Questions to Council re James Gee memorial in Moruya
Prior to the Council meeting each fortnight the community have the opportunity to ask questions away from the agenda items of the day. These questions are not broadcast. Norm Moore of Moruya was there today to ask questions of Council and Councillors about the James Gee memorial in Russ Martin Park Public Forum Address 28 February 2017 N. Moore (ever so slightly edited).
Dr Dale, Mayor, & Councillors - I refer to a meeting of Art and Heritage Committee last November, regarding the James Gee memorial in Russ Martin Park.
I mailed Lindsay Usher at the time saying that “I would not be giving a lecture on heritage and required 10 minutes to set up a display.”
A 3 tonne module of the project was set up at 7 am.
None had made effort to see it previously at Moruya markets or show - where it has won four awards for art & heritage.
I arrived at 2:40pm for a 3pm meeting to find the door to chambers barricaded with furniture and was left standing in a wind-blown alley way. There was no apology from Lindsay Usher when admitted at 3 pm and complained of no time to set a display. I was told it wasn’t needed & informed by Councillor Nathan she had thoroughly researched the history – offered a lame excuse in reference to the park, and proceeded with advice.
It seemed ‘decisions’ had been made- my agenda would not be followed, and this would be an ‘ad hoc‘ show. To see what was ‘afoot,’ I offered only token information & left the main of my agenda in my car.
Next, I endured humiliation of this town’s pioneers- their heritage, myself, and my years as an Historian. Not once did I hear the word OUR amongst the following suggestions in reference to the heritage involved.
1.The offer of a plaque - I regarded as unprofessional, convenient and lazy !
2. Placed in the local museum - with neither space – security -connection to heritage - facilities for parking - and seldom open - ridiculous !
3. Placed in Batemans Bay museum– where Moruya residents & school students require transport to learn of their town’s history - disgraceful !
4. Placed in the Men’s shed - located in high school grounds – open Fridays -security passes needed by the public - closed school holidays and a shipping container for storage - no comment needed !
5. Placed in Mogo Town - with no connection to the original gold rush town, or history of Moruya, ’
Mention of a Heritage Centre was scoffed at by councillor Brown - unaware of a previous petition signed by 600 residents (including 400 business owners) and placed on council agenda. (I refer this to Councillor Pollock)
To Councillor Nathan (in particular) and members of committees –if as claimed, you had “thoroughly researched” everything , --you would know this :
1. The Russ Martin Park area - previously called the Ferry Reserve - is the point from where Moruya ‘grew’. River crossing was via a canoe paddled by a convict. The first white woman crossed this way in 1835. Gee’s forge was adjacent !
2. The Araluen gold rush seen 4 ships weekly unloading diggers & supplies – and store keepers prospering by running the teams of packhorses needed.
3. Moruya was the first port to ship gold in Australia. The Silver Mine held the first payable silver deposit in the Southern Hemisphere. Ore was shipped to London & Germany in 1890. Moruya silver was prized by English Flute Makers. Sir Saul Samuel opened the mine in 1862 and was Australia’s first Post Master General.
4. Moruya was the largest supplier of potatoes in the Colony with 7 ships in waiting to load. With this - our timber - farming produce & granite - we played a large part in the building of Sydney Town & the Colony of NSW.
The advent of Blacksmith Gee occurred midst this momentous period in OUR history - having already made his mark as Horseman in Charge - in Australia’s first great cattle drive –Moruya to Adelaide. His part in the naming of Moruya’s main street "Vulcan" - now legendary.
A sound system will explain much of this for visitors – but must be set in conjunction with a pictorial display accomplished via a pictorial ceramic tile edging along Russ Martin park - (with seating, and the like.)
Our Art Community should come to the fore here – encouraging and tutoring participants in displaying stories of aboriginals, settlers, bushrangers, police, churches, schools and the many avenues of evolvement of our communities.
This is what many business owners have indicated to me – “Somewhere to send tourists, where they can quickly access and enjoy a ‘compact & precise vision’ of the Eurobodalla” - without leaving in confusion, anger or disappointment - and further spreading word of their feelings !
Please take notice of a petition I now submit - containing 1,000 (one thousand) signatures (including Andrew Constance and Fiona Phillips) and references from several organizations.
It does not allude to the Ceramic Tile concept - a splendid idea from several Moruya business owners - but is accompanied by diagram and detail.
Questions the public & business owners want answers to :
1.What is the duty of Council’s Heritage officer and why has he not attended to this heritage in the 8 years of his term in council.
2. Why was the council given a $25,000 grant 2009 -2011 to employ a Heritage Architect - for a heritage study that was done by volunteers and Council employee.
3. What is the duty of council’s Director of Art and why has there not been
effort made to showcase the heritage described thru various art programs ?
4. Why is there no one on the Art & Heritage committees with building & structural skills ,
interest and knowledge of Moruya’s heritage, and better understanding of how to
implement this project ?
5. Finally - Is there a Councillor willing to represent the interests of Moruya residents ?
Above: Norm Moore just after Public Forum Feb 28th, 2016
Editors Note: Norm advised The Beagle that he had previously presented at a Council Public Forum and the notes from that address were available here Norm Moore made the following comments in Non Agenda Public forum at the Ordinary Council Meeting on 9 November 2014. Thank you all; for the opportunity During a conversation with Andrew Constance MP at the conclusion of the granite town parade – he expressed excitement and admiration of a prototype memorial of Moruya blacksmith James Gee and its escort of kids from Moruya Public School dressed as convicts. "Moruya Granite" he said – "I've got to find $5,000 to make a bigger sign for the town about granite"!!I pointed out the memorial was nothing to do with the quarry & that any signage should properly signify this town's real history & at least start with Silver, Gold and Granite and I would find the money if he couldn't. I believe that money is now 'on Council table' and like many I'm concerned at how it will be used.No one has done more to promote Moruya Quarry than myself, having made several DVDs and CDs, and in 2008, - tried to get the then Council interested in a festival – and following a complaint from the late Nelle Grieg, - that as guests of former NSW Governor (now Dame Marie Bashir) – during the 75th anniversary celebrations of the bridge's opening – she heard about millions of rivets, litres of paint & tonnes of steel but nothing about Moruya and the granite faced abutments engineer Bradfield – described as – "adding a touch of distinction to what otherwise would be an immense utilitarian structure". In return, Dame Marie has donated two magnificent books to our library – this is a copy of one – given to me as a thank you. A CD produced in conjunction with 2ear fm & takes you back to the building of some 100 lighthouses around England and Scotland by the Lighthouse Stevenson family of engineers, - development of technology, involvement of John Gilmore at age 13 years – and possible links to 'reluctant' engineer & later famous Author, Robert Louis Stevenson and brings you forward to the massive operations of the Moruya quarry, - then regards as the most modern in the world. It contains information you won't read about in books as it came from apprenticed tradesmen I knew. Copies are with Moruya & District Historical Society. Huge though this operation was, - It happened in relatively modern times and was but a 'blink of an eye' in the real pioneering story of Moruya prior to WW1. Of far more interest is Louttit's Quarry 1858 and its connection with the Abernethy Lathe, Columns of Sydney GPO Colonnade 1882, St. Mary's Cathedral, Capt. Cook's Statue and the Canberra foundation stone etc.Of more interest is a very brief of these;* Produce from farms & timber from our forests both fed & built in Sydney Town. Moruya was the largest supplier of potatoes in the Colony with 7 ships in waiting to load.* When gold was discovered at Araluen, Moruya became a gold rush town with 2 ships per month escalating to 4 or 5 a week. Miners needed food – meaning a substantial increase in production of meat, fruit & vegetables and a rapid increase in ship building to cater for fishing & transportation of mining goods.Local businesses prospered by running reams of pack horses carrying supplies – leaving at midnight & arriving at dawn to avoid heat of day. 53,000 ozs or 2 tonnes of gold come from the field within a year and Moruya was the first port to ship gold in Australia. In later years a single dredge produced 3 tonnes from its paddock. Employment & economy thrived with the opening of Moruya Silver Mine by Sir Saul Samuel in 1862 and was the first payable silver deposit in the Southern Hemisphere. Samuels became Australia's first Postmasters General after opening the Sydney GPO in 1874. The mine's stamp mill was cast in the Sydney foundry of Sir Peter Nicol Russell – whose name is given to the Sydney University School of Engineering building as does the annual engineering award. 6 medals have been struck in his honour. Moruya has the only surviving Stampmill of the hundreds produced in his foundry during the gold rush era. (much more info online if you want it.)Opening of the Donkey Hill Mine in 1870 – provided employment for up to 30 workers till forced to close by WW2 in 1939, then – the only mine paying a dividend to share holders in Australia. It could be heard from town working day & night – as I experienced as a child in the 1930's.Not enough time here to full mention that Moruya was the furthest point of convict administration in the Colony – with flogging post & court house at Broulee. I've been working with Moruya Public School teacher Lynne Ellis and her class of 2a students to produce souvenirs that will remind them of our pioneering past. They've been given an appropriate version of history just mentioned and asked to comment and write essays on the subject.Some students with difficulties in attitude, concentration or learning – have shown intense interest & produced outstanding work units for their age & given Lynne Ellis and Principal Peter Johnson a most pleasing outcome. If time permits the children's work will be displayed in a window at Harris Scarf till Xmas and I urge you to find time to take a look. The prototype memorial of blacksmith James Gee will contain a sound system enabling school children & visitors to listen & learn of our unique history. Nearly 50 local tradesmen, businesses and even members of Councils workforce in spare time have contributed. It's ready for stage 2 and that will be a contribution to the Centenary of Anzac by way of an image of the great grandson of James Gee who was a bugler on HMAS Perth sunk by Jap subs WW2 and was known as the Blind Barber of Burma Prison Camp. I urge that you continue to give full support to the Granite Town Festival – but please remember you must involve the other 90% of the community whose achievements have been elsewhere. Without them, you won't get the full hearted support needed for continuation. It is important that you engage persons familiar with & interested in our pioneers & heritage to design new town entry signs. Finally, what is happening with the $125,000 given by the Commonwealth Gov. to 53 Shire Council's around Australia for unique projects supporting the Centenary of Anzac? Council Reply The Moruya granite quarry is operated by the NSW Government Crown Lands. We have forwarded your suggestion that the quarry provide a large granite bolder for the rock garden in Canberra to them for consideration. The contact person is Martin Bergs, Crown Lands, Ground Floor, 5 O’Keefe Avenue, Nowra, NSW 2541 or telephone 4428 9100. Andrew Constance’s office is currently awaiting advice from the Minister of Arts regarding the status of the $5,000 grant and as soon as we receive this advice we will contact you.