Melton City Libraries
Photograph, Edna Barrie, 1920, 1924, 1933 and 1940
SUMMARY - Edna (Myers) Barrie, 1918 – 2018, Profile
Edna was born at Melton and delivered by Hannah Watts. Her mother Martha walked in the dark at night with her basket under her arm to the bridge over the Toolern Creek Bridge and into Sherwin Street to the corner of Yuille Street to Hannah’s house Lynch Cottage. Martha’s husband was away shearing and eventually heard the news of the birth of their blue eyed third child and second daughter.
She was born into a family that was surrounded by music; her father played the “squeeze box” and mother the mouth organ. From an early age the family were aware of the great composers, a framed picture of Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert and Wagner hung above the door to the lounge room of their 4 roomed cottage, the room where the piano stood.
Her life on stage started as a singer aged 6 years at the Melton Mechanics Institute Hall. Edna was born with a natural ear for music learning piano and singing from her older sister Marjorie who became an accomplished pianist and soloist and renowned music teacher in Melton and district.
In the 1920s and 1930s concerts at the Melton Mechanics Institute were regular events were the local talent was fostered. The Myers children, like other children of Melton and Rockbank, studied singing, piano and elocution, sat examinations, entered in competitions in South Street Ballarat, Footscray and Melbourne. In 1929 a Sacred Concert was broadcast by 3AR from the Hall as part of the Back to Melton Celebrations. Marjorie Myers performed two of the items on the piano.
Edna attended Melton State School 430 from 1924 – 1933. Her father Fred had also attended the same school. In 1924 the School staged Cinderella at the Melton Mechanics Institute Hall with a cast of 33 students.
After completing her education a Melton she boarded in South Melbourne and attending Melbourne Girls High School (MacRobertson Girls High School), a school which recognized her musical attributes. She travelled home on the train on the weekends, sometimes getting off at Rockbank to save a few pennies in fares.
The early 1930s the Depression was a difficult time for a young woman to find work. Jobs were often menial and given to the youngest and therefore cheapest applicant. She worked as sales assistant at Polonskis and Myer in the city, and Irvines Modes in Footscray. Working to 1pm on Saturday, and when held up by a customer meant missing the train home.
While at Myer Department store she lived at home and rode her bike to the Melton railway station. On one occasion she had a nasty fall when a part of her bicycle came loose causing the bike to crash rendering her concussed and injuring her nose.
During the 1930s she was given a camera “a little snap” by Mrs Kelly her landlady. This began her interest in photography documenting family life at their “Burnbank” home.
Musically, while at Myers she participated in annual performances held at The Kings Hall and the Myer Mural Hall. Working in the basement at Myers she was often embarrassed when her name was called, customers assuming she belonged to the Myer Family. Ken Myer worked in the basement at the same time handling the ‘Wheeler’, a wicker basket used for moving goods around the store. The family philosophy was for the children to start at the bottom and work their way up.
Social life in her teenage years was connected also with Scots Presbyterian Church. She attended Sunday School classes and received book prizes for attendance. She loved to read and welcomed the times when she received new book. She took part in the Sunday School Anniversaries and was presented with a Bible from the Superintendent, Henry Robinson for her assistance with the music.
Marriage and War years
In 1941 Edna married Ernest “Bonnie” Barrie. War in the Pacific was soon to break out. While in Sydney on their honeymoon they met up with Jim Barrie who was on his way to Canada via Hawaii just missing Pearl Harbour by two days. Jim became a Spitfire Pilot and joined the RAF and was based in England. He returned to Australia later in RAAF to fight the Japanese off the coast of New Guinea. The three eldest Barrie brothers were farmers and food producers and were thus except from military service.
Edna and Bon were members of the VAOC- Volunteer Air Observers Corp entailing being rostered on duty as plane spotters. The women took shifts during the day and the men at night which involved staying overnight in the Shire Offices. Later the spotting tower was built in the plantation opposite the Post Office. Edna and Bon carried on with this from their home in Ferris Rd when the threat of invasion had ceased
Community life in Melton revolved around fund raising events for the Melton Mechanics Institute for the War effort and keeping up with maintenance for the Hall.
In 1944 the Minister for Health gave approval for the Shire of Melton to open and Infant Welfare Centre inviting Edna to form part of the Committee with seven other women. In 1948 she was President of Melton Branch of the Victorian Health Centres Association. She volunteered this use of her car driving the person in charge, Sister Smith to visit mothers and their babies.
In 1963, along with Betty Jones and Isabel Snell, Edna was instrumental in forming the 1st Melton Cub Pack and later supported the formation of the 1st Melton Scouts. During 1963 – 1968 she completed the Australian Boy Scout Association Cub Pack Preliminary Training and achieved her Wood Badge.
Country Women’s Association
In 1944-1996 she was a member of the Melton Branch Country Women’s Association (CWA), Melton Branch, Secretary of the Branch in 1945 – 1946 and Branch International Secretary 1970-1971. She worked with choir, music and drama interest groups within the branch attaining both first and second place in 1959, second place in 1952 Exhibition and second in Music in 1960 in the state.
She was involved in their handicraft craft events, fund raising and musical events and singing competitions. During the 1950s she trained Trios and Quartets in part singing for the CWA competitions in Ballarat and Melbourne. It was at this time that she developed her skill as a conductor and trainer of choirs. She later auditioned for the Victorian Choir for alto parts believing she would stand a better chance of being chosen, because of her ability to sing in natural harmony.
In 1962 she participated in the Tenth Australian Country Women of the World (ACWW) Triennial Conference “Australia Presents: CWA Massed Choir” in the Melbourne Town Hall. This event was recorded by Super Sound Spotlight on 45 extended play vinyl record. The songs were Australian music and words, for example The Silver Stars are in the Sky, The Graceful Swaying Wattle and Kookaburra.
Edna continued with her interest in the Victorian Choir regularly meeting at the CWA Headquarters in Toorak for rehearsals. In 1974 she took part in the Australian Choir at the fourteenth Triennial conference of the ACWW Interfaith Service held at the Perth Concert Hall on the 13th of October.
Arts and Culture
Edna was also in the Choir of 3KZ Carols by Candlelight at the Myer Music Bowl in 1963 and 1964.
Melton Choral Society. Edna was Director and Conductor in the 1970s performing at many community events such as Carols by Candle Light, Church Services, Easter and Palm Sunday services, Mothers Union and the 1976 Community Services Week Combined Church Service.
The October – November 1978 Program covered the following: songs from the Musicals, Choral and Solo with Narratives, Guest Instrumental Item, Recitation Negro Spirituals and Australian Songs.
Her involvement with church choirs included the Scots Presbyterian Church Choir Easter and Christmas performances and the 1967 Centenary Service. In 1980s the Melton Uniting Church Sacred Music Performances included The Crucifixion by Stainer, The Olivet to Calvary and other church Hymns.
Edna was Musical Director of the Melton Amateur Theatrical Society and worked on performances in collaboration with Mabel Rogers on script and musical interpretation.
Melton and District Historical Society Annual Art and Craft Show. First held in Melton Mechanics Institute Hall in 1973, it later took place in the in the Melton Community Hall. The Art Show was also run in conjunction with other community organizations such as Rotary and Girl Guides.
Community history and research
Melton streetscape and society
Over 20 years commencing in the 1970s, Edna undertook extensive photographing of the changing streetscape of Melton’s High Street. She anticipated the impact of change on the community during the time of Melton’s rapid transition from a small farming district to a large urban community and this led to her extensively document and photograph many of the structures and landscape features of the township that have since been lost.
She also meticulously recorded much of the contemporary life of the town and has left a significant legacy of archival material.
Melton State School 100 Years Celebration, October 1970
Co-author with Mabel Rogers “The First 100 Years, 1870 – 1970”
Assembled a collection of School Class Photograph and identified and compiled lists of names for future school history.
She also assembled a photographic display for the 125th anniversary in 1995.
Melton and District Historical Society (M&DHS)
Foundation Member, 1968
Held President and Secretary positions from its inception
Research associated with the classification of Heritage buildings
Christ Church Classification C
Scots’ Presbyterian Church Classification D
Set up the storage and Catalogue system in the Office at the Willows
Organised society visits to Heritage sites in and beyond the Shire of Melton, including Stathtulloh, Eynesbury, Deanside, ToolernVale sites including Merrywood (now demolished) Staughton Vale, Chirnside, Point Cook, Shwerkolts Cottage. 1970 – 1983
Melton and District Historical Society Letterhead. Staughton Memorial Light from early newspaper cutting in its location before restoration to present location. Sketch by Wendy Barrie.
Designing and printing pamphlets, stationery, and other sale items with Willows title.
M&DHS street naming research for new housing developments (1970 – 2000). Collaborated with Mary Tolhurst to research the names of early landowners and pioneer families connected to the first settlers. Researched Aboriginal names for inclusion on lists submitted to developers. An early example is the naming of Kuranjang and the street names associated with the McPherson family.
Plains of Promise (Shire of Melton history) by Joan Starr (1985). Edna assisted with Historical Society materials and contributed her own research and photographs. Contacted and organised for Hubert Opperman to launch the book. (She was also present at his last bike ride at Rochester in 1995.)
Western Metropolitan Groups of Historical Societies. Member attending meetings and representing Melton, also hosted the Group at Melton
Member of the Committee of Management for
the restoration of the “Willows” house
the establishment of The Willows Park
1982 March - Official Opening of the Willows Park- Preparation and planning for the event.
Involved in the collecting of items in the furnishing of the display rooms in the Willows house.
Donated items and furniture from the Myers and Daley family houses. (19th century)
Machinery Shed Establishment. Involved with Jeff Robinson in the construction and collection of machinery display
Other significant sites
Championed and participated in the restoration and preservation significant sites in Melton, including:
restoration of the Staughton Memorial Light and its return to its present site
restoration of the Pykes Grave (using EW Barrie earthmoving equipment)
restoration and reconstruction of Dunvegan
restoration and reconstruction of Macs Cottage, the management and Caretakers residence
Melton State School War Memorial Gates removed from Unitt Street entrance and relocated to the Willows Park
Donated the Barrie family single furrow plough which was standing at the Court House Plaza. It removed and to Council Depot and later missing. The plaque was taken to the Willows.
Jimmy Melrose (aviator) cairn restoration at crash site in Melton South
Donald Mackintosh (Olympic gold medallist marksman) grave site at the Melton Cemetery (Historical items held by the Myers family collection.)
Houdini first flight at Diggers Rest. Edna’s father was shearing at Diggers Rest at the time and witnessed the flight. She attended the 90 year anniversary of the event at the site in 2000.
Radio and electronics
Edna’s husband Bon interest in wireless communication dates in the 1920s with the building of a crystal set in the early days of public broadcasting. At the Back to Melton Celebrations in 1929, 3AR broadcast a concert from the Melton Mechanics Institute on the 20th February at 8pm featuring Footscray City Band, James Hill baritone, Vera Carew Soprano, James Foran Tenor, Marjorie Myers Piano, and James Williamson Entertainer. Accompanists: Miss Agnes Ross and Mrs James Hill.
The Myers children had recordings of their piano playing made onto the aluminium records, Martha Myers’ voice can be heard introducing an item. These were made in a studio in Melbourne.
Marjorie was given a upright Gramophone by Donald Mackintosh in recognition of her talent and her contribution to the cultural life of Melton. The family were then able to listen to 78rpm recordings of the famous classical recordings. The turntable was hand wound metal stylus needles had to be regularly replaced. The aluminium disk needed a bamboo needle to prevent damage to the surface.
Before electricity was introduced to Melton in 1939 the Mechanics Hall relied on generators to produce electricity. Bon Barrie, being mechanically minded, built a public address system for be used a community functions at the Hall and Recreational Park. By 1939 this was up and running and used for over three decades. A large Collection of 78rpm records provided music for dances, marching, parades and any public event needing music and microphones. The early system was portable and worked on batteries.
CFA Radio Communication
In the 1950s with the introduction two-way HF and later VHF very high frequency radio sets. Melton Rural Fire Brigade was part of the Bacchus Marsh Group. Radio sets where located in the Melton Fire Truck, and in the house of the Barrie family at Ferris Road. This was an ideal location to observe a 360 degree view in all directions when smoke appeared on the horizon. An antenna was erected beside the house. The set OX 7 was located in the kitchen and monitored 24 hours by the family. When an electrical fire occurred at the junction of the electricity to the house there was time to radio the fire station and summons the men working in the paddocks, thus saving the house from possible destruction.
With the introduction of UHF – ultra high frequency Vinten Radios the signal was clearer and static and interference lessened and radio traffic became easier to read, and reduced noise levels in the household.
VL3 LY Radio Base became the Group Headquarters was established in 1967. By 1970 the Brigades were: Melton, Rockbank, Sydenham, Toolern Vale, Diggers Rest, Truganina, and Werribee.
In 1974 when the family moved to First Avenue, another antenna and a small building were erected adjacent to the residence and used to house the equipment, maps.
Radio traffic consisted of regular schedule times and communication with adjoining groups of brigades such as Bacchus Marsh, Mt Macedon and Little River Groups. Many of the brigade and group base radios were situated in private residences and operated primarily by fire fighters wives who held the position of Communications Officer, either registered as a brigade member or informally. Edna was never registered as an operational brigade member but operated informally as an assistant to her husband Bon. She was however a member of the Melton Fire Brigade Ladies Auxiliary from its inception in 1968, a non-operational position.
Edna kept up to date with radio procedure following the 1967 handbook; preparing maps, plotting compass points and taking notes on weather forecasts from the SA Border and Western District. Daily notes were taken in anticipation of fire warnings. These log books and daily radio traffic were incidental to the regular radio schedules. Emergency turnouts noted, burning off times and predicted location of smoke. In the summer fire season all TBF (total fire ban days were recorded.)
In times of emergency the Barrie family assisted Bon the base radio operator to plot the position and location of fire trucks and to help clarify garbled radio traffic, keep notes and make telephone calls. These log books are held in the EE and EW Family Archive.
Melton Uniting Church
Edna founded the Church Opportunity with Maisie Robinson in 1975 in the Melton South Methodist Church building. Methodist and Presbyterian Churches of Melton had combined severing their long held connection with Bacchus Marsh. A Manse had been recently built for the Melton Minister. At a Parish Committee meeting at the Melton South Church it was suggested to use the building as an Opportunity Shop. It opened in July 1975, and it raised $1,600 contribution to the church budget in 1976. In 1977 The Uniting Church in Australia was formed and the Melton South Uniting Church Opportunity shop continued to go from strength to strength expanding the buildings providing the welfare needs of the community.
Archive Set up by Edna Catalogued items dating from 1857 Minute Book and set ongoing system and storage of items of heritage.
Awards and recognition of service to the Melton community
Rotary Award for Community Service, 1980
Victoria 150th Anniversary Celebrations contributions, 1985
Life Membership of the Melton and District Historical Society (M&DHS), 1989
Extra-Ordinary Contribution for years of service to M&DHS, 1992
Long Service for Exceptional Service MD&HS, 1993
Royal Historical Society of Victoria Award of Merit, 1997
Shire of Melton Certificate of Appreciation for continued support and dedication as a member of MD&HS to the preservation of Melton’s History, 1998
Centenary of Federation Peoplescape (Canberra) Melton Shire nomination, 2001
Uniting Church Melton Life Membership of the Opportunity Shop
Uniting Church in Australia Commission for Mission for 30 years of hard work and dedications to the Uniting Church, 2007
Uniting Church Adult Fellowship Certificate appreciation in recognition of valuable support through the “Sammy” Stamp Fund
Neighbourhood Watch 5 year award Photographs of Edna at different ageslocal identities