The Original Coffs Harbour Police Station and Court House

The Coffs Harbour Regional Museum is pleased to announce our new exhibit – a 1:25 scale model of the original Coffs Harbour Police Station and Courthouse – our Museum building!  This delicately made model has been a labour of love over the last 18 months by a local craftsman and heritage enthusiast, Don Langley.  It comes complete with miniature people, furniture, lights, animals, and fine detailing that is bound to engage people of all ages who see it.

Don Langley with the model at Coffs Harbour Regional Museum, June, 2020.

The Coffs Harbour Police Station opened in 1906 following “complaints of drunkenness in the street and disorder at dances” (Coffs Coast Advocate, 2001).  The existing Coramba Police Station, established in 1896, was  twelve miles away on horseback and considered too distant to respond to immediate problems in the Coffs Harbour area.  Senior Constable Belson and Constable D.M. Harper were the first men to operate the new police station (Yeates, 1990, p. 107).  In 1907 the building expanded to include the courthouse. It contained a courtroom, a Clerk of Petty Sessions,  a magistrate’s room, offices and living quarters for the policemen, two cells, an exercise yard, a forage room and a two-stall stable.  The building was used in this capacity until 1930 when the Moonee Street Police Station and Courtroom opened (Yeates, 1990, p. 185).

Coffs Harbour Courthouse and Police Station, Coffs Harbour, N.S.W. built in 1905, Photo courtesty of Coffs Harbour Regional Museum mus07-857.

Don Langley has written an account of his experience researching and building the model.  Below is his story:

The title – “Original Coffs Harbour Police Station” is a somewhat misnomer.  According to the records I have been able to access, the Police Station construction begin in 1906 or thereabouts but several times, up to 1920, the building was subject to a number of additions and modification.   What I decided to do was make the scale model as close to its structure at that time (1920).

In the researching process I could find no plans of the original building or the modifications up to 1920.  It appears that severe flooding at one time destroyed a large amount of the Council archives and the plans for the Station may have been victim of those floods.  As a consequence I was unable to ascertain the type of quite a few construction materials and specifications causing a considerable amount of guesswork. 

For instance, what was the external cladding?  Several old photographs of early Coffs Harbour buildings such as the Arts and Crafts building and the original Surf Club headquarters quite clearly indicated that the weatherboards were rough sawn square edge boards.  From the photographs I guessed that the weatherboards may well have been produced using local cedar timber.  The records indicate that the original building was designed by the Government Architect, W.L. Vernon. From my past experience it seemed that such weather boards would have been too “lacking in finer quality” for an architectural designed building and the architect would have specified something better looking.  Thus it seemed to me that the “shiplap”weatherboards on the present building may well have been the original style. 

What would have been the finish to the internal lining boards in the original Courthouse/Police Station?  My guess is that in accord with such buildings that have been preserved to a greater degree than the Coffs Harbour building e.g. Port Macquarie Police Station and Courthouse, the finish to the internal lining was stained and polished timber.  This is how I have displayed it even if the colour may well have been quite different.  Then I considered the internal lining of the residence.  It seemed to me that residences attached to public buildings did not receive the grandiose finishes as the public buildings did.  So my assumption was that the lining boards and general finishes in the residence were painted in bland colours and, whether that was so or not, this is what I have done. 

Other materials were easier to establish.  Corrugated iron roofing was common even in those days and though there may be some conjecture as to whether wooden shingles could have been used corrugated iron seems a more plausible material.  However the original may have been replaced at time of additions and modifications.  Nevertheless shingles could well have been the original roof covering as cedar shingles have been produced from local timber sources for many years and not so long ago I was talking to a district saw-miller who stated he was cutting cedar shingles for a government entity. 

The flooring was/is timber with the prisoner exercise yard being concrete.  Likewise the residence wet areas.  As said original records seem to have disappeared so much of my work was calculated guesswork.  The brick base to the building is accepted as original.  In research I could find no evidence at all that the bricks may have been made locally so I assumed that they were imported, most likely from Grafton.

The Prison Lock-Up Cells

Though the few plans available indicated where they were located on site there was no other information other than that they were portable.  Incredibly I found out that one was still in existence and furthermore was in the locality – in the backyard of the Sawtell Police Station (now not in operation).  I was able to inspect it and take detailed measurements and photographs.  Thus I was able to accurately reconstruct the cells in the model.  I might add that the cells were not made in a joinery shop but appeared to be made at the sawmill where the timber was produced.  One thing is certain they were made robust enough to be transported as well as adequate for prisoner confinement.

Original prison lock-up cell in Sawtell, 2019, photo courtesy of Don Langley.

Prison lock-up cells in model, Coffs Harbour Regional Museum, June 2020.

Brief description of how various linings were produced for the model

General construction:  Floor, walls and roof were made from 5 mm MDF board, it being more stable than plywood and available in larger area sizes that balsa wood though some plywood was used.

Base brickwork:  This was achieved by Googling up panels of brickwork on the internet, selecting the most appropriate and saving it on my PC, then enlarging/reducing the panel to the scale I was using.  I made the individual brick in the panel 9 mm x 3 mm representing 1:25 scale of standard bricks 225 mm x 75 mm in size. Having then achieved this correct scale I reproduced as many panels as I wanted and packed them side by side in rows similar in appearance to a wall of brickwork.  This I took to a commercial printer who was able to produce a continual panel some 4 meters long on heavy paper.  This enabled me to cut the paper to sizes I wanted.  Finally the paper was pasted to plywood base.

Internal wall lining: Basically I used the same principle for the brickwork but I was limited to finding on the internet the exact patterns I required. 

Corrugated iron for the roof: This stumped me for a while.  I tried to find a mould with a stamp to press aluminium foil into corrugations but was not successful.  I could not get a mould to true scale.  Then a friend showed me some corrugated paper which was exactly to scale but needed to be painted.  I was able to find a colour matching weathered corrugated iron.

Flooring:  The flooring was 5 mm x 0.5 mm strips of mahogany which I glued to a plywood base piece by piece.

Weatherboards:  Having established that shiplap profile was the one to use, procuring such timber to scale was impossible.  So I used 5 mm x 1.5 mm strips of Limewood glued to plywood backing and separated by 2 mm x 1 mm strips giving the rebated shiplap profile.  Each 5 mm x 1.5 mm strip and each 2 mm x 1 mm strip was glued individually.

Ground contours:  The base for the building was formed on a flat base and the ground contours were formed by moulding polystyrene sheets to the contours required.

Lighting:  I used small LED lighting strips fixed to the underside of the roof.

Research by Don Langley in accordance with current information.

Make sure you visit the museum to see this wonderful model, you can find out our current opening days and times on the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum website.

Reference List

Coffs Harbour Advocate (2001, 4 September). Our History.

The Coffs Harbour & District Independent Weekly (2003, 6 November). History Under the Hammer.

Langley, Don. (2020) Original Coffs Harbour Police Station.

Yeates, N. (1990). Coffs Harbour: Vol I, Pre-1880 to 1945: Bananacoast Printers.

 

Louie La Crosse an Early Coffs Harbour Character

(Thomas)

Louie La Crosse was born Ange La Craux in 1871 in Mauritius (Coffs Harbour District Family History Society). It is not certain how Louie came to Australia.  Joyce Franklin recalls him telling her as a child, that he came to here via Madagascar and landed in Western Australia.  From there he worked his way across the country on the railway line, his job being the “Billy Boy” for the linesman (Coffs Harbour City Council, 1986-1988). His obituary states that he was “shanghaied” from Mauritius, ended up in Newcastle and then worked on the railway up the coast to Coffs Harbour (“OBITUARY,” 1940).  However, he arrived he was a valued, respected and renowned character who lived in Coffs Harbour during the 1920s & 30s.

He is reported as arriving in Coffs Harbour in the first week of 1918 in an old sulky that was described as forerunner to the present-day caravan with a horse in poor condition.  He was well received by the residents in town, where he restocked his supplies before going onto Red Hill where the North Coast Railway was being constructed by Norton Griffiths (Thomas; Coffs Harbour District Family History Society). Unfortunately on his way up the hill his carriage fell over the edge which was very upsetting for Louie. He was given a job as the “Billy Boy” which did not last long as the contract was cancelled which resulted in all of the workers being laid off.

Louie then came to town and built a home out of beaten out kerosene tins (see picture below) and stayed for the next two decades until his death in February 1940.

Louie outside of his home, Courtesy of Coffs Harbour Regional Museum.

He supported himself by doing general odd jobs for local business such as yard cleaning and then began collecting bottles, bones and bags.  He had a two-wheel cart described by Milton Smith as made out of a door with two sulky wheels and a couple of shafts that he pulled around town to collect his bottles and bones (see picture above) (Coffs Harbour City Council, 1986-1988).

(“BIG OYSTER LOSSES.,” 1928)

While it was apparent from the above clipping and resident’s memories that he did at times have one too many alcoholic beverages this did not seem to make people think any worse of him.  He was mostly well respected and cared for in the town and there were many who called him their friend. Kon Ruthning the local jeweler made some of his land available for Louie to build his kerosene tin shack near top town after he was moved off council land. Ruthning and Fred Lowery also bought him an accordion for Christmas one year which Louie used to play in the centre of town accompanied by his dog who used to howl.  Madge Durrington recalled him as “the music man, he always had his accordion with him, and in his straw boater and tie he would play, and we (the children) would dance around him and he would play as long as we would jump, to me he made us laugh.” There are numerous accounts of how he was very kindhearted especially when it came to children and animals.  Isabel Landrigan recalls as a child sitting outside Cunninghams all day with a crying Louie comforting him when a horse (perhaps his own) died in the culvert.  Joyce Franklin, whose father was the local blacksmith recalls that he was a friend of her father’s and used to often have morning and afternoon tea on the back veranda.  The family worried that he did not eat enough as he had a very slight build and was often “bronchial”.  When he was unwell her father used to deliver a billy of pea soup and at Easter, hot cross buns (Coffs Harbour City Council, 1986-1988).

(“PERSONAL,” 1936)

He had a great talent for kite making and it was the goal of all the children to buy one of Louie’s kites.  They were made from bamboo and tissue paper and flew very well.  Douglas Harrigan remembers spending a long time collecting all the bottles he could find to get enough money to buy a kite. The cost was 9 pence and he eventually got one; at that time it was the “thrill of his life to get one of those kites”.  If you collected enough bottles you could also take them to Louie, and he would swap them for a kite.  Colin McGregor, whose father owned a local café, remembers sneaking a pound of butter when his Dad was not looking and swapping it for a kite.  He describes them as big box kites 3 foot x 2 foot, they had flaps on the sides and when you flew them over town you could hear them flapping in the wind. Joyce Franklin recounts that her Dad, the blacksmith, was very strict about the type of male company that she was allowed to keep growing up, but that he didn’t mind her and her siblings flying kites with Louie. Louie didn’t have any teeth, so their job was to “whistle up the wind” (Coffs Harbour City Council, 1986-1988).

He also was talented as a craftsman and artist.  Joyce Franklin recalls that when The Fitzroy sank in 1921 Louie drew a particularly good picture of the ship sinking and all his bottles floating away.  He would send his bottles and bones (the bones to be turned into fertilizer) to Sydney every month or two and the sinking of the Fitzroy meant he had a very lean couple of months ahead of him.

(“A LOCAL ARTIST.,” 1930)

Yet, there was a flip side to how some people in Coffs thought of and treated Louie. There were some children who feared him, and some of the boys and even adults used to play tricks on him.  His home was on the main route between town and the primary school so children sometimes would run past in fear, some would try and spy on him and others play “jokes”; Bill Payne recalls telling him “that the lions were after him”.  Colin McGregor who thought of Louie as a friend and used to often visit him, remembers making a “mistake” when being dared to call Louie “black” and Louie chasing him back home where he hid under a table. When his father found out, Colin got “a swift kick in the backside” for doing it.  Muriel Brennan recounts an incident when a boarder of her mother’s put something on Louie’s horse to “make it go hell for leather, he thought it was a great joke, poor old Louie was hanging on for dear life”.  There were even doubts about his gender according to Joyce Franklin, because he did not have any facial hair.  One day some high school boys (about 18 years old) decided to strip him to check his gender.  It happened outside the blacksmith shop and her Dad broke it up, Louie was terribly upset and cried (Coffs Harbour City Council, 1986-1988).

Louie was religious and went to mass regularly and when he died a collection was taken up to pay for his funeral and headstone, as a sign of respect and of how well-liked he was in the community. As narrated by Yeates “The number of important citizens who attended the funeral of this man without any of his own kin was a tribute to him” (Yeates, 1990, p. 254).

Louie La Crosse and his dog, circa 1920, Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour mus07-1060 (Coffs Harbour City Council, 2020)

 

(“OBITUARY,” 1940)

OBITUARY Transcription

Louie’s Sudden Passing

On Tuesday night last Angel La Crosse, better known to everyone in Coffs Harbour during the past 15 or 20 years as “Louie,” was found dead in his hut near the Methodist Parsonage. Apparently, he had not long been dead. Neighbours had not seen him about much lately, and it was known that he was not well. This caused Sergeant Blanchard and Messrs. L Ruthning, J. Faulkes and. M. Cunningham to walk across to the hut on Tuesday night, about 9 o’clock, to investigate. They could get no reply when they knocked, so opened the door and found Louie dead. Apparently, he had been sitting on his bunk when he fell backwards and expired. The body was still warm when found so evidently death had taken place not long previously. One neighbour had seen him about during the afternoon. He was in the habit of retiring about 5 p.m. each day. The Deceased, who was about 69 years of age, was one of the best-known identities about Coffs Harbour. He was a black man who did no one any harm but knocked about the town a good deal. During the past few years, he has not enjoyed, good health, particularly in the very cold weather. Several times he has been a patient in the District Hospital when little hope was entertained for his recovery. He was a native of Mauritius, of Portuguese extraction and has told that he was “shanghaied” from home as a young man and placed on board a ship bound for Australia. He landed at Newcastle when in his early twenties and became a cook. When the railway line was built along the North Coast, he followed it as a cook, and finally settled down in Coffs Harbour, 15 or 20 years ago. For some years he collected bottles and bones as a means of livelihood, but for the past four years or so has been having the old age pension. He had a fair ear for music, and at Christmas time particularly was a familiar figure about the town playing tunes on an accordion, apparently learned by ear. The funeral was at the Catholic portion of Coffs Harbour Cemetery on Wednesday afternoon, Father Ryan conducted the service. At the graveside Father Ryan expressed appreciation of the sentiment shown by the group of citizens who assembled to pay their last respects to the deceased, who as far as they knew was without kith or kin in this country. It was a tribute to a black man who had lived an honest and straightforward life in the community. (Yeates, 1990)

References

BIG OYSTER LOSSES. (1928, 16 March 1928). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185580240

Coffs Harbour City Council (Producer). (1986-1988). Voice of Time Oral History Project. Retrieved from https://coffsharbour.spydus.com/cgi-bin/spydus.exe/MSGTRN/WOHIST/HOME

Coffs Harbour City Council. (2020). Picture Coffs Harbour. Retrieved from http://coffsharbour.spydus.com/cgi-bin/spydus.exe/MSGTRN/WPIC/BSEARCH

Coffs Harbour District Family History Society. The Early Residents of Coffs.

A LOCAL ARTIST. (1930, 14 October 1930). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185724318

OBITUARY. (1940, 16 February 1940). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187994449

PERSONAL. (1936, 24 November 1936). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189059972

Thomas, M. Louie won the heart of Coffs. Coffs Harbour Advocate.

Yeates, N. (1990). Coffs Harbour: Vol I, Pre-1880 to 1945: Bananacoast Printers.

Researched and written by Simone Newman, Local Studies Librarian.

The Magic Years of Brian Hodge, Coffs Harbour High School Cadet

During preparations for the launch of digital copies of Coffs Harbour High School’s annual magazine the Beacon [1] in 2019, a less well-known publication about the School came to the attention of the Cultural Development and History Services team of the Coffs Harbour City Council.

The Magic Years Cadet Story 1939-45, was written by historian the late Brian Hodge, a cadet himself. Brian and his family lived in Coffs Harbour from 1932 until 1945. His father, Russell Frederick Hodge, was the Principal of Coffs Harbour High School and a member of the Coffs Harbour Militia Unit. Captain Hodge had lived through World War I, also as a cadet, and that in addition to his beliefs, led him to propose and set up the Corp. [2]

Jeety High School Cadets, Bonville Reserve, 1942
Coffs Harbour High School Cadet Corp
with Captain R. F. Hodge
Bonville Reserve 1942

Not wishing to miss out, a Girls’ Volunteer Corp was established in May 1942 – the first of its kind in NSW. The Magic Years does justice to their story too. It is a well-researched and well-written book. As Mr Hodge states in the Introduction, ‘the war years of 1939-45 were very special ones for us boys and girls in the Coffs Harbour High School Cadet Corp. The unit was very young and vigorous, and we kids were lively teenagers – “with eager unrest” – all very patriotic, all with pulses quickened by the threat Japan was posing to our coastline and to Coffs Harbour. Especially was this so in 1942.’ [3]

Jetty High School Girls' Volunteer Corp
Coffs Harbour High School Girls’ Volunteer Corp
Non-Commissioned Officers’ May camp Bonville Reserve 1942
Picture Coffs Harbour, mus07-1614

Was the Coffs coast really under threat during World War II?

Having lived through World War I, Captain Hodge knew it was best to be prepared and he acted on that in a very disciplined manner. Recent research by a Regional Museum volunteer led to the source of a sub-mariner’s maritime chart prepared by the Naval Department of the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1940.

Japs Had Plans Of Coff’s Harbour (1946, March 5). Daily Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1915 – 1954), p. 2.
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article194926693
Part of a Japanese sub-mariner’s chart
Coffs Harbour Regional Museum mus12-1425

Did the Jetty High students actually carry live ammunition?

This is a question often received by Museum staff. The short answer is yes. The cadets were issued with guns and ammunition, for use in training. They also trained with bayonets. Training camps conducted night patrols in the sandhills along Boambee Beach every school holidays, sometimes alarming the locals. And in the manuscript archive, a confession: “Did you know that a group of us fired live tracer bullets out of a Room 8 window the night Victory was announced? We used a Bren & tried to form patterns of Vs in the sky over the harbour.”

Aiming for Little Muttonbird Island
“Old Trig. Station, Little Muttonbird the Target.”
The Brian Hodge manuscript

What happened to the missing years of the local newspapers?

As noted in The Magic Years, Brian Hodge found that some sources of Coffs’ wartime history have disappeared. In particular, although our continuing newspaper is available both before and after World War II, no copies of the Coffs Harbour Advocate between 1943 and 1945 remain. [4] The Museum holds just a few small cuttings as proof it existed. Mr Hodge filled in the gaps by sending out detailed questionnaires, and the resulting thoroughly researched publication goes some way to making up for this loss, describing not only the activities of the Cadets but also wartime life as experienced locally.

From Coffs Harbour to Hill End and back again

Brian Hodge lived in Hill End, a small town near Tambaroora. He was a member of the Hill End And Tambaroora Gathering Group [5]. A message asking about copies of the publication was responded to by HEATGG’s honorary librarian, Lorraine Purcell. Her intervention led to the donation of Brian Hodge’s research archive of the book to our Regional Museum, and during the height of the summer bushfire season, Mrs Purcell arranged for the safe transfer of The Magic Years to Coffs Harbour.

Copies of the book will be available for sale at various outlets when they open, and of course, at the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum.

References

[1] Coffs Harbour High School. (N.S.W.). Beacon

[2] Cadets – Educational establishment – Appointment to Officer Commanding Coffs Harbour High School Senior Cadet Detachment – Captain R F Hodge, Australian War Memorial AWM61, 426/2/515

[3] The Magic Years : Cadet Story 1939-45; Hodge, Brian, Hill End, NSW : Cambaroora Star publications, 1993, p. vii

[4] Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954) 

[5] Hill End And Tambaroora Gathering Group has a website at www.heatgg.org.au/ with a shop link to publications.

Debbie Campbell

LMG Digitisation Coordinator

Coffs Coast Heritage & Arts Digitisation (CCHAD) project

 

 

Life as a Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife on South Solitary Island

South Solitary Lighthouse Keepers and Families circa 1935, Right Back: Jessie and Wilfred Tulk , Picture courtesy of Coffs Harbour Regional Museum 07-4467.

This month is the the 140 year anniversary of the South Solitary Island lighthouse.  Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live on a small island?  Many people might assume that living on South Solitary Island with only your children and husband for 5 years would be hard work and lonely. The assumption of it being hard work is correct. But Jessie Tulk and her daughter Mercedes Sauerstein tell the tales of how the island was never boring or lonely and there was excitement and plenty of activities to keep them entertained.

Jessie came from a family of hard working women.  Her mother “Dolly Lee” (Margaret) was a renowned cook, and worked at the Pier Hotel while Jessie was growing up, as did Jessie once she was 14 years old.  “Dolly Lee” also owned one of the early banana plantations in Coffs Harbour in the 1920s, and worked “like a man” all day, supplying bananas to local stores, she would even “chip” down the plantation when the bananas were ready and carry them on her back. (Berzins, North Coast Women – A History to 1939, P. 35)

Jessie was 33 years of age when she moved to South Solitary Island with her 3 children and husband Mr Wilfred Reginald Tulk after he was offered the job of lighthouse keeper. They lived there for 5 years and she remembers her time living on South Solitary Island fondly and that she and the children loved it on the secluded island.

The Tulk Family Swimming at South Solitary Island, Picture courtesy of Coffs Harbour Regional Museum.

They would place their food stores order via Morse Code in the evening and fishermen would bring it out to them once a fortnight. They would throw a rope out to tie the mailbag to that had the food inside, as the mailbag was waterproof. She had to make sure she kept a good food store that could last months in case there were any storms or problems with boats bringing stores out. The stores boat coming in was always an exciting event.

They had on the island, 30 chickens, lots of fish and an original 8 rabbits, which multiplied possibly to 100. Goats were brought out as a potential food source and the peelings would always go to the goats, unfortunately though they were not a total success on the island.

SOLITARY ISLAND (1936, July 17). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved February 18, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189058722

 

A picture of goats on South Solitary Island taken by the Tulk family in the 1930s, it may be Billy, the dates correspond.  Picture courtesy of Coffs Harbour Regional Museum.

BILLY’S LAST CHARGE (1936, August 10). Wellington Times (NSW : 1899 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved February 18, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article142911459

There were giant oysters also on the island and fish was a main component of everyone’s diet.  Jess was the only person who at that time successfully grew flowers on South Solitary Island, petunias and carnations, as her husband made a wind break to help them to grow along with the root vegetables.

Fried scones and eggs were the staples if the stores did not come. Once this happened, and a stores boat could not land for a month, frustratingly they could see the boats coming towards them and then being unable to land, finally turning around and leaving again.  Jess had let her stores run down because they were due for a shift change so she had to cook fried scones and jam, as all they had were the chicken’s eggs and flour, but no butter, for a month.

Jessie also learnt to make ginger beer and beer. Her children recall the stores coming onto the island, and the smell of the apple boxes in the crates with straw. She made her own bread on the island. They would even cut the mould off and eat the bread, she would make a new batch every second day. Her children remember their mother being an independent, resourceful country women who accepted life and got on with it, the men did the lighthouse work and the women did the heavy housework.

Wilfred Tulk and Sausage on the bosun’s chair, Picture courtesy of Coffs Harbour Regional Museum.

One day, about the year 1937, Jessie and her husband went over the channel (thirty feet wide) on a bosun’s chair suspended from the cable and were gladdened by a haul of twelve snapper, a twelve pound groper and sundry small fish. This was probably a record for the island in that Jessie hooked and landed the entire catch, except the groper, in which case some extra weight was required on the line from her husband. Needless to say, fish figured largely on the island’s menu for several meals.

Jess Tulk, on the right, and her friend Poppy Maggs at South Solitary Island in the 1930s. Picture courtesy of Coffs Harbour Regional Museum.

Jessie’s children remember that she kept herself busy, and enjoyed her time on the Island with her children. The memories of which they all cherished.

Research by Alana Castor, Southern Cross University Intern December 2019-February 2020, Community Heritage Project for Coffs Coast Heritage and Art Digitisation Project.

 

Lessons from the Past: The 1919 Spanish Influenza Pandemic in Coffs Harbour

The current Coronavirus outbreak (COVID19)[1] has certainly aroused fears of a possible global pandemic in 2020 and the reactions of all levels of Australian Government: Federal, State and local bodies have some interesting parallels to the responses made by the same legislative groups back in 1919. Coffs Harbour and Dorrigo districts underwent a level of restrictions unheard of to minimise the possible outbreak of the influenza in the period from April 1 to September, 1919. There have been some successful initiatives adopted by current authorities as a result of the actions taken by the Australian Government to reduce the morbidity rates of the Spanish Flu in 1919; including compulsory notification, nursing and medical assistance, hospital accommodation, extensive use of vaccination, restrictions on travel and assembly (including the closure of schools and churches), and the wearing of masks at certain periods.

Distant view of a temporary isolation camp set up for interstate visitors at Jubilee Oval, Adelaide during the influenza outbreak of 1919. Picture Courtesy of State Library of South Australia. PRG 280/1/9/57

The Spanish Flu is a little of a misnomer as it was associated with the King of Spain catching influenza in 1918 but he managed to survive the illness.  Yet the truth is more intertwined with the fortunes of military activities and censorship during World War One of the combating Allied and German forces in the period of 1918, where the outcome of the war was still very much in the balance. Indeed, General Foch, the French General and Commander of the Allied forces, conceded that in May 1918 he had real fears of the German Ludendorff Offensive being successful leading to a decisive victory for the Germans. Likewise, the British Cabinet discussed on June 5, 1918 the possibility of evacuating the entire British Expeditionary force from the Continent[2]. Interestingly, the pneumonic influenza may have been a decisive factor in the demise of German troops. By July 1918, almost half a million German troops had contracted the first wave of the so called Spanish Flu. As well as this misfortune, 400,000 German citizens had died of the disease in 1918 on the Home front sealing the fate of the outcome of the war for Germany combined with the Allied Naval Blockade and civil unrest.[3] Elsewhere, the Spanish Flu had well and truly affected Allied troops.

Sister Anne Donnell an Australian field nurse on the Western Front, contracted the same influenza as early as in early March 1918 but recovered. She believed the flu originated amongst the troops around Etaples in France.[4]

Whatever the origin of the Spanish Flu, the mass return home of armed forces globally led to a greater spread of the disease and misery just after the cessation of the war. Figures vary greatly but most sources acknowledge at least 40 million to possibly 100 million people died during the period 1918-1919. Far more fatalities than World War One of around 18 million people soldiers and civilians combined.

Soldiers returning to Australia and particularly men from Coffs Harbour were looking forward to welcome home parades and ceremonies on their homecoming. It was not to be for many for some time.

The Diggers Ball, Coffs Harbour, 3 September 1919. Front row: (from the left) Beatrice Matten, Dick Gailer, unknown, unknown, ? Worland, Mary Dunlop, Tommy Dent, Joe Cavanagh, Alf Dodd, ‘Nugget’ Worland, Billy Kay. Second row: 6th from left Jim Gailer, 8th from left Jack Knight. Third row (only two people in the row) Billy Sutton on far right. Fourth row: 6th on left Col Buchanan. Back row: Captain Seymour 2nd from the right. Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour Mus 07-1624.    Note the date of the image 3.9.1919

To give some picture of the spread of the disease originating from Victoria towards New South Wales in 1919, a letter addressed to the NSW Health Minister from an engine driver [5] highlighted the problems of enforcing regulations with ex Servicemen who happened to attend the races in Corowa. Reference to them as “wasters” was a peculiar term describing the quarantine breakers.

Courtesy of State of New South Wales through the State Archives and Records Authority of NSW 2016 

By January 27, 1919 the Spanish Flu had reached NSW. By the time the disease was officially declared over in September some 6,387 people died in New South Wales, infecting as many as 290,000 in Metropolitan Sydney alone.[6] In terms of loss of life, the ‘outbreak’ first wave of the disease was “comparatively mild” when contrasted with the second and third ‘high-mortality’ waves in 1919. Up until the middle of March 1919, only fifty people had died across NSW, while the second wave killed 1,542, and the third 4,302, with the peak occurring between the weeks ending 24 June and 8 July:

  1. (Outbreak wave) 27/1/1919 – 18/3/1919
  2. (High mortality wave) 19/3/1919 – 27/5/1919
  3. (Highest mortality wave)  28/5/1919 – 30/9/1919

Influenza leaflet, Department of Public Health, April 1919. From: NRS 905, [5/8097], 19/57573

Courtesy of State of New South Wales through the State Archives and Records Authority of NSW 2016 

What was unusual about the death rates was the group of males aged between 20 and 39 years accounted for half of the deaths in this period. [7] The NSW Government acted quickly with state wide inoculations and quarantine periods for those people affected. People in Coffs Harbour reacted quickly to the news of the Spanish Flu. Organisations such as the Red Cross started preparations for quarantining people suffering the disease at the Coffs Harbour Showground but desperately needed volunteers. What is interesting to compare were the isolation periods of four days for this pandemic recommended by the Department of Health in NSW compared to the 14 days recommended for the current COVID19 virus in 2020.

https://www.rahs.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Flu-Pandemic-proclamation-timeline-.pdf page41

Coffs Harbour Advocate Wednesday April 9, 1919, P.3. Retrieved from Trove.

Coffs Harbour Advocate Wednesday April 5, 1919, P. 2. Retrieved from Trove.

Likewise, in Dorrigo local government regulations were quickly enforced. Drinking in hotels, local social groups and even church attendance were affected.

Coffs Harbour and Dorrigo Advocate Wednesday April 2, 1919, P.3, Retrieved from Trove.

Public association of any kind was restricted. Imagine a publican enforcing the five minute rule with serving drinks and asking patrons to move along!

Coffs Harbour and Dorrigo Advocate April 23, 1919, P.3.  Retrieved from Trove.

In Australia, while the estimated death toll of 15,000 people was still high, it was less than a quarter of the country’s 62,000 death toll from the First World War. Australia’s death rate of 2.7 per 1000 of population was one of the lowest recorded of any country during the pandemic.  In Coffs Harbour, so successful were the prevention measures of quarantine, inoculations and wearing of face masks that only a couple of residents succumbed to the disease. It did affect emotionally the community when death came, as outlined in the newspaper announcement of Mrs Cosgrove in 1919:

The Don Dorrigo Gazette and Guy Fawkes Advocate Wednesday 30th July 1919, P.3. Retrieved from Trove.

In effect, the death toll was far greater in 1919 than the COVID19 virus in 2020, yet the hysteria and misinformation of the contagiousness of the disease and the protective measures to prevent falling ill bear an interesting comparison. Perhaps the more contagious the disease became during this time, the more anxious were people to minimise the spread of the Flu. Even the morals and health of train passengers, through constant kissing of one another, was a subject of debate at a Camden Council meeting.

The Don Dorrigo Gazette and Guy Fawkes Advocate Wednesday 28th May, 1919, P.4. Retrieved from Trove.

Rhonda Dahlen recorded her grandfather Irvine may have accidentally brought the first case of Spanish Flu to Coffs Harbour after his marriage to his wife Elsie on March 19, 1919 in Sydney. On their return to Coffs Harbour Irvine known as Scob to his family developed flu symptoms  of headaches and fever. This was later identified by Dr Larbaleister as a possible case of the Spanish Flu. The Pier Hotel at the Jetty was used to quarantine possible contacts of Irvine Smith whilst he was quarantined at the back of the old police station in a house in North Street.  His sister Violet and his mother shared the nursing duties to care for him in his recovery from a mild case of the flu.[8]

Perusing the local Coffs Advocate during the period of April to September, 1919, there was a steady update of new Spanish Flu outbreaks and deaths occurring in Sydney in virtually every edition, constantly reinforcing the perception that the danger was ever present in the minds of the citizens of Coffs Harbour. This vigilance can be seen expressed in a few letters to the Coffs Harbour Advocate newspaper whenever newcomers to town managed to obtain free passage from infected regions. The following letter is a particularly good example of xenophobia of people living directly to the north of us in South Grafton.

Coffs Harbour and Dorrigo Advocate Wednesday May 21, 1919, P.2. Retrieved from Trove.

Coffs Harbour and Dorrigo Advocate Saturday June 28, 1919, P.2. Retrieved from Trove.

However, not everyone “slipped through the net”, as indicated by the band member being nursed by Mr E. Fogarty. This highlights the importance of selfless volunteering by the people of Coffs Harbour who were a key factor in preventing the spread of the disease by volunteering at the quarantine area at the Coffs Harbour Showground. Additionally, the generous donations of food and linen, as well as a cow for milking, were ways people felt they were being part of the community preventing the spread of the pandemic.

 

Coffs Harbour and Dorrigo Advocate Saturday April 5, 1919, P.2. Retrieved from Trove.

The actions of Dr Larbalestier as the town’s physician and Mr Leonard coordinating quarantine and recovery at the Coffs Harbour Showground were important in the low mortality rate. The Showground was used up until August 1919 when the Spanish Flu had run its course in the town.  Volunteer nurses were inoculated by Dr Larbalestier, whilst co-ordination of supplies was under the care of Mr Leonard. According to Neil Yeate’s investigation, Mrs Moore from the Red Cross Society and Honorary Secretary helped open up Coffs Harbour Primary School as a convalescent during July, 1919 overseeing the recovery of several patients.[9]

What is little known was the effect on the Aboriginal Community at this time as records are lacking both of infection rates and hospitalisation in Coffs Harbour.  Although, Indigenous Australians, particularly in rural and remote areas, experience profound social disparity, including overcrowding, excess co-morbidity, poor access to health care, communication difficulties with health professionals, reduced access to pharmaceuticals, and institutionalised racism. During the 1918-1919 pandemic, mortality rates approaching 50% were reported in some Australian Indigenous communities, compared with the national rate of 0.3%.[10]

Even spiritual worship was not immune from the restrictions of the pandemic with a stern reminder of wearing masks for religious services and with an estimated finish time so the congregation would not be worried about spending so much in a public with so many parishioners.

Coffs Harbour and Dorrigo Advocate Saturday July 19, 1919, P.2. Retrieved from Trove.

Local and regional businesses were keen to advocate all sorts of remedies to alleviate the symptoms of the Spanish Flu. Many people parted with their money judging by the volume and variety of so called “cures” appearing in the local newspapers. Below is a selection of the wide range of medicines available:

The Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser, 28 February 1919, P. 2. Retrieved from Trove.

The Tweed Daily Tuesday June 24, 1919, P.1. Retrieved from Trove.

Nicely nestled in the Jay’s fashion advertisement of the latest fashionwear, was the sale of influenza masks at the fixed price of sixpence.

https://www.rahs.org.au/an-intimate-pandemic-the-community-impact-of-influenza-in-1919/

The role of volunteers during this period were essential for the control of the disease and although they were recognised in occasional columns in the Coffs Harbour Advocate, their role was quickly forgotten as the Federal Government’s action plan to rehabilitate Ex -Servicemen back into society through plans such as the Soldier Settlement Scheme had an immediate impact on the economy of Coffs Harbour. Yet there are small tangible reminders of the work completed by volunteers of the rarely seen Influenza Emergency Worker Badge. Coffs Harbour’ first recorded case was on April 1 and the official end of the disease was declared on July 6, 1919. Dorrigo was registered as the last town in New South Wales to record a Spanish Flu case on 27th September 1919.

The significance of the work against preventing this global pandemic through quarantining; extensive use of inoculations; wearing of masks and people adhering to restrictions of public association were successful in stopping the disease from being contagious in Coffs Harbour. The historical importance of this public health event has certainly been overshadowed by the end of World War One and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles by historians but the global response to the Spanish Flu does warrant more recognition for its significance in world history and in particular to those selfless men and women that cared for patients putting their own health at risk in doing their work.

Research by Charlie Bellemore, Coffs Harbour Regional Museum Volunteer.

Footnotes

[1] https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus

[2] Joan Beaumont (2013) page 443 Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War

[3] Peter Rees (2014) page 295 Anzac Girls: The Extraordinary Story of Our World War One Nurses

[4] Susanna De Vires (2013) page 236  Australian Heroines of World War One

[5] Copy of letter 24/3/1919 from H S Robinson engine driver re irregularities in NSW Victoria border controls (prepared as Circular for    Cabinet) [4/6247]

[6] https://www.records.nsw.gov.au/archives/collections-and-research/guides-and-indexes/stories/pneumonic-influenza-1919

[7] Joan Beaumont (2013) page 443 Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War page 524

[8] Cowling, N (2012) Coffs Harbour Time Capsule Book 1847-2011 pages 146-147

[9] Yeates, Neil (1990) Coffs Harbour Story Volume 1 pre1880-1945 pages 104-106

[10] Massey, P. (2007) https://www.rrh.org.au/journal/article/1179

References

Beaumont, J. (2013). Broken Nation Australians in the Great War. Sydney: Allen and Unwin.

Cowling, N (2012) Coffs Harbour Time Capsule Book 1847-2011 Office Choice. Coffs Harbour.

De Vires, S.  (2013)  Australian Heroines of World War One Brisbane. Pirgos Press

Rees, P. (2014) Anzac Girls: The Extraordinary Story of Our World War One Nurses Sydney. Allen and Unwin

Yeates, N. (1990). Coffs Harbour Story.  Volume 1: pre1880-1945 Coffs Harbour: Banancoast Printers

http://libraries.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au/Local-Heritage/Picture-Coffs-Harbour/Pages/Picture-Coffs-Harbour.aspx

Massey, P et al.  https://www.rrh.org.au/journal/article/1179

Aldrich R, Zwi AB, Short S. Advance Australia Fair: social democratic and conservative politicians’ discourses concerning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their health 1972-2001. Social Science & Medicine 2007; 64: 125-137

https://www.rahs.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Flu-Pandemic-proclamation-timeline-.pdf page41

https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus

Trove National Library of Australia

Letter 24/3/1919 from H S Robinson engine driver re irregularities in NSW Victoria border controls (prepared as Circular for Cabinet) [4/6247]

 

Water Skiing on the Coffs Coast

 

Fig 1, Unidentified man and two boys water skiing, 1960s?  Courtesy of Picture Coffs Harbour mus 07-1244

The first man to water ski in the world is widely believed to be Ralph Samuelson of Minnesota, USA, in 1922. In 1925 Ralph Samuelson also became the world’s first water ski jumper.  Water skiing came to Australia in 1934, when Ted Parker skied at Hen & Chicken Bay in Sydney. The sport did not become popular until after the Second World War. Coffs Harbour’s entry into water skiing in around 1949 proved it to be a pioneer in the regional water-skiing arena.

Jim and Bob Limbert (see Fig 2 below) from the Coffs Harbour region were reputedly among the first water skiers in Australia. They built a boat from local flooded gum, powered with a car engine. They also made their own skis using 9 foot (3 metres) long, one inch (2.5 cm) thick and 8 inch wide Oregon planks. They skied at Jetty Beach and on the Bellinger River. Later the Coffs Harbour Water Ski Club used North Beach where they built a concrete launch pad and club house. (Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour mus07-1266)

Cliff Murray, together with Bill & Patty Mills-Thom, were the founding members of the Coffs Harbour Water Ski Club. The club began in around 1954 and continued until the late 1970’s. All three were made life members in 1975.

Fig 2, Water skiers at Jetty Beach in Coffs Harbour, 1950, L-R, Fred Reid, unknown, Jim Limbert, Ray Alcock, Bob Limbert, Front Row, Cliff Murray, unknown. Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour mus07-1266

During the 1950s, Cliff Murray and Bill Mills-Thom were the only people in Coffs Harbour to make water skis. They initially referenced a photo in a magazine showing Italian skiers and copied the idea. Over time they developed their own techniques to get better performance. The first skis in Coffs Harbour were probably made about 1950 and were very basic in design. The picture above shows a group of skiers in about 1950. The skis were little more that planks with a foot hold screwed on. Cliff is the man with the white shirt sitting on the sand in the picture above (fig 2).

Water skiing was very much a novelty pastime and exhibitions by these men and women attracted much community interest in as evidenced by several articles in the Coffs Harbour Advocate at that time.   In December 1958 a well attended carnival at North Beach, Mylestom, netted £400 which was donated to the Ambulance service as was the usual practice.  Local skiers and the Coffs team between 1961-64 took out several zone, state, and national titles, some of our local famous skiers were Peter Brindley, Graham Loader and Doug McQuade and Bob Hannaford.

Fig 3, Three unidentified women water skiing, ?1960s.  Courtesy of Picture Coffs Harbour mus 07-1243.

The Coffs Harbour women skiers became well known with performances of pyramid skiing (see fig 4 below) and ballet (see fig 3 above), the ballet team who competed at Keepit Dam in 1964 included Margaret Forsythe, Elaine Murray, Aili Smith, Narelle Murray and Grace Gibson.

Coffs Harbour had a vibrant water-skiing community from the 1950s till the late 1970s, particularly excelling in Show Skiing. Coffs Harbour skiers may have been the first group to do the Totem Pole (see Fig 1) and the first group to do a Pyramid (fig 4 below) with each person using only one ski.

Fig 4, Coffs Harbour lady water skiers demonstrating their skills with a performance of the Pyramid at North Beach early 1960s. L to R (top): Margaret Forsythe, Elaine Murray; (lower): Aili Smith, Judy Timms, Grace Gibson.  Photo: Judy Timms. Courtesy of Picture Coffs Harbour mus 07-11148.

The Coffs Harbour Regional Museum has on display two separate wooden water skis (see below, fig 5) that were hand made from local timber by Cliff Murray in the mid 1950s. One of the skis has a foot holder made from wood and thick leather and is currently configured for backwards skiing. The second ski has two rubber foot holders, indicating that it was made and used as a single ski. Both skis are shaped and varnished. The skis are in good condition for their age and both show evidence of having been converted. These markings help tell the story of the progression of water-skiing skills and the innovation required in the resource poor post World War II period. They are a rare example of handmade water skis in Australia and are likely to be the earliest surviving skis made at Coffs Harbour.  They illustrate the beginning of a new era in the Coffs Harbour economy with increasingly reliance on water sports and leisure based tourism.

Fig 5, Wooden Water Skis, Coffs Harbour Regional Museum.

Research by Lyn Matthews 2019

References

Coffs Harbour Advocate, February 16 1962, P.12.

Coffs Harbour Advocate, October 29 1964, P.12.

Daily Examiner Grafton, December 14, 1953, P. 4, retrieved from Trove

eHive, retreived from: https://ehive.com/collections/7265/objects/1049281/water-skis

Mills-Thom, Bill, Personal recollections, 2019.

Picture Coffs Harbour

Yeates, N. (1990). Coffs Harbour: Vol II, 1946 to 1964: Bananacoast Printers.

 

The History of Our Rural Fire Service

Bush fires are a constant in Australia and after three months of fires in our local region we are still intermittently shrouded in smoke and with bush fires still active, everyone is extremely thankful that we have a professional and able Rural Fire Service.  So when and how was it formed?

The Bush Fires Act which was passed in 1949 led to the formation of The Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade in Coffs Harbour in 1951.

This followed  a series of devastating fires in the region. Including what was known as “Black Monday” 20 November 1944, when several disastrous fires occurred in Boambee and Korora.  One of the fires started in West Korora and raged all the way to the sea, burning banana plantations, packing sheds and some homes.  Many of the local residents spent the night on the beach. One of the homes destroyed was Mr Tom Jordan’s and after the fire passed the water tank remained precariously tilted with the water boiling inside it.

1946 was again another bad year for fires and when these photos were taken they were fought by local residents working together in informal bush fire brigades with “green bushes , wet bags, chipping hoes and perhaps an odd knapsack spray, mainly possessed by the few banana-growers in the area’ (Secomb, Michael, Red Gold to Green Grass, 1986, P.78)

“The Great Smoke”, Karangi, Neil Potts on bike, 12/9/1946. Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour Mus 07-5950
Bushfire Coffs Harbour 1946, Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour Mus 07-5954
Dairyville Road , bushfire viewed from above Orara Road at Houlahans, 14/9/1946.  Courtesy of Picture Coffs Harbour 07-5957.

1950 was a very wet year with floods and cyclones, which resulted in the heavy growth of fuel.  This was followed by by a severe frost in July 1951 and then eight months of drought which did not break until March 1952.  After once again another series of devastating fires in 1951 when 22 000 acres was burnt in the Coffs Harbour area Cr Norm Jordan recommended the formation of a shire sanctioned volunteer bush fire brigade which was finally endorsed by the Dorrigo and Bellingen Shire Councils. This meant that combined with the Forestry Department effective bush fire protection could be instituted across the region which has continued to this day.

We thank our Rural Fire Service members for their unstinting service to the community and wish everyone a fire free and peaceful festive season.

Research by Simone Newman

References

Brewer, Mary,. Looking back: Nana Glen, 1878-1979,. 1979, P47-50.

Blundell, Geoff (retired Bushfire Control Officer for Coffs Harbour and Bellingen Shires),. The History and Development of Bushfire Brigades in the Shire of Coffs Harbour, An Address to the Coffs Harbour and District Historical Society, 22 March 1982.

Bush Fire Brigades to be Formed (1951, December 14). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved December 18, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187774511

Our Bush was on Fire when Capt. Cook Came In.  (18 October 1962). The Coffs Harbour Advocate.

Raging Bushfires In Coff’s District (1944, November 21). Daily Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1915 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved December 18, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article194283766

Secomb, Michael,. Red Gold to Green Grass,. 1986, P.78.

Yeates, N. (1990). Coffs Harbour: Vol I, Pre-1880 to 1945: Bananacoast Printers.

 

George Ellis’ “Flintstone Cart”

 

Picture courtesy of the Coffs Harbour Historical Society and Museum “Remembering Coffs Harbour : A Century of Photographs” 2001 P.76.

The “Flintstone Cart” is a rare and well-preserved example of a timber jinker, designed and handmade by George Albert Ellis [1875-1948] in the early 1900s. George Ellis was one of the first settlers to Moleton, Upper Orara, in the Coffs Harbour region of NSW.

Originally, the wooden cart was used to clear the timber on Ellis’ selection. It was later used to haul the ore from his gold mine to the crusher and to carry corn from his fields to the barn.  A team of bullocks was used to pull the cart. The “Flintstone” design of the wheels meant that it was able to traverse rough terrain.  The rear wheels are made from a cedar log, cut and shaped with an axe and adze, the front wheels are made from brush box, the front section of the chassis has been cut from a piece of box log with the bearing portion incorporating a limb, adding strength to the design.

George Ellis was an innovative and skilled wood craftsman who frequently utilised the natural form and strength of timber in his designs.  He was one of the first cedar cutters in the region and would have needed the cart in the rough terrain to haul out cut timber.  The cart would have additionally been necessary for the requirements of his selection of land that it be cleared and used for farming.

George was also a keen gold miner and used the cart to drag the ore downhill to his crusher and there are community memories of it being used to transport corn from the fields to his barn.

Timber Slab Barn on George Ellis’s property, Moleton, Coffs Harbour circa. 1990. Courtesy of Picture Coffs Harbour (Mus 07-4750)

This timber jinker is representative of timber jinkers, of which very few survive today, and reflects George Ellis’ excellent woodworking skills and adaptations which make it unique. It is appears to have been repaired, however, these have been kept true to the original form.

The cart has been in the Coffs Harbour Museum collection since the early 1970s and is one of its favourite and treasured objects.  It has strong community ties and memories, having featured in numerous newspaper articles and local history publications. It has affectionately been given its own special name by the Coffs Harbour community, and is widely known as the “The Flintstone Cart”.

The “Flintstone Cart” or timber jinker reflects the ingenuity and innovation of pioneers, such as George Ellis, in crafting from local resources and their ability to build items from scratch. It demonstrates a primitive yet sculptural and ingenious design which immediately draws attention, and has a powerful, robust, vernancular and masculine design which resonates with most who view it.

Coffs Harbour Regional Museum 2019

Research by Simone Newman

References

Edwards, R. (1987). Bushcraft 3 : More Australian traditional bush crafts. Kuranda, QLD: The Rams Skull Press.

Edwards, R. (1988). Bushcraft 1: Australian traditional bush crafts. Kuranda, QLD: The Rams Skull Press.

Explore our history. (14 October 1988). Coffs Coast Advocate, p. 19.

Historical items ready for Coffs Museum. (22 September 1971). The Coffs Harbour Advocate, p. 8.

The house that grew. (7 January 1970). The Coffs Harbour Advocate.

Museum is a mine of information. (4 July 1997). Coffs Coast Advocate.

Nehl, G. (August 1977). Pioneer Power. The Bush Telegraph, pp. 15-16.

Obiturary G. A. Ellis. (12 October 1949). Daily Examiner, p. 2.

Remembering Coffs Harbour : A century of photographs. (2001).  (D. Townsend & A. Hope Eds.). Coffs Harobur: Coffs Harbour Historical Society and Museum Inc.

Rising from the ashes : the Ulong Ex-Serviceman’s : the Eastern Dorrigo pioneering spirit. (2003).  (A. Hope, C. Young, & Orara Valley Historical Society Eds.). Dorrigo, NSW: Orara Valley Historical Society.

Robb, G. (2000). Georges gold : A book about gold mining on the Orara gold fields of Eastern Dorrigo and the gold mining pioneers (R. Mill Ed.). Coffs Harbour, NSW: Robert Mill.

Voice of time: oral history interview with Dulcie Martin. (1987). Retrieved from https://coffsharbour.spydus.com/cgi-bin/spydus.exe/ENQ/WOHIST/BIBENQ?SETLVL=&BRN=76724

Walker, M. (1978). Pioneer crafts of early Australia. Artarmon, South Melbourne: The Macmillan Company of Australia Pty Ltd.

Yeates, N. (1990). Coffs Harbour: Vol I, Pre-1880 to 1945: Bananacoast Printers.

Intangible Tourism

 

Picture courtesy of Gay Bell

A mid-North Coast Tourist Authority was formed in 1956 [1], and Coffs Harbour’s first motel was opened in 1958 [2].  But not everyone was a supporter of this new-fangled industry.

In 1963, H.L. Bailey, not to be confused with Councillor Bailey, [3] sent the following letter to the Coffs Harbour Advocate. [4].

“Tourist Potential

H.L. Bailey, Camperdown Street, Jetty, writes to the editor:

Sir, – Why are Coffs Harbour folk so apathetic to our tourist potential?

A large number of the Coffs Harbour community are not “apathetic” about the tourist potential – far from being apathetic they have very strong views, and they have no wish to assist in its development.

Consider the many disadvantages:

(1) In the long run property values tend to rise by inflation, and sites are utilised for furnished flats, cabins and so on, which should more properly be used for domestic housing.

(2) The tourist trade is bad for business, since a large number of shops are tempted to develop to meet the peak holiday trade. Temporary assistants are engaged for this period and are dismissed when business returns to normal. Those affected find it difficult to get steady jobs.

(3) When the size and number of jobs are governed by the peak tourist trade, rents tend to rise, and some businesses give up, fail, etc, and empty shops result!

(4) The tourist industry attracts outside capital, and frequently outside management. While there are many instances of local people developing tourist amenities, there are numerous cases where this development is in the hands and pockets of people who have come from outside the area.

(5) Tourism is the enemy of retired people. You are able to call to mind many places where elderly people have settled down in their own home, with reasonable rates to pay, expecting that their expenses would remain constant; with the development of tourism they have found property values increase and rates have jumped without additional benefits.

(6) Councils are persuaded to provide amenities for the tourist instead of for the average ratepayer. Precedence may be given to spending loan money on camping areas instead of playing fields.

Let those who benefit from tourism look after themselves. Let them provide the cabins and camping areas.  Let them provide the amenities and the entertainment, and let the poor ratepayers continue with their struggle to get from the Council adequate playing fields, residential streets that are not booby traps, public libraries and even civic centres. The ratepayer is more interested in the development of primary and secondary industry and backyard factories, than he is in the tourist trade.” (Coffs Harbour Advocate, 22 Feb 1963, p 3)

 A week after this letter’s publication, Council became locked in a debate about the merits of tourism – when businessmen A. Heynatz and L. Mills came to town with a proposal to build a whaling station at Coffs Harbour. [5]

The Councillors were divided on this proposal, some arguing for tangible jobs, others concerned at the possible negative effect on tourism. Councillor F. Fountain cut-through everyone’s concerns by saying that a whaling station would be a tourist attraction. [6]

 A month after the proposal was received, a decision in favour of allowing a whaling station was made by five votes to four. [7]

This, however, spooked the businessmen. Without strong Council support, Messrs. Heynatz and Mills decided to keep their money in their pockets. [8]

Local Coffs Harbour resident Gay Bell has a take on this story. In the 1950s, Gay’s parents took her to a popular Byron Bay tourist attraction – yes, the local whaling station.

Warning! Graphic content follows:

“And there it was, the tell-tale sign of a ship listing heavily to one side, a sign of a successful harpooning with two dead whales being hauled towards the jetty. The crowd of onlookers at the whaling station anxiously waited for the jetty train to bring the whales up on the flatbed to be processed. To an eight-year-old this was an exciting event, in fact everyone was excited to see these huge creatures. How life has changed. Today I would have been appalled to witness this scene. It was so smelly and gory. A foreman gave a running commentary explaining the whole process. This was considered to be both entertainment and an educational form of whale watching, the complete opposite of today. Instead, we were fascinated watching the chained whale being winched up the ramp, its body dissected by men with extremely sharp flensing knives slicing through the blubber to expose the red muscle underneath. To further entertain the crowd, one worker cut off squares of blubber for people to have a taste.  We held our noses tighter against the smell and refused the offer, horrified, while the adults laughed. Even today I can still remember the smell and sight of the exposed whale. This event was in the late 1950s, just a few years before the Byron Bay whaling station was shut down.”

Picture courtesy of Gay Bell

References:

  1. Neil Yeates, Coffs Harbour Vol 2:1946 to 1964, page 145
  2. Neil Yeates, Coffs Harbour Vol 2:1946 to 1964, pages 148 and 248
  3. This is probably the same H. L. Bailey who is mentioned numerous times in Coffs Harbour Vol 2:1946 to 1964 as a Public Works Department Engineer and Coffs Harbour community leader.
  4. Coffs Harbour Advocate, February 22, 1963, page 3
  5. Coffs Harbour Advocate, February 27, 1963, page 1
  6. Coffs Harbour Advocate, March 5, 1963, pages 1 and 5
  7. Coffs Harbour Advocate, March 20, 1963, pages 1 and 5
  8. Coffs Harbour Advocate, March 26, 1963, page 1

Research courtesy of Geoffrey Watts & Gay Bell

 

Coffs Harbour’s Fishing Industry

Local historian, George England  in 1970, noted that between 1883-1892 there were several fishermen operating in Coffs Harbour and Charlesworth Bay.  They took the fish out to ships from the Clarence where it was packed with ice.  There was also some smoked and dried fish sent to Sydney or sold to ships crews but it was not an important industry until the local ice works at the Butter Factory were established in 1910.

Fishing Fleet Coffs Harbour 1946, Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour, Mus 07-5931

Coffs Harbour’s Fishing Industry Time-line

1892   Jetty completed.

1906   Beginning of Coffs Harbour fishing industry.

1908   Four motor-boats (and 20 crewmen) engaged in the fishing industry at Coffs Harbour.

1910   Introduction of local ice-works at Butter Factory.

1912   South Coffs Island and mainland connected.

1914-1927   Northern Breakwater to Muttonbird Island built.

1919-1946   Eastern Breakwater built.

1946   Nambucca Fishermen’s Co-operative Ltd formed.

1947   Coffs Harbour’s fishermen amalgamate with Nambucca Fishermen’s Co-op.

1947   Temporary use of a shed on railway land for first depot.

1950   Coffs Harbour Fishermen’s Co-op’s purpose-built depot opened – located next to the railway gates.

1953   Ice-making machine installed at Coffs Harbour depot. (Prior to that, ice was sourced from the Butter Factory. The Butter Factory closed in 1953, according to Neil Yeates in Coffs Harbour Volume 2, page 150.)

1954   Registered office of the Nambucca-Coffs Harbour Fishermen’s Co-op Ltd transferred to Coffs Harbour.

1967   Eric Hogbin sets up proper business guidelines for Co-op.

1970   35 boats and 100 men engaged in local industry. (25 boats operate from the Port of Coffs Harbour.)

1975   Inner Harbour (Marina) completed.

1979   New Co-op building opened in current location.

Fishermans Co-op Coffs Harbour 1983, Courtesy of Picture Coffs Harbour Mus 07-5557

The origins of the Coffs Harbour Fishermen’s Co-operative.

In 1946, the New South Wales State Government was encouraging the formation of Fishing Co-operatives as a way to stabilize the fishing industry, which had a large black-market and a wildly fluctuating price for fish which made it difficult to create a livelihood from the industry. [1,2]

In March 1947, about 40 Coffs Harbour fishermen met to discuss whether to join the Grafton Co-operative, join the Nambucca Co-operative, or form a separate Coffs Harbour Co-operative. [3]

Three months later, they chose the Nambucca option, and looked forward to enjoying “all the special privileges with regard to the sale, control and marketing that are available to co-operative societies.” [4]

While plans were being made in September 1947 to build a depot and a jetty extending into the harbour from the northern breakwater wall [5], the Coffs Harbour members of the commercial fishermen’s union were voting to join a state-wide strike aimed at increasing the price of fish by 25%. [6]  The Coffs Harbour district’s fishing fleet of 25 craft and 60 men [6] was finding its feet….

The Fishermen’s Co-operative Society – comprising depots at Macksville, Nambucca, Sawtell and Coffs Harbour – began its Coffs Harbour operations in November 1947 [7]

Fishing was a relatively small part of Coffs Harbour’s economy. (Figures for 1959 list fishing as 2% of the local economy. [8]) But the decades following 1947 produced services for the fishing fleet such as the marine rescue service, a slipway and a marina; services which have helped give Coffs Harbour its distinctive harbour-town character.

Coffs Harbour Advocate 11 August 1953, P.1, Courtesy of Trove, National Library of Australia, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187939313

References:

  1. Coffs Harbour Advocate 11 February 1947 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185034842
  2. Coffs Harbour Advocate 24 September 1947 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18043001
  3. Coffs Harbour Advocate 18 March 1947 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185035250
  4. Coffs Harbour Advocate 13 June 1947 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185036228
  5. Coffs Harbour Advocate 5 September 1947 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185037275
  6. Coffs Harbour Advocate 5 September 1947 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185037268
  7. Coffs Harbour Advocate 14 November 1947 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185038138
  8. Coffs Harbour Advocate 1 January 1960: 1959 figures: Timber 43%; Bananas 39%; Tourism 10%; Dairying 6%; Fishing 2%.

Research Courtesy of Geoffrey Watts