Part III: the 1970s
Drawing principally on
Scotland Island News (SI News) archives, Part III
looks at fire boats and fundraising.
celebrating New Year’s Eve outside the old
fire shed in Catherine Park, December 1977.
Four months earlier a brigade fundraiser, held
in the same place, had attracted the ‘largest
gathering in island history’.
Founded in 1955, the Scotland Island Volunteer Bushfire
Brigade was, in its early years, largely dependent on
Warringah Council for provisions. By all accounts the
fledgling brigade wasn't too impressed with the level of
support it was getting from official quarters. But it's
worth acknowledging the generosity of many offshore
residents to the brigade, both past and present.
For instance, the island received its first truck from a
resident, and it wasn't until the late 1960s that
Warringah finally produced a vehicle: a wartime Blitz
wagon which islanders nicknamed Bertha.
As for a fire boat, all that existed in the early days was
a float which ‘languished unused’ in Lovett and Towlers
Bays. Due to this vessel's ‘unspectacular career’,
islanders, observed SI News, were ‘not easy to
impress with the potentialities of fireboats’.
Waters Brigade’s fire float, photographed in
Powered by two 88 hp engines, the vessel was
capable of 35 knots.
Other brigades were more lucky. For instance, Berowra
Waters’ brigade, which fell under Hornsby Shire, had by
1964 acquired an 18-foot twin-hulled unit. Allegedly
unsinkable, the vessel's pumps were capable of lifting
water 150 metres up a hillside.
No such vessel was forthcoming from Warringah Shire.
Indeed relations between the authority and Scotland Island
brigade appear at times to have been distinctly rocky.
For instance, in the early 1970s there was a threat by
Warringah to disband the brigade. The main point of
contention was the use of the fire shed, then located on
the waterfront near Tennis Court wharf. Islanders were
using it as a playschool and general community centre.
When the fire authority objected, residents were appalled:
they had built the shed and felt entitled to use it as
It seems that the row quickly dissipated. But even in the
1970s the island’s brigade continued to look to residents
for the funding of basic firefighting equipment. In fact,
as late as 1980 members were expected to pay for their own
protective boots and overalls, albeit at cost price.
hangi held at Scotland Island’s old fire shed,
New Year’s Eve 1979
By 1973 Western Shores Fire Brigade had acquired a fire
boat. Costing $2,500 ($24,000 in today’s money), the boat
was bought by public subscription. This prompted the
island to launch its own fire boat appeal, canvassing
donations from residents. Within a few years it had raised
over $2,000 (around $13,000 today), and by 1976 a vessel
had been acquired, named the Bill Nunns, after the brigade
secretary who was instrumental in raising the funds.
Fundraising continues to be a brigade necessity, although
today essential firefighting equipment is provided by NSW
Rural Fire Service. Anyone who has lived on Scotland
Island longer than a few months should be aware of our
beloved fire shed dinners. Prior to the COVID hiatus these
happy events were held several times a year and involved a
team of islanders preparing and serving three-course meals
of invariably high quality. The proceeds are used for such
things as maintaining the fire station and purchasing
additional equipment to enhance brigade operational
Back in the 1970s things were a little different. In
August 1977 the brigade held a party which, according to SI
News, attracted ‘the largest gathering in island
history’, a bigger roll-up than that which celebrated the
building of the old fire shed or the coming of electricity
Blackwood in his trademark white firies
uniform, photographed talking to Darcy
Nicholson (captain, 1990-91) sometime around
What precisely triggered the event isn't known. But
attendance exceeded 100: pretty impressive given that at
the time the island’s permanent adult population barely
exceeded 200. Today it’s rare to attract more than a
quarter of island adults to any island function, save for
the larger festivals.
Early brigade socials generally included a request that
‘ladies bring a plate’. This 1977 extravaganza was
professionally catered. Even so, the SI News
write-up refers to ‘white-clad Bob Blackwood’ passing out
steaks ‘with all the dignity of a Hilton chef’. Apparently
the old white uniform was something of a status symbol
among some firies, indicating longevity of service.
Bob, a long-term brigade stalwart, still lives on the
island, as does June Lahm, who also helped raise the
staggering $700 profit ($4,000 in today's money) generated
by the night. That's an impressive result, one the brigade
would be proud to achieve today, despite having more than
double the population to draw on.
One doesn’t like to give today’s brigade ideas, but it
looks as though much of the success of the 1977 fundraiser
came from gambling. Gaming tables were set up in the fire
shed, with games including Crown and Anchor, Overs and
Unders and Swy (Two-Up), all terms that mean nothing to a
gambling innocent like me. Apparently the fire shed
resembled a veritable casino for the night, and gaming
remained a source of brigade funds well into the 1980s.
Who knows what RFS headquarters would make of similar
This periodic history of the brigade will be continued
in future editions of the PON.
At a general meeting on 11
October Scotland Island fire brigade filled two
vacancies left over from its AGM. Steve Yorke was
unanimously elected as station officer and Tim Ives was
similarly appointed training officer. Congratulations go
Steve first joined the NSW
Bush Fire Service in 1972 and was a founding member of
the Evans Shire Headquarters Brigade in Bathurst, where
he rose to the rank of captain.
In 1991 Steve and family moved to Scotland Island and he
joined the SIRFB, where he was appointed Deputy Captain
and Senior Deputy Captain.
Steve joined the NSW RFS as a salaried officer in 1999 and
has served as Fire Control Officer, Region East Manager.
He has also held numerous director’s roles as an Assistant
In 2007 Steve was awarded life membership of the Rural
Fire Service Association in acknowledgement of his
significant contribution. Steve was also awarded the NSW
RFS Commissioner’s Commendation for Service in 2001 and
was honoured with the Australian Fire Services Medal in
At 18, Tim is probably the
youngest person to have been appointed training officer
for the brigade. Despite his age, Tim has qualified as a
bush and a village firefighter, meaning that he has the
skills necessary to tackle structural fires, as well as
those involving vehicles and flammable gas. Tim
regularly attends incidents around the island and
aspires to a career in the emergency services.
Tim lives on the south side of the island with his family.
'After 18 years on the island I’ve certainly seen its
worst and best sides', he says. 'Its worst side may be
turning up to school soaked for the day, but for me its
best is the unique community and the "islander spirit"
Tim describes the brigade as 'a central element of the
community and a gratifying team to be part of.'
southern death adder spotted on Scotland
Never try to catch or touch a snake!
Snakes are more active in warmer months and are commonly
seen around houses offshore. A southern death adder was
recently observed on Scotland Island and positively
identified by a reptile expert for the NSW Wildlife
Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES).
For more information: https://www.wires.org.au/seasonal-animal-advice/snake-advice.
- Never try to catch or touch a snake. Death adders
conceal themselves well under leaf litter and are
commonly mistaken for blue tongue lizards. They have a
rapid, reflex strike when touched and are extremely
- Keep lawns short and free of debris, and if you see
a snake keep pets and children inside. Most snakes
will flee given the opportunity and will be gone
within a few hours.
Sunday 24 October, 10 - 12
Community Hall, Sunday 24 October, 11 - 12 noon
Residents who have just
moved to the island are invited to a special information
session, to be held in the Community Hall during the
next island café. We’d love to meet you and give you the
opportunity to get to know more residents.
If you are new to the
island, we’re shouting you coffee! Please
register and get a coffee voucher at the hall and put
your coffee order in early as there is always a queue.
There will be ‘need to know’ information available with
key speakers on SIRA, fire, water, wharves and roads.
Some island businesses and service providers will be on
hand to tell you what they have on offer. And we’ll give
you a heads up about various social and cultural groups.
Due to Covid restrictions we need you to sign
in with the QR code and practice social distancing. Masks
must be worn by persons over 12 years of age and everyone
over 16 must be fully vaccinated (unless exempt). As
numbers are limited it is essential that you register
RSVP: Rosemary 0410 500704 or Gail 0412 767687.
Scotland Island Community
Saturday 6 November, 2 - 4
Saturday 20 November, 2 -
Benns (1838 - 1920):
an indigenous midwife and 'Queen of Scotland
Bouffier (1857 - 1940),
whom Scotland Island's Catherine Park is
Scotland Island Recreation Club, under the stewardship of
Robyn Iredale, is working towards creating a performance,
due to be staged on the island late next year, focusing on
the lives of Catherine Benns and Catherine Bouffier. Both
women's lives helped create the Scotland Island we know
today, and are remembered in the name of the café held
regularly in Catherine Park.
To kick-start the process, SIRA is presenting two talks on
island and Pittwater history. Besides teaching offshore
residents about local history, these will generate ideas
that will help the playwright accurately reflect the past
and character of Scotland Island. These events will
include plenty of time for discussion, and will be
offshore residents' first opportunity to shape and
participate in this exciting exercise in community
The first talk will focus on the area's Indigenous
history. Guests will include: Neil Evers, Chair of the
Aboriginal Support Group - Manly Warringah Pittwater, and
local historians Paul Griffiths and Craig Burton. Neil is
the grandson of Catherine Benns' nephew.
The second talk will examine the island's European
history, including how it came to be settled and
subdivided. It will include contributions from islander
and historian Craig Burton, plus Vivianne Byrnes,
great-granddaughter of Catherine Bouffier.
Afternoon tea will be served at both events.
In order to be COVID-compliant, registration for these
events will be essential. Further information about the
talks, as well as details on how to register, will be
provided in the 1 November edition of the PON.
Sunday, 14 November
AGM: Scotland Island Fire
Station, 10 - 12 noon
Barbecue: Catherine Park,
12 - 2 pm
Due to COVID restrictions,
SIRAC (the SIRA Committee) decided to delay the Annual
General Meeting by one month so that more people can
attend. It will now be held on Sunday, November 14, 10
am to 12 pm. It is likely that attendance by Zoom will
be available as an alternative to attendance in person.
After the AGM, you are invited to attend a gathering in
the park (with appropriate social distancing) from 12 noon
to 2 pm. Sausages (including vegetarian options), salads
and rolls will be provided. BYO drinks, but the Two
Catherines Café is also open that day, and will stay open
until 1 pm.
Information about nominations for the 2022 committee will
be sent out shortly via SIRA News and on social media.
Start thinking about who you’d like to nominate! SIRA
encourages all islanders – including newcomers – to
Recreation Centre, Sunday 5 December
production team, left to right : Jane Morgan
and Jane Rich (assistant editors);
Juliette Robertson and CB Floyd (editors)
and Jane Matthews, designer
“Water Access Only:
More Tales and Adventures from Pittwater” will be
Featuring over 55 offshore contributors, over 115 full
colour photographs and 160 pages, this unique community
anthology of stories, poems, artwork and photographs about
offshore life is arriving soon. In it, offshore writers,
artists and photographers share their perceptions,
thoughts, and feelings about what it’s like to live on the
shores of Pittwater and in the forests of the island and
Offshore musicians are also proudly featured in a linked
Spotify playlist featuring some fabulous offshore
Our new anthology will be formally launched on December 5
in the Recreation Centre on Scotland Island. Further
details will be announced in subsequent editions of the
You’ll be able to order your copies during November and
pick them up at the launch.
Paslode framing gun model CF325XP
The gun was only used for a small home renovation which I
(Only two gas cylinders were used).
2 x batteries included.
In absolutely mint condition. Nothing bent, not even a
Purchased July 2020.
For sale: $650.
Call Jon on 0412 440 719 -
Already on the island: one brand new 9,092-litre
woodland grey poly tank, complete with inlet strainer
and outlet fitting.
All offers considered.
Phone 0417 524774 for inspection.
Missed out on a previous
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expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily
the views of the Scotland Island Residents
Association (SIRA), or the Western Pittwater
Community Association (WPCA)