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Letter to the editor —

Phillip Parnaby, Shirley Booth and Phil Johnston inpecting the installation of the mural at Diggers in November 2015. Photo TWH

Dear Sir

The fire that destroyed Diggers and the Memorial Hall was one of the worst tragedies that Bourke has experienced.

I am so sorry for those people who lost memorabilia in the fire.

I grieve for Phillip and Anne-Marie Parnaby after all the effort they put into Diggers; I feel sorry for Victor Bartley for his efforts in collecting the wonderful displays, I feel sorry for the staff, and for the community.

Most Bourke people and many others feel this great loss.

However, I must mention the loss of the magnificent mural that was painted by three aboriginals (I apologise I cannot remember their names) in the Bicentenary Year 1988.

They were part of TAFE Aboriginal Art Centre in Sydney, and the mural was gifted to the people of Bourke.

It was in the TAFE Hall from 1988 until TAFE was restructured and was then moved to Diggers for safekeeping and display.

It has been a backdrop for many occasions, often Shire events with VIPs.

Together with others, I asked the Bourke Council to shift the mural to a better and safer position. On many occasions, the Shire promised to have it valued and insured; not sure if this happened. The value given when it arrived in Bourke, incomplete, was $40,000.

To complete the job, Stan Douglas donated accommodation, and Les Walsh donated funds so the artists could visit Bourke and see some of the buildings firsthand.

Noone knows the monetary value, but its significance and history can never be replaced. I have more memories and could write pages. All gone.

Also missing is the Honour Roll from the Hall, of Bourke Public School students who went on to war, including those who didn’t return. It was refurbished as a part of the 1988 events. The gold leaf lettering was renewed with funds from Dalgety Walsh Hughes and TAFE. This was also moved to Diggers.

Such sadness the loss of these buildings caused; what memories they held; hopefully someone will write their history.

I have one photo that shows the mural. It is the best I can do but I am sure The Western Herald would have a full one.

If so, I can name all the buildings that were there plus Gundabooka and the cave paintings. As TAFE Principal at the time, I selected most of the items painted.

Yours faithfully

Shirley Booth


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