A ceremony to unveil the corrected gravestone of a former private in the AIF (Australian Imperial Force) was held at the Walcha Catholic Cemetery today.
New England RSL District president Gordon Taylor said he was sure every town had ex -servicemen graves in need of repair and he encouraged those present to go to Federal MP for New England Barnaby Joyce , who was on hand to address the gathering, for funding.
Sydney George Wortley died at his camp at Mainey’s Creek in Walcha on March 27, 1949, aged 64. The Guyra Argus reported at the time that Mr Wortley’s body had been found in a reclining position near his hut after a search conducted by Sergeant Ashcroft and Constable Riordon. It is thought he died while resting after a trip to Walcha for groceries. At his burial, the coffin was draped with the Union Jack, and members of the Walcha Returned Services League (RSL) acted as pallbearers.However, at some stage the headstone was incorrectly marked with the name Sydney Wattling. Nearly seventy years later this has now been corrected thanks to a distant relative by marriage.
she spent every spare moment she had researching the family history,Keith Douglass
Margaret Porter married into the Wortley family and became passionate about researching the Wortley relations so her children would know their family connections. During this research, she met Keith Douglass - Sydney Wortley’s nephew.
“I was part of the stolen generation and only found out I was related to Sydney Wortley three years ago at the Historical Society in Coonabarabran when I was searching for my Aboriginal connections,” Mr Douglass said.
“I could not believe the passion Margaret had – she spent every spare moment she had researching the family history, and it is because of her we are having this ceremony. It is a great shame that, after all that work, she is unable to attend the service owing to ill health.”
Mrs Porter came across the incorrect headstone in the Walcha Catholic Cemetery during her research on Sydney Wortley’s life.
After checking the death register and seven months of negotiation, Mrs Porter received confirmation that a new memorial plaque had been made and paid for by the New South Wales RSL.
“Sydney Wortley has at last been found and will now be recognised as one of the many Aboriginal men who fought a war, not of their making, but who were proud to do so,” she wrote in her document ‘Soldier, found at last – the Sid Wortley story’.