…‘Welcome Home’ to Trooper W.A.V. (‘Arnie’) Reid…
Overall some 23,000 Australians served in the Boer War. About 1,000 were killed in action or died on service. Some 43,000 horses sent to the war could not be returned to Australia due to quarantine restrictions. (National Boer War Memorial Association).
The following extracts are taken from a report published in the Evelyn Observer Friday, August 23 1901.
‘On Monday evening last, at the Mechanics’ Institute, Arthurs Creek, a welcome-home, in the shape of a smoke-night and presentation was tendered to Trooper W.A.V. Reid, of the A.I.R. (Australian Imperial Regiment). The very large and representative gathering of gentlemen present, unmistakeably testified to the energy of the committee and the worthy secretary, Mr. Geo. Horne.’
‘Mr. Charles Draper, J.P., occupied the position of chairman, having on his right hand the guest of the evening and Messrs. E.H. Cameron and M. J. S. Gair, M.L.A.s, and on his left Mr. Wm. Reid, J.P. (father of the guest), and Mr. Robert Harper, M.H.R.’
The evening was interspersed with toasts, recitations, songs and selections on the bagpipes. Principal toasts were drunk with musical honours. ‘The first toast, as a matter of course, was to ‘The King’, which was loyally honoured.’
‘Mr. F. W. Hammet proposed the toast for ‘The Commonwealth Parliament’. He felt sure, when the good was shown…none would regret the federation of the colonies.’
The toast was responded to by Mr. Harper ‘who thanked the committee heartily for the invitation to be present on the occasion…his attendance there that evening he had felt was due to the guest, who was a worthy son of a worthy father.’ …He could say both houses (of the Federal Parliament) were working extremely hard, but a great deal of dead work had to be done, for until they had passed the necessary laws, they had no machinery to work with.’
The toast for ‘The State Parliament’ was proposed by Mr. George Horne. ‘He said he did not hold with the cry for a decrease of the number of members of Parliament. As far as their district was concerned they couldn’t get a better representative. This was responded to by Mr. E.H. Cameron ‘who received a tremendous ovation when he rose to respond.’ He said he was very pleased to be present to do honour to the guest.’ Mr. Gair also replied. He assured them that ‘There was plenty of important work left for the State Parliament to do, which would tax the energy of the best men procurable.’
‘The Chairman then proposed the toast of the evening, to ‘Our Guest’. He said they were all proud of the name their soldiers had won in South Africa. Particularly and pardonably so, were they pleased at the action of one of their own boys, bred on the ground, in volunteering to go to South Africa. They were truly happy at his safe return and presence there that evening. He had, besides the honor of proposing the toast of his health, a very pleasing duty to perform on behalf of the residents of the district. That was to present the guest with a gold medal…The inscription on the one side of the medal read ‘British and South African Transvaal War, 1899-1900’, and on the other, ‘Presented to Trooper W.A.V. Reid, of the A.I.V. (sic), by the residents of Arthurs Creek, in recognition of his patriotic services in South Africa, 19 Aug. 1901.’ He sincerely hoped he would live long to wear it, and enjoy a prosperous and happy life.’
‘Mr. E.H. Cameron said he desired to congratulate Mr. Reid on being present amongst them that evening. He had volunteered to go and fight for his King and his country, and he had been to South Africa and had done his duty nobly and well, and had returned safely amongst them. …Personally, he believed that no other nation in the world permitted the people to be so free as under the Crown of the British Empire, and it was indeed worth fighting for.’ …‘He referred to the work done by Sir Frederick Sargood in the formation of rifle clubs. Some two and a half years ago there were only 75 clubs with a small roll of members. Now there were 364 clubs with a membership of 22,000, and he was pleased to say no district had come more to the fore in this respect than the County of Evelyn.’
Mr. Harper ‘was deeply gratified at being present on so auspicious an occasion, to welcome their soldier.’. ‘Those of the Australians who went to South Africa, went with a sense of duty, a few, no doubt with a love of adventure, but they went with the knowledge of an uncertain future, and were willing to face death from disease and battle,’…‘England no doubt had underestimated the enemy, but the greatest drawback was the mode of warfare carried on by the enemy, altogether different to the tactics of the British soldiers. To meet this difficulty the Australians had proved themselves so useful and had opened the eyes of the world. …The traits of the Australians were good for this kind of warfare, for he thought for himself, acted by himself, and was self reliant. …Lord Roberts had borne testimony to the worthiness of the Australians, styling them soldiers and gentlemen. …He was pleased that his old friend Mr. (Wm.) Reid (of Hazel Glen) had such sons who were prepared to become good citizens.’
‘On rising to respond Trooper Reid was met with great cheering. In a few words he thanked them sincerely for the kind remarks made and for the handsome medal given him as a mark of their esteem.’
Mr. H. Macmillan ‘proposed the health of ‘Mr. William Reid and family’ and testified to the very high esteem in which they were held in the district.’
‘The toast of ‘Our Councillors’ was proposed by Mr. Brain, and replied to by Crs Bassett, Reid and Murphy of the Whittlesea Shire, and Crs Cameron and Herbert of the Eltham Shire.’
‘Mr. Macfarlane proposed the toast of ‘Our Local Standing Army’. Captain Apted, Arthurs Creek Rifle Club and Captain Phillips, Whittlesea Shire Rifle Club, responded at length’.
‘Mr. Wm. Murphy proposed the toast of ‘Returned Soldiers’…‘The toast of ‘The Ladies’ was proposed by Mr Brain…‘Mr. Hughes proposed ‘The Press’, which was replied to by Mr R.C. Harris (of The Evelyn Observer).
‘The Chairman’ was proposed by Mr. Brock, and duly acknowledged, and a pleasant evening was brought to a close by singing God Save the King.