Billy Blue is a 19th century legendary character from the Shoalhaven.
An Indigenous man, Billy Blue was said to have been the king of his tribe, on the Marulan side of the Shoalhaven River.
He made trips to Terara and paid his way with gold nuggets, the source of which created much interest.
The name of Billy Blue is a mystery, as it does not appear in official documents such as a census of muster.
Some Indigenous people adopted the names of the Europeans they worked for and it is possible Billy Blue took the name of a character who lived in The Rocks up until his death in 1834.
Said to have been from West Indian origin living in London, that particular Billy Blue was a convict who arrived in Sydney in 1801.
According to an article written by Bill Morton for the South Coast Register’s ‘Back to Shoalhaven Week’ feature in 1926, the Billy Blue of this district was known to Nowra’s first mayor, Henry Moss.
Well before he became involved in local government, Moss during the 1850s, explored many parts of the district and had an interest in geology.
Moss is said to have had the confidence of Blue, and there was a perception in the community he knew the location of the gold source.
There are other suggestions, with one record stating “...in the course of his wanderings along the Shoalhaven, he [Blue] occasionally obtained fair specimens from potholes when the river was low.
“He stored his findings in a pickle bottle and carried the gold either to Marulan or Nowra”.
Alf Dare, a saddler and bushman with an interest in history, a little later wrote about the legend in articles for The Shoalhaven and Nowra News that was published in four issues in 1939.
As a young man living at Cambewarra, his neighbour Charlie Moffitt had a fascination for “Billy Blue’s Reef”, and so engaged a clairvoyant Madame Wallis to help him find it.
She asserted that Blue used to get his gold “over the cliff in a wet, marshy place”, and gave various other clues to satisfy Moffitt’s enquiring mind.
With this knowledge, Moffitt with Jim Flannery, Errol Lumsden, Jim and Alf Dare went on several expeditions to search for the reef, taking with them provisions on their packhorses.
On one trip Alf found evidence of tomahawk marks on the tree, of the type that Madam Wallis had mentioned would lead to the reef, however, the search proved fruitless.
Many years later, Alf shared a campfire on the Jervis Bay Road with a man named John Roach, he claimed to have found the reef, and gleaned 450 pounds worth of gold from it. Whether the story was true, is anyone’s guess.