Gang-gang: Hall's incredible inedible banquet

Gang-gang: Hall's incredible inedible banquet

Hosts of the Australian men who went to the Great War and were wounded came home with limbs missing.

However, Victorian man Robert Newbound's response to his plight was most unusual. A handyman, he fashioned his own, home-made, wooden leg to replace the one he'd lost when badly wounded on the Western Front.

The (inedible) WW1 banquet at the Hall School Museum.

The (inedible) WW1 banquet at the Hall School Museum.

All of us with Great War men in our pasts are thinking about them in these Great War centenary times.

Brian Tink of Oxley is thinking of his grandfather, Robert Newbound, a one-legged veteran who Brian knew very well.

Robert Newbound in his wooden legs workshop in Adelaide.

Robert Newbound in his wooden legs workshop in Adelaide.

And, unusual enough as it surely was for Newbound to craft his own wooden leg, the story becomes more remarkable, his grandson tells us.

It seems that Newbound's handcrafted leg so impressed government repatriation authorities, they employed him, full-time, to establish and manage and work in areas making more legs like it. Eventually, there were three factories/workshops – in Melbourne, Tasmania and South Australia – all founded and managed with Newbound's supervision.

In our picture, we see the emeritus master legmaker (legsmith? legwright?) at work at his craft, perhaps – by the time this picture was taken – fashioning even better legs from better materials.

Tink used to watch his grandfather don the limb.


"He'd pull his leg on, having covered his stump with a kind of stocking."

He doesn't know what it was about granddad's leg that impressed the repat people or how it came to their attention, but he knows it worked superbly because he often walked with his granddad from a railway station to a shack the handyman had built in the bush in Ferntree Gully.

It was a fair old hike and young Brian used to be "flat out" on the trek while his wooden-legged granddad coped well.

From replica legs, we lope along (still with remembrance of the Great War as our theme) to a kind of replica banquet.

As part of their When Hall Answered The Call exhibition, the Friends of the Hall School Museum have created a strangely unnerving (in the way that waxworks people are unnerving) but quite exquisite replica of the foods served at the village's 1919 "Welcome Home" occasions.

When Hall and its district answered the call to the Great War, about 40 local men sailed away. All but two of them (and perhaps three) survived (albeit often suffering in unseen ways) and the community in Hall staged three Welcome Home occasions.

There were separate events because, of course, friend of the museum Yvonne Robson explains to us, men came home from the war in 1919 at different times, aboard different vessels. So the display in the Hall School Museum, with painstaking research and attention to detail, imagines all three occasions in Hall's Kinlyside hall merged into one.

And so it comes to pass that the tables groan with edible-looking replicas of the sorts of foods the museum's friends know – from a detailed newspaper report of one of the events and from photographs and old recipe books – that the boys tucked into at their welcomes.

The museum's friends were given expert advice about how to create these faux foods and then set about it with gusto.

"We've made mock everything! It's all pretend food," museum friend Olga Minion rejoiced to us.

"The lamingtons, I tell you, they look absolutely real. There's fruitcake, meat pies, apricot pies, jam sandwiches . . ."

In replicating the occasion(s), the Friends of the Hall School Museum have even decorated the tables with the correct flowers (carnations). And they have, with deft use of pictures, created on the museum's windows replicas of the bucolic views the boys would have seen through the windows of the Kinlyside hall.

The Friends of the Hall School Museum have been anxious to create an exhibition that's not all about the war as fighting. Instead, it is focused on the distant war's impact on the village and the district; how the sudden unavailability of men and their crafts (every man's calling has been researched, and one of the youngest of them turns out to have been a "newsboy") and their manpower changed the lives of everyone at home.

Hall's "Granny" Hollingsworth, famously, at one time had 13 children in her small home because with their men away, hitherto far-flung daughters-in-law and their children gravitated to her place. People from all over Australia with heartfelt connections with wartime Hall have donated materials of all kinds, including precious letters and medals.

Yes, as well as the replica foods, an eerily lifelike replica of the Member for Fraser, Andrew Leigh, will be there to officially open When Hall Answered The Call at 10am on Saturday, April 11. It will be open to the public each weekend in April from 10am to 4pm. Entry is by gold coin donation.

Ian Warden is a columnist for The Canberra Times

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