Gang-gang

The statue of John Gale, "Father of Canberra", on the corner of Monaro St, Lowe St, and Farrer Pl, in Queanbeyan.

The statue of John Gale, "Father of Canberra", on the corner of Monaro St, Lowe St, and Farrer Pl, in Queanbeyan. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Queanbeyan newspaper identity Jim Woods is in the same great Queanbeyan newspaper tradition as newspaper proprietor and journalist and similarly long-lived John Gale (1831-1929). For some, including those who erected Gale's statue in Queanbeyan, Gale is ''The Father Of Canberra'' (It says so on the statue).

In our centenary year there cannot be too many mentions of this great man. Here in that spirit is an edited version of the lovely report in the Queanbeyan Age of January 5 1917 of Mr and Mrs John Gale's diamond wedding celebration.

''On Wednesday, at their residence, The Retreat, … Mr and Mrs John Gale celebrated the completion of the 60th year of their married life. It is given to but one out of many thousands of married couples to attain an uninterrupted half century of nuptial bliss; and to much fewer still to complete a 60 years of running in double harness.

''From a tall flagstaff floated the British Ensign, and underneath the Australian Flag, while beneath that again fluttered a triangle of flaglets of various designs, and at each point of its base dazzling in the sunlight and dancing in the breeze were noticeable two shiny diamonds, emblematical of the event about to be celebrated.''

After several flowery speeches it was John Gale's turn. He was 85 and had seen mind-boggling changes in his lifetime. He said that on that very morning he'd been awakened by ''the rumble of buses and the purr of motor cars'' and suddenly there was an avalanche of relatives who'd come distances of 300 miles during the night.

''He would contrast the mode of travelling the wide spaces of Australia today with that which prevailed in the British Isles over 80 years ago. His father moved from Cornwall to Bristol and in those days there were no coaches, but wagons drawn by 16 or 18 horses, their collars hung with bells keeping up a constant tintinabulam as they went along and it took them eight days to do 120 miles.

Here, today, his children came more than twice that distance during the night. What a remarkable contrast!

''In 60 years of marriage God had blessed him and his wife … He had been totting up the result of their union, remembering the Scriptural injunction, 'Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.' They had had 11 children, and again these became mothers and fathers of 39 children, and 17 great grandchildren, making a grand total of 67. He was prouder of his 60 years of married life than the 25 years of bachelorhood. A married man had a wider scope of usefulness than a single man had - those present who were married would be willing to admit that.''