The soldier arrives in Dorrigo almost 100 years ago. Picture courtesy of the Dorrigo and Guy Fawkes Historical Museum and Georgie Frogley.
The soldier arrives in Dorrigo almost 100 years ago. Picture courtesy of the Dorrigo and Guy Fawkes Historical Museum and Georgie Frogley.

Beloved soldier set for comeback

FOR almost 100 years he has stood in the middle of the street in Dorrigo, one of the small town's oldest and most beloved residents.

But an accident early last month changed all that and now the rush is on to return him to his rightful place in time for his centenary.

RSL president Jim McLeod said he was at home when a car hit the 99-year-old Italian marble war memorial just a few days after their tiny Anzac Day service this year. It was a blow that the small but dedicated RSL sub-branch - which celebrated its own centenary last year - didn't need.

The club has 50 members on its books, though only 15-20 are active.

"He has sat in the middle of the street for 99 years," Jim said of the statue - the club's pride and joy.

"The car hit the monument and shattered the base."

When reports started to circulate around the town (and pictures went out around the country), he feared the worst - that the monument that will celebrate its centenary in April next year - would be a mass of expensive marble lying in the middle of the street.

Instead the "gentleman had very gently laid down on the roof of the car" with just a chip in his hat and there he has stayed, with an ingenious tow-truck driver deciding it was safer to "tie the statue" to the car and take both away rather than risk any damage by lifting him off.

"It's now being stored at the council depot, still on the car," Jim said.

He said a roundabout was now being constructed in the busy (by Dorrigo standards) intersection and the club was hoping to have him back in situ by the Anzac Day ceremony.

Work will have to be done to the base of the monument where the names of fallen soldiers from all the wars sat. Jim said local member Melinda Pavey had promised a grant of $10,000 to help with the restoration.

He is likely to cause a stir when he is returned, just as he did 100 years ago when he was brought all the way from Italy by ship and placed in his, until recently, final resting place. Pictures of his original entrance to the town form part of the Dorrigo and Guy Fawkes Historical Museum collection and there's no doubt the historical society members will be there to record his return for posterity.

The centenary will occur on April 16 - 48 weeks after the accident.

For more information on the museum, head to https://mgnsw.org.au/organisations/dorrigo-and-guy-fawkes-historical-society/. The RSL sub-branch can be found on Facebook.