July 3 - 16, 2022: Issue 545
By Barbara Davies
Botham Beach is a small reserve on the waterfront at Church Point commencing at Holmeport Marina and finishing at No 12 McCarrs Creek Road. It has approximately 300 m of beach front with a magnificent variety of native plants and superb examples of Endangered Pittwater Spotted Gums. It has been named after one of the local identities who made a significant contribution to the residents and locality of Church Point.
James Bernard Archer Botham was born in 1896 in Mosman to Matilda and James Botham who migrated to Australia from England and Wales. In 1931, James married Nora Johnson at St Matthews Church, Manly. They had three children, Jimmy, Laurel and Graham. James worked as a fisherman and in the 1950’s joined the PMG at Mona Vale. He died in 1974 aged 78.
The Bothams purchased their home at No 1 Brown’s Road, Church Point for under one hundred pounds about 1930. The number was later changed to No 12 McCarrs Creek Road. It is the first house on the eastern side of the creek to have deep water access and adjoins the reserve behind the houses at 2-10
McCarrs Creek Road.
Mr. Botham cleared and maintained the pathways and the reserve and saved “Sunnyside” from bush fires on one occasion. The owners presented him with an afternoon tea set for his efforts.
Mr. Botham fished commercially and hired boats from the two jetties adjoining his home. He used a converted 18’ skiff as his fishing boat and learnt how to make the nets from Greek fishermen at Mosman. The photograph (above left) shows him mending one of his haul nets on the beach – note the huge mangrove branch. There are still the remains of a small jetty on the beach.
He regularly hauled around the shores of McCarrs Creek and used to fish Narrabeen Lake before the bottom bridge was built. He also rowed to Scotland Island, Lovett and Towlers Bay for flathead, bream, whiting, flounder, garfish, catfish, snapper, jewies, king fish and buckets of mackerel for bait. His daughter, Laurel, one of the first licensed fisherwomen in NSW, helped her father from the age of five.
Above: The photograph of the submarine cable being laid from the mainland to the western shores features the “Veroona” which was originally owned by the Nottings. It was built before the War and is still in use at Gosford as a mooring lighter.
The photographs below show Laurel and her father with McCarrs Creek in the background and Laurel sitting on a rock that is still on the beach and across the creek the houses of Teddy Steck’s parents, Mrs Jarvis’ and Vic Wills’ “Coonardoo”.
During WWII Mr. Botham and Laurel were issued with a permit to be on board any type of boat in Pittwater and the Hawkesbury River Waters.
The family was told that he provided free fish for lots of local families during the Depression. His catches were sold in the markets and locally to regular customers. During his fishing trips, he kept a check on the health of a few old men around the bays, including some who lived in caves.
The Botham children spent an idyllic childhood living in this unique location, spending their time after school fishing off Scotland Island and tramping barefoot through Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.
Graham used to dive for huge mud oysters in McCarrs Creek and said that the oysters and scallops along the waterfront are coming back. A natural phenomenon known as “white death” seems to kill the scallops about every twenty years.
The family remembers the huge sharks that came into McCarrs Creek each July, one white pointer being as long as the 18’ fishing boat. Graham was not allowed to go into the water above his knees until he was twelve but later became a professional diver. In recent years he caught a bronze whaler about four
to five feet long off Scotland Island.
1,000 lb sharks were often seen off West Head and the fishermen used to blow them up using gelignite. There is a memorial outside the Bayview Hotel at Woy Woy to seven local fishermen who were never found after going shark fishing.
Above (top): Mrs. Botham was a fabulous cook and a committee member of Mona Vale Hospital, with Mrs. Overy. She was also a very keen gardener and is shown with the reserve in the background in the 1970’s. Note the beautiful spotted gums many of which were lost as a result of landslip in the area.
Words by Barbara Davies, 2011. Photographs kindly supplied by Botham descendants, 2011.