After 21 years, old friendships renewed, new friendships made and an enormous amount of work done by organisers, Lucy Bilsborough and her team, the Nashos may have had their last meeting in Bingara.
Attendees of the 21st Nashos Bingara reunion surround organiser Lucy Bilsborough (in green pants suit) and John Carruthers after the luncheon at the RSL Club.
This year was the first the annual Nashos’ reunion, which was instigated by Lucy’s late husband, Ken Bilsborough, did not begin with a march along Maitland Street. It was decided at the 2015 reunion that the March was too arduous for the aging members of the National Servicemen’s Association, particularly in the hot weather.
About 90 people gathered in the RSL Park on Saturday for the annual service. They then moved to the Club for the luncheon. There were no pipers this year, just fellowship and plenty of memories.
Some of the Nashos, including Wes Ting from Mayfield (Newcastle), and the extended Johnston family from the Newcastle area have come back every year for the reunion. The Johnstons have family in Moree, so Bingara has been an ideal meeting place.
At the luncheon, John Carruthers, who has for many years, played a central role in the organisation of the reunion, announced that Mrs. Lucy Bilsborough has been honoured with Life Membership of the NSW National Servicemen’s Association. Her Life Membership certifi cate was presented by NSW Nasho’s President, Ron Brown.
At the luncheon, Mr. Carruthers also paid tribute to the work of local men, Kevin Hansen and Peter Pankhurst, who have both given strong support to the reunions.
Peter Pankhurst was Mayor at the time of the first reunion, and has attended every reunion, and Kevin Hansen has also been involved since Day One, taking part in the service, and instigating the National Servicemen’s Service at St. John’s Church. This has been continued by Rev. David Swan.
Mayor, John Coulton, welcomed the Nashos to Bingara. “I have been coming here long enough to know a few faces,” he said. “It is a great thing, but I am hearing it might be coming to an end.
That is sad. Lucy Bilsborough and her team have put all this together for a long time.
“We can watch the news, and be grateful that this is where we live, you blokes have done your bit to make the country the relatively safe place it is.
The matter of whether or not to continue the reunions proved a little more thorny than expected.
Mr. Carruthers spoke strongly in favour of the 21st reunion being the last one.
“We can’t go on forever,” he said. “It would be wrong to keep going until there are only two or three here.
He was backed up by Lucy Bilsborough and Inverell representative Olive Hungerford.
“I have made so many lovely friends, but age is going to beat us,” she said.
Mrs. Hungerford spoke of the difficulty the Northern Tablelands Sub Branch has keeping numbers up.
Some members argued they would like to keep the reunion going for a while yet.
The comment was made that “if we marched this year, there would be a lot of walking sticks”. Some Nashos indicated they will still make the visit to Bingara next year, even if there is no organised event.
Time will tell if the reunion will continue. This will only happen if others take up the organisation of it.