Associate professor Don Garden, James Lerk and Bendigo mayor Margaret O’Rourke.

Local historian James Lerk received the prestigious Award of Merit from the Royal Historical Society of Victoria on Tuesday.

Mr Lerk’s impressive record of preserving and recording Bendigo’s history is a long and substantial one.

As Mr Lerk pointed out he was actually instrumental in saving our town hall – the very building in which the award ceremony took place.

The president of the Royal Historical Society, associate professor Don Garden referred to Mr Lerk as “a history and heritage warrior”.

He added that local historians such as Mr Lerk are vital to our history in terms of their local knowledge, dedication and enthusiasm.

At the well-attended ceremony, Mayor Margaaret O’Rourke said Mr Lerk has been a wonderful contributor to Bendigo, and one of its great narrators.

When accepting the Award of Merit, Mr Lerk used the occasion to urge council to continue to care for our heritage.

He expressed his admiration for the restoration of the Soldiers Memorial Institute, but said there were still battles to be won.

He also urged property owners to take care of their heritage buildings.

Mr Lerk also imparted some brief but dramatic information about Bendigo, namely that Bendigo has more shafts than any other place on earth and that apart from suffering from fatal lung diseases such as miners’ phthisis, over 800 miners died in mining accidents.

– Dianne Dempsey