St Matthew's bicentenary celebrations a big success

A trio of events to mark the 200th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone for St Matthew’s Anglican Church at Windsor, proved it is at the heart of Hawkesbury’s colonial heritage.

The celebrations reached out to all, including the children attending schools in the vicinity, and the surrounding community, whether parishioner or not.

The Wednesday service, held on the actual anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone on October 11, 1817, was an enchanting scene, with around three hundred young people from Kindergarten to year 12 enthralled by being part of their own historic occasion and making their own good wishes for prosperity to the old church for the next two hundred years.

The service included a puppet show, an uplifting talk by Professor the Honourable Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO about how Macquarie set Australia on a path to being a nation respected for their fairness, and interludes of magical orchestral music and singing performed by students from Arndell Anglican College, St Paul’s Grammar School and Windsor High School.

A barbecue lunch was supplied to the students by the Rotary Club of Windsor, followed by a look at some of the oldest and most well-known graves in the burial ground, like those of William Cox and Thomas Arndell and of course the famous ex-convict magistrate, Andrew Thompson.

The rector Chris Jones served as the able co-ordinator, while the anniversary’s celebration was a team production including Karen Merrick who created the music, and Tony Merrick, the St Matthew’s Guild, and myself, helped by guides Carol Roberts, Geoff Roberts and Harry Terry.

 Although Saturday was overcast and threatening, serious rain held off to allow the fun community ‘Big Birthday Bash’ to proceed.

A stage full of bands, songs, dances and plays was the centre piece of the day in McQuade Park, with celebrity singer Colin Buchanan enthralling both children and adults alike and leaving behind his trademark mayhem of coloured streamers and goodwill.

All items were enjoyed by a crowd of more than 400 people during the day, and stalls by all the historical and heritage groups of the district, provided attraction to a constant stream of interested visitors as did the Kable, Gow, Cox and  Rayworth Kennedy Family History Association exhibitions.

Good food from the Rotary Club of Windsor and outside providers had heavy competition from the Ladies Guild whose scones were plentiful and in great demand.

A community bus took guests to and from the special exhibitions focused on the church, one set up in the Hawkesbury Regional Museum and two in the Deerubbin Centre.

They are full of early objects of beauty and charm relating to a wide range of church activities.

Two highlights were the Wagana Aboriginal  Dancers and the Richmond Players’ re-enactment of the events surrounding the laying of the foundation stone in October 1817 in full costume to the delight of the crowd.

Professor the Honourable Marie Bashir cut the cake with local member, Susan Templeman, and Hawkesbury City Mayor, Mary Lyons-Buckett.

All gave further good wishes and enjoyed a leisurely look around the stalls.

Photographs with the Town Crier, Graham Keating and Michael Simms, in full regalia of one of the regiments of the early colonial period, created a great deal of interest and were very popular with the crowd.

Sunday was a more formal occasion that was a credit to rector, Chris Jones, and went off with style with special guests the Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Reverend Glenn Davies and His Excellency , the Honourable TF Bathurst AC, the Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales, Susan Templeman and Mayor Lyons-Buckett among other dignitaries.

Carol Edds gave a short presentation about the need to conserve the historic fabric of the entire St Matthew’s Anglican Precinct, representing the National Trust, who have initiated a community appeal to allow necessary work to be carried out on the tower and in other parts of the Precinct.