May-June-July 2021 Newsletter

Manning Valley Historical Society

Behind the Scenes in the Museum

Even with the difficulties surrounding us we are still managing to develop our Museum. Many thanks must go to our volunteers who, with their combined efforts, make our society and museum what they are today.

Dr Kelly’s buggy, featured in the previous Newsletter, has now been placed with the sulky, dray and tractor in a new display with some definite ‘WOW’ factor. Three existing displays had to be relocated, not easy with such large items and limited space to manoeuvre, but all agree, the effort was worth the result achieved.

The Museum has been extremely fortunate to have acquired two art pieces for its collection. An oil on canvas painting of the Manning River (looking down the river from Tinonee) by Christina McLeod, c 1889. It was donated by Mr Ian Cole of Narrabri.

The second painting is of the ‘Fire King’, a wooden paddle steamer which was wrecked, off the north head, Manning River (Harrington) 30.4.1873. The ship was built by John Stewart of the Macleay River, NSW, c 1866, and boasted being the biggest paddle steamer of its time.

Other more subtle projects are being undertaken such as painting and putting final touches to exhibits.

“Invitation” – if you get the chance, pop in, check out the changes being made as we are getting good feedback from our visitors.

Members and visitors are reminded to be respectful of the current COVID regulations, masks are compulsory in all indoor non-residential buildings, access the QR code with your details and be mindful of social distancing and hand hygiene.

Terry Tournoff, President.


Trip to Glen Innes

The postponed trip to Glen Innes finally got under way at 6.30pm on Thursday 20th May when everyone met at the Central Hotel for a convivial dinner and to make plans for Friday. We met at 9.15 the next morning and a few hardy souls had already been for a walk despite the reputedly 2 degrees temperature.

The first stop was a private collection of garaganalia belonging to John and Josie Ellis. They had been collecting for 14 years and the magnificent collection of petrol bowsers, old vehicles oil cans, enamelled signs, spark plugs and car badges among other things was housed in a large purpose-built building. Our incredibly knowledgeable hosts answered countless questions and explained how they had begun their interest in such things and their plans for the future of the collection. The conversation was continued over the morning tea they generously provided.

Next was the Land of the Beardies History House Museum. This interesting museum is housed in the first hospital that was built in Glen Innes in 1877. There were subsequent additions over the years and the building closed as a hospital in 1956. The property now belongs to the Crown Lands, Department of Industry NSW. We were met by President and another volunteer. The museum is extensive with 26 display rooms. There were other volunteers present and once again everyone was ready to share their expertise and answer questions. And there were many of those. There was not a little envy about the space they had available for exhibits. Many ideas were exchanged about the museum management, storing of archives, opening hours etc. We were invited over to an annex where meetings are held and chatted for some time over homemade soup, slices and tea and coffee. Everyone was most appreciative and we enjoyed discussing our mutual interests.

Lunch had been arranged at the Standing Stones café The Croft and a few of our members managed to eat a meal while others made do with a drink. After some time at the standing Stones we headed off to Gawura Gallery which is the home of internationally acclaimed Aboriginal artist Lloyd Gawura Hornsby. After looking at the paintings Lloyd himself talked to the group about his paintings and how he became an artist. Afternoon tea at the café was declined. That evening another pleasant dinner was enjoyed, this time at the Highlands Restaurant.

Early next morning we left to visit Emmaville Mining Museum. Emmaville as a town has seen more prosperous days but the museum itself was an eye opener. The area was the centre of the mining industry with gold, arsenic, bismuth and sapphires being mined. As well as an extensive collection of minerals of all kinds the museum also contained other exhibits such as representations of old shops, photos, World War1 memorabilia, costumes – they had everything. It covered a very large area and they were building (with the help of a grant) a large wooden building to better house their collection.

After all this we were museum’d out and everyone left on their separate ways home. It had been informative, interesting and a very pleasant time sharing these experiences with a like minded group. Many thanks to Garry for organising the trip and I am sure we all look forward to the next one.


Wreck of the Fire King (Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 7th May 1873)


Captain W O Hersee, late master of the C. and R.R.S.N. Co’s steamship Fire King, recently wrecked on the Manning River bar, arrived in Sydney on the Morpeth. The following particulars of the loss of the Fire King appear in the Manning River Times of the 3rd instant, a copy of which was kindly handed to our reporter by Captain Hersee. 

…It is with deepest regret that we record the total loss of the Clarence and Richmond River Steam Navigation Company’s steamship Fire King, which was for some years past been trading between Sydney and the Manning River. The Fire King arrived off the Manning bar from Sydney between 10 and 11 on Wednesday morning, the 30th instant, and Captain Hersee, seeing no danger signals hoisted, the signal for full flood, and apprehending no danger attempted to cross the bar. As she neared it a tremendous sea struck the vessel’s stern with fearful force, washed the two men from the wheel right forward, made a clean breach through the saloon, carrying the stewardess forward, destroyed the steering gear, and threw everything on the deck into the utmost disorder. One of the seamen washed from the wheel was hanging on by two of his fingers. The ship was now at the mercy of the waves. An attempt was made to hoist the sails, which proved ineffectual.

The engines were reversed in order to propel the vessel astern at full speed, but no way could be made against the sea that was coming in. The ship drifted rapidly towards the north shore, and was soon among the breakers, which tossed themselves mountains high. She struck several times and at last went broadside onto the beach. For some time, the passengers had given up all hope of saving their lives, when the vessel was struck, the general expectation was that she would have gone down bodily. After she was beached, a line was passed to the shore and caught by the pilot’s crew, who were at hand ready to render what assistance they could, and along this line the passengers escaped at intervals as the sea would permit, at some peril. The conduct of Captain Hersee was described as most heroic – he is said not to have lost his cool confidence for a moment and his officers and crew nobly and bravely did all they could to carry out his orders. After the passengers were safely landed, some little property was sent ashore, but the heavy goods it was useless to attempt to save. The captain and crew remained on board until the last. The vessel is a total wreck and when our informant left was fast breaking up. We understand there was not a heavy cargo.  The principal sufferers appear to be Messers Crofton, Thomson, Dugdale and Broad. A messenger was at once despatched to Port Macquarie to telegraph to the company in Sydney. As soon as Captain Ricketts, the company’s Agent, received the Intelligence, he at once started to the bar, with the steam drogher, Katherine, accompanied by Sergeant Ussher and several others. All lives were saved. Several persons received considerable injuries. It is lamentable to think that in such an hour of danger there are those that are not afraid to commit a crime. One passenger informs us that he was robbed of 10 pounds as well as some of his things, and several other robberies we believe were committed. We believe the Fire King was not insured, so that the full loss will fall upon the company. The estimated value of the vessel was from 7000 to 8000 pounds. A portion of the goods have washed ashore. It is expected that the engines will be recovered.

…The following additional particulars are furnished by Captain Hersee – The Fire King left Sydney on Tuesday, April 29, at 3pm, with fresh S.W. and W.S.W. wind and moderate sea. Had a splendid run to Cape Hawke, when there and finding that I had 2 hours to spare for high water. I kept the ship going round and round for that time. Then left at 9.30am on 30th April for the Manning bar, arriving there at 11am and steering for the channel, and seeing no danger signal hoisted, and seeing no cause for fear, when one sea overrun the ship, causing the wheel to capsize, carrying away the standards and tiller, rendering the rudder completely useless and all power and steering gone. All that could be done to keep was done, but to no purpose. At last she began to strike on the north spit and the surf driving her on the North Beach broadside, the engines were kept full speed ahead to keep her there. By this time, it being near 12 o’clock, and the tide falling, the passengers were got ashore and were landed safe and everything movable was passed on shore that could be got at. Night setting in, all hands left her and at 12 at night she broke in two and next morning there was only the after-part left and that completely stripped to the beams, the sea making a clean breach right through that part to the sternpost, the boilers and engines settling down fast in the sand leaving no hope of saving any of them.


Events Update

Workshops – Significance Training

AMaGA Mid North Coast Chapter. Debbie Sommers, Port Macquarie has received funding to run training and documentation workshops with Kylie Winkworth, Conservator. The theme for these training sessions is ‘Journeys’. The first session was held on 26th May and 13 members attended including 2 members from Tuncurry Museum.  The next workshop will be Wednesday, 21st July. The ‘Journeys’ project will be developed further in 2022 with plans for a website, interactive trail, brochure etc;

A Night at the Flix

For the SHINE Festival in April we held a very successful night with approximately 100 people attending. The High school venue was terrific and the Principal, Mr Paul Ivers was very obliging and helpful. The powerpoint presentations by six of our volunteers covered themes of bands, travelling shows, schools, hotels, early industry and disasters. Kathy Bell entertained with a re-enactment of Amy Garlick and Cherie Jenkins gave a sombre telling of John Lancelot Andrew’s WW1 enlistment. Supper was provided and a big thankyou to all the helpers involved especially Kerry Fitzgerald, Scott Grant, Terry Tournoff and the SHINE Festival Committee. Next years theme will be ‘A Night at the Moving Pictures’.

Bonnie Wingham Scottish Festival –  June

The Bonnie Wingham Highland Fair and Games was held in Wingham Central Park. It was great weather, with a large crowd attending. People were respectful of the COVID regulations and the new admission fees.  The Museum bookstall did a roaring trade, making a good profit on the day.


Information Kiosk for the Museum’s Maritime Section – Last year we received a grant for an interactive kiosk presentation for our maritime display area. Members have been researching and installing maritime history information and this device will shortly be installed for visitor use.

Let’s Get Digital – We have been successful in receiving the grant ‘Let’s Get Digital’ through the Museum and Galleries NSW. This is a $13,000 grant to expand our digital presence. A videographer has been engaged to professionally produce digital tours, short documentary style videos and re-enactments as well as building extension to our website and QR codes throughout the museum for additional information on displayed items. Filming commenced 2 weeks ago and some Wingham High School students as well as our volunteers were involved in the re-enactments. The videographer is now editing the filming and once the QR codes are established at the relevant display areas the videos will be uploaded and will also be available on the website.


Judy Yarrington, Newsletter Editor – View the newsletter on our website,  and check out Museum Facebook page: Manning Valley Historical Society