Fig tree 'should be cloned'
A FAMILY member of early Tweed blacksmith Harry Hatton, who planted an historic fig tree which Tweed Shire Council now wants to cut down, has called for the tree to be cloned.
A descendant of the pioneering family, Michael Harley, who now lives in Brisbane, says the resultant sapling should then be planted nearby.
Residents at Byangum, on the banks of the Tweed River south-west of Murwillumbah, have protested at plans by the council to axe the tree, said to be planted in the late 1800s.
They have blamed the widening of the Murwillumbah-Kyogle Road for its poor state, but the council says a variety of causes, including age, have led to its demise.
Mr Harley, the great grandson of William Hatton, who was one of the pioneers of Byangum in the 1860s and related to Harry Hatton, has called for a cloning compromise.
He hopes the cloning idea, with the sapling planted in a memorial park behind the present tree, may keep its lineage alive.
But Mr Harley, who worked as a news photographer on the Tweed Daily News in the 1960s under well-known Tweed photographer, the late Bob Anthony Snr, hopes pressure on the council may yet save the tree.
“The Hattons settled at Byangum around 1869 and were one of several early pioneering families in the Tweed River District as the area was known then,” Mr Harley said.
“They were cedar getters, postmasters and ran several boats from Byangum to Tweed Heads and Byangum to Murwillumbah carrying passengers, milk and cream from the south arm of the Tweed River to the newly opened Norco butter factory at Murwillumbah.
“The tree came when Harry Hatton was driving his horse and sulky to Dunbible to fetch a midwife as his wife was in the late stages of labour.
“He pulled out a small tree from the side of the road to urge the horse into going faster over about 20 kilometres of gravel road.
“The following day, after a healthy son was born, he stuck the small tree in a stump opposite his blacksmith's shop.
“It took root and developed into the magnificent tree we see today.”
Mr Harley provided an old painting depicting a stump at the foreground of Harry Hatton's blacksmiths shop, which he said “could well be the stump into which he planted the sapling”.
“Our history is being lost,” Mr Harley said.
“If the council have to cut the tree down they should clone a new tree and plant it back behind where the tree now stands and build a memorial park with an historical sign to celebrate the lives of these early pioneers who started the Tweed.”
He also provided an early photo of the pioneer family homestead.