Burke's magic moment lingers

Linda Peacock said the return of Robert O’Hara Burke’s pistol to Beechworth after an auction in Dublin was thrilling for her and the community.
Linda Peacock said the return of Robert O’Hara Burke’s pistol to Beechworth after an auction in Dublin was thrilling for her and the community.

SIX weeks have not dulled the thrill Linda Peacock still feels at the return of explorer Robert O’Hara Burke’s pistol to Beechworth.

It was a significant event for the Burke Museum and the community when the historic piece was unveiled on April 10.

All the work that went into securing the pistol — bought via an auction on the other side of the world in Dublin — has been recognised.

Ms Peacock, the museum’s collections manager, has won the open heritage gong in the Indigo Shire Heritage Awards.

The award was recently presented by the council and the National Trust of Australia at the Star Theatre at Chiltern.

There were five major awards, with Brendan Hogan and Yackandandah Primary School students winning the junior award.

They created seven short films from 2009 to 2012 on historical events and personalities.

The award for restoring a heritage place was won by the Chiltern recreational reserve committee of management for refurbishing the grandstand at the Chiltern sports centre.

The restoration and refurbishment of Finches of Beechworth earned owners Peter Brygel and Margo Maller the sustainability and-or greening of a heritage place award.

The shire’s heritage advocacy award went to Susan Reynolds for her contribution to the preservation of history in the community, especially “her advocacy for community museums and the role these play in building a stronger community”.

Ms Peacock said it was “quite an honour” to be recognised in such a strong field of contenders — commendations were handed to the Wahgunyah Progress Association and Yackandandah and District Historical Society.

“Heritage is so important to us and the community and so this is very special,” she said.

Burke was given the pistol in 1858 as a gift from fellow police when he left Beechworth for his ill-fated expedition across Australia with William John Wills.

Ms Peacock became aware of the pistol when amateur NSW historian Matt Nola told her last October the pistol was to be auctioned just three days later.

The mad scramble for cash to buy the pistol was bolstered by the Beechworth community — the council chipped in $3000, as did the friends of the museum group, and several locals donated enough to reach the $18,000 purchase price.

“There was a real celebration when it returned,” Ms Peacock said.

“Certainly some people didn’t sleep for a few days.

“It was just one of those magical moments that don’t happen all that often.

“It was really exciting.”

A special commendation was presented to the family of the late Barry Deas, who was a founding member of the Rutherglen branch of the North Eastern Historical Society.

Mr Deas served in various roles, including secretary, president and research officer.