Day 1 – The Borella Ride Commencement Ceremony – Tennant Creek
Tennant Creek has never seen a Victoria Cross before, let alone two. But on the first morning of The Borella Ride, Rowan Borella, the 81-year old son of Captain Albert Borella VC, held aloft the medal so the crowd could see it. And only a few metres away was Keith Payne VC OAM, wearing his own Victoria Cross. The Outback town was uniquely privileged.
Other famous people had flown in from around Australia. The MC was Ray Martin AM, up from Sydney and recognised by many in Tennant Creek, who besieged him for autographs. A poet, Rupert McCall OAM, specially engaged to write on the Territory’s foremost soldier’s exploits, held the crowd spellbound as he gave his ballad both barrels, engaging the crowd with a Banjo Paterson-like story that had the same rhythm as “Clancy of the Overflow.” And Chief Minister Adam Giles had many nodding in agreement as he outlined the special visits to so many small communities that the Borella Ride will be making on its 1000 kilometre journey.
Albert Borella’s son, Rowan Borella was emotional as he spoke to the crowd of school children and guests, explaining that his father would be amazed at all the attention he is now being given.
Keith Payne, Vietnam veteran and one of the four living Australian VC recipients, spoke of what young people can learn from Borella’s story. How Albert Borella, broke and at rock bottom after giving his all in his farm on the Daly, simply set out walking from the Tennant Creek area when he decided to sign up for the Great War in 1915. Keith Payne explained that even tremendous journeys – be they in war, peace, or through life’s challenges – all start off with a simple decision. Payne made a decision on the battlefield in 1969 to hold off the enemy and rescue his men, pinned down under attack. Borella made a decision to fight at Gallipoli and the Western Front, and three times he made choices that resulted in him being decorated for his bravery in combat.
Rupert McCall can have the final word on a great day that launched the Borella Ride up the Stuart Highway.
At a soldier’s great insistence, for his mates, he went the distance
For the freedom of his country, he was selfless in his aim
For the values that were feeding from the grass roots of his breeding
In the famous Anzac spirit, lives the honour of his name.
By Dr Tom Lewis, Lead Historian for The Borella Ride