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Scotland Island - Western Shores - Mackerel Beach

March 1, 2023

Newsletter for the Offshore Residents of Pittwater, Australia - Volume 24, Issue 1191

We acknowledge and pay our respects to the Traditional Custodians of Pittwater, as well as our Indigenous readers



Scotland Island's Tree Canopy

Is it really dying?

Roy Baker

A family picnics on Flagstaff Hill around the beginning of the 20th century. Scotland Island, with its thick tree canopy, can be seen in the distance (behind the head of the girl on the left).

A community wouldn’t be a community if it didn’t have its gossip, rumours and half-truths. All the same, offshore Pittwater seems to be especially resplendent in bizarre mythology: Soviet spies in Towlers Bay, buried treasure on Scotland Island, and wife-swappers just about everywhere.

Legends usually come with a grain of truth. There probably was an ASIO safe house on Pittwater, although it was more likely at Palm Beach. Yes, Catherine Benns, the ‘Queen of Scotland Island’ who moved here in the 1870s, is reputed to have worn fine jewellery, until one day when she didn’t. But I imagine lots of people stop wearing jewellery without burying it. And the wife-swappers? No doubt there are readers out there who know more about that than I.

Scotland Island, 1870. Rocky Point (foreground) has been partially cleared, but the island is covered with mature trees.
But another story particularly fascinates me. Talk about Scotland Island’s tree canopy and you are likely to be met with a familiar refrain: ‘the island was once cleared for farming’. Being the cynical type, I often wonder whether, underlying this, is a wish to clear the island again, this time for the water views. 

Portray something as not belonging here and it's easier to justify its removal. I have been assured, more than once, that all the spotted gums across the island were planted by hippies in the 1970s. Bloody greenies! This legend might derive from the planting of trees around Catherine Park in 1981. Those trees may well have been planted by hippies but, if so, they all worked for Warringah Council. And another thing: the spotted gums those pesky hippies planted weren’t spotted gums. They were blue gums.

With more than two centuries of European settlement, no doubt many native trees have been cut down on Scotland Island. After all, Andrew Thompson had a boatyard at Tennis: all that wood had to come from somewhere. What’s more, a description of the island in 1850 refers to orchids of fruit-bearing peach trees.  

But next time you are invited to imagine Scotland island as previously a depilated dome, consider this. If ever there was widespread deforestation on the island, it was a long time ago, and its effects didn’t last long.

Scotland Island, photographed in 1947 (above) and in 2018 (below). The tree canopy barely changed.

Of all the photos of Scotland Island, the oldest I can find was taken more than 150 years ago. It shows a healthy covering of mature trees across the entire island. Every photo since then shows the same.

And so another offshore legend bites the dust. But sadly it seems that a different island rumour is less easily scotched. Our lovely tree canopy is endangered, and no one knows how to fix it. That, it seems, is true.

Northern Beaches Council have confirmed that their staff have observed die-back among both young and mature spotted gums on the island’s north-facing slopes. They describe the die-back issue as complex, without a clear cause.

‘It’s clearly not drought-induced’, a spokesperson told me. ‘It’s possible that there is an insect or fungal outbreak across the region following the three moist years we've had.’

Apparently die-back can occur as a result of over-abundant caterpillars and psyllids (a sap sucking insect), especially in moister forests. Other causes of die-back in spotted gums include fungal infections that damage new shoots and leaves, with most damage occurring in wetter conditions. According to council, changes in vegetation structure due to altered fire regimes may also be having some influence on die-back.

Fortunately, council seems to be taking the matter seriously. They’ve had preliminary discussions with experts participating in the NSW Government’s ‘Save our Species’ program. Council tells me that they are also collecting samples to see if that offers any clues, such as evidence of insect grazing or fungal attack.

Let’s hope they find a solution. Because I, like many others, love our trees, along with the shade and wildlife they bring. I had been hoping that talk of die-back was just another island myth. But, it seems, that’s not so.


The Rec Centre Playground

Looking after an important island asset

Jenny Cullen

Do you have school-age kids? If so, please read on!

Playing in the park without an adult is one of the island’s special childhood treats. Mainland kids don’t get this fun till they are much older. We love to see children in the park and keep an eye out for them.

But … there are occasional problems in the Recreation Centre playground. This is a legacy asset from the old kindy and the result of HUGE voluntary effort and funding over decades. I remember the first of many working bees to create this play area. It continues to give a fun play space for pre-schoolers, including with our Tuesday playgroup. Sometimes older kids play in there too – and that’s fine – as long as they don’t trash it.

What’s the problem?
The shed under the building has some equipment remaining from the kindy - blocks, tambourines, trucks etc. The shed doors can’t be locked, so children are drawn to this treasure trove and leave a grand mess. Obviously the solution is to fix the door so it can take a lock, and Council has said they will do this.

There was a shade sail but it was removed, prompted by children jumping on it (at considerable risk, since it was old and getting thin). This will not be replaced so it’s now too sunny at times. Children need to understand that’s how things work.

Some of us met with Council staff recently and they’ve agreed to do some very simple maintenance on this play area, but emphasised that it would not receive any significant work, as it is no longer part of a kindergarten. So if we want it, we need to help look after it.

Please talk with your children
Explain that this playground is a shared responsibility for island residents: children and adults. We helped build it, and now we need to look after it, because we are unlikely to get another like it.

Explain that the main playground (by Tennis Wharf) has equipment for older children, but the kindy play area is especially for little kids and that it IS still being used.

Tell them they REALLY are welcome to play there, but ask that they help look after it – like they would if it was their own place.
  • Ask your children NOT to go in the shed, so there are things left for little kids at playgroup.
  • Tell them they can play with equipment, but ask them NOT to take anything out of the fenced area into the rest of the park.
Have fun and keep safe, so we all can!


The Dark Side of the Moon

A review

Bill Gye

Flaming Doghouse performing in Warriewood. Photos courtesy of June Lahm

Confirming that the cracks are where the light shines in, the locals' performance of The Dark Side of Moon (Warriewood, 24 & 25 February) shone. Sorry about stimulating RAMO (Regret At Missing Out), but if you missed it you really missed something.
This was in part a revival of an earlier production from 2011, but with multiple enhancements and features (thanks to David Richards’ musical direction) that clearly engaged, entranced and rocked the audience.

The crowd's initial Northern Beaches politeness soon turned into clapping, cheering, standing ovations after the first number, gradually slipping into non-stop dancing in the aisles at the Ted Blackwood Hall.

The first half was a selection of some of Pick Floyd’s bests and the second consisted of the whole Dark Side album (officially 50 years old).

The performance and artistry of each member of Pittwater Offshore Community’s Flaming Doghouse Showband (David, Matt, Carly, Louise, Julian, Basil, Brett and Ronny) deserve its own review, with so many wonderful high points. Together they were brilliant, made more so by the lighting show, videos, music mixing etc.

Of course the material itself is top shelf, but great skill is required to do it justice and justice was done! The cerebral Dark Side lyrics are about wealth (“Money”), war, madness and death (“The Great Gig in the Sky” – wow on this!) and time and transience (that in the end Eclipses us all).

Woven throughout, heart-felt fireworks are given voice by many wonderful Dark Side solos (of guitar, sax, keys, drums and voice). Each of these rises out, then melts back into that rich, gorgeous, hypnotic, rhapsodic, melodic background that is the foundation of Dark Side.

It’s hard to know where in a live music venue to position yourself to the have all the parts of the music coming together most harmoniously, but that is the reality of live music.

So if you do get a chance to catch any future performances, such as the upcoming “Wot Doin 6” near Bulahdelah, or maybe elsewhere, DO SO, or suffer eternal Dark Side RAMO.


Fire Shed Dinner

Elvina Bay Fire Shed

Saturday 4 March, 6.00 pm onwards

Book now to avoid disappointment: numbers limited.

Our local book club plays host this month to our fireshed dinner swan song for the season – a sumptuous Portuguese autumn feast.

Don't delay, like every best seller -  the last two dinners have sold out - and we will be catering for the dinner based on prepaid RSVPs only.
BYO: Bring your favourite tipple
RSVP and payment: by Thursday, 2 March to firesheddinner@westpittwater.com.au
COST: $25 per person. Families $50.

All proceeds go to support the work of the volunteer members of the West Pittwater Rural Fire Brigade by improving safety, equipment and facilities. All donations are gratefully accepted.

To help with catering, we ask that you RSVP and prepay via EFT. Walk-ins cannot be guaranteed a meal. 
EFT details: West Pittwater Fire Brigade
BSB: 032 196; Account: 960017
Ref: Add your surname as reference

Fire Shed dinners are a volunteer community event. Help with washing, and packing up on the night would be greatly appreciated.

The West Pittwater RFS would like to stress that all fire brigade dinners are NO DOG events – please leave pets at home for the evening.


Clean Up Australia Day, 2023

Scotland Island

Sunday 5 March, 9 - 12 noon

Scotland Island is participating once again!

Clean Up Australia Day inspires and empowers communities to clean up, fix up and conserve our environment. The event encourages and inspires thousands of Australians to take to their local park, beach, bushland and streets, making a real difference to their local environment.

This year we will have five clean-up sites on Scotland Island:
  • Tennis Wharf & Catherine Park: supervisor Sharon Kinnison 0438 719764
  • Eastern Wharf: supervisor Alan Gaines 0411 211190
  • Carol's Wharf: supervisor John Marshall 0416 247961
  • Bell Wharf: supervisor Charlotte Wood 0405 241693
  • Cargo Wharf: supervisor Gail MacKenzie 0412 767687
We need volunteers to go to their nearest wharf, take a bag and start filling it. The event has been scheduled for three hours, but if enough of us turn up then the job can be done in a fraction of that time.

Rubbish bags and gloves will be provided. Please bring sunscreen, hat, drinking water, plus sensible clothes and footwear. Remember to register by giving your details to the site supervisor. This is important for your protection under Clean Up's insurance policy.

Once again the event is being generously supported by Toby Jay and his crew, who will be out on the Laurel Mae to collect material.

For further information, contact your local wharf supervisor or Roy Baker 0420 557334.

Contact the relevant wharf supervisor for information.


International Women's Day: Voices

Scotland Island Community Hall

Saturday 11 March, 7.30 pm onwards


The Tuesday Discussion Group

Scotland Island Recreation Centre

Tuesday 21 March, 11 am - 12.30 pm

The Recreation Club runs a discussion group, meeting on the third Tuesday of each month, from 11 am to 12.30 pm in the Recreation Centre. Everyone is welcome.

Members take it in turn to design a session. At the February session, Roy Baker led a discussion on the philosophy of cosmopolitanism: the idea that we should think of ourselves as 'world citizens'.

Jane Rich will introduce the topic for the March meeting: The Last Post: the lost art of letter writing. In this digital age, handwritten letters are becoming less common and even considered old fashioned. Is Tweeting the way forward? Are thank-you letters things of the past? For preparation:

1. Try to read some or all of the book 'To The Letter: A Journey through a Vanishing World' by Simon Garfield. If not available, there are excerpts and reviews here.

2. Read The Guardian’s Listen up: 'From me with love, the lost art of letter writing' by Jon McGregor, 26 November 2016.

3. Listen to the ABC Radio Melbourne Breakfast, 8 February 2022 interview: 'Could you break the code of Charles Dickens’ handwriting from hell?'

The group is administered via a WhatsApp group, which will be used to distribute further information about this and future discussions. If you would like to be added to the group, send your mobile phone number to editor@scotlandisland.org.au.

Alternatively, contact Jane Rich (janebalmain@hotmail.com) for more information or to express your interest in participating.

The Recreation Club asks for $5 per person per attendance to defray expenses.


International Folk Dancing

Scotland Island Community Hall

Saturday 25 March, 7 - 9 pm

The Recreation Club asks for $5 per person per attendance to defray expenses.


Scotland Island Café

Catherine Park, Scotland Island

Sunday 26 March, 10 am - 12 noon


Graeme Crayford Memorial Run / Walk

Catherine Park, Scotland Island

Sunday 26 March, 9:20 am

Join us for the third annual island run/walk, once again held in memory of Graeme Crayford, who died last year.

Graeme made many contributions to the island community, including in his role as president of the island fire brigade. But many will also remember him as a regular island jogger. What better way to honour Graeme’s memory, keep fit and raise money for the fire brigade than to join us on another Graemesque jaunt around the island.

Once again we include a special walkers' category, so you can participate at your own pace. A number of participants have already expressed interest, ranging in age from 9 to 80. Like last year, the event will incorporate a fun obstacle course. But if you are fit enough to walk around the island then the obstacle course won’t be anything you can’t handle.
There will be separate prizes according to your age and gender. For those who participated in previous years, there will also be prizes for best personal improvement.

Entry: $20. This includes a hot drink and breakfast at the island café, which will be operating in the park alongside the event. Profits go to Scotland Island Rural Fire Brigade.

Registration is essential. For full details, including information on how to register, please download the race information sheet, available here. The link to register is here.

Once again, Andy Derijk, personal trainer and Elvina Bay resident, is donating his time to help organise and facilitate the event. Andy offers one-on-one personal training, as well as fitness classes in Elvina Bay. To contact Andy about this race or his fitness training, phone 0418 613 890.

Feast for Freedom

Scotland Island Community Hall

Saturday 29 April, 6 - 9 pm


To pay by donating directly to ASRC, click here

Two Catherines: A Twisted Scotland Island Tale

The Scotland Island play

Coming this winter: a play written especially for the Pittwater offshore community.
Friday evenings, 16 & 23 June
Saturday matinees: 17 & 24 June
Saturday evenings: 17 & 24 June

Times and full details relating to ticket sales will be announced in due course.


Scotland Island house for rent

For rent: a waterside, Scotland Island home.

North aspect, 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom.

Large living area with floor to ceiling glass. Expansive 180 degree views.

AC and slow combustion heater.

Access to jetty and marina berth for commuter boat.

One house from Tennis Court Wharf on Scotland Island.

For further information, contact Karen Warburton: warburton_karen@hotmail.com.


Request for information: MV Beaver

I have received a request for pictures of the MV Beaver. Apparently this was rebuilt on Scotland Island in the early 1960s. The vessel was an ex-navy landing barge which was used in the construction of many buildings around Pittwater.

If you know anything about the boat, and particularly if you have pictures of it, please email me: editor@scotlandisland.org.au.


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The views expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily the views of the Scotland Island Residents Association (SIRA),
or the Western Pittwater Community Association (WPCA)
Original Newsletter Design:Paul Purvis & Julian Muir