CHANGE OF PLANS: Gary Nichols has played The Last Post at Anzac Day dawn services in Grafton since 1990. This year he will play from the end of his driveway due to the cancellation of services across the country as part of restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
CHANGE OF PLANS: Gary Nichols has played The Last Post at Anzac Day dawn services in Grafton since 1990. This year he will play from the end of his driveway due to the cancellation of services across the country as part of restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

WATCH LIVE: The Last Post from a social distance

UPDATE, 6.45AM, APRIL 25: The Daily Examiner would like to thank Gary Nichols for playing the Last Post from the end of your driveway, for us all to pay our respects in fitting fashion on Anzac Day. Lest we forget.

ORIGINAL STORY, APRIL 24: Normally, Gary Nichols would turn up to Memorial Park in Grafton before dawn tomorrow to play the Last Post as thousands of onlookers share the Anzac Day spirit at the Grafton Dawn Service.

This year, not wanting to break with tradition, he will sound out the call from the end of his driveway instead.

"The whole neighbourhood will be able to hear it. It will echo a fair way," Mr Nichols said. "I know that when we do it at Memorial Park they can hear it across the river.

"The kookaburra starts laughing at about ten to six, so I might have some competition from the local birdlife, but it could give it more of an Aussie feel."

To help those sounds emanate beyond the gum trees of Clarenza, The Daily Examiner will livestream Mr Nichols on its Facebook page from 6am tomorrow.

 

Gary Nichols plays the cornet at his property on the outskirts of Grafton in preparation for playing the Last Post from a social distance on Anzac Day this year.
Gary Nichols plays the cornet at his property on the outskirts of Grafton in preparation for playing the Last Post from a social distance on Anzac Day this year.

 

Perhaps a little known fact is that Nichols plays the cornet, not the traditional bugle, at Anzac Day services.

"I've always played the cornet. I get a better tone from it.

"It's a little bit bigger. It has valves, but I don't press any down, it's still all done with the lips."

He first picked up the cornet when he joined the Moree District Brass Band aged eight and started playing the Last Post on Anzac Day in Moree from age 14.

 

<< Check out all the latest Anzac Day 2020 coverage here >>

 

He moved to Grafton in 1989 where he heard a "scratchy recording" of the Last Post played on Anzac Day.

A chance encounter with then-GDSC general manager Arthur Lysaught saw Mr Nichols booked in for the 1990 service, and he has since never looked back.

"I happened to run into Arthur Lysaught, who was also from Moree," Mr Nichols said.

"Arthur asked if I could play at the Dawn Service and civic commemoration the next year. So I guess my first time as a bugler was in 1990."

 

Gary Nichols plays Reveille at the Grafton Anzac Day service.Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner
Gary Nichols plays Reveille at the Grafton Anzac Day service.Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner

 

He has since missed just two Anzac Day services in Grafton.

"The first was in 2003 when I travelled to the Caribbean to watch the Aussies play the West Indies in cricket and also get married," he said.

"I took my cornet with me and played a few tunes in the stands at the Trinidad Test match.

"Cricket commentator Jim Maxwell interviewed me, and the manager of the Australian side at the time asked if I could play at the Dawn Service in Barbados, who were hosting the third Test. It just so happened I was heading to Barbados with Vivienne to get married.

"It was a fantastic, albeit a nerve-racking, experience playing the Last Post in front of the Australian cricket team.

"I believe it was the first time a West Indies tour coincided with Anzac Day.

"The other time was in 2006 when we lived in Fernie, Canada for a year and I was asked to play on Remembrance Day. It was snowing and minus 14 degrees."

<< Check out all the latest Anzac Day 2020 coverage >>

While Mr Nichols was willing to adapt and join in the Light Up The Dawn spirit across the country to counteract the COVID-19 restrictions on services in place on Anzac Day, he hoped it's an experience he never has to endure again.

"Anzac Day is always a special day for me and I feel proud to play in front of those Diggers who made sacrifices for our country.

"It's a time to pay respect to all those men and women who served and lost their lives during the war.

"It will be a different experience this year, one I wish we never have to experience again.

"It would be fantastic for everyone to join in and pay their respect at the end of their driveway on Saturday morning.

"Knowing the Grafton community, I'm sure plenty a lot of people will get involved."

 

<< WATCH GARY NICHOLS PERFORM THE LAST POST LIVE AT 6AM ON SATURDAY >>



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