Alexia Purcell

78 years later, a daughter beholds her father's legacy

WHEN Elaine Fleming opened her local paper the last thing she expected to see was a story on the hall her father built in 1938 over 1000km away.

The Willowbank resident said she gets The Logan Advertiser every week and when she opened it recently she was surprised to find a story on Caragabal, a little village in central New South Wales.

"You don't find a story on Caragabal in the paper every day. I was very surprised," she said.

The story Ms Fleming read was a travel feature I wrote on Caragabal's camp oven cook off, an annual fundraiser to raise money for the upkeep of the town's 78-year-old hall.

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Alexia Purcell


She tracked me down and called to ask about the hall. I put her in touch with Caragabal Memorial Hall committee member Donna Pursehouse.

Mrs Pursehouse said she did speak to Mrs Fleming.

"We had a chat. I told her what we'd done to the hall - that is was all the work of the seven committee members - Dixie Maslin, Di Cafe, Sue Ray, Debbie Prior, Penny Lawford, Pam Hart, myself - and our husbands.

"She said her father lived in Grenfell and then just the other week I went to a 60th and there were a couple of blokes there that knew her uncle, Alfie Williams, who passed away a few years ago," Mrs Pursehouse said.

Mrs Fleming's father J A Williams was just 38 when he was commissioned to design and build Caragabal's hall in 1938.

A qualified master builder, Mr Williams moved to the Grenfell area after coming out to Australia from England following World War I.

He started out by designing and building houses for local farmers.

Mrs Fleming said when building the hall her father - known as Jack - would leave their family home 44km away on a Monday morning and return on a Friday night.

"I wasn't born at the time but my older sister Norma who was six at the time said he would be picked up in the dark and brought back in the dark by a man called Garra Hall.

"I don't know where he stayed in Caragabal during the week," Mrs Fleming said.

Mrs Pursehouse said back in the 1930s it was very busy in Caragabal.

"All the railway workers used to stay along the railway line so he [Mr Williams] might have camped with them or stayed at the pub."

Caragabal Memorial Hall after the renovations Alexia Purcell

In the past few years the Caragabal Memorial Hall has been extensively renovated the Caragabal Memorial Hall committee members and a few other hard working locals.

The hall is just one of three buildings in the small village.

Mrs Pursehouse's husband Pete said it was cheaper to renovate than it would have been to knock it down.  

And of course, knocking the building down would have left a hole in the village and the community.

Mrs Fleming said she and her sister Norma, who now lives in Perth, would like to visit Grenfell and Caragabal again.

"We were all born in Grenfell, me and my four siblings. There are only three of us left now.

"My father lived all his life in Grenfell, from 1935 to when he died in 1969. He's buried in Grenfell.

"We'd like to drive down to Grenfell for one last hello."

Mrs Fleming said she cut the article on Caragabal out of the paper to send to her sister in Perth.

Alexia Purcell is APN Australian Regional Media's social media editor.

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