Tuross River Farms

King Henry granted land to Richard Bolloway, south of the Tuross River, from Potato Point to Dalmeny and west to Nerrigundah. King Henry granted land to Henry Chapman, north of the Tuross River, from Bingi west to Nerrigundah [Les Simon 3.11.2005].

Harriett Walker remembers her father, Arthur Thomas catching prawns in the Tuross River, when they were living on Coopers Island picking peas and beans. Harriet and her sister Pam worked picking along the Tuross River [Harriett Walker 11.4.2006].

Families living / working at Stony Creek would make weekends trip to fish along the Tuross River. Crayfish was plentiful in the 1950s [Pam Flanders 11.4.2006].

In 1940, the Mason family, like many other families began a career in seasonal vegetable picking. Aged 6 Linda Colburn [nee Mason] travelled from Orbost, Victoria, to Bodalla, NSW on the back of a fish truck. She was with her mother, brothers and sisters, they hitched a ride with the fish truck which was on route to the Sydney markets, they had to sit in the back of the truck on boxes packed with fish. Upon arrival, the Mason family began to work and live at ‘Wayne Court’ Eurobodalla Road, Bodalla. ‘…..The property was owned by the Stanfords and was about the 6th or 7th farm along Eurobodalla Road. ..and grew peas and beans …”

The Mason’s lived in a shed at the back of the property, Linda’s stepfather, Leo [Ronnie Mason’s father], was also with them. Linda travelled daily to Bodalla School from Wayne Court. As a young girl weekends were mostly spent picking, clearing blackberries and ferns and working on other jobs around the farm. Linda and her sister would walk, ride or hitch a ride with a passer by, in order to get to a farm for picking work. Wallabies, possums, rabbits, and pigeons would be collected for dinner. The family also ate a lot of fresh vegetables, picked from local farms.

Linda moved to Stanford’s, ‘Tyrone’ property in 1951 with her husband Oliver Colburn. Oliver worked on the property. Linda had and raised her children on this farm, each of them attending Bodalla School, as Linda did. On days when her kids were at school, Linda would work picking on whichever farm had vegetables to pick, whilst Oliver worked around the farm. Linda and her family lived here for 20 years. When her husband passed away, Linda’s son John began to work here, before Linda moved to Nowra. Linda has since returned to Bodalla, helping to raise her grandchildren. This year [2006], Linda and Ivy Trindell worked picking beans at John Taylor’s farm, previously owned by Ken Richards. It is the farm before Tally Ho.

Linda’s son John Colburn currently owns the farm between Peter Connelly’s [previously Murphy brothers] and Dudley Murphy’s, along the Eurobodalla Rd. He did have peas and beans growing but now has pigs and cattle. Linda continues to live in Bodalla and pick seasonal vegetables.

From Linda’s memory, the farms located between Bodalla and Nerrigundah, along the Eurobodalla Road, were owned [or are owned] by the following families. The Emmotts’ [on both side of the road], Billy Constable [and Eden Motby across the Road], the Bodalla Company, Keith Lavis’s, Peter Lavis [previously owned by Garth Lavis, Peter’s father, and before that Roley Lavis, Peter’s grandfather], ‘Wayne Court’ and ‘Tyrone’ across the Road owned by the Stanfords, John Richards [previously Ken Richards, ‘Tally Ho’ owned by Eddie Lavis, Lawlers, Commander Smith, Connelly brothers, Peter Connelly [previously the Murphy brothers, John Colburn [previously Diont, Dudley Murphy at Cadgee and then a few more before Nerrigundah [Linda Colburn 11.5.2006].

‘……..When we were picking at the Stanfords farm along the Tuross River, the kids went to school on a bus; my parents and older siblings picked all day. We camped on the farm in a shack on the riverbank, a bark hut really, next to the Stanfords property. There were two bark huts, for the two families there at the time; Jeff Tungai and Ronnie’s mum and dad ….’.

Ronnie recalls catching eels from the Tuross River, his father taught him how to spear fish. [Ronnie Mason 5.1.2006].

Alan Mongta picked peas and beans with his mother and father on the Stanfords farm in Bodalla. The Stanfords ended up with Alan’s father’s sleeper tools, including a left-handed axe [Alan Mongta].

During the mid to late 1940s Linda Cruse and her family picked at the Stanfords’, Ma and Pa Lavis, their son Bob Lavis, the Lawlers, Commander Smiths, Les Curtis and De Hont’s farms. They camped close to the farm where they were working on, mainly on the riverbank, or in old houses and barns. Linda recalls the farmers ‘treating us well’. In winter when the picking season was slow, Linda’s father Ben Cruse would trap rabbits at Commander Smith’s farm. He would sell the pelts and feed his family with the meat [Linda Cruse 1.3.2006].

In the mid 1940s the Connell family relocated from Moruya to Nerrigundah, living in a barn and working at ‘Thistle wood’ farm owned by Commander Smith. When the bean season came to an end, everyone went home, but they stayed and did contract work cutting sac choline.

‘……We fixed up an old house on Commander Smith’s other farm and lived there until 1947. I went to Bodalla School, each day on the mail bus. The kids always helped to pick if they were not at school; there were seven of us. I almost cut my finger off whilst piling up the sac choline stalks on Richard’s dairy farm. ……’ [Margaret Carriage 31.5.2006].

Valerie worked at Bodalla farms up and down the Tuross River picking peas and beans and ploughing fields during the 1950s [Valerie Andy 20.12.2005].

Albert Solomon picked peas at the Cardon’s, Diont’s, and the three Lavis farms during the 1950s [Albert Solomon 11.4.2006].

Maxine Kelly worked picking peas and beans on farms along the Tuross River during the 1960s [Maxine Kelly 11.4.2006].

In the 1960s when Terry Parsons lived at Nerrigundah he remembers weekend bean picking trips to Bodalla. ‘….Farm trucks from Bodalla would come and collect the women. Dudley Murphy drove the school, pickers and mail bus all in one. He would pick everyone up at 6.30 am and return at 6 pm…’ [Terry Parsons 18.12.2005].

One of the larger farm related campsites in the Tuross River area, was located on Roley Lavis’s farm, ‘…on the south of the Tuross River, where the river bends to create a headland …’. The area was out of the wind with good access to fresh water and fish. The camping area used during the height of the picking season and possibly prior to European settlement of the area. According to Lionel Mongta, the Walbunja tribal group traditionally lived here, their tribal area extending to Batemans Bay in the north to Dry River in the south. Lionel was told of how his great grandmother, Kitty Sutton was speared in the leg because her mother [Mrs Hunt] left her promised tribal husband for a white man, who was the Cobb and Co coach driver travelling to Nerrigundah past their camp at Lavis’s on the Tuross River.

Lionel recalls camping here in the late 1940s picking peas and beans and fishing. Bob Andy, Lionel’s grandfather and Dick Piety II also camped there, they were ploughmen, every farm needed them. They used Clydesdale horses to pull the plough, Lionel remembers having the task of picking up the rocks behind them. They would drag the rocks in a sledge type frame made from a fork in a tree. To keep the kids interested in the job, Bob Andy would ask the kids to ‘go and spear some fish for lunch’, so after lunch the kids would work again. Bob Andy told Lionel of how generations of Koori families camped at the same location.

Ronnie’s paternal grandmother ‘Nanna Bella’, Mabel Simms spent years at Wallaga Lake and Bodalla. When we went to Lavis’s farm picking peas, Nana Bella would always be there. Nanna Bella was still working on Lavis’ farm when she was 70, picking up pumpkins [Ronnie Mason 5.1.2006].

Also on Roley Lavis’s farm, was Percy Mumbler’s camping place. Located in the bush on the hill, above Lavis’s farm, Percy had a well-established ‘gunjar’ [humpy] and lived there with his family. It was more like a bark hut with a wooden frame and a dirt floor, which would be swept with dogwood leaves. Cooking was done on a fire located outside under a skillion roof. The Lavis’s were happy to have some one camping on their farm because it meant they would always have a labour force. Percy Mumbler’s totem was also the black duck [Lionel Mongta 1.2.2006].

John Mumbler’s uncle Percy Mumbler lived on a hill behind Bodalla. Percy Mumbler’s mother Rose Carpenter was married to Biamanga, the namesake of John Mumbler. The Mumblers mainly worked at Roley Lavis’s farm in Bodalla. Durga was their language, the language from here. The language from the Manero is Ngarigal [25.11.2005 Alan Mongta].

During the 1950s Mary worked at Roley Lavis’s dairy farm picking seasonal vegetables. Roley Lavis lived there with his sons. Mary recalls playing rounders and music by the campfire [Mary Duroux 6.2.2006].

Norman Russell picked on Lavis’s farm [Norman Russell 1.3.2006]

In the 1950s Jennifer Stewart ‘grew up’ on Keith Lavis’ farm. Jennifer helped her mother pick beans, corn and peas here. If the crops were low, Jennifer would accompany her mother to neighbouring farms for crop picking work, always returning to the Lavis’s who were good to her family; they were paid for the work they did. The men worked on the farm during the weekends, whilst sawing throughout the week. Jennifer recalls how all the pickers were Aboriginal, whilst only about three quarters of the saw miller workers were Aboriginal [Jennifer Stewart 09.11.2005].

In 1958 with baby Wayne and husband, Carol Larritt picked peas and beans at Lavis’s farm for one season. In 1963 they returned to pick in Bodalla with five kids when son Jimmy [Djunga / Octypus > all arms and legs] was a baby [Carol Larritt 23.1.2006].

‘……..When I was in primary school we camped at Lavis’ farm, Bodalla in the school holidays and picked peas and beans, and caught up with family. It was a working holiday: there were 10 of us, our mother and father could only afford to have a holiday this way. They would let us keep the money and we would spend it at the Red Rose Café in Moruya. Before that, we visited, I must have been carried, I recall being amidst the peas and being left at Bodalla at Nana Bella’s, in old timber mill hut. ….’ [Marcia Ella Duncan 5.1.2006].

Eddie Lavis had the farm at Tally Ho, two farms up the river from the Stanfords. Linda picked here as a young girl and later as a married woman [Linda Colburn 11.5.2006].

With her family, Linda camped on the side of the Tuross River near the Tally Ho Hall. The Tally Ho Hall was where Linda’s sister had her 21st birthday party. Teddy Davis and his brother Bob doubled on a bike from Moruya to Tally Ho for the party. ‘…..The water was fresh, it is now polluted. The Bates lived nearby at the Post Office. We swam in the Tuross River. We purchased meat from the Bodalla butcher and fresh milk from the dairy farms. Mum cooked damper and we always had fresh peas, corn and beans. If we were hard up we were served a pot of peas……..’ [Linda Cruse 1.3.2006].

“………Percy ‘Bim’ Mumbler, had a camp on top of a hill in Nerrigundah. He lived with Uncle Ernie Silver from Grafton. They talked about corroborees. The ‘Blue Hole’, near Lavis’s they got ochre…..we dived for it, blue, greens greys, red and orange as well. We use to paint ourselves; Bim and Ernie showed us that. Bim spent a lot of time in that area……” [Ronnie Mason 5.1.2006].

The ‘Blue Pool’ was a favourite swimming place, friends and families were always gathering there [Alex Walker 11.4.2006].

“ ….The Nerrigundah caves are near Cardon’s property, the ‘duligarls’ roll rocks, boulders down the mountains, along side the river, the rocks were on the top of the mountain ready tobe rolled down. We were not allowed to eat fish at the night time, no cooking after dark, because the duligarl might attack kids. Still today we cook and clean up before it gets dark. Once near Cardon’s up the Tuross River, we were hunting with dogs and came across big caves, we found fossil fish there, fixed into the rock [Ronnie Mason 5.1.2006].

Diont’s Farm located on the Tuross River behind the Weir. They grew potatoes, peas, beans, and corn [Lionel Mongta 2.1.2006].

In the late 1950s Trisha’s mother and father went to Reedy Creek to visit Ursula Rose Connell who lived in a house at ‘horse shoe bend’ on Reedy Creek, between Bodalla and Nerrigundah. There was the ‘Bolloway’s track’ from Reedy Creek to Nerrigundah. Patricia Ellis [nee Connell] and her sisters rode their pushbikes from Reedy Creek to School along Nerrigundah Road or they caught the mail truck. Trisha’s Nan worked at Murphy’s farm along Red Rock Road. She had a double bed there. ‘Currawang’ was a well known swimming hole. Her mother and father showed Patricia Connell around the area [Trisha Ellis 4.2.2006].

In 1968 Dave Tout worked at Murphy’s Sawmill down Red Rock at the back of Bodalla. Reedy Creek was used by Koori families living and working at the nearby Murphy’s farm [Dave Tout 25.1.2006].

In 1946 when Linda was 10, her father Ben Cruse worked picking at Lyle Egan’s farm, Cadgee. The family camped behind the Cadgee School; the school was not operational at the time. Linda could catch the bus to Bodalla School from there. In winter when there was no picking, Ben Cruse would cut sleeper logs, taking them to Nowra in his sleeper truck to be ‘passed’. A lot of pickers lived here and washed near the Cadgee Bridge. The river has since diminished due to farming [Linda Cruse 1.3.2006].

Bodalla, Nerrigundah and Tuross River.
Bodalla, Nerrigundah and Tuross River.

Taken from “Stories About the Eurobodalla by Aboriginal People”. View the full study

Excerpt from "Stories About the Eurobodalla by Aboriginal People", 2006. Story Contributed by Martin Ind from Moruya High School.