An Armidale based stonemason has helped restore Dorrigo's century-old monument after it was destroyed nine months ago in an extraordinary traffic accident.
The iconic war memorial on the main street was struck at night by an SUV that failed to navigate the intersection.
While the force of the impact shattered the monument bearing the names of local war heroes, the toppled ANZAC Digger statue came to rest almost unhurt on the roof of the car.
Both the monument and marble statue had to undergo a delicate reconstruction, and last month crowds gathered to watch as they were placed at the centre of the new roundabout.
This week the owner of the Armidale business, New England Stonemasonry, finished hand carving the inscriptions on the World War II plaques for the memorial and installed them.
Andrew Fraser was born at Broken Hill and learnt his craft restoring heritage sandstone buildings in Sydney.
He came to Armidale to study at the University of New England more than a decade ago, met his wife and stayed.
When he saw the damage done to the memorial on the news last year, Mr Fraser contacted Bellingen Council to offer his services.
"I started my stonemasonry apprenticeship 27 years ago," he said.
"Rockwell House in Sydney, which was built in the 1850s, was being renovated near where I lived. I literally walked up to the stonemasons and asked for a job."
Mr Fraser worked on Customs House and the Land Titles building restorations in Sydney.
"I've restored Nombi House near Mullaley and completely restored a pretty grand stone horse stable at Ranges Valley near Glen Innes," Mr Fraser said.
"Locally, I built the Foothills Estate entry gates on the north side of town and installed all the memorials surrounding the cenotaph in Armidale Central Park."
New England Stonemasonry was a local option with the required experience which meant Bellingen Council didn't have to go to Sydney or Brisbane.
"Restoring a 99-year-old monument requires a fairly unique skill set, which fortunately I had," he said.
"As this was a heritage project, it was important that it be restored as close to the original as possible.
"That meant matching the old fonts, hand carving the letters and repairing wherever we could.
"Some parts were damaged too badly so had to be rebuilt, matching the existing stone."
Matching the original stone (trachyte) was not so easy Mr Fraser said, and he had to utilise his network in the heritage restoration scene.
"We had to source a particular piece of stone that was originally quarried on the south coast of NSW," he said.
"The quarry has been closed since the 1980s, so that was a challenge, but we found some."
While not a labour of love, the project does reflect what Mr Fraser enjoys most about being a stonemason.
"Being able to create beautiful things out of stone is one of the best things about the job," he said.
"In a world of planned obsolescence, it's good to be producing items that will last many lifetimes, just as the Dorrigo Memorial has."
While most metropolitan based stonemasons specialise in one area of expertise, being based in a regional area means Mr Fraser works in many.
"I do anything to do with stone - kitchen benchtops, bathrooms, monumental masonry, stone entry gates and heritage restorations," he said.
"In the country, you do it all and I really like the variety.
"Although the ever-increasing size of kitchen benchtops, and having to work out how to safely lug them into people's homes can be challenging, because some can be as heavy as 240 kilograms!"
The restored monument will be rededicated by the Dorrigo community on ANZAC Day 2021, 100 years since it was first raised.
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