Bat­tle for mill

Benalla Ensign - - Front Page -

Woollen mill ma­chin­ery would be too costly and would take too long to pro­cure.

There were other dif­fi­cul­ties, in­clud­ing in­ex­pe­ri­ence of lo­cal labour in work­ing in such an in­dus­try.

How­ever, the great­est dif­fi­culty was the lack of en­thu­si­asm of the shire pres­i­dent and coun­cil.

In­stead, coun­cil and its com­mit­tee sug­gested the es­tab­lish­ment of a freez­ing works. It would suit Be­nalla bet­ter.

It would also take ad­van­tage of lo­cal fat sheep pro­duc­tion to add value for ex­port sales.

By Au­gust 1922, three things had hap­pened.

Be­nalla Freez­ing Works Co-op­er­a­tive had been formed and the project aban­doned through lack of sup­port.

Be­gin­ning in 1919, Wan­garatta had raised $60 000 by means of a share float.

Wil­liam Cal­lan­der helped pro­mote the share float by hav­ing his daugh­ters, Alma and Lena, scat­ter fundrais­ing leaflets across the north east from an open bi­plane.

A grant was ob­tained from the Com­mon­wealth, thanks to rep­re­sen­ta­tions of a lo­cal Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, Mr Cook.

Within two months of Be­nalla’s re­jec­tion of a woollen mill in 1922, Wan­garatta had a fully func­tion­ing woollen mill up and run­ning.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the mill’s pow­er­house sup­plied elec­tric­ity for the en­tire town.

The mill was for­mally opened in Sep­tem­ber 1923 by the Vic­to­rian Pre­mier.

It would be­come the largest woollen mill on the Aus­tralian main­land.

In an ed­i­to­rial dated Au­gust 15, 1922, the ed­i­tor of the Be­nalla Stan­dard called for re­con­sid­er­a­tion of build­ing a woollen mill in Be­nalla.

As the ob­jec­tive of both mills would be ex­port sales, Wan­garatta’s mill would not com­pete with an­other built in Be­nalla.

The news­pa­per as­sured its read­ers that Mr Cook had of­fered his ser­vices to help the project suc­ceed.

The ed­i­tor es­ti­mated that the sum of $100 000 would be enough to build the mill.

Per­haps $100 000 would have been enough. We shall never know. A mill was never built in Be­nalla.

Many years later, Ge­of­frey Hirst car­pet and rug fac­tory would open in Be­nalla.

How­ever, it was never a ma­jor em­ployer like Wan­garatta’s woollen mill.

The car­pet and rug fac­tory was never big enough to drive Be­nalla’s pop­u­la­tion growth or stop its chil­dren drift­ing to Mel­bourne.

— John Barry, AN­ZAC Com­mem­o­ra­tive Work­ing Party, Coo-ee — Hon­our­ing

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