ABOVE: The original Wodonga Shire Hall.LEFT: The former Melba Theatre.Pictures:WODONGAHISTORICALSOCIETY Dame Nellie Melba biographer Ann Blainey says the name Melba Square could be a great choice for Wodonga’s new city square. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL
COULD a dark horse be making a last-minute dash across the finish line in the race to name Wodonga’s urban square?
Well, perhaps not so much dark horse as divine diva — a Border Mail poll suggests Melba Square is leading the people’s choice as a name for the new public space at the corner of High Street and Elgin Boulevard.
The unofficial online poll showed 51per cent of people chose Melba Square, 35per cent Junction Square, 6per cent Drover’s Rest, and 4per cent each for Aurora and Harmony squares.
The Melba square name is not in fact direct reference to opera singer Dame Nellie Melba, but to the theatre named for her that once stood opposite the square, where the Woolworths supermarket now stands.
Either way, historian Ann Blainey reckons it’s an excellent choice, and one the dame would approve.
Mrs Blainey — wife of historian Geoffrey Blainey — was on the Border yesterday for a talk about Melba, coinciding with the singer’s birthday.
As a Melba biographer, Mrs Blainey said she’d found Melba actually had several links to the area, with several performances on the Border in the early 1900s.
Her father owned Bethanga Park for many years, meaning as a child she would have spent time here, although her formative years were spent in Melbourne.
“She was the first person to sing at the Albury Mechanics Institute … and at that concert for those who couldn’t get seats she made sure they opened all the doors so everyone could hear,” she said.
Wodonga Council had previously stated its preference for a name reflecting the precinct’s railway heritage, but Mrs Blainey thinks the Melba name can almost encompass that too.
Melba did after all travel regularly on the line from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne and, upon her death in 1931, a procession was held at Albury station as her coffin was moved from one platform to the other for the journey from Sydney to Melbourne.
Wodonga Historical Society members have agreed the Melba name could be perfect, but pointed out one key factor: the council has stipulated it does not want to name the square after a person, living or dead, in order to ensure it is inclusive.
Society member Uta Wiltshire said that the name wouldn’t, however, necessarily be commemorating a person, but a place.
“To have Melba square would be fine, as long as in 20 years time people do remember there was a theatre of that name was once stood by that site,” she said.
The Melba Theatre was in use for 60 years which was of significance to Wodonga.
The council is taking feedback on the five names until May 28.
A report will go to next month council’s meeting, where councillors will choose a name to put forward to the Registrar of Geographic Names.
The council has stressed it will consider the public response.
People can go to makewodongayours苏州美甲美睫培训学校419论坛 to vote, or leave a dot on polls posted at the council offices and other venues including The Cube, Library, community centres and the Visitor Information Centre.
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