Friday, 5 January 2018

The Old boys of Coburg State School go to war

One of the reasons I haven’t been adding to this blog for quite a while is that I was busy researching and writing The old boys of Coburg State School go to war for Coburg Historical Society.

This is the speech I gave when the book was launched by Richard Broome on Friday 10 November 2017 at the Coburg RSL:

Coburg Historical Society has in its collection a beautiful handwritten book that records the war service of 100 of the old boys of what was then known as Coburg State School. The compiler, whom I later discovered was George Hallam, a teacher at the school and the father of one of the old boy soldiers, noted that there were many more old boys who served, but by the time he began his work in the 1920s, he had difficulty gathering the material he needed to compile a full record of the old boys who served.

Move forward almost a hundred years to the time when the Australian Government announced its ANZAC Centenary Local Grants Program. Our then Member for Wills, Kelvin Thomson (now the CHS President) encouraged the Society to apply and it was then that I began to explore how a Coburg project based around the school’s Soldiers Book might take shape.

Our then President Malcolm McIlvena and the Historical Society committee agreed to my proposal and have supported it in its various phases: firstly the art project at the school, led by artist-in-residence Kelly Gatchell Hartley, then the creation and installation of Margaret Christianson’s beautiful Elm Grove memorial gates and finally the preparation of my written history, The old boys of Coburg State School go to war, that is being launched tonight.

We couldn’t have done any of this without the financial support of the ANZAC Centenary Local Grant we received, but equally we couldn’t have done it without the support of Coburg Primary School and in its principal Jane Hancock. I hope that the work we have done has added to the sense of history and heritage at this school that has existed on this site in one form or another for more than 160 years. Our aim was to give Jane and the school community a glimpse into the past life of the school and enrich their sense of what went before. And as a former pupil of the school, I appreciated the opportunity to contribute to the school’s history.

Although my name is on the cover as author, many people contributed to the book in so many ways.

Families shared anecdotes, letters, diaries, photographs and memories that have brought the stories of the old boys to life. So thank you to those of you who have come today because of a family connection.

Historian Rosalie Triolo contributed a section on the patriotic efforts of schools during the war. Max Waugh wrote on the cadet movement and is here tonight to help us celebrate.

And Richard Broome not only wrote about Coburg at the start of the war, but came along tonight to launch the book.

Members of the Historical Society have helped in many different ways, some reading drafts, others undertaking research and preparing briefs for the art and gate projects. And of course, Marilyn Moore and her launch team have worked hard to make sure that today’s events were a success.

The Coburg Library staff have supported us in whatever way they could and the RSL’s Kerri Marshall provided access to some of their precious original records and as you can see, the Coburg RSL has done us proud tonight.

Many, many thanks, too, to Craig Fryers of CDF Art Direction and Design who cheerfully took on this project and created a book out of the many images and the text I provided. The book looks great, Craig!

Finally, thanks to all of you for coming tonight. Your support means so much to me and to the Historical Society. Enjoy reading the book. Tell all your friends! And buy, buy, buy!

Something for the Christmas stocking, perhaps??

Cheryl Griffin, 10 November 2017

Peter Khalil MP, Kelvin Thomson (President, Coburg Historical Society) and Richard Broome (launcher of the book).

 Peter Khalil MP getting his book signed by yours truly.

 Moreland Mayor John Kavanagh looks on while I sign a book for Ron Doig, family member of old boys David and John Doig who are remembered in the book.

Moreland Mayor John Kavanagh speaks as CHS President Kelvin Thomson looks on.

Here I am making the speech you've just read.

Richard Broome, author of Coburg between two creeks, launching the book. In his speech Richard described me as a 'forensic historian'. He's not wrong. If there's even the hint of a lead, I'll follow it until it can't be followed any more!  

There I am again - still talking!

Images sourced from:

Peter Khalil, MP for Wills’ Facebook page.

Coburg Historical Society’s Facebook page.

Coburg Historical Society’s website. You will find more photos of the book launch here.

Thanks, Craig Fryers, for the terrific promo!

You can buy a copy of the book from Coburg Historical Society. (Only $20) Add $15 for postage and handling, if you want it mailed to you. Or buy in person at the Bluestone Cottage Museum, 82 Bell Street, Coburg (for opening details see the Historical Society’s website).

Contact Coburg Historical Society to order your copy:

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