News & Events

What’s in a name?

May 24, 2018

Tony Kelly and Rushall Park resident historian Ruth Richardson are a dynamic duo when it comes to piecing together parts of OCAV’s early history.

Tony, who owns Archiva Lucida, an archival business, has digitised more than a thousand nomination forms that include the likes of former Prime Minister Alfred Deakin, media founder Keith Murdoch and philanthropist and entrepreneurAlfred Felton.

The forms reveal the names of people who were nominated to be a Life Governor, Governor or Subscriber to the Old Colonists’ Association of Victoria from its very beginning.

The people nominated, once accepted, could pay an amount and have voting rights and they also became known as benefactors of the early village in North Fitzroy.

OCAV was keen to have the information stored because it provides a glimpse into the people who were supporters of OCAV in the early days and also provides other information, which has a broader historical value.

The early nomination forms asked for information including:
·     Name, address and date and place of birth
·     occupation
·     date of arrival in the colony of Victoria
·     name of the ship the person arrived on
·     name of the ship’s captain

Tony was asked to digitise the 1000 plus forms that start from 1893 and continue through to the 1950s. It seemed a straightforward request until he received 1178 hardcopies and tried to read the varied styles of handwriting. Some of the paper was creased in important areas, so some of the names were simply impossible to read and record.

That’s when Ruth’s help was enlisted. Ruth’s diligent research in preparation for OCAV’s 150thcelebrations in 2019, has taken her down many ‘rabbit holes’ and into many historic records. When Tony encountered a name he couldn’t decipher because of paper quality or poor handwriting, Ruth cross-checked the information with other sources. It was a frustrating, but successful partnership.

“A few times, after I had exhausted all possibilities, I just had to walk away and think of another way to find out the information,” Ruth said.

She had several trusted sources at hand including the OCAV printed hard copies of annual general meeting minutes, bound by decade and the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Sands & MacDougall directories were also used for researching the history of Melbourne and Victorian properties, residents, businesses and streets. These directories are now available online through the State Library Victoria.

“The information on these forms shows us that a large number of early settlers, many from wealthy families, wished to be associated with OCAV from its very beginning. These people had a sense of philanthropy because to be a Life Governor, Governor or a Subscriber meant making a financial contribution towards OCAV. They were different times then and people wanted to support the village,” Ruth said.

The information on each person will now be storied in alphabetical order at OCAV. Ruth believes it is also a valuable resource that other Victorian institutions, such as the State Library, might wish to hold.

Keith White, who had heart surgery two years ago, reckons he’s better now than he has ever been. He puts his state of health and well-being down to the life he has found at Currie Park, OCAV’s village in Euroa.

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