Relics of old times revealed

As World War I commemorations began earlier this month, Kevin Lane decided it was time to dust off some old souvenirs left to him from the era.

The artefacts are not a soldier’s paraphernalia but are collectible handkerchiefs and tea towels bought by his grandmother, Martha Lane, who lived in Bendigo during the Great War.

Far from being used to blow the nose or dry dishes, the pieces of cloth are in perfect condition because they have been stored carefully through the decades.

The designs on each are intricately decorated with images and words that provide insight into the thinking of the time. 

Several of the pieces depict Great Britain's call to arms at the outbreak of war.

One of the pieces features a series of poems persuading young men to go join the conflict.

“If you read it, it’s more or less telling the young men of the day ‘c’mon’,” Mr Lane said. 

“It’s more or less, ‘you’re a coward if you don’t join’.”

The words in one corner of the cloth read as follows:

“What will you lack, sonny, what will you lack, when the girls line up the street, shouting their love to the lads come back from the foe they rushed to beat? 

"Will you send a strangled cheer to the sky and grin till your cheeks turn red? 

"But what will you lack when your mate goes by with a girl who cuts you dead?"

And in another corner of the same cloth:

“Where will you look, sonny, where will you look, when your children yet to be, clamour to learn of the part you took in the war that kept men free? Will you say it was naught to you if France stood up to her foe or bunked? 

"But where will you look when they give the glance that tells you they know you funked?" 

Another cloth features a detailed portrayal of Australian soldiers landing at Gallipoli.

After Mr Lane's grandmother died, the items were passed on to his father, who gave them to him before his death in 1997.

“Isn’t it amazing she was wise enough to store them,” Mr Lane said of his grandmother.

The cloths were kept in a tin with other belongings until Mr Lane had them framed seven years ago.

He has never displayed them on his walls but has left them in storage.

Mr Lane does not know what the heirlooms would be worth but has no interest in selling them.

“I’d say they’d be rare,” he said.

He said he would be happy to display the pieces at the Bendigo RSL if the organisation was interested.



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