, or Horsemanship, or any other
entertainment of the Stage whatsoever to which admissions shall or may be
procured by payment of money....
(the building may be used each day of the week except
Provided that such place shall be closed on Saturday
night at the hour of half-past Eleven:
Provided further that no acrobatic or gymnastic or
sensational feat or exercise either wholly or partly to be performed or to
take place at any height above ten feet measured from the lowest point of
the main floor, or in case the same shall be appointed to be performed or
to take place wholly on the stage at any height above ten feet from the
lowest point on the floor of such stage, shall be allowed to take place in
such place unless and until adequate measures have been taken to prevent
injury to any performer or performers, or any other person or persons, or
to any of the spectators, by providing, fixing, and maintaining during the
whole time any such feat or exercise is being performed or taking place a
sufficient rope netting or other similar appliance in such a position and
at such a height between the performer or performers or other person or
persons and the spectators, or between the main floor or stage floor, as
the case may be, so that in the event of any accident or failure occurring
every such performer or other person would, if he, she or they, or any of
them, at any time fell while going to perform or exercise, or while
performing or exercising, or when coming from performing or exercising,
fall or alight therein without injury to him, her, or themselves, or to
any other person or persons whatsoever, spectators or otherwise:
Page modified 27/01/2012