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A public reserve which the Ulverstone Council apparently did not know was private property. Ratepayers’ money was expended in improving this area. The reserve proved to be privately owned. (Weekly Courier 1919)
Yes, a half acre block within a reserve to honour those who had served in WWI was indeed in private hands. Police sub-Inspector W. Hall, had purchased it while stationed at Ulverstone years earlier. Hall left the town in 1890, when he was transferred to St. Leonards.
Around 1900 the (pre council) Town Board had cleared the waterfront reserve bordered by The Esplanade, including Mr Hall’s block. In 1916 the whole area was renamed Anzac Parade. Now in the meantime Mr Hall died. In May 1918, council had an opportunity to buy the block from a Mr Hamilton for £70, but declined, quoting lack of funds for their decision. It was also considered overpriced. The property was then sold to Mr James Leary, from Melrose. Just three months later Mr Leary offered it to council, but this time for…..£150!
And what gave Mr Leary cause to think his offer might be accepted? Well, it was the prospect of railway running through the reserve (and his block) carrying produce to the wharf. It was to be a spur from the Nietta to Ulverstone line.
When news of the situation got out, residents were outraged. Over the years public money had been spent on beautifying the reserve. Volunteers working with the Tourist Association had given generously of their time; grubbing out stumps, clearing blackberries, and planting flowers and shrubs. The Council was censured for not having had the foresight to buy Hall’s block.
A public meeting was held, presided over by Warden Alf Lakin. Feeling ran high and those in authority were very much on the defensive!
Cr. Bingham was of the same opinion as other councillors in regard to the purchase of this half acre of land. He thought £70 was double what the land was worth. he would oppose the proposal again if brought forward. The opposition, it struck him, was a press agitation, engineered by interested parties who were probably not even ratepayers, and possibly belonging to the “broken-down toff or collar-and-cuff brigade.” If they were under the impression that by these means they were going to bring councillors to their knees, or submit to the thumb-screw, they were mistaken. The councillors were men who had “done things”, and made more or less a success of their lives. ( The Advocate August 28 1918)
Other councillors were anxious to at least share the blame. Hall’s block had sat there for forty years, they said, and not a soul ever spoke up.
In a report on the meeting for the Hobart paper The Mercury, it was noted that the meeting closed with a unanimous decision to refuse Mr Leary’s offer;
If the connecting railway link is constructed as planned, and it appears likely to be, the Government can resume the land, and fix the value by arbitration, when fancy prices will be out of the question. Private persons owning land adjacent to this famous block have given it to the council freely, in order to help a good cause, a worthy example which might have been followed in this case. (Mercury, September 6, 1918)
That final sentence was a clear admonishment of Mr Leary. He complied when requested to fence his contentious block, but of course that created another issue;
This has mutilated to a great extent the work done by the Tourist Association during some years past, and the whole of this otherwise beautiful, peace-giving and restful spot is once and for all destroyed. To get along it in winter will be impossible, as the diverted pathway is then under water. The historic Anzac Parade sign board has been removed, and re-erected on its legitimate domain (Examiner, February 13 1919)
A rumour circulated that Mr Leary intended to build a butchers shop on his half acre, which would have been the final indignity.
The railway extension to the wharf was completed in 1922. Presumably Leary’s block was acquired, the fence demolished and the path restored to the public.