Alton’s unique WWI ritual – VIDEO/AUDIO


Alton’s unique WWI ritual

The Alton penny board has spent most of the past 100 years in the tiny South Taranaki village’s hotel.

It has recently been restored, and will be part of the Bringing It Home exhibition which opens on Friday at the Puke Ariki Museum in New Plymouth

Local resident Jacq Dwyer has been collating Alton’s history since the hotel closed about four years ago.

She believes the penny board is unique to the settlement which is nestled three kilometres off the highway between Hawera and Patea.

Ms Dwyer said the board was created as part of a ritual when young men said their farewells before heading off to fight.

“They would have left the penny on the bar when they went off to war. The publican stamped their initials into it and you can see quite clearly on most of them the initials are still there.

“And they have been quite well rubbed over the years because this was the top of the bar so the people touched them over the years to say ‘there’s Jimmy Gibbs’ penny.” Twenty of the most worn pennies are from some of the 40 Alton men who served in World War I.

Fourteen did not return. Three died at Gallipoli. Jacq Dwyer said the penny board was a tangible, tactile reminder of the sacrifices the men had made.

“You can see there are crosses by some of them, those are the men who were killed. We’ve got Tim Hurley there, Roy Jones, I think it is, and their names are on our Alton War Memorial.

“There’s 96 pennies there and it is a very sacred object for us. We’re very proud to have it here at Alton.”  Filmed in 2015



Historic WW1 memory

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