In September during History Week, Rylstone and District Historical Society will present an exhibition at the Rylstone Memorial Hall celebrating the stories of soldiers and local families linked to the Rylstone Autograph Quilt.
(min cost $8)
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The Rylstone WWI Autograph Quilt was the result of efforts by Mrs James Dawson, supported by Mrs Fletcher, wife of the Rylstone Shire President, and Mrs J. W. Farrar 100 years ago. Individuals signed the quilt in pencil, and then paid to have their signatures embroidered over.
It was completed for July 30, 1915, called “Australia Day” - a special day where the Australian community raised money to support the war effort. Most of these funds were collected for the Australian Division of the Red Cross.
This quilt is now in safe-keeping at the War Memorial in Canberra. Its preservation has been a miracle. A Mrs Simpson in Sydney found the quilt in a collection of linen purchased at auction in Sydney in the 1970s and recognising its significance, sent it to the War Memorial. Its makers and all those who signed it would probably be surprised that it still exists 100 years later.
Rylstone and District Historical Society President, and Curator of the exhibition Helen Marsonet said she was very excited when she first found out six years ago that there was a Rylstone autograph quilt in the collection of the War Memorial.
“It has led to a massive project researching the signatures and information has been pouring in which will contribute substantially to the Rylstone family history archives.”
There are over 900 autographs embroidered in white embroidery thread on a white sheet in stem stitch and chain stitch, with decorative motifs of grape leaves, flowers, stars, sun rays and circles.
The quilt contains the names of at least 75 soldiers from the Rylstone district who enlisted between August 1914 and July 1915. Two stitched circles bear the names A.C.Robbins, A.H.Freeman and J.D. Sandstrom. All three were early Gallipoli casualties. A central circular shape bears the cipher of King George V and For Our Dardanelles Australian Wounded 1915.
Two circles bear the names of well-known Australian commanding officers also killed on Gallipoli in the first days - General Bridges and Colonels MacLaurin, Braund and Onslow-Thompson.
Rylstone citizens donated varying amounts to have their names or the names of loved ones, embroidered, which raised a total of £95. On completion, the quilt was auctioned and Mr E H Nash was the final purchaser paying £17.10 for it. The total raised was £112.10 – a substantial amount in 1915.
The “Stitches in Time” exhibition in Rylstone celebrating 100 years since the quilt was created will feature the signatures from the quilt in the form of large projections. There will be stories and photographs and a memorial to the recently identified soldier Athol Kirkland given to the family by the residents of Pinnacle Swamp.
Other items will include WWI objects, uniforms, and other attractions. During the exhibition, embroidery in the style of the quilt and sock knitting will be demonstrated. The exhibition will be open daily from 10am to 4pm from September 4 to 11.
Anyone curious to know if the signatures of their forebears are on the quilt, or who can provide further family history information, are urged to contact Helen Marsonet at Rylstone and District Historical Society at email@example.com or PO Box 66 Rylstone 2849.
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