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Now for something completely different because April 25 is Anzac Day, “the one day of the year” , a solemn commemoration of the 1915 Gallipoli landing, the first (and disastrous) battle fought by an independent Australia. Today is the centenary celebration.
The highlight of every Anzac Day is the Dawn Service, a simple ritual which is held in nearly every town and hamlet throughout the country.
For me, the most memorable of these took place in Hobart a few years ago. I walked with hundreds of others through the dark towards the Cenotaph on a frosty morning. There was complete silence as an elderly Protestant minister gave a short and eloquent address about Australia’s fallen heroes which managed to make everyone, both religious and secular, happy.
However, there was something quite eccentric about his delivery. Every couple of paragraphs there was an pause. It only lasted long enough to remind us how cold we were and how dark it was, but it was slightly embarrassing. Then there was another burst before he lapsed into silence again. Finally, he concluded with an Amen.
In a quavering voice he said that this would be his last Anzac Day service. He was 85 now and had done it for 30-odd years. Time to pass the baton to someone else. And then he apologised for those pauses. “It was so cold,” he said, “I had to blow on my fingers so that I could keep on reading.” Suddenly it dawned on me: the old minister was blind and had been reading his Braille text with his frozen fingers. You find heroism in the most unexpected places…
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