Coorabell schoolgirls danced around the maypole as part of Coorabell Hall centenary celebrations last Saturday.
Coorabell schoolgirls danced around the maypole as part of Coorabell Hall centenary celebrations last Saturday.

Coorabell celebrates centenary

All the sights and sounds of yesteryear came to life high up on the hill overlooking the Bay last Saturday, as Coorabell Hall celebrated its centenary in style.

Inside the hall, newspaper clippings from the past told of euchre and cribbage tournaments, of the Dahlia Shows year after year, while for The Northern Star in 1918 it was newsworthy that “Mrs Ruskan is leaving Coorabell and is taking a house in Bangalow.”

The entertainment kicked off with bush poet Ray Essery dazzling the audience with his feats of memory, one hilarious bush yarn after another tumbling effortlessly from his lips.

Outside on the grass the maypole went up and the little girls danced, visions of grace as they wove their intricate steps.

“It takes me right back,” said 82-year-old Mavis Lazlo, who can remember learning the dances when she was a little girl at Reserve Creek, and who appreciated all the practice that had gone into it.

And responsible for the revival of the maypole is retired teacher Susan Tsicalas, who, having once seen it done, went to the internet to find out the know-how, and now volunteers her time to teach the dances.

“In the old days it was done by both girls and boys,” she explained, “and it was a way for girls and boys to meet.”

But the oldest sound of all came a bit later, inside the hall, when Bundjalung man Lewis Walker went on stage, and the haunting sound of the didgeridoo and the clap stick filled the air, stretching back into 20,000 years of indigenous history.

Then he addressed the audience in the Bundjalung language, probably the first time most of those present had ever heard the soft sounds of the local indigenous language.

“We all one mob,” translated Lewis, in the second language he learnt only as a 13-year-old.

And after explaining the significance of the painting he did with his brother for the hall’s doors, he generously thanked the organisers for inviting him for the day.

“I want to keep the dream alive, to share it with everyone,” he said.

The hall was packed again in the evening for the old-time dance, with many of the district’s older members reliving the fun of their early years as they stepped out to The Pride of Erin and all the other old favourites.

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