Honour for Banjo

Honour for Banjo


Life & Style
Sharon and Alf Cantrell hold letters and portrait of Banjo Paterson when Major in Egypt drawn by War Artist George W Lambert.

Sharon and Alf Cantrell hold letters and portrait of Banjo Paterson when Major in Egypt drawn by War Artist George W Lambert.

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Yeoval's Banjo Paterson "More than a Poet" exhibition museum and cafe with 1000 related artifacts collected by Alf and Sharon Cantrell.

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A STEADY stream of a dozen visitors file through more than 3000 exhibits in the Banjo Paterson "More than a Poet" exhibition museum in the first hour from opening at Yeoval on Monday morning.

They arrive in pairs, singles and groups of four, all eager to learn about Australia's beloved poet, journalist, war correspondent, writer and solicitor, to name just a few of Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson's many attributes.

His experiences and achievements throughout his 76 years were outstanding, but few would know many of these more than Alf and Sharon Cantrell who have run the exhibition in the former Masonic Lodge for the past six years.

The couple met in a feed room which they shared in the horse stables at the old Moore Park Sydney Showground - Alf had horses drawing an old trams where he drove around Centennial Park while Sharon,a Waverley girl, stabled her horses which she rode around the park.

Marrying 34 years ago, the couple later found their home at Dunromin, Yeoval, and ran a general store in the main street as well as selling lead ropes at 30 shows each year from Cooroy, Queensland to the Spencer's Gulf in South Australia, plus most of the Royal Shows and machinery field days.

Banjo

Once the clothing manufacturing industry moved to China their enterprise source dried up which led them towards their love of "Banjo" and his history.

With friends they formed the Mulga Bill Festival Incorporated and began the exhibition taking over the local Masonic Hall in 2014. Exhibits have doubled in the six years however, visitors to town who care to enter the museum are delighted with self-tours with recorded historical guidance along the corridors and different sections of memorabilia.

"I've always loved Banjo Paterson," Alf said. "My grandmother gave me his book of collected verse when I was quite young.

"This was my first encounter and when we moved to Yeoval where Banjo spent much of his early years up to probably eight years of age, this Banjo country rekindled my interest, and so we started to collect his memorabilia and other historical items.

"He did so many things in his lifetime that people don't know about, so we continue researching and building on every avenue of his life's adventures."

Alf says people in campers and vans end up staying a night or two at the comfortable camping ground within the showground, so extra dollars are spent within the township.

Birthday

Each year Orange conducts the Banjo Paterson Australian Poets Festival centred around his birthday on February 17 and the Cantrells have made sure Yeoval plays a part in the celebration.

"In Yeoval on the weekend as close to Banjo's birthday we conduct the poets open microphone under the shade of the big tree in the backyard where people come from near and far to recite or listen to the dozens of verse exchanged," he said.

Bush Park

Across the road from the exhibition centre is Banjo Paterson Bush Park where nine large sculptures are on permanent display, the largest being the head of English sculptor Henry Moore.

It's the largest sculpture in Australia, according to Alf, standing six metres tall and made of bronze weighing six tonnes.

"It was sculpted by Croatian-born Australian Merin Cherin, a student of Henry Moore who was brought to Australia by Gough Whitlam to make sculptures for Canberra.

The Cantrells acquired the sculpture which had been cut into five pieces from Mudgee and had it erected in Bush park.

Banjo's hat

A recent addition to the park is a giant replica of Banjo's hat, and Alf, never short of stories, has a great one to go with it.

"I believe the idea of a giant hat came from the then Orange City deputy mayor Chris Grillis who had suggested to fellow councillors Banjo's hat would create a tourist stop-off point for photos at the city's entry," Alf said. "Without further ado he had it made and presented it outside council chambers after a monthly council meeting. However, his fellow councillors got cold feet and he was left with the hat.

"A man of ideas Chris made it the emblem of his Banjo Paterson housing subdivision and when he had sold all lots, I made contact," he said.

"Through Chris Grillis' generosity, the hat now stands in Bush Park."

Guarding the hat is a swaggy named Andy made by the Mens Shed of Borenore.

"Named (tongue-in-cheek) after Waltzing Matilda poem 'andy sat andy watched as his billy boiled', Andy is now settled in a wheelchair which the Cantrells push into position each day.

Proposed bronze

In recognition of a man who strived in life, the Cantrells began an ambitious project in January this year to raise $110,000 to fund a 1.5-times lifesize bronze sculpture of Banjo in his army uniform when aged 54 years, as Major of the Allied Remount Unit when in Moascar, Egypt, modelled from a pencil drawing by Australian War Artist, George W Lambert.

This ambitious project, Alf admits, will take some funding, but he isn't leaving any stone unturned and is seeking assistance from RSL clubs and many other organisations plus funding that is available.

"Dubbo RSL has already come forward with $5000 and other clubs and organisations are very warm to the project," Alf said.

By week's end, some 100 people would have passed through the exhibition and enjoyed a snack, cuppa or something more substantial offered by the Cantrells.

It's worth a visit to Yeoval on Renshaw McGirr Way between Wellington and Parkes, don't forget to stop and spend a few more dollars. It helps the local economy.

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