Mervyn Chapman was born in 1918 to Maud and Albert Chapman.1 Mervyn’s trip from Taree Hospital to his home on Chapman Island in the Wallamba River, Tuncurry was a perilous journey on the back of a motorcycle negotiating gravel roads in the arms of his mother.
Living on an island, it was imperative that children knew how to swim. As was the style in the day, Albert tossed Mervyn into the river to start his swimming lessons. By the time Mervyn surfaced, Albert had shed all his clothes and boots waiting to retrieve him if needed. Grateful was Mervyn when his teacher, Mr Songberg, taught all the students at Darawank School to swim in the clear water of Darawank Creek.2
By the time Mervyn was 16 he was anxious to get to Sydney so he lodged with his Aunt Margaret where he completed an apprenticeship in fitting and machining.3 Unfortunately, WWII broke out and Mervyn spent long days at lathes for Brown & Kidd Pty manufacturing parts for the popular automatic Bren gun.
Mervyn married Daphne Forwood in 19424 and after the war they moved back to Tuncurry where he purchased 188 acres at Shalimar and built the family home. He worked the dangerous job of felling trees for firewood to be delivered to Forster for fuel stoves and guest houses.
Along with his brother Bert he was an active member of the Black Head Surf Life Saving Club and a keen fisherman. Mervyn reached the age of 97 and taught his children multiple life skills, in the best school room ever…the area we call Great Lakes.
To read more about Mervyn and life on the Wallamba River click here.
Author: Marilyn Boyd (daughter of Mervyn).
1 NSW BDM, birth index for Mervyn Chapman No. 38040/1918.
2 Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of NSW, 29 August 1925, 4. Mr Songberg was appointed teacher in 1925.
3 Ancestry.com.au, Anglican Parish Registers, 1814-2011, Hurstville St George.
4 NSW BDM, marriage index for Mervyn Chapman and Daphne Forwood, No. 13601/1942.