On 29 September 1856 land throughout NSW was offered for sale by public auction at upset prices, including country lots at “Bullah Delah” for £1 per acre.2 While this offer was largely ignored by settlers,3 Charles Dee of Stroud, James Ireland and Thomas Blanch of Seaham were among those who took up this early offer.4
Perhaps due to its topography, Bulahdelah did not expand until the 1860s. Pioneers arrived by small row boats along the winding Myall River while others walked or drove drays over the mountains with a log attached by rope for extra braking.
The first timber mill was built by Mr McRae at Boolambayte in 1862. At that time two Scotsmen, Alexander Croll and John Wright, arrived at the river from Stroud and called for Mrs Ireland to bring the boat. Fearing the men might be bushrangers she locked her children in the cupboard before rowing the men across the river. Little did she know that Croll and Wright would become pioneers of ship building and timber mills on the coast. They constructed boats for McRae at his mill including “Caledonia” before establishing their own businesses at Bungwahl and Tuncurry.
The town expanded to include a courthouse, church, school, post and telegraph office. A notable establishment was a cottage built by Thomas Blanch in 1862 called “The Plough Inn” which still exists today.5 In 1878 alunite was discovered in nearby Bulahdelah Mountain (then called “Alum Mountain”) and was mined for the next 75 years transforming the town into a busy settlement.6
In 1892 with much fanfare, a bridge was opened across the Myall River to replace the ferry.7 Bulahdelah became an important stepping stone for those who eventually settled north such as in Tuncurry and Forster.
Author: Marilyn Boyd
1 Charles Kerry & Co, 1892-1917. Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences. https://collection.maas.museum/object/28797
2 New South Wales Government Gazette, 27 August 1856 [Issue No. 131(Third supplement)], p. 2303.
3 Rosemary Broomham, “Myall Lakes National Park: A People’s History”, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service: Sydney, 2010.
4 NSW Land Registry Services, Historic Map of Bullah Delah, 1864.
5 Dungog Chronicle: Durham and Gloucester Advertiser, 15 November 1950, 1.
6 Heritage NSW, heritage listing of Former Alum Mountain, https://apps.environment.nsw.gov.au/dpcheritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=1650597
7 Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 2 August 1892, 5.