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Byron Shire
May 13, 2021

Transport on the NSW seaboard in days past

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Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Elvis has Left the Building

My dog died. I haven’t been able to write about it until now. It was a month ago, and he was old, but it was still unexpected, and it leaves you feeling a bit raw.

I would like to comment on a sentence in the article about relics from the Tweed’s 47 shipwrecks. It’s about the sentence ending: ‘the Tweed was almost entirely reliant on shipping to move goods and people along the coast of NSW’.

My maternal grandmother Edith Sophia White married Frederick Hamilton Dudgeon at Ennis on the Hastings River, inland from Port Macquarie in 1905.

Fred had a dairy farm below Chincogan on the Mullumbimby-Billinudgel road. It was a 100-acre farm with its own waterfall and small creek that ran all year round.

Following their marriage Edie and Fred Dudgeon travelled by ship to Byron Bay Jetty and travelled overland to the farm north of Mullumbimby. My grandma never saw her mother again after her wedding day.

In the early 1900s, shipping was the only means of transport for families from Sydney and the South Coast to the North Coast of NSW

The North Coast has always had three large rivers, the Tweed, the Richmond and the Clarence. Making overland travel impossible from the far north of NSW.

Early in the 20th century, ferries were used to transport cars and people across these large rivers.

I married in 1961 and we had to queue up at the Burns Point Ferry south of Ballina to cross the Richmond River and  drive onto a ferry to cross the river, to head south.

This was repeated at the Clarence River.

In 1964 the first road bridge was built over the Richmond River at Wardell, eliminating the Burns Point Ferry south of Ballina. My husband and I were guests of the opening of this bridge. I was 26 years old.

With the opening of the Harwood Bridge across the Clarence in 1966, the need for ferries on the Pacific Ocean no longer existed.

As a child in 1940s I remember visiting Byron Bay on the train from Mullumbimby and walking out onto the jetty over the ocean.

In the cyclone of 1947 most of the jetty was washed away. It was rebuilt in 1948, but in 1954, after being washed away again by another cyclone, the remains of the jetty were demolished. A lot of our colourful past had been demolished.

And yes, the shipping to the North Coast of NSW in the 19th and 20th century did play a large part in the settlement of people here and also to my own individual personal history.

Lorna Virgo, Coolangatta


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