Jenolan Caves

Royal Visit 1927

Jenolan Caves were the first caves in the world to be dedicated for tourist purposes, the first to be lit with electric light and the first to be visited by members of the royal family! 

Duke & Duchess of YorkIn 1927 The Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and the late Queen Mother), left Britain to sail to the other side of the world. The main purpose of the trip was to open the provisional Parliament House in Canberra, but it was also to thank the Dominions of Australia and New Zealand for sending so many of their young men to fight in the Great War, many of whom never returned.

The royal couple arrived in Sydney on the morning of the 26th March, to a tumultuous reception, by over a million people in Sydney.

In a letter written by the Duke to the Lord Mayor he said:

“The Duchess and I desire to say how deeply touched we are at the warmth of the welcome we received from the citizens of Sydney during the tour through the city this morning. We shall never forget it as long as we live” [1]

Five days later, the royal train, drawn by 2 36-class locomotives, steamed up the Great Western railway to Katoomba. After luncheon at the Carrington Hotel, where the Duchess admired the recently completed cupola, a fleet of Crossley cars left to view the lookouts at Echo Point then Leura, destination - the Jenolan Caves.

Outside the Katoomba hospital, the royal progress was stopped by the local member and speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Mr. James Dooley. His previous request that the Duke and Duchess inspect the completed, but not open, hospital, had been refused due to the Duchess’s tiredness, but his time, he appealed directly to the royal couple.

“The Duke and the Earl of Cavan objected that this was contrary to arrangements, but Mr. Dooley appealed to the Duchess, who graciously intervened on his behalf “Seeing that is an Anzac memorial” she said softly. Officials in charge of the tour were furious with Mr. Dooley”[2]

This incident did not apparently prevent Dooley from joining the royal party at the Jenolan Caves later that evening, where he “celebrated his success as a personal triumph over red tape”! [ 3]

Following afternoon tea at Hampton, the Duke and Duchess arrived at Jenolan Caves, where arrangements had been made for a night inspection of the Left Imperial Cave, now the Chifley. A broadcast of the Duke speaking from the cave was also scheduled – which would have been another first.

It is common knowledge that the Duke of York suffered from a stammer. Great progress had been made with therapy from Lionel Logue (the subject of the Film ‘The King’s Speech’).  However on this occasion, the Duke decided not to proceed with the broadcast. Listeners sat patiently beside their wireless sets only to hear the announcement that the Duke and Duchess had returned to Caves House, followed by music.

Following their cave visit, conducted by the famed Mr. Voss Wiburd, a noted authority on limestone caves and chief guide at Jenolan for nearly 30 years, the Duke and Duchess sat down to a splendid 15 course dinner, including such mouth watering choices as lobster neuberg, roast turkey St. James and rum omlette.

A copy of the full menu for the night, signed by their Royal Highnesses, hangs in the dining room of Caves House. 

The next day, there was to be a morning inspection of the Orient Cave, then as now, thought to be one of the most beautiful caves in the world. But the Duchess, who privately declared her fatigue [5] could not countenance the 45 minute walk through the lowest section of the cave system, then up a 122 steep stairs, surmounted by an iron ladder, merely to reach the cave, with a similar tiring journey on return.

So bidding goodbye to Mr. Wiburd outside Caves House, the Duke and Duchess left for Mount Victoria, lunch and the royal train back to Sydney.

Australia left a lasting impression on the Duke of York. As king in the early 1950’s, he planned another much anticipated visit, but his death through throat cancer prevented it.

1 Sydney Morning Herald 27/3/1927
2 The Melbourne Argus 1/4/1927
3 The Hobart Mercury 2/4/1927
4 Letter from the Duchess of York to Queen Mary 20/4/1927
From: ‘Counting One’s Blessings The selected letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’ edit. William Shawcross Macmillan 2012
5 ibid


4655 Jenolan Caves Road, Jenolan Caves, Blue Mountains NSW. Ph: 1300 76 33 11 or +61 2 6359 3911

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