Wyong Wood Chopping

A meeting of local woodchoppers of the Wyong and Yarramalong district, c1900.

A meeting of local wood choppers of the Wyong and Yarramalong district, circa 1900.

It was like “knocking off work to carry bricks”! The timber cutters would come down from the mountains to Wyong in their hundreds on Saturdays to get supplies and to relax. Many (but not all) would go to the hotels and drink pretty heavily; and they would take plenty of liquor back with them to their camps in the hills to last them for the coming week. It was good business for the hotel keepers.

Wood chopping became a popular sport on Saturday afternoons in hotel yards, or in paddocks, and later at the Warner Sports Ground in Wyong after it was opened in 1907.

The Referree, 14 October 1903

Woodchopping contest at Yarramalong. The Referee, 14 October 1914.

Woodchopping contest at Yarramalong. The Referee, 14 October 1914.

Gosford Times, 15 December 1905

The Axeman’s Club looks forward to giving next Saturday one of the best wood chopping contents that have yet been seen in the district, which is saying a lot considering the successful events we have witnessed during the last year or two. The number of entries totals 60 – a record surely in itself. All the champions are coming so the event will be sure to attract a “bumper house”. Now, Mr Charlton, M.P. has promised to be present, and other representative men are also expected. The squaring contest will probably be one of the best that has ever taken place. The conditions are – the best two sleepers, the time limit being twenty minutes. The winner’s sleepers are to be sent by the Australian Timber Export Co. Ltd. to the Indian Exhibition. All competitors are to be admitted to the ground free. The club has now eighty members, and has prospects which must be very gratifying to those who have worked so hard during the few months it has been in existence.

Singleton Argus, 25 August 1906

1906-08-25_Singleton Argus_Woodchip Singleton Show

Notice of the handicaps for the wood chopping at the 1906 Singleton Show. Many of the names listed are Wyong and Yarramalong Valley identities. Singleton Argus, 25 August 1906.

Wood chopping became a popular event at regional shows. There was often good prize money to be had and our “gun” timber cutters were willing to travel as far afield as Newcastle, Maitland, Sydney and Bathurst to compete.

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 SOURCES: A Pictorial History of the Wyong Shire, Volume 1-5, Edward Stinson; Trove Digital Newspaper Archive.

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Five Woodbury Flowers

These ladies were the daughters of Matthew James Woodbury pioneer inn-keeper and timber-getter of the Wyong district, and his wife Eliza O’Neill. They are seen here dressed-up at a flower show in about 1904, All five were deeply involved in raising funds for the building of their church, and for various local charities. Matthew and Eliza also had two sons, Edwin and William Bernard Woodbury. A sixth daughter Elizabeth died in her infancy.

These ladies were the daughters of Matthew James Woodbury, pioneer innkeeper and timber-getter of the Wyong district. Seen here dressed up at a flower show in about 1905, they were deeply involved in raising funds for the building of their church, and for various local charities. A sixth daughter died in infancy. Back L-R: Alice Gertrude (known as Olive, Mrs Michael Hogan); Ethel Lilian (known as Lily, Mrs William Baldwin); Maud Mary (Mrs Thomas Lloyd); Front L-R: Teresa Amy (known as Amy, Mrs William Arthur Chapman); Cecelia Ann (known as Cissy), in memory of whom Wyong’s St Cecelia’s Catholic Church was named.

Five Woodbury girls – Back L-R: Olive Gertrude (known as Olive, Mrs Michael Hogan); Ethel Lilian (known as Lily, Mrs William Baldwin); Maud Mary (Mrs Thomas Lloyd); Front L-R: Teresa Amy (known as Amy, Mrs William Arthur Chapman); Cecilia Ann (known as Cissy).

Cecilia Ann died in 26 April 1905 in her 33rd year. Wyong’s St Cecilia’s Catholic Church was named in her memory. The following report from the Freeman’s Journal, Thursday 16 April 1908, highlights the upcoming opening of the new church.

Wyong's New Church : Freeman's Journal, Thursday 16 April 1908

Wyong’s New Church : Freeman’s Journal, Thursday 16 April 1908

St Cecelias Catholic Church, Wyong, circa 1910

St Cecilia’s Catholic Church, Wyong, circa 1908

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SOURCES: Trove Digital Newspaper Archive; NSW Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages Historical IndexesDiocese of Broken Bay websiteA Pictorial History of the Wyong Shire, Edward Stinson.

Kennedy’s Flat

These history notes are contributed to Valley Ventures by one of our members, Max Farley.

Kennedy’s Flat, for those who may not recognise the name, is the flat area along Yarramalong Road stretching westwards from Wyong Creek Hall almost to Boyd’s Lane. In earlier times it was a popular place for picnics and sporting events such as horse racing and wood chopping competitions.

Kennedy's Flat, Wyong Creek. [Google Maps]

Kennedy’s Flat, Wyong Creek. [Google Maps]

The name comes from that of William Kennedy about whom little is known other than that he was one of the very first Valley settlers. He came to the Valley in about 1854 and had 100 acres which included Kennedy’s Flat which is now dissected by Yarramalong Road.

The information about him in these notes is based on probabilities rather confirmed fact. What appears to be his death record says he was born in Ireland in 1814. It is likely he came freely to Australia in 1841/42. Why he did so is not known. Beryl Strom’s book History and Heritage (1982) merely says he was “of Sydney”.

Before residing in the Valley he married Margaret McGuire in 1851 when he was 37 and she 32. This marriage is recorded at St Marys Cathedral. Margaret, too, was from Ireland and was born in 1819. The records say she had been here for 56 years when she died in 1908. This suggests her marriage and arrival dates coincided. It is not known (to the writer anyway) what brought her to Australia. William and Margaret had three children – Mary in 1852, Annie in 1857 and a son, Edward Charles “Ned” Kennedy in 1863. Mary’s birth was registered in Sydney and Annie’s in Gosford. There is no official record of Edward’s birth but a handwritten note in the family Bible says he was born in Wyong on 5 March, 1863. For even more reasons unknown, his presumed father, William, seems to have moved alone to Maitland at about the time of Edward’s birth. He reportedly died there twelve months’ later.

In 1865 his widow, Margaret, married Simon Waight whose name was sometimes given as “Waite” or “White”. Margaret was a well respected Wyong Creek resident and known locally as “Granny White”. Historian Charles Swancott (Blue Gum Flat To Budgewoi, page 80) said that she “introduced blackberries to Wyong Creek”. Not something to be proud of but possibly untrue. The weed was introduced to Australia in the 1830s and quickly spread. It is difficult to believe it was unknown in the Valley until 1855 though the Valley’s isolation may have been a factor. Margaret and Simon were to be buried in Yarramalong Cemetery with the headstone showing them as Simon and Margaret Waight. Her death record, however, has her as Margaret White. They had a son, George, who remained in the Valley.

Kennedy family historians still have work to do (some has already been done and is reflected in these notes) to confirm the birth and death details of William Kennedy and the birth information of son Edward Kennedy. Edward was well known and highly respected in the Valley and continued to live at Kennedy’s Flat. In 1905 he and his wife, Nellie Waters, had three of their children die within weeks of each other from what the Gosford Times of 31 March claimed to be cholera though the diagnosis is doubtful. The children are buried in Yarramalong Cemetery. They had other children most of whom retained a connection with the Wyong area. It is believed the original Kennedy home was replaced in about 1907. The very recognisable home, much extended, remains at 878 Yarramalong Road.

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SOURCES: Max Farley; Wyong Museum & Historical Society Archives; Google Maps.