17 June 2024

The accidental historian keeping Narrandera nostalgics immersed in the past

| Vanessa Hayden
Start the conversation
a man and a woman with books

The accidental historian Glen Ward with his late mother, Marjorie Darling Ward, at her book launch at the Narrandera Library. Photo: Supplied.

“I feel like I’m an historian by default,” admits Glen Ward.

The 77-year-old administrator of the Lost Narrandera Facebook page says it was a collection of old family photos of life in Narrandera that led him to set up the online platform.

“I grew up in Narrandera and went to school there. Our family was fairly entrenched in the area but then we moved away when I was 16.”

Glen moved on to live in various places. He spent 10 years in Byron Bay and three decades in Tumut before moving to Frankston in Victoria to help care for his mother, well-known writer and author Marjorie Darling Ward, who lived to the grand old age of 102 before dying in May.

“I had a heap of photographs from Narrandera that I was carrying around for years in shoeboxes and storing in plastic bags under the bed, like everybody else, and I thought I’ve got to do something with these,” Glen said.

“I thought if I got run over by a car, my daughter would say, ‘What’s this rubbish?’ and throw them all out, or if the house caught on fire they’d be lost.

“I kept wondering what I could do because they would eventually deteriorate and then I thought, it’s obvious, put them out there on the ‘intraweb’ and let them take care of them, and they do, brilliantly.”

READ ALSO A fluke find sends the Fords into a lifelong affair with Australian pottery

So, about eight years ago, Glen Ward’s Narrandera Pics page was born as a place to preserve and conserve the photos digitally.

“I wasn’t even that interested in history!” he laughs.

“I put them up to store them and for no other reason.”

It appears, however, that others were interested in looking back in time and he soon developed quite a following, with people making contact inquiring whether he had photos of particular people, places and landmarks.

“So, I started digging them out and putting them up and now I’ve got nearly 8500 followers, which I find quite funny because there’s only about 2000 people living in the town.”

On a page now known as Lost Narrandera, with a five-star rating if you don’t mind, Glen is regularly posting about significant events of days gone by and highlighting milestones and memorabilia.

He says it brings a great sense of nostalgia for people who used to live in the area and he believes the majority of his followers are people who also grew up there or lived there for a time.

“Actually, sometimes I feel a bit guilty,” he reveals.

“People contact me about all sorts of things and I immediately think I’m not an historian! But I’ve come to the realisation that maybe, in some form, I am.”

He reflects it was his mother who was a great source of information for his forays into forgotten days.

Marjorie Darling Ward has been described as a national treasure. She was a prolific writer and had published fiction, non-fiction, poetry and stage plays, and her work has been featured in The Age, Westerly magazine, Melbourne Times, New Idea, Woman’s Day and the Women’s Weekly, and has been read on ABC Radio National.

“She was a major asset to me because she knew things about Narrandera,” Glen said.

“When you are 102, you know a lot of things about things.

“Sadly, I’ve lost that source now.”

old photos of a town's diving towers

It’s historic photos such as these, of the old diving towers in Lake Talbot, that get people talking on Glen’s Lost Narrandera Facebook page. Photos courtesy Glen Ward.

Glen recalls another time in his newfound career as a memory keeper when he decided to put a call out to others he thought might also have decaying stashes of box brownie photographs under their beds.

“Well, that was an utter flop, a complete and unmitigated failure,” he chuckles.

“Sometimes you think you are on the right track and you’re not.”

Adverts on his Facebook page, accommodation booked for three nights and an agreement with the Narrandera Library to use some of its equipment and Glen was ready for the influx of photos set to enhance his collection and preserve memories for others.

“I thought every family in Narrandera would have old photographs in the shed, on top of the cupboard,” he said.

“I’d had people contacting me in the past saying they didn’t want to post a photo, or didn’t know how to copy it and email it, so I thought, right, I’ll come to them.

“I set up a table in the library and was there for three days so word would get out that I was there. I was going to photocopy photos for people on the spot.

“Well, I got one person who brought a photo in.

“To this day I can’t believe how badly I misjudged it! It was a complete flop.”

READ ALSO Riverina Rewind: When women reached new heights through the Wagga Flying School

Upon reflection, Glen realises the error of his ways.

“The local people don’t follow the page as closely because they are seeing it every day, they’re driving across the river bridge, they are seeing it, they live there.

“The bulk of my followers are from elsewhere, people that have moved away and are nostalgic about Narrandera – I get it.”

And get it he does.

His posts are full of engagement from his followers who reflect on their own memories. There are dozens of comments, plenty of shares and conversations between commenters that see them reconnecting after decades apart.

Like any good chronicler, the 1940s-born boomer has learnt what it takes to keep his followers happy.

“Do your research or think it through first and don’t get anything wrong. Get something wrong and that’s when you know you’re alive!”

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Riverina news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riverina stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.