By Ellen Hill
The spark that initiated the re-enactment of the first recognised European crossing of the Blue Mountains was not ignited by an academic expert but a motor mechanic who discovered a map.
Springwood’s John O’Sullivan, 69, was recovering from a near fatal accident when, during volunteer work as part of the Sir Henry Parkes Foundation steering committee of perpetual trustees in 2004, he found a map showing the Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Charles Wentworth route over the Blue Mountains.
He was fascinated and began to research the crossing.
What he discovered was a story of courage, perseverance, hardship and adventure by characters with very modern human flaws and traits.
He could relate.
Born with wasting disease, Mr O’Sullivan was not expected to walk. He did.
As a young man, the motor mechanic from Liverpool was involved in a major accident which dashed his hopes of becoming a speedway racing star.
Then, in 1984 at age 40, he was working on extensions to his home when he fell off a ladder and was electrocuted. His quick thinking father-in-law and a neighbour saved his life, although he spent months in hospital and took years to recover.
Since then, he has suffered four strokes.
“It changes your values,’’ Mr O’Sullivan said. “I have a passion for life and people, for giving and leaving a meaningful legacy for the children of the future.’’
The idea to re-enact the intrepid trio’s trek in costume was formed in 2007 when he established Blue Mountains Blue Wave to help celebrate and commemorate the feat by conducting a costumed re-enactment of the journey.
“We have a gift and we only have it because of them. We live in a place unparalleled anywhere else in the world and I want to acknowledge Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth and their whole party because I don’t think they were properly rewarded or honoured in their day.
“We have the opportunity to be the soul of the nation for 21 days. It’s really important to us as a people. This is our opportunity to showcase who we are at this present time.’’
Dubbed “21 days on the mountain’’, the re-enactment will retrace as closely as possible the path picked through the bush by the original explorers Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth in 1813.
It will travel from St Marys in western Sydney to Hartley just west of the mountains from May 11 to 31.
Each day the party will consist of three “explorers’’ drawn from descendents of the original 1813 explorers, three “convicts’’, one “kangaroo hunter’’, four horses and five dogs.
Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism chairman Randall Walker said: “Every great project begins with an idea from a visionary, and I congratulate John O’Sullivan as being that visionary for the Blue Mountains Crossings Bicentenary 2013-2015.
“The crossing is such a significant milestone in our nation’s history that to have the complete and enthusiastic support of so many descendants of the original explorers makes this moment even more authentic and memorable.’’
- Community members can meet descendants of historical figures and learn about the crossing when the Blue Mountains Blue Wave costumed re-enactment stops at several locations between St Marys and Emu Plains on May 11; Lennox Park, Blaxland (May 12); Buttenshaw Park, Springwood (May 13); Yester Grange at Wentworth Falls on May 22; Silvermere Guesthouse, Wentworth Falls (May 23); Wentworth Falls Lakes (May 24); Katoomba St, Katoomba (May 25); see them in the grounds of Hydro Majestic, Medlow Bath (11am, May 26); and meet them at Closeburn House, Mt Victoria (May 27).
Go to www.bluemountainscrossings.com.au for more details including times.