By Marlene Plummer, School Archivist
11 August 2022
In 1888 Mr Robert Matcham Pitt was given his father’s 42 acres (16.9 hectares) of land in Wentworth Falls and on the highest point he built Coorah for his family. The land was described as the raggiest, sandiest and meanest looking land as you would want to see.
Pitt planned to build a wonderful garden. He had the soil analysed by experts and discovered it was 90% sand and silica. He fertilised it with 1200 tons of cow and sheep manure and set about creating a garden that contained a large range of exotic and native species.
Robert Pitt had an avid interest in bulbs and in 1885 there was half an acre of hyacinths, half an acre of lilies, 10,000 crowns of lily of the valley and 250,000 glorious daffodils. He imported daffodils from England, Ireland and Japan and is responsible for introducing them to the Blue Mountains and being the first person to plant them in Australia five years before Alistair Clarke, an award-winning horticulturist in Victoria. Pitt hybridised and experimented with daffodils and named two after his children Clive Pitt and Doris Pitt. Until 1905 Pitt grew daffodils commercially but after that time, they were donated to charity.
In May 1951 Blue Mountains Grammar School amalgamated with the MacLaurin School on the 2.4 hectares of Pitt’s original 16.9 hectares and Coorah was the only building. With access to the daffodils, the boys learnt how to pick daffodils and thus began years of profit from selling these beautiful blooms. The boarders were woken early to pick so they could be bunched and sent on the train to markets. The mothers had a system of bunching them for the boys to sell on the Highway – 40 for 3/- (shillings) = (30 cents).
In spring, until the middle of the 1980s, the hill below Coorah was covered with daffodil blooms. Many were lifted and planted in other parts of the school but many perished due to over-mowing. The school has held daffodil drives and on one occasion hundreds of daffodils were planted to line the main driveway and the paths to the Junior School.
You can still see daffodils lining the borders of Matcham Avenue and around the school. Best time to see them in full bloom is in early to mid-August.