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Scotland Island - Western Shores - Mackerel Beach

June 1, 2023

Newsletter for the Offshore Residents of Pittwater, Australia - Volume 24, Issue 1195

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



Scotland Island's Trees

A Spotted Gum plantation

Alan Erdman

Blue Gums being planted trees on the eastern slope of Catherine Park, 26 July 1981.
Unlike the island's Spotted Gums, these trees were deliberately planted by the local authority.

I read with interest Roy Baker’s article in the March edition of the PON, entitled ‘Scotland Island’s Tree Canopy: Is it really dying?’ Roy raised some important questions about the island’s trees, both in terms of their history and their present condition, and this prompted me to throw my two cents’ worth into the debate.

My parents moved to Scotland Island in 1975, when I was five. I moved off in the late 1980s, but my parents continued to live on the island and I still own a house there, meaning that throughout my life I have visited regularly. I have worked as an arborist for decades, and have, in a professional capacity, dealt with many trees on the island and in the bays.

One question I’m sometimes asked is what the island would have looked like prior to European settlement. I believe it would most likely have been covered with what they term 'Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest’, a recognised endangered plant community. Many different species make up this ecosystem. The Spotted Gum would have formed a significant portion of tree community but numerous other dominant tree species would have co-mingled to create the upper canopy. The understorey would also have consisted of a wide variety of plants. For a list of likely species, click here.

Scotland Island, late 1800s. Rocky Point (foreground) has been partially cleared, but the island has numerous mature trees.
In his article Roy cast doubt on claims that Scotland Island was ever cleared of trees. To support his argument, Roy published a photo of the island, dating from the late 19th century. That shows a significant number of mature dominant trees.

I agree that the island was probably never clear-felled. From a practical point of view it seems like a waste of time to transport to the island the bullock teams and manpower required. In addition, old growth Spotties do not generally make good saw logs, and there would be better pickings further up the Hawkesbury or along the coast.

Even so, the old photos of the island show patches of sparse tree cover. In its natural condition, Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest’ is termed open woodland, with canopy cover ranging from 50% in poorer soils to 80% in the richer gullies. The photos show a much thinner tree cover in places, suggesting considerable tree removal had taken place.

Rather than clear-fell, early European settlers would have picked the eyes out of the island’s forest, taking, say, a nice bit of turpentine here or black butt there, as well as some of the straighter Spotties. The island would have been selectively logged for local construction, but not on a commercial scale. There was also extensive clearing of the understorey. This would have had a major impact on the ecosystem, leaving the ideal palette for weed invasion.

While the Spotted Gum is not considered a weed, they would have taken advantage of what Europeans were doing to the island and, being ideally suited to the local environment, they proliferated, quickly out-competing other species for dominant positions. As a result we have ended up with a proliferation of Spotties, a virtual monoculture that would have developed from the seed stock already in the ground and seed dispersal from remaining dominant trees.

An instance of Spotted Gum dieback,
surrounded by more healthy species
Now we are witnessing a notable decline in the health of the island Spotted Gums, which I have been observing for the past 20 years. Here is my explanation for what is happening.

There is probably a complex interplay of different factors, ranging from septic systems to climate change. But, in essence, nature does not like a monoculture. When they arise nature will turn on itself, with pests and disease becoming more prevalent. This can lead to devastating results. To take an extreme example, when a farmer plants a field of wheat, the incidence of pests and disease significantly increases and considerable crop losses can result.

In a natural ecosystem a full tree canopy will rarely provide space for a young tree to reach maturity. In short, an older tree first needs to fall down. When that rare event happens it creates a race amongst the understorey, which only the strongest trees will win.

Compare that to a situation in which there is extensive canopy clearing. There is then opportunity for many more trees to mature. There is less natural selection, therefore greater propensity for genetically weaker trees to become dominant.

This is what, I believe, is the main underlying driver for the current state of tree dieback. And that’s why there often doesn’t seem to be rhyme or reason to why some trees are dying while others flourish. If you look at a group of trees next to each other you will typically see around three-quarters in decline but the rest with healthy canopies. The flourishing trees are those more able to withstand environmental pressures, while the others are genetically weaker and probably should not have been there in the first place.

Basically, what we’ve ended up with is akin to a Spotted Gum plantation. And a quick Google search will reveal that Spotted Gum plantation managers are facing similar situations to what is happening on the island. For a couple of examples, click here and here.

So what should be done about it? The first steps would be to steer away from a plantation-type environment. Here are my tips:
  • increase the understorey. Plants chosen from the ‘Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest’ would be ideal;
  • achieve greater variety of dominant trees. Once again, choose from the ‘Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest’ list;
  • learn from the experience of forestry managers, including maybe the use of the seed stock they are developing. While they might not be species endemic to this area, they may be more capable of coping with reduced understorey coverage, which is always a feature in urban settings;
  • don’t feel too terrible when you have to cut down a Spotty which has passed its safe life expectancy. Plant some more biodiversity and you might start to be part of the solution.

Scotland Island Fire Station

Change of phone number

Please note that Scotland Island’s fire station has a new phone number: 0491 097 115.

The above is the number to call for non-urgent matters, such as:
  • enquiries concerning fire permits;
  • questions about joining the brigade;
  • other administrative matters.
The station’s land line is discontinued and should no longer be used.
The island fire brigade will be notified of your call if appropriate.


The Island Play Performs This Month

Tickets are now on sale!

How it all began: the very first full script reading, March 2023

There are now little more than two weeks to go until the island play. It's time for the cast to learn their lines!

Performances will be held in Scotland Island Community Hall on the evenings of 16, 17, 23 and 24 June, with an additional matinée on the afternoon of 24 June.

We are offering a lot more than just a play. There will also be a licensed bar at the evening performances, plus hot food available for purchase. Doors will open at 6.45 pm for the evening performances, and 2.30 pm for the matinée.

Tickets are already on sale and are going fast. See the listing below for full details, including a link to where you can buy your tickets.

Presenting The Rest Of The Cast

Over the last two editions we have been introducing key talents behind the play: Robyn Iredale, co-producer Kay Reaney, the playwright Jasper Marlow, the director and lead actor, Sophie Lepowic, and three other on-screen presences: Roy Baker, Ian White and Lisa Day. Now we come to the remaining key performers, once again introduced by order of appearance.

Herbert Fitzpatrick: Larry Woods

In 1923 Herbert married Florence, daughter to Catherine Bouffier. They honeymooned on Scotland Island, which Herbert went on to subdivide, naming Florence Terrace after his wife and Elvina Bay after Florence's sister.

Born 1951, Larry was moved through 24 different schools. In no case was the arson ever proven. His working life was similarly varied, encompassing 50 jobs, including bank teller, TAB collator, waiter, delivery driver, computer operator, stand-up comedian, commercial diver, dive shop manager, dry cleaner, nursing assistant, handyman, builder's labourer, strata cleaner, and assistant cruise director.

Larry moved to Scotland Island after helping his cousin, actor John Jarratt (the principal antagonist in Wolf Creek), build there. Larry currently lives in Elvina Bay.

Tilly Devine: Betsi Beem

Born in London in 1900, Matilda Mary Devine moved to Australia in 1920 and went on to become one of Sydney's most notorious underworld figures. She was involved in a number of criminal activities, including sly-grog, razor gangs and prostitution. She amassed a considerable fortune, including a house on Scotland Island.

Originally from Miami, Betsi studied economics at Florida International University and later political science at the University of Washington. In 2008 she moved to Scotland Island with her partner, Skip Miller.

For many years Betsi has lectured in Public Policy at the University of Sydney. A keen quilter, Betsi never quite cut the grade as an actor in high school, but that hasn't prevented her from making quite an impression in a number of island plays.

A surprise guest: Juliet Wills

The play is a journey, as the major characters search for something missing in their lives. But will each fulfil their quest? Expect a surprise at the end of the play when a star guest reveals all. And there will be a special opportunity for you, the audience!

Raised on the northern beaches, Juliet Wills has lived and worked throughout Australia. She moved to Scotland Island in 2020, after 25 years in television journalism. During her career she worked for all major Australian networks and became Executive Producer of Channel Nine's A Current Affair in Perth. Her achievements were recognised with an award for excellence.

Juliet has written for major newspapers and lectured in broadcast journalism at two universities. She has also published two books.

... and a lot more talent besides

Other on-stage parts are played by islanders Jo Carter-May, Sophie Blackband, Lisa Ratcliff and Dirk Janssen.

The stage performers are just the tip of the iceberg. The play would not be possible without its magnificent production team, plus other supporters.

The production's musical director is Markus Plattner, also of Scotland Island. Markus was deputy director of the Musikschule Konservatorium in Bern, Switzerland. During a career spanning many decades he has worked in many different sectors of the music industry. Rod Heard is also contributing music. The play's songs have lyrics by Geoff Bullock and Bill Gye.

The stage manager is Gilly Unwin and lighting is by Boyd Attewell. Gilly and Boyd both have many years of experience putting on plays with the Island Players. Audio effects are being managed by Mark Martin.

Catherine Bouffier's outfit was designed and made by Cathy Kerscher (Kristina Keneally's mother). Other costumes are supplied by Lizzie Brand, who runs Interlace, a fancy dress and costume hire shop in Dee Why.

The poster was painted by Nettie Lodge. The logo, wine bottle labels and the program are all designed by Jane Matthews. Juliet Holmes à Court is supplying stage skirts and Trystan Unwin will design and build the wine bottle display unit. Shane O'Neil and Kay Reaney are the play's promoters.

The play is sponsored by LJ Hooker, real estate agents, Johnson Bros Enterprise Marine, Church Point Ferry Service, Church Point Waterfront Café and Scotland Island Lodge.  


Island Playgroup

Catherine Park, Scotland Island

Tuesdays, 9 - 11.30 am

Jenny Cullen

Thank you, council, for fixing our roof! Children in the Island Playgroup using the Rec Centre cubby house.

Parents, grandparents and their children, from babies to four, are meeting in the park and playgrounds on Tuesdays from 9 till 11.30am, weather permitting. If there were a few more of us, it would be worth hiring the hall through winter and organising some inside activities too. Anyone else interested? Have a chat with me on 0406 806 648.

Seen any of these construction pieces around?
A lot of the coloured building blocks (pictured left) have disappeared recently. They are part of the old kindy playground equipment that kids still have so much fun with.

Maybe someone thought they are no longer wanted. But they are. We would love to have them magically reappear, please.


Any Fockers Keen?

Rogaining, Shoalhaven, 24 June

There is an upcoming 'row-gaine' in the Shoalhaven. This is paired with the Festival of Canoe and Kayak (FOCK). For details, click here.

I thought I'd share the link, as I’ve attended so many of these events over the years with young kids, and NSW Rogaining runs them very smoothly - and there is the odd kayaker around here, it would appear.

I’m keen to have a look/ paddle. They should do one here….
It would appear you can choose to go by flamingo, in one category.

Anyone else keen? Let me know if you’re interested.
See you there

Shona - 0401798869


Scotland Island Fire Shed Dinner

Scotland Island Fire Station

Saturday 3 June, 7 pm onwards

Only 10 tickets left! To buy tickets, click here.


Scotland Island Revive Retreat

Scotland Island Community Hall

Saturday 10 - Monday 12 June


For further information and to book, click here.


Two Catherines: A Twisted Scotland Island Tale

Scotland Island Community Hall


16, 17, 23 & 24 June

Doors open 6:45 pm, play starts 7.30 pm


Saturday 24 June

Doors open 2.30 pm, play starts 3.00 pm


Moroccan beef & couscous

Middle Eastern beans & brown rice

Cost of food: $15 adults, $10 kids



To book tickets, click here.


Scotland Island Fire Brigade: Monthly Training

Scotland Island Fire Station

Sunday 25 June, 9 am - 12 noon

Brigade members are encouraged to attend our monthly training session.

If you are interested in joining the brigade, you will find further information on the brigade's website.


The Tuesday Discussion Group

Scotland Island Community Hall

Tuesday 20 June, 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 May session, Bill Gye asked the group to think about the ingredients for a happy and fulfilling life.   

For the June meeting Kathy James asks what makes travel fulfilling? Many offshore residents have travelled widely, both in Australia and overseas. What were we looking for, and did we always find it? If we are going to travel, how can we do it better? What can we do to make tourism both ethical and sustainable?

For preparation:

1. Read 'How to be a better tourist' on the BBC website: click here.

2. Read 'Does the ethical tourist really exist?, available here.

3. Read 'There's a buzz about 'sustainable' fuels - but they cannot solve aviation's colossal climate woes', The Conversation, available here.

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.


Scotland Island Café & Winter Market Day

Scotland Island Catherine Park

Sunday 25 June, 10 am - 1 pm


Book Launch: 'The World's Greatest Tackle'

Scotland Island Community Hall

Sunday 25 June, 10.30 am

Nettie Lodge and Bruce Walker will be launching their new children’s picture book THE WORLD’S GREATEST TACKLE at the café/market day on June 25 at 10:30 am in the Scotland Island Community Hall.

There will be an irreverent reading of the story for all small people, animals, insects and avid footy players, and a book signing… and books will be available for sale. If you have already purchased a copy from a bookshop, bring it along for signing.

Every year the insects challenge the animals from all over Earth to a game of footy. And every year the insects are trampled and left in a mess. This riotous, hilarious book and its exuberant illustrations tell the tale of the year in which the insects threw off their shackles in a game now referred to as THE WORLD’S GREATEST TACKLE.



International Folk Dancing

Scotland Island Community Hall

Saturday 1 July, 7 - 9 pm

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


Scotland Island Fire Brigade AGM

Scotland Island Fire Station

Sunday 2 July, 10 am - 12 noon

To register for attendance at the AGM, click here.

Please pay your annual subscription ($20) ASAP to the following account:
Account name: Scotland Island Rural Fire Brigade
BSB: 082 294
Account: 509351401


Adult Art Workshop

Scotland Island Recreation Centre

Tuesday 4 July, 6 - 9 pm


Children's Art Workshop

Scotland Island Recreation Centre

Wednesday 5 July, 10 am - 12 noon


House for rent: Scotland Island



Double access from 33 Thompson Street or Florence Terrace, directly above Eastern Wharf steps.
  • large open-plan lounge with combustion stove and impressive Pittwater views
  • newly renovated kitchen
  • separate sunroom and dining
  • 2 bedrooms downstairs, including master bedroom with ensuite
  • 3rd bedroom and main bathroom with separate toilet upstairs
  • entertainment deck with garden pond and waterfall
  • semi furnished
Due to an impending and lengthy overseas stay, a longer lease is possible.
Availability and weekly rent negotiable by calling 0476 105 858.


Wanted: boat tie up, island south side

Hi Scotland Islanders,
I’m looking to rent a space on a south-side jetty for my small commuter boat. I’m on wait lists at public jetties. After 21 years on the Island, I find myself with nowhere to tie up my boat!

Any tips for tie up - or best, a spot, would be wonderful.

Shona 0401798869


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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