Brian Wall and Patsy Parkes.
Brian Wall and Patsy Parkes.

Lawrence Rural and River Museum full of surprises

SITUATED in the 1936 former 2NR Broadcasting Station, under the tall transmitting mast, the Lawrence Museum provides an insight into life on the Clarence River in earlier times.

Lawrence was a major trading centre on the Clarence River, with numerous wharves to cope with the busy river traffic.

There was a customs house, courthouse, and many small businesses flourished. Bullock wagons would bring timber for shipping to Sydney and return with food supplies and other needs.

Now, a peaceful river village, the museum shows the links to the past. The Lawrence Court Bench Books, 1865 - 1880, and the School of Arts minutes books tell the stories of the times.

Local industries included dairy, crops, fishing, timber, and sugar cane. An original dairy was brought to the museum from neighbouring Woodford Island. It was loaded onto a trailer on the back of a tractor and had to cross the Clarence River on the ferry. The trailer lost a wheel and almost collapsed driving off the ferry.

Maize and potatoes became staple crops and a potato harvester and various early farming implements are to be seen. Sugar cane became an important crop and, although hard and dirty, locals and migrants worked together to earn their living. The film Fields of Fire was made here.

Skilled Indian migrants were welcomed and became part of the community. You can see the different handmade cane cutter's knives on display. Fishing helped to put food on table, and fish were plentiful as were ducks. Small punts were built to travel through the swamps to shoot ducks.

The interior of the museum shows the cultural and social aspects of early life, daily living, church, bringing up children, school and education.

A walk in the gardens brings you to the Ramsamy cottage. This was the childhood home to Edward Ramsamy who went on to become Ram Chandra, the "Taipan Man”. He was famous for his work with Australia's most venomous snake, and was awarded the British Empire Medal for his work in developing a vaccine against the taipan.

Dr Earle Page officially opened the 2NR radio station in July 1936, to bring news of the world to people from Newcastle and Brisbane.

Today, the building houses a small communications collection, which includes telephones from the candlestick model onwards, telephone exchange equipment, early radios, gramophones, morse code keys, telex machines and early computers.

Elizabeth Essex-Cohen was also born and brought up in Lawrence.

Elizabeth Essex became the fourth woman to gain a PhD in Physics in Australia.

She was appointed as a lecturer in Space Physics at La Trobe in 1968 and her studies went out to contribute to the development of GPS.

Lawrence Museum is displaying the exhibition 150 Years of Horse Racing - Lawrence Champions of the Turf. As early as 1867, Lawrence was a hub of horse racing, and a combination of great trainers, jockeys and horses has continued to produce winners through the years.

The earliest record dates back to March 18, 1867, which was said to be Lawrence's first race meeting. The display includes the Lawrence Jockey Club Cup presented in 1884, and trophies up to the present day.

This exhibition is open to the end of August.

Lawrence Museum is open Tuesdays 9am to 1pm and Saturday and Sundays from 1pm - 4pm.

Special bookings can be made for group tours, which include a country morning or afternoon tea.

For information or bookings please call 0429477102.

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