September 28 - October 4, 2014: Issue 182
Oystering in the Pittwater Estuary - Oyster Kings and Pearl Kings and When Not to Harvest Oysters
A day's picnic on Clark Island, Sydney Harbour, 1870 by Montagu Scott: Image No.: 971384, courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales -
`Mr Scott's picture we understand represents a large body of picnickers who have landed on New Year's Day on Clark Island ... To the left of the picture two or three young ladies are waiting for oysters which one of the party is knocking on a rock, while near at hand some lady of scientific turn of mind is spearing some "wonder of the deep" with her parasol. At the rear a quiet little flirtation is going on by two ladies sheltered beneath the umbrella which also serves to conceal the proceedings from their parents on th right. They have not however escaped the watchful eye of "mamma" who is calling to the attention of "pappa" to the state of affairs. The old gentleman though is not the least happy of the party, cannot leave his business proclivities behind and has been deeply immensed probably in the commcerial column of the Herald. Grouped near at hand are others tempering the sunny heat by libations of champagne. More substantial fare is avalable to the right, of which young colonials are partaking with a small lump of rock for a dining table. On the sands in the foreground a gentleman is inducing his dog to take a bath, while in the centre of the pricture a pair who have been "out for a row" are disembarking from their boats. To the extreme right last but not least is depicted a little "umbrella courtship" bespeaking that passion which is as old as the hills, and which will endure as long' - Reference: Sydney Illustrated, Sept. 6 1870, pp. 43-44.
Oystering in the Pittwater Estuary - Oyster Kings and Pearl Kings and When Not to Harvest Oysters
It may not seem so now with prices of oysters fetching between $3.00 and $6.00 per oyster but once upon a time oysters were considered working class fare; they weren't that cheap if buying them, ranging from two shillings (20 cents) each to 23 shillings for a dozen, but they were abundantly available if you went and procured them for yourself. The profusion of reports of shells being burned for lime here, or carried by coasters from Pittwater and Broken Bay to Sydney to be used in construction of an infant colony attests to the amount of oysters that once grew in Pittwater. The word "lime" originates with its earliest use as building mortar and has the sense of "sticking or adhering", and the bulk of lime produced in this way was made from oyster shells.
Middens created by indigenous inhabitants, and also carted off wholesale for the lime makers, once marked the places where feasts took place.
Shells, 545 bushels, from Pittwater.-VESSELS EXPECTED IN SYDNEY. (1849, March 26). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12902448
John Mitchell, from Pittwater, with 600 baskets shells - SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE. (1857, June 13). Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1875), p. 4. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64985714
Charles De Boos in his series of 1861 articles collated as 'My Holiday' gives one of our first insights into the profusion of oysters that once grew naturally in pristine Pittwater estuary bays and foreshores, although he does seem to be mistaking 'Creel Bay', or Careel Bay, from what sounds like a description of what we now call Winnji Jimmi, Winnererremy Bay and Bayview and was then known as a 'Water Maze'.
We continued our descent to the mouth of the gully, in the hope that we had seen the last of the dogs-a hope; however, that was to be grievously disappointed. By dint of sliding; slipping, and jumping, for the lower part of the range was exceedingly precipitous, we reached-I can't call it the beach, for it was here a broad muddy flat, covered with mangroves, a peculiar kind of dark green leathery-leaved tree that has the characteristic of growing only in salt water; and the young shoots of suckers of which could be seen starting up from the mud to the very verge of low watermark, surmounted in most instances by a cluster of others-a circumstance that has given rise to the assertion, at one time considered fabulous, that oysters in Australia grew on trees. There was a belt of low swamp oaks, intervening between the foot of the range and the mangrove scrub which reached to the highest high water mark, and as we came upon these we heard a loud whirr of wings, accompanied by the clapping together of the pinions, that always denotes the flight of a pigeon. Tom's eye was on the bird, and he followed it until it rested on a limb of one of the swamp oaks.
Right: oysters growing up a mangrove at Careel Bay - September 2014. A.J.G Picture.
"A wonga wonga, by Jupiter!” he exclaimed, and, taking a steady aim, he fired, the feathers from the bird fell down in a shower, whilst the bird himself flew away into the thick brush of the gully, not unharmed, as many of the feathers were stained with blood. However, we did not get him, and that was enough for me. Not so for Tom, for he persisted in hunting up the feathers, in declaring that the bird must have been skinned by the shot, and in wondering however it could have got away. I was quite used to all that sort of thing, for I had tried the same dodge myself when I hadn't bagged my game, so I put down my gun, walked quietly down to the rocks, and commenced opening and eating the oysters with which they were covered in the greatest profusion.
So soon as Tom perceived the occupation in which I was engaged, he ceased his wonderings, and his declarations, and, laying his gun aside, joined in the same interesting employment. He found it, however, too tedious work, to open them one by one with a common pocket knife, the more particularly as the shells were guarded with sharp edges that cut like a razor, so that a slip was almost sure to result in a gash of the fingers. Before he had managed half a dozen, his hands were bleeding from a score of cuts, and he gave up in disgust. In the meantime, Frank, who had looked on our proceedings with an evident smile of pity at our want of management, had lighted a fire, for which there was plenty of material almost anywhere, and now came down to the rocks, filled his cap with oysters, and then returned to the fire, round and about which he began to arrange the shells in such a way as to roast the oysters within, and thus compel them to surrender at discretion. By this arrangement a sharp pointed bit of stick is sufficient to open them, when done to the proper turn.
"I say, Charlie," said Tom, as he watched this manouvre, "these youngsters will be some day showing us a new way of sucking eggs."
I didn't see any reason why they shouldn't, it they could find one.
" But what a muff you must have been," he replied, " not to have thought of it."
I used the tu quoque line of argument, in answer for as it is one that is a particular favourite amongst the greatest men in the great House inMacquarie-street, and as they have used it with the “most unparalleled success," as the play bills have it, I thought it could not fail with our friend Tom.
" Ah!" said Tom, when, as I imagined, I had finally shut him up, " there's where it is. If you hadn't begun, I shouldn't have followed. In fact, one fool makes many." He would no doubt have added more, equally worthy of being recorded, but just at that moment he had procured what he considered a sufficiency of oysters, and marched off with them to the fire. I stood lost in admiration at the mode in which Tom had extricated himself from this difficulty, and as I pensively gathered oysters and cut my fingers, I pictured to myself the revolution that would be effected, if Tom's genius were appreciated, and he were to obtain a seat in the House. How he would upset the Government upon every tack, brazening down their tu quogque arguments, bullying their argumentum ad kommen out of the House, and laughing their argumtutum ad miscericordiam to scorn; and I thought what pleasure it would be to report his ready saucy answers to the cold cutting sarcasms of Cowper, the ranting fiery denunciations of Robertson, the sharp biting jibes of Arnold, or the pointless would-be bitter attacks of Weekes.
Rapt in this contemplation, I for the moment forgot the business I was on, but was brought back to it rather rudely, for, treading on a mass of slimy sea-weed growing on a rock whose face sloped down towards the water, the marine vegetation crushed beneath my feet, and so became slippery as ice. The result was, that I lost my balance, my feet slid from under me, and I was shot out into about four feet depth of water, after having sustained a rude shock upon that part of the person which is considered to be the very opposite to the seat of reason, and which came into somewhat violent contact with the rock in question.
(To be continued.)
MY HOLIDAY. (1861, July 22). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13069662
(From the Sydney Mail, July 27)
The water was not deep enough to drown me, though there was quite sufficient of it to give me a thorough ducking. Politics have led many a man into hot water, but I expect that I am about the first that they have dipped into cold. Admiration of Tom's versatile genius had plunged me into politics, and politics had plunged me, if not into a sea of trouble, at all events into a sea of biting coldness. Spitting and spluttering I crawled out, and, whilst I was shaking myself, Tom, who had heard the sound of the parted waters, ran down to see what was the matter.
"What, Charlie, lad-what be'st doing?” Tom was excited, and spoke broad.
As soon as I could recover breath, I explained the nature of my misadventure though not its cause, and then Tom rattled on about the advisability of undressing before taking a bath, and the folly of attempting self-destruction in three feet of water.
"I pronounce," he said in conclusion, "a verdict of 'Fell in the sea.'"
The joke was too old to laugh at, and, besides, I was just then in no humour for jokes, and so I told him; but nothing daunted, he kept on incessantly, as he led me up to the fire. Arrived there, my garments were stripped off, wrung out, and then hung before the blaze to dry, Tom very considerately lending me his shooting coat, lest the winds "should deal ungently with me." To tell the truth, with the exception of Tom's shooting coat, I was in purus naturalibus; but as this was an out-of-the-way nook, I didn't so much mind it except for the cold breeze that every now and again come puffing down the gully. Tom perfectly gloried in my position, insisting that if I had only been black, I would have been a perfect image of King Bungarree in his robes of state, and offering to paint my portrait as then apparelled for the delectation of the selectest circle of my friends. I let him go on, whilst I drew the coat close round me, squatted in front of the fire, and roasted and ate oysters with the most perfect non-chalance.
We were thus employed in the most free and-easy manner possible, when we were startled by the mysterious appearance of Spanker, who, in the most unconcerned manner, came up noiselessly to the fire, and looked round at us one after the other, as though he would have said "Here I am. You thought you were rid of me, but you arn't." The remains and only few of the remains-of the silk handkerchief were around his neck, for by far the larger part of it had been left in the gully, to decorate the bushes; and Tom looked with rueful eye upon the wreck, but as he did not know which to abuse, the knot for holding so tight, or the dog for running away-both escaped an anathema. I rather fancy from his saying, "There-I said the knot would hold," that he was rather pleased than otherwise at the loss. But, to add to our annoyance, following Spanker were the two dogs of our host, and they certainly met with no welcome at our hands, lukewarmly as we had received the faithful Spanker. Yet, even this was not all, for just as the dogs came up, we heard a cooey from the quarter whence they had arrived, and looking round, we saw Nat descending the range on the other side of the gully, and behind him was-awful sight for me- the eldest daughter of our host !
"Here's a pretty go, Charlie," cried Tom. "You can't receive company in that dress."
I knew that without his telling me so, though for the moment I was panic stricken, and didn't know what course to adopt. Tom advised me to go back to the water and stand in it with the coat on, gammoning to gather oysters, until she was gone; but even as he was speaking I seized my half dry clothes, jumped up from the fire, and dashed off to find the shelter of some friendly rock. Luckily this was not wanting, and long before Nat and his companion came up, I had resumed my ordinary costume though not my ordinary ease of manner, for the clothes were still damp, and would feel cold whenever they touched me.
It appeared from Nat's account that he had tried to fish from off the rock, which, from having good deep water, and no minor rocks in front of it, was need as the ordinary fishing ground of the establishment, but an easterly swell had set in that morning, and by the time they had got down to the ground had become so heavy that after losing about a dozen hooks and several fathoms of snapper line, and after getting wetted through several times by rollers larger than usual that had broken on the rock, Nat had given up in despair of success. Not knowing what to do with himself, he had in desperation accepted the invitation of the daughter of the house to accompany her to Creel Bay, there to gather a tin of fresh oysters from the rocks. The indentation we had selected happened to be the nearest to the station, and they had consequently made for it, and on their road down they had encountered the dogs returning from their run after the wallabi. Then the smoke of our camp fire, and the keen scent of the dogs had put them on our track. I need not say how satisfied I was at the timely warning that had been given of their approach; though when my adventure was detailed I had to suffer a most unmerciful amount of jokes and pleasantries.
Tom and I left Nat and the sister and brother at the fire, whilst we went as we said to beat up a portion of the gully, our real object, be it said, being to get rid of them and the dogs, so that we might have the field to ourselves. By means of a log, we crossed the narrow muddy creek, that, running down from the hills, here emptied itself into the bay; and just slipping into the bush sufficiently to screen our manoeuvres, we made away for the opposite range. Our progress was very slow through the dense undergrowth, in which, after leaving the path, we became terribly entangled; whilst in order to keep out of sight, we had to make a most circuitous track in mounting the range. All this kept us a long time, so that after about half-an hour's dodging, when we came upon the clear face of the range and struck a path, we began to plume ourselves upon the excellence of our tactics. But before we had gone a hundred paces along the track, we had the mortification of finding Spanker by our side, and of seeing the other two dogs running up joyously behind him, whilst, as we paused in dismay at being thus bowled out, we heard not far off the merry ring of feminine laughter that told us as plain as possible that we had not been so successful in our evasion as we had anticipated. There was no help for it, so we resigned ourselves submissively to fate, and waited the coming up of the rear guard.
"Hallo ! " said Tom, as the brother and sister alone hove in sight. "Where's Nat ? "
"What, my mate ? " replied the young girl. "Oh, he's bolted, and gone on a voyage of discovery on his own account."
"You don't say so ?" responded Tom.
" Yes; I cooeyed to him, but he didn't take any notice," she answered, " so I just left him."
"What a Goth!" ejaculated Tom.
"Wasn't he ?" she answered; "and it seems you wanted to give us the slip, too; but were'nt quite clever enough."
Of course both Tom and I denied this most strenuously, and in answer were told that it didn't matter whether we did or not. She was going up to another cove in which the oysters were much more plentiful and far larger, than in that we had left, and hadn't the least idea of meeting us again. The cool and easy way in which this was said, was evidently exceedingly settling to Tom's vanity, and so completely shut him up, that he had not a word to reply. He therefore whistled to the dogs, and stalked on ahead, whilst I slipped quietly to the rear, only too glad to escape observation. In this order we proceeded for about half a mile along the side of a dark and heavily timbered ridge, until we came down upon a gully which opened out rather more broadly than us fellows, thereby leaving a comparatively level flat of some fifty or sixty acres of rich alluvial soil, deposited there from the hub above. (To be Continued) MY HOLIDAY. (1861, July 29). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13062989
Section from: Panorama of Taylors Point with real estate sign advertising upcoming land subdivision, Pittwater, New South Wales [picture] between 1917 and 1946, image no: nla.pic-vn6149436, courtesy National Library of Australia
Mr De Boos wasn't the only one feasting on oysters at Pittwater:
EXCURSION TO BROKEN BAY. ONE of the most attractive of the provisions made for the enjoyment of New Year's Day, was an excursion to Pittwater and the mouth of the Hawkesbury, in the Illawarra Steam Navigation Company's fast and commodious steamer Hunter. The genial fineness of the weather and the smoothness of the water, offered potent inducements to those who were familiar with all the holiday resorts in the vicinity of Sydney to pay a visit to Broken Bay. The Hunter was accordingly well filled for the trip-indeed, too well filled, as the passengers were in excess of the sitting accommodation. As the excursion was determined on several days ago, the company's largest steamer should have been engaged. There were upwards of three hundred passengers on board, and that number would have been comfortably accommodated in the Kembla. The Hunter left the Phoenix Wharf, under the command of Captain Keft, shortly before eleven o'clock, and reached Broken Bay about one o'clock. On dropping anchor off the Customs Station, Mr. Ross, the coastwaiter came on board and offered his services to pilot the steamer to a part of the Bay where the passengers would, on landing be able to visit the cave and the hole in the rock, objects of much interest to tourists. Some of the party who were acquainted with the locality, stated that that would be the best place to land the excursionists, on account of the vicinity of the cave, and also of the excellent sport obtainable in the way of shooting and angling ; it was, however, decided to take the steamer to the small inlet at Pittwater. Here the boats were lowered, and about half the passengers landed and dispelled in small groups. Most of those who had provided themselves for the excursion soon found out the most cozy nooks under the shade of the rocks, and made hearty meals in the true picnic fashion. The remainder of the afternoon was spent by some of the party in clambering the abrupt embankments and gathering the splendid ferns and palms growing in wild luxuriance; by others in fishing and oystering, and by a few in collecting sea weeds¡ while the less curious preferred a siesta in the cool shade. In the meantime, the steamer left Pittwater and proceeded for a few miles up the Hawkesbury - not far enough, however, to give the expectant excursionists a very impressive idea of the much-extolled scenery of that river. On returning to Pittwater many of the passengers went ashore and enjoyed a stroll along the beach,-the whole of the party re-embarking soon after five o'clock. A few minutes before six the Hunter steamed out of Broken Bay, and landed all her passengers in safety at eight o'clock. During the outward passage, the wind being light, the motion of the vessel was the occasion of discomfort to very few on board; but, on returning, there was rather more motion, though the sea was by no means rough, and the distressing effects were widely experienced- the more so on account of the crowded decks. As the sea voyage was little above an hour in duration, the sea sickness was looked upon as a comparatively trifling inconvenience, and, excepting that there was no band on board, it constituted the only drawback to an extremely pleasant and propitious excursion. The decided success that has attended the trips of the Kembla and the Hunter to Broken Bay will, probably, have the effect of rendering that spot a regular holiday resort in future. EXCURSION TO BROKEN BAY. (1862, January 2). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13069605
The demand and plundering of these easily available molluscs denuded some river beds closer to the city centre and created a need for regulation to develop an industry which would also produce revenue for the town of Sydney and its government:
A BILL FOR THE REGULATION OF OYSTER FISHERIES.
Whereas it is expedient to promote the growth of oysters and the improvement of oyster fisheries, Be it therefore enacted by the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly of New South Wales in Parliament assembled and by the authority of the e & me as follows : -
1. It shall be lawful for any person under a lease from the Governor which he may with the advice of the Executive Council grant for any term not exceeding years as shall be thought fit to form or lay down any artificial oyster bed or to improve any natural oyster bed on the shore adjacent to any Crown lands bordering on the sea or any estuary-and also for the owner or occupier of any lands bordering on the sea or any estuary under a like lease or for any other person with the consent in writing of such occupier and under a like lease-to improve form or lay down any such oyster bed on the shore adjacent to such lands And every such lease shall set forth the boundaries and limits of the oyster bed leased thereby and shall be in or to the effect of the schedule hereto.
2. Every person holding any such lease his executors administrators and assigns paying towards the Consolidated Revenue Fund such yearly rent for the same as the Governor with the like advice shall by such lease reserve shall hold the same as tenant for the term so granted and subject to this Act shall be entitled to use or sell all oysters the produce of such bed-but the holding of such bed shall not give any exclusive right or title to the occupation of the shore or sea ground except for the purposes of this Act nor interrupt the free exercise and enjoyment of any other light possessed by any other person in or along such shore or sea ground.
3. Every person who shall wilfully interfere with or remove oysters from oyster beds so under lease without the consent of the lessee shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding fifty pounds and shall in addition thereto pay to the lessee such sum not exceeding fifty pounds as shall appear to the convicting Justices a reasonable compensation for any injury done.
4. Every person except the lessee or some person acting under his written authority who shall within the limits assigned by any such lease by any means take or catch any oysters or oyster brood or dredge for oysters or oyster brood or use any oyster dredge or any net instrument or engine for the purpose of taking or catching oysters or oyster brood although nonesuch shall be actually taken-or with any net instrument or engine drag upon the ground or soil of any oyster bed so under lease shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding ---pounds.
6. Every person who shall during the months of January October November or December in any year sell or offer for sale any oysters shall be liable for every such offence to a penalty not exceeding ------- pounds.
All penalties under this Act may be recovered in a summary manner before any two Justices and all sums by way of compensation there under may be recovered and payment thereof may be enforced in like manner as any such penalty.
7. One half part of every penalty imposed under this Act shall be paid to the informant unless compensation shall have been awarded to him under this Act and the other half part or the whole as the case may be shall be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
8. Every conviction or order against any person under this Act shall be a full release to him from any other proceeding civil or criminal for the same cause' and may be pleaded in bar of such proceeding.
9. Every person convicted of a second or subsequent offence against this Act shall be liable at the discretion of the convicting Justices and on their order to forfeit any lease or permission granted under this Act and shall thereupon become incapable of holding any like lease or permission for five years.
10. This Act shall be styled and maybe cited as the “Oyster Fisheries Act of 1862." A BILL FOR THE REGULATION OF OYSTER FISHERIES. (1862, May 30). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13229398
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY, Tuesday, November…. The House met at 3.30 p.m. ROYALTY ON OYSTERS. In answer to Mr. O' Sullivan, the Colonial Secretary said the revenue received from the royalty on oysters during the year 1884 was £1098; 1885, £1920; and 1886, £2216. Parliament. (1887, November 16). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 3. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article108229173
The colonists came from a rich tradition of feasting on oysters in Europe where the average time for one to grow to eating size was five years. In Australia this was a mere one to two years and here too the season for harvesting as well as the varieties were identified as well as some lists for where the natural oyster beds were. From the 1850's on, when a pearling industry was established in Western Australia, one eye was kept on developing a similar industry in the eastern states as well as supplying a hungry market with a readily available food source by oyster 'fattening' beds:
ACCLIMATISATION SOCIETY OF NEW SOUTH WALES.
THE usual monthly meeting of this society was held last night at the School of Art.- Mr. J. B Bossley occupied the chair. A paper (communicated by the honourable secretary, Dr. Bennett), on the oyster fisheries of New South, by Mr. R. Emerson, was read as follows:
The oysters of New South Wales, for all partial purposes, be divided into two kinds. The mud oyster, which resembles the English oyster, is found in beds in comparatively still waters, generally unattached, in clusters of two or three, having a soft shell, easily separated, and growing to a large size. Specimens have often been found measuring twelve inches by eight, with a depth of six inches. These oysters require great care to keep them alive once taken out of the water; some of them will not survive for one day. They are not in demand, though there are extensive beds of them at several places along the coast, as at Pittwater, Brisbane Water, Botany Bay, Port Aitken, Wogonga, Jervis Bay, Sydney Harbour, and Panbula. The Western Port, Port Albert, and Port Phillip oysters in Victoria, and the Spring Bay oyster in Tasmania, are all of this species.
The other kind of oyster, whether named rock, cluster, drift, tank, whelk, channel, mangrove, half-tide, or bay oysters, are of one species, and all have in common a very hard shell; they will live out of water from three to six weeks and improve. The beds, or grounds, are all situated in salt water creeks extending inland, and communicating with rivers; or in estuaries where there is a strong tide way. They are mostly attached to each other in bushels, the roots of which are firmly fixed in the bed, some adhering to rocks, boulders, mangrove stumps, snags, and whelks, but are never found unattached. The oysters of this class will require a very different system of protection to the former.
The spawning season differs in each river, in some each bed has a different time; in many places the bank and deep water oysters differ as much as six months in their time of spawning. Some oysters have been known to spawn only once in three years, while others again will spawn two or three times In a year, but in all cases they are very much influenced by the weather; for when any are ready to spawn a cold, rainy, south-east wind setting in will throw them back for a month. The greater portion of the oyster spawn or spat that escapes destruction will be found attached to the large oysters, and when about two months old, has the appearance of a fish scale, and has but one perfect shell, the other being only partially developed, and cannot be removed from its place of attachment without destroying it. For these reasons I consider that a general close season as proposed, of three or four months in the year, would be all but useless, as no particular threes or, four months in the year will cover the spawning season of all of the oysters, and it would be very little protection to those it did cover, as directly after the close season the oysters may be taken, and from it being impossible to separate the young oysters, their destruction will be inevitable when the old ones arc removed. The proposed close time is also not a general spawning season, but occurs when most of the oysters are in the finest condition, the Camden Haven, Manning and Georges River (deep water oysters), and the Port Stephens bank oysters-spawning in May. One cause of the deterioration of certain oyster beds is, that after the regular oyster gatherers have discontinued worsing, and left them to recover, settlers and others are continually dredging, thus destroying the young oysters; another great cause of destruction is the taking of oysters and shell to burn into lime; the shell-dredges on the Hunter, for example, go to work on any part of the oyster grounds, taking up oysters and shell indiscriminately, thus not only destroying the oysters, but the oyster ground as well, removing the whole of the bed which in many instances is six feet thick of solid shell, leaving nothing to which the that can attach itself, and thus thousands of bushels of oysters are destroyed, and the beds are gradually reduced in size.
From Broken Bay there are four or five vessels constantly employed in bringing live shell, that is young oysters, to Sydney, for the lime burners; they bring about 63,000 bushels annually, in addition to which about half that quantity is burnt in the river, making a total of 97,600 bushels of young oysters destroyed every year, in that place only, and a similar destruction is taking place over nearly all the oyster grounds. Oyster beds are often destroyed by meshes in the rivers covering them with a deposit of silt; and a shift in the channel of a river will sometimes be another cause of their destruction by diverting their food. Oyster bed« are considerably improved by being properly worked, as it extends and enlarges them, and also gives the young oysters room to grow and spread, and the oysters are always of better quality and larger after the ground has been once cleared. I consider the most efficient way of protecting the oyster beds, and to ensure an efficient a never-failing supply, would be to prohibit the burning of oysters into lime; to work one-third of the oyster beds at a time, changing once every year, so that each oyster-bed will have two years' rest, which would be sufficient time to replenish themselves; and one-third of the beds properly worked would yield a supply of excellent oysters, very far in excess of the present demand. It would also be advisable to place some restriction on the taking of oysters, either by issuing licenses, or by leasing the beds for a term of years. There is much injury sustained, and thousands of bushels of oysters thrown away, from the want of some such regulation. If a new oyster bed is opened there is an immediate rush to it, the best of the oysters are forced into the market, the supply for a time by far exceeds the demand, and a large proportion of those sent up find their way to the lime kilns...It would also be desirable, if facilities could be given to persons desirous of forming artificial receiving and feeding beds for oysters, to be permitted, under certain regulations, to select suitable localities for their formation, to be legally tenured to them. By the establishment of such places, a large quantity of oysters would be saved that are at present thrown away.
The natural oyster beds of New South Wales are both numerous and extensive, I append the following list of some of them:-Tweed River : Very fine oysters, never been worked. Richmond River: Very fine oysters, never been worked. Clarence River : Small oysters, very good and extensive beds. Camden Haven: Recently opened, fine oysters, very large beds, reported able to fully supply the market for five or six years. Manning River : Fine oyster beds, worked out, but will recover themselves in two years if left untouched during that time ; has been worked out four times. Wallis Lake: Extra fine oysters, but requires a rest. Port Stephens: Numerous beds of large extent has been worked continually for fifteen years, and is still in good working condition. Hunter River: Most productive oyster beds in the colony; oysters small but very good; has been worked out five times, but always recovers with a two years' rest, is now in full work after an eighteen months' partial rest, and is supplying about one thousand bushels a week, besides probably double that quantity destroyed by the shell gatherers. I estimate the supply from the last working at 168 000 bushels. Lake Macquarie: Small extent. Broken Bay: Oysters secondary quality, unlimited in quantity; all the creeks running into it full of them; has been in constant work for the last ten years, and is still sending an undiminished quantity to the market, and of an improved quality latterly. Sydney Harbour and Parramatta River: Chiefly mud oysters, in some parts worked out, and others died out, the oysters having peris bed on the beds; there are some young mud oysters in the Parramatta River, but they are not sought after. Botany Bay: Small oysters. George's River : Very fine oysters ; requires a rest. Port Aitken : Small rock and mud oysters, none coming to market. Shoalhaven: Very good oysters but indifferent keepers. Crookhaven: Very good oysters; extensive beds. Jervis Bay: Large beds mud oysters, none sent to market. Wogonga.: Small drift and large mud oysters. Tuross River: Good oysters. Clyde River: Extensive beds of various kinds of oysters, very good when arrived at maturity, requires a two years' rest, after which it could supply 1510 bushels a-week easily for twelve months. Durross Lake: Small extent, very fine oysters, wants a rest. Panbula: Abundance of good oysters, not worked. Berramagui; Very fine oysters, large beds, not worked. Polack Lake: Large beds, never been worked. Nelson River: Large beds, never been worked. Warego Lake: Very extensive beds, never worked, been prospected and the oysters found very good. Merimbula: Good oysters, not many sent to market. Ulladulla: Large oysters and very good. Twofold Bay: Small oysters, but in great quantity. In conclusion, I may observe, that at present there is no scarcity; but, on the contrary, a redundant supply of oysters. I estimate the annual supply to Sydney at 31,200 bags, equal to 109 200 bushels, which supply could be doubled if required. The oysters fisheries find direct employment for at least 250 persons, seven small vessels, besides those brought by the steamboats. Our early export of oysters, principally to Victoria, I estimate at 46, 200 bushels, of the value of £13,500; and our home consumption at 46,200 bushels, valued at £16, 500. ACCLIMATISATION SOCIETY OF NEW SOUTH WALES. (1867, June 25). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13142866
Richard Emerson, the author of the above piece, was born about 1808 and married Mary Ann Shorter (Shorten/Shortem/Shorton), born c1813, in Wells, Norfolk. They had three sons and one daughter. Richard Emerson operated Oyster Saloons in Sydney from 1861 to 1868 when he retired and sons Albert and John took over the business. Albert also took over the leases of Thomas Holt on the Georges River, which was closed to oystering in the early 1870's due to there being none left. When the oyster leases were again opened, Albert Emerson had become the proprietor of the Sea Breeze Hotel at Tom Ugly’s and had his oyster base at O’Çonnells Bay (now Connells Point). By 1876 he had between twenty and thirty men in his employ, including some South Sea Islanders who were experienced pearl divers, and these employees gathered oysters from the foreshores as well as deeper waters.
Oyster Bay is a natural feature on the southern bank of the Georges River. The suburb which takes its name from the waterway is a picturesque residential area. Oyster Bay takes its name simply from the abundance of oysters that had been found in the bay. The name had appeared on maps prepared by Surveyor Wells in 1840. The suburb's name was officially recognised in 1933. Oyster Bay - Sydney, NSW, circa 1888 - Photographed by - James Mills, Image No.: bcp_04410, courtesy State Library of NSW.
The shift towards commercialisation also meant the beds were placed off limits to people who lived here or who may have holidayed in the area or came here as excursionists to fish and 'oyster', as shown in many of the old articles we've run on steamers visiting the area where the mention of 'parties fishing successfully' frequently appears. At Narrabeen:
Oysters. — For the term of one year from the date hereof the natural oyster beds in the Narrabeen Lagoon, county of Cumberland, are closed. Government Gazette. (1879, May 24). The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 - 1912), p. 817. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article162808811
OYSTER BEDS.— By proclamation the natural, oyster beds within the Narrabeen Lagoon, county of Cumberland, are closed for the term of one year. Government Gazette. (1880, May 26). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article108733312
PITTWATER. PITTWATER. CHARMING BLOCK OF 37 ACRES, 2 roods, 9 perches, adjoining GOVERNMENT WHARF at foot ofCHURCH POINT, having a frontage of about 3/6 of a mile to M'GARR'S CREEK and BROKEN BAY. The right to an oyster lease of 15 years, extending from northern comer of land and running south-westerly for 200 yards. Will be transferred to purchaser. BATT, RODD, and PURVES are instructed to sell by PUBLIC AUCTION, at their Booms,88 Pitt street, on TUESDAY, 14th February, 1803, at 11.30 a.m., The above-mentioned water frontage block at Pittwater, almost opposite SCOTLAND ISLAND. A DAILY COACH service between MANLY and PITTWATER. Advertising. (1893, February 2). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13895810
On the motion of Mr. MEAGHER — 'That there be laid upon the table of this House all papers, documents, communications, objections, reports, either by the local police, oyster, lessees, or residents, also reports or memoranda by the Fisheries Commissioners,-in respect to certain applications for oyster leases on the Manning River, made by William Savage Ongley, J. H. Ongley, W. S. Ongley', and George Marshall.'
On the motion of Mr. ANDERSON— 'That there be laid upon the table of this House — (1.) All reports of the inspectors of fisheries on the state of W. S. Ongley's oyster leases at Pittwater, and as to the quantity of young oysters on the leases; also as to the adaptability or otherwise of the foreshores for the purpose of laying and cultivating oysters. -2.) A return showing — (a) the number of oyster lessees at the present time, with the areas' each lessee holds; (b) the number of yards each lessee holds, with the yearly rental of. each lease; (c) also the numbers of each and every lease, with the names of all holders of oyster leases, and the names of all rivers on which such oyster leases are granted; (d) also the number and names of lessees who owe rent on leases they previously held, and who have been granted fresh leases.' PARLIAMENT. (1898, October 5). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article114048161
NEWPORT . I think the most enjoyable Christmas I ever spent,, and I have been to pretty well every resort within a hundred miles of Sydney, was at Newport. It is within easy access of town. First by steamer to Manly, and, if you cycle, there are no pleasanter rides than that to Newport. For the first ten miles there is hardly a hill worth mentioning, and the scenery going along the coastline is something which will never be forgotten, and now and then, as at Narrabeen, a lovely bit of seashore, and always a fresh breeze. The veriest novice on the wheel can do the trip in an hour; and a quarter, and refreshment may be had at several places, en route. For those cyclists who wish a longer ride, the trip from Milson's Point will be very enjoyable, though from the Spit to Manly it is very hilly. Those who do not cycle can take the coach from Manly ; fare, 1/6 each way. A really homely hotel, with sea baths and boats thrown in and a first-class table is available at a tariff of 6/ per day, so that a three days' stay can be enjoyed, with other items, such as fares, &c., at a cost of25/. The surroundings are all that could be desired. The ocean beach is about a mile away, and there are shady nooks for picnic parties. From Bushrangers' Hill a lovely view can be had by those fond of climbing, extending right along the coastline to Sydney Heads, and plenty of Xmas bells, flannel flowers, and Xmas bush to be gathered. Then there is Barrenjoey to be visited and explored by those so minded, and the boat can be well utilised in the bay, where there is plenty of fishing and oystering to be done. They are real beauties, the Newport oysters. Very likely on the Boxing Day a steamer with passengers from Sydney will pay a visit, and if you are so minded you can return by her, and add to your enjoyment. — F.H. NEWPORT. (1898, December 25). Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW : 1895 - 1930), p. 12. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article125526254
William Savage Ongley was born in Kent in 1849 and married Mary Jordan (born 1853 at Port Macquarie). They had nine children and were 'fish-curers' by trade - one of the sons, named after his father, died in a tram accident in 1899, and was prior to then engaged in his father's business interests. Mr Ongley was also one of the gentlemen consulted when modifications to how oysters were looked after came into consideration by those in charge:
DEPARTMENTAL TRICKERY. To the Editor. Sir, Knowing that your columns are always available in ventilating serious public grievances, I venture, through them, to draw attention to grievous wrong perpetuated upon myself and others engaged in the oyster trade. Attention has of late been greatly directed, to oyster culture. _ A commission has sat and a large amount of information collected from myself and others engaged in this trade (so far so good) important information (I venture to say obtainable in no other way) has been cheerfully given by us, our only objections to assist, the commission to the utmost of our ability.' The return our voluntary services has elicited has been a deliberate trap set for us by preplanning certain river a open for leasing, and getting us to apply and indicate the locality of the best oyster beds, which from our knowledge, gained by hard working experience we, and we alone, were able to point out. 'Our applications we find, are not to be recommended the 32nd section of the Fisheries Act forbids it. Why then gazette these rivers open to lease, when the authorities well know the same objection or difficulty existed then as now, and which in reality is no difficult at all, but is only made use of to throw out our applications and give the departmental officials the opportunity of serving their Own friends, and probably their own interests. Mr. Stuart has the reputation of being a just man. He has now in this matter afforded an opportunity of displaying his love of justice, and earning the gratitude of a hard-working body of men, the oyster dredgers of New South Wales, by granting them their bona-fide applications; and thus upsetting the contemptible trick attempted upon a body of men who earn their living hardly enough, and who patiently awaiting a better system of oyster culture, and relying upon the labours of the commission to that end in which they have loyally endeavoured to assist, will feel themselves shamefully tricked if their applications are thrown out. The 32nd clause is only informational, and while appearing definite and absolute is, in reality, neither one nor the other. Anyone engaged in the oyster dredging within the last 20 years will see by my name (which I am not ashamed to render) that I am fully justified in complaining of the advantage that has been taken of myself and others in getting from us valuable information, the rest of years of hard working experience, gained in following the industry as a means of livelihood. — I am, &c, WILLIAM ONGLEY, Port Jackson Oyster Saloon, Oyster-dredger.409 ½ . Pitt-street.DEPARTMENTAL TRICKERY. (1884, March 17). Evening News(Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 2. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article109873668
An Alleged Outrage. LARRIKINS AND OYSTERS. Mr. W. S. Ongley, of 207, Elizabeth-street, Redfern, has called upon us to complain of what he describes as a gross outrage, of which he was the victim on Saturday right. He says that at about 10.30 five or six of the bell-pasts and velvet cellar gentry forcibly entered his oyster saloon, and demanded to be served. He refused, and they at once began to create a disturbance. In a very short time a large crowd of people had assembled outside. The noise became greater, and one of the crowd destroyed two or three bottles of oysters. In about an hour a policeman arrived on the spot, and there our informant affirms that he caught one man, and gave another in charge for having broken the articles already mentioned. … The other man was brought up in the Redfern Police Court on Monday; but as the prosecutor was late, a charge of simply drunkenness was preferred against him, and he was allowed to go on payment of a fine of 10s. We are informed that the …. nuisance has become really unbearable in the locality, and the residents want to know to whom they are to look for protection. An Alleged Outrage. (1885, February 17). Evening News(Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 6. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111182949
Fatal Tram Accident. RIDING ON THE FOOTBOARDS, A DANGEROUS PRACTICE. The inquest relating to the death of William Savage Ongley, who received fatal injuries by being run over by a tram in Elizabeth-street on Saturday night, was continued today before the City Coroner, Mr. J. C. Moore, and a jury. The evidence adduced was to the effect that about twenty persons were standing upon the footboards of the Waterloo tram, upon which deceased was riding. In company with a young man named John Holder and a Miss Robinson, in whose company Ongley had been to the' Criterion Theatre, deceased caught the 11.10 p.m. Botany tram at Park-street. It was crowded, and, though a seat was found for the young lady, the deceased and Holder rode outside. Two trams, bound in the opposite direction, passed safely, and, as the Waterloo tram crossed Liverpool-street, a third, from Leichhardt, approached. The fireman of the latter Warned deceased verbally, and the driver blew an alarm whistle. Ongley drew back and the motor passed him safely. Apparently he leaned out again; however, for the first car struck him and he fell between the rails. He was perfectly sober at the time- The trams were stopped quickly, and Ongley, terribly injured and bleeding from the forehead, was picked up. He exclaimed, 'Oh, I'm hurt! I'm hurt!' and then became unconscious. He was placed in a cab, and removed to Sydney Hospital, where death occurred the following day, as previously reported. A verdict of accidental death was recorded. Fatal Tram Accident. (1899, January 17).Evening News(Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 6. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113702039
The oysters from Pittwater, 'of improved quality' may have been adaptable to recipes from Newport, USA:
Newport Oysters. — Remove a dozen large oysters from the shells, and put into a saucepan with their own liquor and half a teaspoonful of lemon juice. Let them get hot, but not boiling, and then take from the fire and let them cool. Drain them on a cloth and remove the beards. Take the larger half of the shell — that is, the upper half—and wash and dry them. Put them on a baking pan and into each one a teaspoonful of Bechamel sauce in each shell; put an oyster in the middle of it, and cover with more sauce; sprinkle with cayenne, cover with bread crumbs mixed with a little grated cheese and melted butter. Put in the oven for a few minutes, until heated through, and serve at once. To make the Bechamel sauce, put a pint of white stock into a saucepan with a sprig of parsley, a clove, a small bay leaf, a small bunch of herbs, and pinch of salt. A few mushrooms are an improvement, when obtainable. Boil until the flavour is extracted from the herbs, then strain it, and boil up again. Mix half a tablespoonful of arrowroot with half a pint of milk, and pour it into the stock and simmer gently for ten minutes. The sauce should always be thick, as it can easily be thinned with milk, if necessary.
Oysters en Brochette. — Put two dozen large oysters in a saucepan with a little of their own liquor and the juice of half a lemon; add a little butter. Let the oysters 'plump,' but do not boil them. Fold over each oyster a very thin slice of bacon, transfix it with a skewer, and continue until all are thus used. There should be four oysters threaded on each skewer. Place the skewers on a gridiron and grill for about two minutes on each side. PRACTICAL RECIPES. (1903, May 9). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 4 Supplement: EVENING NEWS SUPPLEMENT. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113409850
Those who applied for oyster leases after the Ongley's, in the main part resided in Pittwater or close by Manly, or were purveyors of oyster saloons, which remained popular in Sydney until the late 1920's. Many of these fishermen were naturally experts on the harvest they brought in from salt waters and the generational history of our area:
Schnapperman's Flat was on the Pittwater side, where a large colony of Chinese carried on a fish-curing business, now given up. Whilst the waters are not guarded by a licence to fish, the oyster-beds are. These are let out on lease, and the pleasure-seeker may not knockoff an 'ostrea edulis,' as the learned call the simple little bivalve about which the old boatmen seem to know so much. 'When an oyster has a family,' says a caster of nets, 'she does not have one at a time, like the elephant, nor half-a-dozen, like a cat, but she sends forth hundreds of thousands of spawn, who swim off to find a place on which to squat, and put up their own humpy. For choice, it is just at sea level, so if one gathers the oysters near the high-water mark, more will at once take up the vacant allotment, and evolve a home out of lime for themselves. In summer, the oysters are no good, being watery, and full of spawn; but Mrs. Oyster, having opened her shell, and 'shoved' out a shoal of youngsters, who have, to mind themselves from the start, soon gets back into condition.' Winter, spring, and autumn are the oysterman's harvest times, when farm profits are not coming in, so the river cocky who takes on a 'lease' has a side industry to help him along. THE HAWKESBURY SETTLER. (1905, March 4). Evening News(Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 9. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article112745420
It was shortly after the turn of this century that the practice of dredging natural oyster beds gave way to cultivating oysters as a further measure to ensure sustainability:
Oyster Leases. The new Fisheries Act has provisions dealing with oyster leases, the principal being as follows : Lands may now be leased for oyster culture for terms not exceeding 15 years at a yearly rental not exceeding £1 per 100 lineal yards.
Renewals may be granted on the application of the lease during the last year but one of the currency of the lease. Leases may be offered to tender or at auction for a term not exceeding 10 years, under certain conditions as to rental. The lessee upon payment of the first year's rent shall be deemed to be in actual and absolute possession of the area applied for before the deed of lease has been executed, and such lessee or any inspector may seize any oysters removed there from without lawful authority. Anyone found dredging for or taking oysters away from such area is liable to a penalty of £25 and the confiscation of the oysters. The lessee has the exclusive right during the currency of the lease to lay or plant oysters or dredge or otherwise secure them for sale. Cancellation of the lease may occur if the lessee within a year from the date of his lease does not carry out the conditions and cultivate the area.
Cancellation may also occur if it be proved by an inspector that a leased area is being unduly stripped of oysters, or so mismanaged as to threaten the partial or total destruction of the lease. Dredging or other taking of oysters may be stopped on a lease for a period not exceeding three years if necessary. This is a kind of closure to oystering, and heavy penalties await the 'breaker of the law. Portions of the Crown lands maybe set apart for the public to obtain oysters from, for their own use or consumption on the spot, but oysters bearing spawn inside them op having spat attached to their shell must not be touched, under a penalty not exceeding £5. Every person who gathers or burns live oysters for the purpose of converting the shells into lime, whether he be the holder of a leased area or not, is liable to a penalty not exceeding £50 for every such offence. Every person selling oysters, whether wholesale or retail, must take out a license costing £1 for the year, or 10s for the half year. The penalty for selling oysters without a license does not exceed £10. A man must produce his license on demand being made by an inspector under a penalty of £2. Any inspector may enter any fish market, shop, or dwelling, or go on board any boat, and seize or take away any unmarketable, diseased, or unconditioned oysters. Oyster Leases. (1903, January 9). The Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser (NSW : 1886 - 1942), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article127880144
IT is hereby notified, for general information, that the undermentioned persons have applied to LEASE for OYSTER CULTURE the portions of land set opposite their respective, names. Tracings, showing the positions of the several portions enumerated, may be inspected at this Department dally (excepting Saturdays), between' 11 and 3 o'clock, and on Saturdays between 11 and 12 o'clock. Any person may, by memorial to the Board of Fisheries, within thirty days from the date of tills Notice, and on grounds to be stated in such memorial, pray that leases of the portions may not be granted, J.-A. BRODIE, Secretary,
PITTWATER. ALBERT EDWARD HEATON.-100 yards, Parish Narrabeen, on the southern side of Pittwater, about 100 yards easterly from the Government Wharf, fronting Ben Crew's portion No. 20 of 80 acres. Advertising. (1904, May 4). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14617398
Albert Edward Heaton has a birth registered at St Leonards as April 17th, 1866. He passed away at Balgowlah in February 1947 and was buried in the Church of England Cemetery at Manly. He had seven children with wife Elizabeth (nee Marshall) and this may account for this activity soon after the time the laws regarding this were changing:
ILLEGAL FISHING. At the Water Summons Court today, George Glading, inspector of Fisheries proceeded against Albert Edward Heaton on an information alleging that at Narrabeen, on April 1, 1903, in breach of a proclamation under the Fisheries Act, he hauled a net for the purpose of taking and capturing fish within the limits of the Waters and area defined and described. The defendant pleaded guilty, and it was stated that it was his first offence. A fine of £5, with costs, was imposed. ILLEGAL FISHING. (1903, June 10). Evening News(Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 5. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113411999
GOVERNMENT NOTICES. Department of Fisheries, Sydney, 7th June, 1905. IT is hereby notified, for general information, that the undermentioned persons have applied to LEASE for OVSTEH CULTURE the portions of Undset opposite their respective names Tracings showing the positions of the several portions enumerated, may be inspected at this Department daily (excepting Saturdays), between 11 and 3 o'clock, and on Saturdays between 11 and 12 o'clock Any person may, by memorial to the Board of Fisheries, within thirty days from the date of this Notice, and on grounds to be stated In such memorial, pray that leases of the portions may not be granted, J. A. MOODIE, Secretary.
WILLIAM SYKES 300 yards Parish Narrabeen, on an eastern shore of Pittwater, near the northern entrance to Crystal Bay, and fronting R Melville's portion No 10 of 60 acres
WILLIAM SYKES 200 yards Parish Narrabeen on an eastern shore of Pittwater, near the southern entrance to Crystal Bay at Haystack Point. Advertising. (1905, July 6). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14708916
Pittwater - erection of a weatherboard cottage at Mona Vale Pittwater Plans at the office of Messrs. W P Martin and Company, 53 Young street, city, or Mr William Sykes, Newport. ADDITIONAL CONTRACTS. (1906, May 8). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 7. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14770112
In 1906, the year after the December race between John Roche in a 16ft one he built with other local man William D M Taylor (Don, also born in 1884 and son of Bayview gentleman Patrick Thomson Taylor and brother of Gordon Taylor ) and Queensland racing men, the Crouch brothers that another Queenslander appears on the estuary in connection with oysters, only this gentleman is renowned for being one of the primary instigators behind the pearl industry in Australia and is still called the 'Pearl King'. His application for a lot of oyster leasing of much of the foreshores of Pittwater was met with a 'nay' from those who lived here:
FISHERIES MATTERS. A meeting of the Fisheries Board was held on Wednesday, when a number of important matters were dealt with. An oyster lessee wrote in reference to 12,400 yards of oyster foreshore which he proposes to secure for fattening and cultivation beds in the Newport Arm of Broken Bay. He intended to undertake oyster cultivation on modern scientific and practical lines, and asked for authority to lay down protecting dwarf walls at various places to prevent the seas which occasionally break in the Pittwater bays from washing the oysters away. He proposed to put down some thousands of bags of oysters as soon as the desired permission was granted. The board, while approving of the scheme, found that it was a matter for the Navigation Department, and referred the question to that body. FISHERIES MATTERS. (1906, July 6). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14783997
CLOSING-UP THE FORESHORES. TO THE EDITOR OF THE HERALD. Sir,--Your excellent and well-written leading article of the 14th Inst re the Australian tourist is intended, I presume, to emphasise the fact that any effort vie can put forth to attract our own people in addition to those from abroad will be a good investment on behalf of the residents of this continent. With such ideas I readily concur, and with sound and Intelligent official supervision nothing should umala to prevent Australia (with its numerous beauty spots and health resorts, embracing a variety of climate, the worst of which Is not detrimental to health from standing out conspicuously as a place to be visited by travellers, and It is to be hoped that the small initial successes, attending the efforts of our own State will be continued at an even larger scale. This can only be done by preserving the existing attractions, If not Increasing them. But what one department is striving to do another department is rapidly undoing, perhaps unintentionally. I allude to the action of the Fisheries Department in so readily leasing the foreshores to oyster culturists, who are invading all the waterside tourist resorts wherever they can gain a footing, thus preventing travellers, periodical residents, and the public from uninterrupted access to the shores of the many beautiful bays and estuaries extending from the Tweed River to Cape Howe. From press reports I learn that Georges River around Como has been almost denuded of visitors through this action The same thing is occurring at Newport, Pittwater, one of the most beautiful and picturesque watering places in the Commonwealth, and included in the Government Tourist Bureau’s itinerary. Part of these foreshores have already been leased, and an application is now lodged to grasp the remaining available shores fronting this pretty little spot. As tourists excursionists, general public, etc , and oyster leases do not seem to thrive together they must be kept apart, and the action of keeping the public from what is considered by many their right to free access must naturally cause friction which should be obviated at all costs and this could be done by a little consideration. Oyster culturists have their rights in common with other people, and such rights should be guarded, but privileged They should not be to the detriment of others, and there are "one 01 two others" Surely plenty of space is available within the State without alienating the foreshores immediately surrounding the points of arrival and embarcation at tourist resorts to oyster lessees
Another matter to be considered is the disfigurement of the foreshores with ballast stones and notice boards erected on unsightly poles extending all round the bays, rendering navigation at night for small boats and pleasure vessels both difficult and dangerous. The present administration is certainly unsatisfactory to waterside residents and other lovers of aquatics, who In many Instances help add to the natural beauties of their surroundings by the erection of bijou dwellings and other Improvements. Pleasant surroundings often Induce monied people to settle and as every additional family settled In the State is a contribution to its wealth, they should be encouraged. Another matter is good accommodation under proper supervision, for If travellers are well pleased with their surroundings and temporary quarters they will be Induced to revisit such places. It is stated American travellers alone spend annually £20,000,000 in Europe Part of this amount might be diverted towards Australia under good advertisement and supervision. Other pertinent matters could be mentioned, but I will not at present ask you to devote more of your valuable space for same. In conclusion, I beg to note that I am not interested In tourists' or health resorts personally, such as catering for them, 0r In any pecuniary manner other than an ordinary member of the community having our welfare at heart I am, etc , JOHN B. NICOLL. Newport, July 16. CLOSING UP THE FORESHORES. (1906, July 21). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14787660
Objections to Extensive Oyster Leases.-Recently the Fisheries Board decided to lease 10,000 yards of foreshore In Pittwater to an enterprising man for oyster-fattening beds. The area was not continuous, but scattered round Pittwater, Bayview, Newport, Careel Bay, The Basin, and Saltpan Point. Several objections were, however, resolved to the leasing, residents having water frontages urging that there would be depreciation of their property, interference with their water approach, and deprivation of net-fishermen by taking away their hauling grounds. They also pointed out that unsightly stakes and stones would be laid on the leases in connection with oyster culture, and that the sewage from houses round this arm of Broken Bay would make the oysters dangerous food. Mr. F. Farnell (chairman of the board) and Mr. J. A. Brodie (chief inspector) paid a visit to the place a few days ago to Investigate the validity of the objections, and reported that none of the objections was tenable. Provision had been made for boat access to properties abutting on the lease, the hauling grounds were not to be leased, the Navigation Department had no objection to the erection of ballast walls to protect the oyster banks at Careel Bay and Saltpan Point so long as they did not extend further out than low water mark, and there was no danger of the oysters becoming affected by sewage. With this report before It the board decided to grant the majority of the leases, but set apart Towler's and Lovett's Bays and other parts used by the public for public oyster reserves.FRANCE REFUSES SOCIALISM. (1906, August 4). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14791145
OYSTER LEASES AND PUBLIC RIGHTS. AN EMPHATIC PROTEST. Dr. R. Arthur, M.L.A., introduced a deputation to the Chief Secretary yesterday respecting the alienation of foreshores for oyster leases at Pittwater. The case was succinctly put by the introducer, and Messrs. T. A. Dibbs, J. T. Swanson, F. Jackson, Trevor Jones, and J. B. Nicoll. They explained that Pittwater was one of the beauty spots near Sydney, and one of its chief attractions was the ease of access to the water's edge, its yachting area, and camping spots. The local people were disturbed at finding that application had been made for oyster leases all round Pittwater near population centres and recognised holiday resorts, to which the public had had access ever since settlement had taken place in the State. To take away these for oyster leases was, it was urged, an unnecessary and uncalled-for proceeding. The small amount of revenue derivable from the leases would not be worth considering. Oyster lessees have been given the right to erect poles and retaining walls, which would restrict navigation, and they had already ordered the public off their leases. The deputation asked that five or the leases, at least, should be refused, notably, M'Carr's Creek entrance, Kuring-gai Chase, and the Basin or Coaster's Retreat. Altogether 16,500 yards of lease were to be granted, and the public would have 16,500 yards less of foreshores to land on, while those who had purchased properties at Newport lately would not have water access to their land.
Mr. Hogue: No one had any right to order the public off the proposed leases.
Mr. T. A. Dibbs pointed out that the Ku-ring-gai Chase trustees and the Fisheries Board had overlapping control of the foreshores of the park. At Coal and Candle Creek a few years ago all the oysters were cleaned out by someone's authority.
Mr. Trevor Jones said that section 4S of the Fisheries Act, relating to leases, left it open for existing lessees to give the public much trouble if they accidentally trespassed on the leases or disturbed the oysters.
Dr. Arthur: Can the people who ordered the public off the foreshores be punished fordoing so?
Mr. J. T. Swanson said that the Fisheries Board had an inspection of the leases recently, but did not let the objectors know; they were coming.
Mr. Hogue, In reply, said he would not express any opinion as to whether those who ordered people off the leases could be punished, but they had no legal right to do so. The Fisheries Board was charged with the administration of the Act, and he had been prepared to grant the leases on its recommendation, but when Mr. James Clarke's applications for leases came before him, and were followed by the objections, he suspended their issue till he heard more from the people most concerned. He had to encourage the oyster industry on the one hand and see that settlement of the people was not retarded on the other. People could not be given a right to wander all over the leases when they were granted. If they were, the oysters would soon disappear. Mr. Clarke was an enterprising man, who had made a life-long study of oyster culture, and it was his duty to give him encouragement. At the same time the granting of the leases did not give the lessee the right to warn people off. He would meet the objectors by not granting the leases at the Basin and on Ku-ring-gai .Chase, and would consider others, but the majority of the leases did not inter-fere with the public enjoyment, and would be granted. OYSTER LEASES AND PUBLIC RIGHTS. (1906, August 23).The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14797671
IT is hereby notified for general information the undermentioned persons have applied to LEASE for OYSTER CULTURE the portions of leases opposite their respective names. Tracings, showing the positions of the several portions enumerated may he inspected at this Department dally (excepting Saturdays), between ll and S o'clock, and on Saturdays between ll and 12 o'clock. Any person may, by memorial to the Board of Fishers within thirty days from the date of this notice, and on grounds to be stated In such memorial, pray the that leases of the portions may not be granted:
J. A. BRODIE, Secretary.
THOMAS TEMPLEMAN.-300 yards-Parish Broken Bay.-At the eastern end of Little Pittwater Hauling Ground, and extending easterly, THOMAS TEMPLEMAN.-300 yards-Pariah ' Broken Bay. At the Western End of Little Pittwater Hauling Ground, and extending westerly.
JAMES CLARK.- 500 yards-Parish Broken Bay-On the northern side of Lovett Bay, Pittwater, extending westerly from a point adjacent to the stonewall and wharf near the south-western corner of Joseph Carlos' portion No. 17 of 40 acres. Advertising. (1906, August 25). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article28156562
As Pittwater people, supported by the relatively new Kuringai Chase reserve and board, were doing their utmost to establish Pittwater as a holiday resort area, and the first Pittwater Regattas were attracting more people to the estuary itself, being able to access the water brought about slight compromise:
FISHERIES MATTERS. Mr. F. Farnell presided at the Fisheries board meeting on Wednesday. As a result of the protests of residents of Pittwater the board decided not to grant oyster leases of 1700 yards at the Basin or Coaster's Retreat, and of 200 yards at the Maze, Pittwater but to reserve these for the public use. FISHERIES MATTERS. (1906, August 31). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article28153824
James Clark, one of the gentlemen named in applying for oyster leases on Pittwater, would not have been ordering people off his oyster leases at Pittwater himself, not only does his character not seem to lend itself to such high handed ways, as indicated in the small insight below, he was probably quite busy at this time further north during these years as he had moved his fleet of pearl luggers elsewhere in response to the newly legislated 'White Australia policy' as many of his pearl divers were Pacific Islanders. He was also a man who seemed empathetic to the lot of the worker and the poor - his father, a fisherman, died before he was 3 years of age, and his mother was left in poverty:
THEFT OF OYSTERS AT REDCLIFFE. At the Redcliffe Police Court last Friday, Jesse Hylands was charged with stealing oysters, the property of James Clark. The bench consisted of Messrs. Hayes (chairman),' Gedrge Wilde, J. C.Beal, and M. O'shea, J.P. Mr. Nicol Robinson appealed for James Clark to prosecute. The evidence for the prosecution showed that defendant had taken half a sugarbag of oysters from rocks within the boundaries of the oyster bank under license to Jas. Clark in Bramble Bay. The rocks were below high-water mark, and defendant stated that he had seen others taking oysters from the place, and took them in ignorance. Mr. Robinson pointed out that by the Criminal Code the punishment for this offence was three years' imprisonment with hard labour, but that he was instructed to ask the bench to take into consideration the fact that Hylands was an old man, and, as this was the first prosecution at Redcliffe to deal with the case summarily and let accused off with a nominal fine. He also drew attention to the fact that the lessees and licensees of oyster banks paid large sums to the Government and for labour and material, and that they intended to put down with a strong hand the systematic stealing of oysters which was going on, and this case was intended as a warning to the public that in any future case the offender would be dealt with severely. The bench warned defendant that he must be very careful in the future and not steal again, and inflicted a nominal fine, which Mr. Clark, who was present, paid for the accused. THEFT OF OYSTERS AT REDCLIFFE. (1903, March 16). The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), p. 8. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article19231834
PEARL-SHELLING. Mr. Barton seems to have taken the best course in the difficulty thrust upon him by the stringency of the Federal Immigration Restriction Act. One of the interests menaced is the pearl-shelling industry of Thursday Island, Port Darwin, and Western Austrilia. The Act affects the boats concerned in getting the shell by depriving them of divers and crews Now, the owners of these craft may be British subjects-they generally are, though the submarine areas worked may be outside the territorial limits-of Australia But for several reasons the men who do the essential work of diving and getting the shell are now almost universally aliens. They consist mainly of Japanese, some Malays, and Polynesians It is said that the shallow grounds being exhausted the deeper grounds are too dangerous for white men to work The Japanese comes in here, and without the diving dress, and at a lower rate of remuneration, he w.H and docs exploit these deep areas Hence Thursday Island, which had become the centre of operations in north-eastern Australia, still continued to retain its importance, albeit the curiously mixed character of its population was not simplified The Immigration Restriction Act (section 3) prohibits the introduction into tho Commonwealth of any person who cannot write 50 words of a European language, and by section 9 imposes on masters, owners, and charterers of ships a penalty of £100 in respect of each and every prohibited immigrant on entering Australia the law having been brought to the knowledge of those employed in the pearl-shelling business, naturally caused anxiety. The authorities of Dutch New Guinea, whether they spied the opportunity or were spurred on to activity on behalf of the shellers, made energetic preparations to welcome at a new port on the mainland at the mouth of the Merouka River the pearlers, should they be dislodged from Thursday Island. Queensland is loth to lose the direct and indirect revenue represented, and to see Thursday Island dwindle into another Port Darwin. Mr Philp has in his forcible way memorialised the Federal Premier on behalf of the threatened industry. He has pointed out that £25,000 of revenue to the Queensland Government is at stake, that more than £100,000 annually constitutes the value of the export, and that the industry represents a not unimportant asset of his community. But while Mr Barton may be supposed to be fully aware of the force of these representations he is threatened with rigorous measures from the labour party. The extreme section of that party is naturally indifferent to an industry that the white man has left. Mr Bamford and others say, Let the pearl-shellers go to Dutch New Guinea or wherever they will, the loss is immaterial and indeed meanwhile the depleted pearl grounds may recover. But this is too nummary a process with national interests. If we cast out the second of the natural productive industries of tropical Queensland, and offer nothing in its place-if we reduce Thursday Island to a namp on the map and drive the pearl shellers of Northern Australia(those of Western Australia as well as of Queensland) under the Dutch flag, we shall probably find that our doctinuairism has landed us in difficulty.PEARL-SHELLING. (1902, April 26). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 8. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14465308
DEATH OF MR. JAMES CLARK. BRISBANE, Sunday. The death occurred at his home at New Farm, Brisbane, this morning of Mr. James Clark, known throughout the Commonwealth for his activities in the pearling industry and also as a pastoralist. He was born in the Hunter River' district, New South Wales, in 1858, and came to Brisbane in 1870. He began pearling ventures in 1881 and in 1886 extended his operations to Western Australia, where, at Broome, he developed pearl shellbeds with modern equipment. He took the same scientific methods to Thursday Island and established a fleet of 130 boats. In 1905 he removed the fleet to the Aru Islands, Dutch East Indies, where they operated with success till the Great War. In 1896 Mr. Clark and Mr. Peter Tait purchased Boongoondoon Station, and later the firm widened its interests, until the partners owned some of the best and most highly Improved sheep stations in the Commonwealth. As a member of the Woolgrowers' Council, Mr Clark played a conspicuous part after the war in organizing financial arrangements for the continuance of the wool sales, and became Queensland delegate to the Wool Council, and on the board of Bawra. He took a keen Interest In racing, and was a member of the Q.T.C. committee for many years. He raced many horses in his own name and was one of the leading buyers of yearlings in the Commonwealth. Mrs. Clark, one son, and one daughter survive him. DEATH OF MR. JAMES CLARK. (1933, July 10). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16989631
Obituary - MR. JAMES CLARK - The death occurred at his home: New Farm, Brisbane on Sunday morning following a long illness of Mr. James Clark, one of Queensland's most prominent citizens. The late Mr. Clark has long been known as the "Pearl King," but he came more prominently before Queenslanders through his association with the Pastoral industry, particularly in Central Queensland. The late Mr. Clark was born on the Hunter River in New South Wales in 1858, and came to Brisbane In 1870 he had his first commercial experience with James Campbell and Sons Ltd., Brisbane, which he joined in 1872 and left in 1881, when he embarked upon his pearling ventures. He was also interested in opal mining having interests in 1896 In some opal fields at Opalton in this district when that field was booming. It was about this time he decided to Invest In pastoral properties and in 1898, in conjunction with Mr. Peter Tait, he purchased Boongoondoo Station in the Aramree-Jericho district, and which was then stocked with cattle. The property was converted to a sheep holding, and the firm of Clark and Tait widened its interests until it became one of the largest private companies engaged in the industry in the Commonwealth, its holdings comprising some of the finest properties in the central district amongst which were Bimerah, Powella, Northampton Downs, Ravensbourne, Barcaldine Downs and Peak Downs.
As a member of the Wool Growers' Council of Australia the late Mr. Clark played a conspicuous part after the war In organising financial arrangements for the continuance of wool sales, there having arisen a most, serious situation in connection with the sale-of-wool hills given by overseas buyers. From this difficulty, which was really a serious crisis, there emerged the pool of the Commonwealth and other banks to distribute the responsibility, and the problem was solved. For many years Mr. Clark was one of the Queensland dele gates to the Wool Council, and he was also on the Bawra Board with Sir John Higgins.
Mr. Clarke was a keen sportsman, his sporting inclinations turning to yachting, cricket and horse racing, in all branches of which he met with success. In 1885 he married in Sydney and is survived by his widow, one son and one daughter. One son was killed inaction in France and the surviving son, Mr. J. C. Clark, with his mother and sister, Miss Jessie Clark, reside in Brisbane. The funeral on Monday was one of the largest and most impressive seen in Brisbane, every section of the community paying tribute to this distinguished citizen. Obituary. (1933, July 15). The Longreach Leader (Qld. : 1923 - 1954), p. 19. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article37239834
Oyster farming at Limeburners creek Port Macquarie L to R: Jack McLaren, Harry & Dick McLaren - image No.: bcp_05019h, courtesy State Library of NSW.
Lime Mortar - using oyster shells for historic preservation. - By Tiffanywiz Uploaded on Sep 17, 2009
This is footage from the Chincoteage lighthouse Sept 25 2009. The Historic Preservation Training Center instructors demonstrating How to create lime by adding oyster shells to water to produce mortar used in historic preservation of buildings in general. What you are seeing is the reaction of the shells in water after about 15 minutes. This mortar was used to repair the inside masonry walls of the "OIL SHED" located beside the lighthouse. The Shells are fired to remove the carbon dioxide prior to adding them to the water in the wheel barrow. They turn to a creamy paste, known as lime or lime putty. Add sand or aggregate and apply to application
References and Extras:
1. Oyster. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Oyster&oldid=626028845
2. MICHAEL PEARSON. The Lime Industry in Australia - An Overview . AUSTRALIAN HISTORICAL ARCHABOLOGY, 8, 1990. Retrieved from: http://ashadocs.org/aha/08/08_04_Pearson.pdf
3. Seafood in Sydney - George Repin - Pittwater Online News - HERE
The NATIVE OYSTER (often called 'Angassi') is a 'flat oyster' related to the European Belon oyster. They are grown in limited commercial quantities in the southern states of Australia. Native Oysters have seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years with high end restaurants championing them. They are available May to August. They spawn from November to March, when they are gritty and inedible. Native oysters have fine textured meat and a distinctively salty flavour.
SYDNEY ROCK OYSTERS are also native to Australia and have been farmed in Southern Australia for 130 years. They are grown mainly in NSW, with some production in Southern QLD, VIC, and in Albany, WA. Sydney Rock Oysters take 2-4 years to reach marketable size. The season is at its peak from September through to March. Sydney Rock Oysters have a rich, creamy taste, a slight flavour of iodine and are more minerally than other oysters.
PACIFIC OYSTERS were introduced from Japan in the 1940's. They are grown in the deep cool waters of SA and TAS. They have recently become dominant at market over the Sydney Rock Oyster, favoured by growers because they take less time (18-24 months) to reach saleable size and have a more uniform shell size and shape. They are considered an invasive species in many states and are banned in QLD, VIC, WA and most of NSW. They are available year round but peak from April to September and are best avoided in Jan and Feb when they spawn. They are sweet and creamy with a strong briny taste and smell.
'TRIPLOID' oysters are a sexless oyster. Becasue they are sterile they can be grown in areas with native oyster populations (such as the Hawkesbury, Georges and Shoalhaven estuaries in NSW). As they don't spawn they are favoured by growers and chefs.
'KUMAMOTO-STYLE OYSTERS' are not a true Kumamoto (an oyster originating in Japan) but a Pacific Oyster grown in conditions that develop the small but deep rounded shell, large firm muscle and sweet flesh characteristic of the species. Oysters are being grown in this style in Coffin Bay, SA.
From: Oyster, GoodFishBadFish Seafood and Sustainability: http://goodfishbadfish.com.au/?fish=oyster
OYSTER SALOONS AND SUNDAY TRADING
Some time ago the officers of police reported to succeeded in compelling the publicans to observe the law with regard to closing their houses at 12 p m each night, and all day on Sundays, they had found that persons of questionable character frequent oyster salons in the city after the hotels have been closed: and although the keepers of those oyster saloons pretend to send to the hotels for liquor for their customers, they in reality have supplies on the premises. Mr Sadleir referred the matter to Inspector Perry, with instructions to see Mr. Fitzgibbon, the town clerk, with a view to having the police empowered by the City Council to close the oyster saloons at midnight in common with hotels, and to prevent them trading on Sundays. Mr. Fitzgibbon informed Mr. Perry that it would be impossible to compel the keepers of oyster saloons to close their shops at any hour on week days, but they could, under section 30 of the Police Offences Statute, compel the keepers of saloons to close at midnight on Saturday.'
Right: King Street, Sydney, where many Fish Cafes were - Image no: a089342h : King Street, Sydney from Pitt Street, looking East, February-March 1895 / H. King Sydney, courtesy State Library of NSW
The section referred to reads as follows -
" The local authorities shall cause Sunday to be duly observed by all persons within their jurisdiction, and shall not permit or suffer any house, shop, store or other place to be open on that day for the purpose of trade or dealing; and any person who trades, or deals, or keeps open any house, shop, store, or other place 9except as hereinafter provided) for the purpose of trading or dealing on Sunday shall, on conviction, forfeit a penalty of not less than *5 nor more than*10. Provided that nothing herein contained shall extend to apothecaries and chemists at any time of the day, nor to butchers, bakers, pastry cooks, or confectioners until the hour of 9 in the forenoon and between the hours of 1 and 6 in the afternoon, nor to any other trade or occupation that may by any act passed (or hereafter to be passed) have any special provision made therein upon the subject of trading on Sunday, and so long as the persons affected thereby adhere to the provision of such act."
"The English law includes the fishmongers in its exceptions to the enforcement of the law against Sunday trading, because their goods are considered perishable, but as is seen in the foregoing, oyster saloons in Victoria must cease trading at 12 p.m. on Saturday. In order to remove any doubt as to the power of the police to enforce the law in the matter, a sub committee, at the instance of Mr. Fitzgibbon, will report on the matter to the City Council, and a request from that body will be sent to the police to carry out the law with regard to Sunday trading. OYSTER SALOONS AND SUNDAY TRADING. (1885, February 5). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 9. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article6066492
Torres Straits Pearl-shelling. THE CULTIVATION DISPUTE.MR. JAMES CLARK'S PETITION.
In a long letter addressed to the Colonial Treasurer under date Brisbane, 4th instant, Mr. James Clark, on behalf of the Pilot Cultivation Company, states his case in answer to the allegations contained in the petition recently presented to Sir Thomas M'llwraith at Thursday Island, and in which he was asked to put a stop to pearl shell cultivation as carried on by the Pilot Cultivation Company at Friday Island.
The letter contains a great deal of information on a subject but little known, and we gladly make the following extracts:—
The Old Grounds.
The grounds from which we' are transplanting the small shell are known as the Old Grounds." They were discovered at the end of the year 1881, and have been worked ever since, being, as our opponents say, the mainstay of the fishery. Our opponents say that they can only be worked profitably for two months and a-half or three months of the year. With these two statements we agree. The reason they cannot be worked all the year is on account of their exposed position preventing work being carried on during the south-east and north-west monsoons, and it is in between the breaks of the monsoons when we get fine weather that our best work is done. You will thus observe that these grounds have a rest during nine months of the year. If all the boats could work on these Old Grounds the whole year there would not be such an urgent need for us to cultivate, but the need would remain all the same. Under the present Act a shell can be exported when it has reached 6in. It has not reached its full weight when it attains this size. It only weighs 1lb.
Conservation and Cultivation.
We would ask the 211 men who signed petition what right had they to make the statement that we would export transplanted shell from our leasehold at Friday Island when it had reached 6in.? They never expressed any intention of doing so. Instead of a Cin. shell being exported, as it can be at present, when-it attains a weight of 1lb., we shall keep that shell on our leasehold until it attains a weight of 3lb., and have also the benefit of the shell spawning at least twice while he is attaining his full growth and weight. Taking the increase of weight at 100 per cent per annum, and the value of pearl shell at 1s. per lb., you will see at once it would be extremely foolish on our part to remove shell of 6in. for which we would receive 1s. against 3s.if we kept the shell two years. Again, it is now recognised fact amongst scientific men that the shells can be made to make pearls.' This is our opinion also, and we are going to make the shells do it, and make good ones too. Seeing that Queensland pearls have been sold in London from 1000 guineas downwards, you will see that everything tends to keep the shells on leaseholds for long periods, and not the opposite, as our opponents assert. Our opponents say we are bringing in 6000to 8000 shells per week. Up to the 14thNovember we had laid down less than 20,000 for about five weeks' work. They also say, if our cultivation work is continued, the fishery will become exhausted, and 200 divers and 1200 seamen will be deprived of employment. The statement is ridiculous. Transplantation from the Old Grounds need only be allowed during the months of October, November, and December. The boats will be required to pickup the young shell, and must be employed at other places fishing during the other nine months, as they have in the past; otherwise how would all of us be able to work our boats ?If we paid our men off they would all disperse, and in the good season, being unable to obtain men, our plants would remain idle and useless. Cultivation will enable us, by getting a larger quantity of shell from the Old Grounds during the three months above mentioned, to keep our men away from deep water, such as Darnley Island, where so many divers have lost their lives during the present year. Transplanting small shell into inshore passages will not only restock exhausted beds but keep them stocked from its own spat, also help to restock exhausted public beds and form new ones. We respectfully submit that it is the duty of the Government to encourage, by all means in their power, and under proper supervision, cultivation as advocated by Mr. Saville-Kent and carried on by us, were it only to stop the necessity for diving in deep water, which has proved so disastrous to the divers of Torres Straits this year. Our opponents recommend in their petition-Firstly, that no shell be removed from the fishing grounds known as the Old Grounds except for exportation. If they favour cultivation why do they recommend this clause?
Secondly, that the size of shell to be fished for cultivation purposes be limited to 3in. and under overall. This clause also is very vague and unsatisfactory. By the first clause, we presume, these small 6in. And under shell cannot be obtained from the Old Grounds, and if so they cannot be had anywhere else in sufficient quantities to commence cultivation with any chance of success. Again, by recommending this clause, we contend that our opponents display great ignorance on the subject of removal of these small shell. By a wise provision of Nature these small shell have a byssus, by means of which they moor themselves to anything that they may have settled on when they were in the form of spat. All shells of 3in. and under are moored by this byssus, and it is after they have attained the size of 6in. that they dispense with this mooring. We contend that if these small shell were not killed by being forcibly torn away they would be too small and weak to stand transplanting long distances, and would not do so well on new grounds as shell of a larger growth would. In reply to our opponents 1 question, if we want to cultivate why we do not stock our leaseholds from shell over Gin., we will adduce several good reasons. First, that, although we were misrepresented to Sir Thomas M'llwraith as monopolist capitalists instead of successful shelters who thoroughly understand their business and who are always willing to learn more, we cannot afford to stock up with shell over 6in., because we want all we can get of this to pay expenses and carry on our business. The first cost of picking this large shell would be too great. The diver alone gets about £2 10s.per 100 shells, whereas he can pick up the small at the same time as the large, and knowing we cannot export but must relay it, he is content to augment his income by accepting103. per 100 for his labour. Again, an old shell may not stand transplanting so well a3 a young and vigorous one, and so little being known of, the habits of the fish, its rate of growth in size
and weight, length of life, <fcc, we want to find out all about him, and as we intend to make the shells work for us in making pearls we conclude the young shell is the best to handle, and we are content to wait.
The third recommendation of our opponents, the appointment of an inspector, we cordially support. In speaking in support of the recommendations before Sir Thomas M'llwraith, Mr.Bowden incorrectly gave the weight of shell being brought in by the Billy Barlow. Assuming it to be from 6000 to 8000 per week, he estimates this quantity to weigh 5 or 6 tons, whereas if Mr. Bowden wished to place his case fairly before Sir Thomas he could easily ascertain that the larger number would not weigh more than 2 tons.
As to the exhaustion of the beds, the Old Grounds were discovered at the close of the year 1881, and we think we are pretty safe in asserting that four-fifths of the shell obtained sinoe then came from there. We hare had prepared and enclosed for your information the exports of shell from this colony from 1880 to 1892. In 1880 the export was 387 tons; in 1881, 897 tons. This is the year the Old Grounds were found, but very little shell from this source was exported on account of every one being too busy to pack it. However, it was exported in 1882, when the total was 840 tons. In 1886 many of the boats went to Western Australia, which accounts for the falling off in the exports in this and the two following years, but since then the number of boats have been increasing until the present time, when they are more numerous than ever.
Taking the export this year at 1000 tons, we have exported from 1882 to 1893, both years included, 8489 tons valued at £952,863; add to this the value of pearls obtained from this shell, which we estimate at £120,000, and you will see the value of our fishery at a glance.
Assuming that four-fifths of this shell came from the Old Grounds and the pearls also, you will see it produced in value £882,288 worth of shell and pearls. From the time it was found until the end of the year 1891 the shelters were in the habit of removing large and small shell for export, and this shell we are now transplanting would then in the ordinary course of events be shipped home. Although this suicidal policy was indulged in by all the shellers totalling two-thirds of the present number of boats, it had not the effect of denuding the beds, as is proved by the exports of 1892, which amounted to 1047 tons, and being the largest hand export year on record. If these boats for ten years obtained and exported all small shell without exhausting the Old Grounds, we with thirty boats for three months of the year only will not bring about the disastrous results predicted by Mr. Bowden and the other 210 petitioners. We claim that if we can bring small shell safely from outside to inshore waters, and, keeping them there until they attain their full size, endeavour to collect the spat from this shell to stock our own and other inshore beds, we are in the strictest sense of the word complying with the objects of the Acts of 1891. Assuming that 800 out of the 1047 tons exported last year came from the Old Grounds, and counting 1200 shells to the ton, here we have the stupendous fact of 900,000 shell being exterminated in a single year from the Old Grounds alone. This will also serve to show that we must be right when we say that there must be large deposits of shell outside of the Old Grounds, which makes them inexhaustible, for as fast as the shellers remove the shells fresh falls of spat come in from outside grounds to take the place of that removed.
Nature, too, is kind to the shell, both young and old, and protects it from its enemy, man. Occasionally long grasses found growing at the bottom of' the sea, and it is almost impossible to find young shell when it is growing luxuriantly, and the take of large shell which can be seen easier is greatly curtailed. It is owing to this that we are getting so few small shell this year compared to last, when we found five small to one large shell. This year the proportion is the other way—about four large to one small shell. This is owing to the long grass preventing the divers seeing the small shell readily. The remarks made here are also applicable to Western Australia.
Coloured Labour Question.
You may not know that half the boats are owned by coloured men—Japanese, Manilla men, Malays, South Sea Islanders, do. When the writer went to Western Australia in 1886 there was only one boat owned by a coloured man who bought it that year, and now we have more than 100 boats owned by them. Whenever a diver, employed by a white owner, becomes expert, his skill is noised about, and a storekeeper supplies a boat on the time-payment plan. The diver pays down £100 or £200, and works out the balance on terms, we will presume, favourable to both parties. This no doubt is very good for the storekeeper for the time being, but will be benefit in the long run ?Admitting it is good for the storekeeper, it certainly is not good for us, the white employers, or even for the white divers. Our crack divers, having left, are brought into competition against us. We are placed at a disadvantage by having inferior and inexperienced divers to work with. In the case of the Japanese, too, we are further handicapped. They work by co-operation. We have to pay bur men wages whether we can work at a profit or not, but by their system of co-operation no profit, no wages, and these being the conditions under which our fishery is carried on the end must come at an early date, and the fishery will fall into the hands of the Japanese and other coloured men. Every white man at Thursday Island knows the necessity of grappling with the coloured question if we wish to retain oar hold of the fishery, and yet not one of the petitioners had the courage to mention this urgent matter either to you, in whose department the matter is, or to Sir Thomas.
Looking at the matter from a Queensland or an Australian point of view, it is a great pity that licenses were ever issued to coloured men, and we think that sooner or later this Government will have to buy these men out. They have a precedent before them in the case of Western Australia, which, though it was then a Crown colony, bought out and stopped the Chinese from working at Shark's Bay. The plant bought by the Government was sold by public auction to whites. New regulations were framed, and the Government made no loss by the transaction.
The earnings of each boat at present owned by coloured men would support a white family, and if we had this desirable state of things we should soon have a race of fishermen to carry on this, and develop other fisheries on our coast, which as a source of wealth and be a means of affording employment to thousands of seafaring men seems to be quite overlooked when casting about for modes of living. We import close on £40,000 worth offish, canned and salted. Why is this import not knocked back one-half ? This alone would afford employment to hundreds, of families. Recognising the importance of this great and undeveloped mine of wealth, those of our company who have children growing up are educating them to this particular business, and no doubt if we are successful in this pearl shell cultivation, we shall as time, opportunity, and money will allow open up and pioneer the way for others to follow.
By every steamer the Japanese are coming in lots of twenty or so, and immediate steps are necessary if Queenslanders wish to retain their pearl fishery. We consider it is the duty of a Government to legislate in favour of its own people as against foreigners, and this legislation we ask of you.
We would therefore recommend: —Firstly, that no more licenses be granted to coloured men, Japanese included, who may be owners or part owners of boats to fish in Queensland waters. Secondly, that cultivation be encouraged by all possible means; leases for this purpose to be granted to white men only. The shell to stock these leaseholds to be obtained by boats the bona fide property of white men. No leases to be granted to coloured men, and no coloured boat owner to be allowed to pick up and sell undersized shell for the purpose of stocking cultivation areas owned by white men. No large areas to be granted for cultivation, and only within confined limits, so that boundaries can easily be defined. Three months' notice of intention to lease sections to be given, so that the general body of shelters before it passed into possession of lessees could remove any shell that may be on the section. The Bale of sections by auction the same as under the Oyster Act. Shelters to be consulted about leases for cultivation, and their wishes having due consideration. Inspector to supervise carefully transplanting ofshell from Old Grounds to see that none are killed. No undersized shell be allowed to be exported, whether alive or dead, if under 6in. Thirdly, employment by white men only of New Guinea or Queensland natives. We think that under proper Government supervision Now Guinea labour might be allowed to white shelters engaged on the Queensland coast. If the privilege was abused by ill treatment of natives, cancellation of permit to follow and employer proceeded against in Police Court. We consider the time has arrived when New Guinea should repay to Queensland or Queenslanders some of the benefits derived from Queensland. This return could be made by allowing Queenslanders to obtain a supply of labour waiting to be employed for terms not exceeding one year. We think these concessions', if granted to white men only, will enable them to retain their hold of the fishery, and perhaps regain it altogether. We would also ask you to refer this dispute to Captain Fison and any other experts whose opinion would enable it to be decided on its merits.
Position of the Small Man.
The only point we have not touched on is the alleged inability of the man with one or two boats to cultivate. Under the present regulation the rent is £5 per mile of foreshore. For some reason, unknown to us, we have been charged £25 per annum for one and a-half mile frontage to Friday Island, instead of £710a. We think any boat owner can pay £5 per annum for a cultivation lease, and if he cannot get his small shell in alive by any ether means we will bring them in for him in our steamer for shares, or so much per 100, if he makes an
arrangement with us, similar to farmers growing cane for a central mill when about to be erected, to compensate us for putting a steamer on. Or we will buy his small shell. We have at Thursday Island landed property of the value of £GOOO. This property, and also our plant, was paid for out of the profits of pearl shelling, and will help to show you our intentions are to build up, not to destroy. In a postscript Mr."Clark says:—The weight of 6in. shell is understated. It should be l£lb., but, as the large shell is understated also, our figures will stand.
Torres Straits Pearl-shelling. (1893, December 23). The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939), p. 1236. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20347961
Above and below from: Album 71: Photographs of the Allen family, 18 May 1930 - 26 January 1931 Digital Order Numbers: a3297018 and a3297008h - courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
Water maze, Newport, ca. 1900-1910, Images No.: a116495, courtesy State Library of NSW.
Oystering in the Pittwater Estuary - Oyster Kings and Pearl Kings and When Not to Harvest Oysters - threads collected and collated by A J Guesdon, 2014.