THE CLYDE YEARS

 

EARLY attempts in the Colony of NSW to institute a form of Local Government faltered mainly because the legislation meant that the district Councils would be responsible for maintaining half the cost of the Police Service, with any surplus being used for road repairs. Landholders didn’t believe this was fair, as their rates would be used to finance a penal colony. In 1843 the Government Gazette proclaimed the establishment of district Councils for the settled part of the Colony although little action occurred until the passing of the Municipalities Act in 1858.

 

Representative government came to NSW in 1855 and the passing of the Municipalities Act of 1858 meant that any petition signed by fifty householders could initiate the establishment of a Municipal Council. The Council could implement rates and tolls to finance roads, bridges, hospitals, water supplies, cemeteries and other public facilities. The Shoalhaven Municipality was incorporated on the 21 September 1859; however, errors in the Act, highlighted by Alexander Berry’s objections to the inclusion of his land in the Municipality, resulted in the Council ceasing to operate after 1865. A similar but better drafted Act was introduced in 1867. Dependent upon the annually assessed value of their rateable property the owner, occupier or lessee was entitled to up to four votes at elections. Plural voting was abolished in 1907. The Municipality of Berry was first constituted as the Broughton Creek and Bomaderry Municipal District on 26 October 1868. The constitution of two other Municipalities in the district were to follow in quick succession, that of Broughton’s Vale (Berry) on 24 April 1871 and Nowra on 30 December 1871. It would be some 24 years before local government would spread further south when the Municipality of South Shoalhaven was proclaimed on 17 December 1895. South Shoalhaven, however, only extended as far south as The Falls (Falls Creek) and consisted of the area east of the Nowra Municipality.

 

Whilst most of the populated areas of NSW received Municipal Government it was not until 1906 that the rest of the State received some form of Local Government (with the exception of the Western Division of NSW). The parts of the State that were not already, or could be, Municipalities were divided into Shires and proclaimed in the Government Gazette of 7 March 1906. Among these were the Shires of Cambewarra and Clyde. The division process considered the area’s physical features, lines of communication and community interests. Initially the newly proclaimed Shires and Municipalities had limited powers but these could be increased as warranted after receiving approval.

 

The newly established Clyde Shire was vast in size and commenced from Crookhaven Heads skirting the southern boundary of the South Shoalhaven Municipality to Falls Creek. It continued north-west following the southern boundary of the Nowra Municipality to the Shoalhaven River and then to its junction with the Endrick River. Following the Endrick to its source, the line continued south across the ranges to a point south of Budawang Mountain. The southern Clyde boundary followed the creeks east from north of the Clyde Mountain to a point near Durras. The eastern boundary followed the coastline north back to the Crookhaven Heads but excluded the Municipality of Ulladulla. The Clyde Shire was surrounded (anti-clockwise) by the South Shoalhaven Shire, Nowra Municipality, Cambewarra Shire, Wingecarribee Shire, Mulwaree Shire, Tallaganda Shire, and the Eurobodalla Shire.

 

A temporary Council was appointed to administer proceedings until the first Council elections in November 1906. The Provisional Councillors were - James Watt jun. from Tomerong, Charles Mordaunt Murray from Conjola, Malcolm Mathie from Wandandian, William Herne from Termeil and Thomas McKenzie Thomson from Burrier.

 

Clyde Shire Council Chambers. The Engineer’s residence can be seen in the background.

William Lackersteen

Cyril Blacket

Clyde Shire Councillors from back left - William Lackersteen, William Herne, James Watt II, Kenneth Thomson and F Galloway.

Front - Cyril Blacket, Charles Murray and Thomas Thomson.

William Watt

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The first meeting of the Provisional Council was held at the Milton Court House on June 14, 1906. Charles Murray was elected as the temporary President, with Captain C A Cork appointed temporary Clerk. At this meeting it was decided to hold further meetings at the Ulladulla Municipal Council Chambers.

 

The Shire was divided into three Ridings. A Riding covered the western district of Burrier, Sassafras and Yalwal. B Riding covered the northern district of Wandandian, Tomerong, Huskisson, and Falls Creek whilst C Riding covered the southern district of Conjola, Milton, Morton, Termeil, Brooman, and Currowan. Two Councillors were to be elected for each Riding. The first election resulted in William Grady of Yalwal and Thomas Thomson being appointed for the western district with Cyril Blacket of St Georges Basin and James Watt jun. appointed for the northern district, all unopposed. In the southern district William Herne and Charles Murray were elected. Councillor Grady tendered his resignation in February 1907 and was replaced by Kenneth McKenzie Thomson of Burrier.

 

At the first meeting of the elected Council on 7 December 1906, Councillor Charles Murray was elected President with an annual allowance of £50. He was re-elected as President on the 14 February 1907 following a fresh election at the request of the Minister. Applications were invited to fill the position of the Shire Clerk. The candidates were W G Lackersteen of Tomerong, A E Browne of Milton, P P Monaghan of Falls Creek, P Pratt of Nowra, J Leatham of Nowra, A Greig of Wandandian, H L Oliver of Wandandian and A R Stapleton of Nowra. The successful applicant was William George Lackersteen, the Tomerong Store proprietor, on a salary of £100 per annum.

 

Following a meeting with the Cambewarra Shire Council it was agreed to jointly employ an Engineer on £375 per annum. The position was offered to, and accepted by, F H Galloway. Later in the year it was moved that C A Cork, the previous temporary Clerk, be appointed Valuator on £120 per annum.

 

Tomerong was decided upon as the headquarters for the new Council and meetings would be held at the Tomerong Hall (the original Church Hall) for a rental of 2s 6d per week. When it was advised that the safe would need to be housed in the Hall building, it was suggested that a platform be built so that it could also be used as a pulpit.

 

The need to secure land for a Shire Office was paramount and at the first meeting in the Hall on January 19, 1907 it was decided to approach Mr Alex Watt with a view to purchasing 33 acres at Tomerong at a cost of £90. However, the Minister of Works would not grant approval for such a large area of land and Council was forced to seek a smaller block. Following further investigations it was decided in October, to purchase five and a half acres of land from Arthur Buckland (the former Tomerong schoolteacher), at a cost of £30. The land was situated on the south-eastern side of the crossroad on the Main South Coast Road, north of the Public School. Lengthy delays were experienced in transferring the title of the property and the Bank, which it is assumed was acting for Arthur Buckland, appeared reluctant to sell the property to Council. Following complaints from Mr Buckland about the delay in completing the purchase, the local publican John Nowland, on learning of the Bank’s intention to sell, purchased the property in order to secure it for the Council.

 

Elections in February 1908 resulted in Kenneth Thomson and Thomas Thomson being re-elected over Daniel McMillan for the western district (A Riding) and James Watt jun. and architect Cyril Blacket winning the B Riding vote over O J Becket and Alfred Warne, a mining engineer. Thomas Thomson was later unanimously voted in as President after Charles Murray declared that he did not wish to seek re-election. The President and Councillors Murray and Watt were elected to the Committee of Works, Health and Finance.

 

Engineer Galloway resigned his position with the Council in March 1908, effectively cancelling the agreement between the Clyde and Cambewarra Shires. The Clerk continued to carry out the duties of the Engineer without any increase in his salary, until a new Engineer could be appointed. Applications for Galloway’s replacement were received from Joseph Miller, A Kimber, J Gardiner, W V Miller, K G Brodie, A Adams and W J Chisholm. William John Chisholm was appointed as Engineer, Inspector of Vehicles and Valuator on an annual salary of £300. At this time the Clerk was awarded a pay rise of £56, bringing his annual wage to £156 per annum. The motion was put forward by the President (Thomson) who felt that ‘...the Council should at least give a living wage, 100 pounds a year was not enough to live upon. The work took up so much of Mr Lackersteen’s time that he would either have to give up his store business or the clerkship. The President said no one knew better than he did the amount of work the Clerk had to do.’ The motion was carried unanimously. Another indication of the regard for Bill Lackersteen’s ability as the Clerk was conveyed by Councillor Cyril Blacket who reported that the district Police Magistrate, Colonel Chisholm, had made the comment to him ‘That Clerk of yours is a good officer; his books are beautifully kept.’

In May Councillor Blacket, an architect by profession, was requested to prepare plans for the erection of Council Chambers to be situated north of the Post Office and Public School. The tender of Fred Moore of Nowra, at a cost of £133, was accepted and the building was completed by August. The first meeting to be held in the new Chambers was on 9 September 1908. Furniture was purchased from Messrs Campbell and Co. and a Monarch Typewriter was purchased for the sum of £20.

 

A month later it was decided to set aside funds for the erection of a cottage for the Clerk. The Engineer was directed to prepare plans and specifications and in November the decision was made to erect a cottage for both the Clerk and the Engineer at a cost not exceeding £550. Both William Lackersteen and William Chisholm agreed to accept the subdivision of Council land and to occupy the dwellings during their terms of office, at a rental of 10s each per week. The tender of Edward Kennedy was accepted for the erection of both cottages. The Engineer’s residence was situated on the southern side of the Huskisson Road, directly opposite the Parnell cemetery, whilst the Clerk’s dwelling (Bundor) was situated north of and adjoining the Post Office on the Main South Coast Road.

 

The summer of 1909 saw devastating bush fires in the Tomerong and St Georges Basin area. Major loss of property was experienced by many of the residents. In order to help alleviate the distress of these families, the Council offered employment (additional to the regular maintenance men) to those who desired work at the current rate of pay. However, in May a letter to the ‘Shoalhaven News’ by a disgruntled A Riding resident, highlighted a shortage of Council funds, which detrimentally affected the maintenance men. ‘Some time ago the men were informed that no payment would be allowed them during holidays, but that they would be allowed 3d a day extra pay as compensation. This brought matters to much the same state as before, and the men were quite satisfied. Now the 3d a day has been confiscated by the Council. The engineer is responsible for this ‘reform’, the men do the suffering. There has been no suggestion that the engineer would contribute from his comparatively large salary towards re-establishing the Council’s credit. Those least able to bear the loss have their earnings reduced but the large salaried men are left in the enjoyment of their whole income and are paid for their holidays. Owing to shortness of funds the maintenance men are to leave their lengths of road and form a gang at Tomerong. All the rest of the Shire must suffer in order that Tomerong may be improved, and this owing to the shortness of funds.’ Councillor Thomas Thomson was once again elected President in February with Councillor Murray elected Deputy Chairman. By the end of August a telephone had been connected to the Chambers, with the Clerk under strict instructions to allow only the Councillors to use it. It was decided late in the year to have the Chamber and Offices lined, an awning placed on the building and the erection of a verandah on the Engineers house.

 

Land at Huskisson had been reserved as the proposed terminus for the Illawarra Railway prior to 1879 and as early as 1893, when the railway line was extended from Wollongong to Bomaderry, there were calls from the local populace to extend it further to Jervis Bay. In 1900, the NSW Minister for Public Works considered an extension of the line to Jervis Bay and a meeting of the Tomerong Progress Association resolved to co-operate with the Berry Association to promote the railway extension. However, the Railway Commissioners produced an unfavourable statutory report that did not recommend construction. In the following year the surveyed route was amended and the estimates revised. The locals continued to lobby for its construction and in 1903 R Kells, A Warne and T Ganderton jun. were elected as members of the executive committee of the Railway Extension League.

 

For More Information on the Clyde Shire and local government consult “From Bullocks to Bypass”.