Sydney University Bush Walkers began in 1946 after the turmoil of World War Two. University students, keen to explore the bush and enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded individuals started the club when avenues for other forms of recreation were limited by the economic aftermath of the War. This publication represents an attempt to document some of the activities of these individuals and the places they visited.
We begin with an important contribution by Allan Maccoll on the active bushwalking that was based largely in the Science Faculty in the 30’s and 40’s before the club formally started. The list of walkers provided by Allan includes many names that have become well known since their bushwalking days such as Nobel Laureate Sir John Cornforth and Whitlam minister and high court judge the late Lionel Murphy. This is followed by a reprint of the article Ian Ross wrote for the Club’s 40th anniversary publication about the foundation of the club. Ian was the first president of the Club. This time, Ian’s contribution is not alone. He is joined by reminiscences by many of the key members of the club in its beginning. Vern Gilbert and Bill Taylor were the one’s responsible for thinking up the idea of starting a bushwalking club on the campus. Fred Doutch was the Club’s first Walks Secretary – and an inspection of the inaugural walks program near the end of the magazine will reveal that Fred also organised and led many of the early club trips. Fred together with his wife Dorothy have provided a major contribution. To add to this Denis Robinson has also written and interesting alternative viewpoint of the early days. Other club characters from that time – Frank Peters, Bill Woof, Quentin Burke and Diana Temple have also contributed. I urge you to read all these articles.
The picture the early walkers give, despite many years apart, is not too different from how I found the club when I joined in the mid seventies. The characters may be different but the sense of going out into the bush for adventure and for the appreciation of the beauty and solitude provided by the bush seem to be a continual theme all through the years.
During the years the Greater Blue Mountains has been a favorite walking area of the Club. The wild beauty of the Kanangra and the Kowmung country have a universal appeal to bushwalkers. The wildness provided by the Northern Blue Mountains is perhaps best regarded as more of an acquired taste. Like many things as you become more familiar with this area – you realise that it is special in many ways. For a Sydney based club, it provides opportunities for exploratory walking second to none. As an example of this we have reprinted from the “Bushwalker Magazine” an early article by Fred Doutch about the first traverse by bushwalkers of the Hunter Range.
The late fifties and early sixties were also an important time for exploration of the Blue Mountains. Geoff Ford tells how the Gundungura map and guidebook project started. SUBW members together with the then Sydney University Rover Crew explored large sections of the Southern Blue Mountains. Information about this period of the Club’s history has been documented in some wonderful logbooks. These large volumes contain hand written notes of walks, often accompanied by photos, sketches and maps. Logbook 1 was unearthed by Dick Donaghey. Flora Turton had the second and third logbooks stored in her garage. These contain a wealth of material of great interest and many articles from the early and mid sixties have been reproduced here. Unfortunately, logbook 4, which covers the late sixties seems to have disappeared somewhere, perhaps in the vaults of Fisher Library, since the 40th Anniversary. The Club plans to scan the logbooks we have into computer and make copies available on CD ROM.
The early sixties, in particular, seem an exiting time in the Club’s history. Col Oloman was president of the club and he was very keen on exploring the bush. He led the first trips down Thunder Canyon – the first of the Carmarthen Canyons to be visited. Other trips he pioneered were Kalang Falls and Wollangambe Canyon – all are now well known staples of the canyoning repertoire. Several other epic trips of his are described here as well. Many writers in the club logbooks of the period fondly describe calling in at the Oloman family home at Lithgow and enjoyable friendly evenings spent there in front of the fire. Col’s enthusiasm for bushwalking was infectious. When he left to go to Canada in 1963 he left behind a large group of keen and competent walkers that carried on the tradition. One of these was Carol Mills. According to our logbook records she was present on many hard trips, often those involving abseiling and swimming down canyons with full packs. It is not one of these she has chosen to write about, but rather, one of her (and the Club’s) favorite areas – the Royal National Park. Her contribution gives a valuable insight to another side of the club. Carol in the sixties wrote about an epic Tuross River trip led by Col Oloman for the Bushwalker Magazine. We have reproduced here, the original logbook account by Carol. It tells the same story of a classic walk – and is perhaps less polished, but I think it provides more insight into the nature of the walk and the actual party members.
The area of the Blue Mountains north of Mt Wilson known as the Wollangambe Wilderness was also explored by SUBW at this time. Parties ventured into Yarramun and Dumbano Canyons. Bungleboori Creek was explored on a Bell to Putty Road trip in 1963 (naturally it was led by Col Oloman). Bell to Putty Trips became popular in the club in the 70’s and 80’s without any knowledge of the pioneering trip earlier. John Paynter, Gerry O’Byrne and others explored new canyons near Newnes and Glen Davis. Hard trips to South West Tasmania became common during the summer holidays. Ben Sandilands who contributed to the 40th Anniversay magazine in a major way has again contributed an interesting article.
One of the key walkers in the club during the mid sixties was Athol Abrahams. I remember years ago coming across his name in logbook 4 when somebody described a Club trip to Newnes. Instead of getting in the car to go back to Sydney at the end of the weekend, Athol accompanied by Dave Dash decided to run back along the old railway formation all the way to Newnes Junction and get picked up there when the car went past. We are fortunate that Athol documented many of his trips in the Club logbooks. As well as being a keen canyon explorer he was also very fit and with Dave Dash completed a series of classic hard walks – several of which are reproduced from the logbook accounts. Another strong walker of the time was Rick Higgins. He was originally a SUBW member but then transferred to UNSW. I am grateful that Rick managed to write an excellent contribution to this magazine.
Much loved in the club during the mid sixties was Wendy Butler. Being a daughter of Dot Butler – she would have had to be a great bushwalker. Tragically she drowned in the Kowmung River on a club trip. We have reproduced an article she wrote for logbook 3 about a climbing trip with Athol Abrahams to the Budawangs in 1966.
When I joined the Club in the mid seventies, I learned much about canyons and canyoning from Chris Cosgrove. Chris in turn had gained his knowledge from fellow club member Carol Periera (now Isaacs). I knew Carol from my days in Springwood Bushwalking Club (her family came from the mountains too) – both Carol and her husband Phil had the reputation for being very strong walkers. Carol and Denise Black have written about their Three Peaks Trip – the first time this was achieved by an all girl party.
Chris Cosgrove, who led many epic walks, mostly deep into the Colo and Wollangambe wilderness areas, has here described one of his SW Tasmania trips. As well as learning about canyoning from Chris, I learnt a lot about how to walk in thick Tassie scrub. A contemporary of Chris’s was Joe Mack. I can remember vividly a Newnes – Colo River walking and lilo trip we did shortly before Joe left to go to the States for a postdoc. Joe here writes about his time in America since then. His story is tinged with his homesickness for the Australian bush.
Over the years Club traditions have developed. In the late 40’s the Club had the motto “Press On Regardless” but there was also “Stone The Crows and Starve the Lizards” – the “starving” being a reference to the poor food available for bushwalkers in those days. The Club badge from that era featured the lizard design on the front page. In the early 60’s the club symbol evolved into the “horseshoe” shaped design (it is not a horseshoe of course but rather the back metal plate from a hobnail boot). In the seventies two club traditions started – one was the President’s Bludge Trip (PBT) to the Kowmung River held each October long weekend and the other is the December Xmas trip to the Coxs River. Here, Steve Williamson and Ian Hickson have written about how the PBT started.
It was during the mid seventies that many Club trips seemed to go to the Blue Breaks section of the Southern Blue Mountains. In a period of 3 or so years, all the tablelands and creeks in this spectacular region were explored. It was also in this period that a systematic approach was adopted to fully exploring the Northern Blue Mountains. This was a continuation of the tradition started earlier by Fred Doutch. Many canyons were found in the Wollangambe, Wolgan, and Gospers areas right through until the 90’s. Difficult ridge systems like the Yodellers Range in the Widden Valley were traversed. Bell to Putty trips became common. The large gorges in the Gospers/Coorongooba area were visited as well. Trips into the Colo Gorge also became standard.
Towards the end of the 70’s and in the 80’s the character of the club changed somewhat. Graduates tended to stay around and walk with the club long after they had left university. This kept a pool of experienced walkers available to lead the harder trips. Ski touring became much more popular. Each summer there would be a regular exodus of members to go walking in Tasmania, NZ or further afield. During the 80’s a yearly club magazine started up. Named after three icons of the club, “Volleys, Scunge and Mac” has provided a valuable source of material to be reprinted here.
Dave Noble, Editor.
Thanks for all writers of new material – namely – Allan Maccoll, (and David Craig in assisting Allan), Sir John Cornforth for allowing me to quote from his email reply. To the Canberra brigade – Denis Robinson, Fred and Dorothy Doutch, Ian Ross and Frank Peters – many thanks indeed for so much. Diana Temple (especially for the patience she showed in allowing me to borrow her marvellous photos for longer than she would have anticipated), Bill Woof and Doug Webber. To Vern Gilbert and Quentin Burke, who both came from North America to be at the anniversary dinner. Vern’s speech at the dinner is reproduced here. Quentin presented the club with a marvellous poster photo of the party on the first club walk as well as writing for the magazine. To Geoff Ford, the Gundungura mapmaker, for telling his interesting tale. Col Oloman and Rick Higgins now both residents of Canada – thanks for your marvellous stories. Gerry O’Byrne and Dick Donaghey (the Kanangra Kid) – thanks for photos and articles, David and Barbara Darmanin and Peter and Liz Hinton – helped locate many past members, Carol Mills helped in many ways (and offered to help in more), Ben Sandilands, Athol Abrahams (for writing so much in the journals), to Dot Butler for being happy for us to publish her late daughter’s logbook article and for Peter Tressider in assisting with this, Denise Black and Carol Isaacs, Peter Hatherley, Chris Cosgrove, Joe Mack, Ian Hickson, Tom Williams – for allowing us to reproduce his articles originally published in the Kameruka magazine (as was Dave Noble’s “Northern Three Peaks”), Michael Donovan, Ross Bradstock and Vanessa Haverd for original contributions, the Hobart Walking Club for allowing us to reprint Roger Lembit’s article from The Tasmanian Tramp. Other articles have been reprinted from “Volleys, Scunge and Mac” -thanks to the authors of all of these. For helping with production and proof reading – Rob Hynes, Ian Wilson and Airdrie Long, Flora Turton for many wonderful photos and taking good care of the logbooks, Ian Gibson and Paddy Pallins Pty Ltd for allowing use of graphics from an old catalog, Wyn Jones for transcribing and scanning material from logbook 1, John Atkinson, Doug Bock, Arwen Sutton, Nick Murray, Penny Dorsch – for the front cover design and comments on layout. Finally thanks to Mark Sheldon for his great cartoons reproduced from “Volleys, Scunge and Mac” and his companionship on many walks, we all miss you.