Internet trawl reveals a very different town

RESEARCHING well-known Shoalhaven identity Hope Bartlett has taken long-time Shoalhaven resident Peter Walsh down memory lane.

Bartlett was legendary in the Shoalhaven and beyond for his driving exploits. He was said to be equally at home in a car, on a motorcycle or in a boat.

He also ran a daily motor service between Nowra and Moruya from 1924 and later went as far as Bega, Eden and Cooma.

Mr Walsh, 91, a long-time follower of Bartlett’s career, had his son Paul trawl the internet for information about the driver and came across a trove of information. 

This included a report in the Shoalhaven Telegraph in 1933 about Bartlett’s third consecutive championship at the Nowra Golf Course, beating Harry McGrath over 36 holes.

According to Mr Walsh the championship was played on a course next to what is now the Princes Highway at South Nowra, taking in land up to Central Avenue that includes the site where Bunnings is today located.

“A number of the large gum trees that have been removed for the current highway expansion were the eastern boundary of the course,” Mr Walsh said.

“As a young fellow, I would travel from my family’s Junction Street home out there to caddy,” he said.

The Telegraph gave a shot by shot account of the contest, which Bartlett eventually won over 36 holes seven up with six to play.

It described the win as “steadiness and consistency rather than any outstanding brilliance” but said at times McGrath more than equalled his opponent.

“Harry McGrath, or Sonny as he was known, owned the Greenhills Estate which was down at the end of town where Nowra High School is now located,” Mr Walsh said.

“McGrath’s land was often used as a place for aeroplanes to land and take off from in the 1930s.

“I remember seeing my uncle Ulrick Walsh and three other locals, including Snowy Kelly, go for a joy flight in a plane from down there.

“They used to land in a bit of a hollow that had water in it to try to slow the plane down on landing.

“The plane had a huge radiator out the front like a car, and the four passengers sat in a straight line in front of the pilot who operated the plane from the rear of the cockpit.

“I remember watching the plane flip as it came into land, there was a submerged log in the hollow and the plane’s axle got caught on it and the plane flipped.

“They were all in there upside down, the passengers managed to hold the pilot who was strapped in up out of the water or he would have drowned.

“They managed to get out and cut the pilot free and he landed in the water.

“But they all escaped virtually uninjured which was amazing.”

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