Friday, June 05, 2009

Distant memories of a now vanished North Coast - Ministering to Maclean


   I am not sure when I first visited Maclean. I was very young on one of those North Coast trips with my parents. I do know that we visited the Harwood sugar mill (photo).

Established in 1874, this is the oldest operating sugar mill in Australia. I was very impressed. I had never seen a big factory, and really liked sugar.

Then, years later, I became friends at school in Armidale with the son of the Anglican minister in Maclean. He was boarding and lonely, I too was something of a misfit, so we hit it off.

His mother invited me to come and stay with them during the school holidays, something that was to become something of a tradition.

I must have been about thirteen that first time.

David and I joined the motor coach that went to Grafton down the long winding dirt road from Armidale. The dusty road crawled through the little timber towns with the dust coating the leaves of the trees. This is one of the most beautiful roads in Australia, but I fear I was more concerned to get there!

We were met at Grafton by Mr Kemp and driven down to Maclean. I am not sure where the parsonage was now, up the hill from River street I think. I do know that we used to walk down the hill and wander along the street to town.

The wharf fascinated me. There were faded signs from the North Coast Steam Navigation Company. I did not know then that the steamers had stopped visiting Maclean just a few yearSS Pulganbar Macleans before.

The photo shows the SS Pulganbar docking at the Maclean wharf. Completed in 1912 for the Clarence run, the ship serviced the area until there was rail connection, thereafter going to Byron Bay.

I am not sure when this photo was taken, probably the 1920s or 1930s from the clothes. It is quite a big ship as compared to the Fitzroy that I wrote about in North Coast Memories - SS Fitzroy.

My first and clearest memory of Maclean is the mosquitos. They were huge and numerous, coming out in the early evening. We had mosquito nets over the beds, something that I had never seen before, and the mosquitos used to gather round them in clouds. Playing mahjong or cards in the evening, coils kept them under some control.

I am not sure of the size of the Maclean parish, but in addition to his services at Maclean Jack Kemp would go every Sunday to deliver a service at one or the other of the many small towns round Maclean.

The Clarence River really does deserve its nickname, the Big River. There were so many nooks and crannies, side roads through the cane fields. We did not have to go to the services. Mr Kemp would drop us off, and we would start walking back to be picked up after the service was over.

Mr Kemp's stipend as a minister was not large, so Nan Kemp did a fair bit of baking. She made the greatest Anzac biscuits; David and I were allowed a ration of these. I still love Anzac biscuits. Later, at Molong, she taught me to make Johnny Cakes, something that I still like but now rarely make.


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