Darnick’s Aussie links

Darnick Celebrations
Darnick Celebrations

Eighty people packed into Darnick’s Smith Memorial Hall at the weekend in an event that had a distinct ‘Down Under’ flavour.

For it was on Sunday that the village hall celebrated its centenary. And, as well as being rededicated to John Smith of Darnick, the hall was also dedicated to his niece, the Australian philanthropist Helen Macpherson Smith.

12 Agnes, Muray, Phil, Keith and others at front of hall

12 Agnes, Muray, Phil, Keith and others at front of hall

Born in Darnick, Helen Macpherson Smith lived most of her life in Melbourne.

Her father had emigrated there in the 1850s, along with nine brothers, sisters and cousins from Darnick and the family became timber merchants.

On her death in 1951, Helen left most of her estate to found the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust in Melbourne.

Since then, it has become one of Australia’s premier foundations, giving more than 4,000 grants to charities and community groups in the state of Victoria.

To mark the rededication, 80 Darnick residents attended a special tea in the hall.

Presenting a centenary plaque made of Australian jarrah wood to the hall, Dr Philip Moors, chair-designate of the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, said Australia, and particularly the state of Victoria, owed much to Darnick and its sons and daughters.

Dr Moors, who recently retired as chief executive of Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens. commented: “Helen Macpherson Smith’s legacy, skilfully managed by our chairman Darvell Hutchinson, has provided assistance to tens of thousands of Australians, ranging from asylum seekers trying to establish themselves to promising rural leaders.

“These sons and daughters of Darnick were the economic migrants of their day. On this 100th anniversary, it’s a joy to remember two of them, along with the many residents of Darnick who have given life to this hall.”

An Australian ballad was sung, and a poem about the hall, specially written by Bridget Kursheed, was read.

Keith Smith, chair of the hall trustees, told us: “It was a very nice day.”