President of the Clarence River Historical Society Pat James with the space-age looking Y2K edition of the DEX.
President of the Clarence River Historical Society Pat James with the space-age looking Y2K edition of the DEX.

Brief world history through a Clarence Valley lens

TRYING to pick out the most significant events in the history of this newspaper is an unenviable task, a list highly contentious.

Should it contain hyper-local stories or broader world events?

Instead, this is not some kind of ‘Events that shaped the Clarence – RANKED!’, but merely a few examples of our long and proud history in print.

Whether you love or loathe the DEX, there is no doubting this newspaper and the community of the Clarence Valley has an incredible relationship.

I must be honest, when I first came to Grafton, noting the size of the region, I thought – “Why the hell is there a daily paper here?” But I have since discovered the answer is more complicated than simply, ‘because it has always been here’.

The Clarence is a community which engages with its newspaper in a way which would be envied by larger communities across the country. When we call, people answer – not with a “why would I speak to you?” but by waxing lyrical on anything from division three hockey to forging commemorative medals. It is a relationship less common than many might think.

While ‘newsworthiness’ will no doubt have been a debate from day one, thumbing through pages of 100 year-old-papers, it is obvious that for every story on an “important” world event like World War II, there is ten about a random dance that everyone went to and ‘had a very nice time’ at.

And without those, this paper would never have lasted this long, because with every local story the bond was forged a little more.

So here are a few stories The Daily Examiner was there for.

World War I Ends!

Tuesday, November 12 1918: There was “great enthusiasm and rejoicing” in Grafton when news broke of the signing of the armistice.

From The Daily Examiner
From The Daily Examiner

It was called the “greatest night in a century” and the DEX described sending an urgent message to Sydney on whether it was “worthwhile to keep the local telegraph office open until 3 o’clock … on the off chance of some word coming through.”

“The first intimation that the armistice had been signed was received in South Grafton through the ringing of the bells in Grafton and the blowing of the whistles on the vessels in the river.”

“Immediately a great assemblage gathered to join in the celebrations. Some difficulty was experienced in raising Grafton on the phone to glean particulars, but the signing of the armistice was confirmed by the Mayor, Dr. Page, who had been rung up in his official capacity by the Daily Examiner.

“The first announcement was received with great cheering and enthusiastic outbursts. The South Grafton Band played patriotic airs and gangs of youngsters formed themselves into tin can bands, adding to the general hilarity.”

Germany starts the invasion of Poland

Saturday September 2, The Daily Examiner runs huge coverage of the early stages of World War II, featuring detailed descriptions of the state of play as Hitler responds to British demands.

“The German reply to the British note contains 16 points, among them being the unconditional return of Danzig to the Reich forthwith.

“It has also been asked that a plebiscite should be taken to decide whether the Corridor should be Polish or German.”

The Battle of Long Tan

Saturday August 20, 1969: The battle of Long-Tan as it is now known featured prominently on the front page of The Daily Examiner, proclaiming it the country’s heaviest one day casualties in the Vietnam War.

No doubt one of the many events that contributed to the strong military connection in the Clarence. Defence Minister Mr. Fairhall said 17 Australians were killed and another 26 were wounded.

“The sympathy of every Australian, along with that of the Government, will be extended to the relatives,” he said.

“With that sympathy will go pride in the fact that the Australians gave an outstanding demonstration of our courage and military skill, and inflicted a sharp reversal on the Vietcong.”

Bridges span the Clarence

There is nothing like a bridge opening to get the Clarence rocking and on August 22, 1966 The Daily Examiner reported a bumper crowd of 4500 people turning out to watch the state governor open the $3.8 million bridge at Harwood.

From The Daily Examiner
From The Daily Examiner

“The bridge would consolidate all the areas of the Maclean Shire and would bring about cohesion and tremendous development in the area.”

“The Governor said the time was coming when Australia would have to have a system of trunk roads, bridges, similar to the traffic systems in USA and Europe if they were to fight traffic frustrations and to save valuable lives.”

Dawn of a new age

Happy New Millennium, was splashed across two pages in a Y2K liftout which really was a collectors edition.

Some of the January 1, 2000 editions were housed in a futuristic silver tube, designed to keep the paper safe for future generations. They are no doubt priceless now.

Shout out to Laurie Cowcher and Lisa Menzies, who told the paper their new year’s resolution was to stop spending so much money.

“My new year’s resolution is to spend less money. I just bought a new car for Christmas,” Mr Cowcher said.

Shocking river disaster

One of the most tragic events in Clarence history, Thirteen Wolf Cubs drowned after a punt they were in was swamped off Susan Island in December 1943.

It was an event the Examiner revisited many times in the years since with a number of editions commemorating the terrible accident.

“Two scouts, who were with the Cubs in the punt, were so exhausted as a result of immersion that they, with four Cubs, had to be taken to hospital to receive medical treatment.”

“The scene was described graphically by a spectator, without a second’s delay those bowlers who first noticed the plight of the children jumped the bowling green fence on to the river bank, at the same time shouting to the other members.”

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