The Red Gum Walk sign, Boronia Park, Epping, 1952. Source: City of Parramatta Council Archives

 

 In the dappled sunlight of Boronia Park in Epping, a mysterious and forlorn sign stands by an avenue of trees.

Although now barely decipherable, writing on the weathered sign reads “The Red Gum Walk, commemorating Alfred T Kay, First Town Clerk of the Greater City of Parramatta, 1952”.

The sign connects two clever and popular men, whose lives unfolded during an important period in the local history of Parramatta and its neighbourhoods. The story behind the sign is one of community and duty, tragedy and achievement. The story also illustrates the various forms of local government records, and reinforces the importance of their preservation.

The Red Gum Walk sign, Boronia Park, Epping, 2018. Source: Michelle Goodman

The Red Gum Walk: Commemoration

On 28 November 1953 a special ceremony was held in honour of the late Mr A T Kay, Town Clerk of Parramatta. Not far from his home in Epping Avenue, Epping a tree-lined avenue on the edge of Boronia Park, to be known as the Red Gum Walk, was dedicated to the memory of this well-respected and popular member of the community.[1]

Dedication of the Red Gum walk in honour of Mr A T Kay was recorded in the formal records of Council. Source: Minutes of the Meeting of the City of Parramatta Council, 16 November 1953, Minute: 7957

Alfred Thomas Kay was born in 1893 in Pyrmont, and grew up in Drummoyne. His career in local government commenced in 1909 when, at the age of 16, he was appointed as a clerk at Drummoyne Municipal Council.[2] In 1915, following the outbreak of hostilities in Europe, Kay enlisted for active service, and proceeded to France as a Limber Gunner for the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). During his time on the battlefields of the First World War, Kay earned a promotion to the rank of Bombardier. As a result of being seriously wounded in action several times, his rank was eventually reduced.[3]

Papers recording Alfred Thomas Kay’s enlistment in the AIF, 1915. Source: National Archives of Australia

In addition to injuries sustained by exploding enemy shells, Kay was poisoned by gas on at least two occasions. He was invalided back to England in September 1918, returned to Australia on the troop ship ‘Aeneas’, and was discharged from the AIF in March 1919.[4] The following year, Kay married Jessie Brett Bush in Sydney. [5]

On return from the war, Kay resumed his career in local government. He was appointed Deputy Town Clerk of Ashfield in 1922[1], then served as Town Clerk of Blackheath from May 1927.[6] Kay’s career progressed to the role of Town Clerk at Dundas from 1931 and, following the amalgamation of Dundas with Parramatta City Council in 1948, Kay became the first Town Clerk of the Greater City of Parramatta.[7] Kay was a dedicated Civic official, a popular colleague and a highly-regarded member of the local community. Around this time, Kay and his wife settled in Epping Avenue, Epping.[8]

Portrait of Town Clerk Mr A T Kay, c. 1950. Source: City of Parramatta Council Cultural Collections, Mayoral Portrait Collection [Ref: ACC190/01/01] 

Early in 1952, Kay developed bronchitis. Tragically, with lungs damaged by gas poisoning during the war, Kay quickly lost his battle with the illness, and passed away in his sleep on 10 February 1952. For the local community, Kay’s death was wholly unexpected, and the sudden loss of this well-respected man plunged the community into grief and dismay.

Expressions of sympathy were received from many members of the public, stating their deep shock at the news of Kay’s untimely passing at the peak of his career in local government. Following the news of Kay’s death, a two-minute silence was observed in his honour at the following meeting of Council. Kay was described by fellow staff as a ‘good boss and friend to all of us’.[9]

Formal expressions of sympathy and respect on the death of Mr A T Kay were recorded by Council. Source: Minutes of the Parramatta City Council (10 March 1952), Minute: 5523

In 1952, a pathway lined with magnificent trees in Boronia Park, Epping was dedicated to the memory of Kay, and renamed ‘The Red Gum Walk’. The ceremony was attended by his widow, Jessie, as well as representatives from Parramatta City Council, many of whom were moved to tears during the gathering to mark the passing of their friend and colleague.[10]

Location of the Red Gum Walk in Boronia Park, Epping (marked in blue), 2018. Source: City of Parramatta Council

The Red Gum Walk: Moving images

We are aware of the emotional scenes during the dedication of Red Gum Walk, as the unveiling of the sign was captured on film by the Parramatta city engineer and town planner, as well as avid amateur filmmaker, William (Bill) Charles Andrews.

Segment of footage of the opening of the Red Gum Walk in honour of Parramatta Town Clerk Mr A T Kay, filmed by city engineer and town planner, Bill Andrews, 1953. Source: City of Parramatta Archives [ref: PRS77/085]

Born in New Zealand in 1908, Andrews was educated at Sydney Technical High School, going on to qualify in Local Government engineering at Sydney Technical College and becoming a licensed surveyor in 1929. His first appointment in local government was as an assistant engineer in Ku-ring-gai Municipal Council transferring to Tenterfield Shire in 1934.[11]

His outstanding skills as an engineer were in demand during World War II, when he was seconded to the New South Wales Department of Public Works, supervising and co-ordinating a number of projects in New Guinea, before briefly returning to Tenterfield at the conclusion of the war.[12]

Both brilliant and ambitious, Andrews was appointed senior planning officer with Cumberland County Council Regional Planning Authority, serving in that capacity from 1946 to 1950 and gaining valuable experience in strategic planning, before becoming city engineer and town planner at Parramatta in 1950.

Portrait of city engineer and town planner, Mr Bill Andrews, c. 1950. Source: City of Parramatta Council Cultural Collections, Mayoral Portrait Collection [Ref: ACC190/02/01]

Recognising the potential for growth and development across Parramatta, Andrew’s vision for the city called for bold and imaginative decisions.[13]. During his time at Parramatta, Andrews laid the foundations for the city’s pioneering Town Planning Scheme, resolved to be formulated by Council in October 1946. Mr Andrews also designed and implemented a central traffic system in the Parramatta CBD, and played a significant role in the construction of the new Council Chambers, which opened in 1958.[14]

Mr Andrews’ role in the completion of the new administrative building, Council Chambers, was formally acknowledged by Council. Source: Minutes of the Meeting of the Parramatta City Council, 2 June 1958. Minute: 14478

Planning proposals supported by Mr Andrews during his tenure at Parramatta were not always without controversy. For example, in 1954 a plan to extend McArthur Park in Granville by resumption and relocation of two houses and a shop in Onslow Street was met with vehement opposition by some of the aldermen and local residents, who signed a petition against the plan.[15]

During his time at Parramatta, Andrews also indulged his passion for moving pictures. He recorded on 16mm film a great variety of events around the district, as well as documenting Council public works such as the building of roads, bridges, parks and swimming pools. A number of Andrew’s films are now stored in the City of Parramatta Council Archives – a resource that provides a colourful and fascinating insight into the city during the 1950s.

Parramatta city engineer and town planner Bill Andrews had a keen interest in filming Council events and public works. Source: Where’er he walks. (11 June 1952). Cumberland Argus, p. 1

In 1959, Andrews transferred from Parramatta City Council to the Capital Development Commission, where he took special responsibility the engineering design and construction of many of the most renowned structures in Canberra, the Australian capital city. Major projects Andrews managed included the construction of Lake Burley Griffin, major roads including Anzac Parade, and notable buildings such as the National Library of Australia, (Old) Parliament House extensions and the Canberra College of Advanced Education. Andrews’ remit also included planning and constructing infrastructure for the new Canberra town centre.[16] Andrews was awarded an OBE in 1967.[17]

 The Red Gum Walk: Civic memory

The intersecting stories of the dedicated and popular Town Clerk Mr A T Kay, and the brilliant and ambitious city engineer and town planner Bill Andrews, are recorded within various forms of Local Government records, now safely stored in the City of Parramatta Archives.

Government records of significance are required by legislation to be permanently retained, for reasons of evidence and transparency. The Red Gum Walk story illustrates the important role such records also play in the preservation of Civic memory. Various in form, together these records bring to life the history and spirit of our city – its officials, employees and residents, for now and the future.

The dedication of Red Gum Walk occurred shortly after the Amalgamation Act, 1948 led to the formation of the Greater Parramatta City Council. The new Council emerged into a society that was recalibrating, post-World War II, and on the cusp of a long period of prosperity, future-looking and achievement.

Group portrait featuring both Mr A T Kay, Town Clerk (front row, fourth from left) and Mr ‘Bill’ Andrews, city engineer and town planner (back row, far right), c.1950. Source: City of Parramatta Council Cultural Collections, Mayoral Portrait Collection [Ref: ACC190/02/01]

Crystallised in the formal Council records, and the technicolour moments of the Red Gum Walk film footage, are the fledgling years of the new Greater Parramatta City Council. Captured there too are the personal stories of Mr A T Kay and Mr Bill Andrews – one, a well-regarded man at the sudden end of a life of dedicated public service; the other, in possession of a brilliant and innovative mind, in the consolidating years of a stellar career that would culminate in helping to build Australia’s national capital.

 

Michelle Goodman, Archivist and Cathy Hardy, Research Assistant, City of Parramatta, 2018

 

References:

[1] Minutes of the Meeting of the Parramatta City Council (25 February 1952), Minute: 5523  

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/andrews-william-charles-bill-12140, retrieved 5 June 2018

[2] Mr A T Kay. (19 November 1931). Cumberland Argus, p. 4 

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/andrews-william-charles-bill-12140, retrieved 22 May 2018

[3] Service record for Alfred Thomas Kay, National Archives of Australia 

[4] Service record for Alfred Thomas Kay, National Archives of Australia

Kass et al (1996). Parramatta: A Past Revealed, Sydney: Parramatta City Council, pp. 375-376

[5] NSW Index Births, Deaths and Marriages, Marriage certificate No. 5594 

[6] Mayors to 1922. (17 February 1922). Daily Telegraph, p. 4

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/andrews-william-charles-bill-12140, retrieved 22 May 2018

[7] Blackheath. (6 May 1927). Blue Mountains Echo, p. 6

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/andrews-william-charles-bill-12140, retrieved 22 May 2018

[8] Sudden Passing of P’matta Town Clerk. (20 Feb 1952). Cumberland Argus, p. 1

[9] Sudden Passing of P’matta Town Clerk. (20 Feb 1952). Cumberland Argus, p. 1

[10] Sudden Passing of P’matta Town Clerk. (20 Feb 1952). Cumberland Argus, p. 1

[11] City of Parramatta Council Archives Film Collection [Ref: PRS77/085]

[12] http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/andrews-william-charles-bill-12140, retrieved 22 May 2018

[13] http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/andrews-william-charles-bill-12140, retrieved 22 May 2018

 [14] Kass et al (1996). Parramatta: A Past Revealed, Sydney: Parramatta City Council, pp. 375-376

[15] Advertising. (13 November 1946). Cumberland Argus, p. 12

[16] Homes, Shop, To Go In Park Extension Resumption. (21 April 1954). Cumberland Argus, p.10

[17] http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/andrews-william-charles-bill-12140, retrieved 22 May 2018

[18] http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/andrews-william-charles-bill-12140, retrieved 22 May 2018