Tuesday 6 February 2018

Talking of Tarlee - The Institute

Tarlee Institute dated 1888

The power of a book club.

Three men wanted more books to read, others followed their lead.

In 1888 in Tarlee, in the mid-north of South Australia, an institute was established and subscribers paid for the privilege of reading. Money was raised to erect a building to house books, provide reading and other public space. The Public Library Board offered affiliation and supplied books to local institutes as well as purchases being made by the local community.

The Institute was used as a polling booth, a room was let to a bank, and a multitude of community functions were held. Each year the exhibits for the local show were housed in the building.
In 1905 the Tarlee institute incurred the displeasure of the Public Library Board by their disposal of 44 dilapidated volumes.(1)  After this incident, regulations were changed to allow for more local decision making.

Fundraising efforts towards completion of the building continued as exemplified by this short article where participants enjoyed several competitions. These included nail-driving and potato lifting for the women and potato peeling and bun-eating for the men.
Tarlee annual festival fund raising for Institute
1905 fund raising function

By 1906 further money had been raised to complete the building as originally planned. This account of the 1906 reopening appeared in the local paper, The Kapunda Herald. (2)

Thirty-five years ago three men - Messrs. P Hogan, Prescott, and G. Walker started a book-club in Tarlee. Others asked to be allowed to join, so an institute was formed. In 1888 portion of the commodious hall depicted in our illustration was built with the support of the Wooroora Agricultural Society, who gave a free grant of land. This year the building was completed, and a re-opening ceremony was performed by the Hon. J. J. Duncan. Great praise is due to the president (Mr. J. F. Godfrey). the vice-president (Mr. J. Mclnerney), the secretary (Mr. K. Noack), the treasurer (Mr. J, O. Taylor), and the committee (Messrs. J. Bond. I Jacobs, W. Pickering, M. McCarthv. E. Willis, R, H. Clarke, and F. Fleming) for the determined effort which was made first to reduce the debt on the old building, and then to raise money for the completion of the original design. The trustees are Messrs. McInerney (chairman), R. H. Clark,. J.G. Kelly, J. Bond, and J. F. Godfrey. The Institute Hall is used every year for the local show.
Two years later the same paper published an article on the Institutes of the Lower North in which they compared the buildings and services offered by the institutes in six towns of the region.
Tarlee Institute as completed in 1906
The text below the picture reads:
This Institute grew out of a book-club started some 38 years ago. The building was completed to its present state in 1906. The agricultural show grounds adjoin the Institute land, and the building itself is used for the display of goods. (3)
Throughout the years this humble building became the centre of a wide variety of activities for its community. In more recent years extra rooms and facilities have been added to the side of the  building.

A 1954 article in Trove captures the opening of  the supper room built on to the side of the Institute.
Tarlee Celebrates
IT WAS a great event for the little hamlet of Tarlee, always busy with to-and-fro traffic; on Saturday when district residents congregated in numbers to see Mr. Quirke, MP, open the new supper room attached to the institute, and the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) unveil a World War II. honor roll. Mr. Melrose, MLC, came across from Kadlunga, Mintaro. They were Introduced by Mr. A. L. Molineux, chairman of the war memorial committee since its formation in 1946, and Councillor (now chairman) of Riverton District Council for 29 years and opposed only once. Mr Molineux explained that £1.000 had been raised promptly toward the extension. District people subscribed £300 for a bio-box for cinema shows. The CWA (Mrs. Clayton Dunn is president now) raised £437 toward the hall. (4)
Meetings for local committees, fetes, dances, farewell socials, concerts, debates,  family celebrations, CWA meetings, election campaigns, polling booth: these are just a few of the types of functions held in  the Institute which sprung from the humble beginnings of a book club.

1. 1905 'PUBLIC LIBRARY BOARD.', The Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), 19 August, p. 4. , viewed 03 Feb 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article55820856

2. 1906 'TARLEE INSTITUTE.', Kapunda Herald (SA : 1878 - 1951), 2 November, p. 1. (Kapunda Herald Illustrated Supplement), viewed 03 Feb 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article108379385

3. 1908 'Institutes of the Lower North.', Kapunda Herald (SA : 1878 - 1951), 13 November, p. 3. (Kapunda Herald Illustrated Supplement), viewed 03 Feb 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article132367197

4.  1954 'Out among the People', Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), 20 May, p. 51. , viewed 03 Feb 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article93914430


  1. I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at


    Thank you, Chris

    The Institutes, School of Arts etc. have played a great part in my family history. They were definitely the hub of the community. I love reading your blogs.

  2. Haven't times changed. Having to pay for the privilege of reading to trying to get kids to read books.

    1. Indeed they have with constant change ongoing, most of my reading these days is digital.


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