Meg Pearce’s address to Wagin Lions

Good evening. For those of you I haven’t met personally my name is Meg Pearce and I was the Wagin Lions 2014 representative for The Quiet Lions tour. I would like to begin by acknowledging and saying a huge thank you to the Wagin Lions Club for giving me the opportunity to go on this journey to Thailand. With the exception of my little brother Jack, all my immediate and extended family have been on this trip and I had heard many moving and wonderful stories of courage, humor and mate ship and I was very excited to go and experience it for myself. My Grandad, Joe Pearce (now deceased) survived the Railway and only passed away two years ago. Growing up, I was taught of the bravery and sacrifice of the men and women who fought for their country in wartime and the hardships that they endured. As I got older, I learnt about the huge impact wars had on globalization and our world economy. However, it’s quite evident in today’s youth that the knowledge of wars and the impact they have, still does not go beyond the basics taught in History class. It is in the understanding and hearing of the stories of war heroes that truly helps to develop an even greater appreciation for those men and women who fought and continue to fight in all wars. I do see it as my responsibility to pass on what I have learnt and the stories I have heard, so that we will never forget. When reflecting back, I tried to think about key moments of the tour that really resonated with me. Each place told a different story and taught me something new. The dawn service itself was haunting and beautiful. It produced such mixed feelings. I had feelings of overwhelming pride for our country, a great sadness for man, yet also great joy that we can come together to share those stories and to remember. But, for me, the highlight would have definitely been the walk along the remnants of the Railway line to Hellfire Pass. I don’t know what surprised me more; ex POW from the line Snowy Fairclough, power walking straight past us through that first cutting (putting us all to shame) or, how beautiful the scenery was. Seeing it made it hard to picture or imagine the haunting stories about what the men working on the railway endured. I found walking through those cuttings and embankments on your own very moving. It gave me a better understanding and perspective. I mean, I was sweating just strolling along with my 1.5L bottle of water and damp towelettes. It’s truly remarkable that these men were working 12 to 18 hours every day in those conditions. The bravery, ingenuity and resilience the men showed in dealing with their circumstances and the mate-ship between the prisoners must truly have been a bond that is beyond our imagination. A huge mention must go to ex POWs Snow Fairclough and Neil MacPherson. Meeting and having them on this trip made it very special and I was honored to meet them both. You can hear the stories and the facts about the war, from a third party, but being able to talk to them and hear direct recounts, was truly incredible and will always be with me. They teach us all a great life lesson. They faced and witnessed unimaginable horrors yet their love of life and kind and caring natures are so evident. With some being a little cheekier than others – Snow, his diet of Singha and Ice cream at any time of the day still amuses me - but I say let the man do what he wants, he definitely deserves it. It truly is the people that made this trip the remarkable experience it was. I absolutely loved getting to know everyone, and the different stories that they had to share about their families and friends. Anzac Day and this trip, means something different to everyone, but we were all united by the desire to learn and experience. We were a smaller group this year, which really gave us the opportunity to get to know each other and to create new friendships. I have a natural tendency to just talk at people most of the time, so a small group meant everyone had to put up with me. My only regret was getting sick just before the talent show, but then again I heard everyone singing the national anthem every morning, so perhaps it was my body’s way of saying “enough”. I would especially like to thank David Piesse. From my first conversation with him, it was obvious that he had so much knowledge and passion to share on this trip. He sparked everyone’s interests with his facts and stories, and passed on that passion to anyone he spoke to. You were such an integral part of my learning, so for that I would sincerely like to thank you. Granddad was always so fond of you, and I can see why. As a child, you see your grandparents as people who love you, spoil you and feed you all the things you aren’t allowed at home and in my case that was a never ending supply of shortbread creams and ice-cream. But as you grow, you begin to see them differently and to understand them more. My Grandfather, Joe Pearce is very special to me and has been integral in my growing up. His values and outlook on life were simple and admirable. My brothers and I could not be more proud of the person we got to know. It is such a credit to him and other POWS like Snow and Neil that they experienced such an unforgiveable part of humanity, but still managed to be the kind and caring people we all love. It was always Granddad’s wish for all his family to go to Thailand on this trip and to learn more of Australia’s history, and of his own. He would have loved to hear about everything I experienced, and all the cheeky stories; and I’m just sorry that I didn’t have to opportunity to share it with him. It was fantastic having my Dad on this trip as well. Having already gone back to Thailand with Granddad, what he could share with me was invaluable, especially when walking through the Hintok cutting where Granddad had worked. So, thank you Tombo for coming, and supplying the Pringles when we were no longer able to eat anything sweet and sour. This 2014 Quiet Lion Tour to Thailand was such a meaningful and special trip. I would like to again say thank you to the Wagin Lions Club for the opportunity and to everyone who helped organize the tour. I learnt so much and met so many wonderful people; this experience was a memory for life. Thank you.

Comments are closed.