Cairns Railway Red Cross Guild

Tuesday 20 September 2011

My grandfather John Victor Marquis-Kyle (1897-1981) believed in doing volunteer work for the common good. During the Sec­ond World War, working at weekends and evenings with a small group of men in a workshop under his house, he made crutches for the Red Cross. I can remember him talking about this, and it sounded like he enjoyed both the companionship of working together and the feeling of ‘doing something useful’. Making a pair of crutches for an injured soldier was a very personal and practical help.

Ten men and one boy with chairs and crutches
Photographic postcard of a group of men and a boy with wooden crutches and folding chairs. The sign reads cairns + railway equipment guild.

I recently collected this postcard that tells me that setting up volunteer ‘guilds’ to make equipment for the Red Cross was an established practice in Australia during the earlier Great War. A newspaper search turns up many stories.

hand-written message on postcard
The back of the postcard, with Fred’s hand-written message, transcribed below.
My Dear Stella
Here is another photo perhaps you will wonder what is come next This is the railway Guild they make all there things for the Red Cross in there spare time you will see an x over one young man second from the end well Stella that is my Boy + the only one + now at the front I have only one of his or you should have a better then this these men have done a lot of work for the Red Cross + I am pleased to add the best Guild in our state + Cairns is but a small place + more men have gone to the front from the North then any other part of Aust to the number of people. Please except best thanks for your lovely cards also for x what a debt we owe one another + I am wondering which will be paid first
Best wishes
x xx xxx xx x

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A postcard from North Reef
After the flood
Talking to volunteer lighthouse guides
Railway sleepers
Renaming the Great War
Over the top

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