Part VI: a new shed
Drawing mainly on SI News archives, Part VI looks at the building of the current fire station.
|Bob Blackwood, Bruce Healey and Graeme Richmond in front of the current fire shed, sometime after 2005
By the 1980s the island’s burgeoning population had thoroughly outgrown the old fire shed, which was located down by the water’s edge at Tennis Court Wharf. Until the opening of the community hall in 1982, that humble structure had served as the island’s sole communal space, hosting not only the brigade but also public meetings, a play school, dance classes and more.
A community event inside the old fire shed, sometime around 1980. Photos: June Lahm
Plans for a new fire station began taking shape in the early 1980s. But where to build it? Some members favoured retaining the site down on the shoreline. For instance, Peter Mulholland, who went on to serve as captain, felt that by fronting directly onto the park the shed, and therefore the brigade, would better retain its integral place in everyday island life.
But others favoured relocating the brigade’s HQ further up the hill. A proponent of this new site was Bob Blackwood, who served as president for many years. Bob made a persuasive case for a new site: if the brigade stayed where it was then it would take far longer to get a new shed.
In the end, Bob and his supporters won the day, and the brigade’s current site was selected. One story, perhaps apocryphal, is that the position of the shed was due to the substandard vehicles operated by the brigade at the time: it was felt that they needed to be kept at the top of a hill so that they could be clutch started in the event of a flat battery.
The newly cleared site for the awaited shed, approx 1985
Whatever the real reason, by 1985 the present site had been cleared. But the new shed still needed a design. Apparently the original honorary architect was Richard Williamson, known to many on the island as Richard the Brick. This, the story goes, was due to his penchant for building in brick, and to distinguish him from Richard the Log, who preferred wooden constructions.
In 1985 long-serving captain Bruce Lane announced that construction would start soon. But three years later the site still lay empty; the delay partly related to the need to rezone the site, which formed part of Catherine Park.
By then Richard Williamson had seemingly been replaced as architect by islander Geoff Breen. According to some brigade members around at the time, Geoff came up with an interesting concept for the shed, but in the end the council selected a more ‘prosaic’ design by another islander, John Parker.
Bruce Healey inside the radio room of the current shed
Construction began sometime around 1989, by which time Darcy Nicholson had taken over from Peter Mulholland as captain. Unlike the first shed and the community centre, both of which were built with volunteer labour, Greg Stidwill (Ryan’s father) was contracted to complete the construction, with John Travers working on the framework.
The new shed formally opened on 15 June 1991. Warringah Shire was represented by its president, John Caputo, with three other councillors attending. This prompted Bob Blackwood to wryly note in his ‘vastly amusing’ speech the ‘remarkable coincidence’ of so many councillors appearing offshore. At the time Pittwater was voting on whether to secede from Warringah to form its own council.
The shed was to outlast both Warringah and Pittwater Councils. But not without changes, all of which are testament to the brigade’s continuing growth. First, the entire structure has now been taken over by the brigade. The original plan was for the firies to occupy only the front of the station. One rear room was to be used by council workers, while the other was intended for Sydney County Council, then responsible for providing electricity to offshore Pittwater. This explains why, until recently, there were no connecting doors between the building’s two rear rooms and the rest of the station. To this day Ausgrid has a store cupboard in one back room.
Internal and external changes have also been implemented by brigade members. These include construction of the radio room, mezzanine, bar and the outside paved patio. Much of this work was done by present-day islanders, including Bob Blackwood, John Travers, Steve Yorke, Geoff Leeson and John Christie, among others. The late Bruce Healey also played an important role in the shed’s improvement and upkeep.
Bruce Healey with Brian Friend at the shed’s bar
The other major alteration was when the entire front wall was pushed out by several metres, thus allowing more space for vehicles and construction of a workshop. The extension was opened in 2002 by Steve Yorke, by then a superintendent in the RFS.
Even though the building now belongs to Northern Beaches Council and basic firefighting equipment is supplied by the RFS, much of its maintenance and running costs are met by the brigade. For instance, the brigade paid for the recent redecoration of the shed, as well as its phone and internet connections and kitchen equipment. That’s why the brigade relies on the support of you, the residents, if the shed is to remain an integral part of island social and community life.
The Two Catherines Café has become a regular part of Scotland Island life. In this article Robyn Iredale, co-ordinator of the Recreation Club, explains how it all began, where the money goes and some changes that are being trialled.
Robyn Iredale, founder of the Two Catherines Café
In 2019 SIRA applied for and was awarded a Northern Beaches Council Community and Cultural Grant for the purpose of improving social cohesion. The aim was to ’incorporate older and younger people into the life of the community through a range of activities that will appeal to different age groups’.
To this end, the Recreation Club was established in 2019 and table tennis and international folk dancing commenced. The equipment and rent were funded by the grant, which was also used to purchase a second-hand coffee machine and coffee grinder.
The Two Catherines Café was started in July 2020, and since then has operated on the second and fourth Sunday of each month, COVID permitting. The café commenced with Jasmine Hall as the barista, plus a team of volunteers to organise café supplies, set up and put away the furniture, and to serve.
Soon after, Melinda Ham commenced working with Jasmine and between them they managed the café, putting posters up around the island, doing the inventory and purchasing, organising the bakers, hiring and training the staff and running the café. Melinda and Jasmine were assisted by volunteers, including Cathy Shelley, CB Floyd, Sharon Kinnison and Antonia Swift. Since Jasmine left for Brisbane in July 2021, Melinda has continued to manage the café and CB Floyd has assisted. Maddy Banfield has taken over as chief barista.
Melinda Ham, Maddy Banfield,
Jasmine Hall and Sharon Kinnison
The cakes and savoury items are all baked by a team of 20 bakers. Some cakes are donated and some bakers receive a percentage of the profits to cover their costs.
In the meantime, three young islanders were offered a training workshop by a master barista who visited the island. Other young people have been hired to assist with food and coffee sales, as well as setting up and packing down the café. In all, the café has offered employment to approximately 10 young people.
The cafe uses Square, an automated inventory and payment system, and the profits are all handed over to the Treasurer of SIRA. The funds raised by the café amounted to $6,000 in the financial year 2020/21.
Where does the money go?
Contented customers: Ian White with Freyja
Funds raised over the 18 months of running the café have all gone into the Recreation Club section of SIRA’s accounts. They have been used to purchase or subsidise:
- a small electric fridge for the coffee bar;
- a five-burner gas BBQ for general use;
- another coffee grinder;
- two second-hand iPad tablets for handling sales;
- maintenance of equipment;
- a $500 donation for music for the Feast for Freedom event in 2021;
- a $900 donation for the 2021 Christmas carols performance at Catherine Park;
- $4,000 for a professional playwright to prepare a script for the Two Catherines play (which will be partly recouped through ticket sales).
The future of the café
The café has grown, and is now a more professionally managed enterprise than when it began. We have new aprons for the staff and a new poster. To provide welcome shade we have new awnings around the verandah of the community hall, thanks to a grant from the NSW Government. We also have another cappuccino machine, donated by Luigi Anselmi, which we shall put into operation as soon as possible.
A meeting with a number of islanders to gain input into the operation of the café was held recently. One suggestion that came out of this meeting was to reduce the frequency of the café in its current format to once a month. There are several reasons for this: (1) to put more energy into a once-a-month café and to work on offering more events for the community, and (2) to take some pressure off the small volunteer team who manage the café at the moment.
The Recreation Club has decided to implement this change, starting 27 March. In coming months we’ll work on streamlining the operations and getting more volunteers to help us with specific tasks. So please watch out for opportunities to participate in the café’s operation.
Café helpers Oscar, Jasmine Hall, Peggy, CB Floyd, Lolly and Maisie
In the meantime the Recreation Club will offer coffee and a BBQ on the second Sunday of each month, starting 13 March. We are looking for volunteer teams to run a BBQ and assist with the coffee machine. Please let me know if you would like to host a BBQ, using SIRA’s BBQ and the area under the community hall. The possibility exists for people to generate some income for their favourite charity, as well as for the Recreation Club.
All in all, there will still be a chance for the community to gather on a fortnightly basis. Watch this space and Facebook for more news about the café and the BBQs!
We are indebted to the many people who have supported the café by baking, volunteering to help in some way and turning up to support us.
Robyn Iredale (email@example.com)
Catherine Park, Scotland Island
Saturday 26 February, 4:00 – 6:30 pm
Graeme Crayford, former resident of Scotland Island, fire brigade president and community vehicle co-ordinator, died recently.
A memorial function will be held for Graeme in Catherine Park, Scotland Island on Saturday, 26 February from 4pm. During the function members of Graeme’s family and the local community will share their memories of this much-admired islander, and talk about the contribution he made to our community.
At 6pm the Scotland Island fire boat will take Graeme’s family out onto Pittwater to scatter his ashes.
Members of the brigade and the community are invited to join us in Catherine Park from 4pm and to accompany the fire boat onto Pittwater at 6pm. A BBQ and drinks will be available in Catherine Park.
Members of the brigade are encouraged to arrive early and help with setting up and running the BBQ. Anyone available to help should contact Peter Lalor on 0401 716194.
Scotland Island Community Hall
Saturday 26 February, 7 – 9 pm
Sunday 27 February, 10 – 12 noon
Our month of celebrating love at the Two Catherines Café continues as we’re right in the middle of Mardi Gras season. Join us wearing rainbows and eating rainbow coloured savouries and sweets. Support our all-local talented bakers, baristas and servers. See you there.
Sunday 6 March, 9 – 12 noon
Scotland Island is registered to participate once again!
Clean Up Australia Day inspires and empowers communities to clean up, fix up and conserve our environment.
This event encourages and inspires thousands of Australians to take to their local park, beach, bushland and streets, making a real difference to their local environment.
If you would like to help out, either by grabbing a bag and filling it, or helping to supervise activities, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to put your name on the list.
Come down to your nearest wharf to collect a bag between the hours of 9.00am and 12.00pm.
Bring gloves, sunscreen, hat, sensible clothes and footwear – and don’t forget to bring some water too!
Toby and his crew will be out on the Laurel Mae to collect material.
About the event – Clean Up Australia Day: https://www.cleanup.org.au/about-us
Scotland Island Community Hall
Saturday 19 March
Link for booking and donating: https://feastforfreedom.org.au/page/Scotland-IslandCommunitysFeast
Scotland Island Community Hall
Sunday 20 March, 2 – 4 pm
- St George white oven (still in box) and St George ceramic cooktop (also still in box), both about 5 years old. Negotiable prices.
- A retro ‘burning log’ brass, conical fireplace in fantastic condition. No dents, with grate and flue.
- A Grillo Climber 9.16 six-wheeler, ride-on mower. A real beauty: the most stable hill-climbing ride-on there is. Only one problem: I need a mower-wise person to come and replace the fuel pump. Apparently this is very easy but I’m no mechanic! I want something smaller as my new property is mainly flat.
Home phone: 9974 1119
Mobile: 0409 974141
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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)