State: Victoria, Australia
Issued on: Return
Dates of presentations: 06/06/1901, 08/05/1902
Number issued: 6
184 Private Kenneth YORSTON [Yorstan / Lorston]
1552 Private Percy DARGIE
Presentation made by Mr W. Fisk, in the Yea Shire Hall.
Inscribed: "Presented by the residents of the Yea Shire and district to ________, VMR Victorian Contingent, in appreciation of his gallant service in the South African war, 1900-1".
"On one side of the cress are laurel leaves, in the centre of which appear two crossed rifles and a mounted rifleman's hat".
WELCOME TO RETURNED SOLDIERS.
A WARM RECEPTION.
On Thursday evening there was a large gathering in the Shire-hall to do honour to Sergeant-Major McDONALD Quarter-Master Sergeant CAHILL, and Privates HENNEBURY, ROBERTS, and YORSTON. Through being detained at headquarters Sergeant-Major McDONALD was unable to be present. The function took the form of a Smoke-Night, and the proceedings throughout were of a most cordial character. The hall was tastefully decorated, thanks, in a great measure, to the kindness of the members of the Yea Cycling' Club, who left up their decorations of the previous evening. The chair was taken by Cr. J.D. O’Callaghan, president of the Yea Shire, and the vice-chair by Mr E.S. Purcell. Upwards of sixty representative gentlemen were present, included amongst the number being Major McLeish, the commanding officer of the first contingent. After the usual loyal toast had been duly honoured and justice done to the good things provided, the Chairman called upon Mr Quinlan to propose the first toast of the evening.
Cr. J. Quinlan proposed the toast of the Commonwealth of Australia, and he hoped that they would legislate for the good of the community.
The toast was duly honoured.
Mr E.S. Purcell asked the gentle man to charge their glasses and drink to the health of the returned soldiers. This was a most important toast which he had been called upon to propose. He knew nothing much about war, but was rather a man of peace; all the same he was glad to be present to extend a welcome to the returned soldiers. In passing he might say he was pleased to see the Major present, and they had now an opportunity of publicly congratulating him on the distinction that had been conferred on him of a C.M.G. It was an honour he was sure Major McLeish was well deserving of. It was also an honour to the district, and one that all can appreciate the Major having gained. The returned soldiers have done their duty at the front, and the assemblage there tonight had come to give them a hearty welcome. The various contingents knew that there was no child's play before them; they knew that they had to face the bullets of the Boers, and from what could be learnt they had done their duty manfully, and had proved themselves to be a chip off the old block. They had turned out real men and Australia was proud of them. Praise, almost too much praise, had been showered upon them from the King down. The men had gone from Australia to fight the battles of the Empire, and they deserve praise for so doing, and he was pleased to be present to welcome some of them back in health and strength. He said he had a son at the front and would have been pleased to see him here tonight, but from what he had heard if he had six sons he would have sent them all. He asked the gentlemen to drink the health of the retuned soldiers (Applause).
The toast was received with musical honours.
Quarter-Master Sergeant CAHILL, who was greeted with cries of "Good boy, Tommy", said he hardly knew how to thank them for the kind remarks that had been said, and the welcome accorded. When they went away, they went, not thinking of any welcome home, to help assist the mother country in the fight against the South African Republic. He said he would not weary the audience with details of the movements of the Australians, but pass it over briefly. The second contingent, to which he belonged, landed at Cape Town on 5th February and got to the front about the time the first contingent met with serious losses. They crossed the Orange River into the Orange Free State, and on to Bloemfontein. Thence through Pretoria, Krugersdorp and back to Cape Town. They had been in several engagements, and in each, he believed, they had acted creditably and had done their duty. He said he did not intend to give a lecture, but be would say that they had been sworn in as soldiers to fight against the Boers, and if they had not done their duty they had no right to go out to South Africa. As regards the country, he was not very touch impressed with it. In the course of four or five years, if a large amount of capital were spent, the land might be good for farming; but it was no use anyone going there unless he had capital to develop the land. He was more favourably impressed with the gold fields, which would be a large source of revenue when the war was over. He did not believe the war would be over for some time; possibly it might last twelve months, perhaps longer. He was very sorry that his comrade, Sergeant-Major McDONALD, was unable to be present at this gathering. He had received a telegram from him stating that he was detained at headquarters. They had been together right throughout the campaign, and he would have been pleased to have seen him here tonight. He could hardly find words to express his thanks for the kindness that had been shown to him, and he would leave his comrades to speak for themselves. (Loud Applause.)
Private YORSTON thanked the audience for the reception accorded him.
Private HENNESBURY desired to thank all present for the Smoke-Night tendered to him and his comrades. He had nothing further to add to what Quarter-Master Sergeant CAHILL had already told them. It would be the same thing over again. (Applause).
Private ROBERTS said he would sooner be in the Transvaal than have to speak at this meeting. He then mentioned the places his contingent had been in during the war. (Applause).
Cr. Carver proposed the toast of the health of Major McLeish; also to congratulate him on the honour of having a C.M.G. conferred on him. When Major McLeish left Yea he (Cr. Carver) had the honour of presiding at a send-off got up on the spur of the moment. The Major had gone through the campaign to the satisfaction of his superior officers, and to the appreciation of his country. If he had not given satisfaction he would not have received the decoration of a C.M.G. Major McLeish was rather of a retiring disposition, or else probably they would have seen his name figuring more in print, but everyone who knew him was satisfied that he had done his duty well. He (Cr. Carver) could hardly express all he a would like to say about the Major's conduct at the front, but they must take the will for the deed. Major McLeish was respected by all who knew him, and his reputation also caused others, who did not know him personally to treat him with the utmost respect. (Applause).
The toast was received with musical honours.
Cr. Carver said he wished to express his pleasure at being present at the welcome to the returned soldiers. There was one he would have liked to have seen at this meeting – the late Private WAKLEY. Before resuming his seat he would like to record his sorrow at the death of this young fellow, who did not meet his fate from a Boer bullet, but fell a victim to disease. He (Cr. Carver) had no doubt that had Private WAKLEY been spared he would have done his duty creditably, and have received just as hearty a welcome as had been accorded to his comrades.
Major McLeish, in responding, said this toast had come as a surprise to him, as he had not come to participate, but rather to add his mite to help welcome his returned comrades. He thanked the meeting for the many kind things that had been said about him. He did not wish to dilate on his work out at South Africa, but he would now refer more to his comrades. Quarter-Master Sergeant CAHILL had told the meeting where he had been from his landing at Cape Town until his return there. What he had taken one minute to tell it had taken eighteen months to do. It was a vast extent of country, and no one had any idea of its enormous stretch unless they had been there. All of the returned soldiers present, with the exception of Private ROBERTS, had been with him in a good many engagements and had all to his knowledge acquitted themselves manfully and well, and had done their duty. That word "duty" means a good deal on a campaign. A man that did his duty was deserving of all praise. It had a wide meaning embracing all manner of things. It was of no use a man grumbling at having to do a thing when ordered, as it had to be done. His comrades here had done their duty. To give an idea of what the work was like he mentioned that frequently a column would be all day on the march in the enemy's country. They would rise at 3 a.m. to feed and saddle the horses, have breakfast, consisting perhaps of bully beef, by candlelight, and get ready to start at daylight. Through the day they would be often on dangerous duty scouting in the enemy's country, and at night, when tired out, would be ordered off to picquet duty, perhaps a mile or three miles from camp. It was one of the hardest kinds of duty that could be imagined. A man would be on sentry duty for an hour at a time on a pitch-dark night perhaps. He had to watch carefully and listen intently for every sound, and to challenge anybody approaching. When his turn of duty was over perhaps the field officer for the day would rouse him up and he would have to take another turn at duty. Often, he would have to saddle and move on without getting any breakfast. Some class of duty was not so unpleasant, as for instance when the column was in a town. Perhaps when out at the front they would come upon a deserted house; it would be their t duty to commandeer any stray ducks or fowls found about the premises. (Laughter). Duty, as he had said, embraced a good deal, but he was sure that his comrades had done theirs manfully and well. He did not think it fair that he should participate in the welcome accorded to his comrades as he had received a right royal reception on his return. He might say that he had not yet been decorated as a C.M.G.; as far as he knew it had not arrived in the colony. (Applause).
Mr Pilley proposed the toast of "The local industries". He would rather have had a say in giving a welcome to these soldier boys of whom they were all so proud. Everything, he said, came out of the dairy cow, and they could never have sent soldiers away like them but for it. (Laughter). He was very pleased to be present to welcome the returned soldiers who had gone out to battle for the Empire. It was an Empire which he believed would be welded together before long under one constitution. They had heard men speak of cutting the painter and all this, but that would never be whilst they enjoyed such freedom as under Britain's rule. He would not have had much to say, today, about local industries, if they had not been under the rule of Great Britain. You hear of the wealth of Russia, of the strength of France, yet nothing could stand like the British Empire. Little did Great Britain think when Australia was first founded that the colonies would go on developing as they had done, and grow to such strength as to assist in fighting against the foes of the Empire. They all knew what other nations thought of this and if trouble ever should arise, Australia would be a great adjunct in the strength of the Empire. He had, he said, somewhat wandered from the local industries, but he would now refer to one of the greatest national industries in the colony – the dairying industry. He proposed the toast of the Yea Dairy Company, coupled with all other local industries. (Applause).
Messrs E. Rule, S. Wall, and D. Olney responded.
Chairman read a letter received by Mr Picard from Sergeant-Major McDONALD stating that he had much pleasure in accepting the invitation to the Smoke-Night, and a subsequent telegram, regretting his inability to attend as he was detained at headquarters.
The medals were then presented by the Chairman, who trusted the recipients would live long to wear them.
Each recipient was greeted with loud cheers.
Quarter-Master Sergeant CAHILL returned thanks for the presentation that had been made to him. He would as long as he lived remember his Yea friends. If he might be permitted, he would like to speak, as a civilian, on the future of the Australian colonies. This war had shown that Australia, as a nation, had little to fear from the outside world if only necessary precautions were taken. If there were a plentiful lot of ammunition and arms no nation could land troops and bring Australia in subjugation. This war had brought local industries before the public, and a large quantity of the produce of local industries had gone to the Cape. Australian tinned meat was the best issued to the troops; the best jam and porridge came from Australia, and in fact all the articles sent from this part of the world were looked up to. The Cape had opened a very big market for Australian produce, and this would be doubled before long. He would again thank them for the medal which they had presented him with. (Applause).
Private YORSTON appreciated the kindness of the residents in presenting him with a medal, more particularly as he did not live in the district. (Applause).
Private HENNESBURY said that as long as he lived, he would keep the medal. (Applause).
Private ROBERTS returned thanks for the medal which he had been presented with. (Applause).
Mr D. Ferguson proposed the toast of "The Pastoral and Agricultural Industries". He said he was one of the oldest pastoralists in the district and could speak with some authority. For the last few years, the pastoralists in the district had been having a rough time of it, what with the bad seasons and the low price of wool. They had to fight the seasons the same as the soldiers had to fight the Boers, and lived on in hopes of better seasons and a rise in prices.
Mr Tyson in responding, said that if a little more attention were paid to the breeding of stock the landowners would be in a much better position than they were to day.
Rev. Father O'Reilly proposed the toast of the Chairman. The reverend gentleman said he was always pleased to join hand in hand with the citizens in any worthy movement, and this welcome to the returned soldiers was a very appropriate one. The proceedings had been very creditably conducted throughout by the Chairman. The occasion was an important one – to do honour to the returned soldiers. It was only right and fitting that they should be received with all honour here. They had undertaken a perilous duty and he was sure that they, like Major McLeish, had done their duty well. It would be most unfair if, on their return from the dangers of the war, they had not received some recognition of their conduct. He believed, too, that they had met brave men, in overcoming whom, redounded to their credit, and enhanced the honour due to them.
Chairman briefly responded.
Mr Pilley proposed "The ladies" and the proceedings came to a close with the singing of "Auld Lang Syne", and the "National Anthem".