AN EXHIBITION is opening today at Tenterfield’s School of Arts featuring a couple of items bound to thrill history buffs.
“This is probably the biggest story in Australian history at the moment,” Tenterfield Shire Council’s cultural and business services officer Harry Bolton said.
The pieces rousing such elation from exhibition organisers are items that belonged to Harry “Breaker” Morant and JF Thomas.
Morant was infamously court-martialled, and subsequently executed, for his alleged involvement in the murder of some 20 people during the Boer War.
Thomas defended Morant at his trial.
Mr Bolton said a collector, who has requested to remain anonymous, approached him with some rare items he’d come into. What they discovered was stunning.
A queen’s medallion belonging to Morant, the cigarette tin he’s believed to have given to JF Thomas just before his execution, as well as an array of other items.
Peaking significant interest is a flag that was strewn across the graves of Morant and Peter Handcock.
Mr Bolton said experts at the Australian National Flag Association had appraised the flag and believed it to be “the oldest Australian flag around today”.
Written on the flag, conceivably by JF Thomas, is the message “utter scapegoats of the empire”.
Morant’s last words are purported to have been “shoot straight you bastards”.
“They obviously did,” Mr Bolton said.
One of the items in the collection is a dog tag belonging to Morant, partially mangled by a bullet, leading Mr Bolton and others to suggest it was worn by him at the time of his execution.
“The collection turned up two weeks before Easter. The owner brought in the collection in a hessian bag and we were tipping it out laying it on the desk going through it,” Mr Bolton said.
“The dog tag had actually gotten caught on the bag. When we saw what it was it was really spooky, really scary. His (the owner’s) hands were shaking.”
Mr Bolton said they’d kept the discoveries under wraps for fear of pressure from other agencies, such as the National Museum of Australia.
“They may be happy enough for us to house it here, or they may put up a case for it to be housed there,” Mr Bolton said.
“The owner is happy for the stuff to stay here long term.”
The exhibition, Bushman in the Boer War, will be open to the public from 1.30pm today.