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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Memories Of A Nelligen Childhood Pt 3

MEMORIES OF A NELLIGEN CHILDHOOD Part 3- by Bill Simpson 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 cannot 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-inkers 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 recall 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 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. (End of Part 3 – This completes the feature article on Bill Simpson’s Nelligen memories) Part1 and Part2 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: Opening Hours:Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday: 10am - 3pm, 2nd. Sunday of every month 10am – 1pm. Additional hours by appointment and during school holidays.

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