Following are some interesting notes made by Bill Perkins before 1982. Bill made five visits to Waldheim during what he called the “Connell patriarchy”, 1932-47, three in 1935, two in 1936 and eight between 1937 and 1941).
In November 1932, the Chalet Waldheim was sold by the Public Trustee to a Launceston syndicate of Gustav’s friends: Charles Monds, George Perron, Fred Smithies and Carl Stackhouse, who invited Lyle and his family to remain in occupation, which they did to the satisfaction of a greatly increased number of visitors during the thirties. Lionel Connell eventually bought the Chalet and the surrounding land from the above-mentioned syndicate but sold it again to the Government in 1945.
I cannot speak too highly of the sterling work done at Waldheim and the northern end of the Park by the Connell family in the thirties, and their kindness to me as a frequent visitor between 1935 and 1941. They transformed both Waldheim and their Northern Reserve from Pelion Gap to Pencil Pine Creek (in those days what is now known as the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park was split into two reserves: the Cradle Reserve in the north and the St Clair Park which then also incorporated Mt Field Park in the south. Each was administered by a separate board: the Northern Reserve Ranger and guest house proprietor was Lyle Connell, the Southern, the famous, inimitable, irascible Bert Ferguson or “Fergie”. I was a member of this Southern Board in the early forties. Both Boards were amalgamated in 1947).
Kindly, generous Mrs Connell, an old school friend of my mother at West Kentish near Sheffield in the 1880s, added a rich quality of homely domesticity to Waldheim’s pre-1932 all-male austerity. Although her good farm meals were not in the same exotic category as Weindorfer’s famous “badger” (wombat) stew with garlic, they were nutritionally far superior and much easier on the palates and stomachs of simple country folk like myself. Margaret Connell was a wonderful hostess and a loving, self-sacrificing wife and mother. She was my ideal of a true, non-institutionalised Christian.
My two particular Connell friends, Es and Wal, were only 15 and 13 respectively when they first went to Waldheim in 1932, and for the next ten years they worked long laborious hours with and for their father Lyle in rain, snow and mud, building huts, bridges and tracks, carrying heavy packs and heavier timber and wood, and guiding walkers, climbers and their faithful packhorses Don and Dolly.
Es recalls (12.5.81) recalls some of their worst hardships: “There was nothing easy about it at all, when we first went there. We had to carry everything a mile or so to the Chalet from the end of the road at The Dump. The hardest part was carrying all the timber on our backs from where we split it in the wet bush. Everything was wet and very heavy. One of my most outstanding memories is of 1939 when Dad, Wal and I were building the then new Pelion Hut on the banks of the Douglas River, and we were without food for four days. When we reached Fury Gorge on the way home we were so weak we had to crawl from there to Kitchen Hut. Dad had a bottle of rum but he wouldn’t give us any till we reached the hut; after we drank it, we were able to walk home (mostly downhill) to Waldheim.
Another of our many hard jobs was the transport to, and erection on, the summit of Cradle of the very heavy brass direction plate to commemorate the first ascent of the mountain by Henry Hellyer in 1831, as recommended by Weindorfer in 1931. We packed it as far as we could into the rocks with our poor old horse Don, then we had to carry it all to the top – the awkward plate, a kerosene bucket for water, cement, sand, the lot. We had to climb up and down the mountain several times to carry all this to the top where we camped, and then half-way down to the creek every day we needed more water. It was a long hard job through most of January 1937.”
Bill compiled these notes in preparation to having them published as a book entitled Dorfer, Fergie and the Connell Clan. Sadly, his book didn’t make it into print. The QVMAG archives have retained a copy of his notes (Sims Collection).
In addition to the achievements of the Connell Family noted by Bill above, the Connells were also responsible for the following:
- Improving the Cradle Mountain Road between Pencil Pine and Cradle Valley and then constructing the branch road to Waldheim (“Connells Avenue”) – Lionel and sons.
- Cutting and marking the Overland Track between the Barn Bluff turnoff and Pelion Huts – Lionel and sons.
- Building a two-room hut at Lake Windermere – Lionel and sons.
- Erecting a memorial cairn to Gustav Weindorfer at Waldeim.
- Constructing a track suitable for packhorses (the “Horse Track”) around the western side of Crater Lake to Crater Peak – Lionel and Wally.
- Constructing various other tracks, including the track from Waldheim to Dove Lake via Lake Lilla, the Face Track, the Hounslow Heath Track, Dove Lake to the Face Track via the Ballroom Forest and Lake Wilks, and the Riggs Pass Track.
- Building a three-sided shelter at Kitchen Creek (the first Kitchen Hut) – Lionel and Wally.
- Building the boatsheds at Crater Lake and Dove Lake – Wally.
- Constructing the day hut on Connells Avenue and the Trailside Museum – Lyle.
- Establishing a regular transport service for guests at Waldheim from the North West coast, using a Ford Tourer – Lionel and Oswald.
- Guiding Waldheim guests on the walking tracks, including packhorse support on northern section of the Overland Track – most family members, particularly Wally.
- Building the Cuvier River Bridge – Esrom (while Head Ranger at Lake St Clair).
- Building Waterfall Valley Hut, Narcissus Hut and Echo Point Hut – Wally (while Head Ranger at Cradle Mountain and then at Lake St Clair).
- Roddy Maclean, “Cradle Mountain’s Forgotten Family”, Tasmania 40 Degrees South, No. 57, Winter 2010, 18-24
- Simon Cubit & Nic Haygarth, “Lionel Connell: Cradle Mountain’s First Ranger”, Mountain Men: Stories from the Tasmanian High Country, 2015, Forty South Publishing P/L, Hobart, 160-181