District's farming history should be celebrated, councillors say

Murray Bridge's councillors have pushed back against a proposal to revamp the Captain's Cottage Museum instead of building a public memorial.

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The farming history of the Murray Bridge district should be celebrated, and not just in a museum, the city’s councillors say.

Plans for a revitalisation of the Captain’s Cottage Museum on Thomas Street were presented to councillors at their June meeting.

Council staff envisioned a makeover like the one recently given to the Round House, one that would transform the under-used former home of riverboat captain Adam Johnstone into “a dynamic tourist attraction that memorialises, interprets and celebrates the contribution that has been made to our region by primary producers”.

That sounded great, councillors said – but it was not what they had asked for last year.

What they had wanted was a public memorial celebrating the district’s agricultural history: a statue, a display, something like that.

“A museum is a museum, a memorial is a memorial and a sign is a sign – I don’t think we should confuse those things,” Councillor Airlie Keen said.

Cr Clem Schubert agreed.

“What Airlie is suggesting ... (is) you drive into town and they’ve got a display (showing) what this area consists of, be it grain or sorghum or sugar or whatever,” he said.

“If you come into town and see that, you get a quick understanding of what’s created and what’s done in that community.”

The councillors asked staff to come back with more ideas about a stand-alone memorial, including possible locations and cost estimates.

The memorial idea was suggested by Monarto farmer Robert Thiele last year, though historian Barry Wilson proposed something similar at Monarto South as long ago as 2016.