A boy running along Stanwell Park Beach trying to make a kite fly in little wind might not have seemed significant to onlookers.
But had they known he was a relative of one of the most famous inventors in history and it was the eve of the 100th anniversary of the death of Lawrence Hargrave, they might have looked again.
Especially as a passenger aircraft flew overhead.
Joshua Hargrave’s efforts to a fly box kite on the beach was similar to what happened on the same site more than a century before.
And from that humble beginning eventually came a global aviation industry.
Joshua, of Cudal, was one of five members of the Hargrave family at a Centenary Luncheon at the surf club that marked the start of celebrations commemorating the life and work of Lawrence Hargrave.
Another family member Lawrence John Hargrave said many scoffed at his famous namesake’s efforts..but he never gave up.
‘‘He had the optimism that was essential for an inventor, and the kind of perseverance that would not allow itself to be dampened by failures,’’ Mr Hargrave said.
‘‘Modest, unassuming and unselfish, he always refused to patent his inventions, and was only anxious that he might succeed in adding to the sum of human knowledge.’’
At the time it may have appeared that few had faith that anything would come of his experiments but some did.
In May 1895 Royal Society of NSW president Professor Richard Threlfall spoke of his "strong conviction of the importance of the work which Hargrave had done towards solving the problem of artificial flight".
Threlfall called Hargrave the "inventor of human flight", and of the debt owed by the Wright brothers.
He said the step Hargrave made in man’s conquest of the air was an important one with far-reaching consequences, and he should be remembered as an important experimenter and inventor, who "probably did as much to bring about the accomplishment of dynamic flight as any other single individual."Lawrence Hargrave Centre secretary Michael Adams thinks the Lawrence Hargrave Centenary events planned this year will educate many about the work of Stanwell Park’s former resident.
More than 80 people at the Lawrence Hargrave Centenary Luncheon at Stanwell Park Surf Club were given a model kite to re-enact what happened more than a century agon.Mr Adams said a series of activities were being held between now and December with the help of $20,000 from the IMB Communication Foundation.
‘‘It is the centenary of his death but we are celebrating a life of one of Illawarra’s chief pioneers...and on the world stage a great aeronautical pioneer,’’ he said.Hargrave’s achievements will be celebrated at the Festival of Winds at Bondi from September 11 to 13.
It is being renamed the Lawrence Hargrave Festival of Winds.
‘‘That is a wonderful kite flying show that attracts tens of thousands of people including many from overseas,’’ Mr Adams said.
There will be a kite lift of a dummy on the Sunday to re-enact Hargrave’s first successful flight.
In November Viva la Gong will be a highlight as will the Festival of Flight at Stanwell Park.
There is also Nippers Surf Carnival on November 8 at Stanwell Park.
HARS has held a Hargrave Open Weekend.
Mr Adams said the Lawrence Hargrave Centre was dedicated to educating and promoting the heritage of Lawrence Hargrave.It produced a centenary calendar that quickly sold out.
And Hazelhrust Art Gallery ran a successful photo competition.
The relatives of Lawrence Hargrave attending the centenary lunch were the descendants of other members of his family, such as first cousin Reverend Joshua Hargrave, who witnessed and assisted at the 1894 beach kite-lift.
Hargrave had three daughters but his only son Geoffrey was killed in Gallipoli.
The family has such respect for him that the name Lawrence is given to the first-born sons of each generation.
Lawrence John Hargrave described Hargrave, who was born in January 1850 and died in July 1915, as a a great aeronautical engineer, explorer, astronomer, inventor and aviation pioneer.
He is also known for designing the world’s first true radial rotary engine and the world’s first four cylinder engine He also made a flying machine with flapping wings, adding machines and shoes that could walk on water.
The film The Man Who Would Fly last decade revealed documentary proof of how Hargrave made a major contribution to the Wright Brothers’ first powered flight in 1903.
It showed Wilbur and Orville Wright’s aircraft designs were influenced by Hargrave’s box kite structures and curved wing designs.
And how Hargrave corresponded with Octave Shenoot.
In letter Shenoot sent to Hargrave it clearly said in writing how his achievements with box kites were ‘‘all new to him’’.
Soon after Shenoot made his own glider based on the Hargrave kite.
All he did was take the side skirts off.
The Wright brothers got their ideas for wings from Shenoot.The highlight for Hargrave occurred when he was lifted 4 metres into the air by a cellular kite at Stanwell Park Beach in November 1894.
But his whole life was one of exploration, adventure and experimentation.‘‘Throughout my life I have felt greatly honoured to be connected to Lawrence Hargrave,’’ Mr Hargrave said.
After migrating to Sydney with his family in November 1865 he accepted a place on the Ellesmere and circumnavigated Australia and then in 1872, as an engineer, he sailed on a voyage to New Guinea but the ship was wrecked.
In 1875 he again sailed on an expedition to the Gulf of Papua.
In 1876 he explored the hinterland of Port Moresby and later that year went on another expedition for over 600 km up the Fly River.
In 1877 he returned to Sydney, joined the Royal Society of New South Wales and in 1878 became an assistant astronomical observer at Sydney Observatory.
After five years he decided to devoting the rest of his life to research and that was where his pioneering work with flight really started to take off.
‘‘Hargrave had been interested in experiments of all kinds from an early age, particularly those with aircraft,’’ Mr Hargrave said.
‘‘He gave particular attention to the flight of birds. He chose to live and experiment with his flying machines in Stanwell Park, a place which offers excellent wind and hang conditions and nowadays is the most famous hang gliding and paragliding venue in Australia.’’
During his career, Hargrave invented many devices, but never applied for a patent.
That was because he was a passionate believer in scientific communication as a key to furthering progress.
Among many, three of Hargrave’s inventions were particularly significant.
● He studied curved aerofoils, particularly designs with a thicker leading edge.
● The box kite (1893), which greatly improved the lift to drag ratio of early gliders.
● And work on the rotary engine, which powered many early aircraft up until about 1920.
He made endless experiments and numerous models, and communicated his conclusions in a series of papers to the Royal Society of New South Wales.
In 1893 he moved to Stanwell Park where he lived at Hillcrest House.
‘‘In that year Hargrave began the investigations which led him to his great invention, the box kite,’’ Mr Hargrave said.
‘‘He was consumed with the prospect of himself flying in one of his machines and, after a number of trials on the November 12, 1894 here at Stanwell Park Beach, Hargrave became the first person ever to be lifted off the ground by a heavier than air machine in a vertical take-off, successfully lifting himself off the ground under a train of four of his box kites to a height of 16 feet or 4.8 metres,’’ Mr Hargrave said.
‘‘It was witnessed by Lawrence’s first cousin, my great grandfather. Hargrave shared his ideas freely.
The box kite principle was applied to gliders, and in 1906 Alberto Santos-Dumont used the box-kite principle in his aeroplane to make his first flight. Until 1909 the box-kite aeroplane was the usual type in Europe.’’
Hargrave also inspired Alexander Graham Bell to begin his own experiments with a series of tetrahedral kite designs.He also conducted experiments with a hydroplane, the application of the gyroscopic principle to a ‘one-wheeled car’, and with ‘wave propelled vessels’,
But he refused to entertain the use of flying machines for war.
When hostilities began in 1914, he returned the Bavarian Award he received in recognition of his pioneering aeronautical work.
Hargrave’s only son Geoffrey was killed during World War I at the Battle of Gallipoli.
‘‘Not long after his son’s death, Lawrence was operated on for appendicitis but suffered peritonitis afterwards and died,’’ Mr Hargrave said.There have been many tributes made to Hargrave during the last century.
From 1966 to 1994 the Australian 20 dollar note featured Hargrave on the reverse.
Qantas named its fifth Airbus A380 aircraft (registration VH-OQE) after Lawrence Hargrave.
Lawrence Hargrave Drive is named after him and former NASA astronaut Dr Gregory Chamitoff is presently the Lawrence Hargrave Professor of Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Sydney.
In Wollongong The Illawarra Connection holds an annual lecture in his honour.
And community support has been growing for the new airport in western Sydney to be named Lawrence Hargrave Airport.
‘‘The Wollongong community can help celebrate at a 1900s garden party at the Wollongong Science Centre as part of National Science Week on August 21.
Guests are invited to dress up in late 19th century period costume.
There will also be a screening of the new documentary called The Father of Flight.
Mr Adams said the Hazelhurst photo competition inspired by Hargrave had just moved to Articles Art Gallery at Stanwell Park for two weeks.
Charles Hargrave said the family, including his grandson Joshua, had a lovely day on Stanwell Park.
‘‘It is great to see Hargrave being honoured here in the Illawarra,’’ he said.
‘‘Particularly the monument up at Stanwell Tops. I think it is a wonderful thing that the recognition goes on for him as the pioneer of flight. To see that it still carries on 100 years after his death is a wonderful thing.’’
Mr Hargrave (Charles) said it was fantastic for the family to get together.
And it was a great opportunity for Joshua to see and learn more about his famous relative.