DVD showcases legendary tale

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Awarua Communications Museum project co-ordinator Paul McKay, left, museum treasurer Clifford Shirreffs and South Coast Productions' producer Dave Asher. Photo: Hayden Williams

VOLUNTEER staff at the Awarua Communications Museum spent “a fair few hours” packaging and mailing more than 100 free copies of a recently released World War 1 commemorative video to all Southland schools, rest homes and RSAs in time for Anzac Day.

The 17-minute DVD, When Jean Deans Raced the Train, was a three-year project produced by South Coastof Riverton, and based on a poem written by Central Otago poet Ross McMillan.

“We wanted to make the most of the opportunity to produce something which had relevance to all age groups relating to the significance of the sacrifice of many young Southlanders in the Great War,” Awarua Communications Museum project co-ordinator Paul McKay said.

“The DVD not only highlights the tremendous cost of young life lost, but also conveys an understanding of the impact the sacrifice had on loved ones at home,” he said.

When Jean Deans Raced the Train features a narration and dramatisation of McMillan’s poem interspersed with some stunning scenery of Southland and Otago.

“We’ve worked with South Coast Productions producer Dave Asher for several years now in the development of our museum and are thrilled with what he’s created with this video,” Mr McKay said.

The project, funded by grants from the Lotteries Grant Board, the Community Trust of Southland, the Southern Trust, Dunedin, and the ILT Foundation as part of a government initiative to help commemorate the centenary in 2014 of the outbreak of World War 1, was “a real community effort”, Mr McKay said.

Mr Asher said the DVD had “left several people teary-eyed”.

McMillan, who lives in Naseby, in Central Otago, has been credited with an honest storytelling style similar to famous Australian poets Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson.

The poem Jean Deans is a true story about McMillan’s mother as a young woman, racing alongside the Oamaru mail train on horseback to get letters from her soldier sweetheart Curly Bill during World War 1. The train featured in the DVD is the Weka Pass steam train from North Canterbury.

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