Reflecting on my 16th trip to a Hay Dunera reunion, I could not help but reminisce about previous such occasions in Hay.
The journey to Hay is obviously the same each year, yet I marvel at the changing landscape from the undulating foothills of Central Victoria to the Long Paddock and Saltbush Plains of the Riverina, much as the Dunera Boys would have on their epic train journey from Sydney to Hay.
I always aim to arrive in Hay by lunch time so as I can take in the atmosphere of this amazing town, so rich in history, not only of the Dunera Boys, but also of Australia in the era of the ‘golden fleece’ and at war. This year, I visited Hay War Memorial High School in order to meet their history teacher. The Dunera Association wishes to restart the essay competition in which students write about the Dunera story as part of their curriculum studies.
Another reason I arrive early is so I can have time to view the exhibits at the Dunera Museum and mingle with any visitors present. Often, travellers are just passing through Hay and stumble on to this museum amongst others. Hay is a unique town of 2,600 inhabitants, with five museums. This year I met a couple from Meredith, Victoria, who expressed great interest in the Dunera Museum, but didn’t have time to participate in our activities. They are happy to now be on our mailing list and wish to return for a future reunion. I also take the time to go through the visitors’ book for interesting comments and maybe identify some future contacts.
In attendance from interstate this year were: Geoff and Daniella Buchtahl, Seumas Spark and partner Rhiannon Tanner, Dianne and Russell Efron, Harvey Stern, Selma and Aubrey Seknow, Robyn Fuerst and Ron Jackson and myself.
In addition were Hay locals Mick and Alice Beckwith, Carol and Laura Bunyan, some locals and of course our perennial hosts David and Coleen Houston. Again we would like to thank them for their tireless efforts in making this Dunera weekend so special.
In addition to our normal weekend program, there was a viewing of the display at the Hay Shire Library of etchings by retired NSW State Librarian, and now artist, Alex Byrne AM. Some of these etchings were inspired by the stories of Kristallnacht, the Kindertransport, the Dunera story and Hay.
This event was followed by dinner at the Jolly Jumbuck bistro, which always sets up the mood of conviviality present
on these very special first weekends of September.
Saturday morning brought with it the traditional cold, crisp but clear inland Australia chill, and the Hay Railway Station reenactment of the arrival of the Dunera Boys by the devoted locals who do this each year. In this historically authentic
environment, it is not hard for me to visualise the drama of the arrival of my late father with the other Dunera Boys in 1940.
The scene at the station includes the Hay Dunera Museum consisting of the two railway carriages of the type that the Dunera Boys travelled in on their journey from Sydney. This was followed by our usual ‘pilgrimage’ to the 50th Anniversary commemorative marker located in Dunera Way and adjacent to the locations of Camps 7 and 8.
Morning tea was followed by visits to the Hay War Cemetery and the Hay Gaol Museum. It was a few years ago that I discovered the name of Martin Reichwald, my late father, in the records of the gaol, not as a prisoner but as a sick patient; the gaol was used as a military hospital during the war. The cemetery is a vivid snapshot of Hay’s history. Of particular interest is the Jewish section in which Menasche Bodner, the only Dunera Boy to die in internment in Hay, is buried.
Saturday afternoon was free for us to participate in various activities including the viewing of the SBS documentary ‘When Friends Were Enemies’ at the Dunera Museum Library. This was followed by a delicious main dinner engagement at Bishop’s Lodge Motel Restaurant.
On Sunday morning, we returned next door to the historic Bishop’s Lodge Historic House and Rose Garden for our farewell morning tea, again organised by the ladies of Hay, for which we were so grateful. Coleen Houston’s tea cake is always a highlight, as well as a diet destroyer. The development of the homestead, which is an amazing example of inland Australia architecture, was shown to us in a most instructional video. It shows the understanding of environmental issues in building architecture even way back in 1888.
All participants then bade their farewells and commenced their long journeys home. The drive home is tinged with both sadness and satisfaction, but also in the knowledge that I will do this all again next year.