The Legacy of the Lone Pine

'I was there when they planted the Lone Pine in Warrnambool Botanic Gardens.'

The Lone Pine in Warrnambool Botanic Gardens is on the Register of Significant Trees of Victoria.

It is one of our most loved trees. It was grown from the seed of a cone brought back from Gallipoli by Keith Mc Dowell of the 23rd Battalion. It was planted in the Gardens on 21st January 1934.  It was one of four trees successfully propagated from that cone by Mrs. Emma Gray, of Grasmere. The other three were planted at Wattle Park (May 1933), the Shrine of Remembrance (June 1933), and The Sisters Memorial Hall (June 1933).

The Lone Pine can elicit strong emotions. Memorial services recalling the sacrifices, the casualties and the horrors of war, have been held in its shadow over many years. The Lone Pine is a powerful symbol of the past.

So it was quite amazing to hear someone say, 'I was there when they planted the pine in Warrnambool Gardens.'

Mr. Lindsay Miller was seven years old when, with his father, he attended the tree planting. His father, William James Miller, known as Jim, had served with the 40th Battalion in Belgium and France in World War 1. Jim Miller enlisted in Tasmania and came to Warrnambool in 1919. He must have regarded the planting as significant as the event left a lasting memory with his young son.

Lindsay remembers the impact of the occasion, and the impression of numerous officials milling around. He can’t recall how he got there, but thinks he was probably given a dink on the back of a bike, as there certainly was no car in the family. He also has memories of his father taking part in ANZAC Day marches, which assembled at the Drill Hall in Kepler Street, now the resource Centre for South West TAFE.

Lindsay’s memories of the Gardens extend to the menagerie, where he remembered the emu, and he recalls the ducks on the lake. In contrast to today, when unwanted ducks are sometimes released in the gardens, their numbers declined during the depression years. He remembers school picnics in the Gardens, where predictably and regularly someone would fall in the lake, and the joy of sliding up and down the cannon.

Thank you for sharing your memories Lindsay.

The legacy of the Lone Pine lives on.

PV 26/8/08


Who was Sgt Keith McDowell?

What Battalion did he belong to?

What was his relationship with Mrs. Emma Gray?

TheSgt Keith McDowell story of the Lone Pine that grows in Warrnambool Botanic Gardens, the Shrine of remembrance, Wattle Park and The Sisters has become a legend and like all legends, developed different versions with repeated telling.

Many stories refer to Sergeant Keith McDowell as a member of the 24th Battalion,


There is no Keith Mc Dowell listed in the 24th regiment in The AIF Project, but there is a Thomas Keith McDowell in the 23rd. He enlisted 14 Jan 1915, embarked 10 May 1915 and returned to Australia 12 Sept 1916. His address was 58 Lygon St Carlton and his next of kin was Mrs. Lillian Watt of the same address.

A contemporary article in the Warrnambool Standard also states he was a member of the 23rd Battalion

The Warrnambool Standard, Monday 22nd January 1934 reported

Bright sunshine over green lawns and waving trees made a pleasant setting for the dedication of the Lone Pine seedling at the Botanic Gardens yesterday afternoon

The unique ceremony was arranged by the Returned Soldiers’ Association in conjunction with the Progress Association as the final act in the “Back to Warrnambool” celebrations………………………………..

The seedling which has been enclosed by a neat guard fence, comprised of cyclone wire and galvanised piping, is about two feet high and was grown from a seed from a cone which Sergeant Keith McDowell of the 23rd Battalion A.I.F. brought as a souvenir from Gallipoli. The cone was off the original “Lone Pine”. After twelve years Mrs. R. Gray of Grasmere, obtained permission to try to raise seedlings from the seeds in the cone, and she was successful in growing four. One seedling was planted at Wattle Park, Melbourne, on the 7th May 1933. A second was given to the 24th Battalion and planted at the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne on 11th June 1933. The third was planted at The Sisters Memorial Hall on 18th June 1933. The fourth one, which was dedicated at the service, was given by Mrs. Gray on the 23rd of April 1929 to Mr. M.L. Carter, secretary of the Warrnambool Progress Association. It has successfully been transplanted and is making steady growth.

An account of the planting at The Sisters in the Terang Express, Tuesday, June 20, 1933, tells a similar story and describes Sgt. McDowell as a nephew of Mrs. Gray.

A ceremony unique in character, and one invested with historical significance, was performed before a large attendance in the grounds of The Sisters Memorial Hall on Sunday afternoon. The occasion was the planting of a tree grown from a cone taken from the Lone Pine at Gallipoli. …….Mrs R. Gray, of Grasmere, presented the tree, which is five years old, and her nephew, Sgt. Keith McDowell, of Geelong, who brought the cone from Gallipoli, performed the planting ceremony, in the whole of which work he was joined by Mr S.G. Black, former owner of the land on which it was planted.

The planting of the tree at Wattle Park was reported in The Sun, Monday May 8, 1933.

Frontpage photographs were described as;

Cadets of the Kooyong Regiment attended the Trooping the Color ceremony held by the 24th Battalion in Wattle Park yesterday. Col. G. I. Stevenson, who took the salute, is seen inspecting some of the Camberwell Grammar School contingent.

After the military ceremonial, the Mayor of Camberwell, Cr. J. H. Nettleton, and the Mayor of Box Hill, Cr. J. K. Archer planted a memorial pine tree from Gallipoli.

June 18, 1933, a tree was planted, with full military honors at the Shrine of remembrance near the statue of Simpson and his donkey. This has been described as the 24th Battalions tree (George Jones, Investigator, June 1993)

An article by Jack Wilkinson and Gary Francis in the Australian POST, October 30, 1986 states;

After the war, Sgt McDowell was visiting his aunt Mrs. Emma Gray, of Grassmere, near Warrnambool (V).

Her son Alexander Gray, now aged in his late 80s, remembers Sgt McDowell scratching around the bottom of his kit bag, handing the pine cone to Mrs. Gray and saying, "Here aunty, you’ve got a green thumb, see if you can grow something out of this"……………………………………….

"She grew them in flower pots outside the back door and looked after them like pet lambs"

The story of Sgt McDowell and Emma Gray has been told in many Legacy publications. Legacy has been very active in arranging for the propagation and distribution of second generation pines, mostly those from the pine at the Shrine.  (later removed)

Pat Varley

August 2005

More reports from the Standard Newspaper

Soldier's enduring legacy

Honouring our living Gallipoli Link