HOME OF THE LADY DENMAN - Local history isn't always about the big story - the everyday story of life in the early development of the region can be a fascinating, entertaining and educational journey.

21 December 2015

Old tom and the wreck of the Alladin in Jervis Bay.

This is the story of “Old Tom” Thomas Cleary, who spent his life on the high seas and endured many adventures along the way.  Old Tom, just turned 97 when he told his story to a correspondent from the Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate Parramatta in 1901.

Born in London to Irish parents in 1805.

I have lived under the reign of five sovereigns — George III, George IV, William IV, Queen Vic toria, and Edward VII

Leaving home at the age of 6 his adventures begun.
My calling was not a lofty one by any means.

“I left my mother's apron strings and started on my own. My calling was not a lofty one by any means. I was a street arab — used to tumble alongside the stage coaches for coppers, hold horses, etc. At the ago of 11 I was taken by the Marine Society in Bishopgate-street, and sent to sea, being bound for five years. We traded to the East Indies, and I can tell you I was badly used.”
Well, as soon as we got back to Liverpool I ran away, and walked barefooted to London from Liverpool. Like tho Prodigal Son, I arrived home in a tattered and battered condition, but there was no fatted calf for Tom. They would not take me in, so I started off' and walked from London to Portsmouth and there joined His Majesty's navy and was drafted on to the 7'th gun ship ' Belisle.'

Old Tom sailed to all parts chasing slavers, pirates and opium clippers. Much of his time was spent on the south coast of Africa.
In 1834 he saw service in the China War.

“Here we did plenty of work, both on land and sea. I was wounded three times, in. the head, in tho arm and in the leg, with bullets, but I pulled through all right.”

Tom had served 32 years in the service, after the China War he was paid off and left the service but shortly after rejoined.

“After re-joining I was drafted into a double-banked frigate called 'Tho Hannibal ' — two tiers of guns. I was five years with her, after which I joined 'The- Driver,' Captain Hobart. She was a man of-war steamer. In her we were mostly in the Indies. In 1849 I took my discharge,  was paid off' and camo to Australia in 1850”

Tom was soon back at sea, first joining a whaler at Port Phillip in 1851.

She was the wife of the skipper — a beautiful woman, too. They were all drowned but us two. She went raving mad.

“I was wrecked twice on the coast — first time in tho schooner Colombine, owned by Jack Longford, of Sydney. We were about to enter tho Richmond River bar and it was ebb tide. The skipper was a good navigator, but he did not know anything about bar harbours. I said to him, ' You are not going to try and get in on this ebb tide, are you '! ' He was a bit annoyed, and said, ' Who is skipper of this ship — you or me ?'' As soon as I saw he was determined I started to get ready for a swim. As soon as she struck she shivered and went to pieces and I found myself on a sand spit with an East Indy woman. She was the wife of the skipper — a beautiful woman, too. They were all drowned but us two. She went raving mad. I came back to Sydney bare footed, bare-headed, and the only articles that I owned in the world were a shirt and a pair of trousers.”

We landed on one of the islands, and there I found a mate and bolted.

“I was soon on the sea again. First I joined a whaler called tho ' Phantom,' the luckiest ship that ever sailed. We were out eleven months and came back a full ship — twenty-six hundred barrels of sperm oil. She was a fire-boat ship, sailed by Captain Stammers.  Left her and joined - another whaler — '' The Genii.' In her we got down to the Navigator Islands. We landed on one of the islands, and there I found a mate and bolted. I lived on the island eighteen months, and got married to one of the native girls. She was a beautiful brown-coloured homely girl. We had two children. No, I could not teach her to speak English, but I picked up her language. After living on the island eighteen months I left her and joined another whaler that called there.   My wife was tabooed for three years, and I cursed myself ever after that I left her.”

The whaler that took me off' was called the 'Aladdin.' We were afterwards wrecked in Jervis Bay.

“leakage, they said. Might have been well insured, but I can't say. - After that I quitted the sea and took up the work of stevedore”.

”The wages at first were 5s. a day, then they rose to 8s. and 12s., and then I got married.  That was in the sixties. I had not been married long before my wife died, and then I took to the bush, and have traveled Australia.

”Thirteen years ago I settled down for good in Parramatta, and here I am for good. I am alright now with my pension, and what I earn making and mending blinds. I am 97 years old, am well-known to the police, who give me a good character, and though I like my pint of beer I have never yet  been ' run in ' for any misconduct of any sort.

But Old ' Tom ain't dead by any means.

“I'm good for a long time yet, and while I am able to work I don't want to loaf on any body. Some day I'll call in and give you  an account of my colonial experiences, and  I reckon I have had a few.
' Old Tom.'

full account - http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page8898302

Western Star and Roma Advertiser Toowoomba 1902.

Just one year after the interview above ‘Old Tom” passed away at the Parramatta District Hospital.  After all his adventures he spent his final days making veranda blinds and was well known in the town.
He was bright and well and clear until 10 days before his death when he contracted pneumonia.

It wasn’t the first time ‘Old Tom” had died.
When Tom left the navy he was granted a pension, but owing to illness for 18 months he neglected to draw his pension. Then when he did apply for it he was told that he had been written off as " dead."

18 December 2015

War! War! War!

An advertisement in the Nowra Leader in 1917.

A local car dealer used the first world war in Europe as an opportunity to sell his cars.


17 December 2015

Undesirable sights near Jervis Bay - 1893

During a long passage between Port Pirie and Newcastle,  the ship’s crew of the  Agnus Oswald, experienced a very unpleasant incident just southward of Jervis Bay.
The ship passed the dead body of a woman a little to the south of Jervis Bay on the  3rd April 1893
The women's body was above the ordinary height clothed in a nightdress. One hand was under water,  and seemed like something was biting at it.   Alongside the body a large albatross alighted just prior to  the time the vessel passed.   A little way behind the carcasses of several cattle were also passed, which would lead to the supposition that the recent floods in these parts might be accountable for these undesirable sights.


16 December 2015

Shoalhaven Snippets

A quick 8 hours in June 1891
Floods in the area covered many roads and bridges. The coach trip
from Nowra to Milton, usually taking a quick 8 hours, took 53 hours.

Jervis Bay Items. 1915

With Christmas so close and the rain bucketing down accompanied by severe lightning and loud thunder I came across this small article from 100 years ago.
I hope our holiday makers have a better time of it this year.


15 December 2015

Severe gale off Jervis Bay nearly claims another ship

The schooner Adeona ‘s luck escape.
Tuesday 15 April 1862

The 115 tons Schooner Adeona,  J.Welsh master.
On a trip between Sydney and Adelaide was overtaken by a Southerly Gale when off Jervis Bay.
She suffered severe damage loosing her jib boom, bulwarks, stanchions,  on both sides deck planks and waterways opened up,  outside planking started to loosen and come away from the hull,  some of the treenails being out from the side an inch.  She was making water fast,  and fortunately reached port when she did.
She carried a crew of 7 men, 6 British and one German.


the sides of a ship above the deck
jib boomA section of the bowsprit near the front of the boat that fly’s a small triangular sail called the jib.
A vertical post, usually of metal tube, supporting the guard rail or lifelines which surround the decks.
In or of the month before the present one

10 December 2015

Desikoko Relics

Preservation continues.

Back in April 2015 some objects from the wreck of the Desikoko were given to the museum, I have already covered the loss of the Desikoko and these relics,  but the preservation process is still ongoing,  today one of the objects was bought out of the water bath and allowed to dry, I took the opportunity to snap a couple of close up pictures of these rare relics.
Their almost sculptural and look amazing – amalgamated art.

Continue Reading.


Wreck of the T.S.S Merimbula.


This photograph of the T.S.S. Merimbula  appeared in the April edition of the Sydney Mail 1928, it shows the ship after she ran aground on the rocks at Currarong.  You can see Lobster Bay with a small sailing vessel in the background.

Continue Reading.


7 December 2015

Captain’s Point Jervis Bay

Paul Newman sent us these amazing images,  Paul served with the Australian Navy on submarines.  He now works in the old Engineering Workshops at Creswell.
       Paul saw the previous post about the building of the railway at Captains Point and thought we might like to see some of the images gracing the walls of the facility.
        There are no dates associated with the images but most would be from around 1913 –1915.


This image shows some of the original wharf with small sailing vessels tied up to their moorings. Particularly interesting is the silhouetted figure of a well dressed lady standing on the wharf.

Here we see most of the Engineering Workshops have been constructed,  including the Power House, the coal to generate power was supplied by small coastal steamers.
The image above shows the railway line running along the shoreline.
This photo would have been taken much later,  most of the facility was complete and operating.
Paul went out and took a few images to show what is left of the old wharf.
This photo shows us what is left of the rock shelf that was named Captain’s Point.   Most of it was covered by the original breakwater,  leaving this small section jutting out into the bay.
The black and white image shows the point before it was covered.
The  present day wharf, with some of the original Engineering Workshops,  now heritage listed.

Sun bakers - By the 1930’s the Great Depression had hit Australia hard, the government deemed the college to expensive to operate as a training facility and moved the cadets to H.M.A.S Cerberus in Victoria.
           Many of the buildings were leased to private operators as a holiday resort. This picture shows holiday makers sunbaking and swimming inside the protection of the breakwater.
        The college was re-established as a training facility for the navy in January 1958.

We would like to thank Paul for sending us the photo’s.

30 November 2015

Jervis Bay - The promised land.

The promise of a new port for the colony at Jervis Bay had been in the pipeline for many years.  Successive ministers and governments made grand gestures during discussions about the future of Jervis Bay.

A new railway would link the new National Capital,  Canberra,  with the sea.  Jervis Bay was destined to become the National Capital’s Sea Port.

The  railway line would also link Nowra,  where the current line now terminates,  with various location around the bay,  to the north the line was proposed for the great future city ‘St Vincent’s City” to be built by Henry Halloran, then on to the south shores of the bay where it would link the Woollamia Estate with North Huskisson,  “Huskisson”  then on to Lambs Point, present day “Plantation Point”,  then on to South Huskisson,  present day Vincentia”  then around to Captains Point, site of the the “Australian Naval College”  then finally ending at Bristol Point, where another town was laid out with plans for shipping wharfs and infrastructure.

But like so many things before and since Jervis Bay was never to see any of the proposed developments come into reality.


Shoalhaven News July 1915

 Opening of the new port and the National Railway.


“The long-promised opening of the port should soon begin. The accepted agreement between the New South Wales and Commonwealth Governments provides for handing over more territory at Bristol Point to the latter, who will build the national railway.
     The survey shows this line as running through the College lands to Lamb's Point, and thence on to Canberra. This means that the first wharves will be constructed and used at Bristol Point'; the College will retain its isolation; and Lamb's Point will be used for public wharves under State control. It is understood docks - will be erected at Bristol. The turning of the first sod will be done by the Governor General at the beginning of July.”



The Railway comes to Jervis Bay 1915.

Even though a railway link of any sort never eventuated,  I’m sure it would be a surprise to many people to know Jervis Bay did end up with a working railway line and locomotive operating on it’s shores.


Locomotive 530 travelling along the shore-line of Jervis Bay during operation at the Royal Australian Naval College.

During the construction of the break wall at the Royal Australian Naval College, two stone quarries were excavated and a small locomotive hauled the stone between the quarries and the breakwater.

Initially the wagons were hauled by horses but when the second quarry was opened further away the 530 was purchased from the NSW Government Railways in 1915.

The image above is taken from a small book available from the museum for 5 dollars by Peter Crabb,  it goes into great detail about the “Railways that Never Were”   the information contained in the book is fascinating.


The Shoalhaven News and South Coast Districts Advertiser Saturday 17 April 1915



The two images above shows the railway line extending onto the wharf and along the water front, it was used for unloading timber and coal during the College’s construction
The Sydney Mail 1913.

26 November 2015

Fire rages on Beecroft Peninsula

Strong westerly winds have fanned a large bushfire on the Beecroft Bombing Range.
locals are worried that the predicted southerly change this afternoon might send the fire towards Currarong.
Fires around the Jervis Bay region have featured in many old newspaper articles.
The people of Huskisson and the surrounding districts have had to battle bush fires since the the first Europeans arrived and started to clear the bush for settlement.

I will post a few of these stories at a later time.

Hornby Lighthouse

Sydney Harbour.

Hornby Lighthouse, also known as Sydney Harbour South Head Lower Light, is an active lighthouse located on the tip of South Head, New South Wales, Australia, a headland to the north of the suburb Watsons Bay.

The lighthouse was built in 1858 following the wrecking of the Dunbar at the foot of South Head. Designed by colonial architect Alexander Dawson, Hornby Lighthouse was the third lighthouse to be built in NSW.

Continue reading about the Dunbar.


1885 Huskisson

The Life and times – Police V. Parnell.
The Shoalhaven Telegraph July 1885
  In this case two information's had been laid against the defendant (Thomas Parnell), one charging him with allowing 8 logs of timber to be on the roadway in Currumbene-street, Huskisson, to the interruption of travellers ; the other for trailing certain logs on Owen and Currumbene streets to the prejudice of the road way.
       The defendant pleaded guilty to both information's. Mr. Jas. Thompson appeared for the defendant, and stated that his client had pleaded guilty as it appeared that the principal witness for the prosecution, Mr. George Dent, Sen., was away in Sydney owing to the death of a brother-in-law, and sooner than have the case postponed and bring his client here from Tomerong on two such paltry charges, his client had pleaded guilty.
        The Bench allowed the defendant to make a statement on oath, which was to the effect that the logs, about thirty foot long, were placed on the side of the road. As a matter of fact, did not interfere with the traffic. The logs wore takentakou down to the wharf on only one timber carriage, because Mr. Dents fence was so near to the wharf that it was impossible to turn two timber carriages there. Of course if he used two timber carriages there would be no trailing ; but on account of Mr. Dent's fence only one timber carriage could be used. Mr. Thompson addressed the Bench, pointing out the paltry nature of the  charge, and his client was suffering because the Government had allowed Mr. Dent to take his fence so close to the wharf, and that as matters now stood it was impossible to take timber to the wharf without, trailing it, he thought the Bench perfectly justified in dismissing both information’s.
    The Bench inflicted a penalty of 2s 6d and -Is 1Od costs.
Charlos Pepper and — Pepper were charged with the same offence and fined a similar amount.

23 November 2015

The Cruise of the Wolverene.

Jervis Bay has played a fundamental roll in the Navy's history.
The Navy has and still does use the bay to developed and train their sailors.   It was first entered by the British Navy In August 1791 by Lieutenant Richard Bowen, aboard the convict transport ship Atlantic, part of the Third Fleet, he sailed into the bay and named it in honour of Admiral John Jervis, under whom he had served.

The navy were  regular visitors and used the bay for rest and recreation as well as the all important shot practice

In 1889  the H.M.C.S Wolverine left Sydney Harbour bound for Jervis Bay  to engage in shot practice.  She was a well know warship and had been in Australia  since 1877,  and for some years was the flagship of the Imperial Squadron in Australian Waters.

Progress down the coast was slow,  on leaving the Sydney Heads she encountered relatively calm conditions,  but as she stood out a few miles she encountered a heavy roll, which catching the vessel broadside on,  caused her to tumble about a great deal.

The wind being from the west,  and blowing strongly fore and aft canvas was set,  and this steadied her a little.

A large percentage of her crew aboard formally belonged to the British navy.
These old men-o'-wars -,men showed great aptitude in the performance of their duties,  being noticeable for their activity aloft.


 hms corvette wolverene
 Untitled-1 image



64 pounder.
On the journey south they took the opportunity to drill with the converted 64-ponder guns.
Although they had fine weather progress was very slow,  from 51/2 to 6 knots per hour,  This slow rate was owing to the fact that beneath the waterline the ship is very foul,  having about six months growth on her.

Sunset Friday.
Shoalhaven bight was sighted,  and they dropped anchor in Jervis Bay at half past 9 o'clock.

Nearly one-fourth of the ships company suffered from sea sicknesses during the run down.

Saturday morning.
The weather this day was fine,  she ran out to sea and engaged in shot practice at  a floating target.

A party of officers and the press representatives  put off from the ship,  landed near Hole in the Wall,  and walked across the hill to the Jervis Bay Lighthouse.  The track lay through thick bush, covered with a luxuriant undergrowth of grass, bracken and native flowers,


On emerging from the bush we crossed an open grassy plain for the lighthouse.
The walk across the breezy uplands proved very enjoyable after the monotonous and never-ceasing roll of the ship on her way down from Port Jackson.

We found the light-keeper and his numerous family in the best of health,  and the lighthouse itself and it's surroundings were in excellent condition,  everything being neat and clean.

Looking seaward from the lighthouse the view is extremely grand.  The great ocean stretched away in front looking somewhat desolate and lonely,  while the long easterly swell dashed on the cliffs at our feet with terrific violence threw huge masses of white feathery spray high into the air,  which reflected all the colours of the rainbow as it fell back into the sea again.

Lieutenant Cohen, assisted by Dr. Knaggs and Midshipman Lewington took a number of views of the lighthouse and the occupants off the houses situated on the bleak, lonely headland,  after which we started the return journey,  leaving a number of telegraphic messages to be dispatched to the city prior to bidding the people who live in this lonely spot farewell.


A stiff trudge bought us to the margins of Jervis Bay,  where the cutter was waiting to transfer us to the Wolverene,  lying about a mile away from the shore.

2.15pm  the crew manned the capstan and raised the anchor, to the tune of "Ballyhooley"
in true old-day man-o'-war style.  played by the fife and drum band as the tars beat to their work.

A target was then dropped over the side,  and the Wolverene steamed round while the gun's crews fired at it at ranges varying from 1000 to 1500 yards.  Some excellent practice was made,  the majority of the shots falling on either side of the object aimed at, the general direction of the missiles being good.  Nearly every shot would have holed a vessel.

Riflemen were also stationed on the tops,  and these took long shots at the target: but despite the inducement offered by Captain Hixon of " a pound for every man who strikes it",  they were unable to hit the flag,  owing to the unsteadiness of the vessel.
At the conclusion of the shot practice we stood out to sea,  passing close underneath Point Perpendicular at about 5p.m.   This is a grand headland,  the great perpendicular wall of rock rising out of it's ocean bed to the height if some 200ft.

After clearing the great headland  we stood well out to sea,  obtaining a good view of a fine four-masted vessel,  which,  with most of her canvas spread to the breeze,  was heading for Sydney as our good ship left the bay behind her.

Leaving Jervis Bay.

Darkness now settled over the face of the old ocean,  the only signs of life visible to our eyes being the lights of passing vessels and the rays of the friendly beacon shining forth from the lighthouse on the now far distant cape.

The Wolverene made many trips to Jervis Bay for ‘shot practice” but this particular journey to Jervis Bay was at an end,  this report gives us a valuable insight into the life and times of Jervis Bay and the navy around the late 1880's.

 HMS-Wolverene-the-deck-state-libraryDeck of the H.M.S Wolverene
And what became of the H.M.C.S Wolverene?
In the early 1880's the Wolverene was presented by the Imperial Government to the New South Wales Government as a drill and training ship for the New South Wales Naval Brigade.
The title of the ship was then changed from H.M.S Wolverine to H.M.C.S (Her Majesty's Colonial Ship) Wolverene. The vessel served as a training ship for the Naval Brigade for quite a number of years.
At the end of her service in that capacity the Wolverene was sold to Mr. Peter Ellison, of Millers Point, Sydney.  Later the vessel loaded coal for South America,  and during the voyage her seams opened,  whereupon the vessel put into Auckland, New Zealand,  where she was condemned in March 1895.  The vessel was subsequently broken up in Auckland Harbour.

Nobby’s Head Lighthouse

John Waring, Manager of the Nobbys Head Lighthouse sent us this haunting image he took of the lighthouse as it emerges out of the sea mist after a brief southerly cool change early Friday morning.