|Coo-ee won't YOU come...|
|I met Margaret when we moved to Moss Vale in June 1971 and over the years our friendship grew. We went on holidays together, each lost husbands and moved several times but we kept in touch via emails and phone but it was now several years since we had met up.|
With children and grandchildren scattered over Queensland and NSW it mattered little where Margaret lived. Driving long distances had never seemed to bother her so I wasn't really surprised when she settled in a retirement village in Gilgandra. She has been there three years and I decided it was time for a visit.
As I approached the town I noted a large sign on the side of the road advertising something about Coo-ee. The Coo-ee I knew was the long extinct Cooee Clothing Company. I was still more puzzled when I found Margaret was in the Coo-ee Retirement Village and the word Coo-ee popped up in other places in town.
|I arrived on a Friday afternoon and we spent time catching up with family news. Saturday we had a magical day in the Warrumbungle's a place I had never been. Sunday Margaret told me she spends the morning as a volunteer manning the local information centre.|
It was a large building set back off the road just out of town. The main room contained the usual maps, postcards, souvenirs and a supply of local goods, including some very good honey. Beyond were three galleries.
|The first contained a display of shells, fossils and Aboriginal artefacts; the second housed a collection of local children's art; the third, and largest was devoted to - the Coo-ee March.|
I had a vague recollection of hearing about some march from back-of-beyond Sydney and here it all was. Begun by a local farmer who heeded the 'call from the Dardanelles'. Bill Hitchen was encouraged by the local Reverend Lee and began rounding up his mates - 'all through the western districts you appealed to everyone to crush the foes of righteousness, the keep Australia free'...
|So in October 1915 they set out along Bridge and Miller Streets cheered on by the population who threw red roses along their way. They had 300 miles (497km) to march to Sydney, collecting volunteers along the road. It was an amazing undertaking and apparently inspired other towns (I've no idea how many) to follow suit, thus swelling the number of enlistments in Sydney.|
Needless to say there were many who did not return but they are all commemorated in Gilgandra each October and the red rose has become a symbol in the town.