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]

The turn off to Sawtell, 5 km south of Coffs, can reveal some good quality waves. Trapdoor is the best set up in this area. Right when you first see the beach, there is a big, grassy bluff that you can drive up on – to the left is Trapdoor. Surfing Australia’s East Coast, Nat Young, 1980 ISBN 0725510544

There were also iron structures near Gallows 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.

jetty-nla.news-page000001374947-nla.news-article13874247-L4-02f72030b859018f6e09945654c5cfaf-0001
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.

ReplicaBasket
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