New contributions to the Parndana Soldier Settler Museum

Several new interesting artifacts and historic items have been donated to the Parndana Soldier Settlement Museum in recent times.

And these contributions to the museum collection were highlighted at the recent 70-year reunion.

The contributors of these and other new items were invited to speak at the official opening of the Ken McWhinnie Dozer Shed on Saturday, April 28.

The Parndana Soldier Settlement Museum 70-year reunion was hailed a great success, attracting original soldier settlers and their descendants from around Australia.

The biggest of these donations is of course the old Caterpillar D7 bulldozer  that first came to Kangaroo Island in 1951 that now has its own shed. 

Ken’s wife Dianne officially opened the shed, unveiling the sign, but before that she spoke about Ken’s love of the old dozer. “It was the love of his life,” she said.

She recalled how he watched as the machine was lifted off a ship at the Kingscote jetty and placed on a flatbed truck and how he raced back to Parndana to beat it back to the settlement.

She spoke about how important the D7 dozers were for the settlement and how they did everything from making roads and dams to clearing scrub.

When the lands department held an auction of the scheme’s equipment in 1962, he agonized over being able to afford it but decided he just had to have his beloved dozer.

Mrs McWhinnie thanked Tony Willson for transporting it off the farm at Karatta to its new resting place and mechanics Neville Sugars and Andy Scott for getting it going again. 

The museum was grateful for the support of the Western Lions Club, KI Council and History Trust SA, which allowed it to build the shed, Mrs Brooksby said. 

Another much smaller item but just as precious item spoken about at the shed opening was an original map of the battle of Tobruk fought in World War II in north Africa.

Reunion organiser Pat Brooksby explained how the map was found during a recent clean up of the museum and it had been donated to the RSL by settler and veteran Bill Kelly.

The museum had received a grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs to refurbish and frame the map that was now in the museum.

Bill’s grandson, Simon Kelly then spoke about the stories his dad had relayed to him about the battle and how some of his friends and acquaintances had been killed in action.

Bill Kelly was captured and was in an Italian prisoner of war camp. Simon also spoke about Eric Simcock who was one of the Soldier Settlers and a Rat of Tobruk.

A group of the settlers them were Rats of Tobruk from the 2/48th Australian Infantry Battalion and held an annual reunion dinner to commemorate their time under siege.

Also speaking at the shed opening was Wayne Hickman, who is compiling a booklet of soldier settler wives who were involved in World War II. He is seeking any information about local KI women of the war.

Janet Kelly also spoke at the opening about her mother, Shirley Poppy Angus, who served during the war in Darwin and other location. Mrs Kelly decided to donate her mother’s uniform to the museum.

Next to speak was Joy Colls who worked for a short time in the Parndana post office and telephone exchange as her father was first post master. 

The phone box at the museum was from Fahey's farm and the museum has now has opened the window display facing the box.

Joy's parents, Mr and Mrs Fahey, ran the bank agency, post office, telephone and a dairy for many years.

The display also has telegrams from Agriculture Department to Ted Carter who was head of the Parndana Research Centre.

The centre like the family houses at the camp did not have a phone but used the Parndana East PO for all its communications.

A more recent and very interesting donation is one of the chairs from the saloon bar of the steamship Karatta that served KI for many years.

Meaghan May explained how her father was gifted the chair by the ship’s captain when the ship ceased its service in 1961 and how it was a “treasure” of her dads.

Mrs Brooksby said it was a great addition to the museum and all the better given it had the provenance of the letter from the captain to her father. 

Parndana Progress Association president Cheryl May spoke about all the improvements that have happened and will continue to happen to the town centre and museum precinct, with the project set to be fully complete by 2020 with a new car park in front of the Town Hall, War Memorial and museum area. 

The shed opening was also a chance for old friends and acquaintances to catch up, such as now Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman and her old school mate Gavin Willson.

They were both school captains of Pluto House and enjoyed catching up after all these years, as they both now lived on the mainland but returned to KI for the reunion.

He commented on how pleased everyone was that our local girl was able to attend despite her busy schedule.

“She was a nice girl back then and never got into bullying or pushing anyone around,” Mr Willson said.