|1930s tourist guide entry for Wadi Shaifa|
Until the park was acquired by Blue Mountains City Council in 1921, the area was known as Hudson’s Gully or Hudson’s Park, from the family who had owned most of the surrounding land. Their nearby home, Wadi Shaifa, still overlooks the park at 2 Lurline Street. Mary Davidson Hudson nee Talbot married Ernest A K Hudson in 1900, and with their sons Ron, Kenneth, Cyril and Laurence and daughter Dorothy, moved to Katoomba around 1910, acquired part of portion 52 in 1914 and built the house in 1916. The rate book entry for that year shows the value of the house to be ₤2,100.
Ernest purchased the bankrupt emporium business of Mullaney & Co. in Main Street and soon became known as a live-wire and a fighting force in the Bowling Club, the Jockey Club, the Rifle Club, the School of Arts, the Show Society and other posts, the business however failed to prosper. He had formerly held the rank of Captain in the NSW Lancers and in 1915 re-enlisted in the ANZAC Mounted division, and with his horse Tango, served in Egypt and Palestine in WW1. In 1917, he was posted to Divisional HQ with the rank of Major. Henry Gullett described him in the official war history as “the most effective supply officer in adverse circumstances in all Palestine”, he was decorated DSO and mentioned in despatches three times, he died in Palestine of Pneumonia in 1918.
|Subdivision plan, Wadi Shaifa is located on lot 1.|
In one or other of these wadis, the enemy would establish a temporary stronghold. Hudson had been located at Wadi Senaab, eight miles to the westward, and on December 11th, a column moved out to attack his position. The Yeomanry, aided by a squadron of Australian Light Horse, inflicted over 100 casualties and cleared the wadi. The force, which included the Sikhs, camped on the ground won. Being reinforced by the Royal Scots, the column started again on the 13th for a spot 12 miles farther west to engage the enemy, but in crossing Wadi Shaifa, was itself attacked by a force of 1,200, with artillery and machine-guns. The enemy was defeated, however, leaving 180 dead, and was pursued until dark, when the column returned to Matruh.
Following her husband's death, Mrs Hudson ran Wadi Shaifa as flats from the 1920s through the 1950s; she died in 1968 aged 88. It still operates as flats today, one of which was sold in 2009 for $260,000.
Kingsford Smith Park
Hudson’s Gully was in effect the front garden of Wadi Shaifa, when Katoomba Council resumed the land for a park in 1935. After removal of the blackberries and rubbish, it was landscaped by Mr Robert Robinson according to a plan drawn up a Mr Kerr of the Sydney Botanical Gardens. The labour force was composed of men on unemployment relief and the stone for the many retaining walls was carted in from the surrounding bushland. Robinson, originally from Lancashire, also built the gardens at Sans Souci and Leuralla, and was the head gardener for Katoomba Municipal Council.
|1940s view of the entry pavilion with scale model of Southern Cross in a pivoting base|
In 1928, Kingsford Smith, in the aircraft Southern Cross, with co-pilot Charles Ulm, and navigation crew Harry Lyon and Jim Warner, had made the first trans-pacific flight from San Francisco to Brisbane, with refuelling stops at Hawaii and Fiji. Leaving Oakland Field on 31 May, they crossed the coast over Ballina at dawn on 8 June and turned north along the coast for Brisbane to refuel, landing at Eagle Farm. They then flew south to Sydney on the same day, where they were welcomed by a crowd of 300,000 people at Mascot.
Smith and Ulm had spent over 83 hours in the air in an open cockpit, numbed by cold and lashed by storms, without sleep and deafened for several days after the flight by the engine noise. Being unable to hear, the only way they could communicate with each other and with Lyon and Walker in the cabin behind was via pencilled notes passed between them, these jottings on scrap paper are now preserved in the State Library of NSW. On 8 November 1935, Smithy, at the age of only 38, was killed when he crashed into the sea near Aye Island in the Bay of Bengal, while making an attempt on the England-Australia speed record in the Lady Southern Cross, only the nose wheel of the plane was recovered.
|Panorama of the park in 1938|
The entrance gates are particularly striking - four stone pillars supporting a dome in the form of a map of the world fixed on a pivot on top of the dome is an aluminum model of the famous Southern Cross so finely is it adjusted that the model turns with each puff of wind, and it takes little more than a puff to put the twin propellers in motion. Ref: SJ Bentley, Springwood Hist Soc Bulletin July 1978
|1940s view of rotunda and early plantings|
The inaugural Carols by Candlelight was held 8.00 pm to midnight on Christmas Eve 1947, under the auspices of radio station 2GB with proceeds going to Blue Mountains Hospital. By then the park had an ornamental pond and a children’s playground.
|1947 Carols by Candlelight program|
In 1991 a friends group was formed and a carnival and parade were staged. Restoration of the gardens and rotunda was commenced in 1993, and since the inception of the Winter Magic Festival in 1994 and the Blue Mountains Music Festival in 1996, it has regained some of its earlier popularity as a music venue and picnic spot, weather permitting.
In 1998, a landslip caused by a leaking water main resulted in extensive damage, and a $300,000 repair bill. Around this time, there were also numerous complaints from nearby residents, of anti-social behaviour and drug dealing in the park, which were addressed with tree and foliage thinning, security lighting and police patrols.
In 2001 the entry pavilion became unstable and was dismantled and re-erected on new foundations and reinforced pillars with a rebuilt retaining wall.
Kingsford Smith Park is one of three aviator memorials in Katoomba, the others being Bert Hinkler Park in Lurline Street and Melrose Park in North Katoomba named after Charles James (Jimmy) Melrose (1913-1936) the only solo flier to finish the 1934 Melbourne Centenary Air race.
Images from top:
1. 1930s tourist guide entry for Wadi Shaifa
2. Subdivision plan, Wadi Shaifa is located on lot 1.
3. 1940s view of the entry pavilion with scale model of Southern Cross
4. Panorama of the park in 1938
5. 1940s view of rotunda and early plantings
6. 1947 Carols by Candlelight program
See also a set by Merryjack
John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian
Blue Mountains City Library, 2009