An Instance of Early Offshore Volunteerism
|Florence Fitzpatrick bathing in Pittwater with her four children, 30 November 1930. Florence gave her name to Florence Terrace.
The Pittwater offshore community is replete with volunteerism. Our fire brigades, bush regeneration groups and residents’ associations are just three examples of selfless devotion. And this year we celebrate the 40th anniversary of perhaps the most spectacular occasion of collective generosity: the building of Scotland Island community hall, completed in 1982 by volunteer labour.
The above are all examples of post-war munificence. It’s easy to imagine that earlier settlers, at a time when Pittwater was isolated and scarcely populated, were more individualistic. But perhaps that perception is a symptom of the enormous condescension of posterity, because there are older instances of volunteerism that seem forgotten.
The swimming enclosure next to Tennis Wharf,
as it appears today
Readers of the PON should be acquainted with the name of Vivianne Byrnes, granddaughter of Herbert and Florence Fitzpatrick. Herbert was the man who subdivided Scotland Island and Elvina Bay in the 1920s, while Florence, his wife, is remembered in the name of Florence Terrace.
Some months ago Vivianne provided me with a photo taken 30 November 1930. It shows her grandmother, Florence, sitting in Pittwater with her four children. It’s not certain precisely where the photo was taken. But having spent hours examining the stonework of Pittwater’s stone jetties, and having bored my friends with the question ‘where do you think this was taken?’, I’m fairly sure that the family is sitting on the beach right next to Tennis Court Wharf. And that would make sense, since there used to be an enclosed swimming area at that spot.
If my conjecture is correct then the wooden structure behind Florence is of considerable interest. Consult Warringah Shire council records for 1936 and you’ll find reference to a small bathing shed. This was ‘erected by volunteer workers on the reserve at the northern end of Scotland Island’. It would seem logical for the bathing shed to be built next to the enclosed swimming area. And the structure in the photo certainly looks like a bathing shed.
If my theory holds, that simple structure in the photo tells two stories. One is of early offshore volunteerism. But the other is a sadder tale of destitution.
Vivianne Byrnes, granddaughter of Florence Fitzpatrick
Those council records of 1936 lament that a ‘swagman or fisherman’ had taken possession of the bathing shed and had closed it to residents. He had stolen water from local residences and was living in the shed with no sanitary arrangements. The 1930s was, of course, a period of economic depression in Australia. By 1936 the rate of unemployment had dropped from its 1932 peak of 32%, but it still stood at 11% at the start of the second world war.
One wonders whether the islanders of 1936 extended any kindness to this unfortunate man. It seems that the council did not, and he was told to immediately vacate the shed. Indeed the authority seemed more concerned about the dilapidated condition of the anti-shark netting around the swimming area which, in the eyes of the council, rendered it unsafe for bathers.
Possibly the council extended some other support to the swagman: the records are silent on the matter. The man has sunk into the oblivion of time. But it is known that £5 was voted to repair the swimming area, so that islanders could bathe more safely.
Thanks to Alison Guesdon of Pittwater Online News for tipping me off about the council records and, of course, Vivianne Byrnes for providing the photo.
Sunday 30 January, 11 am onwards
As reported in earlier editions of the PON, Greg Roberts, former president of SIRA and well-loved island personality, died on 24 December.
On Sunday, 30 January, two events will be held to mark his passing.
At 11 am, a flotilla of boats will collect off Tennis Court Wharf. Led by the Reliance (an old ferry boat), the flotilla will then motor around Scotland Island. Greg’s family hopes that anyone with a boat will feel welcome to join in. If you have one or more spare seats in your boat and could make them available to members of Greg’s family then please email Megan Sadler, Greg’s daughter-in-law, at email@example.com.
At 2 pm a celebration of Greg’s life will be held at the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, Newport. It will take place on The Terrace: outside but in the shade. If it rains then the event will be relocated to upstairs in the club.
Tributes will begin at 2.30 pm. The family will start the tributes, followed by anyone who would like to talk about their memories of Greg (open mike).
Parking is available at two places:
- In the top car park. As you enter the gate, the ramp is to the right;
- In the Crystal Bay car park: if approaching the club along Irrubel Rd from the direction of Newport, turn left into Crystal St, the street before the turning to the club (Mitala St). For pedestrian access to the club, turn right after leaving the car park, then to the left towards the club. Enter the gate and follow the directions. Note: elderly or disabled guests can be dropped off at reception: buzz reception to open the gate.
Club sign in requirements
Guests must sign in at reception. Please ensure you have your membership card or evidence of identification (driver’s licence). Guests who live within 5 km of the club are able to enter without a member signing them in.
Current COVID regulations
All members and guests must check in with the Service NSW app and provide proof of double vaccination (or medical exemption).
|A cloud surprised me today
Snuck up as I walked in thought…
Looking up, it was there,
Majestic and grand.
An OMG moment
As it fanned out across the sky
Erupting from a hill on the horizon
A thousand puffs upon puffs
Rolling and bulging
Pegasus in a thousand shades
Of royal blue, green and grey,
Edged with pinks and reds.
I like such pleasant surprises
Small shocks of awe and wonder
The world becomes optimistic
And filled with future possibility.
I don’t like unpleasant surprises
Like a friend’s unexpected death
Like cold bitter tea
Heavy and sad
With a sour reminder of mortality
And the illusion of permanency
| I did not know
The last time we met
Would be the last
I would have sat for ages
And talked about
All those important things
We could and should have discussed.
I would have relished your company and character
And mentally stored every second to keep forever…
Now that can never be.
Though I know I will fail
I will now try to avoid similar unpleasant surprises
And assume every encounter may be the last
And take no fault in long good byes
In memory of Greg Roberts.
Sunday 23 January, 10 – 12 noon
Catherine Park, Scotland Island
Saturday 12 February, 4 – 6 pm
Saturday 13 February, 2 – 4 pm
|Shakespeare combines with Leonard Cohen in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, coming soon to Scotland Island
Anyone acquainted with islander Paul Kininmonth should know his admiration for Shakespeare. Not only does Paul run online courses on the Bard, he has twice produced his plays on Scotland Island: The Tempest
in 2020 and Hamlet
Paul Kininmonth, once again bringing Shakespeare to Scotland Island
Now Paul brings us Much Ado About Nothing, to be performed in Catherine Park on 12 & 13 February. Fifteen performers from across Sydney will join Paul in the production.
Paul studied Drama at university, then taught the subject as a primary school teacher. He has been involved in community productions of Shakespeare for over 30 years. ‘I just love his eternal relevance’, he says.
Just the title of Kininmonth’s third production suggests its pertinence to our offshore community in times of COVID. For Shakespeare’s England, ‘nothing’ was a near-homophone for ‘noting’. In today’s online culture, ‘noting’ could be understood in terms of posting on social media. As offshore social life remains muted by the pandemic, community engagements have largely shifted to Facebook and its ilk. Certainly much ado is made of our offshore online exchanges.
Robert Hanly will perform Cohen as part of the production.
On one level Shakespeare’s play is a cautionary tale about gossip. But Paul sees its ultimate message as an exhortion for us to be true to ourselves, to drop our masks and to realise that others are not always who they seem, particularly online.
Ensuring that audiences find Shakespeare relevant and accessible is not always easy. There are many modern interpretations of Much Ado About Nothing, any of which can aid our appreciation of the work. These include Kenneth Branagh’s film (available here for free). Perhaps the most bizarre retelling of the story is this one, set in a teenager’s bedroom and stealthily disguised as a video blog.
For his take on the play, Paul has coupled Shakespeare with Leonard Cohen. Thus the island production will include several Cohen songs, performed live by Robert Hanly. Cohen is an interesting choice, given that his work, described as ‘precise, supplicatory and cloistral’, has been likened less to Shakespeare’s and more to that of the Bard’s contemporary, John Donne. Indeed Cohen confessed to not understanding Shakespeare, at least as a young man.
Whether Paul has successfully married together the works of Cohen and Shakespeare will soon be revealed. Tickets to the island’s performances ($45 for adults, $25 concession) are already on sale. To book, click here.
The link to the ticket office is here
Outside Scotland Island Community Hall
Sunday 27 February, 1 – 3 pm
Sunday 13 March, 1 – 3 pm
Black poly under-deck water tank for sale: $400.
The tank was put under the deck but never installed, so it is in great condition.
Capacity: approx 2000 litres.
Collect from Elvina Bay. For further details contact Andy Derijk: 0418 613 890.
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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)