I met Rotarian Col Jay and his wife Bron on the north bank of the Moruya River at Quarry Park. They were putting the finishing touches to the inside of the hexagonal Rotunda, a pale olive green that blended beautifully with the black and the white granite. ‘This goes back a long way,’ Col said. I felt the beginning of a story.
‘Some visitors who had walked the Harbour Bridge were here today,’ prompted Bron, ‘They were fascinated by seeing where the granite for the Aussie icon came from.’
We looked at the photos showing how the massive pylons were assembled nearby, then the blocks numbered, disassembled, placed on steam barges and reassembled in Sydney like a gargantuan jigsaw. Col said, ‘They were tough, in those days. Each block was cut to within one eighth of an inch.’
Last Saturday, 11th March 2017, a proud group gathered to acknowledge the community work that has given Quarry Park the best BBQ, fishing and sunset spot.
Above: The ribbon cutting group (L to R) Warren Sharpe, Julie Mikhail, Andrew, Constance MP, John Gibson, Ron Chesher, Christine Greig-Adams, Graham Thomas and Mayor Liz Innes.
Warren Sharpe, the Council’s Director of Infrastructure Services, welcomed the various groups involved.
‘This park is a true realisation of community involvement,’ said Mayor Liz Innes as she
welcomed State Member Andrew Constance.
‘Imagine the Bridge without the pylons,’ said Andrew as he listed the many Sydney land marks where Moruya Granite was used.
Graham Thomas of the Sunset Committee which had organised recent improvements said, ‘The council and Rotary work together to get community grants. The work that is celebrated today is Stage One. The aim is to make Quarry Park a really pleasant place to go and have a picnic. Still in progress is Stage Two which is to develop the areas heritage value to Moruya, the state, and perhaps more significantly the nation.’
Christine Greig-Adams, the great granddaughter of the quarry manager John Gilmore spoke of the work of the Sunset Steering Committee and of her hopes for the future stages of development. She wrote the book Not Forgotten – memorials in Granite in 1992.
Allan Jennaway who was President of Moruya Rotary in1990 recalled saying, ‘We need a decent project.’ Ron Chesher took him to where Granite Town once was. ‘There was a wilderness. There was trees and trees. It was used as a place to dump cars. Ron made me climb through and he said there was a great view … that was the beginning.’
‘Nearly every weekend Rotary was here. It was just hard yakka. The fellows chain saws were blunted.’ Allan said of building the John Gilmore Pavilion, ‘Hexagons aren’t easy. Peter Smith constructed it. It was very dangerous. He was on the roof and he said, “Allan you’re on terra firma, firm earth, the lower down the firmer you are, the higher up the more terror.”’
Allan continued, ‘Congratulations to the council who took it over … this is a thing of beauty, absolute beauty.’
The First Fifty Years, Rotary Club of Moruya 1956 -2006 details the story of how the Pavilion was built in 1991-92. ‘The inner wall of concrete block was built by Dave Keble of the Lions Club. The blocks provided by Rotarian Alain Brini. The roof timbers were built by Peter McRae’s carpentry course at TAFE and sheeted with materials provided by Mordek. The John Gilmore sign was made by his grandson Graeme Greig.’
‘The toilet built in 1997 is listed on the Federal Government website www.toiletmap.gov.au as the “Rotary Thunderbox”’.
Getting back to Col Jay he remembers, ‘Later Skill Share made the path along the water with nearby granite. This proved hazardous and Mission Australia, with the offer of help from Wollongong University, got a grant to cover the path with a wooden walkway. Wollongong pulled out and I got the job. For two days a week over 18 months the path was finished. The Manager of Woolworths gave a shipping container for the tools and within three weeks it was forced open and the tools gone.’
Julie Mikhail the Sydney President of Engineers Australia talked of the importance of engineering in changing lives through infrastructure such as improved health because of clean water and sanitation. She said, ‘There are 220 significant engineering sites in Australia recognised with Engineering Heritage Markers.’ On Saturday Moruya’s Granite Town joined this select group.
Bill Glennie, a Scots historian with a special interest in the role of Aberdeen stone masons in the Moruya quarry, gave a short history of the building of the bridge and the importance of the pylons.
Ron Chesher who saw the parks potential twenty-seven years ago, inspires many of the volunteers today. Ron, who lost an uncle when he was working at the quarry, was given the task of cutting the red ribbon to mark the occasion.
In 2016 the Federal Government through Andrew Constance gave $72,000 to give the park it's BBQs with a spectacular view up the Moruya River to the Great Dividing Range along with a concrete walkway and a much needed spruce up of the John Gilmore Pavilion. The Eurobodalla Council also contributed with their $100,000 road upgrade and the ongoing maintenance of the two toilets.
"At any time of the day there is usually fisherman dangling a line from where the wharf used to be. And at dusk you can often find a camper finding peace at the best place in Australia to view the sunset." The ceremony ended with Ron Chesher cutting the ribbon to unveil an interpretative panel and heritage plaque. Council workers provided a community barbecue.
Moruya Granite Quarry is still operated today by the State Government Department of Infrastructure planning and natural resources.