Olive Campbell: Secretary for 25 years and a dynamic force within the Blue Mountains Rhododendron Society.

Olive Campbell was born in Marrickville, May 1918, and moved to the Blue Mountains with her family in 1931. She married Norm in 1944 and they lived in Blackheath. They were not blessed with children but ‘adopted’ others who affectionately refer to her as Aunty Ol.. She died in December 1994.

The Blue Mountains Rhododendron Society is indebted to both Olive and Norm for their dedication to the Society, its development, and their management of the Rhododendron Gardens at Blackheath.

The following are quotes from various items written about Olive and Norm:

“By the time The Blue Mountains Rhododendron Society was formed, Olive’s knowledge and experience made her the obvious choice for Secretary. She held this position until her death—a remarkable feat—but her work went far beyond secretarial duties. Together with Norman, Olive planned the entire development of the Gardens: she had tremendous energy, a cheery, charming manner and a great enthusiasm of purpose. All this ensured she achieved her aims and saw the “Bacchante Gardens” grow in a short space of time, to become the world-renowned beauty of today. For both Olive and Norman this has meant a singular devotion, and many long hours of untiring work.”

1970 Olive Campbell

“Olive was meticulous in her secretarial duties and other clerical matters. The bi-monthly Society Newsletter production was also a combined effort with Norman—they were reporters, editors and printers. The same may be said of the History Booklet, the brochures etc., and during their time they kept a register of all the plants, the locations and the names of their donors, a task which has been continued to this day.”

“It is said that at BMRS meetings she would greet each member and participant warmly, making all feel very comfortable and included. This same generosity of spirit continues to be evident on reading the Society Newsletters, where she mentions various members and is concerned for their welfare. It seems that the Newsletters are not just about the Gardens, plants, plans, finances, speakers, events etc., but also a way of keeping a check on the welfare of the various Society members.”

In the February 1987 Newsletter Olive writes: “Our Monday work-days are very happy days and to those members who assist we owe a great deal of gratitude for their valued work, for without these sincere people, there just would not be a garden.”

In the October 1978 Newsletter: “Before concluding I must say thanks to everyone for the lovely words of encouragement and kindness you have given, and believe me, it all helps us to strive for greater achievements all the time. However, I could not cope without Norm, for we work together so strongly with this task, which has become a daily job these days.”

August 1990, Newsletter reports: A special plaque was unveiled at the Rhododendron Gardens on ‘Blackheath Day’. It commemorates the 20th anniversary of the inauguration of the Gardens Project, acknowledging the work of Olive and Norman Campbell—Olive for her 20 years of service as Honorary Secretary and co-planner of the project, and Norman for his long term as Supervisor of the project, and for the planning and layout of the area.

Olive Campbell

From an obituary by Laurie Caulder: “Olive had many friends and was held in high esteem. She put other people first and was loved by all who knew her. She had a very cheerful disposition and positive outlook, and even in those last weeks of her life, managed a bright comment and a happy smile. Olive Campbell was unique. She made an exceptionally high contribution to her cherished town of Blackheath and to her beloved Blue Mountains, giving completely of herself in all she did.”

Dec 1995: The President’s Annual Report highlights Olive’s death, “…it brought such sorrow and was a devastating blow to the Society. Olive was a remarkable woman, greatly admired in her lifetime. She leaves a wonderful memorial and we have inherited an enduring legacy—The Campbell’s Bacchante Gardens” Dr Joan Storey

Catherine Harker, Webmaster

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