All About The Ross Watt Children's Hall
In 1913 Mrs Ross Watt felt that there should be a place where school children could play after school hours. Having just returned from England, where she had witnessed and was much impressed by the great success of Queen Alexander’s “Rose Day” she thought up the idea of having a “Wattle Day” to raise money for a hall. After approaching the Melbourne City Council the Ladies of Gisborne were given permission, on a day in August, to sell their sprigs of wattle in Bourke and Lonsdale Streets.
This effort was so successful financially that enough money was raised, approximately $1,400.00, to build this hall and the surplus was donated to the Children’s Hospital. This hall has proved very useful over the years. The Methodist, Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches have all used it for services at times. There have been meetings, weddings, christenings, funerals and Guild meetings, parties for charitable purpose and children’s Sunday school etc....
The Trustees of the hall originally appointed were Mrs B M E Ross Watt and William T Pearce and Miss E T Pearce, for many years, acted as unofficial Secretary. The ladies of New Gisborne formed a Guild and, for many years, have looked after the hall and provided funds to keep it in repair. The Title to the land on which the hall is erected is in the names of B M E Ross Watt and W T Pearce as Trustees and, after taking legal advice on the matter, it is found that Miss K E Ross Watt and H P Dixon, as legal representatives of the last surviving trustee, Mrs B M E Ross Watt, have the duty and right to nominate and appoint new Trustees for the hall.
The Shire President has called this meeting of the residents for the purpose of appointing of official committee of Management to take charge of and to run the affairs of the hall in future. After this Committee has been appointed we will take steps to nominate and appoint new trustees for the hall and will have the Title to the land transferred to their name.
On May 30th 1974 Miss K E (Betty) Ross Watt, Wanda McCormick and David Robinson became Trustees of the New Gisborne Children’s Hall.
Late in the 1970’s the Gisborne Church of Christ was formed and the hall was used as their weekly place of worship. This continued for several years until they built their own church.
In the early 1980’s the hall was used for a weekly interdenominational Christian program for the children of New Gisborne with up to 60+ children attending each week. Also, after years of planning, the extension on the back of the Hall (kitchen, storeroom and toilets) was completed and new roofing iron was put on the Hall.
During the mid-eighties the playgroups attending the Hall increased from one (1) group to eleven (11) groups and by 1988 there were approximately 120 local families using the Hall.
Sadly, in 1989 Trustee Miss Betty Ross Watt passed away. As always thinking of her beloved charities the New Gisborne Children’s Hall received an inheritance which was put into a Trust account to maintain the Hall for the duration of its lifetime.
In 1990 out of respect for Miss Betty Ross Watt the hall name was changed to the ROSS WATT CHILDREN’S HALL. With the change of name came a change of Trustees to Neil Robertson (Executor of Miss Betty Ross Watt’s will), Pat Coundon and Kaye Wilson.
In 1991, due to the amount of playgroups attending the Hall and in order to protect the Trustees the Ross Watt Children’s Hall was Incorporated.
By 1995 fifteen (15) playgroups attended the Ross Watt Children’s Hall, three (3) playgroups a day, five (5) days a week accommodating approximately 190 local families with 265 children.
The past four (4) years has seen the Ross Watt Children’s Hall Inc. Committee represented mainly by parents of children attending one of the many playgroups. The Hall has reaped the benefits due to the Committee concentrating on the maintenance of the Hall. The Hall has been completely repainted, inside and out along with the roof. A new child-proof front fence and a garden storage shed have been erected and the back half of the hall has received new floor coverings.
As at July 1999, the Ross Watt Children’s Hall is still privately owned and operated by a committee of Management and Trustees. The Hall has thirteen (13) playgroups attending accommodating 118 local families with 193 children. Our Playgroup is one of the largest playgroups, operating out of one (1) facility, in Victoria.
Now its 2017 and in the past few years the hall has been repainted, the signage replaced, heating upgraded and air conditioning installed, fencing replaced and more improvements like seating, and gardens to the outdoor area, as well as new equipment being purchased every year. The playgroup was also a close runner up for playgroup of the year awarded by Playgroup Victoria a few years ago.
Mrs Ross Watt would be proud to know her dream of the Children’s Hall is still very much alive today.