It’s been a long and winding road for the Nimmity Bell, beset with every kind of disaster from a freak accident to a global pandemic, but Monaro locals hope to finally declare their bell “open” just after it rings at midday on October 23.
The Nimmitabel Lions Club hatched the idea after decades of struggle for the village when the local sawmill closed suddenly in the early 1990s. Economic woes followed, exacerbated by the drought and the loss of many younger people from the district.
The Nimmitabel Advancement Group thought the community needed a vision committee to stimulate business and tourism and longtime local Lion Howard Charles (a self-described “silly old bugger”) woke up in the middle of the night with the bright idea of sourcing a large “Nimmity Bell”.
An extended saga followed to source, pay for and install the bell, face down local bureaucracy, move the bell again and even survive a freak accident when the bell dropped on Howard while he was inside it during the initial installation. Finally, the most recent grand opening plans had to be postponed when the Snowy Monaro Shire was locked down for several weeks.
But the bell is now in its final position thanks to extensive community support and a sustained effort from the Nimmitabel Lions Club to get behind the project.
During his time as Member for Monaro and NSW Deputy Premier, John Barilaro has been “a strong and generous supporter of this beautiful addition to the streetscape in Nimmitabel, since we started the project, over six years ago”, Howard says.
“We look forward to being able to thank him for his support and for all that he has done for this community and for his whole electorate and wish him all the best for his future”.
Mr Barilaro will do the honours, accompanied by Snowy Monaro Mayor Peter Beer and local resident (and now NSW Nationals deputy leader) Bronnie Taylor, MLC.
At present due to COVID-19, numbers are limited to 30 in the official party inside the fence, but locals are being encouraged to line the street at a socially required distance.
“So we hope that most of you, who supported the bell so strongly and have had to wait so long for this day will come along to join in the celebrations and catch up with old Nimmity mates”, Howard says.
“I hope you have all been vaccinated and we are looking forward to seeing you in Nimmitabel on the 23rd.
“The bell will be there with the plaques mounted and the Lions logo, in all its glory. At last!”
Meanwhile, Nimmitabel is booming as young families move in from Cooma and local water supply problems, which had dogged the community, were solved by the construction of Lake Wallace.
New businesses, including a wood carver, cafe and the always popular bakery, are full as about one million vehicles pass through the town each year in ordinary times. The Nimmitabel Lions Club, whose numbers have doubled in recent years, is preparing to complete the cycle path around Lake Williams.
“The Nimmity Bell will be a symbol of the new Nimmitabel,” says Howard, paying homage to his home town’s “indomitable spirit”.