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MAYOR’S MESSAGE December 20 2006.


This week in the lead up to Christmas I have unearthed the Mayors Message from the same period ten years ago. At the time Councillor John Bruce was our Mayor. We were in the middle of a very trying period in the region, with drought affecting us all. Every business and family felt the effects of this terrible period and it is interesting to see where we are now, one minute it is again looking like drought and then we are flooded. We certainly are a tough bunch here in the country.

On behalf of the Council I extend its best wishes to the community for the festive season and hope that you all have a happy and safe Christmas and a prosperous new year. It is also an opportune time to express the Council’s thanks to all our tireless volunteers and community workers that help provide the wonderful community and environment in which we live.

The Council has recently received the final draft of a Strategic Plan for Tocumwal Aerodrome. The Council commissioned the plans preparation to clarify the future direction and opportunities for the aerodrome. To discuss the plan an initial meeting will be held at the Tocumwal Aerodrome terminal building on Wednesday 17th January 2006 commencing at 7.30 pm. A copy of the draft plan is available at the Council’s website.

At this stage the Council has not adopted the plan and is interested in feedback from the community before it does so.

The Council is working with Murray Irrigation Ltd to ensure continuity of supply to Berrigan and Finley townships during the closure periods of irrigation channels. The Council does not expect any significant supply problems however it is taking action to expand storage capacity at Berrigan that has always been marginal. A review of expanded storage options at Finley will be addressed shortly. 
 The Council will soon circulate a “coping with stress’ brochure to all rural properties and business operators throughout the Shire. The brochure is a handy guide to recognizing and dealing with stress and includes useful reference points for assistance.

Once again a safe and prosperous Christmas and new year to all.

Interesting to see what has happened at the Tocumwal Aerodrome, in particular the upcoming residential airpark, in the time since this was written, check out the facebook page for further updates:…/

The Blowhole north of Tocumwal


It's generally accepted that Tocumwal (originally Tucumival) was named after an Aboriginal word meaning "deep hole" or "pit", and that it was the abode of a native spirit which was accustomed to flit from the river underground by a subterranean passage and bob up at the Blow Hole in the granite formation at the Rocks.


The "Blow Hole" is the small outcrop of rocks which is near "The Rocks" area, approximately 11km north-east of Tocumwal on the Rocks Road and has been closely associated with the folklore of the area.  When the Murray River is low, the blowhole flows and bubbles. It seems to "come alive". Some people say the aborigines believed a giant Murray Cod lived at the bottom.

The sign at the site states:

  •         Known to be sacred to the Ulupna and Bangarang Aboriginal Tribes
  •         Bubbles and flows during times of drought and low river
  •         Believed by Aboriginals to be connected by underground stream to a deep hole in the river near Tocumwal township
  •         It is said that an aboriginal chased into it came out near Tocumwal bridge
  •         Actual depth 15 feet with a deeper narrower hole to 80 feet.
  •         Hollow sound on the south side may be a cavern

Information sourced from

Photos from and

Tobacco growing in Tocumwal


Tobacco growing commenced during Australia's early years of settlement. Governor Macquarie experimented with plantings at Emu Plains in New South Wales in 1818, and by the 1820’s tobacco was cultivated by farmers in the Hunter Valley. During the 1850’s growing extended to Victoria and Queensland and at the turn of the century tobacco was trialled along the banks of the Murray River with spray irrigation systems set up direct from the river.

Tobacco growing at this time was a very labour intensive activity, with many hands required for the harvest. The market for tobacco at that time was also very high, aside from the demand for personal consumption, a proportion of the early crops supplied the colony with the makings of pesticide for use in ridding sheep of parasites.

Unfortunately the crops along the Murray at Barooga were lost to "Blue Mould". Most of the growers then redirected their efforts to citrus with many orange groves established.

Flooding in Berrigan Shire 1917


As we are watching the high levels of the Murray River at present we thought we would do a feature on flooding in the Shire in 1917. The two articles featured in the attached picture came from Trove, the National Library of Australia A transcript of each is included below:

The Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday 19 June 1917 page 7
At Barooga, the Murray River has slowly risen since Friday, to-day being 22ft above summer level. A still further rise is probable, as the river at Mulwala is 23ft 9in, and rising, the critical level at that place being 23ft. All low-lying land between Mulwala and Barooga has been inundated for the last week.

The Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday 25 July 1917 page 12
TOCUMWAL, Tuesday.
The Murray River has been rising fast since Sunday, and to-day is about 19 feet 10 inches in height, which Is 10 Inches over what is considered critical, and reports from up-stream indicate that it will rise still more yet. At a public meeting Councillor W. Quirk was appointed to take control of all operations in strengthening the levee banks or repairing any probable breaks. A gang has been sent to Barooga, which is perhaps the weakest spot on the banks this side of the river for some miles, and if a break occurred there the town would be inundated. Mr. Shute, chief engineer of the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission, arrives tonight to report. The position is extremely critical.
ALBURY, Tuesday.

After remaining stationary at 14 feet 10 Inches, the highest point attained for many years, the Murray fell 3 Inches last night. The weather la still unsettled, but there is every prospect that the worst of the flood is over. Extensive damage has been done to the Chinese gardens on both sides of the river, one garden being 4 feet under water. The river is also running over some of the fencing on the flat land. Several dairies near the river are isolated, and the milk has to be delivered by boat.

“Wheels of Prosperity” Waterwheel Waterfall Finley


The official opening of the Wheels of Prosperity waterfall was held on Saturday 4 September 1993 during the ‘Centenary Back To Finley’ weekend.

The waterfall, located between the Finley Lake and the Newell Highway, in the parklands which are home to the popular Finley Farmers Markets (when weather permits), comprises three dethridge wheels which recycle water over rocks. The three wheels are symbolic of the River Murray, the Mulwala Canal, and the lateral channels. They demonstrate the importance of irrigation to Finley and to the region, the Riverina Food Bowl.

The design was selected because the water wheel is a symbol of the area and it’s used widely for promotions. Funding for the project was provided through a NSW government grant, the Finley Tidy Towns Committee, Department of Water Resources, Berrigan Shire and voluntary work by tradesmen and donations from residents.

A few years ago the waterfall was given a facelift and general refurbishment to return it to its former glory.

Information and concept plans from Finley 1893 – 1993.

Vale Liz McLaurin 1939 - 2016


This weeks focus is on someone who will be dearly missed by the Berrigan Shire Council; one of our former Councillors, Liz McLaurin. Liz was a Councillor from 1999 to 2012 including a year as mayor in 2003. 

From an early age Liz had a love for horses and this stayed with her throughout her life. She moved to Deniliquin at 21 to work as governess for theMcAllister family at ‘Brassi’ and it was during this time met Rob McLaurin (dec.) whom she married at St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Sydney in October 1959.
The couple later settled near Tocumwal, where they dedicated their days farming ‘Turnabulla’ on the beautiful Murray River country between Deniliquin and Tocumwal on Lower River Rd. They had three sons — James, Tim and David.

She soon became well known for her passion for the community. There are fond memories of Liz meeting up for coffee most Sundays with her friends at the Tocumwal Antiques and Tea Rooms, where she’d spend time putting together items for her ‘Toc Tells’ community column which featured in the Southern Riverina News.

Liz began her volunteering with the SES during the 1975 floods at the flood emergency operations centre where she manned the phones. She soon became an integral member as the communications manager and the squad secretary. She is also believed to have been the first female member of the Tocumwal Search and Rescue Squad, and she received the national medal for service to the SES in Victoria and NSW. 

She was a long serving member of the Central Murray County Council, the Search and Rescue Squad, the local weed management board, Tocumwal Blowhole Trust and Meals on Wheels committee, and volunteered at the local Pony Club, Tocumwal Visitor Information Centre, Tocumwal Friends of the Library and with South West Arts. She was co-author of the local history book ‘Tocumwal, 150 Years’. 

Information sourced from the Southern Riverina News 7 September 2016.

The Royal Hotel Berrigan


Although the last hotel to be built in the early upsurge of the town getting under way, the Royal, under the management and guidance of Ned McGrady prospered. Apart from also being a great townsman which appeared to be something traditional for publicans in those days, the host of the Royal was also a very astute businessman and was always well to the fore with new ideas, and these mainly concerned comfort for patrons and adequate lighting was one of these.
McGrady installed the first pressurised lights and then later possibly at the conclusion of the 1st world War put in the first generating plant.

He had before this build a substantial hall which became the popular theatre of the town, and this, with the advent of electricity to hotel and hall, became even a more popular rendezvous.

McGrady departed from Berrigan some time later to take up land at Merriwagga and it is not known whether he was still in charge at the Royal when hotel and hall were both gutted by fire in the mid-twenties. The hotel was rebuilt in 1925, a solid brick structure of two storeys but the theatre hall was passed over.

Information sourced from "Berrigan, Today and Yesterday", by Ian Fuzzard, 1965 . Photos from and mattinbgn on Wikimedia commons.

Tocumwal Bowls Club


The first bowling green in Tocumwal was laid down in 1937 and was a four rink green situated next to the playground. While the old green was in a central position and amongst beautiful surroundings, it proved too small for the great influx of new members in the post-war years.

It was decided in 1954 that the green would have to be shifted and in November of that year, an eight rink green was opened with the old clubhouse being shifted to the new site. The decision to build a new bowling green was a bold one, as at the time, the club still had a debt on their clubhouse of £180. A very large amount of voluntary work was carried out in the establishment of the new green but the total debt was increased by over £500.

The move paid off and the old Clubhouse was later replaced with a large function room and
restaurant and has been the venue for many celebrations over the years.

The greens and clubrooms have been sold in the past twelve months with the Bowls Club moving to the Tocumwal Golf Club recently.

Information from Back to Tocumwal Centenary 1857-1957.

Murray Street Finley


I have found some great photos online of early Finley, particularly down the main street. I have made them in to a slideshow for Facebook and attached them below, along with some others I had on file.

Some of the shops along this main thoroughfare, through the early years, included Chalie Gee Sings Fruiterer, PM Wells Grocery, Drapery and Ironmongery Store, Kittle Brothers Joinery and Undertakers, Walkers Federal Store, EH 'Harry' Martin the Bootmaker, The Oriental Cafe and Billiard Saloon, Allan Tongs' Chaff Shed, Hensen General Merchants, M Taggart Fruiterer and Confectioner, and Salmond's Garage. These are not listed in chronological order.

The photos featuring in the slideshow have been sourced from the State Library of NSW website and "Finley 1893 - 1993", A Finley Centenary Committee Project.

Barooga Sporties


The Barooga Sports Club, as it was originally known, was a long time ambition of the late Mr Jack O’Dwyer. Before he died in 1968, he asked the late Mr Ray Brooks to try and get a licenced club at the recreation reserve to help promote the sports played there.

A public meeting met with good support, with 100 local people paying $300 each for life membership of the Club. This enabled building to begin and the Barooga Sports Club was opened for business on 21st August 1981. Then in November 1982 the Club doubled in size with a kitchen and storeroom being added. The auditorium was also enlarged.

The Club became the social centre for many residents, with carpet bowls, darts and cards being played weekly. On weekends bands and solo artists provided entertainment.

The Club was able to build and grow during the early years when Poker machines were not permitted in Victoria. Buses would travel to the region frequently from Melbourne and regional Victoria for the entertainment, golf and pokies. Fortunately, the introduction of pokies in the early nineties did not see the anticipated massive loss of visitors to the region, though numbers did reduce.

Greg Ryan was the CEO of The Sporties Group until last year, when he retired. The Club, during his 32 years at the helm, has certainly changed from the original small building built in the early eighties, with many expansions and renovations completed.

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