Monday, July 18, 2022

Walter Henry Bone (1863-1934) Author, Journalist, Bushman, and Soldier of Fortune

 Walter Henry Bone was born at 52 Crown St Sydney in 1863, his father was Robert Bone, printer, aged 30 of London; his mother was Sophia Mary nee Lymings, age 29 also of London. The parents had married in 1853 and immigration records show they arrived in Australia on the ship Herald of the Morning, as assisted immigrants in 1858 with their daughter Augusta 3, and the body of their infant son Robert, who had died on the voyage.

At the time of Walter’s birth there was a living son Robert Jnr, born 1860, named after his dead brother and his father; and Augusta, born in England. There were in fact six sons born in Australia: Robert Jnr (1860-?), Walter (1863-1934), Ernest (1866-1937), Horace H (1868-?), George (1871-?), Septimus (or Stephinas) Clarence (1874-1941), Augusta never married and died in 1940 aged about 85.

Walter and Frances Bone with their expertly pitched tent,
camping in the Megalong Valley c.1900 
(Local Studies collection PF 538)

Following his education at Sydney Grammar School, Walter left for Africa and adventure. His obituary states he was ADC to the Sultan of Zanzibar, and was skilled in ancient weaponry and horsemanship. It seems amazing that a young man, born and raised in Sydney, became officer in an African Sultan’s cavalry. Access to sub-Saharan Africa at that time was usually via cargo ship to Cape Town. London to Sydney passenger shipping had been via the Suez Canal since 1869. Walter was then about 23, and he does not appear in any relevant shipping departures or arrivals. It is possible that Walter entered Africa from the port of Aden and travelled down the East African trade routes to Zanzibar, but no shipping records have been uncovered to confirm this.

Walter’s 1896 article in the Sydney Mail however, does show a real familiarity with the Zanzibar situation. The Sultan’s Palace at Zanzibar was built in 1883 by Sayyid Barghash, the third Sultan of Zanzibar, (ruled 1870-1896). In 1886, the British and Germans secretly met and re-established control of the area under the sultan’s rule. Over the next few years, most of the mainland possessions of the sultanate were taken by European imperial powers. With the signing of the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty in 1890 during Ali ibn Sa’id’s reign, Zanzibar became a British protectorate. 

If Walter was in Zanzibar in the mid-1880s, he was more likely working as a journalist for the Sydney Mail. Interestingly the photos of Zanzibar used to produce the engravings for the Sydney Mail article were produced by Staff-Surgeon F. J. Lilly, of H.M.S. Katoomba, which may explain the absence of civilian shipping records recording Walter’s foreign travels. The 1892 photo of Walter among a group of influential local men, including prominent sportsmen, politicians and Freemasons, may go some way in explaining how the young journalist obtained the posting to Zanzibar on a naval ship.

Walter Bone as a young journalist, back row fifth from right, with some Katoomba identities 1892.
(Local Studies Collection PF 147)

By 1889 when he married Frances Emily née Budgett, Walter was living back in Australia, and from 1890 to 1891 held the position of joint editor of The Blue Mountains Express newspaper in Katoomba. Walter was also associated with Katoomba College, the private school founded by John Walter Fletcher in 1884. When the art studio and gymnasium at the college were destroyed by Fire in October 1890, Walter and the artist Blamire Young were there. The Nepean Times article reporting the fire describes the studio and supplies more detail on Walter’s African sojourn :

The furniture consisted of lounges, tables and chairs, all of different historical eras— bookcases, easels, desks, &c. On the walls were a plethora of valuable etchings, oil and watercolour pictures, drawings and engravings. The floors were covered with rich and expensive carpets, whilst the many valuable articles of virtu, are beyond description. All these were the property of Mr W. Blamire-Young (Acting Headmaster of the College, in the absence of Mr J. W. Fletcher). In addition to the above, there were in the studio a large collection of African Trophies and Curiosities, the property of Mr Walter H. Bone, editor of this journal. These comprised a number of tiger, leopard, and other skins, weapons, utensils, ornaments, tusks, horns, &c., trophies of war and the chase, also the original journal of two years' experiences in Central Africa. Nepean Times (Penrith, NSW : 1882 - 1962), Saturday 18 October 1890, page 6
Walter with clients on a hunting expedition into the Megalong Valley 1920s
(Local Studies collection PF 539)

  After leaving Katoomba the couple's address was Pile St, Marrickville where they had two daughters, Vera (1891) and Hazel (1896). Vera married Alan Parkinson at Gosford in 1915; Hazel married Albert Drinkwater at Hamilton in 1933. The 1930 electoral shows Walter Bone, journalist and Frances Emily Bone residing at 24 Springdale Rd Killara. In Walter’s obituary Mrs Bone is said to be visiting her daughter Mrs F Powley in California, there is no record of a Bone – Powley marriage in NSW, this may be another daughter or a remarriage.

Walter later worked in the family printing business and wrote a regular children’s column for the Sydney Mail. He also illustrated and published children’s books, including, “Hoppity: being the life of an albino kangaroo” (1933) and his collected stories from the Sydney Mail, “What became of them? Australian stories for children.” In his later years he maintained a rural property at Nattai near Mittagong and conducted guided shooting trips into the Burragorang and Megalong valleys. After his death in 1934, his children’s books continued to be reprinted until the 1950s.

Walter's inside cover illustration for 'What Became of Them?'

Walter was a member of the Linnaean Society of New South Wales and contributed articles to a number of learned journals; the article below is from Science 1920 and includes Walter’s own fine illustration of a goanna.

The Booming Lizard of Australia

In July 1913, I was hunting in the Cox’s River Ranges with two companions – Andrew and John Duncan, of Megalong. We found a black-and-yellow banded monitor lizard about five feet long concealed in a crevice on the face of a wall. We had no intention of injuring him, but out of mischief Andrew Duncan suggested that we should make him yell. I was sceptical, but both men assured me that the lizard could, and would yell under persuasion.

On condition that there should be no cruelty, I consented to a demonstration. They laughed at the idea of cruelty. Andrew picked up a stick and began poking the reptile in the ribs and tickling him under the arm. It stood it for a while, merely squirming closer down in the crevice, then, having had enough of it, blew himself out and emitted a most comically doleful bellow that could be heard several hundred yards away. This he did repeatedly until we had laughed ourselves tired. It was funny, on looking back after we had gone fifty yards, to see the lizard stick his head around the corner to make sure that we had really departed.

I have had for the last four years at my hunting-box on the Nattai river, a tame monitor whom I have called “Joseph” on account of his coat of many colors, and who is the interesting companion of my solitude and incidentally keeps the snakes away. With the above in my mind, I experimented on him. I found him camped under the bench beneath the window and irritated him with the end of a stick. He did as the other had done-filled himself with wind and then emitted it in a prolonged bellowing groan. By the way, our “bookbook owl” does much the same thing. He fills himself nearly to bursting in a succession of gasps, and then says “Hoo-hoo hoo” till he has no more breath, then fills up again.

Walter H. Bone, Linnaean Society of New South Wales, Sydney

From: Science, September 17, 1920, Vol. LII (1342), p. 273

Mr Bone with a young Jack Duncan shooting in the Megalong Valley
(Local Studies collection PF 538)  


"MR. W. H. BONE."

    "Mr Walter Henry Bone, master printer of Dean’s Place, Sydney, died suddenly at home in Springdale Rd. Killara on Sunday last [15 July 1934]. His father, the late Robert Bone, was a Sydney printer. He was born in Sydney and was educated at the Sydney Grammar School. As a young man he went to Africa in search of adventure and became officer in command of the cavalry of the Sultan of Zanzibar. He had stories to relate of hard fighting, a duel and big-game hunting. On his return to Australia, he became a journalist and was associated with papers at Penrith and Katoomba.    

   More than 30 years ago he was a frequent contributor to the Sydney Mail. He wrote and illustrated popular animal and bush stories for children. In bush lore he had remarkable knowledge, and this led to his membership of the Royal Society, the Linnaean Society and Zoological Society.  He was an expert swordsman and revolver shot, and an authority on ancient and modern weapons. Much of his spare time was spent at his shooting box ‘Singing Water,’ near Mittagong. At 70 years of age, he was straight, alert, and athletic, with a military bearing. In December last he published “Hoppity, a book of the bush”.

     The funeral took place at the Northern Suburbs Crematorium on Tuesday. The chief mourners were, Mrs Parkinson (daughter), Messrs Clarence Bone (brother), C. and V. Parkinson (grandsons), A. Parkinson (son-in-law), H. Budgett (brother-in-law) and W. Doyle (cousin). Messrs W. H. Bone and Co. were represented by Messrs C. Bailey and W. Cowan, P. Sharpe and D. Farnsworth.

     Others present were Mrs. E. A. Grace and Mrs. Rupert King, Messrs T. W. F. Riley, W. M. and T. Green, R. Sullivan, A. F. Waters and A. Field (Lodge Australia). Mr. R. S. Murray-Prior, W. M., and many brethren ‘Lodge Old Sydneians’. Mr. J. Russell French (president) Schools Club Ltd., Messrs J. C. Close, J. H. Robinson and other members of the Old Sydneians Union and Club. Scott Anderson, H. Stansell, A. Field and Stenhouse (Winchcombe Carson Ltd.), S. Penton (Tooth and Co.), J. Logie and G. Watson (Alexander Moir and Co. Ltd.), G. and C. Watson (W. Neville and Co.), F. J Hook representing Mr. Body, Solicitor’s Admission Board, Thomas Buckland, Bowie Wilson, sen. and jun., W. R. Charlton, editor the Sydney Mail, P. Mullens, J. Le Gay Brereton, C. A. Messmer, Guy Blaxland, J. Russell Jones, A. R. Ducker, G. Herring, E. R. Stow, Alwyn Gorman, George Christie, J. M. Graham, H. G. Meek, H. Dyerson, Karl Mitchell, R. F. Marshall and H. S. Burton.

     Among many beautiful wreaths were those from the Old Sydneians Lodge and Club, Lodge Australia and the Killara Music Club.

    Mrs. Bone is visiting her daughter Mrs. F. Powley in California. Many messages of sympathy were cabled from Sydney." Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 20 July 1934

A notable presence at the funeral was the writer, John Le Gay Brereton.

It is probable that Walter Bone did visit Zanzibar in the 1880s; as a correspondent, collector and hunter, and at least partly as soldier of fortune, as he later recorded. His fertile imagination produced unique, and at the time, popular Australian children’s stories, now long forgotten. But he was also deeply skilled as a bushman and his keen observations of the natural world are still relevant to the modern reader.

John Merriman

Local Studies Librarian, Blue Mountains Library

Monday, January 31, 2022

Faulconbridge Lily Pond, The Water Hole

The Lily Pond and quarry 1968

Known locally as the Lilly Pond or the Waterhole, and dating from 1864-1865, the pool has local significance as the larger of the two railway quarries near Faulconbridge. It has also aesthetic significance as a pleasing, if rather damp, reuse of a flooded quarry.

Springwood FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT. The deviation work at Faulconbridge is moving apace. The old pond has practically disappeared, also the well-known waterhole, which was such a boon to travellers. It seems a pity that it was necessary to destroy this beautiful water supply, another is not made in its stead. It would appear, however, that in making railroads little heed is given to the requirements of other travelling. Some few years ago a beautiful hole of Spring water was destroyed between Linden and Bull's Camp, while making alterations to the railway.

Nepean Times (Penrith, NSW : 1882 - 1962), Saturday 28 May 1910, page 4


The sawmilling and carrying business of Hall Bros, is offered for sale. Both plant and biz is solid, and results should be assured, The Commissioners for Railways have leased the water-hole at Faulconbridge to the Shire Council, at a yearly rental of £1, plus rates and taxes, the tenancy to be terminable on one year's notice by the Commissioners.

Blue Mountain Echo (NSW : 1909 - 1928), Friday 22 February 1924, page 6 


Springwood. Water is being carted from a water-hole near Faulconbridge, to relieve the shortage locally, Notice boards are to be erected at the public vehicles stand, in Western Street, intimating that private vehicles must not be parked there.

Blue Mountain Echo (NSW : 1909 - 1928), Friday 5 March 1926, page 6


Letter from the Faulconbridge Advancement League in 1950, confirming that Blue Mountains Council will build the fireplace

  The old quarry is roughly circular, some 30 metres in diameter, with higher walls to the east supporting the railway line. These walls continue to the south beside the picnic area, which utilises a flat sandstone shelf and an area of chronically wet grass. Water-lilies flourish in abundance in the quarry-pool along with reeds.

The water lilies in flower 1968

 As a result of the widening of the Great Western Highway, the former quarry is now immediately adjacent to the highway. Steel safety fencing has been erected along the western (highway) side of the pool. There is a concrete pipe upright and slab and roof picnic shelter on the southern side.

 Water lilies flourish in the quarry-pool along with reeds and contrast in an aesthetically pleasing manner with the sharp, quarried and natural rock sides of the pond on its northern and eastern sides. Naturally twisted trees of a picturesque form grow on the shallow soil on top of the rock on the northern side of the pond. This is a visually tranquil spot beside the very busy highway.

 The picnic reserve also contains a memorial plaque to indigenous volunteer bushfire fighter Claude Cooper who died on the 3rd December 1957 while fighting fires in the Blue Mountains.

RAH Smith's Water Hole Garage 1950s

In the 1950s RAH Smith operated the Water Hole garage opposite. In later years this incorporated a book barn and mixed business.

The Bookmark and mixed business 1968

The garage and shop site was resumed for highway widening in the 1990s. The Waterhole and its lilies, once a popular picnic and rest stop, is now largely neglected next to the busy highway, with no turning lane to safely enter and exit the speeding traffic.

John Merriman
Local Studies Librarian

All images from the Local Studies collection, Blue Mountains Library


Monday, August 30, 2021

Katoomba Town Clock

The original Rotary Town Clock and arch with marching girls
and band during the Woolfiesta parade, April 1963

Beginning in 12th century Europe, towns and monasteries built clocks in high towers to strike bells to call the community to prayer. Public clocks played an important timekeeping role in daily life until the 20th century, when accurate watches became affordable. Today the time keeping functions of town clocks are no longer necessary, and they are mainly built and preserved for traditional, decorative, and artistic reasons.

Blue Mountains City Council had originally intended that a town clock be incorporated into the superstructure of a proposed rail overbridge to replace the level crossing at Katoomba, but as this did not seem to be a project likely to be implemented within the near future, the Rotary Club of Katoomba wrote to the Council early in 1956 offering to provide a clock for public benefit, if the Council would arrange a suitable structure.

 Katoomba Rotary had been looking for a project to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the charting of the Katoomba Club. Local architect Gerald Corne, brother of Les Corne, president of the club in 1955 - 56 and later a mayor of the City, was invited to draw up plans featuring two boomerangs in the supporting arch with the Rotary wheel to frame the clock.

Council thanked the Club for its offer and made enquiries to various towns, including Cronulla, in order to ascertain a suitable place for such a public clock, with the idea then of conferring with the Club as to the siting of this amenity. The intersection of Katoomba and Main Streets was suggested, also the Carrington Bus Shelter Shed as it was then. Rotary favoured this latter position as the most suitable.

At the time Alderman Hand said that a public clock had been erected at Cronulla, sited on the Commonwealth Bank building, but this had been provided by the Bank itself, and he thought that some other premises might be suitable in Katoomba. Following the Council's investigations and various conferences with the Rotary Club, it was agreed in August 1957 that the Council would provide and finance the cost of a supporting arch, opposite the Carrington, to an amount not exceeding £1,000 ($2,000) and the cost of the provision of the clock would be borne by the Club which would also supply the plans drawn by up Gerald Corne. It was agreed that Rotary would provide the clock at an estimated cost of £250.

Tenders were invited for construction of the arch with all of the work to be carried out by Council staff, as well as the purchase of the clock, the total cost being £1,177 ($2,354). These costs were made known to the Rotary Club which then decided, without any request from the Council, that it would bear the whole of the costs involved so that the Council would not incur any expenditure and the project would stand as a gift to the people of the area, although the Club was not able to forward a cheque immediately for the whole amount incurred.


Town Clock design blueprint, Gerald Corne

In October 1956 the preliminary plans had been submitted to the club by Gerald Corne, and ways and means of financing the purchase of the clock were discussed. A series of barbecues held in Megalong Valley by Harry Hammon and his committee were continued to raise funds for the clock. The Caledonian Society, a dedicated group who regularly held dances at the California Guest house in aid of local charities and good causes, agreed to run a dance for the town clock project, subsequently handing a cheque for £20 to the Rotary Club through their president, Mr. Sid Mavris. A fashion parade held in conjunction with the Quota club of Katoomba, put on by Jack and Marj Scott, resulted in Rotary's share of £31 being added to the fund.

However, the need for a more positive source of funding was apparent. A suggest­ion from club president Stan Jefferies to run a monster art union with television set, a rarity in those days, as the prize, met with some opposition from members at first, but Stan with the tenacity of a bull-dog, or rather, insurance man, at last won the consent of the club and necessary steps were made to implement the plan. Permission was obtained from the Chief Secretary's department and 2/- tickets were printed and ready for selling in January 1957, quite a sum of money in those days.

Town Clock Art Union poster in shop window,
Astor Furniture Katoomba Street

 Early in February 1957 the sketches of the proposed town clock and archway prepared by Gerald Corne were on display. By the end of February, Council had approved the design and voted to spend £1,000 on the arch, £100 of which was to come from the North Katoomba-Leura Town Improvement Loan fund; however the Katoomba Rotarians were unanimous in their decision to pay for the supporting arch as well as the clock. Finance having been obtained from the Commercial Bank of Australia in Main Street, an order was given to Mr. Ralph Symonds, a Sydney manufacturer, to fabricate the arch and supply the clock. In return for the order, Mr. Symonds agreed to supply the clock for £100 less than the original estimated price of £250, a gesture greatly appreciated by the Rotarians.

The added responsibility of paying for the arch as well as the clock emphasised the need for a more concerted effort in raising funds. Sale of tickets in the Art Union had slowed down in the town, with secretary Jack Scott continually urging members to greater efforts. It was felt that saturation point had been reached in the town and consent to explore wider areas was sought. This resulted in the selling of tickets at the G.P.S. rowing regatta on the Nepean River at Penrith as well as at Central station in Sydney; in fact, anywhere a gathering of people suggested a possible vantage point.

Even with these added selling points, the art union was lagging and President Stan came up with tile bright idea of enlisting the help of a chirpy little old lady of over eighty years, Mrs. Robey by name, to sell tickets on a commission basis. It was Mrs Robey's proud boast that she was the best ticket seller on the mountains, so every day she was picked up from her home near Catalina Park by a Rotarian and comfortably set up with table and chair near the Katoomba Post Office on fine days, and quite undeterred would move under the shop awnings on wet days, and sell-tickets she did. Mrs Robey also sang in St. Hilda's Church Choir at the ripe old age of ninety.

Permission to hold a street stall was obtained and this was the first Rotary street stall held on Easter Saturday. The wives of Rotarians, known as Rotariannes, assisted in stocking and operating the stall. Generous prizes were donated by Rotary members – providore, Charlie Colless gave a duck (very topical at Easter); master painter, Jim Crane promised sufficient paint of the winner's choice to paint the exterior of a house; a Stainless steel sink from Bert Lambert’s Hardware; 40 gallons of petrol from fuel agent Len Hansby and two cases of apples from shopkeeper Reg Bartle. Rotariannes worked hard preparing saleable goods, this was before the advent of the inner wheel club of Katoomba, and the stall was a great success adding £78 to the Town Clock fund, with some competitions still to be completed. With the date of the unveiling and handing over of the clock set as May 25th 1957, time was the essence and Easter Saturday with the holiday crowds seemed a most propitious morning.

The Katoomba Town Clock showing the Rotary motto 
Service Above Self

 With the Rotary Town Clock safely suspended from the arch spanning the crest of Katoomba Street, much to the delight and pride of Rotarians and townspeople alike, the unveiling and handing over took place at 4.00 p.m. on Saturday, May 25th 1957. With pardonable pomp and ceremony the unveiling was performed by past first vice-president of Rotary International, Ollie Oberg, his worship the Mayor, Aub Murphy accepted the clock and archway on behalf of the citizens of Katoomba and the City Council. The approximate cost of the archway and clock at the time of unveiling was given as £1200.


The Rotary plaque

 Following the unveiling ceremony a cocktail party was held in the Carrington Hotel. In the evening a combined meeting of Penrith, Windsor, Lithgow, Blackheath and Katoomba clubs was held at the Palais Royal, Katoomba Street, then run as a very superior guest house by Sid and Rene March, later the site of the Bible College and now a motel. Notable guests at the dinner were the Mayor and Mayoress, Ald. and Mrs. Aub Murphy, the Honourable A.S. Luchetti, federal member, and Mrs. Luchetti, Mr. Jim Robson, M.L.A., Rotarian Ollie Oberg and Mrs. Oberg, past governor Seymour Shaw; and two Rotary foundation fellows, Bill Knick and Bob Sims from Africa who were guest speakers. A large number of Rotarians and wives from the five clubs, together with represent­atives of many local organisations made the night a wonderful success and worthy extension of Katoomba Rotary’s historic day.

 The entire finance for the Town Clock project had not been raised at the time of the unveiling, so permission was sought for a four weeks' extension of the monster art union. The clock was the largest project carried out by the Rotary Club of Katoomba to that date. A parody of "Underneath the Arches" composed by Stan and Georgie Jefferies was printed on the programme.

 Underneath the Town Clock

Underneath the Town Clock our fellowship is fine,

By the Rotary Town clock we'll always know the time,

Every Rotary fellow and Rotarianne.

Happy when the funds are increasing, the T.V. set is drawn

Service when it's raining; service when it's fine

The arch spanning high above,

Tickets in our pockets no matter where we stray,

For our Rotary Town Clock we’ll work until it’s paid.


The Flannagan and Allen version and the Jefferies’ version were sung with great gusto.  

Unfortunately the archway did not stand the test of time and Mountains weather. In 1967 Council staff identified deterioration of the aluminium cladding and internal structure of the arch as a hazard and removed it, not without protests in the press.

“Give Us Back Our Clock!

Katoomba’s clock, main landmark in the shopping area, disappeared like a thief in the night.

But it was not stolen. It was chopped down in a hurry because it had been found to be dangerous.

The Blue Mountains City Council had called tenders for its removal because reports said the supports were decaying.

However when a would-be tenderer examined the pylons, he found one was so badly rotted away that he recommended instant removal.

Distinctive and useful

Heeding that advice, Council arranged for its removal by its own staff in the dead of night – or at least the very early hours of the morning – when traffic was lightest. However residents are complaining that they miss the clock.

Apparently it was erected at the behest of the Katoomba Rotary Club many years ago.

Straddling Katoomba Street, at the top of the hill, the clock was not only a distinctive  land mark, but it was a useful time piece.

Those hurrying for a train always knew whether they had to put in an extra sprint or could ease up for a breather. 

Service clubs could help

The ‘Blue Mountains Advertiser’ has received many complaints about its removal and requests for its reinstatement.

If Rotary, Lions, Apex and Quota – all service clubs with an interest in the town’s progress are not interested individually, perhaps they will combine to restore the clock; or would the new Katoomba Chamber of Commerce take an interest?

But the cry still is, ‘Give us back our clock.”

Blue Mountains Advertiser, June 29, 1967.

 In October 1967 Council called for tenders to supply and erect a steel open web arch with brick work at the base, to a design by G. Sadler and P. Burn.  A local company, A. Grimly of Valley Heights, was successful in gaining the contract at a cost of $900.00

Blue Mountains Advertiser, August 3, 1967

 Rotary had written to Council in November regretting that it would be unable to cover the full cost of $295 to affix the Rotary emblem to the arch. Time was pressing and Council's Chief Electrical Engineer advised that the clock makers need the go-ahead by the end of the month, to avoid the Christmas shut-down delaying delivery until February. The stumbling block seemed to be the Rotary emblem plaque; it was Alderman Thelma Murphy who got the ball rolling. 




66/286/2400,  Erection of Clock on Arch, Katoomba Street, Katoomba.

A motion was moved by Aldermen Murphy and Lloyd that the clock be erected as quickly as possible and that the Rotary plaque be placed in position.

An amendment was moved by Aldermen James and Stuart that Council accept the offer of 50% of the cost of the Rotary emblem from the Rotary Club and that Council meet the balance of the cost.

On being put to the meeting, the amendment was lost and the motion as moved by Aldermen Murphy and Lloyd was carried.

In reply to a question by Alderman Anderson, the Mayor advised that the plaque would be placed in a suitable position on the clock arch and would record the history of the first clock, Alderman Lloyd asked that the Rotary insignia be included on the plaque.

(Council minutes)

The new arch work was completed in July 1968 at the tender cost of $900. Subsequently a new remote control clock was installed at a cost of $1,165.00. Katoomba finally had its clock back. In 1975 Council's Town Planning Department advised that the structure was not aesthetically pleasing and an alternative location and design be examined. Nothing appears to have emerged from this proposal. There is another Blue Mountains town clock located in the shopping centre in Wentworth Falls but that is another story.   


* Tower clocks -

* Blue Mountains Local Studies vertical file - Katoomba Town Clock

* 'The Rotary Town Clock', presentation by Mrs Georgie Jefferies to Katoomba Rotary Club meeting, 5 March 1984.

All images from the Local Studies collection

John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The Blue Mountains and the Ashes

The Ashes urn and the 1883 embroidered bag

The cricket season now drawing to a close has marked for cricket fans the 100 year point since the legendary "Ashes" were created amid the excitement and enthusiasm of those "golden years" of cricket at the end of the nineteenth century.

It is perhaps of some interest for those of us who live in the Blue Mountains to know that our region has had some connection with a number of the people who helped shape the early contours of the story a century ago.

When, on that sultry and overcast August day, in 1882, players came onto The Oval at 12 noon, probably none of the 20,000 spectators expected the events they were about to witness.

The strong Australian bowling combination was not anticipated and, led by "The Demon" Spofforth, proceeded to wreak havoc on the English batsmen.

The colonials' victory by seven runs was the first Test win on English soil and the humiliation was widely felt.

The famous mock obituary appearing in print shortly after the match announced the death and cremation of English cricket with the imaginary ashes to be taken to Australia.

T. W. Garrett as a young man

Part of that famous bowling combination was a young right-arm medium pace bowler named Thomas William Garrett who, five years before, had played in the very first Test in Melbourne at the age of 18.

Garrett had a distinguished cricket career, touring England three times and playing in 19 Tests for Australia.

As well as bowling, he was a fine cover fieldsman and also had some success with the bat, scoring several first class centuries for NSW.

During the 1890s he was a successful cap­tain of NSW leading his team to victory in the Sheffield Shield on two occasions.

Off the field, he was a solicitor and civil servant and in the early years of this century, following his retirement from competitive cricket, Garrett and his family moved out of Sydney to the Blue Mountains where he became a resident of Springwood,

He lived comfortably in "Braemar" and was an active member of the Springwood Progress Association.

His continued contribution to the admin­istration of cricket and his encouragement of young players like Victor Trumper made him something of a legend in cricketing circles by the time of his death in 1943.

Cricketer T.W. Garrett, of Sydney, who played in the
first Test match between England and Australia.
SMH Picture by STAFF

Following the defeat of 1882 a team of English cricketers, captained by the aristo­crat Ivo Bligh (Lord Darnley), set out to retrieve the mythical "Ashes" so unceremon­iously transported by the upstart colonials.

It was nothing less than a crusade to "resurrect" the honour of English cricket.

It was during this Test series, played in the Australian summer of 1882-1883, that the real Ashes came into existence.

Again, persons at one time associated with the Mountains played a not insignificant part.

Australia won the first Test in Melbourne and it looked as if the currency lads were going to do a proper job of trampling on English pride.

Even the London "Times" could not bring itself to record the defeat and reversed the result in its report. But the England team rallied and won the next two matches and hence the series. Honour was restored.

Following the British victory and before the tourists returned home, their captain was presented with three things that have become sacred relics in the folklore of Anglo-Australian cricket and are protected with almost religious zeal by the MCC.

These were, some ashes supposedly of one of the Third Test bails, a small pottery urn and an embroidered red velvet bag.

Of the three it is the red velvet bag that is of interest to us for its story is linked with one of the prominent families of early Katoomba.

Anne Fletcher

The bag was the gift of Mrs. Ann Fletcher whose husband, John W. Fletcher, was man­aging a school in the Sydney suburb of Woollahra at the time of the Test series.

A year later, in 1884, the Fletchers were to move to Katoomba where they opened The Katoomba College, a boarding school for boys, in the building that was later to become the Royal Coffee Palace and then the headquarters of the Blue Mountains City Council.

John W. Fletcher

The Fletchers were active in Katoomba life and affairs throughout the 1880s until the depression of the early 1890s forced the school's closure in 1893.

The name of the building was changed to The Priory and Mrs. Fletcher ran it as a boarding house until 1896 when the family returned to Sydney.

The Royal Coffee Palace, Katoomba 

Sport was a strong interest in the Fletcher family.

Mr. Fletcher played most games well, and in the case of soccer and golf, was prominent in establishing these sports in Australia.

The Fletchers' eldest son, John William, played cricket for Paddington with Victor Trumper and later represented Queensland in 1909-10.

A close friend of the family was the Yorkshire born watercolourist William Blamire Young.

It is quite possible that he was the designer of the embroidery that decorates the velvet bag as he often created designs for Mrs. Fletcher to work upon. He, too, was a resident of Katoomba in the 1880s being appointed assistant master at The Katoomba College in 1885.

A letter from Ivo Bligh thanking Mrs. Fletcher for her gift is housed with the other relics at Lords.

Before the tourists set sail with their reco­vered treasure they played a further match against a full strength Australian team in Sydney during February 1883.

Tom Garrett, who had taken only three wickets and scored only 16 runs (three ducks) in the previous three Tests, was dropped and into the team came Edwin Evans, an accurate round arm spin bowler from NSW.

In 1877 he had starred for NSW taking 5 for 94 against James Lillywhite's English professionals.

He also had the reputation of being an above average tail-end batsmen and he later toured England with the Australians in 1886.

Evans is the final link between these events surrounding the creation of the Ashes and the Mountains.

His father, James Evans, was the first licensee of the Pilgrim Inn at Blaxland (1830).

After first leasing the property, he pur­chased it in 1833 and then re-sold it toward the end of the decade.

Moving into farming on the Nepean the large family became well known and respected in the district.

The Australians were successful in this last match but, with the Ashes safely in their keeping, Bligh's team set sail again for England.

Despite Australia's many victories since, the Ashes themselves have never returned. Such is life.


Author: John Low, first published Blue Mountains Gazette 16 Feb 1983

Editor: John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian  

Images from the Local Studies collection unless otherwise stated




Monday, September 21, 2020

Death of a horse-breaker at Medlow Bath - Alfred Hermann FISCHER (c.1896-1917)


Alfred Fischer, Internment Camp photo 
National Archives of Australia (NAA D3507 1507)

It is the early hours of Saturday 1st December 1917, the overnight passenger train from the Central West township of Orange is steaming through the night on its way to Sydney. On board two men sit silently in a locked third class compartment. One man wearing civilian clothing lies back on the hard seat trying to sleep amid the constant rocking and clattering of wheels on the iron rails. On his wrists he wears a pair of steel handcuffs. The other man, his guard and escort, wears a khaki military uniform with a corporal’s single chevron, and also dozes fitfully. The guard's name is Brown. The man in the handcuffs is Alfred Hermann Fischer, who along with many of his countrymen and women had immigrated from Germany seeking a new life and new opportunities, dreams now cut short by the momentous events in far-away Europe, where men fight and die over a foot of mud.

By 1914 over 100,000 Germans were living in Australia, comprising around 2% of the population of five million. They were a well-established and generally well-liked community. However with the rising tension between the British and German Empires this began to change and German-Australian communities throughout the country found themselves the subject of suspicion and animosity. When war broke out in August 1914 that changed to outright hostility. Australia was rife with war fever and ordinary citizens were keen for ways to get involved, to ‘do their bit’. The sinking of the German light Cruiser SMS Emden by the Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney in the Cocos Islands was one of Australia’s first actions of the war and excited the nation. The event created hysteria about possible German naval attack, immediately establishing cultural and national divisions within the community.

Within a week of the declaration of war, German and Austro-Hungarian residents of Australia were forced to register with the police. A fear of possible German-Australian 'conflicted loyalties' led to several regulations under the War Precautions Act 1914, such as forbidding German-Australians to leave Australia or send money overseas. These immigrants, naturalised subjects and German-speaking Australian-born, rapidly moved in the Australian consciousness from 'our Germans' to 'enemy aliens'.

It is now 3.00 am by the platform clock as the train pulls out of Mt Victoria station at the top of the Blue Mountains range west of Sydney. Alfred Fischer quietly sits up, opens his eyes and checks the station name. He massages his wrists where the handcuffs have dug into the flesh, not long now. At 22 years of age he is a small, quiet man, just 5’6” in height with brown hair, now dishevelled, and calm grey eyes. Beneath his shirt, his arms and chest are covered in tattoos that celebrate his life as a sailor,  horse breaker and stockman. On his right forearm appears a girl's head above a horseshoe, on his left forearm a bucking horse in a stockyard, on his chest a cowboy with a stockwhip and another bucking bronco. On his face a heavy scar runs down the left side where it cuts deep into the cheek bone: a memento of the stockyards and the wild bush horses.

Fischer had left his old life as a sailor and drifted up into Queensland looking for work, where he met up with a fellow German, Ernst Kuhlmann who was only a year older than himself. Both men soon gained the skills of stockman and station hands, well known for their horse breaking among the outback cattlemen and horse breeders. They were sober and industrious, they saved money and things were looking good for the future. Until that fateful day the police called and rounded them up with other German nationals, to be sent down south where they joined over 5,000 of their countrymen in the sprawling, crowded internment camp at Holsworthy military base, near Liverpool in south-western Sydney.

As the Great War progressed and propaganda about the ‘Hun’ German continued, the pressures on German-Australians increased. Many lost their jobs or found their communities no longer safe. Internment without charge or trial was implemented around the Country. By 1918 nearly 7,000 men, women and children had been interned in concentration camps by the Federal Government. 

Police Gazette notice, 21 November 1917 (Ancestry)

It was from Holsworthy, while assigned to a work party outside the camp, that Fischer and Kuhlmann had made a daring bid for freedom two weeks earlier. They made their way over 240 km to the country town of Orange where they hoped to find work on local farms and escape notice from the authorities. But Alfred could not stay hidden for long and was soon victim of an informer. Out of desperation he offered his gold signet ring to Constable Frazer the arresting officer, to let him go free. But the copper stood firm, Fischer was a prize and promotion could follow.

Alfred leans forward in his seat and clears his throat, it is time. “Kaporal, sir, I am needing the lavatory, most urgent, please you help me, yes?” Brown comes fully awake and curses quietly, “Alright now, I suppose you’ll be wantin’ the cuffs off, but mind you, I’ll be waitin’ outside, no tricks d’you hear me?” He quickly releases Alfred’s handcuffs, then unlocks the door of the compartment and the pair shuffle down the darkened corridor to the Gents at the end of the rocking carriage.

The minutes tick by as the train speeds downhill towards the small village of Medlow Bath, dominated by the new grand hotel Hydro Majestic established by society notable, yachtsman and department store owner Mark Foy. Then come the sounds of rising panic in the corridor, Brown is shouting and swearing and banging on the toilet door, whistles blow, heavy boots thump through the carriage; all to be drowned out by the roar of the passing west-bound goods train, rattling and buffeting the carriage windows in the night.

In the light of early dawn a group of railway fettlers find the broken body of a man lying on the rails just outside Medlow Bath station. The police and the undertaker are summoned from the nearby township of Katoomba and the plain wooden coffin is conveyed by cart to the police lockup at the courthouse, where the local G.P., Dr Alex Allen makes his examination.

The coroner brings down a verdict of ‘shock the result of injuries accidentally received through jumping from a train whilst endeavouring to escape from military custody’.

The burial at Katoomba cemetery on Monday 3rd December is a simple affair with no minister present. The undertaker records the place of death as ‘Killed on Railway Medlow Bath NSW’ and the informant as ‘Katoomba Police’. In December 1918, the authorities in Berlin issue an official German death certificate, on it the words ‘Medlow in Australier’ and the death date ‘1 Dez 1917’ can be read. The informant was his mother who reported that her son, a sailor and bachelor, 21 years of age of unknown religion, a resident of Dresden, was found dead in the region near Medlow Bath in Australia, hour of death unknown. 

German death certificate (Ancestry)

And there he lay as the decades passed, the moss-covered grave unmarked and soon forgotten in the bushland cemetery, out past the site where the foundation stone for the Blue Mountains District ANZAC Memorial Hospital would be laid in October 1925, under the shade of flowering gum trees, while above the chattering of parrots and the early morning warbling of magpies.

Graves Registration Certificate (Ancestry)

Following the cessation of hostilities at the end of WWII, the Commonwealth  War Graves Commission realised the need to consolidate the graves of enemy combatants and internees who had died in Australia and its territories in both World Wars. A site was identified near the Victorian town of Tatura where there had been a large WWII concentration camp for enemy aliens and POWs. A fine, new, purpose built German Military  Cemetery was established, which is now under the care of the Office of Australian War Graves. This cemetery contains the graves of 1 Turkish civilian,  190 German civilian internees of the 1914-1918 War and 60 German Army, German Air Force and German civilian internees of the 1939-1945 War.

Alfred Hermann Fischer
Tatura German Military Cemetery

In April 1961 the remains of Alfred Hermann Fischer were exhumed from Katoomba cemetery and re-interred in the Tatura German Military Cemetery, in a simple grave marked with a brass plaque, set in a wide, green lawn. Though far from his native land, the horse-breaker had regained his identity and could rest in peace.

Ernst Christian Kuhlmann, Internment Camp photo 
National Archives of Australia (NAA D3507 1509)

Alfred's companion and fellow escapee, Ernst Christian Kuhlmann was rearrested on the night of Saturday 29th January 1918 at Clermont near Summer Hill Creek outside Orange, where he had been working for a Mr Gazzard, an orchardist, he had enjoyed 43 days of liberty. Along with the other surviving internees, he was deported to Germany following the end of WWI.


John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian



Sue Schmitke at Tatura Irrigation and Wartime Camps Museum assisted with the death certificate translation

Shane at Find a



Coroner’s Reports,

National Archives of Australia:  D3597:Album of identification photographs of enemy aliens (civilian and prisoner of war) interned at Liverpool Camp, NSW during World War I (with index) see:

Wood Coffill (Katoomba) Burial Index 1916 to 1945, Blue Mountains Family History Society.

Newspapers on Trove

Escaped Prisoners of War. (1917, November 21). New South Wales Police Gazette and Weekly Record of Crime (Sydney : 1860 - 1930), p. 502. Retrieved September 8, 2020, from

GERMAN ESCAPEE RECAPTURED. (1917, December 31). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved September 8, 2020, from

GERMAN REARRESTED. (1917, December 31). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 6. Retrieved September 8, 2020, from

Apprehensions. (1918, January 16). New South Wales Police Gazette and Weekly Record of Crime (Sydney : 1860 - 1930), p. 34. Retrieved September 8, 2020, from  

HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE (1918, January 4). The Albury Banner and Wodonga Express (NSW : 1871 - 1938), p. 19. Retrieved September 8, 2020, from

ESCAPED INTERNEE ARRESTED. (1917, November 30). Daily Advertiser (Wagga Wagga, NSW : 1911 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved September 8, 2020, from


Other Websites

The Office of Australian War Graves

AWM War graves

Tatura War Cemetery on Find a Grave



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