Rolling back the years and rolling out the memories - The Community Leader and Real Estate New and Views

Four proud daughters; L-R Jill Sweet, Judith Butler, Lorraine Newton, Caroline Wacker. Photo by Greg Pope.

Time rolled back 80 years at Birkdale School of Arts Hall when more than 80 people gathered to commemorate the Hall being declared the region’s first permanent Land Army Camp in August.

The afternoon’s celebrations, facilitated by Cr. Paul Bishop, included excerpts from Theatre Redlands’ production The Other Diggers, which recently played to capacity houses at the Redland Museum, and talks were given by folk who had been involved in and contributed to the history of the Australian Women’s
Land Army.

Lorraine Newtown, whose mother Beryl Price was a member of AWLA and who donated her uniform to Redland Museum, spoke of her mother’s life and extensive experiences in the service, drawing on lovingly-preserved records and photographs that her mother had kept.

Pamela Rushby, highly popular historical novelist, talked about her forthcoming book, Those Girls, which follows the lives of three young women in the Land Army. Those Girls is due for release in February 2024.

Courtney Wilson is a producer/presenter with ABC TV’s Landline; in 2022, the 80th anniversary year of the AWLA’s foundation, she produced a Landline segment on the Land Army which virtually “went viral” and proved universally popular. The audience was treated to a re-run of the show (still available online) with Courtney’s commentary on researching it.

Jan Nary, who wrote The Other Diggers, spoke of the research and unexpected delights of creating a play about a largely unacknowledged part of our history.

Members of the audience contributed to a Q&A session and proffered more information about local Land Army narratives; Caroline Wacker shared some recollections from her Land Army mother, Nesta Benbow.

Without doubt, the stars of the show were two ninety-seven-year-old Land Army “girls”; local Elsie Stiller and Auriel Nixon, whose family brought her down from Toowoomba for the event. The real excitement began when the mothers and daughters started comparing notes, photographs and work placements; old connections were rediscovered, memories polished and contacts exchanged. Once again, the AWLA had the rafters ringing.

Theatre Redlands, which is based in Redland Museum, continues to seek out local anecdotes and memories of Redlands in WW2 on which to create future productions. Redlanders are invited to make contact through the Museum on 3286 3494.

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