The Mechanics' Institute and Free Library
by Heather Trigg, edited by Calvin Tromp.
Mechanics' Institutes were educational establishments formed to provide adult technical education to working men. They were used as 'libraries' and provided men with an alternative to gambling and drinking in pubs. Many towns had them and Bungaree was no exception.
Building the Bungaree Mechanics' Institute.
Meetings were held over 1892 to seek land, fundraise and plan for a building. The following men were appointed on a committee —Rev Father Foley, Messrs. Andrew Wade, T Hanrahan. JW Blight, Joseph Home, Henry Acton and A Forbes. Later Mr James Horn was appointed Treasurer and J Gibson Secretary. Concerts were held to raise funds for the building and half an acre of land was purchased from Mr FW Linsdell for £100.
Eighteen months later, in April 1894, the original Mechanics' Institute and Free Library was officially opened in a ceremony where 300 people attended. There was a great celebration and 150 couples danced a program of 28 dances.
The Gordon Advertiser describes the building as follows:
The institute is immediately adjoining the Hibernian Hall just beyond the township proper. It is a handsome wooden structure with an elliptical roof, supported by iron girders. Entering through the front porch we find ourselves in the main hall. This is indeed a handsome room measuring 60 feet by 29 feet with a semicircular stage about 24 x 9 feet, at the north end. The wall is dadoed and tastefully papered. At the rear of the building are ladies and gentleman's dressing, reading and retiring rooms, and the whole is undoubtedly one of the most compact, convenient and handsome provincial halls in Victoria. It certainly reflects great credit on the good judgement of the committee.
Besides balls and dances, the hall was used for meetings, youth clubs, table tennis, gymnastics, judo, roller skating , carpet bowls and quoits (as related by John Parkin's mother in the early 1920s).
A fundraising ball held at the Bungaree hall in 1951. From the Weekly Times.
Click here to learn how a cyclone destroyed the Institute.