Lambton kids link centuries through time capsule

16 Oct 2018

LAMBTON's Mia Witherdin, 4, hopes to convince onlookers at a local war memorial in 100 years' time that coins, USB sticks and newspapers actually once served a purpose.

The items will be among a host of contemporary curiosities buried this Saturday as part of a time capsule to replace another by left by unsung heroes from the Great War a century ago.

St John's Primary School students Remy Whitson, 9 and Elliot Guest, 9 with Mia Witherdin, 4 (middle).

"Thank you for putting that time capsule in the ground a long time ago and another one this Saturday," says Mia, who may well live to address the 22nd century event to unearth the new capsule.

While 140 Lambton men were off fighting World War One, a number of their wives, mothers and sisters formed the Lambton Ladies Committee to raise money to pay for Lambton Park's Memorial Gates.

Their makeshift time capsule, buried in a bottle beneath the gates a few weeks before armistice, is the only such World War One commemoration in Australia.

When recently unearthed, a newspaper reporting the declaration of war and decaying pennies were found inside.

The 100-year-old bottle was painstakingly dug up - and the new time capsule prepared - to officially salute the 30 visionary women who together mourned 27 local men who didn’t return from the war.

“Saturday’s event will be a community celebration of a resilient group of women with enough spirit and foresight to leave us a link to that disastrous time for the world and the defining event of their lives,” Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.

"Everyone in the Hunter is invited to turn out to be part of an important piece of local history.

“The City of Newcastle unanimously resolved to help excavate and replace the time capsule by supporting the project with around $60,000 in funds and in-kind support, and Ward 3 Councillors Rufo, Clausen, Winney-Baartz and I will be there on Saturday as very proud representatives of the City.”

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes pictured with Elder Street Early Childhood Centre students Lucas Wang, 5, and Mia Witherdin, 4.

Descendants of the Ladies Committee will attend the celebration together with Sydney man John Estell. He will bring the engraved golden trowel his great grandfather, then the local state member, used to lay the foundation stone.

Scores of local kids - Mia among them - will also be there after receiving commemorative medallions from Hunter Development Corporation to encourage them to return in 2118.

The centenarians will then be charged with explaining the contents of the second time capsule, which was built with 21st century smarts, including high-grade stainless steel and an air filter.

“Once closed and sealed, inert argon gas will be pumped into the 26-litre box through one of two valves to avoid mould and oxidation,” City of Newcastle heritage specialist Tom Smith said. “The other one will be used to expel any impure air.”

Lambton community historian Robert Watson said archaeologists, volunteers and a stone mason recently took around nine hours to exhume the old time capsule.

"The whole excavation was a painstaking process because underneath the foundation stone was solid a block on concrete with the glass bottle inside," he said.

"The rolled-up newspaper was pretty damp and in a bad state of decay and we could barely read anything on a penny because of the corrosion."

The new capsule will also contain:

  • A letter from Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes
  • A letter from His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley
  • A letter/document from Newcastle Museum with a contemporary interpretation of World War One
  • A letter from Terri-Lee Darcy/Auntie Phyllis to consider Aboriginal cultural heritage and stories/family experiences
  • A contribution from Lambton Jaffas Football Club
  • A contribution from Lambton Swimming Pool
  • Photo of RSL guard of honour set against backdrop of the Gates
  • Photo and names of the Newcastle City councillors
  • Cr Rufo's Council badge
  • A copy of the invite to the event
  • A USB stick with a copy of My Country video and VR package from 2018 NAIDOC Week and another containing photos of 1918 capsule and its retrieval
  • A copy of all 54 issues of The Lambton Local
  • A copy of the names of the Anzac Ladies Club's members
  • RSL charter
  • Sonia Hornery - RSL book
  • Photos of pre and school kids - whole of school / preschool or classes
  • St Johns photo
  • Stamps and Armistice Commemorative coins from 2018
  • Photos documenting original time capsule from International Conservation Services
  • The Story of Lambton in Lambton book by Julie Keating
  • A street map of Lambton with current lot & DPs
  • Old RSL relic items - two bullet shell cones and the Lambton-New Lambton RSL Sub- Branch Constitution, 1938.
  • Current issue of coins.
  • Program from Lizottes
  • Music from This Land