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Members and volunteers of the Clarence River Historical Society (CRHS) celebrated the society’s 90th anniversary on November 18 with an official ceremony at Schaeffer House. Image: Contributed

Society celebrates 90 years of history

Emma Pritchard

As a crowd gathered at Schaeffer House on November 18 to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Clarence River Historical Society (CRHS), past and present members and volunteers came together with local dignitaries, special guests and Clarence Valley residents to acknowledge the significant milestone, share their stories, and begin a new chapter in the society’s long and proud history.

Describing the occasion as a celebration of 90 years of dedication to preserving local history, CRHS President Steve Tranter graciously acknowledged the hard work and contributions made by so many throughout the years to keep the society open, and ensure its countless treasures and artefacts, and the memories they represent, remained safe and preserved for future generations.

Life member of the Clarence River Historical Society (CRHS) Bill Dougherty proudly cuts the 90th anniversary cake with Grafton High School student and history enthusiast Tess Darby as members and volunteers of the society watch on. Image: Emma Pritchard

“They are the reason we are here today,” he told the crowd.

“This is a significant celebration of what is arguably one of the oldest historical societies in Australia.

“We are proud to have an extensive collection which has grown substantially through the years, and without the hard work and dedication of our members and volunteers, we would not have reached our 90th anniversary.”

Master of Ceremonies Richie Williamson agreed, adding everyone in attendance would be “extremely proud of the lifetime of memories preserved by the society.”

Formed in 1931 following growing community interest in the preservation of local history, the society has been established at Schaeffer House since the 1960s, and boasts an impressive collection including early Indigenous artefacts, ledgers dating back to the 1850s from local property Yulgilbar Station, and historical wartime memorabilia which previously belonged to Clarence Valley men and women who served their country.

Former President Pat James, who was among three volunteers to be awarded life membership of the CRHS during the 90th anniversary celebrations, revealed she was deeply proud of how the society has grown, and thanked everyone for their unwavering support in keeping the society going.

“We are all so fortunate to be here to celebrate this day together,” she said as she smiled at attendees.

More than 50 people gathered at Schaeffer House to join in the celebrations while Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis, Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan, and the NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet sent their apologies.

Following the conclusion of the official ceremony, life member of the CRHS Bill Dougherty had the special privilege of cutting the 90th anniversary cake alongside Grafton High School student and young history enthusiast Tess Darby.

As tea and light refreshments were served, visitors were invited to walk through Schaeffer House Museum and browse the extensive collection at their leisure, with many people congratulating the society on their success and extending their compliments as they admired the beautiful displays.

“It was great to see so many people turn up to celebrate with us, now we’ve got the centenary celebration to plan next,” Mr Tranter added.