Nowra Fisherman’s Co-op history unveiled

With just over two weeks until the Shoalhaven River Festival gets underway, the Shoalhaven Historical Society has continued to delve into the river’s tales of times gone by. 

This week the Nowra Fisherman’s Co-op is in focus.

FRY UP: In the '70s the kiosk added cooked fish to the menu. Photo: Shoalhaven Historical Society.

FRY UP: In the '70s the kiosk added cooked fish to the menu. Photo: Shoalhaven Historical Society.

In 1959 the co-op bought the property known as ‘Bridgeview’ from John Douglas Wilson. 

On May 15, 1963 approval was given by Nowra Municipal Council for the construction of a concrete block building to be used as a Fisherman’s Co-op. 

The kiosk section, within the Fisherman’s Co-op building, sold fresh seafood and fish since its opening in 1964. In the 1970s the kiosk started selling cooked fish and chips.

Around 1990 the co-op sold their retail licence to Grant’s Seafood. Due to changes in the fishing industry, the co-op was no longer viable for local fisherman. Operations stopped in March 1992 after more than 50 years trading. 

The property was bought by Merv, Anne and John Bennett in 1994. 

The ‘bad old days’ 

The Shoalhaven and Nowra News on Tuesday, August 1964 caught up with fisherman John Massey who recalled the old days of fishing in the Shoalhaven. 

LIFELINE: The new Nowra District Fishermen's Co-Operative in 1964. Photo: Shoalhaven Historical Society.

LIFELINE: The new Nowra District Fishermen's Co-Operative in 1964. Photo: Shoalhaven Historical Society.

In the depression days ice had to be brought from the British Australian Milk Company’s plant on the southern bank of the Shoalhaven. 

Boxed of fish had to be brought from a group of Chinese market gardeners who tilled land behind the co-op. 

If fish were caught downstream, they were brought upstream on the milk boat by Bob Lonsburgh, who returned with empty boxes and cream cans to Greenwell Point. 

At Nowra they were picked up by an old lorry, owned by Walter Petrie who charged 3 pence a case to carry them to Bomaderry Station for transport to Sydney markets. 

During the Depression some families of fishermen bought wheelbarrows to avoid the carrying charge, and wheeled their fish to the railway across the wooden-planked Shoalhaven Bridge, built in 1894. 

Only choose fish were sent, the poor types brought a bill for railway haulage larger than the price of the fish. To raise funds, local fisherman turned to hawking. Four for a shilling was the best price for cleaned, fresh choice flathead. 

“Those were the bad old days,” John Massey recalled.

END OF AN ERA: The co-op closed its doors in March 1992 after 50 years of trading. Photo: Shoalhaven Historical Society.

END OF AN ERA: The co-op closed its doors in March 1992 after 50 years of trading. Photo: Shoalhaven Historical Society.

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