St Matthew’s has a played a small but unique role in the story of the restoration of Newcastle’s precious Birdwood Flag.
It begins with the story of a woman called Dora Sparke. Dora was a very active member of St Philip’s Waratah (formerly part of the parish of Georgetown) in the first half of last century. Before she died in 1957 she gave our parish a set of communion vessels which featured her mother’s jewellery.
Dora was also very active in the wider church and community. She led the project to create the Birdwood Flag in 1916 and to send it to the Western Front – the first Australian flag used in WWI. She arranged for it to be hung in the Cathedral when it was returned after the war. Over the years the flag disintegrated, but it was recently rediscovered and has now been restored.
St Matthew’s Parish Council recently decided to loan the valuable Sparke vessels to the Cathedral where they could be displayed securely. The vessels went to the Cathedral last Friday, where they were joyfully welcomed.
The flag itself was rehallowed at a special service on 30 July 2017 where the Sparke Communion Vessels loan was acknowledged and the parish thanked. The vessels will be restored and then put on displayed along with the Birdwood Flag.
For more detail on the history, this blog from the University has more information on the flag as well as Dora Sparke herself.