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History and duty combine to lift spirits

Restoration of an historic monument is lifting spirits at the tiny village of Nerrigundah.

Above: The Miles O'Grady memorial surrounds were destroyed when fire devastated Nerrigundah on New Year's Eve. Restoring this icon, so loved by locals, was a small gesture but an important one. Chief Inspector Greg Flood with a some history of the memorial - Video ESC

For the second time, Eurobodalla Council has restored the surrounds of the sandstone memorial built in honour of a young policeman killed while protecting the then thriving goldrush town from the Clarke bushranger gang.

In April 1866, Constable Miles O’Grady left his sick bed to face the bushrangers, famously saying “I will do my duty”. He was shot and died an agonising three hours later. O’Grady’s monument is of regional historical significance but was poorly presented prior to its 150th anniversary in 2016.

Council’s maintenance coordinator Andrew Gillies said the memorial was sitting in a pile of dirt in the middle of the street.

“I’d driven past it a hundred times but never really stopped to see what it was all about,” Mr Gillies said.

“One day I stopped and read it, then did some research. It needed a bit of love.”

Mr Gillies said O’Grady was only 23 years old when he went to assist a newly arrived police recruit deal with the Clarke gang, “it’s an important piece of history, deserving of respect”. In 2016 Mr Gillies headed a Council work team to tidy up the site and build a retaining wall around the monument. That work was undone when fire swept through Nerrigundah on December 31 2019, tragically claiming the life of a 71-year-old man and destroying 20 of the village’s 25 homes. Mr Gillies said the locality was devastated.

“Restoring the monument surrounds seemed one small thing we could do to lift spirits in a pretty horrible environment. The monument holds a pretty sentimental place in their hearts,” he said.

The restoration has also won praise from the region’s police, with South Coast Police District Superintendent Greg Moore offering thanks.

“This gesture sums up the spirit of our community and the positive relationships forged in the face of adversity,” Supt Moore said.

Council’s director of infrastructure Warren Sharpe said the restoration job had been given priority to support the local community and as a thank you to police for their effort during the bushfire emergency and fallout.

“We know that the memorial at Nerrigundah has a special place in NSW Police history,” Mr Sharpe said.

“Our team has the greatest respect for the role the NSW Police play in protecting our community, and we gave priority to this important restoration job as our way of saying thank you.”


Above: The Constable Miles O’Grady memorial at Nerrigundah.

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