Penshurst Flax Mill (continued)

Flax Mill for Penshurst.

Under the supervision of the Allied Works Council, building operations will be commenced shortly with the construction of a flax mill at Penshurst, in accordance with plans prepared by that department. The site is within close proximity of the railway station. The Warrnambool constructional firm of E. S. Harris has been entrusted with the work, which will cost approximately £14,000.


The Process of Construction.


Flax Mill for Penshurst.


Penshurst's Tractor

The Argus Wednesday 11th July 1945

New Ground Sown With Hired Tractors.

Nearly 30 tractors of the Commonwealth Flax Production Committee have for the last three months been hired to primary producers to assist in overcoming the present tractor shortage. Arrangements for this use of the tractors in the off season were made by Mr P. W. Bulcock. Director-General of Agriculture Food Control stated yesterday that 109 hirings had been made for these three months, resulting in a substantial area, including much new ground, being cultivated. The land had been sown to oats, flax, and vegetables, or fallowed in readiness for next season. The tractors were being hired from flax mills at Ballarat, Winchelsea, Penshurst, Strathkellar, Lismore, Riddell, and Leongatha, and from two mills In Tasmania.

Free Press (Penshurst Vic.) 12th June 1946

Opening of New Flax Mill Celebrated.

Penshurst Mill the Most Modern In The State.  

Organised by the social committee of the Penshurst Flax Growers and Flax Mill Employees, a dinner to celebrate the opening of the new mill was held in the Penshurst Mechanics' Hall on Friday evening last when nearly 200 guests were present.

The Guests.

Mr C. Clark, manager of the mill and also president of the social committee, and Mrs. Clark and Cr. and Mrs. R. Schramm received the guests of the evening among whom the following were noticed :— Mr, R. W. Holt, M.L.A., Mr P. J. Riggall (manager of the Strathkellar Flax Mill) and Mrs Riggall, Mr A. Fehring (Terang Mill) and Mrs Fehring, Messrs J. Brown and D. Murray (representing Flax Production Committee), Mr E. S. Harris (contractor who built the mill) and Mrs Harris, Mr R. Davies (Strathkellar), Mr L. Stevens (Department of the Interior supervisor) and Mrs Stevens, Mr C. T. Noske (chairman of the Strathkellar Flax Growers' Association), Mr P. F. Jenkin (representing the Penshurst Rural Fire Brigade), Messrs Nolan Kelly and T. J. Collins (representing the Penshurst Progress Association), Mr I. Gunn (Penshurst Racecourse Trustees), Mr. E. Waterhouse (Railways Department), Mr J. O'Connor and Mr and Mrs C. S. Baulch, First Constable J. E. Ryan and Mr W. P. Kriewaldt of Stawell and formerly a resident of this district and who had been one of the first growers of flax in the district.

The stage was effectively decorated with gum tips, a huge Union Jack forming a background and tables were laden with enticing edibles provided by the caterers (Messrs Roberts Bros, Hamilton)

The King.

Cr. Schramm acted as chairman and gave the Loyal Toast. He said that they had met to celebrate a very important event in the industrial life of Penshurst and that the toast of the King had more than usual significance on this occasion. The people were also on the eve of celebrating Victory Day. Had it not been for the British Empire and the determination of our fighting forces they would not be celebrating either of these important events.

Permanent Employment.

Mr Nolan Kelly proposed the toast of the Flax Production Committee. He said that the establishment of the flax mill in Penshurst had done a great deal of good for the town and district and they were all deeply indebted to the Committee for the work they had done in this direction. The industry had started in a small way in this district and its progress was a monument to the splendid work of the committee. He did not think that any other organisation had brought more money into the township. Today the mill was employing between 50 and 60 hands and he hoped that in the future the number would reach 150. In the past there was no work in the district for the average man, who had to rely on seasonal work which often took them away for months on end. They now have permanent employment all the year round. Many throughout the district benefit from the mill operations and all were grateful for what the Flax Production Committee had done for them.

Success Assured.

The response was made by Mr. J. Brown, who expressed his pleasure at being present to celebrate the opening of the mill. The flax industry was one of the oldest in the world and they could trace it back to the time of Pharaoh. Penshurst had started an industry which goes back 5000 years. In the war years, particularly in 1939, England was without flax for the manufacture of aeroplane fabric as well as many other war necessities and she had sent out an urgent S.O.S. for supplies. Australia had responded to the call and sent the Mother Country all the flax she needed. The industry was not a new one to Australia. Farmers had been growing it for the past 40 years, but little progress had been made up to 1939. They had started from scratch, using their own ideas and the industry had been established in Australia and its success was assured. Mills had been built throughout the State and up-to-date machinery installed. The Penshurst mill was one of the finest mills in Victoria and they were justly proud of that fact. Other mills being constructed now are on the design of the Penshurst mill. The industry was well established in Victoria and at the present time a new industry is importing machinery valued at half a million pounds to process flax. The mill here would turn out sufficient flax to operate a good sized spinning mill, and Mr Brown advised his listeners to give a thought to what this would mean to the district. The quality of the products grown here compared more than favourably with overseas articles and samples of tea towels produced here were the envy of all women who had seen them. In all things pertaining to flax, Mr Brown appealed to all to think of one term —co-operation. Co-operation between growers, workers and the Committee would enable costs to be cut down and the industry would be able to take its place in open competition against the world. We in Australia have the finest fighting forces in the world, the finest workmen in the world and Penshurst has the finest mill in Victoria. We have everything before us and Mr Brown wished the Penshurst mill every success.

Shire Co-Operation.

Mr C. Clark proposed the toast of the Mount Rouse Shire Council. He referred to the help and co-operation given by the municipality in establishing the mill. The council had given splendid assistance in making roads to the mill and weighbridge. Cr. Schramm, as Shire President, was the man who had complied with many requests. Assistance had also been granted readily by the shire secretary (Mr. H. S. Mason) in connection with the establishment of the mill. Penshurst had need to ''look around" a bit because Glenthompson was developing their township in good style and although Penshurst was the seat of the shire, they had better watch they didn't get a kick in the seat. Mr Kriewaldt supported Mr Clark with the toast. He said the life-blood of a country depended on small communities growing and handling their own products. At one time Penshurst was a dying town, but in a few years, owing to the introduction of flax, it had revived. He wished the industry every success.

Answer to Critics.

Cr. Schramm responded to the toast of the council, thanking Mr Clark for his remarks. It had given him great pleasure to be president of the Council when the flax mill was celebrating their opening. If the Shire Council would not promote such an important industry it would be a poor show indeed. Tracing the history of the mill, Cr. Schramm outlined difficulties encountered. The first manager, Mr W. Giles, had done a lot of good work in starting the mill. In 1942, Mr Riggall of the Strathkellar mill had called and informed him that he thought of starting a depot for the Strathkellar mill somewhere in this district. He took him in hand and the beginning of the mill was established. Messrs E. Day and the late J. G. Chesswas, trustees of the Recreation Reserve, had leased the grounds to the flax committee, and that was the starting point of the industry. The first load of flax was delivered to the mill by Mr O. Mirtschin. He (the speaker) was very pleased with the address given by Mr Brown that evening. He had told them a lot and if they remembered the chief points of his remarks he was sure that the future of the industry would be assured. His re-marks had been a knockout blow for the critics in Penshurst. Mr Clark had done a lot of good work in establishing such an up-to-date mill in Penshurst.

The Growers.

The toast of the Growers was proposed by Mr J. White. Without the producers they all realised they would not be able to carry on. During the war years the Penshurst Mill had produced 7,300 tons of raw materials. If this district was farmed on scientific methods, the grower could not fail.

Eliminate Waste.

Penshurst growers gave the response to Mr B. C. Noske, president of the Strathkellar Flax Growers' Association. Growers had the important job in this industry. A growers' association had been formed and he claimed that it was responsible for the success of the industry. He wished to sound a note of warning regarding the future of the industry. The next two years decided whether the industry survived or not. He appealed to all concerned to pull together and also asked the Flax Production Committee to use every effort to aid the industry. The price agreed upon this year was finally settled at £7/5/ per ton. The pruning knife had to be used in the industry to see that all waste was eliminated so that the product could be sold in open competition at a price payable to the grower. As all citizens were shareholders it should be to their interests to see that the mills were kept going with full efficiency. Growers should keep their crops as clean as possible. The seasonal outlook was not too promising for the coming crop. In conclusion he thanked the organisers for a wonderful evening.

Returned Soldiers.

"Returned Soldiers" was proposed by the chairman. In responding, Mr C. G. Ross (president of the local branch of that body) thanked Mr Clark for his treatment of returned men. He trusted that the flax, industry would progress and give employment to more with a view to holding the community together. About 20 returned men were employed at the mill. Industries were the makings of country towns.

Our Legislators.

Mr P. F. Jenkin proposed "Our Legislators." Ours was a democratic country”, he said, and he congratulated the Government on the fine standard of politics in Australia. A few weeks ago the State House had passed the Teacher's Bill, which would probably lead to a few shillings increase in the salaries of teachers. He congratulated Parliament on passing the Bill. Teachers were of great importance in the community as they were responsible for moulding the citizens of tomorrow. Unless children were properly educated, no community could prove a progressive one. He hoped that Victoria would regain educational supremacy as the result of the recent legislation. In 1941 he had been shown a list showing that no fewer than 150 people had left Penshurst in 1940 and 1941 and had not the flax industry commenced, the township would have been a mere shadow. The Government had established 110 secondary industries in the country giving employment to people. With a proposed University at Mildura and other proposals under way, the Government was working in the right direction and he commended their efforts.

Mr Holt, M.L.A., responded. He had, on a previous visit, made reference “that if ever they take the flax mill from Penshurst without providing a substitute, it would be over his dead body." Such reference need not be taken as an expectation of his early demise. He thanked Mr Jenkin for his remarks. He saw no reason why Government departments could not be distributed over the country so that decisions could be made on the spot. To a point, he was satisfied with the distribution of industries throughout the country. Minister Stoneham was doing a good job. He considered, however, that the proportion of houses being built in the city too far outstrips building in the country. If you want to take industry to the people you must be able to house workers or the township would rapidly become saturated. With regard to the flax mill; forward planning of the Government covers a period of two years. What will happen at the end of that period cannot be forecast. Soldier settlement will play an important part in the development of Penshurst, along with other land-bound neighbouring towns. Notices to treat had been served on numerous owners, but unfortunately voluntary acquisition was not being realised. A Bill would be introduced to purchase single unit farms next session. "I do know that Closer Settlement will take a place near Penshurst" said Mr. Holt. He hoped that next time he visited Penshurst he would have better news concerning the flax mill.

Note: “he would have better news concerning the flax mill”. What an odd thing to say at the opening of a brand new modern Mill. Perhaps he had prior knowledge of what was to happen in coming years.

Continued page 4

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