Over the Easter long weekend 250 descendants of James and Emma Reader came together to celebrate 150 years of their arrival in Adelaide from Manchester, England on the 23rd April 1860.
The Reader 150 Rally organising committee began planning for the event about 18 months ago and family members from various parts of Australia began arriving Friday afternoon.
Master of Ceremonies for the Reunion was Paul Reader of Adelaide, son of Barry & Maureen Reader.
The weekend program kicked off on Saturday with registrations, tours of the original home and surrounding property together with much of its historical memorabilia. Descendants of each of James and Emma’s six children were invited to display any mementos including photographs, certificates, personal letters and more in the purposely erected marquee. Nearby some of the engines that Barry Reader has restored including the early 1900’s Bartram engine was on working display, this engine was once used to cut chaff for the Reader family horses.
Local Reader descendant, Richie Foster, began the afternoon program by leading a parade of historical vehicles with his horse and wagonette; he then displayed his blade shearing skills to an impressed crowd after which he gave the children rides with his horse and wagon. Pony Rides supervised by Laura Page from Sydney were also popular.
A Backyard Cricket Match was played between the Bloods, (the direct descendants and the
Outsiders) with the Bloods taking the victory. The remainder of the afternoon was set aside for meeting and greeting while the evening saw approximately 150 people gather at the Apsley Hall for a festive night of dining and dancing. The wonderful entertainment was provided by Peter and Denise (Reader) McGennisken of the “Rusty Springs” fame, who were able to get young and old up onto the dance floor.
Even the Easter Bunny joined in the celebrations by leaving behind dozens of eggs for the many children to collect on Sunday morning. This was then followed by an Ecumenical Prayer Service lead by Annette (Reader) Kearney.
Children and adult representatives of each of the family lines took part in the Service as did the West Wimmera Shire Mayor, Councillor Ron Hawkins who read the Gospel.
Present owners of “Ardwick”, Barry and Maureen Reader both told those present a little of the Reader history, Barry recalling the reasons why James and Emma selected Ardwick in 1869 and Maureen telling Emma’s Story.
Again Denise (Reader) and Peter Mc Gennisken played for the Prayer Service with Nicole
(Reader) Evans, accompanied by son Tom Evans on guitar performed a beautiful rendition of ‘Hallelujah’. Finally Peter and Denise (Reader) McGennisken performed their own version of the Slim Dusty classic “Lookin’ Forward, Lookin’ Back” to the delight of the congregation.
Guest speaker West Wimmera Shire Mayor Councillor Ron Hawkins welcomed the visitors to the Shire and spoke of his connection to the Readers especially James and Emma’s foster child Joe Dagger whose property his family now owns.
Family members were encouraged to provide items to be included in a time capsule which will be opened in 20 years time. Barry and Maureen’s daughter Emillie Reader travelled from Los Angeles and undertook the organising of this along with Certificates for the 33 descendants who agreed to be Custodians. She also brought with her the Lancashire County Flag from James and Emma’s homeland.
Following the Prayer Service six she-oak trees, (allocasuarina verticillata) propagated by Barry Reader from she-oaks growing at Ardwick were planted by the descendants of James and Emma’s children, John & Eliza Baugh, Margaret & William Campbell, James & Agnes Reader, Mary & Patrick Kealy, Annie & John Batton and Joseph & Ellen Dagger.
Finally a stone monument built from ironstone cut by James Reader in the 1860’s, fitted with commemorative plaques, covered with the Australian Flag and the Union Jack was unveiled by Nancy (Kealy) Foster of Naracoorte and Meggsie Campbell of Bendigo.
A leisurely barbeque lunch cooked and served by several neighbours was then enjoyed by all family members before long and varied journeys home to all parts of Australia.
For the 50 people remaining, it was dinner at the Apsley Border Inn Hotel on Sunday night
followed by music by Audrey Huntly, with more singing, dancing and celebrating, concluding what was a successful and joyous reunion.