We are not sure if Christine Talbot is an author or a super-sleuth.
On her way to writing and researching ‘Snapshots of a Village - An illustrated history of Shoalhaven Heads once Jerry Bailey’ Mrs Talbot solved many mysterious linked to this historical area.
A love of history and a determination to solve these mysterious drove the author.
However, she wrote the book for one simple reason.
“This book needed to be written because there's nothing like it available in any library or anywhere I found,” she said.
Christine first came to the area in the 1970s and when she bought a property in Coolangatta with her husband Laurie in 1988 her interest increased.
She always had an interest in history and family history in general.
Mrs Talbot then started talking to various older residents who delighted her with interesting snippets of history.
“I thought one day ‘somebody’ should write that all down,” she said.
It was not until 2010 when she started to work on the project.
“I wanted to make a beautiful book – a beautiful coloured book that people would actually value and read –not just to stick on their bookshelf to look at one day perhaps,” the author said.
She was able to get a collection of many great photos from the residents and had an informal committee, the Jerry Bailey Heritage group, established to collect photos and stories.
Mrs Talbot did a lot of research and sourced many photos herself.
Catherine Hutchinson came on-board and did all the graphic design work for free.
Catherine’s husband Andy is a photographer and he supplied the book with many of its beautiful images.
All roads lead to Coolangatta
Without villages like Shoalhaven Heads, the region may not have developed as it did.
“This particular village has such a complicated and interesting history,” Christine said.
The village started as part of Coolangatta Estate – part of Alexander Berry’s 10 000 acres.
The area was used by indigenous people, convicts and people at the estate as their fishing and picnic area.
In 1918 the Berry Municipal Council, which had control of the area, set up a 50-acre recreational reserve and more people from Sydney started to come down
“There were roads to Coolangatta Estate – that was the destination,” Christine said.
“You went from Sydney through Berry to Coolangatta, that was it.
“People started to build houses and humpies on the reserve and during The Depression, more people began to arrive.
“It was too expensive to live in Sydney and they could come down here, build a little humpy, they could fish in the river and get fish for food, they could trap rabbits on the mountain and there were wild mushrooms growing in the paddocks.
“It was fairly tough but they could be subsist by living off the land basically.”
She said the fishing all those years ago was really amazing.
What is in a name?
Christine said as she was writing the book she had several ‘wow’ moments.
“I think my major achievement was finding out the exact day when the village was officially named Shoalhaven Heads,” she said.
“Before that, it was called Jerry Bailey and on a particular date, it became Shoalhaven Heads.
“That (the date) was hard to find and I even went into the Mitchell Library.”
It took her years to find this elusive date
“I was determined and you had to have a date when the name changed,” she said.
“You can’t say it changed but we don’t when.”
People started trying to change the name from 1938.
Will the real Jerry Bailey stand up
Christine also found out the origins of the name Jerry Bailey.
“The whole thing has been a joy to research,” she said.
“It had to be done for the community down here and so it (history) was not lost because nobody can remember Jerry Bailey – well the older people can but not many people around here know there was a Jerry Bailey.”
She said about six or seven theories about what or who Jerry Bailey abound.
“These theories have all taken on legend status in the village,” she said.
There is even a chapter in the book called Who was Jerry Bailey?
It’s all revealed on page 35
Christine’s favourite chapter
She is particularly pleased with the chapter ‘Living through the war years and the depressed’.
“We had three boys down here who went to the Second World War and did not come back and each of their stories is different,” she said
Arthur Lloyd, Robert Bolt and Leslie Norman Mathew lost their lives in the war.
She went down to the bowels of the Australian War Memorial for her research.
“They are really really sad stories but important to tell,” she said.
Down in the Shoalhaven Heads community centre, there is a plaque that says Roberts Bolt Arthur Lloyd and L M Matthew.
She asked about L M Mathew and found nobody even knew his Christian names.
After corresponding with a relative she was able to put Christian names to L N Mathew.
The Shoalhaven Heads community will now be putting up a memorial in a village park for the three boys.
Where to get a copy
You can get copies by going to Facebook for Snapshot of a village
Christine’ said the book was a major achievement and she had a lot of support from the late Colin Bishop.
“Colin gave me a lot of information on the social history and living down here in the depression years, plus lots on living at Coolangatta Estate."
She spoke to over 100 people for the book and there are over 1000 names in the index.
Over 320 orders for the book had already been received and only 400 were being printed in the first run
She expects a second print run will be needed.