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The History of our Club Site

Archaeological evidence indicates that Aboriginal people lived in the Illawarra for at least 30,000 years before the arrival of Europeans although the actual population is unknown. The region, including Russell Vale, was rich in natural resources and easily able to sustain a relatively large population thought to have been between 2000 and 3000.

It was home to the Wodi Wodi tribe, a sub-group of the Dharawal people. In this area Aborigines were known to have barricaded creeks with tree branches and logs trapping fish as they swam down stream towards the sea.

They also fished from rocks and beaches using handlines made from plants and hooks made from shells with stones as sinkers.

Today middens may be found along the coastline or on river banks representing campsites and gathering places where food remains such as shells and bones have accumulated.

On April 29 1770 Captain James Cook, Joseph Banks and Dr. Solander attempted to make their first Australian landing at Woonona, just 2 km from the golf course site. Our great surf conditions forced them back and they headed north to land in the shelter of Botany Bay on the following day.

The suburb of Russell Vale was part of a large grant which was made to Miss Harriett Overington on the 3rd of March 1827 by Governor Darling. The grant consisted of 1920 acres to north of the Buckland grant. In the 1830's the Spearings decided to leave the Illawarra. This resulted in Robert & Charles Campbell being issued the deeds by Governor Gipps on the 30th of April, 1841.

in 1850 the estates of Francis Peter MacCabe and Michael Cawley made up what is today Russell Vale. The MacCabe estate was on the western side of what is today the Princes Highway under the escarpment and the Cawley estate was on the eastern side nearer to the sea.

Francis MacCabe was born to Dr James and Margaret (nee Russell) MacCabe in Dublin in 1817. At the age of 16 Francis joined the Ordnance Survey of Ireland and trained as a surveyor. In 1841 he was granted an appointment with the Surveyors of England to go to New South Wales. Francis embarked on the ship "Florentia" on the 6th June 1841 for Australia arriving on 26th October 1841. He worked in a variety of locations in Australia, including mapping the Murray/Darling system and the township of Gladstone in Queensland before settling in the Illawarra.

In January of 1853 Francis reported for duty in the Wollongong area where soon after he met Jane Osborne who was the eldest child of Henry & Sarah Osborne of Marshall Mount. Francis (( Jane were married at St Luke's church at Brownsville on 28 November 1855.

During 1855 the couple built and moved into "Russell Vale" house. Francis' mothers maiden name was Russell and it is possible that the name of the house and later the estate was named after her. Francis and Jane had 14 children during the course of their marriage.

Francis left the employ of the Department of Surveyors in August 1856 and became the manager of the mine near the "Russell Vale" house. Francis remained manager of the mine until 1883 when his son Henry MacCabe took control.

Francis had political ambitions and stood unsuccesfully for parliament in 1859. Francis was elected to the first North Illawarra council and he served as Mayor in its second year. He was also a Justice of the Peace.

Francis MacCabe was the Major of the south coast forces and a prominent parishioner. On Sunday mornings he drove his buggy to St. Augustine’s Church at Bulli.

It was only due to ill health that the MacCabe family retired to their property at Bowral. Francis died there on 27 June 1897. A polished red granite obelisk was erected at the Corrimal catholic cemetery by his wife.

Article in the Australian 6 September 2006

While men such as Charles Sturt, Thomas Mitchell and Edmund Kennedy took the glory for their exploration at a time when much of Australia was just a blank expanse on a sheet of paper, the real heavy lifting was done by those such as Francis MacCabe.

A surveyor in NSW, MacCabe mapped the rivers of the Murray-Darling, joining men across the country who set out to chart every hill and valley, waterhole and creek.

Today,6th Sept 2006, his name will be immortalised at the junction of NSW, Victoria and South Australia, when a pocket of land on a bend of the Murray River is formally named after him.

For MacCabe's descendants, the honour is long overdue acknowledgement for the work of those who did so much to shape Australia.

Michael MacCabe, the surveyor's 83-year-old grandson, said: "I'm glad that he has received the recognition which all surveyors of that time deserve."

Born in Dublin in 1817, Francis MacCabe trained as a surveyor in Ireland, where surveyors struggled against political pressure to keep traditional names on the map.

At the age of 24, he was offered an appointment as assistant surveyor in NSW. He jumped on a ship, and doubled his initial annual salary of pound stg. 200 in 12 years with the promotion to surveyor.

Between 1848 and 1852, MacCabe travelled with a team of assistants and convict labour, surveying the rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin.

He mapped the Murrumbidgee from the Lachlan to the Murray, then the Murray to Chowilla, just west of the NSW-South Australian border, and the Darling from the Junction to Bourke.

"People called them 'surveyor-explorers' because they were actually exploring country that hadn't been explored before," Michael MacCabe said.

"What they must have gone through ... in places with, in many cases, no population ..."

NSW Lands Minister Tony Kelly said MacCabe had made a significant contribution to the later mapping of the borders by linking a survey of the Murray to other colonial border surveys.

MacCabe's work is also noted among historians for the number of Aboriginal place names he put on his map, encouraged by Mitchell, the NSW surveyor-general.

Archeologist Jeannette Hope, who has been researching MacCabe for the past decade, said the surveyor deliberately engaged with local Aborigines to learn how to pronounce their place names, and treated them better than many of his peers.

"He was really open-minded," Dr Hope said.

"He is an underrated person who did a lot."

Today, the NSW, Victorian and South Australian governments will commemorate MacCabe at MacCabe's Corner, 82km west of the Victorian town of Wentworth, with his descendants looking on.

For current NSW Surveyor-General Warwick Watkins, it's a fitting tribute to the work ofMacCabe and his fellow surveyors.

"It recognises the huge contribution that surveyors have made to the nation since European settlement," Mr Watkins said. "They worked under extreme conditions)) the country was a very wild and untamed country.

"It was very much a hardship, but it was a hardship driven by a great love of the country and a desire to get out there and forge a mark and discover things."

While MacCabe worked in NSW, his counterparts all over the country were similarly setting out to discover what lay beyond the initial coastal settlements.

In South Australia, George W. Goyder travelled north from Adelaide to determine a line of rainfall separating viable agricultural land from country considered incapable of supporting permanent crops. Goyder's Line is still referred to today.

Up in the Top End, Goyder chose the site for Darwin, surveyed the area and located a million acres (40.5 million hectares) of land suitable for growing tropical products.

In Western Australia, engineer CY O'Connor designed the inner harbour at Fremantle, when other experts and the premier believed it couldn't be done.

He later formulated the ambitious plan for the water pipeline to Coolgardie, enabling the rich West Australian goldfields to be further opened up, before he ended his life by riding his horse into the water off Fremantle and shooting himself.

This water colour, below, shows the golf course site in April 1879 as viewed from the Rixons Pass Rd area. The track to Wollongong, Mt Keira, Brokers Nose and the MacCabe family home can be seen.

The MacCabe family home "Russell Vale"

The eldest son Henry was born on the 18th November 1856. Henry, like his father, was a licensed surveyor and qualified as a mining engineer. He served his apprentice in colliery engineering and management in England during the late 1870's He took over control of the Russell Vale mine from his father in 1883 where he stayed for 14 years.

He was a member of both North Illawarra and Wollongong Councils, serving 2 terms as mayor of the latter, he was a Harbour Trust Commissioner and commanded the South Coast military forces.

He married Marion, the daughter of RT "Dean" Ewing and had one son and two daughters

He was a leader of the rescue effort at the Bulli Mine disaster in 1887 and it is reported that he was the first rescuer to go into the pit.

When the explosion occurred at the Mt Kembla mine on 31 July 1902, Henry was one of the first to volunteer his services in the rescue operation. There were 261 men trapped below and Henry did not hesitate to go in to rescue them. Unfortunately he was one of two rescuers who lost their lives in an attempt to free the trapped men. All but 94 men were eventually rescued.

Major new industrial developments in this area commenced in the latter 1800s and these brought new settlers to the area. In 1861 a mine above the MacCabe estate was proposed with a tramway to Bellambi. Due to a depression the mine was closed in 1864. The Osborne family reopened the mine in 1886 as the South Bulli Colliery under the management of W Wilson. In 1899 the mine was purchased by Ebenezar Vickery, then in 1900 the Bellambi Coal Company bought the mine and they owned it until December 2004 when it was sold to an Indian company Gujarat NRE.

The mine had a considerable impact on the local population whose lives were largely entwined with the mine. One of the earliest power houses ever built in Australia was built by the South Bulli Colliery in 1902.

Following the death of Francis MacCabe the largest land sale in the district was held on MacCabe’s land which had been subdivided into West St, East St, Broker St, Moreton St and Hicks St. Daniel Parmenter, who operated a blue metal quarry in Corrimal, purchased two blocks in Moreton St and three in Broker St.

The family of our dear foundation member Jim Potter emigrated from Blantyre in Scotland in 1923 and lived their lives in East St.

The Illawarra Fireclay and Brick Company established operations in the Russell Vale area in 1909. The clay pit was located on the current Golf Course site and the brickworks were located close to the railway line and York Rd. Refractory bricks were railed to Newcastle, Lithgow and Broken Hill.

The Course site when it was a quarry for refractory material - 1949

Raw materials from the quarry, on the golf course site, were moved under the main road and down to the kilns on a track to the north of Collaery Rd.

A brick manufacturing plant was built on the golf course site in 1936. This plant produced house bricks and employed about 30 people. Following extraction of the refractory material the site was purchased by Wollongong City Council to be used as a garbage tip. Council assured the residents of Russell Vale that a park type development suitable for golf course use would be established on the completed tip area.

In the 1960’s Wollongong City Council recognised the need for a public golf course in the northern suburbs of Wollongong. Several sites were identified and the Russell Vale waste disposal site, bounded by Hicks St, Princes Highway and Rixon’s Pass Road was eventually selected as the most suitable site.

In February 1978 Council created a Golf Course Committee, under the chairmanship of Alderman Jack Parker, to investigate, report on and co-ordinate the staged development of a golf course at Russell Vale.

Jack Parker in his working days at South Bulli Colliery
Jack Parker in his working days at South Bulli Colliery

At almost the same time the Bellambi Coal Company, the operators of the South Bulli Colliery, began negotiations with Council on the establishment of a new coal waste emplacement programme on an area of land west of the Russell Vale waste disposal depot. As part of this development programme, Bellambi Coal Company agreed that as the gullies were filled, the land would be made available to Council for the development of a golf course on the site. This saved the Coal Company many hundreds of thousands of dollars in transport and land acquisition costs.

Golf Professional, Mr Ken McKay Snr. was engaged to design an 18 hole professional golf course. On completion it was realised that even with the additional Bellambi Coal Company land, even more land to the west would have to be acquired to enable the professional standard course to be developed.

In the early 1980’s the first stage of the landfill operation was complete and there was sufficient land to develop a 9 hole Par 3 golf course and in April 1981, Council resolved to proceed with the construction of an 18 hole par 3 golf course in a staged development on the landfill site.

Coal wash from South Bulli mine’s coal washery was used to fill the gullies on the site. And this was done using a cellular technique. Cells with walls of coarse coal wash were constructed and these cells were then filled with a slurry of fines. The water seeped through the coarse material leaving the fines within the cell. These were allowed to dry, compacted and then covered with top soil.

Representations were made to the Federal Government through the then Member for Hughes – the Honourable Les Johnson, seeking a Community Employment Programme grant. $528,000 was granted through agreement of both Federal and New South Wales Governments. Work commenced under the management of Council’s City Engineer Ken Reilly and Engineer Aub Hudson in 1984.

When construction was nearing completion Council held a public meeting in December 1984 at Woonona Bulli RSL Club. The purpose of this meeting was to gauge support for a golf club to operate on the course.

When Council officers called for nominations from the floor local Woonona resident Col Hunt rose and said “If youse want a club get of your bums and put your names down with me”. A steering committee was formed consisting of the following golfing enthusiasts.

President John Parker Vice President Henk Hofman Secretary Col Hunt Treasurer Bob Jordan Captain Arthur Watts Committee Charles Hoyer Len Hughes Tom Kerr June Morrisay Jim Paterson Jim Potter Stan Roberts Harry Welsh Mick Welsh

This committee met regularly and developed policies for the operation of the Club. It is significant that these policies included allowing our lady members full equal rights a concept which most other clubs still have to come to terms with.

The first public inspection of the course development was held on 9 February 1985 when club stalwart Stan Roberts found the first golf ball on the site 12 months before the course opened.

The first game of golf on the course was held on Saturday February 1st 1986. The first group consisted of Arthur Watts, Jim Paterson, Henk Hofman and Tom Kerr. Tom hit the green and had 2 putts to record the first par on the new course. The green keeper was Rick McGoldrick ably assisted by Brian Fox and Robbie Meijer.

The course was officially opened by John Brown MHR Federal Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism on 31 October 1986.

Approval for the second stage of course development was obtained from Wollongong City Council in 1987 . This involved constructing holes to the west of the original course on land which at the time was owned by the Shell Company.

The redesigned course consisted of 18 Par 3 holes and the design was developed by Ken McKay Jr and Kevin Mathieson of Wollongong City Council.

Funding for the 2nd stage was provided by the Federal and State Governments through a Community Employment Programme grant of $654,426 in conjunction with Wollongong City Council who provided $147,931.

The extensions were opened by the Federal Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories Senator Graham Richardson on 14 February 1990. Senator Richardson highlighted the fact that our course development fitted nicely into his portfolio as it was a sporting and tourism facility which improved the environment by covering a waste disposal depot using thousands of tonnes of coal wash from the adjacent South Bulli coal mine.

The Russell Vale Golf Club was originally located in a brick building partially constructed by Council and finished off by the voluntary efforts of club members. A larger portable building was erected for club house use in 1994 and this was officially opened by the Lord Mayor Ald David Campbell in October 1994. The members room was called “The Jack Parker Club Room” in honour of our founding President and former Lord Mayor of Wollongong

Following the extensions of the club house an application was made for a full liquor licence. After numerous frustrating delays registration was granted on July 24th 1997.

The next major course development, as a result of the closure of the tip in December 1995, was the extension of the 2nd and 18th holes to par 4’s, the construction of the par 4 14th, a new par 3 15th and the jewel in the crown the par 5 16th. These holes came into play on Feb 6th 1999.

In late 2002 Council installed fairway watering on the 14 th,16th and 18th holes.

This configuration of the course has resulted in a very challenging par 59 layout. The course has large greens which while difficult to read are acknowledged as amongst the best in the Illawarra region.

Following the death club stalwart, Len Hughes, in July 2008 and in recognition of his magnificent contribution as Life Member and member of the original course steering committee the club bar was named "The Len Hughes Bar"

The Russell Vale Golf Club has grown into a very progressive club which is renowned for it’s friendly atmosphere combined with a very keen competitive edge.

The club competes in every available competition in the Illawarra DGA . Members and juniors are encouraged to compete at the highest level possible.

The course record of 54 is held by Member Mat Mitchell (1st September 2007).

Acknowledgements

  • Russell Vale History – Russell Vale Historical Group
  • State Library of Tasmania
  • Wollongong City Council

Article in the Daily Telegraph by Ann Beveridge 7/11/2009

When Major Henry Osborne MacCabe was deep below ground at the Mt Kembla coal mine overcome by rising gases, amid 261 trapped miners he had gone down to help rescue, he cried out: "Back men, save yourselves." It was a moment of selfless heroism in the history of Wollongong.

After an explosion of methane at the mine on July 31,1902, hundreds of volunteers raced to the rescue, led by MacCabe, former Keira mine manager and ex-mayor of Wollongong, and night-shift deputy William McMurray. The two men died in the rescue attempt.

The day's horror, and nonchalance in the face of fire danger, were shown by this description from that time: "When rescuers reached miner Prosper Annesley he was still with his pipe in his mouth getting ready to strike a match for `smoko' ... he was frozen in time aged 33." In all, 94 miners were saved. But 96 men and boys were killed, 33 women became widows and 120 children were left fatherless. In this ocean of misery, MacCabe's lot stands out as cruel fate unexpectedly striking again at a pioneer family. MacCabe had taken part in another rescue 14 years earlier at the Old Bulli Mine disaster of 1887 when 81 miners were killed.

His funeral in 1902 in Wollongong, with full military honours, drew 3000 mourners. He left a wife and three teenage children.

The lives of the Irish-Australian pioneer Osborne-MacCabe family were set among their coalmines which made them rich. The dynasty wielded their influence from their family mansion Russell Vale. The house and its parklands stood on an original colonial land grant of 777ha made by governor Ralph Darling dating back to 1827.

Yet in only four years two brothers with the world at their feet, Henry MacCabe at the age of 45 and one of his younger brothers, Russell MacCabe, at 34, were both struck down in
unforeseeable tragedies.

At 6.15pm on February 21,1896, Russell was found dead by two of his brothers, 300m from the Russell Vale house. A revolver was by his side. He was shot behind the lobe of his right ear. He had been managing the estate for his ill father, Francis, who had gone to Europe. The tragedy was recorded as accidental death.

It was said that he might have been out "pursuing flying foxes" when a top fence rail collapsed and he slipped, discharging the gun as he climbed over. Russell MacCabe had been breeding cattle on the property, developing vast dairies and a large piggery.

The showplace Russell Vale mansion was built in 1855 by the first of the Osborne MacCabes, Irish-born Francis Peter MacCabe and his wife Jane Osborne, of Marshall Mount, Dapto. She was the eldest daughter of wealthy Irish landowner and coalmining pioneer Henry Osborne and his wife Sarah. Osborne farms and mines covered vast areas of the colony. Henry Osborne MacCabe was their first son, born in 1856, at Marshall Mount, eldest of a family of 14.

The MacCabes were descended from an Irish medical family. Francis Peter (known as F.P.) MacCabe was born to Dr James MacCabe and his wife Margaret (Russell), in Dublin in 1817, their sixth son. As a surveyor, he gained an appointment in NSW and at age 24, arrived in 1841 to settle in the Illawarra.

In 1856, shortly after his marriage, Francis left his government surveying job and joined the family business. In April 1857 his father-in- law, Henry Osborne, bought the new Mt Keira coal mine (10km west of Wollongong) and installed Francis as manager, which he remained for over 25 years. The mine stayed open until 1991. Henry Osborne died in 1859.

Francis MacCabe failed in an attempt to enter parliament that year but was the second mayor of Illawarra Council. Meanwhile, Henry Osborne MacCabe followed in his footsteps, training as a surveyor and serving his apprenticeship in Britain as a colliery engineer and mine manager in the late1870s.

Henry took over control of the Mt Keira mine from his father in 1883 and stayed for 14 years. A Freemason who was known as a kind man, he was twice mayor of Wollongong. He was also commanding officer of the NSW Artillery No. 6 Company.

Old Francis MacCabe died in June 27,1897, aged 80, the year after the shooting death of his son Russell.

The Russell Vale house was demolished in 1966 but an Osborne mine is still there, now called the Gujarat NRE No.1 colliery after the Indian owners to whom it was sold in 2004.

Article in The Australian 6 September 2008

WHILE men such as Charles Sturt, Thomas Mitchell and Edmund Kennedy took the glory for their exploration at a time when much of Australia was just a blank expanse on a sheet of paper, the real heavy lifting was done by those such as Francis MacCabe.
A surveyor in NSW, MacCabe mapped the rivers of the Murray-Darling, joining men across the country who set out to chart every hill and valley, waterhole and creek.

Today his name will be immortalised at the junction of NSW, Victoria and South Australia, when a pocket of land on a bend of the Murray River is formally named after him.

For MacCabe's descendants, the honour is long overdue acknowledgement for the work of those who did so much to shape Australia.

Michael MacCabe, the surveyor's 83-year-old grandson, said: "I'm glad that he has received the recognition which all surveyors of that time deserve."

Born in Dublin in 1817, Francis MacCabe trained as a surveyor in Ireland, where surveyors struggled against political pressure to keep traditional names on the map.

At the age of 24, he was offered an appointment as assistant surveyor in NSW. He jumped on a ship, and doubled his initial annual salary of pound stg. 200 in 12 years with the promotion to surveyor.

Between 1848 and 1852, MacCabe travelled with a team of assistants and convict labour, surveying the rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin.

He mapped the Murrumbidgee from the Lachlan to the Murray, then the Murray to Chowilla, just west of the NSW-South Australian border, and the Darling from the Junction to Bourke.

"People called them 'surveyor-explorers' because they were actually exploring country that hadn't been explored before," Michael MacCabe said.

"What they must have gone through ... in places with, in many cases, no population ..."

NSW Lands Minister Tony Kelly said MacCabe had made a significant contribution to the later mapping of the borders by linking a survey of the Murray to other colonial border surveys.

MacCabe's work is also noted among historians for the number of Aboriginal place names he put on his map, encouraged by Mitchell, the NSW surveyor-general.

Archeologist Jeannette Hope, who has been researching MacCabe for the past decade, said the surveyor deliberately engaged with local Aborigines to learn how to pronounce their place names, and treated them better than many of his peers.

"He was really open-minded," Dr Hope said.

"He is an underrated person who did a lot."

Today, the NSW, Victorian and South Australian governments will commemorate MacCabe at MacCabe's Corner, 82km west of the Victorian town of Wentworth, with his descendants looking on.

For current NSW Surveyor-General Warwick Watkins, it's afitting tribute to the work ofMacCabe and his fellow surveyors.

"It recognises the huge contribution that surveyors have made to the nation since European settlement," Mr Watkins said. "They worked under extreme conditions; the country was a very wild and untamed country.

"It was very much a hardship, but it was a hardship driven by a great love of the country and a desire to get out there and forge a mark and discover things."

A Short History of Coal Mining in the Illawarra provided by Barry Swan

Mt. Kembla Mine 1882.

The Mt Kembla disaster remains as single largest loss of life in an Australian
industrial accident 96 men and boys, arising from an underground explosion on
July 31st 1902. The unselfish effort demonstrated by those brave
souls who entered the mine following the explosion In search of survivors only
to perish in the effort, remains as a Hallmark of heroism in Australian
industrial history.

Bulli Mine 1862
Bulli mine is famous for the “battle of the black legs” when in January of 1887, during what
was a six months strike by miners for better wages and conditions, the
miners and their womenfolk prevented “scab labour” working the mine.
Significant in that process was the mining women surrounding the “scab labour”
as they arrived at Bulli railway station and creating a loud and threatening
atmosphere for the strike breakers by banging tin kettles and pots
together. Their spontaneous action was successful with most of the “scabs
rejoining the train back to Sydney. Why documentaries film “Beneath black
skies” contains scenes replicating this militant action of the Bulli women.
Unfortunately after six weeks, the striking Bulli miners were effectively
“starved into submission” and forced back to work. Then tragically on the 23rd
of March 1887, an underground explosion at the mine claimed the lives of 81 men
and boys.

Metropolitan Colliery 1888

The Coal Company of Sydney Ltd in 1887 commissioned a drilling program to establish if
economical coal production was feasible in an area close to what became the
township of Helensburgh. As a result of the test drilling proving coal reserve
of substantial quantity were in existence two 1100 ft shafts were sunk and a
drift was driven to enable the Metropolitan Colliery to begin coal mining operations
in 1888. It was during the process of constructing the drift the continuing
presence carbon monoxide gas in high percentages indicated would necessitate
the use of massive Pit Top exhaust fans rather than the surface furnace
ventilation systems used at all other local mines to ensure the safety of the
operation. It was also due to continuing high gas readings that in 1897 flame
safety lamps rather than the “naked lights” used in other coal mines became the
norm at Metropolitan Colliery. ’

Mt. Keira Mine 1884

In February 1955 former Mt Keira miner, William (Bill) Parkinson became General President
of the Miners Federation. Bill Parkinson is acknowledging as being the finest
working class orator ever in the Australian union movement. During October of
1982 at what had now became Kemira Mine, 31 miners conducted a 16 day “Stay in
Strike “protesting against impending retrenchment. Their militant stand
achieved national and international attention. Unfortunately, despite the
valiant effort of those 31 miners, the planned retrenchment proceeded.
Their 16 day stay in however had the effect of uniting the Australian community
irrespective of ideology in a spirit of Common Cause around the issue of the
dignity of labour that not been witnessed since.

South Bulli Colliery 1857

South Bulli at one time employed the largest workforce of any underground coal mine in the
nation and is acknowledge within the industry, as having persevered over many
years to successfully prove the production efficiency and safety of operating
Long Wall mining system under Australian mining conditions. It was also
with the assistance of South Bulli Company the current Russell Vale Course
became a reality. When on the 23rd October 1986, the Federal
Minister for Sport and Recreation John Brown formally opened what was a 9 hole
course layout at Russell Vale.

South Clifton Colliery 1891

In 1934 the first coal mining industry women’s auxiliary in the state of NSW was created by
the women whose men were employed at South Clifton mine. In May of 1972 South
Clifton became internationally prominent when for the first time in history, a
workforce in an act of defiance against losing their jobs assumed absolute
control of their workplace.

Coal Cliff Colliery 1878

Second only to South Bulli in terms of the number of persons employed, Coal Cliff is the
only coal mine of the southern mining district to have developed mine workings
below the waters of the Tasman Sea. From the foot path along the Sea Cliff
Bridge can be seen remnants of the infrastructure used during the last Century
to service the ships loading mined coal delivered to the surface via Coal
Cliff’s portal on the rock shelf only metres above the high water mark.

Mt. Pleasant Mine 1862

Opened by Messrs. Fawcett and Lahiff in June 1861, the company had a coal tramway
constructed from the mine to Wollongong Harbour in 1862.A section of “ The
Right of Way” for that tramway can be seen as it runs through the cutting just
west of the North Wollongong Surf Club and is currently used as a cycle and walkway.
In1889 the company constructed a coke works which was sited just to the east of
the rail overhead bridge at Nth Wollongong.

Excelsior Colliery

This mining operation eventually consisted of three mines. Excelsior No.1 opened in 1900 by
J. S. Kirton situated just north of Bulli Pass its reserves consisted of almost
equal proportions of “clean coal” and a naturally occurring coke product. In
1905 a Mr. Ryan opened a mine Excelsior No.2 directly under Bulli Lookout with
good clean coal mined just to the north of the Bulli cinder belt. From 1909 the
combined production of Excelsior No’s 1 & 2 was transported via a rail
siding at Thirroul onto the government rail system. Excelsior N01 ceased
operating in 1961 and No.2 1962

The Corn Beef Mine 1938
Opened in 1938 as Excelsior No.3 (or B) mine was situated in the bush land close to and
to the south of Bulli Pass Road at the crest of Greens Pinch, remains of the
mines Powder magazine can be found at the side of the fire trail about 100mts
off the Bulli Pass. Motorists driving up Bulli Pass in the area just prior to
the rise leading up to “The elbow” can and do experience the deformation of the
road pavement consistent with the width and directional axis of the mines
underground roadway driveage. Absolute confirmation the deformation is as a
result of strata failure associated with mining at Corn Beef No3 is
prevented due to adit of that mine being mysteriously destroyed at
the mines closure in 1972.

Nth Bulli Colliery 1878

The North Bulli Coal & Iron Mining Company was formed in 1876
to open a coal mining operation on the North Bulli Estate. By 1878 the North
Bulli Mine commenced mining of the 4ft coal seam. It was proposed to transport
the North Bulli coal by ship from a proposed jetty to be constructed at Long
Nose Point a project that failed to be realised creating problems for the
mining operation eventually leading to its closure.

Coledale Colliery 1902

1902 another North Bulli Colliery (aka Coledale Colliery) under
the ownership and control of a Mr. Cater (who had formerly managed South Bulli)
and a Mr. Hyde began operation at a new site immediately above the Coledale
railway station. This venture was more successful in that it could access the
government rail line and using its own steam locomotives and 150 ten ton
wagons, to transport its production direct to Port Kembla. BY 1905 the
company had also included among its assets, an onsite coke oven battery.

Woonona Mine 1858

Was originally called the Bellambi Mine the operation was soon to become known as
the Woonona Mine. It was opened by a local business man Thomas Hale on a
property then owned by Henry Osborne situated jus north west of what is now
Russell Vale golf course. Thomas Hale was responsible for constructing a deep
water port facility at Bellambi Point and of a “model railway” with a signal
box at the point of its crossing of the Princess Highway near Alfred Street was
used to transport Woonona Mines coal to the port. Thomas Hale was
responsible for proving the high quality of Illawarra coal after having it
tested England. This in turn resulted in the coals of the Illawarra becoming
Australia’s preferred source for export coal. Thomas Hale and the Woonona
Mine were also the first to export coal to China and later to secure markets in
California as well. In1913 a roof fall disclosed fossilised Ichnamium
Gampsodactylum a reptile only ever found in the Permian rocks of Europe.

Tongarra Mine 1893
The Brownlee family was among the earliest settlers of Stockyard Mountain and
Tongara region in what was during the 1880’s essentially an agricultural sector
of the Municipality of Shellharbour. William Brownlee having heard
of the possibility coal seams existed in the area. Beginning in 1893 to explore
that possibility and eventually finding a coal out cropping 800 feet above sea
level, William Brownlee commenced to tunnel. After having driven 40 feet into
the outcrop he established the existence of a number of coal seams. Included
among those high quality coals was a 22ft, a 14ft and a 4ft seams. This coal
proved to be equivalent to the best of Newcastle region coal. The geology of
the area revealed the presence of hematite, fire clays and limestone, ideal
minerals for a cement industry.

Black Ball Mine (aka Pendelbury’s
Tunnel)1904

This mall mining operation opened in 1904 in Portions 82/83 0f The Parish
of Woonona. The coal produced at this mine proved to be of poor quality with
high ash content. From evidence obtained following an inspection of the
abandoned site of the operation some years after its closure in May 1911, it
was assumed the coal mined from the Black Ball mine during its five year life,
was from either the Plunkett Hill or the Tongara coal seams products inherently
“dirty”. The total extent of the workings developed was limited to some 64mts,
with the coal produced suitable only for household use.

Balmain Colliery 1897
In 1891 the existence of coal reserves was established on the Balmain Peninsula at
Birchgrove (an inner western suburb of Sydney). Two shafts, the Birthday during
1897 and the Jubilee in 1902 were sunk enabling access to the coal seams of
what are still seen as being the highest quality coal in the Sydney Coal Basin.
The mine workings at over 1,500 ft in depth remain the deepest in the
Australian coal industry and in fact represent the first ever cross underwater
Sydney Harbour tunnels. A number of reasons led to the closure of the Balmain
operation in 1931 including, its inner Sydney location and continuing problems
with water inundation and flammable gas make. A year after its closure, during
the sinking of a six inch borehole to commercially exploit the existence of the
flammable gas, an ignition occurred killing two workers. Then in April 1945
when attempting to seal off the Birthday Shaft three workmen including the
manager were killed by a gas ignition and explosion.

American Creek Mine 1866

In 1853 a geologist the Rev W.B. Clarke determined shale associated with the coal
reserves located on the northern extremities of American Creek near Mt Kembla
where not economically viable for distillation into oil. Then in 1856 he
reviewed the deposit and concluded it did however possess a readily
availability to ability to create light and heat when ignited. His review
encouraged on American oil refiner based in Melbourne a Mr. W. J Hammil to
approach a Mr. John Graham the owner of the land upon which the oil shale
geology was situated with a plan to exploit the potentially rich shale
reserves. Mr. Graham agreed and work for that purpose was soon commenced. Two
8ft adits were driven into the shale outcropping to prove the shale’s quality.
Those adits established the shale in situ was some 25ft higher than expected
and some sections 1’ 9’’ in thickness supporting the viability of proceeding.
Production commenced in December of that year with the distilled product
attracting a price of 45c per gallon or 12c per quart. By 1877 the shale
reserves depleted and coal mining was commenced instead.

Ringwood Colliery (aka) Collins Mine 1884
In April of 1884 the Great Bundanoon Coal Mining
Company issued a Prospectus as a mining company.

Exploratory drilling intersected one coal seam at 300ft
and two more in close vicinity .

With Messrs. T.S. Huntley. Atchison and Thomas Saywell
& Sons of Sydney with Mr. T, S. Huntley as business manager. The adit of
the mine was established some 289ft below the cliff line into a 121 ft thick
coal seam possible the Wongawilli seam. With over 200,000 pounds of capital
invested in infrastructure jus to haul the production won up from the adit 289
feet below the cliff line and a total coal production of only 77 tons in the
first year Ringwood Colliery was abandoned in 1885. Whatever could be sold of
the infrastructure was with most purchased by Thomas Saywell for use at the
Bellambi Colliery on the coast. Owner of the freehold land Martin Larkin,
refused to sell and was forced into liquidation.