Kilmore’s Nurses, Soldiers and Sailor

From Kilmore Free Press, Thursday 12 June 1919

In the matter of being represented in the great war Kilmore occupies a proud position for it can claim the distinction of having representatives in the three mighty branches of Old England’s unbroken power – the Army, the Navy and the Red Cross.  Few provincial towns in Victoria can sustain such a boast.  In the army there are scores of soldiers from Kilmore occupying positions in practically every branch, including aviation and wireless;  the Red Cross is represented by Sister K. O’Connor and Sister M. Semple, whilst the navy lays claim to Paymaster Cadet Ian A. Hesford, who served on board the Melbourne in the North Sea.

The nurses, cadet and many soldiers having returned from active service, the opportunity was taken on Friday evening last to tender a public welcome home to them.  The Oddfellows’ hall was packed on the occasion, many people travelling miles to do honor to the returned warriors and nurses.  The hall was gaily decorated with bunting, including naval flags, whilst the stage was heavily laden with flowers.  Cr W. Crilley, J.P., acted as chairman, and read an apology from Mr A.F. Cameron, M..L.A, who was debarred through business from attending, but who extended a hearty welcome to all those returned.  Proceedings were opened by the Kilmore Citizens’ Band playing appropriate selections, and the audience singing the National Anthem and God Bless our Splendid Men.  Mr S.W. Baker of Broadford, who has a good reputation in Kilmore as a vocalist, sang The Deathless Army, and in reply to a spontaneous recall he sang another number, and later on, by request, Mr Baker further contributed to the pleasure of the evening, Mrs Baker playing the accompaniments very proficiently.  After Mr Baker’s first song an important official stood on a chair and peremptorily ordered there must be no encores, owing to the length of the programme – and most of the hearers fervently hoped the chair would tip up.

They, however, took no notice of the order on that occasion and recalled Mr Baker, who responded to the call.  Two chorus songs were given – Men of Harlech and March of the Cameron Men – the singers being Mrs Jos. Morrissey, Mrs Birrell, Mrs Drury, Misses M Sugden, E. Drury, O & A Holman and Messrs R J Barkla and W A Drury, and the voices blended nicely.

In a duet, The Mandoline, success was achieved by Misses A and O Holman, whilst Mr T R Wood’s humorous recitation about Jones Minor’s Recitation kept the audience simmering with amusement.  Mrs Jos Morrissey’s item The Bells of St Mary’s was very well received, and an encore was deserved.  Miss M Sugden was in good voice in her contribution I’ll Sing to You.  Mr R J Tymms gave a fine number in Peace and Glory (the Victory song) and well earned an encore, but the restriction was again observed;  this was the first time this song was heard in Kilmore, and a repetition by Mr Tymms would have been welcome.

Miss Hesford came next with a violin solo, introducing Scotch airs, and her imitation of the bagpipes was something to be remembered – it was just about perfection, and the great audience broke through the encore restriction and recalled Miss Hesford, declining to restore quietness until the young lady reappeared and gave another brilliant recital, for which she received further approbation;  the accompaniment was played by Miss O’Shea.  Mrs A W Govett was applauded for singing Poor Wandering One.    Miss O’Shea was listed to sing The Marseillaise, but substituted There’s a Land;  she did well in the latter song, and received merited applause, but the French National Anthem, not being often heard on Kilmore concert platforms, would have been a decided acquisition to this programme in particular, and it was eagerly expected.  Miss O’Shea’s powerful voice being quite capable of doing the song justice.  Miss Annie Wilson was a most efficient and sympathetic accompaniste.

The next item on the programme was the address of welcome to the returned nurses, soldiers and sailor, by Mr G A Maxwell MHR, who received a flattering reception upon entering the hall.

Mr G A Maxwell was then called upon to deliver an address of welcome to the returned nurses, sailor and soldiers.  Mr Maxwell was given a most cordial reception, and after a few preliminary remarks in lighter vein he became serious.  He said there was a maxim, “Good wine needs no bush.”  That also applied to the evening’s proceedings – a good subject, and needed no elaboration.  The people now were of one heart and one mind.  They were not quite so unsettled now as they were twelve months ago, when many were unmanned by the course events were taking.  At that time they were looking for recruits, for men were urgently wanted, the circumstances being so absolutely different.  In June last the Empire was under the darkest cloud of its existence, and he visited Kilmore and many other places with a recruiting party to ask the boys to go and help the boys at the front, for help was sorely wanted then.  Thank God there was no need for that now, and the feeling of all at present should be of devout thankfulness to Almighty God for His goodness.  Peace, however, had not come about yet;  it was only a cessation of hostilities.  They were not out of the wood yet;  there was yet a feeling of anxiety in men’s minds, but that feeling was not so strained as before, but yet it was a feeling that we were not altogether out of it.

He was pleased to know that some of the boys had returned, some were returning, but it saddened them to know that some, aye, many, would not return.  Since these nurses and soldiers left Australia their eyes had rested upon some exquisite landscape some of the most exquisite landscape in the world, but the landscape they saw upon returning to their own districts, was more exquisite than all, for was it not their home – Home, Sweet Home.  Anyone to see him on the platform welcoming returned nurses and soldiers might ask why a stranger should occupy such a position.  The answer was anybody had a right to be there.  The soldiers were not anybody’s in particular – they were ours.  They did not go to fight for Kilmore, they did not fight for him or anyone in particular, – they fought for the Empire. If a stranger came from the Gulf of Carpentaria he had equal rights to bid the nurses and soldiers welcome home.  The fever of fighting had not yet gone out of the blood of men, and the community had not so far settled down to its humdrum life again.  The soldiers had laid the whole of Australia under a very heavy debt of obligation, and that debt must be paid.  They had welcomed returning soldiers on all hands, and would continue to welcome them until all had returned.  Things would soon come down to the ordinary routine again, when all must be prepared to face the payment of the debt to the soldiers.  While in the thick of the fight the wounds were not felt in the excitement.

It was the next day when the wounds were stiff and sore that they felt it.  It was the same way with the soldiers’ debt of obligation.  When the day comes they must face in grim earnest the payment of that huge debt;  a debt of gratitude for what the boys and girls have done.  The task of paying that debt must be set out upon, and it lies upon the shoulders of every man, woman and child in Australia to pay toward it.  They must recognise that there will be drastic and still more drastic financial burden placed upon the people to pay off the debt.  Now that numbers were returning to Australia, the people must not lose an opportunity of helping the boys and girls who have done so much for them.  The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Association had done much to help the returned men, and it was working hard to further their interests, but there were very many ways in which people could help in addition to the association.  Many hard cases had come under notice, and many more would come, and that was where the help of the people would be highly valuable. They must step in and help the returned soldiers on every possible occasion.

The soldiers have made a splendid record.  Each one had written his name on the honor roll of Australia for all time.  The soldier owed it to himself to make good.  He returned to his old community and he (Mr Maxwell) hoped the returned men would settle down to the duties of citizenship and do as well in private life as they had done at the front.  To do that would do a great deal toward cementing friendship with one another.  At the front the main spirit between the men was cobbership, and the same cobbership would prevail now amongst all.  For those men who had offered their lives and the offer had been accepted there was a strong feeling of admiration and sorrow.  Those men whose lives had been offered and not been accepted should out of gratitude settle down in citizenship and make good.  They had played the game like men over there;  don’t play the fool over here.  One knew a man by what he did.

These fellows had acquitted themselves splendidly at the front and their actions were admired by the whole world.  He (the speaker) appealed to them not to give way now and play the coward, but to acquit themselves as well in their career as citizens as they had as soldiers.  They had written their names on the Commonwealth scroll of honor, then let them make the best of the lives which had been given back to them.  Let them remember that they owed a deep debt of gratitude to Him Who had spared their lives, and the proper way to recognise that debt was to settle down as reputable citizens.  He (Mr Maxwell)  fervently welcomed home the returned nurses, soldiers and sailor on behalf of the people of Kilmore and wished them every happiness and prosperity.  (Continued applause.)

Chaplain-Captain Tolhurst (Presbyterian) in his usual breezy style, extended a warm welcome home to those who had returned from active service.  He was pleased to see that Kilmore had turned out in a body, or as much of it as the hall would hold, to bid welcome to the returned people.  He was very glad to see the two nurses returned home safely. He could speak with experience of the nurses, who represented a very large army indeed.  He had seen them in thousands in Egypt, but there were none at Gallipoli, because no women were allowed to land there, although he understood one did succeed in getting there.  During his service with the 6th Light Horse in Egypt he had many opportunities of seeing the sisters at work, and they were very courageous under fire.  They had also done great work in England and France.  He extended a hearty welcome home to all.

Rev. Father Martin (Roman Catholic), Rev J A Peck (Church of England), and Rev C Angwin (Methodist) also welcomed home the returned nurses, soldiers and sailor.

Mr Maxwell then on behalf of the people of Kilmore, presented the nurses, and soldiers each with a gold medal, suitably inscribed, and bearing the number and colors of their respective battalions.

Those receiving medals were Nurse K O’Connor, Nurse M Semple, Lieutenant Proudfoot, Sergeant Mabbett, Corporal Holman, Sapper Angwin, Sapper Luckie, Sapper Portbury, Gunner Lee, Gunner McLaurin, Driver Meade, Privates Hyde, Ahearn, Cavanagh, Delahunty, Dunphy, Glanville, Harrington, Jamieson, Pentland, Newton, Looney, Lincoln, Anderson, Tolhurst, Skehan, Smith, Joiner and Sheppard.

The medals were pinned on the nurses’ capes by Mr C McNab, and Miss Daisy Proudfoot pinned on the soldiers’ medals.  Amongst the men were two Anzacs, Privates J. Looney and R Skehan.  The whole of the recipients were cheered separately as they returned to their seats on the stage.

Lieutenant Proudfoot returned thanks on behalf of the nurses and the men. He also thanked the Kilmore Red Cross for sending parcels and comforts to the local boys at the front.  He said also that it gave him great pleasure to again meet Nurse O’Connor, as he had met her in 1917 at a clearing station on the field in active service, and there were much safer places in Australia than that.

Privates Smith, Dunphy, and Luckie and Paymaster-Cadet Hesford also responded.

Refreshments were then served and a very happy evening terminated.

One discordant note was struck during the presentation of medals by a busy official, bubbling over the importance, signalling out a soldier as “the pick of the bunch”.  The remark was coarse and most uncalled for, and has been generally resented, and very properly so.

The ladies of the Red Cross Society deserve the highest commendation for the way in which they arranged and carried out the welcome home.

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