Saturday, 27 April 2019

Significance of Anzac Day for my family

During the Second World War my father served in the Australian Army with the 2/4th Battalion which left Sydney on 10 January 1940 for Palestine. The Battalion was also stationed in Egypt, Tobruk, Greece and Crete and Syria before returning to Australia early in 1942. The Battalion was then relocated to Papua New Guinea but Dad remained in Australia as he had been discharged due to illness making him unfit for military service.
Dad in Sydney with his mother, January 1940

An account of Dad's military service can be found in a series of blog posts in my Exploring Military History blog.

Anzac Day was always very important to Dad and each year he attended the Dawn Service at the Shrine of Remembrance  followed by the Anzac Day March later in the morning. The 2/4th Battalion was based in Sydney but a number of its members, like Dad, had relocated to Melbourne after the war. Anzac Day was their special time to get together and we all knew that we would not see Dad on that day.

However Anzac Day is also my mother's birthday.

Fortunately Mum accepted the situation. My mother's family lived in Queensland so her birthday was spent initially with my sister and me and later with our younger brother.

Mum, though, was not forgotten by Dad's mates, some of whom would each year ring her prior to her birthday to pass on birthday wishes and assure her that they would look after Dad!

Dad died in 1984 but the family always observes Anzac Day usually watching the main services on television. Two of my grandchildren are in guide and scout groups and this year they took part in the Anzac Day Parade to our local war memorial. Their mother, a guide leader, was involved in the Anzac Day March in the city.

The other family aspect of Anzac Day was, of course, not forgotten. My mother now lives in a nursing home so in the afternoon members of the Melbourne clan met there to help Mum celebrate her special day.

Mum's birthday 2019 - four generations
Therefore, for my family, Anzac Day is a day of commemoration and celebration.

Monday, 22 April 2019

The Stawell Gift

Living in a family where sport was an important part of our life, I always knew that the Stawell Gift was run each year at Easter.

Since 1878 (except for four years during the Second World War) an athletics carnival has been held in Stawell with the feature race being the Stawell Gift. Since 1898 the event has been held at Central Park.
Central Park, Stawell - Heritage Council Victoria
My father, Ken Moses, was a sports' journalist in the late 1940s and the 1950s and one of the areas of sport that he covered, initially for The Sun News Pictorial then from 1950 for The Argus, was athletics, including the Stawell Gift. This meant that each year he would disappear to Stawell, in western Victoria, for several days. After The Argus ceased publication in January 1956 Dad maintained his interest in the Stawell Gift and continued to visit Stawell for this athletics carnival from time to time.

Searching in Trove for "Ken Moses" AND "Stawell Gift" produced 97 articles that Dad wrote about the Stawell Gift from 1950 to 1955. Some of these references to the Stawell Gift appeared throughout the year in his 'Why Keep it Quiet? column while there are also articles covering the event each year.

In 1955 an article written by Dad was published in The Argus Weekender (9 April 1955) - 'Anything happens at Stawell' where he recounted some of the more sensational events that had occurred  throughout the history of the race. (article)

Using Google I located an article available via PressReader published in the Seymour Telegraph 5 December 2012 entitled 'Full of Life'. The article was an interview with an 86 year old Les Pianta who had been involved in athletics in the 1940s. In the article Les described how he became the Stawell Gift favourite in 1947. "I won alot of races around this area, I got a bit of a name for myself and somehow or other this Ken Moses (Sports Editor of Melbourne's The Sun) got to hear about it and that's how it started." Les did not make the finals. I am sure that Dad would have been amused by the promotion to sports' editor if he had seen this article.

Many years later I worked with a colleague who had been involved with professional athletics as a runner and a trainer and who for many years had attended the Stawell Gift. He spoke of some of the journalists who regularly covered the event and knew of my father. I gained the impression that the Stawell Gift was a special place to be each year.

One afternoon we called into Stawell when exploring part of western Victoria and made a visit to Central Park. I wanted to see the place that was so special to many followers of athletics including Dad. My father had been dead for many years but I was able to visit a place where he had enjoyed working.

A number of books have been written about the Stawell Gift:
Murray Macpherson, Twelve seconds to glory: the official history of the Stawell Gift (2014)
Gary Watt. The Stawell Gift almanac: history of the Stawell Gift (2008)
John Perry. The quick and the dead: Stawell and its race through time (2002)

Additional information:
Stall Gift history
Heritage Council Victoria - Central Park, Stawell

A selection of 1940s and 1950s Stawell Gift finals available online:
Stawell Gift final - 1946 - YouTube
Stawell Gift final - 1947 - YouTube
Stawell Gift final - 1951 - YouTube
Stawell Gift final - 1953 - YouTube 

Selection of other years:
Stawell Gift final - 1927 - YouTube 
Stawell Gift finals - 1971-1989 - YouTube