9 November 2021

Spirit of Laggan: villagers searching for servicemen and women to complete memorial

| Clare McCabe
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Allan Townsend, Helen Smith and Chris Fenton standing outside Laggan Memorial Hall

Laggan Memorial Hall Trust Committee members Allan Townsend (left), Helen Smith (centre) and Chris Fenton (right). Photo: Clare McCabe.

In 1946, the year after the Germans had surrendered to Allied forces in World War II, the unveiling of a memorial facade at Laggan Hall was set for Easter Monday.

On the same day as the renovations were opened, a plaque was unveiled with the names of 59 soldiers who had enlisted for the war from the Laggan district. Each of the men had actively served overseas, and nine had not returned.

Historic Laggan, in the NSW Southern Tablelands, was first settled in 1838. During the mid-1860s, it was an important stopping point on the main road between Goulburn and the goldfields of Tuena. By the 1930s, Laggan boasted to have the most popular dance hall in the region, attracting around 100 couples to its events.

In 1946, the plaque and extensions of Laggan Hall had been organised by a committee comprising local people to commemorate the memory of the men who had served overseas. On 3 April, 1946, the Crookwell Gazette reported treasurer TL Cummins had received £257 from contributors to be put towards renovations and the Honour Roll.

The Honour Roll would hang in the new addition of the hall until around the 1970s. At this time, the hall was unused and had fallen derelict. The local community feared the plaque would be vandalised so it was transferred to the Crookwell RSL Club for safekeeping.

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“The hall started to deteriorate and it got to a stage where it was untenable and they couldn’t secure it,” says long-time local and secretary of the Laggan Memorial Hall Trust Committee, Helen Smith.

In the early 2000s, restorations to return the hall to its former glory commenced, and on 5 September, 2015, the Honour Roll was returned to its rightful place.

The plaque was unveiled for its second time by World War II RAAF leading aircraftman Maurice Woods, and Clinton Skelly.

Maurice was the last surviving World War II veteran in the Upper Lachlan Shire. He died on 14 February, 2019, aged 93.

Clinton was the younger brother of three of the four Skellys listed on the plaque. His brother, Francis, returned, however Clyde and Bert were killed in action.

But according to the Laggan Memorial Hall Trust Committee, the memorial is incomplete.

The committee is planning a semi-permanent exhibition to include the enlisted men and women from the Laggan district who served in either World War I, World War II, the Korea War and Vietnam War.

Roll of Honour at Laggan Memorial Hall

A total of 59 men are listed on the Roll of Honour at Laggan Memorial Hall. Photo: Clare McCabe.

The exhibition will include an audiovisual display that narrates the stories of those who served in the wars, and it will feature photographs of the veterans.

Members of the committee are asking for the families of veterans who would have been living in the Laggan district when they enlisted to come forward with the names of their kin.

“What we’re after is those people, male and female, who would have enlisted but didn’t go overseas,” says Chris Fenton, president of the Laggan Memorial Hall Trust Committee. “They might have gone to Darwin, or the women might have been in the Land Army.”

However, the committee isn’t rewriting history.

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“We are maintaining the history of the village and the memory of all those who served,” says Chris.

It is believed the boundaries of the Laggan area extend to Diamond Road, towards Binda, Golspie, Redground and Fullerton. It may also include Tuena, and even Limerick.

It is assumed the men listed on the original plaque either attended church in Laggan, the town’s card nights and dances held at the Hall, or were a part of the Laggan community.

For more information about this project, contact Chris at [email protected].

Laggan Memorial Hall opens on the third Saturday of every month for Laggan Village Markets. The Laggan Christmas Market will also be held on Saturday, 11 December.

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