'The Bega Gazette and Eden District or Southern Coast Advertiser'
22 July 1885
Bark Trade. - The bark industry round about Towamba has gone ahead under the stimulus imparted by the exertions of Messrs Brearley and Forbes, who have had as many as 25 men at work stripping, chopping, and bagging wattle bark for shipment to Melbourne, and latterly to London, via Sydney. The management has found it necessary to purchase a steam engine and powerful cutting machinery, and has now in store a large quantity of bagged bark awaiting carriage to Eden, a distance of about 12 miles. The firm offers a high rate of remuneration to teamsters, who will have loading both to and from the port.
'Pambula Voice' November 10, 1893
* Wattle bark strippers are busy and are likely to do well this season owing to the high prices that are now ruling. Mr. Nicholson, engineer for roads for this district was here a few days ago and intends to do what he can towards making our roads passable.
|Carting bagged wattle bark. Love's Valley,
Photo courtesy M. Price
'Australian Town and Country Journal'
14 December 1895
* At Towamba a single wattle tree yielded over a quarter of a ton of chopped bark.
January 10, 1896
* The wattle bark trade, which is one of our staple industries during the summer months, is in much the same state as that of dairying for want of rain. The bark sticks to the trees and cannot be stripped, otherwise the price for this commodity is satisfactory.
'Pambula Voice' April 29, 1898
Pericoe bark is again to the front. A shipment of forty-two bags of wattle bark recently, by Mr. J. H. Ryan, to Messers Winchcombe, Carson & Company of Sydney, topped the market at the splendid figure of £8 per ton. This proves a superior quality of the bark produced in this district.
February 22, 1910
'Illawarra Mercury '
* In less than two years 900 tons of wattlebark were consigned from Nangutta (Bega) to Sydney, and averaged £9 per ton.
November 13, 1920
'The Sydney Morning Herald'
* The wattlebark industry in the districts of Rocky Hall, Towamba, Wyndham, and Lochiel is very considerable. During the year ending June 30 last, one buyer paid out over £10,000, and several others were operating.
May 23, 1924
'Albury Banner and Wodonga Express'
ITEMS OF INTEREST.
* Neglected Australian Industry.- Wattle-bark grown in South Africa is being landed in Sydney at £1 per ton cheaper than the product from our own South Coast. The position is truly an anomalous one, when it is considered that Australia is practically the home of the Mimosa and that the varieties grown commercially in South Africa have all been imported from this country. The production of wattle-bark on a scientific basis is an industry which has never been seriously attempted locally, though it is one which, owing to natural conditions, should prove quite lucrative. The value of the wattle-bark grown in South Africa amounts to well over £1,000,000 annually.
'Magnet' February 22, 1930
* Great activity in the bark industry. During the last fortnight record loads have left for the Eden mill.
'Magnet' April 12, 1930
* Lorry loads of wattle bark are still being hauled from Nungatta.
|Original Nangutta Homestead
('Nangutta' now often spelt
| Manager's cottage.
Photos K. Clery
'Magnet' July 4, 1931
* Mr. Ted Ryan has sent several record loads of bark to the Eden mill this week.
'Magnet' September 12, 1931
* Bark stripping has commenced in earnest. Strippers are hoping for reasonably good market.
'Magnet' October 3, 1931
* The rain during the week has been most beneficial and acceptable. Owing to the previous dry weather bark stripping had to cease, the bark refusing to leave the trees. If only we could tame "those fierce westerlies", the weather would be most enjoyable.
'Magnet' June 2, 1934
* Mr. A. E. Alexander topped wattle bark market at £9/10/- . Bark from this locality usually tops the market.
Leo Farrell of Towamba demonstrates
how wattle bark was stripped from the trunk
of the common black wattle tree,
and bundled ready for transport.
Photos courtesy of
'Magnet' November 3, 1934
Farmers and graziers report: The market continues extremely quiet and the dullness has been accentuated by the fact that consignments coming forward in many cases have not been dried sufficiently. Tanners do not want bark in sappy condition at any price. Quotes: Best heavy to £9/10/-, Medium growth £8/10/ to £9, Good light to £8/5/-, Inferior £5 to £6 per ton.
|Harry Grant at Eden Wharf with a load of wattle bark. 1937|
'Magnet' March 9, 1935
* Mr. Hood, a partner in the firm of Hood Bros., Sydney, boot manufacturers has bought 200 acres of land, part of the well known Rankin property near Towamba with the object of utilising it for wattle culture. He has taken a house in Towamba where he will reside pending the erection of a home on his newly acquired holding.
|Alby Love's truck loaded with wattlebark.
Courtesy Susan Love
'Magnet' November 23, 1935
WATTLE BARK AT TOWAMBA
Application from Mr. V.C.O. Smith, Towamba, for permit to strip wattle trees on parts of two unused streets adjoining portion 153, Village of Sturt. Resolved permit be granted on payment of fee of 10 shillings and subject to usual conditions.
| One of the last loads of bundled wattle bark
to leave the area was
stripped by Leo Farrell, his brother William
and with the help of Glen Jessop.
| With the proceeds from this load Leo and
William purchased the
property 'Fulligans' on the Wog Wog River near Pericoe.
|The truck belonged to Bert Overend. The wattle
bark was collected
from all around the district
|This was the largest load of bundled wattle
bark ever delivered
to the mill at Melbourne.
September 11, 1936
Tan Bark Industry on South Coast
* The gathering of wattle-bark for tanning purposes is still an industry on the far South Coast. Here is a load en route to market.
January 9, 1947
WATTLE BARK TARIFF
Because the supply of Australian wattle bark is insufficient to meet the requirements of local tanners, the Federal Government will continue to allow a certain amount of wattle bark and wattle bark extract to enter this country free of duty.
This was the answer given to Mr. Allan Fraser when he recently approached the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) with the suggestion that some local wattle bark growers were finding it difficult to compete with the imported product.
Senator Courtice pointed out that duty on sufficient imported wattle bark to meet increased war needs was lifted back in 1942 after representations had been made to the Government by the Federated Master Tanners and Leather Manufacturers Association.
Distilling Eucalyptus Oil in the Wyndham,
Towamba and Lower Towamba Districts
A short article by W.R.Mitchell printed in 'Tales of the Far South Coast' Vol 2.
During the 1920 to early 1940 time slot, Black Peppermint, or more correctly, Eucalyptus Australiana was in big demand for the production of eucalyptus oil. It was very plentiful in the Wyndham, Towamba and Lower Towamba areas, but there was very little further down the river toward Kiah.
Square iron ship tanks were used to distill the eucalyptus oil. These tanks had a flat edge on top, three for four inches wide, so that a lid could be fitted. Black Peppermint is a very soft timber, and the trees were very easy to fell with axes. No chainsaws in those days.
The leaves were trimmed off the branches with cane knives and carted, usually with a dray and horses, to the tank. The tank was filled with water to one-third of its capacity and then as many leaves as possible tamped in to the tank - usually about 600 lbs of leaves to a tankful. Wet hessian was placed on the flat ledge, and the lid was tightly clamped on the tank. A pipe was fitted near the top of the tank, and the pipe kept under water to cool the steam, and a container caught the oil and water at the end of the pipe.
Eucalyptus oil is lighter than water. It was possible to skim the oil off the top and put it in a 44-gallon drum (200 litres). A hot fire was lit under the tank and, when it was cold in the winter, often took a couple of hours to bring to a boil. As soon as the water began to boil we examined the lid to see if any steam was escaping. If so, wet clay was used to stop the leak. We usually kept the distilling going for about two hours, but the best of the oil was obtained in the first twenty minutes. As soon as one tankful was finished, we emptied the leaves out with pitchforks and filled the tank with fresh leaves, and with everything hot we usually had the water boiling again in about twenty minutes.We usually cut several tank loads of leaves before starting to distill. The trouble was if the leaves got wet they had to be turned to prevent them heating up and losing their oil. The Booth Brothers from Rocky Hall started distilling oil at Lower Towamba about 1920. They paid a peppercorn royalty of five or six shillings per drum, the same royalty they paid the Forestry Commission to cut leaves on Crown land. However, it gave employment to anyone willing to cut the leaves. Usually they employed the farmers to collect the leaves, mostly with a horse and dray.
Most of the Black Peppermint grew near roads so it made it easy to collect the leaves. It was a good day's work to cut a tankful of leaves to produce a drum full of oil, so the job was very labour intensive. I don't know what oil was worth in the 1920s but about 1940 it was about £120, delivered to the I.S.N (Illawarra Steam & Navigation) steamer at Eden.
This area produced oil of a very high quality and Fauldings took all the oil available. Best yields were obtained in summer, autumn and winter, and lowest in the spring, when the gum tips were on the trees, the mature leaves giving the best yield of oil.
A site for the distillery was selected in a sheltered part of the river and the pipe, about sixty feet long, was kept under water. The river was a nuisance. In dry seasons water had to be diverted from the main stream to the distillery. In flood times there was a chance the plant would be damaged or even washed away. When the eucalyptus distilling was at its peak, mainly in the Wyndham area, the eucalyptus cutters were called 'Monkey Starvers'. They even had a football match - the Monkey Starvers versus the rest. I forget which side won.
No distilling was done at Lower Towamba for some years after the Booth Brothers left, but about 1938, Arthur Byrne & Partner from Cadgee started operations again.
When they left, not wanting to take their plant back to Cadgee, they sold it to my brother and me. Not liking the river, it being so temperamental, we set our distillery near a building with a couple of large water tanks on it. We made a cement trough to hold water to cool the pipe. It worked well and we operated that for a few years. However, as World War 11 dragged on, manpower became too scarce so operations ceased and were not started again at Lower Towamba.
Eucalyptus oil distilled from Black Peppermint is much stronger than any bought from shops, and we were not troubled with colds or flu while operating the distillery. Also eucalyptus oil is the best method to loosen nasty nuts that I know of.
The Wyndham area provided far more oil than we did at Lower Towamba and certainly some Wyndham people would have more experience in eucalyptus than I had. Cadgee, inland from Bodalla, provided a large amount of oil from Black Peppermint. I am told some distilling is still carried on at Yowrie near Cobargo.