The Manning River is the only double delta river in the southern hemisphere with one entrance at Harrington and the other at Old Bar.1 Harrington has long been the river’s gateway, but its treacherous bar has been the ruin of many ships.
From as early as 1824 vessels have come to complete ruin at Harrington. After the shipwreck of the steamer ‘Gipsy’ in 1856,2 Captain Richard Powell was appointed as the first-ever maritime pilot for the Manning River.3 The role of the pilot was to control all movements in and out over the bar and to take charge of the signal station which sent messages to vessels via flags. During Powell’s seven years as pilot there were no shipwrecks at Harrington.4
The Pilot’s station was originally at the base of the hill in Pilot Street. Captains and crew were entertained there while waiting for good conditions to cross the bar. One of the steamer captains that regularly sailed between Sydney and Taree was Captain Jean Benaud. Benaud fell in love with Powell’s daughter Caroline and they married in 1858.5 They became the great grandparents of Australian cricketing hero Richie Benaud.
A larger pilot station was built on top of Pilot (Flagstaff) Hill alongside the cemetery including pilot quarters, flagpole and signal shed. The signal shed was a light beacon until 1879 when the Crowdy Head Lighthouse became operational.6 It was also used as a lookout during World War II.
Author: Janine Roberts
1 Our Rivers Our History, http://www.oroh.com.au/our-rivers/manning-river/
2 Empire, 3 May 1856.
3 NSW Government Gazette, 26 August 1856.
4 Department of the Environment and Energy, Australian National Shipwreck Database http://www.environment.gov.au/shipwreck/public/wreck/search.do;jsessionid=ADA1701892F006112989E10D4F968511
5 NSW BDM, Marriage transcript Jean Benaud and Caroline Powell, #1858/2564.
6 Lighthouses of NSW, http://www.lighthouses.org.au/lights/NSW/Crowdy%20Head/Crowdy%20Head.htm