opportunity to meet the girl of his dreams, marry and have children, but his memory lives on.
"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn" (2)
He was only 10 years old (1), but he was indirectly killed due to World War I. He did not have the opportunity to meet the girl of his dreams, marry and have children, but his memory lives on.
On Easter Sunday (21st April 2019), my husband and I were walking across the Victoria Bridge in Brisbane, as we have done on many occasions. It was starting to rain and we were heading for the train station, but for some unknown reason, I walked off the main pathway to read the plaque on the stone archway at the end of Victoria Bridge.
|Hector Vasyli Memorial Tablet|
Old Victoria Bridge Abutment, Brisbane
"EVERY LAND IS HIS NATIVE LAND TO A BRAVE MAN
NEAR THIS SPOT AS A RESULT OF
NEAR THIS SPOT AS A RESULT OF
A LAMENTABLE ACCIDENT, WHILST
WELCOMING RETURNED SOLDIERS,
WAS KILLED 9TH JUNE 1918.
AGED 11 YEARS.
DURING HIS BRIEF SOJOURN ON EARTH,
HE DEVOTED MUCH OF HIS TIME TO
PATRIOTIC WORK FOR AUSTRALIAN
SOLDIERS DURING THE GREAT
IN HIS VEINS RAN THE HEROIC BLOOD
OF GREECE, AND IN THE BREAST OF A
CHILD HE CARRIED THE HEART OF A MAN.
THIS TABLET WAS ERECTED BY
THE RETURNED SAILORS AND SOLDIERS
IMPERIAL LEAGUE, HELLENIC (GREEK)
ASSOCIATION AND CITICENS(3) OF BRISBANE"
I wanted to know more about poor little Hector.
Hector touched the souls of many, in his short life. "He devoted his Sunday to the heavenly things instead of spending his time in idleness and earthly amusements" (4). He was an altar boy at the Anzac Church."He had friends amongst yellow, black and brown people, and a little black boy was his most devoted and affectionate friend. At his coffin tears were shed by white and coloured people. Many an old invalid got some food from him.....and many poor souls blessed the little hand of this good-hearted dear boy.
His patriotism to his country and its brave soldiers was a great example indeed. He did his bit for every patriotic fund, collected money, sold badges.......There were his little hands working in the interests of our soldiers, to make their return to home sweet for them. He saved every penny (he was a paper boy), not to buy sweets for himself, but packets of cigarettes for our returning heroes....He would have loved to buy a football, but instead of saving his pennies for that purpose he spent them in the soldiers interests".(4)
Hector "never missed an opportunity of greeting returning soldiers as they proceeded from Central station to the Kangaroo Point hospital. All his savings were spent in purchasing flowers, cigarettes and other things, which he gave the men as they passed by. And he met his death while carrying out his noble service". (5)
At the time of his death, Hector (age 10) (1) was the only son of Mabel Hannah (nee Hatton) and Dessa George Vasyli, who operated a fish and oyster saloon in West End.
Hector had two older sisters, Netta (age 15), Kathleen (age 13), a younger sister, Daffodil - aka Daffidal (age 6) and another sister, Olga, died at 11 months of age in 1911.(6)
Hector was killed by a motor-car while welcoming home soldiers. "This little silent worker, it is sad to say, met his end on such a good-hearted mission."(7)
"On that fatal Sunday he had four packets of cigarettes and a bundle of wattle, and stood there, waiting for the soldiers, to show them his respect and affection" (4)
There was a procession of more than 60 vehicles taking wounded soldiers to the Military Hospital at Kangaroo Point. A group of four or five boys, including Hector were stationed at the side of the bridge. One of the cars in the lead slowed down suddenly (reportedly to avoid a lady crossing the road), which resulted in a following car, containing several returned soldiers, swerving to the left avoid a collision with a car ahead. Unfortunately, the car knocked Hector down and the wheels ran over him. Hector hit his head on the pavement, fractured his skull, fractured his right arm and had many abrasions and contusions. He was immediately picked up and taken at speed to the Mater hospital, but he had already passed.
The high number of articles, appearing in Newspapers all around Queensland, is a reflection of how much Hector's tale impacted people.
The memorial tablet was unveiled on Sunday 8th December 1918 in front of a crowd of over 1000. It was originally erected at the Brisbane end of the old Victoria Bridge, near where Hector died. The memorial tablet was moved to its current location on the Victoria Bridge Abutment in 1971. (9)
In addition to the memorial tablet, on 10th July 2018, a memorial service was held at the South Brisbane Boys' State School (now the Brisbane State High School on Merivale Street) and a fig tree was planted to perpetuate the memory of Hector Vasyli (10). I drove past today and there are two big fig trees at the school. I shall try to find out if Hector's memorial tree remains.
On the 21st August 1919, Mr & Mrs DG Vasyli had the greatest pleasure to announce the birth of a son named Hercules.
"which event they regard to be a consolation granted to them by the Lord. In His mercy for the loss they suffered when He called up to Him their dear beloved boy, Hector." (11)
"In loving memory of my little friend, Hector Vasyli, who was accidentally killed 9th June 1918, while welcoming returned soldiers home.
One of the best that God could send,
Beloved by all, a faithful friend,
Called home from those who deeply love,
To gain a glorious life above.
With aching hearts and tearful eyes
We linger where our dear friend lies,
And breathe those sacred words once more,
Not lost, but only gone before"
Christie and Charlie Marneros
The Telegraph, Brisbane
Monday 9th June 1919, Page 4
(2) From the fourth stanza of the poem, Ode of Remembrance, by Englishman Laurence Binyon
(3) The spelling of citizen is incorrect on the memorial.
The Daily Mail (QLD 1903-1926), Friday 21 June 1918, Page 7
The Telegraph (QLD 1872-1947), Thursday 11 July 1918, Page 2
The Brisbane Courier (QLD 1864 - 1933), Thursday 13 June 1918, Page 6
The Telegraph (Brisbane QLD 1872 - 1947), Monday 9 December 1918, Page 5
The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 - 1947), Monday 8 July 1918, page 7
The Telegraph (Brisbane, Qld. : 1872 - 1947), Saturday 30 August 1919, page 6