Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Dunoon history: The Dunoon Story

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Denis Mathews, Dunoon and District Gazette

On 17 June 1871 Duncan Currie made his first selection in what became the land parish of Dunoon.

The Dunoon Story cover
Photo: Denis Mathews

On the same day his brother Archibald also made a selection, a few miles to the south. Archibald was already operating his store near the entrance to the Lismore race course. Currie Park is across the tiny creek which made the site so important to the budding merchant. The park is not actually on that very early selection. It is simply on the “wrong side” of the creek. Merchants were not simply selling supplies but they were buying logs floated down from the Big Scrub. The RRHS Museum has a wonderful display on our early timber industry.

We have a hint that both brothers were involved in the industry originally as axemen. Duncan acquired a team of bullocks so his first selection was as close to the forest as he could get. In fact it was only a few months later that a huge forest reserve was declared, as one of 14 in the Land Area based at the time on Grafton.

The south-east corner of that particular reserve was in the bank of Numulgi Creek. The southern and eastern boundaries were straight lines following the directions given by the magnetic compass. The western boundary was Terania Creek. The northern boundary was the Night Cap Range. The southern boundary of that forest reserve ran through Archibald’s selection at the old S-bend in Dunoon Road. Duncan’s selection was completely isolated till the inexorable process began of Ministerial revocation of reservation.

The brothers were born near the tiny Scottish Village of Dunoon on the right bank of the Clyde. It is no longer a tiny village but the residents of Glasgow often visit and drive there using the vehicular ferry at Grennock. But Duncan named his small selection “Dunoon” and it was not long before the whole area became known as Dunoon even though his selection is still actually in the parish of North Lismore.

His last selection (Dunoon Por 7) lies to the west of his first but the parish boundary wraps round three sides of that piece of land. To the west is the parish of Blakebrook. As one drives west past the Modanville store one crosses the parish boundary near Barry’s Road. It became evident that demand for land was going to become so great that yet another reserve was going to be needed if only to preserve space for the bullocks still working in the Big Scrub. When that 400 acres was reserved in December 1879 the new parish still had no name.

There are two articles in The Northern Star describing trips from Lismore to the Tweed. The first published in 1880 is rather succinct. The second printed in the following year takes five episodes to complete. The first afternoon was spent getting across the river at Lismore when the punt was out of action and then reaching the B&B run by the family of James Edgar James, fronted by Numulgi Creek Road and Dunoon Road. (Whatever happened to the sign identifying Jimmy Jimmy’s Hill?) Next morning the traveller had to get past the fence put across the road to prevent the bullocks wandering off towards Lismore. There was no sign of any village of Dunoon till 1905.

Incidentally, Duncan Currie was officially recognised as finding that track across the range to the Tweed. In a later title deed there is reference to ‘Currie’s Line of Road’. The old parish map for Whian Whian actually shows the mile points from Lismore along the mailman’s route. By the time a landslip closed the track there was an alternate route available, closer to the coast which eventually became the Pacific Highway.

There is a wonderful irony in that almost exactly 100 years after Duncan Currie selected the land he named Dunoon, the NSW minister of public works was to open the new water supply to Dunoon. The water reservoir was in Fraser Road. It is still there but almost empty. Is this an appropriate time for the disused tank to be converted to a visitors’ centre?

Local shop keepers adjacent to the hall decided to release their Dunoon Story to mark the occasion. By the time I came to live in Dunoon that booklet was already out of print. We had stumbled on Dunoon and bought our block in May 1977. Marie moved in with the girls in time for the school year of 1980. I continued my teaching job in Gunnedah for another year. Our brother-in-law Bill gave us historic copies of the various deeds to our land. My obsession with the history of the area was already fired when Bronwyn Henderson, as president of the Preschool Association, had the booklet updated and reprinted.

That booklet relied heavily on living memory and resulted in some somewhat irrelevant errors. Duncan Currie did NOT select a square mile in 1871 but over the years he selected almost that much land. Of all his selections only the last was in the Parish of Dunoon. The story that he was in the land office the day the parish boundary was “ruled off” is surely a myth. One glance at that boundary should make that clear. He certainly introduced the name for the new parish, but it seems that the actual name was never “gazetted” and it was still not decided several months after the boundary was decided. Even in 1881 there was some confusion about the origin and pronunciation of the name. What became the Dorrobbee Grass Reserve was in place but was soon being selected. Oddly enough the Star correspondent draws attention to Duncan Currie’s thriving first selection while seemingly unaware that he had selected properties east of Dunoon Road.

Duncan later acquired 150 acres south of his original selection and built ‘Dunoon House’ there. When that ‘homestead’ property was sold the new owner renamed it ‘Craiglea’. Ironically Duncan Currie never owned the deeds for any one of his ‘Dunoon’ selections. At the time of “alienation from the Crown” all of his selections had been purchased by others and according to the practice, it is the first owner of the title deed whose name appeared on the parish map.

There were two separate ‘developments’ of his selections west of the road. And there is no way of moving from one to the other, even for pedestrians, without returning to Dunoon Road.

Dunoon and District Gazette June-July 2021

This article appeared in the Dunoon and District Gazette, June-July 2021.

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