PERHAPS the only Aborigine among the Waratahs, Richard "Dick" McDonald was born at the Burdeklin River in North Queensland, but by the time he was a young man, he had arrived in NSW.
He worked as a tracker in a Murrulebale arson case that went on for a fortnight, and shared in a £50 reward sent to police officer William Anderson.
It is unclear when he came to the Kiama district, but he was there by 1909, and gained employment in the Railway Commissioners' Quarry at Bombo.
He played rugby league with that village, and after the formation of the South Coast competition, he was a try-scorer with Kiama.
He was also an above average cricketer, scoring Kiama's only century in 1913-14, and had been a regular member of representative teams.
Dick appeared in the Kiama Reserve Rifle Club competitions, and was an enthusiastic member of the 37th Infantry Band located at Kiama.
Following the outbreak of World War I, he had tried to enlist for service in 1914, only to be rejected under an obscure rule that came out of the Franco-Russian War of 1870 that prevented the use of coloured troops.
However at a recruiting meeting held in the Oddfellows' Hall on Thursday, November 25, 1915, he was one of those men who volunteered to become Waratahs, and he proved to be one of the most popular recruits on the march.
He was also able to renew acquaintances with police officer Anderson, who had become an inspector and the march organiser.
At the Kiama send-off, he accepted a safety razor and match box from the Military and Recruiting Association, a presentation from the band, and a kit bag from the Red Cross.
Called upon to respond on behalf of the recruits, Dick's speech ended with "tumultuous cheering and applause".
He was the guest of honour at a farewell organised by the local cricket club, his friends waiting patiently for him to arrive home on leave, aboard the 8pm train.
One of the speakers referred to him as "our cricketing corporal", while Captain Ernest Blow said that his exemplary conduct had been a pattern to all on the march.
He was presented with inscribed gold medals - one by the club and another by bank manager C.B. Minnett - along with a wristlet watch from the Belyons of Shellharbour.
Leaving Australia with the Waratahs on April 1, 1916, aboard the Makarini, Dick joined the battalion in France on July 11, and was critically wounded in the early stages of the battle at Pozieres.
He died on July 24 while being treated by the South Midlands Field Ambulance, and was buried at the Warloy-Baillon Military Cemetery, five miles west of Albert.
Said to be "absolutely without a living relative", Dick's will in favour of Miss May Morrow of Dapto had been witnessed by fellow Waratah Charles McGoldrick.
He was subsequently honoured at a memorial service held at Christ Church, Kiama.
In its tribute, the Kiama Independent stated: "Though there may be no relatives to mourn him, he has not passed away doing his duty as a soldier and a man unwept and unmourned, for he had a warm place in Kiama's heart, and many honoured the white soul of him who so earnestly wanted to do his bit."
He was born on April 25, long before it became Anzac Day, and that anniversary in 1917 saw a Moreton Bay fig tree planted in his memory on a Kiama reserve where the old council chambers had once been located.
An initiative of Mr W.G. Walker, the 4pm ceremony was attended by 50 cadets along with quarrymen and cricketers.
During May 2011, Dick was front page news in the Kiama Independent when a New Testament presented to him before he left with the Waratahs 96 years earlier, was returned to the town.
It had been sold with a box of books, and Gordon Ridley of Culcairn sought to return it.
Signed by Salvation Army officers A. Woodcock and F. Partridge, the hand-written message stated, "To R McDonald on his departure to the Front. Wishing him a safe return, from the officers and soldiers of the Salvation Army, Kiama".
Dick McDonald's name was listed on the honour roll of the Church of England Men's Society, Kiama; and on the Kiama Memorial Arch.
He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
- Alan Clark