Past Presidents

With the cake

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The Cake

Let's party

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The display

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PYHS 40th Birthday Celebration – Introduction
Friday 24th September 2021
Lesley Pickering


This very week 40 years ago, on the 20th September 1981, a dedicated group of Yamba locals formed this Society. This is not to be mixed up with the official opening of Yamba Museum in March 1985 - during Yamba’s centenary celebrations of its official proclamation as a town in 1885.

Stuart Lee summed it up, on the retirement of President Elaine Garven in 2004:
The Society was formed in 1981 by a group of local citizens concerned … that Yamba’s heritage be preserved before it was lost forever given the rapid rate of change including the demolition of so many of the buildings that had given old Yamba town its special character.

How they would have been shaken by the current level of development and change!!

40 yrs - 40 Committees - 40 AGMs - 40 Budgets - Innumerable meetings, events & newsletters – and 6 Presidents: Jean Bultitude; Elaine Garven; Keith Redman; Marea Buist; Margot Scott; and myself. Keith and I are very pleased to be here today.

A lot has happened over 40 years – as you would expect.
Incorporation in 1988; Registered by the Charities Commission in 2015; a Constitution; a Strategic Plan every 5 yrs; policies; in 2019 a restructuring of how the Society is managed. 
Our infrastructure has grown from 1 small donated clubhouse to 7 separate buildings.
From 1 room to 5 rooms of museum displays. 
Our collection is digitised - 2,300 items and an extensive digitised image library – thanks to our researchers Rob Knight and John McNamara.
We have a continuous program of art exhibitions in the Old Kirk.
A number of publications to our name, with the launch of a special one today.
Our researchers and their support volunteers are busy.
An award winning Yaegl Cultural Garden.

More importantly, our membership numbers and active volunteers reflect our high profile in the community. We’ve grown into a viable, sustainable organisation, that is enthusiastic about telling and sharing local stories. 

From the very beginning, there’s been involvement and generous support from our community – Lions, Rotary, sporting clubs, active volunteers, and recently the Yaegl community – keen to improve, to connect more widely with their stories.
We have high standards, a love of history, a love of Yamba.
The power of communal effort is very visible in our structure, our operation and the way we relate to the community.


Names from the past – I’ll mention a few key people and events

My association and memories start in 2016 when I joined the Committee and was immediately encouraged to organise the art auction to raise funds to replace our damaged roof. So, I’ve been looking at the Society’s book of Memories and Minutes from 1987 to 1990 (beautifully handwritten) to get an appreciation of what took place in earlier years.
Many of you here today will remember the names I’ll mention: 
Keith Murray (whose daughter Helen is with us today) retired to Yamba in 1974 and approached the golf club to use their abandoned clubhouse as a repository for information, basing his idea on the Pacific Islands custom where nearly every village had its Story House – passing on traditions and culture from elders to younger generations. 
Bill Gilkison’s engineering skills made possible the exhibits dreamed up by Keith, and Keith Howland (whose wife Susan is also with us today) who moved to Yamba in 1974 – more later.
This trio created numerous exhibits while bombarding NSW govt depts for the release of Crown Land adjacent to the gold club. And that’s where we sit today. 

At the start, there was a small core, with Jean Bultitude President for 2 years before Elaine Garven was President for 21 years from 1983 to 200, with Marjorie Innes as VP, Dorothy Collins as Secretary, Chris Seale as Treasurer – Chris served in this position for 33 years!
Elaine oversaw the conversion of the derelict golf clubhouse into the museum building as well as 3 major events: 

1985: museum officially opened by Muriel Brown
1999: bicentenary of European discovery: Matthew Flinders
2004: sesquicentenary of arrival of first European resident Captain Francis Freeburn.


Foundation members Dulcie Woodburn, Norm and Coral Fennell; Jack and Betty Nash; Desma Staff who left a bequest that part funded the Breakwater Room extension in 1992; Margaret Mantova who first suggested we acquire the old Presbyterian Church; Stuart Lee who was born and raised on the Clarence River and author of the Society’s first 4 publications; Daphne McPherson known for her cooking; David Nicholson whose expertise in advertising and organising the Matthew Flinders Bicentennial led to winning $15,000 for the Flinders Room extension in 2001; June Alexander; former long-term president Marea Buist from 2006-2019 who narrowed the focus of the displays to a geographic area, as well as mounting many successful in-house exhibitions – some of which are remembered in this current birthday exhibition; Gary Whale who wrote regularly for the newsletter; Councillor Deb Novak. With us today is Anne McCallum. And past President Keith Redman, who belongs to an old family – here since his grandfather Josuah Redman upheld the law from 1895 to 1918.

There’s been no dull periods nor lulls over the 40 years – only jobs to get done.
An anniversary is always a time of reflection, a time to consider achievements and we’ve got lots to celebrate. Unfortunately, we won’t be spending $40mill like the Nat Gallery of Australia with its commission for a large outdoors, interactive sculpture for their 40th next year. But I’m proud to be President. I’ll now ask Keith Redman to speak of his memories. And then Helen Tucker will talk about the involvement of her mother and father.


Viewing our latest in-house exhibition and mock cake cutting with bubbly

For the current Old Kirk in-house exhibition, I wish to sincerely thank Susan Ong – she’s creative, very measured, but she sure follows through, a true volunteer gem. 

Susan has chosen to celebrate our birthday by revisiting 7 in-house exhibitions held during the past. Many of you will recall the success with visitors of The 50s, Nursery Rhymes, Linen Drawer, Aussie Inventions.

In previous years exhibition items were sourced from the local community. For this exhibition, we’re showcasing objects from our own collection that are not normally on display in the museum.

The stand-out feature is the huge papier mache cake – days of work from Susan!

Susan of course had a terrific team assisting her: thanks to Ron Auld, Eris Flaus, Bev Mansfield, John Marcus, Lyn Marcus, Anne McCallum, Eileen McGarrigle, Keith Redman and Sue Spence (a former VP) who selected the photos and wrote text for the 3 boards that show the History of the Building, plus the Presidents board. These will become part of the permanent museum display.

Now let’s get a glass of bubbly to toast the Society’s 40 years and view the exhibition.


Speech by Helen Tucker at 40th Birthday Celebration

Friday 24 September 2021


Keith & Dorothy Murray moved to Yamba in 1974.  I prefer to call them Mum & Dad.  Most of you will probably remember Mum as Dorothy Collins.

I stayed with Mum & Dad back in 1974 before venturing overseas.  I vividly recall going for a stroll with Dad to check out the disused old golf clubhouse, which had definitely seen better days.  Dad had that gleam in his eye that I knew so well.  He wanted to create a space where the story of Yamba’s early days could be told … hence, the Story House.  He felt that the old clubhouse would be ideal.  Loving history almost as much as Dad, I thought this a terrific idea.  At the same time, I realised what a huge undertaking it was.  But I knew Dad was up to the challenge.  Once he got the bit between his teeth there was no stopping him.

The new golf club was Dad’s regular watering hole.  It was here that he became good mates with Bill Gilkison and Keith Howland.  As Dad was the ideas man, Bill Gilkison was the practical engineer who brought to life many of Dad’s imaginative ideas (eg; a working model of the Yamba lighthouse and a radio-controlled model of a trawler on water).  Keith Howland was the artistic genius who created beautiful backdrops for the exhibits.  We welcome Keith’s wife, Sue, here today.  Fortunately, Mum had the secretarial skills to keep up with the pile of correspondence between Dad and the various local authorities.  Photographer George Alexander used his unique skills to help publicise their efforts in the Daily Examiner.  George’s wife, June, was unable to join us today. 

Sadly, Dad died suddenly in 1980.  He was 57.

The Museum’s early journey was anything but smooth sailing, as a couple of Daily Examiner headlines from that year attest:


October     1980      NEW HOPE FOR STORY HOUSE

On 20th September 1981 the Port of Yamba Historical Society was formed.

Mum had been deeply involved in the Museum since 1974 and wanted to keep Dad’s memory alive.   Fittingly, Mum was elected Secretary, a position she held until just a few years before her death in 2010.  The position of Treasurer was awarded to Christina Seale, proudly held for over 30 years.  Christina now lives in Caroona and was unable to be here today.

Mum was a conscientious and meticulous worker who took the position of Secretary seriously.  I recall her typing feverishly at home, first on a manual typewriter then on “one of the new-fangled word processors’’.  It makes me smile to remember Mum hitting that word processor keyboard pretty hard as if it were a manual typewriter.

Mum had a prodigious memory, particularly when it came to Yamba’s local history.  My brother & I recorded Mum’s recollections.  We were absolutely astounded at her ability to recall in intricate detail events that occurred 30 or 40 years ago.

Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to wander down Memory Lane with you all.

I’m sure, wherever they may be, Mum & Dad would be delighted with the incredible progress that has taken place since the humble beginnings of The Yamba Story House.

Launch of 5th Edition of YAMBA YESTERDAY

Susan Howland’s speech at PYHS 40th Birthday Celebration

Friday 24th September 2021



This book has a history all of its own. Whilst the idea of Yamba Museum, the Story House, was conceived during the 1970s mainly at the Yamba Golf Club, the concept of the Yamba Yesterday book was conceived at the Pacific Hotel in 1984.

Now as many of you know, Keith Howland and Stuart Lee frequented the Pacific Hotel and had many a discussion about life and Yamba with the publican Harry Woods. Keith always had either a beer or a pen in his hand and sketched anyone who ventured near him and had built up a great collection of sketches of local identities. He also was very busy painting all the trawlers of Yamba’s famous fishing fleet. I remember him talking about producing a book with all the sketches he had of local people and there was also talk of a book about Yamba trawlers. But these remained just an idea. Possibly for the future sometime. However, Yamba’s Centenary created the impetus to actually do something and of course any book needs WORDS and this was Stuart Lee’s forte.

So, in 1984 with the Centenary Committee meetings taking place at the pub and Keith and Stuart being at the pub every day, it didn’t take long for the idea of a book about Yamba to take shape; with Keith to do the design, drawings and gathering photos etc and Stuart to do the writing. Other people that helped were Jean and Arthur Bultitude. The Yamba Centenary Committee was set up in 1984 to plan events to celebrate 100 years of the town being called Yamba as opposed to being called Clarence Heads or Wooli. 

The Centenary Committee met at the Pacific Hotel, with Sandra Woods as Secretary, Arthur Bultitude with photos, Milva Lee did the typing, Sandra and the Centenary committee borrowed the money. Both the Howland and the Lee households were covered with pictures, articles, photos, mock ups and scraps of paper for many months. The Yamba Centenary Event was held in March 1985 but the printing of Yamba Yesterday hit a couple of snags and the first edition was not ready to launch until 18 December 1985. It was launched at the Story House Museum.

This 5th edition has gone back to the original concept of the hundred years between 1885 and 1985. I think that John McNamara and Rob Knight have done a superb job, with clearer photos, colourful diagrams and fixing up some errors. The first chapter – Before European Settlement - has been revised by Trish Bowes very successfully. I thank the Port of Yamba Historical Society for making this edition such a pleasure to read for locals, tourists and historians alike, and today I formally launch this latest edition.