A trip back in time: Story of the Busselton sundial

Plinth photographed around 1979. Image supplied.
Plinth photographed around 1979. Image supplied.

Many Busselton residents and visitors may have passed by the sundial in a garden on the corner of Queen Street and Marine Terrace with barely a glance.

This sundial has a chequered history back to Busselton's early pioneer days, as researched and recorded on February 7, 1977 by then 79 years old the late Arthur Breeden for his Sussex Masonic Lodge archives.

Mr Breeden's original hand written notes after being tucked away for the last 43 years recalls Bob Forsythe, as mentioned, being a local boat-builder and Busselton Sea Scouts leader and perhaps the founder.

Arthur's story:

The old sundial standing on the southeast corner of Signal Park at the intersection of Queen Street and Marine Terrace, Busselton is believed to have been the property of Lieutenant Colonel Molloy and was first erected around 1853 at the old Police Station and Court House grounds near a limestone plinth (now removed) just south across the road from where it now stands. This plinth carried the rain gauge from which Busselton's early rainfall records are kept.

One story, probably founded on fact, was that when the late Richard Gale purchased the Molloy property Fairlawn, the sundial was removed from the old Police Station grounds and later re-erected at Mr Gale's new home at the northern end of West Street (now known as The Nurses Quarters). Mr Gale retired here after purchasing the property from Mr Charles Fox Roberts circa 1915.

Sometime later, the sundial disappeared from the Gale residence and many years later was found in the beach scrub, west of the old Geographe House at the north end of West Street (now demolished) and is believed to have been held in custody by our late Wor. Bro. Bob Forsythe.

Sundial as it stands today. Image supplied.

Sundial as it stands today. Image supplied.

For the 1929 WA Centenary Celebration, Sussex Lodge, as their contribution had the sundial re-erected on its present site. The cairn or plinth was built by the late John Henry Atkinson, a stonemason. A time capsule was placed inside.

Wor. Bro. Forsythe fixed and set the dial on a true bearing and the whole was ceremonially unveiled at a simple ceremony in the presence of members of the Masonic Lodge.

The sundial standing today 48 years after its 1929 re-erection is just as true to time keeping as it was when in the early days, it was the only local instrument to record exact time.

If anyone knows the contents of the 1929 time capsule or has knowledge of the plinth and what stands within today's garden please email editorial@busseltonmail.com.au.

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