IT WAS an avid interest in history combined with a love for travel, good food and good company that first inspired lawyer Kieran McCarthy (pictured) to double as a travel guide and lead his first ANZAC tour across the world in 2009.
McCarthy, a partner with Jones McCarthy Lawyers, has since led a total of six pilgrimages to France, and has announced that in 2018 he will once again be taking a group of travellers overseas to mark the centenary of one of the most pivotal campaigns of the World War I (WWI), the battle of Villers-Brettoneux.
As the grand-nephew of a digger who fought and died on the battlefields of New Guinea in the World War II (WWII), McCarthy's undying passion for ANZAC history stemmed from his family ties.
"I've always been interested in history, and I've been reading about the ANZACs since I was a little kid when my mum told me the story about her uncle who fought in New Guinea," says McCarthy.
"I went to France for the first time in 2000, and I went to see the Australian sites from WWI.
"After that, the campaigns in France and Belgium became an overriding interest for me, driven by the fact that the local people there now are very interested to show you and welcome you into the history."
The ANZAC tours that McCarthy now runs on behalf of France @ Leisure offer a chance for people to explore significant sites within the northern French and Belgian countryside, with a personalised twist.
"Usually I will have a lot of feedback before the trip starts whether people will have a personal link or a particular interest in the area," says McCarthy.
"So we will usually tailor to the group, visiting particular sites or taking people to wherever their grandparents and great grandparents fought, because the people on the trip are always interested in other people's forebears, if not their own."
Last year McCarthy stood upon French soil beside 15 Australian diggers who fought in Vietnam and their families (pictured below), after they made the trip to northern France together for the centenary of Gallipoli.
He says the experience was incredibly moving, and to share it with veterans who understood the human cost only made it that much more significant.
"They certainly had the sense that Gallipoli was a great tragedy and a great loss of life, but it was dwarfed by what happened in France and Belgium," says McCarthy.
"These fellows who had been serving themselves really understood that."
In the past, McCarthy has also made the trip with a number of friends from the bar and former legal partners.
He believes it is especially important for all lawyers to find an intellectual passion that isn't dominated by the law.
"I think the law can be all consuming; it's important to give your brain a bit of relief and think in other areas," he says.
"A lot of lawyers enjoy the arts, and a lot enjoy wine, but to have that intellectual interest outside the practice keeps you fresh."
McCarthy's tour usually kicks off in Paris and, after a few days in the city, he leads the group to the north of France around the Somme and Villers-Bretonneux.
Generally, the group will also make its way through Belgium, up to the sites where the diggers in 1917 led several major campaigns.
McCarthy says he is always happy to share knowledge about ANZAC history and discuss the ins and outs of the trip with anyone who is interested.
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