Mary Mackillop Reserve
Older residents remember that the land here was a rubbish tip in the 1930s. When the course of the Cooks River was changed in this area in about 1939-40, soil from the banks was dumped in the Reserve to make the land flat and to raise it above the river flood level. The park was not landscaped until some years later.
This park was originally known as "Simpson Reserve". Across Canterbury Road is the Mytelinium Theatre, previously known as the Windsor Theatre, a popular picture theatre built in 1938. In 1930 when King Edward the eighth of England abdicated his throne to marry Wallis Simpson, he took the title Duke of Windsor. Local people came to link the theatre and park together, and some believe that Simpson Reserve was named after Wallis Simpson.
However Council records show otherwise. Alderman Sydney Hollingsworth Simpson served on the then Canterbury Municipal Council between 1934 and 1937. He helped Council obtain this land cheaply to use as a park. Local residents wrote to Council commending him for his efforts and so, in 1936, Council resolved to name the park "Simpson Reserve" after him.
Simpson Reserve and Heynes Reserve had a joint park committee of local residents until at least 1974. The park committee raised funds to improve facilities in the park and committee members kept an eye out for vandals and people dumping rubbish in the park.
In the 1930s, a fund was established by the Park Committee to raise money for a fountain in Simpson Reserve. Fund-raising picture shows were held, but there is no evidence that the fountain was ever erected.
When Alderman Simpson left Council he maintained a keen interest in the park. He remained a member of the park committee until at least 1969, some years after he had left the Canterbury district for Moss Vale and later to Cronulla.
"Coronation Row", a path along the river here, commemorates the coronation of Queen Elizabeth 11 and her visit to Sydney in 1953, and includes a plaque at the base of one of the trees. The park has two other plaques, which commemorate past presidents of the Cook's River Valley Association, a group that has worked for some decades to restore the river as a place of beauty and recreation. The plaques commemorate the work of the late Major Nicholas and Bill Dowd. Bill Dowd was the reporter for the "Weekly Flash" newspaper, and was a well-known identity.
Simpson Reserve was renamed Mary MacKillop Reserve by Canterbury City Council in 1995, the year that Mary MacKillop was beatified by Pope John Paul 11. Mary MacKillop founded the Sisters of St Joseph in Australia. The Sisters established eight schools along the Canterbury-Bankstown railway line, and Mother Mary MacKillop was personally responsible for establishing St Anthony's, the first Josephite school and convent at Canterbury in 1900. The school was originally located in Howard Street. It was later moved to Duke Street Campsie, and was re-named St Mels. A convent was established in a house at Fore Street Canterbury in 1901, and the building still exists.
A heritage panel was erected at Mary MacKillop Reserve in 2003, as part of a major upgrade and beautification of the reserve.
References Madden, Brian J and Lesley Muir Campsie's past: a history of Campsie and Croydon Park NSW. Campsie: Canterbury City Council, 1988.
Mr Les Hall, Canterbury & District Historical Society 1995