A FORMER resident of St John’s Orphanage says he’s dismayed and saddened by the state of the building.
Newcastle-based Phil Merrigan wants to form an action group to try and stop the 1912 structure’s further deterioration.
His comments came before a fire in long grass around the building on Saturday night, which police said was suspicious. It was one of several fires throughout the day and night around Goulburn.
Looking at the former Mundy St orphanage, Mr Merrigan said he couldn’t help but feel part of his soul has been ripped out.
He returns to his childhood home every so often for reunions and a trip down memory lane.
He says that journey has become more difficult in recent years given the building’s condition.
“It’s in a very sad state with just about every window smashed,” he said.
“…There’s no soul left in the building. We’re seeing what we called our home rotting.”
Mr Merrigan, who was at St John’s for 10 years until 1969, told the Post that old boys at a reunion last March complained about the structure’s state and the fact “nothing had been done.”
He’s not casting the finger of blame but is seeking a solution.
Mr Merrigan wants to form an action group – ‘Save St John’s.’
“We just want to find out the facts of why this has happened, act as a mediator and find out if there’s anything blocking negotiations between the owner (John Ferrara) and Council,” he said.
Mr Merrigan said Mr Ferrara had blamed Council for failure to approve his plans. Mr Ferrara has lodged several development applications for the property, the most recent being for a 15-lot residential subdivision in 2013 on 2.4 hectares surrounding the orphanage.
Goulburn Heritage Group argued this should not be approved without firm plans to restore the building.
Councillors agreed and demanded a schedule of conservation works before full approval was issued. For this reason the development is at an impasse and Mr Ferrara is still awaiting a construction certificate.
Mr Ferrara declined to comment in detail on the building’s state.
“There is dismay (among the old boys) at Council for letting this happen and dismay at Mr Ferrara for the deterioration,” Mr Merrigan said.
He’s under no illusion that the action group and petitions may not work. But something has to be done, he said.
The St John’s Old Boys are planning another reunion in March, 2015, which is expected to draw up to 120 people.
“It would have been nice to go to Mundy St and have a look but I don’t think it will happen,” Mr Merrigan said.
Former residents are concerned that the 1912 marble foundation stone will be smashed amid continued vandalism. They have unsuccessfully requested the stone from Mr Ferrara.
Mr Merrigan said if he won Lotto, he’d make an offer, describing it as a “stunning site.”
“But in the 100 years or so since it opened in 1912 it has deteriorated and gone down hill so quickly,” he said.
“…I don’t know who is to blame and I really don’t care. I just want it resolved.”
The action group is open to St John’s old boys and members of the public. Mr Merrigan can be contacted at philmerrigan@ exemail.com.au