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Byron Shire
May 8, 2021

Evans Head museum work praised

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Unfortunately the person labelled ‘Jack Bell’ in the picture published in Echonetdaily on Monday, 26 August, is not Jack. Rather he is WWII vet Jim Flattely, who served at Evans Head during the war as ground crew repairing aircraft etc.

Jim can turn his hand to anything. He built a merry-go-round out of aircraft parts that was used for many years to raise funds for charity. It was a regular fixture at Evans Head over the summer holidays. Part of that merry-go-round has been donated to the Evans Head Living Museum.

Jim used to fix Page MP Janelle Saffin’s VW and she reminisced with him on the day about that connection.

Jim is a very strong supporter of the Evans Head Living Museum and was delighted with the restoration of the one remaining Bellman hangar, the last of 17 that were there during the war.

For the record, the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome was listed on the NSW State Heritage Register in November 2002 following announcement by the NSW state government at a Cabinet meeting at Evans Head on 30 April earlier that year, not 2005 as stated by others at the opening.

The listing followed an application by the community-based Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Committee in 2000 that was refused support by Richmond Valley Council.

That same committee pushed for many years to have the Bellman hangar restored but again Council wouldn’t provide any funds to undertake the work, even though it had made millions out of the sale of aerodrome land without the necessary permission of the federal government.

In 2005 the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Committee (EMAC) put forward a comprehensive plan for the future of the aerodrome that included an air park, heritage walk, specialist hotel accommodation, aviation businesses and appropriate uses of the Bellman.

The plan was completely ignored by Richmond Valley Council, which at that time gave the runaround to air park proponent Bill Finlen, who had also proposed an air park as early as December 2002.

EMAC also restored the very popular Great Eastern Fly-In at the aerodrome and supported the Evans Head Living Museum’s 70th Anniversary of the RAAF at Evans Head attended by the governor-general and her husband. Richmond Valley charged the community for use of the aerodrome for the occasion!

It was disappointing to see that no recognition whatsoever was given to the vision, foresight and hard work of the EMAC and the earlier interventions of other members of the community, including  Halden Boyd and Bob Maiden at the opening.

Without that work and the comprehensive support of the World War II vets under the leadership of WAAAF Jean Haughton James, author of Wings at War: The RAAF At Evans Head 1939–1945, and the Evans Head Living Museum, none of what has happened recently would have occurred.

Council would have had its way and carved up the aerodrome for housing.

Dr Richard Gates, president Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Committee and the Evans Head Living Museum

(Editor’s note: The correct caption has now been published in the Echonetdaily report.)

 


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