Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Catholic Bushwalking Club and the Shrine to Our Lady of the Way at Springwood

“From its earliest days in 1943, the Catholic Bushwalking Club fostered the idea of a shrine to Our Lady of the Way. In the Tenth Anniversary Catholic Bushwalker magazine, it is recorded that enthusiasm for the idea gained momentum when on Walk No 266a (on Sunday, 26th September, 1947) a beautiful grotto was discovered in Rocky Creek, a tributary of Katoomba Creek. In due course a special block of Carrara marble was imported from Italy on the order of Fr Coughlan (it was the same material from which Michelangelo’s famous ‘Pieta’ was sculpted) and a statue modelled on the fresco Madonna Della Strada was carved by Mr Osvath Imre at the premises of Mr T.H. Tyrrell, monumental mason at North Ryde. The work was completed in October, 1951.

The Lands Department indicated a willingness to grant permissive occupancy of the land in Rocky Creek but doubts were raised because of the possibility of vandalism. Other sites were explored and eventually a Club sub-committee recommended a grotto in Blue Gum Swamp Creek, Springwood, at the outer edge of the St Columba’s College property, then the minor seminary for students for the priesthood. The site was known to the students as St Joseph’s Bower.

Providence intervened when in August 1952, timber getters making a road through the bush in an effort to get timber out of Lynch’s Creek, mistakenly cut a road into St Joseph’s Bower. The Spring that followed was dry and Club members took advantage of the conditions to place the statue in position in the Grotto on 30th November 1952. It was officially blessed by Monsignor Duane on Sunday 27th September 1953 in the presence of a large gathering of Club members.

It is perhaps significant that the formidable task entailed in the planning for the installation and the actual installation of the statue at the Grotto involved a large contribution from the late Jack Murphy. After the tragic death of Frank Cooper in New Zealand early in 1955 and Jack Murphy’s in Glenbrook Gorge later in that year, plaques were erected at the shrine site (as it came to be known) in their honour.

After the installation, in September of every year until 1983, the Club honoured Our Lady with Mass at the shrine site followed by a picnic. By 1983 however, concerns were being expressed as to the safety of the statue: regrettably, the Club was spending little time each year in visiting the shrine site. A motion was put and after discussion it was passed, not without strong opposition, that the statue be removed from the site and transferred to a safer venue. The venue ultimately decided on was the property formally owned by Fr Coughlan, ‘Wooglemai’, near The Oaks.” (CBC, pp.38-40)

Jack Murphy
“Jack Murphy was killed in a climbing accident in Glenbrook Gorge on 13 November of the same year as the Mt Cook climb (1955), while training Club members in the rudiments of rock climbing and abseiling. The Sydney Rock Climbing Club (SRC) erected a plaque to his memory at the site of the accident. On Glenbrook Gorge walks, it is Club tradition to recite the Rosary when passing the plaque.” (Barrett, p.24)

Frank Cooper
“Sandwiched between these massive assaults on the South-West Tasmanian peaks, was a lengthy mountaineering tour of the NZ Alps, undertaken by Frank Cooper, Jack Murphy, Iver Pedersen, Hugh Smith and Jim Barrett. This mini-CBC enclave in New Zealand climbed throughout the South Island, but Jack Murphy and Frank Cooper joined forces to tackle the more ambitious peaks like Tasman and Elie de Beaumont. By mid-February 1955, they had climbed every 10,000 footer in New Zealand with the exception of the big one, Mt Cook.

In the deteriorating conditions of late summer, it took them five days via the Hooker Glacier to reach the Empress Hut, the highest climbing hut in New Zealand. Three more days were spent weather bound before the weather cleared, and on 25 February 1955 at 0245 hours, they left the hut in clear weather to commence the climb of the three peaks of Mt Cook. The top of the mountain comprises three ‘Summit’ peaks The Low Peak, Middle Peak and High Peak ‘the highest mile in New Zealand’.

When they reached the High Peak the wind had freshened and a hog’s back (a distinctive cloud formation which is bad news to the New Zealand climber) was forming. Waiting only to eat a handful of scroggin, the pair set off on their homeward route, reaching the Low Peak around noon; the wind was now very strong indeed. On the descent to the Empress Hut, cloud rushed up from the Hooker Glacier and it began to rain.

In the poor visibility, they mistakenly entered a gully which they had not ascended. With only 500 feet to go, they slipped on snow-covered ice. Frank was killed in the fall and Jack suffered back and head injuries as well as breaking his wrist but he managed to dig himself out. Due to his injuries, he could not dig down to his friend. After a great effort Jack managed to reach the Empress Hut. After a traumatic few days alone in the hut, he was eventually rescued by the guides from the Mt Cook Hermitage.” (Barrett, p.23)

Jim Kohlhardt, his cousin Alison and her father Howard Roper taken about 1956 in front of the Catholic bushwalkers' memorial. Photo from Frank Hawkes.

Postcard c.1960: The Grotto of St Columbas College, Springwood, NSW.

Watercolour painting :
The Grotto, St Columba’s, Springwood; from the Local Studies collection, Blue Mountains City Library

Catholic Bushwalking Club (CBC), 1983. The Catholic Bushwalker, Fifty Years.
Barrett, Jim, 2008. Through the Years with the Catholic Bushwalking Club.

Frank Hawkes
Sue Russell, membership secretary Catholic Bushwalking Club.


John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dr. Eric Payton DARK

Eric Dark portrait 1914-18, courtesy of Mick Dark
DARK, Eric Payten (1889-1987) medical practitioner, social and political activist and writer, was born on 23 June 1889, the youngest child of the Rev. Joseph Dark, an Anglican clergyman, and his third wife, Adelaide (nee Goodwin).

In an intensely religious household the young Eric spent his Sundays reading religious literature. This gave him an extensive knowledge of the Bible from which he would quote often in later life. He suffered severe asthma and at the age of eleven was taken out of school on medical advice and allowed to ‘run free’ for two years on his father’s property at Mittagong. Besides having a beneficial effect on the asthma, this period of freedom also initiated his love of the outdoors.

Following a period of private tutoring, Dark was enrolled in July 1904 at Sydney Grammar School, where he demonstrated his innate intelligence and intellectual ability and quickly made up the academic ground he had lost. Skills in oratory and journalism were also nurtured in the school’s debating society and editing the school magazine. But intellectual pursuits were balanced by a love of physical activity. It was during his time as a student at Grammar that he and a friend made an epic 15-day canoe expedition down the Endrick and Shoalhaven Rivers. His enrollment at Grammar also saw the Dark family move back to Sydney, to a more permanent home at Greenwich. In 1909 he matriculated with honours and won the Sydney Grammar Medal for ancient history and physiology, a subject in which he discovered a deep interest.

Half-way to being an agnostic he turned down a scholarship to Oxford offered with the expectation of a career in the Church. He had decided on becoming a doctor and, in 1910, enrolled in Medicine at the University of Sydney. As well as study, during his time at University he pursued interests in boxing, rowing, bushwalking, bicycling and rifle shooting. He founded and became captain-coach of the Sydney University Rifle Team.
Eric Dark 1917, courtesy of Mick Dark.
When World War I was declared he took the opportunity offered to senior medical students to expedite their graduation and serve in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Though he graduated, third in his class, in 1914 he was not immediately called up and spent a short period as resident radiographer at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. In March 1915, however, having received his call-up papers he departed for England on the ‘Orsova’.

After basic training he spent five months at the 18th General Hospital before being assigned to the 9th Field Ambulance. Promoted to captain, he served in Flanders, at the Somme and in the Passchendaele offensive. During the Battle of Ypres he was awarded the Military Cross for “conspicuous gallantry” in evacuating the wounded under fire at Boesinghe on 31st July 1917 . As the offensive continued he was blinded and badly effected by gas after removing his mask to better attend the wounded. Returned to Britain he was given six months unpaid leave to recover and, following a period of convalescence in Scotland, he travelled at his own expense back to Australia.

While in Australia he married Kathleen Aphra (‘Daidee’) Raymond, whom he had met earlier at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital where she worked as a nurse. Following an unsuccessful proposal in 1912 he had maintained a regular correspondence with her during his time overseas and she had finally accepted him in a letter received just before the Passchendaele offensive. The marriage took place on 25th January 1918. By March he was back in Europe and served the remainder of the war in the malarial Vardar Marshes of Macedonia, a time he recalled as extremely boring. The war remained imbedded in his memory and, even towards the end of his life, experiences could emerge with sharp clarity.

He returned to Australia in July 1919. By the end of the year he and ‘Daidee’ had moved to Bungendore NSW where he established himself in general practice. Here he re-captured his earlier interest in physiology and purchased one of the earliest diathermy machines. On 26th July 1920 a son, John Oliver, was born. Tragically, within weeks Daidee’s condition deteriorated and on 8th September 1920 she died of septic peritonitis in St. Vincent’s Private Hospital, Sydney. She was cremated in Adelaide and her ashes buried in South Head Cemetery. Devastated, Dark returned to Sydney where, with the intention of becoming a surgeon, he became a demonstrator in the anatomy department at the University of Sydney.

Following his return to Sydney Dark renewed his acquaintance with the family of writer and politician Dowell O’Reilly, who had been a teacher at Sydney Grammar School during his student years. He had often visited the O’Reilly home and kept in touch with the family during the war. Photographs taken of Dark with the family in 1921 show the impact upon him of war and the loss of his wife. They depict a serious, melancholy man with a small moustache, “a grey bird” as Dowell O’Reilly described him . His friendship with the O’Reilly’s at this time was clearly beneficial. On 1st February 1922 he married the attractive, self-confident Eleanor O’Reilly, twelve years his junior.

The couple spent the first ten months of their marriage living in the inner Sydney suburb of Five Dock before Eric purchased a medical practice in Katoomba, possibly on medical advice regarding Eleanor’s health. They moved to the Blue Mountains in January 1923 and, in March, the “red-headed bloke with eyebrows like steam-shovels” bought ‘Varuna’, not far from Katoomba Falls. This would be the place where he and Eleanor would spend the rest of their lives, settling into the life of the local community and in the 1930s building a new two-story home on the property. Their son Brian Michael was born on 14th February 1928.
Eric Dark, Eleanor Dark and son Mick with Hennesy at Varuna, 1930s
As well as maintaining a successful practice as a local doctor, Dark continued his interest in diathermy. In 1930 he published his innovative and highly praised first book, Diathermy in General Practice. This work went into a successful 2nd edition in 1935 and the Darks embarked on a tour of the United States of America between August and October 1937 to study and promote the use of electrotherapy in hospitals.

Dark enjoyed reading, especially English poetry, and listening to classical music. He also loved driving and he and Eleanor would take long drives through the Mountains as well as more extended family holidays, motoring and camping in different parts of Australia. A “small, wiry, energetic, extremely fit” man, Dark also shared with his wife an enjoyment of other outdoor pursuits including gardening, tennis, golf, bushwalking and rock climbing. In 1937 they found a cave in the bush near Katoomba and fitted it out as a private retreat. In 1940 they walked from Emu Plains retracing the route into the Blue Mountains taken by William Dawes in 1789.

In the 1920s the Darks became involved in a local circle of literary and bushwalking friends that included Eric and Nina Lowe, Osmar White and Frank Walford. They enjoyed bridge and music evenings, formed a writing group and were also involved in the Leura Amateur Dramatic Society. In 1930 this same group of friends established what was possibly the first organised rock climbing club in Australia, the Blue Mountaineers. Dark’s passion for climbing, which began during his student years, resulted in pioneering climbs not only in the Blue Mountains but also in places as diverse as the Warrumbungles in NSW and Mount Lindsay and the Glass House Mountains of southern Queensland. His deep affection for the Australian bush inspired a strong nationalism that underpinned his later political and social activism.

In Katoomba in the 1920s he enjoyed a career as respected local doctor and businessman, becoming a director of the Katoomba Colliery and Katoomba Hotels Pty. Ltd., a company that proposed, unsuccessfully, to build a large hotel at the Katoomba Golf Course. At this time, despite his long friendship with the O’Reilly family, Dark was a political conservative. In the words of his wife, they “would go off to the polling booth together, he to vote Tory and I to vote Labor” .

With the coming of the Depression he underwent a radical political transformation. In the course of his work as a local doctor he witnessed the impact of an economic system under stress on the lives of his patients. Disturbed by what he saw he began to read and think more about politics, economics and history. He came to see his patients as part of a wider social fabric, in which their health was influenced as much by political and economic factors as by viruses and bacteria.

Frustration at what he saw happening and optimism that something could be done lead him to the Left. His trip to America in 1937 reinforced his new stance and by the end of the 1930s he was committed to socialism. Dark joined the Australian Labor Party and became actively involved in local politics. He donated land for a Labor meeting hall in Katoomba and became Vice-president of the local branch and a delegate to the Macquarie Assembly. In the 1940s he stood twice, unsuccessfully, on the Labor ticket in
local council elections. He came to count men like Chifley and Evatt among his friends.

With political commitment came involvement in movements for local community improvements such as the establishment of a children’s library, the provision of healthy ‘Oslo’ lunches at the school tuck shop and childcare facilities in the form of a day nursery for women munitions workers during the Second World War. In 1943 he was also involved in the setting up of a Current Affairs Library & Reading Room in Katoomba.
Eric Lowe, Jim Starkey, Eric Dark, 1920s, photo by Jim Starkey
In May 1942 the fifty-three years old Dark enlisted in the Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC). He spent three years as a sergeant in the VDC training men in the skills of bushcraft and exploring the Blue Mountains for suitable guerrilla bases in the event of a Japanese invasion. He was eminently suited to such work and was commended by the VDC High Command.

As his involvement in political and social activism grew, he began to write extensively on the social aspects of his profession and on wider political, social and environmental issues. In 1942 a collection of his articles appeared in book form as Medicine and the Social Order. He became a strong public advocate for the nationalization of medicine.

When the Federal government banned the Communist Party in June 1940 and moved to censor the publication and reading of left wing literature, Dark and his wife purchased shares in the People’s Printing and Publishing Company in protest. A developing interest in Russia and Soviet experiments in social reform saw his election as president of the Russian Medical Aid and Comforts Committee in 1941. In 1946 he published the pamphlet, 'Who Are the Reds?', drawing upon an accumulated knowledge of subjects as diverse as history and theology to comment on the rise of anti-communism in Australia. This was followed in 1948 by The World Against Russia. His concern with issues of censorship and freedom of speech saw him become vice-president of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties and, following the war, found further expression in a treatise on ownership and control of the media, The Press Against the People (1949).

His political commitment came with a price. The respected doctor and businessman of the 1920s became the subject of community suspicion in the 1940s and 1950s. Though he was never a member of the Communist Party and was insistent that his political philosophy was “democratic socialism not communism” , his left-wing views and association with known communists resulted in his being labelled a ‘Red’.

During his VDC activities rumours circulated about him hiding information and even guns and ammunition in preparation for a communist takeover. As a Government Medical Officer, he was accused of persuading men not to enlist and a dossier was begun on him by military intelligence. In 1946, press reaction to his radical stance undermined a potential appointment as Australian Ambassador to the Soviet Union. In 1947 the charter of the Katoomba branch of the ALP was revoked “to counteract the influence of left-wing elements within the party” and he and Eleanor were named in Federal Parliament as underground workers for the Communist Party. He received threatening letters, resigned under threat of expulsion from the RSL in 1950 and ex-servicemen were warned away from his medical practice, which began to suffer.

The Commonwealth Investigation Service (later ASIO) monitored the activities of both himself and his family.

The 1949 coal strike saw him at odds with the Chifley Labor Government. He supported the Lithgow coalminers and, by purchasing a truck, assisted local efforts to get food and other provisions through the army lines. In 1950 he and Eleanor joined the newly established Australian Peace Council and the following year expressed publicly their opposition to the proposed legislation to ban the Communist Party of Australia. Dark’s membership of the Australian Peace Council drew particular attention from ASIO and also roused further opposition against him within the ALP, becoming the trigger for his resignation from the party.

Dark sold his medical practice in Katoomba. In April 1951 he and Eleanor moved to Montville, north of Brisbane, where they had purchased a run-down citrus and macadamia nut farm near their friend Eric Lowe and their son Michael who had both embarked upon the production of pineapples. For the next seven years they alternated between Montville and Katoomba, spending the majority of winters in Queensland. On the farm Dark pursued a new interest in sustainable agriculture and land use, experimenting with organic composting to produce his macadamia cash crop.

In 1957 Dark was offered the position of School Medical Officer in the Blue Mountains by the NSW State Health Department and the family returned permanently to Katoomba. Though he was still known locally as a ‘communist’, the political climate had relaxed somewhat and Dark enjoyed his job enormously. It was the kind of social medicine he had always thought important. He remained in this position for another seventeen years until a new government regulation prevented doctors being employed beyond the age of seventy. Dark was eighty-five and he reluctantly retired.

Though his commitment to issues of peace and social justice remained strong during the years of his retirement, he no longer entered the arena of public debate. However, in this later period of his life his sustained work for social reform, especially in the field of medicine, achieved some degree of recognition. In 1981, at the age of ninety-two, he was made the first Honorary Life Member of the Doctors’ Reform Society and his book Medicine and the Social Order was put on the reading list for courses offered by the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Medicine. His pioneering achievements in bushwalking and rock-climbing were also recognized at this time by the award of a life membership of the Sydney Rock Climbers Club.
 Eric Dark on the first ascent of the Boar's Head Rock at Katoomba. 1931. Photo by Jim Starkey
Dark, now well into his nineties, cared for his wife Eleanor as her health declined and she became bedridden. He continued to chop wood for the fire and keep the house running. This final bond reflected the depth of their relationship. Widely known as ‘the husband of Eleanor Dark’, he expressed no frustration in pursuing his own career alongside his more famous wife. Eleanor’s death on 11th September 1985 had a profound effect on him. His sons, John and Michael, would often find him weeping and the garden at
Varuna grew wild. He died two years later on 28th July 1987 at the age of ninety-eight.

A man of moral rectitude and high personal standards, his ideas and actions were underlain with an intense physical and intellectual courage. In personal philosophy he moved from vague conservatism to socialism.

As an idealist, a democrat and a socialist who was also a member of a privileged profession, he felt compelled to speak in public debate. He was, however, also a man who cherished the privacy and security of marriage and family.

He was cremated and his ashes placed in Blackheath Cemetery, alongside Eleanor and Dowell O’Reilly. His two sons, seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren survive him. An oil portrait painted by Brian ‘Bim’ O’Reilly hangs in Varuna The Writers’ House, Katoomba.

© John Low 2003

Note: a much shortened version of this article appears in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Images from the Local Studies Collection at Blue Mountains City Library.


Books & Pamphlets

B. Brooks & J. Clark, Eleanor Dark: A Writer’s Life (Syd, 1998)*;
J. Devanny, Bird of Paradise (Syd, 1945);


L. Baxter, ‘Fires in the Fall: the Story of a Rational Reformer’, New Doctor, (June 1984), no 32*; L. Brant, ‘The Warrumbungle Range’, Walkabout, (April 1936), p 32; ‘Clio’, ‘Dr. Dark: Portrait of a Pioneer’, Rock, (January-June 1990), no 12, p 18*; English, D. ‘The First Ascent of Belougery Split Rock – Warrumbungles’, The Sydney Bushwalker, (1936), No.3, pp 6-14; J. Low, ‘The Salt of the Katoomba Earth: A Series on Blue Mountains Labour Identities No.3, Eric Payten Dark’, The Hummer, (July-August 1987), no 17, p 7;


Blue Mountain Echo, 5th January 1923 [Dark’s arrival in Katoomba]
Sydney Morning Herald, 23rd October 1943 [Review of “Medicine and the Social Order”]
Sydney Morning Herald, 30th July 1987 [Death of EPD]
Blue Mountains Gazette, 12th August 1987 [Obituary by John Apthorp]


J. Boyd, That Dark lady’s husband, the forgotten life of Dr Eric Payten Dark (B.A. Hons thesis, Univ WS, 1992)*.

Manuscript Collections

Dark Papers (ML)*; Dark Files (Local Studies Collection, Blue Mountains City Library)*; John Dark correspondence (LSC, BMCL).

Unpublished Articles

Cottle, D. “Dr. Dark and the Secret State”; J. Smith, “The Blue Mountaineers: Rockclimbing, Bushwalking, Literature and Politics in Katoomba 1920-1950”; O. White, “Pioneer Rock Climbs in Australia”; W. Williams, “An Overview of Eric Payten Dark’s Contribution to Australian Rockclimbing”, Eric Dark Memorial Lecture (Escalade’95). [Copies held LSC, BMCL]



Note: follow this link to a digital copy of Dr. Dark's military memoirs written in the 1970s, courtesy of John Oliver Dark, original held in the Mitchell Library, Sydney -


John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian, Blue Mountains City Library

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Sydney Rock and its Environs

The current widening of the Great Western Highway is bringing home to us the engineering challenge of the transport corridor along the narrow east-west ridge of the Blue Mountains. How much more, when there was none of the earthmoving machinery to be seen today! These difficulties are highlighted by the work that is about to begin midway between Hazelbrook and Lawson with the re-routing of the railway and road to the north of Sydney Rock.

Sydney Rock was long recognised as a prominent landmark along the highway. Brian Fox in his Blue Mountains Geographical Dictionary records its recognition as early as 1882 and its being named Sydney Rock in guide books and newspaper reports from 1903. It was regularly listed as a tourist feature, which commanded a fine view of Sydney and of the intervening bushland. The Souvenir of 1903 records that ‘residents appreciate Mr Geggies’ prompt act in saving Sydney Rock from the vandals who had begun to blast it out for road metal’. In the 1940s I remember it as a popular picnic spot and a playground for us children. During the war one watched the searchlights waving across the Sydney horizon and the fireworks at the war’s end. In recent years increasingly heavy traffic on the highway has virtually closed access to the rock and tree growth has hidden it from view of passing motorists.

Three Aboriginal sites have been recorded in the neighbourhood, including rock shelters with deposit, axe grinding grooves and rock engravings. The Rock itself shows no sign of Aboriginal activities, but it could well have been a place with a story. The North Lawson Ridge, now traversed by Queens Road, shows signs of religious significance for Aboriginal people (Stockton 2009: 16-20, 46-7). For Gundungurra people travelling there along the main ridge Sydney Rock could well have served as a marker for turning north along this ridge.

The environs of Sydney Rock show signs of the original railway construction in the 1860s. The Sydney Morning Herald of 4 November 1868 carried a glowing detailed report of this engineering feat, described as ‘certainly the most remarkable in the Australian Colonies’. The railway from Sydney was constructed and opened to public use in stages: Parramatta 1855, Blacktown 1858, Penrith 1862, Weatherboard 1867, Mt Victoria 1868. Work on Section No.2 between Welcome Inn and Blue Mountain Inn, carried out by Messrs Duxberry and Kerr, was described as ‘very heavy, the line being carried alternatively along the ridges and round the spurs of the hills. The cuttings through hard sandstone rock (Hawkesbury Sandstone), and the embankments, are numerous, and some of them very large. One of the cuttings is 51 feet deep and required the removal of 33,000 yards of earth. The section is full of steep gradients and sharp curves; the steepest gradient being 1 in 33 and the smallest radius of a curve is eight chains’. This section required the construction of two bridges ‘in masonry’ to carry the road over the railway, and 61 culverts.

The cuttings and embankments, which we now take for, granted were the result of heavy manual labour. Mark Langdon has described it for me as “a combination of strong arms and blasting powder” (this was before the invention of dynamite or gelignite). He goes on to explain: “Three man teams would drill holes for blasting powder, with one man holding a drill and the other two taking turns to swing sledge hammers, between each blow of the hammers the man holding the drill would turn it a quarter of a turn. Once the hole was to the required depth it would be filled with blasting powder and the working face then shattered by the explosion. The working face would be formed by a series of benches, with the spoil being shovelled from one bench to another and then into tip drays, which would carry the spoil away to form the embankments”.

The transverse ridges between Woodford and Lawson, along the north-south Tomah Monocline, required exceptionally deep cuttings and at first tunnels were planned at these points. However the shortage of filling in such rocky country, almost devoid of soil, necessitated the substitution of 50 feet cuttings so that the spoil could be used on the intervening big embankments. Where the road crossed the rail line at these deep cuttings (at Linden and through Sydney Rock) stone arch bridges were provided (Wylie and Singleton 1957:165-6).

In the 1890s attempts were made to alleviate the sharp curves in the line. In 1897 there was a 44 chain curve improvement near Sydney Rock. A curve of 8 chains radius with adjoining flatter curves was replaced by a single transition curve of 12 chains radius (Wylie and Singleton 1957:165-6). The line was duplicated in 1902 with the widening of the original cuttings. The same methods were employed. However the later deviation of the line between Emu Plains and Valley Heights (1911-12) saw the first use of steam shovels (‘a Steam Navvy’).

The ruling gradient up to Katoomba of 1 in 33 proved too steep for the steam engines of the time and a second engine had to be attached to assist passenger and freight trains up the ascent. At first this was done at Penrith and later at Valley Heights after the construction of the Depot there in 1914. There were instances of descending trains running out of control in the 1880s, with a particularly serious accident on 22 March 1886. After leaving Katoomba the driver had difficulty stopping the train at stations until it finally collided with buffer stops at a dead end at Lucasville platform, injuring eighteen passengers (Langdon 2006: 23-5).

The gradient at Sydney Rock was particularly steep, at 1 in 32, and I remember as a child listening to steam engines chugging laboriously through the cutting and feeling the vibrations through our home nearby. Ken Ames (1993:99) describes the sound of the big three-cylinder locomotives (57 and 58 class) as similar to saying slowly ‘a bucket of bolts’. The proposed re-routing of the railway, with a new cutting, north of Sydney Rock offers the opportunity of preserving the relics of the original pioneering work. The redundant cutting immediately south of the Rock has its southern face resulting from the original work of 1866-7 and the northern face the result of the 1902 duplication. It would be interesting to compare closely the marks left on the two faces. The large embankment east of the cutting gives a good idea of the scale of the work undertaken with basic tools and manpower.

The existing old bridge over the railway, now used only by pedestrians, is a concrete Monier arch bridge built in 1902. It replaced an earlier bridge with the reduplication of the railway line. Monier arch bridges were commonly constructed between 1897 and 1914 as railway overbridges. Crossing the line squarely necessitated two sharp right-angle turns in the road, which resulted in many car accidents. I have known at least four fatalities in the last seventy years. Near the north-western corner is the concrete pedestal base for a beacon light. In the 1920s flashing lights, powered by gas, were used to warn motorists of sharp curves ahead in foggy weather.

Below the old bridge on the southern side can be seen the remains of a masonry abutment, consisting of 8 courses of squared sandstone blocks with drafted margins. This would have been part of the original bridge over the 1866-7 railway cutting, an arched sandstone structure - one of the two ‘in masonry’ mentioned by the Sydney Morning Herald, between Blaxland and Lawson. Three of the 61 culverts of this section occur nearby. These were solid constructions of large sandstone blocks, but one is faced by a brick arch.

The re-routing of the road and railway north of Sydney Rock leaves redundant not only the old cutting, but also railway property to the east and south. It is proposed that this small area, dominated by Sydney Rock and rich in railway heritage features, be turned into a reserve. Sydney Rock would be restored to its former prominence, ‘our own Uluru and part of the cutting be left exposed to show its 1867 and 1902 faces. It is recommended that the western facade of the 1902 bridge and the 1867 masonry abutment at its base be left to view.

The area has further educational value in its geology and botany. These have been detailed by the author in the Hut News, March 2010 (Blue Mountains Conservation Society). Sydney Rock is the western most bastion of Hawkesbury Sandstone and the stratigraphy of the cutting shows clearly how it overlies the more friable Narrabeen Series of shale and sandstone. Nowhere have I seen the contact between the two so clear and accessible. It is well recognised that railway land often preserves remnant bushland, long free of disturbance and grazing. A botanical survey by Judy and Peter Smith in 2007 has revealed a rich diversity of native vegetation communities and plant species, some quite rare and of special conservation significance.

The support of the Blue Mountains Historical Society and other like-minded bodies is being sought to urge the Blue Mountains City Council, negotiating with the RTA and SRA, to have this small area declared a history and nature reserve.


Ames, K., Reflections of an Engine Man. New South Wales Transport Museum, 1993.

Berger, I., ‘Statement of Heritage Impact, Great Western Highway Upgrade. lawson IA, from Ferguson Ave to Bass Street. Proposed Railway Realignment’. Environmental Technology Branch. Road Transport Authority. 2006.

Fox, B., Blue Mountains Geographical Dictionary,’ (2nd edition). 2001

Langdon, M., Conquering the Blue Mountains. Everleigh Press, Sydney. 2006,

Stockton, E., in Blue Mountains Dreaming: The Aboriginal Heritage ( 2nd edition). E. Stockton and J. Merriman, eds., Blue Mountains Education and Research Trust, Lawson, 2009.

Stockton, E. and Whiteman. C., ‘Proposed Blue Mountain Reserve at Sydney Rock’. Hut News. Blue Mountains Conservation Society. Wentworth Falls. no, 268.. March 2010.

Wylie, R. and Singleton C., ‘The Railway Crossing of the Blue Mountains, 2, Faulconbridge to Bullaburra’. Australian Railway Historical Society, vol.. VIII. no. 241, 1957, pp 162-:172.

Captions, from top
Image 2: Men at work on a railway cutting (Langdon 2006 p.116)
Image 3: Two locomotives pulling a goods train up the Mountains, photographed from Sydney Rock 7.40 am, June 18, 1929 (Blue Mountains City Library, Local Studies Collection)

2010 Eugene Stockton, with additions by John Merriman

Note: Article first published in Hobby’s Outreach, June-July 2010. The history and nature reserve was declared in 2011.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Royal Visit to the Blue Mountains 1954, "the sight of a white gloved hand in the distance..."

The Queen’s first royal visit to Australia commenced with the entry of the S.S. Gothic through Sydney heads at 8.00 am on Wednesday 3rd February 1954.
On the Blue Mountains leg of the tour, the royal train arrived 10 minutes late at Katoomba and the reception at Echo Point ran longer than planned. Aldermen and their wives "agreed to forgo the pleasure of being presented, allowing the royal guests time to enjoy the scenery". This allowed the tour to make up time and depart Leura only 5 minutes late. The following extracts are from official publications and local newspapers, supplemented with images from the Local Studies Collection.

Her Majesty will receive Their Excellencies the Governor-General and the Governor of New South Wales, the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales on board S.S. Gothic. Her Majesty will land from the Royal Barge in Farm Cove at 10.30 a.m. to be received by them

Her Majesty will attend a State Banquet with His Royal Highness on the night of Thursday, 4th February, after having opened Parliament, attended a Parliamentary Reception, presided at a meeting of the Executive Council, and had lunch with representatives of Women’s Organisations during the day.

Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will attend the Lord Mayor’s Ball at the Sydney Town Hall at 9.30 p.m. .

After lunch with the Chairman and Members of the A.JC. Committee, Her Majesty will present the Cup for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Her Majesty and The Duke will witness a Surf Life Saving Display at Bondi at 3.35 p.m. In the evening they will attend a Royal Gala Performance at the Tivoli Theatre.

Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will arrive at Newcastle by Royal Train at 1.10 p.m. After the Royal Progress they will attend a Civic Reception at the City Hall. They will attend a School Children’s Display and an Assembly of Ex-Servicemen. An inspection of the B.H.P. Steelworks will follow, and the Royal Party will by ‘plane from Williamtown at 4.45 p.m.

TUES. WED., 9th & 10th FEBRUARY
Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will arrive at 7 p.m. on 9th February, and after a night free of official engagements, they will make a Royal Progress through Lismore at 10 am, next day. They will attend a Civic Reception and will depart by car for Casino.

Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness will arrive at Casino at 11.26 a.m. They will make a Royal Progress through the streets of Casino and attend a Civic Welcome. They will depart by ‘plane from Evans Head at 1.30 p.m.

WEDNESDAY 10th February
After lunching on the Royal ‘Plane during their flight from Evans Head, Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will arrive at Dubbo at 3.30 p.m. They will make a Royal Progress through the main streets and attend a Civic Welcome and a Western Districts Display, after which they will depart for Sydney by ‘plane.

On the way to Wollongong by car, Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will stop for morning tea at the Returned Servicemen’s Convalescent Camp at Mt. Keira. They will arrive at Wollongong at 12.35 p.m., make a Royal Progress through the streets and then attend a Civic Welcome. Her Majesty and The Duke will lunch with His Worship the Mayor and Aldermen. They will attend an assembly of School Children before departing at 2.47 p.m.

Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will arrive by ‘plane at Raglan Aerodrome at 11.25 a.m. They will make a Royal Progress by car through the City and attend a Civic Reception at the Civic Centre. After attending an Assembly of School Children, they will depart by Royal Train at 12.40 p.m.

The Royal Train will arrive at Bowenfels Station at 2.10 p.m., and Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will resume their Royal Progress by car through the main streets of Lithgow. They will attend a Civic Reception, and will depart by the Royal Train at 2.45 p.m.
Her Majesty and The Duke of Edinburgh will arrive by Royal Train at 3.40 p.m. They will continue their Royal Progress through Katoomba, attend a Civic Reception at Echo Point and view the mountain scenery en route to Leura. They will entrain and depart from Leura at 4.28 p.m.

Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will arrive at Forest Hill aerodrome at 1 p.m. and will travel by Royal Car to Wagga. They will continue the Royal Progress through the main streets and attend a Civic Reception, a Rodeo and a School Children’s gathering. They will depart by ‘plane at 3.05 p.m.

Thursday, 18th February
On arrival at Mascot from Canberra, Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will depart by car for Balmoral. From 12.20 p.m. to 2 p.m. they will visit H.M.A.S. Penguin, returning to Farm Cove by Royal Barge. At 3.30 p.m. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will attend a Garden Party at Government House

Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will fly from Eagle Farm Airport (Brisbane) after completion of the Royal Visit to Queensland, arriving at Broken Hill at 1.50 p.m. (S.A. time). They will make a Royal Progress by car through the city streets, and will attend a Civic Reception. After inspecting the Flying Doctor Base, they will inspect the Zinc Corporation Mine surface workings. They will depart for Adelaide by plane at 4.20 p.m.

From: Souvenir Programme, The Royal Visit to New South Wales 1954.



Half page copy, Blue Mountains Advertiser, Thursday, February 11, 1954


Katoomba and Leura are gay with brilliant red, white and blue festoons of lighting, interspersed with banners and bunting, for the great occasion of the Royal Visit to the Blue Mountains.

Business houses have been repainted and decorated with matching draped red, white and blue bunting; and banners and emblems are flying the whole length of the Royal route.

The Katoomba and Leura railway stations have undergone a complete face lift in painting and decorating. The colour scheme at the stations is zircon blue and royal blue and beautiful banners and bunting are rich and colourful befitting our Glorious Queen. One hundred and fifty thousand people are expected in Katoomba and Leura for the great event, the first visit by a reigning Monarch to the Mountains.

The streets will be lined by 3500 lucky Blue Mountains schoolchildren, who will all have picked positions, in front of the barriers, and will be only a matter of feet away from the Royal Car. The day will not be a holiday from school, as children will be assembled at school and marched to their respective positions. The Blue Mountains Highland Pipe Band will play at the intersection of Katoomba and Waratah Streets, and Blue Mountains City Band will play special music on the Royal route throughout the day.

At Echo Point, the National Anthem will be played by the Ingleburn Garrison Military Band. Girl Guides, Boy Scouts and members of the Australian Air League will also be at Echo Point with full Colour Patrols. Members of the R.A.A.F. will form a Guard of Honour for the Queen and H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Diggers, members of the R.S.S. & A.I.L.A. [RSL] will form a Guard of Honour at the exit from Echo Point. Doctors have been appointed for special duty near the Queen and at special points along the route.

Blue Mountains Ambulance Service will be assisted by the Blackheath Brigade for special duty. A massive arch in Lurline Street will be gay with flowers and bunting and special donations of real flowers are to be placed near Leura station by women’s organisations of Leura.

Cup Winner
To-day the winner of the “Advertiser Cup” will be announced, for the best decorated home and garden on the Royal route. Many homes have been repainted for the occasion and bunting will be seen on every home in the district. Till tomorrow, the great day.

The Watson home in Railway Parade, Leura, has been visited by many residents, to view the beautiful floodlit crown, which adorns the highest point on the home. The Crown is a colourful replica of King Edward’s Coronation Crown and is worth a special trip to Leura to view.

Collecting for the Bands on Sunday last at Kingsford Smith Park, was ex- Bombardier Killeen, of Katoomba, who is the proud possessor of the C.M.F. Long Service Medal awarded for 21 years continuous service in the Army. In all Mr. Killeen has done 29 years and 9 months’ service as a member of the Australian Military Forces. A fine record.

Blue Mountains Advertiser, Thursday, February 11, 1954



The following is the itinerary:
3.40 p.m. Her Majesty I will arrive at Katoomba Railway Station by train from Lithgow; 3.43 p.m. Her Majesty will depart for a Civic reception at Echo Point;
3.55 p.m. Her Majesty will arrive at Echo Point;
4.06 p.m. departure from Echo Point;
4.21. p.m. arrival at Leura Railway Station;
4.35 p.m. depart by train for Sydney.

Car 1. State Marshal, Police Officer and Royal detective.
Car 2. Royal car tourer. Her Majesty, His Royal Highness and Equerry.
Car 3, Lady-in-Waiting, Private Secretary.
Car 4. Premier, State Director, State Executive Officer.
Car 5. Commonwealth Minister in Charge. Director General.
Car 6. Reserve Royal car (Landaulette).
Cars 7 and 8, Press cars, each with three Pressmen.
Car 9. Spare car.

3.55 p.m. Her Majesty will arrive at Echo Point. Her Majesty will alight from the left side and will be met by the Minister for Housing and Co-operative Societies, the Hon. C. R. Evatt, Q.C., L.L.B., M.L.A., and Mrs. Evatt. The Minister will present the Mayor and Mayoress and the Town Clerk, and the Mayor and Mayoress will then conduct Her Majesty and His Royal Highness to the dais.

Those on the dais will be Her Majesty, His Royal Highness, the Mayor and Mayoress, the Town Clerk and members of the Household as required.
While Her Majesty is moving to the dais troops, who will be within hearing of the Anthem, will Present Arms.
The Mayor will ask Her Majesty if she will take the Royal Salute, and when Her Majesty is ready in the centre of the dais the band will play one verse of the National Anthem.
On the first note of the Anthem the Royal Standard will be unfurled.
4 p.m. The Mayor will read an Address of Welcome and will hand it to Her Majesty.
4.02 p.m. Her Majesty will read a reply and then hand it to the Mayor.
4.05 p.m. The Mayor and Mayoress will escort Her Majesty and His Royal Highness to their car.
4.21 Her Majesty will arrive at the overhead railway bridge at Leura.

Her Majesty will alight from the left hand side of her car and will be met by the State Minister and his wife.
Her Majesty will be farewelled on the roadway by the Mayor and Mayoress and the Town Clerk as she walks towards the station entrance.
Her Majesty will then be escorted to the Royal coach. At the foot of the steps the Minister will present the Station Master, Mr B Gale.
4.25 p.m. Equerry’s permission to depart will be sought, and Her Majesty will then depart for Sydney.

Blue Mountains Advertiser, Thursday February 11th 1954


Welcome Address to HRH Queen Elizabeth II
by Mayor AFC Murphy,
Echo Point, Katoomba,
4.00 pm Friday 12th February 1954.

Her most Gracious Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the first Reigning Monarch to visit our City, and today the Queen has come to this spot, the far famed Echo Point on the Blue Mountains of N.S.W., over a route that has been travelled in turn by a Duke of Clarence - in the 1880s, by the Duke of York (later King George V) in 1901, by the Prince of Wales now Duke of Windsor in 1920, by the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI) and the present Queen Mother, in 1927 and by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester in l934. All this Royal patronage is now crowned by this visit by Her Majesty the Queen in person. [dates corrected]

Just across the Park you may see the old mansion of Lilianfels the former home of Sir Frederick Darley, and where successive Governors and Premiers and important State visitors were entertained, and where the late King George V, as Duke of York slept when he stayed overnight in Katoomba in 1901. Down the years the successive owners of Lilianfels have been proud to show visitors the room in which the Royal guest slept on that occasion [Urban myth only the Duchess visited Lilianfels].

In the 43 years since I came to Katoomba, the small town of 1910 has become the progressive City of 1953. The beautiful spot where we are now gathered to welcome our Queen was the private property, which was purchased by the council about 1920 and developed into the lovely gardens, traffic loop and parking area as we see them today. In 1910 the Echo Point lookout was reached by a narrow rough track which ran alongside the extensive park-like grounds of Lilianfels, whose Emu’s used to come to the fence to accept tid-bits and provide interest for visitors. About 1923 a large section of the grounds was bought by the Council and developed into the present public park and children’s playgrounds.

In those days all our Cliff frontages were private property and tourists could only gain access to most of the vantage points by permission of the various owners some of whom at their own expense railed in the lookouts and made them accessible to visitors. The greater length of our Cliff frontages are now Public property. A circular drive well made and black topped now follows the Cliff tops for some five miles, whilst the Prince Henry Cliff walk follows the undulations of the cliff face for several miles, linking up at the Katoomba Falls, the Giant Stairway and Leura Falls with the several Passes that thread the Valley floor 800 to 1000 feet below.

In the early 1900s the township was scattered along the Western Road half a mile or so west of the Railway Station. There stood the Local Inn, the Dance Hall or Meeting place, a private Boys school, the Bakery and the Store, not forgetting the palatial home of the Mine Manager, since destroyed by fire [Essendene]. The frontage now is Main St. but was a high rocky bluff, at the back of which, on the hill, stood the Carrington Hotel. Owners of these frontages gradually excavated their holdings, shops appeared one by one, and Main Street became the promenade for residents and visitors alike every Friday night, which was late shopping night. The trends for shopping then turned down Katoomba Street, and with the abolition of the late shopping night the habit of promenading on Friday night passed, and has now been forgotten, but for a long time the weekly gatherings and the opportunities for gossip were sadly missed, as there was practically nothing else to do after dark, the street lighting being by gas lamps, and even these extended over a very limited area of the town.

In those years the town had no qualified Civil Engineer, and any construction undertaken by the Council was usually supervised by the Mayor of the day. I well remember the local butcher, when Mayor, supervising the grading and construction that part of Katoomba Street where the shops now are, and he made such a grand job of it that to my knowledge it has only needed to be tar sprayed on a few occasions since.

Two of the main factors at have encouraged the progress of the Blue Mountains were the completion of the Railway deviations at Glenbrook about 1913 and the construction and tar topping of the Parramatta Road from Sydney to Parramatta and thence the Great Western Road on to Penrith. Prior to that a trip to Sydney and back by car with 70 lb. pressure tyres bumping over a succession of pot holes was nothing short of a nightmare.

In 1910 most of the Tourist traffic to Jenolan Caves was carried by coaches or Drags with 4 or 6 horses, travelling out one day and back the next, changing horses at the various staging Inns en route. Gradually motor cars took over, the early fares being £2/2/- for a one day trip, or 50/- if staying over night. For these folk accommodation was available at the Caves House, or at the several Inns on the road. Vehicles could not pass on the five mile descent to the caves, making it necessary to impose one way traffic for certain hours of the day, which frequently caused travellers much delay if they were unaware of the restrictions. For many years Mount Victoria was the Rail Head, and the jumping off point for Coaches and all horse drawn traffic to Jenolan Caves and the rest of the State, but the enterprise of those in the Tourist business in Katoomba soon caused our town to become the recognised Tourist centre, resulting in much benefit to all business people and the town generally, thus encouraging the development of our own local lookouts, scenic drives and walks.

In 1910 the Narrow Neck Road was a bush track, only used by timber cutters, and even in 1925 one could only drive a car to Narrow Neck at the risk of spoiling the paintwork or striking some hidden stump. During the Depression years the N.S.W. State Govt, as an unemployment relief measure, straightened, graded and constructed the road from Echo Point to Gordon Falls at Laura, thus giving the town the five miles of the Cliff Drive with its ever changing panorama of views that are such a delight to the Tourists of today.

The Giant Stairway, which starts off alongside the first of the Three Sisters to be seen a few hundred yards from here, was for the most part the work of one time Chief Ranger. [James McKay] He carved the steps out of the sheer face of the sandstone cliffs, crossing crevasses and indentations here and there with stout ladders. There are some 800 steps connecting the cliff top with the Federal Pass in the valley below, where may be found various prepared picnic spaces with tables and benches, water and fireplaces, all in the shelter or shade of magnificent tree ferns and jungle growth of tall trees and hanging vines.

And so today, the Citizens of Katoomba and the Blue Mountains, heirs of the pioneers of the past, enjoying the advantages of the present, and responsible in a great measure for the progress of the future of this area, pay homage to our Queen, express our gratitude that she should have come amongst us, and thank her for providing an experience that we shall all remember for the rest of our days - GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.

From the Royal Visits clippings file, held by Blue Mountains City Library, annotations and corrections by Local Studies Librarian shown thus [ ].


It was dull and threatening 9.30 am there was a choice of almost any position, from the railway gates at Katoomba to Echo Point...a tour of the same area at noon revealed very little change...

At 1 p.m. I secured three positions for three chairs at the barricade across Katoomba street at Waratah Street, giving a view of the whole of Katoomba Street and Waratah Street...the Katoomba Band 36 strong in their new uniforms... the Highland Pipe Band with their two girl dancers...the Air League Band...the Ingleburn Band at the head of the parade of large contingents of Boy Scouts and the Air League...the arrival of the tiny tots from Miss Long’s primary school, all laden with flags...

The excitement among the Katoomba High girls over the election of their captain was for Jill McInerney the new captain and vice-captain (what a day it was for Jill McInery the new captain!)...the little girl and boy who had been blackberrying and come to see the Queen on their own...the small girl in a tartan skirt who kept following the Katoomba band even up the hill...the black pup with four brown legs which chased every police motor cyclist and was then placed on a lead just before the Royal Progress started...

The way the crowd favoured the right side of the route, knowing Her Majesty would be sitting on the right hand side of the Royal car..the big improvement in the weather as the great moment arrived...the playing of The Yeomen of England on the radio..and then the arrival of the Royal Progress...the sight of a white gloved hand in the distance, and with complete disregard for anything else until I saw Her Majesty for the first time...

I barely noticed a Blackheath girl hand a posy to the Duke, though I saw him give it to the Queen...I had a lump in my throat and my eyes were misty...I had seen the queen of Australia for a few fleeting Her Majesty passed many tried to follow the Royal car down the street...the crowd broke up very quickly and I stopped outside a radio shop and listened to the Echo Point reception and was delighted with the address of welcome by the Mayor and Her Majesty’s reply...

I then took the car to Laura and arrived there several moments before Her Majesty reached the station steps...I found a perfect position in Railway Parade and saw the final farewells and Her Majesty and His Royal Highness wave from the Royal coach as the train left for Sydney.

Blue Mountains Advertiser, 12 February 1954.


Echo Point, with its background of scenic grandeur, provided a magnificent sunlit backdrop for the official reception on Friday afternoon of our Royal visitors, Queen Elizabeth II and H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh. Observers covering the tour stated that nowhere had there been such a beautiful setting for the Royal Couple.

Earlier in the day, weather forecasts for the afternoon were not at all hopeful, but fortunately well before the arrival of the Royal train, sunshine bathed the Mountains in a grand brilliance.

The mountains, with their traditional deep-blue haze, provided a glorious background for the Royal dais. Banked at the rear of the dais was a mass of gladioli blooms, in shades of gold, pink and red, and on either aide wore masses of red flowering gum and native evergreen. To the front were pots of prize begonia in red and pink.

The floral work was arranged with the help of Miss Judy Meek, Mrs. Nimmo and Mrs. Trudy McPherson and others. The canopy of the dais was of pale blue plastic and bore on front drop the words “Hail Elizabeth the Queen,” which was surmounted by a replica of King Edward’s Crown and the coats of arms, including that of the City of the Blue Mountains. The carpet was royal red interwoven with the pattern of the Fleur-de-lis.

When the Royal visitors arrived at Echo Point the scene was made even more colourful as Her Majesty had chosen a simple tailored coat of blue and wore a tiny white hat with matching shoes and hat. At the entrance to the enclosure, were lines of Girl Guides and Brownies, Boy Scouts and Cubs and the R.A.A.F. Guard of Honor.

The Royal Couple were met as they stepped from their car, by the Mayor of the City of the Blue Mountains. Alderman A F C Murphy, wearing his mayoral robes and chain, and the Mayoress, Mrs. Murphy, the Town Clerk, Mr P. Scrivener in wig and gown; and then escorted the royal Couple to the dais.
Replying to the address of welcome by the Mayor, the Queen said, “My mother has often told me of the rare beauty of these mountains and today I have been delighted with them myself. The photographs you have given me will always serve to remind me of this happy day. I shall certainly show them to my children and when they see them I feel sure that they will wish to visit you themselves.”

Also on the dais were the Premier, Mr J.J. Cahill, the Minister for Housing, Mr Clive Evatt and Mrs Evatt.

Rosemary Barrow, a ward of Legacy, then presented Her Majesty with a delicately beautiful bouquet of wildflowers, comprising many varieties of Blue Mountains wildflowers. Included were two varieties of flannel flower, also flowering gum, honey flower, mountain devil, Christmas bush, geebung, boxthorn flower, trigger plant, wild violet, parsley plant, lilly-pilly, heather bluebells and maidenhair fern. The bouquet was made by Miss Judy Meek. The Duke paused to speak to Rosemary, and asked what Legacy Group she belonged to. Rosemary replied, “Wentworth Falls.”

Four people were presented. They were Mr. Joseph Jackson. M.L.A., and Mrs. Jackson: Colonel Neil Strachan (Deputy Marshall of the royal Visit, and Mrs. Strachan. The Mayor explained to Her Majesty that his aldermen and their wives had agreed to forgo the pleasure of being presented, allowing the Royal guests time to enjoy the scenery of the Blue Mountains.

The Queen replied. “That, it was the nicest gesture that had been made on the tour.” Her Majesty agreed to the Mayor’s invitation to view the scene from the lower lookout and the party spent and extra ten minutes at this point.

The suggestion as been made that this point be named The Queen’s Lookout. Prior to their departure from Echo Point, the Royal Couple proceeded past groups disabled service- men and women, members of the Blue Mountains Branch of the War Widow’s Guild, Returned Servicemen and then on to Leura, by way of the scenic Cliff Drive.

On their arrival at The Mall Leura, they received a tumultuous reception. Many people who had witnessed the Royal visitors' arrival at Katoomba rushed to Leura to see then, again. Leura itself. was beautifully decorated for the great occasion with masses of lowers banked at Railway Parade and The Mall corner.

This floral decoration was arranged by the ladies of Leura under the guidance of Miss Cameron, of Megalong Street, Leura. Prior to the departure of the Royal train, the Queen said to the Town Clerk, Mr. P. P. Scrivener, “Thank you, we’ve had a wonderful time in your beautiful City.”

At 4.30 p.m. the Royal train moved out from the farewell cheers of the huge crowds scattered at all vantage points, and the Royal Couple waved their farewells from the observation platform.

Blue Mountains Advertiser, Thursday. February 18, 1954.
Images from top:
1. Souvenir Programme
2. Souvenir Booklet
3. The white gloved hand
4. The royal car in Lurline St, Katoomba, en route to Echo Point
5. The civic reception at Echo Point
6. The illuminated address
7. The royal party travelling to Leura via Cliff Drive
8. Lawson shop window decorated with fancy plait breads - crown and Q.E.
9. The Queen and party on the projecting platform, later renamed the Queen Elizabeth Lookout
10. Route of the royal motorcade from Katoomba to Leura

All images from the Local Studies collection.

John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian
Blue Mountains City Library

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bushwalking and the Conservation Movement

During the years of the Great Depression the popularity of walking in the Blue Mountains revived. The impact of the motorcar had deflected interest away from the old walking tracks until the general decline in prosperity meant that hiking guides replaced motoring guides as sources of popular recreation and visitors to the Blue Mountains began to rediscover the bush. With the increasing popularity of bushwalking, the early 1930s also saw the emergence of the modern conservation movement.

Myles Dunphy, who began walking in the Blue Mountains before World War I, had been influential in forming the Mountains Trails Club in 1914. The members of this club, and the Sydney Bushwalkers Club founded in 1927, had a different view of walking from ‘tourist’ walkers – the mainly family groups who strolled the well-maintained tracks close to the townships.

Dunphy and the Mountain Trailers marked the beginning of a new era of walking in the Blue Mountains. Their emphasis, while still recreational, was on developing the skills of bushcraft, self-reliance and adventure. Earlier walkers who yearned for such elements as part of their walking experience would tramp the Six-Foot Track, the bridle path opened in 1884 to link Katoomba and Jenolan Caves. The new generation of walkers, the ‘bushwalkers’, left the well-marked tracks and headed into the rougher country, often charting new routes for their comrades to follow.

Public concern for the preservation of the natural environment was sown among the bushwalkers. On the Certificate of Membership of the Mountain Trails Club the following words appeared: “remember a good bushman is a fellow you will surely want to trail with again. You were not the first over the trail; leave the pleasant places along the way just as pleasant for those who follow you.” During the early 1920s, far-sighted Myles Dunphy formulated a plan for a Blue Mountains National Park, which was adopted by both the Mountain Trails Club, in 1922, and the Sydney Bushwalkers, in 1927.

The Blue Gum Forest, a magnificent stand of tall Blue gums growing in the Grose Valley near the junction of Govett’s Leap Creek and the Grose River became the subject of what many consider the seminal conservation campaign. Beginning in 1931, it was conducted by those whose environmental concern was nurtured in the bushwalking and wildlife societies of the time. It generated considerable interest and co-operation, pointing the way for successful future action.

The story of the campaign begins with a chance meeting which occurred during the Easter holidays of 1931, when a group of bushwalkers led by Alan Rigby entered the forest of Blue gums and encountered two men prepared to ringbark the trees. One of the men explained that he had leased the area and planned to replace the Blue gums with walnut trees. The walkers were appalled. Those beautiful gums at the site of Eccleston Du Faur’s 1857 Junction Camp, circled by soaring sandstone cliffs, were to be destroyed. Surely the authorities had made a mistake in granting a lease for this purpose. It was a situation that required some fast thinking so, boiling the billy; the walkers discussed the matter over lunch.

It was proposed to seek time to place the issue before the full membership of their bushwalking clubs. There must have been persuasive talkers in the group for the lessee, assured that it would be to his profit, agreed to postpone the ringbarking for the time being. Returning to Sydney, Alan Rigby got things moving with a full report to the next meeting of the Mountain Trails Club. The upshot of this was a request to the Sydney Bushwalkers to assist in a campaign to save the Forest by buying out the lease and ensuring the area be reserved for public use.

When the sanction of the Lands Department was obtained the first step was successfully accomplished. The most difficult task still remained, to raise the one hundred and fifty pounds required by the lessee, C A Hungerford of Bilpin, to allow him to obtain an alternative site for his walnut trees. Their agreement called for fifty pounds to be paid by November 1931, with the balance spread over the following twelve months.

A Blue Gum Committee was established to co-ordinate the campaign. Donations were solicited and fund-raising dances and socials were organised. In a time of economic depression, meeting the lessee’s terms proved a difficult job. On Sunday 15th November, a meeting of the committee and Mr Hungerford took place to assess the matter. It was held at the site among the mighty blue gums whose future was in the balance. Myles Dunphy, a member of the co-ordinating committee, has written about this important gathering. “The business meeting, about midday, was held in pouring rain; the members of the party sat around in a circle in a space between the trees. Each shrouded in a cape. The weather was unkind, but the great trees standing up all around appeared magnificent – except one fine specimen which lay stretched out close to the riverbank, a victim of the lessee’s salesmanship. No doubt it was felled to give point to the necessity for saving the trees.”

The meeting resulted in new terms being settled which required payment of a reduced total of one hundred and thirty pounds by the end of December. The committee channelled its energy into a renewed effort and a donation from the Wildlife Preservation Society allowed an immediate deposit to be made. With the assistance of an anonymous loan to supplement the amount already raised, the deadline was met.

The united action of the bushwalking societies and numerous other supporters had secured a beautiful piece of bushland for public use. The Blue Gum Forest was notified as a public recreation reserve on 2nd September 1932 and a management trust appointed. In 1961 the area was absorbed into the Blue Mountains National Park.

In 1931, the same year that the Blue Gum Forest campaign was being waged, Miles Dunphy formed the National Parks and Primitive Areas Council (NPPAC). Adopting the slogan "Progress With Conservation" and made up of representatives of all the major bushwalking clubs of the time. The Council set about promoting Dunphy’s plan for a Blue Mountains National Park. In August 1934 it published a four-page supplement to the Katoomba Daily in which the idea was presented in detail and Dunphy’s beautifully drawn map of the proposal was reproduced. Six thousand of these supplements were distributed throughout the Blue Mountains and Sydney.

It still took more than two decades before the plan achieved any kind of reality. The Blue Mountains National Park, comprising much of the central part of the original plan was gazetted in September 1959. Over the next twenty years, as a result of intense campaigning on the part of conservationists, further large areas of the Blue Mountains region, including Kanangra-Boyd in the south and Wollemi in the north, were dedicated as national park. By the end of the 1970s, the vision of the early bushwalker-conservationists had been vindicated and most of the areas covered by the NPPAC proposal had been secured for public recreation.

1. Bushwalkers in the Blue Gum Forest 1957, Blue Mountains City Library, Local Studies collection.
2. Image of the Blue Gum Forest 1957, Blue Mountains City Library, Local Studies collection.

Blue Mountains Heritage Study 1982, Croft & Associates in association with Meredith Walker for Blue Mountains City Council.

John Merriman
Local Studies Librarian
2010 Blue Mountains City Library

The Plucky Rescuer – the story of Hindman Street, Katoomba

 The origins of the older street names in the Blue Mountains are, in some cases, not easily determined. This is a great shame for, behind th...