By BARBARA FAHEY
WORLD Heritage Washpool National Park was our destination as we set out on this sentimental journey.
My companions were three of the family of 'Big' Bill Haydon, the Cedar King who was lost in the Willowie Scrub in North Washpool. Forty years ago he disappeared, never to be found. His story is remembered in a plaque at the big cedars on the Washpool Walk, a plaque his family had not seen. Grand daughters Margaret Sheridan and Geraldine Yabsley with her husband, Eddie, had driven from Kempsey especially for this visit. We were joined by Kathleen Davies from Lawrence.
From Granite Lookout we had an awesome overview of the Washpool region with its dry north-facing ridges covered in eucalypts and its rain-forested south-facing moist gullies. In the middle distance is North Washpool and its wilderness and beyond the Border Ranges.
Driving on down the well-graded dirt road to Coombadjha Creek we met NPWS ranger Warren Herbert, of Glen Innes. A lyre bird created the song lines for our walk. Following beside Lilly-Pilly Creek, then through diverse forest with many vegetation types, the track eventually arrives at the big cedars, more than 1000-years-old. This is the traditional country of the Bundjalung people.
Bill Haydon's disappearance is remembered on the plaque beside the cedar trees and his family were pleased to see this record of his passing. As we walked in the deep shadows of the forest his grand daughters spoke with much affection of Bill's life, a life which ended somewhere in this Washpool wilderness.
A classic Australian self-made man, Bill Haydon, was a legend in the timber industry of the North Coast. In 1906 aged 15 years, he left home with two shillings in his pocket. Two years later he bought the first of 50 bullock teams at a cost of 200 pounds, the youngest person known to own a bullock team. In 1926, with others, he built the first petroldriven logging winch. Another first in 1941 was the introduction of the first caterpillar dozer to the North Coast. In the late 1950s he commissioned the making of the film 'Red Gold' to record the history of the cedar getters on the North Coast.
Among his achievements was the construction of 10 sawmills in the Camden Haven, Hastings and Macleay districts and a ply mill and furniture factory at Greenhills, Kempsey. In conjunction with these various mills, he built 80 houses, two subsidised schools and one public school. A generous man, he gave much to others including large amounts of cedar to the Catholic churches at Kempsey, Port Macquarie and Ballina as well as cedar desks for St Joseph's School, Kempsey and large slabs of cedar to the National Museum.
It is easy to see that Bill Haydon was a man loved by his family and honoured by his community. One hopes that his remains rest in peace in the forest that he loved. His grand daughters were pleased they had come to see the cedars of the Washpool where he was remembered. For them this was indeed a sentimental journey.