Clyde Smith was born in Hawks Nest in 1891.1 In 1916 he enlisted in the AIF as an engineer and fought in France and Belgium where he was wounded in 1918.2 Following the war, Clyde returned to Tea Gardens where he worked on the passenger steamer “SS Reliance” owned by Thurlow and Co. He held both an engineer’s ticket and master’s ticket so at times captained the ship. The “Reliance”, built in 1907, transported passengers between Newcastle and Tea Gardens.3
Although Clyde lived his entire life on the water he could not swim a single stroke. On the night of 24 June 1927 after returning home from Newcastle, he started to cross the river to his home at Hawks Nest in his flat-bottomed punt. Unfortunately, a strong current swept him towards the “SS Myall River” which was moored at the public wharf. In attempting to avoid the paddle steamer he overturned his punt and was thrown into the water. He yelled for help and a crowd of people came to assist but he was sucked under the drogher “Ability” and drowned. His body was found later that night.
His death devastated the small community and his funeral was the largest seen at the time. His intelligence and kindness had endeared him to all. Returned Soldiers acted as pall-bearers and carried him to Tea Gardens Cemetery.4 A year later, almost in sympathy of losing her mate, the “SS Reliance” caught fire at the same spot. It was tugged away from the wharf to prevent the fire spreading and it burnt itself out on nearby mudflats of Slip Island.5
Author: Janine Roberts
1 NSW BDM, Birth Index for Clyde Smith, No. 33424/1891.
2 NAA: B2455, SMITH C.
3 Heritage NSW, Reliance, https://www.heritage.nsw.gov.au
4 Dungog Chronicle, 5 July 1927, 4.
5 Dungog Chronicle, 2 November 1928, 1.
6 Janis Winn, Pioneers and History of the Myall River and Lakes. 2014, 22.