Duncan Chapman: an accidental hero

This first appeared in my Debbish blog on 25 April 2015 
but I thought it apt to share it here as well.

One hundred years ago today, the first ANZACs landed on the beaches of Turkey to engage in a battle they would not win. Twenty-six year old Queenslander Lieutenant Duncan Chapman was the first ashore.

“To me was given the extreme honour of being actually the first man to step ashore on this peninsula, to lead a portion of the men up the hill in that now historic charge.

What a living hell it was too, and how I managed to go through it from 4 o’clock in the morning of Sunday, the 25th April, to Wednesday, the 28th, under fire the whole time, without being hit is a mystery to me.”

Part of a letter from Duncan to brother Charles.

I’m sure Duncan had no idea when he set foot on the soil at Gallipoli in the early hours of 25 April 1915 that a century later he’d be immortalised in bronze in the town of his birth.

However at dawn on Friday 24 April 2015 a statue commemorating his achievement was unveiled in Maryborough, Queensland.

Duncan Chapman statue

Source: Fraser Coast Chronicle

Duncan Chapman was my great great uncle. Born and raised in Maryborough, he was my father’s great uncle and my grandfather’s (maternal) uncle.

Duncan was living in Brisbane (in Albion) and working as a paymaster when he left to serve his country in the war to end all wars.

Maryborough peeps have worked long and hard over recent years to confirm Duncan’s achievement and raise funds for the $60,000 statue. I have to confess I’ve struggled a little with the occasionally OTT fanfare.

Although chosen to be in the covering group; it was pure chance his towboat was the first ashore and that he happened to be in the bow at the time. For this reason I’ve felt* a little uncomfortable with the hero-status afforded him and… I suspect he would be too.

Source: Anzacsightsound.org

Source: Anzacsightsound.org

Indeed, comments on the local newspaper’s website indicate others are a bit frustrated that Duncan has attracted so much attention, when MANY young men from Maryborough formed part of his 9th Battalion.

Naturally however, I’ve wondered about Duncan the man. Although he wasn’t married I wondered if he left behind a girlfriend. Or two.

I’ve read some of his letters and found myself thinking I’d like this man who lived 100 years ago. His letters are well-written. I can only assume he was relatively well educated and articulate. He’s obviously overly fond of punctuation and the occasional adverb… so I feel I can blame my genes for my own predisposition in that respect.

I attended the dawn service yesterday for the unveiling of Great Great Uncle Duncan’s statue. Extended family from interstate had travelled and formed part of the official party. Given my mixed feelings I was happy to stay in the background rather than meet his other great nieces and nephews and great-great nieces and nephews.

I was relieved when the service itself however, while honouring Duncan, paid tribute to other Maryborough men who fought alongside him. Many of whom (like so many Aussies) died on Turkish soil.

Despite my natural cynicism I found myself tearing up when I learned that rocks and sand had been provided by the Turkish Government (from the beaches and cliffs of Gallipoli) which were used in the surrounds of the statue. In fact, the sand was fashioned into footprints and set into the concrete to reflect those who followed Duncan across the beach at (the now) Anzac Cove. *sob*

I realised—perhaps for the first time—that it wasn’t really about Duncan or a town desperate for some fame and fortune. The celebration was about what (and who) Duncan represented. It was the war which coined the term ‘digger’ and—although we didn’t walk away victorious, our fighting spirit became part of our national identity. Sure we’re larrikins who sometimes have little concern for authority, but we’re tenacious bastards.

Duncan was promoted to Captain the day after arriving at Gallipoli. Unlike so many of his fellow ANZACs Duncan survived the Dardanelles, serving in Gallipoli until the evacuation in December 2015.

He did not, however return home. Serving with the 45th Battalion and promoted to Major, Duncan died on the battlefields of Pozieres in August 2016, like so many of his countrymen.

** You may recall the clip I shared recently of this tragic episode in our military history—during which time we lost 23,000 soldiers in just seven weeks. Only to gain 10km of ground. If you haven’t watched that video I’d recommend you do**

In that previous post I talked about the futility of war. I realise today is not a time for such discussions and I have great respect for those who’ve fought and/or died for our country. I do believe it’s an opportunity (however) for some reflection.

The local TV news interviewed a former WWII soldier a couple of nights ago. He doesn’t attend ANZAC day ceremonies, he said. He believes the day should be spent educating young people. His lesson: “There’s no glory in war.”

Lest We Forget.

* I’ve also inherited my father’s EXTREME sense of ‘fairness’.

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Wil Anderson, Lindsay Webb and pissed punters

I haven’t seen a lot of live comedy. Not for any particular reason other than – in my previous life I was occasionally apathetic about doing ‘stuff’. My working week felt really full-on; so much so that on weekends I really just wanted to hibernate.

In fact, other than seeing the guys from Oz TV show, The Chaser at a writers festival, the only other comedy act I can recall seeing was an Irish comedian / actor – Dylan Moran. (Who I find bizarrely attractive in his role as Bernard in the TV show Black Books!)

But, because I’m trying to be a ‘joiner’ in my new hometown, I’m doing more than I would previously have done. That means going to some festivals and shows which I’d prefer to avoid as well as those I’m keen to attend.

When I saw Wil Anderson was coming to Hervey Bay I was stoked. I’m not a rabid stalker-like fan, but I remember the days of The Glasshouse and love the Gruen franchise. A friend and I bought our tickets as soon as they went on sale, lest we miss out, and a month or so later rocked up to the RSL (my first visit other than for meetings!).

wil

There was a good crowd. 300+ I think, which is great. I loved that there were a wide range of peeps there as well – crisscrossing the generations. Indeed there seemed to be entire families in attendance.

And support act (Brissy comedian) Lindsay Webb was friggin’ hilarious. He mostly chatted to the audience, thought on his feet and had us all in hysterics.

Although it was during Lindsay’s performance… we started to see the ugly side of attention-seeking pissy patrons.

Sadly by the time Wil appeared a few members of the crowd were fairly shit-faced.

I suspect I sound like a nanna; but I enjoy a drink as much as the next person. Back in the day I had those nights when I was as pissed as a fart or struggled to remember what happened between arriving at the races at 2pm and being in my kitchen 8hrs later.  But I like to think I was never rude or disrespectful when pissed. (Although I’m fairly sure I was amazingly witty and hilarious!)

I guess live performers are used to the ‘great unwashed’ rabble, but I was really disappointed in the behavior of a few attendees. They’d obviously been drinking heavily before the show started and others at our table agreed that it was a waste of $40 to come to something like that and struggle to remember any of it the next day.

Worse than that though, they ruined the show for other punters. One woman constantly shouted out comments throughout the show (although was silent at the end and I was wondering if she fell asleep); another guy chatted to friends at his table constantly; a couple of pissed women stood to one side (near the bar) and talked LOUDLY – seemingly not paying any attention to Lindsay or Wil; and one woman interrupted Wil’s routine with a ridiculously inane question about our foreign Minister. I mean… What. The. Actual. Fuck?!

I felt terribly embarrassed: We have quality performers coming to our town and we disrespect them?!

Earlier in the day I saw a tweet from a young person complaining about Hervey Bay residents.

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“Oh, that’s a bit harsh,” I thought when I read it. But just hours later I was thinking the same thing.

Having said that – and had my whinge – I know that the majority of people in the town and region and those at last night’s show, aren’t rude or ignorant. However… sometimes it’s easy to forget that.

#Inothernews, Wil was also great. He was a bit thrown by the Julie Bishop question but other than that I loved his rants about the media – particularly talkback radio (as I just had a similar rant in my Debbish blog!).

PS. And Sarah… I’m fairly sure Julie Bishop is female. Had your question touched on her competence or policies it might have provided Wil with some comedic fodder, alas…

Too much of a good thing?

The inaugural Hervey Bay Food and Wine Festival took place on the weekend – a two-day event held in the Pier Park at Urangan.

Screen shot 2013-10-14 at 9.42.21 AM

I was keen to attend (as I live near the Pier Park where it was held) but prevaricated a little. On one hand I like to try to support local events and – well… wine, music and food – what’s not to love? On the other hand, I’m a bit festivalled-out.

I gather (from talking to friends and family) that others feel the same. There have been A LOT of big events packed into the last six or so months here on the Fraser Coast: Relish, Mary Poppins Festival, Craft Festival, Whale Festival and the Seafood Festival.

In the last month alone in Hervey Bay, we’ve had the Pier Festival, 150th birthday celebrations, Tour de Bay and now the Food and Wine Festival. On top of that we’ve got the Beerfest,  Torbanlea Races, Maryborough Open House and Melbourne Cup celebrations in the next month. To cap all of that off, there’s my one-year-back-on-the-Fraser Coast-anniversary! (Obviously a cause of celebration. Or national holiday or similar! 😉 )

I know (from the Festival’s Facebook page) that the $15 entry fee turned a lot of people off. I understand the need to charge a fee: but Relish was $10 – and included a lot more activities for your money; and the Seafood Festival was $5.

I don’t go out a lot however, so was prepared to pay the entry fee and went along for a few hours on Sunday.

On a positive note, the entry fee meant that the festival probably attracted a different crowd to those who usually attend local markets or pub events (ie. no one was likely to get wasted and vomit on you or yell obscenities at the band).

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I hadn’t known about the event until just a couple of weeks before it was held, so I’m not sure how far ahead it was planned. I know the organisers were still working on the music the week before the festival – so I was worried about what I’d find, however… I was pleasantly surprised.

I understand there were a few hiccups and organisers hope for bigger crowds in future, but in essence the event seemed quite successful – for we festival-goers anyway!

There were more wine-tasting options than I expected (though I know some would have liked to see more local wineries). And the ability to buy a glass/bottle of wine or champagne (or beer etc) to enjoy on the day was great.

After my disappointment at the Migaloo Starlight Swing, I was happy to know that there’d be a few food options and indeed Aquavue was on hand serving some salads (my friends partook in a prawn and mango salad with orange and mustard dressing which was apparently yummy); Wild Lotus offered up a steak sandwich that was much more – deliciously tender beef on sourdough etc. My friend who hates steak sandwiches, RAVED about the beef. Bayswater Hotel was serving antipasto platters and a squid salad; and there were pizzas and pancakes as well as coffee vans. (Something for everyone – though as a non-salad-eating coeliac – I struggled a little.)

wine2

I was also pleasantly surprised by the music. The acts had a bluesy feel and I was a tad tempted to hang around longer than planned to kick back, partake in more champers and enjoy the atmosphere.

Happily undercover seating was provided and as the day wore on there was heaps of shade for those who’d brought blankets or their own chairs.

I’d definitely go back, and I know organisers are thinking of running the festival again, but I do wonder if it could be paired with something else rather than being yet another separate event. And – feedback will be interesting – but organisers may also want to look at the cost in future years.

Did you attend, or did (or would) the $15 entrance fee put you off?

A bit of imagination

A couple of months ago I bought into the Maryborough vs Hervey Bay debate on the Fraser Coast Chronicle’s website. I have to admit however, I can’t even remember the issue under discussion. Traditionally I avoid comments on online news sites as so often they’re full of parochial regulars who can be exceptionally nasty.

I’ve rarely commented myself. I was a government employee for yonks so didn’t feel I could back then and only now I’ve left a comment if I feel particularly chagrined or passionate (which is rare).

In my comment I said I thought it was fair that I buy into the Mbro vs Bay argument, having grown up in Maryborough (until heading off to Uni at 17 years of age) and coming back here to work in the Maryborough Council for a few years; before eventually returning to live in Hervey Bay last year.

I won’t go into my thoughts here, but… I can kinda see both sides and with a foot in each camp I understand everyone’s frustration.

Having said that, I have to admit I find it very confronting to head into the Maryborough CBD. The empty shops and lack of vibrancy is palpable. It wasn’t a thriving metropolis when I was a youngster back in the 70s and 80s, but it was ‘town’ and a place to go.

I know that many blame the advent of shopping centres for the death of the CBD itself, but I’d like to think there’s some way ‘we’ could all live in harmony.

I loved today’s piece by the Chronicle’s new Editor John Grey (recently returned after many years away), who sees Maryborough’s potential.

Like John I find the Gatakers Precinct impressive. I attended the recent Relish Food and Wine Festival and several of the Mary Poppins Festival activities. It occurs to me that there’s some life left in the old girl yet.

“Imagine this city” is the Fraser Coast Council’s initiative to give Maryboroughites and others, a chance to have a say in the town’s future. As I understand it, Council’s in the midst of developing its 2013-2018 Strategic Plan and this is YOUR / OUR opportunity to inform that process.

Check out the consultation process and downloadable survey here, or head along to the workshop this coming Wednesday in the City Hall. (Note that RSVPs are required.)

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I have worked in community development, community engagement, regional development, local government and planning services agencies and roles, but I have no answers. Others might. And, it will be interesting to know what ideas and suggestions people might actually have.

I don’t mean to be rude, but I say the same thing to my mother if / when she ever groans about stuff happening / not happening. Put up or shut up. I know that our voices are not always (or often) heeded and then there are the squeaky wheels… yadda yadda yadda; but it’s harder to complain about an outcome if you don’t even try.

I’m thinking of heading along to the session of Wednesday, so perhaps I’ll see you, or hear from you, there.

Asbestos Manor

It’s not officially a Fraser Coast tourist attraction, but it’s certainly hard to miss. Indeed, anyone who’s driven along the Esplanade at Hervey Bay could not have overlooked the eyesore-on-purpose that is Asbestos Manor.

I don’t actually intend to offer any comment or judgement on the issue here. Indeed I have no opinion either way and I certainly have never personally experienced this level of passion. About anything. But kudos to those who have and continue to do so.

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Asbestos Manor in all of its (somewhat conspicuous) glory

All I will say is… and I thought my first apartment building – painted pale yellow with turquoise trim – was the stuff of nightmares….