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.



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

From Vaudeville Comedian to Patonga resident – Bill DYSON

Patonga Characters – William Frederick John DYSON.

I started off with Will DYSON as I came across his occupation  as “vaudeville artist” in a land titles search.                                                      

How did he get to be a resident in Patonga?

Born in Launceston, Tasmania in 1879 and passed away at Patonga in 1956.

Dyson was a boisterous and versatile performer starting out as an eccentric comedian and dancer through a stage of “black face” minstrel before finding his niche as a comedian singing humorous songs.   He worked with companies in Launceston and Hobart (1902) moving on to Melbourne and then most capital cities and several regional areas in Australia.  He also had stints in Manila,(P.I.) and in the U.S. Records indicate that his two brothers, Hal and Jim, were also involved in the vaudeville scene in the U.S.

Dyson was described variously as the three storied comedian, midget comedian and reports of his height were from 6’ 8” to 8 feet as well as 210cm.  He was also known as “Long Bill” Dyson.  The Mudgee Guardian described him. “… Mr. Will. Dyson, the very tall comedian, was an instant success, and was responsible for paroxysms of laughter. The way such a big man can twist his limbs and at the same time give forth genuine comedy lines with a powerful voice was an eye-opener…  

The Mercury (Hobart) Mar, 17, 1902

Bill married Dora Ellen WELLS and they appear to have had no children.  Recorded in the census as being together in 1912 – Melbourne.  No date for marriage could be confirmed but appears to be registered in 1918.  Dora was born in around 1882 and died in 1966, aged 84.  She also had a relative in Patonga, Mrs H. Wells, in 1940, both of who may have originated from Perth, W.A.

In 1922 William Frederick John Dyson purchased Lot 96 in DP 9408 at Patonga.  We would know it as No. 35 Patonga Street.  Dyson reported to his old colleagues in 1924 and it appeared in a trade journal as, …”Will DYSON whilom popular comedian has long been the owner of a prosperous boat-shed at Patonga Bay, Hawkesbury River. In addition, he works a small farm to satisfactory returns.  It is pleasing to note that Mrs Dyson, who was very ill last year, has now entirely recovered, and, with her husband is keenly interested in both businesses.(Everyone’s Vol. 4, No. 239)

1922 Transfer

During the Depression, Bill Dyson sought and was given work along with Messrs Wilson and Hine on road works, particularly the sanitary works road.

Roy Ewer (in his blog) recalls, “There was no electricity and a roaring trade in kerosene for lighting was a priority prerequisite. This fuel was sold in sealed 4 gallon (18+ litres) oblong tin cans and were difficult to dispose of. One retired couple, Bill Dyson and his wife erected part of their home using these cans.” 

According to The Gosford Times and Wyong District Advocate in 1928 when reporting on the purchase of an organ for Church and Sunday School, “…many thanks to me untiring efforts of Mr. W. Dyson, of Patonga Beach, the generous public were appealed to by him for this worthy object. More than the quota aimed at was collected by Mr. Dyson, with the result that a beautiful instrument was purchased from the firm of E. F. Wilks and Co., Pitt St, Sydney. Mr. Brack extended his best thanks to Mr. Dyson for his kindly help.” 

Another anecdote from Roy Ewer recalls “When the daily ferry from Brooklyn arrived at Patonga, it was quite an occasion. Many residents made a habit to “meet the boat.” One occasion worth recording was the assistance rendered by a resident called Bill Dyson who was at least 210 centimetres tall. Bill insisted that he caught the ropes thrown from the ferry and place them on the pylons to complete the mooring. On this occasion, I had the duty to throw the rope to Bill but unfortunately, missed and threw the rope over him, and it would be the only time that Alan Windybank failed to put the old Atlas” engine into neutral, consequently the “Swanhilda” cruised slowly towards the shore with Bill in tow astern. All was quickly rectified and Bill, because of his height and the state of the tide, coughed, spluttered and waded ashore, not much the worse for wear, but such goings on encouraged the locals to “meet the boat”.

William Frederick John Dyson died in 1956 and his wife sold the property in 1961 to Ronald and Helen BURGESS who retained it for 2 years.

The Final note on Bill Dyson goes to Patonga Beach correspondent in The Gosford Times and Wyong District Advocate, 12 January 1933, “ Our old friend, Mr. Bill Dyson, was again to the fore as has been his custom in years past, to meet the ferry and then lend a helping hand to one and all when disembarking from the launches. His kindly disposition and genial smile and cheering words have made our boy friend most popular.”

Seems like Bill was a nice man who liked people but unfortunately I couldn’t explain how he found Patonga and decided to stay, maybe a reader can help.