Backward Glance: Legendary axemen and the sport of wood chopping
  • Wednesday 03 June 2015
Ernie Ehlerth (left) from Conondale and Peachester’s Bob Breton during the teams chop exhibition for the Duke of Gloucester's visit to Brisbane in 1934. Both axemen had won numerous championships over the years. Ernie was world champion in the standing bl

With thousands about to flock to the Sunshine Coast Agricultural Show, we have stepped back in time to shine the spotlight on the champion axemen who have delighted the crowds.

Have you ever seen a wood chop where champion axemen compete in championships or race against others, looking to become the champion in their region or further afield?

Wood chopping is one of Australia’s earliest sports, originating from the pioneering days when axemen felled trees as they cleared the landscape for agricultural lands or for building materials.

Cutting, splitting and dressing timber required muscle and skill in those earlier times. There were no chainsaws - just the skill of two men on a crosscut saw or the constant sound of axemen chopping with their razor sharp axes.  Those were the sounds of the early Australian bush as gangs of men cut down trees.

Timber cutter camps were set up near fresh water and the shelter provided was rough, with just a few sheets of bark or a tarpaulin stretched over a frame of saplings. An open fireplace to boil the ‘billy’ or cook was sufficient for these hardy men of the Australian bush.

The camaraderie among pioneer axemen led to competitions, especially on picnic days or special events in little country towns. This led to the sport we have today in local shows.

These axemen were renowned in their district and at times, fathers and sons could be seen competing against one another at special events.  Agricultural shows promoted events with prizes and ribbons for champions.

The Sunshine Coast had some champion axemen. The Blackall Range, Conondale’s tall timbers and the slopes of Peachester and the Kenilworth district produced renowned champion axemen.

Learn more about the Coast’s unique history by reading our Backward Glance series. There’s a new story every Wednesday.