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November 29, 2021

The facts about Bruns historic memorial trees

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Rob Watson and Geoffrey Suthon’s recent letters regarding their doubts as to the existence of memorial pines in the Terrace Reserve in Brunswick Heads claim, ‘there are no newspaper articles referring to the memorial’ and the trees ‘could not have been planted after WW1’. This is totally incorrect as historical articles about the memorial are archived in the National Library of Australia.

The Mullumbimby Star on 15 August 1918 stated, ‘Brunswick Heads has decided to erect an honour avenue in Park St in memory of those who have taken part in the war from the Brunswick. A general scheme of tree planting commences next Monday and will proceed as far as funds allow’.

And from The Northern Star, Friday 9 August 1918, ‘From the Brunswick Heads Progress Association, on the matter of tree planting and special rates, stating that about 17 pounds had been collected which it was understood the council would subsidise pound for pound. Cr Thorne explained the position at some length. They wanted to put a roll of honor on the tree guards, the names of those who left Brunswick for the war. It was decided residents would get the timber for the guards with work to be carried out as soon as possible under the Engineers supervision’.

These historical articles clearly document that local families and the town’s Progress Association started planting memorial trees with named timber tree guards off Park Street in August 1918. Aerial photos of Brunswick from the 1940s show the only place in Park St the planting could have taken place was in the Terrace Reserve, then known as Brunswick Flora Reserve.

My own 87-year-old father recounts the history of the plantings as told to him by his father who helped plant these trees in 1918. He in turn was also one of many local school boys who in the late thirties was passed the important tradition of watering these living memorials.

Five generations of my family have lived opposite the Terrace Reserve since the 1920s and the rows of trees in the southern end of the Terrace Reserve have always been known to us, and respected as memorials to soldiers.

The recent ecologists report referred to by Mr Suthon did indeed state some of the oldest trees being 200 to 400 years old. This has been estimated by trunk girth. However, there are over 250 pines in the south end of the reserve with girths ranging from 40cm to three metres.

Therefore ages of these trees probably range from 20 to over 400 years. An earlier ecological report from 2014 believed the pines in clear rows were planted as they were in exact lines, of similar age and evenly spaced.

Regardless of their ages or their history, the bottom line is the trees are an endangered ecological community (EEC) and must legally be protected.

I find it extremely disrespectful that this well documented and significant piece of local history is being disputed by some, simply because they had hoped to move their mobile homes onto this now protected site.

Sean O’Meara, Brunswick Heads


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  1. Finally some evidence. However a plan by the progress association to “erect an honour avenue in Park St in memory of those who have taken part in the war from the Brunswick” does not justify disparaging the local RSL sub branch or making the following claims:
    “The 500 odd plantings were done by soldiers from Gallipoli and the Western Front.”
    “each cypress pine represents a local soldier who fell in the terrible battle at Lone Pine on the Gallipoli Peninsula in WWI”
    “War blooded and wearied, the returned soldiers planted approximately 500 Coastal Cypress Pines in grid formation over a land area representing the battle front of the Battle of Lone Pine.”
    The last claim being the final straw that stirred me to write to the Echo.

    This does not mean I doubt that trees were planted. But it could also have been at the Veterans Lane end of Park St. When were the norfolk(?) pines at this end of Park St. between the street and the Simpsons creek planted?

    I await more evidence.

  2. Since my comment above I’ve been doing a bit of research myself. As I see it, from the newspaper excerpts below, the “Honor Avenue” in Park St was just one part of a larger undertaking to beautify the village. This beautification included planting pine trees in the Avenue (as the Terrace was then known) to replace wild trees that had been destroyed by fire. Cypress pines had been well established in the area for a long time.

    In 1918 a meeting of the Town Improvement Committee made a number of recommendations including:
    -“an effort will be made to plant more cypress pines in place of those destroyed” as “Three years ago a number of fine trees were killed by the big fire.” and
    -“That a start be made at tree planting in Mullumbimby-street, then up Park-street.”
    The purpose of this work was to “to beautify this favorite resort”.(Northern Star 15 Jul 1918)

    Later it was reported that “it is pleasing to see that the efforts of the committee to make Brunswick Heads the premier seaside resort of the coast being practically supported”.(Mullumbimby Star 15 Aug 1918)

    Also in August “In connection with the town improvement scheme at Brunswick now well under-way,it has been decided to make one street an Honor Avenue….It is thought that the most suitable street; would be Park-street, coming first under view to the visitor arriving in the town after passing through the Avenue road. The trees are now being planted, and the tablets will be affixed at a later date” (Northern Star Wed 28 Aug 1918)

    The Avenue was “the famous avenue of pines” (Mullumbimby Star 4 Nov 1915) “where even on the hottest day the magnificent rows of pine-trees fringing the road as if planted by man afford refreshing shade.” (Mullumbimby Star 5 Jan 1911) .In 1917 there was “no feature of the Brunswick Heads which appeals to the visitor more than the avenue of natural pine trees just approaching the Heads” (Mullumbimby Star 28 Jun 1917). In 1905 it was “a beautiful level avenue between rows of cypress pines”. (Northern Star 29 Jul 1905).
    In 1936 there was a photograph of the avenue in the Northern Star with the caption “Flecked by shadow and sunshine, the long drive through the well known Brunswick cypress pine and gum avenue is a delight to motorists. Foresight was shown in the preservation of the roadside trees when the road was opened up and the avenue to-day is a valued possession”.(Northern Star 8 Feb 1936).

    There is also an old photograph of the avenue in Jim Brokenshire’s book ‘The Brunswick’. There is a “KEEP TO LEFT” sign in this photo which suggests it may have been taken at the Park St. junction. In 1936 a “Keep to the Left” sign was removed from this corner as “the sign tended to divert traffic away from the business section of Brunswick Heads” (Northern Star 19 Nov 1936).

  3. Thanks for the History lesson Rob but you are again totally off the mark.

    The Avenue you are referring to in 1915 is the avenue of trees as you first enter Brunswick Heads near the bowling club. You can still see the old avenue to the left of the current old Pacific Highway as you drive into town. The Terrace (as in the street) has never been known as the Avenue. My understanding is that the avenue was not planted but made by cutting through the large amount of pines bordering the river. Again,this is well documented in local history books and well known to older locals.

    In the book “Brunswick Heads in Focus 1885- 2015, aerial photos from the 1940s show clearly no plantings at the north end of Park street and no Norfolk Pines, these were planted in 1952.

    You quoted from a paper,” it has been decided to make one street an Honor Avenue….It is thought that the most suitable street; would be Park-street, coming first under view to the visitor arriving in the town after passing through the Avenue road. The trees are now being planted, and the tablets will be affixed at a later date” (Northern Star Wed 28 Aug 1918).

    This actually supports the memorial in The Terrace as once you go through the avenue you go straight down the Terrace and then into Park St. This in fact was the main road through town then as Tweed St did not exist.

    I’m not sure why Rob finds it so difficult to accept the oral and documented records of the memorial plantings in the Terrace Reserve and why he is obviously spending many hours trying to dispute clear and important history. Perhaps Rob may be able to research where Brunswick had its memorial (as every town did) before the RSL built its own in Fawcett street in the 1960s.

  4. Rob, your research has really got me thinking and finally answers a question that has stumped me for a while. You unearthed the report ” it has been decided to make one street an Honor Avenue….It is thought that the most suitable street; would be Park-street, coming first under view to the visitor arriving in the town after passing through the Avenue road. The trees are now being planted, and the tablets will be affixed at a later date” (Northern Star Wed 28 Aug 1918).

    This report states on passing through the avenue the first street under view is Park St. Today it is actually The Terrace, but I am now beginning to think that this end of The Terrace was in fact initially called Park St as well. The earliest Brunswick maps I have show no road where the Terrace is now with all houses serviced by the back lane. Later maps show a new road at the top end of The Terrace that runs directly into Park St (but not continuing through the reserve as it now does. Later maps show a full road going all the way along the reserve down to the shops and labelled The Terrace.

    I strongly suspect that when the top end of the Terrace was added to the end of Park St it also shared that name as it was the same road. Later when the Terrace was extended all the way along the Terrace Reserve (Then know as the Brunswick Flora Reserve) the name was changed. If this was the case it would explain a lot of earlier newspaper references.

    Does anybody have any early maps from around 1918 that lists streets as I would be very confident that this theory is correct?

  5. . Sean raises an valid point as to where were Anzac Day services commemorated prior to them been done in Memorial Park?

    . According to Darcy O’Meara, there was a Primary School Principal, and it could well have been Mr Fordham, who would take the students over to the WW1 Memorial Pine Park in the Terrace and tell the story of the Battle of Lone Pine. Darcy O’Meara participated in those annual events for a period.

    The Norfolk Pines in Banner Park and Memorial Park were planted after WW2 and the cenotaph was registered in 1974


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