Looking Back

By Leo Billington

Two remarkable, often forgotten pioneers of Morwell

About 57 years ago, a well-known local historian produced a list of names of Morwell’s streets and whom these streets were named after. It was an exhaustive list, providing an invaluable foundation to understanding Morwell’s early history and those pioneers who played significant roles in this.

Two examples are featured in this article.

Aherin St Sign

Aherin Street, south side of Morwell, a short street, perhaps best known as an entry to Morwell’s football ground. It does not strike immediate recognition similar to Buckley Street, Latrobe Road, Hazelwood Road, Church Street, Hoyle Street and other long thoroughfares. There was not much thought given to naming Commercial Road – no imagination here at all.

Mr C R Aherin arrived in Morwell about 1893. For 29 years, he was a bank manager at the Bank of Australasia, Morwell. He was widely admired, as bank managers were in those days, playing a pivotal role shaping Morwell’s early beginnings through to October 1923 when he, and his wife left town to live in Sandringham.

Mowell Bank of Australasia

Mr Aherin does not rate any acknowledgement in a local Morwell municipality history which purports to “commemorate the centenary of the municipal district by telling the story of its’ people and Council.” Another, far more reliable Morwell local history book, provides acknowledgement of C R. (Often referred to as C R, and his wife as Mrs Aherin in various contexts, showed the respect and courtesy accorded to this amazing community minded couple during those early years. To reconcile their contribution with a short street, virtually a cul-de sac, is somewhat bewildering.)

During the early 1900’s there were other bank managers all given similar community status - Colonial Bank - Mr Witt, and at the State Savings Bank, Mr A. C. Stranger.

Before leaving Morwell, Mr and Mrs Aherin occupied a bank owned residence in Berg Street. After Sandringham, they moved to Launceston. Mrs Aherin’s death was announced in the Morwell Advertiser on May 9, 1935. She was remembered as a most “highly esteemed lady with a large circle of friends.”

Such was their standing in Morwell, that when in April 1903, Mr and Mrs Aherin travelled overseas to “visit his native land” (being Ireland), a week before departure, they were honoured with a municipal social gathering in the Morwell Mechanics Hall. The occasion was largely attended, speeches were made and received with acknowledgement, a toast to the King was honoured, patriotism to the Empire was emphasised, songs were sung, music abounded, and a marvellous meal topped the proceedings.

Morwell Shire President, Councillor Samuel Vary presided over this grand occasion, presenting C R with a handsome gold watch and chain, adding that he trusted Mr Aherin would live long to wear and enjoy it. Upon the watch was a monogram and the following inscription : - " Presented to Charles Rickard Aherin, Esq., by his friends and admirers in the Shire of Morwell, on the eve of his departure to his native land. Wishing him a pleasant voyage and a safe return."

The couple was only taking a holiday!

It is here C R becomes known as Charles Rickard. They did return to Morwell after their nine months away, much to the hopes and wishes of everyone in town.

Morwell wanted Charles Aherin back because of volunteer work alongside his wife, with the Morwell Mechanics Institute/Hall, Morwell Town Band, Red Cross, Morwell Rifle Club, Morwell Cricket Club, Bowling Club, Tennis Club, Morwell Horticultural Society, Mechanics Institute. The draughts tournament team, billiards, District Patriotic Committee, plantation of ornamental trees in the townships of Morwell and Yinnar, Morwell Golf Club, Morwell Football Club, Morwell Progress Association, Morwell Novelty Night Committee, Morwell Masonic Lodge. Also connected with establishing the Yinnar Cream and Butter Factory, the King’s Coronation festivities celebrated in Morwell, Morwell National Federation Branch, he lobbied for a water supply into Morwell, and was most vocal for a new, first Fire Station eventually built in 1915 - 1916.

That early history of Morwell street names skated over C R, not as an influential and municipal honoured bank manager alongside a massive record of volunteerism, but as “a name mentioned in some 1882 records.”

Unfortunately, at this point space does not allow a full story about Mr Jeremiah Ryan, another amazing early pioneer of Morwell. As a starter to next time, Jeremiah was an entrepreneur; a distinct contrast to C R, yet both would have known each other quite well in the then small, close settlement of Morwell.

Jeremiah was born in Dublin, home town of C R as well, in 1847. His journey to Morwell was via America, then New Zealand, eventually to New South Wales for eight months, Queensland for another three years and onward to Driffield, just south of Morwell.

To be continued next month.