Rural tennis history recognised

THE small, but proud rural community of Benjeroop has continued an Easter Sunday tradition by unveiling another historical plaque.

One of Benjeroop's tennis premiership teams.

One of Benjeroop's tennis premiership teams.

Eileen Watson unveiled the plaque on the site of the former Benjeroop tennis courts.

Eileen Watson unveiled the plaque on the site of the former Benjeroop tennis courts.

The latest annual recognition of former facilities was dedicated to the site of a tennis court in the 1930s.

The low-key event featured entertaining speeches before the miniature curtains were drawn back by a former resident, revealing the plaque, which was set into a large marker stone by the roadside.

There are now about 20 plaques around the Benjeroop district celebrating various aspects of the area's history, a number of them dedicated to schools that once operated there.

Although the farming district now has a tiny population, the Benjeroop Public Hall continues to operate and its committee strives to ensure Benjeroop's rich history is not forgotten.

Eileen Watson was honoured to unveil the new plaque.

"I have lovely memories of Benjeroop," she recalled of the town that became her home in 1945 and where she remained for 20 years.

"Great people, great place, I loved every minute," she said.

Her memories included reopening the Benjeroop East School in 1949, starting with little more than some furniture, a piece of chalk and some enthusiastic, if out of practice students, some of whom hadn't been able to attend school for a couple of years.

The school had closed due to insufficient numbers of students and a lack of available teachers, perhaps attributable to the war years.

The reopening was a success and Mrs Watson continued teaching at the school until 1954.

As well as her time teaching, she also featured in three consecutive premiership-winning Benjeroop tennis teams along with husband Bruce.

Don Watson was another to speak at the event, sharing memories of his mother Elsie May Fullerton who was head teacher of Benjeroop East State School during 1912 and 1913.

He recalled her stories of arriving in Lake Charm by train, before being picked up by a horse-drawn gig to travel on to Benjeroop in order to take up her new role at the school.

Although Mr Watson has never lived in Benjeroop and was in fact visiting it for the first time, he felt a connection to the town through his mother and wished he had recorded more about her time there.

Those visiting for the unveiling ceremony also had the chance to study the boards of historical information and photos, along with display folders filled with the area's history. 

The wonderful historical display in the Benjeroop Public Hall is due to the dedicated work of Kevin Shamley, something for which the community is most grateful.

Although Mr Shamley has not lived at Benjeroop since 2010, he has provided the town with a lasting and significant gift, helping record important moments in the town's life.

Undoubtedly such moments will continue to be reflected by future Easter plaques.

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