Lions raise the roof on history

PRESERVING HISTORY: Lions member Lindsay Marsden inspects cactoblastis grubs at the replica bug breeding shed the club recently built.
PRESERVING HISTORY: Lions member Lindsay Marsden inspects cactoblastis grubs at the replica bug breeding shed the club recently built. Julia Baker

FOR long-time Lions member, Lindsay Marsden, the construction of a bug breeding shed wasn't just another club project; it was a nod to his own family's heritage and a way to preserve a unique piece of the region's history.

"Tom Cole owned this property, which coincidentally he bought from my grandfather in August 1909,” Mr Marsden said.

"I'm invested in the project I suppose.”

The property Mr Marsden refers to is about 15km west of Chinchilla on Clarke's Rd.

It is The Shanti that was leased to the Prickly Pear Board for research in 1922.

In 1927, the board built the first of four sheds where cactoblastis grubs were bred in a bid to combat the region's prickly pear plague.

Now, 90 years later, one of the original sheds remains on The Shanti property in disrepair.

Chinchilla Lions Club have built a replica breeding shed to house a cactoblastis monument previously commissioned by Tom Cole's descendants and his daughter, Margaret Cameron.

"About two years after the monument was built, all the signage went white from the sun, so it was deja vu really,” Mr Marsden said.

"Because there were 2500 breeding cages at the peak of the prickly pear plague and they were out in the weather and of course the insects didn't like that, so they built the sheds to protect the cages.

After Mrs Cameron approached Mr Marsden to ask if the Lions Club would take part in building a shade for the monument, he asked an architect friend to help with his expertise.

Using a photo of one of the original sheds, plans for a replica were drafted.

Lions member Lindsay Marsden outside the replica shed.
Lions member Lindsay Marsden outside the replica shed. Julia Baker

"It had a unique roof, a 20.5 degree roof, which we believe came from England, so he drew up all the plans for one shed.

"The original sheds were about 100 feet long (30m) and this is about 10ft (3m),” Mr Marsden said.

Chinchilla Lions Club donated more than $1200 to the project with a number of local businesses and individuals also donating, funds, labour and materials.

"It's wonderful and a real asset, it's been a real community project,” Mr Marsden said.

Mr Marsden also built a bug breeding cage modelled on one of the originals.

It displays some local prickly pear along with a jar with cactoblastis grubs he found near Chinchilla Weir.

Mr Marsden said the monument was an asset to the community because prickly pear was an important part of the region's history.

The cactoblastis that ate the pear "was a saviour of the land because without the cactoblastis the land was useless,” Mr Marsden said.

"My aunty always told a story about going to school out at Canaga: Dad was driving the sulky and it got tipped over and they all got thrown into the prickly pear and you talk to people and everybody has a story.

"It's been 90 years since cactoblastis started to do its job and it's a remarkable story because let's face it, the cactoblastis is still working.

"We hope this is here for another 90 years because if the original shed falls down this is the only piece of history.”

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