An Enthusiastic Send-Off for the Winton volunteers to fight in the Boer War – 1900
Extract from the Gregory News: the local paper in a very small bush town in Winton, Queensland, Australia, January 1900
On Friday evening last a hastily convened meeting of townspeople was for the purpose of giving a send-off to the Winton volunteers for South Africa. There was a good attendance, the meeting being a representative one, and great enthusiasm was displayed. Dr Bowkett was called upon to take the chair. The volunteers occupied seats near the head of the table.
The Chairman, in taking the chair, said he was very proud to be in the position he was at that meeting, especially when he saw the fine stamp of men they were giving a send-off to. The Boers had his sympathy to a great extent, but he thought they would probably want a good deal more sympathy before they had got through. With regard to the volunteers, he had no doubt they would be a credit to the old flag, as well as the flag of the five or seven stars – he forgot which. Although he believed the back of the war had been broken, there would probably be plenty of work to do yet, and he had no doubt the bushman volunteers would prove themselves Britishers and Australians.
The health of “The Queen” having been honoured.
The Chairman said the toast he had to propose now was the toast of the evening. It was that of the gallant men who had volunteered from Winton for the Transvaal and who, he was sure, would prove a credit to the town. They were, he believed, all good men in the bush, and when the fighting was over it was just possible that the Brands Act might be suspended for a time and it would be their own fault if they did not benefit by this to become station holders. Seriously, he was sure they would behave like men and Britishers and bushmen. He hoped they would get through the war scratchless, and some of the party would gain laurels on the field. They would do credit to the western country, to Australia and to the Empire. In that he had full confidence.
Mr Moore, one of the volunteers, said he had been asked to reply to the toast. Speaking for himself and his comrades he was sure they would do their best. It had been said that the war would be over before they got there, but he hoped they would be in the middle of it, and he thought the others were in the same mind. They would do their duty, and that they would all live to return.
Mr G. Morrice also responded. He hoped that the war would not be over by the time they got there. He would like to see a little of the fighting.
Mr A. Smith said that it was Mr Balfour who had sounded the keynote of sending bushmen to South Africa, when he stated in a recent speech that Great Britain, for the first time in history, had to meet an enemy consisting entirely of mounted men. As a result of these remarks, the Australian Colonies had at once bethought themselves of sending men who were accustomed to ride: of course, there are men in the West who could not ride: but a large proportion were expert horsemen, and when the Bushman’s Contingent went to the front, it would be a case of Greek meeting Greek. When he was a lad and the volunteer movement came in, it was understood that they would never be required to go out of the country. Indeed there was an old joke in Punch comparing volunteers with candles, because when they got near the fire they would run. It had been reserved for this year to show that a large proportion of the citizens of Great Britain and those who were true and loyal to her in the colonies, were prepared to take their place in foreign lands and stand side by side with the regulars. It was gratifying to the residents of Winton to see that their town could send a contingent.
He felt sure the men who were going would do their duty.
Mr E. A. Shaw said he would wish the boys not good-bye, but “so long”. He was glad to see Western men volunteering for the front, and was only sorry that more time had not been given for them. He was sure of eight men, 800 would of offered. Before sitting down he wished to propose a health – that of the boys who had gone before them.
Mr Riley said he could not let the occasion go by without saying goodbye. Mr Hassall, the New South Wales Minister for Lands, had said in a recent speech that, if he had a force of the right sort of Australians with him, he would fight the Boers by not leaving them a single horse, cow or sheep. The Chairman had said nothing about the suspension of the Brands Act. He had no doubt there would be a number of cleanskins knocking about after the war (laughter). Most of the volunteers were known to him in their private capacity, and he felt sure they would give a good account of themselves.
Mr Morris, as a member of the Defence Force, said he wished to say a few words on the occasion. At the time the vote for the third contingent had been passed, a certain member had called the volunteers “curs, cowards and swashbucklers”. Anybody who would say things like that were nothing but a coward himself. These men were giving up their positions to volunteer and he though the greatest need of praise was due them. A few years ago there was much talk about “cutting the painter” from the old land, but there did not appear to be much talk like that now. The way in which Queensland men had fought already was a matter for sincere congratulations, and he felt sure the men they were sending off would uphold the honour of the Empire. He wished them good luck. This was no picnic they were going to but he hoped they would come back none the worse for the experience.
Mr Gardner said; as one of the oldest inhabitants of the town, he though he should be allowed to say a few words of farewell to the volunteers. It pleased him very much to admire the patriotic feeling which thrilled the meeting. It was evident that the great majority of Winton people were loyal, and he thanked God for it.
Mr Moore proposed “The Residents of Winton”, coupled with the name of the Chairman. The Chairman responded, and the meeting concluded with the singing of “Auld Lang Syne”.
During the evening a number of songs were rendered. Miss Peeney sang “Sons of the Sea”; Mr W. J. Gardner “Let Me Like a Soldier Fall”; Mr Raymond “The Whistling Coon”; Mr J. Morris ‘Soldiers of the Queen’ (having to repeat the last verse in response to an encore); Mr G. Wienake “They Face is Near to Me”; Mr Marshall (another of the volunteers) “Tommy Atkin”; and Mr T. Hudson recited Rudyard Kipling’s now celebrated poem “The Absent Minded Beggar”. Miss Peeney presided at the piano and was accompanied by Mr Tanid (cornet) and Mr Grady (violin).
The names of the Winton Volunteers are: James Forsh, Richard Spence Micklethwaite, Thomas P. Moore, John James Robinson, George Morrice, Arthur Ernest Raymond, John Christian Ernest Marshall, John Seymour and W. Cummings. According to the instructions of the Police Magistrate there are only six vacancies to be filled from Winton, but as it is possible one or other may fail in various tests, nine were dispatched. Notwithstanding the early hour at which the train started, a large number of people were present to see them off on Saturday, the Winton Band making their first appearance on the occasion and enlivening the proceedings with music.
Two other volunteers – Messrs Anderson and Wainwright – who came from Kynuna and arrived too late for Friday night’s send-off, were entertained at the Winton Hotel on Saturday night, Mr C. A. M. Morris in the chair. A large number of people were present, and the proceedings were again most enthusiastic. Speeches, songs and recitation filled up the time till a late hour. The Kynuna men left by yesterday’s coach, a large crowd mustering to see them off. At the last moment Mr W. McCarty was also able to get away and went by the same coach, so that Winton has now ten volunteers offering.
Extract from the Gregory News, January 1900