Do you have a local history story to tell?

Story to Tell.indd

To acknowledge the pioneers and settlers of the Central Coast during our Pioneers Centenary year, our members are gathering snippets and stories of our men, women and children from the Wyong District.

We are looking for stories about local families – pioneers, settlers, local soldiers and those who returned from WW1 and settled locally.

We want to hear your memories of growing up on the Central Coast, as well as copies of letters, postcards, photos and any other related stories.

Wyong District Pioneers Logo_Colour

Wyong District Pioneers Association
Alison Homestead, 1 Cape Road, Wyong 2259
PO Box 241, Wyong NSW 2259



Pioneering Personalities: James “Jimmy” Waters (1834­‐1903)

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

James “Jimmy” Waters, destined to be known as “The King of Yarramalong”, was a 21 year-old when he arrived in the Yarramalong Valley in 1856. He was with his parents, Ezekiel and Jane, together with his five surviving siblings. He had been born in Ireland and was the eldest. Ezekiel, a “stone cutter” had come to the colony from Northern Ireland in 1838 as a free settler. He was to work on building Darlinghurst Gaol. It seems government money temporarily ran out and Ezekiel was given a grant of land at Hexham. The frequency of floods in the Hunter caused him to come to Yarramalong with his family.

James very soon acquired land in the Valley in the vicinity of 304 Ravensdale Road. He called it Ravensdale Farm after a pretty valley of that name near the Waters’ home in Northern Ireland.

He appears to have been an imaginative and innovative person with a lively mind and a wide range of interests. As a farmer, he introduced “Planters Friend”, a sugar cane from which he made molasses. To crush it, he made a small mill with a wooden roller and powered by one horse. Another innovation was growing arrowroot, which he exhibited internationally and won a First Class Medal in 1876 at the Philadelphia Exhibition. In 1880 he expanded significantly by opening the first steam-powered sawmill in the district, the nearest other being at Ourimbah. It was initially at Sandy Flat below the Cemetery. He specialised in cutting “felloes” for which he designed a “Dished Circular Saw”.

James was by no means restricted to rural activities. He took great interest in the political and economic affairs of the day and presided over or actively participated in public meetings at which issues of the day were debated. Such controversial questions as Free Trade, Protectionism, Land Tax and Federating the State colonies were on the agendas. On these and other matters he was a frequent writer of “letters to the Editor”. Religion was a topic on which he had firm opinions. Though his father was a staunch Presbyterian, James himself was always ready to argue in favour of his own atheism.

Community questions received his attention. When the route of the coming railway was being considered he was active in stirring up action to have it travel through Gosford rather than Windsor as was being proposed. At a public meeting in Gosford in 1878 James “in a very able speech, MOVED: That the most direct route, and the one possessing the most general benefits, is from Newcastle, passing through Brisbane Water, and terminating on the north shore of Port Jackson”. Having in mind the bad state of Yarramalong Road, particularly in wet conditions, it was important to the settlers that the Bumble Hill Road be improved. James took part in a deputation to the Government seeking funds for this purpose. On a different topic altogether it was James who seconded a motion at the public meeting where it was resolved to open a subscription list to support the Irish Famine Relief Fund.

James was a Magistrate, a member of the Public School Board of Education for the sub-district Wyong and a Trustee of the Yarramalong General Cemetery.

There were no doctors in the Valley and James provided basic medical aid. Not only did he pull teeth and stitch cuts – he also set broken limbs. It is told that when a daughter, Stella, was badly scalded he took skin from other of his children and grafted it on to her.

He was a genial soul who enjoyed spending time with his contemporaries. An item in the Gosford Times recorded that in later life “After tea the irrepressible ‘Jimmy’ Waters makes his appearance on the scene (and) at once strikes up a controversy. He is never happy unless he is arguing the point, and he will converse with mysterious wisdom on any subject from the affinity of atoms to the immortality of the soul”. The “scene” referred to was the Yarramalong Inn, owned by his younger brother William “Billy” Waters. It was burnt down in 1917 and the publican’s son, Cleve Waters, built Linga Longa Guest House on the site. The building remains today.

James Waters and his wife Pricilla Woodbury. Photo source: Steve Waters.

James Waters and his second wife Pricilla Woodbury. Photo source: Steve Waters.

Though it is painful to record information about a person who in all other ways would be seen as an outstanding individual no matter what the century, it is necessary to do so to present a rounded picture. Social values and the expectations of women, and men too, in the 1800s were vastly different from those of today. And reliable birth control was not available. 21st century eyes would be aghast to know he fathered 17 children from two wives. He married the 16 year-old Barbara Thompson in 1854 and they had 9 children in the following 18 years. She died in 1872 in childbirth bearing the ninth. Her age was 34. He then married 22 year-old Priscilla Woodbury in 1881 and they had eight children in the next 18 years. James died in 1903 and Priscilla outlived him by 53 years.

To conclude on a positive note: at the 1929 Annual Pioneers Dinner, the 97 year old William Pescud said that “he knew all the pioneers of the district and that in his opinion no kindlier man than the late James Waters ever lived.”

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 SOURCES: Max Farley; A Pictorial History of the Wyong Shire, Volume 1-5, Edward Stinson.

Who are the pioneers and settlers of the Central Coast?

Wyong District Pioneers Logo_Colour

Are you one? 

This is a question anyone can ask.

At the Wyong & District Pioneers Association meetings and dinners, a few lines penned by Lorna Clayton are recited:

They toiled before sun rise,
And long after it had set.

They helped to build the nation,
Our pioneers we should not forget.

This ode echoes the motto of the Pioneers – “No pioneer will ever be forgotten.”

These men and women were our ‘originals’ who took up selections, received grants from the government, cleared the virgin bush to make way for the first farms and settlements in Australia.

In 1914 a group of adventurous pioneering men who had contributed so much to the growth of the Wyong and Tuggerah Lakes District, met at the Grand Hotel, Wyong for the first pioneers get-together. Two informal dinners were held that year.

Then in 1915, the first official Brisbane Water District Pioneer Association dinner was held which included the Wyong area. There were forty present at the first dinner in 1915 and many recalled their experiences of “the good old days”.

There were a few years during WWI and WWII when dinners were not held, but the annual gathering of pioneers and their descendants continued well into the 1950s. The association disbanded after one of the last original members, Gersh Baker died; but was later renewed by his son Mick Baker, as the Wyong & District Pioneers Association, which continues to this day.

These pioneers blazed the way for new settlers who arrived in the early 1900s when land was sub-divided into small farm holdings. These settlers brought with them new names, skills and experiences to add to our rich history.

In every decade since, there have been new settlers who have planted roots and made their mark on our district. Many pioneer and settler family names live on through their descendants.

Anyone moving into the Wyong shire these days is undoubtedly one of our newest settlers – many moving into new estates, schools, businesses etc. They and their descendants will continue to build on our rich heritage, generation after generation.

Where do you fit – are you a pioneer, descendant, or a new settler?

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Written by Faye Maloney

Blue Gum Flat Eleven v. Wyong Eleven – June 1878

This is a supplement to our post last month Wyong Eleven v. Blue Gum Flats Eleven – April 1878. Below is the account of the follow-up match at Blue Gum Flats (now known as Ourimah); as reported in The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, Saturday 22 June 1878.

Brisbane Water and Wyong District Cricketers

Four of our pioneer cricketers, L-R: Edward Hawkins, Robert Izzard, John Robley and James Buscombe. It was John Robley who with George Henry Taylor organised the first cricket match on the Central Coast played at Gosford in January, 1858.
[Original Photo: Miss Dorothy Garratt, Epping]



A recent match between the two Brisbane Water Cricket Clubs, generally known as the Wyong C.C., and the Blue Gum Flat Eleven (the former including the cricketers of Wyong, Yarramalong, and Cooranbong; and the latter the cricketers of Blue Gum Flat and Ourimbah) having terminated at Wyong place in a victory for the Blue Gum Flat, a return match was projected, and came off, at Blue Gum Flat, on the 31st of May and the 1st of June. In this amicable contest the “Wyongers” honorably retrieved their lost laurels, and inflicted a defeat on their sturdy opponents. The attendance throughout was good, and the play highly creditable to both of these clubs. The weather was only tolerable during the first day, but the rain, which came on about one o’clock p.m., was happily not continuous, and cleared off, after damping the spirits of both parties for an hour or two. Several visitors from Gosford, Wyong, and other places in the district, attended this match, which was played in the grounds adjoining to the Blue Gum Flat post office and store, kept by Mr. E. Wamsley. Mr. Robley, captain of the Blue Gum Flat Eleven, having won the toss, sent his opponents to the wickets, to contend against the bowling of himself and Mr. Izzard. The Wyongers, however (and especially Lewis and Bardin) played remarkably well, and were not disposed of until they had made a score of 41 – effected in good cricketing style, and showing great skill in batting.

At the end of this innings a smart shower came on, and all parties wisely adjourned to luncheon, in a tent near the post office; Mr. Reeve, the Police Magistrate, presiding. When the rain was over, and the players duly refreshed, Mr. W. Waters, the captain of the Wyong Club, placed his men, and the B.G.F. Eleven took their turn at the wickets. They did not (any of them) remain long bat in hand, the bowling of Lewis and of Bardin being altogether too much for them. They could only make 28 runs. This ended the first innings on either side, the rest of the evening being devoted to social festivity.

At the dinner, the chair was occupied by W. Allison junior, supported on his right by Mr. Lewis, and on his left by Mr. Robley. Several good speeches were made, the toasts done honor to being “The Queen,” “The Two Clubs,” “The Scorers,” “The Umpires,” “The Host and Hostess (Mr. and Mrs Wamsley),” and “The Ladies.” After dinner, in the large room at the back of the store, dancing began, and was kept up till the following morning.

At eleven a.m. on the 1st instant the clubs resumed play, and although the Blue Gum Flat Eleven did well, they were unmistakably defeated; the Wyong C.C. making 27, and the Blue Gum Flat C.C. making 33. The Wyong team thus won the match by eight runs. The following analysis will show the state of the game:

Blue Gum Flat v Wyong_May 1878

Game statistics for the Blue Gum Flat v. Wyong cricket match played 31 May – 1 June 1878. [The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, Saturday 22 June 1878]

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Sources: Wyong Museum & Historical Society Archives; A Pictorial History of the Wyong Shire, Volume 1, Edward Stinson; Trove Digital Newspaper Archive.

Arson attack razes Alison Homestead

Message from Wyong District Museum and Historical Society President (2011), Phil Morley – December 2011.

In the early hours of Saturday morning,  3rd December 2011, our beautiful heritage building (Alison Homestead) which housed our Museum was burned to the ground by the hand of an arsonist.

Historic Alison Homestead ablaze in 2011 after being set alight by an arsonist. [Picture: Steve Broomham]

Historic Alison Homestead ablaze in 2011 after being set alight by an arsonist. [Picture: Steve Broomham]

We are all quite devastated, sad, and angry at losing many wonderful pieces of history given to us by the descendants of the pioneering families of our area. A loss caused not by a tempest, or an electrical fault, but by someone who had no regard whatever for the early history of Wyong, no regard for a beautiful homestead in a beautiful setting, and no regard for the feelings of those volunteers who, over the years, worked so hard to turn a derelict building into the showcase it became.

Fire crews extinguish the blaze at Alison Homestead on 3 December, 2011. [Source: News Limited]

Fire crews extinguish the blaze at Alison Homestead on 3 December, 2011.
[Source: News Limited]

The community of Wyong, other Historical Societies in our area, and even total strangers have contacted us to express their sympathy and offer their assistance – we always said that anyone who visited our Museum immediately fell in love with the house, and the surrounding gardens maintained by our volunteers, and we were right. In our hour of desolation, they have rallied around us.

We have begun the difficult task of salvaging what can be saved, evaluating our assets and auditing what has been lost.

We have begun the difficult task of salvaging what can be saved, evaluating our assets and auditing what has been lost.

This is not the end of the Wyong Museum, or the Historical Society. The will to continue is strong, and our volunteers are determined to move forward as soon as practicable.

In the meantime, you can communicate with us by email at, or by post to: Wyong District Museum & Historical Society, P.O. Box 241, Wyong 2259.

History lost to arsonist

Reposted article by Errol Smith, Central Coast Express Advocate, 07 December 2011

Click on the images below to enlarge for reading.

Central Coast Express Advocate Wyong, December 7th 2011, Page 1

Central Coast Express Advocate Wyong, December 7th 2011, Page 1

Express Advocate_P3_20111207

Central Coast Express Advocate Wyong, December 7th 2011, Page 3

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Source: Central Coast Express Advocate Wyong, December 7th 2011 []