The Copper Coast Council came on board to provide the concrete block on which to mount the statue, story rock and bench, and were kind enough to send out invitations for us for our big event day of unveiling, by the South Australian Governor, Her Excellency, the Honourable Frances Adamson AC, which was held on 7 November 2021. Council also had an active representative on the committee. We were also grateful for the fabulous support provided for our vision by the RAAF and the combined efforts resulted in a lasting legacy of the RAAF and Sir Richard Williams in his hometown, plus a great celebration day with a street parade, fly pasts of RAAF and vintage planes, a book launch, a VIP lunch and a Thanksgiving Church Service at Moonta Mines Uniting Church. It was a fabulously successful day supported by many local community groups and the RAAF. A very fitting tribute to a worthy Moonta identity.
Sculptor Tim Thomson, Committee Chairperson, Robyn Knight and Group Captain Greg Weller with SA Governor, Her Excellency, the Honourable Frances Adamson AC in Photo
This grave marker is one of two known Wooden Grave Markers in South Australia of any significance. There is only one other known in West Terrace Cemetery, recently removed for preservation. (There are two others in Moonta Cemetery but there is no wording remaining). A Wooden Grave Marker, as opposed to an intentional temporary marker for a grave awaiting construction of a permanent headstone of lasting materials, was the headstone for an ordinary person who could not afford a marble or stone headstone, or who did not have access to longer lasting materials for a headstone. It was often shaped in the form of a typical headstone.
This Wooden Grave Marker is on the grave site of Samuel Jones (1836-1865) and Eliza Jones (1811-1875) who were born and married in Cornwall and travelled on the Waterloo ship to Port Adelaide South Australia. They had nine children and followed the mining rush to the gold fields in Victoria, copper mining in Burra, South Australia, and then Moonta Mines, South Australia, where they both lived until their deaths. The grave marker is a significant cultural item, demonstrating the practices followed by the poorer average citizen in the mid-1800s, especially in the case of Cornish Miners and their families, in regard to end of life customs. It is especially important, as it rounds out the cultural aspects of the Cornish Miner’s passage in life from birth to death, as depicted in various displays in the Moonta Mines Museum, part of the National Heritage assets of the area. Moonta Mines is recognised as a place of significant Cornish mining heritage and attracts large numbers of descendant’s researching their family history and tourists interested in the mining heritage. It has National Heritage status. The Copland foundation has provided a grant to Copper Coast Council and Moonta National Trust to preserve the marker by transferring it to the Moonta Mines Museum and building and placing a replica on the grave. This has been done with the permission of family who transferred the ownership of the grave marker to the Moonta National Trust.
This project was undertaken at the request of Moonta History Centre volunteers. Marilyn Philbey has studied and documented many aspects of Moonta Cemetery, providing an extensive database of the burials there. Robyn Knight has researched the Jones family tree.
Moonta National Trust is working with Moonta RSL, Moonta and District Progress Association and Vietnam Veterans Association, Moonta Sub Branch to promote and celebrate the RAAF Centenary and especially Sir Richard Williams “Father of the RAAF” who was born in Moonta Mines.
This work will culminate in a celebration day on 7 November 2021 when a statue of Sir Richard will be unveiled and a church service and parade held.
Born into a modest mining family in Moonta Mines in 1890, Richard Williams emerged to become the most instrumental figure in the development of the RAAF. Attending Moonta Public School, he initially worked in the Moonta Post Office and then the Union Bank before joining the militia and then the permanent military forces after which he was posted to Victoria. In November 1914, he graduated as Australia’s first military trained pilot and served as a Flight Commander and then Commanding Officer of No 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps (AFC) in the Middle East. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in August 1917 for attacking an enemy force while flying through intense anti-aircraft fire and landing behind enemy lines to rescue a downed fellow pilot. Appointed Officer Commanding No 40 Wing (RAF), he completed the war as the AFC’s foremost operational commander.
Returning to Australia, Williams was instrumental in the creation of the Royal Australian Air Force as an independent service in 1921. Showing immense political acumen, he then fought to not only preserve but to actually expand the fledgling RAAF over the next two decades, serving as the initial Chief of Air Staff and its longest serving leader over thirteen years in three separate terms. Promoted to air vice-marshal in 1935, he became the RAAF’s first air marshal in 1940.
Sir Richard is known as the “Father of the RAAF” as he was instrumental in creating a separate Air Force for Australia, among other great achievements.
Formerly the Moonta Family Resource Centre, the Moonta History Centre has recently changed its name to more accurately reflect the services that we can offer. We can offer access to a broad range of historical information including cemetery records, hospital admission records, family history records, Moonta house prices and properties, historical photographs of the town, the mines and the people.
We provide research services and can provide a customised package to suit your needs.
Located in Ellen Street in Moonta, you can visit us during our office hours on Tuesday and Wednesday, or over the weekend. Alternatively send us an email or give us a phone call. Please contact us to see how we may be able to help with your project.
We are undergoing refurbishment, with new shelving for books so that we now have a special Library Room. In the Research room we have new purpose built desks for the Centres’ volunteers, supplied by funds donated by the winding up of the Moonta Dart Club premises. We also have a new compactus to store and easily access archival material, photographs and files.