Warragamba Dam: original workers relive the past

Warragamba Dam is lauded as an engineering masterpiece but it was the hard working dam builders who got all the glory on Friday.

Foundation workers gathered at the dam to celebrate the 56th anniversary of the dam’s completion.

They were treated to the first screening of a special edition film that documents the dam’s history.

Warragamba – A Story of Our Making uses archival footage and photographs from the dam’s construction.

Hugh McCormack featured in the documentary and he said watching the video triggered memories of his time at the dam.

“When I look back at the work I did I have fond memories because I started my married live in Warragamba and my two children were born here,” he said.

Mr McCormack was a junior construction and design engineer from 1959 to 1968. He primarily helped design the roadways and bridges.

He believes more people should visit the dam to understand how it worked and how they received their water.

WaterNSW chief executive David Harris said he was also proud to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Warragamba being selected as the site for Sydney’s major dam with several of the original dam builders.

“For close to 20 years workers of more than 30 nationalities toiled side by side three shifts a day, seven days a week to secure a water supply for Sydney,” he said.

“It was an ambitious building project, built in post-war years of 1948 to 1960, that not only changed Sydney forever but also the lives of the people that brought it into being.”

Ron Bradley, 84, was a dogman and spare plant operator from 1948 to 1958 and features in the film.

The sense of camaraderie is Mr Bradley’s fondest memory about his time working in Warragamba.

“I enjoyed meeting people and everybody knew each other, especially the men who lived in the barracks,” he said.

He fondly remembers going into the township to have beers after work or dinner with his married friends.

He still keeps in touch with some of the workers when he visits the Warragamba Workers Club.

Wollondilly MP Jai Rowell said the film celebrated the history of the Warragamba township.

“The township was established to provide accommodation for dam builders,” he said.

“The close knit community revolved around the dam and at its peak, the population reached 3,500.”

Joe Cardy did some of the dam’s mechanical installations and enjoyed watching the documentary.

“The film took me back to my time working at the dam,” he said. “I have never forgotten working at Warragamba.”

Mr Cardy said he felt a sense of pride having worked on the engineering masterpiece and enjoyed the mateship at the pub.

The Warragamba resident and his friend and former diamond driller Ron Grills would like to see the town and dam return to its former glory.

“So many people came to visit the dam for years after it was built and that boosted the local town,” Mr Grills said. “It would be good if numbers returned to when the dam first opened.”

To watch the full documentary, visit: vimeo.com/170572186