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Speech

Centenary of the Anzac Hall in Featherston

Issue date: 
Sunday, 16 October 2016
Speaker: 
The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, GNZM, QSO

E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga iwi o te motu e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou.

Kia ora tātou katoa.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for inviting David and me to be part of the centenary celebrations of the Anzac Hall.

As some of you know, we have lived part-time in South Wairarapa for several years now, so I was very happy to find that one of my early engagements was on home ground.

Today’s celebrations recognise the significance of Featherston in the history of New Zealand’s participation in the First World War.

It’s extraordinary to think of over 60,000 men coming here from all over the country to do their military training – and then trekking over the Rimutakas to Trentham.

And from Trentham, leaving to fight on the Western Front and in the campaigns in Egypt and Palestine. As we know, many of them did not return.

This Hall remains as a testament both to their sacrifice, and also to the community’s support for our soldiers.

Ten thousand pounds – a considerable sum in 1916 – was raised from local families to build the hall and fit it out so that the men in camp had somewhere for rest and recreation.

Of course, many more of the local residents became directly involved in the war effort overseas, including local women. For example, Lorna Monckton grew up in Underhill Road, just a few minutes’ walk from here, and worked in the scullery in a New Zealand hospital in Walton-on-Thames.

She described getting up at 5.30am and working through till eight o’clock at night – by which time she would often eat her dinner off newspaper, because she couldn’t bear to wash another plate.

She later became an officer in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. Two of her brothers fought in the war and two of her sisters worked in a YMCA canteen in France.

Yvonne Riddiford of Martinborough, is the daughter of Jean Campbell – a volunteer nurse on the Western Front – and Spencer Westmacott – who is now known to more than a million visitors to Te Papa as one of the five New Zealanders depicted at more than twice their natural size in the Gallipoli exhibition.

Many of you here today will have your own family stories of half a dozen family members or more serving their country overseas. The First World War remains a living history for you.

Your family members’ stories offer us a glimpse of the appalling wartime conditions they lived through. Today we are fortunate to live in much less testing times – and to have this heritage building as tangible evidence of the commitment of a caring community.

Congratulations to everyone whose commitment and creativity has contributed towards the refurbishment of the Anzac Hall.

In the same vein, I want to acknowledge other creative endeavours in Featherston, whether it be the Featherston Camp Sculpture Trust and the wonderful sculpture by Paul Dibble which will commemorate the Featherston Camp, the soldiers who trained here and the local community that supported them, the Featherston Booktown initiative which draws book lovers from all over New Zealand to Featherston for a weekend each May to celebrate all aspects of books, from writing to publishing, printing and reading, or indeed events such as the Music Hall dance held here last night.  It sounds like it was a fun night and a thoroughly appropriate way to celebrate the Anzac Hall legacy!

I wish you all the very best with the next 100 years of community celebrations and cultural events in this wonderful old building.

And I am especially proud to be able to be with you today, in a district which David and I call home.

Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.

Last updated: 
Sunday, 16 October 2016

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