MEMORIES OF A NELLIGEN CHILDHOOD Part 2- by Bill Simpson 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 bel land 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 wound 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, 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 dispatched 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 it 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 wagon, sulky, cart and buggy, all made from local timbers. I remember Mr. Webber, senior, as a very impressive old gentleman, driving into town in his gleaming buggy, dressed in a cream suit of tussah silk and looking for all 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, where 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. (End of Part 2 – Part 3 features in the next Issue of Pastimes and will be published in the Beagle when able). From the PASTIMES Newsletter - republished with kind permission of the Clyde River and Batemans Bay Historical Society Inc. Clyde River and Batemans Bay Historical Society Inc is loacted at 3 Museum Place, Batemans Bay NSW 2536.. Website: www.oldcourthousemuseum.com Opening Hours:Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday: 10am - 3pm, 2nd. Sunday of every month 10am – 1pm. Additional hours by appointment and during school holidays.