Lysander Bell, affectionately known as the ‘Old Lysander Bell’ is a bell with a history. The Bell was cast for the ship ‘Lysander’ in 1825 and bears the inscription, “Lysander 1825”. The ship Lysander was used to transport convicts from Britain to Australia.
The 475 Ton ship made four voyages to Australia from Plymouth in England in 1841, 1848, 1850 and 1851. After the 4th voyage, Lysander was engaged in Adelaide – Melbourne passenger trade.
The news of the final passing of the Australian Colonies Bill was brought to Melbourne on 11th November 1850 by Lysander under the command of Captain C. Lulham. As well as carrying a cargo of iron piping, the Lysander had picked up the newspapers carrying the proclamation of the Separation from the English ship Delta in Adelaide a week before.
The Lysander bell was rung as the ship arrived at Hobson Bay. The news set four days of celebrations and even the newspapers didn’t publish those four days so that no member of the community will be left out from the rejoicings.
In 1852, Lysander was bought by Victorian Government for use off the quarantine station at Portsea as a hospital ship. In 1854, the ship Lysander finally became a prison hulk and ended up at Hobson Bay. Painted yellow, Lysander was moored at Williamstown with four other ships. The bell did its duty at the Prison Hulk until the ship was broken up. The bell then became the property of Penal department and was installed at Penridge Stockade. The bell was used to sound alarm in the event of a prisoner escape or prison riots.
When Coburg Volunteer fire brigade needed a bell, the Prison department handed it to them. The bell was affectionately called as “The Old Lysander”
At the fire department it was warning the residents of Coburg about fire break outs in the locality. When the Metropolitan Fire Brigade absorbed the Volunteer Fire Brigade, the bell found a resting place at Richmond and under superintendent Bunn it clanged the call to duty for years. When an electric bell replaced Lysander bell, it remained forgotten in the store of the fire brigade until it was presented to Melbourne Cricket Club in 1921. The Bell was hung on a metal frame in front of the members gallery to keep time for football matches.
Most of its life at MCG, it was rung by William Spry who was engaged as the timekeeper from the 1920s to mid-1940’s. Unlike the other bells used at football matches, Lysander bell could be heart all over the ground and beyond it. The bell was retired when it was replaced with sirens in 1946 but remained there until 1956. Later it was moved to MCG’s National Sports Museum.