Dignitaries, including Julie Bishop, congratulated retiring cenotaph custodian Wally Scott-Smith.After 78 years as chief attendant of the Cenotaph in Sydney’s Martin Place, Wally Scott-Smith has watched the sun rise on the monument for the last time in his official capacity during the Anzac Day dawn service.
The 96-year-old is retiring as the monument’s chief attendant after nearly eight decades of unwavering commitment.
“He’s escaped from hospital twice, with morphine drips no less, just to get here and do his job,” thousands gathered in the pre-dawn chill were told in a tribute to the retiring figure on Wednesday.
Mr Scott-Smith had once desperately wanted to join the army, following in the footsteps of his father.
He enlisted in 1937, but was unable to take his place after having surgery to remove about 30 centimetres of his bowel due to cancer.
It was a few years later in 1940, as a Rovers Scouts leader, that Mr Scott-Smith first came to clean the Cenotaph.
By 1946, he was asked if he would like to be its caretaker, a posting he’s held ever since.
Despite his long tenure, Mr Scott-Smith said he hadn’t expected to receive a tribute at his final dawn service.
“I was surprised. I just said that I was going to retire, but I didn’t expect it to happen the way it did,” he told reporters beside the monument.
He said he’s taken joy in the job, which has been his way of serving those who have lost loved ones in war.
But it won’t he his last Anzac Day at Martin Place.
“Next year I’ll come, sit in the chair over there and point at the fellas doing it here and if they’re not doing it I’ll go crook,” he said.
Australian Associated Press