A drama for the offshore community
|Catherine Benns (1838 – 1920):
an indigenous midwife and ‘Queen of Scotland Island’
Catherine Bouffier (1857 – 1940),
after whom Scotland Island’s Catherine Park is named
‘We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.’
These words, taken from the poem Human Family by civil rights activist Maya Angelou, posit a claim that might not always seem true here on Pittwater. Offshore living makes us to rub up against others more than we otherwise might. Because we don’t choose our neighbours, community living requires a constant navigation between differences and commonalities. And now we have an additional challenge that could, in the months to come, tell us more about what unites and divides us.
Robyn Iredale, a long-time offshore resident, has already given us the Two Catherines Café. COVID permitting, the café meets twice monthly at Scotland Island Community Hall. The café’s name refers to Catherine Benns and Catherine Bouffier, two women associated with the island’s history. As far as we know they never met. But what if they had? What would they have had in common? And what would have driven them apart?
|Bungaree (c1775 – 1830)
Called ‘Chief of the Broken Bay Tribe’ by the British, he is reputed to have been Catherine Benn’s grandfather.
These are questions Robyn poses. On behalf of SIRA, Robyn is applying to Northern Beaches Council for a grant, the purpose of which is to fund a play, to be performed on Scotland Island. This will imagine a meeting between the two Catherines. In the process Robyn hopes to organise workshops dealing not only with Pittwater history but also the art of theatre. These will enable us to interrogate Angelou’s claim, exploring the extent to which difference can be accommodated in community.
In many ways Angelou’s poem seems peculiarly apposite to the project. Angelou was interested in gender, particularly experiences common to women. Her poem speaks of women who, like our Catherines, share a name. But what underlies superficial commonalities such as name and sex?
Angelou was also concerned with race. Catherine Benns was Aboriginal. Catherine Bouffier was white. The paradigm of human contrast is that between the European settlers of this land and its indigenous peoples. But were those differences more than skin deep?
If ever the Catherines’ paths crossed then it would have been just as Pittwater was on the cusp of tremendous change. A meeting was most likely in the immediate aftermath of World War I. Benns would have been coming to the end of her long life. A small dark woman dressed in black, prone to rowing to and from the island regardless of the weather, she would have seemed emblematic of a lost era for Pittwater.
But even in her dotage Benns was still ‘Queen of Scotland Island’. Perhaps she was fond of recounting how, only a century earlier, her direct forebear, Bungaree, had been dubbed ‘King of the Blacks’ by the invading British. By all accounts Benns was ‘of gentle manners’. Possibly she inherited her affability from Bungaree, a man so well versed in rapprochement that Matthew Flinders recruited him for his 1801 circumnavigation of Australia.
||Florence Fitzpatrick, née Bouffier (1892 – 1967)
Catherine Bouffier’s daughter, she married Scotland Island’s developer and gave her name to Florence Terrace.
Imagine this diminutive woman meeting Catherine Bouffier. On the surface they would have had little reason to be friends. Benns was the daughter of an indigenous woman and a convict, while Bouffier’s parents were free settlers. A businesswoman of considerable renown, Bouffier would have been more comfortable at an international wine festival than in the back of Benns’ rowing boat. What’s more, Bouffier’s daughter, Florence, was about to marry Herbert Fitzpatrick, the man responsible for developing the island and much of the western foreshore. Would Benns have seen this as the final stage in her people’s displacement from their ancestral lands?
But dig beneath their racial and class differences and perhaps these women could have got along. Although Bouffier was white, neither Catherine would have been a stranger to prejudice. For a start, both had German parentage. And both married men of teutonic ancestry. Even if the women did not consider themselves German, they lived through the first world war, and would have been aware of the anti-German sentiment around them.
Besides this, they were women in a man’s world. Both had lost their husbands at relatively young ages. Widowhood had been especially difficult for Bouffier. Her husband had run a successful wine store. But he died when Bouffier was 40, leaving her with four young children to support. Bouffier now had to operate the family business in an age when women couldn’t even vote. But Bouffier managed, and her business grew from strength to strength.
In the words of Robyn Iredale, these were remarkable women. They were unalike. But were they more alike than unalike? A meeting between such diverse characters would have been interesting to witness. But our offshore community can also spark and synergise. Perhaps we can once again exercise our collective imaginations, coming together to meld our differences and find common ground.
To read more about Catherine Benns (often spelt Bens) and her ancestry, click here
To read more about Catherine Bouffier and her family, click here
Creative script writer
Scotland Island Recreation Club is looking for a script writer for a short play (up to one hour) on two women who were important to the island.
Catherine Ferdinand (1838-1920), an Indigenous woman from the Hawkesbury River, traded in shells/oranges, and met and married Joseph Benns, a Belgian mariner. Joseph had leased Scotland Island and Catherine moved here in 1862, becoming a midwife among the offshore community. A descendant of her family will be involved in providing information on Catherine, as well as advice and clearance on cultural issues.
Catherine Gattenhoff (1857-1940) was born in Australia to German parents and married a German vigneron, Frank Bouffier. When Frank died in 1898, he left the family business to his wife. She ran it successfully. A relative of Catherine Bouffier is available as an advisor. Catherine Bouffier was the mother-in-law of Herbert Fitzpatrick, who developed Scotland Island and Elvina Bay for housing during the 1920s. He named Catherine Park on the island after her.
As far as we know the two Catherines never met, so the challenge is to create a story around them. We have photos and information to share. We also have a professional TV and movie script writer on the island who will act as a mentor and offer guidance.
Initially, there will be historical workshops that the writer would be expected to join in. Once the script is developed a director will be chosen and we will run acting and musical workshops.
There will be a $3000 payment for the writing of the script. An application for a grant to fund the project has been submitted to Northern Beaches Council.
Please call me (0425 216350) or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested or have any suggestions.
Our offshore link with one of Australia’s preeminent photographers
|Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance trapped in Antarctic pack ice, 1915:
one of the many iconic images captured by photographer Frank Hurley
One so rarely hears of connections between Scotland Island’s Catherine Park and the frozen wastes of Antarctica. But the two are related, as any student of photography should realise.
Catherine Park is, as you now know, named after Catherine Bouffier, mother-in-law of Herbert Fitzpatrick. He was the man who subdivided the island in the 1920s, shaping it into what it is today.
|Frank Hurley (1885 – 1962)
Catherine Bouffier helped him buy his first camera.
Catherine’s life was not always easy, and 1898 was a particularly difficult year for her. First, her husband died, leaving Catherine with four young children. Then, later in the year, her father also died. Between these events Catherine received the news that her thirteen-year-old nephew had run away from home. Fortunately he returned unharmed two years later, and this early act of rebellion foreshadowed a life of unparalleled adventure. His name was Frank Hurley, and he was to become one of Australia’s most famous and controversial photographers.
We don’t know exactly what first sparked teenage Frank’s interest in photography. But, according to Vivianne Byrnes, Catherine’s great-granddaughter, Catherine kindled it. Vivianne tells of how, upon Frank’s return from his first wayward adventure, Catherine let him sell the empty bottles from her Sydney wine bar. Frank then used the money to buy his first camera. Apparently the family, including Catherine’s daughter Florence (after whom Florence Terrace is named) used to picnic on South Head and Bondi so that young Frank could spend ‘endless hours’ photographing waves.
But young Frank had his eye on bigger prizes. In 1911, aged 26, Frank became official photographer to Douglas Mawson’s Antarctic Expedition. He returned in 1914, only to then join Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated trans-Antarctic expedition. Shackleton’s goal was to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent. Instead Shackleton’s ship, Endurance, became beset in ice. It got crushed and then sank, stranding its 28-man complement on the ice.
||Frank Hurley with Ernest Shackleton
For five months the men drifted on pack ice. Then, in a desperate bid for survival, Shackleton left with a small group of men to attempt one of the great feats of human endurance: sail an adapted lifeboat 1,300 km across open ocean to South Georgia, then walk across the island in search of rescue.
Shackleton succeeded, but he had left a contingent of 22 men, including Frank, to endure an Antarctic winter. For four months Frank and his comrades awaited their fate, not knowing whether Shackleton would ever return. Then, in August 1916, Shackleton finally brought relief. Shackleton’s tale has received many retellings, including here.
Hurley went on to enjoy a long career in photography before retiring to Collaroy Plateau. He was an innovative photographer. For instance, in the 1920s he found a way to create the illusion of undersea photography by means of an aquarium, well before underwater cameras were developed.
But it was in 1917, during his service as war photographer during the Third Battle of Ypres, that controversy struck. Hurley believed he could best capture the horrors of trench warfare through composite images: numerous photos combined to create a single picture. His photos were exhibited in London in 1918, only to have them dismissed by Charles Bean, official war historian, as ‘fake’.
|Left: The Raid (1917), one of Frank Hurley’s composite images, intended to show the horror of trench warfare.
Right: two of the many photos taken by Hurley and used to create the composite.
Hurley was appalled, given the risks he had taken on the battlefront to capture the images that make up his compositions. In his defence, Hurley cited comments overheard from soldiers attending his exhibition. They, he said, could see in his work a greater reality, one that simply couldn’t be captured by the cameras of the day. And certainly Frank’s photos have survived as some of the most memorable images of the 20th century.
This controversy touches on an issue familiar to all creative workers: should they stick to the facts, or can a deeper truth be captured through departure from the historical record? It’s a question that will no doubt face those involved in the Two Catherines play: so little is known about those women that there will inevitably be invention. But that doesn’t mean that greater truths cannot be told.
So, next time you are in Catherine Park and it’s feeling a bit nippy, spare a thought for the woman who helped young Frank buy his first camera, and the suffering and controversy this brave man endured to capture and create his iconic images.
With gyms and bootcamps closed and children at home, this month’s PON brings you something to get you or your family up and about around Scotland Island. This quiz involves ten multiple-choice questions, and you will only be able to answer them by walking or running around Scotland Island’s public paths and roads, looking for answers.
There’s a prize!
The first person to email me with proof that you have all ten questions right wins a free Zoom group exercise class run and donated by Andy Derijk of Fitter Forever. These classes run Mondays and Thursdays from 7 – 7.45 am. (Value $15).
1. The prize goes to the first person to email evidence of ten correct answers to the quiz questions. One of two forms of proof is needed: the answers (set out in an email) or a screen grab showing a 10/10 score. Email to email@example.com.
2. The Zoom bootcamp is limited to persons aged 16 and older. If the prize is won by a younger person then that person may nominate a parent or older family member for the prize.
3. You may attempt the quiz as many times as you like.
The quiz starts now! To access the questions click here. If you prefer to access the questions in pdf form, click here.
About Andy Derijk:
Andy is a qualified fitness instructor. When COVID restrictions allow, Andy runs exercise classes in Elvina Bay from 7 – 7.45 am, Mondays and Thursdays. (These are currently suspended for the duration of the lockdown.) Andy also offers personal training sessions.
Phone: 0418 613890. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: Fitter Forever.
A note from SIRA to parents
There was an incident recently when toys and play equipment were removed from the Scotland Island Recreation Centre (old kindy) playground and shed and left strewn around Catherine Park and the adjoining mangroves.
SIRA is very happy for island children to use the equipment kept behind the old kindy and in the shed but it needs to be done respectfully.
In future, we ask that parents please ensure that their children understand that anything they find inside the kindy fence may be taken for play activities in and around the park, but it must
be returned to within the kindy perimeter fence by the end of each day.
As from today the kindy shed and roller door at the back of the building will both be locked. If anyone would be willing to facilitate play groups using the equipment in the kindy shed then please contact SIRA.
Colin Haskell, President
A note from SIRA to drivers
With the COVID lockdown there are more children playing on island roads, as well as pedestrians out and about.
Please remember the island speed limit: 20 kph. We ask that you drive with care, especially on steep hills and at corners. This is for the well-being of drivers and their passengers, as well as other road users.
SIRA Road and Environment Sub-Committee
Week commencing 9 August 2021
Offshore communities receive two scheduled bulky goods collections per year. These are organised by Northern Beaches Council. The next collection commences Monday, 9 August 2021. Materials must only be placed out the weekend before this date. Fines apply for illegal dumping.
Scotland Island residents: collection is from the roadside only. The maximum amount is 3 cubic metres. Do not place materials at public wharves and jetties.
Mackerel Beach residents: place materials within the temporarily fenced grassed area at the southern side of the public wharf. There will be a separate fenced section for metals.
Other western foreshore residents: place materials at the public wharves. Alternatively, if you have a private wharf waste collection service and year-round tidal access then you may place your material on your wharf/jetty/pontoon.
Preparing your material for collection:
Other points to note:
- Paint tins must be empty, with lids removed;
- Empty beanbags: put the polystyrene beads in a strong plastic bag, expel the air and seal;
- small items (anything smaller than a toaster) should be placed in unwanted bins/crates/boxes.
- Liquid or business waste;
- E-waste, specifically TVs and computers;
- car parts, tyres, oil, outboard motors;
- sheet glass, mirrors, glass tables;
- building material, including insulation, bricks, rubble, asbestos;
- hazardous waste, including smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, gas canisters, chemicals, paint and car batteries;
- vegetation, recyclable material, household garbage.
for Northern Beaches Council advice on recycling and disposal of difficult waste, including eWaste and hazardous material. Additional information for Scotland Island residents can be found here
, and for western foreshore residents can be accessed here
Census night is Tuesday, 10 August
Households should receive a paper census form. If you haven’t then you can still complete your census online: click here
Please participate in the census. (It’s compulsory, anyway.)
The government says that the information is used to make decisions about transport, schools, health care and infrastructure. What they don’t mention is that I need the data for interesting PON articles.
Saturday 18 September, 5:00 – 7:30 pm
To buy your tickets, click here
Furnished one bedroom apartment available for casual renting: 111 Richard Rd, Scotland Island.
Rent negotiable: reduced rent in exchange for some garden maintenance, labouring, etc.
Contact Robyn and Tim, 9979 1096 or 0417 215783.
I’ve lived on the island for 8 years and my parents are moving off the island but I’d like to stay. I’m looking for a small studio/granny flat for a 6 – 12 month lease, starting anytime August or September.
I’m employed full time, a non-smoker, have no pets and am reliable. Thanks, Jack 0468 582201.
|Large modular 4 seater brown leather lounge for sale, good condition $350
||Corner IKEA desk with book shelves, very good condition $40 (doesn’t include drawers)
||Two-seater lounge, good condition, really comfortable $75
|Outdoor side table, needs some TLC, but a really pretty table $15
||IKEA wooden wardrobe with 5 interior shelves, excellent condition $30
||Near new sun loungers with black cushions and weatherproof covers, excellent condition $140 each ($220 each new)
If you are interested in any of the above items, please call Claire on 0479 072 200.
My septic system needs pumping out. If anyone has a similar need and would like to share the costs, please contact me.
SIRA is looking for two filing cabinets (preferably four drawer) in which to keep its document archives. If you feel able to donate one or two cabinets to SIRA then please email me.
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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)