Paddy Pallin – the pioneer
“In my early 20s, I purchased my first oilskin jacket, sleeping bag, ground sheet and backpack from the Paddy Pallin store in Sydney – what great gear it was for us young bushwalkers. Paddy was a legend even then, and his exploits were told around campfires in the bush. it’s nice to read this (below) and remember those wonderful days trudging through remote areas of Australia and having a good tent, oilskin and groundsheet that I could trust.” – Travelgaltravels author
From ground sheets made out of his mother’s oilskin tablecloth to establishing one of Australia’s first and number one adventure wear stores, Frank ‘Paddy’ Pallin pioneered the way for outdoor exploring within the country.
Moving from the UK to Australia in the late 1920s, Frank Pallin – affectionately known to friends as ‘Paddy’ – used every spare moment out of his insurance job to head outdoors and explore New South Wales. It was only fitting, then, a series of events and interests following his redundancy in 1930 led to him sewing water buckets and ground sheets, which he later sold to bushwalkers. These were the first steps toward the 13 current Paddy Pallin Outdoor Camping, Equipment and Clothing Stores.
Immersed in the outdoor adventure culture, Paddy Pallin would spend every opportunity right up to his old age exploring the country. In the early years of business, Paddy, his business associate Oliver and son Rob were making their own products under the Paddy Pallin name. As new technologies such as Gore-Tex came into production, the equipment reached new capabilities, which excited Paddy who was fascinated with the thrill of making materials and adventure wear items more durable, reliable and lightweight so the overall experience of the adventurist was improved.
“Paddy (the man) always wanted to get people out walking and that included people who had never tried it before and wanted to give it a go,” says Tim Pallin, managing director of Paddy Pallin stores. “He was very supportive of people right at the beginning of their bushwalking careers and I hope Paddy Pallin, the company, still inspires that today in encouraging more people to get out and appreciate the Australian wilderness and explore.”
Paddy Pallin started in a one-floor building in George Street in Sydney before opening in Katoomba, Jindabyne, Canberra, Melbourne and later, Launceston, which became the first franchised location. Currently there are 13 Paddy Pallin stores throughout the country.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Paddy’s personal expeditions led the way to discoveries of popular walking tracks that are still used today, such as Point Possibility in Morton National Park.
When Paddy’s interest in skiing grew in 1955, so did the Paddy Pallin business. Equipment stocked in Paddy Pallin stores began to showcase some of the newest and best materials for skiing alongside their rapidly growing adventure wear ranges. Initiatives such as the Paddy Pallin Cross-Country Ski Classic and the Paddy Pallin Rogaine orientation program further showcase Paddy’s love for outdoor adventure and youth education.
At the heart of everything Paddy Pallin does is the ethos that the environment and its ecosystems are there to be enjoyed as well as protected. Throughout its 83-year history, Paddy Pallin has sponsored or initiated a large range of protection and education programs in Australia, such as the Paddy Pallin Science Grants, Private Lands Conservation Grants, Humane Society International Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife, and more.
Most of the funds for those initiatives come from the Paddy Pallin Foundation, says Tim: “One of our favourite initiatives is the ‘Don’t Bag The Environment’ program where if a customer doesn’t take a bag for their purchases in store, we put some money aside, which builds up and then we put that into the Paddy Pallin Foundation to go toward all of our activities.”
Today, the Paddy Pallin business continues to be family run with grandson Tim Pallin as Managing Director, son Rob Pallin sitting in the Chairman seat and daughter-in-law Nancy Pallin as director of the company.
Writer, Bev Malzard has wonderful memories of her early bushwalking days; flooded creeks late at night; bivouac experiences in remote bush areas; a snake or two to step over; great food cooked over an open fire; icy cold sips at a fresh mountain stream; gourmet cook-offs with mates when they all carried the surprise ingredients on their back to caves, riverbanks and lonely bush patches . . .lots of fun, plus the odd hangover (she stoically carried a flagon of port in her backpack once). And as you can see by these old pics, we were often a ragged bunch, often -but always at one with nature!
You always need a good, soft vessel to carry your wine in while trudging through the bush. The smoke in my right hand shows how fit and strong we were then (don’t judge me!). That was a big walk down the Nattai River in NSW.