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.