Gar­den blooms in fit­ting trib­ute

The Free Press (Corowa) - - FRONT PAGE - BY SI­MON GINNS

For­mer Ruther­glen school teacher and dec­o­rated mil­i­tary com­man­der, Lieu­tenant Colonel Charles Denehy, has been hon­oured with the ded­i­ca­tion of a gar­den in his name at the en­trance to Ruther­glen Pri­mary School.

Dr Kristin Schneider, great niece of Lt Col Denehy, of­fi­cially opened the gar­den in a cer­e­mony con­ducted by stu­dents last Fri­day morn­ing.

Grand­daugh­ters Ju­dith Bow­man, Pauline Cook and great grand­daugh­ter Robin Cook joined rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Ruther­glen RSL Sub-Branch, par­ents and stu­dents at the ser­vice.

In her ad­dress, Dr Schneider spoke of her great un­cle’s life and his ex­pe­ri­ences at Gal­lipoli in 1915.

Lt Col Denehy be­gan teach­ing at Ruther­glen in 1911.

He left teach­ing to en­list in the Aus­tralian Im­pe­rial Force in Au­gust 1914 at the age of 35.

He was wounded in the land­ing at An­zac Cove on April 25, 1915 and was evac­u­ated to Eng­land for treat­ment.

He was pro­moted and re­turned to Gal­lipoli in November 1915.

In De­cem­ber 1915, Denehy played a cen­tral role in the suc­cess­ful evac­u­a­tion of Gal­lipoli.

He was one of the last to leave un­der cover of dark­ness on De­cem­ber 20.

Troops un­der his com­mands were re­spon­si­ble for set­ting many of the fa­mous drip or “pop off” self-fir­ing ri­fles that proved cover fire dur­ing the evac­u­a­tion.

He ar­rived in France in June 1916, just in time to take part in the bat­tle of Fromelles.

Fol­low­ing the heavy fight­ing at Bul­le­court in May 1917, he was awarded the Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Or­der (DSO) for ‘con­spic­u­ous gal­lantry and abil­ity’. He was gassed near Ypres in Oc­to­ber 1917. Lt Col Denehy dis­tin­guished him­self again in fight­ing around Bel­li­court dur­ing the breach­ing of the Hin­den­burg line in Septem­ber 1918.

For his gal­lantry and lead­er­ship, he was awarded a Bar to his DSO and the Bel­gian Croix de Guerre.

Af­ter the Armistice, Denehy re­turned to school teach­ing.

He was head­mas­ter at Ruther­glen from 1926 to 1934.

Dr Schneider has fond mem­o­ries of her great un­cle.

“He was renowned for pulling the troops to­gether, help­ing them to re­gain self-con­fi­dence and giv­ing them a unity of pur­pose,” she said.

“I knew him as an old man when I was a young girl. He was al­ways gen­tle and lov­ing to me.”

The idea for the gar­den be­gan in 2014 when the Par­ent Club of Ruther­glen Pri­mary learnt of the Gal­lipoli Oaks Project run by National Trust of Aus­tralia (Vic).

The school re­ceived its Oak seedling in 2015 and it was planted at the front of the school in 2016 to mark the 100th an­niver­sary of the land­ing in Gal­lipoli.

Later that year the Ruther­glen RSL Sub Branch helped the school dis­cover that Lt Col Denehy was both a for­mer teacher and head­mas­ter.

In a fit­ting trib­ute to a for­mer teacher, head­mas­ter and Gal­lipoli vet­eran, the school chose to cre­ate a new gar­den in his hon­our with the Gal­lipoli Oak as its cen­tre­piece.

Do­na­tions from the com­mu­nity and the Ruther­glen RSL Sub-Branch helped fund the cost of the plaque ded­i­cat­ing the gar­den.

Craig Wil­liams, Vice Pres­i­dent of the SubBranch and par­ent of stu­dents at Ruther­glen Pri­mary, be­lieves the gar­den has a very im­por­tant mes­sage.

“Past, present and fu­ture stu­dents and their par­ents will be re­minded of the ef­forts made by Aus­tralians from all walks of life, when­ever they pass this me­mo­rial,” he said.

For School Prin­ci­pal, Kar­ryn Wil­liams Fri­day’s cer­e­mony is not the end of the project.

“I can’t thank the kids enough who have been in­volved in the work. They have built this gar­den,” she said.

“We have one more stage to go as we raise ex­tra money to have that project done.

“It has evolved over time into a re­ally beau­ti­ful en­trance to our school.”

Dr Kristin Schneider, great niece of Lt Col Denehy, with a book writ­ten by Year 6 stu­dents from Ruther­glen Pri­mary School. Photo: Si­mon Ginns

Sev­eral guest speak­ers spoke dur­ing the of­fi­cial open­ing of the gar­den. Photo: Si­mon Ginns

Lieu­tenant Colonel Charles Denehy’s grand­daugh­ter Pauline Cook is hon­oured to be wear­ing his medals. Photo: Si­mon Ginns

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