Discovering Ernest at the Cairns RSL until 9 August 2015

A huge thank you to the Cairns RSL Sub Branch for their generous opening of my exhibition.  I was honoured to be the first exhibitor at their new exhibition space and thank you so much to those people who came to see the exhibition.  What a fabulous night and more messages to our fallen have been inscribed on the Australian War Memorial Crosses.  Thank you to Cairns RSL Sub Branch, the Cairns Community, Lost Cairns and The Cairns Family History Society. A copy of my speech is below to give you an insight into the exhibition.  Debby  xxx


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Opening Speech – July 2015

Whilst researching my father’s family tree I discovered a second cousin Ernest Ainscow.   He enlisted in the first world war and died in France aged just 19 years old.

I was lucky enough to access letters Ernest wrote home to Lucretia nearly one hundred years ago. In 1916 he wrote

800 soldiers left Bells today. It was so hard to see them go away and not be able to go with them. It was a lovely sight to see them marching away with their colours flying… There were thousands of us on Rifle Range station and when the trains steamed out with us on, the band struck up with ‘Should Auld acquaintance be forgot’ and it sounded lovely, we got to town at around 2pm and had to wait until 3pm when the march started. You will find a piece of paper enclosed with the account of the march in it. I would have liked all of you to see it as it was a treat of a lifetime.

 Music was important to Ernest. Lucretia later became a music teacher at Hambledon State School and music inspired the Äuld Lang SYne” wall piece.

Letters inspired “Together Forever” piece as the busts are symbolic of Ernest and Lucretia forever joined together with the barbed wire of war and the poppy of remembrance.

Lucretia everywhere is looking lovely here now the fields are full of wildflowers such as daises violets and others. I’ll put a few in the letter. Percy Bonnet is in Watford hospital Kent with trench feet… I was cut out of the draft last week because my name got mixed up with the 30th battalion and I am out of this Tuesday draft because our tent is under isolation for mumps. I managed to get with the signallers again and if I do I might be able to get with Percy and go away with him..

Death and the Mothers medal with the one star for the death of her one son inspired the “Mourned” piece.

Together all the pieces form this exhibition “Discovering Ernest” and with thanks to the Cairns RSL Sub Branch we have this wonderful space to share Ernest’s story in this ANZAC Centenary Year.

And you can see how one story can be used to inspire a body of work that commemorates the sacrifice of one family and the effect on the Cairns community.

By putting a face to a name etched in stone on the cenotaph on the esplanade I have discovered Ernest and through him I have discovered other relatives, made new friends and discovered so much more about the history of cairns.

Thank you

  • Lyn, Regan and the Cairns RSL Sub Branch
  • New found friends and relatives, Lost Cairns , Cairns Family History Society
  • Tasman Spence for access to the memorabilia
  • Tanks Arts Centre for the residency accommodation in the botanical heart of Cairns
  • And to everyone here tonight for coming to Discover Ernest

And I hope you will join me in inscribing a message to our fallen on the crosses supplied by the Australian War Memorial. The crosses will ultimately be returned to the AWM and then sent overseas to be placed on the graves of the fallen.

Thank you




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1 Response to Discovering Ernest at the Cairns RSL until 9 August 2015

  1. Anna says:

    congratulations Debby. Ernest would be proud of you.

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