Solving our history mysteries: “it’s a long lane that has no turning”

Early in 2018, the Coffs Harbour History Services team put out a call for information about four subjects: Gallows Beach; the location of Calder Brae; life in the old police station which is the current Museum’s home; and the origins of a porthole from a wrecked ship.

Gallows Beach

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Corambirra Point, with Gallows Beach on the right, 1956-1960
www.picturecoffsharbour.org; part of mus07-11104
Photographer: Desmond Eeley

A surfing afficionado explained that such terminology is common for beaches which are a little harder to surf at, so names such as Guillotines, Razors, Boneyards and Dead Man’s Beach are common. At the opposite end of Boambee beach is “Trapdoors” which is a local surf spot at the mouth of Boambee creek. Trapdoors and “the gallows” as such, go hand in hand in the context of sinister actions. [1]

There were also iron structures near the beach to facilitate work in the nearby rock quarry, and one of them was a grim reminder of a gallows.

Calder Brae

In the early 1920s, during the last years of its life, Calder Brae was a house on a farming  property along the Coramba Road (opposite Roselands Drive). The house was rented, and its surrounding fruit trees are still remembered today. [2]

CalderBrae
HOUSE BURNT (1925, January 20). Daily Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1915 – 1954), p. 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article195366793

 

 

The home seemed to have an attraction for flames:

CalderBraeFire
Local and General News. (1918, March 13). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187843940

Life in Coffs Harbour’s first police station and court house

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Coffs Harbour Courthouse and Police Station, Coffs Harbour, N.S.W., circa 1925 
http://www.picturecoffsharbour.org; mus07-857
Photographer: Peter Jensen

Museum staff are still keen to talk to family members who resided in the building at 215 Harbour Drive, which served many purposes before becoming the Museum in 2014.

The porthole

This porthole in the collection of the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum is believed to be from the Keilawarra shipwreck. It is on view as part of the travelling exhibition Submerged: Stories of Australia’s shipwrecks until the end of July 2018.

Keilawarra port hole
from the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum collection

The shipwreck is one of several described in the Museum’s publication for sale titled Local shipwrecks: Wrecks in the Solitary Islands Marine Park 1843-1933, and the request for information related to the discovery of the porthole. The Museum would welcome further details.

Keilawarra
Read more here: FATAL COLLISION AT SEA. (1886, December 11). Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954), p. 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article220479645

The task to fill in our historical gaps continues.

Acknowledgements

  1. with thanks to Mitch Hardcastle for this information.
  2. with thanks to David Pike and Elizabeth Simpson for these details.

 

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The story of the Coffs Harbour Jetty

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Coffs Harbour Jetty 4 July 1946, Picture Coffs Harbour mus07-5972

The Jetty is an icon for Coffs Harbour because it was part of the beginning of the city’s economic growth. Before the jetty was built, logs were hauled to a site at the showground by bullock teams.  From there they were rolled into Coffs Creek and floated to its mouth on the outgoing tide by using bullock teams, ropes and pulleys. The logs were manoeuvred through the water to waiting ships beyond the line of surf.  Using ships’ winches, the logs were hoisted aboard. The process of loading was difficult and hazardous and, as the industry grew, it was necessary to construct a suitable jetty.

The builder

A builder and contractor, Mr Thomas L Lawson, was the successful tenderer.  Construction of the new jetty began in 1890.  The original length was 1641 feet (500.17m).    During construction a violent storm washed away 300 ft (91.5m) of the partially built structure.  The total expenditure of the completed jetty in August 1892 was £12,482 1s 8d ($24,964.10). The Public Works Department (PWD) accepted control of the jetty and was responsible for all future maintenance and improvements. The jetty was described in a newspaper article as ‘an outlet for our produce and an inlet for our necessities’.

Opening of the Jetty

Adjacent to the shore end of the jetty were calf and sheep pens, a goods shed and a wharfinger’s cottage. On completion of the goods shed the opening ceremony was arranged by Messrs Lee, Marles and Gill for Friday 5 August 1892.  A beautiful arch was erected over the western end of the jetty and the goods shed was adorned with ferns, greenery and flags and delicious food was presented there.  A banner suspended from the arch bore the words “Success to Coffs Harbor” while from a cord profusely decorated with flowers and ribbons hung the bottle of “fizz” with which the oldest resident of Coffs Harbour, Mr Peter Moller, was to perform the opening ceremony.

The arrival of Mr O. O. Dangar, Member of the Legislative Assembly, at 11.30am was received with cheers.  A large crowd gathered to witness the ceremony which, after a few words from Mr Moller, was duly performed amid cheers. Mr James Gill, Wharfinger, then read an address to Mr Dangar on behalf of the residents. Mr Dangar responded to the speech congratulating the people on the completion of the work. After the speeches, the Coramba Brass Band played suitable music and then a special luncheon was held.  At dusk, some people departed but others enjoyed a ball in the goods shed.

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OPENING OF THE COFF’S HARBOUR JETTY. (1892, August 6). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 10. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13874247

Development of the jetty

In 1909 a new 80ft x 30 ft (24.38m x 9.14m) cargo shed was provided, as well as a large waiting shed at the outer end of the jetty and additional trollies.  In 1909-10 the outer end of the jetty was widened and a duplicate tram line laid.

In 1911 the Public Works Department imported a new 1910 steam locomotive (Orenstein & Koppel No. 4365) and the jetty was strengthened to accommodate it.  This replaced the draught horses previously used to pull the trollies.

In 1912 gas lighting was added to the jetty.  In 1914 widening of the jetty to 41 feet (12.49m) and construction of 320 feet (97.53m) extension was completed.

During 1915 the rails were converted to 4 ft 8 ½ in to be compatible with the new railway line being laid from Raleigh to Coffs Harbour.

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Sleepers for New Zealand at Coffs Harbour jetty 28 August 1946 Picture Coffs Harbour mus07-5972

In April 1946 further extensions were completed.  The jetty was widened at its base to accommodate a loop line to the new Northern Timber Depot and the track layout on the jetty was altered considerably.

Jetty Cranes

A single railway line of 3ft 6in gauge was laid along the centre.  A five-ton (4.53 tonnes) capacity steam derrick crane, built by Rogers of Newcastle, was erected near the end of the jetty for loading vessels.  The first crane driver was Dan Shea.  Pop Sampson and Cecil Owen Walsh were engine drivers. A number of small wooden trollies were provided for the conveyance of cargo along the jetty.

In 1906-07 the crane was replaced by a 7 1/2-ton (6.80 tonne) capacity steam derrick one from the Clarence Harbour Works, built by Ransomes and Rapier.  By 1909, increased traffic at the port facilities necessitated the jetty to be upgraded. In 1914 a second steam crane (10-ton capacity) was erected at the outer end of the jetty.

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S.S. Orara at Coffs Harbour jetty, 1910 Picture Coffs Harbour mus07-3893

Two new steam cranes were purchased for use on the jetty in 1928-29.  The first was a five and a half ton (4.98 tonne) capacity crane at the base of the jetty and the second, a seven and a half ton (6.80 tonne) capacity travelling crane.

In 1947 a timber floodlighting tower was erected to facilitate night work. Two diesel electric travelling cranes, Nos 209 and 210, provided prominent landmarks in the port area.  The cranes were constructed by Messrs. Stothert and Pitt of Bath, England in 1944 for use in the Normandy invasion of France.   No. 210, which was bought from Evans, Deakin and Co Ltd of Brisbane, was erected on the jetty in December 1947 with special rails being laid for it.

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Loading timber 1950, Picture Coffs Harbour mus07-2773

In 1949 electric travelling gear was installed on the crane.  By July of that year the North Berth steam crane had been removed, leaving No. 210 as the sole operational crane.  This was later joined by No. 209, the inner crane, identical to the other one, which was supplied by the State Dockyard.  This crane became operational in August 1955.  The main function of the cranes was to load timber onto ships but, they were also used for jetty maintenance, especially pile driving.  With the cessation of regular shipping from Coffs Harbour in the mid-1970s they fell into disuse.  After 1973 owners of fishing vessels relied on the cranes to lift their boats on and off the jetty for maintenance and servicing.

Shipping

The first cargo loaded at the jetty was a consignment of sugar from Alexander Herman’s mill at Korora.  Although the jetty was not completely finished, Mr Lawson allowed Mr Herman to use the builders’ trucks to carry the sugar to a chute at the end of the structure, where it was loaded into the tiny ship Byron commanded by Captain Hunter.

Over a ten-year period from 1906, more than 400 ships a year called at the jetty.    During the following years, better rail transport and improved road conditions plus the build-up of sand in the harbour resulted in fewer ships calling at the jetty.

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Passengers boarding the S.S. Fitzroy at Coffs Harbour jetty with Muttonbird Island in the background, circa 1920. Picture Coffs Harbour mus07-2931

The most popular passenger vessel to leave Coffs Harbour for Sydney was the SS Fitzroy, commanded by Captain James Colvin.  It left the jetty at 3pm every Sunday arriving in Sydney the next day.  Passengers were embarked in a large basket which was lifted from ship to jetty and back again by one of the jetty cranes.

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Replica of the basket used for embarking / disembarking of passengers at the jetty             Photographer: Marie Davey, 2008

Inside the basket were two rows of seats facing each other which held a total of eight people.

By the 1970s the jetty had begun to slip into a state of disrepair.  The last regular trading vessel to call at Coffs Harbour, the Abel Tasman, paid its final visit in 1973.  The Lorrana loaded the final commercial shipment on 22 July 1979, when it sailed for Lord Howe Island with a cargo of provisions.

End of Commercial Activity

In 1982 most of the railway track was removed to enable replacement of defective timber decking.  Several sheds were demolished and two piles replaced. Due to their unsafe condition, the cranes were demolished by April 1984.  Their removal ended nearly a hundred years of commercial activity on the jetty.

The Centenary

Residents dressed in period costume for the jetty centenary celebrations held on 2 August 1992.  Bush ballad recitals, tug-o-wars, whip cracking, hay cart rides, buskers, model steam engines, vintage cars and historical photographic displays delighted the many people who came to witness the centenary of our icon.  There was a working model of the Timmsvale sawmill brought to life by Dudley Timms from the original stationary mill built by his father 50 years previously. A short official ceremony on the jetty was held at 11am Sunday when a giant birthday cake was cut by special guest, Marjorie Nelson (nee Jackson).  The week of festivities culminated in a Gala Ball held in the Town Hall on 8 August 1992.

jettycentenary

And Beyond

The jetty became unsafe and was closed in 1990.  Because it was listed under the Heritage Act and the fact that it was the only remaining jetty on the North Coast, the New South Wales Government decided to conserve it.  A Save the Jetty Fund was launched in 1992 with its goal being $100,000 towards the total cost. Work began in March 1996. Timber used was blackbutt, tallowwood and spotted gum.  The original piles were made of turpentine. The decking was removed and replaced.  A firefighting system was installed with safety fencing, lighting and seating benches.  The final cost was $3.8 million. jettyrefurb

As the jetty was closed to commercial shipping for 20 years and to the general public since 1990, there were big festivities to celebrate the re-opening on 11 October 1997.  Mayor Cr John Smith, and Andrew Fraser, Member for Coffs Harbour, officiated at the opening and the ribbon was cut by Carl Scully, Minister for Roads, NSW.  A re-enactment of a scene depicting Captain Korff stepping off the steamboat Mary was the highlight.  Sporting events, displays, food, drama and musical concerts were also enjoyed. There was a Best Decorated Boat competition and night entertainment including sky diving by Coffs City Skydivers and fireworks.

Our jetty is now enjoyed by tourists and residents alike for recreational purposes – walking, swimming and fishing and will continue to be an icon for our city.

Sources

Ships and Timber – a short history of Coffs Harbour port and associated railways, Dr John Kramer, 1984, 994.43 KRA

Coffs Harbour 100 years down the track, Jean Donn-Patterson, 994.43 DON

OPENING OF COFFS HARBOR JETTY. (1892, August 10). Macleay Argus (Kempsey, NSW : 1885 – 1907; 1909 – 1910; 1912 – 1913; 1915 – 1916; 1918 – 1954), p. 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article234191457

Reminiscences of Jetty Town, 2015, 994.43 REM or available for sale at the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum.

The Advocate

17 August 1956 First cargo

10 December 1981 Cranes on jetty

2 May 1992 Save the jetty fund

22 July 1992 Working model of Timmsvale Sawmill

31 July 1992 The Centenary

1 August 1992 Gala Ball for centenary

4 August 1992 Outlet for produce inlet for necessity

14 May 2001 PWD have control of jetty.  Replacement of crane

Jetty Times, 9 March 1996 Jetty restoration

The Coffs Harbour Advocate, 14 October 1997 Re-opening ceremony

Acknowledgement

Compiled by Museum volunteer, Marie Davey

Back to Sawtell in the ’70s

 

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(1971, January 14). Sawtell Guardian (NSW : 1971 – 1975), p. 1.  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page27128572

In the first half of the 1970s, an enterprising President of the Sawtell-Boambee Chamber of Commerce believed that the village needed its own newspaper and the Sawtell Guardian was launched. The President, Nancy Sanders, was its sole editor.

NancySanders1971
WHO IS NANCY SANDERS? (1971, September 2). Sawtell Guardian (NSW : 1971 – 1975), p. 1.  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article247255406

Published almost every Thursday between 1971 and 1975, this free newspaper gave a succinct four page snapshot of life both within and beyond local borders:

It offered a healthy mix of headlines, serious news articles, classifieds, business advertising, television and radio guide, along with local sport stories.  Conversations with long-term local residents said that the “Sawtell Guardian” served as a significant social conduit at a time when interest in what others were up to seemed incredibly high. Fast forward 48 years to the prominence of social media, and interaction, and one may argue that the “Sawtell Guardian” was ahead of its time.  From garden parties, to wedding commentary, to welcoming home individuals from holiday absences, there was a great deal of focus on prominent families and people.

Martin Wells, Vice President of the Sawtell Chamber of Commerce, 2018

Via a collaboration between Coffs Harbour City Council’s History Services, the Sawtell Historical Society which has cared for the original print copies, the Sawtell Chamber of Commerce and the National Library to digitise it for posterity, the Sawtell Guardian is now available for all to read in Trove.  Sawtellcollab2

A wide range of historical content includes the reason behind the naming of Sawtell and other places in the Coffs Coast region.

SawtellOssie

Derivation of Place Names (1973, June 28). Sawtell Guardian (NSW : 1971 – 1975), p.1  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article247259087

 

For all those who grew up in Sawtell in the 1970s, the ability to “go home” without leaving home is an engaging possibility; while those who have never experienced this village life before will enjoy the lively snapshots which Nancy Sanders recorded as she kept an eye on the life happening around her.

 

 

Created from a Dream: a gift of calligraphy

Created from a Dream

The Coffs Harbour Regional Museum has curated an exhibition to feature a very special community project – the exquisite handmade book created by the Coffs Calligraphers in 2007 on the occasion of their 20th anniversary and presented as a gift to the city.

This unique book recounts the transformation of the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden from a night soil depot to the stunning garden it is today – all beautifully inscribed by our city’s talented calligraphers. While the Botanic Garden is a well-known attraction, perhaps not so well-known is the fact that Coffs Harbour has one of Australia’s most active calligraphers’ groups, whose members include some of the country’s best calligraphers.

The group formed in 1987 and is still going strong as a hub of calligraphy. The book project began with a vague idea of “a community -based ‘something’” that would celebrate Coffs Calligraphers’ first 20 years and at the same time, give something back to the City. Successful in securing funding from Coffs Harbour City Council’s Community Arts and Cultural Development Small Grants Program in September 2006, the project began in earnest early in 2007. A further sum of $1000 was made available from the Council to commission local craftsman Neil Scobie to design and create a special display cabinet to permanently house the manuscript.

The book was developed in consultation with the Friends of the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden. It includes a time line of events, Gumbaynggirr history, special areas and plant collections, as well as the birds and fauna that inhabit the Garden. Members who worked on the book included Paivi Ranta, Carol Hellmers, Gloria Rigby, Judith Kilburn, Barbara Austin, Colleen Little, Maxine Kohlhagen, Lexie Arlington, Lynne Arnold and Robyn Lawrence. A truly local effort, the special interleaving papers were silk screened by Insight Screenprinting and the book was bound in suede and embossed by Nigel Lovett of the Coastal Bookbinding Co.

The North Coast Regional Botanic Garden

The North Coast Regional Botanic Garden was officially opened on 17th September 1988 as the centrepiece of Coffs Harbour’s celebration of Australia’s bi-centenary. The opening was the culmination of decades of vision and sheer hard work by many members of our community.

The site was first identified as a location for a botanic garden in the 1959 Coffs Harbour Planning Scheme, developed by Roy McRae, a Sydney town planner. At that time the area was known as Wilson Park and had been used as a rubbish dump from 1938. Prior to this it was used as a night soil depot – the place where the town’s “dunny cans” were emptied before we had a sewerage system.

Unfortunately the proposal for a botanic garden was forgotten and it was not until 1973 that the potential of the site was again recognised. Following a canoe trip along Coffs Creek, local conservation group the Ulitarra Society came up with a concept for a botanic garden. They spent three months intensively consulting with local community organisations to gain their support and in November presented a well-documented and researched submission to Council. The Plan for Management of Natural Areas, Coffs Creek prepared by Alex Floyd, Peter Roberts and Lloyd Jones was hailed as “a visionary plan” by the Coffs Coast Advocate. “If we let this opportunity slip through our fingers it may never come again”, the paper declared. Two years later in 1975, Reserve 89558 was gazetted for the Botanic Garden.

Such a visionary plan took time to implement. A conference held at the University of New England in May 1980 led to a development plan, which was then adopted by Council. John Wrigley, curator of National Botanic Garden in Canberra was engaged as consultant. In the same year, the Friends Steering Committee formed at a public meeting leading to the inaugural meeting of the Friends of the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden on 9th April, 1981. A small and dedicated group worked tirelessly at weekly working bees to clear the site of weeds and remove years of rubbish, then built paths, planted new areas and created the extraordinary and beautiful green space now in the heart of our city.

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The new Botanic Garden, Picture Coffs Harbour mus07-13020

 

Acknowledgement

This post was written by Jo Besley,  Gallery and Museum Curator, Coffs Harbour City Council

The exhibition is open for viewing at the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum from 6 April until 12 May 2018.

Courageous Captain Colvin

 

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The S.S. Cooloon with Captain Colvin, 1910     www.picturecoffsharbour, mus07-2941

This story was told by the first of his grandchildren William James Colvin (1924) and compiled by him with assistance from Cathy Colvin, youngest granddaughter.

Born in Sunderland, UK in 1867, James Colvin was apprenticed to the Union Castle Line as a ship’s officer.  He joined “Roslyn Castle” and journeyed to Sydney via Cape Horn arriving in July 1883.  Enjoying the sunny winter weather, he decided to jump ship and make his home here and join in the gold rush.

James, 16 years, walked miles to the diggings at Queanbeyan, outside Canberra.   He spent the next four or five years at gold digging in New South Wales and Queensland.  He gambled the money he made on horse racing.

Returning to sea he received his First Mate’s Certificate.  He obtained a job with the North Coast Company as a Mate on a small ship which crossed the bar at Lismore.  During the loading an altercation occurred between himself and Allen Taylor, resulting in his leaving the company.

He went to work for the Nicoll Steamship Company.  He gained his Master’s Certificate and Mr Nicoll gave him a job commanding his ships.

After a collision between the ships of this company, James went to work for Langley Brothers as Captain of the S.S. Cooloon.  Once this ship went through a very bad storm for two days and when it came through, the family was very excited as they expected not to see him again.  This earned him the title ´Jimmy Cooloon’.

His first wife

Captain Colvin married Lucy Goff in St Philips’ Church, Sydney in 1892. They had five children.

In 1908 his wife, Lucy, died and James had to face the task of who would raise his children while he was at sea.  The Walsh family cared for them on their dairy property.  In return, James Colvin gave one of the sons, Fred Walsh, the deeds to crown land on the far north coast of New South Wales near the Queensland border.  This parcel of land was built up and called Kingscliff.

On 24 March 1908 Captain Colvin opened a Cordial Factory at the eastern end of Ocean Street (now Harbour Drive).  In 1911 he sold this business and in this year Langley Brothers had a steel ship, the Fitzroy, built in Scotland to replace the wooden one they had here.

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S.S. Fitzroy transferring passengers by basket at Coffs Harbour Jetty, around 1910, picturecoffsharbour.org, mus07-2922

Langley Brothers wharf where the Fitzroy docked was first on the left after passing through Pyrmont Bridge.  The cargo was hauled up Market Street to George Street by horse and cart where Markets were.

Captain Colvin was a generous and compassionate man rescuing two female passengers, and on another occasion he saved another from drowning at Darling Harbour for which he was awarded at a reception at Sydney Town Hall.  On another occasion he dived in to free a tangled chain around the propeller.  Captain Colvin, taking over from the cook, was cutting at the time the chain was cut.  The chain wrapped around his foot and he was dragged to the bottom.  At the bottom, the chain broke and he floated to the top unconscious.  He revived and in a short space of time he was back in control.

A second wife

In 1914 Captain Colvin married Alice May Cox, the great-great-granddaughter of William Cox, the retired paymaster of the 1st Military Corps who was overseeing the building of the Blue Mountains in 1813.   They had three children.

In 1919 James bought a small farm on the outskirts of Coffs Harbour at Upper Corindi.  On approaching Coffs Harbour in the Fitzroy, he would blow the horn on the ship which was heard at his home.  His son, Alfred, would saddle up the horse and gig and by the time they travelled six miles to the wharf, the ship was in.

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Captain James Colvin with a horse and buggy, (1908-1921), www.picturecoffsharbour, mus07-1052

The sinking of the Fitzroy

On 25 June 1921, just after his daughter May was born, Captain Colvin was travelling to Sydney from Coffs Harbour when he noticed a big storm brewing.  During the night when he was just off Cape Hawke the storm got worse and a southerly had washed cattle off the deck of the ship and the logs were rolling to the port side of the ship.  Captain Colvin with A B Johnannsen were able to move some of the logs overboard.  About 6.30 next morning the ship was listing towards the sea and water was going down the funnel putting out the fires.

The engineer announced that the situation was hopeless and the order to abandon ship was given and two boats got away.  There were 31 souls on board.  Johnannsen told James that it was time to go as the two had a big occasion coming up.  It was acceptance into the Masonic Lodge the following week.

Captain Colvin went to his cabin, put on his cap and went up to the bridge and bravely went down with his ship.

Johnannsen jumped overboard, swam away then returned to retrieve something.  He then swam a total of 13 miles (20.92 kms) to shore landing at Tuncurry.  Exhausted, he was washed ashore by a wave.  He rolled up the beach, dug a hole, covered himself with sand and lay there for four to six hours.  He was rescued and nursed back to health.

Meanwhile a lifeboat with four people reached the shore.  One man died soon after.    The bodies of Roy Daley and George Karlsen were washed ashore. The four survivors were Olaf Johnannsen, Carl Jensen and Peter Hansen and a passenger by the name of Herbert Ramsey.  The ship still lies a few miles off Cape Hawke in deep water.   Mr Langley did not live long after the disaster and the company folded.

ColvinRescued
Past Days around Wallis Lake, p.27, https://trove.nla.gov.au/version/44141036 

The Marine Court of Enquiry

The finding of this enquiry was that everything possible was done to preserve the ship and the lives of the passengers and that there was no evidence of misconduct or error of judgment on the part of the captain or officers.

His Family

Alice May* Cox was a nursing sister at Coffs Harbour when they married and when he drowned, she had three small children and a debt on the farm.  She started a Midwifery Hospital in a rented cottage in Coffs Harbour.  Some years later she got out of the maternity hospital and the general hospital absorbed that section and went back to the farm where she lived until after the Second World War, eventually buying a house in Woolgoolga next to Valley Gilmore (her son-in-law).  She remained there until her death.  Her children were Dorothy born 1916, Archy born December 1917 and Mary born 1921

References

Coffs Harbour Regional Museum research file mus13-489

Further reading

WRECKED ON THE NORTH COAST (1921, June 27). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), p. 1 (FINAL SPORTING), http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article221463785

CAPTAIN COLVIN. (1921, June 28). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1883 – 1930), p. 5.,  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article239742030

LOSS OF THE FITZROY (1921, June 28). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 7., http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15960238

*given as Frances May in news articles of the day.

Acknowledgement

This blog post was compiled by Coffs Harbour Regional Museum volunteer Marie Davey.

 

The deposition that changed the course of Coffs Harbour’s history

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From John Kramer, Ships and Timber: a short history of Coffs Harbour port and associated railways

In 1911, a Royal Commission into Decentralisation concluded that the “port of the south” should be Jervis Bay and the “port of the north” should be Port Stephens. [1]  Patrick MacNamara was having nothing of this. When the Public Works Department [PWD], which had the role of actually building the harbours, conducted further hearings in 1912, Patrick launched forth, as only he could. [2]

The rest is history. Port Stephens became the sleepy town, and Coffs Harbour became the place that launched a thousand ships. At the same series of Public Works hearings, Woolgoolga had a go at becoming the chosen port. But Woolgoolga’s advocate, Mr. Rudder, admitted defeat, explaining that “we don’t have a P. J. MacNamara”. [3]

P. J. McNamara

Patrick MacNamara passed away in 1929, aged 62 years. His funeral was the “largest ever seen in Coffs Harbour”. [4]  Mr. C. A. Clarke of Karangi, who had accompanied Patrick on a number of deputations to Sydney, paid tribute: “We would have failed repeatedly but for him,” said Mr. Clarke. “The officials we saw could put us off, but Mr. MacNamara was too well primed with facts and the knowledge of how to go about things to be brushed aside.” [4]

As the Coffs Harbour Advocate put it at the time: “In the death of Mr. MacNamara Coffs Harbour loses its greatest champion and most ardent and consistent worker for its progress and development over a period of almost a quarter of a century.” [5]

The deposition that changed history follows.

The Public Works Committee.

At Coff’s Harbour.

The above Committee visited Coff’s Harbour last week, when the following evidence was tendered in connection with the construction of the harbour, and the value of trade derived from the adjacent districts:—

  1. J. Macnamara deposed :— I was six years secretary to the local Railway League, both in connection with the North Coast railway and the Dorrigo railway. I accompanied Mr. Usher, of the Railway Department, on two occasions. He came here, I think, on instructions from the Railway Commissioners, first when he was making a report in connection with the North Coast railway, and secondly, when he was making a report about the Dorrigo railway. On the last occasion, he and I were out together for six days, and we traversed the whole of the route from Coff’s Harbour to beyond North Dorrigo, up near the Little Murray River.                                                                                                                                     I have given evidence on two occasions before the Public Works Committee in connection with those railways, and the Decentralisation Commission. l have been pretty well all-over the country through which it is proposed to connect this port. l have been right out as far as Mungindi, on the Queensland border, and to Moree, Armidale, Inverell, and other places.                           The absolute necessity of having on the North Coast a deep-water harbour, capable of dealing with large ocean going vessels for direct export traffic, is evident because Newcastle (including Port Stephens) is, approximately, the centre of the coast line of New South Wales, and therefore, in the extreme southern boundary of the northern half of the coastline, and for this reason, quite unsuitable as a sea outlet, which should be as central as possible, whilst Coff’s Harbour is midway between Sydney and Brisbane, and also being 178 nautical miles from Newcastle, and 134 from Point Danger, is within 22 miles of the absolute centre of the northern half.                                                   It has, within 40 miles south, the rich and rapidly developing territories of the Bellinger and Nambucca Rivers, the bar of which are very bad, and practically incapable of improvement; therefore, with railway connection, Coff’s Harbour in the future must be looked upon as their natural outlet. It has behind it the fertile Orara and Dorrigo country, with an average rainfall of 60 inches, the second highest in the State, and, with the Dorrigo part only in its infancy.                                                                                                                                                It has, within 70 miles north and south respectively, the large and growing districts of Grafton and Kempsey with their, at times, not too reliable sea outlets. Further back, it has the enormous inland territory comprising Guyra, Glen Innes, Inverell and Moree districts, which in natural richness are unexcelled, and which will be eventually joined to the coast by a connecting link between the Great Northern railway and the Dorrigo railway. The estimated cost of harbour improvements, namely, £190,000, is a mere trifle compared to the ad-vantages to be gained by having a safe and reliable port in the north, and also, when the inland connecting railway is built, by the saving of freight on goods sent from the interior for direct oversea shipment.                              The size of the harbour projected would be ample, 65 acres in minimum depth of 30ft. at spring low tide, as, with the modern cargo vessels security and depth of water are of far more importance than size. For instance, at Circular Quay, Sydney, with, its small area, there are sometimes to be seen seventy or eighty thousand tons of shipping berthed.                                                                                  It has been shown that Coff’s Harbour is, naturally, the sea outlet of a tract of country roughly speaking 20,000 square miles in extent, or in other words, of a territory half the size of England and Wales; and for the proper expansion and development of this large area, it is imperative that a central deep-water port should be formed for direct oversea shipment. On all grounds, therefore — geographical and economical — Coff’s Harbour has a pre-eminent claim to special attention being devoted by the Committee to its advantages for the formation of a national port on the North Coast.                                                                 When I came here, exactly six and a half years ago, the population was 200, now it is 2216, an increase of over 2000. The population return as taken by the Police during the past four years is as follows:— 1909, 1422; 1910, 1730; 1911, 1875; 1912, 2243. The number of butter factories in 1905 was 1; now there are 5, an increase of 4. The postal revenue in 1905 was £400; now it is £2,600. There has been an enormous increase in the number of passengers by steamer. The arrivals and departures in 1908 totalled 3000; 1909, 5000; 1910, 6000; and 1911, 7100. There has been a large increase in the timber business. That of the British Australian Timber Company amounts to six million feet annually.                       The new mills are: Karangi, Roberts’, Langley’s, Bumby’s, Mulhearn’s, McKenzie’s, Porter’s, Ulong, Ashton, Wild Cattle Creek, and two new mills are going up at Bonville; and the royalty from timber is: 1909, £1150; 1910, £1582; 1911, £1820. There is a very large area of timber left yet. There has been a great increase in settlement, but there are 30,000 acres still available in this district, and 79,000 still available in the Dorrigo district. The minerals obtainable consist of gold, copper and coal. The number of teams drawing to the Jetty is forty-five, and there are fifty teams drawing timber to Armidale.                                        The Guy Fawkes country is suitable for potato growing and grazing, and there is a butter factory there. At Dorrigo there is a butter factory and sawmills, and there is a butter factory at Coramba. The number of new settlers in Dorrigo since I came here has been 600. There is a large traffic in timber between Dorrigo and the tableland, via Guy Fawkes. The timber is cut up and carted from Dorrigo to Armidale. There will be freezing works at Dorrigo and Coff’s Harbour as soon as the railway starts. The State Freezing Works should be here, it is the only place big vessels can come in. The railway from the tableland to the coast here would be of great advantage to the western country in time of drought, in connection with the carriage of stock.                                               There is no doubt that when the pro-posed line of railway is made, that there will be new sawmills opened, and a trade in frozen meat and rabbits. The line will pass through 100,000 acres of land between Guy Fawkes and Guyra suitable for closer settlement, and which will be used for sheep farming, mixed farming, dairying, cheese production, butter making, pig raising, and maize growing. In addition, the line will carry large quantities of logs and other timber; and all these products will be shipped from Coff’s Harbour.                                 The Coast railway will go from Coff’s Harbour, via Coramba and Nana Glen, to Glenreagh. I do not think it is necessary to say anything about the resources along the line, because tenders for that portion of the railway are to be called in a few months. A railway from Glenreagh to Dorrigo has been unanimously recommended by the Public Works Committee, and the permanent survey will be finished in six months. On the Dorrigo there are 250,000 acres, of which 79,000 acres are still available for settlement. The main road from Coff’s Harbour to Dorrigo is now opened right through to Eastern Dorrigo, into the town of Dorrigo, and goes on to Guy Fawkes, with good country at the back, almost as good as the Dorrigo country.                                                  The railway line should be eventually made to Guyra and on to Inverell, a distance of 167 miles from Coff’s Harbour. That would relieve congestion of traffic at Sydney and Newcastle, and shipments could be made direct from Coffs Harbour to the markets of the world. This line has been recommended by [the] Decentralisation Commission and Commissioner of Railways. On the Dorrigo there is an enormous quantity of timber, and at present there are seven sawmills there. About 15,000,000 feet of the timber there is absolutely destroyed annually.                                                                                                                         The Dorrigo is good for growing fruits, including apples and other English fruits, potatoes and root crops. All the grass is good. From Eastern Dorrigo cream is brought to Coramba. When I came into this district, six and a half years ago, the population on the Dorrigo was about 70, now there are 800 people within a radius of 3 miles. In this district there has been a large increase of business in connection with storekeeping and banking. There are now 7 branch banks in the district and two at Dorrigo, and the bank accounts must number 2000.                                                                                                                                    The Dorrigo has the largest supply of soft woods still left in New South Wales. Altogether it is computed by experts that the timber wealth of the Dorrigo and contiguous forests is about £6,000,000, the timber including cedar, bean, mahogany, blue gum, blackbutt, tallow-wood, rosewood, mountain-ash, etc. The building trade of the districts to the north west is often seriously retarded owing to inability to reach those forests other than by team, a slow and uncertain method, and far too costly to be much availed of. The surveyed railway route from Dorrigo to Inverell traverses for the most part magnificent arable land, capable of maintaining the vastly increased population that would be sure to settle thereon if it were connected with the railway system of the State. A bacon factory is now about to be erected at the Jetty, and no doubt frozen meat works later.                                                                                                                It is claimed that Coff’s Harbour can be made one of the best harbours in Australia, able to accommodate the largest ships afloat; and that if it were made available to the rich producing districts to the north-west of it, it would ultimately become a busy port of call for the shipping of all nations. … Some years ago, when the Public Works Committee took evidence on the relative merits of the several proposed railway routes from New England to the coast, namely, Tenterfield to Grafton, Glen Innes to South Grafton, Guyra to Coff’s Harbour, and Armidale to Port Macquarie – that body strongly recommended the lnverell-Coff’s Harbour route, on account of its comparatively easy grades, the total absence of engineering difficulties, its shorter distance compared with some of the rival routes, and the cost or construction being much less than either of them. …                                                                                                                           The country along the route of the proposed line from Coff’s Harbour to Glenreagh, Dorrigo, Guy Fawkes, and Guyra to Inverell, is all good land, and will carry an enormous population. The land still to be thrown open on the Dorrigo would maintain at least 600 families. In regard to the Inverell-Guyra-Coff’s Harbour line, I do not think that any man in my position could form an estimate of traffic; but what I propose to make an estimate of is the trafficable area from here to Inverell, 100,000 population, 2½ sheep per head – 250,000. Would also require 1800 tons of wheat and by-products; all this would come down that line. I think that line would extend from 20 to 35 or 40 miles in width altogether.                                                                                                                            For instance, at lnverell I do not think it would be extravagant to say that the trafficable area would be up to 40 miles. Of course, in a dairying district the trafficable area would be much less – 20 or 24 miles. That would be 12 miles on either side of the line, or perhaps 15, but in the wheat and  woolgrowing districts, I myself have seen wheat carted 40 miles on waggons to a railway.                 There is a very bad bar Nambucca Heads, and an equally bad one at Bellinger Heads, and I feel sure that the bulk of the traffic would come in here for places in that direction. Nearly all the passenger traffic from the Bellinger now comes to Coff’s Harbour. I do not think that any business would be attracted to Coff’s Harbour from the south below Uralla, nor do I think that any business would be attracted to Coff’s Harbour from the north beyond Deepwater, between Glen Innes and Tenterfield; I do not think that any traffic would come to Coff’s Harbour from places beyond Warialda.                                             I think we would come into competition with Newcastle when we got to Moree.                                                                                                                                                I consider that we shall get all the traffic from Glenreagh and all the traffic from the Dorrigo. When the bar at Bellingen recently closed it cost £4 per ton to bring the Dorrigo butter to Coff’s Harbour. Any farmer living on the Dorrigo who wanted to go to Sydney – and I contend that the bulk of the business there would go south and not north – would have to go down to Glenreagh. When he got to Glenreagh he would either go north about 28 miles to South Grafton, or he would go south 25 miles to Coff’s Harbour. When he got to South Grafton he would have a long river journey on an average fifteen hours to the heads. That estimate is taken from the evidence of Mr. J. T. McKittrick, the President of the Grafton Chamber of Commerce at the time.                 When you get down to the heads on a steamer from South Grafton you are 60 miles north Coff’s Harbour. Supposing that a man from the Dorrigo did come to Coff’s Harbour, he wouId be able to reach here by coming from Glenreagh, 25 miles. I say that any man wanting to go Sydney from Dorrigo would not go up to South Grafton and then down the river, and still find himself 60 miles north of Coff’s Harbour, when he could come into Coff’s Harbour, and get down to Sydney in 16 or 17 hours. From Glenreagh to Dorrigo there is good dairying country, with some patches of very fine timber. Dorrigo itself contains some of the best land in the State.  From Dorrigo to Guy Fawkes there is excellent country.                                                                                                             I cannot say anything about the country from Guy Fawkes to Guyra, but I am told it is the finest cattle-raising country almost in New South Wales. On the other hand, I have been at Armidale and other places on the northern line, and also at Inverell and Moree, and out to Mungindi. Within the trafficable area I have described, and which is shown on the plan I have put in, I am of opinion that the whole of the produce, or very nearly the whole of it, would come to Coff’s Harbour if a railway line were made from Inverell to Coff’s Harbour, which is already practically assured as far as Dorrigo. Some men might like to send something north, but the bulk of the produce of the Dorrigo, which if sent there would come into competition with the produce of the Clarence and the Richmond, would I think come south.                                                                                       The difference from Coff’s Harbour to Inverell in a straight line, is only 167 miles. In that trafficable area I do not think we would come within 40 miles of another line. I think that, from its position, Coff’s Harbour being so central, is the best place for a harbour of refuge, and that if a port were made here there would be a big interstate trade, especially with Queensland, this place being practically half way between Sydney and Brisbane. I wish to have it put on record in the evidence that the area of Mutton Bird Island is 40 acres. During the last five years, the depth of water, in my opinion, has increased here. I think that the old charts are wrong, and that instead of having a depth of 17 or 18 feet, as they show, the depth is much more. I wrote a letter to the ”Daily Telegraph” a little while ago, giving the soundings taken at the time, and they showed a depth of 25 feet 6 inches and 24 feet 6 inches, one at the end of the Jetty, and the other to the south of the Jetty. It was in connection with a statement, that was made by Mr. Nash, the financial editor of the “Daily Telegraph”, about the depth of harbours north of Sydney.                                                     The Jetty and its approaches are nearly always congested as evidenced by the decision of the Government to make the Jetty 150ft. longer. I wrote that letter and signed my name to it, and it was never contradicted. I consider de Burgh’s scheme the cheapest one that can be got for the money, but I think that the Northern wall should be extended to the northern point of Mutton Bird Island. This would include the calm water under the lee of the Island where the ships take shelter now.                                                                                                                  If this scheme were adopted the money would not be thrown away as elsewhere, if it were ever decided to make a larger breakwater, as the northern wall of the proposed harbour would be the northern wall of the large harbour. If additional accommodation were required, Coffs Creek could be opened. There are large coal measures at Glenreagh, the junction of the North Coast and Dorrigo railway lines. At Karangi, five miles away, there is a fine copper lode. 90 tons taken out and treated at Port Kembla gave 20 per cent of copper. A good water supply could be obtained from the Orara River five miles away.                  The statistics submitted of the exports from Coff’s Harbour do not include any goods or timber previously shipped at either Grafton or Woolgoolga. I contend that the fact that Woolgoolga is off the railway line is fatal to any selection of that place, and that any proposed connection between Nana Glen and Woolgoolga is more expensive than between Nana Glen and Coffs Harbour; and that the proposed route does not admit of suitable grades being located, vide Amphlett’s and Kennedy’s report.                                                                        I consider that Coff’s Harbour should be selected as a port for the North Coast rather than that Sir John Coode’s scheme should be carried out in its entirety, at an additional expense of £389,000, in addition to the £464,248 already spent, to give a minimum depth of 18ft., which, in face of the fact that the English Board of Trade have given expression to the opinion that the steamers of the future are likely to grow in the same ratio as the Dreadnoughts have done. Compare this with the fact that for an expenditure of £190,000 we can get here 65 acres of water with a minimum depth of 30ft at spring low tides. There are splendid fishing grounds hereabout 7 miles out, and with a safe anchorage the industry would assume large proportions.

Coal depot – 80,000 tons of coal to be stored here, and I presume it will be necessary to have railway workshops also.

Exports from Coff’s Harbour for the year 1911: 19,373 boxes butter, 6,137,000 super. feet timber, 3,009 pigs, 835 tons sundries, 90 tons copper ore.

Imports at Coff’s Harbour for year 1911: 7,395 tons general cargo, 365 head cattle, 131 horses, 1,009 sheep, 7,104 passengers in and out, 382 boats called for this period, 4 Shire trucks, 1 portable boiler, 1 traction engine. Wharfage dues collected for this period, £1,113 12s. You will note we do not get any credit for outward cargo.

Exports from Coff’s Harbour from January 1st to June 30th, 1912: 13,407 boxes butter, 4,508,000 super. feet timber, 2,655 pigs, 445 tons sundries, 4,558 passengers in and out.

Imports at Coff’s Harbour from January 1st to June 30th, 1912: 7,886 tons general cargo, 70 head cattle, 55 horses, 983 sheep, 1 bull, 1 motor car, 1 fire engine, 80 tons coal.

Coff’s Harbour: – 1906, 417 vessels, 97,072 tons; 1907, 309 vessels, 79,304 tons; 1908, 266 vessels, 71,763 tons; 1909, 436 vessels, 104,860 tons; 1910, 403 vessels, 96,654 tons; 1911, 488 tons, 245,035 tons; 1912 (first six months), 217 vessels, 117,915 tons. Byron Bay, 1911: 161 steamers, tonnage 125,600.

References

  1. John Kramer, Ships and Timber: a short history of Coffs Harbour port and associated railways, p.8, https://trove.nla.gov.au/version/20824592
  2. The Public Works Committee. (1912, July 9). Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1889 – 1915), p. 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article61661192
  3. Visit of P.W.C. (1912, July 6). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article195078498
  4. Late Mr. P. J. MacNamara (1929, April 16). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185717361
  5. Coffs’ Great Loss. (1929, April 12). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185717321

This is the final post compiled by recently retired Museum volunteer Geoff Watts.

History Mysteries – seeking your help

CorambirraPointEeleyPhotomus07-11104
Corambirra Point, with Gallows Beach on the right, 1956-1960
www.picturecoffsharbour.org; part of mus07-11104
Photographer: Desmond Eeley

The first in an occasional series.

Gallows Beach

Do you know how Gallows Beach, between Corambirra Point and Boambee Beach, earned its name? Did the name come from a surfer tradition or something a little more sinister? Surfing World may have featured it in the 1960s. If you have copies of this  magazine from the 1960s with stories of our Coffs Coast beaches, the Regional Museum would love to see them.

GallowsBeachMap
From Beaches of the New South Wales Coast, Australian Beach Safety and Management Program p.107 https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/5450254

the old Courthouse & Police Station building at 215 Harbour Drive

The Council’s history team is also seeking reminiscences, photos and any other documented information about the old combined Police Station and Courthouse building, (now the home of the Regional Museum). They were in operation at 215 Harbour Drive from 1907-1930. It would be fascinating to hear from descendants of the police families who lived at the site, as well as accounts from the court officials.

CourthousePoliceStation-mus07-857
Coffs Harbour Courthouse and Police Station, Coffs Harbour, N.S.W., circa 1925 
http://www.picturecoffsharbour.org; mus07-857
Photographer: Peter Jensen

Colderbrea

In the 1920s, there was a two-storey house in central Coffs Harbour referred to as Colderbrea. It had tiled fireplaces, beautiful timberwork and fruit trees. It was a rental property during the early part of the 1920s. Does anyone have any memories or photographs to share?

the Keilawarra porthole

In the Regional Museum’s extensive maritime history collection, there is a porthole encased in its original timber. It’s believed to be from the wreck of the 780-ton Keilawarra which went down in 1886 near North Solitary Island with the loss of 41 lives after colliding with the smaller, southbound steamer, the Helen Nicholl. Do you have any information on this tragic shipwreck?

keilawarra-httpswww.wrecksite.euwreck.aspx51023
SS Keilawarra  https://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?51023

 

Please contact us via museum@chcc.nsw.gov.au if you have further information.