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THE double-handled solid silver cup is a little tarnished, the engraving on its plaque well worn, but given it was presented 121 years ago to the first internationally-recognised sports star to hail from Queanbeyan, it’s in remarkably good shape.
George Gribble received the trophy in 1897 in Dublin from Queen Victoria in recognition of his dominance of the ancient equestrian art of “tent-pegging” – retrieving ground targets with a lance while on horseback – at a military tournament honouring the monarch’s jubilee.
It’s just one of the rare and unusual items to form part of an exhibition for the area once known as the Land District of Queanbeyan: “180 Mementos | 180 Years”, which runs from September 28 to October 14.
Queanbeyan was officially proclaimed a village on September 28, 1838, a decade after the first settler called it home. To mark this milestone, 180 historically significant and little-seen objects will be displayed throughout the city at various venues and businesses including The Q Performing Arts Centre, the library, the Queanbeyan Sporting Gallery, the local museums, and the Royal Hotel.
It will encompass a number sourced from private collections as well as some nominated and voted for by the public – and a selection will even be available for closer inspection and monitored handling.
According to one of the organisers, “CityNews” columnist and social historian Nichole Overall, each memento is a window on to the development of the region, from the pre-European history, to the instigation of a town with a population of less than 50, Queanbeyan’s significant role in the establishment of Canberra and its more recent incarnation as cosmopolitan centre.
“Many know us thanks to our impressive list of champions including international names such as rugby legend David Campese, acclaimed author Miles Franklin, and one-time Bond, George Lazenby, who grew up here.”
“Our story though is even more rich and varied with extraordinary and far-reaching successes in everything from business and industry to cultural pursuits and the arts.
“This exhibition is another chance for us to present some of these amazing stories, people, and events in an engaging and interactive way, highlighting our journey which, to a degree, also charts the progress of a nation.”
Another rarely seen item will be the first gravestone ever erected in the town, the year after its proclamation.
On January 31, 1839, the baby daughter of the district’s first police magistrate, Captain Alured Tasker Faunce, was buried alongside the Queanbeyan River. In one of the many engaging mysteries to have emerged from the area, the grave and marker belonging to Anna Maria were somehow lost until, incredibly, stumbled across almost a century after her passing. It then disappeared again before being rediscovered after almost another four decades.
Now the stone fragments, with parts of the inscription still readable (“Beneath This Stone an Infant’s Ashes Lie”), reside at the Queanbeyan Museum. Stored away due to their fragility and importance, on this occasion they’re being presented as a particularly poignant physical representation of the passage of time.
“Reminders such as this give something of an idea of the harshness and isolation of those early times and also the enduring connection to this place,” says Nichole.
“Descendants of many of the pioneering families, including the Faunces, continue to live here almost two centuries on.”
“180 Mementos | 180 Years” will be launched at The Q theatre, 5.30pm-7.30pm, Thursday, September 27, all welcome. To confirm interest and for further details and venues hosting mementos, email email@example.com or see 180Mementos.wixsite.com/qtown