Tumut's Centenary - A Retrospect

14 November 1924 Adelong and Tumut Express and Tumbarumba Post

Tumut's stupendous effort to fittingly celebrate the close of the 100th year since white men first put foot on its fertile soil terminated on Saturday night last with a full week's jubilation, and there was no lack of functions for the home people, and visitors and former residents who came back to rejoice with them, to jubilate.

But great as was the task the Celebrations Executive Committee, with the sectional committees, set themselves to make the occasion one to be long remembered, there were many familiar old faces expected who for various reasons were not numbered with visitors.

The organisation, considering little data was available as a guide to conducting such an extensive carnival and there was so much to be done, was handsome.

The various subcommittees gradually fitted their capabilities into their separate schemes, and when Sunday, November 2, dawned almost every essential was in readiness for the monster daily programme to operate.

The decorations and electric lighting matters entailed considerable mental and manual labor, and although there were the usual number of "men of words and not deeds," the silent workers and hard thinkers showed what grit they were made of.

The triumphal archways, in particular, were admired by the crowds, forming, as the one in Wynyard-st. did, an invaluable advertisement for the productiveness of our rich district.

And these were set off to the best advantage under the glare of the white and colored electric lights at night.

The amusement and entertainment of all and sundry was catered, for, and the programme opened auspiciously with eclat.

Each day's programme was nicely and concisely set out in little booklets, which served to keep the individual well posted with the events ahead so that a choice of funcions could be made from those synchronising.

The list proved too large however, owing perhaps to certain social events being put too early in the week before the biggest batch of ex-residents had arrived. 

Everything was going with a great swing when 'Jupiter Pluvius' in angry form opened the damper and let out torrents of rain, which continued with such constancy as to practically cause a cessation of the revelry.

This unexpected development seemed to entirely change the mood of the populace as a whole, and the appearance of floods in the two rivers at once cut off general communication from the district country centres.

It was a most untoward happening, and occasioned much disappointment.

Yet the merrymakers found social intercourse a pleasurable means of whiling away the time, and many reunions were made which might not have been brought about had it been possible to persevere with the strenuous programme mapped out.

It is the most important epoch in the history of Tumut - one that will forever last in the memory of every participant, and in face or an drawbacks happy recollections will continue to linger. 

The booklet of the history of Tumut, going back as far as the gathered information would ensure, with photographs of pioneers - and some not pioneers - and views of town and country, scenic and industrial, is a comprehensive publication and one, from a literary point, that reflects great credit on the compiler, Dr. T. B. Clouston, who must have applied his ability diligently, though it is regrettable that many of the genuine old pioneers and records of their public benefactions are absent from the work, chiefly, we understand, because relatives failed to forward photographs and short biographies.

It was, nevertheless, despite the defects attributable to the city printer, a souvenir that was much sought after.

We are much indebted to the Executive Committee for the use of the blocks for reproduction, for they have assisted us substantially in making our Centenary issues more, attractive. 

The general secretary was a very much worried man.

His duties were multifarious, though the fine organisation of the sub-committees relieved him of a deal of the arduous part of the work.

There was no hitch in the arrangements for public delectation, and apart from the bad effects of the wet weather, all had a surfeit of pleasure.

It was a strenuous week with all, and the town has since been suffering an attack of ennui. 

The Banquet 

It was a poor attendance for so important a function that sat at the Centenary Banquet in the Oddfellows' Hall on Thursday night of last week, only 40, including ladies, being   present. 

Mayor Jas. Elphick took the chair, and after the feast, proposed tho health of His Majesty the King. Ald. A. E. Wilkinson was entrusted with the toast of 'The Day We Celebrate.'

He said that one hundred years ago this week the first white feet trod the Tumut Valley, and they were assembled that night to celebrate the event and to pay homage to the pioneers for the wonderful work they had done.

They were indeed brave people who came out into the wilds of Australia amongst the hostile blacks to carve out a home for themselves.

What determination these people must have had; nothing daunted them.

We who are sons of the early residents knew something of what these people had to put up with.

Life then was not like it is now to these old people; it was chiefly hard work and few comforts. 

They had to draw their supplies from Sydney, which meant an absence from home of from nine to thirteen weeks, and during these trips their wives and families were often left to look after themselves, miles from the nearest neighbor and surrounded by blacks.

Think of the courage of these women; we should never forget them, but should venerate their memory and teach our children to do likewise.

Let us take to heart the lesson of determination taught by these pioneers, and make a vow that building on the foundation laid by them, we would raise a structure to be proud of when our time came to go; we would have the satisfaction of knowing Australia was better for us having lived in it.

What would these old people think if they could come back and see the comfort, ease and luxury in which we are living? 

I remember my father telling me he rode to Sydney in six days - almost a record.

I could not help thinking of that when I saw my son in an aeroplane flying over the town and knew that by that means he could reach Sydney in less hours than my father could in days.

Let us forget that we owe our present positions to the work of those who pioneered the district and not think of them as old fashioned people, but remember that at the next Centenary we will, probably be just as old-fashioned to the people of that time. 

The toast was drunk to with musical honors

Mr. A. Davis, replying to the toast, said that he had come to the district with his parents when five years of age, being one of a family of ten. 

His father came from Belfast. His people often had a hard time, but their indomitable pluck helped them to win through and make good.

The young people of to-day have not the pluck of old ones, for if asked to live ten miles from town they think they are hardly treated. Mr. W. D. P. O'Brien said he had pioneered the Gibraltar mine, and told the story of how he came into possession of it; how he and his son put in a shot after the miners had   left on a Saturday afternoon, and had blown up tons of rich ore, the result being that he ;and his party afterwards sold out for £300,000 cash. 

Mr. J. F. Quilter ('Claris Park,' Junee) joined heartily with the people of Tumut in celebrating this centenary, and to-day was the day of  days.

He came to Tumut as a little kiddy and was essentially an Australian; his mother was born at Appin 104 years ago.

Old pioneers such as the Shelleys, Broughtons, Wilkinsons and many others, had done much towards making the district what it was to-day, and may their descendants continue the good work during the next hundred years that was started by their parents last century.

His family came on to the Murrumbidgee in 1842.

He had travelled much through Australia and there was no finer land anywhere than in the Tumut Valley.

He had always boosted the district and would continue to do so.

Australia should be for the Australians; and he would always bow his head in memory of the pioneers. 

The Mayor called upon Mr. R. T. Donaldson to propose the toast of Tumut and District.

Mr. Donaldson thanked the committee for having invited him to take part in the Centenary Celebrations, as he always had a very warm spot in his heart for Tumut.

The toast allotted to him was a very important one and should have been in the   hands of one who had seen the rise of the district more than he had; he was only a newcomer, comparatively speaking. Mr. Mowles, late Clerk of Parliament, knew Tumut in the earliest days and he often had very interesting chats with him about the district.

Mr. Mowles claimed to be one of the first men to ride through the mountains from Tumut to Monaro, and always persisted in calling the place Doomut, holding that that was the correct name.

Mr. Wilkinson spoke of the hardships endured by the pioneers, and he would like to stress the fact that the women wore the onus who should get the greatest credit; their lives were hard and they got no limelight.

If suffering hardships constitutes a pioneer, said Mr. Donaldson, I claim to be one, as when on the Gundagaito Cootamundra railway, Mrs. Donaldson and I decided to take a trip to Tumut, and we had heard so much of the beauties of the place.

I ordered our groom, who was a son of Erin, to put fresh leather on the brake blocks and get the horses and buggy ready for the trip; but when coming down-hill near Gundagai I tried the brakes and they would not act.

The horses being fresh, we got a great speed up, and, trying to round a corner in the town, the buggy turned over, hurting us both very much.

We found that the groom had followed my instructions to put leather on the brakes, and had removed the blocks to do so and did not put them on again.

After a few days rest and treatment, Mr. Payne drove us over here; and we both immediately fell in love with the place and decided we should make our home here.

We would probably still be residents had not the late Mr. George Clout persuaded me to take up politics.

Tumut has never had a drought such as they have in other places, and as for Tumut Racecourse - compared with others I have seen, it stands alone.

The old people were filled with indominatable courage, and had not the comforts we enjoy, many of them living in houses built of sheets of bark; but they prospered, and their children are continuing to prosper as evidenced by the fine houses to be seen on Blowering, Gilmore and other parts of the district.

Continue to build on the firm foundation laid by your forefathers, who did the pioneering work, and it will be said of you, as we have said of the pioneers - the country is better for you having lived in it. 

Cr. D. L. Herlihy, in reply, said he thought Mr. Weeden, on account of his age, should have been first called on, but as the Mayor had thought fit to call him he would do his best. He was a native of the district, and proud of it.

He believed that the celebrations would be a great boost for their district, arid hoped some money would be avail- able for the Tourist Association to carry on their good work.

He was pleased to welcome Mr. Donaldson back to Tumut, as he considered he had done more for the place than any other man. Mr. O'Brien had also been an excellent, citizen and had done much to assist in the progress of the district.

One of our greatest wants was good roads which he considered of more importance than railways.

We should do our best to get the road made through to Wee- jasper and also to the Federal Capital.

He believed the day was not far distant when Mr. Kinred's hydro-electric scheme would materialise. 

Tumut land was wonderfully rich and there were farms growing maize as good to-day as 80 years ago. 

Mr. Jno. Weeden said he was sorry there were not more people at the banquet; there should have been hundreds.

This was a wonderfully rich district.

He did not claim to be a pioneer, having only resided in the district for 60 years. Travelling is different now to what it was when he came to Tumut.

He left Sydney per coach on a Tuesday, and arrived in Tumut on the following Monday, and believed that he walked half the distance, as the horses were unable to pull the coach over the rough roads when loaded with passengers. 

When he first saw Tumut he thought it was a nice little place, and re- marked that he liked it - in fact, he liked it so well that he had stayed here for 60 years.

The pioneers of the district have done wonderful work, and people should teach their children to honor their memory.

The Robertson Land Act was responsible for the closer settlement of Tumut. 

When he came here first everybody drank rum; then they took to brandy, then beer, and he wondered when they would take the best drink of all, which was the beautiful water that, was flowing down the river. 

Mr. W. H. Foord said he claimed to know something about Tumut, being a son; of one of the early pionears.

He agreed with Cr. Herlihy that it was practically impossible to wear the land out in Tumut, as their cobs of corn on the arch in the street were good enough to take a prize at the Show.

It was grown on land his father had cultivated 80 years ago.

We can grow anything in Tumut except tropical plants. 

There are large areas of country that would produce splendid sugar beet. 

He remembered the poplars in Bombowlee Lane when they were only fence high, and are now said to be the tallest in the world.

He would like to see some silver poplars planted in the racecourse to commemorate tho Centenary, and intended, all being well, to put one there.

The district was noted for its caves and trout streams, also for its pretty girls.

If three girls could collect £1366 in four months, how much could all the girls in Tumut collect in 12 months. 

The Mayor proposed the toast of "The Visitors," saying he had seen many very nice things in the remark column of the visitors’ book; one in particular struck him, viz, "Tumut will do me!"

He was pleased to see so many visitors to the town and hoped they were all having a good time.

He came from Sydney in 1861 in a bullock dray and remembered his father ploughing ground with a forked stick, and harrowing with bushes, bullocks doing the drawing.

Everyone was welcome in Tumut, and he was pleased to see many visitors at the banquet.

He wished them all long life, prosperity and happiness. 

Mr. E. Wyburn, a former Mayor of the town, was the first to respond. He said he was not a native, but had spent most of his life here, and loved the place.

He was a pioneer because he caught the first rabbit in the district, and believed Bill Hoad shot the first fox.

This showed that he was not young, when he could go back to the first rabbit and fox. Mr. Donaldson and Mr. O'Brien have been wonderful good citizens and the whole district owes them a debt of gratitude.

He wished Tumut every success. 

Mr. J. H. Hoad said he was a native of Tumut and proud of it.

He always thought that, the women who pioneered the district deserved greater credit than the men, as theirs was considered the hardest part, the care of the family being in their hands.

He was one of a family of thirteen, and he thought that was not considered an extra big family at the time.

During the Great War when the call went forth for men and more men, Tumut boys responded splendidly, and that is one achievement we can add to our credit during the past century.

He did not think we advertised the district enough. 

Mr. Archer Broughton said he was a native of the place and was very glad to be present.

He was one of the Rankins, of Bombowlee Station, and since coming here had met two men who had worked for his father over 50 years ago.

It was fine to be back amongst the Tumut people, and he enjoyed exchanging reminiscences of the early days.

The celebrations had been splendid, and he congratulated the committee responsible.

Tumut was one of the finest districts in the State and there was no finer scenery in the world. 

Mr. McDonald is also a native of the district, but has been away for 53 years.

He claimed to be one of the first men to drive a bullock team down Talbingo.

When he heard the Centenary of Tumut was to be celebrated, he could not resist coming back to the haunts of his childhood.     

The progress of the district since he left had been wonderful. 

Mr. Jim Hoad claimed to be a native, but left Tumut 42 years ago and went to reside in Junee.

One reason why he left was that the local people were always running their own place down, and one constantly heard such phrases as 'Tumut is broke'; 'there is no money in Tumut,' and young people invariably advised to get away from such a poor place.

He hoped the present residents had not the habit of talking in that way; it was foolish, especially as they had one of the best and richest districts in the State.

If he had his time over again he would stay in Tumut.

The Tumut Council should endeavour to get facilities granted on the railways so that persons from Riverina could get cheap trips to Tumut for the week; for Sydney people could get excursion trips to the Blue Mountains, and if Riverina people got similar concessions they would flock to this place during the summer months. 

Mr. D. Morton, Temora, who is an old ex-resident of district, said he was glad to be back and meet old friends.

Tumut is a grand old place and there would always be a warm spot in his heart for it.

He congratulated the committee on the success of Centenary Week.  

Mr. E. Wyburn proposed the toast of the Chairman, and said Tumut was lucky to have him in the chair on an occasion like this. 

Mr. Alex Davis supported the toast - Mr. Elphick was the right man in the right place. 

Mr. J. F. Quilter also supported the toast, and took the opportunity of thanking the people of Tumut for their kindness and hospitality to him, and assured them that if they came to Junee at any time he would do his best to return it in some measure. 

The toast was drunk to with musical honors.

The Mayor briefly responded; and proceedings terminated by the singing of "Auld Lang Syne."