Walcha history: Red Cross girls help out

Spirit of remembrance: Schoolgirls of the Junior Red Cross Circle march past Lovett’s Store in Fitzroy Street on Armistice Day 1926.
Spirit of remembrance: Schoolgirls of the Junior Red Cross Circle march past Lovett’s Store in Fitzroy Street on Armistice Day 1926.

The Sydney Morning Herald of December 6, 1926 said: “The Walcha Junior Red Cross Circle was awarded a prize of £1 for the best group in a street march on Armistice Day and its members have shown that they possess the true spirit of remembrance by forwarding the money as a gift to the Junior Red Cross homes.”

Miss Ida Lorking, headquarters organiser of the Junior Red Cross Society and the V.A.D., spoke at Walcha in February 1926 while touring northern NSW. She reminded people of the necessity of continued effort to assist the many returned soldiers still in hospital and urged the formation of Junior Red Cross societies.

Within days of Miss Lorking’s visit, the girls at Walcha Public School and Miss Peake’s Walcha Preparatory School established Junior Red Cross Circles. Their motto was “The Child for the Child” and their main function was to give support to the children of war veterans who were being cared for in special Red Cross homes. To this end, the girls raised money and also knitted and sewed garments and toys for the children.

A report in the Sydney Evening News of March 8, 1926 reads: “Two recently formed Red Cross Circles at Walcha have lost no time in commencing activity. The juniors at the public school have donated £1 to the fund for the sufferers of bush fires in Victoria while the circle at the preparatory school organised an evening’s entertainment, which realised £3 for Junior Red Cross purposes.”

The girls proved to be quite adept at raising funds and were regularly mentioned in the Red Cross reports in Sydney newspapers. They organised bazaars, concerts, held a mah-jong tournament and conducted stalls at public events where they sold a wide variety of local produce. The greater part of the funds were forwarded to headquarters to support J.R.C. activities.

The report in the Labor Daily of January 1, 1930, mentioned the names of some of the girls involved saying: “So successfully did members of the Walcha Junior Red Cross Circle organise their bazaar that the sum of £7 was forwarded. The youthful organisers were Isabel Hogno, Eva McHattan, Marcia Elliott, Louie Brown, Lin Gibson, Meg Ewing and Elva Sutherland.”

From February 1926 until the senior branch reformed in February 1930, the Junior Red Cross was the Walcha face of the Australian Red Cross. They remained active during the 1930s and 1940s but ceased activities in the early 1950s.