Home from Home: Donnybrook, Australia

Home From Home_Donnybrook

Remember when NewsFour took you across the Atlantic to Irishtown, New Brunswick, Canada? Well if you weren’t worn out by that brief journey to a far flung place with one of Dublin 4’s twin towns then you’ll be more than eager to follow us to Donnybrook, Western Australia.

The town of Donnybrook is situated between Boyanup and Kirup straddling the Preston River on the South Western Highway, 210 kilometres south of Perth, Western Australia and is the home to Western Australiaís apple industry.
It was first settled in 1842 when George Nash and others moved to the area. They named the place Donnybrook after the suburb of Dublin they came from. Originally nick-named Irishtown due to the Irish inhabitants the town was gazetted in 1894 when the population was 430 (294 males and 136 females). The eastern part of the town was formerly known as Minninup, the western part of the town is still referred to as Irishtown.

In 1897 Richard Hunter panned the extreme upper reaches of the Nonneycup Creek and discovered gold. Hunter became the father of the Donnybrook goldfield and managed to sell to a prospector who in turn managed to get Donnybrook Goldfields Ltd floated on the London Stock Exchange. A gold rush ensued but the excitement was short lived as the mine closed in 1903 after only six years.

In 1900 the first Granny Smith apple tree was planted and after World War 1 the apple industry began to flourish. Donnybrook is now known as a stop off for backpackers looking to earn money between November and June by picking fruit from the orchards.

With the apple being the source of large industry it is no surprise that Donnybrook is scattered with many tributes to the townís iconic fruit. On the main street, apple-shaped lights line the entrance of the Old Railway Station and atop the east Donnybrook hill is a 66 ft high tower with an apple at the top. Thereís even The Apple Fun Park, the largest free-entry playground in Australia, opened in Easter 2008 in time for the Donnybrook Apple Festival.

The Donnybrook Apple Festival is held every two years when citizens gather at Egan Park to celebrate the apple. The festival includes agricultural displays, sideshow alley, the crowning of the Apple Queen and a parade. During the street parade the Catholic Church of Donnybrook blesses the holy apple, assuring a good harvest in the years to come.
With its high concentration of apple and stone fruit orchards, Donnybrook also produces excellent wine, cider and fruit wine, making it an important part of the Geographe Wine Region.

Donnybrook is also home to Australia’s largest known English Oak. The tree, believed to originate from 1893 is a landmark within the town.
As far as local attractions go they are certainly diverse. From the picturesque Namestey Lavender Farm overlooking the Glen Mervyn Dam and The Real River Company where you can pan for gold, drink fresh cider in the sun and take a step back in time to the bizarre Gnomesville, a secluded spot where Gnomes apparently go to retire is nestled in the Freguson Valley 30 mins drive away.

So if you fancy a holiday to a place that wonít make you feel homesick there is plenty to see here and much to admire in Donnybrook, Western Australia.
How do you like them apples?

by Joe McKenna