Town Talk

By Marnie
Winner: Art Captured, Hans-Wolter’s story compiled by Kay Ball

Hello everyone.

How are you doing, out there? Bit chilly?

Kay Ball and her passion for history

There is currently an exhibition at Shepparton Art Museum which displays artwork by Hans-Wolter von Gruenewaldt.

You may not have heard of this German civilian prisoner of war, so I’ll tell you how I came across his story.

In April last year, I received an email from Kay Ball, president of the Murchison Historical Society for seven years and secretary for 14, inviting me to an exhibition regarding the Dhurringile Mansion – and I replied saying I’d be there on 28th.

Firstly, I should tell you that I was amazed at how much this small group had achieved – raising funds, and sourcing grants, to create their perfect building.

The exhibition was interesting and I told you about it on this page.

I purchased a book, which was compiled by Kay – about Hans-Wolter and his work, largely told in his own words.

Kay signed and dated it – which is how I know the exact date I met her.

We stayed in touch, Kay and I, and were both surprised at how quickly we became good friends.

Kay isn’t merely a small, inspirational dynamo who makes things happen, she is also highly intelligent, warm and kind, with a sense of humour I greatly appreciate – and an astonishing work ethic.

And because I now know her well, I’m very aware how uncomfortable she will be with these words.

She will say that she doesn’t work alone and that many people have contributed to the successful outcomes.

However, some of us are born, knowing how to give; few of us know how to receive – and my friend is one of these people.

Honoured: Kay Ball receiving her award from Richard Broome, the Royal Historical Society of Victoria president.

Kay’s book Art Captured (the story of Hans-Wolter) was the 2018 winner of the Victorian Community History Award.

And three weeks ago, she was presented with an award of merit from the Royal Historical Society of Victoria ‘for exceptional service to history in Victoria’.

She ‘forgot’ to tell me about that. (The letter of nomination for this award lists 19 reasons why she has earned it.)

We all know that behind every wonder woman, is a man who has learned patience, the hard way.

Kay’s husband John, from time to time, threatens to write a book entitled Waiting for Kay.

They met at work; he was a radiographer and she, the x-ray nurse.

They have been married for 46 years.

They transferred to the (then) GV Base in 1983 and Kay became charge nurse of the special care nursery.

The last 23 years of her career were spent in the community, as a maternal and child health nurse, working throughout the Goulburn Valley.

I’m sure many of you will have encountered her. After 50 years of nursing, she retired in 2015 (well-earned retirement, I am thinking).

Soon after buying a house in Murchison in 1985, Kay developed a passion for the town’s story – and as they say ‘the rest is history’.

Kay says that Murchison’s very diverse history is unique – and events, which have occurred there, are of significance at a state, national and international level.

Self portrait: Hans-Wolter von Gruenewaldt

Hans-Wolter von Gruenewaldt

When World War II began, Hans-Wolter was living in South Africa with his British wife.

Although he was a civilian, he anticipated being imprisoned because of his German birth – and escaped from the country.

The ship on which he escaped was captured by the British and Hans-Wolter was moved from camp to camp in Britain.

Eventually, he was loaded onto the Andora Star to be transported to Canada.

However, they were torpedoed and rescued by a Canadian destroyer which took Hans-Wolter and some 600 others to Edinburgh.

The HMT Dunera brought him to Melbourne. (I know that many of you are familiar with the horror story of the Dunera.)

Hans- Wolter was imprisoned at Camps 4, 2, and 3 (clustered around the Waranga Basin) before settling – in June 1941 – into Camp 13 (Murchison).

Here, Hans-Wolter (also known as Gerry) appears to have settled into a relatively comfortable camp life.

Clothes were supplied, food was adequate and plentiful (of the same quality as the military received) and some work was available.

And here, he painted and sketched, with whatever medium was available.

His talent was recognised and he was asked to decorate the recreation hall.

These murals have survived and are currently on display at SAM.

Hans-Wolter died in 1973 and, in 2007, his son Axel donated a collection of portraits plus copies of many sketches to the Murchison Historical Society.

Kay’s book Art Captured is available for buy at the SAM shop. (Proceeds from the sale benefit Murchison and District Historical Society.)

Last week

I received an email from Barbara:

Hello Marnie,

Just been reading today’s Shepp News and stories of the old post office.

I am 85 and came to Shepp (Arcadia) when I married 63 years ago.

My husband Michael as a 14-15-year-old worked at the SPO.

He rode in from Arcadia delivered telegrams (kids don't know about telegrams) – then rode home after work.

He had a wealth of stories and caused a furore when the postal inspector visited.

There are two people I know of, one in her 90s, Margot.

The other is Jim. Jim is in his 80s but I’m sure would chat.

Enjoy your delving.

Cheers, Barbara

I called Barbara, to explain that I would delete the full names and addresses of the people she mentioned; and she told me a little about her husband.

She said he was a suave gentleman; their courtship had been amazing (read – impressive).

However, he was also a larrikin and caused a furore, when the postal inspector arrived, because he kept some of his home brew in his locker.

When the inspector opened the locker, the home brew exploded.

My imagination took hold of this story – and produced much amusement.

I’m wondering if the inspector, inadvertently, got to taste some of it.

Under the clock

June 11, 1914


The students at the Agricultural class at the Shepparton High School visited Mr Carl Lenne’s orchard at Ardmona today, to obtain experience in pruning.

Pruning at the High School farm will take place later, the trees there having all shed their leaves.


Over a score of enthusiastic young men met in the lodge room of the Star Theatre on Tuesday evening, to arrange for a demonstration, and to bring the objects and the worthiness of the recently-formed Shepparton Athletics Club more prominently under public notice.

There was no mistaking their earnestness, and their desire to prove that they were young men of the right stamp. It was a pleasure to watch how they deliberated; and to notice their keen satisfaction when informed that Cr. J. D. Mitchell had placed at their disposal his machinery shed in his timber yard in Wyndham-street.

It is there that the demonstration will take place next Tuesday evening, June 16th; and an instructive time may be looked forward to in the art of physical development notwithstanding that the members of the club are as yet limited in their possession of necessary appliances and apparata.

Saturday evening – at my house

The Tigers were playing Geelong – and getting beaten.

Richmond was 35 points down. My glass of wine was untouched and I was pacing up and down – not unlike a caged tiger, complaining about the team, shouting at the television, even using unladylike words – until things started to happen.

And then, eventually, my team was 17 points in front.

If you’ve ever seen a woman in her seventies, resembling a three-year-old, this was it.

Me: I feel like a different woman.

My Man: I know what you mean. I sometimes feel the same way.

Richmond was beaten by three points.

May it be easy, my friends.



Letter: Town Talk. Shepparton News. P.O. Box 204. Shepparton 3631.

Phone: Send a text on 0418 962 507. (Note: text only. I will call you back, if you wish)