YALLOURN - A SPORTING CENTRE FOR ALL
INTRODUCTION – BACKGROUND TO THE GARDEN TOWN OF YALLOURN
When the report entitled ‘The Establishment of a Township at Yallourn’ was tabled in 1921, the strong emphasis placed in planning for parks, gardens, tree-lined streets, children’s playgrounds and sports grounds in the ‘scheme of things’ was a significant step in Australian town planning.
The SEC’s Chief Architect was *Mr A.R. La Gerche (see footnotes); and he based his plans for Yallourn along the lines of other model industrial garden towns such as Letchworth and Welwyn in the UK. As history shows, Sir John Monash backed the concept of a ‘garden town’ with zeal and his support added great weight to Mr La Gerche’s blueprint…
“Situated on a hillside in full view of an amphitheatre of beautiful hills, residence in Yallourn should be nearly as ideal as possible to make.” Source: Meredith Fletcher in her book ‘Digging People up for Coal’ page 8.
Sir John Monash deserves enduring praise for his drive (despite frequent trenchant criticism from certain quarters) in bringing the project of Yallourn to fruition. At that time in Australian history, Sir John’s accomplishment, in overseeing the development of such a town, for the workers and their families, was avant-garde…
“ …an extraordinary chapter in Australian history when a beautifully designed garden city, with a thriving community of about a thousand families…Yallourn was a model town in Victoria's Latrobe Valley, unique in Australia's planning history. But today it exists only in the memories of those who lived there. Built in the 1920s by the State Electricity Commission to house its brown coal miners in ideal conditions…” Source: ‘ABC Radio National’ June 2008.
One of the most striking aspects of the garden town/model of Yallourn was the provision of outstanding sporting facilities as described in the ‘Sporting Globe’ in July 1933 as printed below. As an historical record of Yallourn, the newspaper extract is significant because it lists the names of some well-known sporting personalities of those times.
The extract also underlines the rapid progress that had been made in establishing the township and highlights the role that sport played in building community involvement and spirit.
Within two decades of settlement, Yallourn’s sporting fields became the envy of all and set the bench mark for all country towns.
Note: Such was the standard of the main oval at Yallourn that a VFL match, between Footscray and St Kilda, took place there in June 1952; and three years later the touring English cricket team, led by Sir Len Hutton, played against a combined Gippsland XI at the same venue.
‘The Argus’ article is testimony to A.R. Gerche’s vision and Sir John’s Monash dynamism; and the fact that such a glowing report could be written, just 12 years after the first sod had been turned in the Yallourn Project, is astonishing.
JULY 26TH 1933 SPORTING GLOBE PAGE 12
CONDUCTED ON LAVISH LINES
Yallourn a Great Sporting Centre
YALLOURN, vortex of the State's mighty lighting and power system, presents an astounding and gigantic spectacle to the layman. From a placid and out-of-the-way little hamlet Yallourn has in the last eight or nine years, grown to a beautiful residential area that has the appearance of Suburbia, but with picturesque and typically Australian bush surroundings.
Too stupendous for description by the layman's pen are the Commission’s works - the powerhouse, briquette works and brickworks. From the open cut more than 12 million tons of coal have been extracted since 1924 - merely a nibble from the vast resources.
Here sport is conducted on almost lavish lines. The happy and sociable community of 3000 inhabitants have shown wonderful enterprise in this direction, making Yallourn a veritable playground for their leisure moments.
Two excellent sports ovals, tennis courts, bowling greens, swimming pools, cricket, golf, football and rifle clubs, speak volumes for the activities of the sporting fraternity. Behind all these organisations is the popular and highly respected general superintendent, Mr. J. M. Bridge, whose word is law in Yallourn. No man ever had the happiness of a community more at heart and his interest in all sporting affairs has been largely responsible for their success. Mr. Bridge is primarily connected with the Moe and Yallourn Trotting and Racing Club, of which he is president.
Mr R. D. Dixon, assistant general superintendent, has been quite as active in his interests, and a patron of all sport the town. He is at Bendigo at present.
The annual subscription of 25/- entitles members of the tennis club to play at all hours, on the electrically-lit courts, and includes a free supply of balls.
This club, with a membership of 120, has three teams entered in the Central Gippsland Association, a competition which embraces eight other towns. H. M. Ashley, club president, is past president of the association. H. Martin was one of the founders of the club, and is an energetic official.
Mead Cox, president of the Cricket Association, captains the Yallourn team, and also skippered the district team that won the B-grade pennant against Dunmunkle in the finals of Country Cricket Week in 1928.
In 1931 Yallourn played with Traralgon in the final and drew with Warrnambool. Two old-time stalwarts are Freddie Rusden and Doug Thomson. Doug, played football with St. Kilda in 1918. D.J. Alston, one of the founders of the Association, is a life member, and held the presidency for three years.
With V. C. Colvin, he originated the scheme for the bowling club, and was its first secretary, a position now occupied by Jock Lawson. With six electrically lit rinks of perfect green, the club is modern in layout and numbers a membership of 80.
One of the most popular and esteemed sportsmen in Gippsland is W.H. ‘Dad’ Brewer – father of sport in Yallourn. ‘Dad’, one of the foundation members is president, a position he has held since its inception in 1923 —a past president of the football club and football and cricket associations.
Mr Brewer arrived first arrived in Yallourn shortly after the turning of the first sod in the open cut and his other many sporting connections include vice president of the gun club and member od the Sports Oval Trust.
Premiers in the Central Gippsland Association in 1931, Yallourn Football Club entered the Gippsland League last season and again secured the premiership, losing only one match throughout the season. S. E. Comber, a prominent player, is the club's capable secretary.
G. D. Jones, captain of the golf club last year, and original secretary, is the greatest worker of that body, and laid out the attractive nine-hole course. An additional three holes are at present being included - a rather Herculean task as the ground must be cleared of scrub and ploughed. The sand greens arc claimed to be equal to the famous Bendigo greens.
A strong Rifle Club is captained by Jim Garvin, a prominent shot at local and metropolitan fixtures.
A delightful swimming pool attracts great numbers on hot days and was recently the venue of some of Australia’s leading swimmers on the occasion of the Yallourn Club's carnival on Jan. 7. A pool of Olympic dimensions is in course of construction in the heart of the town.
Other identities include Don W. Neil a supporter of bowls and cricket, and incidentally the driving force in the local orchestra - and Dixon Brown, a generous patron whose gifts of trophies to sporting bodies have been an added incentive to the performers in their various spheres.
Winner of a £200 special prize in The Herald Ideal Town Competition, it is small wonder that Yallourn conducts itself so meritoriously in all it undertakes in the Sporting World.
1. The original article was difficult to read in places and my apologies for any errors in transcription (Roger).
2. Mr La Gerche was the SEC’s Chief Architect from 1919 until 1937. In some texts he is known as Alan but there is evidence to suggest that his name may have been Alfred Romeo (see footnote: 3).
3. Readers interested in the life and times of A.R. La Gerche may also enjoy reading about an architect who was/is quite an ‘unsung hero’ in the story of Yallourn. Mr William Elliot Gower (1898- 1996) was an adroit architect who played a principal role in the design and construction of the township of Yallourn. His story can be found on a website called ‘Built Heritage.com .au’ …
“ Working under Alfred Romeo La Gerche (1873-1948), who was Chief Architect to the SEC, “Gower and his colleagues were involved not only in the layout of the township ( Yallourn ) itself but also the design of virtually all of the buildings therein, from individual dwellings through to administrative offices and commercial facilities. Amongst the structures for which Gower can take design credit were a memorial to Sir John Monash……the new township's picture theatre. The last of these projects was widely published at the time and later caught the attention of a young Robin Boyd, who praised it in the pages of his first book, Victorian Modern (1947).”
4. ‘The Argus’ newspaper article was accompanied by the sketch (as shown above) of some of Yallourn’s sporting personalities as mentioned in the ‘Sporting Globe’ article including… J.M. Bridge, Dixon Brown, G.D Jones, Jim Garvin, H. Martin , Doug Thomson, Mead Cox, Fred Rusden, ‘Dad’ Brewer, S.E. Comber, Don. W. Neil, R.D. Dixon, Jock Lawson and H.M. Ashley.
5. The newspaper article was published just two years after the death of Sir John Monash; and Sir John’s family would have been most gratified and indeed proud to have read the complimentary words as penned by the unidentified journalist of the ‘Sporting Globe.’
6. Not a story about the playing fields of Yallourn could be complete without mention of Mr Jock Lawson and his dedicated staff…
“ The people of Yallourn were chuffed that the Australian Cricket Board had chosen ‘their oval’ as the venue for the tour match; and it is fair to say that Dick and Ken were ‘local heroes’ around town.
The visit by Len Hutton’s team generated a deal of interest in Yallourn; and, as a consequence, there were several articles regarding the town and the picturesque oval in the local and metropolitan newspapers.
Yallourn’s Curator of Parks and Gardens, Jock Lawson, received accolades for the outstanding job that he (and his staff) had done in preparing the turf pitch, outfield and surrounds …
“The English cricketers, visiting pressmen and commentators, Australian and international, had nothing but praise for the Yallourn Oval, which they described as the best country ground they have ever seen on tour.” ‘Morwell Advertiser.’
In 1970, Jock Lawson was awarded an MBE for his services to the town of Yallourn; and he will always be remembered, by cricket lovers far and wide, for the world-class standards of the pitch and outfield for the match that year.” Source: Virtual Yallourn website article (January 2018).
7. Most former residents would concur that Yallourn was an exceptional place to live as it appeared that there always ‘some game to play’ or ‘some organization to join’ to enhance the lives of families.
8. There were ‘sports of all sorts’ and the friendships and fun that emanated from the various sporting clubs of Yallourn are still spoken about with pride today (eg Veronica Lacey’s wonderful recollections of the Yallourn Hockey Club or Lois Gust’s vivid memories of swimming for Yallourn - see this website).
9. It wasn’t just the major sports (football, cricket, swimming tennis, soccer) that were well organized and patronized. With the rapid growth in the town’s population, after World War: 11, other sports such as badminton, croquet, boxing, hockey, marching (girls), softball, vigaro, water polo and rifle shooting flourished and became popular pastimes for the residents of Yallourn.
10. For those people interested to read more about the available sports and the celebrities of Yallourn teams/clubs simply click the tab ‘Groups’ at the top of this page. The various articles and photographs related to swimming, athletics, hockey, cricket, vigaro, soccer, football, tennis, badminton, basketball and rifle shooting will further underscore the reason why Yallourn was somewhat of a ‘sporting citadel.’
The research and writing was undertaken by Roger Spaull; and the posting and presentation of photographs and of this article were completed by Julie George for the Virtual Yallourn website in August 2019.
The above extract from the ‘Sporting Globe’ has been faithfully reproduced. The only amendments to the original copy are the font style, font size and spacing, so as to enhance the story for the purposes of posting on the Virtual Yallourn website.