Bulli’s first ANZAC Day

princess theatre

The Princess Theatre (now the site of Strachan Park in the Woonona shopping centre), where Bulli and Woonona’s first ANZAC Day service was held on April 25 1916. The service was delivered by the Bulli Church of England Minister, The Reverend Philip William Dowe (pictured inset).

The united Commemorative Service in the Princess Theatre on Anzac Day was largely attended. Special war hymns were sung and appropriate addresses were delivered. The Rev. P. W. Dowe, B.A., conducted the service and was supported by the Revs. E. J. Rogers, E. M. Yates, A. G. Palmer, and Mrs. Watts representing the Salvation Army. The addresses were followed with interest, and at one stage in the service the congregation rose and a standing tribute of respect was paid to the men who fell at Gallipoli. The singing of the National Anthem brought to a fitting close a memorable service. Mass was celebrated in the Catholic Church at 9.15 the same morning when an address appropriate to the spirit of the day was delivered by Rev. M. P. Malone.

The following year Bulli’s second ANZAC Day service was again held at Woonona’s Princess Theatre with about 400 people attending, and returned soldier, Rev. R. Dobbinson and Bulli’s Rev. P. W. Dowe again delivering the service.

From 1924 the Woonona Bulli ANZAC Day service was held at the newly erected cenotaph at the corner of Hopetoun Street and the Princes Highway, with the crowds later adjourning to the nearby Bulli Royal Theatre (now a women’s gymnasium).

By 1926, the importance of ANZAC Day in Woonona Bulli had grown, with large crowds attending services. The Illawarra Mercury reported on Friday April 30 1926:

The important place that Anzac Day has been accorded in our national life, by all classes, was shown by the large and reverent gathering which assembled in the Royal Theatre, Bulli, last Sunday. The tone of all the speeches was intensely loyal and patriotic, yet non-militaristic. As the Rev. Edwards so aptly put it: “It matters not in what spirit those men went to the front, they did their duty and left an imperishable renown to inspire generations yet unborn.”

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