Honouring our ANZAC heroes

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Centenary grant allows Virginia to salute three past students

Virginia Primary School (VPS) will honour three former students who all died in World War I with a special memorial to be constructed as part of Anzac centenary celebrations next year.

The school won a grant of $5000 as part of the Federal government’s Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program.

VPS history and cultural studies co-ordinator, Caterina Ditroia, said the war efforts of former students John James Sheedy, and brothers Albert and Howard Hatcher, who all fought and died during WWI would be commemorated in a unique mosaic wall.

The wall will feature in the schools Peace Garden, situated at the front of the school, which is planted with rosemary bushes and is already highlighted by a special mosaic peace symbol.

Under the guidance of Gawler-based artist, Kate Alforth, students across the school will participate in hands-on sessions during Term 4 to construct the mosaic wall.

This, Caterina said, would link in with the school’s strong visual art and history program.

“We want to erect a mosaic wall depicting the significance of those former students who attended the school and died during WW1,” she explained.

“I’m really excited by the project.

“It acknowledges our past and it brings to the front the importance of soliders from the local area.

“It also helps students to develop empathy and closes that gap of reality in the sense that these were real people.”

Caterina said students at the school were involved in Remembrance and Anzac Day services each year and were very much a part of the whole concept of acknowledging past and current war efforts.

Relatives of John James Sheedy are also excited by the project, with Colleen Sheedy-Palethorpe –whose five-year-old son, Flynn, currently attends the school – supporting the grant application with a letter.

Colleen’s great-great-grandfather was John James Sheedy’s uncle.

In her letter, Colleen comments,

“There are no surviving descendants of James Sheedy’s original family line; as the great-grand-daughter of his uncle I feel it my duty – and privilege – to support Virginia Primary School in their quest to have his memory  and that of other local fallen ANZAC soldiers acknowledged and respected in this way.

In a letter that he wrote to my Grandfather from the Morphetville army barracks in September, 1914, James spoke of his great desire to one day be able to return to the Institute in Virginia and relay his adventures to the townsfolk. Alas, a little more than six months later, that dream died with him on distant battlefields.

James Sheedy was a pupil of the original Virginia school; I can think of no more fitting way to honour the story he never got to tell than by having this tribute made by current students back on his home soil in the township he loved so much”.

The school hopes to have the memorial completed in time for the 100th anniversary celebrations of Anzac Day in 2015.

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