How long have you personally been involved with the Manning Valley Historical Society, and what’s your role on the committee?
I have been a member of the Society since the 1980s. With work commitments, my activity was limited. Since my retirement I have had the opportunity to volunteer regularly within the museum, and in 2011, I was elected President of the Society.
Please provide a brief history of the Society – when and how did it first form?
On 20 May 1964, the Mayor of Wingham, Mr Alan Carlyle, chaired a public meeting held in the Supper Room of the Wingham Town Hall. It was called with the purpose of forming a Historical Society and had 22 people and representatives from the two local papers in attendance. It was resolved the motion of Mr E Laird and Mrs J. Gibson that “a historical society be formed”, and it was decided that the society be named “Manning Valley Historical Society” and be located in Wingham. Mr M Gibson was nominated and accepted the position of President, Mrs J Gibson Secretary, Mr A Smalley Treasurer, Mr R Duff Vice President and Mr E Laird Research Secretary. Patrons to the Society were Miss C Gollan, Miss Lobban, Mr PE Lucock, Mr LC Jordan and Mr FC Summerville.
Early minutes record the activity of the society and the need to record histories of shipping and Wingham schools. Mr E Laid, Research Secretary, was to write to The Wingham Chronicle emphasising the importance of preserving documents. In 1965, the Society became affiliated with the Royal Australian Historical Society. Historian Mr Gordon Dennes, a great grandson of Mrs Mary Cann who settled in the Bo Bo Creek area in 1835, was one of the first guest speakers hosted by the Society. His address was ‘The Discovery of the Manning Valley’.
Premises were being sought by the society, and in 1966 Wingham Municipal Council advised that the School of Arts would be considered if it became vacant. In 1966, the Moxey’s building was leased to the Society by the Wingham District Services Club after opposition to the proposal of the site for their new club. In July 1974, the Club sold the building to the Society.
On 30 November 1968, aviatrix Nancy Bird Walton officially opened the museum. In 1993, 25 years after the official opening of the museum, the completed restoration of the museum was officially opened by Nancy Bird Walton AO. OBE, Hon ME (Syd).
This society is one of the few Historical Societies who own their own premises and is staffed entirely by volunteers. The museum is situated in Moxey’s store at 12 Farquhar Street, Wingham. In 1926 the shop front was modernised to what we see today, and in 1988 the building was classified by the National Trust.
The Society looks after the museum located in Farquhar Street, Wingham. What are the opening days and times of the museum, and how much is the entry fee?
The museum is open each day from 10am to 4pm, with the exception of Good Friday, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Entry is adults $3, children $1 and family $7.
What are some of the unique items the museum has on display?
The museum has many items of interest with providence to the district. One such item is a Gaelic Bible which was used for the first Gaelic church service held in NSW. It was brought to Australia by the McLeod family in1837 from the Isle of Skye. We have the doors of the Ashlea Presbyterian Church which was built in 1882 and timber items crafted by the late Mr R Duff, ad also a small organ the late Mrs Elizabeth Beale OBE took with her to play at various church services and events.
What are some of the other activities/events the Manning Valley Historical Society regularly organises?
The Society meets on the third Wednesday morning of each month. New members are always welcome.
At present, the Society is currently assisting the Centenary of Railway committee with their preparations to commemorate in May 2013, the coming of rail to Taree; the War Veterans Remembrance Drive Association, in preparation for the ANZAC centenary.
The Society features displays within the Museum, highlighted this year by a themed display for History Week. An activity sheet for children has been devised and is making the Museum visit interesting for children, as well as Mum and Dad.
Why do you and the committee of the Society feel it’s so important to preserve our history for future generations?
History must be preserved for future generations. Items will not last forever, and in the past items were collected for display. We now research and document the significance of our collection digitally. Gowns from our Collection are being recorded on the National Dress Register of the Power House Museum. Researching an item can open a whole new social history.
What are some tid-bits of history from Wingham that the general public may not be aware of?
Wingham was proclaimed a town in 1844. In 1865, the population of Wingham was 90. In 1868, there were 45 pupils enrolled at Wingham School. In March 1870, cyclonic storms swept the valley, floods devastating crops. In 1874, tea meetings were popular events; they were gatherings to partake of food followed by one or more guest speakers, possibly a visiting minister, often with over 100 people in attendance.
Is there anything else about the Society you’d like to share with readers?
Research is carried out by our archives team Tuesday and Wednesdays. The Society houses a very large collection of photographs, and is always looking for interesting historic photographs.
Volunteers also man the Museum door. Being ‘A Meet and Greet’ person can be interesting; you never know who you may meet, whether it’s former residents coming back to the district, or giving tourists information on the must see places of our district.
For those interested in the museum, or in joining the Society, where can you be contacted?
The Society’s contact details are:
Telephone: (02) 6553 5823
Interview by Jo Atkins.
This interview was found in issue 70 of Manning Great Lakes Focus