Friday, 25 January 2019

Warrimoo Industries (b) Dairy

Warrimoo Industries (b) Dairy*

In the years before World War II, most suburbs and towns throughout Australia contained “a dairy”—the source of fresh local milk and cream and maybe other dairy products, deemed at the time as healthy dietary staples to ward off a common childhood disease called ‘Rickets’, caused by a lack of calcium.

The small infant township of Warrimoo was no different. Evidence of a local dairy off  Florabella Street exists from the early 1930’s, when a man called Leonard Jack Bebber purchased a block of 13 acres and, it seems, leased the land and some cows to anyone who might be prepared to do a ‘Milk Run’ in the area.

Hand-milked dairies operated in most towns of Australia in the 1930's--the Patmans commenced with eight or nine cows in 1940
After selling the Run to one Francis Oswald Campbell in 1935, however, Bebber ran into some difficulty. Campbell took Bebber to court and sued for damages to the tune of 325 pounds, the cost of purchase. Campbell claimed that he bought the Run Licence on the promise of milk sales of 14 gallons a week, when in reality they were merely 8 or 9 gallons.

Close perusal of the books led the judge to conclude that Campbell had in fact ‘cooked the books’ to gain his lawsuit, and that Bebber had no case to answer. Nevertheless by 1939, Bebber found it necessary to put the whole business up for sale. It was purchased by Lisle Freeman Spence on behalf of his daughter Beatrice and her husband Allan Patman. Thus commenced the legendary family occupation of the ‘Patman Dairy’ and their seminal role in the nascent Warrimoo community.

The Patman Story

Allan Patman grew up on a sheep property outside Mudgee. When he met Beryl Beatrice Patman (nee Spence) he was managing a sheep property in the district. Beryl also grew up in the Mudgee district where her father was a school teacher. They met in Mudgee and married in Penrith in 1933. Because of Allan’s prowess with tennis, he opened a sports store in Penrith.  They had three sons; Bruce (b.1934), Barry (b.1937) and Graham, born when they were living on the Dairy, in 1942.
Allan Patman--Noted tennis player,  Penrith Sports Shop proprietor, 1930's
In 1939, with WWII looming, the bottom fell out of the sports industry and in 1940, thanks to Beatrice’s father, they took over the already established dairy farm previously owned by Leonard Bebber. As there was no house on the property they lived in a rented house on the north western corner of Florabella Street and The Avenue.  In 1941, when the property next to the dairy, which consisted of a house and non-operating chicken farm, came on the market they subsequently bought it, and moved into the house. 

(The chicken sheds were reopened a few years later, on a small scale, and day old chickens were bought, raised, killed and dressed by the family, for local sale for a number of years.  Eventually the sheds were closed down because of an infection in the ground which could not be eradicated.)                                                                                
Allan Patman prepares for milking. At first there was a small herd of 9 cows, but this increased as the population of the area grew during WWII, and reached a figure of 20.
There would have been 8-9 cows when the dairy, which included milk delivery, was first bought. At that stage Allan would be up at approximately 3:00 am to start the milking, by hand.  During milking, the cows were fed supplements, as well as relying on grazing. At approximately 5:30 am after the milking he would have a large plate of toast, several cups of tea and a “BEX” before starting off on the delivery. Beryl finished the clean up in the dairy, while a neighbour, Mrs. Norman (‘Normie’) often helped in the house doing breakfast for the boys and getting them ready for school. 

Allan and Beryl Patman with the two boys, Bruce (standing) and Barry in the 1930's
Initially a 1926 Chevrolet car was converted to a ute for the milk deliveries. On the ute was a large vat with a tap from which the milk was measured into half pint, pint, quart or four pint measuring cans which had a lid to cover the milk as it was being carried into peoples’ homes. It was then poured into the customers containers. There was also room on the ute for extra cans of milk which were tipped into the vat as it emptied. After the war an army jeep was converted for use as a delivery truck. 

Originally it was all fresh warm milk, with the cream not separated, and there was no refrigeration on the truck. When the milk run was finished all the cans, vat and measures had to be cleaned and sterilized with boiling water. By then it was time for lunch, and with a bit of luck a short rest before the process started all over again at about 1:00 pm in the afternoon with second milking and second delivery and clean up.                                                                                                                                               

The Patman Dairy jeep about to take off on its run--the front vat is used for ladling the milk, extra cans in the back.
Dairy work was 7 days a week and there was no time in these years for outside interests and activities. At first the delivery area covered Warrimoo and Blaxland.  However the herd was increased to over 20 during the war years, as people moved out of the Sydney area (because of the shelling of the harbour) to their numerous weekend homes, and demand for milk grew. At about this time milking machines were installed to cope with the increased herd. As the number of customers increased the delivery area spread as far as Torwood Road near Valley Heights and down to the western outskirts of Glenbrook. It was mostly family run (with the boys sometimes helping with the delivery at weekends), but as the business grew, some outside help was also needed.  Some weekends if extended family were visiting they helped out for the day.

Beryl Patman outside the milking shed with one of the boys. As the Milk Run grew, it was 'all family hands on deck' to help out on the farm. There was little time for social life.
When demand continued to increase, and with limited land capacity to run a larger herd, milk which had been refrigerated was bought from the Nepean Milk Factory in Penrith to supplement the milk from the dairy. Many people resisted the cold milk, preferring the fresh warm milk. When the government restructured the dairy industry and made it compulsory for all milk to be sent to the factory to be pasteurized, the dairy was closed as it was not economical to send milk to the factory and then transport it back again. 
Milk prices in shillings and pence for 1950-52
Milk was then bought in bulk from the factory in ten gallon cans, stored overnight in a cold room, then delivered as before from a vat on the back of the ute. At this time, because of the growing numbers of customers, the milk run was split and more outside help was employed.  Stan Boyle, Barry’s future father-in-law, helped with the deliveries.  Later, about 1952, all milk was pasteurized in the factory and delivered in bottles. This provided a lot more free time and their working life was not nearly so demanding.

Until town water was laid on getting water for the cows was a big problem.  They would cart the ten-gallon cans over to the waterholes near Torwood Street, bringing back enough water to fill the troughs for the cows.  It was very disheartening to fill the troughs only to see the cows empty them again!  There was a permanent spring at the bottom of their land, but they had to keep the cows out of it so that it wouldn’t be destroyed. There were also some beautiful old caves down the back where they would go exploring.

The Patman House around 1940. Milking shed and holding yard are some distance behind.
In the early years, when the children were very young and the work of the dairy so demanding there were not a lot of social activities.  Nevertheless extended family and friends would often visit at the weekends for lunch/afternoon tea.  Beryl was a good cook, and they always liked having visitors.  On the side verandah of the house there was always spare beds for family or friends passing through, and the boys remember often waking up in the morning to find someone had slept there overnight. Beryl Geurtner (founding editor of Australian House and Garden) also stayed there for a time while building a home opposite.

Warrimoo Anglican Church and the Patmans

Church had always held an important place in the Patmans’ family life. The church had been there sometime before Allan and Beryl moved to Warrimoo (it was built in 1926—WH).  It was under the stewardship of the Miss Carters, three sisters who lived in the big house in The Boulevarde. 

Allan Patman (left) and Merv Donaldson working on extensions to the All Saints Anglican Church, Warrimoo  (1950's)
As children of primary school age, Bruce and Barry attended and sang at church. Because services were at 2:00 pm Beryl and Allan were too busy with the dairy and milk run to attend. During the war years the minister, Rev Lambert, came from Springwood to conduct the services. As the population grew Rev. Harold Rawson was appointed to the churches of Warrimoo, Blaxland and Glenbrook. He rode a push bike between each village to conduct services and took a very active interest in the life of these villages.

The Reverend was often a visitor to the Patmans for a meal until he married.  Later in his career he became Canon Rawson at St. Matthews, Windsor.  The families always kept in touch, and he flew to Brisbane when Allan died, to conduct the service.  In the late 40’s as the population grew, Mrs. Webber restarted the Sunday School. All three boys attended Sunday School, Bruce was older and helped as a teacher.

The Patman boys (from Left) Barry, Bruce and Graham, in Sunday best sitting on the steps outside Warrimoo Anglican Church

As Allan and Beryl were spared more time after the closure of the dairy they both took a greater interest in the church.  Allan was a Church Council Warden and Beryl was the Guild Secretary. Church fetes were held on the side lawn at their home a number of times.  Allan and Merv Donaldson built the rear extension to the church – we think in the early fifties.  After Bruce started his apprenticeship in cabinet making, he made a communion table and several new pews. Years later Denise Boyle and Barry Patman returned to the church for their wedding.

After the Patman family had moved to Queensland in the 1960's they were visited by the Boyles from Warrimoo, who had always been close friends. Barry was smitten by Stan Boyle's daughter, Denise (both pictured) and proposed marriage, so the couple's wedding  naturally took place at the All Saints Church Warrimoo, on the 15th January 1966.
On the day of the wedding the temperature hit 103 degrees Fahrenheit, and everyone sweated in their formal clothes. The Reception was held on the Highway at the classy Swiss Restaurant 'Rolfes'' near Springwood (now the Jim Aitkens Real Estate building).

Barry and Denise cut the cake
The Wedding featured a delightful 'Programme' card with an illustration of a somewhat more elaborate 'All Saints Church' than was actually the case...

Barry and Denise's 'Programme Card'...the humble 'All Saints' at Warrimoo never quite achieved the English ideal seen here. 
Close friends of the Patmans were Ted and Hazel Davis and family who lived at the corner of Victoria Street and the Boulevarde. Ted was the Bursar at Sydney University of Technology, and also served as treasurer at the church while Allan was Church Warden and Barry did carpentry improvements. 

Another identity of the village was Murray Lewis who was a singing teacher at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He formed a very good choir of church members who were invited to be part of the performance to welcome the Queen to Sydney in 1954. This became the formative basis of the 'Warrimoo Chorale'.

Every year the ladies guild from the Anglican Church would organise a fundraising fete and sometimes this was held in the Patman’s yard.  There would usually be a theme of some sort.  They would make lovely decorations to match the theme - one year it was ‘wisteria’ and another ‘peach blossom’.   

Barry recalls the three ladies known as the ‘Miss Carters’, who lived in the ‘Rickard’ house on the corner of Victoria Street and The Boulevard. They always dressed in black clothes, and one evening as they were walking up the highway Miss Hilda Carter was accidently hit by a car and killed.  A collection was taken up and a memorial bell erected at the Anglican Church.

Patman Family and Social Life

During one of the many bush fires Allan rescued Mrs Ruben Parton in his Jeep from the  massive 1951 fire surrounding her home in Valley Heights and about to engulf it. After driving through the blaze and dropping off Mrs Parton at Florabella Street, he realised the fire was heading in their direction. They were able to 'backburn' the neighbouring houses and save them all. Although the Parton family was safe they had lost their home and all their belongings, so until they were able to obtain a new home they lived with the Patmans.

The 'Daily Telegraph' article on Mrs Parton's rescue. Her daughter, Jan Parton (later 'Welland') was in Penrith working at the time of the rescue, but she too was obliged to stay with the Patmans until a new home  could be found.
As bush fires were regularly a danger in the area Allan was always available to help fight fires as the need arose. There was no organized association until after the war when the Bush Fire Brigade was formed. The closest Fire Station was at Springwood.  The boys tell the story of Allan and Beryl’s father having to shelter under the (Anglican/Arthur Street) church when once fighting a fire. While the fire took the homes each side, it jumped the church (divine intervention?).

There was a run down tennis court on the Patman's property when it was bought, which the boys used for fun.  After closing the dairy and no longer having to milk Allan and Beryl had much more time to enjoy more leisure activities. The tennis court was repaired and it was used for social games and fixtures.  Bruce and a friend, Mark Saba, had the job of rolling and bagging the courts Saturday mornings, ready for the adults A grade fixtures in the afternoon. Then the boys played in B grade fixtures at the Tennis club which was near the railway station.

Barry  Parton and 'Mary' (?) on the tennis court prior to a social game. Tennis remained a major part of Warrimoo's social life throughout the 20th Century.
Mrs. O’Brien (formerly Rene Carroll, leading ladies tennis champion) was the station mistress and also coached any of the young people who were interested in tennis.  On Sunday, friends and family would visit the Patmans and play socially. Because of Allan’s contacts with the tennis fraternity, one year Allan organized a tennis exhibition which included Bill Gilmore (Australian Junior champion, later Davis Cup referee) and Beryl Penrose (top Australian ladies player), to raise money for the church. 

When Barry, Bruce and Graham grew up they, with a number of other boys from Warrimoo, were involved in the Blaxland Scouts. John Webber from Florabella Street was the scout master at that time. Jim Boxsell was also involved with running the group and the boys remember many good times, especially bush walking the mountain trails, and scout camps among their many activities.

As teenagers the boys with their friends travelled to Springwood to attend dances and take part in square dancing.  They also went to the movies in Springwood or Penrith.  By this time Bruce was driving and a group would travel together in the farm jeep.The boys and their friends took it in turns to have square dance nights at each others homes.

Bruce was the designated 'driver' to Dances--after performing his role with the Old Jeep, he purchased this MG 'Classic', which must have been a sight on the streets of Warrimoo!
Barry remembers having slide nights to view photos. Allan and Beryl, as well as  the boys, when they grew older, attended balls organized by the Warrimoo Tennis Club and held in Springwood or sometimes in Penrith.

When Bruce started work in Sydney he caught the 6:04 am train with a number of others. It was always a race between Bruce and Norm Leven to the station: through the fence, over the rail lines and a dash into the last carriage.  Barry travelled on the “Chips” to work at St. Marys. In the morning there were two trains that ran for workers travelling to Sydney. The first, the “Fish” was an express train that ran at approximately 7:15 am. The “Chips” ran about 10 mins later, stopping at all stations to Penrith, then express to Sydney.  Then home after work on the Chips; the Fish left about 5 mins earlier, but did not stop at Warrimoo. Travelling 1 ½ hours each way every day there was lots of time for playing cards, reading and friendships as well as romances developing.

Malcolm King's refurbished view of now-passed Old Warrimooian, George Finey's artistic celebration of 'The Fish' in a Springwood bus shelter--along with 'The Chips', these two city -bound trains were legendary commutes for residents of the Blue Mountains. 
In 1956 Bruce moved to Queensland for health reasons. The family stayed on the property and the milk delivery continued until 1957, when they sold the property.  They then bought and moved to another dairy at Bellingen. In 1960 Barry and Graham also moved to Brisbane, and in 1964 Allan and Beryl sold the Bellingen property and bought another dairy in the Samford area near Brisbane.

*SOURCES for this Post are entirely drawn from interviews conducted by EVELYN RICHARDSON and JENNY DUNCAN on behalf of the 'Warrimoo History Project', of BRUCE PATMAN and BARRY PATMAN, and the notes derived from them in 2009 and 2010. Images come from these sources also.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Warrimoo Industries (a) Poultry

Warrimoo Industries (a) Poultry

We have already established the prominence of Timbergetting as Warrimoo’s foremost primary industry from the turn of the twentieth century through to the 1920’s and 30’s, but other industries, albeit small, family-run enterprises, sprang up in Warrimoo during the inter-war period, especially the 1930’s.

Lawrence Way’s poultry farm, focussing on egg production, was a prime example. When settling in Warrimoo in 1922 Lawrence’s father, Walter, secured land near the corner of The Avenue and Florabella Street, from which he sought to live in a ‘self-sustaining’ way…

We rented the house near the (current—WH) primary school after paying a deposit on three blocks of land, lot 4 and 5 in Florabella Street (and another block in Albert Street upon which their home was built—WH).[1]

A sketch-map of the Ways' Poultry Farm sheds and the neighbouring properties on Florabella Street.
Walter created a vegetable garden, planted some cereal crops (corn, wheat) and fruit trees, dug up some wells from across the road for water, and built a chicken coop for chooks that could be fed from scraps. It was not unusual for ex-servicemen like Walter to be encouraged to take up poultry-farming by the government, because it was deemed to be a pretty safe bet that demand would continue to grow in both eggs and poultry, and it didn’t take up excessive land-space.

In the event Walter found it necessary to continue his employment as a cook elsewhere—in Sydney and further afield in the Sugar-Cane regions of northern NSW.

A 1930's Egg-Cup. In many ways, the property at the Florabella Street site was ideal for chicken breeding and egg production.
When Lawrence turned 18 in 1938 he secured work on a Mr. Fodder’s poultry farm at Mt. Riverview, starting at 10 shillings a week plus keep, and later rising to 12 shillings. This was Lawrence’s introduction to full-scale poultry farming…

…where you work from sunrise to sunset with an hour or so off for lunch six days a week with a half day off on Sunday.

The general run of things was morning feeding, cleaning out manure from the chicken houses, collecting and packing eggs for market during the afternoon and sometimes all day maintenance jobs.[2]

After WWI, ex-servicemen were encouraged to engage in a wide variety of rural pursuits, but poultry farming was one of the most popular because there was constant demand for both eggs and chickens, and because it required minimal space. Lawrence's father did not persist at Warrimoo, but the young son took up the challenge in 1938.

Lawrence’s father made an offer:

Dad was nearing 60 and was receiving a war pension and still owed a fair amount of mortgage on the land. He told me that, if I undertook to pay it off, he would transfer it into my name…With the money I earned I would take a trip on the bike to Katoomba and pay amounts off the debt periodically. Dad was happy for me to use the Florabella Street land for whatever I wanted and I soon had it paid off.[3]

Lawrence needed little encouragement to set up a poultry farm of his own. He elaborates the steps he took…

I…contacted a chicken hatchery in Liverpool ordering seventy two three week old chickens and enough feed for them for the next six months.

Dad had built a shed about twenty foot by ten foot which was ideal for storing feed and had dug several wells for water for his gardening in the early 1920’s so that was a good start. I needed to build a small shed to raise the first batch of chickens and soon after, a shed for housing them and nests for egg laying. I found a second hand timber yard in Sydney just down from Central railway station. As it was mostly second hand materials I was after, I had it sent to Warrimoo by goods train as I required it from year to year.

Warrimoo PS must stand on top of some kind of aquifer, because several wells and waterholes, a spring, as well as a primitive distillery, have been found on the site. This is a well consisting of corrugated iron and concrete, quite possibly built by Lawrence's father Walter, who passed on the 'Poultry' land to his son, who in turn manually carried the water across Florabella street to water his hens.
In 1939, my first year of poultry farming, we had a very severe heatwave over the eastern states. Sydney temperatures were 113 degrees (45 degrees Celcius)…It involved very heavy poultry losses in the area. I had kept my chickens cool by placing green limbs over the perches sprinkling them periodically with water and keeping pullets locked in their shed. Fodder’s, where I had worked the year before, lost hundreds of fowls as did many others.

The first fowl shed walls were made from wheat bags that I had sewn together which was not an easy thing to do minus my index finger. At times my hand would really ache.

…The next year I ordered two hundred day-old chickens. I reared them using a jar with a tin lid. I cut a slit in the lid for the wick to be in the oil in the jar with an ordinary hurricane burner with the globe to protect the flame. This kept the chickens warm under the brooder. This principle served for a few seasons. There was now a need to build more fowl houses and yards. To do this, I needed more round poles for the houses. This meant selecting large turpentine trees. I chose trees that were straight and would give me the most split poles for fences. The poles would have to be at least eight foot long or a little longer. Once I got a tree that yielded forty two of these eight foot poles. All these poles had to be carried on my shoulder out of the surrounding gully. Three foot rolls of wire netting, fifty yards long, would cost ten shillings those days and were bought from “Grace Brothers” who delivered them to the site…[4]

A Grocery store in Katoomba bought Lawrence’s thirty dozen (360) eggs daily. They were shipped by rail in a case carried to Warrimoo station on his bicycle…

The kind of arrangement used by Lawrence to deliver his eggs to Warrimoo Station, where they were transported by train to a Katoomba grocery store. In Lawrence's case there were 300-400 eggs stacked on the front handlebars, however.
Delivering eggs to the railway station was by means of my push bike by placing them on the front of the handle bars. I only had one mishap over the years. We had about 5 inches of rain the previous day and overnight and, as all our roads were dirt pre-war, one section had a washout and the front wheel dropped into a deep little gutter across the road. The case of thirty dozen eggs went over the handle bars. Only five dozen were cracked and broken and half of them were able to be used for cooking etc.[5]

Lawrence was conscripted in December 1940 and did three months training at Singleton, but poultry farming was designated a ‘vital industry’ for the war effort and he was discharged to continue his business.

This continued to grow despite the fact that his basic chook feeds, pollard and bran, were now unavailable. He adapted to soaked wheat and lucerne feeding…

…When I cleaned out the fowl houses, I would fill a barrow with manure and then put on top of it a tin that would hold about twice as much again and push it up the rise to the block near the street that was used for lucerne cultivation. The lucerne was cut up in a chaff cutter and was used mostly for green feed. As egg production increased, I had to look for another buyer. Small eggs went to the Producers’ Distribution Society (PDS) and the people I was supplying at Katoomba were bought out by “Goodlands” groceries and when they took over, they were happy to be supplied by me. Now I needed a way of taking, not one case, but three at a time. I then built a trailer to take an extra sixty dozen, making a total of ninety dozen (1,080) eggs. [6]

Making a success of his small farm required the youthful dedication that Lawrence clearly had. However, towards the end of the war his interests began to drift towards missionary ideals—he was frequently attending bible studies and religious conventions in Katoomba, and after his sister Nell lost her city job, he included her in the running of the farm to enable his spiritual pursuits.

One winter’s night in 1944, Nell accidentally knocked over a kerosene lantern in one of the sheds—within minutes she had burnt her hand trying to put out the resultant fire and five hundred chickens were burnt to death. 

Lawrence's Wedding Day in 1948--he is third from left. By now Lawrence's interests were in his wife, Noreen, and Mission work across NSW. Increasingly he left the farm work to his sister Nell and her new husband, and the Poultry Farm progressively ran down until it ceased in 1950.

This failed to discourage Lawrence, who upgraded the lighting and watering systems in the sheds and modernised their construction to accommodate more hens. Yet he was still being drawn away from Warrimoo, marrying his wife to be, Noreen, in 1948, and joining the ‘United Aborigines Mission’ at La Perouse in 1950, in the process handing management of the poultry farm over to Nell and her new husband Jack, as well as his brother Harold.

According to Lawrence, for whatever reason thereafter, the poultry farm ‘ended up going to ruin’…[7]

[1] WAY, L. W., My Story, Cliff Lewis Printing, Caringbah, 2011, p. 9
[2] Ibid, p. 47
[3] Ibid, p. 47
[4] Ibid, p.49
[5] Ibid, p.49
[6] Ibid, p.51

[7] Ibid, p.52

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…

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
* Terry Dernee acted as a great source of information and inspiration for this post