BAG History Group / Farewell 1914
In 2014, the focus of the Blackwood Action Group History Subcommittee’s regular articles was on celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the 1914 Blackwood Magazine.
As the 19th century moved into the 20th century, Blackwood was emerging as the commercial and social centre for the Hills district.
At the same time, the community was being shaped by many complex, diverse and changing social influences. Most significantly, after Great Britain declared war against Germany on August 4th 1914, the impact of the faraway war dominated many aspects of Blackwood life and before long 1000 soldiers were encamped in Belair Park. Although the news from the war front was censored, war rumours flourished and were often accepted as factual reports. The Blackwood Magazine kept local residents apprised of war issues and local fundraising events.
On September 2nd, the local Red Cross Group was formed. Members were ‘busily engaged in making comfortable garments for our soldiers, including flannel bedgowns, belts, flannelette shirts, muslin head bandages and knitted socks. The Methodist Ladies Guild also contributed flannel garments.’ (The Blackwood Magazine, Nov p258).
Local fundraising included an auction sale, where £4/5s was raised for the Belgian fund and £1/15s for the Red Cross. ‘The collection was made by Miss Mavis Wickens, appropriately attired in a nurses' uniform’ (The Blackwood Magazine, Nov p256).
On October 15th a ‘farewell social was given for the Blackwood and Coromandel Valley members of the Second Expeditionary forces. Each member received a money belt. Additionally, an enjoyable music programme was contributed’ (The Blackwood Magazine, Nov p246).
In its November issue, the magazine published an article titled Germany’s War (A German General’s View) - accompanied by very forthright editorial comments. (The Blackwood Magazine, Nov p241-242).
The last months of 1914 were a time of great anxiety for the people of Blackwood and the surrounding district, with reports of the war in Europe dominating the news. Young men, including some regular contributors to the magazine, were enlisting in the Australian Expeditionary Forces.
Nonetheless the magazine continued to report on the usual local activities such as the results of sporting events, including the new season’s cricket, rifle club and tennis matches. The annual music, elocutionary, and floral competitions were held to great acclaim.
The Literary Society and the Mopokes continued to flourish. And of course the rainfall, and lack thereof until November was always a topic of concern.
Sadly December was the last issue of The Blackwood Magazine. In the words of the editorial:
‘Many a good man has been hung for no fault of his own, and The Blackwood Magazine, because the Kaiser has chosen to embroil the world, is to be suspended. We bid our readers farewell with a good heart, and a confident belief that they will read us once again’. (The Blackwood Magazine, Dec p1).
But that was not to be.
After the war the community again turned to fund raising, to erect memorials in Blackwood and Coromandel Valley which honoured - and continue to honour - local soldiers, sailors and nurses who ‘fought and fell’ during World War I. A memorial Band Stand, built at the 5 ways roundabout in 1924, was damaged by the earthquake of 1954 and later pulled down. It would be particularly appropriate at this time of the centenary of ANZAC to re-establish this lost memorial by constructing a replica rotunda at Blackwood.