The Great Southern Line Anzac Story was unveiled in a heart-felt and moving ceremony last Friday at Moss Vale Railway Station. The first of three commemorative public artworks, is located at the entry to the small garden at Moss Vale train station. It commemorates the lives of the returned WW1 veterans who worked on the railways across the Southern Tablelands.
The commemorative sculpture was unveiled by Howard Collins OBE Acting Chief Executive NSW Trainlink. Mr Collins shared a photograph of British railway servicemen and spoke about his grandfather, a railway worker who fought in World War 1 and returned to work on the railway line. The railway line acted as a lifeline for many returned servicemen granting employment and camaraderie for life. Mr Collins remarked that there was a strong resonance in the stories of his grandfather’s experience and those told with this commemorative artwork.
Dr Mary Hutchison who lead the research phase spoke of the challenges of finding the families of these veterans and the beauty and tragedy revealed in their stories. This station was a major stop on the Great Southern Line for Troop Trains heading to the war and those carrying wounded soldiers returning home. The Moss Vale station, was the site of welcomes and farewells during WW1 which included the performances by the local bands for troops. The Blue Gum Girls, set up in WW1 to provide a social and welcoming environment, regularly met troops and provided concert entertainment as well as gifts to wounded soldiers. Another home front character of the Moss Vale area with its large early pastoral settlement houses, was that it included several convalescent homes for soldiers. Moss Vale and smaller stations on the line were railway stops to deliver veterans to these centres for care and rehabillitation.
Tracy Luff the artist who designed and created the beautiful commemorative sculpture choked up as she spoke of meeting the families and hearing the stories of these young men, who once home, suffered other hardships as a result of the war. Uncovering the light in their lives, such as family, music, sports and community helped to informed Ms Luff’s design.
The Hon. Angus Taylor spoke about his initial feelings of connection to the project and how important it is to remember the lives of these veterans after the war. It was an emotional ceremony and people were genuinely moved. Colleen Prest, the daughter of WW1 veteran Roy Howard was overwhelmed by the commemorative sculpture and the references both direct and indirect to her father’s life. There were four generations of Colleen’s family at the ceremony. Other reunions took place including the meeting of three of the five families from the original photo that inspired the project.
The project will continue with two more commemorative sculptures to be installed at Picton and Goulburn railway stations to link the stories across the Great Southern Line in the region. This project was designed, developed and managed by Southern Tablelands Arts and made possible with funding through the Anzac Centenary arts and culture fund with the support Wingecarribee Shire Council, Goulburn Mulwaree Council, Wollondilly Council and the Goulburn Soldiers Club.
We wish to thank Dr Mary Hutchison and Tracy Luff for their hard work and support. With thanks to Howard Collins OBE, The Hon. Angus Taylor MP and The Hon. Pru Goward MP for their support and help with unveiling the commemorative sculpture. We also wish to acknowledge the support of Andrew Killingsworth, Oliver Poetzl and Ian Mondon of Transport NSW who’ve worked with us to see this project to fruition.
A website has been developed to share the research and tell the stories of local returned railway servicemen and their lives on the line. You can view the stories here at www.greatsouthernline.com.au If you have a story you would like to contribute to the page please contact Giselle at[email protected] or ring 4823 4407.