Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Brisbane Rockclimbing Club

The third incarnation of climbing club in Queensland—the Brisbane Rockclimbing Club (BRC)—was formed on 1 September 1965. Instigated by Donn Groom, it attracted members from four southeast Queensland bushwalking clubs—BBW, UQBWC, Binna Burra Bushwalking Club and the YMCA Ramblers. It represented a significant shift in emphasis from previous associations in that rockclimbing was identified as the main activity—not bushwalking or mountaineering. The objects of the club were simple: ‘To rockclimb and instruct interested people in rockclimbing; and to abide by and assist in maintaining conservation laws and create interest and preservation of natural beauty and wild life.’ To this point in Queensland’s climbing history, virtually everyone who became involved in rockclimbing had also been interested, even in a peripheral way, in bushwalking—the two activities were closely linked. The new club was ‘open to either sex’ with four membership levels: probationary, members, leaders, and instructors, determined ‘at the discretion of the committee’. Meetings were held once a month and instructional weekends were planned for probationary members. Climbers were urged to provide details of all new climbs to an Archives Custodian. At the first meeting, there was a display of some of the equipment being used by climbers for the benefit of new members and the annual subscription was set at one pound ($2.00). Hugh Pechey was elected President; John Tillack was Vice-president and membership officer; Col Hocking the Secretary; Dennis Stocks, Archives custodian and outings secretary; and Treasurer was Bill Walker. At the second meeting on 6 October 1965, Pat Conaghan gave a talk and showed some of his climbing slides and a film from the Sydney Rockclimbing Club of the first ascent of Ball’s Pyramid was screened. Members were encouraged to subscribe to the Sydney Rockclimbing magazine, Thrutch. The open invitation to new members in the first club circular read as follows: ‘If you are interested in rockclimbing then we extend an invitation to you. If your climbing standard is low we shall endeavour to help you; if it is high, you may be able to help us. All members are not expected to be “superhuman rockclimbers”—we hope to cater for all tastes. WE DO NOT WISH OUR MEMBERS TO BE THE BEST IN AUSTRALIA—MERELY THE OLDEST.’

Picture: Hugh Pechey collection.

Donn Groom (pictured) was a key influence on climbing in Queensland and Tasmania the 1960s and 70s. His father Arthur Groom became the first honorary secretary of the National Parks Association of Queensland in 1930 and was active in the promotion of national parks and environmental protection until his death in 1953. With Romeo Lahey, Arthur Groom established Binna Burra Lodge, on the edge of the Lamington National Park, in southeast Queensland, in 1933. Arthur was known for his extraordinary ability to walk long distances and his sense of humour-in many ways the equivalent of Yosemite's John Muir. Donn lists his father as a key influence in his life. Arthur Groom's photographs and articles featuring the wilderness of southeast Queensland filled the pages of the early Queensland press from the late 1920s. He played a central role in forming ideas of wilderness and conservation the minds of members of the public, many of whom would never visit the regions he immortalised in his wonderful photographs and stories. Donn describes him as 'a mountaineer and an explorer'. He was a great influence on his son's life and his desire to climb.

Picture: John Larkin collection.
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