A talk presented by
Scotland Island Recreation Club
entrance to Pittwater from Lion Island, by
William Bradley, Sept 1789
20 November saw the second of two talks on Pittwater
history. The first had dealt with the area’s
Indigenous past. This time local architect Craig Burton
examined European settlement of Scotland Island.
Both talks were in preparation for a play, to be performed
on the island next year, looking at the lives of Catherine
Benns and Catherine Bouffier, two women of local
significance. But it was through this second talk, chaired
by the indomitable Robyn Iredale, that it became apparent
how the lives of these two disparate characters come
(1775 - 1830), by Augustus Earle
Catherine Benns was the great-granddaughter of Bungaree.
Born in 1775, history has granted Bungaree various
monikers. He was described by the early British settlers
as ‘Chief of the Broken Bay Tribe’, while others refer to
him as the ‘first Australian’, on account of the fact that
in 1802 Flinders, accredited with coining the term
‘Australian’, took Bungaree on his voyage around the
But our story begins in 1788, when Bungaree was still a
boy. That was the year when British forces, under Governor
Phillip, first entered Broken Bay. Phillip named its
southernmost arm, and the island it contained, after then
British Prime Minister, William Pitt.
Four years later a teenaged Scottish convict arrived in
Sydney. This man, Andrew Thompson, became one of the
fledgling colony’s most successful entrepreneurs. Pitt
Isle was just a fraction of the land Thompson exploited,
developing a salt works and boatyard in what is now
Catherine Park. Thompson also built a house for his
workers, just above Tennis Court Wharf.
Thompson died in 1810. Pitt Isle, by now Scotland Isle,
was rented to his former manager while protracted efforts
were made to sell it. Precisely what happened next isn’t
clear, but within a few years of Thompson’s death the
island was being claimed by another Scotsman, John
Dickson, who had emigrated to New South Wales in 1813.
picnic on Flagstaff Hill,
an undeveloped Scotland Island in the
The next century saw throngs of migrants reach Australia
from Europe. Among them were three men of particular
significance to our story. The first two were German, and
we shall return to them later. The third, a mariner by the
name of Ambrol Josef Diercknecht, was Belgian. Diercknecht
became known locally as Joseph Benns, and in 1855 Benns,
together with his business partner Charles Jenkins, rented
Scotland Island off the Dickson family, with Benns
rebuilding the house left by Thompson.
It is at this point that Bungaree re-enters the scene. By
the time Benns appeared in Pittwater, Bungaree had been
dead some 20 years. But in 1874 Benns married Catherine,
Bungaree’s great-granddaughter. Catherine, who already had
a 12-year-old girl named Emily, moved into Benns’ house on
Scotland Island. Emily went on to marry George Godbold in
1887 and they had seven children, all of whom lived with
In the meantime there had been an ongoing dispute over who
owned the island. Soon after renting it from the Dicksons,
Benns and Jenkins must have become suspicious about the
validity of the Dicksons’ title and so stopped paying
rent. The Dicksons continued to claim the island, but in
1885 Benns and Jenkins were awarded ownership.
20th century bathers on Pittwater,
Scotland Island behind them.
By 1900 both men were dead, and the island was bought by a
third Scotsman, Patrick Taylor, who used it to graze
horses. Then in 1905 Mary Helen White, daughter of yet
another Scotsman, acquired the island.
By now an electric tram connecting Pittwater with Manly
had been proposed and in 1906 the island was subdivided
into 121 blocks, ready for housing. But the lots didn’t
attract the expected demand, with only four selling: Yamba
(sold to the Robertson family, who gave their name to the
adjoining road), Bangalla and a block next to Bangalla
(near Carols Wharf), and Ironbark Cottage on the island’s
It is now that we return to the two German men mentioned
earlier. The first, Christoff Gattenhof, had become a
builder on Potts Point and in 1880 his daughter married
Frank Bouffier, the son of the second. The daughter’s name
was Catherine, and she married her German sweetheart just
seven years after Catherine Benns married her Belgian
Then, within the space of just two years, both Catherines
were widowed. Catherine Benns moved to Bayview and
eventually to Manly, while Catherine Bouffier committed
herself to simultaneously raising a family and running her
husband’s wine business.
Wharf, built as part of the 1920s'
development of the island.
Around 1920, the year Catherine Benns died, Catherine
Bouffier’s daughter, Florence, met and then married
Herbert Fitzpatrick, a young housing developer of Irish
descent. And this is where the Catherines’ stories come
together on Scotland Island.
Herbert envisaged an island with some 350 houses, and so
he bought the island blocks that had failed to sell in the
1906 subdivision. Herbert and Florence then spent their
honeymoon on the island, deciding on names for its various
parts. It was Florence’s wish that one of the island’s
parks be named after her mother, Catherine Bouffier. She
probably didn’t realise that another Catherine had raised
a family in a house only metres away.
Over the next century Herbert’s vision was realised, with
dozens, scores and then hundreds of houses appearing on
our island slopes. Then, in 2020, an auburn-haired
professor of migration decided it would be a good idea to
run a café, naming it after our two Catherines.
Burton with Vivianne Byrnes,
of Catherine Bouffier
In so many ways these women bookend a story that
encapsulates not just our island's history but that of
European Australia more generally. It’s a journey which
leads us, both locally and nationally, to where we are
To hear the granddaughter of Herbert and Florence
Fitzpatrick talk about her grandparents, as well as her
great-grandmother Catherine Bouffier, click here. Thanks go to David Richards
and Shane O’Neill for recording both talks, to Robyn
Iredale for organising them, and to Craig Burton for being
our guide to local history.
Juliet Holmes à Court
As part of the fine fuel
collection, we have all received a new, single-use Bulka
bag, provided as an aid towards fire preparedness. We
know that they are also used for sand, soil, wood chips,
stone and timber deliveries.
On a recent walk around the island, I started to notice
just how many Bulka bags there are. Whilst they are
ugly, it's the environmental issue which is of greater
Bulka bags are made from polypropylene, aka plastic.
They have replaced the hessian sack. Hessian, a once
important source of income for both jute growers and
weavers in India, has been quashed by large polluting
plastic factories, also in India, making Bulka bags.
Kimbriki doesn’t recycle them: across Australia only 1%
get recycled, despite the label stating 'recyclable'.
Many of our bags remain on the island, eventually
crumbling in the UV sunshine and adding microplastics to
the soil and water runoff.
On a back of envelope calculation I have worked out the
size of this ever-growing environmental problem for our
island. There are about 350 houses on the island. From
my observations, there is an average of three bags on
each block, excluding the ones recently delivered as
part of the fine fuel collection. Flattened out, a Bulka
bag covers around 5 sq m. 350 houses x 3 Bulka bags x 5
sq metres gives us an area of 5,250 sq m. That’s about
the size of the open, grassy area in Catherine Park.
Imagine covering Catherine Park in polypropylene. And
every year we add more and more bags.
We may need to accept that some building materials have
to be delivered this way. But perhaps it’s time to find
an alternative to Bulka bags, at least for the fine fuel
collection. After all, three more years of fine fuel
collection will be enough to add another layer to
Are there alternatives? The Council's green collection
doesn't use Bulka bags, just tied bundles. If our garden
litter needs to leave the island, couldn't we just put
our fine fuel on a reusable tarp or in reusable bins,
which are then emptied into a truck?
Or, our garden litter could stay here, and we get the
council to supply a portable wood mulcher permanently
located on the island, paid for with the money saved in
transporting the filled bags to Kimbriki?
The mulcher, every 8 weeks or so, be moved to a different
part of the island. That way we could clear our property
for fire readiness, and provide wood chips for the
A wood chip Bulka bag costs up to $400 delivered from the
mainland. The island would be less unsightly. And, more
importantly, it would save our island from the pollution
caused by hundreds of Bulka bags.
44% of us voted Green in the last election. Perhaps it’s
time we started living green, for our island’s sake.
Perhaps we could set a trend for greater Sydney. Not only
would it be the right thing to do, it would just feel
Residents of Scotland
To help reduce the risk of bushfire, Northern Beaches
Council is organising another fine fuel collection.
Fine fuel includes leaves, twigs (less than the diameter
of your little finger) and bark that can easily catch
fire. Other vegetation will not be collected as part of
the fine fuel collection.
Only Council supplied fine fuel bags will be collected.
What do you need to do?
Bag collection starts from 8am on Monday 6 December
2021. Have your bags ready from 8am, otherwise they
will not be collected.
- A fine fuel bag supplied by Council (one bag ONLY
per household) will be available on Sunday 21
November, arranged via the Scotland Island Residents’
- Clear your roof and rake up all the fine fuel around
your house, then tip it into the fine fuel bag.
- Place your bag on the road reserve outside your
property for collection, leaving a 3m gap in the road
reserve or fire trail to allow for emergency access.
Contractor carrying out the fine fuel collection: Taylor’d
For more information:
Cass Gye on 0418 220 107, firstname.lastname@example.org
Northern Beaches Council: WasteEducation@northernbeaches.nsw.gov.au
Bushfire preparation: http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au
Drain clearing is a joint effort. We can all assist!
What a difference it makes when our road drainage is clear
and functioning. A big shout out to Pino and the team from
Northern Beaches Council for all their recent hard work
clearing island drains. Thanks too to the island fire
brigade for helping out.
With the council team leaving it is now up to us to ensure
drainage lines remain clear and functional. Not only will
it save our roads, it will ensure future council crews
will focus less on cleaning and more on infrastructure
Scotland Island Fire
Friday 3 December, 6 - 8
Saturday 4 December, 8 am
- 6 pm
This Saturday is election day for Northern Beaches
Council. Voting is compulsory. The nearest voting location
to Church Point is at St Luke's Grammar School (formerly
Loquat Valley Anglican School), 1977 Pittwater Rd,
Our offshore communities come under the Pittwater Ward.
Candidates fall into four groups, plus one ungrouped
The ungrouped candidate is James Ricketson.
- Group A: The Greens
- Group B: Your Northern Beaches Independent Team
- Group C: Liberal
- Group D: Alex McTaggart
For further information on candidates, click here.
team, left to right : Jane Morgan and Jane
Rich (assistant editors);
Juliette Robertson and CB Floyd (editors) and
Jane Matthews, designer
In a community brimming with artists, writers and
photographers, it's no surprise that someone, sooner or
later, would think of binding all that talent into a book.
And so it was that in 2006 Juliette Robertson and John
Hoffman put together the first anthology of works intended
to reflect our Pittwater offshore world. The book was
highly successful, frequently quoted at dinner parties and
remains treasured by offshore and former offshore
Now, 15 years later, we have the launch of 'Water
Access Only: More Tales & Adventures from Pittwater'.
Or, to put it more succinctly, WAO2. There are some
changes this time. John Hoffman has been replaced in the
editorial team by CB Floyd. WAO2, unlike its predecessor,
is printed in colour throughout. And this time the book
comes with a barcode that enables you to listen to a
Spotify playlist of offshore musicians.
But the basic premise remains the same. WAO2 is a
collection of stories, reminiscences, poems, drawings,
cartoons, photos, paintings and other artworks, displaying
the diverse talents within the offshore community.
Contributors come from not only Scotland Island but from
every part of the western foreshore, stretching from
McCarrs Creek to Mackerel Beach. The mood of the works is
equally varied, ranging from sombre through to comical,
factual to fanciful. Just about every aspect of offshore
life will be found somewhere: boats, buggies, sailing,
septic, friendship, solitude, birth, death, bush fires
and, of course, car parking.
Juliette and CB were supported by Jane Morgan and Jane
Rich as assistant editors, plus Jane Matthews as designer.
They deserve our praise. But thanks also go to the 70 or
so contributors. All bared their creative souls to the
scrutiny of their community. I know from writing the PON
that that's not an easy thing to do.
The book contains hundreds of creative works, all for $35.
If that's not value enough, there's a bonus. At the end of
the book there's a paragraph of biography for each
contributor. To a stickybeak like me the book is worth its
price for that alone.
WAO2 will be officially launched at noon on Sunday, 5
December, in Scotland Island Recreation Centre. But it is
on sale already. Copies can be bought online here, and you can pick up your copy
at the launch, or by arrangement. Assuming there are
copies left, they can also be bought at the 12 December
café. For people not on the island, copies will be stocked
in local bookshops and at outlets at Church Point.
Sunday 5 December, 12 -
Sunday 5 December, 10 - 12
Sunday 12 December, 10 - 1
Island Community Hall
Sunday 5 December, 2 - 4
Family and friends are
invited to enjoy music provided by local young and
Come and watch your
neighbours, and the children of your neighbours, show
what they can do.
Please bring a plate
Monday 6 December -
Thursday 9 December
Scotland Island Community
Most Saturdays, 3 - 5 pm
Table tennis sessions have
recommenced. Groups meet most Saturdays. Anyone over 12
is welcome, subject to prevailing COVID rules. Please
bring a mask to wear indoors, although it may be removed
during physical exercise.
Thursday, 16 December
- Gold coin collection to defray expenses.
- To download the song sheet with lyrics, click here.
Brigade members are welcome to this training session at
the fire station.
Sunday 19 December, 9 -
Please register your attendance using the SIRFB website.
COVID protocols will be observed, including the wearing of
Sunday 23 January, 2 - 4
For tickets, click here
. The Two Catherines café
will remain open until 2pm.
Saturday 29 January, 7 -
Missed out on a previous
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Festival of Making,
expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily the
views of the Scotland Island Residents Association
(SIRA), or the Western Pittwater Community