On Pilot (Flagstaff) Hill overlooking Forster Harbour are the remains of a Pilot Station established in 1883. The first pilot, Captain Amor Hicks Kendall, took up residence at the new station where he remained until his retirement in 1908. Kendall first came to Forster as the master of the ship ‘Oberon’ and reportedly transported the first timber logs from this region to Sydney. The logs were cut at Booth’s Mill and made into batons for police and mallets for prisoners in Darlinghurst Gaol (hopefully not for simultaneous use).1
The pilot was assisted by skilled boatmen whose living quarters were also on the hill. Over time one boatman, John Hocking, became Kendall’s brother-in-law while another, Charles Benson, became his son-in-law.2 All three men worked and lived closely together. Pilots and boatmen didn’t just signal and guide ships over the bar, they were often involved in life-threatening rescues.
One such event occurred in 1900 when the schooner ‘Empress of India’, travelling from Port Macquarie to Sydney, encountered fierce weather. The ship was captained by Peter Williams, once landlord of the Forster Hotel. A series of events occurred which saw the lifeboat capsize throwing all five crew into the water. Pilot Kendall and boatmen Benson and Hocking who were in the pilot boat managed to save two of the men but the other three drowned, including their friend, Captain Peter Williams. The bodies were recovered over the following days as they washed ashore.3
After Kendall retired, he built a house at the foot of Pilot Hill where he lived until his death in 1918.4
1 Sunday Times, 24 March 1918.
2 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW,9 September 1905.
3 Sydney Morning Herald, 25 Jul 1900.
4 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW,11 September 1907.