The township of Newry is situated on the flats of the Macalister River, 11 km north-west of Maffra and about 210 km east of Melbourne.

The area was encompassed by Boisdale pastoral run, occupied in 1842. The district, known as Upper Maffra, was opened for settlement in the early 1860s. Township allotments were sold in 1868 and a store and post office soon established. In 1871, the Farmers Arms Hotel was constructed and a government school commenced classes. In the same year, the township was named Newry, after a town in Ireland.

The rich soil for the river flats favoured farming. Wheat was grown, supplying a nearby flour mill, and cattle were fattened for sale in Melbourne and the goldfields. Dairying was widespread, with a cheese factory established in the district in 1873 and a Melbourne company opening a factory in Newry in 1877. A sawmill also worked in the area.

The township grew, having two hotels for a while. A mechanics’ institute hall was opened in 1883. By 1896, the Victorian municipal directory described Newry as a settled township at the centre of the ‘granary of Gippsland’.

In 1903 Newry was described in the Australian handbook:

In 1904 farmers established their own co-operative butter factory in Newry. Beet sugar was grown in the district from 1910, supplying a factory at nearby Maffra. From 1927, the river flats were irrigated from the reservoir on the Macalister River at Glenmaggie. However, the sugar beet industry ceased by 1950 and dairying became the dominant farming activity. The Newry co-operative was amalgamated with the Maffra factory in 1950. Further mergers and the advent of bulk milk transport led to the closure of the Newry factory in 1964.

After 1950 roads and transport improved. Newry’s growth was curtailed by its proximity to the larger town of Maffra, but since the 1970s some new residents commute to work elsewhere. Newry retains a hotel, general store, hall and churches but the school became part of the consolidated school at Boisdale in 1951. Sporting and social organisations make the town the focus for the surrounding farming district. There are tennis courts and a golf course.

Newry was inundated with floodwater twice in 2007. In June and July a wall of water from the Macalister River swept through Newry and Tinamba swamping homes and nearby farmland. In November 2007 the Glenmaggie Weir released water down the Macalister River to cope with high rainfall.

Census populations for Newry have been:

area census date population
Newry 1881 87
  1911 254
  1933 460
  1954 346
  1966 210
Newry and environs 2011 429

At the 2011 census, dairy farming accounted for 28.4% of employment and general farming another 4.9%.

Further Reading

Newry and Upper Maffra 1842-1975, 1975