A drama for the offshore community
Benns (1838 - 1920):
an indigenous midwife and 'Queen of Scotland
Bouffier (1857 - 1940),
whom Scotland Island's Catherine Park is
‘We are more alike,
my friends, than we are unalike.’
These words, taken from
the poem Human Family by civil
rights activist Maya Angelou, posit a claim that might
not always seem true here on Pittwater. Offshore
living makes us to rub up against others more than we
otherwise might. Because we don’t choose our
neighbours, community living requires a constant
navigation between differences and commonalities. And
now we have an additional challenge that could, in the
months to come, tell us more about what unites and
Robyn Iredale, a long-time offshore resident, has
already given us the Two Catherines Café. COVID
permitting, the café meets twice monthly at Scotland
Island Community Hall. The café's name refers to
Catherine Benns and Catherine Bouffier, two women
associated with the island's history. As far as we
know they never met. But what if they had? What would
they have had in common? And what would have driven
(c1775 - 1830)
Called 'Chief of the Broken Bay Tribe' by
the British, he is reputed to have been
Catherine Benn's grandfather.
These are questions Robyn
poses. On behalf of SIRA, Robyn is applying to
Northern Beaches Council for a grant, the purpose of
which is to fund a play, to be performed on Scotland
Island. This will imagine a meeting between the two
Catherines. In the process Robyn hopes to organise
workshops dealing not only with Pittwater history but
also the art of theatre. These will enable us to
interrogate Angelou’s claim, exploring the extent to
which difference can be accommodated in community.
In many ways Angelou’s
poem seems peculiarly apposite to the project. Angelou
was interested in gender, particularly experiences
common to women. Her poem speaks of women who, like
our Catherines, share a name. But what underlies
superficial commonalities such as name and sex?
Angelou was also concerned
with race. Catherine Benns was Aboriginal. Catherine
Bouffier was white. The paradigm of human contrast is
that between the European settlers of this land and
its indigenous peoples. But were those differences
more than skin deep?
If ever the Catherines’ paths crossed then it would
have been just as Pittwater was on the cusp of
tremendous change. A meeting was most likely in the
immediate aftermath of World War I. Benns would have
been coming to the end of her long life. A small dark
woman dressed in black, prone to rowing to and from
the island regardless of the weather, she would have
seemed emblematic of a lost era for Pittwater.
But even in her dotage
Benns was still ‘Queen of Scotland Island’. Perhaps
she was fond of recounting how, only a century
earlier, her direct forebear, Bungaree, had been
dubbed ‘King of the Blacks’ by the invading British.
By all accounts Benns was ‘of gentle manners’.
Possibly she inherited her affability from Bungaree, a
man so well versed in rapprochement that Matthew
Flinders recruited him for his 1801 circumnavigation
Fitzpatrick, née Bouffier (1892 - 1967)
Catherine Bouffier's daughter, she married
Scotland Island's developer and gave her
name to Florence Terrace.
Imagine this diminutive
woman meeting Catherine Bouffier. On the surface they
would have had little reason to be friends. Benns was
the daughter of an indigenous woman and a convict,
while Bouffier’s parents were free settlers. A
businesswoman of considerable renown, Bouffier would
have been more comfortable at an international wine
festival than in the back of Benns’ rowing boat.
What’s more, Bouffier’s daughter, Florence, was about
to marry Herbert Fitzpatrick, the man responsible for
developing the island and much of the western
foreshore. Would Benns have seen this as the final
stage in her people’s displacement from their
But dig beneath their racial and class differences and
perhaps these women could have got along. Although
Bouffier was white, neither Catherine would have been
a stranger to prejudice. For a start, both had German
parentage. And both married men of teutonic ancestry.
Even if the women did not consider themselves German,
they lived through the first world war, and would have
been aware of the anti-German sentiment around
Besides this, they were women in a man’s world. Both
had lost their husbands at relatively young ages.
Widowhood had been especially difficult for Bouffier.
Her husband had run a successful wine store. But he
died when Bouffier was 40, leaving her with four young
children to support. Bouffier now had to operate the
family business in an age when women couldn’t even
vote. But Bouffier managed, and her business grew from
strength to strength.
In the words of Robyn Iredale, these were remarkable
women. They were unalike. But were they more alike
than unalike? A meeting between such diverse
characters would have been interesting to witness. But
our offshore community can also spark and synergise.
Perhaps we can once again exercise our collective
imaginations, coming together to meld our differences
and find common ground.
To read more about
Catherine Benns (often spelt Bens) and her ancestry,
To read more about
Catherine Bouffier and her family, click here
Creative script writer
Island Recreation Club is looking for a script writer for
a short play (up to one hour) on two women who were
important to the island.
Catherine Ferdinand (1838-1920), an Indigenous
woman from the Hawkesbury River, traded in shells/oranges,
and met and married Joseph Benns, a Belgian mariner.
Joseph had leased Scotland Island and Catherine moved here
in 1862, becoming a midwife among the offshore community.
A descendant of her family will be involved in providing
information on Catherine, as well as advice and clearance
on cultural issues.
Catherine Gattenhoff (1857-1940) was born in
Australia to German parents and married a German vigneron,
Frank Bouffier. When Frank died in 1898, he left the
family business to his wife. She ran it successfully. A
relative of Catherine Bouffier is available as an advisor.
Catherine Bouffier was the mother-in-law of Herbert
Fitzpatrick, who developed Scotland Island and Elvina Bay
for housing during the 1920s. He named Catherine Park on
the island after her.
As far as we know the two Catherines never met, so the
challenge is to create a story around them. We have photos
and information to share. We also have a professional TV
and movie script writer on the island who will act as a
mentor and offer guidance.
Initially, there will be historical workshops that the
writer would be expected to join in. Once the script is
developed a director will be chosen and we will run acting
and musical workshops.
There will be a $3000 payment for the writing of the
script. An application for a grant to fund the project has
been submitted to Northern Beaches Council.
Please call me (0425 216350) or email me (email@example.com) if you are
interested or have any suggestions.
Our offshore link with one
of Australia's preeminent photographers
Shackleton's ship Endurance
in Antarctic pack ice, 1915:
one of the many iconic images captured by
photographer Frank Hurley
One so rarely hears of
connections between Scotland Island’s Catherine Park and
the frozen wastes of Antarctica. But the two are
related, as any student of photography should realise.
Catherine Park is, as you now
know, named after Catherine Bouffier, mother-in-law of
Herbert Fitzpatrick. He was the man who subdivided the
island in the 1920s, shaping it into what it is today.
Hurley (1885 - 1962)
Catherine Bouffier helped him buy his first
Catherine's life was not
always easy, and 1898 was a particularly difficult year
for her. First, her husband died, leaving Catherine with
four young children. Then, later in the year, her father
also died. Between these events Catherine received the
news that her thirteen-year-old nephew had run away from
home. Fortunately he returned unharmed two years later,
and this early act of rebellion foreshadowed a life of
unparalleled adventure. His name was Frank Hurley, and
he was to become one of Australia’s most famous and
We don’t know exactly what first sparked teenage Frank’s
interest in photography. But, according to Vivianne
Byrnes, Catherine’s great-granddaughter, Catherine
kindled it. Vivianne tells of how, upon Frank’s return
from his first wayward adventure, Catherine let him sell
the empty bottles from her Sydney wine bar. Frank then
used the money to buy his first camera. Apparently the
family, including Catherine's daughter Florence (after
whom Florence Terrace is named) used to picnic on South
Head and Bondi so that young Frank could spend ‘endless
hours’ photographing waves.
But young Frank had his eye on bigger prizes. In 1911,
aged 26, Frank became official photographer to Douglas
Mawson’s Antarctic Expedition. He returned in 1914, only
to then join Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated
trans-Antarctic expedition. Shackleton’s goal was to
make the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent.
Instead Shackleton’s ship, Endurance, became
beset in ice. It got crushed and then sank, stranding
its 28-man complement on the ice.
Hurley with Ernest Shackleton
For five months the men
drifted on pack ice. Then, in a desperate bid for
survival, Shackleton left with a small group of men to
attempt one of the great feats of human endurance: sail
an adapted lifeboat 1,300 km across open ocean to South
Georgia, then walk across the island in search of
Shackleton succeeded, but he
had left a contingent of 22 men, including Frank, to
endure an Antarctic winter. For four months Frank and
his comrades awaited their fate, not knowing whether
Shackleton would ever return. Then, in August 1916,
Shackleton finally brought relief. Shackleton’s tale has
received many retellings, including here.
Hurley went on to enjoy a
long career in photography before retiring to Collaroy
Plateau. He was an innovative photographer. For
instance, in the 1920s he found a way to create the
illusion of undersea photography by means of an
aquarium, well before underwater cameras were developed.
But it was in 1917, during his service as war
photographer during the Third Battle of Ypres, that
controversy struck. Hurley believed he could best
capture the horrors of trench warfare through composite images: numerous photos
combined to create a single picture. His photos were
exhibited in London in 1918, only to have them dismissed
by Charles Bean, official war historian, as ‘fake’.
(1917), one of Frank Hurley's composite
images, intended to show the horror of trench
Right: two of the many photos taken by Hurley
and used to create the composite.
Hurley was appalled, given
the risks he had taken on the battlefront to capture the
images that make up his compositions. In his defence,
Hurley cited comments overheard from soldiers attending
his exhibition. They, he said, could see in his work a
greater reality, one that simply couldn’t be captured by
the cameras of the day. And certainly Frank’s photos
have survived as some of the most memorable images of
the 20th century.
This controversy touches on an issue familiar to all
creative workers: should they stick to the facts, or can
a deeper truth be captured through departure from the
historical record? It’s a question that will no doubt
face those involved in the Two Catherines play: so
little is known about those women that there will
inevitably be invention. But that doesn't mean that
greater truths cannot be told.
So, next time you are in Catherine Park and it’s feeling
a bit nippy, spare a thought for the woman who helped
young Frank buy his first camera, and the suffering and
controversy this brave man endured to capture and create
his iconic images.
With gyms and bootcamps closed and children at home, this
month's PON brings you something to get you or your family
up and about around Scotland Island. This quiz involves
ten multiple-choice questions, and you will only be able
to answer them by walking or running around Scotland
Island's public paths and roads, looking for answers.
There's a prize!
The first person to email me with proof that you have all
ten questions right wins a free Zoom group exercise class
run and donated by Andy Derijk of Fitter Forever. These
classes run Mondays and Thursdays from 7 - 7.45 am. (Value
1. The prize goes to the first person to email evidence of
ten correct answers to the quiz questions. One of two
forms of proof is needed: the answers (set out in an
email) or a screen grab showing a 10/10 score. Email to
2. The Zoom bootcamp is limited to persons aged 16 and
older. If the prize is won by a younger person then that
person may nominate a parent or older family member for
3. You may attempt the quiz as many times as you like.
The quiz starts now! To access the questions click
If you prefer to access the questions in pdf form, click here.
About Andy Derijk:
Andy is a qualified fitness instructor. When COVID
restrictions allow, Andy runs exercise classes in Elvina
Bay from 7 - 7.45 am, Mondays and Thursdays. (These are
currently suspended for the duration of the lockdown.)
Andy also offers personal training sessions.
Phone: 0418 613890. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website:
A note from SIRA to
There was an incident
recently when toys and play equipment were removed from
the Scotland Island Recreation Centre (old kindy)
playground and shed and left strewn around Catherine
Park and the adjoining mangroves.
SIRA is very happy for
island children to use the equipment kept behind the old
kindy and in the shed but it needs to be done
future, we ask that parents please ensure that their
children understand that anything they find inside the
kindy fence may be taken for play activities in and
around the park, but it must
be returned to
within the kindy perimeter fence by the end of each day.
As from today the kindy
shed and roller door at the back of the building will
both be locked. If anyone would be willing to facilitate
play groups using the equipment in the kindy shed then
please contact SIRA.
Colin Haskell, President
A note from SIRA to
With the COVID lockdown
there are more children playing on island roads, as well
as pedestrians out and about.
Please remember the island
speed limit: 20 kph. We ask that you drive with care,
especially on steep hills and at corners. This is for
the well-being of drivers and their passengers, as well
as other road users.
SIRA Road and Environment
Week commencing 9 August
receive two scheduled bulky goods collections per year.
These are organised by Northern Beaches Council. The
next collection commences Monday, 9 August 2021.
Materials must only be placed out the weekend before
this date. Fines apply for illegal dumping.
residents: collection is from the roadside
only. The maximum amount is 3 cubic metres. Do not place
materials at public wharves and jetties.
residents: place materials within the
temporarily fenced grassed area at the southern side of
the public wharf. There will be a separate fenced
section for metals.
foreshore residents: place materials at the
public wharves. Alternatively, if you have a private
wharf waste collection service and year-round tidal
access then you may place your material on your
Preparing your material for collection:
Other points to note:
- Paint tins must be empty, with lids removed;
- Empty beanbags: put the polystyrene beads in a
strong plastic bag, expel the air and seal;
- small items (anything smaller than a toaster)
should be placed in unwanted bins/crates/boxes.
- Liquid or business waste;
- E-waste, specifically TVs and computers;
- car parts, tyres, oil, outboard motors;
- sheet glass, mirrors, glass tables;
- building material, including insulation, bricks,
- hazardous waste, including smoke detectors, fire
extinguishers, gas canisters, chemicals, paint and
- vegetation, recyclable material, household
for Northern Beaches Council
advice on recycling and disposal of difficult waste,
including eWaste and hazardous material. Additional
information for Scotland Island residents can be found here
, and for western foreshore
residents can be accessed here
Census night is Tuesday,
Households should receive a
paper census form. If you haven't then you can still
complete your census online: click here
Please participate in
the census. (It's compulsory, anyway.)
The government says that
the information is used to make decisions about
transport, schools, health care and infrastructure. What
they don't mention is that I need the data for
interesting PON articles.
Saturday 18 September,
5:00 - 7:30 pm
To buy your tickets,
Furnished one bedroom
apartment available for casual renting: 111 Richard Rd,
Rent negotiable: reduced
rent in exchange for some garden maintenance, labouring,
Contact Robyn and Tim,
9979 1096 or 0417 215783.
lived on the island for 8 years and my parents are
moving off the island but I'd like to stay. I'm
looking for a small studio/granny flat for a 6 - 12
month lease, starting anytime August or September.
I'm employed full time,
a non-smoker, have no pets and am reliable. Thanks,
Jack 0468 582201.
4 seater brown leather lounge for sale, good
|| Corner IKEA
desk with book shelves, very good condition
$40 (doesn't include drawers)
lounge, good condition, really comfortable
| Outdoor side table, needs some TLC, but a
really pretty table $15
|| IKEA wooden
wardrobe with 5 interior shelves, excellent
|| Near new sun loungers with black cushions
and weatherproof covers, excellent condition
$140 each ($220 each new)
If you are
interested in any of the above items, please call
Claire on 0479 072 200.
septic system needs pumping out. If anyone has a
similar need and would like to share the costs,
please contact me.
is looking for two filing cabinets (preferably four
drawer) in which to keep its document archives. If
you feel able to donate one or two cabinets to SIRA
then please email me.
Missed out on a previous
you would like to contribute to this newsletter,
please send an e-mail to the editor (email@example.com).
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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