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Murchison, VIC

Quiet, charming town on the Goulburn River.

Murchison is a genuinely charming and very pretty small town located on the banks of the Goulburn River. Its primary appeal lies in the superb Meteorite Park which runs along the river, boasts a delightful riverside walking trail, is full of 'cow' statues (what a brilliant idea - and some of them are amazing) and is directly opposite a good bakery with excellent coffee and pastries. It also has a genuinely fascinating cemetery with both an Italian War Memorial and the grave of an important local Aborigine.

Location

Murchison is located 161 km north of Melbourne, via the Hume Freeway and Goulburn Valley Highway, between Seymour and Shepparton.

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Origin of Name

When the town was surveyed in 1854 it was named after a Captain John Murchison.

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Things to See and Do

The Cow Statues
There is something quite inspirational about a small town which comes up with the eccentric idea of populating the main riverside park (Meteorite Park) with artistically painted cows. These are not just ordinary cows. One is so cleverly painted you would think it had been wrapped in sheets of metal armour; another expresses 'gratitude' in a dozen different languages; yet another is covered with a map of the world. They are quirky and artistic and great fun.

Murchison Italian Ossario - War Memorial and Chapel
What did Australia do with Prisoners of War and enemy aliens during World War II? Many of them were sent to prison camps in the Goulburn Valley. An estimated 4,000 Italian, German and Japanese POWs were detained at Murchison. A number of them died and were buried in the local Murchison cemetery but major floods in 1956 did serious damage to the graves and so Luigi Gigliotti of Kyabram, deciding to rectify  the situation, persuaded local Italian families to pay for the construction of an Italian mausoleum. He raised £25,000. The mausoleum was completed in 1961 and Gigliotti managed to convince the authorities that all Italian POWs and internees who had died in Australian prison camps should be interred the mausoleum. It is built of Castlemaine stone, has an altar of white Italian marble, and Roman roof tiles. The path to the building is lined with Mediterranean cypresses. Each year, on the nearest Sunday to Armistice Day, mass is celebrated before a large gathering.

The Graves of King Charles and Captain John
In the north-west corner of the cemetery is the grave of King Charles Tattambo, the leader of the Goulburn tribe at the time of white settlement. He died in 1866. His son, Captain John, and his widow (Queen Mary), were buried next to King Charles' grave  in 1874. There is a detailed history on a board near the main entrance to the cemetery.

Churches
Drive or walk along Impey St and you'll find the town's three churches all within walking distance of each other and all dating from the 19th century. There is the Uniting (previously Presbyterian) Church (1878), Christ Church, the Anglican church (1884) and St Brigid's Catholic Church (1900).

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Other Attractions in the Area

Dhurringile Mansion
In 1877 the wealthy pastoralist John Winter built Dhurringile, a 65-room mansion. He sold it to the son of Rolf Boldrewood (the Robbery Under Arms novelist) Everard Browne in 1907. It was used during World War II for the detention of German officers and today is a low-security prison. It can be seen adjacent Tatura Road some 11 km north of town.

Tatura Museum
Tatura, which means 'small lagoon' in the local Aboriginal language, is located 22 km north of Murchison. It is home to the unusual Tatura Irrigation & Wartime Camps Museum. During World War II there were seven camps holding between 4.000 and 8,000 people in the Goulburn Valley. Three of the camps housed POWs and the remaining four camps held internees. Of the internee camps, Camps 1 and 2 were near Tatura and held mostly German and Italian single males; Camp 3 near Rushworth held mostly German families; and Camp 4 held mostly Japanese families. Each housed around 1000 internees. The sites are all now on private land and not open for inspection.

The POW camps at Dhurringile Mansion were for German officers and their batmen. Camp 13 near Murchison held 4,000 POWs - mainly Italians and Germans. Camp 6 near Graytown which Italian, German and Finnish POWs.

An official German War Cemetery located next to Tatura Cemetery in 1958. The Tatura Museum has details of every person buried there. The museum is located in the original Walter Scott Murray building, known as the Rodney Irrigation Trust building (1888), which was where the Goulburn Valley Irrigation scheme was developed.  The museum is located in Hogan Street, Tatura, is open 1.00 pm-3.00 pm weekdays and 2.00 pm-4.00 pm on weekends. Contact (03) 5824 1867 for more information. A downloadable brochure is available. Check http://www.taturamuseum.org.au/Tatura%20Museum%20Brochure.pdf

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History

* Before the arrival of Europeans the Ngooraialum Aborigines lived along the Goulburn River. By 1840 there were around 200 Aboriginal people living in the area.

* In 1836 Major Thomas Mitchell became the first European into the area. He crossed the Goulburn River 38km to the south at a crossing which became known as Mitchellstown.

* In 1838 two drovers, Joseph Hawdon and Charles Bonney, overlanding sheep and cattle from Mitchellstown to Adelaide, probably passed through the present site of Murchison.

* The settlement was created in 1840 as the Goulburn River District Aboriginal Protectorate. A school was built at the crossing and by 1841 a local native police force had been created. Around this time, and throughout the 1840s, squatters started settling in the district. The Protectorate was closed in 1850.

* In 1850 a French wine maker, Ludovic Marie settled at Murchison, and started growing grapes. He built a hotel and developed a punt service across the river to meet the increasing demand from gold prospectors travelling through the district from Bendigo and Beechworth. The rates were one shilling for a person and five shillings for 100 sheep.

* A township, the first in the Lower Goulburn Valley, was surveyed and named in 1854 and allotments were auctioned. The following year a post office was built, a flour mill was in operation by 1858, and a school was completed in 1859.

* Serious settlement along the Goulburn River occurred throughout the 1860s and 1870s.

* A  timber bridge replaced Marie's punt service in 1871. A local newspaper appeared in 1873 and the following year a courthouse and mechanics institute were built.

* By 1875 the first paddlesteamer reached the town which had grown to include six hotels, a number of general stores, two flour mills, a post office, a sawmill, cordial factory and two blacksmiths.

* In 1878 the Murchison police station enjoyed a brief moment of notoriety when it became the base for operations against Ned Kelly and his gang.

* The railway reached Murchison East in 1880.

* In 1937 the old timber bridge was replaced by a new steel bridge which is still standing today.

* Between 1941 and 1947 some 4,000 POWs were interned at Murchison. By 1942 the POW camp was employing 675 people, including 64 officers, to guard the prisoners. By 1943 the Italians and Japanese, who were regarded as reliable workers, were picking fruit and cutting wood.

* The town was struck by a meteor shower in 1969. Fragments of the rarest known type of meteorite fell over a wide area accompanied by explosions and blinding flashes of light.

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Visitor Information

Murchison does not have its own visitor information centre but information about the town and its attractions can be obtained from Shepparton's Visitor Information Centre, tel: (03) 5831 4400 or free-call (1800) 808 839.

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Useful Websites

Check out http://www.discovershepparton.com.au/pages/murchison for additional information.

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Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

13 suggestions
  • Would like to know the history of the old hotel on River Rd just before the bridge as you enter Murchison?

    Tania Blick
  • I used to go with my late parents to the Murchison Chapel. I used to love it in November for Remembrance Day. Afterwards we used to go for a picnic to Nagambie. It was most enjoyable but we couldn’t go back because my parents got sick and passed away. I would like a list of the Italian POWs that are buried in the Mausoleum. Is this allowed? If so can you send me an email with their names, please. Thank you.Silvana.

    silvana
    • Silvana – If you go to our website for contact details I can provide you with a list of those buried in the Ossario in Murchison. Our website is: murchisonhistoricalsociety.wordpress.com
      Kay Ball President, Murchison and District Historical Society

      Kay Ball President Murchison Historical Society
  • King Charles Tattambo is buried in the Murchison Cemetery. The reference to King Billy is unfortunate as it is a derogatory term. The signage at the entrance to the Cemetery is being removed and a new sign will be in place that makes no reference to King Billy. His son Captain John who died in 1874 is buried in the grave beside him.
    His last consort known as Queen Mary also died in 1874 the day of Captain John funeral. The King’s grave was opened and the Queen buried with King Tattambo. The grave beside the King has been incorrectly marked and the crosses removed. I can provide an up to date picture for you if you like.

    Kay Ball President Murchison Historical Society
  • I was wondering if you may be able to help me locate my husband’s great-grandfather’s burial site. His death certificate states he was buried at Murchison cemetery but after a recent visit to the cemetery we could not find his grave. His name is Duncan McDonald and he died in 1914. His wife was Mary Teresa McDonald and may also have been buried there in 1923.

    Jan White
    • Hello Jan, I have looked through the Cemetery records and cannot find Duncan or Mary listed as having been buried in Murchison, in Victoria. There is a Murchison in WA and also NZ. Could that possibly be where they are buried?

      Kay Ball, Murchison Historical Society (VIc)
  • Just an inquiry. I grew up on Flynns Road in Moorilim. I also attended Moorilim Primary School for a while. I’m struggling to find any pictures or history on the Moorilim area. I would love to know the history behind the old house I grew up in.

    Cassandra
  • Please change the reference to King Billy – his name was King Charles Tattambo.

    Heritage Centre 4 Stevenson Street Murchison open Saturday mornings 10 am – 12.30 pm

    Website: http://www.murchisonhistoricalsociety.wordpress.com

    Kay Ball President Murchison Historical Society
  • I am trying to locate the grave of my Great-Great-Grandfather, Simon Mortimer Pope, who died in Moorilim 15/12/1899. Not sure if there is a cemetery at Moorilim, or whether he would have been buried at Murchison? Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.
    Regards-Peter Reid

    Peter Reid
  • I would like to correct the information about King Charles Tattambo. He should not be referred to as King Billy – please see my earlier email to this site (Oct. 2015). The signage at the cemetery entrance has been updated and corrected and it would be pleasing to see this site corrected as well, Thanks, Kay

    Kay Ball President Murchison Historical Society