Still going strong at 130 years

Still going strong at 130 years

One hundred years is a long time for a community group to exist. So is 110 years, even 120. So Bairnsdale Garden Club’s 130th birthday luncheon on Wednesday, with a great number in attendance, was a true show of longevity, strength and community spirit.

Club president, Robyn Johnson, welcomed members and guests to the celebrations, including members of the Lakes Entrance Garden Club, an offshoot of the original Bairnsdale Garden Club, East Gippsland Shire mayor, Cr John White, and Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull.

“We have older members who have contributed for years, but for the younger members, we have been taken quite by surprise with this 130 years. It’s really great to see it continuing so strongly,” Ms Johnson said.

Cr White and Mr Bull were both impressed with the club’s strength in numbers after 13 decades. The club has certainly not waned in popularity over the years.

“This is such a strong community group. It’s groups like this that are the backbone of society,” Cr White said.

While Cr White said he was the ‘missing link’ in his family as far as gardeners go, he said his mother loved gardening and won champion rose on a number of occasions at local shows and his daughter also has a green thumb.

“As well as what you are doing with your own gardens, it’s getting together, it’s meeting other people and keeping your community spirit alive, sharing what you’ve grown and being proud of your achievements. Congratulations on all your years,” Cr White said.

“When you think this club predates us going to the First World War, it hits home about the longevity of the organisation,” Mr Bull said.

“I think it’s pertinent when we have great milestones like this that we reflect for a moment on all those who have contributed many, many hours across previous generations.

“At 130 years, you would have to be one of the longest serving clubs still in existence in our region. There wouldn’t be too many more that would predate 130 years of age.

“The attendance today is a very good sign that the club is still in a very healthy position 130 years on.”

Mr Bull had the honour on Wednesday to award two of the club’s dedicated members, Len and Joy Burton, with life memberships of the Bairnsdale Garden Club.

Mr and Mrs Burton are not only dedicated to the club, assisting its members and providing advice, and their own gardens, they are also extremely community spirited, raising funds for the Cancer Council and dedicating hundreds of hours over the years to the maintenance of the Beaufort Memorial Gardens, established at the front of the Bairnsdale Hospital in memory of those airmen who have no known grave and who lost their lives over Bass Strait while training to defend Australia during World War II.

“I’m a worker and I seem to fit in anywhere,” Mrs Burton said.

“I would welcome those who are able to come to our Beaufort Garden working bees, only once a month on a Thursday. Len and I are always there and will be as long as we can.”

Mr and Mrs Burton began at the memorial gardens about a decade ago.

“I’ve enjoyed doing that work,” Mr Burton said.

“I’ve often thought it’s a great place for people to go for a walk around the path there. People visiting a sick relative, if they’ve got younger ones with them, they get tired of being inside, it’s somewhere for them to go for a walk around.

“I’ve always liked gardening, and it’s a lot easier than milking cows,” he laughed.”

Having addressed the club at its October meeting, Tim Gibson returned to share briefly the club’s history, which he continues to research, calling for assistance in locating more newspaper clippings and similar historical items.

He provided an interesting display of newspaper clippings, posters and booklets about the club whose opening meeting was held on October 30, 1889.

The club was originally called the Bairnsdale Horticultural Society until 1993 when it became the Bairnsdale Garden Club. It worked with the local council in an advisory capacity and is proud of the gardens it has had input into.

Over the years it has conducted numerous garden events, initially holding two every year before it was decided in the 1990s that one annual show was sufficient. Activities across the 130 years have included conservation projects such as a large area at the top end of Calvert Street, where the East Gippsland Specialist School is now situated and remnant gum trees were planted by the society in 1978.

“This society has been the mother of other societies in the town that are still active,” Mr Gibson said.

“The orchid club, the horticultural society, field naturalists and native plant society all owe their origins to this club.”

PICTURED: Len and Joy Burton’s dedication to the community as well as the Bairnsdale Garden Club saw them honoured with life membership and the task of cutting the birthday cake at the club’s 130th anniversary celebrations on Wednesday. See page 6 for more photos.