Part V: the 1980s
Drawing mainly on SI News archives, Part V examines a decade of growth, for the brigade and the island.
|Bruce Lane with the Harvester International AB160 truck that arrived on Scotland Island around 1985.
Bruce was brigade captain from 1978 to 1988: the island’s longest-serving captain. Photos: June Lahm
The start of the 1980s was something of a turning point for Scotland Island. Around that time the island experienced a massive building boom. During the 1970s it had taken six years for the number of island houses to grow by forty. But ninety houses were built in 1980 alone. And, of course, the permanent population grew commensurably.
A busy sausage sizzle, held outside the old fire shed, around 1985. The island had seen a population boom in the early 1980s.
The island’s growth spurt was to deeply affect offshore life. But reading through SI News archives, it’s not obvious that there were any immediate changes to its fire brigade.
As late as 1983, training sessions were still held just twice a year, as opposed to the current monthly meetings. What’s more, there remained, well into the 1980s, the interminable need for fundraising to buy even basic equipment, a hallmark of the brigade’s earlier history.
For instance, it seems that in September 1983 the shed was turned into a casino for a night, a practice that had carried over from the 1970s. According to the promotion in SI News, ‘wheels will spin, cards will shuffle and, quite possibly, pennies will spin’.
Reading SI News, the 1980s is when familiar names begin to appear more regularly in accounts of brigade activities. For instance, the fund-raiser just mentioned was organised by Geoff Leeson, who still lives on the island and regularly drives the ferry. In May 1984 Geoff was at it again, this time running a ‘firies’ Ball’ in the Mona Vale Memorial Hall. 1984 was also when Bruce Healey became an islander. Bruce went on to become a brigade stalwart. Indeed, the current fire boat is named after him.
Sandy Walker demonstrates a water pump to Beth Jessup.
And so, despite the 1980 building boom, life within the brigade trundled on much the same as ever. But changes were on the horizon. For a start, the brigade was growing. In 1987 brigade secretary Clive Power reported 18 new members, plus 55 more completing their basic training. That’s a massive growth.
In its early days the brigade was very much a men’s club, but the 1980s was when women started to play a greater role, including Sandy Walker and June Lahm. Once again, both remain resident on the island.
But even while the brigade secretary celebrated the growth in membership, he lamented that the southern side of the island was ‘very poorly represented’ in the brigade. Indeed, there are signs that the island’s rapid population growth in the early 1980s had strained community cohesion.
For instance, in 1986 there was talk of a new residents’ association; a breakaway from SIRA. Up until then SIRA had been the domain of the north of the island. Every president had come from the north, and apparently southerners barely attended meetings. The breakaway group wanted something that better represented the south.
SIRA had to act fast. In 1987, in an attempt to maintain island unity, the association held its very first general meeting on the south side, in the house next to Carol’s Wharf. This apparently worked, and the breakaway association never materialised.
Besides increasing in membership, the 1980s was when a better-equipped brigade began to emerge. In 1985 the firies acquired a new punt-style aluminium fire boat, for which a pen was constructed at Tennis Court Wharf. By then the brigade also had two land vehicles: a Toyota Land Cruiser and a 2,300-litre International tanker, which by 1988 had been updated to a Mazda fire truck.
A community event outside the old fire shed, Tennis Court Wharf, around 1985.
Note the phone box in the distance, which still stands.
But what is staggering is that throughout these events the brigade remained housed in a small shed down at Tennis Court Wharf. And the brigade didn’t even have a monopoly over that structure.
It’s easy to forget that until 1982 that humble garage was the island’s only community building. That meant that, besides being a fire station, it hosted a play school, dance classes, public meetings and many other events.
The opening of the current community hall in 1982 gave the brigade sole occupancy of the old shed. But even so, with its newly acquired equipment and growing membership, space must have been tight.
The time had come for a new fire shed.
Robyn Iredale, performing her Strine poem
‘Corker’: a great example of Australian slang. Or is it Kiwi? Or American? Dare I say it’s English?
That’s the way with slang: it’s endlessly shared, borrowed, appropriated, fought over and disowned. Michael Adams, who called it ‘the people’s poetry’, described it as ‘liminal’. It is wrapped up with identity, and certainly can be used to socially include and exclude. Presumably that’s why it raises the heckles when one community claims another’s slang as its own. But, according to Adams, it’s often impossible to tell what motivates slang’s use, or whose interests it serves, even in context.
Recently, islander Robyn Iredale employed Australian slang for a very particular purpose: to win a competition. The NSW Government had offered a four-night P&O cruise for four as a prize for the best poem in Aussie slang. So Robyn, along with her daughter, Danielle, and her grandchildren Leo and Scarlett, set out to compose an entry that would combine as must Strine as possible. And they won!
The requirement was that the poem be performed on video. Robyn’s winning entry can be viewed here. Alternatively, the words are set out below, along with a translation for those of us what talk proper.
The Old Bird’s Bolt to Sydney
By Robyn Iredale, with Danielle, Mat, Leo and Scarlett Campbell
|I’m chucking a U-ey and humpin my bluey, I’m on track to reach Darwin for barra and beer.
Tomorrow arvo, I’ll swing by the servo, grab a chiko roll and fang it to Broome,
where I’ll take a captain cook …. at the staircase to the moon.
Then back on the black top, gunnin for Perth, hoon on to The River for a gnarley old surf,
then back to Frio for a banger and brew, before hitting the sac and then shooting thru.
Radelaide and Melbourne? Yeah nah- too far.
I’ll be doing a Harold to Bondi for a splash. Then I’ll leg it over to the Aussie Day bash.
Bopping to Casey with a coldie in hand, while the old currant bun sets on this ancient land.
| I am reversing my direction of travel and gathering up my bundle so as to arrive at Darwin to dine on catadromous fish and ale.
Tomorrow afternoon I intend to visit the petrol station, purchase a derivative of Chinese cuisine, and proceed rapidly to Broome, where I shall conduct some lunar observations.
Having returned to the road, I shall make haste for Perth in order to undertake fatiguing exercise. Subsequently I intend to return to Freemantle for sausages and beer, before retiring briefly for the night.
I intend to omit Adelaide and Melbourne from my itinerary, hastening to Bondi for a swim. Thither to the Invasion Day commemoration,
eschewing celebratory displays, instead trampling a certain Murdoch publication into the ground.
Catherine Park, Scotland Island
Saturday 12 February, 4 – 6 pm
Sunday 13 February, 2 – 4 pm
The link to the ticket office is here
Sunday 13 February, 10 – 1 pm
Sunday 27 February, 10 – 12 noon
On 13 February, come and celebrate LOVE and enjoy our new awnings at the Two Catherines Café. We are open until 1pm and will have a barbecue from 11:30am. Buskers who want to play music are welcome!
Scotland Island Community Hall
Saturday 26 February, 7 – 9 pm
Outside Scotland Island Community Hall
Sunday 27 February, 1 – 3 pm
Sunday 13 March, 1 – 3 pm
BOAT REPAIR WORKSHOPS: IMPORTANT CHANGE
Did you miss out on booking for the boat repair workshops because they were full? You now have a second chance, as Simon has offered to cover all the material in each of the two workshops. If you signed up for the first and second workshops, you’ll receive a refund for the second workshop and we’ll remove your booking for that one. You’ll be learning all you need to know in one workshop, and the second will be a repeat of the first, again covering all material.
The workshop on February 27 is full but you can now book for the full content on March 13.
To book the 27 February workshop, click here
To book the 13 March workshop, click here
For sale: IKEA double bed with mattress and topper, all hardware included.
Pick up on Thompson St, above Eastern Wharf.
Call 0473 425 690 or email email@example.com.
Several logs drying under the house are ready to be chopped and stacked for firewood.
Please call Sue Plattner on 0476 105 858.
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Updated June 2021
Festival of Making, April 2021
The views expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily the views of the Scotland Island Residents Association (SIRA), or the Western Pittwater Community Association (WPCA)