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Scotland Island - Western Shores - Mackerel Beach

March 1, 2022

Newsletter for the Offshore Residents of Pittwater, Australia - Volume 23, Issue 1172

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


Was There Ever a Tennis Court?

Roy Baker

Above: Tennis Court Wharf and Catherine Park in 1961. Below: a Google image of the same area today.

Every offshore resident will be familiar with Tennis Court Wharf, on the northern shore of Scotland Island. Curiously we have a wharf, yet we have no tennis court. That being so, there can’t be one of us who hasn’t at some stage asked ‘was there ever a tennis court?'

During a recent clean-out of the island fire shed a framed picture was found that helps answer that question. It’s an aerial photo of Tennis Court Wharf and adjacent Catherine Park, taken in 1961.

It’s a fascinating photo for many reasons. First, it provides us with the oldest known image of the old fire shed, seen close to the shoreline on the left-hand side of the frame. The shed was erected in 1956 and was just five years old when this picture was taken.

Next to the shed is Tennis Court Wharf, with its characteristic bend. The wharf forms the northern perimeter of an enclosed swimming area. The southern wall of this pool survives but the fence linking it to the wharf has gone. A piling barge can be seen alongside the fencing; it’s not known whether this was kept there permanently. 

Tilly Devine, photographed for her police file in 1925.
Working our way uphill from the old fire shed, Pitt View St is clearly visible, and so is the bottom of Kevin Ave, although Florence Terrace is obscured by trees. The road that now connects the bottom of Kevin Ave with Robertson Road, and which effectively forms the southern boundary of Catherine Park, was yet to be built. The blue gums that today surround the park were planted by Warringah Council in about 1977.

The area where the barbecue currently stands looks marshy, which ties in with the natural drainage of Catherine Park: go down there after the recent rain and it doesn’t look much different. Today most surface runoff is channelled along the stream that cuts through the park, but that came later. The sites of the community hall (built 1982) and the former kindy (1989) can be seen.

To the west of the park are some houses. The first, an old cottage partially obscured by a tree, was demolished by the Grundy family, probably in the 1980s, and the present house was built to a design by Dermer Bennett.

On the other side of what seems to be a heavily wooded and vacant block, we can clearly see Tilly Devine’s old cottage, set back from the shoreline and with the remains of a stone jetty in front of it. Tilly was a notorious figure in Sydney’s criminal underworld, particularly during the pre-war years. She ran a string of brothels centred around King’s Cross, and the story goes that she used her Scotland Island cottage for the rest and recreation of her ‘girls’. Born in 1900, Tilly would have been 61 when this photo was taken. Although still a brothel owner, she was by then in her decline, having come close to bankruptcy in 1955. She died in 1970.

The next house along, right down by the water’s edge, still stands and was built sometime around 1950. Finally we come to a fairly substantial home set well back and built in the 1920s. All of these things we can see in the photo. But what I can’t see is any sign of a tennis court. So let’s examine the evidence for this elusive court.

A detail from the plan for the 1924 subdivision of Scotland Island, showing (proposed?) tennis courts in Catherine Park.
What’s certain is that tennis courts were planned. Look at the plan for the 1924 subdivision of the island and you’ll see ‘tennis courts’ (note the plural) clearly marked, approximately where the barbecue stands today. But that was a plan, not a map. It shows all kinds of things that have never existed, most famously the north-western stretch of Thompson St (then Elvina Crescent) which, if built, would have to be cantilevered off a cliff face.

Leading the case for the one-time existence of a tennis court is the eyewitness testimony of two islanders who were around in the 1960s. But even they don’t recall functioning courts, but rather bits of old fencing that may or may not have surrounded a court.

My personal verdict is that no courts ever existed. Just look at the 1961 photo: if anything remained of a tennis court by the time the 1960s came along then it wasn’t visible from the air. It’s hard to believe that courts were built on a patch of land that then somehow reverted to marsh. What’s more, I’ve heard of 1930s aerial photos of Catherine Park that show no evidence of a tennis court.

And finally, I call in aid islander Craig Burton, who has studied local history extensively. In the mid 1970s he conducted a floristic survey of Catherine Park. He found no evidence of any tennis court anywhere within the park.

My theory is that the name ‘Tennis Court Wharf’ derives from nothing more than real estate puffery, intended to lure buyers to the island with the promise of plentiful recreation. I guess we all fell for that one.

You make up your own mind, but I rest my case.

Thanks to Craig Burton for some of the information behind this article.


SIRA Recreation Club Photography Exhibition

The Essence of Pittwater

Residents of Scotland Island and the Bays are invited to participate in an exhibition/display of photography in the Recreation Hall in Catherine Park, planned for September 2022. The exhibition is an initiative of the Recreation Club of the Scotland Island Residents Association. While there have been many exhibitions of art and creative works on Scotland Island, this is the first exhibition devoted to photographic works. Island photographers Mike Malloy and June Lahm are contributing to the development of the event.

Subject matter can be of your choice but we are hoping to include a selection of: landscapes; portraits; nature; as well as conceptual and abstract works. The format can be digital, analogue or an alternative process. Exhibited work can be framed or unframed and be for sale if desired. The size of the exhibits can be of your choice.

Those wishing to exhibit will be charged a small entry fee to cover the cost of exhibition materials and hall hire: $20 for adults and $5 for those under 16 years (per artist). We are hoping to encourage younger residents to display some of their interests and photographic work.

We are now calling for expressions of interest from off-shore residents who may wish to exhibit. In addition we would welcome any input to the development of the exhibition, including further ideas and in particular help with organising the event.

Contact Tim Turpin
Email: timrturpin@gmail.com
Phone: 0417 215 783


Table Tennis

Scotland Island Recreation Centre

Most Saturdays throughout the year

2 - 3 pm: Introduction to Table Tennis

3 - 5 pm: Table Tennis practice

With COVID restrictions lifting, table tennis sessions have recommenced. Groups meet most Saturdays and anyone over 12 is welcome. Sessions are supported by the Scotland Island Recreation Club.

Play from 2 - 3 pm is intended primarily for those new to table tennis. The session from 3 - 5 pm is open to everyone, regardless of your standard of play.

Sessions do not run every Saturday. If you are interested in taking part then it's best to join the table tennis WhatsApp group to receive up-to-date information on who is playing. If you would like to join the group, please email editor@scotlandisland.org.au. Alternatively, you can just turn up and take your chances.


Clean Up Australia Day, 2022

Scotland Island

Sunday 6 March, 9 - 12 noon

Scotland Island is registered to participate once again!

Clean Up Australia Day inspires and empowers communities to clean up, fix up and conserve our environment.

This 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.

If you would like to help out, either by grabbing a bag and filling it, or helping to supervise activities, please email duncan@wattsapplied.com.au to put your name on the list.

Come down to your nearest wharf to collect a bag between the hours of 9.00am and 12.00pm. 
Bring gloves, sunscreen, hat, sensible clothes and footwear – and don’t forget to bring some water too!   

Toby and his crew will be out on the Laurel Mae to collect material.
About the event - Clean Up Australia Day: https://www.cleanup.org.au/about-us


The Two Catherines Café

Catherine Park, Scotland Island

Sunday 13 March, 10 - 12 noon

Sunday 27 March, 10 - 12 noon

The Two Catherines Café will meet twice in March.

The Scotland Island Recreation Club will be running a BBQ café on 13 March. On offer will be hot food such as bacon and egg rolls, sausages and vegetarian alternatives.

Then on 27 March the SIRC will be running a second café, this time with a choice of cakes and savoury products.

At both cafés a barista will be on hand to offer coffees and other hot drinks.

As usual, profits from the café will go towards funding community events on the island, including regular table tennis sessions, international folk dancing and more.

The Recreation Club is looking for volunteers interested in running future cafés. There is no need to make a long-term commitment: if you feel able to run just one café then that's fine. Most of the work is done by a team of young, paid workers who set up the tables and chairs, help to serve, etc.

If you are interested in volunteering to run a café, please click here for further information. You'll find clear instructions and advice on what to do. In addition, the SIRC is working on compiling a more detailed handbook, available shortly, which will make running a café even easier.

If you have further questions on running a café or otherwise getting involved, please contact Robyn Iredale: email rriredale@gmail.com or phone 0425 216 350.


Feast for Freedom

Scotland Island Community Hall

Saturday 19 March

5 - 6 pm (take-away), 6 - 9 pm (sit-down dinner)

Link for booking and donating: https://feastforfreedom.org.au/page/Scotland-IslandCommunitysFeast


Markus Plattner Concert

Scotland Island Community Hall

Sunday 20 March, 2 - 4 pm

To book,click here.

International Folk Dancing

Scotland Island Community Hall

Saturday 26 March, 7 - 9 pm


Sophie Scamps Island Visit

Scotland Island Recreation Centre

Sunday 27 March, 11.30 am

Dr Sophie Scamps is Mackellar's independent candidate at the next federal election. On 27 March she will be visiting the Two Catherines Café in Catherine Park, Scotland Island. Then at 11.30 am Sophie will give a more formal presentation in the Recreation Centre, discussing her vision for Australia's future.

The event is being organised by islander Jenny Cullen. ‘This will be a great opportunity for Sophie to listen to island residents’, says Jenny. ‘You’ll then be able to hear more about Sophie’s climate, integrity and health policies, and this unique opportunity to re-set politics in Australia’.

According to Jenny, ‘Sophie is one of a rising number of independent candidates who share a commitment to urgent, constructive action on climate change, along with other key policies'.

Sophie was a doctor at Mona Vale hospital before working for many years as a local GP. According to her website, improving our health system is another of her priorities, together with greater integrity in government.

Although coinciding with the Two Catherines Café, this event is being run independently: it has not been organised by SIRA or the Recreation Club. Islanders are of course welcome to invite other candidates to visit the café.


Books, Essays, Articles Reading (BEAR) Group

Scotland Island Recreation Centre

Tuesday 29 March, 11 am - 12.30 pm

The Recreation Club has a new literature discussion group, meeting on the last Tuesday of each month, from 11 am to 12.30 pm in the Recreation Centre.

This is not your regular book club. Members will take it in turn to design a session and decide on the items for discussion. Anyone can come along and join in the discussion, even if you have not read the material. The idea is to cover a wide range of areas and to be open to suggestions for topics.

Jane Rich will kick off the first session, leading a discussion on Water Access Only: More Tales & Adventures from Pittwater. This is an anthology of writings compiled by islanders Juliette Robertson and Carol Beth Floyd. The book also contains numerous photos and other artworks by offshore residents.

To learn more about the book or to order a copy, click here. The book is also available at Church Point and in local bookshops.

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


Graeme Crayford Memorial Run / Walk

Catherine Park, Scotland Island

Sunday 10 April, 9.20 am

Join us for the second annual island run/walk, this time held in memory of Graeme Crayford, who died recently.

Graeme was 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 a Graemesque jaunt around the island.

This year’s event will have a special walkers' category, so you can participate at your own pace. A number of participants have already registered, ranging in age from 8 to 80 (yes, seriously!) 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 last year, 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.

Andy Derijk, personal trainer and Elvina Bay resident, is donating his time to help organise and facilitate this 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.


Love Letters

Scotland Island Community Hall

Saturday 7 May, 5.30 pm


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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