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Byron Shire
January 20, 2022

Poet’s Tree at Wardell recognised

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The Poet’s Tree, East Wardell. Ballina Shire Council.

One of outgoing Councillor Sharon Parry’s last actions at Ballina Shire Council was to recommend that council support a new sign to draw attention to a little-known part of East Wardell’s history, the Poet’s Tree.

The proposed bronze plaque reads: ‘Edwin (‘Peter’) Wilson, Poet & Painter, b.1942, lived for his first five years in an adjacent fibro cottage, built (1941) on the site of the pioneer ‘log cabin’ (of vertical split slabs of cabbage palm stems), home of his great grandparents (illiterate Danish absconder Charles Wilson (anglicised) and his Gaelic-speaking Famine Orphan wife Mary Rirdan/Riordan).’

Poet’s Tree hanging over the old highway. Photo David Lowe.

The text continues; ‘Edwin had planted this Lord Howe Island banyan tree (1968) near where the original wharf had been, when the river was only road.

‘The southern banyan tree (also planted 1968) was dedicated (2004) to his half-brother, Edwin (‘Jim’) Onslow/Wilson (1939-2008), who had found him in 2003.’

Ballina Council was asked to support the creation of a bronze plaque to be placed at the tree in recognition of the significant contributions made by Mr Edwin Wilson, subject to the tree being listed on the Significant Tree Register.

While many thousands of cars would have driven past this tree when this was the route of the main highway (it is now on Blackwall Drive), few would have been aware of its significance.

Edwin Wilson at the tree in 2004. Photo supplied.

Now that the road is much quieter, and Wardell has been bypassed, the hope is that visitors to East Wardell will now have a chance to stop and think about the history of the area, before there was a road there at all.

While Edwin Wilson lives in Sydney now, he still owns the neighbouring farm.

Mr Wilson says there are many references to the Poet’s Tree in his many published works, both in words and images.

‘It is my hope that this tree will become a place of visitation for family and friends, and a wider circle of people who like my poetry, and as such become an important component of the local community,’ he said.

The motion passed with the support of all councillors except Crs Meehan, Johnston and Smith.

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  1. A lovely idea – especially to commemorate a poet rather than a footballer or a soldier (even though they may be worthwhile poetry is a gentler more sensitive pursuit). I’d like to see notices to commemorate groups too – like the CWA, The Knitting Nannas and organisations working to combat domestic violence and homelessness. Thanks Sharon Parry for your recommendation for this tree, and for all you did during your term on Council. We will miss your incisive and principled approach.

  2. it says heaps about the character, politics and pettiness of councillors Meehan, Johnston and Smith that they opposed something as trivial as a plaque that commemorates a wonderful tree and a slice of local history. I suspect it was opposed purely on the basis of a motion proposed by Cr Parry. Yet they all maintain politics plays no part in their decisions on council. It would be interesting to hear the feeble justification for their decisions.


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