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.