The Berrima Residents Association, Harper’s Mansion and the National Trust recently marked the 125 anniversary of the planting by Sir Henry Parkes of Berrima’s War Memorial Oak Tree.
Known as the ‘Father of Federation”, Sir Henry had travelled by express train to Bowral, according to the Scrutineer of 25 March 1890:
“On Thursday evening last Sir Henry Parkes was received with a great demonstration of applause on his arrival at the Bowral railway station by the express train, and was then driven to the School of Arts, where an audience of over 400 people were waiting to hear his address”.
Sir Henry Parkes urged the case for free trade between the colonies and the Federation of our States. He then visited Berrima, where it was reported:
“Sir Henry on rising was again cannonaded with rounds of cheers and delivered a thorough out and out freetrade speech, keeping the ladies and gentlemen present spellbound by his sound statement in favour of the freetrade policy of himself and colleagues. He lucidly defined the term as opposed to that detestible thing called protection and the great and beneficial affect it had upon humanity in whatever country of the world had adopted it”.
The article continued:
He could assure them that his greatest ambition was to see a federated Australia. He then planted the famous oak tree in Berrima. It was described thus, again in the Scrutineer of 25 March 1890:
“Sir Henry Parkes called for three cheers for Mr McCourt and three for the Queen, when the National Anthem was sung and the company then proceeded to the park at Berrima when Sir Henry planted an Oak Tree at the request of the people of the town. The public school children were drawn up in 4 ranks (100) with their teacher, Mr P. Murphy, and sang “Advance Australia”. Sir Henry then delivered a simple and homely address to the children pointing out to them the many advantages they enjoyed and to make the best use of them in future life”.