Nanango author Liz Caffery
Nanango author Liz Caffery with her book about "the cobber from Murgon", Patrick Tiernan

April 10, 2014

When the South Burnett delegation arrives in the Netherlands next month for the commemoration honouring Murgon WWII hero Patrick Tiernan, they’ll have copies of a special book to give to the local mayor and dignitaries.

A photobook prepared by Nanango author and historian Liz Caffery traces the history of Murgon and the Tiernan family and details Patrick’s war experiences until the tragic night his Halifax bomber was shot down over the skies of Dodewaard on June 17, 1944.

Seven copies of the book have been prepared, including two with introductory pages in Dutch translated by Nanango resident Hanny Mous.

Liz told the book would not have been possible except for the fact that Patrick’s family had saved so many of his letters back home from during the war.

These letters were gathered together and conserved by his grand-niece Julia Dyer.

The extended Tiernan family also supplied many photographs for the project.

The letters paint a picture of an intelligent man who was seeing the world outside Murgon for the first time – with trips to New York, London and Scotland – but also with the unspoken reality hanging in the background that service as a turret gunner was practically a death sentence.

Each year on May 4 – Dutch Remembrance Day – members of the Dodewaard Town Council, children from two elementary schools, veterans of Dodewaard and the local WWII Memorial Committee visit the graves of Patrick Tiernan and his fellow airman Alfred Burns, from Sydney, to lay flowers and hold two minutes silence.

In 2012, the mayor of Neder-Betuwe wrote to the South Burnett Regional Council seeking more information about the man whom their town was remembering every year.

This letter led to the formation of community committee in the South Burnett to honour Patrick Tiernan and show gratitude to the Dodewaard community for looking after the two airmen’s graves for seven decades.

Nine South Burnett residents will now be accompanying 11 members of the Tiernan family and a similar number from the Burns family on the visit to the Netherlands.

The South Burnett contingent will also be visiting three major war cemeteries in Belgium where soldiers from many South Burnett towns are buried.

Liz said that when the delegation returned home, she would prepare a new version of the book with added pages detailing the story of Dodewaard and photographs from the South Burnett delegation’s visit.

This is the sixth historical photobook that Liz has prepared.

She has detailed the history of farming, timber and transport in the Nanango district; timber in the Brisbane Valley, and the flood book “Reflections” after the 2011/13 South Burnett floods.

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