The planting of living memorials as avenues of honour, prevalent across so many regions of rural Victoria during and shortly after WW1 , included the Central Highlands. A number of these sites within the inner Blackwood Ranges, included Barrys Reef, and Blackwood.
Despite lack of clear information and records, it is claimed the Barrys Reef Avenue of Honour was established on Arbour Day in 1919 to honour 29 soldiers (possibly former students of the school), who enlisted from the settlement, during WW1. Legend suggests the Barry’s Reef State School No. 885 Committee and former head teacher Miss Eleanor Taylor, planted 29 Elm trees on Arbour Day. The vestiges of these original memorial trees are in fact Oak trees.
R: Barrys Reef Honour Roll, proudly displayed within the Backwood Hall (image Glenn Williams)
This activity to establish the Avenue of Honour supposedly involved current pupils of the day and relatives of the men who had served. Local history reports that each tree had a metal nameplate and this was attached to two big pieces of hardwood that had come from the poppet head of the Sultan Mine which was being dismantled at the time. The reason being that a large number of the 29 men honoured, had been employed in some capacity at the mine prior to 1914. It is said that Miss Taylor carried countless buckets of water from mine holes to try to keep the trees alive during the summer months, but only two trees survived – that of Will Broad and Fred Rattray.
When visiting the site today, it can be seen that perhaps seven of those remnant Oak tree plantings remain, forming the Avenue’s original orientation.
The area surrounding the Avenue’s site had been active with mining (Sultan Mine), sawmilling (Wightman’s Sawmill) and brewing (Goodges Brewery). It could be supposed the alignment of the original Avenue followed a path between the Sultan Mine and Wightman’s Sawmill.
The other 21 Oaks are self-sown 2nd & 3rd generation trees.
Over time and challenged by regrowth of forest vegetation, realignment of the Greendale-Trentham Road, clearance for a fire track and powerline easement, plummeting industry and population decline and the ingress of weedy shrubs and trees, the Barrys Reef Avenue of Honour faded into obscurity.
For a century as their community and landscape radically changed around them, the oaks matured, multiplied, fell and were reborn in quiet and grand solitude.
Barrys Reef WW1 Avenue of Honour Restoration Project
|This project commenced in 2017 with a group of passionate community-minded folk, steered by local champion Pippa Morris and coordinated through the Ballan RSL Sub-branch. Since then they have established great working relationships with many individuals, groups, organisations and all levels of government, in developing restoration and rededication plans, to transform this special site into a reflective and informative community space|
Top-left: Pippa Morris sets the scene, flanked by dignitaries
Top-right: Pippa assists The Hon. Mary-Anne Thomas MP to unveil a facsimile of the ‘launch’ plaque
Bottom-left: Rod Edwards (Ballan RSL), Des Callaghan OAM (State Senior Vice President RSL VIC), Rick Campey (Senior Vice President, Ballan RSL),
Bert Jervis (Ballan RSL), Narel Jones (Ballan RSL)
Bottom-right: L-R Back Row: Mr Sam Rae MP, Federal Member for Hawke, Pippa Morris (Ballan RSL), Hon Mary-Anne Thomas MP, State Member for Macedon, Des Callaghan OAM (State Senior Vice President RSL VIC); L-R Front Row: Cr Moira Berry (Moorabool Shire), Cr Rod Ward (Mayor, Moorabool Shire),
Cr Ally Munari (Deputy Mayor, Moorabool Shire)
Images Glenn Williams
The Barry’s Reef WW1 Avenue of Honour Restoration Project was formally launched by keen supporter and advocate, The Honourable Mary-Anne Thomas MP, Seat of Macedon, Victoria.
This was prefaced by Pippa Morris, project instigator and former President of the RSL Sub-branch, captivating those in attendance with her overview of the Project, from its genesis.
Representing the Project’s Community Reference Group, Pippa explained the desire to put the Avenue back into context for the current community and public consciousness.
Given the fate of the original Blackwood Avenue, the Barrys Reef site is the only remaining, relatively intact, vestige of living memorials in the Blackwood Ranges.
The Community Reference Group clearly understand the responsibility to recover the site and appreciate the established partnerships in achieving a key aspect for this Project: to do it right, to do it well, to do it respectfully, in a way that honours the sacrifice of the soldiers, but also those who were left behind, and those who returned from service.
Pippa Morris, Margot Hitchcock and the Blackwood & District Historical Society, are gratefully acknowledged in providing content for this page.