Is it really dying?
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.
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
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
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
Island, photographed in 1947 (above) and
in 2018 (below). The tree canopy barely
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
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
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.
Looking after an important
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
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!
Doghouse performing in Warriewood. Photos
courtesy of June Lahm
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.
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.
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).
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).
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
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
Elvina Bay Fire Shed
Saturday 4 March, 6.00 pm
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
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 email@example.com
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
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.
Sunday 5 March, 9 - 12
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
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
- Carol's Wharf: supervisor John Marshall
- Bell Wharf: supervisor Charlotte Wood 0405
- Cargo Wharf: supervisor Gail MacKenzie 0412
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
THIS IS ALSO YOUR
CHANCE TO GET RID OF UNWANTED TINNIES, KAYAKS AND
OTHER WATERCRAFT: FOR FREE!
Contact the relevant
wharf supervisor for information.
Scotland Island Community
Saturday 11 March, 7.30 pm
Scotland Island Recreation
Tuesday 21 March, 11 am -
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, contact Jane Rich (email@example.com) for more
information or to express your interest in
The Recreation Club asks for $5 per person per
attendance to defray expenses.
Scotland Island Community
Saturday 25 March, 7 - 9
The Recreation Club
asks for $5 per person per attendance to defray
Catherine Park, Scotland
Sunday 26 March, 10 am -
Catherine Park, Scotland
Sunday 26 March, 9:20 am
us for the third annual island run/walk, once again
held in memory of Graeme Crayford, who died last
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
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
For full details, including
information on how to register, please download the
race information sheet, available here
. The link to register is
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.
Saturday 29 April, 6 - 9
To pay by donating
directly to ASRC, click here
The Scotland Island
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.
For rent: a waterside,
Scotland Island home.
North aspect, 2 bedroom,
Large living area with
floor to ceiling glass. Expansive 180 degree views.
AC and slow combustion
Access to jetty and
marina berth for commuter boat.
One house from Tennis
Court Wharf on Scotland Island.
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
If you know anything about the boat, and
particularly if you have pictures of it, please
email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Missed out on a
you would like to contribute to this newsletter,
please send an e-mail to the editor (email@example.com).
To subscribe or
Scotland Island Community Calendar
For further information on island events,
The Online Local Contacts Guide
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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