Fun things todo Broulee Island

 Fun things todo Broulee Island

Broulee Island

Before you begin your walk around the island, I would ask you to sit on the warm sand for a few minutes and contemplate the scene before you. Imagine what this tranquil little bay looked like when it was an important port, indeed the only safe port between Jervis Bay and Eden, in the 1840s and thereabouts.

It would have been bustling with activity, a small coaster or two at anchor, another being loaded, perhaps a whaler provisioning, rowboats ferrying people and small freight, all the signs of a busy little port.

Contain your excitement for a moment, for Mr McAuley's hotel was probably no different from many others of its era in this rapidly developing colony: a common room for eating and drinking, a couple of sleeping apartments, one for men and the other for women, and perhaps a room for the occasional rich or important travellers. The kitchen would have been set separately and, as beds were a luxury, the guests would have slept on straw palliases, sharing their repose with those irritating little insects that rapidly colonise communally used bedding. You know what I mean. But it provided a welcome meal, talk and friendly faces for those needing rest and a last taste of civilisation before pressing on inland by faintly marked bridle paths that threaded a precarious track through the mountains to the Monaro, or setting forth to take up land and find work round the few coastal villages.

Fun things todo Broulee Island [continued]

Broulee was surveyed in March 1837 and gazetted in September of the same year – bureaucracy worked fast in those days, didn't it? The port went ahead quite rapidly and reached the peak of its importance in 1848, mainly because the harbour was deep enough to take vessels of up to 60 tons, even anchoring and loading some bound for Europe. Boats of over 20 tons couldn't cross the Moruya River bar so the potatoes and wheat produced on the river flats were punted along the coast to Broulee, a hard and dangerous way of moving freight, and one that took at least five lives. Spare a thought for the strength and courage of those puntmen of whom we know: Archibald McLean of Moruya Heads and Abraham Maleber (or Malaber) of Pompey Point. McLean went on to build boats on the Moruya River; we don't know much about Maleber except that his 42-year-old wife was buried on Broulee Island in 1842, and Malaber Weir carries his name.

Fun things todo Broulee Island [continued]

Broulee port was not without its dramas. At 6 p.m on 13 October 1841 the 'Rover', returning from Eden to Sydney and running ahead of a storm, poles bare and sails in ribbons, ducked in to shelter in the port.

The captain, who did not know the harbour, anchored in an unprotected part and chose to ignore the advice of Captain Stevenson to move to a safer anchor. Overnight the 'Rover' drifted onshore at the mouth of Candalagan Creek and was a complete wreck within a few hours. The doughty old Captain Stevenson and McAuley the hotelkeeper led the rescue operation and each person who leapt from the ship was fished out of the water and passed along a human chain to safety; altogether ten people and two bodies were brought ashore. The aboriginals who assisted in the rescue were at the head of the chain, presumably a pretty unsafe place to be, they were the 'fishers' as it were, and the good Captain Oldrey presented them with tin plaques in recognition of their efforts.  

Fun things todo Broulee Island [continued]

The village of Broulee was of little importance; at its height in 1848 there was a lockup and court house and four houses with a total population of 22 people. When the port fell victim to two new developments in the early 1850s, the area declined as rapidly as it had risen, the population melted away, the hotel was moved to Moruya and the houses, courthouse and lockup were dismantled and carried away by those in need of building materials. What were the developments that spelt the end of Broulee? Firstly, the Moruya river mouth opened naturally and became navigable by vessels up to 40 tons and that was followed by the opening of the Braidwood district goldfields. The Clyde River and the river port of Nelligen were more convenient to service the trade over the Clyde Mountain to Majors Creek and the interior. So no vessels anchored in the little port anymore and the few Broulee residents wandered off to find work elsewhere. The township's short life was over and it settled down to wait quietly till the next wave of migrants discovered its charms and made it their own.

Fun things todo Broulee Island [continued]

Now the island drowses quietly in the care of National Parks and all that remains of its brief glory are the remnants of footings of the old hotel and the rusting remains of some steel rails that may have been some sort of jetty. Sooty Oystercatchers patrol the rock platform with all the steady dignity of a convention of undertakers enjoying morning tea, often joined by one or two grey phase Eastern Reef Egrets, shoulders hunched forward as they search for crabs in the little runnels and overhangs. All the usual woodland birds can be heard and seen in the scrubby undergrowth and few windworn trees, while the centre of the island makes a fine viewing spot for seabird watching. The incoming White-bellied Sea-Eagle's wings almost brush your shoulders as it sails over with the afternoon's catch in its talons. At the inner edge of the rock platform, the rock face is decorated with small bronze plaques honouring some past Broulee residents, all of whom seem to have 'gone fishing'. Admittedly, it is a very nice place to go fishing for the final time. And to walk around and muse over its past life.

With thanks to the author of this piece

'Fun things todo Broulee Island'

Jill Whiter,

Guerilla Bay

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