Interview Transcript from Illawarra Stories Wollongong City Libraries Oral History Project – Bob Marshall
Interviewer: Edie Swift
Interview Date: 26 May 2017
Edie Well OK today is Friday May 26th 2017 I’m Edie Swift and I’m interviewing Bob Marshall who is a Shack owner of shack 35 in Bulgo. We’re interviewing at my home in Thirroul. The oral history projects is the shacks in the Royal National Park. We will be talking about his shack at Bulgo and the oral history interview will go into the local studies library at Wollongong City Library and the State Library of New South Wales. So if you could just give your parents’ names and grandparents’ names.
Bob My parents names were Doug Marshall and Florence Marshall and my grandparents were Ben Reid and Amelia Reid and John Marshall and I never met my grandmother on Dad’s side because she died at a young age and um… Anna – I think her name was Anna, Anna Marshall my guess is. And I was born..
Edie Yeah your date of birth and then you can go on about…
Bob I was born at The Royal Hospital for Women at Paddington on 28th of July 1929 and um we then lived at Thirlmere and because Dad worked on the Nepean Dam he was a Water Board worker and when the dam finished he started on Woronora Dam which brought us to to Helensburgh where we went in 1936 and where we have been ever since. And my introduction to Bulgo was through the Collins family who lived in the same street as me but down the road and they had a shack down there, down at Bulgo and they invited me down for a weekend and to me that was uh, the ocean that I hadn’t – I had only seen the ocean twice or been swimming in the ocean twice and I made pretty bad mess of myself with sunburns any way. But that was my introduction to Bulgo – after that not having a shack down there we didn’t attend Bulgo very much. We used to go down with dad and mum and a cousin used to come down from Chatswood. We’d go down fishing for the day. We walked from Helensburgh direct to Bulgo and then one afternoon we walked back home until somebody got the idea of why not get a taxi out which used to cost us 6 shillings in those days and it was no problem to get a bus or a carload of people and away you’d go and then I started to when I was 18 or so I started to court.. . um, or take by present day wife out whose people had a shack at Bulgo so that’s my introduction to Bulgo I used to go down with their family and stay with them and I got to like the place a lot and then I bought this shack from Ernie Agland who didn’t build it he bought it from someone and I know who built it because the old butcher in Helensburgh, Bill Thompson, Brinny Thompson, better known as Brinny Thompson and being a mere male I let the place get a bit untidy you know and then we decided to clean it up and Daisy’s dad, Daisy’s my wife by the way, and Daisy’s dad he was a bit of a handyman you know, and he wasn’t well he was suffering with dust from working in the mine and he used to come over and supervise because I was a pretty dumb handyman anyway.
Edie What was his name?
Bob Lionel Bern, anyway the toilet used to be right up the bush so Bernie Lionel Bern said, “You want to bring that down closer lad” so I said “OK what have we got to do” he said “Dig that out there” and in digging it out I think I got about two milk bottles, you know the 600 ml milk bottles, full of funnel webs funnel webs everywhere there, anyway to cut a long story short, we tidied the the place up and like when we first went I guess we… to retrace steps a bit – when we first went to the Collins’ place for that weekend when I was about I’d be 8 or 9 there were no frills know like it was the beds were made of corn bags stretched across two poles and nothing fancy but you could sleep in it and – dirt floor well and you know this place to have a good time sort of thing to go swimming a bit of fishing or crabbing or something like that and then when I got my own shack .. aah, before that I used as I say, I used to go to Daisy’s parents’ place and I had a job where I used to go off mid year and Mr and Mrs Burns they used to come down Bulgo with me and spend the holidays with me which was very good you know like for company and the girls would come down on the weekend anyway uh
Bob Oh yes what happened to me I a – shit – um,
Edie You were talking about your shack
Bob oh yes or something I was going to say, when we first went to the shack shack she was just kerosene lamps and I had a concrete floor in my shack when I bought it and it was insured and I think the principal was a dollar for a sheet of iron and $10.00 or 10 pounds for the floor, that concrete floor that was the premium. I think it was a about 30 pound or something like that, and we decided that. It will get my thoughts together. Oh yes talking about the old kerosene lamps we graduated to pressure lamps Yeah you get in there you have to put the pump the lights up and get them going before you could see especially at night time of course and now the present day. solar solar systems were in just walk in and switch light on have times have changed. Of course I’m a bit disabled. in the leg area and I don’t get down anymore I haven’t been down for about four years. But like we had so much, Bulgo was a place that was a real community there was a community like when I first went down there and they used to have two boats two one was a speed boat one was a small boat they called it and it was powered by oar rowers and they’d go out fishing and come back in, clean the fish then they put them in so many heaps with a crew around the rocks and one man would course this fellow would point at a heap of fish and he’d say ‘Bob so they were my fish’ you know and I’d give what I wanted to do and it was real community sort of stuff and like been of an evening this is a bit later on a run on them just a bit lost a little bit of it. Of an evening it was used to be after tea everybody nearly everybody of those who were able and you know it didn’t matter we were out on the beach for a game of cricket you know then afterwards it was a great euchre stronghold. And used to call used to play a gambling game called knock poker we you know it was about five cents in and that was a bit like you know everybody used to participate and the euchre was a big thing because you’d tell them somebody or someone in another shack and you know like it would go on like that then. Then my courtship was a very long courtship. And we married. And we had. 4 children who were all people who went to Bulgo we took Bulgo of course used to take them down in a cuddle seat which was modern and which was seat sort of cradle held them in front of you and I used to when I got strong enough to put in I haversack I used to carry them up the hill in a haversack and before I take before I took a carpet on the steps they’re asleep you know it’s very hard to carry anyway that. I participated in Oh, refrigeration came on the scene and I participated in taking the first kero fridge down and it was murder We we had a slung on a pole and on our shoulders well when a man like it’s down hill and when the man step in front step down bloke at the back would get all the weight and it’d you know you’d nearly drop it because it was heavy fridge. Then eh. What year was that how old were you then. I’d be I’d be playing football I’d be 18 be. 18 Yeah I’d be 19 I suppose and they actually. Find. Puts some finishing touches to taking fridges down there and. In the finish they could land a Fridge in a shack in thirteen minutes from the top. Just a couple of sled saplings was led handlers a little platform for the um, for the fridge to lay on then one man either side of, either side of the fridge in case it started to tip and you’d hit it your your hip and straighten it up and then the two blokes at the back, two blokes in the front to blokes at the back and two blokes at the side. And eh like we took a lot of fridges down like that it now I think they take them around in a boat. And. Like if a job was on everybody done it everybody was was in like eh think where I remember one shack was shifted from where it stood right across the beach but they didn’t pull to pieces they just numbered the sheets of iron they took off it and carried the frame and all enough people to carry the frame over to where it was going to go and then it was carried back again guess they didn’t like the spot or something like that and then I participated in carrying. 3 bodies out of Bulgo. One young fellow was drowned tragic circumstances he it was big sea and he got lost out there somewhere another man committed suicide and the other fellow died naturally down there. When we went down to pick the fellow up that lived he was still he’d fallen off where he died sitting out watching the sea you know as he was still in the position where he had a cup of tea. Sitting position amazing I just hadn’t seen anything like that you know and yeah. And. You know so many friendships were made down there . It’s a strange thing I picked up the Leader you know St George Leader and there was a death notice in it that caught my eye and it was that the young fellow who used to live next to me in Bolga. They came from Hurstville or Bexley or somewhere. It was you know and he’s the funeral is today actually and you know and it’s amazing Yes see how things tie up. As you’ve got to be in your thirty’s and forty’s how did the community change and what did you do to the shack to change it? well when Graham come on the scene he was He big he’s my baby he’s now 50 years old when he started to go down he got real adventurous you know and they started to do that like they people worked hard to get down there. Like it was a, you had to carry everything down. I’ll never forget one day we took a load of tin down to put around the shack, so decided that we’d Take it down and anyway it got away on us and. We were worried about somebody coming up the hill you know we’re bellowing out started roaring out look out below anyone hit a rock and it was like a leaflet raid there were big sheets of iron flying everywhere. But yeah know like carriage sleepers down there and they were heavy they were they old sleepers of the the railway but people worked so had to get what they wanted and anyhow the shacks and nice and comfortable in but you know like and you ask beby that about thirty’s and forty’s.
Edie Well you were 30 and 40 you now.
Bob Ah! I didn’t get married until i was 30 and we had the four children will let like that takes up most of the time carting stuff down there for them they for I’ll never forget one time Graham the baby he had to have the cow’s milk and there was nobody going down so I couldn’t get any milk down there and I had gout in in both big toes. Anyway I put about 4 pairs of socks on and pulled the boot tight you know so I could …. on my feet and I took them down myself but. And, at the top of the hill there was a shop a little old shop, a little old shop used to to be and they used to get your meat for you, cause no one used to go into Helensburgh there was another one down in Otford itself, the Post office. Bill James used to run that and he um, they used to get stuff for you, you know like you know people just put their cars up there and away they’d go yeah yeah times have changed were really in the thirty’s and forty’s we had a we got a boat with a couple of friends down their. I bought a a little tinny or not it wasn’t a tinny it was a little wooden boat how. And we built a, built a a boatshed for it. The boatshed lasted one week, beach come and cleaned it right out. There and talking about big seas The water has been up to the shacks and on some occasion but on this particular occasion it got right into the shacks and it moved the fridge. In one shack we went into, we were first the down there, and in one shack the fridge had moved from one corner of the house, one corner of the shack to the other you know just so. We were lucky we missed out. I lived next to the creek. Or my shack was next to the the creek which took a lot of time cleaning out with mud and stuff coming down you know and the yabbies with there they used to dig holes everywhere and make it like a bog. They were, they’re still there you know and like the snakes cleared most of them at the frogs and snakes got them. Yes there was rest of I spent a great deal of my time cleaning the creek out so the water would run you know for the people it’s not a great lot of water down there. Now they’ve got a bit of it a tank system where it works pretty good um.
Edie So the tank system you have water for drinking do you?
Bob Ah well, my family, I don’t know what other families do at the moment but my family take a five litre of water down to drink you know and I just say that’s because it’s very muddy, brackish you know I like it, it runs through, runs through the bush and it’s very muddy when it rains you know. The. The brother-in-law he put a shower in a little sump up the, up the creek little was was a concrete sump with the hose coming out of it and it used to use to come to a concrete block in front of my shack so you be there sharing and what’s that there’d be a yabby a dead yabby hit you on the head. Wasn’t too nice either at Rex mill Yes And like I might be jumping about a bit here really but like, I’m trying to gather it as it goes. Young fellow came I’ll get back to the bodies we carry at this. Fellow oh. He had a boat and he was a good boy with a boat you know he could do and he said come to me he said
Bob he says He says that is that a a body out there I said oo I said I don’t know I said I got me me binoculars and had a look I said it sure looks like it He said I’ll go and have a look anyway he went out and he had a look it was a body and he went to grab the wallet so he could identify them and where we scratched from feeling the ocean but they identified the young fellow he’s only, only young bloke and we made arrangements that if it was a body he’d wave a, wave a flag or something and I’d get going up hill to get the ambulance and the police yes so by the time he got back into the. Shore I was three parts of the way up the hill I me way home to get the police in order we had no mobile phones and in those days and talking about that I put our safety shack in down at Bulgo the committee. Which had a radio or you know like a radio it was like it.
Edie When did that go in? How old were you then?
Bob Oh, maybe 50 I suppose, maybe a bit older you know I’m not a very good man no dates. And but there’s not a lot more I can tell your except that you know the people from Sydney there was a mingled in, mingled in great with the you know like they were part of the family it was and er there’s not many outside when I say outside there’s not many people out of the district to enter the Burgh That don’t own any shacks down there now very few and so I don’t know when there’s any. ..
Edie Where are they from now?
Edie The people who own shacks now, where are they from?
Bob Helensburgh Oh I think that. Gee I don’t know whether there are any people from outside the area own shacks now the’re probably are but I don’t know them you know like as in the later years you just go down and go to your fishing spot a fish and then come back home and have a beer and sit down and I used to doze off and have a sleep in the afternoons.
Edie How is it different now compared to when you first went down?
Bob Well everybody’s got a fridge and everybody’s just about got solar system in. Um, and everybody just about has a septic tank in there. We used to just empty it in the ocean you know which is a no no now and um I don’t know why because the sewer still run out into the ocean don’t it. You know anyway.
Edie Do you have events or did you have events, like the whole community would have different events that you did it.
Bob Oh yeah, used to have picnics, yes, like Christmas races and um um Easter egg hunts and things like that you know that’s being going for a long while but Christmas was always Christmas you know Christmas you can knock a bit of fun out at a Christmas and there but everything was low key, fun times and the youth again used to be. Played with great gusto, you know. And Mr and Mrs Burns, ah, Lionel and his wife, they were the champs, you know, they were the champs. They, they loved it really. Six handers and four handers very good.
Edie Do you remember times where um the ocean was really bad and the storms were bad. Did you go down there then?
Bob Um. Not while the storm was on. Um. As a matter of fact there was a deluge and ah, this lady she lived near or near one of the creeks or know one of the water courses down there or make your own course where you get a deluge and I saw her over the the road and I said, ‘What are you doing home?’ She said, ‘I got out of there the water was just pelting down the mountain! Oh and by the way, uh, Daisy, ah, she lost a brother down there. He was killed on. In a slide and they were camping on the beach. And uh, must of been a storm or something like that anyway the um, the log, a log came through the tent and killed him had to dig some of the other kids out of the mud that had come down and you know he was twelve I think when something like what 1933, before my my entrance into the
Edie I was going to talk a little about your job that you had while you were you had your share Bolga and if you were. you were connected with the Helensburgh Workman’s Club
Bob Workman’s Club, yes
Edie and what was that like?
Bob Oh, well see I and in working at the club I had contact with all the people from Bulgo and like we had um, committees and you know used to meet at the club. That’s really been a bit of time and bit of people to talk and I was on most of the committees and something I don’t know whether the Wollongong City Council they were there I don’t know what they were I forget their name. Anyway they weren’t the Wollongong City Council then but they administered Bulgo. They handed it over to the National Park. Well there was some yahoo hoo ha ah I shouldn’t say about that. Should we be there or not. See do you know anything about the high water high water mark. You used to be able to build so far from the high water mark. Anyway the fellow for the Lands Department came down and the meeting was in my shack actually and he just had a look and talked about the place and as he was going his conclusion was, well I can’t see anything going wrong here. He said it’s just somewhere where people work hard and walk hard. Work hard through the week walk hard and for for weekend to come down and fish and pleasure but during the depression like the fishing kept people alive down there. That’s why that’s how it started I should imagine. I’ve got a photo of an old lean to sort of just a couple of sheets of iron standing up against the fence or something or against a bank or something like that you know.
Edie But when you were in the work the Helensburgh club what were your duties there?
Bob I was a a manager for a while. I started off as a steward then went to assistant manager and I got the manager’s job. Didn’t want it with the, I got, knew what it was about and a ah I was accused of stealing some money and lost my job there, which I didn’t do. Course, everybody’s innocent. But I enjoyed my stay at the club it was healthy on years at the club, because we used to have that many, we had too many, so many people there on New Year’s Eve we had to open 2 rooms 2 big rooms and we used to have, and we used to have a concert once a month and it we used to close at 12 o’clock and open at 3 every Sunday. By 3 o’clock Sunday afternoon the people were lined up 100 yards up the road to get into the concert. Had all top line artists and it was a very very social club. You know, like we never had much, when you are entertaining people and people being entertained you don’t have any trouble no matter how much they drink you know its it’s anywhere.
Edie What, how old were you when you went there and you first started working until you, you when you finished.
Bob 1952. That’s, ah, what was I, it was 23, 23 and I worked there for 24 years so it took a large part of my life with. I enjoyed it. I did enjoy it. The end wasn’t really good but I enjoyed it.
Edie Did you want to make any more comments on a wonderful talk here you covered a lot do you want to make any more comments
Bob We had a great rapport with the rescue people from the police department as a matter of fact we got a couple of recommendations or commendations from the police department about the help we give them, because like being at the club and they were looking for a member of ours who had committed suicide. He got between Bulgo and Hell Hole, you’ve heard of Hell Hole, he got between Bulgo and Hell Hole. He got under the Lantana shot himself and they picked him up from the sky sort of thing. And like, it was a stinking hot day day so I approached our president of the club and said is it OK to take a carton of beer out to the, to the people who were looking for these people. Yeah, no trouble at all, you know. So we took it out. And that’s how they how we got the rapport with them because they used to call in all the time and, you know, see us and it was very good, very, very good.
Edie Well, I think we should conclude because you’ve covered everything. You’ve ticked all the boxes unless you want to say anything more
Bob Well, I don’t, I think that the National Park are not being real fair about the charges. They’re not too bad now, ok now, we can handle that, but not everybody’s going to be able to handle because there’s is a rise in the wind. You know they’re sending us out bills for 300 odd dollars and we were paying a $108 dollars a quarter, as pensioners, they were 50 percent off and now it’s up to over $300.00 they want to charge us and we got some legal stay on it. I’m not into the the the legal side of things now but there’s a fellow there a Mr Johnny Arny he’s doing a marvellous job. George Jackson all the committee work their butts off and I must mention Timmy Collins, Bill’s brother, who really really travelled miles and miles to get a case solid sort of thing you know to find out what happened in other areas. But, yes like, I still think about going to Bulgo, I still see myself going over on you get a favourite fishing spot. I use to catch a Grouper now and again and, then like, I used to walk from, um, I was courting Daisy I used to walk from Stanwell Park, as I remember Stanwell Park Surf Club and go down to the carnivals and run and do patrols and then I’d walk from Stanwell Park to Bulgo to see my girl friend and I, you know, like. Then that became kaput cos’ the mountain fell in the track was gone.[laughing] So, you know, like, all my memories down there are happy ones. I don’t have a sad memory down there except those people that died down there you know but there’s always a sad point isn’t it no matter where and, ah yes, my memories down there were all happy ones. I had some nice parties down there. One particular, one particular party was John Hall. These people had a shack down. there married this girl in New Zealand and it was 12 o’clock in the day, he was marry her and he was got married in New Zealand, so Daisy and I we walked out the front with a beer and said Congratulations John and Ellie, you know, and next minute. No not next minute but within the next half hour we had 20 people over there and that party went til 2 o’clock the next morning to celebrate the marriage. It was a a long one. But, like, everybody just, if something happened it was all a community thing and it’s the same today. You got just, that, I’m not involved as much you know like I was on every committee as I say and finding a pretty untidy with the minutes I’m finding bits of paper with minutes on them[laughing].
Edie Well, thank you very much I really enjoyed listening to all this you did a wonderful job and would you donate it to the Wollongong City Library Local Studies and the State Library of New South Wales.
Bob There’s nothing I said that I wouldn’t say again.
Edie And would you could it be transcribed would that be alright?
Edie OK great.