Monday, 21 December 2015

Gabrielle Timbs

Gabrielle Timbs was the victim of polio at the young age of two or three and was confined to a wheelchair all of her life.

Gabrielle attended St Joseph’s Convent School (now St Paul’s) at Albion Park with one of her brothers pushing her to and from school. In later years her cousins from Rosetta Hill farm at Mount Terry would take her to and from school before making the journey home again.

From very early on Gabrielle was encouraged to sew and on leaving school she took classes at Wollongong Technical College, travelling there by train.

Gabrielle became a qualified dressmaker and worked from the family home Moculbo, Tongarra Road, Albion Park (now demolished). Initially Gabrielle did all of her sewing by hand before acquiring a hand operated machine.

Every year the Timbs family would spend six weeks in a cottage at Manly for the holidays and Gabrielle loved it. The family rode ferry’s and saw the latest shows and musicals.

Gabrielle moved to Manly permanently with her family in 1937 and set up a dressmaking school under the name Mena Brielle. She had up to 100 pupils at a time and conducted evening classes at home as well.

Gabrielle was an expert pattern drafter and could create patterns from simple photographs or drawings. Her skills were widely known and holiday makers would go to her for measurements and to have patterns drafted. These patterns were then posted to the clients home to be made and were always an excellent fit.

 Gabrielle retired from dressmaking when she was in her 70s. She died 17 October 1988 aged 86 years.

‘Journey Through Timbs’, Timbs Family Tree Incorporated, 1997.
Gabrielle Timbs 1902-1988.
Shellharbour Images, Shellharbour City Libraries.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Charles Daubeny Bateman

Charles Daubeny Bateman was born in 1892, the 8th child of 11 known children born to Dr. Arthur Wigley Bateman and Anna Louisa Kennedy.

Dr Arthur Bateman built the family home ‘Ravensthorpe’ at Albion Park in 1893 and had a small surgery in a detached building next to the house. He lived there with his family until his death on 1899 when he was just 54 years old.

Charles’ eldest sister Mary Louisa Daubeny Bateman married John Raftery and they lived at the Commercial Hotel at the crossroads at Albion Park which was operated by the Raftery family for 74 years. About 1921, John Raftery purchased ‘Ravensthorpe’ from his wife’s parents for 1900 pounds and the Raftery family lived there until 1974.

Charles followed in his father’s footsteps, also becoming a doctor. He studied at the University of Sydney Alumni; graduating Bachelor of Medicine in 1915 and Master of Surgery in 1916. On enlistment with the AIF in 1916, his address was Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Camperdown.

In 1922 Charles married Dorothea Loveday in Sydney and lived in Windsor and Newport for many years. He died in 1979 aged 86 years and is buried at the Albion Park Anglican Cemetery.
Charles Daubeny Bateman
Tongarra Museum collection.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Grey's Milk Run

This story gratefully contributed to Tongarra Museum by Bob Grey.

In the years immediately after World War Two the Milk Board decided to extend regular home delivery of milk into Oak Flats.  Regular consumption of milk was considered essential for public health and the Board had an obligation to ensure it was readily available to as many people as possible.

Keith Grey farmed jersey cows which produced lots of cream and after a good deal of persuading he started deliveries in July 1947.  The first day he sold a total of 23 litres.  It was all unpasteurised, direct from the farm.  When the run grew a bit, Keith’s son Bob started helping him before school and at weekends. When Bob left school he started working full time for the milkman.

Oak Flats in the late forties was the original Struggletown.  No one had much money.  There were a couple of small shops and not much else.  No school, no other facilities at all.  A lot of the ‘houses’ were just fibro garages which people would build and live in until they could get enough money together to start on the main building.  Despite (or because of) all this, the town had a great sense of community.  Everyone knew everyone else and everyone was prepared to help their neighbour.

Apart from Central Avenue, the roads were either just lines on a map or at best, a narrow strip of blue metal meandering through the trees.  Delivering milk the Grey’s would mostly just head along one of the many tracks which left the gazetted road and dodge through the trees until they met up with another road.

During one long spell of wet weather they could not get the truck into most of the area west of what is now Moore Street.  They would drive in as far as they could, then Bob would put about 25 litres of milk into two small cans and deliver it to homes in the inaccessible areas while his father would drive back out and meet him at the next accessible spot.

Over time Oak Flats gradually grew. The majority of the new arrivals were migrants from Britain and Europe. The ones who came from cold climates must have thought they were in hell; living in a fibro shed with unlined corrugated iron roof in the midst of a scorching summer. But they mostly stuck it out, raised families and generally prospered. In the main, they were great people who worked incredibly hard to build a future.

When they celebrated a wedding or other major event, some of them could also celebrate with gusto. When delivering milk in the early hours of the morning the last thing you needed was to be pulled into a party for a drink or two. For this reason the Greys were always very very quiet when they were  delivering anywhere near a celebration. It wasn't that they didn’t appreciate their hospitality, it was just that they were very hospitable and they Grey’s had a job to do and they did it better while sober.

It is easy to remember the hard things about those days. Working seven days a week in all weathers. The rain that saturated you for days on end, the westerly winds, the heat, the flies. Carrying heavy cans of milk for a nasty customer.

The memories that linger for Bob the longest are of the friendliness of people their open hearted acceptance of life and their toughness and tenacity in building a place for themselves and their family.

As the town grew the business grew with it. They Grey’s were able to take on an employee. This meant that after years of working seven days a week they could have a day off.  Deliveries were still seven days a week, 365 days a year, but they were each able to sleep in one day a week.

Gradually the town changed. New shops, better roads, a school and lots more people. The business grew it until one day Bob realized that he no longer knew every customer. That was when he realized that Oak Flats had grown up.

Bob spent more than thirty years delivering milk around Oak Flats. He made a lot of friends, some of them are still his friends today. But in his opinion the toughest and the best years were when the town and he were both young.

‘Grey’s Milk Run’ story and image of Keith Grey, contributed to Tongarra Museum, by Bob Grey 2007.
Keith Grey on the milk run in Central Avenue Oak Flats.
Shellharbour Images Shellharbour City Libraries.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Sand Dunes

Some areas around Lake Illawarra contained sand hills that were in places up to sixty and seventy feet high. The sand hills would change every month with the winds.

Children used to sand sledge down the hills at the entrance of the lake. Sand sledges were about five feet wide with a little footrest. The front of the ski was bent up and a small seat was placed on the back.

If children couldn't afford a wooden sledge they would use whatever material was available; cardboard or off cuts of masonite from building projects.

Holiday makers would come to the lake for fishing and prawning and to wander the beautiful sand hills.

During windy months sand hills would move dramatically creating new hills and valleys.  The sand could be a nuisance as well. Some roads were blocked off at times due to the movement of the sand hills. Shopkeepers were constantly sweeping sand out of their stores.

Large amounts of the sand were used to build up swamp land at Port Kembla before they built the Tin Plate at the Steelworks. Some of the sand around Lake Illawarra was even shipped to Hawaii.

‘Voices of a Lifetime’, Shellharbour City Libraries, 2009.
Children on the sand hills at Warilla Beach.
Shellharbour Images, Shellharbour City Libraries.


Monday, 19 October 2015


The following story is taken from ‘Albion Park Saga’, written by local Albion Park identity Bert Weston in 1996 and published by the Tongarra Heritage Society.

‘Around about 1910, a rabbit plague extended from the inland areas to the coast of the Municipality of Shellharbour.

Some residents turned to rabbit trapping as a lucrative way of living off the land. There was a big demand and a good price for skins for the manufacture of felt hats and later came the demand for rabbit meat.

This was the golden age of rabbit dealers, among who numbered Sam Charlesworth, 'Pegleg', Charlie Ransome, Paddy O'Neil and The Yank. 

Some of these rabbit dealers also operated as agents for the delivery of mountain dew from illicit stills around Macquarie Pass. Many a swaying cluster of rabbit carcasses hid a demijohn of firewater as it was driven innocently past the police station.

Eventually the local Illawarra Cooperative Central Dairy Factory (ICCD) entered the illegal trade, installing a freezer chamber from which the crated underground mutton was railed by the ton to the wharves’.

‘Albion Park Saga’, Bert Weston, The Tongarra Heritage Society Inc, 1996.
Milk carts at The Illawarra Co-operative Central Dairy, Albion Park.
Shellharbour Images, Shellharbour City Libraries.
Hunting party with wallaby catch at Clover Hill.
Shellharbour Images, Shellharbour City Libraries.


Monday, 28 September 2015


Shellharbour has seen many shipwrecks over the years especially around the rough seas of Bass Point. One of the earliest recorded wrecks was the Amphitrite a wooden ketch  under the command of local Captain William Baxter that was wrecked off Shellharbour in May 1851.

The Echo loaded with a cargo of maize and potatoes was wrecked off Bass Point in 1863.

The Rangoon was wrecked off Stack (Rangoon) Island at Minnamurra in 1870 after the Captain mistook the Minnamurra Inlet for Kiama Harbour during rough seas.  All of the crew were rescued . The anchor from the Rangoon is located at the front of the Ocean Beach Hotel at Shellharbour Village, and material from the wreck was used to construct the old McCabe family home in Shellharbour  Village.

The passengers and crew of the Bertha in September 1879 had to be rescued by local Aboriginal people who witnessed the schooner become a complete wreck at Bass Point on its way from Sydney to Kiama.

The Franz, a blue metal carrier was wrecked just north of Lake Illawarra on its was from Sydney to Kiama. The Captain and crew were all saved.

The crew of Our Own a cargo carrier wrecked near Bass Point were not so lucky, with two lives being lost in 1880.

Four men lost their lives in 1901 when the Alexander Berry owned by the Illawarra Steam Navigation Company was wrecked  at Bass Point.

The Comboyne was wrecked in 1920 after striking an object 1 mile off Bass Point.

Kiltobranks carrying a cargo of blue metal was wrecked at Shellharbour in 1924.

Perhaps the most famous wreck is of the American oil tanker Cities Service Boston, which was carrying a supply of fuel during World War Two. The ship ploughed into rocks off Bass Point 16 May 1943 during rough seas. A rescue crew; soldiers from the 6th Australian Machine Gun Battalion (AIF) stationed at Dapto were sent to help the 62 man crew. All of the American crew were saved but four of the Australian rescue team were lost.

In 1995 the Troy D overshot the Bass Point Jetty while loading basalt from the quarry and the ship became grounded on rocks. The blue metal carrier was winched off the rocks the following day.

‘150 Years of Shellharbour’, Dorothy Gillis, The Tongarra Heritage Society Inc, 2009.

The wooden steamer 'Kiltobranks' wrecked at Shellharbour 1924
Shellharbour Images, Shellharbour City Libraries.




Monday, 21 September 2015

Convicts in Shellharbour

Convicts played a large part in the development of Shellharbour. Many of the region's most prominent and well respected families have convict ancestry.

These convict men and women either came to the area to work on one of the large estates, ‘Terry’s Meadows’ (Albion Park), ‘Osborne Estate’ (Marshall Mount), or ‘Peterborough Estate’ (Shellharbour), or came to the area after they had received their Ticket-of-Leave.

The convicts stuck together.  Some had been transported to the colony on board the same ship and many of their children married the children of other convicts. These people and their children made a major contribution to Shellharbour.

Convict, Captain William Baxter opened up the shipping trade at the Village. James Couch made large contributions to the dairying industry. Edward Hazelton was an important figure in the Albion Park Township - his descendants opening a local store which still operates to this day in a different location. Edward Killalea became an Alderman of Shellharbour Municipal Council. David Missingham’s son operated a tannery at Albion Park.

Many of Shellharbour’s most well-known families can be traced back to these convict men and women, including the Condon, Couch, Farragher, Geraghty, Foley, Hazelton, Hockey, Killalea, Prior, Rogan, Ross, Swan, Whitfield and Wilson families.

‘Convicts in Shellharbour’, Tongarra Museum Exhibition, 2010.
Road to Shellharbour waterfront c1890.
Shellharbour Images, Shellharbour City Libraries.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Fire at Albion Park

An extensive bushfire swept through the Macquarie Valley in December 1909.

The fire travelled twelve miles in two hours and burnt everything in its path. Six houses were destroyed as well as many farm buildings and countless livestock.

A westerly wind and scorching hot day made it almost impossible for one to remain outdoors once the fire had started. Heavy clouds of smoke swept over Albion Park and a ball of fire flew through the air, lighting Green Mountain. The whole of Yellow Rock was ablaze.

A southerly breeze then directed the fire towards Marshall Mount, reducing much of the land to ashes.

Fifty farmers were left without any food for their cattle on their properties. The whole area including Tongarra, Yellow Rock, Coobee, Stoney Creek, Calderwood, Marshall Mount and south of Albion Park was swept by fire.

Pastures were left with barley a blade of grass. Hills remained a ruinous spectacle. Homesteads, milking bails, cooling rooms, hay sheds and stacks, and miles of fencing was destroyed.

The Tongarra Heritage Society resources.

Hector Fraser's home at Tongarra. It was destroyed in the 1909 fire.
Shellharbour Images, Shellharbour City Libraries.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Oak Flats

In the years of hardship through the Great Depression many out of work men would camp on vacant land at Oak Flats sometimes with their families.

Fruit boxes were sometimes nailed together and covered with hessian and a lick of lime paint to act as a rough shelter.

In these early years Ok Flats was a haven for tourists especially those from Sydney and the Blue Mountains. Those who could afford to stayed in the swish guesthouses that graced the foreshores. Most people just set up came on the lake banks or built small weekenders out of bits and pieces of building materials.

These holiday makers would take a trip to Stanford’s shop to collect water from the well in kerosene tins. They would spend the days fishing, prawning and swimming. The lake was rumoured to have therapeutic waters and was seen as helpful to those with rheumatism.

After World War Two, housing boomed in Oak Flats. Many displaced migrants came to the area looking for cheap land to build a house for their families and start a new life. Migrants mainly came from Holland, Germany and Finland.

In the 1950s you could buy a block of land at Oak Flats for peanuts. Today, blocks of land sell for over $500,000 on the water. People who live in Oak Flats today still enjoy the lake as much as the people that came before them and the lake is still a big part of their life.

‘Oak Flats; A garden Suburb, Kevin Gillis, The Tongarra Heritage Society.
Marta Kirchmajer with her second child, Val in their caravan 'Marigold' at Oak Flats 1952.
Shellharbour Images, Shellharbour City Libraries.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Minnamurra Punt

To the south of Shellharbour near the Minnamurra River led a track that went to Kiama.

Prior to a bridge over Minnumurra River horsemen waded through the river or swam their horses across it.

From as early as 1847 a punt would take travellers from the ‘Peterborough Estate’, over to the opposite shore at Minnamurra. In July 1858 a new punt was placed in service. Mrs. Hollings, landowner, paid for half of the cost.

In 1870 the design and specification for a bridge over the Minnamurra River at the cost of £1000 was secured. The bridge was built by contractor Michael for Shellharbour Council.

In 1890 a new bridge was built with Kiama and Shellharbour Councils sharing the costs. The new bridge was designed with 19 feet clear roadway and was erected east of the old bridge.

‘Blue Haven’, WA Bayley, Kiama Municipal Council, 1976.

Minnamurra Bridge, 1872.
Shellharbour Images, Shellharbour City Libraries.


In the early to mid 20th century, shops in Shellharbour were basic. General stores operated as small supermarkets and sold everything a family could require. Often they operated as a post offices and paper shops as well.

The butcher shop at Albion Park was run for many years by the O'Gorman family, who would deliver meat straight to your door. Hazelton's, Grocers at Albion Park for generations, would also deliver about once a fortnight.

Meat in those days was kept in an ice chest and people often had to go to Wollongong to get their ice. A wet roll of hessian was wrapped around the ice to keep it cold until they got home. In later years, the ice man would come and deliver the ice, dropping cold water all over the floors of houses.

Many people from Shellharbour caught a bus to Port Kembla to do their main shopping, prior to the establishment of Warilla in the 1950s.

Shellharbour Village had a butcher shop operated by the Thomas family. John Thomas ran a bakery (the old ovens are now located in the foyer of Addison's Seafood Bar and Grill Restaurant, which stands on the site today). A corner store operated for many years on the corner of Wentworth and Addison Streets (known as the Country Kitchen today). Beazley's General Store was situated on the opposite corner, on the southern side of Addison Street.

Swyny's was the first store at Lake Illawarra. The shop was at Reddall Parade and operated as a post office, a paper shop and grocers.

Graham's Store was also located at Lake Illawarra in the 1920s. At the store you could buy general supplies and even hire boats to go rowing on the lake. Mr Graham built a jetty out into the lake to people to launch from. During the Depression, people couldn't afford to pay their bills and so the shop had to close.

The Stanford's opened the first post office, paper and grocery shop in Kingston Street, Oak Flats in the mid 1930s . Mail was delivered in a horse and Sulky by Mr Stanford. The store was operated by Mrs Stanford who also had the job as Gatekeeper for the railway line.

Edward Hazelton's Store, Tongarra Road, Albion Park, c.1916.
Shellharbour Images Shellharbour City Libraries.

Swynys Post Ofice Store, Reddall Parade, Lake South, c.1925.
Shellharbour Images Shellharbour City Libraries.

The Post Office Store, corner of Central Avenue and Kingston Street, Oak Flats c.1938.
Shellharbour Images Shellharbour City Libraries.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Rosetta Hill

Rosetta Hill was once part of the 2000 acre estate promised to Samuel Terry in 1817. Terry was a convict who was transported to Australia for stealing 400 pairs of stockings and on his death, was the richest man in the colony. In 1821 he received his grant of land from Governor Macquarie which he called Terry's Meadows (now Albion Park). Rosetta Hill was named after Terry's wife, Rosetta.
In 1884 Gabriel Timbs, an important member of the Albion Park community, purchased the property and built the home which remains today. Gabriel gave much to the township in the late 1800s and constructed many shops and public buildings in the main street. He served as Alderman on Shellharbour Municipal Council 1876-1883.  He had 21 children and many of his descendants still live in the area today.

Rosetta Hill homestead at Albion Park c.2003.
Tongarra Museum collection.

View north from Mount Terry at Albion Park 1995.
The farm in the distance is Rosetta Hill.
Shellharbour Images, Shellharbour City Libraries.


Thursday, 7 May 2015

Tullimbar Inn

The earliest reference to a store at Tullimbar was in 1856 with Robert Wilson noted as storekeeper of Macquarie River, agent for the Illawarra Mercury. Joseph Dunster purchased the store from Wilson in April 1856 and Thomas Davis purchased the store some time after the Dunsters moved to the 'Hill' property in 1865.

The Tullimbar Store, residence and Post Office was purchased by Daniel Fraser in 1882 and was destroyed by fire ten years later, while still owned by the Frasers.

An 1892 article in the Illawarra Mercury states 'The Tullimbar post office stores and residence which were destroyed by fire some six monts ago have been replaced by a much more ornate and commodious structure'.
The Tullimbar Inn that stands on the Illawarra Highway today was built c.1892 presumably on the same site as the original store.

Alfred Sawtell and his family used the ormer store as a residence for many years. In 1923 Bessie Sawtell married James Aitken and leased the residence until c.1926 when they purchased the home.

In the 1970s the residence operated as the White Horse Inn Restaurant, and now operates as the Tullimbar Inn.

Thomas Davis' store at Tullimbar
Thomas Davis' store at Tullimbar, Shellharbour Images, Shellharbour City Libraries

Tullimbar Inn c.2003, Tongarra Museum collection

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Keith Wickham Allen

In remembrance of the 100th anniversary of the First World War, we will feature some of Shellharbour's WWI soldiers in the coming months.

Keith Wickham Allen (known as Barney) was the grandson of Walter Allen and Charlotte Dunster of Shellharbour who operated Allen’s Store in Addison Street from 1868. The Allen family lived in the house next to the store.
When his grandfather died in 1876, his grandmother and other family members continued the business for generations. Clothing and other goods were ordered from the store by the townsfolk, and arrived by ship, train or mail.
Keith was born 19 September 1893, the son of Joseph Dunster Allen and Anne Rachel Wickham. He grew up in Shellharbour and attended Newington College at Stanmore. When he was just 13 years old in 1906 he joined the Senior Cadets and six years later received his Bronze Medal from the Royal Life Saving Society.
When he became a partner in Bjelke-Petersen Bros Gymnasium in 1910 when he was 17 years old, he became involved in developing programs and teaching physical education in many leading colleges and convents in the Sydney area.  The Bjelke- Petersen brothers, Hans Christian, Johannes and Harald established gymnasiums in Hobart, Melbourne and Sydney and specialised in treating people with deformities of the spine.
In November 1915 he enlisted in the AIF. He completed his training at Goulburn and acted as Sergeant on several occasions during this time.
Keith embarked for Plymouth on the Port Sydney with Unit D Company, 55th Battalion in September 1916, and by October he had been appointed to Sergeant 4th Reinforcements, 55th Battalion. In December of that year he proceeded to France where he reverted to the rank of Private.  He served in France from December 1916 to June 1918.
In February 1917 Keith was evacuated to hospitalised as he was sick. Just a month later in March he was wounded in action and hospitalised suffering from ‘shellshock’. On 8 April 1917 he rejoined the 55th Battalion and was with them for just 11 days before being evacuated to hospital, suffering from ‘shellshock’.
He rejoined his Battalion in May 1917 and in June was promoted to Sergeant.  He attended the Army Infantry School in November and rejoined the 55th Battalion in December 1917.
Keith was selected to attend the Officers Cadet Battalion at Oxford in June 1918 and was appointed Cadet.  
A report on Keith’s training revealed ‘Cadet Allen has plenty of ability and has given satisfaction in every way. He will in my opinion make a good Platoon Commander’.
In November of that year was Armistice Day. Keith remained overseas for a time where he was given several different posts.
 In January 1919 he was appointed 2nd Lieutenant on probation and allotted to the General Infantry where he travelled to France via Southampton. Keith served as 2nd Lieutenant 5th Division Reinforcements, before being sent to P&RT (Physical Training) School, where he was involved in helping troops gain the required fitness to be able to return to Australia by ship.
Mr and Mrs JD Allen of Shellharbour have received a cable from Oxford stating that their son Keith Wickham Allen is now a Lieutenant. Lt Allen has just completed a six month course at Magdalene College Oxford after having put in two years heavy work in France during which he had an argument with shells upon three different occasions, one being nearly too much for him as it rendered him unconscious for several days. Lt Allen was stationed in Goulburn camp for some time and has many friends here. Goulburn Evening Penny Post Jan 1919
In April 1919 Keith disembarked for Southampton and was appointed Sports Officer with the 14th Brigade at Weymouth, the where he remained until his return to Australia in July 1919 on board the Ulysses. When Keith returned, his rank was Lieutenant.
He rejoined Bjelke- Petersen Brothers on his return and in December 1923 he married Valmai Jean Woodley Taylor Gilder. Keith and Valmai had four children,
27.1.1927 Wickham Taylor Allen born
9.1.1929 Louise Ann Allen
13.3.1931 Michael Taylor Allen
7.1.1933 Keith (Kim) Taylor Allen
On 1 April 1940, Keith enlisted for service in World War Two. He was eager to serve overseas and was on the docks at Freemantle to board a ship bound for New Guinea to fight in the war against the Japanese. An order stated he was to remain behind as he was more useful getting the troops fit before they embarked for overseas. He was also to train the instructors who would carry on the job on board the ship. In 1944 Keith Wickham Allen was placed on the Retired List.
In 1938 Keith joined Sydney Legacy and became a Legatee in July of that year. He was a member of the Junior Welfare Committee 1938-1962, after which he became a Reserve Member (retired).
Keith became Managing Director of Bjelke-Petersen Brothers from 1948 to 1962 and served as Chairman of Directors until his death in May 1972.
Many thanks to Michael Allen, son of Keith Wickham Allen for providing us with detailed information about his father’s service.
Keith Wickham Allen c.1915
Tongarra Museum collection