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Thursday, 12 November 2015
Page: 13140


Ms SCOTT (Lindsay) (10:03): This weekend, I had the enormous pleasure of accompanying the Coo-ee marchers as they passed through both Penrith and St Mary's. The Coo-ee enlistment march was re-enacted 100 years after the original march and was supported by the federal government through the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program. One hundred years ago, around this time, news was filtering back that the Gallipoli campaign was an absolute disaster. Two brothers from Gilgandra, about 40 miles west of Dubbo, decided they would do something about it. Dick Hitchen, a butcher, and William 'Captain Bill' Hitchen, a plumber, decided that they would walk the 320 miles to Sydney, encouraging people to enlist.

The re-enactment was funded by the Centenary of Anzac grants for the Lindsay electorate, and other projects including the restoration of the World War I honour boards at the memorial gardens at Wollemi College and the cenotaph in Victoria Park in St Marys. I met the Coo-ee marchers with re-enactment march president Bill Bywater at the historic Lennox Bridge during a handover from the member for Macquarie, Louise Markus. With the marchers we rounded the corner into the Sydney Basin, stopping off at the Emu Plains schoolhouse for a nice glass of lemonade. Later there was a memorial service at Memory Park with a mayoral dinner. The following morning in St Marys I bid the marchers safe passage through Martin Place for Remembrance Day. I would like to note that it was quite an honour to share the Coo-ee poem with councillor Tricia Hitchen, whose husband's family are related to the Hitchen family, who started the Coo-ee march 100 years ago—a nice link between Penrith and Gilgandra.

Sadly the stories of many of the original enlisters are lost to time, but we were able to pay special attention to Sam Luke, whose family joined us in St Marys. We were honoured to know that his family have not forgotten him and it was great to meet Dorothy Seale on Sunday morning. Sam, like so many young men who joined, went to war as part of the 4th Australian Pioneer Battalion. He was killed in action on 21 April 1917 whilst fighting in France. In Penrith the march was joined by Allan Easterbrook, who became a private with the 13th infantry battalion; Selby Megarrity, who would also become a private serving with the 13th infantry battalion; and WA Sutton, who unfortunately and sadly we know very little about. I would like to thank the Coo-ee marchers who let me join them not only from Lennox Bridge down to Emu Plains but also for the 10 kilometres on Sunday morning from Penrith up to St Marys. I would also like to thank the committee for their hard work that put all of this together, in particular St Marys and Penrith RSLs, Tony Fryer and Mick McConnell.