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Grafton News

Historical society plans display of Royal memorabilia

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Historical society plans display of Royal memorabilia

By Tim Howard

 The Clarence River Historical Society has begun to assemble a special display of its royal artefacts for a special display to honour Queen Elizabeth II following her death on Thursday.

Society president Steve Tranter said the society’s collection at Schaffer House had a standing exhibit of memorabilia associated with the Queen and her family from events such as her coronation, royal visits, weddings and births.

But he said the society’s newspaper and magazine archives contained much more information on the Queen, who visited the region twice in her 70-year reign.

The first of those was in 1954, just a year after her coronation, when the Queen and Prince Phillip, completed a Royal World Tour she began as a princess in 1952.

In Kenya and en route to Australia when the news of her father, King George VI’s death arrived, she finally arrived in Australian February 3, 1954 with more than 1 million of Sydney’s 1.8 million population on the harbour foreshores to greet her.

Her welcome on the North Coast less than a week later was no less enthusiastic, though far less populous.

Unfortunately for the them the Queen was not the only visitor to the region as a large cyclone was heading south as she was heading north to Lismore and Casino, where the Royal visit was to be staged.

These days a trip up the Summerland Way to Casino and Lismore is an hour to 90 minutes in the car.

In 1954 it was a day-long adventure involving ferry crossings and traversing roads not yet up to goat track standard.

Historical society member Hazel Ford penned a story of what it was like in a society newsletter that came out for the celebrations of the Queen’s 60th year on the throne.

She recalled the newspaper headline of the time, Torrential welcome for Queen as 50,000 drenched people from every corner of northern NSW tried to get a glimpse of their new sovereign.

The Queen and her prince had their own troubles.

Originally scheduled to land at Casino, the rain forced a change of destination to the all weather landing strip at Evans Head.

After staying overnight at Lismore’s Gollan Hotel and attending a short ceremony in the city, the Queen’s party left for Casino.

Ms Ford said when the Queen’s motorcade left Lismore for Casino, hundreds of cars, motor bikes and even bicycles followed.

Those people began their journey in pouring rain and by the time they returned conditions had worsened.

“Cruel, pelting rain meant nightmare experiences for most of the hundreds who were compelled to journey by bus and car,” she quoted from contemporary reports.

“The vehicles which entered the Grafton-Casino gravel road swept on to a deeply churned mud and slippery surface on which cars skidded from side to side and bound in heart-jerking leaps.”

Travelling back along the Pacific Highway, well before the construction of the Harwood Bridge, created one of the biggest hold ups in history at the Harwood Ferry.

“At 8.30 on Wednesday night cars banked up for five miles at this crossing, an estimated 1000 vehicles, with the ferry running non-stop and shifting about 70 cars an hour,” Ms Ford wrote.

Dignitaries, like the Bishop of Grafton Rt Rev C E Storrs and Mrs Storrs and the Mayor of Grafton John Moorhead and his wife were just as drenched when they were presented to the Queen as the tens of thousands of onlookers.

But it seems from the comments people were overjoyed to catch just a glimpse of the new Queen.

“I think the Queen is beautiful. She is charming and dainty and the Duke handsome,” a Mrs W Thompson of South Grafton put down for posterity.

Ms Ford said you could tell how popular the Queen’s visit had been from the cars parked outside workplaces the next day.

Almost all were covered in mud from their travels and most people had gone straight to work from the Harwood Ferry crossing.

Mr Tranter said accounts such as Ms Ford’s revealed the depth of the feeling local people had for the Royals.

He expected these feeling would be on display during the 10-day mourning period for the Queen ahead of her funeral at Westminster Abbey on Monday.

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Champ back to defend South Cup

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Cepheus hits the line a neck in front of New Zealand galloper Cotohele to win the 2023 Grafton Toyota South Grafton Cup (1600m). He has nominated for Sunday’s race, which is a qualifying event for the $3 million Big Dance in November.

Champ back to defend South Cup

 

By Tim Howard

After a stunning opening day at the 2024 Grafton July Racing Carnival all eyes have turned to the running of the 2024 South Grafton Cup.

Clarence Valley Jockey Club executive officer Michael Beattie said the excitement for this race has taken off in the racing community since it became an entry vehicle for the $3 million Big Dance.

He said on Monday that nominations had not yet closed for the event, but there were already 20 entrants for Sunday’s big race.

Among them is the Murwillumbah trained galloper Cepheus, last year’s winner and runner up in the Big Dance.

“Cepheus is back to defend his title, but I would say the main reason is to have another shot at the Big Dance,” Beattie said.

Beattie said the seven-year-old gelding looked to be in even better form than when he qualified for the race at Grafton and showed enough form to become one of the race favourites.

“I would argue this year he is in even better form than last year,” Beattie said.

“This time last year, coming into the South Cup, Cepheus had gone around in the Glasshouse, and run second in the Glasshouse, which was a Listed race.

“And he’d run fourth in the Eye Liner, which is also a Listed race.”

Beattie said Cepheus has not enjoyed the same results as last year, but has been racing in better quality events.

“This year’s he’s racing in two Group Ones, where he’s admittedly finished down the track, the George Ryder and the Stradbroke, but this time last year he’d only ever had one run at Group One level,” he said.

“There’s no doubt in my mind the horse is going equally well, if not better than last year.”

Beattie said Cepheus was likely to meet a stronger field in this year’s race, although it was hard to tell until nominations closed.

He said the opening day of racing for the carnival on Sunday, the Kensei Club Community Race Day, could not have gone better.

“We were absolutely thrilled to have enough entries to run a nine-race program,” he said.

“And we had a crowd comparable to last year’s, which was great to see.”

He said the CRJC had changed the format of the day, making six of the nine races a prelude to races later in the carnival.

“Essentially those horses that were contesting those races were here simply for the reason that they wanted to contest the better races later in the carnival,” Beattie said.

He said the winner of the Grafton Cup prelude, Full Press, was almost certain to run in the Grafton Cup on July 18.

“He’s a Coffs Harbour-trained horse so I’m certain he’ll take his place in the Cup field,” he said.

He said the strength of Sunday’s fields was a vindication for the club’s move to include more prelude races in the program.

“It gets trainers to think earlier about coming to Grafton,” he said.

“The best way they can guarantee they get a runner in the Ramornie, or Grafton Cup, is to come and win a prelude race.”

He said it was good for the punters to see these horses earlier in the carnival.

“They get a chance to see which horses are in form and follow them through the carnival,” he said.

Beattie was also pleased with vibe the carnival generated on its opening day.

“The first day is family day, there’s free entry and there was a big crowd down at the Westlawn tent enjoying the free entertainment,” he said.

“And the betting ring was, as it always is, very busy which is a great thing to see.

“There was just a really good feel for the day and that bodes really well for the rest of the carnival.”

 

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80 years on French village keeps memory of two Grafton airmen alive

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Grafton woman Helen Huxley, left and Alstonville's Colette Dalton have helped keep alive the memory of two uncles Hedley Jenkins and Bill Paul, from Grafton, who were killed when their plane crashed during a bombing raid in World War 2.

80 years on French village keeps memory of two Grafton airmen alive

 

By Tim Howard

Flight Sergeants Arthur Hedley Jenkins and William Paul might be names only a few in their home town of Grafton would know, but in a tiny French village they are among a group of 15 aircrew remembered every year.

Next week the population of Lignieres-de-Touraine, a village in France near Tours, will gather in their communal cemetery for the 80th anniversary of a terrible night when two fully bomb laden Avro Lancaster bombers collided over the village, bursting into flames and exploding on contact with the ground.

All 15 airmen died in the crash which contemporary Lignierois rushing from their beds described as a “…sight like the apocalypse, spread over several square kilometres. When dawn broke the last bombs were still exploding.”

This year the niece of Flt Sgt Paul, Alstonville woman Colette Dalton, will join the villagers on July 16.

And the niece of Flt Sgt Jenkins, Grafton woman Helen Huxley, has organised for Clarence Valley Mayor Peter Johnstone to send a letter to the mayor of Lignieres, thanking the people for their kindness.

The two men, Bill Paul from South Grafton and Hedley Jenkins from Southgate, met at Grafton High School and became great mates.

In an article she wrote about her uncle and his mate for the Clarence River Historical Society, Mrs Huxley recalled how the two young men had been excited to fly in the same plane.

The article in the local newspaper recording when the two men were declared missing in action.

The article in the local newspaper recording when the two men were declared missing in action.

In 1943, aged just 19, the pair enlisted, determined to do their bit for the war effort.

“Flying on their 13th mission with the 467 Squadron, the two were overjoyed to be members of the same air crew.

“They were close friends, attending Grafton High together and now making a contribution to the war effort on behalf of the Jenkins family in Southgate and the Paul family from South Grafton.

“Photographs in RAAF uniform suggest young, energetic men, looking forward to a wonderful life post-war.

“Airgraphs, kept by the families, mention concern for their friends in other avenues of the war and record small glimpses of their lives.

“Writing to his brother Ron in March 1944, Hedley commented on the snow in England – obviously no longer a novelty to him.

“Apart from the cold, it created a great deal of work clearing the runways ‘…and one gets a little cold after a while. My sympathy is all for the Russians.’

“There were also bright spots: in June 1944, Bill wrote to his father, about looking forward to nine day’s leave with ‘Jenks’ at Rose Ockenden’s family home.

“Referring to a previous leave spent with the family, he enthused ‘…and gee did we have a swell time or not’.”

A Lancaster B.I (R5868) S for Sugar which flew with the same unit in which Flt Sgts Bill Paul and Hedley Jenkins served, 467 Squadron RAAF. S for Sugar completed 137 sorties while with No. 83 Squadron and No. 467 Squadron. In May 1944 it reached the 100 sortie milestone, with a raid on Flensburg Harbour, Germany. On April 23 1945 it flew its last operational sortie. This aircraft is on display at the Royal Air Force Museum, London.

A Lancaster B.I (R5868) S for Sugar which flew with the same unit in which Flt Sgts Bill Paul and Hedley Jenkins served, 467 Squadron RAAF. S for Sugar completed 137 sorties while with No. 83 Squadron and No. 467 Squadron. In May 1944 it reached the 100 sortie milestone, with a raid on Flensburg Harbour, Germany. On April 23 1945 it flew its last operational sortie. This aircraft is on display at the Royal Air Force Museum, London.

The two men were crew members aboard Lancaster ME 851 in 467 Squadron RAAF.

Just the month before they had flown on raids covering the D-Day landings at Normandy and on July 15 they were one of 220 bombers targeting the marshalling yards near the French city of Nevers.

With 10 1000lb and three 500lb bombs aboard they took off from RAF Waddington at 10.19pm on July 15.

Fltr Sgt Paul was a wireless operator and air gunner and Flt Sgt Jenkins was the plane’s tail gunner.

At about 3am July 16, ME 851 collided with Lancaster ME807 of RAF No. 207 Squadron above Lignières-de-Touraine. Both aircraft burst into flame and crashed to the ground, where their bomb loads exploded.

The villagers insisted on the burial of the men, which the occupying Germans allowed, with some conditions.

“They were allowed to collect the bodies and bury them, but they insisted there was to be no mourning or signs of grief,” Mrs Huxley said.

Flight Sergeant Bill Paul

Flight Sergeant Bill Paul

The grief may have been hidden on the night but for decades the sadness from that time lived on.l

“Colette told me that in the last one or two commemoration ceremonies she’s been to, there was a man by himself who was just sobbing his heart out,” she said.

“Someone explained to her he had been a young boy on the night that collision occurred.

“He had been one of the people allowed to go and gather what were basically body parts.

“I think they were told not to talked about how bodies were, it’s all a bit gruesome to think about but so he was involved in that.”

“It was very much alive in the older villagers minds that that particular story and is such a big part of their heritage.”

Mrs Huxley said she had grown up wondering about the “great sadness surrounding the very formal photograph of a young man in uniform  displayed on the lounge room wall.”

She was also intrigued by the foreign names inscribed on a metal plaque under the photo and they stuck in her memory.

“Fast forward and my husband Ian and I have visited Lignieres several times, locating Hedley and Bill’s graves and, by a stroke of wonderful luck, meeting a local lady, Mme Joseyane Casez, who collects information and photos about the two air crews from visiting relatives,” she said.

Flight Sergeant Arthur Hedley Jenkins.


Flight Sergeant Arthur Hedley Jenkins.

“Another great lady, Mme Lilliane Marolleau, who mercifully speaks English, adores befriending Australians and takes a special interest in connecting the descendants of the air crews.

“She was delighted to inform us that Colette Dalton, a niece of Bill, lives ‘down the road’ in Alstonville.

“Colette and her family have made many pilgrimages to Lignieres and are keenly interested in preserving the story.”

“Through Lillian, we met her circle of friends, particularly ones that could speak some English,” she saiid.

“And you know, we would have been in people’s homes to have dinners and being given gifts and just been really treated like we were royalty.”

While thrilled at the reception, the motivation behind it puzzled her until she questioned a French guide on the Normandy battlefield sites about it.

“I said we’re really happy that they’re grateful that a member of our family died to help them but can’t expect people to be grateful for centuries kind of thing,” Mrs Huxley said.

“He said you don’t understand because in Australia, you’ve never lived under occupation.

“So you cannot understand our continuing gratitude because members of your family have died to help us.

“So that was quite an interesting conversation to have.”

 

For more local Grafton news, click here.

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Clarence Valley News

At last. Shirley Adams gets her Way

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Shirley Adams Way Sign

At last. Shirley Adams gets her Way

 

By Tim Howard

A jarring anomaly that has irked Clarence Valley residents from the moment it was first unveiled is about to be rectified.

Next month the name of the road that crosses the Balun Bindarray Bridge in Grafton will be changed from Shirley Way to Shirley Adams Way, finally giving correct recognition of the first female mayor of Grafton and a community champion.

Since November 2022 the section or road has been signposted as Shirley Way, setting off protests from every level of the community.

It has taken concerted efforts from Mrs Adam’s husband John, daughter Virginia, Clarence MP Richie Williamson and the Clarence Valley Council to get naming authority the Geographical Names Board to accept the community’s wishes.

The Adams family requested the approaches be renamed “Shirley Adams Way” to properly recognise Shirley Adams and ensure her memory lives on.

But the board refused the original request to use Mrs Adams full name because it had only recently introduced a ruling banning two word names because of the risk of confusion when directing emergency services units to specific addresses.

Since coming to office in March 2023, the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison kickstarted a special process to allow for Shirley Way to be renamed Shirley Adams Way, in line with the family’s request.

After a public consultation took place earlier this year, Minister Aitchison last week approved the change in name and Shirley Adams Way will be the new name of the road from late July.

The minister said Ms Adams was the first female mayor of the then Grafton City Council, a former Jacaranda Queen, Jacaranda Festival President in 1976 and 1977, a Jacaranda Festival life member and was deeply involved in NSW Girl Guides, the United Hospital Auxiliary, Meals on Wheels, Clarence River Historical Society, Country Women’s Association, and many other organisations.

She was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 1989.

“Last week I was pleased to approve the renaming of Shirley Way in Grafton to Shirley Adams Way,” Minister Aitchison said.

“This is a fitting tribute to Shirley Adams OAM who served as Grafton’s first female mayor and was also the first woman to lead the Country Mayor’s Association of NSW.

“In recognition of her services to local government and the Girl Guide Movement, Ms Adams also received a medal in the Order of Australia (OAM).”

Former Grafton Mayor Shirley Adams, with her husband John Adams

Former Grafton Mayor Shirley Adams, who died in June 2020, with her husband John Adams. Mr Adams has lobbied the government tirelessly for the name change on the bridge approaches.

The Minister said renaming the road was something she had supported since it first came to her attention.

“To honour Shirley’s legacy, it’s only right we rename this road, she said. “It’s come after years of campaigning and advocacy and is a great win for Shirley’s family and the broader Clarence Valley community.

“Everyone has always wanted the road to be renamed Shirley Adams Way and I am pleased that the NSW Labor Government has been able to make this happen.”

Ms Aitchison said the number of submissions calling for the change had been “overwhelming”.

“Given this and the special place Shirley Adams holds in the hearts of Clarence Valley community, I felt renaming the road to Shirley Adams Way was a simple, common sense way to honour the memory and legacy of a trailblazing woman,” she said.

“I am in awe of Shirley’s service to the Grafton and Clarence Valley communities.

“In coming weeks Transport for NSW will install new signage to mark the changing of the road name and the team will work with relevant organisations to notify them of the change.”

The minister has also reached out to the Adams family to notify them of the impending changes.

“I’ve spoken to Shirley’s daughter Virginia and she is just thrilled, she said.

“I’m looking forward to visiting Grafton to meet with Shirley’s family and friends to celebrate the renaming of the road when the new signs go up.

There has been bi-partisan support for the change, with the Minister acknowledging the work of Mr Williamson.

“I want to thank Richie Williamson MP and the Clarence Valley Council for their ongoing advocacy,” she said.

Mr Williamson said the change “just makes sense”.

“The name Shirley Adams is synonymous not only in Grafton but across the Clarence Valley and it is a fitting tribute to a remarkable lady and a dear friend who was a staunch advocate not only for her local community, but in encouraging women’s participation in public life and decision making,” he said.

“Shirley had a burning desire to make Grafton a better place and had a genuine love for the people of the city.”

Mr Williamson said the family would be relieved that the right decision had finally been made.

“I know her husband John Adams OAM and family are incredibly proud as is the community of Shirley’s legacy,” he said.

“The renaming of the road is a fitting tribute in honour and recognition of her service to local government, the girl guide movement and the wider community, and I look forward to the road officially being renamed with her family in the very near future.”

 

For more local Grafton news, click here.

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