OPINION: Yesterday Today with Alan McRae

LANDMARK: The official party at the opening of the Bathurst Memorial Monument cairn at the bottom of William Street
LANDMARK: The official party at the opening of the Bathurst Memorial Monument cairn at the bottom of William Street

THIS is the first of a two-part series about the construction and opening of the Bathurst Memorial Monument cairn at the bottom of William Street.

Our photo shows the flag-draped platform erected on a truck for the accommodation of the official party: the mayor, Ald. P. J. Moodie, Dr. Norrie, Captain J.H. Watson, Mr. S.S. Russell of Manly (a grandson of Sir John Jamison, a member of Governor Macquarie’s party on the trip across the mountains), the Ven. Archdeacon Oakes, Reverends Canon Holmes and R.D. Peate, Messrs C.A. Kelly, M.L.A., R.S. Fraser and Miss Barker.

The idea for such a memorial to mark the foundation of Bathurst came in 1928. The Advance Bathurst League wanted some type of recognition of the historic site that had been selected where the first flagstaff had been erected (though as we now know it wasn’t quite correct).

Thus a group known as the Bathurst Foundation Memorial Committee was formed to further the project.

The solid monument was concrete lined with stones in cobble fashion, forming a perfect cairn. All the material to form the obelisk was obtained from the riverbed not many yards away.

A number of letters were dispatched in an attempt to find the exact location to place the memorial. The Royal Australian Historical Society was consulted, but it too could not determine the exact spot.

Some felt that it would be beneficial lined up with William Street even though it could be further along Stanley Street.

On hearing of the project, Earl Bathurst had sent a Union Jack from England to fly on the flagstaff above the obelisk.

The Royal Australian Historical Society president was on hand on May 5, 1929 to lay the foundation stone for the proposed cairn.

A year later, with plans in hand, the final meeting of the group organising the unveiling ceremony was held in the Town Hall on Thursday, May 1, 1930. In the chair was the mayor, Alderman P.J. Moodie.

The official opening took place days later in front of an enthusiastic crowd of around 1000 on Sunday afternoon, May 4, 1930. They were there to commemorate the proclamation of the city of Bathurst by Governor Macquarie and the celebration of the first Christian service held west of the Blue Mountains 115 years previously.

The Bathurst Memorial Monument committee comprised a small group of active and tireless workers co-ordinated by local joint honorary secretaries Miss Barker and Mr. L. Bryant. Mr. R.S. Fraser, the honorary treasurer, explained at the opening that the monument had cost £85, and that there was still a debt of £22.

Mr. A. Sambrook, the designer of the monument, gave his services gratis.

The Ven. Archdeacon Oakes and Mr. G. Dart, ex-Inspector of Schools, were prime movers. Mr. V.D. Cox, a great-grandson of Lieutenant Cox, who was in charge of the original road-making party that crossed the mountains in 1815, assisted, as did Frank Walker, a member of the Royal Historical Society, who had, at his own expense, delivered a lecture in Bathurst and raised money for the movement.

The mayor, on behalf of the citizens, extended his warmest thanks to everyone who had assisted with the project.

Dr. H. Norrie, president of the Royal Australian Historical Society, then made a long and eloquent speech.

As the flag enfolding the obelisk fell away, the District Band struck up Advance Australia Fair, and when Captain J. H. Watson, the veteran honorary research secretary of the society, pulled a cord and the Union Jack floated proudly from the flagpole of the monument, the ceremony was complete.

A tablet on the obelisk, a gift of the Royal Australian Historical Society, stated: “On this spot, Governor Lachlan Macquarie proclaimed the town of Bathurst, after which the first divine service west of the Blue Mountains, was held, 7th May, 1815.”

Alan McRae is with the Bathurst District Historical Society