‘Walking history book’ creates her own at 100

BIRTHDAY GIRL: Marion Bignall with some of her family including, from left clockwise, grandson Jeffrey and his wife Jodie with their children. At back are Jodie and Peter Gunders with theirs, granddaughter Lyndall and her partner Craig, son Ian Bignall and his wife Di Nicholl. Photo: Gareth Gardner 070814GGA01

BIRTHDAY GIRL: Marion Bignall with some of her family including, from left clockwise, grandson Jeffrey and his wife Jodie with their children. At back are Jodie and Peter Gunders with theirs, granddaughter Lyndall and her partner Craig, son Ian Bignall and his wife Di Nicholl. Photo: Gareth Gardner 070814GGA01

MARION Bignall has been writing about history and watching it pass by for  most of her 100 years.

Now she’s created her own slice of a centenary of memories.

The woman who was born three days after the start of World War I in 1914 might be commemorating that special centenary anniversary but she’s also living her own celebration of the special milestone of turning 100.

Mrs Bignall was the centre of all attention yesterday at a morning tea in the town hall. Among those there were her son Ian Bignall, one of her two children, and three grandchildren, including Lyndall and Peter, the children of Marion’s daughter Marilyn. Marilyn has been struck with illness and couldn’t make it.

Mrs Bignall’s third grandchild, Jeffrey, Ian’s son, was also there.

And so too were her five great- grandchildren – and all the way from Sydney, Marion’s 92-year-old sister, Effie White.

While Mrs Bignall’s sight is limited and her hearing poor, she took the floor to give the 60 guests a 

10-minute talk on all things good, and some bad, that she’d experienced over her long lifetime.

As a toddler with her parents Alton and Lily Macleod, she attended the Manilla soldiers’ farewells in the Manilla Town Hall for that Great War, so her interest in history and the heritage of her place was piqued from an early age.

When she completed school with the then-Intermediate Certificate at Manilla, the equivalent of Year 10, she went to work with her father, who owned and edited the Manilla Express newspaper. 

Her dad researched and published Manilla’s first history book, The Transformation of Manellae in 1949. 

In 1933, she took a joy flight in the Southern Cross when Charles Kingsford-Smith stopped over in Manilla on one his barn-storming tours of the North West. 

Seventy years later she would visit the Southern Cross display at Brisbane Airport and remember that experience.

Son Ian says she’s a great reader, writer and lover of flowers, and has always been noted for her sense of design and her huge contribution to the success of Manilla’s annual Festival of Spring Flowers over the course of 30 years.

“She enthusiastically served her church and the broader Manilla community throughout most of her life, being a long-term office bearer in several organisations, particularly the hospital auxilliary and horticultural society,” the family said. 

“She was a foundation member of Manilla Historical Society in 1972 and, with others, prepared Royce’s House for opening as Manilla’s museum in 1975. 

“Marion and husband Lindsay Bignall researched and compiled the town’s second history book, A History of Manilla 1853-1979.”

In 2001 she was honoured with the Centenary Medal for her community work.

“Mum retired as president in 2003 but she compiled a set of Incidental Histories which she wrote on her laptop, along with her autobiography,” said 66-year-old Ian.

“I might have taken over from mum, but I’m still an apprentice. 

“She’s a walking encyclopaedia of history in Manilla.

“Whenever I’m working on anything about Manilla, I always defer to her knowledge and memory.”

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