|The Redmond Memorial in Leura Mall|
|Rev. Redmond's grave in Wentworth Falls Cemetery|
|Leura Mall in 1946 showing the Redmond memorial on the median strip |
Rose Series Postcard 5534
from the Local Studies collection
Rev Redmond was ordained on November 6, 1900 in First Broughshane congregation, one of the largest country congregations in Ulster, where he spent the next two years. During this time he applied himself to his work with such diligence that his health began to suffer and he applied for leave to travel to Australia to rest and recuperate. It appears from his marriage certificate, that he may have first gone to Scotland where he married his wife Sarah Wilson.
Rev Redmond travelled initially to New Zealand but came to NSW in 1904 with his wife Sarah (Wilson) and daughter Molly, and was appointed by the Home Mission Committee of the Presbyterian Church to minister to the Parish of Leura - Wentworth Falls. In 1905 he was inducted into the combined Presbyterian Churches of Leura and Wentworth Falls; and as a sign of his growing community involvement, was also listed as a founding member of the Katoomba & Leura Tourist Association when their inaugural guidebook was issued in the same year.
Widely regarded for his oratory; the power, the wit and the eloquence of the Irish rector could move an audience to laughter and tears, and they would come again and again to listen spellbound as he preached. Eloquence that was also believed to have contributed to the success of the record fundraising effort of ₤200 for extensions to the original 1898 sandstone church in Leura. In fact such was the popularity of his sermons that even after the Leura church was enlarged to twice its original size, it was often unable to accommodate the overflow congregation that flocked to his services to listen spellbound to his words. A congregation that included many Sydney residents with holiday homes in the Mountains, as well as those staying in guest houses, for whom a stirring Redmond sermon was among the highlights of their stay.
Rev Redmond was actively involved in the establishment of a golf club in Leura and was one of the first directors of the original company. When that company went out of business he set about raising capital for a new company. In an unpublished history of the Leura Golf Club, it states that 'Rev R A Redmond canvassed Sydney businessmen as well as local residents and his untiring efforts resulted in the amount of three thousand four hundred pounds being raised'. At the first general meeting of the Golf Links Estate held in 1909 he was elected a director, although he resigned the position later that same year.
However the health concerns that had prompted his trip to Australia again surfaced and in September 1911 he underwent surgery for stomach cancer, from which he never recovered and died quietly on November 11, 1911, aged 42. The official cause of death is listed as carcinoma of the stomach and exhaustion over a period of seven months. His wife and daughter were away visiting Ireland at the time of his death and there is no record of their returning to Australia.
The church in Leura was created in agreement with the Methodists and Congregationalists, who agreed to ‘confine their activities to Katoomba’. Although this rather artificial division worked amicably for a decade, eventually the increase of population compelled them to look after their own people in Katoomba. On 9 January 1911 a meeting in Katoomba declared that ‘the Presbyterian residents in Katoomba deem that the time has come for the establishment of a Presbyterian church’ and a committee of four was set up, consisting of the local minister, the Rev. R.A. Redmond, the prominent Katoomba doctor, Alexander Allan, J. Nimmo and L. Duff. Later in 1911 vacant land on the corner of Waratah and Lurline Streets was purchased and the local people decided to proceed to build ‘a substantial and ornate church’. Redmond had died in the course of 1911 and the building was to be called the Redmond Memorial Church.
There are actually four local memorials to Rev Redmond: a wing in the Leura Fairways retirement village on land formerly held by Leura Golf Club was named the Robert Alexander Redmond Wing, a plaque on the wall of St Andrew’s Church at Wentworth Falls, a stained glass window in the former Presbyterian church in Katoomba, and the obelisk in Leura Mall. There is also a larger reminder of Rev Redmond in the form of the Katoomba Presbyterian Church on the corner of Waratah and Lurline Streets, which was built on land purchased with funds of ₤500 he had raised for the purpose before his death. The church cost ₤2,000 to build and was opened on 25 January 1914. Subsequently a Church Hall was built for ₤600 and a manse purchased for ₤2,500.
The Redmond obelisk was designed by E P Andreas of Leuralla "in the form of an obelisk in freestone, upon a blue stone base, bearing upon the apex two bracket lamps". A committee of ladies, including Mrs Andreas, was asked to choose a suitable site, probably in the Mall. The obelisk was originally located at the intersection of the Mall with Megalong Street and held two small, rather dim, copper lamps on brackets. The Echo newspaper complained as early as 1913 that "from a utilitarian point of view, it is very nearly a failure, the old lamp post adjacent disseminating more light to the acre than the monument does to the square inch". As a result, in 1914, the twin lamps were replaced with a "single modern lamp of high candle power". The lamps appear to have been removed at the time it was relocated to its present location on the median strip around 1930.
It now stands opposite the old Post Office building in Leura Mall, on a grassy bank among the flowering cherry trees in Spring; where picnickers and tourists relax, enjoying the sunshine. Few if any noticing the now weathered, ornate stone column, dedicated to the young, fervent Irish preacher once so beloved by his flock.
* Katoomba Presbyterian Church. (1913, July 25). The Blue Mountain Echo (NSW : 1909 - 1928), , p. 1. Retrieved April 14, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119291942
* "Presbyterian Church." The Mountaineer (Katoomba, NSW : 1894 - 1908) 11 December 1903: 4. Web. 14 Apr 2016
John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian