The century-old community hall at Emerald Hill was the scene of a very poignant gathering on Sunday morning when the long-awaited World War I memorial was unveiled.

Gunnedah RSL sub-Branch president John Commins and secretary Jan Commins laid a wreath at the foot of the memorial, along with Emerald Hill Progress Association president Scott McCalman and member Maxine McDonald. 

The Ode to the Fallen was recited and the national anthem reverberated throughout the historic hall which opened in April 1922.

John Commins congratulated the progress association committee on securing a grant and having the honour board for the WWI soldiers become a reality.

Although the hall was officially opened just four years after the end of the Great War, no-one is quite sure why a WWI honour board had not been included even though a memorial to those  who served in WWII was erected in later years.

Visitors were welcomed by Emerald Hill Progress Association president Scott McCalman with an apology from federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton who was travelling to Canberra.

Local resident and progress association member, Maxine McDonald, gave a brief history of the quest to have those who enlisted at Emerald Hill for service in the Great War honoured by their community. 

“As you can see there is a board to honour WWII veterans, but for some reason not WWI,” Maxine said.

“It is wonderful to finally correct this oversight – we were successful in receiving a ‘Saluting Their Service’ Australian government grant, designed specifically to construct, repair, and maintain war memorials.

“All of these soldiers actually enlisted from Emerald Hill – there were others from this area who served but enlisted from Gunnedah and other places – Joseph Clonan is from Marys Mount, but he is not named on any other honour board, so we wanted to include him.”

In addition to the servicemen who enlisted, local nurse Annie Egan was included recognising her service at the North Head quarantine centre where she died while caring for returning veterans suffering from the Spanish Flu during the pandemic.

“With the combined efforts of Geordie and Cate Clark and Grace Turner, of Write Right Media for their research … we are glad to see this project come to fruition,” Maxine said.

Maxine thanked local businesses for adding their special touches to complete the event.

She also expressed appreciation to Gunnedah Woodworkers Club president Don Birkett and members whose combined efforts helped to create the honour board.

Don Birkett spoke about the process involved in creating the honour board which had taken on a special meaning for the members.

“We were sad to find out that the WWI volunteers had not been recognised and as some of us are veterans, creating the board gave us great pleasure,” he said.

“The timber we used was sourced from Dorrigo many years ago for a local project and we used the off-cuts – red cedar for the back with maple columns.

“It was a combined effort from our members and the little shelter at the top for the Rising Sun badge was added as it looked out of place by itself.

“We would like congratulate the progress  association on making this happen – it meant a lot to us.”

The dedication closed with a delicious morning tea in true country style provided by the catering ladies.

Over the years the historic hall has been the centre of all village celebrations, meetings and other events. In 1946 the hall was packed to welcome home 11 service men and women.

Emerald Hill is steeped in pioneering history, the railway came through in 1881, a subsidised school opened in 1883, St Thomas’ church opened in 1912, and the hall in 1922.

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