IN A happy meeting of past and present, Richmond River Historical Society has made rare historical footage shot in Lismore available for the first time on YouTube.

Dr Robert Smith of Southern Cross University identified some very early films of Lismore in the 1920s and 1940s, when he was on a research fellowship with the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra.

"The archive is incredibly well set up and has preserved these old films by making digital copies - an expensive process," he said.

"They have kept the original master copy and made three other copies, for preservation, duplication and public accessibility."

Extracts from the earliest black and white film include footage shot in 1929 at the Freemason's Hotel (now Tommy's), the Star Court Theatre and the Memorial Baths.

They include clips from a film called the Razor Gang.

The swimming costumes in the pool footage, shot in the week the Memorial Baths opened, are amazing and the excitement in the shots of an audience out for a night at the Star Court Theatre is almost palpable.

The colour film sequences are from 1948 and show a farm scene at Wyrallah featuring an energetic child who is now probably somebody's grandmother; the former Lismore Post Office; Spinks Park; a game of lawn bowls and scenes of the river with shots of timber on the Government Wharf awaiting transport to Ballina and the open sea by the SS Bangalow.

The twinkling blue of the river evokes a time before modern farming and forestry practices turned it to the brown it is today.

The Molesworth St shots show the elegance of the old buildings without the congestion of traffic.

Dr Smith believes that the Historical Society's providing access to early local film through a YouTube channel is a first anywhere in the world.

"It's a chance for people to see old pictures of people who may be their relatives, scenes at the theatre where their grandparents might have gone for a great night out - and to see the delight in the faces of former members of our community just at the very novel idea of being filmed," he said.

The brief, silent clips can be accessed through the Richmond River Historical Society's website at

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