On the afternoon of Saturday 24 August 1918, a sombre gathering in Clarke Street, Hamilton saw the planting of Sycamore trees to honour the men from that street who had enlisted to serve during WW1. Clarke Street is a small residential street close to the Hamilton CBD and is like many others across Australia. However, it stands out from the others because of the number of WW1 enlistments that came from the street. On that day in 1918, as reported in the Hamilton Spectator of 27 August 1918, the Mayor Cr. Robert McLuckie, the father of tree recipient, John Law McLuckie said it was unlikely “any street in any town in the Western district had sent so many men to the war in proportion to its length as Clarke Street.” Less than two months later, John Law McLuckie died of influenza in England.
The group stood in front of the home of the Lodge family. Mr and Mrs Lodge had four sons enlist and it was James Lodge’s idea for the planting. However, he passed away on 30 July 1918 so a tree was also planted in his honour in front of his former home. There were thirty trees planted, twenty-nine for soldiers and the tree for James Lodge. Mr C. Johnson donated the trees and the planting was conducted under supervision from Hamilton Botanic Gardens curator, Randolph Hughan. It was Mr Hughan’s idea to plant trees along the Grange Burn to create the Anzac Avenue in 1917. It was that idea, Cr. O’Neil said, that led to the Ballarat Avenue of Honour. He went on to describe Randolph Hughan as the “originator of memorial avenues” and added the Clarke Street avenue “would be of historical interest in the future.”
The president for the Returned Soldiers Association Mr Campbell, “doubted if any town in the Western district had sacrificed more than Hamilton, whose residents had always been ready to do their duty both by sending men and giving money. He trusted those left behind would do their best for the boys when they returned, and he was sorry that many of the best of them would not return.”
The trees were numbered and those in attendance were given a souvenir including tree numbers, the corresponding soldier’s name, and the name of the person who planted each tree. Wreaths were attached to trees planted for soldiers who had died.
The report of the event was published in the Hamilton Spectator of 27 August 1918. Included was a full list of tree recipients and those who planted the trees.
On 11 November 1987, a commemorative plaque (plaque) was unveiled in Clarke Street to recognise the planting in 1918.
Click on underlined names for further information:
BOYD, Hugh Neil
BURGESS, John James
COWAN, Duncan Brown (D.C.M.)
COWAN, George Herbert
FENTON, David Trevor
FENTON, John Wilfred (M.M.) †
GAYER, William Ventry (M.M) †
LODGE, James Clapham
LODGE, Richard Alexander
McKECHNIE, Hugh Alexander
STEPHEN, Gilbert Theodore Haxle
YOUNG, Robert Alexander