Kendall was named
in honour of the poet, Henry Kendall (1839 – 1882).
Henry Kendall came
to Camden Haven, as the village of Kendall was then called, in 1876
to work for his friend, Michael Fagan, whose timber mill stood on
the site of today’s Kendall Services & Citizens Club.
He loved the forest and riverine landscape and the five years he
spent here with his wife, Charlotte, were happy ones. He wrote of
halfway between the flourishing valley of the Manning, and the
fine country watered by the most picturesque of all Australian
rivers, the Hastings, it is at least the equal of either of these
districts in fertility, while its superiority to both in the matter
of timber is too well known to need manifestation… Sawyers
and splitters form the busiest and most numerous class of people
in the district; and within the last sixteen months no less than
a hundred of these have become permanent settlers here.
Henry Kendall was
born at Ulladulla in 1839, the son of Basil and Matilda Kendall
and grandson of the missionary the Reverend Thomas Kendall who spent
many years working in New Zealand. Henry’s childhood was not
happy. His father, a some-time seaman and wanderer who spent some
years in Chile, was always unsettled and died early of tuberculosis.
His mother became a heavy drinker. At the age of seventeen, he went
to sea for a short time but soon found that life did not appeal
to him. He was encouraged into a literary career by the Grafton
solicitor for whom he worked from time to time and began sending
verses to newspapers and journals. They were published under the
name Mr. H. Kendall, N.A.P. [Native Australian Poet].
He spent five years
working as a public servant in Sydney and, by 1867, had become confident
enough to deliver a series of lectures at the Sydney School of Arts.
One of these, on “Love, Courtship and Marriage”, precipitated
him into experience of all three. He walked home after the lecture
with Miss Charlotte Rutter, daughter of a former Government medical
officer, they fell in love, and, after a brief courtship, were married
the following year. They moved to Melbourne where Henry attempted,
unsuccessfully, to support his family with his earnings from journalism.
Their first daughter Araluen was born there but their abject poverty
contributed to her death from a dental fever aggravated by malnutrition.
Araluen Street, Kendall, commemorates her.
Henry and Charlotte
returned sadly to Sydney where, despite the birth of two sons, he
suffered a mental breakdown. Charlotte left him and he spent some
time in the Gladesville Asylum.
In 1873 Kendall
was invited to stay with the Fagan brothers, timber merchants near
Gosford, and in 1876 he moved to the Camden Haven (now Kendall).
Charlotte returned to him with the children and they added a son
and two daughters to the family. Altogether they had seven children
although not all survived.
While here he composed
topical and political skits for the press and, in 1879, wrote the
words for the cantata to be sung at the Sydney International Exhibition.
He also won 100 guineas for an occasional poem in celebration of
the same event. His third volume of verse, Songs from the Mountains,
published in 1880, was his first financial success, selling a record
number of copies in the first two months.
the admiration and patronage of Sir Henry Parkes, Premier of New
South Wales. In 1881, Parkes appointed him as the first Inspector
of Forests for NSW at the, then, enormous salary of £500 per
annum. In 1881 the family moved to Cundletown but the arduous inspection
tours on horseback in all weathers proved too much for him. His
health failed and he died in Charlotte’s arms at the Fagans’
Redfern home on 1 August 1882. He was buried at Waverley Cemetery,
overlooking the sea.
While in Camden
Haven, Henry Kendall wrote to the Post-Master General lending support
to the villagers’ request for a post office and, when it was
later established, the name of the village was changed, posthumously,
to Kendall in his honour on 1 October 1891.
Kendall is proud
of its name and its association with Henry Kendall. He is a dearly
loved presence in the district. The sesquicentenary of his birth
was commemorated by the inaugural conference of the University of
New England’s Centre for Language and Literature Studies,
held in Kendall in 1990. The papers of that conference are collected
under the title Henry Kendall, The Muse of Australia. He is honoured
by a small park of contemplation at the corner of Comboyne and Graham
Streets and celebrated annually by the Henry Kendall Oration given
at a luncheon at the Kendall Services and Citizens Club.
beautiful descriptive poem Bell Birds is perhaps his best
known. Many Australian children learnt it at school.
By the channels of coolness the echoes are calling,
And down the dim gorges I hear the creek falling;
It lives in the mountain where moss and the sedges
Touch with their beauty the banks and the ledges.
Through breaks of the cedar and sycamore bowers
Struggles the light that is love to the flowers;
And, softer than slumber, and sweeter than singing,
The notes of the bell-birds are running and ringing.
bell-birds, the darlings of day-time,
They sing in September their songs of the May-time;
When shadows wax strong, and thunder-bolts hurtle,
They hide with their fear in the leaves of the myrtle;
When rain and the sunbeams shine mingled together,
They start up like fairies that follow fair weather;
And straightway the hues of their feathers unfolden,
Are the green and the purple, the blue and the golden.
October, the maiden
of bright yellow tresses,
Loiters for love in the cool wildernesses;
Loiters, knee-deep, in the grasses to listen.
Where dripping rocks gleam and the leafy pools glisten:
Then is the time when the water-moons splendid
Break with their gold, and are scattered or blended
Over the creeks, till the woodlands have warning
Of songs of the bell-bird and wings of the morning.
Welcome as waters
unkissed by the summers
Are the voices of bell-birds to thirsty far-corners,
When fiery December sets foot in the forest,
And the need of the wayfarer presses the sorest,
Pent in the ridges for ever and ever,
The bell-birds direct him to spring and to river,
With ring and with ripple, like runnels whose torrents
Are toned by the pebbles and leaves in the currents.
Often I sit, looking
back to a childhood
Mixt with the sights and the sounds of the wildwood,
Longing for power and the sweetness to fashion.
Lyrics with beats like the heart-beats of passion;
Songs interwoven of lights and of laughters
Borrowed from bell-birds in far forest rafters;
So I might keep in the city and alleys
The beauty and strength of the deep mountain valleys,
Charming to slumber the pain of my losses
With glimpses of creeks and a vision of mosses.
The Muse of Australia, ed. Russell McDougall, 1992. Centre
for Australian Language & Literature Studies, University of
New England, Armidale.
© Elaine van