Monday, March 28, 2016

Even nostalgia isn't what it used to be:
Batemans Bay in bygone days

Batemans Bay in the 1920s

The main street in 1921

Annette's General Store in the 1930s

The pool enclosure in the 1940s

The theatre in 1940

The sharkproof baths

The bowling club in 1954

The punt in 1954

The punt next to the new bridge which opened in November 1956;
click here for a history of the bridge

The punt

The hospital in the 1960s

An aerial view in the 1950s

The newly opened Soldiers Club

The Bay's Orient Street in the 1960s


Thursday, July 16, 2015

A brief look at Nelligen


Friday, January 10, 2014

Free evening classes for men


NWICOE (Nelligen Women In Charge Of Everything)
is proud to announce its one-day seminar for men only,
scheduled for the 1st of April 2014:






Note: due to the complexity and level of difficulty, only a maximum of eight participants will be accepted.

Topics covered in this course include:

Step by step guide with slide presentation

Roundtable discussion

Practising with hamper (Pictures and graphics)


Debate among a panel of experts.

Losing the remote control - Help line and support groups

Starting with looking in the right place instead of turning the house upside down while screaming - Open forum


Group discussion and role play


PowerPoint presentation

Real life testimonial from the one man who did


Driving simulation


Online class and role playing

Relaxation exercises, meditation and breathing techniques


Bring your calendar or PDA to class


Individual counsellors available



At the last moment, Should I mow the lawn or go to Bali? has been suggested as an additional subject and may be incorporated, if time permits.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Wishing you all
A very Merry Christmas!


We have outsourced this year's Christmas Greetings to keep costs down. Refer to our Christmas card from last year for more details.

This is my 20th Christmas at "Riverbend"! After more than fifty relocations across more than a dozen countries on four continents when the longest I ever stayed in one place was just under a year, I seem to have reached 'Journey's End' - or is old age catching up with me?

Retirement is not what it is cracked up to be. There were times in my high-pressure working life when I wished for nothing more than to be able to sleep in late and spend a day doing nothing. After thirteen years in retirement, I wish I were what I was when I wished I were what I am now (you may have to read this twice to understand what I mean!) However, even nostalgia isn't what it used to be. And why Nelligen? Well, perhaps here the transition from life to death is hardly noticeable (only kidding! read more here).

To all our relatives and friends in Germany a "Frohe Weihnachten und ein Frohes Neues Jahr"; to family and friends in Indonesia "Selamat Hari Natal dan Tahun Baru"; to our friends in Papua New Guinea a "Hepi Krismas na Hepi Niu Yia"; to our friends in South and South West Africa a "Geseende Kerfees en in gelukkige nuwe jaar"; and to Bozenna in Greece "Kala Christougenna Ki'eftihismenos O Kenourios Chronos".

Please take some time out from all the merry-making and reflect on the many things you can be grateful for! And ponder again the age-old question,

"Why is a Christmas tree better than a man?"

Here at last is the answer:

It's always erect,
Stays up for 12 days and nights,
Has cute balls,
And even looks good with the lights on!

A very Merry Christmas to you all!

(This Christmas I'm putting Mistletoe in my back-pocket
so all the people who don't like me can kiss my ass!)



And here's one for all you hopeless romantics out there to get you into the Christmas spirit of things:

A couple were Christmas shopping. The shopping centre was packed, and as the wife walked through one of the malls she was surprised when she looked around to find that her husband was nowhere to be seen. She was quite upset because they had a lot to do and she became so worried that she called him on her mobile phone to ask him where he was.

In a quiet voice he said, "Do you remember the jewellers we went into about five years ago where you fell in love with that diamond necklace that we couldn't afford, and I told you that I would get it for you one day?"

The wife choked up and started to cry and said, "Yes, I do remember that shop."

He replied, "Well, I'm in the pub next door."


The old Nelligen Post Office

The old Nelligen Post Office was built in 1900 and has been home to some seventeen postmasters and -mistresses. One of the earliest postmistresses mentioned was a Miss Middleton.

The post office prior to 1903 when there was no hall next door yet

The Post Office around 1910


Then, in 1950, Alan Collins was appointed postmaster, to be followed by his wife Jess Collins who reminisced about the post office thus:



Miss Middleton retired from the Post Office and a Postmaster took over who was always drunk, so the PMG sacked him and the house and Post Office became vacant. A family called Coy were given the position; Ray Fitzgerald married Delma Coy, then he resigned, and the position was vacant. Nell and Harry's friend was postmaster at Batemans Bay (Cliff Cary) and he rung up and told Alan to apply for the position. Al had no idea of bookkeeping, ledgers or such, but I had learnt double-entry as part of my schooling, so we thought we would give it a go, not expecting to hear any more about it. Imagine our surprise when we were told that Al had been appointed Postmaster of Nelligen, with a lovely residence as well. We sure celebrated on that occasion.

For several years Al remained Postmaster, but after several inspections from Canberra which were always unexpected, the PMG decided to appoint me as official Postmistress. So this was a lovely time in our life, with many friends and the old hotel near the ferry fairly rocked with singsongs and laughter where all our friends met.

Al was appointed Postmaster in 1950/51; two years later it was transferred to me. It was a money order post office. Those days we dealt with money orders, old age and war pensions, telegrams and almost continuous telephone operations. We were closed from Saturday at noon till Monday morning, but never refused anyone who knocked on the side door seeking mail or urgent phone calls. We were a very close-knit community.

Owing to Alan's illness, we left the Post Office in the care of Judith Donoghue in 1979 and moved to Canberra. Alan's illness worsened and in 1980 we sold the Post Office.



Jess and Alan Collins on verandah 1963

Nelligen Post Office on 12th Dec 1964, the day the bridge was opened

In 1971, the Collins bought the premises and sold them in December 1980 to Phil and Shirley Eldridge for $40,000.

Phil and Shirley Eldrige in 1982

from left-to-right: lady in blue dress Mary Thorpe, Stan Thorpe, Nelly and Arthur Tieman, Phil and Shirley Eldridge


Here is an abridged account given by Phil Eldridge of his time in Nelligen:


My wife Shirley and myself purchased the old Post Office building and business from Mr & Mrs Collins on the 3rd of December 1980 for $40,000, with Mr & Mrs Donoghue as rental tenants.

At that stage, Judy Donoghue was not only a rental tenant but she also ran the Post Office while my wife, back in Canberra, trained with Australia Post so that she could become the new post mistress.

These were exciting and scary times as I was getting ready to resign a secure government job after ten years of service to start this new business venture.

My wife Shirley had only just completed her final year of nursing at Woden Valley Hospital in the A.C.T. following a transfer from Lower Hutt in New Zealand and, apart from Post Office training, she was also two months pregnant with our twin daughters Kate and Emily.

We stayed on in Canberra until the girls were born before we moved down to Nelligen after the Donoghues had vacated the premises on 21 July 1981.

Times were difficult and challenging, having suddenly stopped a regular income, raising two five-and-a-half-week old twin daughters, taking on the postal duties, and meeting virtually the entire town who used to come and collect their mail in those days.

We became involved in the history of Nelligen and started by building a new building between the Post Ofice and Mechanics Hall, built to look old. This building was to become like a gallery of historic photographs, hence we named it the 'Past & Post Gallery' for tourists to view. The idea was to grow a business and devonshire tea/coffee shop as well as establish a small architectural drafting service.

Apart from the normal red tape that one expects through Council, we had other very important issues to contend with in trying to get this business off the ground:

You see, the rent Australia Post paid us for the actual Post Office front room and the wages my wife was paid were all based on the amount of use or business the locals gave to the post office and with the advent of easier access to Batemans Bay via the bridge and not the ferry anymore, people tended to take more and more of their business to Batemans Bay which continued to reduce both our rental income and wages until it reached apoint where it was no longer viable for Australia Post or us to remain open, hence the introduction of the home delivery mail service.

Anyway, we battled on with my wife having returned to nursing in the A.C.T. while I raised our two girls on my own, still ran the post office as it had not closed completely at this stage as well as work my architectural drafting service and still tried to develop the gallery next door.

After some time had passed, we realised we were not going to have the resources necessary to put all our business dreams into practice and so we made the decision to sell.

We eventually sold the Post Office and moved to Lower Hutt, New Zealand, in April 1983.

I look back at those Nelligen days which were giant learning curcesof my life through good and badtimes but I would say, on the whole, they were mainly happy times and memories and we still have a soft spot for Nelligen and its residents.



The post office ceased to operate in March 1982 and the Eldridges sold it sometime after that in a private sale to Douglas & Joan McCarron from Orange for $70,000.

Marion van de Pol bought it in 1990, restored it, turned it into a Bed & Breakfast, and added the Camp Oven Café, leased by Renate, a local German woman.

It was leased out to various managers, including a Russell and Barbara Coburn who passed it on to Seamus O'Kane and Beverly Roy in 1993. In 1996 the new managers Lillian and Bill Hardie celebrated the post office's 96th year with a Guest House Open day.

Marion van der Pol sold it in March 2000 for $400,000 to Peter and Sue Kenyon, who subsequently sold it in July 2004 to Mark and Tamara Korsten for $320,000. Mark and his family lived there without operating it as a B&B until Peter and Alison Kay bought it in February 2008 for $525,000.



Saturday, November 30, 2013

Greetings from Nellingen to Nelligen

Nellingen's Townhall


There has been much conjecture over how little Nelligen got is name - click here - and it is just as likely as not that it has a Teutonic origin as there is a big Nellingen in Germany - click here.

And why not? At last count, there are at least five Germans (or ex-Germans) living in or around Nelligen.

'Bürgermeister' Franko Kopp and the good people of Nellingen sent me the above photo of their impressive-looking 'Rathaus' (townhall) together with their greetings to the people of Nelligen.

Nelligen's Community Hall


Friday, November 29, 2013

Memories of a Nelligen childhood - by Bill Simpson (as published in the CANBERRA TIMES of 19 February 1983)

'The tiny township of Nelligen could soon be one of the major tourist attractions of the South Coast ... By this time next year Nelligen will be a big tourist town', I read.

I scarcely noticed as THE CANBERRA TIMES of December 29 slipped to my lap - my mind was already back in the Nelligen that I'd known so well, more than 60 years ago, during those impressionable years that I'd lived there with my parents, when I - and the world - was young.

My father had been appointed as the local schoolteacher and so we moved from the dusty plains of the Riverina to the rambling old residence on the hill overlooking the town of Nelligen on the Clyde.

For the next five years, until I was nine years old, Nelligen was the centre of my wonderful world and the images and impressions and the events of those years are still etched vividly and clearly in my mind - not in any chronological sequence but rather as a rich kaleidoscope of exciting never-to-be-forgotten experiences and impressions.

Be it a weakness, it deserves some praise.
We love the play-place of our early days

In 1922, the year after our arrival, the old school residence was demolished - another year or two and it would have fallen down of its own accord - and a new school and residence was built. The "new" school has long since been transported elsewhere, but the residence still stands on the hill above the town and when I saw it last, several years ago, it had become The Old Schoolhouse Pottery, conducted by Len and Lilli Bathgate. My wife and I were made very welcome by Lilli Bathgate; for me it was a most nostalgic experience to wander through the rooms I remembered so well - so familiar but now strangely modernised and oh, so different.

However, we were delighted with the wonderful range of pottery, much of it made from Nelligen clays, and of course we purchased several lovely pieces as a memento of our return to "Yesterday".

As I stood that day on the verandah, looking down over the village and trying to superimpose what I was actually seeing on to the picture I'd held in my mind's eye for so many years, I thought of that winter's night in 1924 when my father had woken me in the middle of the night and carried me out on to the verandah to watch the original Steampacket Hotel burn to the ground.

This first of the three Steampacket Hotels had been a two-storey timber building, owned and conducted by one James Neate. As far as I can recall, the cause of the fire was never determined, but the old "pub" certainly made a great spectacle as the flames lit up the school residence and the surroundings.

Next day I remember going down with my parents to view the still-smouldering ruin and collecting "glassies" - the glass marble stoppers used to seal lemonade bottles. They'd been blown out somehow by the heat and provided us kids with marbles by the dozen.

One story was that one of the permanent boarders at the hotel, an elderly retired timber worker who acted as "general useful", kept his life savings (1000 pounds was the amount spoken of) in an old tin trunk in his room.

As soon as the smoking ruins had cooled sufficiently, the old fellow located and finally opened the trunk, and was greatly relieved to see his bundles of pound notes still intact - but alas, as soon as he touched them, they crumbled away to powder! It was a good story, anyhow, and one that caught my childish imagination. I've often wondered if it were really true.

In their first year or two at Nelligen my parents had no transport of any kind, although most of the local residents owned a horse and gig or buggy.

However, our lives were changed quite dramatically when Dad, after much perusal of brochures and manuals, purchased a brand-new Harley-Davidson motorcycle and sidecar, complete with a "dicky-seat" in the nose of the sidecar for me.

It came from Sydney by coastal steamer and created much interest in Nelligen - the first bike and sidecar in the village, although there were several others in the district. The Andersons, who lived at the foot of the Clyde Mountain, had one, and the policeman at Batemans Bay - I think his name was Hoole - also had one, but ours was the first in the village.

It was a powerful 7.9 h.p. machine and we were the kings of the road, it seemed to me. I was allowed to "blow" the horn, a mechanical contraption of cogs that was bolted on to the bar attaching the sidecar to the bike. It was operated by a lever that was pushed up and down to produce a raucous noise reminiscent of a dehydrated sheep trying to baa and, together with the noise of the engine, was guaranteed to make the most docile horse rear up and shy as we roared past in a cloud of dust.

In the early 1920s there was a great deal of interest in motor bikes. I well remember my father and I getting up very early one morning, in the dark, to position ourselves on the edge of a cutting overlooking the old road behind the police station to watch 50 to 60 bikes roar past in a national reliability trial on their way to tackle the Clyde Mountain.

As it became lighter we were able to identify the different machines - the Red Indians, the Nortons, the Douglases, the Rudge Whitworths and, of course, our chosen favourites, the Harley-Davidsons. It was a sight and an experience for a seven-year-old to savour and remember!

The old hand-operated punt that carried all traffic across the river resembled a scarcely floating collection of flotsam, with an alarming list to starboard. It was operated by Sydney Harkess, a large man of few words. His wife was the postmistress for many years.

It was said that he had taught his own children to swim - and many others of the village besides - by tying a rope around their middle and throwing them off the punt into the river, then towing them across as he wound the old punt to the other side.

The fact that sharks were sometimes seen in the Clyde no doubt spurred the kids on to regain the punt as quickly as possible and provided the necessary motivation. Presumably no child was ever molested, but I do remember a dog being taken by a shark not far from the punt.

Syd had a bunk inside the galvanised iron "shack" that hung precariously from the side of the punt, and at night he'd sleep "on board" in order to provide a 24-hour service to nocturnal travellers.

On the opposite side of the river was a cow bell fastened to a post and I can recall that on many occasions, when returning from Moruya or Batemans Bay late at night, Dad would ring the cow bell and some 15 minutes later the punt would appear out of the gloom for Syd to wind us across to the Nelligen side, to the accompaniment of grunts and an audible commentary on inconsiderate people who insisted on being abroad at such unreasonable hours.

Even today I have only to close my eyes to see again the countless jellyfish moving slowly beneath the smooth surface of the clear green water and to hear once again the low vibrant thrum of the cables on the pulleys and the sharp change of note and the sudden clang as a cable jumped from one pulley to the one above it, as Syd would us across the Clyde, much as old Charon must have ferried departed souls across the Styx in the Hades of Greek mythology.

All the products of the district - Ben McCawley's home-made cheeses, the bundles of wattle bark, the railway sleepers, the timber - were transported by the coastal steamers that visited Nelligen regularly. The Bergalia, the Eden, the Bermagui, well all well-known and welcome visitors to the Nelligen wharf and the sheds of the South Coast and Illawarra Navigation Company, and on their return voyages brought much merchandise from Sydney.

My parents regularly received boxes of goods despatched from both Anthony Horderns and McIlwraiths, usually foodstuffs from the latter. My clearest memory of these is of the huge blocks of drinking chocolate that were always included. My surreptitious visits to the old sideboard where the "drinking" chocolate was kept ensured that a large part of i was doomed never to be drunk, but rather to be secretly devoured, piecemeal, behind the door.

There were, of course, a number of shops in the village: Middleton's General Store ("Old Midds" we called it), which, in my eyes, was only slightly less impressive than Anthony Horderns itself. Directly opposite was Thorpe's General Store and, later on, a butcher's shop was opened by one "Ginger" Ryan. I still remember my excitement when the first sausages were available, made on the premises by "Ginger" himself, with his own fair hand. What a red-letter day that was.

Next to Thorpe's store elderly Miss Maggie Whyte conducted a confectionary shop. We also got our supply of milk from her shop and it was my job to go down each day and get the milk in a billy can. How I used to eye-off the musk sticks and bullseyes displayed in the big glass jars on the counter while I waited for her to fill the billy with milk.

Miss Whyte always slipped me a lolly or two until, I confess, I came to expect - and one day, even to demand - my ration of lollies from the kind old soul.

Perhaps there were other children present, perhaps I was rude in my asking (more likely, I fear) but, whatever the reason, on one memorable occasion Miss Whyte declined to provide the usual hand-out and I ran out of the shop in childish pique and indignation.

My method of "pay-back" was simple and immediate, if unwise. I gathered up a handful of horse manure from the street and returned to hurl it through the open door into Miss Whyte's immaculate premises, at the same time shouting my considered opinion of old ladies who reneged on their obligation to provide lollies for needy children, before I fled up the hill to safety - or so I thought!

The consequences of that intemperate act of violence are best forgotten. I received a sound belting from my father and was then required to return to the scene of the crime and apologise to Miss Whyte. She, poor soul, was so overcome with remorse that she plied me with lollies as we cried quietly together. God bless you, Miss Whyte - you figure clearly in my fondest memories of 60-year-ago Nelligen.

A number of unusual industries were developed around Nelligen during the years that we lived there.

The Webber family conducted a very successful spokes factory for many years, some three miles out of town, where they produced wooden spokes for the wheels of every type of waggon, sulky, cart and buggy, all made from local timbers.

I remember Mr Webber, sen., as a very impressive old gentleman, driving into town in his gleaming buggy, dressed in a cream suit of tussah silk and looking for al the world like a twin brother of Colonel Sanders.

The Webbers, more as a community service, I suspect, than as a commercial enterprise, also acted as the local undertakers and the same buggy was used as the hearse on those sad occasions when it was needed.

I remember my mother making wreaths from the meagre supply of flowers and leaves available to her to honour some deceased resident about to be laid to rest in the old cemetery behind the township. People and communities seemed to be closer in those days.

A most interesting industry was developed further up the Clyde, above Shallow Crossing, when a starch factory was established by a Sydney firm to manufacture starch from the "nuts" of the burrawang palms that grow in countless thousands in the area.

The manager was an industrial chemist named Robinson and starch was indeed produced in commercial quantities. The coastal steamers were able to steam beyond Nelligen to the company's own wharf, where the starch was loaded and transported to Sydney. I cannot remember the brand-name under which it was marketed.

My father and Mr Robinson became good friends and I remember the latter giving my father a sample of raw whisky to taste. it had been distilled, as an experiment, from the burrawang palm. I xan't remember my father's actual response, but I gathered he didn't consider the new product any great threat to Scotland's main export, and it was never developed further, as far as I know.

Yet another thriving project during my years at Nelligen was the quarrying of granite for the pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The quarry was situated on the right-hand side of the road as one approaches Nelligen after descending the Clyde Mountain, and was some six or eight miles from the township. The huge blocks of granite were transported to the wharf at Nelligen and thence to Sydney by steamer for delivery to the contractors, Dorman Long and Co.

Next door to the school was the police station, residence and the old Court House. The resident policeman during our time was Mounted Constable Charles Beck; he and Dad spent many pleasant hours fishing from the police boat on the Clyde.

The Court House, even in those days 60 years ago, was a relic from the past - from the days when bushrangers roamed the district and gold was mined in the many shafts that dotted the hills across the river from the town.

I remember Constable Beck showing us a set of leg-irons and a genuine cat-o'-nine-tails then held at the police station. I wonder if they're still there?

We children played in the police yard, of course, and even in the old lock-up, which was always open, but we were never allowed inside the Court House, which was then still being used occasionally - although being kids, we did sneak in on several occasions, only to be overawed by the furnishings, the general atmosphere and our own temerity, and speaking in whispers as we tip-toed around.

To me, Constable Beck was a truly romantic figure in his uniform: polished leather leggings and white canvas helmet, and mounted on a big chestnut horse that shone almost as much as the leather of the saddle and bridle.

One of the Beck children was named Mervyn; he was several years my junior and as one of the "little kids" was somewhat lower down in the "pecking order". Apparently, however, this did not inhibit him in later years, as he recently retired from the NSW Police as Superintendent Merv. Beck, he who received much favourable publicity for his work as the tough chief of the vice squad in Sydney. I wonder if he remembers the day he jumped out of the bath when he heard my Dad start up the Harley and raced in to our place, next door, in his birthday suit, to get his usual ride from the garage to the front gate?

I have many more memories of the exciting years I spent at Nelligen - of great mobs of cattle swimming across the river, urged on by the drovers taking them to pastures new; of the great flood that spread across the lower sections of the town and flooded the sheds at the wharf, so that men rowed their boats directly into the sheds from the land side; of the bullock teams that hauled the cumbersome log-jinkers to the wharf; of the consternation in the village when one old-timer, "fishing" with dynamite from a boat, misjudged the fuse and had his hand blown off. Thereafter he had a metal hook in place of a hand and I regarded him with much the same awe I would have reserved for Long John Silver himself.

I remember going for a communal picnic far out into the hills to Bolaro before we acquired the Harley-Davidson. My father had borrowed a horse and gig and we followed the other sulkies along the side of a mountain, along a narrow ledge of track, so close to the edge that my poor mother, physically ill from nervous exhaustion, had only to lean out from the jolting gig to be sick for 1,000 feet down the mountainside.

But of that trip, I remember most of all the glorious scenery, and especially the magnificent rock-orchids and rock-lillies that had been the main reason for our journeying to such an inaccessible spot.

I also remember the big loquat tree that had been planted many years previously alongside the old school residence, with its clusters of yellow fruit that brought hundreds of flying foxes from their "camps" deep in the forest some miles up river.

I recal very clearly the day that a timber worker, Clyde Heycox by name, was brought into town unconscious after a limb of a tree had fallen on his head. Dad had the only motor-vehicle available so he closed the school for the remainder of the day. The injured man, covered in blood and roughly bandaged, was placed in the sidecar and they set off for BAtemans Bay to rendezvous with the doctor coming to meet them from Moruya.

This story had a happy ending, as Clyde made a good recovery and returned in due course to his wife Edie and to the rambling old house, known irreverently among the locals as The Ark, that was their home in what is now known as Braidwood Street.

Alas, The Ark has vanished long ago. I believe it was originally a boarding house in the days when Nelligen was a bustling mining town, with cedar-getting on the side, but that was long before my day. Now very few of the old landmarks are left, but at least the memories remain.

There are moments of life that we never forget,
Which brighten and brighten as time steals away.

Now, it seems, the "old" Nelligen - the Camelot, the Treasure Island of my distant childhood, is to be transformed into a "major tourist attraction".

It is satisfying to hear that the Nelligen Development Concept Plan aims "to preserve the historical-interest flavour of the township". I wish the planners well in their project and I note that a number of historical buildings have already been renovated. I really must make the effort to go down and see it all again - soon.