Friday, December 9, 2016

Henry Kendall Birthplace Cairn 1913

Henry Kendall the Australian Poet as born on April 18 1839 in a settlers hut near Yackungarrah Creek County of St Vincent, he was baptized as Thomas Henry Kendall with his twin bother Basil Edward on July 26 1840. His birthplace at Kirmington Park Milton was officially acknowledged in 1913 and again in 1972 by the students of Milton Public School.

Henry Kendall Birth placeThe Stone cairn erected in 1913 which survived for many years was eventually disassembled and the stones used for a creek crossing. It was replaced with a sandstone monument in 1972.

In 1913 the cairn was built on the site of the bedroom where the port was born, under the directions of Mr Harry Kendall – only the chimney was left standing of the old house. Mr William Healey, headmaster of Milton Public School (1895 – 1913) was a lover of Henry Kendall’s poetry. He suggested the stone cairn be erected in honour of the poet’s birthplace, as part of the student’s studies.

The monzonite stones used for the cairn were from the nearby creek located on Kirmington Park. Henry Kendall, a cousin of Henry Kendall and personal friend of William Healey, was the owner of Kirmington Park.

Miss Annie Huxley, a pupil of Milton Public School wrote of her memories in 1966 of the Kendall Day Celebrations held on Wednesday December 10 1913. She spoke of her teacher Mr Lapping setting several of Kendall’s poems to music, which were sung by the whole school and of her reciting the poem Araluen.

Part of the ceremony included Gwen Pearman laying a wreath on the cairn, along with speeches by both Harry Kendall and William Healey. The school children had marched out to Yatte Yattah where the parents and visitors had prepared a luncheon before the ceremony.

The celebration of Kendall and his poetry was reported in the Ulladulla and Milton Times, December 20 1913

Wednesday, December 10, was celebrated as Kendall Day when over 50 Children and adult residents made a pilgrimage to the site of Henry Kendall’s birthplace at Yatte Yattah. A large stone cairn was erected by the pupils to mark the birthplace of the beloved poet. The children sang The Girl I Left Behind to the words of Kendall. Victor Riley recited Bellbirds, a sweetly metrical poem descriptive of those very interesting little birds. Pupils sang The Last of his Tribe, the sad wailing reference to almost total disappearance of our Aboriginal races.

Interest in Henry Kendall’s birthplace was resparked by Mrs Mary Nicholls, a local resident in the late 1960s (now deceased). As like William Healey, she too was a lover of Henry Kendall’s writings. However it was not until April 18 1972 that a replacement monument was erected at Kirmington Park, jointly by the Milton Ulladulla Historical Society and the then Shoalhaven Shire with students from Milton Public School, 133 years after Kendall’s birth.

Five of the original students from Milton Public School, who had been there in 1913, returned to Kirmington Park for the unveiling of the 1972 monument. They were Mr Phillip Healey (son of the 1913 headmaster), Mrs Rita Ryan nee Hession, Miss Doris Davis and Mr Lee Davis.

Many regional towns have put claim to Kendall – Gosford and Coffs Harbour to name a few. But what significance does the 1913 cairn and its replacement have to the community of Milton Ulladulla?

There are serious doubts that Kendall’s birthplace and its surrounds had any influence of his writings. This may wel be as Kendall’s first published work was in the form of a song, Silent Tears appearing in the Australian Home Companion and Band of Hope Journal, February 1859. Kendall being 20 years old, Kendall and his family lived at Mandnal (Kirmington Park) until 1844, so the poet left this district at the age of five years.

The Milton Ulladulla Community has honoured him and his birthplace. We may not be able to lay privilege to all of his glory, but we have still honoured his contribution to our literature and cultural history.

Copyright © Cathy Dunn 2004

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