Camp MacKay, located at 87 Mill Road Kurrajong, New South Wales (now part of the Merroo Christian Centre complex) was established in 1937 by the Police Boys Club movement and in particular the Balmain Branch of the club. The movement had been established in 1937 by Police Commissioner William John MacKay in partnership with the community and with the support of Rotary and aimed to provide interesting and safe activities for young people. In the early years at Kurrajong, the camp was known as the “Boys Health Camp” and occupied the Public Recreation and Camping Reserve (Portion 285) now known as Singletons Reserve in Mill Road with the sanction and support of Colo Shire Council.
Under the leadership and guidance of the Balmain Club secretary, Constable Percy Thomas Stevens, camps were held on a regular basis accommodating about 120 boys from many locations during the school holidays and long weekends. The club also gained Permissive Occupancy of a 47 acre block known as Portion 279 with a long frontage to Little Wheeny Creek. The club was able to make many improvements to this property including the installation of a septic tank system. In 1945, the club asked Colo Shire Council if they would consider relinquishing control of the reserve for the sole use of the camp. This was not agreed to by council but the existing arrangement of the use of the reserve by the club would continue for several years.
In October 1945, the Federation of NSW Police Citizens Boys' Clubs purchased Portion 277, an area of 32 acres and adjoining Portion 279 for the sum of £740 from John Joseph O’Neill of Kurrajong. O’Neill had bought the property in 1937 as an orchard block under the provisions of the Closer Settlement Act (1914). In November the same year, the club won the tender for the purchaseof Portion 279 from the Crown for £700. Finally, in 1946, the adjoining Portion 275 of 27 acres was added to the camp property at a cost of £700. This block had been purchased in 1935 by Arnold John Sampson of Wheeny Creek Farm, Kurrajong. By 1946 the area of the club’s property amounted to 106 acres.
The Windsor and Richmond Gazette gave a detailed description of the site in April 1946-
I had a very pleasant visit recently to the Kurrajong Police Boys' Camp— which, by the way is a miniature township, built on 130 acres of beautifully elevated, rich land. This is the holiday home for boys from all suburbs of the city. Some 130 boys are accommodated at a time, each suburb being taken in turn, and a huge bus picks the boys up in the city and brings them to their destination. What a wonderful time for boys from slum areas, to come to open spaces with plenty of good food and comfort, and every praise is due to Sgt. Stephens (sic), supervising officer, who has a big job, as he is also Superintendent and Secretary of Police Boys' Clubs.
The Farmer and Settler newspaper of July 1948 detailed the facilities at the centre which by then accommodated over 3,600 boys annually. The farm had an established orchard, dairy herd, piggery and poultry shed giving the boys (and later girls) experience in farming and agriculture. Over the years, the camp’s ‘Endeavour Stud’ won several prizes at the Royal Easter Show with their champion quality pigs and sows. Physical outdoor activities such as flying foxes, archery and swimming were also orgainsed.
Camp MacKay also hosted many Hawkesbury community events. In 1958 the camp was the venue for the Hawkesbury Show Ball orgainsed by the Hawkesbury District Agricultural Association and several local churches held their parish balls in the auditorium. The Kurrajong Hospital Society held its First Annual Cabaret Ball on the site and the Richmond RSL Ball was held in November that year. The Spastic Centre of NSW also held its annual ball at the centre. Learn-to-swim classes were held at Camp MacKay in the 1960s.
The camp was closed and sold in the 1980s.
Read more about Camp MacKay
Learn more about the history of Police Citizens Youth Clubs
In 1967 a meeting was held by the Hawkesbury branch of the Police Citizens Boys Club to organise fund raising for the establishment of club activities at Camp MacKay at Kurrajong. Initial target for the purchase of equipment was $2,000 and meetings were to be held on the first Monday of each month.
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