The Project

Being one of those people, whose worst nightmare would be to wake up and discover I had nothing to do, the first half of 2014 proved to be quite fulfilling, with a town project to keep me busy and ‘off the (half a dozen) streets’.  I was asked to write an application, on behalf of the Enngonia War Memorial Hall Committee, for funding, under the Anzac Centenary Government Grants Programme, to construct a cenotaph area outside the Memorial Hall. The submission was to fund a fenced concrete slab, remembrance wall and plaque and flagpole, as well as display cabinets and an honour board in the Hall foyer.

The work involved meeting with the War Memorial Committee (think me, Nige, 4 locals plus the publican and his wife over a leisurely counter lunch at the pub) regarding what they had in mind, then drawing up plans (memories of the Ivanhoe assisted living units?) liaising with Mark Coulton’s (Member for Parkes) Personal Assistant, sourcing trade quotes and, of course, researching WWI service personnel from Enngonia, Barringun and surrounds. The application required a written proposal explaining the need for and benefits of a cenotaph for the local community, plans, quotes etc and, all up, reached 10 pages. Here’s the opening statement:

“Enngonia is a remote town 97 kilometres north of Bourke. It was first gazetted as a township in 1870. Barringun is a further 40 kilometres north of Enngonia on the Mitchell Highway and at the turn of the century it was a flourishing border town, serviced by 4 hotels and several shops with a population of 180.

In the 1970s Enngonia enjoyed a reputation as a thriving modern and progressive village and boasted a Hotel-Motel, Post Office, Store, Police Station, Catholic Church, Bush Nursing Centre, Tennis Courts, Cricket Oval, Racecourse and War Memorial Hall, which was first opened in 1957. This Hall was built mainly by subscriptions from the local community and quickly became the meeting place for the whole district.

Today, both towns have struggled to overcome the effects of decreasing populations. In fact, all that remains of the township of Barringun is a roadhouse and the famous Tattersall’s Hotel. While Enngonia has fared better, some buildings have fallen into disrepair and dis-use.

 However, through these hard times, the War Memorial Hall has continued to be the hub of the community, well-loved and used by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents for weddings, funerals and celebrations of all kinds. Yet despite its name, there is currently no cenotaph or other designated area and it is not used to celebrate Anzac or Remembrance days.

This application is for funding to construct a Remembrance Wall and Cenotaph area in front of the current War Memorial Hall, in honour of the service personnel from Enngonia and Barringun who served in World War I. Apart from Enngonia Public School, there is no area set aside in either town where residents or visitors may pay their respects to our WWI service personnel or commemorate Anzac Day and Remembrance Day as a community.”

The project definitely qualified as ‘outside the comfort zone’ and goes to show what parents and teachers already knew – if you show faith in someone’s abilities, they’ll very often deliver. However, there’s been little time to ‘bask in the glow’ because I’ve now been tasked to write a submission for a second grant (Saluting their Service Grants Programme) so that we can hopefully secure the shortfall of $4,000. Having succeeded with the first application, this time I’m quietly confident. I’ll let you know the result. Here’s an introduction to my research notes:

“These are the names of nine WWI service personnel – eight men and one woman born in or enlisting from Enngonia or Barringun.

Enngonia:                            Barringun:                               

Davies, David Evan             Arkins, John O’Connor           

Mallon, James Joseph        Graham, Malcolm             

Ridge, Cyril Dick                 Graham, Sidney Charles

Ridge, Donald Bligh            Jamieson, William

                                                   Murphy, Esther

On joining the AIF, they were paid the princely sum of 5 shillings per day (or per diem as it was written in the Nominal Roll). They were young with their whole lives in front of them yet they chose to endure appalling conditions with a very real threat of illness, injury or death. Their casualty records reveal illnesses ranging from middle ear infection and laryngitis to gunshot wounds and trench fever. They saw sights that no one should see and endured hardships that we can’t even imagine.

Of the nine, one was married and the rest were single. Seven enlisted to fight; one became an ambulance officer and the ninth a nurse. One set out for the front but was stricken by ‘pneumonic influenza’, which swept through the troopship resulting in a recall to Australia and the North Head Quarantine Station.  He survived but 13 others – 12 soldiers and a nurse – were not so fortunate. They died and were buried at the Quarantine Station. Another was medically discharged from the AIF but chose to re-enlist and was subsequently killed in action.

The plaque contains their names but we may never know their stories. This report hopes to shed some light on these 9 individuals. With the same hopes and aspirations, fears and weaknesses they were as ‘vulnerable’ as the rest of us. They were prone to the same illnesses and frailties as we are. Two of the nine made the ultimate sacrifice and were killed in action on the battlefields of France.’

PS Next project– with the Commander’s blessing, we’re hoping to beautify the long Police Station wall (corrugated iron)  with some Indigenous art by one of the locals – Fulla (think The Cunnamulla Fulla). The school kids will add their hand prints and hopefully it will be a great permanent addition to the town.

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