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Murgheboluc Murmers 1

The Bannockburn & District Newsletter is distributed far and wide by an army of volunteers and even reaches the depths of Murgheboluc.

It is reasonable, then, that the citizens of Murgheboluc have some space in the Newsletter.    This occasional column is a contribution to that end.   After all, there are currently 41 houses in Murgheboluc.   At an Australian average of 2.4 people per household, the population is 98.

Perhaps I should start with some background to set the scene.   Later columns will hopefully feature the adventures of Murgheboluc’s current citizens (if they are prepared to come clean to me!).

The name ‘Murgheboluc’ actually refers to two places.   Firstly, it is a municipal parish within the Golden Plains Shire.  Secondly, it is a regional place name and postal district.   Bureaucracy being what it is, the two are not the same.

The Parish of Murgheboluc extends from the Barwon River in the south to Bannockburn in the north and includes parts of the Bannockburn urban area.   (Some readers may have noted on their Council Rates Notice that they live in the Parish of Murgheboluc, although they may think they live in Bannockburn.)   It includes the Bannockburn cemetery, which was once known as the Murgheboluc cemetery.   It appears that it was also once known as the Waddallah, Bruces Creek and Leigh Road cemetery.   There was some uncertainty in the minds of our forefathers about where they wished to inter their mortal remains.

The word ‘Murgheboluc’ clearly has an aboriginal source within the language of the Wathaurong people.   Several definitions can be found depending on who you ask.   One is that ‘Murgheboluc’ derives from ‘murgha’, a shield, and ‘boluc’ meaning a lake.   There is a natural lake at Murgheboluc to the rear of today’s recreation reserve.   Another translation is that Murgheboluc means ‘plenty frogs’.   Frogs and toads abound, preyed upon by an alarmingly healthy population of snakes.   Reference to the frogs as a geographic name is therefore an unsurprising thing to do.   I have no doubt that some reader will enlighten us all as to the correct answer but, personally, I’m with the frogs.

The Barwon River is a dominant feature of the area and has gouged its course through the basalt of the Victorian Volcanic Plain.   Upstream of Murgheboluc the river is confined by the basalt but at Murgheboluc itself there is no lava on the northern side of the current valley and the river has found some freedom from the obstinate rock.   As a result, to the rear of the recreation reserve there is a depression that hosts a transient wetland sited at the base of a prominent bluff.   This has been caused by the course of the river changing as it pursued the path of least resistance.   This is known as an oxbow lake.  The feature is considered to be ‘regional geomorphological significance’.

The Murgheboluc district was ideal for indigenous civilization.   The traditional owners are the Wathaurong people, a powerful and populous tribe until the land was occupied by Europeans.   Good quality fresh water was available from the Barwon River and the two creeks, now known as Bruces and Native Hut Creeks.   There was abundant wildlife for food, pelts, bones and other necessities.   The wildlife remains - the appearance of a wallaby, echidna, lizard, koala, possums and platypus is not unusual, not to mention those damn snakes.   The land was well vegetated and stands of huge River Red Gums may still be seen.   Furthermore, the climate was and remains moderate with rainfall exceeding 500 mms annually. 

The first European settlers arrived in the late 1830s and State records show the Yuille family on ‘Murgheboluc Flat’ in 1837.   The Wathaurong’s own history says that sheep were being run in the district by 1836.   In 1854 the infamous James Austin had plans drawn up for a substantial township but it never eventuated although a number of small titles remain dating from that time.   The descendants of one family have lived continuously on the original title since 1853.

A school (No 407) began on 28th August, 1855, in St Andrews Church of England, 100 metres west of the current Murgheboluc Hall.   The external fabric of the church is still standing.   The school remained in the church until 1873 when it came under the control of the Education Department.   In January, 1875, a bluestone building with shingle roof was completed and was renumbered State School No 1570.   This building is now the Murgheboluc Hall and retains its shingle roof, albeit safely tucked under a nice new tin one (thanks Golden Plains Shire).   Records show that at one time the school had 100 enrolled students.   This was before the days of television.  

Murgheboluc is larded with historic buildings and other heritage structures and its history is fascinating with frontier conflict, rail sidings, military camps, Swiss vignerons, horse racing, prize winning livestock and many other stories.   I shall explore some of these in the next column and we shall weave these into the stories of today’s community……