‘Mudlark: a person who scavenges in river mud for objects of value.’1
For decades Graham Boyd dived along the riverbanks of the Wallamba River searching for artefacts. These riverbanks were once home to thriving farming communities, villages and sawmills. Boyd’s collection tells the area’s history not through words but through objects. Here are just a few…
This ‘Chamberlain’s Colic, Cholera and Diarrhoea Remedy’ bottle once held a frightening concoction of alcohol, ether and chloroform. Large families farming on the river did not have ready access to doctors so home remedies and ‘snake oils’ comprised the home first aid kit. Chamberlain’s was an American company whose mixtures were readily available over the counter at the turn of the twentieth century.2
Darawank Primary School (operating between 1889 – 1958)3 was situated on the Wallamba riverbank where these inkwells and bottles were retrieved. How many of our parents or grandparents dipped their pen nibs into one of these?
Tobacco smoking was a popular pastime in the 1800s and from 1830 onwards millions of imported clay pipes from Europe arrived in Australia.4 These decorative clay pipes were found in 1979 on the banks of the Chapman family home on Chapman’s Island (at the end of Chapmans Road, Tuncurry). One of George Albert Chapman’s friends who visited regularly reportedly loved smoking and owned a large collection of pipes.
These Saxby cordial and soft drink bottles were found where the Failford Mill once stood. A thriving settlement grew up around the mill established by John Breckenridge in the 1880s, including Breckenridge’s shop.5 While it is unlikely that mill workers bought the cordial, the crew of the steamers who transported the timber may have bought these supplies. Saxby’s originated in Chatham near Taree in 1864, with Saxby & Coleman forming in 1913.6
What other secrets do the banks of the Wallamba River have to reveal about our past?
Authors: Ian Gorton and Janine Roberts
3 MidCoast Stories: Darawank Public School, https://midcoaststories.com/2018/08/darawank-public-school/
4 Up in smoke: Clay tobacco pipes, https://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/stories/smoke-clay-tobacco-pipes
5 MidCoast Stories: Failford – a name on a map, https://midcoaststories.com/2019/03/failford-a-name-on-a-map/
6 MidCoast Stories: Saxby’s soft drinks, https://midcoaststories.com/2018/10/saxbys-soft-drinks/