The sawmill he established on the Princess River east of Queenstown became a small village, hosting several families, but in 1992 – with the mill now being operated by his sons Bern and Henry (Curly) – the area was flooded by the Hydro Electric impoundment caused by the damming of the King River. While many thousands of tonnes of Huon pine were salvaged prior to this flooding, the Princess River mill buildings were in the flood zone, and the entire operation was moved to a location at Lynchford, east of Queenstown.
It was there that the Bradshaws set about establishing the most efficient and professional operation they could develop on this larger site….which meant going into partnership with Randal Morrison.
By the time Cliff Bradshaw brought his family, which would grow to 12 children, to set up their sawmill settlement on the Princess River – another tributary of the King – in 1936, the Huon pine tree was a monster; many parts of it dead, but timber still beautifully intact. Cliff became well known in Tasmania for his outstanding bushmanship, leading explorers and surveyors on journeys through the rugged western mountains. In the 1950’s the mill employed 21 workers, who, with their families, created quite a village at the Princess River. The fire-killed King William pine trees on the Raglan and Eldon Ranges were the major focus of Cliff’s logging activities, and our Huon pine tree on the Traveller Creek remained unmolested.
In 1990 fate brought the Bradshaw sawmill and the ancient Huon together: both of their homes would be inundated by the rising waters of the hydro electric impoundment on the King River which became known as Lake Burbury. Huon pine and other valuable timber were removed before their habitat was flooded, and Cliff’s sons, Bern and Henry, undertook the careful operation of removing the tree and transporting it to their new mill location at Lynchford on the western side of Queenstown.
Boys – now old men – who had grown up in the King River Valley were now custodians of an ancient tree which had lived its life in the same valley.
Eventually the log was sawn into slabs, and patiently seasoned for years in the racks at the mill. This beautiful timber is a testament to the sawmiller’s craft and a measure of the respect with which we honour the life and history of the unique Huon pines.
When young, Smithies was a member of the Tamar lacrosse team and reputedly a cricketer and rower. But it was through bushwalking that he made his name. He later recollected that, denied the opportunity of world travel, he had determined to explore his own State. In 1924 with Bill King he made a remarkable motorbike trip from Waratah to Zeehan via Corinna and in 1926 he backpacked from Adamsfield via the valley of Rasselas over the Spires Range to the highest point on the Prince of Wales Range.
In 1931 with Cliff Bradshaw he made the first successful ascent of Frenchman's Cap in fourteen years and next year they walked through 'trackless and practically uncharted country' from Queenstown to Cradle Mountain via the Eldon Range and Canning Gorge.
A close friend of Gustav Weindorfer, he thoroughly traversed the Cradle Mountain district, making the first winter ascent of the mountain in 1924 with Weindorfer and Charles Monds and the 'skyline tour' in 1936. He was also an intrepid motorist, driving his 'A' model Ford in 1932 from Derwent Bridge to Queenstown and later, before a road was surveyed, from Great Lake to Bronte.
Smithies publicized the Tasmanian wilderness and promoted the establishment of reserves through talks, broadcasts, written accounts and photographs. Highly rated as a photographer, he hand-coloured his own lantern slides, took stereoscopic pictures and was an early user of 16mm motion picture film and of the waistcoat (a form of candid) camera. From the 1920s he gave lantern lectures in various States on behalf of the Tasmanian government to encourage tourism; in 1935 he organized the Tasmanian display at the Melbourne Centenary Exhibition.
Treasurer of the Launceston Art Society in 1912-72, member of the Northern Tasmanian Camera Club and the Stereoscopic Society, Smithies helped to form the Northern Tasmanian Alpine Club in 1929 and was later patron of the Launceston Walking Club. He also belonged to the Royal Society of Tasmania, Tasmanian Club, 50,000 League, Young Men's Christian Association and the National Trust (Tasmanian branch). He was a justice of the peace from 1942. Chairman of the Scenery Preservation Board (1941-71) and member of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair, Barrow Reserve and Northern Scenery boards, he was appointed O.B.E. in 1946.
Smithies married Ida Isobel Heyward (d.1928) at New Town with Methodist forms on 3 April 1912. On 8 October 1930 at St Mary's Church of England, Hagley, he married a nurse, Florence Jean Perrin: from the 1950s they lived and ran cattle at St Leonards.
A persevering man, a great yarn-teller, Smithies gave up carrying heavy packs in his late seventies, abandoned driving when 88 and at 92 deposited his photographic collection in the Archives Office of Tasmania. He died at Launceston on 13 October 1979. His wife and their two sons and two daughters survived him.