The Manager, Col Mewett


Colin and Helen, newly-married.



Centre photo: The Mewett brothers 1983; Col (viewers left), Geoff, Alan, Max.

Photo below: Col with first-born, Graeme.

The Mansfield Courier of Friday, August 17, 1973, in the section, Business Of The Week, featured an article on Mansfield’s newest building, that of Bill Luck and Co., and it is partly quoted hereunder:

The Manager, Col Mewett, has had twenty-five years experience in the bulk petrol business. Col and his wife Helen came to Bonnie Doon more than twenty-five years ago. Both had family connections in the town. Col’s mother was a member of the Pollock family, and Helen’s mother was postmistress there.

Col was a North Riding patrolman with the Mansfield Shire Council and also ran a school bus between Bonnie Doon and Mansfield. He joined T. S. Powell and Co., as a driver and when this company was bought out by Mansfield Merchandising Agency Co. Ltd., he continued on with the new company.

In 1966 Bill Luck and Co., a Benalla company, bought the Mobil Agency from Mansfield Merchandising and appointed Col as their manager. His wife joined him in the office and worked there full time until some eighteen months ago, when she became a part-time employee.

Col was a foundation Flag Officer of the Mansfield Boat Club and has held many executive positions in that club. He is at present the Rear Commodore.  Col said that one of the highlights of his term as Commodore was to play host to the Governor of Victoria, Sir Rohan Delacombe and Lady Delacombe when they were guests of the Mansfield Boat Club. Col’s other interest, when not boating, is in Rotary where he is at present a Community Services Director.

The Mansfield Courier of Wednesday, September 2,1992, included the Obituary of Mr Colin D Mewett, and it is quoted hereunder:

Although a number of years have passed since Mr Colin David Mewett was forced by illness and failing eyesight to limit his public activities, it was evident that he was fondly remembered by innumerable friends at the service of thanksgiving following his death at the Mansfield District Hosptal on August 24. The service at St Andrews Uniting Church on Thursday was conducted by Rev. Jim Hazeldine.

Colin had a life-long association with the Bonnie Doon and Mansfield areas, although a little less than half his lifetime of 75 years was actually spent in this district. His earlier association was through his mother, Margaret, a member of the Pollock family of Woodfield.

Colin was born in Melbourne, the eldest of four sons of Perce and Margaret Mewett. Schooldays were spent at the Yarraville Primary and Footscray Technical Schools. For his first job he rode his bicycle to South Melbourne each day to work at Swallow & Ariell’s biscuit factory. From there he transferred to Warren & Browne Engineering at Footscray and settled in to learn his trade as an automobile mechanic (diesels). There he worked with his cousin, Bob Black, and together they never missed an opportunity to visit their Pollock relations at Ancona.

It was on one such visit that he met Miss Helen Snook, his future wife. They were married at the Congregational Church, Prahran, during World War II. Although Col had enlisted for service he failed to meet the eyesight standard required and so continued to work for Warren & Browne. Col and Helen came to Bonnie Doon in 1948, and moved to Mansfield three years later. Initially, Col  used his own truck, working for the shire council. For two years in those early days he also drove a school bus.

Employment with Mansfield Merchandising & Agency Co. brought him into contact with most residents of the district, who appreciated his unassuming and friendly approach. When Bill Luck & Co. took over the petrol depot the company recognised these qualities. The business developed considerably over the 25 years that it was managed by Col with the unfailing support of his wife.

The couple had three sons, Graham [Graeme] (dec.), Gary and Joe [Ian] and daughter Glenda [now deceased 2016]. Outside his daily activities Col loved the outdoor life, with nothing better than sailing, camping and fishing. One of the highlights occurred when, as commodore of the Mansfield Boat Club, he was called upon to host a visit from Sir Rohan Delacombe, then Governor of Victoria. Another memorable moment was attending a Rotary conference in South Australia, when he was seated next to and able to chat to his cricket hero, Sir Donald Bradman.

Jamieson naturally was a special place in which to engage in his favourite pastimes, and he retired there with his caravan to spend the last few years of his life.

– almewett

Published in: on December 27, 2016 at 6:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Dreadful Railway Mishap

The young Perce Mewett                Buckrabanyule, Victoria

The Bendigo Advertiser (Victoria) carried the headline of – Dreadful Railway Mishap – in its issue dated Monday, 25 March 1912. The byline was from Charlton, 23 March:

A painful accident happened at the Buckrabanyule railway station this morning. A young man named Hewitt (sic), a cleaner, was employed at shunting operations, when he missed his footing. The wheels of the truck passed over both feet, badly crushing one and causing a compound of the ankle of the other foot. The sufferer, who was hurried to Charlton, was attended by Dr …….. and then ordered to the Wycheproof Hospital.

The Argus (Melbourne) of Wednesday, 3 April 1912, carried a paragraph headed WYCHEPROOF:

The young man, Percy Mewitt (sic), who was injured in a railway accident at Buckrabanyule, has had one foot amputated at the ankle, also several toes that were crushed to a pulp. He now lies in the Inglewood Hospital.

Buckrabanyule (population now app. 14) was a small town on the Bendigo-Charlton-Wycheproof railway line, approximately 40 km south-east of Wycheproof.

Alan’s comment: The unfortunate young man was 19-year-old Percy Edwin Mewett who became my father 17 years later. In our family circle his accident was never discussed but I do remember my mother saying that he was a fireman on a locomotive when he slipped on the wet steps as he climbed back after retrieving his cap from the track and fell under a wheel of the slowly moving steam engine. I now believe that her version to have been romanticised; it was possible that she was not aware of the full facts of the accident.

More light on the accident was given about 40 years ago when I visited Wycheproof, by Mrs Doye who had been a neighbour of the Mewett family in the town. She doubted that Perce had been a fireman on locomotives; she insisted that he had been a cleaner (of the locomotives stationed at Wycheproof). Her husband had been a guard there and they were recalled from their honeymoon for the newly-wed husband to take over from the injured Perce.

It appears to me that Perce was a cleaner at Wycheproof but was probably standing in for Mr Doye as guard on the train that had stopped at Buckrabanyule to leave or pick up a truck in a shunting manouevre. I can only guess that Perce was inexperienced in the procedure and as a result of a misunderstanding of the loco driver’s intention, found himself between trucks as the shunted truck bore down on him; my guess is that he missed his footing as he dashed to be clear.

Shunting of rolling stock (carriages or trucks) was always dangerous; the locomotive, with much chuffing and puffing, would push an uncoupled truck a short distance leaving it to roll unassisted and silently towards or away from the train. In the incident Perce would have been coupling or uncoupling trucks and anticipating the driver’s intentions. Little wonder that a railway company in England kept an ambulance wagon permanently stationed at a busy railway yard to give treatment to injured shunters.

Perce Mewett was rehabilitated to the Victorian Railways workshops at Newport, Victoria, as a telephone-switchboard operator. It was there that he met Margaret Pollock, employed at the  workshop canteen, when she came to order supplies by telephone. They were married in 1915 and their eldest son, Colin, was born at Footscray in 1917. Perce left the VR to become a private hire car driver with South Yarra Motors, and later in 1934 he drove for Harry Parker’s Chatsworth Motors in East Prahran. His amputated ankle and foot were replaced with a wooden prosthesis (with its straps and metal fittings) which had to be fitted daily, leaving him with a clumping gait, a far cry from the modern-day prostheses which allow wearers to engage in athletic sports.

My thanks to Darryl Mewett for drawing my attention to the two newspaper reports quoted above. Photo of the young Perce Mewett from Ruby Weaver scrapbook. Photo of Buckrabunyule railway from Google Earth.

Published in: on December 15, 2016 at 6:30 pm  Comments (1)