Badges worn by the Coo-ees (purple ribbons with silver writing)
I was fascinated to read about the ‘purple badges’ worn by the Coo-ees in the following paragraph published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 13th November, 1915:
‘Thus had the little army grown since it started out from Gilgandra on October 10 twenty-five strong. Ten more men from the little western town, set in a district where bug hearts are, joined the original twenty-five on the way; and from Dubbo, Wongarbon, Geurie, Wellington, Stuart Town, Molong, Orange, Blayney, Bathurst, Yetholme, Wallerawang, Lithgow, and the towns along the mountains, and, indeed, all the way down to Sydney, other batches joined in, and were supplied with dungarees and white hats – and the purple badges with the silver lettering, “Gilgandra Coo-ees—Hitchens’ Own,” with which the contingent set out.’
What were these “purple badges” that the Coo-ees had worn on the Coo-ee March?
I recently visited the State Library of New South Wales to view one of these “badges”, after learning that one of them was in the Alex Halden (Joe) Miller papers in the Mitchell Library Collection. I obtained permission to take the following photograph:
It was amazing to see the purple ribbon in such pristine condition – I could still see the sprinkles of the silver paint used for the lettering on the ribbon.
Researching the purple badges worn by the Coo-ees further, I found that at Euchareena the ‘school children ran races for Hitchen’s “Coo-ee” badge’.
At Molong over a pound’s worth of “Coo-ees” ribbons were sold for a shilling each to raise money for the march.
The Leader reported that the Coo-ees wore their purple badges pinned to their shoulders when they marched through Orange.
The rolls of ribbon for the Coo-ee badges had been supplied by Wises’, Ltd., in Sydney.
So, along with the ones worn by the Coo-ees, and these additional ribbons that were sold and given away during the march, there were hundreds of them in people’s possessions at the conclusion of the Coo-ee March in 1915.
I wonder how many other Coo-ee badge ribbons are still in existence 100 years after they were worn on the Coo-ee March, hidden away in a family member’s First World War memorabilia tin or box, or in a photo album or scrapbook?
 ‘The Coo-ees. Gilgandra Men in Sydney’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 November, 1915, p. 19.
 ‘With the “Coo-ees.”’, Gilgandra Weekly, 29 October 1915, p. 2.
 ‘The Route March’, The Farmer and Settler, 26 October, 1915, p. 3.
 ‘Hitchen’s March to the Sea’, Leader, 25 October, p. 4.
 ‘Gilgandra Recruiting Association’, Gilgandra Weekly, 26 November, 1915, p. 4.
Yes, the ribbons are a very vivid purple – I was quite amazed at the brightness of the colour. The ribbons appear to be silk although I could be wrong as I did not handle it (it is in an album). There will be many out there as they were sold. Haldane Miller sent one to Sid Miller in Ashfield and the men in the local rifle club were getting them also.
Helen, this is an amazing photo of the purple ribbon. Would you mind if I used it in the Coo-ee March Gallery at Gilgandra, to complement the ribbon recently donated to the Historical Society by the descendants of the Watts Family.
I will send you a high resolution copy by email.
Many thanks Helen. You and Stephen are doing a terrific job in researching all of the original Coo-ees. Good luck with the Re-enactment March.