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 No: 13
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Welcome New Members
Louisa Grace, Sonya McLennan, Philippa Kerr and Belinda Mainprize


I was born and bred as a “baby boomer’ in Earlwood, Sydney and  educated at Christian Brothers Lewisham. After leaving school I secured a scholarship from the Department of Main Roads and completed the four-year Bachelor of Surveying course at the University of NSW in 1966. I was transferred to Grafton at the beginning of 1968 for rural experience followed by a year in Glen Innes and three in Goulburn I resigned from the DMR and returned to Grafton to begin my own private practice until 1999. Having worked the Clarence Valley, I made the move to live in Yamba in retirement with my wife Rae (a Grafton girl) and take full advantage of the great lifestyle there. My surveying took me to all corners of the Clarence Valley and often involved resubdivision of historical surveys so I had an interest in the history of the area. I joined the Port of Yamba Historical Society in 2001.


I was on the front desk at first and then entering information in the Image Library assisting the president, Elaine Garven. We only had one computer at that time. Taking over from the late Stuart Lee as Research Officer in 2004, I set about compiling the “Newspaper Index”,  a history of Yamba and district from newspapers and other publications, land tenure records, survey plans, photographs, telephone directories, electoral rolls and school admission registers, ably assisted by a research team of other volunteers at the Yamba Museum.

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I derive great satisfaction from piecing together fragments of information from a range of sources to create an accurate picture of a person or event.

I have compiled four publications for the Society over the years and am working on a fifth – “Yamba Between the Wars 1914 to 1945”. I also assisted in the review of the Fifth Edition of “Yamba Yesterday” which was first published in 1985 and was mainly anecdotal information as the compilers lacked the digital resources available at our fingertips today.


I was thrilled to be made a Life Member in 2018.

Featured Volunteer 

John McNamarra

Researched by
John McNamarra 
The Loss of the Dredge - CLARENCE - in 1890

In April 2022  the Port of Yamba Historical Society received a request from Dave Murrell. Captain Mike Hinshaw of Palmers Island, to try and identify a wreck found 4 kilometres east of the mouth of the Clarence River. It was detected in about 39m water depth during a hydrographic survey and was estimated to be approximately 35 metres long and 10 metres wide. The high point stood about 1.9m off the seabed, otherwise the wreck was fairly flat with scour around it.

As the Society's research officer, I considered it to be too large for a trawler and there were no known war wrecks on record in the area. One suggestion was that it might be a barge and this triggered a recollection of the loss of the dredge Clarence in 1890.

From newspaper reports of the time, the Clarence was designed by the Engineer-in-Chief for Harbours and Rivers and was built of wood, coppered, in 1877 at a cost of $37,200. The hull was built at Woolloomooloo by Mr Sheehy, and the engines made and fitted at Mort's Engineering Works, Waterview Bay. The hull was 32m long from stem to stem, 8.54 beam, and 3.66m deep. The dredge was known as a "centre well”, with one ladder, which worked in an opening or "well” in the centre of the hull. Although there are no known photographs of the vessel it was probably designed along the lines of a Clyde Steam Dredger. 

The completed vessel was immediately sent to the Clarence River and by October 1877 was engaged to dredge a channel just inside the mouth of the river. However, disaster struck in March 1890 in the form of the highest flood ever recorded in the river. Captain Steele stated at the subsequent inquiry that the dredge was moored outside Rabbit Island, but broke adrift on the night of the 12th, and went over the bar.

Before breaking loose, she was secured with six anchors (three at the bow and three at the stern), but the tremendous current caused her to surge violently, rendering it difficult to pace the deck. The current caused a channel to form in the sand under the dredge, which caused her to drag her anchors. Another was let go, which brought her up for about an hour, but eventually all six cables parted as well as two storm anchors which were also deployed. The vessel drifted rapidly toward the bar. Captain Steele and the hands took to the boats, and reached Yamba safely, just as the dredge was crossing out. It was estimated to have drifted six and a half kilometres as could be indicated by a light left burning. After three hours the light suddenly disappeared, and at daylight it was not visible. The steam tug Comet on loan from Ballina was sent out in search, but it was believed the dredge foundered. The wreck was not found by the initial search as the search area would have been too far east. On the 20th, Captain Steele identified the tophouse of the dredge which had washed up at Flat Rocks, near Jerusalem Creek, about 22km north of the Clarence.  It was thought that the vessel struck the North Spit going out, thereby sustaining injury, causing her to gradually fill, the sea in the meantime breaking off the upper work.    To add to the tragedy, when the Comet was returning to the Richmond River, it ran aground on the bar and broke up in the big swell.

Although the wreck has not been officially recognised, the weight of evidence points strongly to the Clarence.


John McNamara

21 January 2023

Four artists of the Clarence Valley, Skye McKenny, Bruce Zietsch, Pam Fysh and Jude McBean are presenting paintings, drawings, and mixed media work in Four On The Wall, as part of the plunge festival  at the Old Kirk, Yamba Museum.

Four On The Wall officially opens at 5.30pm Saturday 1 April. All members of the public are kindly invited to attend. Entry is free. Refreshments and nibbles are being served.

While all four artists are long term residents of the Clarence Valley this is the first time the artists have exhibited together, a unique event given their varied artistic lives.

Skye McKenny mostly paints from what she sees - her favourite being Australian native plants and local Clarence Valley scenes, with the occasional wander into the mountains of the New England region.


Bruce Zietsch’s large acrylic paintings are highly detailed glimpses of thoughts and memories of his world. His studio based work draws on his experiences in the environment.

Jude McBean recently moved from the Orara River near Eatonsville to Yamba. Her work is now mapping out her new coastal environment.

Pam takes inspiration and ideas from drawing the human figure and the environment. In the studio she creates multilayered mixed media works that express a love of the human form, the Australian bush and its birds.

After the official opening the exhibition is open at the same time as the museum - 10am to 4.30pm Tuesday to Thursday 2pm to 4.30pm Saturday and Sunday 2pm to 4.30pm.

The artists are giving an Artists Talk at 10.30am Wednesday 19 April. Everyone is invited to enjoy meeting the artists and be introduced to their work in detail.

Yamba Museum is located in River Street just east of the Yamba Golf Club. Entry is $5. The exhibition continues to 4.30pm Sunday 30 April.


Four on the Wall

Mystery Item

Can you identify this item? What is it and what exactly was it used for ?

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Last months

mystery item revealed  

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Toy Steam Engine

Mamod Toy Steam Engine made in England. Has a red base, brass steam engine cylinder, steam funnel and wheel. A metho burner is housed underneath a raised black platform.
For more information on Mamod click here for a wikipedia entry.




Many a year ago, I located the inaugural Yamba Urban Area Committee (YUAC) Minutes Book for 1930 in a filing cabinet at Story House. Enquiries at council revealed that the remaining books were stored behind the stage in a hall at Maclean, but I could not access them because of OH&S. Fast forward to 2022: During a conversation with Steve Tranter, president of CRHS, I was told that he had archived the books when he was employed by council and they were stored in a shed at Koolkhan. Enter Karen Toms, who approached council officers on my behalf and the books were found. Michele Close did a great job scanning them and has sent me digital copies from 1931 to 1978, with 1979 to 1982 to come.

The YUAC consisted of 3 men and a female secretary who were responsible for the maintenace and development of Yamba. They forwarded a list of proposed works to Harwood Shire Council at the end of each year and received funding. The committee was responsible for street lighting, drainage, parks and reserves, forming of streets and lanes, campers using Flinders Park and the streets adjoining and any complaints from residents. Eventually it was responsible for sanitary and garbage services, town water supply, bitumen sealing, kerb and guttering of streets and lanes.

I am in the process of preparing an index to the significant items in the Minute books. This, combined with the Newspaper Index I have been working on for almost 20 years, gives a full picture of the development of Yamba. One development I have found interesting is provision of suitable camping areas for tourists.

Camping in Flinders Park
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camping in Yamba
In 1932, part of the Yamba Bays was partly filled in but it was not until late 1938 that the Yamba Chamber of Commerce suggested to the YUAC that the filled area would be suitable for a camping ground. The filling was completed in 1941 and the area was levelled and top dressed, but it was not until late 1947 that the Ford Park Camping Ground was established. The town water supply was connected and in late 1948 a lavatory and laundry. Showers were added in 1950.

In 1950, a lavatory and laundry block was constructed in Flinders Park opposite Beach Street. Camping in the street now only catered for overflow from the two camping grounds.

In 1957, sand was dredged from the river and Billy Black’s Bay was filled and levelled.

On 16 September 1958, a Special meeting of the YUAC was called to discuss the tenders for the lease of Ford Park and adjoining reclaimed Northern Bay. The meeting was attended by Luigi Comensoli of 13 Denning Street, The Entrance and Beauchamp Joseph Page, also of The Entrance. They tendered a rent of £624 per annum, which was accepted. The terms of the Lease Agreement are listed in the Minutes Book. Maclean Shire Council approved acceptance of the tender subject to approval by the Department of Lands.

Jim Thompson of White and Thompson, building contractors, developed the infrastructure and Messrs Page and Comensoli took over Ford Park and the adjoining Calypso Caravan Park in accordance with the lease agreement as from 17 December 1960. Frank Cain was the first manager. The parks are on Crown Land with council as trustees.

Under the 1960 lease, the lessee retained the profits but were responsible for improvements and maintenance.

In 1961, Maclean Shire Council was asked by the YUAC to take steps to request the Government for a £500 grant to re-establish FLINDERS PARK as a recreation reserve instead of a camping area.

The lease of the camping grounds, now called Calypso Caravan Park only, was taken over by Max Mulligan during the 1963-64 Christmas holidays. Max and his wife, Marilyn, had a 28 year lease, which was increased to 44 years in 1967. They operated the Park until 1989 when it was taken over by Alan and Sandra East who renamed it the "East Calypso Caravan Park". Mr and Mrs Jason Jarvis were appointed managers in mid 2000 until 29 August 2004 when the lease expired and Council assumed control of the park.

Council was now responsible for improvements and maintenance and Jeff and Karen Toms were awarded Management Rights from 29 August 2004 for 12 years, being replaced by Adrian and Casey Easdown in 2016.

In 2016, CVC revealed the Latest plan for improvements to the "Calypso Yamba Holiday Park" (renamed at CVC meeting held on 15 November 2016), estimated to cost $8.75 million, which were significantly different to the previous 2014 concept plan with 114 camping sites and 29 cabins, some with 3 bedrooms.


John McNamara

Research Officer

Diary Dates


Friday 10th – Chapter Meeting 9.30 - 3.00 pm

Friday 24th - Members Meeting 9.30 - 11.00 am

                   morning tea after meeting

Friday 31st -  set up for Four on the Wall 



Saturday 1st       - Opening Four on the Wall Exhibition

                          5.30pm FREE ENTRY

Sunday 2nd        - Daylight Savings ends

Monday 3rd        - Committee Mtg, 9am

Friday 7th          - Coach Tour ( Good Friday )

Wednesday 19th - Artists Talk 10.30am

Sunday 30th      - Exhibition closes 4.30pm


Monday 1st        - Committee Mtg, 9.30am

Wednesday 3rd   -Coach Tour M/Tea

Sunday 14th       -Coach Tour M/Tea

Friday 26th        - Members Meeting 9.30 - 11.00 am

                          morning tea after meeting


Monday 5th      - Committee Mtg, 9.30am


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