‘The Armistice has been signed’ – the news spread like a bush fire throughout the district of Lithgow following the posting of the notice at the Lithgow Mercury office shortly after eight o’clock on Monday, November 11, 1918.
Bells rang, and whistle blasts from the dozens of steam engines in the railway yards, factories and mines commenced to commemorate the news.
The noise was deafening, as a large crowd congregated in Main Street to celebrate.
By nine o’clock the crowd in the street had reached several thousands.
Some were armed with kerosene tins and other weird instruments which accompanied the patriotic bursts of song from the enthusiastic crowd.
Banners and flags of all descriptions fluttered aloft, and cheering broke out every few minutes.
The celebrations continued throughout the night.
Such was the noise that it could be heard at Wallerawang and once confirmation arrived, the railway locomotives started ‘cock-a-doodling’.
The Lithgow Mercury reported: Everything capable of producing noise was requisitioned… a happy group assembled near the railway station and sang patriotic songs, while the youngsters, with a tin-can band paraded the town.
The old convict bell at Barton’s estate, which has been silent for years, was heard tolling and the public-school bell rang for a while.
At 8am (the following morning) the engines gave a morning salute and the town was soon beflagged again.
The post-office, banks and hotels closed early.
A procession of school children passed through singing patriotic airs, and later marched to Lidsdale.
There they were regaled with cordials at Summons’ factory and eatables at Braeside, the residence of Mrs H Gorman.
The distant sound of the Lithgow whistles reached Rydal and at the railway station Miss Stimson confirmed the news when a message was received from the Lithgow Mercury office.
The Lithgow Mercury’s Rydal correspondent wrote: Jubilations knew no bounds, and for our small town the noise, musical or otherwise was most creditable. The people gathered at the foot of the school bell, which was ringing loudly and later sang patriotic songs and cheered. Motor car horns and locomotive whistles played a good part in the jubilations.
The persistent whistling of a Bathurst-bound train gave the residents of Tarana the intimation that hostilities had ceased. Immediately bells were set ringing and an impromptu tin-can band mustered and about 30 or 40 people assembled in the street and sang the National Anthem and patriotic airs.
Then a procession started on a visit to every house in the village. How often the anthem was rendered, and ‘our Allies and our own brave lads’ cheered is not recorded.
At Mr Dowler’s house, rousing cheers were given in honour of Nurse May Oglethorpe, who is a sister of Mrs Dowler and has seen much service at the front.
On Tuesday night the juveniles enjoyed the delights of a huge bonfire.
A general thanksgiving service was to be arranged by the Patriotic Committee.
Even though an official public holiday had been declared for Wednesday, the people of Lithgow felt Tuesday was the real day for celebrations.
Few were inclined to work and the minority who were willing were literally compelled to cease.
The mid-week edition of the Lithgow Mercury was not published as a result. The festivities were recorded in the edition published on Friday 15.
The Mercury reported that the movement started with the workers at the Small Arms Factory, who went in at the usual hour (7.30) but did not commence work.
Instead a procession was formed – well over 1000 men taking part – with members of the factory guard in front, preceded by flags.
The procession went into town and en route ordered everyone to down tools and join them… by nine o’clock all the stores and other business establishments had practically closed. About 9.30 a band was secured, and the procession continued for an hour or two. … At night the whistles and bells again got busy. The hotels were closed all day.
On Tuesday night or Wednesday morning special thanksgiving services were held at each of the churches in town. Each service was well attended.
The united church service in the Town Hall on Wednesday night was crowded, many people unable to secure admission.
Rev D H Dillon presided, and briefly announced the object of the gathering – to give thanks to God for the victory granted to the cause of liberty.
Rev J S Thomas delivered the main address, the Mayor read the King’s message of thanksgiving and gratitude. Rev A L Leeder lead the prayer and Ensign Hunt read the 84th Psalm during the service.
Rev A D Robertson delivered a short address, in which he referred to the magnitude of the victory, the splendid heroism of the soldiers engaged in the struggle, and the spirit of the women.
Contributed by Jan Saundercock, Lithgow & District Family History Society.