Southland woman working to preserve forgotten war memorials

Source: 1News

A Southland woman has been praised for her work over the years cleaning and repairing war memorials across the countryside, ensuring the region's fallen soldiers aren't forgotten.

Ann Robbie plays the pipes at ANZAC services all over Southland.

But during a visit to the tiny country school of Hauroko Valley School, Robbie was in for a big surprise.

She was gifted a brooch with a Scottish bent and a handmade, heartfelt little book of thank yous.

"We think you're an inspiration and a hero in our community," a young boy said.

A teary Robbie said: "It's beautiful."

Robbie's spent years helping to preserve war memorials. So far, she's cleaned and documented 422 memorials in Southland.

They've been found in deconsecrated churches and abandoned community halls.

If they need some extra repair work, she takes them to the Woodworkers Guild or home to her husband Peter, who helps "get the lustre back into the wood, clean the mud off" and remove bird droppings.

Her prized find is the MacKenzie memorial on Bluff Hill erected for fallen brothers and a fallen flagpole.

READ MORE: Lost flagpole honouring fallen soldiers found atop Bluff Hill

Robbie now wants a walkway leading up to it.

"I don't care how much red tape the ICC [Invercargill City Council] throw at my feet - I'll send it back to them," she said.

"The worst thing you can say to us is that you can't do it - that is the worst thing you can say because I'll find a way."

She said her work is "nothing compared to what they actually did... they gave their lives".

But now she's fighting a battle of her own as she undergoes cancer treatment.

"Right now, I'm trying to deal with pain but [cleaning the memorials] gives me a focus as well.

"Still above the daisies so I'll be working on them until I'm under them."