September 15 -  21, 2019: Issue 421


Bilgola SLSC Celebrates 70 Years: Some Anecdotes From Early Members

Bilgola SLSC 70th Anniversary Celebration
Hosted by Bilgola Surf Life Saving Club Inc

Saturday, September 21, 2019 at 6 PM – 9 PM
Bilgola Beach Surf Club
Tickets: $20
Festivities start from 6.00pm
Speeches from 7.30pm
Dress: Beach Cocktail
Limited Complimentary Bar
Entertainment by the Walking Canes
Finger food by Silver Spoon Service
We hope you can join us on this special occasion - this is a child friendly event! With a magic show for the kids...

Celebrate 70 years of Bilgola SLSC 
Cocktail party - buy tickets here:
Next weekend Bilgola SLSC celebrates 70 years of saving lives at Bilgola and the formation of a club marked for its focus on family. Bilgola is known as an initiator of new ways to save lives, being one of the local places the trials for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or “Drones”, also called Little Ripper.

This is a long way from the Summer of 1949 when Life Member and past President David Lyall PSM  ESMM  FAIB, who first came to Palm Beach during WWII and then, afterwards, to Bilgola.

As David said in his 2018 interview:

In 1949, due to my friends at Shore, I ended up at Bilgola Beach for the school holidays at Christmas. In December we were on the beach and were approached by a couple of locals; ‘do you want to join a surf club?’. 
So instead of going to Palm Beach I became a foundation and original member at Bilgola. 
Bilgola started in 1949.
I started off as a junior, then Gear Steward, Captain, President and Life Member.

Bilgola SLSC's 1st annual report

David at Bilgola - surf ski riding!

At Coolangatta in 1954

You were President at Bilgola from 1961-62 then again from 1964 to 1971, a fair while. What happened during your presidency?
It was a case of running a surf club and keeping all the various members happy. 

When I first started we ran a lot of functions at Bilgola. We would close off Allan Avenue. We held concerts to raise money. We even sold hot water on the reserve to people coming in for the day for picnics – all to raise money for the club.

The gear at the club was at that stage stored in the garage of the Dr. Oag family, one of the families who had a house on the beach. Their sons Colin and Ian were original members.

After that we had a tent for storage in the laneway that went down between Bilgola House and the beach. Then Avalon surf club gave us a surf boat, which we affectionately called ‘Irene’ and it was decided we needed a clubhouse. An architect was engaged, pro bono. 

In 1952 the lady who owned Bilgola House offered that premises and its site, plus the land all the way back to the Serpentine, for 18 thousand pounds. The committee of then decided ‘why should we spend all the money we’ve made, plus borrow more, when the council is going to give us some land over on the reserve and we can build a clubhouse there.’

So the then Warringah Shire Council of those days very graciously put two pegs in where the clubhouse could be built. The pegs were placed right against where the club’s barbecue currently is, on that lawn, and along the cliff-face. Luckily, two members, unknown, got slightly inebriated one night and went and quietly moved the pegs to something that wasn’t under the cliffs. 

One of the members, Jim Robinson Scott, then borrowed a bulldozer from his firm and bulldozed the site of the present clubhouse.
At that stage there were two tradesmen in the club, Syd Fischer and myself. Fortunately all the other members were so enthusiastic we built the bottom half of that clubhouse ourselves with the help of Midge Gonsalves, the stonemason from Palm Beach. 

For the second part we let a contract, which was the top floor, and then it was duly opened – which you have published the newspaper records of.

Frank Hurley photo, circa 1950-1953 and section from showing clubhouse under construction courtesy National Library of Australia

In those days a night at Bilgola on New Years Eve was big.  Over a thousand people would turn up.
There were some funny occasions among these. As mentioned, we would close off the reserve and collect money from people coming in. A lot of people would still try and get in without paying, gate-crashing, and would come down the drain that ran beside Bilgola House. We had a couple of, shall we say ‘larger’ type of members, at the end of the drain ready to greet them. You could hear them coming.

I was working at a hotel over at Gladesville then, as an apprentice carpenter, and we were renovating that hotel. We used to get all the beer from there. At one stage, when we were demolishing the public bar, I measured off part of the bar, cut it, had the club truck come, loaded that on, and that became the bar at Bilgola for many many years. 

The club had always held the premise in all of its fundraising works that it would do something for the club and it would do something for the community. We knew we must always have an interest going forward, or ahead, to keep members occupied and engaged in what we stand for.

So we decided to build a swimming pool.
The idea then, as the old swimming pool at Bilgola was right around the rocks and closer to Newport, it was right out on the rockshelf.
We looked into that and decided that the rocks above where we wanted to place it were unstable. We decided we could knock down those rocks and use these to build a wall around the pool without even having to touch the bottom of the pool. 
The council then got involved and instead of taking that easy way out they let a contract for a firm who decided to use the rubble from the expressway approaches to the Harbour Bridge to build it. The club helped finance the pool.
So this was another achievement of club and community working to get something in place that would work going forward.
The other thing we did when we started that club was to put the facilities in that enable the Avalon-Bilgola Swimming Club to commence. This great club still exists and still have their premises within the club building.

Have you seen those photos John Stone took the day they brought down the cliff face to keep the pool safe?
Yes. That was a bit of a fuss over nothing. We sat up on the north headland at Bilgola to watch it, expecting something big and dramatic, a large explosion, and it was a bit of a fizzer.

Above and below: Bilgola Beach Pool safety Works, October 1968 - photos by John W. Stone.

The next extension for the clubhouse went out the southern side and this was financed by the council, and pushed through by one of the councillors who then spent a little bit of holiday time out at Long Bay.

I designed this. You may know it has a very obtuse angle at one side. This was put in place so that we could then go out to the east and make a full horseshoe structure for the clubhouse. Those plans are still in everybody’s mind and we hope to get around to it one day.

David Lyall

Another early member was Bruce Robertson OAM, who recalls:

How old were you when you got your Bronze?
I was underage, even though I got my medallion, so it wasn’t official. They were so short during the war that they allowed chaps like myself and others to help out. Of course, during that time and circumstances you found you matured early, I certainly did. At 14 I was already six foot which gave me a big advantage at that age.

How did you come to Mona Vale originally?
Through talking to Rod Taylor, when we were wrapping papers, we’d talk about what we were doing. He was doing art at Sydney Technical College and I was still at school. We used to wrap all the newspapers and periodicals for Swains, which was a big stationer in Pitt Street in Sydney. This was in 1941 and 1942, I was 11 and 12.

We were both keen on the surf and said one day ‘let’s have a look’. So we decided we’d get the bus where we could, caught a bus and went as far as the bus would go which was Mona Vale.  We walked down to the beach and that was it.

About 14 or 15 of us used to sleep on a big wrestling mat in the middle of the floor. The first clubhouse had gone up three or four years prior to that.

How did you get from Mona Vale to Bilgola?
By that stage the bus route to Mona Vale had been extended to Palm Beach. I went and had a look at them all of course but liked the look of Bilgola, so I got off there.

Bilgola surf club hadn’t started then. There was talk that they were going to have a surf club there and when they started to build it I went and helped with the building while I was still at Mona Vale SLSC.

Didn’t you row for Mona Vale?
Yes, I rowed in the surf boats. They went to Hawaii prior to the war in a contest between the Hawaiians and Australians. They took that surf boat over there, so it was good to be part of that.

How did you meet Gladys?
I met Gladys on Bilgola Beach.

Gladys: we met here at Bilgola. I would always swim in the surf, never the pool. 
Our family had an original place at Palm Beach, or my father Mr. Murray did, it was just a shack. Then he bought a block of land at Whale Beach, just as you go around the corner. He built a place there and then he bought next door as well. So there were two pretty basic little holiday places. We had them and that’s where my kids grew up.

I had a twin sister, Ev (Evelyn)  though and we’d come to Bilgola because this is where the action was.
All the good guys were here, Sonia McMahon and her sister, the Howe family and the Over family.

Discussing plans for the New Year's Eve party, organised by the Bilgola Surf Lifesaving Club, are members of the ladies' auxiliary, EVELYN MURRAY, of Gordon, ROBIN KEENE, of Roseville, and HELEN JACKSON, of East Lindfield. Women's News and Gossip (1954, December 23). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), p. 22 (LATE FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved from 

Was Bruce already doing patrols here then?
I can remember him here. He was in at Duntroon for four years until he graduated. But I recall when he was here he had the Flag Carriers job and was always at the head of the march. He was head, or ahead, of everything really.

Bruce, Flag bearer for Bilgola SLSC at 1954 Bondi Carnival for Queen Elizabeth II

What did you think when you first saw him?
Gladys: oh, I thought he was pretty gorgeous. And he was, he was a very good looking guy. He looked tough but was very kind.

Bruce and Gladys at Bilgola - circa 1954

Gladys circa 1952

Bruce, what did you think when you first saw Gladys?
I thought she was very attractive, gorgeous. We married in 1956.

Wedding day

Getting back to Surf Life saving – being Flag Bearer for Bilgola at the 1954 Bondi Surf Carnival which Queen Elizabeth II attended– what was that like?
Wonderful.  What was equally exciting was the size of the surf that day. It was monstrous.
I can remember one wave it took us three strokes to get over the wave. We didn’t get pounded there, but we did get pounded many other times.

Extra surfboat races were run off for The Queen's entertainment. During the visit the Royal Couple probably saw more action and more thrills than they will find on any other tour engagement.
A big surf was running, and there were mishaps in several races. In one senior surfboat race the four competing boats were capsized and the crews thrown into the water. In another race, three of the four boats were overturned by huge waves.
The Queen was so absorbed that she declined a suggestion to leave at the end of the scheduled half-hour. Throughout his stay, the Duke repeatedly swept the surf and beach events with his binoculars.
Shaded from the hot sun by a large white parasol. The Queen several times turned to officials, chatting merrily, and gasping as surfboats bucked the big surf.

The Queen and Duke were particularly impressed with the march past of 700 colorfully dressed surfers specially picked for the Guard of Honor because of their physique and bearing.
The march-past was made with pennants flying and to the skirl of pipes from the N.S.W. Police Pipe Band. 

ROYAL TOUR THE QUEEN SEEN HER FIRST SURF CARNICAL OF TOUR (1954, February 12). The Land (Sydney, NSW : 1911 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved from 

Which was the most challenging row while you were part of Bilgola’s Boat Division?
I would think North Narrabeen would be up there. I can remember being amongst a big surf there one day. And Harbord too, at Freshwater – we had some big waves during carnivals there too.

How long did you row for Bilgola?
At least six or seven years. We had and have a very good boat club there. We had Syd Fisher as our Stroke at one stage. He was pretty good.

The 1954 Carnival at Bondi wasn’t the only time you were near our Queen, was it?
No, I met her again when we were hosting her during a visit to the Dubbo Zoo when I was Chairman for Taronga. Unfortunately there was something going on between her and her husband so she wasn’t too happy that day and we didn’t get to talk. But there again is another outstanding marriage, something which has lasted, and there is clearly devotion between the two even now.

What other roles did you undertake at Bilgola?
The building and construction of the clubhouse was the big one really. All the members and some of those living there undertook to do this work so we could have some reasonable facilities available. 

Many of the hands to do the work came from families who had holiday places there and these were also generous in allowing members to stay at their homes during their Patrols and during the construction phase of the clubhouse.

Once it was built we would bring a sleeping bag and simply stay in the clubhouse over the weekends we were Patrolling, especially those members who travelled from further away.

You’re just rounding out being one of the longest ever Patrol Members in Australia – how does that feel?
Good. The whole time, when we living in Melbourne for example, I would undertake doing as many Patrols as possible to keep my Membership up and you have to do so many Patrols and Patrol hours each season in order to do that. I love Bilgola, always have, and wanted to keep being a part of what happens there in serving others.

Mr. Ford AM (SLSA President)singled you out for praise at the recent Celebration of your Patrol decades, as did many others – you seemed delighted but still quite humble… why?
That was nice but really Surfing has always been a pleasure to me and has always been a relaxation to me. I have never let it get to the stage where it’s dominating my life. When Gladys and I married and had children clearly my family came first and my love of surfing came second. 

So certainly Surfing was something I did and really enjoyed it for relaxation, and Patrolling as part of Bilgola was always part of what I did and wanted to continue to do to put something back, as were the other roles I undertook.

You mentioned at the Celebration of your decades of Patrols that you cannot drive anymore and no longer wish to prevail on family members to drive you Bilgola to fulfill Patrols – why can’t you drive there anymore?
This has become part of the new road rules – anyone over the age of 85 is approached in order to see if they’re fit to drive and in the majority of cases the emphasis is on taking the licence off that person.

What do you love about Bilgola – you have been going there for a while now?
What I love about Bilgola is that it’s a beautiful place in its own self. It’s even more beautiful today than when I first saw it when it had a lot of big areas that were just grass, and not a nice kind of grass either. Now it has lots of big trees, especially the pine trees, have made a big difference. It’s a unique place, very special and I love it.

What is the best part of being involved with surf lifesaving – you have had a lot of experience there?
I believe they do a good job, a real job – saving people’s lives is paramount. Add to this looking after the beach and keeping an eye on making sure it’s used properly is also in there. This work has a challenge to it but it’s something that needs to be done.
To me the wonderful thing about surf lifesaving is that it has made it safe for people to go to the beach. I can remember people drowning – and this persists where people take risks or swim in areas that aren’t patrolled.  

Today there’s drugs involved unfortunately. The thing about getting involved with drugs, especially if you’re going to get in the water, is that it lessens your capability and reasoning in getting out of any difficulties you may find yourself in and in some cases, is the cause of them to begin with. 

Were there any difficult rescues you were a part of?
There was one when a person was caught in that rip that can go out to the point at the northern end of the beach. It was always mainly getting people out of rips for us. Most people who go to Bilgola know how to swim and they know the beach; its tides, where the rips can happen, where the sandbanks can build and form dumpers during low tides or as the tide is running out.

At Mona Vale, as it is placed geographically where you get so many other visitors not familiar with the beach, it being the first beach you can come to when driving down Mona Vale road, you have non-swimmers trying to catch a wave.
There is a deep channel there which can cause problems for those visiting.

I must say though that during the war there were other hazards causing problems, namely the amount of barbed wire placed there as a deterrent against any potential invasion. They had captured plans you see, plans made by the Japanese to use tanks in an invasion right along our coasts and so tank traps and barbed wire were installed. Every beach had these big concrete triangles, the waterways at Pittwater had them too. 

We all had to go in and out of these. To go to the surf at Mona Vale during the war you went through two ‘S’s going round and in and out and then in and out again and add to these a series of barbed wire. My main activity then was giving First Aid to people and applying ointments and washing out sand from cuts from barbed wire.


Bruce and his ski at Bilgola - circa 1960

What are your favourite places in Pittwater and why?
Bilgola, naturally, why; because it has so many wonderful memories for me. It’s where I met my wife, all those years and great fun being part of the surf club – so many things. There was always work to be done; building the clubhouse, letters to be written, there was always something so it was a swim and then work and then Patrols. You see Bilgola for a while had trouble attracting Members so we all did a lot more Patrols than you may find with the bigger clubs and more Members. Because we lived at St. Ives for so long being able to go there and be amongst that was a natural to me.
I’m still a Member now of course, and always will be.

The formation of the Surf Life Saving Club: the preceding years

Prior to the Summer of 1949 Bilgola had claimed a few lives, notably Australian innovative pilot Walter Oswald Watt, who owned Bilgola Cottage, and soon after his passing one of the surveyors who came out to mark the boundaries of the land a few weekends prior to the sale of these, Norman Whitely, was found drowned, possibly after a shark attack.

Bilgola is named after an Aboriginal word meaning “swirling waters” and seems to have been a popular fishing spot for our original custodians prior to the arrival of settlers.  First mapped by Government Surveyor James Meehan, the word ‘Belgoula’ was noted in his records of 1814.

The beach itself, after being named 'Belgoula' was then named 'Dalley's beach' after William Bede Dalley (1831 – 1888) one time Attorney General and Acting Premier of New South Wales who had a beach house in the 1870’s named Bilgola House.  The beach is 500m long, faces south east and is bordered by a high headland, Bilgola Head to the north and the lower, shale predominated, Newport Head and rocks to the south. The beach has a single sand bar cut by two shifting beach rips and permanent rips against the rocks at each end. The southern rip is called the ‘Newport Express’ as it flows fast over the rocks and carries the unwary south to Newport. 

Although there was a weekender used by Mr. Watts at Bilgola, he didn't own all the lands and people would come to camp, including motorcyclists. Arthur Billerwell is associated with the Kookaburra Motorcycle Club, inaugurated in 1910, which had camping ground on Bilgola Beach thanks to him. A little more about him:


Mr. Arthur 'Billerwell is another motor-cyclist ,who graduated from the ranks of the amateur racing cyclist. A few years ago, he was a prominent North Sydney rider, and occupied a position very near  scratch in the company of such riders as A. Biden, who, for several years, held the N.S. Wales record for 20 miles on the road, and was always a competitor with whom no liberties could be taken. Mr. Billerwell, however, was one of the less fortunate riders as a cyclist, for, in spite of his abilities, very few prizes came his way. 

Taking up motor-cycling a few years ago, Mr. Billerwell was one of the moving spirits in forming the Kookaburra Club, and was, at its first meeting, elected secretary, a position he has filled ever since. Like many of his club mates, Mr. Billerwell has not confined his athletic energies to one branch, having taken part in a number of swimming events as a member of the Mosman Club ; he is also a skilful surfer. Not long ago, after a long period of motor-cycling, he demonstrated that he had not entirely forgotten how to pedal by riding a hard pursuit match — in which two cyclists start at opposite sides of a track, and ride in pursuit of each other until the agreed on distance is covered — with Mr. F. S. Roberts at St. Ives, on a rough pony track. He is also credited by those who know him with a leaning towards naturalistic studies, being quoted as something of an authority on the habits of ants. THE KOOKABURRA'S SECRETARY, (1913, February 9). Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW : 1895 - 1930), p. 18. Retrieved from

MR. ARTHUR BILLERWELL, Hon. Sec. of the Kookaburra Motor-Cycle Club.MOTORS & MOTORING. (1913, February 9). Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW : 1895 - 1930), p. 18. Retrieved from

KOOKABURRA MOTOR-CYCLE CLUB. This club has made an important move recently by securing a site for a permanent clubhouse at Newport, where 7 ½ acres of land have been purchased by the camping section at Bilgola, having easy access to the beach. The property purchased is described as picturesque, and possessing many attractive features for those motor-cyclists who have a leaning towards Nature, and its extent will permit of its being made particularly valuable in the future. It is intended to erect a bungalow club-house at once, the building having two rooms and a kitchen, as well as wide verandahs on each side for 'sleeping out.' In addition there will be a smoke room, separated from the main building, in a position where Nature has already almost provided a room. The dining-room and outdoor kitchen are also to be situated a little distance away from the club house, in a beautiful palm grove, close beside the banks of a creek of pure, freshwater. Besides these buildings, the plans include these of a garage with a suitable work bench to permit of members overhauling their motorcycle engines on wet days. The club-house will no doubt be the rendezvous of the Kookaburras during the Summer months. The Kookaburra Club's committee has decided, on account of the bad state of the roads, to make a centre to which the majority of club runs will be held. The plan selected, has not been divulged at present, but it is stated it offers facilities for football, cricket, or other outdoor games, as well as motorcycle frolics; and two out of every month's week-end runs are to be to it. The other runs will include a week-end tour and a visit to such old motor-cycling haunts as Windsor, Appin, Springwood, etc.- 

The migration of Kookaburras from their present Summer quarters is promised for April 13 and once again the birds find themselves connected with mystic 13. It has frequently been commented on how this club flirts with the supposedly unlucky number.  The club will hold the opening run of its touring season on April 19 and 20.  

ON TOUR. Messrs. A. G. Biden and R. Readford are away at present on a holiday, at Oberon. They rode up on their motor-cycles, and report having found a 'teaser' of a new hill on the way up.  At present they are enjoying great relaxation among the rabbits and other game.


At a meeting held on Wednesday evening, a new motor-cycle club, called the Britannia, was formed successfully, about 25 members being enrolled. Mr. A. A. Levi was appointed Hon. secretary, and Mr. d. A. Zink Hon. treasurer/ both pro 'tern. A further meeting is to be -held on Wednesday evening at the Volunteer Hotel, George-street, when other office bearers will be elected. The club's opening run is to take place to-day, leaving the Glaciarium for Newport via Manly at 9.30 a.m. KOOKABURRA MOTOR-CYCLE CLUB. (1913, April 6).Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW : 1895 - 1930), p. 21. Retrieved from 

Following on from placing Newport Beach in public hands Warringah Shire Council sought to ensure other beaches were also part of the public's lands. 


Mr. Wearne (Minister for Lands) yesterday visited Bilgola Bay, north of Newport, and inspected a site which had been proposed as a seaside camp tor bush children. The Minister decided that the spot was too far distant from transport and other facilities, and that it was also unsuitable owing to the absence of life-saving apparatus. It was arranged that Dr. Arthur and Councillor Parr (Shire President) should confer regarding another site at Narrabeen.

The Shire Council asked the Minister to reserve the foreshores of Bilgola Bay and to reserve for park purposes the land be- tween the beach and the eastern side of the main road. It was estimated that the resumptions would cost about £8000.

Mr. Wearne said that the Government should not be expected to bear the cost of the resumption. He suggested that the Shire Council should approach the owners of the land on the western side of the road and endeavour to induce them to contribute one third of the cost. The Shire Council, he thought, should contribute one-third, and on those conditions the Government would consider providing the balance. BILGOLA BEACH. (1925, March 23). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved from

Calls for the beach to be resumed for the public, an increase in people camping, and requests for a line and reel to be installed with which to save lives were met by action by the then Warringah Shire Council. However, this did not stop people drowning on unpatrolled beaches - most of those who were rescued at Bilgola prior to a surf life saving club were fortunate that someone with the skills and gumption, or bravery, was on hand to pull them out:

"I think the City Coroner has overstepped the mark in criticising this council, knowing, as he evidently does, so little of the work we are doing," said Councillor Corkery (president of Warringah Shire) , at the council meeting last night.
Councillor Corkery referred to the remarks made by Mr. May before giving his finding In the Bilgola Beach drowning fatality yesterday, during which he expressed the hope that the Warringah Shire Council would take some interest In the beach and see that everything was done for the safety of bathers. 
Councillor Corkery said that while everyone regretted the fatality, it was Impossible for the council to prevent people from bathing on unprotected beaches. It had done everything humanly possible to safeguard the people. The council controlled more beaches than any other body in the State, and had spent more money in providing for life saving facilities than any other council on the coast. 
All the beaches, including those without life-saving clubs were provided with regulation life-saving gear. The unpatrolled beaches were provided with the approved one-man boxes and lines. That had been done at Bilgola, and a new line and reel had been installed on November 20 of last year, so that this council had not waited for any publicity from the Coroner to take steps to prevent accidents. It was a splendid tribute to the clubs that so much bathing was done in comparative safety on Warringah's beaches. 
SPENT £1000 
Last year, said Councillor Corkery, the council spent £1000 on life-saving year and subsidising permanent life- . savers. Unfortunately, vandals sometimes interfered with and damaged the box lines provided. When this happened council immediately renewed the outfit Councillor Greenwood said It was time the Government took a hand. The surf clubs were shabiblly treated by the Government, ho said, and their great work should be recognised by greater financial assistance. ' Council decided to send a letter of sympathy to the relatives of the late Stanley Edward Wallace. BILGOLA DROWNING (1929, January 8). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), p. 7 (FINAL EXTRA). Retrieved from

MR. STANLEY EDWARD WALLACE, who was drowned through his efforts to save his young daughter at Bilgola beach, N.S.W., last week, was nephew of Mr. and Mrs. H. C. Clayton of East Devonport, and was the third son of the late Jas. and Mrs. Wallace of Middle Park, Victoria, and formerly of Devonport. He saw active service during the war, being ii member of the 10th Battalion Band. The "Sun" give the following account of the tragedy: "Never mind me, take the child," said Mr. Stanley Edward Wallace, of Fullers road, Chatswood, while struggling in the surf of Bilgola Beach today, attempting to save his young daughter. He was drowned, but the girl was saved. Three men who went to their assistance reached the beach only after a long fight. When Mr. Wallace and his daughter went swimming, Mrs. Wallace, watched them from the beach. Suddenly they were caught in an undertow, and a man named Pursell, of Spit road, Mosman, went to their assistance. "Never mind me, take the child," Mr. Wallace gasped, pushing the girl to him. A man named Jacobs, of Norton street, Leichhardt, then swam out and held the father afloat, but both were almost exhausted when a third rescuer, Jacobs' brother, reached them. An intense struggle for safety followed, while Mrs. Wallace, helpless, watched front tho beach. The three men were almost thrown on some rocks, eventually reached the beach, but Mr. Wallace was dead." MEN AND WOMEN. (1929, January 7). Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from

PICTURE: MR FRANK GRENVILLE PURSELL, Bronze Medal, for the rescue of Miss Phylis Wallace from drowning at Bilgola Beach, January 1, 1929. SOME OF THE RECIPIENTS OF AWARDS OF THE ROYAL SHIPWRECK RELIEF AND HUMANE SOCIETY OF N.S.W. (1929, October 1)The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 14. Retrieved from

Every year, at the commencement of the surfing season, tne Surf Life-saving Association's gear Inspection committee makes the round of all surf life saving clubs in the metropolitan area, and Inspects the equipment they possess. This inspection will be carried out as follows:
October 17: .Bondi. North Bondi. Tamarama, Bronte.
October 18: Cronulla, North cronulla, South Brighton. Brighton. Maroubra, Coogee. Clovelly.
October 24: Manly, North Steyne, Queenscliff, Freshwater. South Curl Curl. North Curl Curl.
October 28: Palm Beach. Whale Beach, Bilgola, Avalon, Newport, Mona Vale Alumni, Warriewood, North Narrabeen, South Narrabeen, Collaroy, Deewhy. SURF LIFE-SAVING. (1936, October 7). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 18. Retrieved from

'View of Bilgola from the hill' Bilgola 1930, courtesy National Library of Australia, Picture an24768552-v. Tents can be seen where the clubhouse now stands and the Norfolk Pines have only just been planted.

The Surf Life Saving Association's gear inspection committee will begin its inspection of all clubs' equipment for the coming season next Saturday.
Inspections will be carried out on metropolitan beaches as follow: —
SOUTH SOUTH METROPOLITAN. — Saturday, October 7: Bondi 2 p.m., North Bond! 2.35 p.m., Tamarama 3.20 p.m., Bronte 3.55 p.m. Sunday, October 8: Cronulla and Oak Park 9 a.m., North Cronulla 9.45 a.m., Maroubra 12 noon, Coogee 2 p.m., Clovelly 3 p.m. NORTH METROPOLITAN.— Saturday, October 14: Manly 2 p.m., North Steyne 2.35 p.m., Queenscliff 3.5 p.m.. Freshwater 3.45 p.m., South Curl Curl 4.20 p.m., North Curl Curl 4.50 pm. Sunday, October 15: Palm Beach 9 a.m., Whale Beach 9.40 a.m., Avalon 10.20 a.m., Bilgola 10.50 a.m., Newport 11 a.m., Mona Vale 11.35 a.m., Warriewood and Turramatta 12 noon, North Narrabeen 12.30 p.m., South Narrabeen 2 p.m., Collaroy 2.30 p.m., Dee Why 3.20 pm. The annual meeting of the Surf Life Saving Association will be held on Tuesday, October 17. SURF GEAR TO BE INSPECTED (1939, September 30). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 - 1954), p. 13. Retrieved from

A.I.F. Man's Rescue Swim.
Two surfers were nearly drowned at Bilgola yesterday. An A.I.F. man rescued one and a wave washed the other on to a rock.
There are no life-savers at Bilgola, but a belt and line are kept on the beach.
Norman Leslie Mobbs, 27, of Midson Road, Epping, and John Archer, 22, of Meadow-bank, were swimming on the southern end of the beach when they were caught in the undertow. Mobbs lost consciousness and Archer supported him. Lance-corporal Brian Lloyd Badgery, of the A.I.F., who was one of a picnic party on the beach, saw their plight, donned the belt and, after a swim of nearly 200 yards, brought Mobbs in.
Mobbs appeared to be dead, but two doctors on the beach applied artificial resuscitation while the Newport Surf Club's boat brought round a gas cylinder. Later Mobbs revived and was taken by Manly Ambulance to the Manly Hospital.
After Mobbs had been rescued, Archer got into difficulties while trying to reach the beach and Mr. John Hillier, of Bilgola, donned the belt and went to his aid. Before he reached him, however, Archer was carried on to a rock. 2 NEARLY DROWNED AT BILGOLA. (1941, March 3). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 9. Retrieved from

After WWII Pittwater provided an affordable means for newly married couples, kept apart for so long by this conflict, to purchase a block of land, construct a dwelling of some kind from hard won materials in post-war scarcity, and begin to have the families they had dreamed of. This generation, after having served for so long, then began serving Australia anew by building the infrastructure of community. Part of this building, in this case of Bilgola, was to construct a life saving team that began its first official patrol in the summer of 1949.

This was definitely a case of 'hit the ground running' and like all Pittwater SLSC's the lack of gear with which to save people, the lack of facilities in which to store them or to offer for a much needed paid full-time lifeguard a place to lay his head, a clubhouse, may have seemed a bit like rubbing salt into a wound when the, by then, instituted 'fee' to belong to a club as a volunteer qualified bronze medal life-saver for the first season fell due:

SURF CLUBS FACE BAN; FEES UNPAID. Lifesavers from 20 Sydney clubs will be barred from competing in surf carnivals this season unless their clubs pay capitation fees to the S.L.S.A. before December 20.

This was decided at last night's council meeting of the Sydney branch of the association. The capitation fee of a shilling per head for each active member and £.2/2/ for affiliation were payable in early October. Unless the clubs forward the money owing by December 20their members will be barred from open competition and the clubs prevented from holding carnivals. The ban would prevent members of unfinancial clubs from qualifying for the tour of New Zealand. Assistant registrar of the branch, Mr. Gordon Davies, said the clubs concerned were:

Avalon, Bilgola, Bronte, Burning Palms, Clovelly, Collaroy, Coogee, Era, Freshwater, Garie, Manly, Maroubra, Mona Vale, North Bondi, North Cronulla, North Curl Curl, North Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Tamarama, and Whale Beach. SURF CLUBS FACE BAN; FEES UNPAID. (1949, December 7).The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 16. Retrieved from

This season each club will have one or more safety belts, but most will have to use old-type belts because they cannot afford to re-equip with safety belts. S.L.S.A. officials say it is the same with all types of gear. The clubs-which have always had to battle for funds-are up against inflation. A reel and line, which cost about £20 before the last war, now costs £38. A surf boat that could be put on the water for £100 now costs £300. Last year the Commonwealth Government for the first time granted £5,000 to be shared between about 180 surf clubs in Australia. But even this with State grants could not make up the leeway, and small clubs that have just started, like Warriewood, Bilgola and Long Reef, will be desperate for gear, according to S.L.S.A. officials. A fast-growing population and increasing popularity of the surf have increased the problems of the clubs. More patrols are needed, more gear and more "social work" to raise funds. New Australians have swelled the ranks of the surfers and banked up more problems and anxiety for the lifesavers. Many of them don't understand, or ignore, the "Bathe between the flags" signs and seem unconscious of the patrolman's whistles and signals when they drift towards a treacherous rip or undertow. Like so many of the old Australians, the migrants just take it for granted when the lifesavers drag them from death in the surging waves. "I'm sure that most of the New Australians think we are paid to do the job," said Mr. A. R. Loton, Sydney Branch secretary of the S.L.S.A. Club membership is not what it used to be in the pre-war days, when most big clubs had closed memberships and waiting lists. In some clubs the membership is falling off and the old hands are working hard to maintain efficiency. Since it started its voluntary work in 1907 the Association has saved about 80,000 lives. It is ready for another 3,500-odd rescues this season. Safer Beaches—At A Cost. (1951, September 30). The Sunday Herald (Sydney, NSW : 1949 - 1953), p. 8. Retrieved from

That didn't stop this club from winning at carnivals or for running their own, one of the few means available in these early years, for any club to raise funds to purchase what they needed to look after visitors and residents alike. They were also very generous with other clubs, handing on equipment where they could:

SURFING - COLLARO Y CARNIVAL-Boardrace W McGrigor (Collaroy) 1 B Bartlett (Collaroy) 2 R Ryan (Newport) 3 R and R Deewhy 73points 1 Collaroy 2 Soith Nurrabeen 3 Senior boat Mona Vale 1 Newport 2 Junior boat Newport 1 North Narrabeen 2 Deewhy3 Single ski race G Collis (Bilgola) 1 S Howe (Bilgola) 2 M Watt (Avalon) 3 Senior surf raceA Beard (Deewhy) 1 R Twight(Collaroy) 2 H Maccallum (Decwhy) 3 Senior surf teams Deewhy 1 North Narrabeen 2 Coilaroy 3 Junior surf J Clarke (SouthNarrabeen) 1 K West (North Narrabeen) 2 N Bcrtrind (North Narrabeen) 3 Junior teams North Narnbeen 1 Newport 2 Collaroy3 Senior belt race M Whitehead(South Narrabeen) 1 R Twight(Collaroy) 2 T Dalton (Deewhy) 3Junior belt J Clarke (South Narrabeen) 1 B Pitt (Deewhy) 2 RGallagher (Collaroy) 3 Beach relayCollarov 1 North Narrabeen 2South Narrabeen 3 Beach sprint J Harrison (Newport) 1 J Bliss(North Narrabeen) 2 R Langbein(Collaroy) 3 SPORT IN DETAIL. (1951, November 19). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 7. Retrieved from

Surf Boat For S.A. Lifesavers. By C.W.S. 

A surf boat presented to the SA State Centre of the surf Lifesaving Association by the North Palm Beach Surf. The boat is expected to reach Adelaide from NSW in November, at about the same time as the one the Glenelg Club is purchasing from the Bilgola (NSW) Surf Lifesaving Club. The two additions will mean that three surf boats will be available for patrol and rescue work along metropolitan beaches next summer. Henley is the only club with its own boat, which escaped damage when the clubrooms were wrecked in the May storms. Tuesday's meeting will begin at 7.30 p.m. Nominations for official positions will close on Monday. Surf Boat For S.A. Lifesavers. (1953, September 11). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), p. 9. Retrieved from

Open surf race: B Hutchings(Bondi), 1, B Barry (Manly), 2.B Lumsdaine (Freshwater). 3, R Heming (North Steyne). 4, M Riddington (Manly), 5, B Bourke(North Cronulla), 6 March past: Maroubra (4 pts ), 1,Freshwater (7), 2, North Curl Curl (10 6), 3 Senior bell: R Mathieson (Freshwater), 1, B Browne (Coogee), 2.F Jordan (Cronulla), 3 Senior R. and R.: Freshwater(6 19 pts ), 1. Bondi (7 2), 2,Manly (8 27), 3 Junior R. and R.: North Bondi(9 4 pts), 1, Deewhy (10 22), 2,Bondi (10 34), 3 Junior surf: B Mortenson (Clojelly), 1, J. Rodgers (Maroubra),2. G Winram (North Bondi), 3,B Darke (North Steyne), 4, R Boswartha (Bronte), 5, E Abbott(North Bondi), 6 Single ski: K Howell (North Bondi), 1, W Green (Maroubra).2, P Coles (North Bondi), 3 Pillow Fight: A Cooke (Bondi),1, J Bradshaw (Bondi). 2, R Motherall (Bilgola), 3 Senior boat final: Whale Beach.1, Bronte, 2, Bilgola, 3.  TAKES METROPOLITAN TITLE. (1954, February 28). The Sun-Herald (Sydney, NSW : 1953 - 1954), p. 40. Retrieved from

Senior surf race. R Sharpe (Palm Beach), 1, I Curlewis (Palm Beach) 2, R Hosking (Bilgola), 3 SPORT DETAILS. (1954, January 11). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved from

SURFING. South Narrabeen Carnival March past.: Freshswater, 1; North Narrabeen, 2: North Curl Curl, 3.Board: G. Nichols (Queenscliff), 1, O. Ramsey (Whale Beach), 2, D. Mears (Palm Beach), 3. Senior Boat: North Steyne, 1, North Curl Curl,2, North Narrabeen, 3. Single ski: T. Bristow (Bilgola), 1; N. Davidson(Avalon), 2. G. Collis (Collaroy), 3 SPORT IN DETAIL. (1953, December 14). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 11. Retrieved from

MR. AND MRS. RAYMOND KEENE will entertain more than 60 guests at a cocktail party at their home in Roseville tomorrow night to celebrate the engagement of their second daughter, Miss Robin Keene, to Mr. Noel Hosking. Mr. Hosking is the only son of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Hosking, of Lindfield, and a great-great nephew of John Hosking, the first Mayor of Sydney, after whom Hosking place is named. He is also a member of Bilgola Surf Club and was one of the six finalists in the senior belt race at the Bondi surf carnival last Saturday. Social News Gossip. (1954, February 11). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 6 Section: Women's Section. Retrieved from

The first clubhouse's construction began in 1950. It was 1954 before it was officially opened, as told by David Lyall. Some of those newspaper clippings he refers to above:

Frank Hurley photo, circa 1950 and section from showing clubhouse under construction courtesy National Library of Australia

Dancing and a barbecue are on the programme for the 300-odd people who will tonight "christen" the clubhouse (to be opened officially on January 30) of the Bilgola Surf Life Saving Club. "Come in disguise" are the instructions which Mr. and, Mrs. Bruce McWilliam have given all who will attend their New Year's Eve party at their Palm Beach home, Pebbles. More than 350 members and their guests will attend the New Year's Eve dance at Elanora Country Club, and another 150 will be present at the formal dance at Killara Golf Club. At Davis Cup. (1953, December 31). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 6. Retrieved from

New Clubhouse. Bilgola surf club will open its new £7,000 clubhouse during its carnival next Sunday. Officials say the clubhouse is one of the most modern in Australia. Bilgola will conduct its annual restricted carnival on Sunday. New Clubhouse. (1954, February 16). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 15. Retrieved from

Surf Clubhouse Opening Sunday.  Bilgola Surf Club will open its new clubhouse next Sunday. Heavy seas last month prevented the club from staging the carnival, and the opening function had to be postponed. Surf Clubhouse Opening Sunday. (1954, March 17). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 15. Retrieved from

The following Sunday, March 21st, Bilgola hosted their restricted carnival and clubhouse opening - with a rescue by an Avalon crew straight afterwards:

Night Rescue Of Yacht Disabled Off Avalon Beach

Two men and two girls drifted in a dismasted sloop for five and a half hours I in heavy seasjast nigm>before being taken 1 in tow by the pilot steamer, Captain Cook, off Manly.

The sloop, the 34ft Iolaire, left Sydney yesterday morning with a crew of five for Palm Beach, and was taken in tow at 9.30 p.m.

The crew are: Clive Way, 22, of Jellicoe Street, Lid-combe, owner of the sloop; Robert Jones, 19, of Barrenjoey Road, Palm Beach; Colin Cook, 28, of Manly; Joan Keyworth, 21, of Beach Road, Manly; Pam Walsh, 18, of Pentecost Highway, Turramurra.

Off North Avalon Head a gust of wind carried away about 6ft of lolaire's mast. The dismasted sloop drifted to within 200 yards of jagged rocks before the crew man-aged to rig a jury-sail.

The Avalon Surf Club junior boat crew, in charge of Brian Sheehan, rowed three and a half miles to the sloop after competing in the Bilgola carnival.

They took off Colin Cook who arranged for a launch from Palm Beach to tow the Iolaire to an anchorage in Pittwater.


Clive Way said last night: "I have had Iolaire only for a week. 

"On the' way to Palm Beach all went well until we got to Avalon.

"We were about a mile off shore when a heavy gust of wind struck us, and the top snapped off the mast like a carrot.

"Within seconds we were wallowing in the heavy, seas. The sloop was drifting inshore at an alarming rate.

"I tossed out the anchor. It held for a while, then the rope snapped.

These four young people were (owed into the Harbour by the pilot steamer Captain Cook yesterday after drifting for 5 i hours in their dismasted yacht, the 34ft sloop Iolaire. Left to right are Robert Jones, 19, Pam Walsh, 18, Joan Keyworth, 21, and Clive Way, 22.


"We were really in trouble. "I managed to make a jury rig, which gave us steering way. 

"We only got the jury rig up in the nick of time. We were 200 yards from the rocks. 

"The junior boat crew from Avalon, which had been competing in a surf carnival at Bilgola, rowed three miles out to us.

"We put Colin Cook in the boat and told him to arrange for a launch to come round from Palm Beach and tow us.


"lt was almost dark by this time and a freshening nor'easter was pushing us south.

"I began to get worried about us going on to Long Reef, or Newport Reef.

"We were all pretty tired and sick with worry.

"In the darkness the girls I really became scared when they realised that the rescue launch couldn't find us.

"But I knew we were drifting southwards and someone would put out from Sydney for us.

"At 9 p.m. we saw the lights of the Captain Cook.

"I signalled with a light from the generating plant. 

. "We were towed into Watson's Bay about 10.30 p.m." Night Rescue Of Yacht Disabled Off Avalon Beach (1954, March 22). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 1. Retrieved from

The following Sunday Bilgola SLSC held their own in club carnival, as did other local surf clubs - some results:

BILGOLA.-Club championships -

Belt race N Hosking, 1. K Munro, 2 G Howe. 3 Board race G Howe, 1, J A Parker, 2, K Munro, 3 Ski race G Howe 1, S Fischer 2 D Lyall, 3 Handicap surf race N Hosking, I, N Renwick, 2. L Routley, 3. 

BUNGAN.-First round club championship, ski race W Amschutz 1 Johnston 2 R Ames, 3 Beach sprint T Terrill, I, J Johnston, 2 M Chapman, 3 Musical flags K Ogden, 1, M McCreadie, 2, A Gourlay, 3 

AVALON V COOGEE.-Invitation Day.-R. and R.: Coogee, 1; Avalon, 2. Surf race: K. Winter (Coogee), 1; B. Cribb (Coogee), 2; G. Cahill (Coogee), 3. Teams' race: Coogee, 1: Avalon, 2. Ski race: H. Booth (Coogee), 1: N. Davidson (Avalon), 2, M. Watt (Avalon), 3. Board race: J. Sorrell (Coogee), 1; E. Cahill (Coogee), 2; K. Gates (Coogee), 3.

FRESHWATER.-Bert Morgan old timers' trophy, surf relay: B. Lumsdaine, 1; K. Bennenberry, 2; J. Craig, 3.

MANLY.-Women's beach display march past: Manly. 1: Queenscliffe, 2; South Narrabeen, 3. Aggregate point score: Manly, 21, 1; Maroubra, 9, 2. Beach sprint: J. Gill (South Narrabeen), 1; L. Burrows (Brighton), 2: J. Davis (Terrigal), 3. .Beach relay: Brighton, 1; Maroubra, 2; Collaroy. DETAILS OF SPORT (1954, March 29). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved from

Syd Fischer, Australian yachting legend, was an early member of Bilgola SLSC, going on to sweep surf boats for the club. As can be seen, he was also proficient on the surf ski for a few years:

BILGOLA — First-round Club Championship. — Surf Race: N. Hosking 1, N. Lyall 2, :K. Monro 3. Ski Championship: S. Fischer 1, G. Thomas 2, B. Hawe 3. Belt Championship: B. Chappie 1, N. Lyall 2, W. Hoskings 3.. Beach Sprint: B. Nader 1, C. Oag 2, K. Monro 3. Greyhound details (1952, December 22). The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 - 1954), p. 13. Retrieved from

Once the clubhouse was open it was utilised by the community, as it still is now, for community events:

A BARBECUE on Bilgola Beach and an informal dance at the surf clubhouse were features of the "Tropical Grove Party" held last night in aid of the Newport and Avalon Beach kindergartens. Social News, Gossip. (1954, June 27). The Sun-Herald(Sydney, NSW : 1953 - 1954), p. 25. Retrieved from

An idyll since its earliest days, there is something very special about this tucked away beach and the palm groves that surround it. Today, as yesterday, it attracts people to Pittwater who then return or stay, in spirit, in the bay below the bends.

Bilgola SLSC in surf boat action - local SLS SNB Preimership - photo by A J Guesdon.