Memorial to document Pinery fire

The Tiller family - Oscar, 6, Kelvin, Nellie, 2, Audrey, 10 months, Ali and Scarlett, 4 - in front of the original Tiller home. The family started farming in the area in the 1870s.
The Tiller family - Oscar, 6, Kelvin, Nellie, 2, Audrey, 10 months, Ali and Scarlett, 4 - in front of the original Tiller home. The family started farming in the area in the 1870s.

Two years ago, the Pinery fire ripped through the former sporting complex at Grace Plains as it tore across the Lower North.

The old sporting grounds took the full brunt of the blaze, as it passed through the run-down tennis courts and small shed at the site known as Moquet Lee.

Local residents have decided the site would be the ideal location to create a memorial, documenting the disastrous November 25, 2015 fires.

The display will honour Allan Tiller, Pinery, and Janet Hughes, Hamley Bridge, who lost their lives in the fire, as well as showcasing the history of Pinery dating back to the 1860s.

Leading the team of volunteers established to turn the site into a memorial is Grace Plains farmer Peter March, who was fortunate to have his house spared by the fire.

He outlined the importance of not only documenting the fire, but also the town’s history.

“It’s important that history is recorded, and this site is an ideal choice as it bore the full fury of the fire,” he said.

“As this area was already a memorial to Fred Nairn, who was killed during World War I, it was agreed that this site would be a suitable place to create a permanent combined memorial.

“The church has closed, the tennis club folded, so what we want to do is keep the district community here and this was the ideal project to do it with.”

Grace Plains farmer Peter March shows Kelvin and Jenny Tiller the plans for the Pinery fire memorial site.

Grace Plains farmer Peter March shows Kelvin and Jenny Tiller the plans for the Pinery fire memorial site.

Visiting the memorial site last week, Allan’s wife Jenny Tiller said it was a lovely gesture that Allan would be remembered in such a way. 

“He was a man that was never wanting to be in the limelight,” she said.

“Everyone has been affected in different way from the fire, but it has bought a close-knit community even closer in supporting each other through these hard times.

“That will continue on for a long time as the memories linger on.”

Mrs Tiller’s youngest son Kelvin, the fifth generation of Tiller farmers, lives in the original Tiller home, which was spared in the fire.

He said it was good the memorial was being created to acknowledge the day, the people and the locals.

“There will be a section on dad and Janet, and I think that’s a great idea,” he said.

“Obviously everything like that is recorded, but for someone travelling past they can stop at the memorial and get an insight to what happened and the full extent of the fire.”

A number of district residents will volunteer their time to the project.

Mr March is aiming to have the memorial completed by mid-2018, and has applied for funding through Fund My Neighbourhood.

“What we didn’t want to do is go to he local people and ask them to pay for the memorial,” he said.