Garden blooms in fitting tribute

November 16, 2017

Dr Kristin Schneider, great niece of Lt Col Denehy, with a book written by Year 6 students from Rutherglen Primary School. Photo: Simon Ginns

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Denehy’s granddaughter Pauline Cook is honoured to be wearing his medals. Photo: Simon Ginns

Several guest speakers spoke during the official opening of the garden. Photo: Simon Ginns

Former Rutherglen school teacher and decorated military commander, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Denehy, has been honoured with the dedication of a garden in his name at the entrance to Rutherglen Primary School.

Dr Kristin Schneider, great niece of Lt Col Denehy, officially opened the garden in a ceremony conducted by students last Friday morning.

Granddaughters Judith Bowman, Pauline Cook and great granddaughter Robin Cook joined representatives of the Rutherglen RSL Sub-Branch, parents and students at the service.

In her address, Dr Schneider spoke of her great uncle’s life and his experiences at Gallipoli in 1915.

Lt Col Denehy began teaching at Rutherglen in 1911.

He left teaching to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force in August 1914 at the age of 35.

He was wounded in the landing at Anzac Cove on April 25, 1915 and was evacuated to England for treatment.

He was promoted and returned to Gallipoli in November 1915.

In December 1915, Denehy played a central role in the successful evacuation of Gallipoli.

He was one of the last to leave under cover of darkness on December 20.

Troops under his commands were responsible for setting many of the famous drip or "pop off” self-firing rifles that proved cover fire during the evacuation.

He arrived in France in June 1916, just in time to take part in the battle of Fromelles.

Following the heavy fighting at Bullecourt in May 1917, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for 'conspicuous gallantry and ability'.

He was gassed near Ypres in October 1917.

Lt Col Denehy distinguished himself again in fighting around Bellicourt during the breaching of the Hindenburg line in September 1918.

For his gallantry and leadership, he was awarded a Bar to his DSO and the Belgian Croix de Guerre.

After the Armistice, Denehy returned to school teaching.

He was headmaster at Rutherglen from 1926 to 1934.

Dr Schneider has fond memories of her great uncle.

“He was renowned for pulling the troops together, helping them to regain self-confidence and giving them a unity of purpose,” she said.

“I knew him as an old man when I was a young girl. He was always gentle and loving to me.”

The idea for the garden began in 2014 when the Parent Club of Rutherglen Primary learnt of the Gallipoli Oaks Project run by National Trust of Australia (Vic).

The school received its Oak seedling in 2015 and it was planted at the front of the school in 2016 to mark the 100th anniversary of the landing in Gallipoli.

Later that year the Rutherglen RSL Sub Branch helped the school discover that Lt Col Denehy was both a former teacher and headmaster.

In a fitting tribute to a former teacher, headmaster and Gallipoli veteran, the school chose to create a new garden in his honour with the Gallipoli Oak as its centrepiece.

Donations from the community and the Rutherglen RSL Sub-Branch helped fund the cost of the plaque dedicating the garden.

Craig Williams, Vice President of the Sub-Branch and parent of students at Rutherglen Primary, believes the garden has a very important message.

“Past, present and future students and their parents will be reminded of the efforts made by Australians from all walks of life, whenever they pass this memorial,” he said.

For School Principal, Karryn Williams Friday’s ceremony is not the end of the project.

“I can’t thank the kids enough who have been involved in the work. They have built this garden,” she said.

“We have one more stage to go as we raise extra money to have that project done.

“It has evolved over time into a really beautiful entrance to our school.”

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