20 April, 2023
Cenotaph marks 100 years
When locals gather around the Mareeba Cenotaph on Anzac Day, it will mark 100 years since the memorial was erected and unveiled. History enthusiast and author MICHAEL MUSUMECI researched how and when the memorial came to be...
THIS year, the Mareeba Soldiers Memorial, better known as the Mareeba Cenotaph, turns 100 years of age.
Whilst researching my book titled “Mareeba Anzacs”, I came across a number of newspaper reports that revealed that the memorial was erected and ready for the 1923 Anzac Day tradition.
According to those reports, it was early in October 1922 that a full benefit evening was held at the Mareeba Picture Theatre in aid of the Mareeba Soldiers Memorial Monument Fund.
The majority of donations were made by the Mareeba community to fund the town’s memorial.
In late February 1923, the Mareeba Soldiers Memorial Committee held a meeting where it was agreed to proceed with the erection of the Memorial Monument to honour the men who volunteered in the Great War.
It was at this meeting that a sum of 200 pounds was in hand. Plans and quotations from Messrs Melrose and Fenwick of Townsville stated it would cost 250 pounds to erect the monument.
The committee wired Melrose and Fenwick, instructing them to proceed with the work, with a view to having the unveiling ceremony on Anzac Day next, being 25 April 1923.
An application was made to the Woothakata Shire Council to erect the memorial at the intersection of Atherton and Byrnes Streets, near an existing Anzac Flagpole.
Construction commenced of the Memorial being freestone, 16 feet six inches high and 10 feet square at the base. The structure, mounted with the statue of the digger in the rest on arms reverse position, was surrounded with a fence of rustic stone posts and pipe railing.
Concrete slabs formed part of the base, and marble slabs containing Mareeba’s fallen heroes.
The shortfall of what was owed was finally paid by added donations, and the Red Cross ladies of Mareeba took a prominent part also in raising the Memorial Fund.
The memorial was unveiled at 10am on 25 April 1923, with all clergymen of all denominations invited to attend. The unveiling was performed by Mr J. Colquhoun, founder of the Do Our Best (D.O.B.) Society.
Children from both schools were present and wreaths were laid throughout the day until 4pm.
Members of the committee then proceeded to the Mareeba Pioneer Cemetery and placed the wreaths on the graves of the men who paid the supreme sacrifice and died after their return home.
I think it’s an honour that after 100 years our Soldiers Memorial continues to stand, allowing our visitors and townsfolk to continue to pay their respects to the names inscribed on the marble tablets.
The memorial is, and has always been, an iconic historical asset to our community, and with its current location being in the heart of our township, it’s clearly a fitting tribute that has respectfully honoured and remembered the local Anzacs who paid the supreme sacrifice.
Back in 1923, Mareeba came together and as a result we continue to stand at the cenotaph 100 years later, to never forget, nor fade their memory.
They are our Mareeba Anzacs. Anzacs who never came home and to this day, lay in foreign cemeteries.
▪ Michael Musumeci’s book “Mareeba Anzacs” is available by emailing to Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org