One hundred and also twenty-three years back this week, Jenolan’s fabulous Aladdin cavern was discovered. This write-up pays tribute to the quiet and unassuming male who uncovered it – Frederick john Wilson.

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In 1854, William and also Rebecca Wilson, v 7 youngsters in tow, arrived by bullock wagon, in ~ Oberon NSW. Quickly after, ~ above 15 May, Frederick man Wilson was born. Fred to be the 8thof their 9 children.

Throughout most of his career, the reserved and quiet Fred lived very much in the zero of his outgoing and also charismatic enlarge brother, Jeremiah (Jerry), that was Jenolan’s first ‘Keeper that the Caves’. But as a ‘silent achiever’, Fred was a an extremely important personality in the occasionally quirky background of Jenolan Caves. The made far-reaching cave discoveries and, more importantly, the made an essential contributions to the defense of present caves in Australia.

Back in the job when residences had names quite than numbers, Fred live at ‘Melrose’ and later at ‘Lammer Muir’, in Oberon. In a 1993 interview because that the national Library, Fred’s daughter, Pearl, revealed that Fred had owned a small farm throughout from his parent’s property, however had lost it in a financial institution crash. With no job and nowhere to live, his older brothers Jerry obtained Fred a job and accommodation at Jenolan in 1881, wherein he became Jerry’s assistant.

In 1885, Fred married southern Bowenfels institution teacher, Margaret Eliza Lobban.Over the next 19 years, they had actually 6 children.

Fred was a very practical man, accompanying Jerry top top his explorations into the black color unknown - very dangerous work. The Australian Star, 29 march 1893, provides a long, detailed description, composed by Jerry, which provides us an inkling of just how extremely daunting and dangerous cavern exploration was. For example, Jerry wrote, “I was helped by my brother, Mr. Fred J. Wilson and also my son, mr E. J. Wilson. Just here we proficient some little excitement, with my kid doing some experimenting on his own account, in ~ a distance from wherein we to be engaged. There was a feet just large enough to admit his body descending perpendicularly v which he entered easily, the outside edges on height being smooth and also water-worn, however as the under edge of the opened had plenty of limestone formations he uncovered it do the efforts to gain out of the hole. He can as well shot to crawl the end of a stove-pipe lined through projecting nails, for this reason after sundry unsuccessful attempts we had actually to walk to his assistance. We had to extricate that by removing few of the rock and development with hammers.” (Notice how Jerry made light of a near fatal predicament, through calling it ‘some tiny excitement’.)

They had to crawl and also create some impossibly little holes and passages through which come squeeze. In the same post Jerry wrote, “Not gift able to get any further in this direction for the many stalactites in the way, i again returned to No. 6 chamber whereby I had reason to think the main lead the the cavern was, and also commenced breaking a hole v 8in. By 9in. After difficult work for an hour and also a fifty percent I succeeded in acquiring through into a small chamber 2ft. High and also 5ft wide, and also from which I could see with a hole 7in. Through 14 in. Through formations from the height to the floor, and which with hammer and chisel we functioned at it rotates 2 o’clock in the morning in stimulate to make the space large enough to crawl through, however had to give up the idea until the fourth day, as soon as we eventually succeeded in make the i 11in. High and 15 in vast and 3ft. Long. After ~ removing our coats and also waist-costs, and having a desperate battle to obtain through, we reached an additional chamber…”

Back in 1866, the caves were asserted a reserve, and also trespassing was no allowed, but no penalties to be in location for vandalising. Without police, Jerry and Fred did what they can to protect the caves. However on Boxing job 1896, once a young Sydney guy wilfully damaged off a stalactite , Fred Wilson to be sworn in together a one-of-a-kind constable prior to the Police Magistrate at the Lithgow Court.

We recognize that Fred discovered the fabulous Aladdin cavern on November 10, 1897. Yet it is feasible that he discovered much more in previously years, yet his brother, Jerry, walk not give him credit. Basil Ralston, that wrote extensively around the exploration of Jenolan, provided “In 1897 Fred created to the Department of Mines the one ‘J. Wilson’ had not made known any discoveries do by the .” Again in 13th. Feb. 1897 Fred asked the "J. Wilson be instructed to point out new discoveries do by him".


In 1896, the NSW government decided to develop a substantial hotel in ~ Jenolan, come attract more visitors to the caves. ~ the an initial stage the the hotel was completed in 1897, the government also built a 2 storey Caretakers Cottage. Fred ended up being ‘Keeper that the Caves’ the year, so, Fred must have been the very first occupant that the newly developed ‘Caretakers Cottage’.

The Cumberland Argus and also Fruitgrowers Advocate claimed “Overlooking the Caves House, ~ above the next of the mountains, is the quite residence the the curator of the caves, mr F. Wilson, a most obliging official, a younger brother of Mr. Jeremiah Wilson, the beforehand explorer of these exciting caverns. His aides are Mr. Wiberd, a many intelligent officer…”

Previously, Fred and also his family members lived in a little cottage in McKeown’s valley somewhere above the play fields, probably on what is currently Burma Road.


By 1898, Fred to be earning £100 a year together caretaker, plus his accommodation cost 1s every week. It was a reasonable government salary because that the time.


As formerly mentioned, Fred was an extremely practical male - great with his hands. He is stated to have actually been responsible for installing all the security mesh in the caves, all the cavern lighting and also all the handrails and also paths. The Lithgow Mercury reported the “through the initiatives of Messrs Trickett and also Fred Wilson, the caves themselves have actually undergone substantial improvement and also the most timid and also nervous person in the people need not now be the the very least afraid the threading the secret mazes and mysterious passages. Every little thing tending to boost the comfort and easy transit of travellers from cavern to cave has been brought out. Inclines have actually been levelled, depressions to fill up, proper concrete steps built in what were once dangerous places, for this reason ensuring perfect safety. Included to this, every the passages have actually been totally enclosed with solid wire-netting overhead and also down the 2 sides, so the no one have the right to now touch the stalagmites and stalactites.”

In 1901, Fred Wilson discovered and developed a new method into the Lucas Cave. Previously, visitors gotten in the Lucas from a high and hard-to-reach entrance. Just getting to the entrance to be an expedition. Fred’s an ext convenient brand-new entrance is still provided today. A Lithgow Mercury article, from 16 Aug 1901, said, “One great improvement is the brand-new entrance to the Lucas Cave, one exceedingly creditable item of work lugged out under the supervision the the caretaker, Mr. F. Wilson.”

The same post introduced Fred’s second significant underground discovery, “The next addition to the many glorious sights is the brand-new cave uncovered on the job of the Relief that Mafeking, by grandfather Wilson, and also named 'Mafeking'. The work-related of opened up this brand-new cave is, ns understand, to start immediately.”

Visitors often ask why this beautiful branch the the Lucas cave was named The Mafeking. The Siege of Mafeking was a 217-day siege fight for the town of Mafeking (now dubbed Mahikeng) in south Africa, during the 2nd Boer War. Fred’s daughter Pearl, claimed that they had actually relatives who went to the Boer War. The brothers media created an unprecedented amount of publicity roughly the world, around the Seige that Mafeking, since Lord Edward Cecil, the son of the British prime minister, remained in the besieged town, along with Lady buy it Wilson, daughter that the battle each other of Marlborough and aunt that Winston Churchill. The siege was lifted top top 16 might 1900 – the Relief of Mafeking. This taken place to it is in the very same day the Fred Wilson uncovered a brand-new branch in the Lucas Cave. So v all the rejoicing about the Relief of Mafeking, Fred called his new discovery the Mafeking Branch.

Fred and also his family members left Jenolan in may 1903, as soon as Fred was loaned come the government of western Australia, to work-related on the advance of show caves. Professor Elery Hamilton-Smithwho did substantial research right into Jenolan’s history, discovered that “Frederick to western Australia together caves manager for the brand-new Caves Board. He discovered this a an overwhelming position as the secretary the the board was plainly jealous that his appointment."

However, in Victoria, soil Department ar Surveyor, wilhelm Thorn, saw the Buchan Caves in eastern Gippsland. Responsibility of the damage that travellers had currently done to various other caves in Buchan, mandrel recommended that the cavern "be certain closed till the formations have actually been protected". He likewise recommended that "an experienced guy be derived from new South Wales" for this task.

So, in 1907, Fred was invite to take it the place of manager of the Buchan Caves. in ~ Buchan, Fred set about arising the Fairy cavern for tourism, in accordance through what to be then embraced as finest caves monitoring practice, arisen at Jenolan. Fred has been defined as "a really shy man ... A an extremely reticent and retiring man" but likewise as "a visionary with a good sensitivity to the natural world". Helped by Buchan’s open minded Moon, Fred established pathways and also handrails in the Fairy cavern which re-opened to tourist in December 1907.

In 1909, Fred uncovered a new cave in ~ Buchan, later on named the royal Cave. He invested 1910 mapping this cave. Fred oversaw the environment of iron railings and wire netting, comparable to his work-related at Jenolan, and in 1913 an fabricated entrance was likewise constructed, allowing the Royal cavern to be opened for publicly tours. Fred’s design and also installation the the protective netting in Royal cavern are among the best examples of this kind of job-related in the world.

In march 1915, Fred discovered yet an additional cave in ~ Buchan, through "one very fine room of rich formation", and decided that "It would be an extremely easy come improve" for display as a tourist cave. In being successful weeks Fred and also others surveyed the 'new cave' i m sorry was named Federal Cave. iron railings and wire netting were installed.

The high quality of Fred’s job-related at Buchan Caves won universal respect and friendship. It to be a an extremely happy duration of his life. Once he retired in December 1921, he ongoing to live in Buchan for part time prior to returning to N.S.W.”

On Aug 20, 1925, Fred Wilson died aged 71, in ~ his home, Dudley Street, Bondi, and was hidden in Waverley Cemetery.

We hope the soon, when all of our caves reopen ~ COVID-19, you will have the ability to tour Jenolan again. Keep an eye out for evidence of the larger handrails and original lighting, which to be likely mounted by Fred. In fact, if you have actually the chance to carry out the Chifley mystery Chambers Tour, you will certainly see few of the initial wire the Fred hand-twisted right into netting, to protect against visitors reaching and also snapping off crystal formations. You will eventually be able to visit the Mafeking Branch, i m sorry Fred found in the Lucas Cave. And also if you have a yearn for real adventure, girlfriend may be able to do the Aladdin Adventure tour.

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If you travel to Buchan Caves, in Victoria, you have the right to wander follow me a shrub trail named in honour of Fred, the FJ Wilson interpreted Walk. This walk begins about 100m east of the Buchan visitor Centre, follows the leave track of the Royal cave (discovered by Fred), and also then ends near the Fairy cave entrance. From here you deserve to return along the main road with the reserve, to check out the Federal cavern (also discovered by Fred Wilson).