Myles Joseph DUNPHY (1891–1996),

Regarded as the father of conservation in NSW

In looking through land titles for Patonga we came across the name Myles Joseph DUNPHY who had purchased in May 1934, Lot 5 in Bay Street.  The title described Mr DUNPHY as being an architect from Mortdale.  

Some further digging identified that Mr Dunphy had been an influential figure in the bush walking groups of Sydney. This in turn makes sense that Mr Dunphy retained the property until November 1960 when it was sold to Colin ZWAN.  The bush walks around Patonga are extensive and beautiful.

It is with a little pride that we note he kept a little piece of Patonga near to 30 years but why the statement that he “was regarded as the father of conservation in NSW” and also in some quarters credited as “the father of the National Parks systems”.

From NSW Teachers Federation page.

Myles Joseph Dunphy, was a resident of Oatley, and as a marathon bushwalker he galvanised the bushwalking conservation movement into articulating a vision for legislative protection of the environment. He spent a lifetime walking, mapping and calling for national parks to be established.

He had a particular passion for the Blue Mountains and this led to the creation of the Blue Mountains National Park in 1959. In 2000, the Greater Blue Mountains National Park became a World Heritage Area.  Dunphy’s maps were the guide for most bushwalkers and his skill is evident in the image below.

Sample of Dunphy's sketches
Sample of Dunphy’s sketches from Dunphy Collection at NSW State Library

Dunphy was an architect and was appointed as a full-time teacher for architectural engineering and later architectural history at Sydney Technical College in 1922. Later, this section of TAFE would become part of the University of NSW. For his work in architecture Myles was awarded Life Fellowship of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects in 1970.

In 1914 Dunphy, with his friends Roy Rudder and Bert Gallop, formed the Mountain Trails Club. Membership was by invitation only and required a stiff initiation ritual of a twenty-mile (32 km) walk.

Dunphy’s association with formal walking clubs reflected his search for a recreational area free from the constraints of urbanisation. He later wrote that people needed a space to rid themselves ‘of the shackles of ordered existence’, and this belief sustained his approach to conservation.   Perhaps Patonga provided this space as it does for so many people who have homes here.

Dunphy mobilised the “bushwalking conservation” movement that rose to prominence in the 1930s during the Depression with the popularity of bushwalking as an inexpensive sport.

It was Dunphy and his bushwalking colleagues who in fact coined the word “bushwalking” when they formed the club, The Sydney Bush Walkers.

Dunphy in Bushwalking kit C 1912
Myles in bushwalking gear 1915

As the Mountain Trails Club did not admit women as members, in 1927 the Sydney Bush Walkers club was formed, with Dunphy as a foundation member. Through this club, he focused on protecting bushland from development. He helped to negotiate the purchase of the lease of the Blue Gum Forest on the Grose River in 1931-32 to save the area from being logged. Similarly, an area of the Garawarra coastline in Sydney’s south was reserved as parkland in 1934 after Dunphy directed a lobbying campaign aimed at the under-secretary for the Department of Lands.

In 1925 Myles married Margaret Peet and shortly after bought a dog which he called Dex.  In 1929 son Milo arrived.   Dunphy quite often trekked with his wife, Margaret, son Milo and dog Dex.

Margaret Peet & Myles Dunphy C 1922-1925
Margaret Peet & Myles Dunphy C 1922-1925

Dex was known to have his own boots and on one trip from Oberon to Kanangra they even pushed Milo in a pram.

Dex and his boots
Dex and his boots
Kanangara Express
Kanangara Express

In 1933 Dunphy had helped to form another group, the National Parks and Primitive Areas Council, which sought the reservation of scenic areas for recreation. He looked enviously on the development of national parks in the United States of America and hoped to encourage similarly protected environments in New South Wales for bushwalkers. As secretary of the NP&PAC, in 1934 Dunphy publicised a proposal for a Blue Mountains national park that had been submitted in 1932, but it was not until 1959 that lobbying resulted in a government gazettal of 155,676 acres (63,000 ha). This park was only a quarter of the size envisioned by Dunphy but with subsequent additions, such as the Wollemi National Park in 1979, the eventual Greater Blue Mountains Park fulfilled his original proposal. Other parklands, for example the Warrumbungle National Park in 1953, were created as a result of NP&PAC lobbying and his maps. In 1967, with the establishment of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the lobbying role of the NP&PAC diminished but Dunphy served on the Blue Mountains National Parks Trust and in his retirement successfully fought the Geographical Names Board of New South Wales, of which he was an honorary counsellor, to retain the names he had chosen in the Blue Mountains region.

He was appointed OBE in 1977 and was given the Fred M. Packard International Parks merit award by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in 1982.  He was active in promoting conservational issues until his later years.

Myles Dunphy aged 93
Myles DUNPHY aged 93 in 1984 article

Myles believed the preservation of nature was crucial for the wellbeing of modern society. He recognised how dangerous big business could be for the environment in its pursuit of profits. He opposed the privatisation and commercialisation of scenic, majestic and beautiful natural places.

Myles believed that pristine natural landscapes were too important to the nation to develop, log or mine. He believed they belonged not only to his generation but for future generations. People needed wild, beautiful places to maintain their mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing.

Myles Dunphy’s brilliance was that he was able to articulate and promulgate an alternative vision for the land. Instead of “conquering”, “exploiting” and “clearing land for improvement” he and his strong network of bushwalkers wanted national parks and wild places conserved, appreciated and walked. That is why many came to call him the “father of the conservation movement”.

Memorials include Dunphy’s Campground (Southern Blue Mountains area); Myles Dunphy Reserve at Oatley; a Display of the Dunphy collection at the National Museum of Australia; The Dunphy Award from the Nature Conservation Council for the most outstanding environment effort by an individual.

Myles Dunphy was also active in war historian Charles Bean’s post-World War I Parks and Playground Movement that demanded governments put aside the protection of open space, playground and sporting areas. Locally, all this work is under threat with the review of Crown Lands that proposes to “divest” of public lands and “assets”. Many local communities like Patonga are concerned to hold onto their public or community spaces as local government seeks to commercialise them.

To hear him speak you can access an interview with Myles Dunphy by Maryanne Quinn as part of a program of oral histories for the Blue Mountains.


More Stories from Patonga – looking for contributors

It is a publication titled ‘Stories from Patonga’ that was released in December 2010.  It is a collection of stories from 33 people who lived in Patonga between 2006-2010.  It is not an historical account, but rather a collection of those people’s memories that sometimes gave glimpses of Patonga’s history.

In January 2020, Patonga Project announced that work would begin on a new edition, ‘More Stories from Patonga’.  In the first edition, I would sit with people and have a chat about their experiences and memories of Patonga.  The conversation was recorded and later transcribed.  The Corona virus disrupted our plans for some time. With restrictions now being lifted, we can now proceed and we have developed an additional pathway.If you have a computer, can you send me a story?  The only rules are, there must be some relationship to Patonga and you can’t make any comment that others might find hurtful.

Some questions that may help you focus include:

How did you get to find Patonga?  What do you remember of that time?  Do you have any special traditions relating to Patonga?  Do you remember any ‘characters’ from that time?  What did you do when you were there?  Who did you do it with?  What did you love about Patonga?


You might find it easier to grab a photograph of a time when you were at Patonga.  Who is in the photo? What were you doing?  Why?

We have never had a camping story and so many campers visit every year!

If you don’t have a computer, can you record your story (or your Mums) and send me the file?  I’ll type it for you.

These books are essentially a collection of people’s stories and they can’t be done without people contributing their memories.  ‘Stories from Patonga’ is a feel-good sort of a read, it is not rocket science, nor will it ever be a best seller.  But it did give people a smile and helps to preserve some of the memories that make Patonga such a special place.  We expect the same with ‘More Stories from Patonga’. 

Please send me a story.  Photographs make the story come alive so try to include some.  I can help you to edit the story and scan photos or help in any way that I can.  You have final editing rights and can withdraw your consent to use the story at any time up to publication.

When we have a collection, we will publish it and have a book launch in the hall for all contributors.  The last book launch was enjoyed by everyone.

Get on board – it is not as scary as it sounds.


Patonga Project


Commencing at midnight on Friday, 10THApril 1936 a fishing competition, with anglers sleeping beside thelr lines, ended on the following Monday night at Patonga Beach, No fewer than 121 persons competed from Gosford, Sydney, Newcastle, and other areas.  Among the competitors were 25 women, and the ages of the male competitors ranged from 8 to 75 years.  Mr. S. Brown, of Patonga, was the oldest. Two cups were awarded, one for the heaviest flathead and the other for the largest Individual blackfish,

MESSRS. A. SMITH and W. Bale, of Patonga, were successful in catching the largest flathead during the fishing competition, their fish weighing 8 lb. Mr. W. Norford, of Sydney, won the contest for the largest individual blackflsh and also the cup for the competition, his total haul being 818 fish, 180 of which were caught in nine hours. There were 121 competitors. Including 25 women, and the ages ranged from 8 to 16 years. So successful has the competition proved, that the Amateur Fishermen’s Association, which was responsible for this contest, will conduct another over the Anzac week-end.

Mr. P. S. Williams, of the Patonga Beach Social Club, states that in the club’s Anzac week-end fishing competition, Mick Simmons’ special trophy for the largest number of blackfish was awarded to Mr. G. Peaty who caught 68 of an average weight of two lb.


CHARACTERS OF PATONGA Nellie FLOWERS. (1890 – 1968)– How did she get to Patonga and was it because of a broken heart.

Nellie Flowers was born into the family of Fred and Annie Flowers.  Fred had been originally born in England and immigrated in 1882.  He was a painter and plasterer by trade and soon became involved in the Labor movement.  Nellie was the second of four children.  Fred was a major influence in the Labor movement of inner Sydney.

Fred FLOWERS was president of the premier Rugby League club, South Sydney, in 1908-28; as the patron of the New South Wales Rugby Football League in 1910-28, he contributed much to its survival in the difficult early years. In 1924 he became first chairman of the league’s Australian Board of Control.  Flowers encouraged the building of a new zoological gardens at Taronga Park, on Bradleys Head, and became chairman of the controlling trust next year. In 1915-16 he arranged the transfer of animals and birds from their inadequate location in Moore Park to their new harbour site. The zoo became known internationally. State’s first minister of public health, from April 1914 to April 1915.Fred was given a life appointment to the Legislative Council in 1900 and was President of the Legislative Council for 13 years.  As a Minister, Flowers made many important contributions including improvements to police working conditions while Colonial Secretary, and as the first Minister for Public Health he oversaw the introduction of public health centres for mothers and infants.

Nellie Flowers, aged 27 had married Carl IRVING, aged 30, a dentist, in 9thJune 1917 at St. Stephen’s Church Sydney.  IRVING had been married previously in 1908 whilst as a student, aged 22, and then divorced in 1913.  He had spent 2 days with his NZ wife before she returned to New Zealand.  

In 1921 Nellie filed for divorce over desertion brought a suit at the Divorce Court on Wednesday, against her levanting husband, Carl Howard Irving, an Oxford-street dental doctor, for divorce, on the ground of desertion. Petitioner is the daughter or Mr. Fred Flowers, President of the Legislative Council. Mr. Markell (instructed by Mr F. Marsden) appeared for petitioner, and the suit was not defended. Mrs. Irving, slender and good-looking was wedded on June 9, 1917, the ceremony being performed at St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Kirk Sydney, by the Rev. John Ferguson.  During the divorce proceedings it was recorded that “…The bridegroom had previous experience of the united state.- for the marriage certificate set forth that he was a divorced petitioner. He was in business as a doctor of dentistry in Oxford-street, and In a good way of making money. Nine fleeting months of life together, however, and the honeymoon waned. It had been, waning for some time, for the fang puller had neglected his young wife by remaining away from home till late at night, and excusing it on the score of pressing business at his surgery. On March 8, whilst they were residing at Milroy-avenue, Kensington; Irving, who was a man over thirty then, and some years older than his wife, packed up his belongings and left home. He had threatened to leave. a few times before, but his wife regarded his threats in the light of a joke, though he had never exhibited much warm affection for her. See full article below:

Nellie purchased No.’s 21 and 23 Patonga Street in 1931 and 1936 respectively.  She retained the properties until two years before her death, selling them in 1966. I was unable to find records about her time in Patonga other than in 1931 Nellie made application to council to build a weatherboard and fibro home – builder G.T. Page.

In September 1941, an obituary states   Dr. Carl Howard Irving dental surgeon, of Forest Road, Hurstville, who died suddenly in Brisbane while on a holiday, practised his profession at Hurstville. He secured his degree in U.S.A., and had travelled around the world twice.  He took much interest in the art of magic, and his library on that subject was perhaps, one of the largest in Australia. The late Dr. Irving was a member of the A.J.C., and also of the St. George Bowling Club. He married Miss Fuller, of Parramatta, and had one daughter, Miss Ursula Irving who is a singer..   

There is no mention of Carl’s previous two marriages in his obituary.Nellie died in 1968 aged 76.  She is recorded in the name of Nellie FLOWERS so it can be a

We Need Your Help to Capture the History of Houses in Patonga

Patonga’s Houses

The Patonga Project is about to commence its first undertaking and we need your help! We are trying to get a handle on the homes of Patonga’s inhabitants. We would like to get an idea of the types of houses that were originally built in Patonga as well as a current survey of the dwellings today.
The ultimate goal would be to have an exhibition in the hall to display the photos and memories of the past as well as current dreams and aspirations. You may not have owned the home, but rather rented it for holidays or just have great memories of the house. We hope to use a search of land titles to show different home sites and match the time period with photographs and/or memories. In the end, or course, the outcome will depend on what information is received.
The following list of questions is meant as a guide and some may not be applicable to you and your home.
What is the address?
Does/did the house have a name?
What is your first memory of this house? Year?
What is your favourite memory of the house?
Is the house still standing? When was it demolished? Do you have photos of the previous structure?
How is this house important to you?

Wharf Road
Wharf Road aka Jacaranda Ave

Description of the House
Please provide a photograph of the front of the house. For homes in Bay Street and Patonga Street, on the waterfront, photographs of both the front and back should be included if possible.

History and remarks (if known)
Eg: When was it built? Renovated?

Date of Photograph (if known) and the Photographer (if known)

Marinook 2009
Marinook 2009

Architectural style. Building materials
Verandah Roof, floor, supports, decoration.
Front Door:
Exterior Doors:
Other Features:

Please send through your document and/or photographs to If you do not have access to a computer, please let us know so that we can come and write your thoughts and scan your photos over a cuppa.

Thank you