Monday, November 5, 2012

Newspapers of The Blue Mountains

The Newspapers of The Blue Mountains

A Guide to the Holdings of the Blue Mountains City Library


The following list has been compiled by the Local Studies Librarian, Blue Mountains City Library.

The newspapers are listed in a roughly chronological order. The accompanying historical information has been obtained principally from the newspapers themselves and from a paper, Blue Mountains Newspapers by J. Ralph Bennett, first published by the Blue Mountains Historical Society in February 1952, extended and read to the Springwood Historical Society in March 1973 and later published in a revised form in Old Leura and Katoomba (Rotary Club of Katoomba, 1981). The Gazetteer of NSW Country Newspapers (on computer data base at UWS Nepean) compiled by Nightingale and Liston from newspaper registration files held by the Archives Authority of NSW was also a valuable reference against which to check information. Rod Kirkpatrick of the Department of Journalism, University of Queensland, Jim Smith of Wentworth Falls, Gwen Silvey and Alan Tierney of the Blue Mountains Historical Society and Reg Baumgarten and Ron Brazier of the Mount Victoria & District Historical Society also contributed significant information.

The list excludes tourist newspapers, ie. newspapers aimed exclusively at tourists.

Where a long run of a newspaper is indicated as being held, there may still be some individual issues missing. These are generally indicated on the microfilm at the beginning of each reel.

Where particular issues and runs not included in the Blue Mountains City Library’s collection are known to be held by other organisations, this has been indicated.

Note : A full duplicate set of our newspapers on microfilm is held by the State Library of NSW, search their catalogue - 

From July 2015, surviving newspapers published before 1954 will be available in digitised form, check their availability at - Trove  

The Nepean Times (Penrith), The Lithgow Mercury and The Clarion (Lithgow), though based outside the Blue Mountains, contain much relevant material. The Blue Mountains City Library holds The Nepean Times (3 March 1882 to 29 November 1962) and The Lithgow Mercury (4 January 1901 to 31 December 1964) on microfilm. The Clarion (1932-1974) is held by the Lithgow Regional Library. Runs of several other Penrith papers which circulated in the Lower Blue Mountains, including The Penrith Press (1952- ), The Nepean Herald (1968-1973), The Penrith District Star (1973-1986), The Penrith City Star (1987-1995) and The Fairfax Sun: Penrith Edition (1995- ), are held by Penrith City Library.

The Blue Mountains City Library would welcome donations of newspapers that fill gaps in our collection. Even single issues can be of great value to historians.

For further information, the Local Studies Librarian can be contacted at Springwood Library, phone: 02 4723 5044.


Blackheath Advertiser

Blackheath Beacon

Blackheath Bulletin

Blackheath Free Press

Blue Mountain Echo (1909-1939)

Blue Mountain Express

Blue Mountain Gazette

Blue Mountain Star

Blue Mountains Advertiser

Blue Mountains Courier

Blue Mountains Democrat

Blue Mountains Echo (1939)

Blue Mountains Echo (1981)

Blue Mountains Gazette

Blue Mountains-Lithgow District News

Blue Mountains News

Blue Mountains Times (1931)

Blue Mountains Times (1962)

Blue Mountains Weekender

Blue Mountains Whisper

Chronicle, The

Enterprise, The

Hospital Saturday News

Independent, The (1930)

Independent, The (1997)

Katoomba And District Weekly

Katoomba City News

Katoomba Daily

Katoomba Times

Lawson Post

Lower Mountains Circle

Mid-Mountains Village Views

Mid-Mountains Village Voice

Mountain Advertiser

Mountain Daily

Mountain Gazette

Mountains Messenger Magazine

Mountaineer, The

Observer, The

Record of the Blue Mountains

Smith’s Weekly Blue Mountains Section

Sporting Record

Springwood Sentinel

Upper Mountains News



According to Bennett the first newspaper on the Mountains was The Mountain Advertiser which, he says, appeared in the mid-1870s in Katoomba (or The Crushers as it was then known). No copies of this paper have survived and no other reference to it has been found.


In early 1889, the year Katoomba became a municipality, George W. Spring established The Katoomba Times which ran under his sole proprietorship until September 1890 when George P. C. Spring (Jun.) and J. Albert Southwood took over. Under a revamped banner the paper continued publication until 1894 when Spring and Southwood moved to South Australia. In October 1890 the paper relocated from its original office in Main Street “to more central premises, near The Carrington, and opposite the railway station.” It circulated between Hartley and Springwood.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds microfilm copies of The Katoomba Times covering the period 25 May 1889 - 15 June 1894 [1 reel].


In the early 1890s another newspaper, The Blue Mountain Express, was established in Katoomba by Walter Henry Bone and Mr Upton. No copies have survived, but in its short life it apparently passed through the hands of a number of proprietors and its relationship with its competitor, The Katoomba Times, appears to have been less than friendly. It ceased publication at the end of July 1892 and the editors of the Times marked its passing with a satirical obituary.


In September 1894 Robert Moss, said by Bennett to have been the proprietor of the earlier Advertiser, began publishing The Mountaineer in Main Street Katoomba (near the Family Hotel). The paper circulated “throughout the Blue Mountain and Hartley Districts”. At the end of 1894 Moss sold the paper to Peter Giles Hart who remained its publisher until May 1904 when he passed it on to his brother-in-law John Knight. During Hart’s time as proprietor the business moved its premises from Main Street to Park Street. At the end of 1908 The Mountaineer was sold by Knight to a new public company, “The Mountaineer Printing and Publishing Company, Ltd.” , whose board of directors was made up of a number of well-known local businessmen. This company planned to publish a new paper “much enlarged of an entirely different character, and in keeping with the needs and requirements of the rapidly rising places on the Mountains.”

The Blue Mountains City Library holds microfilm copies of The Mountaineer covering the following periods:

Reel 1.

7 September 1894 - 28 August 1896.

Single copies: 18 June 1897; 22 June 1897; 18 March 1898.

6 January 1899 - 28 December 1900.

Reel 2.

4 January 1901 - 29 December 1905.

Single copies: 6 December 1907; 24 December 1908.

The Mount Victoria & District Historical Society holds in hard copy a 4 page supplement to the issue of 22 January 1897.

The Blue Mountains Historical Society holds the following single issues in hard copy: 9 November 1906; 16 October 1908 (incomplete); 25 December 1908 (incomplete).


Bennett mentions another paper he claims was operating in the 1890s - The Observer. However, no other references to it have been found and there are no copies extant.


In January 1903 The Blue Mountain Gazette was launched in Katoomba by E. D. Wilson who set up his business in Main Street. Twelve months later, in January 1904, Wilson sold his interest in the paper to Robert Gornall. Gornall sold to John Knight of The Mountaineer in December 1904 and transferred his printing plant “to a prosperous and rapidly rising mining and agricultural town in the north, where there is no newspaper.” The Gazette, which had circulated throughout the Blue Mountains and adjoining areas, was incorporated with The Mountaineer.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds microfilm copies of The Blue Mountain Gazette covering the period 9 January 1903 - 30 December 1904. [1 reel]


The first issue of The Blue Mountain Echo, circulating between Mount Victoria and Glenbrook, was published on 6 March 1909 under the management of James C. Hart for the Mountaineer Printing and Publishing Company at the Park Street premises of the old Mountaineer. Hart retired in February 1910, when Robert Villiers Smythe arrived from North Queensland to take charge. Smythe remained editor for almost the life of the paper, resigning as Managing Editor in November 1928 along with the Board of Directors of the Company. The new management closed the paper down with its issue of 28 December 1928 (Vol.39, No.82) and began publishing The Blue Mountain Star in January 1929.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds microfilm copies of The Blue Mountain Echo covering the period 6 March 1909 - 28 December 1928. [7 reels]

The library also holds in hard copy (3 volumes):

7 March 1913 - 26 February 1915.

7 March 1919 - 25 February 1921.

3 March 1922 - 23 February 1923.

In 1909-10 the mid-Mountains entered the newspaper scene with the appearance of The Lawson Post, published by Lawson businessman W .Lowden. It lasted six months (twenty-six issues) during which time, according to its proprietor, it had to contend with some belittling opposition from some sections of the community.

The only known surviving copy is No. 26 (16 April 1910), the last issue. This was located by Jim Smith in a second-hand book shop in Sydney and was re-published in facsimile by him in the mid-1980s. Facsimile copies are held in the Local Studies Collection.


In June 1913 a small newspaper called The Enterprise was begun in Katoomba. According to the Echo’s announcement of its birth, the paper “had been hatching for a considerable period as an advertising sheet.” (Echo, 13 June 1913). This explains the high numbering of the one issue known to have survived, a microfilm copy of which is held by the Blue Mountains City Library:

3 September 1913 (Vol.2. No.104).

This issue was “printed and published by W. Hickson, Proprietor, Katoomba Street, Katoomba”. the Echo says the proprietors were “Messrs Hickson and Millard”. It is not known when it ceased publication.


The Mountain Daily began publishing in 1919. Microfilm copies of only two issues are held by the Blue Mountains City Library:

26 July 1919.

7 February 1920.

The July 1919 issue was printed and published by Charles Gordon Buchanan at premises in Main Street, Katoomba. Buchanan had previously worked for the Echo. By February 1920 the paper was in the hands of J. M. Bennett.


The Blackheath Free Press probably began publication at the start of 1920. It circulated in Blackheath and Mount Victoria and was published and printed by J. M. Bennett at his Main Street, Katoomba, office. It is not known how long it survived.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds a poor photocopy of the third issue, 6 February 1920 (Vol.1, No.3), in its Local Studies Section. No other issues are known to exist.

By July 1922 The Blackheath Free Press had been incorporated into another newspaper, THE BLACKHEATH ADVERTISER. This paper was printed and published in Katoomba by John Charles Boden and circulated free throughout Medlow Bath, Blackheath, Megalong Valley, Mount Victoria, Bell, Mount Wilson and Hartley Vale. It is not known when it began or when it ceased publication.


Probably beginning in early 1920, this was a local section incorporated in the Sydney newspaper Smith’s Weekly. The latter was owned by Sir James Joynton Smith who had extensive business interests in the Blue Mountains. It is not known how long the local section survived and the library holds no copies.

The Blue Mountains Historical Society holds a hard copy of the issue of 31 January 1920.


It is possible that The Katoomba Daily grew out of The Mountain Daily (See Bennett’s paper). If this was so, the change had taken place by December 1920. It appears that the The Katoomba Daily was originally owned by the Smith’s Weekly Publishing Co. Ltd. and was printed and published by Robert Clyde Packer in North Sydney. By July 1924 the printing and publishing of the paper had moved to the Katoomba Daily Printing Works, Froma Lane, Katoomba, and was under the supervision of Austin Mays. Sydney Lochlan Ward (November 1924-?) and Edmund Joseph Collins (ca1927-?) are other editors/publishers mentioned during the 1920s.

Sometime in the late 1920s Blue Mountains Newspapers Ltd. began printing and publishing The Katoomba Daily at its office in the Echo Building, 23 Parke Street, Katoomba. From its issue of 21 July 1932 the Daily’s banner carried the addition: “With which is incorporated The Blue Mountain Echo, The Blue Mountain Star and Blackheath Bulletin”. By 1932 it was circulating between Lithgow and Penrith.

In 1939 the name of the paper was changed to THE BLUE MOUNTAINS DAILY (from the issue of 18 February) in recognition of its aim to meet “the publicity needs of all towns between Glenbrook and Mt. Victoria.” The new name proved to be a hint of greater changes to come and the paper closed with its issue of 9 May, 1939. The paper’s management issued a statement to the effect that it felt “that the rapid expansion of the Blue Mountains district warrants a larger and better paper to minister to its needs.” In its place they launched The Blue Mountains Echo.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds microfilm copies of The Katoomba Daily / The Blue Mountains Daily covering the following periods:

1920 - 1931 [1 reel]. VERY incomplete !! Other than for the period July-December 1924, this is a collection of disparate single issues.

2 February 1932 - 9 May 1939 [4 reels].

The library also holds in hard copy:

3 July 1934 - 31 December 1938 (5 volumes).

The Mount Victoria & District Historical Society holds the following in hard copy:

2 April 1921 - 25 March 1922 (complete run of Saturday editions).

4 April 1921 - 30 July 1921 (complete run of Wednesday editions).

The Blue Mountains Historical Society holds the following single issues in hard copy: 16 April 1921; 14 May 1921; 7 February 1922; 30 May 1924; 1, 10, 24 March 1928; 18 April 1928; 8 May 1928; 18 August 1928; 28 September 1928; 16 July 1929 (damaged); 18 February 1930; 29 November 1930; 10 December 1930; 8 December 1931.


The Record began in August 1921 as The Catholic News of the Blue Mountains, a monthly published by the Katoomba Catholic Club. Outgrowing its role as a parish bulletin and widening its appeal to include the non-Catholic community, the name was changed from July 1922 (Vol.1, No. 12). By July 1923 it had achieved a circulation of 6,000 readers between Bathurst and Sydney. While its editors included M. Curran, John F. Ryan and Bruce Milliss, the driving force behind The Record was the colourful and eccentric Katoomba parish priest, Father St. Clair Joseph Bridge. Financial difficulties and pressure from the Church hierarchy to concentrate on parish affairs eventually forced Bridge to close The Record ca.1924. Though registered as a newspaper, The Record was, and saw itself as, more a magazine than a newspaper. In his autobiography, Serpent’s Tooth, Milliss’ son Roger describes the journal as consisting of “a minimum of low-key Catholic propaganda and a mass of inoffensive general features aimed to attract a broader readership and quell the prejudice of likely Protestant advertisers.”

he Blue Mountain City Library holds the following issues of The Record:

August 1921 - July 1923 (September 1921 missing). Hard copy.

February 1924. Hard copy and microfilm.


The first issue was published on 14 March 1924. It was printed and published by Frank Walford at The Cumberland Times Printing Works in Parramatta and distributed throughout Katoomba, Leura and Blackheath.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds a microfilm copy of only one issue: 23 May 1924.

The Blue Mountains Historical Society hold a hard copy of the issue for 14 March 1924.


The first issue of The Blue Mountain Star, successor to the Echo, appeared on Saturday, 5 January 1929, printed and published by the Blue Mountains Newspapers Ltd. at their office in Parke Street, Katoomba, under the editorship of Victor Yeoman Mathias. The paper reached issue No.6 of Vol.3 (7 February 1931) when the management informed readers “that circumstances have arisen, largely due to the present trade depression, which will compel it to suspend publication of the journal temporarily.” The Star did not reappear.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds microfilm copies of The Blue Mountain Star covering the period 5 January 1929 - 7 February 1931 [1 reel].


A paper known as The Blackheath Bulletin was published for a short period in the early 1920s (Vol.1, No.1 issued 1 May 1923) under the wing of The Blue Mountain Echo. No copies of this paper are held by the library. Jim Smith of Wentworth Falls, however, has a copy of the first issue in his collection. In 1929 it was resurrected by Blue Mountains Newspapers Ltd. and printed at The Star office in Katoomba. There seems to have been two distinct runs of this paper. The first, under the editorship of Victor Yeoman Mathias, appears to have been free and to have ceased publication by the end of 1929. The second, edited by W. E. Vincent, who had earlier been associated with the Echo’s Bulletin, began publication on 13 November 1930. Its thirteenth and final issue appeared on 5 February 1931. The offices of Vincent’s Bulletin were in “Oakdene”, Govetts Leap Road, Blackheath.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds microfilm copies of the following issues:

8 August 1929.

13 November 1930 - 5 February 1931. Issue No.8 (1 January 1931) is missing.


The Chronicle was published weekly by Joseph Bennett and Edmund Collins (late editor of The Katoomba Daily) at Bennett’s office and printery on the corner of Bathurst Road and Cascade Street, Katoomba. Beginning publication on Thursday 15 August 1929, it circulated in Katoomba, Blackheath and Leura for only nine issues. The editors spoke in their closing remarks of a “bitter campaign” waged against them from the start. The Katoomba Daily, it seems, lowered the cost of advertising to levels The Chronicle could not match.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds microfilm copies of the paper’s nine issues: 15 August 1929 - 10 October 1929.


Printed by Joseph Bennett and published for the Blue Mountains District Anzac Memorial Hospital Board by Charles Lawson Dash of Leura, this paper circulated throughout the Blue Mountains. When it began and when it ceased is unknown.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds a microfilm copy of one issue: 19 April 1930.


The Independent was owned, published and edited by Thomas Walter Guest and printed at the offices of Joseph Bennett & Son. It began publication on Wednesday 14 May 1930, appeared weekly and circulated through Katoomba, Blackheath and Leura. It appears to have survived for just under a year.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds on microfilm an almost complete run for the following period: 14 May 1930 - 5 March 1931.


Joseph Bennett & Son began publication of The Blackheath Beacon in November 1930. A local office and printery was opened in Blackheath on the corner of Hat Hill Road and Wentworth Street and the paper circulated through Blackheath, Medlow Bath, Mount Victoria and Hartley Vale. However, the Beacon proved not to be “a paying concern” and the local office closed in February 1931. The paper continued to be printed at Bennett’s Cascade Street office in Katoomba for another month or so but finally ceased publication with its twentieth issue on 27 March 1931.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds microfilm copies covering the period of the paper’s existence: 7 November 1930 - 27 March 1931.

Issues 1-8 (ie 7 November 1930 - 2 January 1931) are very badly damaged. The top half of each page has been torn off. Issue No.3 (21 November 1930) is missing. A facsimile copy of issue No.5 (5 December 1930) was published some years ago and a copy is held in the Blue Mountains City Library’s Local Studies Collection.


The first issue of The Blue Mountains Times appeared on Friday, 16 October 1931. It circulated from Mount Victoria to Hazelbrook/Woodford and was printed and published at the office of Joseph Bennett & Son in Cascade Street, Katoomba, for Lorin Grant Christie. From August 1937 Ralph Bennett is listed as the proprietor. (Bennett says the paper was taken over by the management of The Katoomba Daily, Blue Mountains Newspapers Ltd., and soon closed.)

The Blue Mountains City Library holds microfilm copies of The Blue Mountains Times covering the periods: 16 October 1931 - 16 February 1934

13 March 1936 - 12 November 1937

These are INCOMPLETE runs and are held on 1 reel.

The Blue Mountains Historical Society holds in hard copy the following single issues not included in the above runs: 23 September 1932; 19 May 1933; 25 August 1933; 23 November 1934; 28 June 1935.


Published by the Blue Mountains Daily Pty., Ltd., at its office in the Echo Building, 23 Parke Street, Katoomba, the first issue of the new Echo came out on Friday, 12 May 1939. Its banner carried the addendum “Formerly The Blue Mountains Daily”. It was published bi-weekly and, while it is not certain when it closed, its life was not a long one.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds microfilm copies of The Blue Mountains Echo covering the period 12 May 1939 - 17 October 1939 [1 reel].


The Advertiser was a weekly paper that began publication in 1939, though no early issues are extant. It was established by James Robert Wighton, a former compositor with the Daily, and Mr Cecil Thomas Roberts and the early issues were printed at Parramatta. From issue No.20 (19 January 1940), however, it was published by Wilfrid Mason and printed at the Daily office, 23 Parke Street, Katoomba. Its circulation encompassed virtually the whole of the Blue Mountains, from Glenbrook (and later Emu Plains) to Mount Victoria. In June 1942 Mason’s name disappeared from the paper and the publisher was listed simply as “Blue Mountains Daily Pty., Ltd.” Sometime during the period January - July 1948 the paper began to be printed in Parramatta again, at the office of Cumberland Newspapers. On 4 October 1948 The Advertiser moved to 134 Katoomba Street and the Parke Street office, after such a long newspaper history, was finally closed and the plant dispersed. From this date a succession of companies were listed as proprietors: “The Blue Mountain Advertiser Co. (to April 1949); “Blue Mountains Newspaper Co.” (to ca.1957); “Summit Newspapers” (from ca.1957 to October 1965). From October 1965 the Advertiser was printed and published by Cumberland Newspapers, Parramatta, with the local office remaining at 134 Katoomba Street, Katoomba.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds microfilm copies (12 reels) of The Blue Mountains Advertiser for the following periods:

Reels 1 - 4 Reels 5-12

19 January 1940. 3 August 1961.

1 March 1940. 3 January 1963 -25 May 1978.

1 July 1941 - 31 December 1947.

16 July 1948 - 30 December 1954.

The Blue Mountains Historical Society holds in hard copy the following single issues: 5, 26 January 1940; 2, 9, 16, 23 February 1940; 8, 15 March 1940; 6 October 1955; 25 February 1960 (incomplete).

The Mount Victoria & District Historical Society holds in hard copy the following single issues: 11 January 1962; 17 May 1962; 28 June 1962.


No copies of the News have survived, though Bennett says it was first published in July 1947 by Leslie John Hanks. By March 1949 it appears to have been taken over by Cumberland Newspapers and published in tandem with The Blue Mountains Advertiser - the News early in the week, the Advertiser at the end of the week. How long this went on is unknown. It circulated between Springwood and Mount Victoria.


Bennett says that this short-lived sporting paper was founded ca1948 by Adrian Twigg, formerly the local (Katoomba) representative of The Blue Mountains Advertiser. No copies have survived.


The Courier was another weekly newspaper which appears to have begun publication ca1947, though copies of early issues have not survived. It was established, according to Bennett, by Frederick George Carden of Springwood and it is his name that appears on the earliest issue extant (16 September 1948, Vol.2, No.29). The paper was printed in Sydney by Gowans & Giltrow. Carden eventually sold the paper (ca1950) to a journalist, Marjorie Plunkett, who published it until 1951. By May 1951 the Courier was in the hands of H. P. Mitchell. It changed owners again in 1953 when James Arthur Mahoney took the helm and set up his own printing plant, including a flatbed press, linotype machine and composing facilities, in the garage of his home in Wentworth Falls. By October 1955 he had moved the plant to Froma Lane in Katoomba, using premises at the rear of the Carrington Hotel. Mahoney sold the Courier to Keith Leonard Newman in December 1959. Sometime between July 1960 and August 1961 Newman sold to Cumberland Newspapers and the Courier was incorporated into its long-time competitor, The Blue Mountains Advertiser.

Circulation of the paper was originally from Glenbrook to Blackheath, expanding in a few years to include the region between Emu Plains and Hartley Vale and eventually also taking in St. Marys and Penrith.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds microfilm copies (1 reel) of the Courier covering the following periods:

16 September 1948.

24 May 1951.

18 February 1954.

4 August 1955 - 12 January 1956.

7 June 1956 - 14 July 1960.

The Blue Mountains Historical Society holds the following single issues in hard copy: 11 October 1951; 19, 26 January 1956; 2, 9, 16, 23 February 1956; 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 March 1956; 5, 12, 19, 26 April 1956.


The first issue of the Sentinel was published on 3 December 1959. It was a weekly newspaper designed to cater for and promote the Lower Blue Mountains (Linden to Glenbrook). Printed in Parramatta by Cumberland Newspapers for the proprietors, Norpress Pty. Ltd., its local office was situated at 154A Bathurst Road, Springwood. According to Bennett, the paper lasted only a few months before it was incorporated in The Blue Mountains Advertiser.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds a hard copy and a microfilm copy of: the issue for 3 December 1959 (Vol.1, No.1).


According to Bennett the Democrat was founded by a Medlow Bath saw miller with an interest in politics, Leslie Cant. The first issue appeared on 19 April 1961. Its office was located at 190 Katoomba Street, Katoomba, and it was printed and published by Bushell Press Pty. Ltd. Its banner carried the addendum: “A Co-operative Voice of the People for Community Benefit / ‘By the people, for the people, that Freedom shall not perish in this land’.” While it appears that the life of this weekly newspaper was not long, it is not known exactly when it closed.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds a microfilm copy of the issue for 19 April 1961 (Vol.1, No.1).


The first issue of the News appeared on 17 December 1968. It was edited by Tony Marinato and published for the Blue Mountains Tourist Centre, 216 Katoomba Street, Katoomba. Initially the paper circulated between Hazelbrook and Mount Victoria (including Megalong Valley) but, by June 1969 its area had expanded to include Springwood and Hartley. How long it survived for is unknown. Appears to have changed its name to THE BLUE MOUNTAINS-LITHGOW DISTRICT NEWS ca.1969/70.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds microfilm copies for the period 17 December 1968 - 24 June 1969.

The Mount Victoria & District Historical Society holds hard copies of issues of The Blue Mountains-Lithgow District News for: 3 September 1970; 17 September 1970; 1 October 1970.


Bennett records that a Katoomba businessman, Ian David Hawke, began publishing a paper called The Katoomba Times in January 1962. Nightingale & Liston, drawing their information from newspaper registration records, list the paper as The Blue Mountains Times. It lasted only four issues and no copies appear to have survived.


The Circle began publication in 1962. It was published by Michael Edward and Anne Ticehurst of Faulconbridge. In October 1965 it was incorporated into The Mountain Gazette. No issues of this paper are available.


The Mountain Gazette was begun in 1963 by a partnership of three men, Mr Barden (a printer), Mr J. M. Powell (a local businessman and alderman) and Mr H. Ragen (the first editor), under the name of BPR Printers, Springwood. When Bardon and Powell resigned their directorships Ragen recruited Mr T. Booker (one of the paper’s compositors), Mr B. Woolveridge (a printer) and Mr M. Ticehurst (the editor and proprietor of the rival Circle). The life of BPR printers was not a settled one. Following the resignation of Ragen and Woolveridge the company went into voluntary liquidation. Ticehurst and Booker were subsequently backed by Hawkesbury Newspapers and formed a new company, Mountain Press. The first issue of the Gazette for the new owners was published on 25 August 1966. Despite the troubles and the change in ownership their was no break in publication. From 1963 to 1970 the Gazette’s office was in the basement of 210 Bathurst Road, Springwood. In 1970 the address changed to 218 Macquarie Road and, in 1977, the paper moved into its present premises at 274 Macquarie Road, Springwood. The paper was set up at Springwood and printed by Hawkesbury Newspapers at Windsor until that company sold out to Rural Press in 1982. Rural Press now own a major share in Mountain Press and continue to print the paper at North Richmond. The Mountain Gazette changed its name to THE BLUE MOUNTAINS GAZETTE from its issue of 15 August 1979. Its circulation has always been throughout the whole of the Blue Mountains area.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds the following:

17 March 1966 - 17 December 1969 (Hard copy).

7 January 1970 + (Microfilm and hard copy.) The Gazette is still publishing. Issues are held in hard copy until microfilmed. [Microfilming occurs every three months.]


Edited by Tony Marinato for the Blue Mountains Regional Tourist Association, this paper was possibly a successor to The Blue Mountains-Lithgow District News. It circulated throughout the Blue Mountains.

The only issue extant is that for 23 June 1972 (Vol.2, No.23), held in hard copy by the Blue Mountains Historical Society.


A small community news and tourist newspaper folded in magazine format. It was published by Mountain Studio (photographers and printers) at 5 Leichhardt Street, Katoomba and appears to have circulated from Mount Victoria to Hazelbrook. How long it survived is unknown.

The first two issues, 21 December 1978 & 17 January 1979 are held in hard copy by the Blue Mountains City Library.


The first issue of the Echo appeared, as an independent weekly, on 7 April 1981, under the editorship of Terence Cunningham. It circulated throughout the Blue Mountains and, by May 1981, had included Lithgow. The paper’s first publisher was a company known as Periot, with an office at 2/92 Katoomba Street, Katoomba (later, in 1982, moved to Froma Lane). For the first couple of years the Echo was printed in various places, including Orange (by Western Newspapers Ltd. at the office of The Central Western Daily), Maroubra and Parramatta. During (probably towards the end) of 1985 the printing and publishing of the paper moved to Manly and the office of The Manly Daily. The local office moved to 202 Katoomba Street in 1985. In June 1987 the publisher became Rural Press and the paper was printed and published at North Richmond until its final issue of 27 June 1989. About 1988 the Katoomba Office moved a final time to 88 Katoomba Street. Spencer Ratcliff was appointed Managing Editor in May 1985 and filled that position until January 1989. For the period February - June 1989 the Managing Editor was Douglas Hayman.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds microfilm copies for the period 7 April 1981 - 27 June 1989. [8 reels]


The Whisper, an independent monthly (occasionally bimonthly) with a satirical edge, began publication in November 1989. It was published in the upper Mountains by Mary Moody and Geoff Fanning, was printed by Spot Press in Marrickville and circulated throughout the Blue Mountains. Mary Moody was the editor. The last Whisper (No.16) appeared in September 1991, its demise linked to legal difficulties.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds a complete run in hard copy for the period November 1989 (No.1) - September 1991 (No.16).


The Weekender was launched in Katoomba in September 1991. Early publisher/editors were Nigel Wilson and Michael Lopez. It was published in Katoomba until November 1992 (issue 16) when it moved to the Lower Blue Mountains at Springwood/Faulconbridge. Here it was published and edited by Graham and Roslyn Reibelt. The Weekender moved back to Katoomba in February 1994 (from Vol.4, No.1) under the editorship of Keith Whiting. Initially, The Weekender was published monthly but, from issue 12, it came out fortnightly. After the first few issues the paper circulated free throughout the Mountains from Penrith to Mount Victoria and, by the end of its life, had extended its distribution to the Lithgow area. For most of its life the paper was published in a magazine format. However, from March 1993 (Vol.2, No.1) to November 1993 (Vol.3, No.5) it appeared in tabloid newspaper format. The Weekender began with a substantial component of community news and opinion, though its content was eventually dominated by leisure and lifestyle activities.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds the following issues in hard copy:

Vol.1, Nos.1-24, September/October 1991 - 20 March 1993.

Vol.2, Nos.1-12, 21 March 1993 - 4 September 1993.

Vol.3, Nos.1-10, 19 September 1993 - 12 February 1994. [No.2 is missing.]

Vol.4, Nos.1-23, 13 February 1994 - 31 December 1994.

Vol.5, Nos.1-25, 8 January 1995 - 30 December 1995. [No.9 is missing.]

Vol.6, Nos.1-10, 7 January 1996 - 25 May 1996. [No.2 is missing.]


This small, monthly, free community newspaper was published in Woodford by Jane Clements and Sharon Fray and edited by Jane Clements. Its aim was to foster a sense of community through informed news, issues and comment. Though it initially circulated from Winmalee to Lawson, by the early issues of Volume 2 it was being distributed between Valley Heights to Katoomba. The paper was published in magazine format up to Vol.1, No.3, after which it appeared as a tabloid newspaper. The first issue of this paper appeared under the title THE MID-MOUNTAINS VILLAGE VOICE and was numbered Vol.1, No.1. With the second issue the title was changed and the numbering re-started.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds a complete run of this paper in hard copy:

Vol.1, No.1, June 1996 [as The Mid-Mountains Village Voice.]

Vol.1, Nos.1-6, July 1996 - December 1996.

Vol.2, Nos.1-7, February 1997 - August 1997.


After circulating for three years in the Hawkesbury district as The Hawkesbury Independent, in September/October 1997 the publishers, Jemshaw Pty., Ltd. of South Windsor, produced companion editions for Penrith and the Blue Mountains. In November 1997 these three editions were combined into one regional edition, distributed free throughout the Hawkesbury, Penrith and Blue Mountains areas. Then, from the issue of July 1998, special editions for each of the three areas were again produced. The Independent is published monthly. Its content covers issues relevant to the three local government areas and feature articles of general and tourist interest.

The Blue Mountains City Library holds copies of all issues to date in hard copy:

September/October 1997 (Issue 1) +


The cover photograph was taken by Katoomba photographer Arthur Manning in the mid-1930s. It depicts the arrival in Katoomba of five young Leeton women who were cycling from their home town to Sydney. Also in the photograph are (L to R) Jack Maddock, reporter on The Blue Mountains Times, possibly Bill Coventry, Speedwell’s agent in Katoomba, Harry Drake, reporter on The Katoomba Daily, and Jim Tyley, lino operator and part-time reporter for The Katoomba Daily. The identity of the young boy is unknown.



BENNETT, Joseph Matthew. Moved his family to Katoomba ca.1918 and worked for a few weeks on "The Blue Mountains Echo" before taking a position with "The Mountain Daily". By February 1920 he had become the printer and publisher of that paper. Printed and published "The Blackheath Beacon" 1930-1931 and "The Blue Mountains Times" 1931-1937.

BENNETT, J. Ralph. Son of Joseph M. Took over much of the responsibility for running the family business (which included "The Blue Mountains Times") from about 1934 when his father became ill. In 1973 the Blue Mountains Historical Society published his booklet titled "Blue Mountains Newspapers" which has provided a wealth of useful information for later researchers.

BROOMHEAD, FRED. Was on the reporting staff of "The Blue Mountain Echo" for about two years (ca1912-13). Resigned in January 1914.

BUCHANAN, Charles Gordon. Was on the staff of "The Blue Mountain Echo" in its early years. By July 1919 he had become the printer and publisher of "The Mountain Daily".

CHRISTIE, Lorin Grant. Proprietor/publisher of "The Blue Mountains Times".

GORNALL, Robert. Purchased "The Blue Mountain Gazette" in January 1904. During his time in Katoomba he was closely involved with the Katoomba Town Band. He closed the paper in December 1904 and moved to Kurri Kurri where he founded the "Kurri Kurri Times" in January 1905. Bennett claims he was the founder of the mysterious "Observer".

HART, James Clarence. The first manager of "The Blue Mountain Echo". He retired in February 1910 because of "failing eyesight and other disabilities". He was to undergo an eye operation and then return to the paper in another capapcity. (?)

HART, Peter Giles. Born ca 1863. Had experience in the printing trade in Melbourne and Sydney. In January 1895 he purchased "The Mountaineer" from Robert Moss. After selling the paper to his brother-in-law John Knight in May 1904, Hart moved to Rylstone where he incorporated "The Rylstone Star" with "The Rylstone Express". He later returned (1907/8?) to the Blue Mountains and established the Federal Printing Works in The Mall, Leura. His wife, Rosanna, was a guesthouse proprietor ("Hurlstone" in The Mall, Leura). He died on 2 September 1946 and is buried in the Methodist section of Katoomba Cemetery.

HICKSON, W. Proprietor and publisher of "The Enterprise". He had earlier worked as a machinist on "The Blue Mountain Echo".

KNIGHT, Alfred E., younger brother of John Knight. At the time of his marriage to Annie Dunford of Bathurst in March 1910 he was foreman printer at "The Blue Mountain Echo".

KNIGHT, John. Born ...? The son of Rosanna and John (Sen.) who arrived in Katoomba in the early 1880s. Before purchasing "The Mountaineer" from Peter Hart in June 1904, he had been associated with the paper for about eight years, including a period as acting manager. He served his time as a printing apprentice in the "Mountaineer" office and also gained experience working in the Government Printing Office and a number of other establishments in Sydney. At the end of 1908 he disposed of the business to the newly floated "Mountaineer Printing and Publishing Company, Ltd." He then appears to have moved to Ryde. Bennett claims he was associated with the mysterious "Observer".

LOWDEN, W. Lawson businessman (auctioneer, real estate agent, photographer, publisher) who published the short-lived "Lawson Post" in 1909-10. In 1905 he published "The Official Guide to Lawson, Hazelbrook & Woodford", a tourist guidebook "profusely illustrated" with many of his own photographs.

MATHIAS, Victor Yeoman. Editor of "The Blue Mountain Star" 1929-1930.

MAHONEY, James Arthur. Formerly edited the rural weekly The Farmer and Settler, bought The Courier in 1953 which he published and edited until 1959. In 1960 he returned to rural journalism as sub-editor of The Land, where he stayed until his death in 1960. Source: James Mahoney (son) letter to BMG, 27 Feb, 2013.

MOSS, Robert. Born ca 1834. Possibly arrived in Katoomba during the 1880s when, according to Ralph Bennett, he started the first Blue Mountains newspaper, "The Mountain Advertiser". In September 1894 he began "The Mountaineer" from offices in Main Street, Katoomba. He sold the paper in January 1895 to Peter G. Hart. Moss and his wife, Isabella, ran a guesthouse ("The Pines" - now "St. Mount") in Blackheath. He died on 23 September 1906 and is buried in the Church of England Section of Blackheath Cemetery.

SMYTHE, Robert Villiers. Arrived from North Queensland to take over the editorship of "The Blue Mountains Echo" on the retirement of J.C.Hart in February 1910. He was editor until 1925(?). Married Ida Webb in 1916. He was an expert rifleman, a member of the Katoomba Rifle Club and a winner of the Blue Mountains Championship. Elected to the Katoomba Municipal Council ...? Served as Mayor in 1918 and 1919.

SOUTHWOOD, J. Albert. Took over "The Katoomba Times" in partnership with G.P.C. Spring in September 1890. In 1894 he moved with Spring to Kadina, South Australia, where they founded "The Plain Dealer".

SPRING, George P.C. The son of George William Spring. Born ...? With J.Albert Southwood he took over "The Katoomba Times" in September 1890 after his father's retirement. After he and his partner had closed the paper down in 1894, they moved to South Australia where they established "The Plain Dealer" in Kadina.

SPRING, George William. Founded "The Katoomba Times" in April 1889 in Main Street, Katoomba. He retired from the paper in September 1890, allowing his son George P.C.Spring and J.Albert Southwood to take over. As well as being proprietor of the "Times", Spring's other business interests in Katoomba included a newsagency, supplying a variety of popular newspapers at the railway station and from his office, and a real estate agency in which he offered his skills as an auctioneer and general commission agent. He was drowned in February 1891 after falling overboard from the S.S.Barcoo while returning to Sydney from Melbourne.

TONKIN, W.J.K. Came from Brisbane to join the reporting staff of "The Blue Mountain Echo" in January 1914.

VINCENT, W.E. Worked for "The Blue Mountain Echo" and was involved particularly with that paper's satellite, the original "Blackheath Bulletin", in the early 1920s. He later edited the Blue Mountains Newspapers' version of the "Bulletin", 1930-31, from his home "Oakdene" in Govetts Leap Road, Blackheath. Vincent was born in Glen Innes in 1873 (?)

WILSON, E.D. Founded "The Blue Mountain Gazette" in January 1903. Sold it to Robert Gornall in January 1904.


The photograph was taken by Katoomba photographer Albert Manning in the mid-1930s. It depicts the arrival in Katoomba of five young women from Leeton who were cycling from their home town to Sydney. Also in the photograph are (L to R) Jack Maddock, reporter on The Blue Mountains Times, possibly Bill Coventry, Speedwell’s agent in Katoomba, Harry Drake, reporter on The Katoomba Daily, and Jim Tyley, linotype operator and part-time reporter for The Katoomba Daily. The identity of the young boy is unknown. The women are identified in the cutting as Misses Daisy Transton, Elma and Joyce Eurell, Molly Dunne and Beryl Burns.

John Merriman & John Low
Local Studies Librarians
Blue Mountains City Library

Content Licensing: Attribution, share alike, creative commons.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Prime Ministers' Corridor of Oaks, Jackson Park, Faulconbridge

Faulconbridge was the maiden name of Sir Henry Parkes mother, and the name he chose for his mountain property after he purchased land near Springwood in the mid-1870s.  The first house he built was given the name 'Stonehurst', the second and principal residence was called 'Faulconbridge House'.

In the early 1870s, Parkes began to consider ways to unite the Australian colonies and in 1883 a Federal Council was set up to consider a Federal Constitution. Things moved slowly, however, and little more than discussion took place until 1889 when, with the encouragement of the Governor, Lord Carrington, Parkes entered upon a strenuous campaign for federation. This was the year of the famous Tenterfield address. Parkes' diplomatic skills in handling the often suspicious colonial governments led to a Federal Convention which met in Sydney in 1891 and to the drafting of a proposed federal constitution. The depression of the early 1890s slowed the movement down and Parkes did not live to see the first Australian Commonwealth Government sworn in on 1 January, 1901. He died in April, 1896 and was buried beside his first wife in the family's plot in Faulconbridge Cemetery.

In 1917 the Parkes' residence, Faulconbridge House, was purchased by Mr Joseph Jackson (1874-1961), a businessman who was to become a long-time resident of Faulconbridge and the member for Nepean in the NSW Legislative Assembly from 1927 until he resigned in 1956. He possessed a keen interest in Australian History and was a great admirer of Sir Henry Parkes.

Both Jackson and his wife, Mylora, involved themselves enthusiastically in the local affairs of Faulconbridge and, in 1932, they purchased a parcel of land opposite their home and offered it to the Blue Mountains Shire Council for use as a park. Much of the early care of Jackson Park was undertaken by him and, in following years, he made several further donations to extend its area.

Having established the park, Joseph Jackson conceived the idea of inviting each of Australia's Prime Ministers, or their surviving relatives, to plant an oak tree there. A tree planting precedent had already been set in Faulconbridge when, in 1881, their Royal Highnesses Prince Albert and Prince George (later King George V) each planted a tree in the grounds of Faulconbridge House whilst breakfasting with Sir Henry and Lady Parkes.

Jackson wanted to build on this precedent and envisioned, as the trees grew in size and number, a grand Avenue of Oaks forming opposite the home of the Father of Federation. This would serve, not only as a memorial to Sir Henry Parkes, but also to remind visitors of the importance of what had been achieved when Australia became a federation.

The first oak tree was planted on Wednesday, 12 September, 1934 by the then Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Joseph A. Lyons.

Up to July 2017, twenty seven trees have been planted.


12 Sept, 1934 The Rt. Hon. Joseph A. LYONS C.H., M.P., in person

The Rt. Hon. Sir Edmund BARTON, G.C.M.G. by Lady Barton

The Hon John C. WATSON, in person

The Rt. Hon. Sir George H.REID, G.C.E., G.C.M.G. by Lady Reid

The Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph COOK, G.C.M.G. in person

17 August, 1935 The Rt. Hon William M. HUGHES, C.H., M.P. in person

The Hon. Alfred DEAKIN, by Mrs H. Brookes (his daughter)

4 March, 1939 The Rt. Hon. Stanley M. BRUCE, C.H., M.P. in person

9 Sept, 1939 The Rt. Hon. Andrew FISCHER by Mrs Andrew Fischer

The Rt. Hon. James H. SCULLIN, M.P. in person

17 May, 1941 The Rt. Hon. Sir Earle PAGE, C.H., G.C.M.G., M.P. in person

11 Oct, 1941 The Rt. Hon. Sir Robert G. MENZJES, K.T., C.H., M.P. in person

6 Dec, 1947 The Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur FADDEN, M.P. in person

The Rt. Hon. John CURTIN, M.P. by Mrs E. Cole (his daughter)

The Rt. Hon. J.B. CHIFLEY, M.P. in person

24 July, 1954 The Rt. Hon. P.M. FORDE, P.C. in person

4 Oct, 1967 The Rt. Hon. H. HOLT, M.P. by Mrs Zara Holt

28 March, 1969 The Rt. Hon. J. McEWEN, M.P. in person

15 July, 1971 The Rt. Hon J.G. GORTON, M.P. in person

22 April, 1974 The Rt. Hon. W. McMAHON, C.H, M.P. in person

3 Sept, 1976 The Rt. Hon. E.G. WHITLAM, Q.C., M.P. in person

30 March, 1979 The Rt. Hon. J.M. FRASER, C.H., M.P. in person

2 April, 1987 The Hon. Robert J. HAWKE, M.P. in person

30 August, 1995 The Hon. Paul KEATING, M.P. in person

7 April, 2000 The Hon. John HOWARD, M.P. in person

8 Oct, 2012 The Hon. Kevin RUDD, M.P. in person

27 July 2017 The Hon. Julia GILLARD, M.P. in person

Images from top:
1. The Corridor of Oaks c.1940
2. Mrs HL Brooks, daughter of Alfred Deakin, planted her father's tree on 17 August 1936
3. Stanley Melbourne Bruce planted his oak tree on 4th March 1939. Next to him is Joseph Jackson (1874-1961) former Lord Mayor of Sydney, State MP and founder of the Prime Ministers' Corridor of Oaks.
4.  The Rt Hon Joseph Benedict Chifley, the former locomotive fireman and driver, knows how to handle a  shovel, 6th December 1947.
5. William and Sonia McMahon with Mayor Dash at the microphone, 22nd April 1971.
6. Our only red headed PM, until Julia Gillard, and first Roman Catholic Prime Minister - James Scullin founded the Commonwealth Literary Grants, played the violin, and was a lifelong teetotaler and non-smoker. Joseph Jackson MHR, founder of the Prime Ministers' Corridor of Oaks at Jackson Park, Faulconbridge, looks on, 9th September 1939.
7. Kevin Rudd shoulders the spade, 8th October 2012.

All images from the Local Studies Collection.
John Merriman
Local Studies Librarian, 2012

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Minnie Quinlan (c.1860-1949)

Mary (Minnie) Quinlan was born about 1860 to Patrick Quinlan, quarryman, and Mary Maloney, in County Clare, Ireland. It seems the family left Ireland for personal reasons, perhaps following Patrick's death, as she appears in official records in the 1861 Census in Liverpool, England when she was 3 years old. She is listed with her brother Patrick age 2, a baby of three months and her mother then 22, all of whom lived with her father's brother, Thomas Quinlan, a tailor aged 45.

Mary arrived in Australia as an assisted immigrant in the early 1880s. A shipping arrival record for 1884 shows a Mary Quinlan age 22, arriving in NSW on the S.S. Abergeldie. She travelled in the company of other Irish girls in their teens and twenties, girls with names like Kate and Sarah, Mary and Bridget; all listed as domestics, from the counties of Derry, Kerry, Tyrone, Tipperary, Donegal, Leitrim, Meath and Clare.

How and when Minnie arrived in Katoomba is unknown, she appears on the Katoomba electoral rolls from 1920 to 1949, as a spinster and occupier of a house in Parke Street. During this time she was described as ‘well-loved and well known to many for her work for the Red Cross’. On afternoons after Red Cross stalls were held, Minnie would prepare tea at her home for all of the ladies who had worked on the stalls.

Minnie was widely known as the Town Charlady, but would only do such work for the Congregational Church ministers, although herself of Roman Catholic denomination. Apparently she also cleaned the nearby Children’s Library and Craft Club in Davies Lane, established in 1942 and managed by her close friend Miss Ebbs.

In her latter years Minnie became an old age pensioner and lived on about ₤l.0.0 per week. Although a single woman living alone, she was never lonely; on most days she could be found on a seat outside the Katoomba Post Office where she would chat to passers by, both friends and strangers.

Minnie's death certificate shows she died of heart disease at the age of 88 years, with no known relatives, and was buried at Rookwood Cemetery in the rights of the Roman Catholic Church. Minnie’s will left all her worldly possessions to the Red Cross, whose President paid for her funeral. At the following meeting of the Katoomba Red Cross, a service was conducted by the Church of England Minister and attended by friends and clergy of all denominations.

The undertakers record from Wood Coffill in Katoomba shows that Minnie died on Thursday 24th February 1949 at her residence ‘Mayfair ’in Parke St, Katoomba, the informant was Mrs L.T.A. Hodgson. A requiem mass was held in St Canice’s Church, Katoomba, at 7 o’clock the following Saturday morning, from where the funeral, consisting of a hearse and 2 cars, left for Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney an hour later. Minnie’s headstone is inscribed “My Dear Friend”, probably from her close friend Miss Kathleen Ebbs, who  composed her obituary.

The interesting thing is, that according to the burial record, she was interred in the reopened grave of her brother Michael Quinlan, who died 14th July 1928 aged 66. Michael was unmarried and resided in North Sydney after arriving from Co. Tipperary in Ireland only three years before his death; his occupation is given as watchman. Michael would appear to be the baby listed in the 1861 Liverpool census.

Oral Accounts courtesy of Paul Innes
March 2004.
A guest at the Carrington Hotel mentioned she remembered ‘an old woman who lived in a little hovel behind the Post Office.’ (Katoomba Street). ‘The woman was called Minnie, and there is now a plaque, with her name on it, located on a seat in front of the Post Office.’

The original plaque on the seat outside the former Katoomba Post Office.
It would date from about 1950 and was probably installed due to the efforts of Miss Ebbs.

July 2004
A Katoomba resident called Ian Pattison took me on three walks up and down Katoomba Street, showing what shop was where, who owned what etc, circa 1930s-1950s. On one of the walks, Ian mentioned Minnie Quinlan’s name.

‘She used to clean shop windows, brass plaques on shop fronts etc, between 1920’s and 1950’s. She died around 1950 something. There’s a plaque for her on a wooden seat in Katoomba Street.’

November 2006
In answer to an advert request in the Gazette, seeking any information about Minnie Quinlan,
a Katoomba resident, called Joyce Thompson telephoned me with her memories of Minnie.
“I knew Miss Quinlan when I was eleven years old. She lived in the area around Parke Street, Davies Lane, close to the Children’s Library. In 1941, my mother brought us up to Katoomba. Miss Ebbs ran the Children’s Library. Minnie Quinlan’s place was behind the Library. She was a small lady, white curly hair, dapper, so old. Miss Ebbs kept an eye on Miss Quinlan. She would tell us to be quiet outside the Library – ‘Keep the noise down’”.


Opening of the Katoomba Children's Library and Craft Club by Hon. Clive Evatt 1942, Minnie may appear in this photo. The well dressed woman in the light overcoat and hat, standing centre, may be Miss Kathleen Ebbs, the librarian. 

After the Minister for Education, Mr. Evatt, had opened the Katoomba Boys' and Girls' Library and Crafts Club on Saturday afternoon, children stayed to read books beside the library fire. The club, which is the eighth centre of the Children's Library Movement, is built from six disused garages, which have been converted into one central library, opening into two craft rooms on either side. It features murals designed by Dahl Collings and Elaine Haxton. Those present at the opening included the president of the local auxiliary, Dr. E. Dark, and Mrs. Eleanor Dark; the Mayor of Katoomba, Alderman Freelander, and the organising secretary of the Children's Library Movement, Mrs. Mary Matheson."
SMH Monday 27 July, 1942


We have lost Minnie, our friend - how deep a loss!

Sweetness, graciousness and utter kindness, balanced with sincerity, courage, and an inner strength, lifted Minnie above class and creed: She belonged to everyone.

How intimately she belonged to the Boys and Girls’ Library - such a motherly soul she was to us all! Daily she inquired our needs: always she shared any small luxury that came her way. She had so little, but she gave so much. Ofttimes she said, with a heavenly smile, 'All I’ve got is yours.'

So quick to respond with gratitude for any trifle we did for her; humbly we were always in her debt. When she was not able to make return in material goods, then have we seen her puzzled brow lift in relief, 'I know what I can do: I’ll remember you in my prayers.'

How proud she was of her long record of years of service! To menial work she endowed dignity and honour.

With reverence we bow to so great a soul.

Ah! not learning of books is the ideal of our Boys and Girls’ Library; rather it is the inspiration of that sweet spirit radiated by our beloved friend - the spirit that comes to bless the world with happiness and with peace. (K.E.)" [Miss Kathleen Ebbs]
Blue Mountains Advertiser Friday, March 11, 1949


"A Memorial to Minnie Quinlan
The annual meeting of the Katoomba Boys and Girls’ Library Auxiliary was attended by a large number of interested residents. The Mayoress (Mrs. F. Walford) presided.

Mrs. Gill gave the meeting a resume of the Auxiliary’s activities over the past year, and paid tribute to the amount of work performed by enthusiastic workers. Later in the evening she was elected president.

An interesting address was given by Mr. Parker who stressed the importance of such libraries to the community. He spoke of the happiness that resulted from reading.

A tribute was paid to the late Minnie Quinlan by Miss Ebbs. Miss Quinlan had given her long life to the service of others and had been loved by all with whom she came into contact.

Mrs. McMahon, President of Quota Club presented the Library with a cheque from the Ladies Golf Club."
Blue Mountains Advertiser, March 18th 1949

Image PF 481 from the Local Studies Collection: ‘Mini Quinlan’s House Katoomba, 8th August
1928’. Provenance: Miss M Fawcett, Katoomba. Minnie Quinlan’s house is marked with an X , the building in the foreground is the garage block that later became the Children's Library.

Rookwood Cemetery Record
First Name: Mary
Last Name: Quinlan
Death Date: 24 February 1949
Age: 88
Inscription: My Dear Friend
Plot: Section 9 ROW 27
Plot Number: 3476
Denomination/nationality: Catholic Mortuary 2 & 3

Images from the Local Studies Collection, from top
1. Minnie's seat outside the Katoomba Post Office, the original seat was replaced in 2010. (photo John Merriman)
2. The original plaque mounted on the new seat. (photo John Merriman)
3. Opening of the Katoomba Children's Library and Craft Club 1942, Minnie and Miss Ebbs may appear in this photo.
4. Minnie's house under snow.

Acknowledgement: Paul Innes who collected the oral history accounts.

Note: Kathleen Irene Ebbs was the daughter of Thomas Arthur Rowley Ebbs (b.1870, Kiama; d.1955, Manly) clergyman, and Alice Beryl Ebbs (d.1966, Sydney). She was born in Raywood, Victoria, in 1902 and travelled to the U.K. for a trip in 1955, when she is listed as a passenger from London to Sydney. The 1930 electoral roll for Manly shows her occupation as Teacher, living with her parents at The Rectory, Darley Rd. She lived in Manly until 1937 before moving to Ficus St. Katoomba where she appears in the 1943 roll - occupation Librarian; in 1949 she lived in Beecroft, occupation Librarian, then returned to Ficus St Katoomba, Librarian; in 1954 Beecroft, Librarian; then Wahroonga and Turramurra until 1980; her death notice appeared in January 1989, late of Castle Hill.

John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian 2012

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Katoomba Children’s Library & Crafts Club

The opening ceremony, at the podium from left:
Mary Matheson, Joseph Jackson MLA, Hon. Clive Evatt, Dr Eric Dark,
Eleanor Dark, Michael Dark on chair, Mayor Freelander, B J Milliss

Elsie Rivett, and her sister Mary Matheson, were the founders of the Children’s Library and Craft Movement. In 1922 they opened the first Children’s Library and Crafts Club in Surry Hills, Sydney. The Katoomba branch was apparently the eighth to be established.The following is compiled from contemporary newspaper reports.

“Boys’ and Girls’ Library and Craft Club Nearing Completion
Most mothers have had, at some time, to cope with a complaint from their children that there is nothing to read or nothing to do. This particular problem should be solved by the establishment of the Katoomba Boys’ and Girls’ Library and Crafts Club, which is an offshoot of the Children’s Library Movement, founded many years ago in Sydney, by Mrs. Mary Matheson.

Situated in Davies Lane in what was, until a couple of months ago, an ugly asphalt yard, flanked by a row of ugly dilapidated garages, the new library is growing towards completion. Thanks to much generous voluntary work, the asphalt has given way to a stone crazy pavement; the garages, altered and renovated, wear a fresh coat of paint in cream and pastel colours; shelves of a height suitable for small people, area already well stocked with books; and what was once only a rubbish dump waits only for the Spring to become a garden.

The establishment is thus an accomplished fact – but development must take place slowly, depending at first mainly upon the library; but by degrees with the co-operation of parents and of the children themselves, it is hoped that various crafts such as carpentry, pottery, basket-making, bookbinding, etc. will be taught. Later, when funds permit the purchase of a piano, community singing and dancing will have their place, and children interested in painting, drawing or writing will be encouraged to exercise their talents.

The object of the Children’ Library Movement, however goes beyond the mere lending of books and teaching of crafts, and aims at providing for children a place which is “theirs” – a place pleasing to the eye, friendly and informal in atmosphere, where they can spend their leisure hours in absorbing and creative occupations.

Those interested in the movement feel that in time of war such a place becomes not less, but more necessary for children, as a psychological counter blast to the atmosphere of strife and destruction which prevails, and which children unconsciously absorb.

In Sydney the Phillip Park, Erskineville and Surry Hills centres have functioned with great success. It is hoped that because of the great influx of children which Katoomba has seen in recent months, not only our own residents, but long term visitors also, may recognise the usefulness of the centre and extend it a generous support.”
The Blue Mountains Advertiser, Friday July 3, 1942.


Hon. Clive Evatt Opens Children’s Library Tomorrow
Tomorrow Saturday afternoon at three o’clock, the Minister for Education, the Hon. Clive Evatt, will officially open the Young People’s Library, situated off Davies Lane near Woolworths.

A cordial invitation is extended to all townspeople to be present.

For many weeks past, a band of willing workers has engaged in transforming a row of brick garages into neat and comfortable quarters. The transformation is almost unbelievable.

In addition to the library, provision had been made for instruction is arts and crafts.

The fact of the minister consenting to perform the official opening is proof of the value of the movement and it is hoped to see many parents present.

The appeal to the children goes without saying."
The Blue Mountains Advertiser, Friday July 2, 1942.


Children showing their work in the art class


Minister for Education Commends Children’s Library Movement
“This particular movement the Government wholeheartedly supports. …A Children’s Library should be established in every centre – in every suburb in the State.”

Speaking as above, and in the presence of a representative gathering, the Hon. Clive Evatt, Minister for Education, officially opened the Katoomba Children’s Library in Davies Lane, on Saturday afternoon.

Many people who viewed the premises for the first time were impressed by the transformation, and there was unstinted praise for all those whose voluntary labours had contributed to this result. The Minister, Mr. J. Jackson, M.L.A. , the Mayor, and others associated with children’s educational movements , expressed themselves in such terms.

Dr. E.P. Dark (chairman) in introducing the Minister, referred to this able administration (and the elimination of the cane), his interest, in music and cultural movements generally. “Some people believe that it is wrong to spend money during war time on a movement such as this,” he added, “but that is short sighted viewpoint, the war must not be allowed to interfere with the child’s mental development.”

Ald. Freelander (Mayor) in welcoming the Minister pointed out that it was his first official visit to Katoomba, and Mr. J. Jackson, M.L.A., ably supported his words of welcome.

Mrs. Matheson, (founder of the Children’s Library Movement), traced its development since 1924. There are now eight such centres in N.S.W. and public interest has quickened considerably in the past three years. Springwood is one of the centres where a library has been established. Mrs. Matheson paid a special tribute to the work of Mr. B. J. Milliss, whose vision and courage, she said, was largely responsible for the founding of the movement at Katoomba. She acknowledged the part also played by Dr. E. P. Dark.

Interior of the library, the mural above the fire place
depicts William Caxton with a printing press

The Youthful Enterprise 
Magazine of the Katoomba Boys and Girls Library

Workers Praised
Mr. B. J. Milliss referred to the financial angle, and appealed to well-wishers for subscriptions to enable the supply of library books and materials for arts and crafts to be maintained. He stated that a sum of ₤350 in hand had been augmented by subsequent donations exceeding ₤30. The weekly rental was ₤1 per week, plus an outlay of about ₤4 per week for expenses. He spoke highly of the voluntary work of the following whose names appear on a brass plaque affixed to the building: Charles Smith, Hector Martin, Wally McGown, Harry Hammon, Keith Collins, Wally Weedon, James Ledger, Harvey Clark, George Barker, Frank Spicer, John Tomlin, Tom Butterfield; Dahl Collings and Elaine Haxton (artists) and Evelyn Bowker and Pat Seitz, who assisted them in the decorative work.

The Hon. Clive Evatt, who was warmly received, dealt at some length on the education of the children, and the responsibilities of the young people in helping to shape the better order of things which is to come. It was his view, he said, that the work of education must not be diminished because of the war; but, on the contrary, be greatly increased. This year the Education Department was expending six million pounds (a record); but he could easily spend double that sum.

The Better Tomorrow!
“The war is being fought largely for the children of today,” he continued, “in order to set up a new way of life. We all want to see a wonderful change in conditions, and children of school age will play an important part. The work of education must go on undiminished; we must keep striving for the improvement of the child physically, academically, culturally and spiritually… I want to see children grow up into a world that will be characterised by real equality and justice, economically and socially; where there will be no depression and unemployment and social injustice... this aim can be helped by education in its broadest sense, by leading people out of darkness into light, out of illiteracy into knowledge.”

The Minister drew a comparison between expenditure on cultural affiliations and the millions of pounds a day expended for the destructiveness of war. He referred also to the way Schools of Arts libraries had died out, and suggested that these too should have catered for the child mind.

The yearly grant of ₤250 to the Children’s Library Movement has been doubled by the Minister, and he expressed the hope that he would be able to continue such increases.

The ceremony ended with the unveiling of a commemorative tablet.

Among those present were the Revs. J.R. Le Huray, L.C.H. Barbour and A.E. Putland.”

Blue Mountains Advertiser, Friday 3 July, 1942.

Exterior view of the Library and courtyard
After the Minister for Education, Mr. Evatt, had opened the Katoomba Boys' and Girls' Library and Crafts Club on Saturday afternoon, children stayed to read books beside the library fire. The club, which is the eighth centre of the Children's Library Movement, is built from six disused garages, which have been converted into one central library, opening into two craft rooms on either side. It features murals designed by Dahl Collings and Elaine Haxton. Those present at the opening included the president of the local auxiliary, Dr. E. Dark, and Mrs. Eleanor Dark; the Mayor of Katoomba, Alderman Freelander, and the organising secretary of the Children's Library Movement, Mrs. Mary Matheson."
SMH Monday 27 July, 1942

All images from the Local Studies Collection, Blue Mountains City Library.


 John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frank Hawkes
Sue Russell, membership secretary Catholic Bushwalking Club.


John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dr. Eric Payton DARK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© John Low 2003

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

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


Books & Pamphlets

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


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


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


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

Manuscript Collections

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

Unpublished Articles

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



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


John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian, Blue Mountains City Library

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Sydney Rock and its Environs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2010 Eugene Stockton, with additions by John Merriman

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

The Blue Mountains and the Ashes

The Ashes urn and the 1883 embroidered bag The cricket season now drawing to a close has marked for cricket fans the 100 year point since th...