Restoration and commemoration of aviation pioneer Lawrence Hargrave
This restoration project was sponsored by
Thursday 13 December 2001 10:30am
Presentation speeches on the day were made by:
A basic transcript of the presentation follows:
MF-R: Mayor, Members of the Royal Aeronautical Society, invited guests, and friends, my industry colleagues and local residents.
It is with no small pleasure that I record today as an historic event in an historic cemetery.
We have gathered today to remember and commemorate not only a special man of national and international importance but to recognise and congratulate the foresight of a group of men and women I would like to call the first of our 21st Century Philanthropists.
To begin I would like to call upon Bronwyn Kelly the Director of Corporate and Technical Services and representing Kim Anson the General Manager of Waverley Council to say a few words as way of introduction for those not familiar with Waverley Cemetery.
BK: Waverley is regarded as one of the elder statesmen of operating cemeteries in Sydney having first opened its gates in 1877. The 16 hectares (40 acres) of dramatic hillside necropolis is located between Bronte and Clovelly on Sydney's East Coast. The grounds have commanding views of famous Bondi Beach and Wedding Cake Island and Coogee Bay and the open Pacific Ocean. It is the resting place of some of this nations most respected people, writers like Henry Lawson, Henry Kendall and Dorothea Mackellar, Chief Justices, politicians, Colonial Governors, stars of the silent screen and actors from all styles of theatre, and of course the man we commemorate today.
Waverley is undoubtably a treasure trove of history but it is also a fully operational cemetery and the role of combining these two, at times, contrasting responsibilities of historic site and working cemetery has created a unique management challenge.
In the early days Waverley was seen as the choice location for a vault or 'family grave' for the well healed and influential of Sydney society.
On the day of national federation, 1 January 1901, more funerals were conducted at Waverley than any other cemetery in Sydney.
By the end of the 1950's and into the 60's the introduction of lawn grave concepts at new American inspired "Memorial Parks" together with automatic 'perpetual care' arrangements saw traditional cemetery styles falling from public favour. Many older cemeteries began to show the effects of a dramatic shift in maintenance priorities, but Waverley remained true to its original philosophy.
An increase in demand for monumental allotments at Waverley has been experienced since the early 1990’s. Today many still view Waverley as a special place where the opportunity to secure a site in this unique location is seen as a lot more than just another burial plot or cremation memorial at just another cemetery.
124 years after the gates first opened the operation today still follows the virtue of the early days. All graves and memorials are prepared entirely by hand. Hand written ledgers continue their role of recording the daily happenings of the cemetery. All staff members are trained by TAFE qualified on-the-job staff. The dedicated team of full time cemetery personnel not only maintains the grounds but also work dual roles with grave digging and memorial placements.
Waverley Cemetery is a self-funding operation that is not subsidised by ratepayers of the area. This is not a recent restructure; the cemetery from the 1870's has been a stand-alone operation enjoying individual bank accounts and assets from that of any other council enterprise.
The cemetery manager has adopted a pro-active approach to enhance what is now a 'boutique style' cemetery product in an otherwise broadening customer driven market. As a result Waverley is regaining some of its previous importance to the people of the Eastern Suburbs especially those looking for a traditional ‘comfortable’ resting-place. This re-discovery of Waverley has also resulted in a select group of Monumental Masons eager to again construct monuments in the traditional style. This not only results in the client being able to have a grand monument in a grand place but also ensures protection of the historical significance of a 19th century cemetery landscape that will assist other cemeteries who face similar heritage issues in the future.
Today a discerning clientele are still choosing the option of a monumental grave in the romantic style. We are happy to be able to provide just that.
MF-R: Thanks Bronwyn. By way of a snapshot of the cemetery where so many influential people are buried I will run through some simple statistics that impact on the management and operation of the cemetery today:
Over an average year Waverley Cemetery will;
Managing this unique cemetery landscape is a rare opportunity in itself but being able to revisit the concepts of the 1860's and rework them in a meaningful way for the cemetery clients of tomorrow ensures Waverley Cemetery will retain its charm and character and be relevant for a long time to come.
I now call upon the Mayor of Waverley, Paul Pearce to say a few words about our man of honour.
PP: On November 12, 1894, Lawrence Hargrave linked four of his special kites together, added a sling seat, and successfully flew 16 feet. By demonstrating to a sceptical public that it was possible to build something as unbelievable as a safe, stable flying machine, Hargrave opened the door to other inventors and engineering pioneers. Remember this was the 1890s and only a small number of inventors were working to translate basic aviation theory into aeroplanes. Leading the race was Hargrave, a quintessential nineteenth-century gentleman scientist of independent means. A gifted explorer, astronomer, amateur historian, and practical inventor, Hargrave devoted most of his life to constructing a machine that would fly.
He believed passionately in open communication within the scientific community and would not patent his inventions. Instead he widely published the results of his experiments.
The Wright brothers of America had access to Hargraves' work through the aviation annuals published by James Means, and Octave Chanute. Chanute, who corresponded with the Wright brothers, devoted a section of his aviation book to Hargraves' experiments, however the Wright brothers, constrained by the politics and patent problems of the time, were to admitted no external inspiration.
The French however freely acknowledged Hargraves’ influence. When Gabriel Voisin built the first commercially available aircraft, based on the stable lifting surfaces of Hargraves’ box kites, he called them "Hargraves."
In 1889 Hargrave revolutionised engine technology by inventing the radial rotary engine. Although as early as 1892 Hargrave had voiced his opposition to the idea of the "connection of the flying machine with dynamite missiles," his radial engine was extensively used in early military aircraft until it was eventually superseded by new technology.
Hargraves’ concern for the peaceful circulation of knowledge was demonstrated in his concern for the safe display of his working models in an environment freely open to the public. The only museum of the time that would meet his terms was the Deutsche Technological Museum in Munich. It is ironic that most of Hargraves’ 176 working models were destroyed in the allied aerial bombing of Germany during World War II. The 25 surviving models were restored in the 1960s and later moved to the Powerhouse Museum here in Sydney.
Octave Chanute wrote in 1893 that "If there be one man more than another who deserves to succeed in flying, that man is Mr Lawrence Hargrave of Sydney."
It wasn’t all plain sailing though, during his lifetime Hargrave never did solve the power-to-weight ratio problems of many of his designs.
A 1902 design was put to the test 90 years later when in 1992 students at the University of Sydney rebuilt this aircraft from the original blueprints; the only modification was to replace Hargraves’ original power plant with a modern one……….it flew.
Hargrave lived nearby in Elizabeth Bay and when he died was living in Darlinghurst. It is noted that when Hargrave was developing his aerodynamic models he spent time studying the waves of the ocean, the shape of fish and the lines of the sea birds. It is perhaps somehow fitting that the place where he is buried has so much in common with these early inspirations drawn from the ocean.
MF-R: It is now indeed a pleasure to call the Royal Aeronautical Society Australia Division Sponsors of today’s commemoration and dedication, Captain Ian Watkins to stand and say a few words.
Captain Watkins' address:
MF-R: Ladies and Gentlemen it is with honour that I ask the Mayor and the representative members of the Royal Aeronautical Society (Australian Division) (our inaugural cemetery sponsors) to sign the presentation certificates, (two are parchment and one a silk), and before us to formally commit this day to history.
Now I think the moment we have been waiting for if you would like to follow me we will proceed to the grave and unveil the restored monument.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Lawrence Hargrave.
View the Sydney Morning Herald Article on the restoration.
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