Portal to the past

20150925_131359 (2)They wandered the desert of the Holy Land in 800BC. The Rechabites were descended from Rechab of biblical times. A nomadic life and free of alcohol. In the late nineteenth century a Bedouin tribe was found near the Dead Sea that professed to be descendants. Living shadows remain today and one was found in an Ipswich garage.

The Independent Order of Rechabites was founded 180 years ago in Salford near Manchester in the north of England. It was named after the Rechabites of the Old Testament. Part of the wider temperance movement, it promptly came to Australia as a mutual society. Members were provided welfare such as funeral and sickness benefits, while promoting a healthy sober lifestyle. It continues its work today to reduce the harms of alcohol and other drugs.

This magnificent 79-year-old illuminated certificate was rescued from a garage clean-out of the recipient’s grandson. It provides a tangible link to the sentiment of the original Rechabites of 3,000 years ago. Read the names on the parchment and you’re looking deep into Australian history.

Alison Gledson’s father was for 31 years a member in the Queensland Legislative Assembly and served as Attorney General. George Skippen was a POW in the First World War, captured by the Germans in 1916 during the bitter Battle of Pozières. Frederick Hoskin’s father was present at the reading of the proclamation constituting Queensland a separate colony in 1859. His son landed at Gallipoli on that iconic first day 25 April 1915, and died weeks later having been wounded at Quinn’s Post.

Photographed this week with the parchment is Peter, a third-generation Rechabite. His family has served in the same tent for 90 years. He’ll present this historic illumination to the John Oxley Library, part of the State Library of Queensland, for digitisation and preservation. It will last as long as the archives remain.

So please look under your house. On the top shelves. Bottom of the boxes. The remotest, darkest recesses may be concealing a time portal patiently waiting to be discovered.

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