The Mothers' Memorial
(How far can you see? How far?) But always … the same smalltown reply: I can see Toowoomba. I can see the Range. And here on the other side of the creek in 1963 Old Jack behind a draughthorse is ploughing a paddock for potatoes.' ‘From the Bottom of the Range, The View,’ Jean Kent
The Mothers' Memorial was funded by a subscription organized by the mothers of the fallen in the Great War of 1914-1918. It was originally erected on an island in the middle of Margaret Street on the site where many young Toowoombans first enlisted although it has since been moved to a nearby memorial park in Margaret street across from Queens Park.
Margaret Curran's poem 'Anzac Eve' suggests the emotional consolation which might be found in such a monument for those who lost their sons in the war:
In dusk of Eve the city lay-
And Life's dark pall lay o'er my heart;
My feet, by instinct took the way
To that Grey Altar, set apart,
And, sobbing in the dark alone,
I kissed his name upon the stone.
No light had I-But mother heart
Needs no poor earthly light as guide:
My soul rebelled against the part
Fate portioned me … 'My son that died
Has died in vain, and he and they
Forgotten … save when women pray."
Just then the city lights shone out:
Each name shone forth as brightest gold;
A strange, sweet perfume played about
And in my heart crept peace, untold…
I felt …warm hands …upon my own …
My son kept tryst … at the Grey Stone.
What tales he told … of high emprise-
Of fuller life beyond the Veil;
How shone the deeds of sacrifice,
As jewels on the Holy Grail.
He blessed me thrice … I knelt alone,
Shriven and healed … by the Grey Stone.
The monument, the lights of the city, the evening perfume, patriotism and religious faith are all brought together in an experience of place which consoles the mother for her loss and redeems the son's sacrifice.
Another poet, Bruce Dawe wrote a dissenting letter to the local paper when plans to move the monument from its original site were announced.
'A memorial, like many another public tribute to those we honour, should be where the greatest possible number of citizens may be confronted with it-a part of the past which we forget at our peril. Shunting off significant elements of our past to beautiful, out-of-the-way settings is like getting rid of our old folk … It deserves to be where the present cannot ignore it, part of our daily communal vision as we walk the streets, a visually public thing, not just for the few for whom caring and remembering comes easy, but most importantly also for the many (and that is all of us, at times) for whom it doesn't. It deserves to be, in fact, right where it is.' [i]
[i] Bruce Dawe, 'History is Not Transferable!' Toowoomba Chronicle, 21 June 1983, p. 30. Reprinted in Ken Goodwin, ed. Bruce Dawe: Essays and Opinions, Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, 1990. p.99.
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