On 21st March, 2004, I had the privilege of attending the 100th birthday
of Mick Gorman - ex-P.O.W. No. 172 Naoetsu Camp.
In addition to having his children, grand children, great grand children and numerous friends along for the occasion, what really made Mick's day, was the fact that I was able to bring along three of his old Naoetsu mates.
Mick's three mates are;
Mick McAuliffe of Lismore (Naoetsu No. 251)
Harry Julian of Alstonville (Naoetsu No. 212)
Jack Harris of Maclean (Naoetsu No. 201)
On the morning of Sunday, 21st March, I drove to Alstonville, where I picked up Harry Julian from the retirement village where he lives. It is a lovely modern complex set in a small rural township, some ten kilometres inland from the seaside town of Ballina.
From Alstonville, we travelled about twenty kilometres westward to Lismore, a town of some thirty thousand population, to pick up Mick McAuliffe. Lismore is the hub of a very rich rural area and is also noted for its educational and medical facilities.
Our next stop was to be Maclean, a very picturesque township situated on the banks of the Clarence River and some twenty kilometres inland from the seaside township of Yamba. This area is an important sugar cane growing area and is also noted for its cattle, timber and fishing.
Our journey of some two hundred and fifty kilometres in all was completed by lunch time when we arrived in Coffs Harbour.
Coffs Harbour has been Mick Gorman's home town ever since the war and he is probably one of its best known inhabitants. In addition to being the centre of a rich rural and fishing area, Coffs Harbour is a popular tourist and retirement location. Being situated approximately half way between Sydney and Brisbane, also makes Coffs Harbour a popular over-night stop for many travellers.
Following the death of his wife some ten years ago, Mick cared for himself until he became too frail. About two years ago, he moved to a nursing home where he is regarded by many of the staff as their hero.
Before the celebrations commenced, I was able to arrange a private meeting of the four old mates and of course, this would have been incomplete without a couple of cold bottles of beer.
Unfortunately, Mick Gorman's comprehension is not as keen as it was, but the old fellow's eyes really lit up when he recognised his mates. He even had a glass of beer, something he was very good at in the past but has not done for some time.
While the formal birthday party, including messages from the Queen of England, our Prime Minister and many other dignitaries, was a very happy occasion, I am sure that Mick enjoyed the re-union with his old Naoetsu mates as much as anything.
After an overnight stay at Woolgoolga, some twenty five kilometres north of Coffs Harbour, I was able to deliver the three "Naoetsu Boys" (all well into their eighties) to their respective homes by Monday afternoon.
It was very rewarding for me to see these gentlemen, who I first met as a ten year old boy at the end of the war, enjoy each others company again.
In conclusion, I can only say each of the four ex-P.O.W.s expressed their gratitude to the people responsible for the Peace Park and Museum. They remarked that it was wonderful to see that their mates who would never return home were being remembered after all this time. Each one of them said that they often look at the folder I gave them containing photographs, copies of speeches etc. of events of 8th October, 1995 and wish that they were fit and young enough to make the journey to Naoetsu.
Son of Colin Nicol (Naoetsu No. 257)