Part One of a 3-part series
AS told in last week's article, the local nature reserves at Fitzroy and Belmore Falls were amalgamated in 1938 into a larger reserve that in 1961 became Morton National Park and Bundanoon Gullies were added in 1970.
Bordering the Wingecarribee Shire to the south-east, the now much larger Park preserves a diverse habitat and a rugged, scenically magnificent landscape.
This series provides more historical detail about how Mark Morton, the local State member, brought the reserve into existence.
Mark Fairles Morton was the third son of Henry Morton, a Scottish engineer who managed the Berry Estate near Nowra.
Mark was first elected to Parliament in 1901 as member for Shoalhaven and, following electoral changes, became in turn the member for Allowrie and for Wollondilly.
He served the electorates for 36 years and was known as the 'Father of the House'. Two of his brothers also became members of the NSW Legislative Assembly.
In 1907 Mark married Minnie Fuller and, after her death, in 1919 he married her sister Sarah. They were sisters to (Sir) George Fuller who served as Premier of NSW.
Mark Morton interested himself in both minor and major affairs as the representative of all classes in Parliament. The Southern Highlands was a major part of his Wollondilly electorate, and he often officiated at ceremonies and events, such as switching on Bundanoon's electricity in 1929, opening a Bowral hospital building in 1935 and opening a new sewerage treatment works at Moss Vale in 1937.
He passed away at his home in Nowra, aged 74 years, in September 1938.
WITH the preservation of flora and fauna in mind, he had championed the formation of the reserve that bears his name. He realised that if the numerous small reserves were amalgamated into one, better protection could be afforded by a single group of trustees.
The numerous reserves dated back to the early days of settlement and were distributed in wilderness areas surrounding the Kangaroo and Shoalhaven Rivers and their tributaries - the Yarrunga, Barrangarry and Bundanoon Creeks.
Throsby's Waterfall, a magnificent scenic spot on Yarrunga Creek, was discovered by European explorers in 1818 and renamed Fitzroy Falls in 1850 in honour of the Governor who visited the popular site. In 1889 an area surrounding the Falls was dedicated as a Reserve for Public Recreation.
In the Bundanoon Gullies an area of 1200 acres was reserved by Surveyor Harper in 1824 and this was gazetted in 1877 as a Recreation Reserve.
Further south, around the upper reaches of the Shoalhaven River at Bungonia (Parish of Caoura), one of the first public reserves for 'Recreation and Water Supply' in NSW was notified in October, 1872.
Lands around the escarpment overlooking Kangaroo Valley were reserved for 'Public Recreation and Preservation of Timber' in 1883 and the dedication of Barrengarry Park, Belmore Falls took place in April 1887.
In 1898, a further 4050 acres of Yarrunga Valley encompassing the Parishes of Moollattoo and Yarrunga were reserved for 'Public Recreation' and added to the Fitzroy Falls Reserve.
In 1934 the Tallowa Primitive Reserve (7700 acres) was gazetted, including parts of the Shoalhaven River and Bundanoon Creek - this being the first primitive reserve or wilderness area gazetted in Australia. It was the result of agitation by conservationist Myles Dunphy and a band of like-minded individuals who formed a National Parks and Primitive Areas Council in 1932.
As one of their wilderness proposals covered the Shoalhaven-Bundanoon-Fitzroy Falls area, they supported Morton's plan.
IN December 1937 Morton called a public meeting at Moss Vale to gain support for his plan to amalgamate the existing Trusts of Tallowa and Fitzroy and, by adding adjoining Crown lands and some small private holdings, to create a new Trust over the combined area.
It became known as Moollattoo Primitive Reserve, Moollattoo reputed to be an Aboriginal word meaning "grassy mountain". A towering volcanic extrusion within the Tallowa Reserve bears the name Mount Moollattoo and both it and nearby Mount Carrialoo rise up from the area, their peaks visible from lookouts at Fitzroy Falls.
Moollattoo was also adopted as the Parish name for the Lower Kangaroo Valley locality and perhaps that is why it was used as the name for the proposed reserve. If Morton had lived a while longer, Moollattoo might well be the name of the National Park today.
In December 1937 the Southern Mail, with a headline "Great public meeting approves Moollattoo Primitive Reserve Project", reported that the meeting attracted a large and enthusiastic gathering of prominent townspeople and rural residents.
To be continued
This article compiled by PHILIP MORTON is sourced from the archives of Berrima District Historical & Family History Society, Bowral Rd, Mittagong. Contribution of information and old photographs welcome. Phone 4872 2169.