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With thanks to Woodend & District Heritage Society. The society meets on Wednesdays, 10am-4pm, at the old courthouse in Forest St, Woodend.
It’s June 1919. Barely seven months have passed since the end of World War I.
The president of the Woodend branch of the Returned Soldiers’ Association, James McDonald, is about to address a public meeting that has been convened to discuss a suitable memorial to the district’s soldiers.
Support for the project so far has been underwhelming.
The number of people at the meeting is smaller than expected. And before tonight, less than £40 has been donated to the memorial appeal (much of it raised by the soldiers themselves).
Mr McDonald rises to speak.
“It will be for the people of Woodend and district to say if there is going to be a memorial costing £25 or £30, which they may be ashamed of, or one that will do some honour to the ‘boys’, and credit to the public,” he says.
Within the Mechanics Institute, where the public meeting is taking place, his plea is heard. Before the meeting closes, a further £111 has been pledged.
And so begins an eight-year journey to build what has since become Woodend’s most notable landmark – the memorial clock tower.
Designed by the architect Harold Trigg and constructed from reinforced concrete by Charles Peeler (who also built Woodend’s bandstand), the 16m tower cost more than £600.
In May 1927, though, as the works neared completion, the memorial committee still needed £200 to pay for the clock.
Another public appeal was launched and the shire council agreed to donate £50.
Several months later, in February 1928, the clock mechanism was installed and the four round holes in the tower were given their clock faces. And with that, the soldiers’ memorial was finally complete.
📘 They Went to War, by Sylvia Boxshall, describes the life of people from the Woodend district during World War I. Available from Woodend & District Heritage Society, $39.70.
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