Archive for April, 2014

Westie Hapgood – The Last of The Bulli Mountain Men

Westie Hapgood lived in Rixon Pass Avenue Woonona, under Bulli Mountain. At the 1989 Back to Bulli Heritage Festival, he was spoken with reverence by Rita Roberts, mother of long time Bulli History and Heritage writer Mick Roberts.

Westie was born in Milton down the NSW coast in 1913, but in 1916 his family moved up to the Woonona area. His father was one of the Timber men of Bulli Mountain, and Westie was first taken up the Mountain when he was only 4 1/2 years old. He loved the tales of Bulli Mountain and Sherbrooke…

From Mick Roberts Tribute in The Northern Leader, February 2000…

“He was the last living employee of the Sassafras Saw Mill, which operated on Bulli Mountain in the 1920’s… Fortunately he leaves somes revealing and detailed accounts of life on the escarpment in his book “Deep Valleys, Tall Timbers, Tough Men & Women – Pioneers of Bulli Mountain.

The original edition published in 1992, is now out of print, however a 2nd Edition was done by the Black Diamond Heritage Centre’s Graeme Stewart in 2005 with permission by Westie Hapgood’s daughter Mrs Glennice Miller. Some copies are still available at the Black Diamond Heritage Centre, Bulli Railway Station East.

It is really worth a read to gain an appreciation of life at Sherbrooke and on Bulli Mountain – before Sherbrooke was sacrificed by the NSW State Government in 1902 -1903, for the construction of the second Cataract Dam. This followed terrible floods in 1898 which saw the original Cataract Dam wall washed away, and then more damage to the original Dam in the flood of 1900. A very severe drought in 1902 threatened Sydney’s Water Supply, which led to a Royal Commission and the death knell for Sherbrooke.

In Westie’s book, there are also stories of the Private Village of Bulli of the 1860’s from the early days of coal mining in Bulli, and also of Biddulph Henning’s cottage where his sister wrote some of her letters which have become known as “The Letters of Rachel Henning”. My great great great grandparents, James and Margaret Hicks, owned their 48 acres immediately to the east of Biddulph Henning’s land. They and Biddulph sold their land to the Henry Osborne for coal mining around 1857. The knowledge of this part of  the Hicks history and its links with the Hennings had been lost, until I became involved in The Sherbrooke Sisters, as Sandra Jones began sharing the photographs and records of her grandfather, Robert Trevis Charles Jones.

Descendants of the Sherbrooke and Bulli Mountain people, like my friends and cousin, still remain across the Illawarra. Some know the stories of their families on Bulli Mountain, whereas others have only a little knowledge. We cannot enter the Catchment Area of Cataract Dam anymore, but through the recollections of Westy Hapgood, we can gain an appreciation of life over the Mountain of the 19th Century.

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