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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

New silo art takes off in northern Victoria

The latest edition of Victoria’s expanding network of silo art installations has been completed at the GrainCorp silos in Lake Boga.

The sensational mural features the amphibious Catalina aircraft and famous aviator, George Urquhart “Scotty” Allan. Set within the backdrop of the lake reflecting a stunning northern Victorian sunset, the mural depicts the history and environment of the region including sporting activities such as water skiing and sailing and a large pelican showcasing the environmental values of this recreational lake.

Following the fall of Singapore and the bombings of Darwin and Broome Australia’s fleet of Catalina was rushed to the tiny Victorian town hosting the secret Catalina base. Lake Boga was chosen because of its isolation and its position hundreds of kilometres from potential sea-launched bombing raids.

Born in Scotland, Scotty Allan was a WW1 fighter pilot, a pioneer of commercial aviation in Australia, Squadron Commander in the RAAF and then Deputy General Manager of Qantas before retiring in 1961, Scotty was the manager of the maintenance and service centre (Australia’s No 1 Flying Boat Repair Depot) at Lake Boga during the 2nd World War.

The artist is renowned realist painter, Tim Bowtell, who says he loves the joy of painting on a big canvas and the opportunity to tell the stories and narrative of the towns and their communities.

“The locals have been really encouraging and interested. The local primary school brought its students who were really excited and well informed and fired a lot of really detailed questions, which is a credit to the school and the community,” said Tim.

“This project has been very smooth and a pleasure to work on. We needed to employ track controllers because the silos are on an active rail line, which at the start looked like a big hurdle but they were really easy to work with as they managed the safety precautions. Grain Corp staff too was also really helpful.

“The community provided photos of the elements they wanted included and then I mocked up a design in Photoshop scaled to the dimensions of the silo panels. I love a good coffee and it has been great to be able to get one each morning at the local shop to start the day. The caravan park has also been very welcoming and the community has been proactive working around the silos to beautify the landscape for visitors,” he said.

Stephen Matthews Chairperson of the local community association, Lake Boga Inc, says that the project has been a long time coming.

“There was a lot of planning and consultation to get the design finalised and a great deal of liaison with government agencies such as Grain Corp, VLine, VicTrack and Department of Transport before the project could proceed.

“We were very fortunate to receive grants from the Foundation for Regional and Rural Renewal (FRRR) in partnership with the Australian Government and from the Swan Hill Rural City Council. The advocacy from local member Peter Walsh with questions in Parliament was also significant in helping us receive tangible support from State Government Agencies.

“It was an absolute team effort and our thanks go out to the community and everyone else who supported the project,” he said.

Kyle Docherty, GrainCorp’s Community Engagement Manager, acknowledged and thanked the Lake Boga community for the many hours of work that have gone on behind the scenes to bring this project to life.

“The GrainCorp silos at Lake Boga have been a huge part of the community for decades and it’s terrific to see them take their next form – a beautiful mural that will be celebrated by locals and visitors in years to come,” he said.

Long-term member of the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum Committee of Management, David Mark says that George Allan was co-pilot of the first all Australian airmail flight to England on the Empire Flying Boat just before the war.

“He was instantly made an officer in the RAAF at the start of WW2. Known for his aviation skills and knowledge of seaplanes, George Allan was very popular and held in high regard as the head of the Australia’s No 1 Flying Boat Repair Depot at Lake Boga”.

David says “the Catalina were used as a multi-purpose bomber and people carrier across the Indo-Pacific war area. During WW2, Australia had as many as 240 Catalina”.

“They were a major contributor to the war effort renowned for their flexibility because they did not rely on airports and could land wherever there was a water body large enough” he said.

The Catalina housed at the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum was originally in the Dutch air force with the crew and plane adopted by the RAAF in 1942. A local community member donated it to the Museum.

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