Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Sydney Rock and its Environs

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



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

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

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


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

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


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

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



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

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



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

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



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

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



References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2010 Eugene Stockton, with additions by John Merriman

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

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

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


THE ROYAL VISIT
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.



ITINERARY FOR THE ROYAL VISIT TO NSW
SYDNEY
WEDNESDAY, 3rd FEBRUARY
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

SYDNEY
THURSDAY, 4th FEBRUARY.
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.

SYDNEY
FRIDAY, 5th FEBRUARY.
Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will attend the Lord Mayor’s Ball at the Sydney Town Hall at 9.30 p.m. .

SYDNEY
SATURDAY, 6th FEBRUARY.
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.

NEWCASTLE
TUESDAY, 9th FEBRUARY
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.

LISMORE
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.

CASINO
WEDNESDAY, 10th FEBRUARY
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.

DUBBO
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.

WOLLONGONG
THURSDAY, 11th FEBRUARY
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.

BATHURST
FRIDAY, 12th FEBRUARY
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.

LITHGOW
FRIDAY, 12th FEBRUARY
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.
KATOOMBA
FRIDAY, 12th FEBRUARY
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.

WAGGA
SATURDAY, 13th FEBRUARY
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.

SYDNEY
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

BROKEN HILL
THURSDAY, 18th MARCH
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.

===========================================================================

IN LOYALTY, AFFECTION
AND DEVOTION
WE GREET AND
WELCOME TO OUR CITY
HER MOST GRACIOUS MAJESTY
QUEEN ELIZABETH II AND HIS
ROYAL HIGHNESS THE DUKE
OF EDINBURGH


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


BRILLIANT LIGHTS AND GAY BUNTING TO GREET THE QUEEN

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

==========================================================================

TIME TABLE FOR TOMOROW

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.

ALLOCATION TO CARS
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.

ECHO POINT
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.

ROYAL SALUTE
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.

LEURA’S FAREWELL
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 [ ].

==========================================================================
THE DAY I SAW THE QUEEN

It was dull and threatening weather...at 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 seconds...as 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.
=========================================================================


ROYAL VISITORS RECEIVED IN MAJESTIC MOUNTAIN SETTING

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.

ROYAL DAIS
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.

COLOURFUL SCENE
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.

BOUQUET OF WILDFLOWERS
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.

LEURA’S GRAND WELCOME
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.

Images
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.

Reference
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.

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



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