Nelligen / Runnyford / Buckenbowra

Most of the contemporary connections Aboriginal people have to the Nelligen area relate to the sawmill industry. The area also offered abundant natural resources along the extent of the Clyde River; tributaries and surrounding bushland. Contributors described the Nelligen Sawmill & related housing as a focal point for Aboriginal connections to the area. Stories of hard work, good times and living off the land emerge from the following oral accounts.

In the 1950s, when Henry Chapman worked at the Nelligen sawmill. Jim ‘Jiggzy’ Chapman also worked at the mill, whilst Georgina Parsons, as a teenager, visited on the weekends to socialise and play cards. Syd Button and Noelene Cruse [Ossie and Linda Cruse’s sister] worked there too. Accommodation for the families working at the sawmill consisted of 4 small huts on the south side of the mill [Georgina Parsons 15.12.2005].

As a child, Les Simon lived at 4 Cowper Street, Nelligen at Henry and Joan Chapman’s house. Many Aboriginal sawmill workers lived there including Cyril and Bob Parsons, Henry and Joan Chapman and their kids Angela, Richard and Danny. Families would spear mullet in the Nelligen Creek, not far from the house. They would wear long trousers and jumpers to keep warm whilst diving He recalls falling into the hot ashes at the Nelligen sawmill. He was rushed, in a pram all the way down the Clyde Mountain, to the old Batemans Bay Hospital. Other work in the Nelligen area included stripping wattle bark. The bark was used to dye fishnets, so as the fish couldn’t see the nets under the water. The Aboriginal workers, whilst stripping wattle bark, ate the sap and the grubs found in the wattle trees. Joseph Chapman, Les Simon’s maternal grandfather worked as a welder building the Nelligen Bridge [Les Simon 3.11.2006].

During the 1960s Violet recalls sneaking a ride on the Nelligen ferry to go and stay at Henry and Joan Chapman’s house. They would swim and play in the Clyde River. Henry Chapman worked at the Nelligen sawmill [Violet Parsons 6.4.2006].

Aboriginal families throughout the region in living memory used the ‘Nelligen Park’, now the Nelligen Caravan Park, on the Clyde River as a camping and meeting place. The site provided good access to river resources. Georgina Parson’s father talked about camping here when he was young. Georgina herself recalls Jimmy Little senior visiting and playing a few songs. ‘..Barry, Ernie, Johnny Carriage, Owen and George Parsons, Vivienne and Wally Blakely also stayed here. They would walk up the river to spear fish…’ [Georgina Parsons 15.12.2005].

Violet Parsons recalls going to a Christmas Party at the Nelligen Park in 1970. Jimmy Little was there playing songs [Violet Parsons 6.4.2006].

The Steam Packet Hotel at Nelligen was frequented during the 1960s by Aboriginal adults who where not permitted, by law, into their own local public bars. If one travelled more than 6 miles, one was a verified traveller and could purchase alcohol lawfully, anywhere [Les Simon 15.12.2005].

In 1990 Georgina worked at the Nelligen farm, on the north side of the Clyde River, picking peas and beans. Her son Dean [dec], nephew Owen, and niece Stella accompanied her. They made their own camp and returned two seasons running [Georgina Parsons 15.12.2005].

The Currowan Creek Aboriginal Reserve, as described by Goulding [159: 2005], was gazetted in 1893. As a child, Margaret Jane Dixon, Trisha Ellis’s great grandmother [mother’s mother’s mother] lived with her family for a time at Currowan Creek Aboriginal Reserve, near Shallow Crossing. The Brown family also lived here [Trisha Ellis 4.2. 2006].

There are old fish traps at Runnyford, on the main bend in the Buckenbowra River. Les recalls hiring a boat in Batemans Bay from Merv Innes and travelling up the Clyde and Buckenbowra Rivers to fish at Runnyford. They would check the ancient fish trap, located near the bridge, for a feed of fish. If there were no fish trapped, they would stun the mullet and eat the fish they caught on the riverbank near the Runnyford Bridge [Les Simon 15.12.2005].

Tom Davis caught the boat from Batemans Bay to work at the Runnyford Mill [Tom Davis 18.12.2005].

There is a well-known water hole on the Buckenbowra River, at Runnyford. It is a well used camping, fishing, and swimming area. Bass, mullet could be caught there. Keith Nye recalls going here regularly as a child and later as an adult. The area continues to be used by the Mogo Aboriginal community. This place is used more frequently now, compared with the past, as a result of access to ‘the big pool’, a swimming place on the Mogo Creek being restricted to private use only [Keith Nye 1.3.2006].

Since living in Mogo from1978, Margaret knows ‘the waterhole’ on the Buckenbowra River, as a popular place to swim and meet family. The Buckenbowra River flows into the Clyde River [Margaret Carriage 31.5.2006].

A dreaming track connects Buckenbowra to McGregors Creek [Trisha Ellis 4.2.2006].

Farmer John Hanns had a cornfield on Buckenbowra Road. We picked there [Keith Nye 1.3.2006].

During the 1950s the boys, including myself Norman Russell, Leonard Nye, Keith Nye and Andrew Nye [Jnr] and others, would go out to Buckenbowra to catch rabbits for the CSIRO, and also for us to eat. There were about fourteen [14] of us in the 1963 Holden with hydromatic gears. We had to get out and push it up the hills [Ron Nye 29.5.2006].

Before my time the Campbell family lived at Buckenbowra, in the late 1800s [Georgina Parsons 7.6.2006].

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.