Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Ardill and Warrimoo 1936-1945



Ardill and Warrimoo (1936-1945)

George Ardill may have had some earlier association with Warrimoo, but his influence only becomes clear in the nine years between 1936 and 1945. He was due to turn 80 in 1937, and it would seem logical that he may have been planning some form of ‘retirement’ from his frenetic charitable activities in Sydney by moving to the quieter environs of Warrimoo.

Ardill in mid-life--he moved to Warrimoo as he approached 80 years of age. His wife Kelsie was frail and needing attention. Possibly Ardill was seeking some rest from the constant demands of his charitable work in Sydney when he arrived in the mid 1930's.
Around this time, Lawrence Way speaks of a new neighbour building a home next door to his poultry farm and making his acquaintance…

…our neighbour …asked me if I would like to do some work weeding the gardens and other jobs. I readily agreed as I was growing some vegetables to get some money and there was not much in that. I was surprised when I received six shillings for the day…[1]

Lawrence gives some picture of Ardill’s activities at the time…

Our neighbour Mr. Ardill had a hall built in Rickard Road. He worked in Sydney at the Jewish rescue organisation and was showing slides as to what was happening in Israel. I was always interested in pictures and had sometimes gone to the Springwood picture show which only cost nine pence if under sixteen years old. I attended this and found it was broadening my outlook on the wider world. Mr. Ardill’s aims were not so much that type of motivation but rather moral and spiritual incentives. Because of this, he tried to get me to go to the Sunday evening service…It was not long before I was yielding to his persuasion and my wild life was mellowing. [2]

This further testament to George Ardill’s arrival, in the construction of the Gospel Hall on Rickard Road (now the Baptist Church), was widely reported in the local media. After personally supplying the cost of land and building materials via one of his institutes, and with construction and painting carried out by willing volunteers, Ardill oversaw the opening ceremony taking place under much religious fanfare on February 8th, 1936.[3]

The Gospel Hall as it appears today. A brick facade has been added to bring modernity to a structure built by voluntary labour in 1936. Several upgrades have occurred over the years so that the overall size is considerably larger than the original building.

The Progress Association

The Gospel Hall became a hub of activity over the following decade, with church services, ‘invitation teas’, hymn singing evenings, Sunday Schools, fund-raising events and yes, even Warrimoo Progress Association meetings happening there. Indeed, the latter organisation appears to have been resuscitated within its hallowed walls…

A meeting of property owners and permanent residents was held in the Gospel Hall, Rickard Road, Warrimoo, on Saturday, 27th March, to form a local progress association. Mr. W. T. Ely was voted to the chair, and Mr. G. E. Ardill, convenor of the meeting, acted as secretary.

After preliminary discussion, it was resolved to form an association of property owners and residents of the district, to be called “The Warrimoo Progress Association.” The following were elected office-bearers for the ensuing year:--Chairman, Mr. W.T. Ely; Vice Chairmen, Messrs G. W. Duckles and T. Pritchard; hon. Secretary and Treasurer, Mr. G. E. Ardill. It was arranged that meetings be held on the fourth Saturday in each month.[4]

The Gospel Hall became a hub of community activity during the 'Ardill Years'. Apart from Sunday Services, there were film nights, invitation teas and of course, meetings of the revived 'Warrimoo Progress Association'.

A ‘Warrimoo Progress Association’ had already existed to serve the community in the 1920’s, and must have lasted (at least, according to Nepean Times reports) till 1933. This was the Progress Association of Mudie/Neall/Watts which must have somehow faded from view. Either Ardill was unaware of this or he chose to recreate the organisation under new auspices with the inspiration of ‘A New Movement’.[5] The signed up membership was eighteen in number with the optimistic proviso that those who were ‘unavoidably absent’ were nevertheless keen to join at some later date.

 Issues most concerning the new Association were to be addressed immediately…

…officers were empowered to continue the agitation for the improvement of the turn-off from the Great Western Road into Railway Parade, which is considered at present to be very dangerous to motorists. The necessity for extra street lights at this point and also in Florabella Street was also referred to and it was decided to support the request to the Blue Mountains Shire for these facilities. The urgent need for a permanent water supply for the district was brought under notice, and it was decided that the secretary make enquiry as to the probability of an extension from Springwood.

Reference was made to the inconvenience to voters who had to travel to other districts to record their votes, and it was resolved to urge the provision of a local polling booth.[6]

Clearly Warrimoo residents still required their own water tanks and wells, used pan toilets in backyard sheds, and town lighting was poor at night, but the Highway overbridge crossing of the railway turned too sharply at this time and as a matter of road safety (several serious accidents had already occurred) George Ardill became obsessed with its rectification. He kept count of the number of accidents and then pursued a letter-writing campaign to all levels of government calling for action. This agitation continued for years.

Finally, in 1944, a new bridge was constructed…

Mr. J. B. Chifley (officiating at the opening—WH), Federal Treasurer, spoke in commendation of the work that had been carried out in the area. The old bridge had been a death trap, and he viewed with pleasure the completion of this new one.

Mr. O’Sullivan, Minister, said that the old bridge had caused quite a number of accidents. There had been nine recorded accidents during the few years since February, 1937, four of which were serious, on one occasion a life being lost. On three occasions the bridge parapet had been demolished, the debris falling on the railway line. This new bridge had been so designed and constructed that there was no interruption of road traffic…and was able to carry the heaviest military loads…[7]

In speeches at the opening, reference was made to the commendable part played, over a number of years, in the agitation for this bridge by Mr. G. E. Ardill, President of the Warrimoo Progress Association.

Activism in Warrimoo

It is some indication of George Ardill’s character and religious fortitude that he had thrown himself into the work surrounding formation of the Progress Association a mere two months after the death of his second wife, Kelsie, on the 7th January, 1937. Here was a woman who had been his Christian partner since 1921, one who had preached with him, worked tirelessly in all his projects and provided secretarial and moral support throughout, now moved to Warrimoo to retire with him—possibly frail and terminally ill, and now dead, with all her funerary considerations fulfilled by him, yet her husband still possessed the 80 year old wherewithal to carry on further community activism. And, so he did.

If Ardill had come to Warrimoo to retire he clearly found it difficult to do so. The first couple of years saw the construction of the Gospel Hall and his own unique but modest home at 13 Florabella Street, as well as the formation of the new Progress Association. Meanwhile, he still commuted to Sydney to continue his supervision of the many institutions that were his prime responsibility—history was to show that after his death most of them faded into obscurity—he was indispensable, even addicted to them.

Arguably the first Women's Refuge in Australia, the 'House of Hope' received homeless and 'fallen' women in secure accommodation in Newtown, Sydney. The women were put to work cleaning laundry. You can see other women at the windows. Here was yet another charitable institution managed by George Ardill.
After Kelsie’s passing he contracted his sister in law(?) to be his live-in housekeeper. He purchased several blocks of land around Warrimoo in The Avenue and Florabella Street and built cottages on them. Being a staunch believer in ‘cottage–led redemption’ these dwellings were primarily reserved for society’s victims: ‘fallen women’, broken families, the poor and destitute, so that they might rebuild their lives through domestic self discipline and home-building. One cottage, however, ‘Rest-A-While’, at 29 The Avenue, was apparently reserved for rental on a more commercial basis.

All the while George Ardill pursued his life-long mission to save souls. His influence upon people like Lawrence Way was indelible…

Mr Ardill was feeling his age and had retired from his work. His wife had died and he was being cared for by a sister-in-law who had moved from Leura to live with him…I was working there one day and I heard her say to Mr. Ardill, “Laurie Way has changed.” I knew myself that my actions and attitudes were becoming different but I seemed to find that, although that was a good thing, more important was the change of the inner life…

…Shortly after, I was riding to Katoomba with a Christian who introduced me to an elderly retired missionary who said she read the Bible through yearly. My reaction was if she could do that, so could I and I have been very thankful for her example. I remember Mr. Ardill being delighted by my new stand…

…My conversion at the age of seventeen was so real to me and despite the evolutionary teaching of my father in my teens (Laurie’s father was an atheist—WH) there has never been any doubt of God’s existence.[8]

Occasions such as Easter and Christmas saw Ardill’s elaborate engagement with the Warrimoo community…

On Sunday, Dec. 24, at the Gospel Hall, Warrimoo, special services were held in connection with the Christmas season. The preacher was Mr. G. E. Ardill, who had the Hall built nearly 10 years ago. Mr. Ardill attained the ripe age of 87 years on the 17th ult. and was preacher twice that day.

At the evening service, in place of the usual sermon, a series of Christmas carols was rendered, and the speaker made comments on the Scripture teaching of each carol when it had been sung.

At the conclusion of this service the congregation adjourned to the Main Western Highway, and under the electric lamp, near the store, rendered another series of carols. Seats from the Hall provided for the comfort of the listeners, many other persons adding to those from the hall.

The speaker, in like manner in the hall, made comments after each carol had been sung…[9]

George Ardill's modest weatherboard home at 13 Florabella Street. He lived  there with a housekeeper, reputedly his sister-in-law, after his wife Kelsie died in 1937. Ardill was neighbour to the youth, Lawrence Way, who admits to the huge influence Ardill had on his life at this time. (Drawing done by local Warrimoo resident, Terry Dernee*)

Death and Legacy

A few months after his Christmas dedications, on 11th May 1945, George Ardill passed away. There is no doubt he left a distinct impression on the people of Warrimoo and upon the township’s character.

For a start, the activities of Progress Association became more focussed and successful. It met regularly, once a month, in the Gospel Hall, had good attendances (ranging between 10 and 30 members), and its Minutes were faithfully published in the Nepean Times and the Katoomba Daily. Continuous pressure was directed to local, State and Federal government representatives to take note of the needs of Warrimoo residents and to act upon them.

Whether it was singularly due to the efforts of Ardill and ‘the Progress’, or as well a convergence of other factors: a growing population, the end of the Depression, infrastructure needs of the War effort, technological advances or pure good fortune, Warrimoo was a better place in terms of amenity than before Ardill’s arrival.

Roads were better, a new Highway Bridge crossed the railway, street lighting was improved and Warrimoo now possessed a concrete water tank on the highest point of the township on Victoria Street to deliver ‘town water’. Things were looking up. More shops were appearing. A fresh crop of war veterans were about to arrive in this welcoming neighbourhood, and Warrimoo was to become something of a religious ‘hub’ for smaller religious groups: apart from the little Anglican church on Arthur Street which has already been built in the 1920’s, he had established an ecumenical (later ‘Baptist’) Gospel Hall on Rickard Road, followed by Methodists (GWH), Seventh Day Adventists (Terrymont Road) and Jehovahs Witnesses (cnr The Avenue and Waratah Road—later Greens Parade).

Ardill was born a Baptist, but his evangelical work involved engagement with Bible Societies and the distribution of the Word of God as broadly as possible. He grew decidedly ecumenical in his days at Warrimoo, yet was buried with Anglican rites at his funeral in Stanmore.
Recognition for Ardill’s evangelist and charitable work arrived in 1934 when he was awarded the MBE (‘Member of the British Empire’) “for services to the community”, indeed, he was probably the most renowned philanthropic missionary in Sydney at this time. Yet, in keeping with his era, his approach to all ‘the fallen’ was paternalistic—he was the good-willed father ordained by God’s wisdom to save the wayward victims of society’s indifference. Whether it was in rescuing broken women, housing deserted orphans, or segregating Aborigines, he knew best.

Paternal righteousness brought a political reaction during his work on the Aborigines  Protection Board. It can be safely said that George Ardill was the principle architect of the ‘Stolen Generations’ policy that developed in the first three decades of the 20th century. Innumerable children were forcibly taken from their Indigenous parents, placed in orphanage-style institutions, then apprenticed to farms or factories if they were males, or allocated as domestic servants if female. All the while he urged legislators to supply more power to the Protection Board to direct the lives of Aboriginal people throughout NSW. Ultimately the policy was accused of creating a slave labour force so that Aboriginal communities and their sympathisers in unions and other churches pushed back. Public opinion began to turn on the Board.

Cootamundra Girls Home was set up primarily under the Aborigines Protection Act and operated under Ardill's studious direction. Taken from their Aboriginal families under the guise of receiving 'useful education' the girls were trained to become domestic servants for well-off and 'appropriate' white families. It did not close till 1968.
Ardill resigned his position on the Protection Board in 1916, but continued to agitate for his views from the outside. His son, another ‘George Edward Ardill’, became a conservative (‘Nationalist’) politician in the NSW parliament and later joined the Board to reflect similar views to those of his father—it was not till after WWII that attitudes and policies towards Aboriginal people began to take a different course.

Whatever his profile in Sydney, Ardill’s standing in Warrimoo remained staunch and respected. As his age reached 86 he may have been showing signs of infirmity, for now the Warrimoo Progress Association urged the naming of a park in his honour…

TRIBUTE TO MR. ARDILL
The members of the Warrimoo Progress Association, in view of the deep interest in the progress of the district shown by the President, Mr.G. E. Ardill, unanimously resolved to urge that the reserve which was granted for recreation purposes, fronting the main Western Road and in the vicinity of the local railway station, be named Ardill Park.

The Blue Mountains Shire approved the proposal, which was then placed before Mr J. M. Tully, Minister for Lands, who has approved of the reserve being so named, and has written stating that the maps of the' Lands Department have been noted accordingly.[10]

And so the most central public park in the township, the one leading pedestrians from the railway station to the Citizens Hall, the one giving pergola solace and picnic space for weary car travellers passing through the Lower Mountains, this park was designated ‘Ardill Park’ by the Minister of Lands Mr. J.M. Tully in October 1944.[11] So it remains to this day.

George Edward Ardill lived long enough to see a Warrimoo Park named in his honour. He had already received an MBE in 1934 for his 'service to the community' generally, but now the citizens of Warrimoo had successfully agitated for public recognition of one of their own...
George Edward Ardill was no doubt utterly convinced of his own good intentions. The Anglican Archbishop Mowll eulogised at his funeral…

G.E. Ardill possessed outstanding qualities. He was never negative, but ever positive. He wrought manfully, fought valiantly, served devotedly, and was ever to be found where the battle was the thickest. He was a born leader, and loved to plan and scheme and contrive in the interests of causes dearer to his heart. Even those who opposed him had to concede that he possessed uncommon qualities and front rank abilities. He breathed the spirit of God, he was a man of unswerving devotion to Christ. His loyalty was absolute. He was a man of heroic unselfishness.[12]

Despite his funeral service being held in Stanmore and his burial in Waverley there were many mourners from Warrimoo attending…his legacy was to live on through the coming decades.



[1] Way, Lawrence, My Story, op.cit, p.43
[2] Ibid., p. 44
[3] TROVE, Nepean Times, Thursday 26th March 1942, p 4.
[4] Ibid. Thursday 1st April, 1937
[5] TROVE, Katoomba Daily, Thursday 1st April, 1937
[6] Ibid
[7] TROVE, Nepean Times, Thursday February 3rd 1944
[8] Way, Lawence, op. cit., pp 45-47
[9] TROVE, Nepean Times, Thursday 4th January 1945
[10] TROVE, Ibid, Thursday 28th September, 1944
[11] TROVE, Ibid., Thursday 6th October, 1944
[12] TROVE, SMH
* Terry Dernee acted as a great source of information and inspiration for this post

Sunday, 6 May 2018

George Edward Ardill 1857--1945




George Edward Ardill (1857-1945)[1]

George Edward Ardill (1857-1945), evangelist and social worker, was born on 17 December 1857 at Parramatta, New South Wales, second son of Joshua Ardill, plasterer, and his wife Anna Maria, née Johnson. The family were Baptists.

 After elementary education at Parramatta, he took an office job and then in 1883 briefly set up in Pitt Street, Sydney, as a stationer and printer. While still in his 20s he devoted himself to full-time charity organization. Already attracted to the gospel temperance movement, he started the Blue Ribbon Gospel Army, a temperance organization which long remained under his personal direction. He joined the Local Option League on its formation in 1883, and later the New South Wales Alliance, serving it for some thirty years as councillor, honorary treasurer, and secretary in 1900-03.

George Edward Ardill as he appeared in middle age--he was a highly prominent  religious campaigner , starting the Blue Ribbon  Gospel Army temperance group and the Sydney Rescue Work Society to finance the many charities  he was to set up throughout his life.
In taking the gospel to the godless at late-night street meetings, Ardill discovered destitute and homeless women. With characteristic practicality, he set about providing shelter and in 1890 formed the Sydney Rescue Work Society to help finance his work; it became a major charitable organization, attracting support from (Sir) Samuel McCaughey and Ebenezer Vickery. In 1884 an All Night Refuge and the Home of Hope for Friendless and Fallen Women were opened, the latter a lying-in hospital to which later he attached a commercial laundry where the women were gainfully employed and given 'training'. In another home, the Crusade to Women operated to reclaim the penitent, especially those saved from drink. He ran two other homes for discharged prisoners in 1884-91.

So that the mothers from the Home of Hope could take work where a child was not acceptable, Ardill soon was involved in providing for the unwanted children. In 1886 he founded the Society for Providing Homes for Neglected Children, which opened Our Babies' Home that year, Our Children's Home at Liverpool in 1887 and, in 1890, Our Boys' Farm Home at Camden where older boys were to be trained on near-by farms. In the 1890s Ardill was organizing crèches in the city. By then he was reputedly a director of twelve societies: his work was becoming less directed to rescuing the fallen than to providing for the needy.

Ardill pictured outside one of his homes for wayward and homeless children at Concord. This later became a ''Boys Home and was named 'Ardill House'

On 8 September 1885 at the Baptist Church, Bathurst Street, Ardill had married Louisa (1853-1920), daughter of Thomas Wales. She had had experience as an evangelist in England and, after her arrival in Sydney in 1883, in the Blue Ribbon Gospel Army and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. She served on the executive of the latter, superintended its franchise department in 1901-02, and represented it on the New South Wales Alliance for many years. Louisa also shared her husband's work, taking prayer-meetings, acting as supervisor from time to time in one or other of the homes and, notably, as matron-superintendent of the Home of Hope hospital, which provided under her direction and instruction a training centre for midwifery: in 1900 seventy-six trainees passed the external examinations, their fees amounting to about a tenth of the hospital's income. As it came to be used more by private patients in separate rooms, it was renamed South Sydney Women's Hospital. Extensions were made in 1904 and 1911, and surgical and gynaecological departments added. Louisa died in 1920 after a long illness but the hospital continued until World War II without government subsidy.

George Ardill's first wife Louisa Ardill (nee Wales)  set up a training centre for midwives, which later grew into South Sydney Women's Hospital. She died in 1920, and Ardill remarried one Kelsie Hannah Starr in the following  year.
Ardill was less successful in extending his other institutions, despite persistent effort and ingenuity in fund-raising, such as publicity in his quarterly magazine, Rescue. By adopting the cottage home as his model, he had considerable staff expenses and substantial mortgages to pay off. Repeatedly in financial difficulties and occasionally vilified in the press for failing to publish accounts, he juggled the funds, paying current expenses from building appeals and foregoing some of the modest allowance due to him as director of the Rescue Work Society.

Although he had successfully sued the Australian Workman for libel in 1891, he was severely reprimanded by the 1898-99 royal commission on public charities for sometimes failing to pay employees and also for his leniency in not forcing his unfortunate women out to work and allowing some to be admitted for a second illegitimate child. Prepared in principle to agree with the commissioners, he was kinder in practice: government subsidies (received since 1893) ceased. Although he remained executive director of the children's and the babies' homes until 1945 the numbers in his care gradually declined.

Using every device at his disposal, Ardill was perpetually seeking to gather funds for his many and varied activities--badges were sold, magazines ('Rescue') were distributed, and prayer meetings convened. His energy in pursuit of his goals was boundless.

 Interested as an evangelist in the Aborigines, Ardill joined the New South Wales Aborigines Protection Association, which financially supported Daniel Matthews's mission. Secretary from 1886, he was involved in the removal of the Maloga settlement. Ardill joined the Aborigines Protection Board in 1897, representing the association. A regular visitor to its stations, he became the board's most active member, a vice-president by 1909 and its effective policy-maker. Convinced of the need for positive policies to change the situation of Aborigines, Ardill set about making them 'useful members of the State' by taking the children away from the Aboriginal community, putting them to work in private homes or on station properties, and placing others, too young for work, in his homes. The 1909 Act conferring the requisite authority on the board to place or 'apprentice' neglected children was largely due to his efforts, as was the reorganization of the board's work.

In 1915, again on his recommendation, amendments to the Act strengthened the board's hand, but were condemned as 'reintroduction of slavery', and by the secretary of the Australian Aborigines Mission as attacking Aboriginal family life. Whether on account of these objections or on other grounds, Ardill had over-reached himself. He had pestered the government for more money and over the appointment of inspectors, and in 1916 was forced off the board.

Ardill was an expert lobbyist. He was a founding member of the Social Purity Society in 1886 and later secretary of its vigilance committee on public morals, and a founder and in 1890 secretary of the New South Wales Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. He successfully campaigned for an affiliation Act establishing a woman's right to support from the putative father of her child before its birth, and for a children's court, but failed to get the age of consent raised from fourteen to seventeen. He was convinced that where women were destitute and without recourse to support, infanticide occurred.

Despite living in Warrimoo in his later life, Ardill continued to supervise charitable institutions such as the Ardill House Boy's home (above), and despite being driven off the  Aborigines Protection Board in 1916, he maintained a lifelong influence in policy-making relating to Aboriginal people in NSW.
The Ardills were ecumenical ahead of their times: both were prepared to conduct services or speak in other churches. A member of the Evangelical Council of New South Wales, Ardill helped to organize some of the special missions which in the early years of the century drew attendances of 50,000 to 100,000, and was joint secretary for the J. Wilbur Chapman and Charles Alexander mission of 1908. He later served as local secretary for the Australasian Chapman-Alexander Bible Institute. In his latter years the United Preachers' Association of New South Wales was especially dear to him.

Awarded an M.B.E. in 1934 for community service, Ardill died on 11 May 1945 at Stanmore and was buried in Waverley cemetery with Anglican rites. His estate was valued for probate at £13,356. Survived by a son and daughter, he was predeceased by his second wife Kelsie Hannah, née Starr, whom he had married on 5 October 1921; before and after marriage she helped to run the mission's office. Probably the friend giving the funeral oration came closest to the essential Ardill: 'He loved to plan and scheme and contrive in the interests of causes dear to his heart'.



[1]  This whole text is derived from the Australian Dictionary of Biography—adb.anu.adu.au/biography/ardill-george-edward-5048

Thursday, 26 April 2018

The Warrimoo Train Smash--1930




The Warrimoo Train Smash—1930

At 6.25pm on Monday 27th January the excursion train service consisting of two steam locomotives along with 8 carriages filled with passengers and a brake van, left Mount Victoria headed for Sydney Central. It was a drizzly summer evening and the tourists on board were weary from the eager pursuit of Mountains’ bushwalking exertions—it was the end of the Summer school holidays .

'Coupled' steam locomotives of the type used by NSW Government Railways in the 1930's

 But there was something different about this journey: earlier in the day a freight derailment between Warrimoo and Blaxland had blocked the ‘up line’ to Sydney (all rail lines leading to Sydney are ‘up’ lines, all those leading away are ‘down’ lines, regardless of whether the train is going uphill or down). Thus, trains heading to Sydney had to be diverted from the ‘up’ line at Valley Heights to rejoin it at Blaxland. They were thus travelling on the ‘down’ line in the opposite direction to that normally taken. This was not drastically abnormal, and in fact, 8 trains had already travelled that way in the hours prior to the arrival of the 6.25 from Mt. Victoria.

Everything works well as long as the track ‘points’ along the way are all adjusted for the reverse direction—especially since this excursion train had two locomotives leading it, an extra one being necessary for work at Blaxland. Both locos had a Driver, Fireman and a Pilot lookout on board as the train edged eastward beyond Warrimoo Station at about 10 miles per hour (15kms per hour).

Warrimoo Station as it would have appeared in 1930. The wooden structure is the 'Waiting Shed' and the overhead bridge is in place. The 'Up' track is on the far side, and the 'Down' track on the near side of the platform.

 Most Warrimoo residents were feasibly completing their evening meal and settling down to a good night’s sleep when they were jarred from their peaceful routine by raucous screeching noises and a heavy crunch of iron coming from the railway. The newspapers take up the story…

The excursion train was travelling at a very slow speed when the mishap occurred, and this fact, no doubt, prevented a grave disaster, in which many passengers must have been involved. The leading engine passed safely over the catch-points about a quarter of a mile (400-450 metres--WH) on the Sydney side of Warrimoo, but the second engine fouled the points and left the rails. The heavy locomotive bounced along the permanent way for some yards and then took a sudden lurch to the right and "nose-dived" over a 16ft (5 metre—WH) embankment.

Realising their extreme danger the crew of this engine leapt clear, and were uninjured. The sudden lurch of the engine, however, threw the leading locomotive off the rails and caused it to turn over on its side with portion of it projecting over the brink of the embankment. Those in the cabin of the engine, including McGarrity, were pinned down by the twisted ironwork, and it is believed that the driver and fireman were killed instantly.

The brake-van was derailed, but the carriages did not leave the line.[1]

Newspaper 'picturegram' of the crash--the second engine has pushed the tender of the first into the cabin, where two crew members were killed instantly and Joseph McGarrity was pinned for several hours. This angle is the 'shallow' side of the wreckage, the other side is the steep embankment above Railway Parade.

As the second loco lurched forward to push the lead engine off the rails and down the embankment, it crushed the cabin containing Driver Harold Hanna, 32, and Fireman Edward Smith, 26, both of Springwood, killing them instantly. Yet a 16 year old ‘Junior Porter’, Joseph McGarrity of Station Street Blaxland, survived with his arm and leg pinned amid the heavy iron of the wreckage. His account is as follows…

Although the night was cloudy the track was not so dark, and I heard the fireman call out loudly to the driver: 'Hold her, driver. The points are open!' After that I remember a screech of brakes and then we toppled over. Everything went black. When I came to I was in great pain. My right leg and hand were jammed and I was held up by my hand. The leg hurt very much, but the pain of my hand was worse. I thought I would never be rescued; I was almost smothered. I noticed the feet of the driver and fireman dangling over me, and I felt blood trickling down on to me.[2]

In the hectic moments that followed, the crew from the second engine sought to calm the rattled passengers, some of whom were disembarking and wandering towards the scene. It was a miracle the remaining carriages did not come off the rails. Help was immediately sought by telephone from Warrimoo to Blaxland Station and Valley Heights, and a repair carriage was sent from Penrith post haste.  Railway Headquarters at Eveleigh sent a full Repair Train to the accident site, complete with crane and other heavy lifting equipment.

Another angle of the second locomotive, after the  passenger carriages had been removed back to Warrimoo Station until the tracks were cleared. You can see that it was relatively easy for the crew of this engine to jump to safety--not so for the Fireman and Driver of the first loco.

 Amid the chaos someone had the wherewithal to contact two doctors, Baxter and Boser, both from Valley Heights—they were confronted with a horror scene…

When the break down train from Eveleigh (probably Penrith—WH) arrived about an hour and a half afterwards, the youth's leg was freed with the use of oxy-acetylene apparatus, but McGarrity was still pinned in the wreckage by his hand. The youth partly regained consciousness during his terrible ordeal.

The two doctors then performed a remarkable emergency operation. Drizzling rain, at times developing into a heavy downpour, and the escaping steam made conditions decidedly unfavourable for an operation, especially as the light thrown by the flares was very unsatisfactory. Dr. Boser administered an anaesthetic, and then Dr. Baxter amputated McGarrity's hand, and thus freed him. He had been pinned in the wrecked cabin for about two hours. A waiting ambulance waggon rushed the injured youth to Penrith Hospital, where he was admitted in a critical state. A further operation was performed soon after wards, and the arm was amputated.[3]

Young Joe McGarrity was grateful to have survived, though his arm was lost and his leg scorched by his oxy-acetelene rescuers, to testify at the Inquest that followed.

Most passengers were merely shocked and possibly bruised by the abrupt lurch-then-halt of the leading engines, but one notable escapee, Walter Aurisch, 21, of Long Bay, was discovered by a motorist wandering dazed and confused on the Highway. He was taken to Penrith Hospital where he was found to have suffered severe abrasions to the head causing serious shock and disorientation.[4]

The special 'Repair Crew' sent from Eveleigh Workshops rectified the damaged locomotives and repaired wayward tracks the next day. Services on the Mountains' line were interrupted for one day only. The damaged lives of dead  and injured crew members and accused rail employees were not  fixed so rapidly, however.

At the Inquest the Coroner, Mr. A. Judges, found that Robert Rupert Hindmarsh, fettler, and Alexander Angus Gollan, flagman, were ‘guilty of culpable negligence’ for not locking the points in place and not signalling that the points were open to the oncoming train.

McGarrity and the crew of the second loco had both confirmed that the points were seen to be open, and that there was no flagman present to signal the danger. Gollan had testified that he was heading towards Blaxland Station at the time of the smash because Hindmarsh had waved to him on the previous train, indicating that he was relieved and to head towards Blaxland. Hindmarsh for his part, said that he was simply waving to Gollan as a goodwill gesture—in short, the tragedy had occurred through mistaken communication.

Hindmarsh and Gollan were committed to trial for manslaughter and their Superviser, Signalman Berkeley, was severely censured for the casual manner in which he supervised the work of the other two men, who appear to have avoided custodial sentences.[5]



[1] TROVE, ‘Parkes Western Champion’ derived from the story in the SMH, Thurs 30th January, 1930,   p.1
[2] Ibid, p.1
[3] Ibid, p.1
[4] Ibid, p.1
[5] TROVE, ‘Daily Pictorial’ (Sydney), Thursday 13th February, p.7