Tamworth is getting ready for a party in 2018 to celebrate its bicentenary - and you're invited.

Looking back looking forward: As the city prepares to celebrate its bicentenary, the community is being asked for ideas.
Looking back looking forward: As the city prepares to celebrate its bicentenary, the community is being asked for ideas.

BIRTHDAYS are for everyone ! First - tenth - fiftieth - seventieth, and  in the case of some towns, cities and countries - perhaps even one hundredth or two hundredth, etc.

And so it is for the wonderful city of Tamworth on the North West Slopes of New South Wales, for in 2018 it will celebrate its 200th birthday.

To be more correct it will be the Bicentenary of European Tamworth, for entering into the ancient lands of the Kamileroi in 1818 was the exploring party led by NSW Surveyor General John Oxley, clearly the first white persons to do so.

Accompanied by his competent deputy George William Evans with a party of 14, largely convicts, together with 19 pack-horses, Oxley reached the river on which Tamworth now stands on September 2, 1818. He proceeded to name it Peel's River after Robert Peel. who later became the Prime Minister of England.

Oxley was seeking to reach the coast after being thwarted in his attempts to trace the course of the Macquarie River, possibly to an inland sea, by the impassable Maquarie Marshes. Heading east he encountered further difficulties in the Pilliga Scub and the gorge country east of Walcha before eventually reaching the later site of Port Macquarie, where a convict settlement soon followed, and making his way with great difficulty down the coast to Port Stephens.

Oxley was very impressed with the potential of the Peel Valley, which he named Goulburn Vale. Being later a major shareholder in the Australian Agricultural Company, which was granted a million acres in New South Wales by the British Government, his recommendations eventually led to the settlement at Peel's River, which was the original name for Tamworth.

Establishing a sheep and wool industry, centred first at Calala (the indigenous name for the river) and later at Goonoo Goonoo, the AA Company maintained a wealthy presence in the Peel Valley until 1985 when the remnants of Goonoo Goonoo Station were sold. Formed in England in 1824, the Australian Agricultural Company is the oldest in Australia still trading under its original name, with Westpac (previously Bank of NSW) being the only older company (1817). With its northern Australian land holdings now comprising about 1% of the continent, their Goonoo Goonoo and nearby Warrah properties in earlier times did much to guarantee the early growth of the Company.

Tamworth was most unusual in comprising two towns in its early days - the Government town on the east of the river and the (AA) Company town on the west side. Interesting to note that there were Peel and Fitzroy Streets at one time on each side of the river.

Oxley's journal entry for September 2, 1818 declares "no place in the world can afford more advantages to the industrious settler". Today's Tamworth-lovers would no doubt agree.

The name Oxley is well integrated into Tamworth and its surrounds - Oxley Vale, Oxley Lookout, Oxley Highway, Oxley High School, etc, etc. The Tamworth Centenary, back in 1918, when Tamworth's population was around 8000, was recognised with the attendance of the then Premier of NSW, the Honourable W.A.Holman. A stone monument was unveiled on the Manilla Road marking Oxley's route from the Peel River to his next campsite at Tintinhull, travelling north of the Wentworth Mounds. The iconic anchor was erected there eight years later, recognising Oxley's maritime background.

During the 1988 Australian Bicentennial Celebrations, a John Oxley re-enactment walk was conducted along much of the 1818 route. A Tamworth Bicentenary re-enactment walk is envisaged for 2018, possibly over 4 days from Curlewis to Limbri, with the optimum public participation being from Winton to the Peel River on Sunday, September 2.

And so towards plans for Tamworth's Bicentenary year - the celebrating of Tamworth's 200th birthday !

Community involvement and participation is the key. There are well over 200 community organisations in Tamworth and the aiming point, following the "200" Biecentenary theme, is to have "200 events in 200 days". Groups would organise their own events, not necessarily special ones, with the Bicentenary Organising Committee co-ordinating the program under the "Tamworth Bicentenary" umbrella. With a printed 2018 calendar of events to be published later this year, a number of local organisations have already expressed an interest in claiming a date for their Bicentenary event.

A major focus will be envisaged for a community celebration weekend at Bicentennial Park on September 1 & 2, 2018.

The invitation is now out to all Tamworth residents to "Join the Expedition" in celebrating Tamworth's 200th birthday.

The Organising Committee is happy to meet with groups to further explain the concept where required. Contact can be made through Co-ordinator Mike Cashman (67658610).

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