By: Henry J. Tompkins
A guide to hikes around Sydney, Australia, from the early years of the twentieth century. In 1895, Henry J. Tompkins and William Mogford Hamlet, two friends with literary inclinations and a taste for romantic scenery, formed the Warragamba Walking Club. Although the strength of their membership is unknown , the Warragambas also counted John Le Gay Brereton, poet and professor of literature, among their number.
Published by the Government Tourist Bureau, With Swag and Billy ran to three editions . The second edition included shorter walks in present-day suburban Sydney and longer routes in the Blue Mountains, the Southern Highlands and Hunter Valley. As there were few walking paths at the time, most of the routes follow what are now main roads, but they give a flavour of what it was like to walk the roads of New South Wales when the only hazards were the occasional bicycle or horse-drawn coach.
Carrying their gear in a swag and a billy to boil tea ‘on the track’, Tompkins and his friends created a distinctively Australian style of recreational walking that affected the style of the swagman tramping the highways and byways in search of occasional work. But the trio were stout walkers. Hamlet undertook several walks of 400 miles or more and published accounts of them in the Sydney Morning Herald, while Le Gay Brereton published his account of a 400 mile walk around New South Wales in Landlopers. Parodying the advice on equipment in With Swag and Billy, Brereton wrote of its author:
For clad in love and sunlight goes the leader of the clan,
The trappings of modernity are shed,
While Tompkins bangs his brolly on his polished frying pan,
Or waves his carpet slippers round his head.
- Summary by Phil Benson