Is Dee Why’s black swan bad luck to walk upon?
By Alec Smart
A black swan, set against a two-tone blue and white background, is painted on the footpath in front of 103 Howard Avenue, Dee Why. However, locals often walk around it, mindful that treading on the black bird reputedly brings bad luck.
Howard Avenue’s southern side footpath has hosted a black swan painting for almost a century; the first was estimated to have appeared in 1925. It was painted by an unidentified artist, perhaps a tenant of the original house behind, which was replaced by a 3-storey apartment block in the early 1990s.
The black swan has since been repainted, enhanced, and, latterly, replaced when new paving stones were laid in Nov 2020, whereupon it doubled in size to cover two pavers.
Council Youth Development Officer Cameron Wall was the artist employed to repaint the iconic black bird on the new paving – he previously repainted it in 2016.
Recently, in Sept 2021, additional improvements were made – the beak painted red and feathers added to the wings.
A black swan is an unofficial icon for Dee Why because flocks were once prevalent on Dee Why Lagoon, although rare in recent years. According to the Northern Beaches Council website: “The rarity of the black swans on the lagoon is a result of the sea grasses the swans feed on no longer growing in abundance, due to the urban development in the catchment area and the increasing rate of siltation.”
Dee Why Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC), founded 1912, incorporates a black swan into a life-saving ring for their logo. So does the Dee Why Bowling & Recreation Club and the Friends of Dee Why Lagoon.
But is it unlucky to walk on?
Prior to the path upgrade, the grass on either side of the previous pavement painting was worn back to dirt by divergent footware. At present the grass is growing as well as it can be (considering it is in direct sunlight for most of the day). But because Covid-19 lockdowns have lessened foot traffic to the nearby beach and promenade of shops along The Strand, it is difficult to tell whether the superstitious tradition remains.
A surveillance operation on a Friday afternoon by this investigator found an average of only one in 20 pedestrians detoured around the black swan. However, another short watch on a Saturday eve revealed six out of 10 pedestrians stepped around it.
Presumably those avoiding direct contact with the painted pavers were locals, familiar with the legend of bad luck visited upon those tramping on the bird, whereas those taking their chances were visitors.
What are your thoughts – is it bad luck to walk upon the black swan painting?
The footpath in front of 103 Howard Ave, Dee Why. Photos by Alec Smart