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Scotland Island - Western Shores - Mackerel Beach

October 1, 2022

Newsletter for the Offshore Residents of Pittwater, Australia - Volume 23, Issue 1186

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


Thompson's Brothers

An essay on oblivion

Roy Baker

Yetholm on the Scottish borders, childhood home of Andrew Thompson,
first European owner of Scotland Island

Death has dominated the news of late, perhaps turning our thoughts to our own demise, or that of a loved one. Writers from Irvin Yalom to Macklemore have pondered existential dread, concluding that what haunts us most is that one day we will cease to exist even in memory.

I doubt whether erasure from history was a primary concern of the elderly woman whose passing, at her palace in Scotland, recently filled the airwaves. To a lesser extent the name of Andrew Thompson is also assured longevity. Many offshore residents, including myself, live on Scotland Island’s Thompson Street, named, of course, for the island’s first non-Indigenous owner.

Staerough Hill, as seen from Yetholm. Some suggest that Scotland Island's topographical similarity might have prompted Thompson to give the island its name.
Last year Annegret Hall published her thoughtful and highly engaging biography Andrew Thompson: From Boy Convict to Wealthiest Settler in Colonial Australia. The title says it all. In 1791 Thompson, aged 19, was transported to New South Wales, but rapidly rose to become one of the fledgling colony’s richest landowners: Scotland Island represented only a tiny fraction of his estates. Andrew had a remarkable life, cut short when, at 37, he died from illness apparently contracted from rescuing flood survivors on the Hawkesbury.

Hall’s book depicts Thompson as a thoroughly decent man: brave, personable and surprisingly erudite, given his humble origins. Hall even suggests that Thompson may have been innocent of the burglaries that led to his transportation. Thompson pleaded guilty, but the only evidence against him was the discovery of stolen items among his possessions. Hall surmises that the guilty plea may have purely been to avoid death by hanging.

While Thompson’s role in Sydney’s evolution is noteworthy, what interested me during my recent trip to the Scottish borders was what Andrew left behind. He grew up in the small village of Yetholm, nestled among the Cheviot Hills. It’s a beautiful place, but I was there to look for the Thompson legacy.

Kirk Yetholm. The Thompson children's grave
is in the immediate foreground.
‘John Thompson? We buried him last week’, said the elderly woman I met in the village church. This I found somewhat alarming, given that John Thompson, Andrew’s father, was born in the 1720s. It transpires that the surname Thompson is particularly common in that part of Scotland, to the extent that apparently half of the people in a neighbouring hamlet are called Thompson.

Soon I was finding Thomsons and Thompsons everywhere. (The difference in spelling is, I am told, insignificant.) One local Thomson is celebrated for composing the lyrics to ‘Rule Britannia’. More impressive, I think, is that a Thompson has won, on no fewer than three occasions, the prize for growing Yetholm’s best leek.

But where was our Thompson? Surely there must be some trace of his existence. And then, in Yetholm’s churchyard, I came across what Hall confirms is the grave of two of Andrew’s siblings.

Thompson’s brothers play a significant part in his story. It was the house of his eldest brother, William, that Andrew allegedly burgled. Shortly after Andrew’s trial, William received violent threats from others in Yetholm. What motivated these threats? Hall speculates that a small Scottish community would have seen theft by a teenager from his brother as a strictly family matter, resolvable without recourse to the law. Might William have planted evidence against his brother, spurred by sibling rivalry? We can only wonder. 

Andrew was driven by a need for respectability. He loved his mother, but we don’t know how his Scottish family regarded the son who had brought them so much disgrace. Years later, after Andrew had died a rich man, another brother, Walter, refused the legacy Thompson bequeath him. Was this out of shame, guilt, or some other motive?

In Yetholm’s tranquil churchyard I contemplated the heartbreak and squabbles, doubt and betrayals that governed the lives of the multitudes now laid to rest. Andrew was one of six children, and it’s obvious from the Thompson gravestone that it was intended as a memorial to them all. ‘Here lyeth the children of John Thompson’, the inscription begins. It names the two who died prior to Andrew’s transportation. And then silence. The rest of the stone remains bare, as though the calamity of Andrew’s conviction required the family’s erasure from Yetholm. Indeed, a number of family members departed the village soon afterwards.

The grave of Andrew's sister Margaret and brother Robert, both of whom died in childhood.
As we recite all our dead monarchs, we might recall a familiar aphorism: we only truly die when our names are spoken for the last time. Thanks to his riches, Andrew’s name will live on a while longer, William’s and Walter’s less so. But read the Yetholm gravestone and you will find reference to a fourth brother. Robert Thompson died in 1773, aged three.

Little Robert is gone, and the stone is crumbling. His name and memory will soon face the obliteration that awaits us all. But let us not despair. As Yalom says, to face our doom and still say yes to the life we have is what takes real courage.

Information on Annegret Hall’s biography of Andrew Thompson, as well as her other works, is available here.


Madeira Vine

 A super weed

CB Floyd, with Ben Dray

Madeira vine is an invasive climbing vine with fleshy heart-shaped leaves and aerial tubers.

Some of you may have noticed islander Ben Dray, out and about on road verges around Scotland Island, carefully pulling out weeds, and wondered what he’s up to. The answers is that Ben is a member of the SIRA Roads, Drainage & Environment Subcommittee (RD&E), and over recent months he has focussed on controlling and eradicating the South American invasive Madeira Vine (Anredera cordifolia) from the island’s parks and road verges.

Why Madeira Vine?
There are many weeds on the island: lantana, tradescantia, morning glory, asparagus fern and more. Bush regeneration groups, as well as garden owners, tackle these weeds regularly – and so they should. But Madeira has been singled out for this special campaign for a few good reasons. 

Ben Dray tackling Madeira Vine on Scotland Island
Firstly, it is incredibly fast spreading. It’s potato-like tubers can lie dormant underground for years, ready to grow at any time. It produces hundreds of clusters of aerial tubers that can snap off from the lacework of vines that it wraps around fences, bushes and trees. Once these aerial tubers fall, they disintegrate and spread. It takes just one small piece, no bigger than a small button, to rest on the ground and sprout a new vine that can choke trees and bring down branches.

Secondly, Madeira is considered a weed of National Significance and is one of the top weeds on the Australian government’s priority invasive plants list. It’s banned from sale in Australian nurseries.

Finally, with all the rain, the South American invasive Madeira Vine infestation is on the rise. Offshore residents who have dealt with it know that it's a very efficient invasive weed and hard to eradicate. In short, it’s a super weed. If you do nothing about it, it takes over your garden – and then will infest your neighbours’ garden and, even worse, adjacent bushland. 

What is the SIRA RD&E Subcommittee doing to combat this infestation? 
Ben is methodically surveying and mapping island roads as well as the reserves and private property infested with this vine. Also, as an information gathering experiment, a section of road verge on Richards Road, starting from Carols Wharf, has been cleared successfully and is being monitored. The aim is to weed out Madeira Vine all the way to Bells Wharf.

The primary method he has used is to collect all of the plant, (and that means all of it!!!) - tubers, roots and all, and bag it for landfill. It is NOT suitable for council vegetation clean up. No herbicide is being used since the vine is being cleared from road verges where poisons could leach into catchments that drain into bays.

How is the vine recognised?
Tips on how to identify the weed, as well as photos, are available on the NSW Dept of Primary Industries web site: click here.

What can you do?
1.   Check your property for the vine. If you are aware of the weeds on your neighbours’ property, talk to them. A collaborative effort with your neighbours is definitely the most effective way to attack Madeira Vine.
2.   Remove the Madeira Vine. These resources may help:
   •  For a video from Pittwater Ecowarriors showing step-by-step how to tackle large plants using herbicide, and how to dig out and bag smaller plants, click here.
   •  For a factsheet from the Dept of Primary Industries containing instructions on dealing with the weed, as well as lots more photos to help identify it, click here.

3.   Dispose of the weed cuttings. Ben says they can be mulched in a fully sealed container but a normal compost heap will just not work. Almost any part of this plant will regrow and start a new vine. Collection bags must be sealed by tying them firmly, then put them in garbage bin.

4.   Follow up 2-3 months later. Ben stresses that this is vital, as it is almost impossible to completely rid your property of the weed in one session. You may need to repeat this, in collaboration with your neighbours, for several years.

Obviously we share a responsibility to keep invasive plants out of our reserves and parks. That starts with making sure the weeds we have around our homes don't spread into neighbouring bushland. If we work together, we can address this invasive weed problem, and build on the work that Ben and SIRA’s RD&E Subcommittee has begun.

If you have any questions or need advice, please call Ben Dray on 0411 403477.


Artists' and Makers' Webpage

 A SIRA initiative

Offshore residents' artworks on display at the 2021 Festival of Making

Are you an artist or maker of craft ware? Would you like to be included on a special page on the Scotland Island community website?

The offshore communities are home to many talented artists and those who enjoy other types of creative endeavours. We are putting together an Artists and Makers page on the website; a directory where artists, potters, sewers, photographers, knitters, graphic designers etc can promote their business or hobby by providing links and/or contact details to sell or display their wares. It’s also the perfect place for community members to find one-off hand-made gifts while supporting local talent.

To get yourself listed, fill out the Directory Request Form, available here. If you list yourself in the directory, please select ALL applicable categories. For example, select ‘Artists and Makers Page’ and then hold down the 'Control' key and also select ‘Art and Craft’. Feel free to include a link to your website/Instagram/Facebook page, as well as an image.


Carols Afloat 2022

 A survey

It’s that time of year again! Our Carols Afloat choir is now coming into its fourteenth year. For those who are not aware, the choir meets during November and December for a few rehearsals, culminating in one offshore performance before we all float over to Church Point for a second performance at the wharf. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be able to sing to join this choir!

Your trusty Carols Committee are busy making plans and we have earmarked 15 December as the date for our performances.

But first, we would like to canvas opinions on involvement levels and repertoire. Please take a moment to answer our survey. Tell us whether you’d like to be involved (in any capacity) and what you would like to see in the choir performances.

Please click here to answer the survey.

The Carols Committee


The Two Catherines Play

Extended call for actors, production crew and more

Catherine Benns Catherine Bouffier
Catherine Benns (1838 - 1920):
an Indigenous midwife and 'Queen of Scotland Island'
Catherine Bouffier (1857 - 1940),
after whom Scotland Island's Catherine Park is named
The SIRA Recreation Committee is extending its call for anyone interested in auditioning or participating in the production of our Island play: The Two Catherines: A Twisted Scotland Island Tale. The play will be staged in early 2023.

To find out more please contact the director at

This call for expressions of interest closes 7 October 2022.


Harold Lilja

A request for information

My grandfather, Harold Lilja, had a cottage on Scotland Island from sometime around World War II until the 1950s or 1960s. He lived there from time to time.

This painting is by friend and renowned Australian artist Roland Wakelin. It depicts my grandfather in 1939.

I would love to know where on the island my grandfather's cottage was. When did he purchase it and how long did he keep it? I'd especially like to know if there are any neighbours still living on Scotland Island who may have memories of my grandfather, or may remember his family.

If you have any information, please contact me at

Beryl Mitchell


Table Tennis

Scotland Island Recreation Centre

Most Saturdays throughout the year

2 - 3 pm: Introduction to Table Tennis

3 - 5 pm: Table Tennis practice

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 Alternatively, you can just turn up and take your chances.

Adult players are asked to contribute $5 per player per attendance to defray expenses.


Adult Art Workshop

Scotland Island Recreation Centre

Tuesday 4 October, 6:00 - 9:00 pm

To book, click here.


Children's Art Workshop

Scotland Island Recreation Centre

Wednesday 5 October, 10:00 am - 12:00 noon

To book, click here.


Children's Music Workshop

Scotland Island Recreation Centre

Friday 7 October, 10:00 am - 12:00 noon

To book, click here.


Fire Shed Dinner

Scotland Island Fire Station

Saturday 15 October, 7:00 pm onwards

Look out for the link for advanced booking on Facebook, posters around the island and the SIRFB website


Scotland Island Café

Catherine Park, Scotland Island

Sunday 16 October, 10 am - 2 pm


Spring Garden Festival

Catherine Park & Community Hall, Scotland Island

Sunday 16 October, 10 am - 5 pm


The Tuesday Discussion Group

Scotland Island Recreation Centre

Tuesday 18 October, 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. In September Robyn Armsworth-Brack led a discussion on philanthropy, asking who really benefits: the donor or the recipient? 

For the October meeting, Sarah Polomka will lead a discussion based around cartoons. Political cartoonist Glen Le Lievre said of the relationship between Australia and its satirists that 'the deeper the country digs itself into a hole, the more material we get'. With that quote in mind, bring to the discussion a cartoon to discuss.

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

Alternatively, contact Jane Rich ( for more information or to express your interest in participating. 


International Folk Dancing

Scotland Island Community Hall

Saturday 29 October, 7 - 9 pm

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


'The Authentic You' Masterclass

Scotland Island

5 & 6 November

Are you available November 5th and 6th? Mandy Nolan and George Catsi are coming to the island for a weekend workshop: The Authentic You.

This workshop is about your story. It’s about how your narrative intersects with everything you do. It’s the ‘why’ of you. It’s about your purpose, about what drives you and it’s about the courage to stand in your truth.

Performance coach, presenter, comedian, writer and former Greens candidate Mandy Nolan, teams up with creative producer, social entrepreneur and doctor in persuasive performance, Dr George Catsi to present a this unique and empowering masterclass ’The Authentic You’. It's dynamic. It's deep. It's fun. It's a game changer!

This could be the workshop that changes the way you tell the story of what you do and who you are!  It has been for the hundreds of people from all over the country who have participated in the two-day transformative workshop.

Running over two days, 5 & 6 November, Mandy and George will share performance techniques they utilise to create quick rapport and real connection with their audience. 

Drawing from more than three decades of live performance experience, Mandy Nolan brings a wealth of practical knowledge of working with audiences of all shapes and sizes, while national award-winning writer and academic Catsi brings the profound insights that will transform your idea of standing in front of an audience!

Mandy and George will be there to guide you to the triumph of stepping into your most authentic you!

Regards, George and Mandy

For further information, and to book, click here.


Creative Drawing Weekend

Scotland Island Recreation Centre

12 & 13 November, 10:00 am - 4:00 pm

Sydney Art Space is very excited to be hosting a Creative Drawing Weekend Immersion on beautiful Scotland Island. This workshop will be tutored by Sydney Art Space Director, artist Christine Simpson and will focus on the figure on day 1 with the life model, and abstraction of the figure on day 2.
Only a limited number of places remain available.

6B, 2B and HB lead pencils
Graphite stick
Willow charcoal
Putty erasure
A3 drawing pad
Drawing paper, sizes Drawing pad A3, 2 sheets A2 & 1 sheet A1
PVA Glue
Black Indian ink
Various brushes for ink and wash
2 Small plastic containers

For enrolment and accommodation options please click here.


Jazz Concert

Scotland Island Community Hall

Saturday 19 November, 7:30 pm

Join the Jeremy Denison trio for a night of inspiring jazz.

Islander Jeremy Denison is offshore Pittwater's rising star on the jazz scene. He and his band perform regularly at Northern Beaches venues and elsewhere. 

Further details will be included in the 1 November PON.



Scotland Island Community Hall

Sunday 20 November, 10:00 am - 12:00 noon

The annual general meeting of Scotland Island's residents’ association is coming up in November. All residents are invited to attend. At the meeting, brief reports about SIRA activities over the last year will be provided, and members will elect a new committee.

The Committee needs new people to join! If you feel you can contribute to the volunteer work that the Committee undertakes each year, we strongly encourage you to seek nomination. Meetings are held about once every six weeks.

Nominations are invited for officers (president, vice-presidents (2), secretary, treasurer) and for ordinary committee members (5-10 people). Nominations must be sent to the secretary at at least 7 days before the AGM (ie by 13 November for the AGM on 20 November).

Nominations must be in writing, signed by two members of the association and accompanied by the written consent of the candidate (which can be on the nomination form or provided separately).

To download the nomination form, click here.


Christmas Market

Catherine Park, Scotland Island

Sunday 27 November, 10 - 1 pm

Prospective storeholders, click here.


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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