Hunt for model as Herb rebuilds his past

HERB Morrow was a keen young apprentice builder when he and his father spent weeks making an intricate scale model of the Tower Hill natural history centre designed by acclaimed architect Robin Boyd.

Retired builder Herb Morrow with a picture of himself as an apprentice in 1969 with the model of the Tower Hill natural history and visitor centre, which he is now hoping to locate. 
140724RG14 Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Retired builder Herb Morrow with a picture of himself as an apprentice in 1969 with the model of the Tower Hill natural history and visitor centre, which he is now hoping to locate.  140724RG14 Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

The detailed structure helped Herb win a bronze medal in the state apprenticeship awards and local apprentice of the year.

It took him about six months to finish with help from his parents and teachers, one of whom happened to have detailed plans of Boyd’s unique design. 

When the Victorian Apprenticeship Commission awards were announced the model was displayed in Melbourne for a week.

Sadly, it now seems to be lost, thrown away or forgotten. It was last seen in the former tourist information centre on Swan Reserve before it was relocated to Flagstaff Hill about a decade ago.

Herb’s wife Lois has made several inquiries, including the city council and Tower Hill Reserve, without success.

“We’d dearly love to have it back again just to show our children,” she told The Standard.

Herb said he’d almost forgotten about the model until his wife recently unearthed a photograph and story which appeared in The Standard in June 1969.

“I don’t think anyone would be prepared to tackle a project like that these days,” he said. 

“Every bit had to be handmade and calculated precisely to scale. When the Boyd plans were brought to our class at Warrnambool North Tech I said I’d have a crack at making a model and entering it for an award — it looked like a fair challenge.

“There was no CAD design in those days, it was all manual measurement.

“I had a great team of people including teacher Allan Mills assisting me.”

The project entailed countless hours of intricate work including replicas of the laminated roof beams.

As the deadline for completion approached Herb sought assistance from his parents. 

His mother visited local retail shops seeking shirt boxes for cellophane to make windows.

Herb senior was a jack of all trades who learnt his skills building farm sheds in his northern Ireland homeland. He cut small stone pieces to replicate Boyd’s exterior wall. The distinctive curved roof consisted of crushed Tower Hill scoria glued to thin plywood.

Boyd was commissioned in 1962 by the state government to design the Tower Hill natural history centre, which was completed in 1969.

Its construction came amid increasing efforts to revegetate the reserve and return it to the lush landscape depicted in von Guerard’s 1855 painting.

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