Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Coo-ee March, 1915, “The biggest wash-up I ever heard of!”

Coo-ees march through Springwood
“The Allies”, said the editor of the Blue Mountains Echo of 13 August 1915, “can make no further progress in the Dardanelles until reinforced with troops. Our own men there are calling for assistance.” One response to the desperate need for reinforcements originated in Gilgandra in October 1915 with 26 men, the brain wave of local plumber WT (Bill) Hitchen, captain of the Gilgandra Rifle Club and his brother Richard. The Coo-ee March was the first of many privately organised recruiting marches of the time, which gathered recruits as they progressed and became known as snowball marches.

As the march wound its way to the Sydney Domain through country towns and villages with names such as Wongarbon, Mumbil, Boomey and Yetholme, the recruits were decked with roses and treated to lunches of roast lamb and plum pudding. After ascending the western side of the Blue Mountains via Berghofer Pass, they reached the Explorers’ Tree at Katoomba on 5 November, where, after taking refreshments, the mayor and local butcher, Alderman George James, welcomed “the boys from the western plains”. The recruits responded as one with their rousing Coo-ee war cry and wearing their new blue dungaree uniforms and white canvas hats, marched into Katoomba to the accompaniment of the Leura Brass Band and the cheers of locals from footpaths and balconies, “streamers and brightly coloured bunting arched the principal thoroughfares and many public and private houses were gaily bedecked.”
The Katoomba Comforts Fund ladies with socks and clothing for the troops.
Mrs James the Lady Mayoress who welcomed the Coo-ees, is no.10, wearing black.
After further speeches of welcome and loyalty at the official dinner at the California guesthouse that evening, Alderman Tabrett proposed the toast to “Our Boys at the Front”, declaring “the whole world would ring with the praises of the Austral heroes who were ably defending the liberty of the world. We want thousands more like you”, he told the Coo-ees, “I sincerely hope Australia will always be noted for its workers and not its shirkers.” The recruiting rally after the dinner was one of the “biggest meetings ever seen in Katoomba”, at which “no less than 21 recruits offered and were accepted”, reported the Echo. The Katoomba Red Cross Comforts Fund presented the Coo-ees with a bale of socks knitted by local ladies, including ten pairs from the industrious Mrs James, the Mayoress.

At Wentworth Falls, a road worker downed tools and stepped into the ranks to rousing coo-ees from the men, although his two mates decided “to think it over”. At Lawson they were addressed by the Governor General and ten new recruits were welcomed to the ranks.

Coo-ees in Macquarie Rd, Springwood
The Coo-ees entered Springwood on Monday morning 8 November through the smoke from nearby bushfires and bearing their banner with the motto “First Stop Berlin”, accompanied by an escort of four mounted policemen, a piper playing stirring highland marches, a squad from the Springwood Rifle Club and cheering school children. “Hitchen’s Own” then made camp on the Homedale Estate.

A thousand people from Springwood and surrounds attended the evening open-air concert and recruiting meeting where more young men joined up. A local reporter wrote: “How well Springwood entertained is best told in the words of a lady who helped, ‘It was the biggest wash-up that I ever heard of,’ she said, and that is saying something coming from the sex that reckons life is one wash-up after another.” The next morning at nine o’clock, with the piper again in attendance, the Coo-ees marched out of town.
Route of the March from Gilgandra to Sydney.
The 263 Coo-ees who reached Sydney on November 12 went into action on the Western Front, in particular the Albert, Pozieres and Mouquet Farm battlefields. Some never returned and now lie with their comrades somewhere in France, a number were decorated for bravery. The bible on which five Springwood recruits were sworn in is held in the Local Studies collection at Blue Mountains City Library.

Images are from the Local Studies Collection.

2010 Blue Mountains City Library
John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hidden History – Mickies and Polers



Do we still have colourful characters or do they exist only in the past, when communities were smaller and society had room for the ordinary life lived eccentrically, without compromise, endearing, picturesque, vivid. The Blue Mountains has had its share of colourful characters but perhaps none more so than the men and women who drove bullocks for a living.

From the building of the first road over the Blue Mountains until the early decades of the 20th Century, bullocks were a significant and dependable source of draught power, whether it was clearing land, carting massive logs to local saw mills or carrying heavy loads over the mountain passes, and although some bullock drivers never swore, relying solely on gesture and whip movements; many were renowned for their strong language.



A language which it seems, like other less respectable parts of our history, is now all but lost except as oral tradition. When taking steep hills or on narrow winding roads, when the bullocks closer to the wagon, known as polers, risked strangulation or a broken neck, the driver would talk continuously to the team, calling each bullock by name to adjust its pace and effort. Talk that took the place of halters and reins and we can now only imagine.

Unlike the horse, which is subject to erratic displays of emotion, the working steer, known as a micky, tends to remain calm and collected and is more dependable in a predicament. Competent bullock drivers developed a philosophical, sanguine temperament, saving the strong language for the most difficult situations, otherwise their swearing reserve would have been exhausted before it was really needed. At the right moment the normally complaisant teamster would explode into profanity, the sudden shock of the awful words provoking the bullocks to bore into their yokes, all pulling together to overcome their load. The bullocky would then regain his usual easy-going composure, reserving his store of swearing until the next difficult situation.



Some of our well known bullockies were Bob Duff, Ted Duff and James Lewis Duff; in fact the Duff family has been associated with the Blue Mountains for over 150 years. Robert ‘Bob’ Duff was born at Hartley in 1845, his parents having arrived from Scotland five years earlier. At the age of nineteen Bob married sixteen year old Caroline Smith from Campbelltown and the couple settled in the Megalong Valley, farming 1100 acres on the Cox’s River. Between seasons Bob worked his team of bullocks, sometimes on the road for up to five months. Physically he cut an imposing figure, standing 6’3” and weighing 17 stone. Bob Duff died in March 1893, killed while breaking in a colt, he was forty eight years old and left a family of sixteen children. His wife Caroline eventually moved her family to Blackheath where she died in 1942 at the age of ninety seven.



Perhaps it’s not just the bullocky’s language that may fascinate us; there is also a lesson in self reliance in what was one of the most difficult and challenging of occupations. One old driver remarked that when faced with the seemingly impossible or extreme danger, you will have your doubts and will feel like not going on, but remember to always look on the humorous side and never lose your temper for a man who can drive bullocks can do anything.

Images from the Local Studies collection 1900-1920s
1. Mrs Foy cracks the whip outside the Hydro at Medlow Bath
2. Team outside Collers Stores at Blackheath
3. James Duff and daughter Peggy outside Collier's General Store, Blackheath
4. Road roller at Blackheath

Reference: The Bullock Driver’s Handbook, Arthur Cannon, 1985.

Links:
Bullocky in Wikipedia
* Steering the bullock team through history

Blue Mountains City Library, 2010
John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian

Friday, June 18, 2010

Catalina Park, Katoomba


CATALINA PARK, KATOOMBA AND THE PBY FLYING BOAT

Many visitors and local people have fond memories of the flying boat at Catalina Park, a natural amphitheatre to the west of Katoomba. Although officially named Frank Walford Park, it has more recently been called by its earlier name The Gully. In the mid-1940’s this area of bush, swamps and springs was largely undeveloped and home to a small settlement of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

The land was owned by Horace (Horrie) Gates, owner of the Homesdale Guest House with its Wentworth Cabaret nightspot. In 1946, he felt that a new attraction was needed to bring tourists back to the Blue Mountains after peace was declared. Accordingly he dammed Katoomba falls creek to form an ornamental lake where he constructed an amusement park offering ‘every facility for fun and food’.

The park was an instant success and in 1948, the shell of a Consolidated Catalina PBY-5 flying boat was added to the attractions, which included speedboat rides, tearooms, miniature train, Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, swimming pool and a Giggle House showing Charlie Chaplin films. Although many people believed the plane had flown there, it had in fact been dismantled and brought to Katoomba by truck, where it was re-assembled and anchored to a concrete block in the middle of the lake.

Up to thirty passengers paid two shillings to be taken out to the flying boat by punt where in the dark, stuffy interior, they viewed film of a flight over the Sydney area, heard the story of the Catalina and tried out the controls. While the film was showing, an assistant would stand on the wing rocking the plane to simulate flight while the speedboat would circle the lake providing waves and engine noise. Fun seekers emerged from this sensory experience dizzy and gasping for air, many too ill to enjoy further amusements.

For many years the lake operated as Katoomba’s swimming pool and provided a fireworks display after the New Year’s Eve street parade. However as the town’s population increased, it became run down, its reputation unsavoury and its water polluted.

Council purchased the land in 1952 with the purpose of turning the area into a public park and treated water swimming pool. In 1954 the Catalina aircraft, showing signs of age and wear, was pulled up onto the bank and left to the ravages of weather and souvenir hunters. Around 1958 it was sold to Sheffield Welding & Engineering, Auburn NSW, who dismantled and cut it up for scrap.


Blue Mountains Council accepted proposals for a racing car circuit in the park and clearing commencing in 1957. By May 1959 the shacks of the last Gully residents were demolished to make way for the Catalina Race Track that officially opened in 1961. A new Olympic Pool was opened adjacent to the original swimming pool in 1972. In 2003, the Katoomba Indoor Sports and Aquatic Centre opened on the site where a new generation of fun seekers relax in the heated spa in place of the murky water and tadpoles. In 2005, the Gully was declared an Aboriginal Place. The original swimming pool with a wire netting and cement shelter still exists, serving mainly as a duck pond and for water loving dogs.

Top photo: Catalina Park c.1950, Blue Mountains City Library collection
Bottom photo: Contemparary view, photo: John Merriman

John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian
© 2010 Blue Mountains City Library

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rev. Robert Alexander Redmond B.A. (1869-1911)

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

Robert Alexander Redmond was born on April 6, 1869 in Northern Ireland, the son of Samuel Redmond, farmer of Slievenaboley in County Down and Catherine (Piddock). In 1896 aged 27, he entered divinity studies at Assembly’s College, Belfast, the theological college for the Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland. In his final year he was awarded the blue ribbon of the college: the Magill Bursary for pulpit eloquence. He graduated BA in 1898, and received his licence to preach in 1901.

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. 
Following his death, a public subscription was launched to raise funds for a memorial in Leura Mall, on which the inscription reads:

Erected as a mark of esteem to the late
Rev R A Redmond, BA,
by the residents of Leura,
November 11th, 1911

The Blue Mountains Echo newspaper recorded the funeral on November 17, 1911:
   By the death of Rev. R. A. Redmond - news of which was received in town on Saturday - Leura loses one of her foremost citizens, and the Presbyterian Church a most eloquent and able preacher. The deceased gentleman had been associated in all movements for the advancement of the district, and his demise at so early an age will cause a vacancy difficult indeed to fill. A large number of representative townsfolk paid their last tribute to his memory on Monday when the funeral took place at Wentworth Falls. A well-worded reference to his untimely death was made by the Rev. W. Ellis at the Anglican Church on Sunday last. The hymn, “'Now the Laborer's Task is O'er”, was rendered by the choir, and at the evening service, Mr Inman played The Dead March in Saul.

The obituary in the Blue Mountains Echo reads as follows:

   Dead! And there's many a man could have been better spared, was the general verdict when the news flashed through from the city hospital that Rev. Redmond, the popular Presbyterian Pastor of Leura, had paid life's penalty - the victim of a malignant growth, which, for the past year, had caused him trouble.
   His death was not unexpected. It was well-known that the good man was booked for his last long journey, but nevertheless, a deep gloom settled over both centres when it was known that his spirit had fled. Rev. Redmond was a man of strong personality. He was a cultured and convincing preacher, and worked wonders for his Church in both Leura and Wentworth Falls. Blessed with a heart as big as a house, he had a large fund of sympathy for human frailties, and his good deeds, performed in every instance with almost apologetic secrecy, will live for ever with Leuraites. He was a happy combination of human and divine, and was beloved by all denominations on the Mountains.
   About a month ago he went to Sydney to undergo an operation. Although the surgeon's skill was successful, the sufferer never rallied, and on Saturday morning he was summoned to meet his Masses, for Whom he had laboured so loyally in this Vale. The funeral cortege started from Messrs Woods' Funeral Parlour, Sydney, at 7.45 am on Monday, and was entrained at 8.27 am for Wentworth Falls, several ministers and other friends accompanying it. At various stations en route, many of the deceased minister's co-Presbyters joined the train. On arrival at Wentworth Fails, a large number of people from his late charge and district were sorrowfully waiting.
   The Right Reverend, the Moderator of the State General Assembly (R. Kay, M.A.,), who had travelled from Germanton, joined with the Rev. James McKee, Moderator of deceased's Presbytery, headed the procession. These were followed by the members of the Presbytery, the Rev. Steel, M.A., J. Paterson, A. Dandie, W. R. Milne, H. Wilson, R. B. Garner and the Rev. Prof. Clouston and Rev. J. J. Gilmore.
   The Church at Wentworth Falls was overfilled with a sorrowful congregation. The suitable music was kindly arranged for by Rev. Mr Robison, C.E. Minister, whose organist officiated. Within the Church, where the coffin, covered with beautiful wreaths, rested, the Rev. J. McKee presided, prayers were offered by the Right Rev., the Moderator and Rev. J. Paterson, and the lesson was read by Rev. R. Steel. Upon leaving for the cemetery, the Ministers formed a double line, between which the coffin was borne to the hearse, and the procession, largest and most solemn ever seen at Wentworth Falls, wended its way to the last resting place of mortality. Here reverently the Rev J. McKee committed the body to the ground, which loving thought had beautifully carpeted and lined with ferns and white flowers.
   The resurrection lessons were read by the Rev. J. J Gilmore, and prayer was offered by Rev. H. Wilson. The Rev. Professor Clouston pronounced an eulogy on the beloved Minister, whose mortal remains were now consigned to the tomb. He referred to his success as a student and as a pastor of one of the largest and most important Churches in Ulster before threatening sickness urged him to come to Sunny New South Wales. He testified, as they all knew, to his success at Leura and Wentworth Falls, the Church at each place being a monument to his earnestness. Though dead, he would still speak to them, for the memory of one so singularly gifted and of such happy nature would remain green. Before the benediction was pronounced by Rev. W. R. Milne, it was announced that the Rev. J. J. Gilmore, a long-time friend of the late Mr Redmond, would conduct memorial services at Leura and Wentworth Falls on Sunday, 19th November. Mr W. Wood, Financial Secretary, and Rev. R. Steel made the arrangements for the funeral.

***

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.

References:
* Ye Are God’s Building, a centenary history of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Wentworth Falls NSW, 1905-2005, by Eve Sinclair, 2006.
* Blue Mountains Echo newspaper, November 17, 1911
* Redmond Memorial, Blue Mountains Heritage Inventory, 2001
-  http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=1170402
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 .


Acknowledgement:
Prof L S Kirkpatrick, Union Theological College, Belfast, correspondence 2009.

John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian
Blue Mountains City Library, 2010



Monday, November 16, 2009

Kingsford Smith Memorial Park and Wadi Shaifa, Katoomba

The park sits in a natural gully amphitheater near Katoomba railway station bounded by Gang-Gang Street, Lurline Street and William Street. It covers portions 52 and 53 originally granted to James Henry Neal in 1877-78.

1930s tourist guide entry for Wadi Shaifa
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.
The name Wadi Shaifa commemorates a battle in Egypt about 150 km west of El Alamein described in The War Effort of New Zealand, by W S Austin 1923. The Light Horse was there, with the Kiwis, the Sikhs and the Scots, so perhaps Major Ernie Hudson was too. Major-General Wallace transferred his headquarters from Alexandria to Matruh on December 7th, 1915, and four days later had his first encounter with the Senussi forces. From five to six miles south of Matruh is a tableland some 300 feet high, dropping to the coastal strip in a steep escarpment. The outline of the plateau is irregular, and ten miles to the west of Matruh, it is only two miles from the sea. Intersecting the escarpment at right angles are numerous ancient watercourses, or wadis, which are steep, dry and rocky, and in some cases miles in length.

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
The park's first name, in 1935, was Jubilee Park to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V. This however was changed only a year later to Kingsford Smith Memorial Park and Playground, in honour of the pioneer Australian aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith (1897-1935).

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
On 7 March 1938, Lord Wakehurst, Governor of NSW, dedicated the entrance pavilion with a slate plaque, the lintel bearing the words Kingsford Smith Memorial Park. This was topped with a hemispherical metal dome showing a relief map of Australia, with a two foot scale model of Southern Cross, constructed by Mr Evan Cork of Randwick, mounted above it . In 1939 Katoomba Council constructed the band rotunda and public lavatories at a cost of ₤329 in time for the official opening on 1 January 1940, by the Hon. L. O. Martin, KCMG, Minister for Works and Local Government, a brass plaque on the pavilion commemorates this.

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 park is one of many memorials throughout Australia to its courageous pioneer aviator, an unparalleled breaker of long-distance records, a trailblazer and remarkable visionary, and a man whose party trick after singing and playing the ukulele, was to drink a glass of beer while standing on his head.

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
Over the next 40 years, the park gradually fell into disuse and disrepair until local residents began to lobby Council to fund improvements and maintenance. In July 1987 high winds tore the dome from its base on the entry pavilion, it was repaired and replaced five months later. At the same time a scale profile of Southern Cross replaced the scale model, which had been vandalised and removed some years before. The original model was located in pieces and missing its two wing motors, in the old Albion Street Council depot in 1985.

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

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Eurama & Weemala at Faulconbridge


Eurama
This burnt out building ruin on the side of the south side of the Great Western Highway at Faulconbridge, was once a grand house with a tower, built for a wealthy businessman named Andrew McCulloch, in the early 1880s. The stone used in its construction was quarried nearby and the work was carried out by a well known local stonemason, Patrick (Paddy) Ryan. McCulloch furnished his country house using the exclusive Sydney firm of Lyon Cottier and Co. The property boasted a tennis court, flag-staff, landscaped gardens and an ornamental lake, made by damming a gully.

McCulloch named his new residence “Weemala”, an Aboriginal word said to mean “expansive view”, and spent the next few years developing the grounds. However, at the end of the 1880s, he began to experience financial difficulties and sold the property to J.W. Cliff in 1889.


When Cliff sold the property, then totaling about 113 acres in 1907, the new owner, a solicitor named George Evans, changed the name to “Eurama”, said to be a Greek word meaning much the same as the earlier Aboriginal one. Evans had also purchased the neighbouring house, “Numantia”, a wooden cottage adjacent to the railway line with its own rail platform, It had been built in 1877 by Sir James Martin, and to this he transferred the name “Weemala”. This has proved to be a source of great confusion and many people today still refer to “Eurama” as “Weemala”.


When George Evans died “Eurama” passed to his daughter, Mrs Emily Ethel McLaurin. It was later sold to Mrs Katherine Nathan in the 1920s and around 1930, to Mrs Daisy Brown. Following Mrs Brown’s death the building was left vacant for a time and suffered from some vandalism. Over the ensuing decades many owners had their dreams cut short. The Great Depression, the Great War, and other hard times, falling on the owners. In the early 1960s, the then owner, Mr Adams, set about restoring the decaying property. Restoration had been completed just prior to the disastrous bushfires of 1968. The fire consumed the house in all its grandeur and the building remains a ruin today.

As a postscript to the “Eurama” story, the Blue Mountains City Library was given permission by Mr. Watkins, the then owner, to stage an open air children’s adventure theatre performance among the ruins during the Bicentennial celebrations in 1988. With the ruins as a backdrop the property proved a most effective site for this project.


Numantia - Weemala
The site of "Numantia" later "Weemala", is now situated close to the rail line behind a high stone wall. The cottage originally on this site was erected about 1877 for Sir James Martin K.C.M.G. It was to be his country residence which he named "Numantia", the name being a region in Spain. It has been said that Sir James thought the countryside here similar to that of its Iberian namesake.

It was a wooden house set behind a high stone wall on land Sir James had acquired from Sir Henry Parkes, and it was his intention to build a huge mansion after he had built this small wooden cottage. The grand mansion never eventuated - the foundations only were laid. They were later removed  c.1914-18 and reused in the foundations for “Banool”, now “The Bungalow” on the corner of Martin Place at Linden.

In 1876 a railway platform was erected to service the well-to-do residents of the area. It became the Numantia Platform, but ceased operation in 1892 with the platform being removed in 1897.

In 1898 Adolphus Rogalsky purchased Numantia and it was he who changed the name to Weemala. This coincided with the name change for the other Weemala to Eurama.

The high stone wall of “Numantia”, later “Weemala”, still stands. The cottage was destroyed by bushfire in December 1977. Since then a new three bedroom brick veneer cottage has been erected behind the stone wall.

To summarise:
Weemala (1880s) became Eurama (1907)
Numantia (1877) became Weemala (1907)






Photos from the Blue Mountains City Library collection, from the McLaurin family album.
1. Ruins of Eurama after 1968 bushfires
2. Ornamental lake, Eurama
3. Emily Ethel McLaurin
4. Eurama in its heyday
5. Map of Eurama and Weemala c1920, Local Studies map collection.

Link to Weemala Heritage Listing

John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian 2015, Blue Mountains City Library

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Giant Stairway, Echo Point, Katoomba


First Steps
At 540 metres in length, with 911 steps hewn from the cliff face and 32 steel staircases, the aptly named Giant Stairway drops almost 300 metres to the floor of the Jamieson Valley below the Three Sisters. At the official opening in 1932, the Newcastle Morning Herald saw it as a "triumph of nerve and skill", while the Sydney Morning Herald concluded that "patience and courage have had their reward".

Such comments, made in relation to the official opening of both the Giant Stairway and the Projecting Platform at Echo Point on Saturday October 1, 1932, were among many offering tribute to Ranger McKay, the man who almost two decades previously had conceived the idea of a track linking the cliff top at Echo Point with the Federal Pass below.

James Henry McKay was born in Balmain on December 4, 1869 and died in Katoomba on September 12, 1947. He appears to have been the third ranger employed to care for reserves in the Katoomba area, following in the steps of John Smith and Charles Deeves. His appointment as Chief Ranger in 1901 came a year after the opening of the Federal Pass, which traversed the valley floor between Katoomba Falls and Leura Falls, an event representative of a new phase in the leisure use of the Blue Mountains. Gaining full time employment with Katoomba Council may have also helped Jim McKay make up his mind in 1902 to marry Emily Cole, a twenty year old widow and mother of four, and have six more children; William 1903, Letitia 1904, Isabel 1908, Dorothy 1910, Edna 1914 and Laura 1921. Emily’s daughter Ruby Cole, born 1901, was killed in Katoomba in 1910 by a kick from a horse; her father Henry Cole had died in a fall from a horse outside the Katoomba Railway Hotel in 1902. Both were attended by Dr John Spark; Henry and Ruby Cole share an unmarked grave in Katoomba cemetery.

Prior to 1890, the development of the Blue Mountains bushland for the benefit of visitors had been concentrated primarily on the cliff tops - constructing lookout access to the most popular views. The 1890s and early 20th century saw interest moving downwards into the valleys with the emphasis placed now on the active enjoyment of walking. Track-walking remained the primary motive behind the development of the area for leisure until the 1930s, when the motor car, speeding from sight to sight with its cargo of ‘sightseers’, revolutionised tourism and re-directed attention once again to the cliff edge. Indeed, Echo Point, with its Giant Stairway down into the valley and its Projecting Platform looking out over the valley, could be said to represent both the end of one era and the beginning of another.

It was from the Dardanelles track that, in 1914, he conceived his idea of a new pass that would junction with the Three Sisters at Echo Point. Scoffed at initially, his project eventually received Council approval in July 1916 following an all-day inspection of the reserves by the Reserves Committee (Aldermen C.L. Dash, G. James, G. Davies and R.V. Smythe), In their report to Council, they recommended "that it be left in the hands of Chief Ranger McKay to construct a new track from the vicinity of Echo Point to connect with Federal Pass at a point below the Three Sisters". Council adopted the report and the work began under the direction of McKay, his assistant Walter Botting and their team of labourers, which included Reubin Esgate, father of the noted Mountains identity Ben Esgate.

An article in the "Blue Mountain Echo" in 1916 reports that McKay "took to the work from the first" and with a dedication few could match today. On one occasion, the writer asserts, his wages were eight months in arrears and he survived only on large credit accounts with local stores. Before he began work on the Giant Stairway, the Federal Pass had 1,764 steps, 500 of which were in reasonable condition. By 1916, McKay had increased this to 6,464 steps, including a new track from near Bull's Head, which skirted the cliffs and led to the top of the Leura Cascades and he planned and opened the Dardanelles section of the Federal Pass. In 1908 he had led the construction of the Furber Steps, his first great stairway into the Jamison Valley.


Delay... then renewed interest
After proceeding for almost a quarter of the distance, however, the work of hacking the steps from the sheer cliff face was deemed too costly by Council and the project was brought to a halt in August 1918 and in 1922 Council's Chief Engineer estimated that a further 300 steps needed to be cut. The whole idea then lapsed for over a decade.

In the early 1930s, Harry Phillips, the noted Mountains photographer, published a small pamphlet outlining his suggestions for the future tourist development of Katoomba. Among these was the completion of the Giant Stairway which, he argued, "Can be completed at a small outlay; it leads directly into the most prolific and prettiest Fern Glen Forest in the Jamieson Valley, Leura, where magnificent motor tracks and camping areas can and should be, opened up immediately." Following vigorous agitation on the part of Alderman W.C. Soper, a close friend of Phillips, a renewed interest in the scheme was awakened early in 1932. A motion put before Council by Soper was passed and work, again under the control of Chief Ranger McKay, recommenced. This proceeded with sufficient speed for a decision to be made in July to arrange for the official opening to take place on the first weekend of October. An extensive publicity campaign under the direction of the Town Clerk, Mr. F.C. Taylor, was set in motion, circularising the provincial and city press, various radio stations and arranging with Cinesound to make it, as the Katoomba Daily put it, "a boost day for Katoomba".

Official Opening
The official opening duly took place at 3.30 p.m. on the Saturday of the Eight Hour Weekend. Following the speeches of welcome by the Mayor Alderman A.E. Packer, and the local members of Parliament, Hon. J. Jackson, Minister for Local Government and Mr. J.N. Lawson M.H.R., The Premier of New South Wales, the Hon. B.S.B. Stevens, responded and declared both the Giant Stairway and the Projecting Platform open. In his speech, the Premier paid tribute to those who carried out the hard physical work, work that on occasions was so dangerous that they had to be roped to prevent them falling. He praised their skill and courage and assured them that "they will always have the satisfaction of knowing that their initiative and labour will bring pleasure to countless thousands in the years to come", and to "have shaken the hand of Chief Ranger McKay made this a memorable day".

The ceremonies over, the huge crowd witnessed an exciting exhibition of rock-climbing by three members of the Blue Mountaineers Club: Dr. Eric Dark, Mr. Osmar White and Mr. Paddy Ellis.
"These intrepid mountaineers first appeared on the sheer wall of the western precipice about 4.00 p.m. and quickly ascended 500 feet of cliff face to the summit of the Second Sister, where the Australian Flag was flown. The descent proved even more spectacular and although the climbers did not take any unnecessary risks, and were on no occasion in danger of falling, many of the spectators literally held their breaths as they witnessed the amazing ascent of the beetling crags". (Katoomba Daily).
While the motor car was ushering in a new era of leisure activity in the mountains, which reduced somewhat the popularity of walking tracks, the Giant Stairway, though perhaps representative of this earlier phase, has, with its panoramic views and as a companion to the Scenic Railway, survived as a popular tourist attraction for the eight decades since its completion. As a memorial to the work and vision of Chief Ranger Jim McKay, and others like him, its value to the Blue Mountains is even further enhanced.



Photos
Top: Chief Ranger Jim McKay poses on the Stairs with his assistant Walter Botting (Harry Phillips photo).
Second: McKay with workers, showing use of picks, hammers and chisels to cut back rock prior to step making.
Third: The official party, The Premier Sir Bertram Stevens 4th from right, the man in the bowler hat at rear is Percy Wilson, President of Blue Mountains Shire.
Bottom: The crowd at the official opening, Echo Point.



References:
"The Giant Stairway 1932-1982", by John Low, Blue Mountains City Library 1982.
"The Giant Stairway", by Keith Painter, Mountain Mist Books 2005.
"Walking the Federal Pass, the first 100 years", by Jim Smith, Den Fenella Press 2001.

John Low, John Merriman, Local Studies Librarians.
Blue Mountains City Library 2009

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