Wednesday, September 1, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images are from the Local Studies Collection.

2010 Blue Mountains City Library
John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hidden History – Mickies and Polers



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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

Friday, June 18, 2010

Catalina Park, Katoomba


CATALINA PARK, KATOOMBA AND THE PBY FLYING BOAT

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

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

The Redmond Memorial in Leura Mall



Rev. Redmond's grave in Wentworth Falls Cemetery

Leura Mall in 1946 showing the Redmond memorial on the median strip
Rose Series Postcard 5534
from the Local Studies collection

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

Rev Redmond was ordained on November 6, 1900 in First Broughshane congregation, one of the largest country congregations in Ulster, where he spent the next two years. During this time he applied himself to his work with such diligence that his health began to suffer and he applied for leave to travel to Australia to rest and recuperate. It appears from his marriage certificate, that he may have first gone to Scotland where he married his wife Sarah Wilson.

Rev Redmond travelled initially to New Zealand but came to NSW in 1904 with his wife Sarah (Wilson) and daughter Molly, and was appointed by the Home Mission Committee of the Presbyterian Church to minister to the Parish of Leura - Wentworth Falls. In 1905 he was inducted into the combined Presbyterian Churches of Leura and Wentworth Falls; and as a sign of his growing community involvement, was also listed as a founding member of the Katoomba & Leura Tourist Association when their inaugural guidebook was issued in the same year.

Widely regarded for his oratory; the power, the wit and the eloquence of the Irish rector could move an audience to laughter and tears, and they would come again and again to listen spellbound as he preached. Eloquence that was also believed to have contributed to the success of the record fundraising effort of ₤200 for extensions to the original 1898 sandstone church in Leura. In fact such was the popularity of his sermons that even after the Leura church was enlarged to twice its original size, it was often unable to accommodate the overflow congregation that flocked to his services to listen spellbound to his words. A congregation that included many Sydney residents with holiday homes in the Mountains, as well as those staying in guest houses, for whom a stirring Redmond sermon was among the highlights of their stay.

Rev Redmond was actively involved in the establishment of a golf club in Leura and was one of the first directors of the original company. When that company went out of business he set about raising capital for a new company. In an unpublished history of the Leura Golf Club, it states that 'Rev R A Redmond canvassed Sydney businessmen as well as local residents and his untiring efforts resulted in the amount of three thousand four hundred pounds being raised'. At the first general meeting of the Golf Links Estate held in 1909 he was elected a director, although he resigned the position later that same year.

However the health concerns that had prompted his trip to Australia again surfaced and in September 1911 he underwent surgery for stomach cancer, from which he never recovered and died quietly on November 11, 1911, aged 42. The official cause of death is listed as carcinoma of the stomach and exhaustion over a period of seven months. His wife and daughter were away visiting Ireland at the time of his death and there is no record of their returning to Australia.

The church in Leura was created in agreement with the Methodists and Congregationalists, who agreed to ‘confine their activities to Katoomba’. Although this rather artificial division worked amicably for a decade, eventually the increase of population compelled them to look after their own people in Katoomba. On 9 January 1911 a meeting in Katoomba declared that ‘the Presbyterian residents in Katoomba deem that the time has come for the establishment of a Presbyterian church’ and a committee of four was set up, consisting of the local minister, the Rev. R.A. Redmond, the prominent Katoomba doctor, Alexander Allan, J. Nimmo and L. Duff. Later in 1911 vacant land on the corner of Waratah and Lurline Streets was purchased and the local people decided to proceed to build ‘a substantial and ornate church’. Redmond had died in the course of 1911 and the building was to be called the Redmond Memorial Church. 
Following his death, a public subscription was launched to raise funds for a memorial in Leura Mall, on which the inscription reads:

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

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

The obituary in the Blue Mountains Echo reads as follows:

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

***

There are actually four local memorials to Rev Redmond: a wing in the Leura Fairways retirement village on land formerly held by Leura Golf Club was named the Robert Alexander Redmond Wing, a plaque on the wall of St Andrew’s Church at Wentworth Falls, a stained glass window in the former Presbyterian church in Katoomba, and the obelisk in Leura Mall. There is also a larger reminder of Rev Redmond in the form of the Katoomba Presbyterian Church on the corner of Waratah and Lurline Streets, which was built on land purchased with funds of ₤500 he had raised for the purpose before his death. The church cost ₤2,000 to build and was opened on 25 January 1914. Subsequently a Church Hall was built for ₤600 and a manse purchased for ₤2,500.

The Redmond obelisk was designed by E P Andreas of Leuralla "in the form of an obelisk in freestone, upon a blue stone base, bearing upon the apex two bracket lamps". A committee of ladies, including Mrs Andreas, was asked to choose a suitable site, probably in the Mall. The obelisk was originally located at the intersection of the Mall with Megalong Street and held two small, rather dim, copper lamps on brackets. The Echo newspaper complained as early as 1913 that "from a utilitarian point of view, it is very nearly a failure, the old lamp post adjacent disseminating more light to the acre than the monument does to the square inch". As a result, in 1914, the twin lamps were replaced with a "single modern lamp of high candle power". The lamps appear to have been removed at the time it was relocated to its present location on the median strip around 1930.

It now stands opposite the old Post Office building in Leura Mall, on a grassy bank among the flowering cherry trees in Spring; where picnickers and tourists relax, enjoying the sunshine. Few if any noticing the now weathered, ornate stone column, dedicated to the young, fervent Irish preacher once so beloved by his flock.

References:
* Ye Are God’s Building, a centenary history of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Wentworth Falls NSW, 1905-2005, by Eve Sinclair, 2006.
* Blue Mountains Echo newspaper, November 17, 1911
* Redmond Memorial, Blue Mountains Heritage Inventory, 2001
-  http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=1170402
Katoomba Presbyterian Church. (1913, July 25). The Blue Mountain Echo (NSW : 1909 - 1928), , p. 1. Retrieved April 14, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119291942
*  "Presbyterian Church." The Mountaineer (Katoomba, NSW : 1894 - 1908) 11 December 1903: 4. Web. 14 Apr 2016 .


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

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