This post is the long form version of the item first published in the RAHS eNews of 3 August 2017. Click on images for larger views.
I was fortunate to be invited by Berry & District Historical Society to the unveiling of their Berry Green Plaques Project on 29 June 2017, as the Society had been in touch with me several times during their planning of the project. The day of the launch was cool and sunny, and a good crowd of Berryians and Society members gathered in the Museum grounds where they were welcomed by Vice President Nancy Bevan, who thanked all involved, especially enthusiastic secretary Annette Frohling. The actual unveiling was made by the Mayor of Shoalhaven, Cr Amanda Findley, who spoke of her interest in local Aboriginal history and heritage, and I gave a short talk on the history of commemorative plaques. The formal launch was followed by a bounteous morning tea during which I was plied with endless cups of tea.
The project consisted of researching and writing text for 12 plaques, all bronze roundels with a dark green stippled surface made by Phoenix Foundry of Uralla, and measuring 200 mm in diameter. In a small country town, this size plaque is large enough to attract attention, but not so large as to deface or compete with the historic building to which it is attached. In the early morning light when I wandered the village ‘plaque hunting’ they were subtle but like small jewels, a complement to the manicured streetscapes.
Some details of interest for would-be plaque projects. The Berry green plaques are consistent with the principles that shape the London blue plaques, in that they are concisely worded on the ‘all who run’ principle, with between 20 and 35 words, there are no terms of praise or derision, just verifiable information, their wording provokes the viewer to want to find out more, the subject of each plaque has stood the ‘test of time’ and is not a passing fad, and the places to which they refer all still exist. As the photographs show, the plaques are all placed at about eye-level except where not possible, such as at the Anglican Church. The shade of green, the stippled surface and the bright lettering varies according to the colours and texture of the wall surfaces, and whether they are in full sun, dappled light or shade.
The plaques are very good commemorative plaques, and others Societies considering a plaque program could make a point of visiting Berry and seeking to emulate their lead. These green plaques will, I am sure, endure and grace Berry long after we are all long gone and forgotten. That is a legacy of which Berry & District Historical Society can be proud.
A copy of my speech notes, containing more details and descriptions of the plaques in their setting, can be dowloaded here: Speech notes_29Jun17