Community News

Probus Club of Maclean

President Maureen welcomed members to our monthly meeting.

John Moore suggested that for the next day trip be held on September 12 and visit Lanbruk’s Gunyah at Carr’s Creek. The Maclean pick-up will be 9am – 9.30am (to be advised) at Wherrett Park cost including bus, entry to the Lanbruk’s Gunyah plus morning tea and then a picnic lunch at Alumy Creek Reserve is $40.

Our guest speaker was one of our own, Bevan Sommerlad, talking about his ancestors and their life at New Italy.

Bevan’s grandfather was Joseph Spinaze, one of the youngest members of the group of Italian migrants to settle at New Italy.

Bevan commenced his presentation by bringing to us the story of how a group of some 200 northern Italian immigrants had ended up settling in a region some 10kms south of Woodburn. It is a story of political, economic and environmentally driven refugees, a dubious French entrepreneur, a failed resettlement project in New Britain, and a rescue of the surviving members of the party, led by Sir Henry Parkes, then Premier of New South Wales.

In 1882 some of the group settled at La Cella Veneto, as farmers they were involved with piggeries, timber getting and the early sugar cane growing in northern New South Wales. At one time they planted mulberry trees and became involved in the silk industry, this lasted to 1893, when bush fires destroyed the 20 acres of mulberry trees. In the late 80s and 90s they switched to dairy and the production of cream for transportation by river boat to near-by butter factories.

In 1885 a school was established, and for the first time the village was named “New Italy’. The parents requested that only English was to be spoken at school, and as a result it was the children who ‘taught’ their parents English at home, these parents may have been only literate in Italian.

Up to 70 children were educated at this facility. Hoop Pines were planted in the school grounds and they still stand there, although the school closed in 1933. The building no longer exists but Stella Wiblen, Nugget’s mother, nee Picoli, recalls pointing out the trees to visitors some years back during a visit to the site. Bevan pointed out that the New Italy population started to decline in the early 1900s and that the last resident of the original settlers, Jacomi Picoli, passed away in 1955, aged 89 years.

To the applause of members president Maureen thanked Bevan for his enlightening and informative address.

Our next meeting will be at 11am on September 10, with a guest presenter and luncheon.

Ken Muller