PHOTO: The white facade of Council Chambers in early 1960s with seal visible at the base of the flagpole – Image courtesy of YDHS Archives
The original Yass Municipal Council seal had its first public airing in quite a while when it was located earlier this month by Judith Davidson, publicity officer for the Yass and District Historical Society with the assistance of very helpful Council staff.
The search was sparked by an article found at the Archives describing the original seal in stone with “a cross-bearing five stars, a merino sheep, old type railway engine, old fashioned hand plough, and miner with pick.” Further investigation turned up the photo of the white-facade Council Chambers in the early 1960s with what could be the same plaque. In excellent condition, this artifact, complete with fixing bolts, is a tangible connection to our Yass Valley Council’s history and development.
The seal can just be identified fixed to the wall at the base of the flagpole attached to the front of the new 1956 Council Chambers. The cross and five stars are reminiscent of the 1854 Eureka stockade flag, a symbol of egalitarianism and independence. However, our town’s founding fathers may simply have had in mind that iconic Australian symbol – the southern cross.
The other depictions within each quadrant of the seal reflect what was held to be most representative of this bustling early 20th-century township and district. The town’s prosperity was based on the fine wool and agricultural industries; hence the merino sheep and old-fashioned hand plough still widely used in 1919.
The railway engine reflects the firm belief of the time that the railways were the future, providing the answer to the problem of how to reliably and efficiently transport the wool clip and district produce to market and goods and travellers to and from what was then an isolated regional centre. Townsfolk were bitterly disappointed when the extension to the main rail line bypassed Yass in the 1870s, the completion of the connecting tramway from the township to Yass Junction in 1892 was cause for much celebration.
The miner with his pick in the bottom quadrant highlights an almost forgotten district drive to find the elusive gold and mineral wealth that hopefully would make fortunes for both individuals and district businessmen.
The current slogan on the entry sign to Yass “Wool, Wine and Waterways” shows how times have changed.
The carved sandstone seal is a very weighty reminder of the first purpose-built Yass Municipal Council Chambers initially occupied in October 1919. However, nothing is currently known of who designed or carved the stone. It may have been commissioned for the 1919 building.
Further research of Council records held by the YDHS Archive will hopefully help to clarify these details. If anyone has information that can assist, the Archives would be happy to hear from you. email@example.com
by Judith Davidson
Yass & District Historical Society