EXCLUSIVE

Swan song for our Nambucca Valley Nashos

While love floated around the rest of the world on February 14, the air around Nambucca was heavy with another emotion.

After 15 years of brotherhood and barbecues, the Nambucca Valley's Nashos had been forced to hang up their tongs.

"COVID knocked us about a bit," Treasurer Neville Stewart said.

"The decision was made half-way through last year when we realised we couldn't do anymore barbies."

Don McKenzie, Bob Summerville, Neville Stewart and John Eather, August 2018

Don McKenzie, Bob Summerville, Neville Stewart and John Eather, August 2018

But time has also been cruel to the organisation's dwindling membership.

National Service was once part of Australia's defence preparedness.

From 1951 to 1972 nearly 300,000 young Australian men were called into compulsory training in either the army, navy or air force.

"We did have a choice - you could go in the army for two years, or spend six months in jail," long-time secretary of the sub branch Richard Greentree said wryly.

Still, both Neville and Richard said they thoroughly enjoyed their time in National Service "once they got into the routine of it".

"It's a shame really - it should still be going," Neville said.

But the idea of conscription became political poison, and the National Service Act 1964 was abolished in December 1972, the last Nasho completing his army obligation on February 14 - a date which now honours our National Servicemen.

"And since then there's been no one else to come through the ranks and take up the slack," Neville said.

The Nambucca Valley National Sub Branch of the Australian National Servicemen's Association Inc. was born in 2005 with mateship and shared memories the glue that held its members together.

In its heyday there were over 40 active members. But recently only eight members of the Nambucca Valley Sub Branch had been regularly showing up for meetings, and it was the same faithful behind the barbecue each time.

"It's disappointing really that we have got to finish, but we've just got to be sensible," Neville said.

"Still, when you consider the times we've had together it's a bit hard - we'll miss it."

Joining the Nambucca Valley Nashos has been the best thing that's happened to me since being in the Nambucca Valley.

Richard Greentree

One of Richard's fondest memories was the group's excursion to Canberra in September 2010 for the unveiling of the National Service Memorial at the Australian War Memorial.

"A few thousand marched in the parade - the biggest of its kind. It was a proud moment," he said.

"Quite a few of the bus load from Nambucca then went on to meet (newly-appointed) Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

"One of our members - John Hall - shook her hand and refused to wash it for the rest of the trip. Well, that's what he said."

The Nashos' trademark barbecues have been another source of fond memories and pride.

Richard explained that the barbecue tradition started as an 'in-house' affair, with any money left at the end of the lunch donated to local charities and groups.

But they rather liked the idea of giving back and so a grant application was made to the Department of Veterans' Affairs for some barbecues.

"We were successful and it just sort of grew," Richard said.

They quickly became a mainstay of the Hot Rods, GT Falcons and VWs show and shine events.

Every second Saturday the sweet smell of caramelised onion would waft up the street from their barbecue outside Woolworths. They were even brave enough to set up outside one Christmas Eve.

"And once we'd started we thought, 'well we better keep going'," Neville said.

Nasho Neville Stewart hands over $3000 worth of snag sangers to Commbank branch manager Juleanne Bartlett for drought relief, August 17, 2019

Nasho Neville Stewart hands over $3000 worth of snag sangers to Commbank branch manager Juleanne Bartlett for drought relief, August 17, 2019

The Nambucca Valley Nashos' sausage sizzles have raised some $30,000 over the past 15 years, which has all been donated back into the community.

"The first thing we ever donated was a wheelchair for the hospital," Neville said.

But over the years they've also helped the Nambucca Nippers with surfboards, Nambucca Surf Rescue with radios, there've been televisions installed for dialysis patients, a defibrillator for Nambucca Heads High, and computers for local museums.

Nashos' donation to the Nambucca Headland Museum, Feb 2018. (From left) Neville Stewart, John Eather, George Wilson, Edna Stride and George Micolich

Nashos' donation to the Nambucca Headland Museum, Feb 2018. (From left) Neville Stewart, John Eather, George Wilson, Edna Stride and George Micolich

And a range of local organisations, charity events and needy individuals have felt their generosity through cash donations.

But it's not just the Nambucca Valley that has been the beneficiary of our Nashos and their hard work.

Sub branches from Tenterfield, Grafton and Coffs Harbour have all made the annual trek to Nambucca for the National Service Day.

The Coffs Harbour and Grafton Sub Branches were well-represented. Photo credit: Kylie Cork

The Coffs Harbour and Grafton Sub Branches were well-represented. Photo credit: Kylie Cork

"On the very first Nasho Day we put in a plaque on the cenotaph - that was special.+ But we always put in a lot of effort - it was the biggest service in the region," Richard explained.

And it was no different this year.

Around 40 Nashos from Grafton, Coffs Harbour and the Nambucca Valley marched through the RSL carpark.

The Coffs Coast Pipe and Drum Band played as former Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker and current Member Pat Conaghan laid wreaths on the cenotaph. Member for Oxley Mel Pavey was also in attendance, as was Mayor Rhonda Hoban who gave a "very emotional" speech.

"Luke Hartsuyker has always been a great supporter of us. He was there at our first service and he was there at our last." Photo credit: Kylie Cork

"Luke Hartsuyker has always been a great supporter of us. He was there at our first service and he was there at our last." Photo credit: Kylie Cork

Afterwards all attended a special lunch in the club.

"The Nambucca Heads RSL Club have been phenomenal - we can't thank them enough for their support over the years," both Neville and Richard said.

"They've always had a room for us for our meetings, and have helped us hold our annual service."

The Nashos have left an indelible mark - not only on this country through their National Service, but on this community.

Their jovial presence and their sausage sanga with sauce and a complimentary smile will be greatly missed.

Thankyou for your service.

Nambucca Nashos' Sausage Sangers

By Bev Irvine

They're keen as mustard, these Nasho boys, to cook a snag or two

Up goes the tent, out goes the barbie, they know just what to do

They light the gas, adjust the flame so it is going just right

On go the onions, then the snags, it's really quite a sight!

Buttering the bread, stacking it up, things are nearly ready

Customers come, business starts, the boys are going steady

The smell of onions wafting on the air brings folk from near and far

People line up, they all get served, and money goes in the jar

Others come to have their turn, they want a 'sausage sanger'

Some people are more refined; they want 'an egg and banger'

Buttering bread and cooking snags keeps the boys going crazy

When the crowd builds up, business booms, things seem kind of hazy

These Nasho boys aim to earn lots of cash to help a needy cause

When the sausages are finished, and business has ceased, the boys take a pause.

They count the cash - wow - business has been good today

'Twas a lot of work, but gee, it was a bit of play.

They reflect on the day, the work they put in, agree that it was fun

They pack up the barbie, stack up the gear; there - they are done!

Mates together, manning the barbie, seems to give them pleasure

Sanga sandwiches with onions and sauce, flavour in full measure!

These Nasho boys are known near and far, many have tasted their fare

When visitors come to Nambucca Heads, they expect to see them there+

Serving sausages wrapped in bread, with onions and with sauce

Who's doing the cooking, serving the food? The Nasho boys, of course!

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