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

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.

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


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.

* 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
Katoomba Presbyterian Church. (1913, July 25). The Blue Mountain Echo (NSW : 1909 - 1928), , p. 1. Retrieved April 14, 2016, from
*  "Presbyterian Church." The Mountaineer (Katoomba, NSW : 1894 - 1908) 11 December 1903: 4. Web. 14 Apr 2016 .

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

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