Neither the vegetation nor the climate of Scotland Island
is reminiscent of Scotland. So why the name? A simple
answer is that Andrew Thompson, the island’s first
European owner, was Scottish. But is there more to it than
It is questionable whether the island's choice of name was
just an act of patriotism. By the look of things, Thompson
liked money. If he had merely wanted to honour his
homeland then surely he would have selected his choicest
piece of real estate for that purpose. But it’s hard to
imagine that Scotland Island was economically significant
to Thompson. In fact it constituted less than 5% of the 10
km2 of land owned by him at the time of his
death. Most of the rest was quality arable and grazing
land along the Hawkesbury River or in Minto, close to
Thompson died a rich man. Forget any image of him as a
simple islander who spent his time making salt and
building boats in Catherine Park. This was a man with
fingers in many pies: magistrate, farmer, hotelier,
brewer, merchant and bridge toll-keeper. These were
considerable achievements for a convict transported at 18
and dead by the age of 37.
buildings and ships at Green Hills
(now Windsor), 1809
Why should Scotland Island matter to Thompson? His main
home was not here but at Windsor, where Governor Macquarie
stayed while touring the area. Thompson built on Scotland
Island, but there is little evidence that he spent much
time here. After all, he wasn’t granted the island until a
few months before his death.
The island wasn’t even Thompson's first choice as a site
for his salt pans: they were originally on Dangar Island
and presumably would have remained there but for stiff
resistance from the indigenous population.
So what might this insignificant speck of an island
signify to a money-driven entrepreneur? Behind this tale
of wealth and success lies, perhaps, a sadder story: one
involving remorse, heartbreak and rejection.
Thompson was born in 1773 and baptised in Yetholm, a
village less than 3 km from the English border. By all
accounts Thompson’s life started well: he was educated at
the local school and seemed destined for a comfortable
career in his father’s business or the public service.
grave (foreground) in Windsor
But something went wrong in Thompson’s teenage years.
Already a slightly built boy, Thompson became ill. Around
the same time he fell into bad company. Then, in August
1790, something propelled him to break into two houses,
one of which belonged to his own brother. Thompson was
caught, sentenced to transportation, and disowned by his
Thompson was raised among the Cheviot Hills, which
straddle the Scottish border. Overshadowing his village is
Staerough, a hill that rises to 331 metres. Viewed from
Thompson’s home, Staerough has a distinctive shape,
consisting of two mounds, one slightly higher than the
other. Thompson grew up with Staerough, and the hill’s
contours must have been indelibly printed on his memory.
We can only imagine what went through Thompson’s
17-year-old mind the last time he saw his childhood home
and his family. And we don’t know the precise
circumstances in which Thompson first caught sight of
Scotland Island. But it is likely that he approached the
island from the north. As any sailor on Pittwater knows,
Scotland Island also has a distinctive shape, consisting
of two mounds, one slightly higher than the other.
Superimpose an image of Scotland Island onto one of
Staerough and the similarity is uncanny.
Thompson died well-connected, yet he bequeathed half of
his wealth to his relatives in Scotland. But his family’s
rejection of their wayward son extended even beyond his
death, and the bequest was refused. And so Thompson
remains buried in Windsor, a world away from the lonely,
wind-swept heather of Staerough.
Hill, viewed from Yetholm, the village of
Andrew Thompson’s childhood
Island, superimposed onto Staerough Hill
Principal source: Pittwater
Online News. Thanks to Bill Gye for the
The Leimbach Brothers
Oliver Leimbach of the Sydney indie pop group
Anyone living on Scotland Island in the 1990s might
remember two cherubic boys with a penchant for music. And
anyone who follows the Sydney indie pop scene will
probably know that that musical proclivity never wore off.
Late last year, Oliver and Louis Leimbach of the group
Lime Cordiale won the Breakthrough Artist category at the
The two boys, now aged around 30, grew up on the top of
the island. Their mother, Karen, is also a well-known
musician, directing three string orchestras on the
northern beaches. Meanwhile Bill, their father, is better
known for his involvement in the film industry.
and Oli Leimbach around the time they lived on
Oli, the older boy, attended the island kindy, and is well
remembered by Susanne Franki, who worked there at the
time. Annette Ritchie's daughter, Sam, babysat both boys.
After leaving Scotland Island the brothers lived on the
Bilgola Plateau and attended Pittwater High. Oli went on
to study the clarinet at the Sydney Conservatorium of
Music, while Louis studied fine art at UNSW. They spent
their teens playing pubs and house parties, receiving
death threats from neighbours unhappy with band practices
in their parents' garage.
But today Louis and Oli have a more appreciative audience.
1.4 million listen each month on Spotify, while their
music enjoys global streams of over 100 million. Their
album also hit number one on the ARIA chart. Success pays,
and the brothers live in considerable opulence on Elanora
Heights, although they have turned their helipad into a
The boys remain connected with their former offshore home.
A few years ago they recorded a video on a barge on Pittwater.
Apparently the rental for the barge was a case of beer:
'you can get anything on Scotland Island with a carton of
beer', says Louis.
fans at a Leimbach concert
The Leimbach brothers clearly have fond memories of
offshore life. 'It's super beautiful', says Oli,
describing their childhood selves as 'bush kids' who
roamed free. 'We'd run out of the house in the morning and
our parents wouldn't hear from us until the evening', they
According to the brothers, Scotland Island in the 1990s
was 'still quite artistic and bohemian'. But they don't
seem quite so enamored with it 25 years later. 'It's a
different place now, full of rich bastards', they say.
'But still lovely', they admit.
Thanks to Jane Rich for bringing this story to my
There was a certain post-lockdown frenzy to the fire shed
dinner on Saturday night. It has been over a year since
the last major celebration of island life. And it showed,
with lots of eating, drinking, talking, laughter, dancing
and very loud music.
|The fire shed
dinner team: thanks go to everyone who
helped to make the night a success
Huge thanks go to everyone who contributed to the success
of the evening. These dinners involve a great deal of
work, and every effort deserves recognition. We have the
shoppers, the cooks, the door staff, the servers, the
bartenders, as well as those who helped set out and the
clean up the shed. And, of course, there are the singers
and musicians. All of this was ably coordinated by Annette
Ritchie, the brigade's Social Secretary.
The good news is that we already have three groups vying
to put on future dinners. We'll keep you posted.
kindly donated by Natalie Page of ONeill
After three decades of
noise, fun and fundraising, the island children’s
centre is sadly silent and deserted. While the
preschool has closed, we could still have a playgroup
for parents, grandparents and their little ones. It
could be on one or more days a week, fortnight or
I have my four-year-old
grandson on Mondays or Tuesdays and would be happy to
coordinate a playgroup on either of those days.
Someone else might be interested in doing another day.
There are still a lot of parents and grandparents with
young children: it would be fun to get together. And
organising it can be simple: not a big deal.
Saturday, 12 June, 7:00
- 9:00 pm (NB change of date)
Saturday, 26 June, 7:00
- 9:00 pm
The first class (12 June) will be led by a guest
teacher: Chris Wild, from the Sedenka Dance Group,
Sydney. Chris has over 50 years' experience in teaching
folk dancing internationally. Please be sure to arrive
Sunday, 13 June, 10:00
am - 12:00 noon
Sunday, 27 June, 10:00
am - 12:00 noon
Sunday, 20 June,
9:00am - 5:45pm
The Sacred Cycles
workshop is for mothers and daughters, or for
grandmothers and granddaughters, or for any pairing
of an elder woman with a young maiden.
We spend the day journeying around the four weeks of
the menstrual cycle through the four seasons,
spring, summer, autumn and winter. We explore each
season through creative and nature-based processes.
Through journeying around the four seasons we
experience the life/death nature of the menstrual
cycle. We have the power each month to birth
something new into our lives and also to let
something go/shred something that is no longer of
service to us. This is what makes the monthly
journey around the menstrual cycle sacred, it
supports us to grow and transform.
We explore the challenges and gifts of each season
and what we may experience in each one, getting to
know what we need to give ourselves if we slow down
and listen deeply.
Sunday, 27 June, 2:00
- 3:30 pm
Place: Scotland Island
fire station (near Catherine Park)
All members are encouraged to attend. For further
information, and to register your attendance, please
Sunday, 4 July, 2:00 -
This is the perfect
opportunity to display your musical abilities in a
friendly, supportive environment. Youngsters are
especially welcome, but there is no upper age limit.
Alternatively, come and
watch your neighbours, and the children of your
neighbours, show what they can do. A gold coin
donation will be appreciated.
Markus Plattner Concert
Sunday 18 July, 2:00 - 4:00 pm
An afternoon of jazz,
blues and swing.
Island singer Jessica McGowan
Friday 8 - Sunday 17
Sydney Craft Week is
an established festival on the Sydney event
calendar. The fifth annual festival will run from
8 - 17 October 2021.
Centre is calling for entries from makers,
galleries, shops, guilds, libraries, councils and
other organisations for exhibitions, workshops and
events during and around the festival period.
Sydney Craft Week is about celebrating creativity
and the handmade in all its forms. This festival
showcases excellence in making and creates the
opportunity for the whole community to engage with
craft, experience the benefits of making, and
purchase locally handmade work.
deadline: 25 June 2021
For details see the Sydney Craft Week webpage
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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 Association (WPCA)