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Cobargo Show

Summer means Show time! Agricultural Shows.

With the Cobargo Show on this weekend, I’ve pulled out a photograph from our collection on the occasion of the opening of the Cobargo Showground pavilion.This photograph was taken by local man and keen photographer Alf Gowing sometime in the 1980s. Maybe a Cobargo resident will remember when in the 1980s? It was an auspicious occasion with Sir Ninian Stephen, Governor-General of Australia attending. I tunderstand that’s him on the right with the grey suit.

Cobargo has a long tradition of agricultural shows starting in April 1889. The site chosen for the Showground is believed to have been the area where William Duggan Tarlinton first camped when he was exploring the region.

You can read more about the history of the Cobargo Show in the booklet “Back to Cobargo Show” put together by the Cobargo AP & H Society in 1982, available at Bega library.

Sir Ninian Stephen, Governor-General of Australia, at opening of Cobargo Showground pavilion, 1980s

Sir Ninian Stephen, Governor-General of Australia, at opening of Cobargo Showground pavilion, 1980s


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Public protest August 1948, Bega

Public protest about renewing funding for Bega District Hospital August 1948, Bega

The new South East Regional Hospital is going up at a cracking pace. It may surprise some to know that locals were demonstrating for a new hospital back in the 1950s as this photograph shows. Frank Zingle is on the far left with Charles Ayres (then Mayor of Bega) at the microphone.

Bega’s first hospital, situated just out of town on the south side, was built in 1889. By the 1940s it was no longer adequate for the area. Apparently, patients were moved to verandahs as makeshift wards to take the overflow.

In 1944 approval was given for the building of a new nurses’ home. Locals strenuously objected to building the home on the site of the then current hospital with the result that the nurses’ home was the first building constructed on the site of the current Bega District Hospital in 1946. A year later in 1947 plans for a new hospital in town were drawn up and tenders called.

The estimated cost was £90,000 but the lowest tender received was £120,000. The NSW Treasurer and Premier, Mr McGirr, refused additional funding. The people of Bega were mobilised!

A protest was held on 29 August 1948, shops were closed and a parade formed with the banner ‘Build our Hospital Now’ in bright red letters. The 16 district branches of the Country Women’s Association and the Red Cross supported the action with their placards visible in the photograph.

A public meeting revealed that the hospital was under increasing demand after the closure of the Cobargo, Candelo and Bemboka Private Hospitals. Complaints included newborn babies being placed in beer boxes because there were not enough cots.

Eventually the government approved a full brick hospital at a cost of £273,000.

Work commenced on the new hospital in the early 1950s. However, in August 1952 the Department of Public Works told the contractor that funds for the next year were limited to £30,000. Headlines read “Shock for Hospital” and the contractor estimated that normal progress of work at the site would require £60,000. In fact, funds were reduced by a further £5,000 and work halted in October 1952. No further work was done for about 12 months until in October 1953 the Department of Public Works instructed the contractor to proceed with work on an unrestricted basis.

So why the funding crisis? It has been suggested that the delay was political with the NSW Labor Government trying to embarrass a Federal Liberal National Party Government by restricting capital works.


Bega District Hospital: one hundred years of service by Charles Day, 1989.

‘Shock for Hospital’ Braidwood Dispatch and Mining Journal, 8 August 1952, p 2.

Photo: Bega Valley Shire Library collection 008-00208

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New books about Irish female migration to Australia during 1800s

New books about Irish female migration to Australia during 1800s

If you have Irish ancestors you may be interested in these new books in the library. They’ll give you a sense of what it was like to leave Ireland behind and look to the new colonies of Australia for a better life.

In the two years from 1834-1836, 750 young Irish women arrived in the colony of New South Wales to make new lives for themselves. ‘Colonial Duchesses’ by Elizabeth Rushen tells the story of the women who took the courageous decision to leave their homeland behind and set sail for Sydney. The Duchess of Northumberland  made two voyages from Cork to Sydney. One in 1834 and the second in 1836. The James Pattison sailed in 1835. This book details the backgrounds and experiences of these women.

Another book published this year is ‘The Kerry Girls’ by Kay Moloney Caball which is about the controversial Earl Grey Scheme to ship thousands of Irish teenage girls to Australia during the years 1848-1850. Many of the girls had been orphaned by the Irish Famine although some of them still had one parent alive. Many were living in workhouses in abject poverty. This book focuses on the 117 girls who came to Australia from county Kerry. Whilst detailing the broader historic background of the Scheme and life in Ireland at that time, Caball does include personalised information about many of the girls.

Both books are available to borrow from any of the Bega Valley Shire libraries in Bermagui, Bega, Merimbula and Eden.

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The Bega District News of 1926 reports that the aesthetic value of a beautiful woman ‘of normal size’ has been established at about 800 pounds by a court in Belgium.  A girl of 17 was run over by a car and a scar remained on her chest. Her family was awarded 100 pounds damages in an action brought against the driver, but being dissatisfied obtained an order from the court that the girl should be examined by a beauty expert. Dr Bremken, after examination, reported that the girl had lost 20% of her aesthetic value. The case was re-heard, and a jury awarded the family 800 pounds damages plus 20% for the loss of aesthetic value, being 960 pounds in all. On that basis – 160 pounds for the loss of 20% of aesthetic value, “a woman’s aesthetic worth is around 800 pounds”.

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Bega Valley History Scrapbook

This advertisement appeared in the Bega Standard of Friday 18 February 1921.  

The Bega Picture Palace opened in 1910 as an open air picture theatre and was initiated by a syndicate of townsmen.  Movies were shown on Wednesday and Saturday nights. Doors opened at 7.30pm with the overture at 8pm.

However, the cold winter air obviously proved too much for the locals as in April of 1911 the Picture Palace management negotiated with the  School of Arts committee to pay 35 pounds for the use of their hall for four months.  The winter indoor arrangement meant that the “dews cease from troubling and the fog does not rest.” (Bega Standard, 2 May 1911)

Apart from a temporary break in operations in 1919 due to the influenza epidemic, and a change in name in March 1930 to the Lyric Theatre, the Picture Palace operated in Bega until 1936.

(Thanks to Pat Raymond, Bega…

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