Mathinna was one of Tasmania's most bustling towns in the late 19th century, boasting a productive gold mine that drew settlers from all around.
As the years passed, the town's fortunes waxed and waned and, by the 1940s, the population was down to 300. This was when Charmaine and Maurice "Moss" Lowe met, both born and raised in the town and attending school together, with their romance blossoming into a life-long relationship which endured the toll of the Vietnam War and produced a loving family.
Mathinna was in their blood, both coming from multiple generations of locals.
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They would return there regularly, camping by the river and in the bush, catching up with families and immersing themselves in the area.
Mrs Lowe always had a fascination with the town's history and they knew all of the families. So when she organised a school reunion in 1990, it attracted a significant crowd, including some aged in their late 80s and 90s.
"We collected a lot of pictures to put up in the school. But I had gathered so much that I thought, you can't just throw it all away afterwards," she said.
As Mrs Lowe sat down to chat with the older past residents and record their stories of wartime, it set her on a journey that would span the next 30 years. She decided to write a book, one part a complete collection of stories for the 224 Mathinna men and one woman who fought in World War One, and one part a colourful account of the town's rich history.
Mrs Lowe now holds Mathinna: They Answered the Call in her hands, a gift for past, present and future generations of locals, and a gift for Mr Lowe OAM who is living with terminal cancer, proud to see the finished product in time.
Harry Thurley was aged 88 when he came to the school reunion, but his childhood memories were crystal clear. He drew Mrs Lowe a detailed map of Mathinna, featuring each house and its occupants at the time of World War One.
"Claude Lowe was a funny man he could run like the wind," he recalled, telling a story about how Claude would jump out the window of the pub and run down the street. "The publican, Chris O'Shea didn't take a scrap of notice, just kept on pouring the beers."
Recording these stories before it was too late was a vital part of the project.
In 1914, Mathinna had every shop, sporting club and community facility imaginable at the time. Towards the turn of the century the population was close to 5000 - a far cry from the handful of houses of today. Families were huge, often at least 10 children, so when war broke out the town's contribution was significant.
Having gathered colourful stories that only living memory could bring back, Mrs Lowe also documented every child that was born and every death in Mathinna, pouring over public records to start a huge personal database. She had all of the information on the 225 locals who voluntarily enlisted and travelled to Fingal, then Brighton, then the war - mostly to Gallipoli and France.
"I've always been interested in family trees and history, and then when the centenary of World War One came up, I knew I had information on the families," Mrs Lowe said. "After finding every birth and death, I had the names of the children so when I went searching for the World War One records and saw 'Mathinna', I knew I had the right person."
Finding names and dates was one thing, but Mrs Lowe wanted the full story of the 225 - including photographs.
She set about tracking down their descendants. Some were easy, but most took time.
"I just went through the phone book and rang surnames by that name, and luckily I nearly got them each time," Mrs Lowe said. "They would think you were someone ring up selling something!
"They'd spread everywhere - Western Australia, America, all over Australia really."
With a high-quality portable scanner, she was able to print copies of photographs with clear detail, adding life to the personal stories.
Among those featured in the pages is the heavily-bearded Andrew Williams, from a family of 12, who produced nine children with wife Sarah. Sarah died after childbirth in 1900, and Andrew raised the huge family at Mathinna. Four of his sons enlisted in the Australian armed forces for World War One.
Other pages detail the family of John and Mary Baker who had four of their 10 children enlist for the war effort: Cyril, Claude, Keith and Thomas.
"Some mothers had three, four, five sons enlisting voluntarily. That's a lot of your children going off to war," Mrs Lowe said.
"It was part of life then, though, particularly in such a large community. The gold mine would have eased off by the war, and in my era, it was saw milling days. A totally different era."
Having compiled extensive notes and piles of records, the last thing to do was to lay it all out in print.
In recent years, while caring for Mr Lowe, Mrs Lowe was able to devote countless hours to her work in front of a computer.
"I got to a point where I had so much information that I had to stop," she said.
"Since we've been here (in Prospect Vale) and Moss being terminally ill, there's been less for me to do and everything is just so new to me. I've had time to really sit on the computer and get it going.
"Moss has wanted to see it, and he's been able to see it finished now.
"It's been worth all of the work I've put into it."
Mr Lowe said he couldn't be prouder of the finished product.
"It's a product of years of work, something that you've lived for. It's been your own mission for at least the last 10 years," he said.
"The fact that it's now been published, it makes her very nervous but excited.
"I'm proud that it's been able to be together, and think it will be a good record of memory to commemorate those who served during the First World War."
Mathinna: They Answered the Call will be launched at 1pm this Saturday at Legacy House, Launceston. An event is also being planned for Mathinna. For a copy, contact email@example.com
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