The History of Howeia

(page 3)

By the 1880's, a well-organised industry had developed on the island with the residents harvesting the seeds and sending them to Europe directly or via agents in Sydney, Australia.

The seeds were in such high demand however, and in such short supply, that one Belgian horticulturist decided to travel to Lord Howe Island personally to try to secure a supply for his family nursery. He was August de Clercq, from Gent (see photo next page), the great grandfather of the present nursery owner. He left Antwerp on 25th Sept. 1898 for the eight-week sea voyage and soon became the first European nurseryman to base his business solely on these palms.

His grandson Phillip, the present nursery owner, had visited Lord Howe Island in 1984 bringing an album of family photographs showing his grandfather and the early nursery. These were taken almost a century ago. When Henk invited me to Holland, I remembered these photographs, and arranged a visit to the de Clercq home to research early records and (with Phillip's permission) to copy the old photographs.

I found much of interest relating to the early days of the industry and spent several hours sifting through it. Coming from Australia, I had no idea the European summers could be so hot, and I had brought only warm clothes. Thus, I found myself on this summer's afternoon sweltering in the attic office in long trousers and thick shirt - it was hot work! Downstairs, while cooling off, I talked with Phillip's father, who had many interesting stories to repeat, handed down from his father who had travelled to Lord Howe island so many years ago.

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