Archive for October, 2008


Here is an interview with Lloyd Rees, with Australian surrealist artist Murray Gleeson where he talks about Gerringong


Lloyd Rees 'A South Coast road' 1951 oil on canvas 65.7 x 101.5

‘A Road at Gerringong’, by Lloyd Rees

Most people would not know the connection between the well-known Australian landscape artist and Gerringong, but he had a holiday home there and did a number of paintings of the local area


According to this, Lloyd starting painting landscapes in 1938 after beginning to spend his summers in Gerringong in 1938.

There is quite a  extensive collection of  his work at the University of Wollongong archives


and here


The  painting ‘A Beach at Gerringong’ by Lloyd Rees, is part of a Y-Curate? exhibition being held at the Wollongong City Gallery , curated by Lake Illawarra High School, until November 18.

Werri Beach was originally Ourie in local Darawal (or Tharawal) nation language, and Seven Mile Beach was Murrowi.

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Recently there has been some controversy about the Quarrymen’s Cottages in Kiama re some unplanned and unwise renovations and I have had some enquiries about their significance at the Pilot’s Cottage. I thought I would compile some of the more colourful and interesting facts related to the history of Blue-Metal Quarries in Kiama without worrying about dates too much. The first record of a quarry being cut seem to be the Wakeford’s Quarry, near the site of the current Quarry Leisure Centre at Pike’s Hill(Previously some houses and Bullen’s shop was there). There is a claim the Carsons cut an earlier quarry but it is unverified. There is a great story of Bill Carson who was seven foot two inches tall and his brother being seven foot four inches tall, and having reputations as ‘hard men’. One story has Bill Carson while riding falling into a quarry and while the horse died, Bill had no broken bones! A great account of quarry life is preserved in Kiama’s Pilot’s Cottage by Wal Carson, as well as accounts by Allen Carson, and we have an original photo-portrait of Bill Carson. The road cutting through Pike’s Hill was also quarried, and records show that one of the quarrymen lived in a cottage on the opposite site and also a gold nugget was stuck in the cutting by one of the workers as a practical joke. In the earlier days, it was blasting with gelignite or black powder (often referred to as Japanese black powder) in holes bored into the rock face called ‘top holes’. Basalt is dense but easily cracked. The soil or ‘overburden’ had to be removed by hand. A ‘jumper’ (a long thin pole weighted at the end) was used to thrust down into the rock until sufficient depth was reached (often between the basalt columns). About eight top holes were made as shot holes, and great care had to be made in placing the gelgnite sticks or powder bags down the holes ( locally known in Kiama as rackarock) . when the blast was done, a horn was blown, workers would move to the safe area and the shot set off by a battery. The rock would fall, and sometimes free-standing columns of basalt had to brought down seperately (it is not clear how, either by hammer, or a further shot, probably based on the size of the standing remmant). The rock was then crushed by spalling hammers (by hand!) , loaded into drays, taken down to the Kiama harbour and then loaded into ships for the trip to Sydney; either by backing the horse, or initailly by wicker baskets carried on men’s backs that are walked across planks across the hold, and then dumped into the hold below. The navvies who did the work were hired for the day and nobody cared if they got injured, or where they slept. The crushed gravel was used for road metal and construction, Knapping hammers (quite delicate) were used to crack the basalt into squares ( of many sizes) used for house construction, but this was not done very often. No records of failed shots was kept, and a practice called ‘bulling’ developed where one shot was made to create a small cavity for a much larger shot, which could be very dangerous while the rock was still hot. Accidents when they occured were severely fatal, and exposure to the elements and the dust destroyed the health of the quarrymen. In the photos it is clear the young men are massively fit, white the forty year old men’s heath was ruined. Dust was a common problem with dust blowing into the shops along Terralong Street from the tram cars, and a waterman employed to keep the road wet with sea-water, and much of the useless rock dust was dumped into fill in the hollows where now Hindmarsh and Centennial Park (near Surf beach). Dust also destroyed the workmen’s lungs. As you can appreciate all this was tremendously hard work, and very labour intensive and inefficient. A specific height of about 80 feet was the convention from ancient times before a new level was cut. The history of Kiama quarries is basically improvements in this work practices The first innovation was the steam crusher tested at Kiama Harbour, and later crushers were installed at all quarries, later driven by electricity and diesel. In Kiama we had an explosion of quarries, about eleven, from the State, Federal, Railway Commissioners, and private quarries such as Carson’s, Wakeford’s and others. Most of the workers were iterinants, and mainly Irish Catholics, and known to be hard drinkers. Other improvements were the tramways inside the quarries and railway sidings to let the big trains in (sidings existed at the Bombo, Minnamurra and Carson’s Quarries) and originally the tramways were horse-drawn, later steam trams and and then electric and diesel. Quays were built to load the ships at Bombo, and eventually a tramway down Kiama’s main street to the big hoppers at Kiama Harbour, which loaded the ships by a simple gravity slide system. The gravel was crushed at the quarry, sorted into sizes by ‘shaker’ screens, loaded into tram wagons, driven by locomotive. The gravel was removed by a big grabber from the ship’s hold on arrival in Sydney and then loaded into drays and later trucks, piled and then sold to customers. The cultural effects on the North Irish Protestant hamlet of Kiama was profound. It had been a fairly small retail and supply centre for the local dairy farmers, who had recently switched from wheat and desperate to have a commercial harbour. Some of the services included the famous plough made at the Jamberoo blacksmiths and Finlayson’s in Kiama, who made carriages. The scum and the rust which killed the wheat in the area ( especially in the wet soil of the Jamberoo Valley) led to the decline of Jamberoo as a population centre (from about 2,500 to its current 900) and killed the five or six hamlets that sprang up around Jamberoo (such as Curramore, Mount Brandon, Woodstock) each with their mill, church and National school. Kiama grew in importance as the port to export butter to Sydney and England. When the quarries came, the population grew quite quickly and brought many changes. Most (not all) of the quarrymen were Irish Catholic, and had no homes, and liked a drink . This led to a boom in the hotels (the Fermanagh, the Beehive, and others) and a boom in boarding houses ( most had ‘leigh’ in the name such as Homeleigh and Loveleigh) in Kiama. There is a record of the ‘Beer Strike’ when all the quarrymen barred the hotels because the beer prices doubled, but it only lasted six weeks. The growth on the Orange Lodges amongst the Irish Protestants was partly in response to this population changes. Workers tended to cluster near the workings, and Bombo became a workers camp with very little facilities. A riot of sorts is recorded in the Kiama Independent at a dive known as ‘The Club’ at Bombo later taken over as the Quarrymen’s Improvement Room. Over time, Bombo has a school, a church, a shop, worker’s cottage( usually of the tiny pre-fabricated type) a Mission to the Quarrymen and terraces built to service the large floating workforce. ( some foundations of ruins are in the bushes near the sub-station at the northern end of Bombo beach). Other terraces and mining villages were found in Minnamurra ( near Trevathen’s Quarry, a street now known as ‘The Village’) and in Kiama in Devonshire Street, Collins Street, and Minnamurra Street. There were six terraces recorded, of which the Collins Street ones, (now the Quarry Shops) are the last. The notable dry stone walls in the area, about two hundred kilometre are built of loose basalt stones, and most old buildings and houses in Kiama are built of basalt cubes, not bricks. Health issues were common and the private welfare of such associations such as the Oddfellows (which had a thousand seater hall where the Kiama Leagues club is) filled the gap as did the Kiama Cottage Hospital and later the Kiama Local Hospital, built to provide health services to the poor ( i.e. the quarrymen). at the Kiama local hospital, only one shilling was charged for any service, and 90% of all services went unpaid. It went into the State system when the private fundraising locally was unable to cope. Most of the sporting clubs in Kiama (such as surfing and rugby) are claimed to be started by the quarrymen At its height it is estimated five to six thousand tonnes of blue-metal was leaving Kiama a week, with ships lining up at Kiama harbour, and trains hauling blue-metal as well. Clearly the boom time for Kiama was after the Depression in the 1890s, especially around 1910, and up to the Great Depression in 1929. The tramway down the main streets opened in 1914 and was abandoned in the 1950s. Giant steam shovels called ‘navvies’ (like Bill the Grumpy Steam shovel on the ABC TV puppet show ‘Mr Squiggle) worked the quarries ( some of this equipment has been preserved by Cleary Brothers in a small private museum at Port Kembla) The Great Depression shut down most of the quarries and later the fact all the ships were taken away for the war effort in World War II did much damage as well. The last ship load of blue metal was taken out of Kiama harbour in 1962 by Captain Norton Smith in the Dunmore (an ABC radio recording of this journey was made and broadcast but now seems to be lost) whose ashes were scattered off Kiama harbour in 2007. Now we have two quarries, the private Permian quarry (which goes out by truck) and the Railway Quarry (which goes out by rail) for all the railway ballast under the railway lines in NSW. However, three or four quarries are tucked away out of eyelines around Albion Park and Bass Point, and include Clearys Bros, Hansons, Boral and probably others, which are a lot larger than you might think. Here is a Navvie’s Glossary, if you are interested. http://www.victorianweb.org/history/work/sullivan/glossary.html Clearly a variety of occupations and skills were required in a quarry! Some fun facts about basalt… We had two lava flows in Kiama, the old stuff in worn down to the flat rock shelf along the coast, and the younger is on the headlands and is eroding down via sea caves, some of which form blowholes. There are two blowholes in Kiama and a number of sea caves, some larger than you might think. The rock here is actually latite, which is ‘basalt-like’ but has a higher potassium content and forms into regular columns, which often look man-made. Amethyst (which is purple) is found quite often in latite as is calcite crystals, and there are beds of the stuff still at Bombo. The Bombo headland is also preserved as the first discovery of the ‘Kiaman Magnetic Reversal’ as when the lava cooled, at that period of time the earth’s magnetic poles had actually flipped! http://www.agshv.com/pdffiles/Report%20on%20Activities/Reports%20for%202007/Kiama%202007.pdf

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The new brackets holding the Pilot’s Cottage verandah roof together!

A closeup of the brackets; the colour is Brunswick Green, to be inconspicous from a distance.

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