IT’S been 100 years since Mount Hawthorn locals banded together to build a house for a wounded World War I veteran.
Anne Chapple is the granddaughter of Private Cuthbert John Porter, one of the first to return from Gallipoli. Shot through the left leg on the first day of the landing and unable to work, he was chosen to live in the house that was built by the Mount Hawthorn Progress Association as an alternative to a memorial.
“He was very embarrassed by it,” Ms Chapple says of her grandfather being gifted the house, “and actually wrote to the war council and asked that it not be given to him, and said there were others more deserving.”
The humility only convinced the war council and the association he was the right person.
Two busy bees were held in the leadup to the construction, one on January 29, 1916 to clear the block with axes and saws, and on February 5 a half-mile long procession of stone, timber bricks and paint was marched to the site.
On February 12, 200 men set to work, cheered on by 4000 onlookers and a “score of ladies” supplying hot meals. In one day they nearly completed the building, with only a few finishing touches to go.
In her history of the cottage, Ms Chapple says her grandfather lived out his days there, raising the flag every Anzac Day and Remembrance Day till his death in 1964.
This year’s centenary will mix solemnity with celebration. There will be music, plays, and the opening of a time capsule, sealed by Mt Hawthorn primary school children 10 years ago at the 90th anniversary.
Ms Chapple is also recreating a fowl tradition from the 1916 opening: “on the actual day it was opened they had eight-dozen ducks auctioned off,” Ms Chapple says.
It will be recreated in the forms of crafted, carved and painted ducks that people are donating. “You can call me a wuss, but I really did not want 96 ducks quacking—and someone said pooping—around the place,” Ms Chapple chortled.
Today, Vincent city council owns the building, and in the early 1990s it was vested with the Vietnam Veterans Association, which rescued it from disrepair in an echo of the original community effort to build the house.
The centenary weekend is across February 13 and 14 and there’s a full program at http://www.facebook.com/Anzac Cottage.
by DAVID BELL