…after some discussion about the most suitable colour to paint the building, the matter was left to the contractor to use his own judgement…
On 11 March 1886 a public meeting of persons interested in erecting a hall was held at the Arthurs Creek School. Present at the meeting were Fred Simms, H. Plant, Angus McDonald, Owen McDonald, T. Bailee, Jeremiah Lodge, Thomas Green, Patrick W.J. Murphy, Jas. T. Murphy, Joseph Murphy and David Murphy. P.W.J. Murphy was appointed Chairman, J.T. Murphy Secretary and J.A. Lodge Treasurer pro tem. It was proposed and accepted that the subscription for committee men be half a sovereign. The Secretary was asked to obtain prices on materials for a 40 feet x 20 feet weatherboard building with a corrugated iron roof.
At a meeting held on 1 April, William Murphy offered half an acre of land adjoining the Methodist Church on the condition that the deed and title be given to nine trustees who were to pay all transfer fees. P. Murphy moved that ‘no concert or dance or entertainment of any sort with the exception of a bazaar or entertainment for some charitable purpose, be held in the hall knowing there was to be a meeting in the church the same night.’ John Green seconded the motion, which was carried unanimously.
At a meeting held on 13 August 1886, E.H. Cameron M.L.A. acted as the returning officer for the election of trustees and a committee. Eleven candidates were nominated. The Evelyn Observer reported that ‘The following gentlemen were elected to act as a committee for the ensuing year: – Messrs. C. Draper J.P., W. Murphy, J. Murphy, W. Reid J.P., Jas. Morris, R. Bassett, P.W.J. Murphy, J. Lodge and P. Green. The three first named being appointed trustees. Mr. Draper was appointed treasurer, and Mr. J.T. Murphy Hon. Sec. Subscription lists were opened and Mr. Cameron generously handed in £2.2s.’ Mr. Cameron spoke about the Government grants for similar institutions throughout the colony and expressed the opinion that the Government would grant £25.0.0 annually towards the liquidation of the debt on the proposed building at Arthurs Creek. On 10 September 1886, two additional trustees were appointed, Messrs. Patrick Green and P.W.J. Murphy.
Mr. William Murphy made an alternative offer of land on a lower site adjacent to the School. A meeting held on 26 October decided, after much discussion, to accept the land on the lower site as the most suitable for the erection of the new hall.
The next meeting worked out specifications for the new building. The hall was to be 40 feet x 20 feet and the Library and dressing room to be 14 feet x 12 feet each. Mr. Macfarlane was to be asked to prepare the plans. Arrangements for the transfer of land to the Trustees were placed in the hands of Mr. Hornsby, a solicitor. The original trustees shown on the Certificate of Title are Charles Draper, Joseph Murphy, Patrick Green, Patrick William, John Murphy and William Murphy.
At a meeting held on 24 January 1887, it was resolved on the suggestion of Charles Draper that the plans prepared and submitted by Mr. E.J. Henderson, architect, Queen Street, be accepted. Charles Draper offered to superintend the erection of the building.
Advertisements were placed in The Age and Evelyn Observer calling for tenders. When the Committee met on 15 March 1887 motions were passed ‘that the Committee instead of the Trustees open the tenders and let the contract’ and ‘that the Committee be responsible for the money raised to carry out the contract’. The tender of D. J. (Denis) Murphy of Streamville was accepted. The contract required the building to be completed within three months from 21 March 1887. ‘After some discussion about the most suitable colour to paint the building, the matter was left to the contractor to use his own judgement’.
On 30 May 1887 it was moved that 20 plain forms be obtained from D. J. Murphy and that his offer to build two WCs with screens etc. be accepted. It was decided to place a five-foot high dado around the inside of the hall at a cost of £3.10.0. The Secretary was asked to insure the building for £200 at the cost of £1 per annum.
At the meeting held on 19 July 1887, a committee was formed to make arrangements for the opening of the hall. Con. Hildebrand offered to supply the music (violin, flutina and harps) for the ball at a cost of £4.0.0.
Charles Draper resigned from the Hall Committee on 6 August 1887. A hearty unanimous vote of thanks was proposed and seconded to Mr. Draper for his services in connection with the building of the Mechanics Institute and Free Library.
It was decided to hold a concert on the same night as the Opening Ball with an admission price of one shilling for children. Joseph Murphy agreed to meet the concert party and musicians at the coach, Morang, and to convey them back to Preston the next morning for the sum of 25/0.
The grand concert and ball to celebrate the opening was held on the evening of Friday 2 September 1887. The Evelyn Observer reported that ‘As this was the first entertainment of the sort ever held at Arthurs Creek, much speculation was indulged in as to how it would come off; and it is pleasing to record that the result achieved, notwithstanding the recent heavy rains, which rendered the roads in a very sloppy condition, far exceeded the most sanguine expectations of those concerned in its promotion. A letter of apology was read from E. H. Cameron, Esq. M.L.A. who was to have taken the chair, but was unable to attend. In his absence the chair was kindly taken by Wm. Reid, Esq. J.P. .’ … ‘There were about 40 couples present.’ … ‘A programme of 21 dances was finished a little after 5 o’clock in the morning’.
Subscription books were issued to members of the Committee to collect money for the Library Book Fund. A concert was held on 26 November 1887 to raise funds and in January 1888 it was decided to write to the Whittlesea Council asking for a donation. The President (Mr. Reid) and Secretary were asked to proceed to Melbourne to buy books for the library.
Rules and regulations for the management of the library were drawn up. Mr. Green acted as Librarian and was granted all the privileges of the library free of charge. The sub-committee for management of the library comprised Hugh Macmillan, Denis Murphy, J.T. Murphy, J. Harrison, Angus McDonald, J. Green and Con. Hildebrand.
Source : Extract from paper prepared for Mechanics’ Institutes World Conference 2004 by Ken Murphy and Bruce G. Draper.
Publishers note: this article was written in April 2004, however many of the photos were taken after this date.