HISTORIC HANDOVER: Alstonville Plateau Historical Society vice-president Ina Le Bas and Ballina St Mary’s Anglican Church Women’s Guild president Yvonne Wright with the signature cloth made in 1909.
HISTORIC HANDOVER: Alstonville Plateau Historical Society vice-president Ina Le Bas and Ballina St Mary’s Anglican Church Women’s Guild president Yvonne Wright with the signature cloth made in 1909. Doug Eaton

A rare treasure

AN historic tablecloth dating back to 1909 has been handed over to the Alstonville Plateau Historical Society for preservation, but there are still questions about the cloth that are unanswered.

The cloth is a signature cloth, with 600 names and signatures embroidered on it. It has been held at the St Mary's Anglican Church and used by the church's women's guild as a display tablecloth over the years, but it is believed it hasn't been used regularly since the 1960s.

Guild president Yvonne Wright said the cloth was made as part of a fundraiser, but no one was sure what the beneficiary of that event was.

Guild member Marie Hart took the time to record all the names on the cloth.

Some of the family names are: Ainsworth, Eyles, Webster, Martin, Saunders, Easton, Stoker, Henderson, Mobbs and Barlow.

Ballina Shire Council's cultural development officer, Kate Gahan, said there were only three known signature cloths in existence in the Lismore and Ballina areas, and she would like to hear if there were others.

She said signature cloths were popular in the early 1900s.

This one was particularly special because it was "white-work" in which the signatures and initials are embroidered in white onto the white cloth.

She said the cloth was also important because it "tells us about women's history".

"There is a big gap with women's organisations in Ballina," she said.

Alstonville Plateau Historical Society vice-president Ina Le Bas said the cloth, which is in good condition for its age, would be put on display at various times during the year, but stored carefully at other times so the cloth could be preserved.

If anyone has information on the cloth or similar pieces, phone the society on 6628 1829 or Ina on 6628 5457.


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