Ramshackle old home reaches out to student

IT WAS a feeling 17-year-old Sarah Dean had never felt before, a strange compulsion to explore a home she’d never seen.

Driving with her father to Bingara last year, the Inverell teen gazed out the window at a ramshackle property that seemed to hold some inexplicable secret.

She secured permission to enter the home and soon realised her intuition was right.

Amid the cache of history found beneath the lino of the house were documents and writings belonging to former resident Cyril Johnson, a World War I Digger.

Private Johnson enlisted in October 1915 but was tragically killed in battle just months later, one of the fallen found in a mass grave in Fromelles, France, in 2010.

So absorbed was she by his story, Miss Dean turned it into her HSC major art project, a pictorial triptych documenting Private Johnson’s experiences in the Great War.

The piece includes photos of Private Johnson, images she took of the house and scenes of conflict and war graves.

Miss Dean said initially the search was frustrating but the lure of the mystery forced her to push on. “I just searched one thing and that led to another thing,” she said.

Her mum Amanda Dean said it was almost as if the search was touched from on high.

“It’s like it was meant to be. It was sitting there waiting to be uncovered,” Mrs Dean said.

“It really was a fantastic adventure. The amount of people that came to her that kept giving her information and wanting to help ... was amazing.”

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