THERE can’t be too many museums situated within the studio of a former radio station, complete with transmitting mast.
But that’s just what visitors to the Lawrence Museum on the Clarence River will find if they stop in.
Opened by acting prime minister Earle Page in 1936, 2NR brought news of the world to people from Newcastle and Brisbane.
Today, the building houses a small communications collection, which includes telephones from the candle stick model onwards, telephone exchange equipment, early radios, gramophones, morse code keys, telex machines and early computers.
One of Lawrence’s most important crops was sugarcane, which attracted skilled many Indian migrants, who were welcomed and became part of the community. And where you find cane, you find snakes.
Enter Ram Chandra, the “Taipan Man”, one of the town’s favourite sons, whose childhood home is located within the museum’s garden.
Born Edward Ramsamy, Ram joined the show circuit in Sydney in the early 1940s. He went on to buy 20 tiger snakes from Taronga Zoo and George Cann’s show at La Perouse, which he used to perform various tricks.
But Ram was more than an entertainer. He is acknowledged as one of the driving forces behind the development of the taipan antivenene, milking the venom that has saved the lives of dozens of people. He survived two bites from taipans, Australia’s deadliest snake.
Such was his success that he was awarded the British Empire Medal, while there is a Ram Chandra exhibit at the Stockman’s Hall of Fame.
You can learn about Ram’s story at the humble cottage, which features items from
those hard early years, including furniture made from packing cases and cane cutting tools such as hand-made knives.
The museum grounds are also home to an original dairy brought from neighbouring Woodford Island.
It was loaded on to a trailer on the back of a tractor before crossing the Clarence River on the ferry. The trailer lost a wheel driving off the ferry, almost causing the whole load to collapse!
A favourite daughter, Elizabeth Essex-Cohen, was also born and brought up in Lawrence and became the fourth woman to gain a PhD in physics in Australia. Her studies contributed to the development of what is known as the GPS.
The story of her life and work – and that of her farming family – is also told through photos and narrative.
The museum is open Tuesdays 9am-1pm and weekends 1-4pm. Entry is adults $5, children 50c (under 12).
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