The widower who walked his way into Sydney hearts and history

Hillsdale – Where can you refill your hat with a refreshing drink? In Hillsdale’s Grace Campbell Reserve, which, not surprisingly, you find on Grace Campbell Crescent.

ALAN WADDELL nominated Lethbridge Park, Glendenning and Oakhurst as Sydney’s friendliest suburbs – at least, the friendliest of the 284 suburbs in which he walked every street and lane during the last six years of his long life. People in those suburbs most wanted to meet and greet him and invite him into their homes for a drink.

And the most dangerous place? Well, it was hard for Waddell to judge because in the 5000 kilometres he walked, from Dangar Island in the north to Maianbar in the south and Regentville on the Nepean River in the west, he never felt in danger. Dangar Island was his favourite and Newington the cleanest.

Annandale – Near symmetry in Ferris Street, Annandale.

Balmain – The Orange Peel Café graces the corner of Beattie and Evans Streets, Balmain.

Banksia – A sample of the many tiny houses in and around Gibbes Street, Banksia.

Birchgrove – A ferry, on what we claim as the world’s best harbour, heads for Birchgrove’s Yurulbin, more widely known by its former name, Long Nose Point.

Birchgrove – What a wonderful effect when three adjoining houses in Ballast Point Road, Birchgrove, go for colour

Bondi – At Bondi, the Coastal Walk joins Tamarama and Bondi Beaches.

Bondi Junction – In Bondi Junction Alan walked past more than a thousand houses that are older than he is. Typical is this row in Ruthven Street.

Dawes Point – On a street directory, Pottinger Street, Dawes Point, seems to adjoin a pathway near Lower Fort Street (above the cliff). In a way they do: they’re just a metre apart horizontally. But a little more vertically

Double Bay – We saw excellent jacaranda trees shed purple leaves in Allawah and Kirribilli. In Stafford Street, Double Bay, we saw why the tipuana tree is nicknamed the “yellow jacaranda”

Alan Waddell, who has died at 94, was born at Hurstville, the only child of Mossman and Tirzah Waddell. His grandfather was a Methodist minister and his parents were strict Methodists. Alan’s Sundays consisted of Sunday school and church in the morning, visiting his grandparents’ graves at Woronora Cemetery in the afternoon and church again at night.

Theatre, dancing, gambling, alcohol and card-playing were banned all week, although Waddell confessed later that he had played cards with young friends while his mother and father were away. The family did not have a car until he was 18 so he walked a lot to visit friends, often four or five kilometres away.

Dover Heights – Dudley Page Reserve in Military Road, on top of a reservoir in Dover Heights, offers a reasonable view of Sydney city with the the world-famous Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. The latter is the world’s widest large-scale, heaviest single arch and largest steel arch bridge.

Eveleigh – We all like personal service, but in Wilson Street, Eveleigh, they get a bit too much.

Eveleigh – The railway workshops dominate Eveleigh. My work station is in the section with the pointed roof.

Glebe – Now, children, we have an exciting game for you today. See if you can find any of these yellow things in Glebe Street, Glebe: Chimney tops, Stripes, A long fence, A car, Well done!

Haymarket – Seen from Haymarket – are the monkeys an indication of how the bank operated?

Kensington – I told you it was your turn to bring the ruler, you dork! Brompton Road, Kensington, will never look the same again.

Millers Point – Check out the Millers Point lanes, such as High Lane (just visible top left) and Argyle Lane, which Alan is walking down, for a different look at the city.

Potts Point – With St Mary’s Cathedral as its launchpad, Sydney Tower heads for the heavens. Watch the action from the vehicle-unfriendly bend in Hourigan Lane, Potts Point.

South Coogee – Instead of the usual flat ground, Randwick cemetery in South Coogee occupies a Malabar Road hill.

The Rocks – In future I’ll travel more lightly. My luggage spills out of the hotel onto Cumberland Street, The Rocks

Ultimo – Like bees resting on their hive, air conditioners form a neat pattern in Kettle Lane, Ultimo.

Vaucluse – So you want to play triples* at Diamond Bay Bowling Club at Vaucluse? Tough luck.

Vaucluse – This one huge building, seen from Chris Bang Crescent, is not very popular with residents around Diamond Bay, Vaucluse.

Artarmon – To get to the rest of Artarmon on the other side of the Gore Hill Freeway, I decided to take the long cut.

Bilgola Plateau – The washing on your clothes-line must be very jealous of ours in Wollombi Road, Bilgola.

Kirribilli – Waruda Avenue, Kirribilli, squeezes a view across the harbour to the city.

Lane Cove – Burns Bay Road, Lane Cove: Just as well I stopped walking to pull my socks up.

Lavender Bay – What park offers views such as this of Lavender Bay, the bridge and the city? Watt Park, accessed by Lavender Crescent.

Manly Vale – I’m hell of a tired. Why do I have to walk this dam path? Find it by walking the impressive route from Southern Cross Way, Allambie Heights, to King Street, Manly Vale.

Narrabeen – Many Narrabeen houses are only a couple of metres above the level of its famous lakes. For sufferers of aquaphobia, there is an alternative: Lindley Avenue, Narrabeen.

After graduating from Sydney Boys High during the Great Depression, he became an office boy in an accounting firm. He qualified as a chartered accountant in 1939, topping the state in the final exams, and later as a chartered secretary.

Rejected for overseas army service because of flat feet, Waddell served in World War II as an ordnance sergeant in Sydney. When he married Marjorie Hume in 1942, his major granted him three nights’ leave for their honeymoon.

Marjorie Waddell is descended from Hamilton Hume, the explorer who discovered the Murray River with William Hovell. Her father was R. T. Ball, a NSW minister for public works who turned the first sod in preparation for the building of the Harbour Bridge.

On their first night back in Sydney, Japanese midget submarines entered the harbour and the newlyweds had to take shelter under a staircase when shells were fired over Rose Bay.

Normanhurst – Residents in Nepean Avenue, Normanhurst, are dedicated to gardens out in the street as well as their own yards.

North Curl Curl – Nature’s giant egg-cup forms the backdrop as Alan descends the stairs in Robertson Road, North Curl Curl, towards the Pacific Ocean and Curl Curl Lagoon.

North Curl Curl – Abbott Road, North Curl Curl: That’ll never fly! Can’t possibly even get off the ground!

North Curl Curl – In North Curl Curl: You didn’t listen. I said I wanted three windows, not wee windows.

Northbridge – Fading sunlight plays games with the supports of the bridge to Cammeray. With a toll for pedestrians of threepence return, it opened for business in 1892, 22 years before Alan did. It’s still known as the “Suspension Bridge” even though the cables were retired in the 1930s.

Oxford Falls – The owner of 995 Oxford Falls Road, Oxford Falls, and those opposite her sure go to a lot of trouble so that they don’t miss an episode of Big Brother.

St Leonards – The longest slippery dip is in Newlands Park, St Leonards. Its unique, natural attraction for parents is that you can’t fall off the side.

The Spit – Manly Road drivers who try running red lights on their way to The Spit face an impressive deterrent.

Waverton – A contrast at Waverton: the old North Shore Gasworks tower and one of its buildings with a backdrop of modern unit blocks. To see them best, walk down King Street and the steps at its end, right onto the North Sydney Circle Walk and into Badangi Reserve.

Acacia Gardens – What drought? Alan concludes that this house’s tank in Wilson Road, Acacia Gardens, holds sufficient water.

Bankstown Aerodrome – Marion Street, Bankstown Aerodrome, shows a different type of parking area.

Bardwell Park – And we thought we’d found the secret to fitness by walking the streets. We take our hats off to the residents of this house in Darley Road, Bardwell Park, who climb more than 100 steps from the road to their front door.

Burwood – The bottom of Oxford Street, Burwood, has Sydney’s only private airport.

Camellia – A montage of containers contains Alan. The every-changing patterns tower over Grand Avenue, Camellia.

Chullora – Just off Anzac Street, Chullora, this apprentice railway signaller needs to hurry to switch the tracks. That dark shadow in the background may just be the train coming around the corner.

Clyde – Parramatta Road is one of Sydney’s busiest, yet it shares the Clyde section with trains.

Concord West – The highlight of Concord West is the Parramatta River Foreshore Walk around the majestic hospital buildings.

Croydon Park – These days double-decker buses experience some difficulty negotiating Stiles Street, Croydon Park.

Drummoyne – Gladesville Bridge was the largest concrete arch bridge in the world. And, when seen from Cambridge Street, Drummoyne, one of the most graceful?

East Hills – Cockatoos line up for an autograph. These popular Australian birds frequent Smith Park, East Hills, but only seem to like its south-east corner.

The Waddells had three sons born in the 1940s and lived all 60 years of their marriage in Lane Cove and Longueville. Alan served many local school and community organisations as treasurer, including Longueville Tennis Club, where he played and became a life member. He was awarded Lane Cove’s millennium award for seniors.

After their sons finished school, the Waddells visited more than 80 countries, walking a good deal.

After Majorie’s death in 2002, when Alan was 88, he began walking up to two hours every day. Doctors had advised him that, with aneurisms in both legs, he faced amputation if he did not exercise.

He did not set out to walk every street in every suburb, but the more he walked, the more strange streets he sought.

A relative would drive him to his starting point and pick him up afterwards. He would cross every street name off a list as he went.

If the walking became obsessive, it was a magnificent obsession. He did it because of his health and because he so enjoyed meeting people.

Old Guildford – Old Guildford has speed humps near most doors and, if you live in South Parade, a handy water supply.

Pendle Hill – Pendle Hill station’s favourite colour.

Plumpton – Hyatts Road, Plumpton: We told the builder that we hadn’t accumulated sufficient funds for the walls and windows, only for the roof.

Putney – Unfortunately, it is not a model for other stores. Church Street, Putney.

Rhodes – Most Sydney people have crossed over Ryde Bridge numerous times; we don’t often get the chance to cross under it. Here at Llewellyn Street, Rhodes, the old bridge is on the left, the newer south-bound bridge on the right and the rest is the Parramatta River.

Rodd Point – The loneliness of the long-distance walker. A rare quiet moment on the Rodd Point section of the deservedly-popular Bay Run. It circles Iron Cove.

Rosehill – The view in Devon Street, Rosehill, courtesy of Shell. How do you remember which pipe does what and goes where?

Rydalmere – How good is this company’s motto, seen in Nowill Street, Rydalmere, for grabbing your attention?

Rydalmere – What is the only flag that appears on other nations’ flags? Britain’s Union Jack. It dominates the Australian flag, and this one on Victoria Road dominates Rydalmere and surrounding suburbs.

Shalvey – If you’re into power walking, you’ve got it made for a couple of kilometres on the border between Shalvey and Bidwill.

Silverwater – The bridge across Duck River, Silverwater, is not recommended for cyclists or motorists.

St Johns Park – Aren’t residents of Eagle Place, St Johns Park, considerate of walkers?

Summer Hill – It’s the Summer Hill Art Gallery or graffiti vandalism, depending on one’s viewpoint or age group. Admire or despise it in the Hawthorne Canal near Haig Avenue.

Varroville – Varroville is officially a suburb, but more like two long country roads with lonely houses. You might be able to spot a couple of them on your Raby Road trek if you try really hard.

Warwick Farm – Warwick Farm suburb is dominated by a racecourse; in National Street and several others, horses outnumber cars.

Whalan – Eight football fields ensure that the groundsman has a bit of work to do in Whalan Reserve.

Wiley Park – It’s not your usual hardware store, but you can’t walk down King Georges Road, Wiley Park, without spotting it.

Woolwich – It’s not a castle or a church now, just a house. See it in Point Road, Woolwich.

Woolwich – Nature dominates Clarkes Point Reserve, Woolwich

Yennora – Yennora Avenue in Yennora done! Hooray! I’ve finished another suburb!

As news of his endeavours spread, he set up a website,, and received thousands of emails, including many from people saying he had inspired them to take up walking.

He overcame his fear of public speaking to appear on TV, radio and in schools, and helped launch the Heart Foundation’s Walk for Life campaign.

He wrote to the Herald: “I would like to encourage others who have been in the senior category for many years to consider a Vietnam holiday. Anyone who can still walk around the block and attempt the Herald’s crossword should feel confident of coping easily.”

Banksmeadow – In McPherson Street, Banksmeadow: Could I have this blue one please?

Warwick Farm – The start of Alan’s attempt to become the first nonagenarian to climb Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons. Our overseas visitors will note the severity of the current Australian drought — Sydney Harbour is now virtually dry. Or is this just a replica of the bridge at the entrance to car sales yards on the Hume Highway at Warwick Farm?

Bardwell Park – We’ll prevent anyone from stealing our car in Bardwell Park by bricking up the garage door.

Bellevue Hill – Each house in Exclusive Drumalbyn Road, Bellevue Hill, has sufficient garages, or almost sufficient…

Banksia – Tarbrett Street, Banksia: Stare at the black-and-white design for long enough and the middle row starts to rotate.

Belfield – Statham Street in Belfield is finished. Well done.

Cambridge Gardens – Imagine how plain this yard in Huntingdon Parade, Cambridge Gardens, would have looked had the path on the right been straight. And since you’re one of our cleverer visitors, you’ve already noticed what the shape of the lawn represents, haven’t you?

Cartwright – Many families in some Sydney suburbs have dogs to deter intruders. Be even more careful before you trespass in Cartwright. You never know what might be lurking behind trees, especially in Willan Drive.

Chifley – The backyard chooks, goats and horses have all but disappeared from Sydney suburbs, but it is still possible to find market gardens such as these seen from Wassell Street, Chifley.

Drummoyne – At Drummoyne, our Bowman Street garden is spreading so much that the garage needs a haircut.

Belfield – Your mailbox/letter-box might be longer, but it doesn’t have a garage like ours in Boronia Street, Belfield.

Erskineville – At Erskineville, Pleasant Avenue’s devils are fussy eaters.

Annandale – Johnston Street, Annandale, has a brilliant example of realistic art.

Annandale – Annandale North Public School’s gallery in Johnston Street.

Blackett – A concrete bridge above a pathway can look rather ordinary. Boldrewood Road, Blackett, shows us what to do about it.

Camperdown – Where in Camperdown would you see so much graffiti? Under a huge block of units, in a railway tunnel or in Sydney University?

Croydon Park – This wall at the corner of Georges River Road and Brighton Lane, Croydon Park, has a habit of changing, but it features dogs.

Ashbury – Look closely at this car in Crimson Street, Ashbury. Is a male or female driving it? Answer: No. It’s parked there.

Balgowlah Heights – No, not even one more drink for your Lewis Street path-layers.

Fairfield Heights – The neat seat graces the entrance to Fairfield Heights Park.

His left hip was replaced 16 years ago. After his right hip wore out, he had that replaced only two months ago, and resumed walking. Even a week before he died he was struggling to get out of his bed to walk.

Alan and Marjorie Waddell are survived by their sons, John, Graham and David; grandchildren, Lisa and Justin, and great-grandson, Liam.

To view more photos, visit the Walk Sydney Streets website.

Source: Ian Pollard and Tony Stephens, ‘The widower who walked his way into Sydney hearts and history’, The Sydney Morning Herald, September 12, 2008. Photography from Walk Sydney Streets website, ‘‘.

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The widower who walked his way into Sydney hearts and history