Wednesday, January 12, 2011
THE ROYAL VISIT
The Queen’s first royal visit to Australia commenced with the entry of the S.S. Gothic through Sydney heads at 8.00 am on Wednesday 3rd February 1954.
On the Blue Mountains leg of the tour, the royal train arrived 10 minutes late at Katoomba and the reception at Echo Point ran longer than planned. Aldermen and their wives "agreed to forgo the pleasure of being presented, allowing the royal guests time to enjoy the scenery". This allowed the tour to make up time and depart Leura only 5 minutes late. The following extracts are from official publications and local newspapers, supplemented with images from the Local Studies Collection.
ITINERARY FOR THE ROYAL VISIT TO NSW
WEDNESDAY, 3rd FEBRUARY
Her Majesty will receive Their Excellencies the Governor-General and the Governor of New South Wales, the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales on board S.S. Gothic. Her Majesty will land from the Royal Barge in Farm Cove at 10.30 a.m. to be received by them
THURSDAY, 4th FEBRUARY.
Her Majesty will attend a State Banquet with His Royal Highness on the night of Thursday, 4th February, after having opened Parliament, attended a Parliamentary Reception, presided at a meeting of the Executive Council, and had lunch with representatives of Women’s Organisations during the day.
FRIDAY, 5th FEBRUARY.
Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will attend the Lord Mayor’s Ball at the Sydney Town Hall at 9.30 p.m. .
SATURDAY, 6th FEBRUARY.
After lunch with the Chairman and Members of the A.JC. Committee, Her Majesty will present the Cup for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Her Majesty and The Duke will witness a Surf Life Saving Display at Bondi at 3.35 p.m. In the evening they will attend a Royal Gala Performance at the Tivoli Theatre.
TUESDAY, 9th FEBRUARY
Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will arrive at Newcastle by Royal Train at 1.10 p.m. After the Royal Progress they will attend a Civic Reception at the City Hall. They will attend a School Children’s Display and an Assembly of Ex-Servicemen. An inspection of the B.H.P. Steelworks will follow, and the Royal Party will by ‘plane from Williamtown at 4.45 p.m.
TUES. WED., 9th & 10th FEBRUARY
Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will arrive at 7 p.m. on 9th February, and after a night free of official engagements, they will make a Royal Progress through Lismore at 10 am, next day. They will attend a Civic Reception and will depart by car for Casino.
WEDNESDAY, 10th FEBRUARY
Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness will arrive at Casino at 11.26 a.m. They will make a Royal Progress through the streets of Casino and attend a Civic Welcome. They will depart by ‘plane from Evans Head at 1.30 p.m.
WEDNESDAY 10th February
After lunching on the Royal ‘Plane during their flight from Evans Head, Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will arrive at Dubbo at 3.30 p.m. They will make a Royal Progress through the main streets and attend a Civic Welcome and a Western Districts Display, after which they will depart for Sydney by ‘plane.
THURSDAY, 11th FEBRUARY
On the way to Wollongong by car, Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will stop for morning tea at the Returned Servicemen’s Convalescent Camp at Mt. Keira. They will arrive at Wollongong at 12.35 p.m., make a Royal Progress through the streets and then attend a Civic Welcome. Her Majesty and The Duke will lunch with His Worship the Mayor and Aldermen. They will attend an assembly of School Children before departing at 2.47 p.m.
FRIDAY, 12th FEBRUARY
Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will arrive by ‘plane at Raglan Aerodrome at 11.25 a.m. They will make a Royal Progress by car through the City and attend a Civic Reception at the Civic Centre. After attending an Assembly of School Children, they will depart by Royal Train at 12.40 p.m.
FRIDAY, 12th FEBRUARY
The Royal Train will arrive at Bowenfels Station at 2.10 p.m., and Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will resume their Royal Progress by car through the main streets of Lithgow. They will attend a Civic Reception, and will depart by the Royal Train at 2.45 p.m.
FRIDAY, 12th FEBRUARY
Her Majesty and The Duke of Edinburgh will arrive by Royal Train at 3.40 p.m. They will continue their Royal Progress through Katoomba, attend a Civic Reception at Echo Point and view the mountain scenery en route to Leura. They will entrain and depart from Leura at 4.28 p.m.
SATURDAY, 13th FEBRUARY
Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will arrive at Forest Hill aerodrome at 1 p.m. and will travel by Royal Car to Wagga. They will continue the Royal Progress through the main streets and attend a Civic Reception, a Rodeo and a School Children’s gathering. They will depart by ‘plane at 3.05 p.m.
Thursday, 18th February
On arrival at Mascot from Canberra, Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will depart by car for Balmoral. From 12.20 p.m. to 2 p.m. they will visit H.M.A.S. Penguin, returning to Farm Cove by Royal Barge. At 3.30 p.m. Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will attend a Garden Party at Government House
THURSDAY, 18th MARCH
Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will fly from Eagle Farm Airport (Brisbane) after completion of the Royal Visit to Queensland, arriving at Broken Hill at 1.50 p.m. (S.A. time). They will make a Royal Progress by car through the city streets, and will attend a Civic Reception. After inspecting the Flying Doctor Base, they will inspect the Zinc Corporation Mine surface workings. They will depart for Adelaide by plane at 4.20 p.m.
From: Souvenir Programme, The Royal Visit to New South Wales 1954.
IN LOYALTY, AFFECTION
WE GREET AND
WELCOME TO OUR CITY
HER MOST GRACIOUS MAJESTY
QUEEN ELIZABETH II AND HIS
ROYAL HIGHNESS THE DUKE
Half page copy, Blue Mountains Advertiser, Thursday, February 11, 1954
BRILLIANT LIGHTS AND GAY BUNTING TO GREET THE QUEEN
Katoomba and Leura are gay with brilliant red, white and blue festoons of lighting, interspersed with banners and bunting, for the great occasion of the Royal Visit to the Blue Mountains.
Business houses have been repainted and decorated with matching draped red, white and blue bunting; and banners and emblems are flying the whole length of the Royal route.
The Katoomba and Leura railway stations have undergone a complete face lift in painting and decorating. The colour scheme at the stations is zircon blue and royal blue and beautiful banners and bunting are rich and colourful befitting our Glorious Queen. One hundred and fifty thousand people are expected in Katoomba and Leura for the great event, the first visit by a reigning Monarch to the Mountains.
The streets will be lined by 3500 lucky Blue Mountains schoolchildren, who will all have picked positions, in front of the barriers, and will be only a matter of feet away from the Royal Car. The day will not be a holiday from school, as children will be assembled at school and marched to their respective positions. The Blue Mountains Highland Pipe Band will play at the intersection of Katoomba and Waratah Streets, and Blue Mountains City Band will play special music on the Royal route throughout the day.
At Echo Point, the National Anthem will be played by the Ingleburn Garrison Military Band. Girl Guides, Boy Scouts and members of the Australian Air League will also be at Echo Point with full Colour Patrols. Members of the R.A.A.F. will form a Guard of Honour for the Queen and H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Diggers, members of the R.S.S. & A.I.L.A. [RSL] will form a Guard of Honour at the exit from Echo Point. Doctors have been appointed for special duty near the Queen and at special points along the route.
Blue Mountains Ambulance Service will be assisted by the Blackheath Brigade for special duty. A massive arch in Lurline Street will be gay with flowers and bunting and special donations of real flowers are to be placed near Leura station by women’s organisations of Leura.
To-day the winner of the “Advertiser Cup” will be announced, for the best decorated home and garden on the Royal route. Many homes have been repainted for the occasion and bunting will be seen on every home in the district. Till tomorrow, the great day.
The Watson home in Railway Parade, Leura, has been visited by many residents, to view the beautiful floodlit crown, which adorns the highest point on the home. The Crown is a colourful replica of King Edward’s Coronation Crown and is worth a special trip to Leura to view.
Collecting for the Bands on Sunday last at Kingsford Smith Park, was ex- Bombardier Killeen, of Katoomba, who is the proud possessor of the C.M.F. Long Service Medal awarded for 21 years continuous service in the Army. In all Mr. Killeen has done 29 years and 9 months’ service as a member of the Australian Military Forces. A fine record.
Blue Mountains Advertiser, Thursday, February 11, 1954
TIME TABLE FOR TOMOROW
The following is the itinerary:
3.40 p.m. Her Majesty I will arrive at Katoomba Railway Station by train from Lithgow; 3.43 p.m. Her Majesty will depart for a Civic reception at Echo Point;
3.55 p.m. Her Majesty will arrive at Echo Point;
4.06 p.m. departure from Echo Point;
4.21. p.m. arrival at Leura Railway Station;
4.35 p.m. depart by train for Sydney.
ALLOCATION TO CARS
Car 1. State Marshal, Police Officer and Royal detective.
Car 2. Royal car tourer. Her Majesty, His Royal Highness and Equerry.
Car 3, Lady-in-Waiting, Private Secretary.
Car 4. Premier, State Director, State Executive Officer.
Car 5. Commonwealth Minister in Charge. Director General.
Car 6. Reserve Royal car (Landaulette).
Cars 7 and 8, Press cars, each with three Pressmen.
Car 9. Spare car.
3.55 p.m. Her Majesty will arrive at Echo Point. Her Majesty will alight from the left side and will be met by the Minister for Housing and Co-operative Societies, the Hon. C. R. Evatt, Q.C., L.L.B., M.L.A., and Mrs. Evatt. The Minister will present the Mayor and Mayoress and the Town Clerk, and the Mayor and Mayoress will then conduct Her Majesty and His Royal Highness to the dais.
Those on the dais will be Her Majesty, His Royal Highness, the Mayor and Mayoress, the Town Clerk and members of the Household as required.
While Her Majesty is moving to the dais troops, who will be within hearing of the Anthem, will Present Arms.
The Mayor will ask Her Majesty if she will take the Royal Salute, and when Her Majesty is ready in the centre of the dais the band will play one verse of the National Anthem.
On the first note of the Anthem the Royal Standard will be unfurled.
4 p.m. The Mayor will read an Address of Welcome and will hand it to Her Majesty.
4.02 p.m. Her Majesty will read a reply and then hand it to the Mayor.
4.05 p.m. The Mayor and Mayoress will escort Her Majesty and His Royal Highness to their car.
4.21 Her Majesty will arrive at the overhead railway bridge at Leura.
Her Majesty will alight from the left hand side of her car and will be met by the State Minister and his wife.
Her Majesty will be farewelled on the roadway by the Mayor and Mayoress and the Town Clerk as she walks towards the station entrance.
Her Majesty will then be escorted to the Royal coach. At the foot of the steps the Minister will present the Station Master, Mr B Gale.
4.25 p.m. Equerry’s permission to depart will be sought, and Her Majesty will then depart for Sydney.
Blue Mountains Advertiser, Thursday February 11th 1954
Welcome Address to HRH Queen Elizabeth II
by Mayor AFC Murphy,
Echo Point, Katoomba,
4.00 pm Friday 12th February 1954.
Her most Gracious Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the first Reigning Monarch to visit our City, and today the Queen has come to this spot, the far famed Echo Point on the Blue Mountains of N.S.W., over a route that has been travelled in turn by a Duke of Clarence - in the 1880s, by the Duke of York (later King George V) in 1901, by the Prince of Wales now Duke of Windsor in 1920, by the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI) and the present Queen Mother, in 1927 and by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester in l934. All this Royal patronage is now crowned by this visit by Her Majesty the Queen in person. [dates corrected]
Just across the Park you may see the old mansion of Lilianfels the former home of Sir Frederick Darley, and where successive Governors and Premiers and important State visitors were entertained, and where the late King George V, as Duke of York slept when he stayed overnight in Katoomba in 1901. Down the years the successive owners of Lilianfels have been proud to show visitors the room in which the Royal guest slept on that occasion [Urban myth only the Duchess visited Lilianfels].
In the 43 years since I came to Katoomba, the small town of 1910 has become the progressive City of 1953. The beautiful spot where we are now gathered to welcome our Queen was the private property, which was purchased by the council about 1920 and developed into the lovely gardens, traffic loop and parking area as we see them today. In 1910 the Echo Point lookout was reached by a narrow rough track which ran alongside the extensive park-like grounds of Lilianfels, whose Emu’s used to come to the fence to accept tid-bits and provide interest for visitors. About 1923 a large section of the grounds was bought by the Council and developed into the present public park and children’s playgrounds.
In those days all our Cliff frontages were private property and tourists could only gain access to most of the vantage points by permission of the various owners some of whom at their own expense railed in the lookouts and made them accessible to visitors. The greater length of our Cliff frontages are now Public property. A circular drive well made and black topped now follows the Cliff tops for some five miles, whilst the Prince Henry Cliff walk follows the undulations of the cliff face for several miles, linking up at the Katoomba Falls, the Giant Stairway and Leura Falls with the several Passes that thread the Valley floor 800 to 1000 feet below.
In the early 1900s the township was scattered along the Western Road half a mile or so west of the Railway Station. There stood the Local Inn, the Dance Hall or Meeting place, a private Boys school, the Bakery and the Store, not forgetting the palatial home of the Mine Manager, since destroyed by fire [Essendene]. The frontage now is Main St. but was a high rocky bluff, at the back of which, on the hill, stood the Carrington Hotel. Owners of these frontages gradually excavated their holdings, shops appeared one by one, and Main Street became the promenade for residents and visitors alike every Friday night, which was late shopping night. The trends for shopping then turned down Katoomba Street, and with the abolition of the late shopping night the habit of promenading on Friday night passed, and has now been forgotten, but for a long time the weekly gatherings and the opportunities for gossip were sadly missed, as there was practically nothing else to do after dark, the street lighting being by gas lamps, and even these extended over a very limited area of the town.
In those years the town had no qualified Civil Engineer, and any construction undertaken by the Council was usually supervised by the Mayor of the day. I well remember the local butcher, when Mayor, supervising the grading and construction that part of Katoomba Street where the shops now are, and he made such a grand job of it that to my knowledge it has only needed to be tar sprayed on a few occasions since.
Two of the main factors at have encouraged the progress of the Blue Mountains were the completion of the Railway deviations at Glenbrook about 1913 and the construction and tar topping of the Parramatta Road from Sydney to Parramatta and thence the Great Western Road on to Penrith. Prior to that a trip to Sydney and back by car with 70 lb. pressure tyres bumping over a succession of pot holes was nothing short of a nightmare.
In 1910 most of the Tourist traffic to Jenolan Caves was carried by coaches or Drags with 4 or 6 horses, travelling out one day and back the next, changing horses at the various staging Inns en route. Gradually motor cars took over, the early fares being £2/2/- for a one day trip, or 50/- if staying over night. For these folk accommodation was available at the Caves House, or at the several Inns on the road. Vehicles could not pass on the five mile descent to the caves, making it necessary to impose one way traffic for certain hours of the day, which frequently caused travellers much delay if they were unaware of the restrictions. For many years Mount Victoria was the Rail Head, and the jumping off point for Coaches and all horse drawn traffic to Jenolan Caves and the rest of the State, but the enterprise of those in the Tourist business in Katoomba soon caused our town to become the recognised Tourist centre, resulting in much benefit to all business people and the town generally, thus encouraging the development of our own local lookouts, scenic drives and walks.
In 1910 the Narrow Neck Road was a bush track, only used by timber cutters, and even in 1925 one could only drive a car to Narrow Neck at the risk of spoiling the paintwork or striking some hidden stump. During the Depression years the N.S.W. State Govt, as an unemployment relief measure, straightened, graded and constructed the road from Echo Point to Gordon Falls at Laura, thus giving the town the five miles of the Cliff Drive with its ever changing panorama of views that are such a delight to the Tourists of today.
The Giant Stairway, which starts off alongside the first of the Three Sisters to be seen a few hundred yards from here, was for the most part the work of one time Chief Ranger. [James McKay] He carved the steps out of the sheer face of the sandstone cliffs, crossing crevasses and indentations here and there with stout ladders. There are some 800 steps connecting the cliff top with the Federal Pass in the valley below, where may be found various prepared picnic spaces with tables and benches, water and fireplaces, all in the shelter or shade of magnificent tree ferns and jungle growth of tall trees and hanging vines.
And so today, the Citizens of Katoomba and the Blue Mountains, heirs of the pioneers of the past, enjoying the advantages of the present, and responsible in a great measure for the progress of the future of this area, pay homage to our Queen, express our gratitude that she should have come amongst us, and thank her for providing an experience that we shall all remember for the rest of our days - GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.
From the Royal Visits clippings file, held by Blue Mountains City Library, annotations and corrections by Local Studies Librarian shown thus [ ].
It was dull and threatening weather...at 9.30 am there was a choice of almost any position, from the railway gates at Katoomba to Echo Point...a tour of the same area at noon revealed very little change...
At 1 p.m. I secured three positions for three chairs at the barricade across Katoomba street at Waratah Street, giving a view of the whole of Katoomba Street and Waratah Street...the Katoomba Band 36 strong in their new uniforms... the Highland Pipe Band with their two girl dancers...the Air League Band...the Ingleburn Band at the head of the parade of large contingents of Boy Scouts and the Air League...the arrival of the tiny tots from Miss Long’s primary school, all laden with flags...
The excitement among the Katoomba High girls over the election of their captain was for Jill McInerney the new captain and vice-captain (what a day it was for Jill McInery the new captain!)...the little girl and boy who had been blackberrying and come to see the Queen on their own...the small girl in a tartan skirt who kept following the Katoomba band even up the hill...the black pup with four brown legs which chased every police motor cyclist and was then placed on a lead just before the Royal Progress started...
The way the crowd favoured the right side of the route, knowing Her Majesty would be sitting on the right hand side of the Royal car..the big improvement in the weather as the great moment arrived...the playing of The Yeomen of England on the radio..and then the arrival of the Royal Progress...the sight of a white gloved hand in the distance, and with complete disregard for anything else until I saw Her Majesty for the first time...
I barely noticed a Blackheath girl hand a posy to the Duke, though I saw him give it to the Queen...I had a lump in my throat and my eyes were misty...I had seen the queen of Australia for a few fleeting seconds...as Her Majesty passed many tried to follow the Royal car down the street...the crowd broke up very quickly and I stopped outside a radio shop and listened to the Echo Point reception and was delighted with the address of welcome by the Mayor and Her Majesty’s reply...
I then took the car to Laura and arrived there several moments before Her Majesty reached the station steps...I found a perfect position in Railway Parade and saw the final farewells and Her Majesty and His Royal Highness wave from the Royal coach as the train left for Sydney.
Blue Mountains Advertiser, 12 February 1954.
ROYAL VISITORS RECEIVED IN MAJESTIC MOUNTAIN SETTING
Echo Point, with its background of scenic grandeur, provided a magnificent sunlit backdrop for the official reception on Friday afternoon of our Royal visitors, Queen Elizabeth II and H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh. Observers covering the tour stated that nowhere had there been such a beautiful setting for the Royal Couple.
Earlier in the day, weather forecasts for the afternoon were not at all hopeful, but fortunately well before the arrival of the Royal train, sunshine bathed the Mountains in a grand brilliance.
The mountains, with their traditional deep-blue haze, provided a glorious background for the Royal dais. Banked at the rear of the dais was a mass of gladioli blooms, in shades of gold, pink and red, and on either aide wore masses of red flowering gum and native evergreen. To the front were pots of prize begonia in red and pink.
The floral work was arranged with the help of Miss Judy Meek, Mrs. Nimmo and Mrs. Trudy McPherson and others. The canopy of the dais was of pale blue plastic and bore on front drop the words “Hail Elizabeth the Queen,” which was surmounted by a replica of King Edward’s Crown and the coats of arms, including that of the City of the Blue Mountains. The carpet was royal red interwoven with the pattern of the Fleur-de-lis.
When the Royal visitors arrived at Echo Point the scene was made even more colourful as Her Majesty had chosen a simple tailored coat of blue and wore a tiny white hat with matching shoes and hat. At the entrance to the enclosure, were lines of Girl Guides and Brownies, Boy Scouts and Cubs and the R.A.A.F. Guard of Honor.
The Royal Couple were met as they stepped from their car, by the Mayor of the City of the Blue Mountains. Alderman A F C Murphy, wearing his mayoral robes and chain, and the Mayoress, Mrs. Murphy, the Town Clerk, Mr P. Scrivener in wig and gown; and then escorted the royal Couple to the dais.
Replying to the address of welcome by the Mayor, the Queen said, “My mother has often told me of the rare beauty of these mountains and today I have been delighted with them myself. The photographs you have given me will always serve to remind me of this happy day. I shall certainly show them to my children and when they see them I feel sure that they will wish to visit you themselves.”
Also on the dais were the Premier, Mr J.J. Cahill, the Minister for Housing, Mr Clive Evatt and Mrs Evatt.
Rosemary Barrow, a ward of Legacy, then presented Her Majesty with a delicately beautiful bouquet of wildflowers, comprising many varieties of Blue Mountains wildflowers. Included were two varieties of flannel flower, also flowering gum, honey flower, mountain devil, Christmas bush, geebung, boxthorn flower, trigger plant, wild violet, parsley plant, lilly-pilly, heather bluebells and maidenhair fern. The bouquet was made by Miss Judy Meek. The Duke paused to speak to Rosemary, and asked what Legacy Group she belonged to. Rosemary replied, “Wentworth Falls.”
Four people were presented. They were Mr. Joseph Jackson. M.L.A., and Mrs. Jackson: Colonel Neil Strachan (Deputy Marshall of the royal Visit, and Mrs. Strachan. The Mayor explained to Her Majesty that his aldermen and their wives had agreed to forgo the pleasure of being presented, allowing the Royal guests time to enjoy the scenery of the Blue Mountains.
The Queen replied. “That, it was the nicest gesture that had been made on the tour.” Her Majesty agreed to the Mayor’s invitation to view the scene from the lower lookout and the party spent and extra ten minutes at this point.
The suggestion as been made that this point be named The Queen’s Lookout. Prior to their departure from Echo Point, the Royal Couple proceeded past groups disabled service- men and women, members of the Blue Mountains Branch of the War Widow’s Guild, Returned Servicemen and then on to Leura, by way of the scenic Cliff Drive.
LEURA’S GRAND WELCOME
On their arrival at The Mall Leura, they received a tumultuous reception. Many people who had witnessed the Royal visitors' arrival at Katoomba rushed to Leura to see then, again. Leura itself. was beautifully decorated for the great occasion with masses of lowers banked at Railway Parade and The Mall corner.
This floral decoration was arranged by the ladies of Leura under the guidance of Miss Cameron, of Megalong Street, Leura. Prior to the departure of the Royal train, the Queen said to the Town Clerk, Mr. P. P. Scrivener, “Thank you, we’ve had a wonderful time in your beautiful City.”
At 4.30 p.m. the Royal train moved out from the farewell cheers of the huge crowds scattered at all vantage points, and the Royal Couple waved their farewells from the observation platform.
Blue Mountains Advertiser, Thursday. February 18, 1954.
Images from top:
1. Souvenir Programme
2. Souvenir Booklet
3. The white gloved hand
4. The royal car in Lurline St, Katoomba, en route to Echo Point
5. The civic reception at Echo Point
6. The illuminated address
7. The royal party travelling to Leura via Cliff Drive
8. Lawson shop window decorated with fancy plait breads - crown and Q.E.
9. The Queen and party on the projecting platform, later renamed the Queen Elizabeth Lookout
10. Route of the royal motorcade from Katoomba to Leura
All images from the Local Studies collection.
John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian
Blue Mountains City Library
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
During the years of the Great Depression the popularity of walking in the Blue Mountains revived. The impact of the motorcar had deflected interest away from the old walking tracks until the general decline in prosperity meant that hiking guides replaced motoring guides as sources of popular recreation and visitors to the Blue Mountains began to rediscover the bush. With the increasing popularity of bushwalking, the early 1930s also saw the emergence of the modern conservation movement.
Myles Dunphy, who began walking in the Blue Mountains before World War I, had been influential in forming the Mountains Trails Club in 1914. The members of this club, and the Sydney Bushwalkers Club founded in 1927, had a different view of walking from ‘tourist’ walkers – the mainly family groups who strolled the well-maintained tracks close to the townships.
Dunphy and the Mountain Trailers marked the beginning of a new era of walking in the Blue Mountains. Their emphasis, while still recreational, was on developing the skills of bushcraft, self-reliance and adventure. Earlier walkers who yearned for such elements as part of their walking experience would tramp the Six-Foot Track, the bridle path opened in 1884 to link Katoomba and Jenolan Caves. The new generation of walkers, the ‘bushwalkers’, left the well-marked tracks and headed into the rougher country, often charting new routes for their comrades to follow.
Public concern for the preservation of the natural environment was sown among the bushwalkers. On the Certificate of Membership of the Mountain Trails Club the following words appeared: “remember a good bushman is a fellow you will surely want to trail with again. You were not the first over the trail; leave the pleasant places along the way just as pleasant for those who follow you.” During the early 1920s, far-sighted Myles Dunphy formulated a plan for a Blue Mountains National Park, which was adopted by both the Mountain Trails Club, in 1922, and the Sydney Bushwalkers, in 1927.
The Blue Gum Forest, a magnificent stand of tall Blue gums growing in the Grose Valley near the junction of Govett’s Leap Creek and the Grose River became the subject of what many consider the seminal conservation campaign. Beginning in 1931, it was conducted by those whose environmental concern was nurtured in the bushwalking and wildlife societies of the time. It generated considerable interest and co-operation, pointing the way for successful future action.
The story of the campaign begins with a chance meeting which occurred during the Easter holidays of 1931, when a group of bushwalkers led by Alan Rigby entered the forest of Blue gums and encountered two men prepared to ringbark the trees. One of the men explained that he had leased the area and planned to replace the Blue gums with walnut trees. The walkers were appalled. Those beautiful gums at the site of Eccleston Du Faur’s 1857 Junction Camp, circled by soaring sandstone cliffs, were to be destroyed. Surely the authorities had made a mistake in granting a lease for this purpose. It was a situation that required some fast thinking so, boiling the billy; the walkers discussed the matter over lunch.
It was proposed to seek time to place the issue before the full membership of their bushwalking clubs. There must have been persuasive talkers in the group for the lessee, assured that it would be to his profit, agreed to postpone the ringbarking for the time being. Returning to Sydney, Alan Rigby got things moving with a full report to the next meeting of the Mountain Trails Club. The upshot of this was a request to the Sydney Bushwalkers to assist in a campaign to save the Forest by buying out the lease and ensuring the area be reserved for public use.
When the sanction of the Lands Department was obtained the first step was successfully accomplished. The most difficult task still remained, to raise the one hundred and fifty pounds required by the lessee, C A Hungerford of Bilpin, to allow him to obtain an alternative site for his walnut trees. Their agreement called for fifty pounds to be paid by November 1931, with the balance spread over the following twelve months.
A Blue Gum Committee was established to co-ordinate the campaign. Donations were solicited and fund-raising dances and socials were organised. In a time of economic depression, meeting the lessee’s terms proved a difficult job. On Sunday 15th November, a meeting of the committee and Mr Hungerford took place to assess the matter. It was held at the site among the mighty blue gums whose future was in the balance. Myles Dunphy, a member of the co-ordinating committee, has written about this important gathering. “The business meeting, about midday, was held in pouring rain; the members of the party sat around in a circle in a space between the trees. Each shrouded in a cape. The weather was unkind, but the great trees standing up all around appeared magnificent – except one fine specimen which lay stretched out close to the riverbank, a victim of the lessee’s salesmanship. No doubt it was felled to give point to the necessity for saving the trees.”
The meeting resulted in new terms being settled which required payment of a reduced total of one hundred and thirty pounds by the end of December. The committee channelled its energy into a renewed effort and a donation from the Wildlife Preservation Society allowed an immediate deposit to be made. With the assistance of an anonymous loan to supplement the amount already raised, the deadline was met.
The united action of the bushwalking societies and numerous other supporters had secured a beautiful piece of bushland for public use. The Blue Gum Forest was notified as a public recreation reserve on 2nd September 1932 and a management trust appointed. In 1961 the area was absorbed into the Blue Mountains National Park.
In 1931, the same year that the Blue Gum Forest campaign was being waged, Miles Dunphy formed the National Parks and Primitive Areas Council (NPPAC). Adopting the slogan "Progress With Conservation" and made up of representatives of all the major bushwalking clubs of the time. The Council set about promoting Dunphy’s plan for a Blue Mountains National Park. In August 1934 it published a four-page supplement to the Katoomba Daily in which the idea was presented in detail and Dunphy’s beautifully drawn map of the proposal was reproduced. Six thousand of these supplements were distributed throughout the Blue Mountains and Sydney.
It still took more than two decades before the plan achieved any kind of reality. The Blue Mountains National Park, comprising much of the central part of the original plan was gazetted in September 1959. Over the next twenty years, as a result of intense campaigning on the part of conservationists, further large areas of the Blue Mountains region, including Kanangra-Boyd in the south and Wollemi in the north, were dedicated as national park. By the end of the 1970s, the vision of the early bushwalker-conservationists had been vindicated and most of the areas covered by the NPPAC proposal had been secured for public recreation.
1. Bushwalkers in the Blue Gum Forest 1957, Blue Mountains City Library, Local Studies collection.
2. Image of the Blue Gum Forest 1957, Blue Mountains City Library, Local Studies collection.
Blue Mountains Heritage Study 1982, Croft & Associates in association with Meredith Walker for Blue Mountains City Council.
Local Studies Librarian
2010 Blue Mountains City Library