Rochester’s Ron Iddles immortalised in new mural celebrating Australia’s greatest detective

By Anna McGuinness

RON Iddles has been, and still is, one of Rochester's finest exports.

And that, according to Rochester Business Network president Glenda Nichol, is now the law.

Wearing her latest community hat, project manager of the town's newest mural, recognising Ron's work as the Victoria police detective, Glenda said the work by painter Tim Bowtell is so good it is arrestingly stunning.

Never mind just Victoria, Ron has been referred to as Australia’s greatest detective and after investigating more than 300 cases during his time with the homicide squad, he retired with a staggering - and unmatched - 99 per cent conviction rate.

Ron and his twin Barry were born at Rochester War Memorial Hospital in 1955.

Educated at Rochester Primary School, Lockington Consolidated School and Echuca Technical School, Mr Iddles moved to Melbourne at 16 to pursue a career in the police force.

The Iddles family has strong roots in Rochester. Ron’s parents lived in town until they died and the mural also embraces the family’s story.

After six months of hard work, the mural is finished and Glenda said she was delighted with the final product.

“Tim has been amazing to work with. I spent six months researching the Iddles family and we are still finding things out about them, but it’s been a real learning curve and it’s just amazing,” she said.

“And everybody who comes to see it just can’t believe it.”

Rochester has a strong public art focus and its silo artwork and mural festival are big attractions.

Glenda said she expected the Iddles mural to bring even more visitors to the town and she encouraged them to visit local businesses.

“The silos have had a huge impact with tourism. We want to play on that and continue it and I feel it’s going to be really good for the town,” she said.

Glenda has revealed she has a personal connection to the Iddles family.

“I’ve been here for 60 years and all my shoes came from Iddles shoe store, my parents’ house was built by Iddles and Mundie, so the Iddles name is not just about Ron,” she said.

“I wanted someone who I felt would draw a lot of people. To me, selecting Ron, I believe he’s going to pull a huge crowd to look at it.”

The mural is on the wall of 13 Gillies St, Rochester, which is not the most obvious spot, unlike the silos which can be seen from the Northern Hwy as drivers make their way north.

But there is a clever bit of grassroots thinking behind its location.

“I chose this laneway because to see the mural you have to be out of your car. We are the business network, so it’s all about the businesses in town. The silo is absolutely amazing and it's brought a lot of people to town, but a lot of people just drive straight through,” Mrs Nichol said.

The artwork is more than just a painting of the familiar face, it includes information about Mr Iddles’ life and the Iddles family — telling a story and informing visitors about his family’s connection to the town.

“It’s actually a learning experience for a lot of local people, they’ve said that they’ve read the wall and they did not know all of this,” Mrs Nichol said.

“A lot of people know Ron and his family, but I wanted it to be that if you were from overseas travelling or you had never heard of Ron before, you could look at the wall and see why he’s been selected as the subject.”

Tim Bowtell said it has been a great honour to paint the mural.

“I’ve been entrusted to do it so there’s a little bit of pressure to do a really good job, and that’s mainly why I’m here really late and really early,” he said.

“I mean I’m my own biggest critic, it won’t be right until I say it’s right.”

He said the response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Everyone wants to shake my hand, it’s been really good. It’s good to get to know Rochester too, a really friendly community,” he said.

He has also had the assistance of some generous volunteers from the Mural Festival and the Rochester Business Network, who Glenda refers to as “Tim’s apprentices and gofers”.

Two people rostered on each day helped with setting up and packing down, grabbing coffee and keeping the artist company during late nights in the laneway.

“The volunteers have been really great, I wasn’t expecting that, I was expecting to be here on my own,” Bowtell said.

He said it has been an organic process, with the artwork growing as new information and photos were added along the way.

Initially, Bowtell planned to finish the mural in eight days, but with rain and extreme heat at different times in the past week, as well the expansion of the artwork, he took an extra day to complete all the final touches.

His dedication to the project has seen him work on the wall from early in the morning to late at night.

“Because there’s so much text, I’ve been projecting that up at night, which I can’t do until 8.30 pm, then I’m here until 11 pm, along with volunteers, they’ve been staying here really late, keeping me company and helping out.”

Tim said the subject of his work had been in touch to let him know how much he appreciated the effort and that he could not wait to see it in the flesh.

Although Ron’s father Bill died just over two years ago, Glenda said he would be looking down at it now.

The official opening of Iddles Lane is scheduled for Sunday, March 15, with more details to follow.