Andy’s passing

“Andy’s taken a turn. He’s in the hospital”.

The news spread quickly through the Stewart clan. Andy’s health, fragile for the past decade, had taken a turn for the worse. He was having chest pains and difficulty breathing.

And with his body weak, his mind tormented him. Hallucinations took him back to the war. Gallipoli. Pozieres. Hollebeke.

Jane was at Andy’s bedside, but she felt helpless. She could only watch as the war separated her from Andy again.

Andy’s condition deteriorated and he was transferred to Ballarat. Then, five days before Anzac Day 1960, Andy died.

Anzac Day dawned cold and grey that year.
Featured image: ‘Original Anzac Passes On’, Riponshire Advocate, 30 April 1960. State Library of Victoria

Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 - 1954), Wednesday 13 Decem

Jane Duncan (bottom picture, front row, second from right) continued to be actively involved in the Beaufort community in her sixties. By 1950 Jane was one of the few World War One wives on the Legion of Ex-Servicemen and Women, Ladies’ Auxiliary.

Featured image: 1950 ‘PROMINENT WOMEN OF BEAUFORT’, Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954), 13 December, p. 27. Newspaper article found in Trove and reproduced courtesy of the National Library of Australia. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article103994632  [Accessed 18 Dec 2016].

 

Back to Beaufort 1936: Celebrations

The Riponshire Advocate declared the Back to Beaufort Centenary weekend a resounding success. All but one page of the 9 January edition of the newspaper reported the homecoming celebrations and sporting events.

Approximately 200 people visited the town. Some Beaufort residents would have noted that the number was well down on the 1,000 visitors who attended the previous ‘back to’ in 1927. But the Riponshire Advocate was certain that it was quality, not quantity, that was the measure of success.

The consensus of opinion among the visitors was that the whole of the celebrations were really delightful and thoroughly enjoyable, and they were loud in their praises of the excellent work done by the organising committee and its secretary and president.

Riponshire Advocate 9 January 1937

As secretary, Andy Duncan must have felt gratified by the response.

Andy set up a display of old photographs of Beaufort, and also a fine collection of walking sticks made from Mt. Cole forest timber, belonging to local forester Mr Thomas Derham Bailes.

Mr Duncan also displayed a fine inlaid wooden box and tray, made by him while a patient at the Caulfield Military Hospital

Riponshire Advocate 9 January 1937

andys-box-c1936
Andy Duncan’s “fine inlaid wooden box”, made while an inpatient at the Caulfield Military Hospital
andys-tray-c1936
Andy’s wooden tray
Back to Beaufort Committee. Riponshire Advocate 9 January 1937
While Andy Duncan received special mention for his work on the Back to Beaufort homecoming, his wife Jane would have to make do with being one of the Committee’s ‘loyal ladies’. Riponshire Advocate 9 January 1937

Andy’s work as honorary secretary had proved his bona fides to his new home town. In the next few years he would be nominated for committee positions at the Beaufort Mechanics’ Institute, the Cemetery Trust and the Thistle Club.

Sources

Riponshire Advocate (Beaufort, Vic.: 1874 – 1994) 9 January 1937. State Library of Victoria

1927 ‘”BACK TO BEAUFORT” CELEBRATIONS.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 16 April, p. 11. [ONLINE] Available at http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3849478 [Accessed 17 July 2016]

Featured Image: Riponshire Advocate front page 26 December 1936. State Library of Victoria

Back to Beaufort 1936: Preparations

In 1936 the town of Beaufort prepared for a Back to Beaufort Centenary Homecoming. It was the centenary of explorer Major Thomas Mitchell‘s expedition passing through the district, although the township itself was somewhat younger, built after the discovery of gold at nearby Yam Holes Creek in 1854.

Homecoming events came into fashion in Australia at the end of the First World War. By then many towns were old enough that their residents could look back to pioneer days and celebrate how far they had come, but were still young enough that original settlers or their children could attend the festivities.

Despite their retrospective nature, “back to” gatherings were considered innovative and progressive. They could raise a town’s profile, boost the local economy and draw former residents back “from every state in the Commonwealth”, as the Geelong Advertiser put it. Victorian towns embraced the trend with great enthusiasm.

Andy Duncan was a member of the Back to Beaufort committee, and instrumental in organising the event. As honorary secretary he wrote to former residents, inviting them to return for the Christmas weekend. He was in touch with the Beaufort-in-Melbourne Club about arrangements for their 91 members to join the celebrations.

Back to Beaufort
‘Back to Beaufort.’ The Argus, Melbourne, 20 October 1936, p.10. Reproduction of newspaper article found in Trove. Courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

Andy also managed the homecoming budget, which included seeing what might be donated or discounted. It kept him busy:

liaising with the Railways Department on sharing the costs of promotional posters for display in metropolitan and Beaufort district stations;

developing an advertising plan and keeping tabs on revenue generated from advertising in the souvenir booklet;

negotiating truck rental to transport visitors to the picnic ground at Mount Cole;

borrowing flags and decorations from Melbourne using his Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League connections, then seeking council approval to decorate the town.

A letter was read from the Ripon Shire Council, stating that they had no objection to flags and welcome home signs being hung across the main street, but would not allow any sign to be placed on the band rotunda

Riponshire Advocate 5 December 1936

At the start of December preparations gathered momentum. Andy’s wife Jane joined the committee. She helped arrange a social for Christmas night, and hem the welcome signs Andy had organised for each end of town, the main street and the railway station.

Sources

’Beaufort’, Victorian Places, 2015. [ONLINE] Available at: www.victorianplaces.com.au/beaufort [Accessed 17 July 2016].

Riponshire Advocate (Beaufort, Vic.: 1874 – 1994) 5 December 1936. State Library of Victoria

Riponshire Advocate (Beaufort, Vic.: 1874 – 1994) 12 December 1936. State Library of Victoria

Riponshire Advocate (Beaufort, Vic.: 1874 – 1994) 19 December 1936. State Library of Victoria

Riponshire Advocate (Beaufort, Vic.: 1874 – 1994) 26 December 1936. State Library of Victoria

Riponshire Advocate (Beaufort, Vic.: 1874 – 1994) 9 January 1937. State Library of Victoria

1917 ‘”Ballarat Homecoming.”‘, The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 – 1933), 12 March, p. 9. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20170897 [Accessed 17 July 2016]

1917 ‘Maldon.’, The Ballarat Courier (Vic. : 1869 – 1878; 1914 – 1918), 9 April, p. 6. (Daily.) [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74565656 [Accessed 17 July 2016].

1917 ‘Colac.’, The Ballarat Courier (Vic. : 1869 – 1878; 1914 – 1918), 22 November, p. 5. (DAILY.) [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73335655 [Accessed 17 July 2016].

1918 ‘Ararat Home-Coming.’, Ararat Chronicle and Willaura and Lake Bolac Districts Recorder (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), 10 September, p. 2. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article154295833 [Accessed 17 July 2016].

1918 ‘Echuca.’, The Ballarat Courier (Vic. : 1869 – 1878; 1914 – 1918), 30 September, p. 6. (Daily.) [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article73539347 [Accessed 17 July 2016].

1921 ‘Avoca.’, The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 8 June, p. 7. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article211965545 [Accessed 17 July 2016].

1921 ‘Daylesford.’, The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), 13 July, p. 7. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article211968814 [Accessed 17 July 2016].

1921 ‘”Back to Creswick.”‘, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 12 August, p. 8. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4675464 [Accessed 17 July 2016].

1922 ‘Back-to-Geelong.’, Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 – 1926), 1 April, p. 4. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165967544  [Accessed 17 July 2016].

1922 ‘Back to Bairnsdale.’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 6 May, p. 14. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article205043421 [Accessed 17 July 2016].

1923 ‘Back to Hamilton (Vic.)’, Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 – 1926), 9 February, p. 5. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article166004466 [Accessed 17 July 2016].

1926 ‘Home-Coming.’, The Maitland Weekly Mercury (NSW : 1894 – 1931), 28 August, p. 11. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article127448939 [Accessed 17 July 2016].

1927 ‘”Back to Ballarat.”‘, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 5 February, p. 22. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3836383 [Accessed 17 July 2016].

1927 ‘”Back to Wangaratta.”‘, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 30 March, p. 19. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3846421 [Accessed 17 July 2016].

1927 ‘”Back to Beaufort” Celebrations.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 16 April, p. 11. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3849478 [Accessed 17 July 2016].

1930 ‘”Back to Warrnambool.”‘, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 11 January, p. 19. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4061884 [Accessed 17 July 2016].

1932 ‘Back to Castlemaine.’, The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), 18 November, p. 4. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article72614743 [Accessed 17 July 2016].

1932 ‘Back to Ararat.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 29 December, p. 11. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4516758 [Accessed 17 July 2016].

1935 ‘”Homecoming” at Talbot’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 23 April, p. 4. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12231898 [Accessed 17 July 2016].

1936 ‘Back to Beaufort’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 20 October, p. 10. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11927205 [Accessed 17 July 2016].

1936 ‘Beaufort’s Centenary Homecoming.’, Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), 22 October, p. 2. (Evening.) [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64274059 [Accessed 17 July 2016].

1937 ‘”Back to Orbost”‘, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 27 February, p. 20. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11974087 [Accessed 17 July 2016].

1937 ‘Back to Bendigo.’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 24 February, p. 9. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article206192339 [Accessed 17 July 2016].

Clark, I, 2015. Yam Holes to Beaufort. Ballarat, Victoria, Australia: Waller & Chester.

 

Featured image: Beaufort railway station 2015. From the author’s collection. Copyright Andrew Palmer.

 

Andy and The Bridge on the River Kwai

Andy was not a movie-goer. His routine was to walk to the Beaufort Mechanics Institute library and borrow a good book, perhaps an Agatha Christie mystery, and bring it home to read in his favourite armchair. This quiet escape into a book had become a habit when he served in India, and had helped sustain him as a Prisoner of War in Germany.

So it was quite unusual when Andy decided to go to the pictures. It was 1959 and he wanted to see ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’.

The movie was showing at the Regent Theatre in Ballarat.

Travelling from Beaufort to see the movie took a bit of organising. Andy telephoned his grandson Robert in Ballarat and asked him to make the arrangements. As well as the seat reservations at the Regent, Robert needed to book tickets for the Beaufort-Ballarat train.

Robert took the train to Beaufort, stayed overnight at the Duncan home, then travelled back to Ballarat with his grandfather.

Their seats were in the dress circle, near the front and on the aisle, so that Andy could get up and move about, if need be. The film was over two and a half hours long, and Andy had not been in a cinema for at least twenty years.

It is a gripping war story of outstanding personal courage, and undoubtedly one of the outstanding films of the past year.

It is however, emotionally exhausting, reviving after more than a decade of peace the stark realities of jungle warfare.

Extract from The Canberra Times, 5 February 1958

Andy seemed a little shaken when he left the theatre. Perhaps it was partly because his first Technicolor cinema experience was overwhelming, but the film must have brought his own Prisoner of War memories to the surface.

He did not say much, except to admire Alec Guiness’ portrayal of the British colonel. This character, an officer who refuses to allow his officers to work even though it means solitary confinement and punishment, must have resonated with Andy, who had refused to work for the Germans in 1918.

Sources

1958 ‘Gripping Realism In Fine Columbia Film’, The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995), 5 February, p. 3. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article91257015 [Accessed 5 Jun 2016].

1958 ‘New Film Releases’, The Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), 26 March, p. 82.[ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article51597723 [Accessed 5 Jun 2016].

Featured image: 1959 ‘Advertising’, Western Herald (Bourke, NSW : 1887 – 1970), 3 April, p. 9. Newspaper article found in Trove and reproduced courtesy of the National Library of Australia. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article103994632 [Accessed 5 Jun 2016].

The split

Sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe in. That’s what Andy wanted Ern to understand. Ern had never been to war; he had no right to question Andy’s sacrifice.

But Ern wasn’t listening. As the two men split logs for firewood at the Duncan home, Ern held forth on the futility of war. Then he said that Andy had been stupid to enlist.

That was enough for Andy to throw down his axe and raise his fists.

Jane heard the fight from her kitchen and rushed outside to separate the two men. She shouted at her brother Ern to leave and never come back. Ern did just that. He soon left Beaufort and had no further contact with Andy and Jane. He returned to the town years later and lived close by in the next street, but did not even attend Jane’s funeral.

Duncan_Stewart tree
Andy and Jane Duncan, Ern and Lucy Stewart, whose friendship ended abruptly in the 1940s. Copyright Andrew Palmer

Jane had always been close to her younger brother, and Andy had quickly warmed to him. Rene was like the daughter that Ern and his wife Lucy never had. When Ern was working near Shepparton in Northern Victoria, he had used his railways connections to send the Duncans damaged cans of fruit from the Shepparton Preserving Company. In the first half of the 1940s Andy and Jane had taken at least two trips to visit Ern and Lucy at Toolamba.

Those friendships came to an abrupt end at the woodpile.

Andy’s woodpile was in some ways a symbol of his determination not to let his war injuries get the better of him. When he was not confined to bed he would take to physical activities with a vengeance, as if making up for lost time. The woodpile was exactly the wrong place for Ern to question the worth of Andy’s military service.

What caused Jane to banish her brother? Would she have ordered Ern away if Andy was winning the fight? Perhaps she rounded the corner of the house to see Ern with the upper hand. Perhaps she feared for Andy’s health, and saw Ern sending Andy on another hospital stay.

Sources

Riponshire Advocate (Beaufort, Vic.: 1874 – 1994) 22 Sep1944. State Library of Victoria

Riponshire Advocate (Beaufort, Vic.: 1874 – 1994) 11 Aug 1945. State Library of Victoria

Riponshire Advocate (Beaufort, Vic.: 1874 – 1994) 25 Aug 1945. State Library of Victoria

Featured Image: Andy and Jane Duncan’s grandson Robert in the Duncan family yard circa 1945. In the background Andy’s woodpile stretches towards the Ararat Road.

 

A bombshell for the Thistle Club

At the Beaufort Thistle Club meeting in December 1942 Andy Duncan announced that he would be stepping down as secretary. It had been a hard year for him health-wise, and Thistle Club activity had declined through wartime austerity measures. Travel by car to recreational events was discouraged, as was spending on anything other than basic needs or war funds.

The 1941 Thistle Club Boxing Day sports had not been well-attended, and by February 1942 there was concern that the club might not continue. Andy had offered to take a 50% reduction in his £15 secretary’s salary.

Andy probably felt responsible for the difficulties confronting the club. Perhaps he could see that his health would not allow him to put in the extra effort required to keep the club running.

He asked that the club have a successor ready to take over in time for the annual meeting in January.

The chief said that was a bombshell, and the members regretted to hear of his decision

Riponshire Advocate 5 December 1942

The club members must have worked on Andy over the Christmas period and encouraged him to continue as secretary.  At the annual meeting Andy’s name was put forward for the role, but he declined the nomination.

Andy’s stepping down as Thistle Club secretary caused some nervousness at the Beaufort Cemetery Trust, where Andy also held the position of secretary.

A week after the Thistle Club meeting the Trust met. The trustees quickly moved that a bonus of £3/3/- be passed to the secretary, and it was minuted that Andy was “Very capable, attentive, courteous, obliging, and highly efficient”. The thanks of the Trust were due to him, and the trustees expressed the hope that Andy “would long continue in the role”.

Andy had not, apparently, given any indication that he was about to step down from his position at the Cemetery Trust. He continued as secretary into 1943. The trustees no doubt congratulated themselves on succeeding in retaining Andy where the Thistle Club had failed.

Sources

Riponshire Advocate (Beaufort, Vic.: 1874 – 1994) 3 Jan 1942. State Library of Victoria

Riponshire Advocate (Beaufort, Vic.: 1874 – 1994) 7 Feb 1942. State Library of Victoria

Riponshire Advocate (Beaufort, Vic.: 1874 – 1994) 9 May 1942. State Library of Victoria

Riponshire Advocate (Beaufort, Vic.: 1874 – 1994) 5 Dec 1942. State Library of Victoria

Riponshire Advocate (Beaufort, Vic.: 1874 – 1994) 23 Jan 1943. State Library of Victoria

Riponshire Advocate (Beaufort, Vic.: 1874 – 1994) 30 Jan 1943. State Library of Victoria

1942 ‘PRIME MINISTER ON NEED FOR RECREATION’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 9 January, p. 2. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article205278807 [Accessed 3 April 2016].

1942 ‘PRIME MINISTER’S ATTITUDE ON SPORT’, Sporting Globe (Melbourne, Vic. : 1922 – 1954), 18 March, p. 1. (Edition 2). [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article178090717  [Accessed 3 April 2016].

1942 ‘SAVING FOR WAR’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 16 April, p. 2. [ONLINE] Available at: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article205274757  [Accessed 3 April 2016].

Featured Image: Riponshire Advocate (Beaufort, Vic.: 1874 – 1994) 3 Jan 1942, p. 1. State Library of Victoria