The Battle of Blue Gum (in a Nutshell)

The Battle of Blue Gum in a Nutshell was written by Sandy Holmes for Blue Mountains National Park to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the protection of Blue Gum Forest. Blue Gum is an exquisite pocket of the Blue Mountains Landscape, recognised as Australia’s Cradle of Conservation.

No lives are lost in the tale I tell, no bloodshed, guts or glory
No heroic deeds occur in the ‘Battle for Blue Gum’ story
It’s a simple tale of a sacred forest and folk who walked the tracks
Of people moved to save a place from the threat of the foresters’ axe

Clarrie Hungerford of Bilpin way often loved to go
to his forty acre leasehold in the valley down below
From near Mount Banks he built a track so he could graze his cattle
in a magic river valley, soon the heart of the Blue Gum Battle

Rigby was a bush walker and not your average tourist
Adventurer, explorer, an apostle of the forest
‘Round Easter, Nineteen Thirty-One: I can’t be clear with dates
Alan Rigby came to walk the mountains with some mates

They stumbled on the Hungerford patch and found themselves surrounded
By a mighty stand of Blue Gums: guess they must have been astounded
How Rigby and Hungerford met that day is not exactly certain
The sound of an axe or men on horseback, a chance meet or some other version?

But meet they did, and Rigby heard of Hungerford’s intention
Whose scheme was quite enough to get poor Rigby’s full attention
Seems that Clarrie told him that the massive Blue Gum stands
Though lovely, were unprofitable and he had other plans

To fell the trees, to clear the ground so walnuts could be farmed
Hungerford’s ideas left Alan Rigby most alarmed
For Rigby never yet had met such Blue Gums grand as these
What fool would fell the forest here to plant some walnut trees?

Upon return to Sydney, Rigby shared his firm opinion
That this forest was at risk within the Hungerford dominion
No swathe of scrubby bushland or a patch of scraggly trees
But an ancient stand of Blue Gums, bringing grown men to their knees

A well-liked bloke was Rigby and it seems, quite well connected
His networks rallied strong to have the Blue Gum stands protected
With Lawry, Lockley, (Redgum), Barnard, Bennet, Berry, Roots
Griffiths, Turner, Dunphy and some others in cahoots

Miles Dunphy took the lead, approaching government
And found the lease was legal: Clarrie didn’t need consent
To fell a tree or fifty, to completely raze the land
Dunphy and the walkers had to find another plan

So Dunphy wrote, re Portion 528 to the lessee
Relinquish rights to Blue Gum for a fair but modest fee?
Hungerford responded and a meeting was arranged
So parties could discuss how land and money be exchanged
The forest site was chosen as the obvious location
To meet and undertake the back-and-forth negotiation
A golden opportunity! Would Hungerford agree?
With due respect, I do suspect he rubbed his hands with glee

When the representatives set foot within the forest
Their awe of the magnificence was counterclaimed with horrors
A ‘scalp of Blue Gum’ met them, born of cunning pragmatism
The walkers looked aghast at Clarrie’s act of vandalism

For Hungerford and Pierce (from up the northern ridge as well)
Had managed in between them, one almighty tree to fell
Thus Clarrie clearly indicated plans for further use
But was this threat legitimate, or was it just a ruse?

One hundred and fifty pounds agreed: the forest purchase price
And now to coax the Lands Department boffins to play nice
Somehow eventually somebody got them to come to some kind of agreement
Battling bureaucracy: the greenies first achievement!

But raising one hundred and fifty quid in the midst of the Great Depression?
Donations scrounged as the vendor allows time to pay and a pricing concession
The members of Sydney Bush Walkers and those of Mountain Trails
Used their resources and summoned the sources to cover such ‘minor details’

For more than a year the committee breathed fear that the forest would fall to the axe
Til finally came enough signatures signed and near enough dollars amassed
Clarrie collected the sum of the debt, one hundred and thirty quid
The Lands Department signed the deeds according to Dunphy’s bid

Its true perhaps the ‘Battle for Blue Gum’ is somewhat over rated
Even the threats that Clarrie had made: a trifle over stated?
He probably couldn’t have grown his nuts and probably wouldn’t have tried
But I regard the forest they saved with real bushwalkers’ pride

Portion 528 reserved for Public Recreation
1932 reclaims Australian conservation
September 2nd honours the legends that fought in the Battle of Blue Gum
They claimed the reservation number 63521

Blue Gum Forest is otherwise known as the Cradle of Conservation
A place where walkers learn of and love the magic and wealth of our nation
More than bricks and mortar, finance, jobs, prestige and such
A story of humanity, the few who saved so much
A story of National Parks, of Reservation 63521
A story of conservation, this is the Battle of Blue Gum