$60,000 project to bring pioneer history back to life

A $60,000 plan to bring the history of Warrnambool’s pioneers back to life was launched in Warrnambool on Sunday.

Historical snapshot: Andrew Suggett with a picture of his mother, Edith, taken by Foyle studios who also created the pioneer board which is set to be restored.

Historical snapshot: Andrew Suggett with a picture of his mother, Edith, taken by Foyle studios who also created the pioneer board which is set to be restored.

A board featuring the faces of 204 of Warrnambool’s earliest pioneers will be restored, and the historical society and family history group are appealing for help to raise the funds through its adopt-a-pioneer campaign.

The board has already received donations of $30,000 from various trusts and the society is hoping to secure a $15,000 grant from the National Library of Australia.

The money will also be used to produce a 500-page book which will detail the history of the board and the 204 men included on it.

Society president Janet MacDonald said the board, located at HertiageWorks in Gilles Street, would be taken to Melbourne in the next 18 months for the six-month restoration works.

Foyle Studios were commissioned to create the board in 1907 to celebrate 60 years since Warrnambool was founded.

Mrs Macdonald said the pioneer board was a nineteenth century view of history.

Historian Elizabeth O’Callaghan said Warrnambool’s first woman photographer, Lilian Foyle, was given the job of producing the portraits, which featured only men. “I often wondered what she thought about that,” Mrs O’Callaghan said.

“Lilian was quite active in early women’s political groups, tending to be on the liberal radical side. She was an activist in politics.”

Lilian later married Federal Government Labor Senator Edward Findley.

“Foyle’s studios had a great name despite the fact that the family were Labor people in a very conservative area,” Mrs O’Callaghan said.

Because the 200 pound cost of producing the board was not paid in 1907, it sat in the Foyle studios until the 1920s when half the cost of the project was finally paid and it was moved to the art gallery.

Lilian Foyle photographer who put together Warrnambool's pioneer board in 1907.

Lilian Foyle photographer who put together Warrnambool's pioneer board in 1907.