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.

27 July 2017

The Brigantine, Victory

young-endeavour4The Brigantine rigged Young Endeavour at anchor inside Jervis Bay March 31st 2017

The 142-ton wooden Brigantine Victory was built by George Dent in 1873 on the banks of Currambene Creek Huskisson.
Described as a fine ship built from iron bark and gum, copper fastened and sheathed with Munz metal. The style and draught of water qualified her for the intercolonial trade.  Her lines were described as "extremely fine, she shifts and stands without ballast, can go to sea with 25 tonnes, carries 225 tonnes of dead weight,  and is equal to 300 tonnes weight and measurement.   She measured 92 ft in length, breadth 24ft,  deep laden 8ft 6 inches, renders her one of the most eligible vessels that have been offered in this market for a considerable time."      She plied her trade all along the east coast between Queensland and South Australia, including many Trans Tasman voyages carrying all manner of cargo.    Like most ships of her era, she suffered arduous trips, sometimes resulting in a great deal of damage.


March 1883 her owners Messrs. Ghest and Jewett were informed that she had put into Keppel Bay in distress. While off the Queensland coast on a voyage between Dungeness and Auckland carrying a cargo of sugar, she ran into very heavy weather losing her sails.


September 1891 the Victory returned to Port Jackson after an absence of several months.  After leaving the Johnston River in August she met with strong south-east winds at the outset she sought shelter under High Peak Island.  Continuing her voyage,  on the 28th August she encountered a heavy southerly breeze, which lasted three days, after which the breeze abated until she was passing Seal Rocks.   The wind came from the west and north-west,  veering to the south-west and increased to the force of a gale, described as blowing  at times "in squalls of hurricane fury."  The gale was accompanied by a high confused sea, which broke on board the vessel from all quarters. She weathered the storm well with no serious damage,  the gale lasted 48 hours.


In September 1893 she arrived in Warrnambool from New Zealand carrying a cargo of timber. The voyage took 40 days, and was described as "exceptionally rough" she ran into heavy gales and a head wind was experienced almost from the day she set her sails and until she eventually dropped her anchor at Warrnambool.
Her sails were at several times  "blown to pieces" and on two occasions had to seek shelter under King Island. Her provisions and stores were nearly exhausted.  Even after the arduous journey and anchoring at Warrnambool her troubles weren't over.  The wind was still blowing half a gale from the south -west, with heavy seas tossing the Victory about.  At midday one of her anchor chains parted, and for a short time, she was in danger of going ashore,  fortunately, the other anchor held until the sea moderated.  The crew ran out a hawser from the vessel to the breakwater for additional security.

During the trying voyage, a disturbance erupted on board the Victory, on arriving at port two seamen were charged with disobedience and were brought before the Police Court, both men were discharged, with the Bench considering that they had already been sufficiently punished for any little faults, they had committed.

November 6, 1893, the Victory's luck ran out.
Under the command of Captain Roddy, she left Warrnambool bound for Newcastle, where she was to be loaded with coal and taken across to Gisborne (N.Z.),  the following day, she ran into heavy weather near Wilsons Promontory and sprang a leak.  The pumps were manned and kept going all day and night but all to no avail.  As the vessel passed through the straits the leak increased until there was 4ft of water in her hold.
At around 2 a.m the City of Adelaide was approaching Cape Everard, near Gabo Island about 25 miles off the land, when they saw rockets being fired. he bore down to the spot and discovered the Victory in distress.  When the City of Adelaide arrived the captain of the Victory reported that the vessel was sinking,  and wished Captain Mackay to stand by his vessel till daylight. 
The request was readily met by Captain Mackay,  and the two vessels remained in company until 6 a.m.   Trying valiantly to save the ship the crew of the Victory had been pumping and bailing, throughout the night,  but all to no avail, and as it became evident the vessel could not float for
much longer a hurried meeting of the crew was called, the decision was made to abandon her.  The City of Adelaide came to their assistance and with a strong easterly gale blowing at the time it wasn't without rick.   Once safely on board the City Of Adelaide the crew were made as comfortable as could be,  it was quite apparent by the worn out state of the crew they could not have stood by the vessel much longer.  The Victory sunk soon after the men left the ship.


The board found the abandonment was justified, and there was no evidence upon which to find a charge of default against the master. The board wished to place on record its appreciation of the conduct of the captain of the City of Adelaide, which sighted the Victory,  and after standing by her for some time,  conveyed her crew to port.

Meaning: The brigantine was a two-masted sailing vessel with a fully square rigged foremast and at least two sails on the main mast: a square topsail and a gaff sail mainsail. The main mast is the second and taller of the two masts.


26 July 2017

Jervis Bay Entertainment -1904

You may wonder what local Jervis Bay people did for entertainment 113 years ago. It seems there was no shortage of good fun to be had.

On an exceptionally fine day in January, a large number of people gathered on the banks of Currambene Creek Huskisson to help celebrate Anniversary Day?  where the St. Vincents Sailing Club was hosting a sports carnival.

One of the exciting events was a sailing boat race out through the entrance of Currambene Creek into the bay, where a course of marker buoys had been laid out. The banks of Currambene Creek were lined with people to witness the event.   At 2 p.m.. the boats Leonie, Lizzie, Alexandra, Delmar, Phyllis and the Wanderer left Huskisson Wharf for the starting point ahead of a strong Nor'-easter, which would make the sailing challenging and difficult.  Despite the strong wind, the race got underway, Wanderer soon broke her rudder,  putting her out of the race.   Mr F. Dent's launch followed the boats out and around the buoys.  Leonie had a lead of two minutes with the other four boats battling the conditions together.  The boats had to complete the course twice, with Leonie crossing the finish line an unchallenged clear winner, arriving 7 minutes before the second placed Delmar.

Other fun events were also held, one notable event being the duck race and not any ordinary duck race, this one involved a Mr J May acting as the duck, while other participants tried to capture him. He managed to elude his pursuers for 10 minutes before being caught.  There was also a rowing race along Currambene Creek.  In the evening prizes were awarded at the home of Mr Fred Dent.

It sounds like a lot of fun.


The Museum.



Such a wonderful place first thing in the morning.


24 July 2017

Wreck Bay

The infamous bay south of Jervis Bay named after the great number of wrecks associated with this section of the NSW coast.
A remarkable stretch of coast, both beautiful and dangerous to the unweary captains and crews of the early sailing ships and steamers that strayed too close, or were caught out by an easterly gale. 

Navigation in the early days required the captains of sailing vessels to stay as close to shore as possible. The shore and its natural features were the only points of reference captains had of knowing where they were.    Some suffered after being caught in severy weather, as many went ashore in calm conditions during the night or when heavy fog hung low over the water.

Early steamers used the same tactics to navigate, and even though they were not affected as much as sailing ships by adverse winds, and could steam further from shore, they tended to stay as close as possible for commercial benefit.  Fuel for the steamers amounted to money lost,  the closer they steamed to the coast the more direct the route and the fewer resources they would consume,  because of this tactic steamers also found themselves upon the shore in wreck bay.

The construction of the
Cape St George lighthouse in 1860 was supposed to make travelling this part of the coast safer, but because the light was built on the wrong headland,  ships still ran into trouble after it's construction.



18 July 2017

Jervis Bay July moon rise.

After the beautiful clear night of the 9th, (see previous post below) when the moon was exceptionally vivid,  these two photo's were taken on the following night showing the moon shrouded in cloud.  The moon illuminated the sky behind Point Perpendicular with a distinct orange colour which could be clearly seen with the naked eye,  and with a short time exposure, it looks particularly amazing.


Taken before the moon had broached the horizon, at this stage a soft glow of orange/magenta caressed and fringed the moving clouds.


Once above the horizon the orange/yellow became dominant, this soon gave way to white as the moon rapidly rose above the lighthouse.


The tragic death of Harriet Parker. - 1887

Cape St George Lighthouse is a place of mystery, intrigue and tragedy
, not only for the Mariners plying the coast but also for the families that occupied the light.  During its operation, there were 7 deaths associated with the lighthouse,  the children seemed to suffer the most. 

In 1887 Isabella Jane Lee, daughter of one of the lighthouse keepers died of typhus fever, then in 1882 13-year-old George Gibson died of pleurisy, in 1885 11-year-old Florence Baily also died of typhoid,  9-year-old Francis Henry Hammer died after falling off the cliff while pushing stones over the edge.

The lighthouse children were isolated on a wind blown cliff face overlooking the ocean  far from the company of other children,  they had to make their own fun. The bush and the beaches of the bay were their play ground. Being so isolated meant they were familiar with their distant neighbours, finding friends wherever they could.


Harriet Parker.

One of the most tragic deaths would surely haunt the families involved for the rest of their lives was the tragic death of 19-year-old Harriet Parker. Harriet was a beautiful young girl who in company with her life long friend 16 year old Kate Gibson set out to fetch in some horses.  Leaving the lighthouse about ten o'clock they went down to the beach at New Bristol, (present day Bristol Point, Green Patch area)  they came to the local fisherman Mr McPhail's hut.  They found the key and went inside, Kate lit the fire and put on a kettle, sending Harriet to fetch some wood, while Harriet was away Kate put on McPhails hat which covered her whole face,  she took up a gun which was lying in the corner of the kitchen, Harriet was about to come inside when she met Kate at the door carrying the gun with the hat still over her face.  Harriet tripped at the door which made her laugh, Kate then heard what she thought was a cap going off, Kate pulled the hat off and saw Harriet fall,  Kate went to Harriet, she called her name and lifted her up thinking she had fainted, it was then she saw blood run from her head. Kate let her down and went home and told her father who in company with Mr McPhail immediately set off for the hut, they found Harriet was dead, she had a large lacerated wound to the back of the head, a portion of the skull was missing, and the remainder fractured and comminuted. The two men carried the body home.


Kate Gibson

At the enquiry Kate stated;
"I took up the gun I do not know whether it was cocked or not; Harriet and I were always on best of terms:

Mr McPhail's hut was the nearest neighbour with no other neighbour within nine or ten miles. Mr McPhail left the gun in his hut loaded with small shot, capped and with the hammer down.

The Jury of which Mr Alexander Bryes was foreman, stated:
" That Harriet Parker, aged 19 years, died at Cape St George, New Bristol, on the 14th day of July 1887, from a gunshot wound, accidentally received: and that her companion,  Kate Gibson, was not to blame, as they were skylarking."

Harriot was buried at Greenpatch,  her sad grave can still be seen there today in the middle of the camping area..


The grave as it appears today July 2017


17 July 2017

Head-board picked up off Jervis Bay

The lost Clipper Ship Strathnaver 1875.

"A brave ship struggling with might and main,
And its white sails rent and torn ;
It lurches and groans like a thing in pain,
And its mast is well-nigh gone".


The Clipper Ship Strathnaver left Port Jackson and was never seen again,  the only part of the vessel ever found was the headboard picked up off Jervis Bay.

The Strathnaver left Sydney on the 27th of  April 1875 heading for her home port in New Zealand. she was almost a new ship at the time of her disappearance and since her launch had made periodical trips to Sydney.

She carried no passengers, and was regarded and a first class sea going ship and ably manned.  Her crew numbered around 30 men. Her commander, Captain Devey, was regarded as a thoroughly competent sea-man and experienced in voyages both by way of the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn. Her valuable cargo consisted of 3423 bales of wool, 21 bales of skin, 15 casks of tallow,  127 bags of bone dust, 13 bales of leather, 38 logs of timber, 931 cases of meat, 2517 ingots, 488 cakes of copper,  3586 ingots of tin.

As time went by and it became obvious the Strathnaver, had floundered different theories were put forward, with some believing she may have been wrecked on the Auckland Islands and there may still be survivors.  The recent case of Captain Dalgarno who was wrecked on these islands,  and lived there for thirteen months before being rescued.  He was of the opinion that some of the crew of the Strathnaver and other vessels may now be alive on these islands.
Both the Australia and New Zealand government were widely criticised in the press for not sending a ship to look for survivors. The governments of these colonies and H.M.Navy on the Australian Station were at the time noted for their lack of concern for missing ships and crews.

Press release which appeared in the Town and Country Journal.

" We think that the attention of the Admiralty might with advantage lie directed to cases of missing ships, and the rescue of shipwrecked seamen from savage or uninhabited islands, The Strathmore and other wrecks are cases in point, proving that if periodical visits were made to tho Crozett's, St. Paul's, the Auckland Islands, and other solitary dangers that beset the track of Australian clippers in mid-ocean, many lives would be saved and the mystery regarding the fate of many a noble ship would not remain a mystery for ever."

Following the continued critisism 12 months after the Strathnaver went missing H.M.S Nymph (Nymphe) was sent in search of the Strathnaver, nothing was found of the missing vessel or her crew.

HMS Nymphe (1866)

H.M.S. Nymph. (Nymphe)

In an attempt to provide some sort of relief for marooned sea-men the government left casks full of provisions at chosen spots on designated islands in the Auckland group containing matches, flint, steel-tinder, axes, knives, fish hooks and lines, warm clothing and blankets, hammer, saw, nails, chisel, a spade, a few tins of preserved meat and biscuits, a chart and a small map of New Zealand, water tight boots, needles, thread, camp oven, pannikins and a little ordinary medicine. On some islands, they also turned out pigs.

The Strathnaver was just one more missing ship,  leaving family and friends to ponder their loved one's fate.

Clipper Ships - A clipper was a very fast sailing ship of the middle third of the 19th century


6 July 2017

On this day – 6th July 1935

Nowra Aerodrome Opens.
As far back as 1929 a resolution was put to the Shoalhaven Chamber of Commerce by Mr.H. Ranch  in regard to establishing and aerodrome at or near Nowra. He spoke about the great developments expected in aeronautics in the near future and wanted the town and district to be prepared for such.


6 years after Mr. H. Ranch spoke to council, thousands of people gathered on the hills behind Nowra for the  official opening of the Nowra aerodrome on the 6th of July 1935.  The day marked the opening of the first licenced aerodrome on the south coast.  Building the aerodrome cost council 1700 pounds with ongoing expenditure for the future.  It was regarded as the best so far established in NSW.  

The aerodrome was established on land bought by the Nowra Council from Mr Muller for 700 pounds in 1934. There was already an air service running between Sydney and Bega with Nowra being the biggest town in between, It was hoped the inclusion of the Nowra aerodrome within that service would greatly benefit the town and district. Especially since the extension of the railway past Nowra looked likely never to happen in the near future. The council also pressed for the aerodrome to be used for defence purposes, especially being in close proximity to Jervis Bay and the Royal Australian Navy.

The Hon.E.S.Spooner. Minister for Local Government performed the official opening.  Planes were sent from the Aeroclub with the Federal Aero Board sending a trio of the highest class of planes in Australia to add to the function.

An interesting air programme was arranged, 30 planes were in attendance including six Air Force machines, including three Hawker Demons. and the programme included a fly past and a 20-mile handicap aerial derby. The young airman who recently broke the round- Australia record, Mr H.F. Broardbent was also an official guest. The day was beautifully fine with people from all over the district and beyond in attendance.

hawker demons

Hawker Demon.

The establishment of the aerodrome was looked on as a great benefit to aviation in NSW.  Long distances could now be covered with ease and comfort.  Local commerce could be carried on in a manner unimagined just a few years earlier, aviation was seen as no less than a revolution in transport.

The aerodrome was unofficially operational in 1934, before the official opening Captain Follett, of Adastra Airways Ltd., at the time running a regular sevice between Sydney and Bega conducted a test landing in November of that year.
He arrived at the aerodrome after flying from Sydney against a stiff westerly with an average air speed of 98 miles per hour, using 41/2 gallons of fuel. This was the first distant flight in his new British Klemm Eagle, low winged monoplane.

The purpose of the flight was to test the new aerodrome, Captain Follett expressed delight at the improvements made. On his arrival, he taxied over the drome and the plane hardly rocked. He arrived at 10.42am and left at 12.20 noon.



Tuesday the 17th of August 1937 -  Two men escaped serious injury when their Moth plane apparently stalled at 600 ft above the aerodrome requiring a crash landing.  If it wasn't for the coolness and skilful piloting the consequences would have been much more serious.
The pilot was Leslie Byrnes of Ashfield who escaped with a lacerated wound on his forehead and passenger Mr Ray Gardner of Kirribilli, abrasions and shock.

The port wing struck first and as the machine slewed around the propellor snagged the earth.
the plane then sumersaulted twice in a distance of about 80 feet, the engine was torn off at the first impact with the ground and trown 60ft away from the fusilage, while the two men were pinned in the cockpit.  The plane was severely damaged and all who saw it marvelled at the men's escape.


On this day. Huskisson 1936

Today I was fortunate enough to run into John Settree, son of the late Alf Settree the last wooden framed boat builder to build vessels at Huskisson. The conversation was short as John had other commitments.  He spoke about the vessels using shipbuilders terms, many of which I was unfamiliar with, but were a natural part of his language.  He talked about some the vessels his grandfather and father built and what he knew of their history.  One of those vessels was the MV Myall which was launched 81 years ago, Thursday 26th June 1936.

The launch of the MV Myall.

The 220 ton Myall was the largest vessel built by A.W.M. Settree on the banks of Currambene Creek.
She was a twin-screw steam lighter, measuring 120ft long, 25ft beam and a draft of 6ft.
The christening was carried out by Mr Settree's wife. 

An interesting launch.
When the Myall slid into the water it was said it was like one hundred garden sprinklers had been turned on inside her. Fine sprays of water were coming from everywhere. Manning Davis had provided Wool Butt timber full of tiny worm holes that went right through the planking. Pop Settree was a very unhappy man. He had the lighter hauled out of the water and went off and bought a huge box of brass boot sprigs and got everyone (including the cook) to sit in her,  screwing a sprig into each hole. He never really forgave Manning Davis even though he acknowledged he should have noticed the wood was holey when he was working it.  The boot sprigs obviously succeeded because Myall worked for the next 60 years on Sydney Harbour
Ref: Huskisson Ships and their Builders, Bridget Sant.

She was made to carry heavy deck cargos in Sydney Harbour, where she became a familiar figure.

Taken shortly after the launch.  The final fittings are yet to be carried out.

766-Alfred-William-Morrow-SettreeAlfred William Morrow (Pop) Settree

720-Alf-SettreePop's son Alf Settree,  the last of the wooden frame boat builders of Huskisson is seen here on the grounds of the museum showing some of the tools used in the production of wooden ships at Huskisson.

Alf was a key figure in the restoration of the Lady Denman. Towards the end of his life his work and community service was recognised when he was awarded an Order of Australia Award.


3 July 2017

On this Day 3rd July 1936


By 1936 the golden age of timber shipbuilding had almost past.  Iron and steel had replaced timber as the preferred method of construction.  The Dent family name has been associated with timber shipbuilding at Huskisson since 1861. George Dent was attracted by the ready supply of Spotted Gum and the protected easy access to Currambene Creek, the work being carried on from father to son whenever an order was available.

The Phyllis was the latest vessel in this long line.

Built by Fred Dent, with the assistance of his brothers Les and Richard,  the launching of the "Phyllis created quite a lot of interest at Huskisson.

It proved very successful in every respect, the craft gliding gracefully from the stocks into Currambene Creek, She was built to the order of Mr G.H. Duesbury.

The Phyllis was built as a deep sea Siene trawler, 60ft long,  13ft, 6inch beam, and a draught of 5ft. 6inch.  Described as a "very fine boat," built of spotted gum, her decks were of Oregon pine.   All the timber was cut and supplied by Joseph Dent.  She still needed a few finishing touches, some painting and a mast needed to be installed and her 50 h.p Delvin Deisel engine fitted.

The trawler will have a crew of four,  with 10 bunks being provided for.

The builder commenced operation in February and is intended that she will be ready for the sea by 7th July.  

There was quite a crowd of people in attendance to witness the launching, and included in the interested visitors were the parents of the proprietor, Mr and Mrs G. Duesbury, of Bexley.  The christening ceremony was carried out in a customary manner with Mr Duesbury breaking a bottle of champagne over the bow of the vessel,   naming the vessel in honour of his daughter. The health of the owner was drunk in right royal fashion, those assembled wishing him success in his new venture, that of trawling.

Timber boat frame on the shore of Currambene Creek Huskisson.


July 26th 1879