Peek into Werribee’s past

Rosemary Harrigan with the minute book of the former Werribee Mechanic's Institute. Photo by Damjan Janevski.

By Alesha Capone

When Rosemary Harrigan found an old book inside a filing cabinet at the Werribee District Historical Society’s museum, she knew that she had stumbled across something special.
Mrs Harrigan, a researcher at the historical society, said she was delighted to discover the tome was actually a minute book from Werribee’s former Mechanic’s Institute, dating from between 1889 to 1923.
Mrs Harrigan said the minute book was donated to the historical society by the family of J.L. Callanan, who for many years ran a pharmacy located next to the museum.
“It was a wonderful find, particularly as I’ve had a keen interest in Werribee’s pioneering history for a very long time, so when this minute book turned up in a drawer, I just thought, ‘It’s got to be opened up to see the light of day’,” Mrs Harrigan said.
“The minute book is a fabulous snapshot of Werribee’s social activities in the early days.
“The Mechanic’s Institute was in great demand, it was always heavily booked by dance groups, had concerts, card games, theatre and a lot of church groups used the Mechanic’s Institute.”
The former Mechanic’s Institute, which was built in 1887, was demolished in 1964. It was located at the site of the Wyndham Cultural Centre in Watton Street, Werribee.
Mrs Harrigan said she found the minute book around two years ago, and has spent around 18 months transcribing the bulk of it.
“One of the more amusing entries was the fact they needed to put frosting on the windows of the lodge, because they had peeping toms,” she said.