John Carney’s 50th parade
Wednesday, 24th April, 2019
By Myles Burt
RSL parade organiser John Carney will be running his 50th parade after being gifted the role back in 1969.
Mr Carney joined the RSL back in 1967 when he was 18, being the son of a returned serviceman, and helped out with the RSL Dawn Service breakfast.
“Before that I was involved in the RSL ever since I was born,” Mr Carney said.
“Dad used to take me, we never missed an ANZAC Day or a dawn service.”
In 1969, Mr Carney’s number was picked for national service for the Vietnam War through what was known as the ‘birthday ballot’.
The ballot saw young Australia men have the dates of their birthday picked out for military conscription.
However, Mr Carney wasn’t able to go having failed his medical tests.
Later that year, Mr Carney was asked to take charge of the annual Broken Hill ANZAC Day parade.
He said the experience of organising and forming the march over the years has been fantastic.
“Everybody appreciates it, we’ve got the children that wear their grandfather’s medals or great grandfather’s medals; we asked them to do that,” Mr Carney said.
“WWI chaps were passing on, the WWII chaps were getting up to their 70s and 80s, and they said they’re not marching and they just kept on dropping off.
“Now it’s just mainly their sons or their daughters, or it’s their grandchildren or great grandchildren.
“Even the schools, they’ve even joined the groups as they’ve got older now which has been great.”
Mr Carney would organise and escort 15 to 20 groups in the march that would stretch all the way down the Duke of Cornwell Hotel.
Running into the march, where the 2nd Australian Imperial Forces from WWII would welcome him into the march to join them.
“They look after you, I couldn’t thank them enough,” Mr Carney said.
“Even on Thursday you think about them, but you move on otherwise you will fill up.”
Mr Carney said one of the hardest tasks, to ensure the march goes smoothly, was making sure the ex-servicemen paced themselves at the rum rations.
“The hard thing about 10.30am service is they’ve been down to the RSL and had plenty of rum,” Mr Carney said.
“Some couldn’t even march at 11am; they were hopeless.
“They’d sit back on the footpath and watch the march go by and then they’d come back to the RSL, because the RSL would be closed till the march finished.
“Before the service it was pretty popular, the RSL would be full there would be 1000 people here easy.”
Due to that, Mr Carney refuses to have a drink until the day’s duties are done.
“Because I’ve seen the results of people not making the march, and I’m not going to be one of them and never have,” Mr Carney said.
“I’d have a coke but some of those guys would have a dozen rums easy.
“They used to put out all the glasses out on the bar up there at the RSL and they’d be half full of rum.
“They didn’t make the march but they’d be there for when the march finished, they’d be back in the RSL and by 2pm we’d carry them out.
“It’s a big day if you could last it, but it’s a day that Australia remembers.”
Mr Carney takes pride in his role of maintaining the tradition of the local ANZAC Day march, where people can remember the sacrifice men and women made over various theatres of war.
“Once it’s in your mind you’ll never forget it,” Mr Carney said.
“That’s sort of talked into them so they won’t forget and that god forbid war doesn’t happen.
“But one day it may and the people are ready for it.”
As for now, Mr Carney has no plans of slowing down and looks forward to organising more marches in the years to come.
“When I get too old for it I’ll get somebody else,” Mr Carney said.
“But nothing will change, I never changed one thing, I was told not to change it and I haven’t.”