Marble Memorial Miracle
When St David’s Presbyterian Church, Uralla, was closed, Mr Darcy Hassett removed two WW1 memorial plaques and a photograph of the men on the marble Honour roll and displayed them in his Military Museum in Bridge Street, Uralla.
Mr James Swales, on behalf of St David’s Church, told Darcy that he could display them but they were on loan only. Unfortunately there was nothing in writing to confirm this and Darcy subsequently sold the three items at his auction in 2013 without permission. The marble Honour Roll was sold for $1,500 to a private museum in Birdsville.
On Wednesday, 20th January, Kent Mayo heard that the marble Honour Roll had come up for sale again at an auction to be held in Toowoomba on Saturday, 6th February, 2021.
The Uralla Historical Society felt strongly that this beautiful handmade plaque should be returned to Uralla where it has meaning to the Uralla population. It is not only an historic piece of Uralla’s history but an incredible piece of monumental masonry by a Narrabri stone mason. The work is world-class and the auctioneer told us he had never seen another one of this quality.
As a committee member of UHS and a member of the original St David’s congregation, I was given the interesting task of following this up and hopefully organising its return to Uralla.
I contacted Jim Swales whose father is one of the men remembered on the plaque and together we went to see Adam Marshall MP to see if the item could be withdrawn from sale, or what other action could be taken. As it was then in private hands, this was not possible, but Adam was extremely helpful in following this matter up and contacted the Minister for Veteran Affairs and the Uralla RSL.
James Swales is a member of Uralla RSL and attended their meeting on Sunday, 31st January, where he explained the situation to the members. This caused strong feeling that the plaque should be returned to Uralla at whatever cost. As a result, we received much interest, including a very supportive letter from the auctioneer Graham Lancaster himself, and many offers of financial support.
A meeting was then held between UHS committee members and the President of the RSL, Russ French, at which it was decided that Jim Swales and I should attend the auction and bid for the plaque however high the auction went, and return it to Uralla. It was decided it should be on display with the RSL in the foyer of the Memorial Institute in Uralla where it would be available for everyone to see.
As the sale was advertised as “Museum Contents” floor bidders only we needed to go to Toowoomba. So Wilma and Jim Swales, with myself and my husband Brian Edwards, set off Friday, 5th February, to attend the viewing at the Showground Pavilion, 2pm to 4pm on the Friday afternoon.
We spoke to Graham Lancaster who confirmed his opinion that “this important piece of Uralla history should be back in Historic Uralla” and he was hopeful that this would be the outcome. He was very supportive and helpful to us which was very encouraging.
We arrived back at the showground at 7.30 on Saturday morning to register and secure seats for the auction which was to start at 9.30am.
The plaque was number 1, moved to first up in the auction and Graham Lancaster introduced it by saying it was an important piece of Uralla memorabilia and it should be returned to its rightful home in Uralla.
Bidding started at $1000 and moved swiftly in $500 bids. Jim did the bidding and with our hearts in our mouths we kept going until it was knocked down at $3,500 plus 18% buyer’s premium and GST.
Graham Lancaster announced that that was a good outcome as it was being returned to Uralla and was met by a resounding round of applause from the large crowd attending the auction. He kindly donated $500 of his own money to us to help with the purchase and his men helped load our prize into Grahame Edwards’ truck for the trip back to Uralla.
My son, Grahame Edwards, had kindly offered to organise two days’ work in Brisbane and come home via Toowoomba to pack and transport the plaque to Uralla under a canopy in his 4-wheel drive. He was able to provide the appropriate vehicle space and packing material to carry the precious item safely. It was very heavy, requiring four men to load and unload it.
Grahame arrived back in Uralla at 5.30pm that afternoon and Russ French and RSL members helped unload and put it in the RSL meeting room for safe keeping.
What an interesting and rewarding experience. It is wonderful to know that this beautiful and important piece has been returned to its rightful home.
Above: The Wooden Memorial Plaque & Framed Photos
We are still trying to locate the wooden memorial plaque and framed photographs.
If you have any idea where these valuable items might be now, we would love to hear from you. We believe they were originally purchased at Darcy’s sale by local people – the search continues.