There is a framed article in the council chambers in Katherine which looks a little out of place.
The civic centre’s walls are bare for the most part, a former mayor’s portrait here and there.
Some historic texts about the founding of the town, that type of stuff.
The most striking thing about the room, other than the pink chairs, is the big flags in one corner which come in handy for the regular citizenship ceremonies.
So for this framed article to have such a pride of place you would think it would have to be about a founding father, the explorer who named the place or something like that.
Perhaps even a memento of the Tour de France win by Cadel Evans – or a gold medal from Olympic swimmer Leisel Jones – both former residents, but no.
It’s an article celebrating the life of Alfred Borella, a man who had very little to do with Katherine at all.
But for an extraordinary person which as Borella, the fact he even passed through the place many years perhaps rubs a little of his greatness on ourselves as well.
Alfred Borella, it’s a story I’ve heard many times, and never get tired of it.
How a hard worker shunted out of Victoria to make his way in the world came to Daly River to take up some land.
He later takes a job as a cook in Tennant Creek when war breaks out.
Determined to enlist, Borella then undertakes one of the truly great outback feats in history.
Not deterred by the fact the recruiting office was in Townsville he headed out from Tennant Creek on foot to sign up.
In company with an Aboriginal man called Charlie he walked, walked and walked – 140 kilometres. Swam across a few flooded rivers on his way as well.
Eventually they came to Renner Springs where he borrowed a horse and rode to Katherine.
That’s our part in the whole crazy Borella adventure. From Katherine he caught the mail coach to Pine Creek. He took the train to Darwin and sailed to Townsville.
That journey has become a part of Australian folklore.
He eventually did sign up as one of the first volunteers from the NT and became an even more remarkable soldier, winning a Victoria Cross in the process. He later signed up for WW2 as well.
He served at Gallipoli, in France and other places for four years before being invalided back to Victoria where he settled down on a farm near Hamilton and raised a family.
There is a plaque in Darwin to the man – and a reminder on the wall of the Katherine council chamber.
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