Meet Richard Lamb. A volunteer at the National Library of Australia, Richard has taken on the gargantuan role of digitising journals from the Royal Military College, Duntroon.
Today, for most Canberrans, Duntroon is viewed as a relatively insignificant part of a cosmopolitan city of over 400,000 residents, but when Duntroon welcomed its first cadets in 1911, with a population of less than 2000, Canberra was a much different place.
"At that time, Duntroon made up a significant proportion of Canberra's population and as a result the cadets were very much part of the social fabric of the city, and the accounts in the journals reflect that strong connection with community," reports Richard.
In future columns, I plan to reveal some of the more memorable accounts that Richard, himself a former RMC Graduate (1966), has uncovered of cadets exploring the more remote parts of our region on foot and horseback. However, today I want to share with you the tale of George, a small black and white dog, age and species unknown, but who became the best friend of just about every cadet at Duntroon in the mid-1920s.
According to Richard, "although not officially a military mascot, George truly endeared himself to both cadets and staff, including the Commandant, and by 1928 his fame had spread far enough that The Sydney Morning Herald (June 2, 1928, p11) even carried a story on George and his exploits."
George's arrival at Duntroon in 1922 was under spurious circumstances. "It was said he belonged to one of the stewards, but he was never claimed," reports the 1928 article, adding, "repeated efforts to drive him off only resulted in his disappearance for a few hours, when he would be back, with that supplicating look in his eyes ... and he was allowed to stay".
Paddy Heffernan, who attended Duntroon as a cadet in the 1920s, remembered George's exploits so fondly that 62 years after graduating from the college he penned a feature about the much-loved dog in the Duntroon Society Newsletter of 1990.
"In common with most dogs of mixed-breed George had a lot of brains and quickly sorted out who was who ... if the troop turned left it meant going to the inside riding school ... that meant running around on a mixture of horse manure and bark with no escape for an hour which was not to his liking ... if the class proceeded directly out to the paddocks he was in seventh heaven".
According to Richard, "by 1925 George had been promoted to Sergeant rank and had three small metal stripes on his collar", adding, "in 1926, because cadets graduated as officers, it was thought only fair that George should also and he was promoted that year to Lieutenant with two pips on his collar". As a commissioned officer, George was even afforded the respect by the Fourth Class cadets, who were required to salute when they passed him.
With rank and seniority an integral part of life at military college, it's not surprising that journals articulate that the junior class was often, "on roster to feed George and polish his collar rank studs".
However, George's life at Duntroon wasn't without drama and in 1928, after an accident with a horse, unfortunately his front left leg was amputated. "But that didn't stop him from his playful antics," reports Richard, adding "it just slowed him down a bit."
Eventually due to complications from his injury, in July 1929, George's period of voluntary enlistment came to an end, and having reached the lofty heights of Colonel and as a mark of respect, he was accorded a military style funeral.
"The December 1929 Journal even carries an obituary for George," explains Richard, adding, and the official annual that year states, "July 18: we lost an old friend ... George was buried [in a hand crafted wooden coffin] with ceremony befitting his rank in the Officer's Mess Gardens."
According to Richard, "George's burial plot was reported as being next to the original maze at Duntroon House," adding, "but recent extensive searching of the maze area has so far failed to yield any evidence of the canine grave".
During the week your Akubra-clad columnist spoke to several employees at Duntroon who advise they'd never heard of George, let alone knowledge of the grave.
Perhaps, in this, the 90th year since his death, a plaque near the maze might be a fitting tribute to one of Canberra's best-known, and clearly from evidence brought to life in the digitised journals, most-cherished canines.
While the exact location of George's grave may remain a mystery, there are many other identifiable canine grave sites in the ACT, including these two.
If you stroll around the Pialligo Redwoods plantation adjacent to Fairbairn Avenue, between the airport and Queanbeyan, there is a good chance you will stumble upon two memorial plaques.
One of these is a cairn dedicated to park's worker Gary Bryant (1934-1991) "who loved the redwoods" and the adjacent plaque with the outline of a dog etched into it, is a memorial to Gary's faithful canine companion, Sebastian.
Hidden amongst scrub near the banks of the Goodradigbee River near Brindabella is the grave of 'Buddy', the long-time companion of hermit Bob Reid who lived in a secluded hut in the valley in the years following the First World War.
After Buddy was bitten and killed by a black snake, Bob constructed a concrete memorial to his best mate, which today is an intriguing point of interest for passing bushwalkers.
Last week's exposé on innovative ways to help native animals navigate roads and other man-made hazards (How'd the animal cross the road?, September 28) prompted much correspondence. Most emails reflected George Stanmore's comment that "these alterations to our roads can cost a fortune, so it's great to see some of these purposed-built animal bridges, grids and ramps actually used".
However, fences that aim to protect some species can sometimes have potentially detrimental impacts on non-target species.
Take for example the predator-proof fence at Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary near Forde which keeps foxes, dogs and cats out of the sanctuary where eastern bettongs and other endangered native critters can (hopefully) prosper.
While the fence has been successful in keeping out these predators, the barrier has prevented some native creatures, including long-necked turtles from completing their annual migration to nearby waterholes like Yerrabi Pond.
In response to distressed or dead turtles that were often found along the fence line, in 2015 a 'turtle patrol' was launched and now every spring and summer the borders of the sanctuary are regularly patrolled by volunteers who help put the turtles back inside or outside the fence.
Millie Sutherland Saines, Ecologist and Outreach Manager at Mulligans Flat reports she is "always looking for more volunteers for turtle patrol".
To volunteer contact Millie via: firstname.lastname@example.org
Did You Know? Foxes can consume over 90 per cent of turtle eggs outside of protected areas. This means sanctuaries such as Mulligans Flat are a safe haven for turtle breeding so long as the adult turtles are able to move about from one waterhole to another.
More unusual stories of lost and found continue to lob into my inbox including one from Caroline Jardine of Nimmitabel who lost her keys at Broulee Beach. "About one year later we found them rusted and in the water within a few hundred metres of where we lost them," she remarks. Heck, what are the chances?
CONTACT TIM: Email: email@example.com or Twitter: @TimYowie or write c/- The Canberra Times, 9 Pirie St, Fyshwick.
Clue: Lake view
Degree of difficulty: Medium
Last week: Congratulations to Judy Kelly of Aranda who was the first reader to correctly identify last week's photo, taken by Steve Taylor, Invasive Plants Coordinator with the ACT Parks and Conservation Service as a sanitiser station for bushwalkers at the foot of the Stockyard Spur track, near Corin Dam. "The purpose of station is for walkers to spray and scrub their boots to help prevent the spread of harmful fungus and pathogens to the fragile alpine country," reports Judy.
Judy took exception to my clue of 'near the stairway to hell' which referred to the very steep track up Stockyard Spur, preferring, instead, to much more eloquently call it "a punishing stairway to an alpine wonderland."
Judy also beat a number of other adventurous Canberrans to the prize, including David Wardle of Mawson who walked through the sanitiser twice last week - once to take an easy walk for the Brindabella Bushwalking Club up Stockyard Spur "for the fun of it" and the other for a longer 21km return walk to Mt Gingera with an 1100m climb. "The sanitiser is a great way to alert people to the sensitive environment," reports David, adding, "it is however a worry looking down on the rapidly depleting Corin Dam, I'm sure that water restrictions need to be around the corner."
How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org. The first email sent after 10am, Saturday October 5, 2019 will win a double pass to Dendy - The Home of Quality Cinema.
Peter Keast of Torrens was about to munch on this pear when he realised its striking resemblance to the kiwi, New Zealand's iconic flightless bird. What a ripper.
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