What are Local Studies ?

This was the most frequently asked question received in our new community history space, on 16 September 2023 – the opening day of the expansive Yarrila Place building.

Video at https://coffs.recollect.net.au/nodes/view/79223. Audio by Jo Besley, Senior Curator, Museum & Gallery, CHCC, 2016 – 2023

Local Studies is a bibliographic term, which is why you will find it in the Library on the second floor of Yarrila place. It encapsulates all forms of community history. Wikipedia defines it as:

Local history is the study of history in a geographically local context, often concentrating on a relatively small local community. It incorporates cultural and social aspects of history. Local history is not merely national history writ small but a study of past events in a given geographical area which is based on a wide variety of documentary evidence and placed in a comparative context that is both regional and national.[1] “ Records are typically stored at state libraries, public librarieshistorical societies and public record offices. 

In the City of Coffs Harbour, the records are made available to the public in the Local Studies Room of the Harry Bailey Memorial Library at Yarrila Place.

Here you can browse publications which describe the stories of our local history, or copies of the Coffs Coast Advocate in its original print form (between 1970 and 2017). If you need to view earlier dates, we have a full set of microfilm (from 1907 to 2019) to use on our new microform reader. You scan and save pages to a USB.

Or you can check some of the documents which represent the work of the City of Coffs Harbour over many decades – strategies, building projects, and Council reports.

Whether or not your family lived in the region, there are still a lot of genealogical resources to use – the international services Find My Past and Ancestry, and the Archives Resource Kit (ARK) on fiche or film containing government documents about colonial New South Wales.


Is our community history all offline ?

Well no, you can ask questions about how to use Coffs Collections, our online service showing details of the region’s art collection and public art, museum artefacts, and community history archives.

We can also refer you to other resources that may help to provide the answers, including our Library catalogue which lists the local history publications you can borrow or read in the Local Studies room.


Anything else ?

In addition to Ancestry and FindMyPast, we can show you how to use Trove as well as other state and national repositories’ search engines. In Trove you will find The Beacon – annual magazine of Coffs Harbour High School, two local newspapers from the 1970s, and the Coffs Harbour Advocate from 1907 to 1954, as well as many other newspapers discussing our region’s history.

We also provide advice about digitisation.

Marking the third birthday of Coffs Collections


Coffs Collections is a virtual destination which facilitates access to some of the social and cultural heritage of Gumbaynggirr country.

The web service is marking its third birthday in the presence of a new merger which will be opened to the community this month – Yarrila Place, physical home to the city library, gallery and museum of the Coffs region.

Yarrila a Gumbayngirr word  which means to illuminate, to enlighten. A goal worthy of sharing as broadly as possible.

During the year past, the Cultural Services team has continued to add both newly collected and newly digitised content to Coffs Collections. This is important for several reasons: because art exhibitions are, by nature, ephemeral; because less than 10% of any museum’s collection can be on display for the public at any time; and because previously hidden historical content may be uncovered unexpectedly. The more permanently  constructed Public Art is not always accessible either, because it is best enjoyed during non-inclement weather.

Allan Russell, Moonlight on the Sand (1961). Coffs Collections, M2023.46.1,https://coffs.recollect.net.au/nodes/view/78883

While the exhibition spaces in Yarrila Place will feature some wonderful inclusions and exciting experiences, Coffs Collections provides a complementary spotlight. This year the team continued to add an unexpected breadth of content.  Included were the musical score for an orchestral piece, commissioned in a competition to celebrate the 1961 centenary of the naming of Coffs Harbour;

The Joyce Cooper-Rogers Seashell Collection. Coffs Collections,  https://coffs.recollect.net.au/nodes/view/77410

an extraordinary seashell assemblage collated by a local conchologist; and collaborative artworks at Arrawarra Headland:

Kristian Benton, Turtle Stencil, Arrawarra Headland (2020). Coffs Collections, P2023.1.5, https://coffs.recollect.net.au/nodes/view/78707

Since launch in September 2020, Coffs Collections has also attracted a new moniker – “mini Trove”. That’s an appellation to accept with some pride. Trove, launched in 2009 with a combination of the nation’s digitised newspapers and records from hundreds of gallery, library, archive and museum catalogues around Australia, is acknowledged as the leading record of Australian social history. It is a tool heavily used by social researchers, genealogists, scientists, artists and, of course, library practitioners in their work. Part of that work is to solve mysteries.

Recently, the Guide to the Bucca Honour Board was digitised for Coffs Collections but the details of one World War I soldier were missing. Listed on the Honour Roll is A. P. Miane, he seemed to be AWOL from all the usual sources.

Albert W. Fowler, Bucca Honour Board (1919). Coffs Collections, 13.1247, https://coffs.recollect.net.au/nodes/view/57903

This Board is a fittingly ornate memorial to those who made sacrifices on our behalf. Many boards were given due press coverage when unveiled and the Bucca Honour Board was no exception. On 11 June 1919, a photograph of the Board appeared in the Sydney Mail. It shows one A. P. Milne in the right-most column.

MAGNIFICENT PATRIOTISM—GERMAN REVOLUTION—AND OTHER TOPICS. (1919, June 11). Sydney Mail (NSW : 1912 – 1938), p. 15. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article159656645

But the Honour Board now residing in the Museum’s collection shows the name A. P. Miane inscribed in the centre column with a cross above and beside it.

Alexander Milne died on 5 June 1919, in Canada, and notification appeared in the Coffs Harbour Advocate on 19 June 1919.

Modifications had been applied to the Board after its unveiling, perhaps a little too quickly. Trove proved to be the most expeditious way to establish that.

Coffs Collections was developed with one-sixteenth of the budget available to the Australian Digitised Newspapers Project on which Trove was based, so it is fitting that there is a close partnership between the two services to take advantage of the scaffolding offered by Trove. Rather than having to use precious community-funded resources to host heritage newspapers, Trove provides access to some of our local digitised newspapers and journals instead, easily found via links from Coffs Collections.

As such Coffs Collections and Trove are complementary, but in reality, the development of Coffs Collections was inspired by Trove. In particular, the latter would not have been possible without the two National Library business analysts who defined the pathways for Australians to find and learn more about their heritage, writ large in all of its forms.

We lost them recently. They were Joanna Meakins (March 1980  – November 2022) and Judith Pearce (December 1952 – August 2023). Their intelligence, ability to inspire and indefatigable approach to resolving technological conundrums are irreplaceable. In particular, Judith’s vision for a library catalogue which looked like no other came to fruition as Trove.

This sentiment was placed on the gravestone of Private Alexander Milne, and is appropriate still. An unexpected but apposite linking.


“Coffs Harbour. Its Phenomenal Growth, Great Future Possibilities Summarised.”

Do you recognise this booklet? 

We are searching for the provenance of a booklet promoting Coffs Harbour. The page numbers start at page 50 and end at page 103, with some missing in between, so it is clearly part of a larger publication. There is no date anywhere in the booklet, or obvious clue as to the title of the publication it was extracted from.   

Coffs Harbour Chapter. Coffs Collections, LS2023.34.1 

The title of the chapter in our possession is “Coff’s Harbour. Its Phenomenal Growth, Great Future Possibilities Summarised.It discusses the economic and societal growth of the Coffs Harbour region, with subheadings covering, among others, the North Coast Railway, the timber industry, the fishing industry and the Chamber of Commerce. This brings us to our first clue as to the date.  

On page 79 there is a picture of some of the members of the Chamber of Commerce. Again, it does not give us a date, however a search of Coffs Collections yields several results, one of which matches the picture in the booklet. This gives us a definitive date for our document – 1917. 

Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce, 1917. Coffs Collections, 12.329. 

An attempt was made by The Bananacoast Opinion to identify the book in 1974. We are hoping to have more luck. If you recognise it, please get in touch as we would love to hear from you! 

1917 – The year that was. 

A brief snapshot of Coffs Harbour in 1917. 

28th June 1917 

On a day typical of Coffs Harbour in winter, with fresh air and blue sky, Mr R.T. Ball, Minister for Works, tipped the first stone of the Eastern Breakwater. A public holiday had been approved [1] in celebration of the day, and across the town was an air of jubilance. Mr P.J MacNamara, secretary of the Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce, commented that it was a matter of congratulations for the people of region that that within a period of five years, construction had commenced on the railway as well as the Eastern Breakwater.  

Laying of the first stone on the Eastern Breakwater, 28 June 1917. Coffs Collections, mus07-3467. 

8th September 1917 

Coffs Harbour’s brass band, The Town Band, is believed to have been established around 1906, though by 1915 it was unfortunately defunct [2].   

In 1917, a call out was made by Mr J. Pike for parties interested in re-establishing a brass band in Coffs Harbour. A ‘fair number’ of people answered the call, and the Coffs Harbour Town Band was re-formed. The band still exists today, now known as the Coffs Regional Brass Band. 

Coffs Harbour District Band, c.1917. Coffs Collections, mus07-1443. 

19th December 1917 

After eight years of community fundraising, the Coffs Harbour and District Hospital opened on 19th December 1917. The original site was on the block bounded by Victoria, Boambee, Dibbs and High Streets. The hospital was opened by Mr C.W. Oakes, M.L.A. (Member of the Legislative Assembly) in front of a large crowd.  

 By 1927, the hospital was struggling to cover costs, so a scheme was devised in order to keep it operational.  As the town grew, so did the demand for hospital beds. In 1963 a new 20 bed maternity ward was opened at the site of the old hospital [3]. In 1970 a new, more modern hospital was built, and the original was demolished.  

Opening of the Women’s ward at the Coffs Harbour Hospital, 1928. Coffs Collections, mus07-4006 

By Belinda Lancey


  1. Rooksbury, M. (2007). 1917. 100 Years of News: A history of the Coffs Coast from the pages of The Advocate. Coffs Collections, LS2023.10.1 
  2. Yeates, N. (1990). Coffs Harbour, Volume I: Pre-1880- 1945. Coffs Harbour City Council. 
  3. Yeates, N. (1993). Coffs Harbour, Volume II: 1946 – 1964. Coffs Harbour City Council.

The Development of Coffs Harbour Port

Constructing the Jetty, 1892 (1892). Coffs Collections, mus07-2104

[The following statement is of unknown origin but was probably prepared by a local community group for submission to the committee which prepared the 1946 Parliamentary report.]

Much has been written about the development of the port of Coff’s Harbour. When John Korff sailed into what is now known as Coff’s Harbour, he didn’t think for one moment that he was opening up for development a new port, which was to grow rapidly in importance until it held pride of place over most other ports on the Northern Coast of NSW.

To trace its rise and development, from the time of that one lonely ship sheltering from the cruel and bitter winds, together with a storm tossed sea, to the present day, we must go back one hundred years to the year 1850, the year in which the port was first discovered by Korff.

Korff realised the potentialities of the fine stretch of water, which he named Korff’s Creek, and also the very splendid natural bay which Mother Nature had so generously placed in close proximity to the outlet to the creek. He used both the creek and the harbour as a refuge for his ships during any rough weather. The Creek was at that time a very wide and deeply flowing stream and boats could traverse its length for a great distance.

It has been stated on some occasions that a little later Korff built a rough shack on the water frontage and began to draw upon the huge supplies of timber, including the famous red cedars which were growing in abundance nearby and which he exported to Sydney and other centres. This, of course, has never been proved beyond any doubt. John Korff regarded the harbour as his own and maintained its upkeep for twenty years until his death in 1870, and later Walter Harvie took up residence and began life as a cedar-getter in 1870.

With the settlement of many settlers from 1880 onwards the cutting down of timber increased greatly and the vast quantities of timber being sent away from the port mounted as each month slipped by and the settlement continued to grow. The loading facilities in those days at the port of Coff’s Harbour were very crude indeed compared to modern methods and standards.

During the years 1880 to 1890 the various sailing ships which came to Korff’s Harbour anchored behind Coff’s Island and the island now known as Mutton Bird Island. However, despite this wonderful anchorage and comparatively safe, calm water, there was great inconvenience as far as the loading and unloading of timber and other goods were concerned. The wagons carrying the giant logs were unloaded on to the beach, to be washed
out to sea by the outgoing tide, or to be dragged out by bullocks or men in boats. Once out over the silvery breakers, trained and experienced workmen dragged the logs behind boats out to the awaiting vessel, which was anchored out in the harbour in deeper water. Here the sailors and other workmen would manoeuvre the logs into positions and the ship’s cranes would lift them on to the boat where they would be neatly stacked, either in the hold or on the deck. This method of loading continued for many years until the need was felt for the construction of a jetty in order to facilitate the loading of timber.

Thus, in the year 1890, after much consultation among the leaders of the town and Government at the time, the construction of the Jetty began. This year was one of the most important years in the early history of the port and the village of Brelsford. Mr Thomas Dawson, a builder and contractor, arrived at the port in 1890, his special mission being the erection of a suitable jetty.

A vast collection of piles and 􀆟mber had been assembled in readiness for the work, and this had all been obtained locally and sawn in readiness at the sawmill owned by John Mills, the district’s first sawmiller, at a spot nearby where the Vacuum Oil Company’s depot now stands. The first pile in the construction work on the Jetty was driven by Alfred L. Walsh, a contractor, who arrived about the same year.

During the next three years until 1893, work continued unceasingly (except for bad weather) until the jetty extended from the shore 1,080 feet out into the harbour towards the southern tip of Mutton Bird Island. While the construction of the jetty was in progress a ship called the “Byron” called at the uncompleted jetty to take on a cargo of sugar from Alexander Herman’s sugar mill at Korora. The Captain of this vessel to call at the jetty was Captain Hunter, and as the vessel stood only a few feet out of the water, the sugar was taken to the end of the jetty by means of Mr Lawson’s trucks which he kindly lent for the occasion. From there the sugar was loaded into the “Byron” by means of shutes, which were placed in position from the framework.

Disaster was associated with the building of the jetty on more than one occasion and the work was not finished without a few disappointments. One particularly violent and severe storm struck the harbour during the construction of the jetty and destroyed six complete bays, which took much extra work to repair and replace so that the work could continue.

After the construction of the jetty was completed in 1893, the need was felt for some protection to the jetty and foreshores by the building of stone walls or breakwaters. Many prominent people put forward different proposals to develop a safe storm free port or harbour for large vessels which would be using the port in years to come. Considerable interest was taken in the Government’s proposal to construct a large northern breakwater from the beach, near the entrance to Coff’s Harbour Creek, out to sea until it was joined to the rocky shores of Mutton Bird Island. Also it was proposed to additionally construct a southern breakwater from the headland on South Coff Island, on the southern side of the port, out to sea towards Mutton Bird Island, leaving a gap of only 1,000 feet for an opening, through which vessels could safely pass into the harbour and so to the jetty. The northern breakwater would satisfactorily shut off the port from all possibility of rough disturbances from the rough seas which would come from the north and north-east. The southern wall would similarly protect the southern and south-east side of the port from any heavy seas coming from this direction.

Eventually, after much agita􀆟on and delay, work began on this tremendous undertaking in the year 1912 and has continued ever since, except for minor stoppages during war years. The breakwaters are continually being added to and made higher, wider, stronger and more able to hold back the swells and tremendous waves of the northeasterly and southerly gales.

The original plan for the construction of the harbour allowed for the construction of two jetties, each 650 feet long and 80 feet wide, under the lee of the Southern Headland. As the work progressed, however, this suggestion was dropped in favour of concrete wharves which would be constructed along the northern side of the harbour.

At present the type of wharf is doubtful as the harbour is still much affected by the east to north-easterly roll which sweeps into its mouth.

During the construction of the breakwater various other centres on the North Coast advanced claims for the construction of deep-sea ports, but the people of Coffs’s Harbour did not stand in the back ground. They had their leading citizens, deputations and engineers working towards their desired goal, the realisation of a deep sea port for the town.

Mr E.M. de Burgh, the engineer for Harbour and Water Supply of 1912, had drafted a plan for the port at Coff’s Harbour, with a depth of forty feet of water. This was estimated at the time to cost approximately £439,000. In
addition de Burgh gave alternative plans which were more extensive and costly. He considered that his first plan would ideally suit the trade demands of the town supported by the surrounding areas of the North Coast and Tablelands.

The Commission which had been established to look into the deep sea port and the decentralisation of the northern part of the State turned down de Burgh’s proposal as they had already decided upon Port Stephens as their site for the deep sea port. Both the people and the officers drawing up the proposals knew that Coff’s Harbour, which occupied a central position on the coastline, was the most accessible point to the whole of the interior of Northern New South Wales. The prepared plans were in every way ideal, and they knew that it would not be long before Coff’s Harbour was eventually chosen also as a site for a deep-sea port. They also knew that if the north was to be decentralised, then the logical outlet was Coff’s Harbour, as the decision in respect to Port Stephens as a decentralisation point was entirely erroneous.

Agitation continued and in 1913 a proposed scheme for the improvement of facilities at Coff’s Harbour for coastal trade was referred to the Public Works Committee. This committee favourably recommended this to the Government of the time, with the result that the works already mentioned were commenced and have continued over the years to the present time.
The Government’s plan at first was to achieve a port that would serve some 1,600 square miles of country. But as the works progressed, the plans were so modified as to allow an enclosure of a greater area of water, and to provide for the berthing of a greater number of ships. This smaller scheme was not to hinder the development of a deep-sea port but to actually form portion of the works which would in time go to make up the final scheme of the deep-sea port.

In 1925, on the 30th May, Sir George Buchanan, an important and authoritative English harbour and harbour construction engineer, visited Coff’s Harbour on his trip to the North Coast. He inspected the port and the breakwaters which had been completed at the 􀆟me. (The northern wall had been carried out to Mutton Bird Island for a distance totalling 3,288 feet – almost five-eighths of a mile in length – but very little progress had been made on the eastern or southern wall.) Buchanan that day met a deputation of responsible citizens of the Coff’s Harbour Chamber of Commerce and told them many interesting points about their harbour and proposals. He said he had “never seen a place so admirably adapted for the making of an artificial port and that the aspirations of the people for a port were most reasonable and legitimate”.

After the completion of the northern breakwater, work was then commenced in earnest on the southern breakwater. Eventually it was taken to 1,200 feet in length, pointing towards the Mu􀆩on Bird Island and leaving a gap of only 1,000 feet. In the end a fairly safe and storm free harbour of 237 acres of water, ranging from eighteen to thirty feet in depth, was completed.

The jetty was strengthened over a length of fifteen spans from the short end in 1930 and four new fender dolphins were fitted at the southern berth in 1933-34. In 1941 approval was given for the structure to be extended by 300 feet. This is now completed and together with the 260 feet which had been added at an earlier date, the jetty projected a distance of over 1,640 feet out into the blue waters of the harbour. It is now possible to berth three vessels at the jetty at one time, one up to a tonnage of 5000 tons gross on the south side and two coastal vessels at the northern berth.

The jetty is now electrically lit, and has a two inch water service pipe-line, two sets of landing steps and a depth of 20 feet of water is available at the outer end. Two sets of rail tracks, with two steam locomotives and several trucks are provided, and these connect with the main North Coast Railway line. Two fixed cranes, one of seven ton (Diesel Electric) and one of six-and-a-half ton capacity, and one six-and-a-half ton capacity travelling crane are also located on the jetty, while two six-and-a-half ton steam and one two-and-a-half ton hand crane are provided on shore for the handling of timber.

The port has now been developed to a point where it can accommodate moderately sized boats. The only existing limitations to a particularly robust trade lies in the smallness of number and quantity of jetty and
harbour loading facilities, storage facilities and capacity along the harbour frontage, and the amount of traffic both inward and outward that is offering. A harbour must have a volume of trade to give it life so we must
produce more exports and thereby develop greater use of the port and facilities.

As Coff’s Harbour is in a direct line from America and one of the closest and safest harbours on the coastline, and is in a central position for the distribution of oils, petroleum and other products from the oil fields of America, it naturally stands to reason that the port is ideally suited for the reception of numerous oil tankers and the bulk storage of these goods for the whole of the northern half of NSW.

These points in turn, if presented in a satisfactory claim for improvements to the port, should go a long way to help build up the importance of trade and facilities within the town, port and northern NSW, so that the original
plan of a deep-sea port at Coff’s Harbour will be an accomplished fact. We must have a good deep-sea port if we are to achieve development, and reap a harvest from it.

The Manly of the North

During the 1920s, Sawtell was referred to as “the Manly of the North”. The story of Coffs Harbor, as broadcasted by Mr. P. J. McNamara from the Great White Train, included this statement:

With an ideal climate and an equitable temperature  involving the absence of hot nights, it is an ideal resort  for tourists, with is miles of golden sands. As a winter health resort, Coffs and the neighboring towns, with the beaches, are unsurpassed and destined to become famous owing to their evenness of temperature, which makes them splendid winter resorts for invalids and justly entitles Coffs to be called the – “Manly of the North.” Nowhere in N.S.W. are there more beautiful beaches than about Coffs. 

Story of Coffs Harbor. (1926, September 15). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p.3.

But so was everywhere else, from Stockton to Byron Bay:

Ministerial Visit. (1912, January 20). The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate (NSW : 1882 – 1950), p. 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article104883497
MANLY OF THE NORTH (1923, May 16). The Newcastle Sun (NSW : 1918 – 1954), p. 8.

BALLINA, THE “MANLY OF THE NORTH” (1935, December 18). Northern Star (Lismore, NSW : 1876 – 1954), p. 12.
“MANLY OF THE NORTH” (1936, March 28). Northern Star (Lismore, NSW : 1876 – 1954), p. 6.

Eventually, the accolade was dropped as other promotional ideas such as the Pacific Beautizone took off with locally focused campaigns.

Coffs Harbour did take advantage of the tour of The Great White Train which stopped at Coffs Harbour in 1926. Its goal was to promote Australian-made goods, not just a lifestyle.

A winning window display of Australian groceries, September 1926 (September 1926). Coffs Collections
The Great White Train. (1926, September 4). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 2




Remembering Harry Bailey


Portrait of Harry Bailey, c.1962, mus07-9956; Harry Bailey in the Centenary of Federation Peoplescape, 2001, cc2023.5.16 @ Coffs Collections

Dorrigo-based businessman William Henry Bailey, known as Harry, became a Dorrigo Shire Councillor in 1941. The Dorrigo Shire encompassed Coffs Harbour and a civic centre with public library has been proposed for the town in June 1939. [1] Ten years later, in 1948, the possibility of having one was still under discussion. [2], [3]

Harry Bailey was one of the Dorrigo Shire Councillors who did not agree that a public library was a high priority. [4] In October 1948, he reinforced this:

The President (Cr. Bailey) stated that he thought rate-payers would prefer any increases in rates to be applied to roadworks before anything else.

This is a perennial issue for a career public servant. Like any government official trying to balance a budget, the need to set priorities could be difficult. Bailey spoke about this earlier when elected to the position of President of the Dorrigo Shire Council in December 1947:

Cr. Bailey tendered some “homely advice” to new councillors and that was that the shire could not go far without money and that all expenditure had to be governed by that factor. He said he came into council feeling that he “was going to play smoke with everything” and perhaps had wrongly trodden on the toes of the Shire Clerk and others. He soon learned that finance was the guiding and all-important factor. He urged new councillors to study Local Government in all aspects for their own and council’s benefit. [5]

Despite this setback in 1950, the public didn’t give up, and a public consultation was arranged in 1954. [6], [7], [8]

A Library may have been in sight, but Harry Bailey was still viewing it from a long distance. He was the first-appointed President of the new Coffs Harbour Shire Council, at a meeting convened on 14 December 1955. The Shire came into effect on 1 January 1957 and was administered for one year by nine provisional Councillors until elections were held.

In 1959, the Shire President changed his mind. The Shire had received a windfall payment from mining royalties. [9]

The discussion then moved from budgets to buildings. As stated by Librarian Lorraine Vass in her History, “And so we come to several years stalling on the issue. In 1959 it was the political temerity of financing the operation, by 1962 it was nowhere to put it.” [10]

But the idea of constructing a new Civic Centre to replace the School of Arts took hold in 1962, and it was to incorporate a suitable facility. In 1963, Harry Bailey lobbied to double the bookstock of 2,000 volumes, with half being paid for by the Library Board of New South Wales. [11] The new Civic Centre with library opened in 1964.

Like many a dedicated public servant, Harry Bailey died ‘in harness’ on Friday 24 September 1965, between a sporting engagement on the green and a scheduled attendance at the annual Chamber of Commerce dinner as Guest of Honour. [12]

In his last years, Harry resided with his daughter Dulcie. He passed away at the still-standing white cottage at 41 Gordon Street in the CBD, property he purchased in January 1956. [13] It is a stone’s throw from Yarrila Place at 27 Gordon Street, Coffs Harbour.

Harry Bailey with daughter Dulcie Pitman at 41 Gordon Street, cc2023.5.5, Coffs Collections

The library service, having been part of Council buildings since inception in the Shire, received its own abode in 1973. It was opened on Thursday 23 June with the name Harry Bailey Memorial Library, nine years after his passing, and soon became very popular. [14]

It recognised the name of a faithful public servant who had commented 20 years earlier:

Speaking at Dorrigo Shire Council meeting the president, Cr. W. H. Bailey said he often wondered if ratepayers realised how much time a councillor spent in ratepayers’ interests. He said that during the twelve years he had been a councillor, he had given the ratepayers at least two years of his personal time. He added that two other councillors Crs. S. Hooson and R. G. Wilson, would also have given the ratepayers approximately the same.

Cr. Bailey said he based his figures on time spent in travelling to Council meetings and in visiting the Shire Chambers as occasion demanded. He did not include any time spent in interviewing or in attending meetings other than those of the Shire Council or at its direction. [15]

A proposal for a new library branch in Toormina took hold in 1994, proceeding at the expense of a proposed new larger, rain-proof building in the CBD. The Coffs Harbour Advocate stated:

Planning for a new library as part of a three-storey building in Gordon Street, Coffs Harbour, has been postponed for at least a year… The council bought 41 Gordon Street for a new library to replace the existing library, which is leased from the Coffs Harbour Ex-Services Club until 2001.

The existing building is expected to be too small to meet the demand in about three years and it cannot be easily extended.

The council has been evaluating the potential to erect a three-storey building with basement parking in Gordon Street, with one floor for a library and the other two to be leased out or the whole building sold. However talks with a major builder concluded the project is unviable and unlikely to become viable for some time to come.  [16]

The 41 Gordon Street address seems to have been a coincidence, but is an interesting parallel with Harry Bailey.

It wasn’t until 2001 that the library moved to a similarly-architected building on the corner of Coffs and Duke Streets. The new Coffs Harbour City Library Service and Information Centre was opened at Rigby House by NSW Premier Bob Carr with Mayor Jenny Bonfield, on 10 October.

Plaque at Rigby House, May 2023

The extension to its name reflected the general change in the direction of library services, as all public libraries moved beyond supporting relaxation and research to meeting the community’s social needs and providing sanctuary.

The name Harry Bailey Memorial Library was rededicated in March 2015 as the only memorial honouring a man who was the area’s longest-serving Shire President and Councillor.

Steve Little, Rigby House in Coff Street, 1990s,    mus07-10100; Coffs Collections


[1] SHIRE CHAMBERS (1939, June 27). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187991620

[2] Central North Coast Development League (1948, July 19). Daily Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1915 – 1954), p. 2. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article194154275

[3] PUBLIC LIBRARY PROPOSAL AGAIN UNDER WAY (1948, July 20). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185055574

[4] COUNCIL REJECTS PUBLIC LIBRARY (1948, October 22). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185056805

[5] CR. H. BAILEY (1947, December 19). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 7. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185038622

[6] Public Library Move At Coff’s Harbour (1949, December 20). Daily Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1915 – 1954), p. 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article195104220

[7] FIRE BRIGADE FOR SAWTELL (1950, February 24). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187769422

[8] Regional Library Sought On Coast (1954, November 20). Daily Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1915 – 1954), p. 5. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article191792802

[9] Council Adopts Library Scheme, Coffs Harbour Advocate, 5 June 1959, p.1 (part)

[10] The History of the Harry Bailey Memorial Library Coffs Harbour, 25 October 1982 (25 October 1982). Coffs Collections, https://coffs.recollect.net.au/nodes/view/78686

[11] ibid.

[12] William Henry “Harry” Bailey, Coffs Collections, https://coffs.recollect.net.au/nodes/view/70095

[13] Historical Land Records Viewer, NSW Land Registry Services, Old Form Torrens Register, Vol-Fol 6079-120, https://hlrv.nswlrs.com.au/

[14] A well equipped public library (1978, February 22). The Bananacoast Opinion (Coffs Harbour, NSW : 1973 – 1978), p. 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article254831391

[15] TWO YEARS SERVICE TO RATEPAYERS Shire President Speaks His Mind (1953, March 6). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187936733

[16] Full steam ahead for Toormina Library, Coffs Harbour Advocate, 29 September 1994, p.2

Toormina Library celebrates its 25th birthday

On 21 April 2023, Toormina Library celebrated its first 25 years of operation. Library branches have always been important for community outreach, and the concept for a new branch at Toormina arose when the Coffs Harbour  Shire disconnected itself from the Clarence Regional Library service to set up its own library network.

Library likely for Toormina, Coffs Coast Advocate, 25 March 1987, p.1

Full steam ahead for Toormina library, Coffs Harbour Advocate, 29 September 1994, p.2

In a curious coincidence, the Council had previously purchased the timber house at 41 Gordon Street, the final home of Shire President Harry Bailey, in anticipation of setting up a new central library there but chose to extend southwards instead.

Council approve library building, Coffs Harbour Advocate, 29 June 1995, p.8

Ten years later, the branch library was moved from the Toormina Gardens Shopping Centre into its own building on Minorie Drive.

Library making a move, Coffs Harbour Advocate, 18 March 1998, p.1

These newspaper articles which tell the story of Toormina Library are available on microfilm at the Harry Bailey Memorial Library .

One of Toormina library’s earliest patrons attended the 25th birthday celebrations.

Repaying the favour

Recently I wrote about the larger national and state-based libraries and museums which do the heavy lifting in terms of preserving our culture and history for the long term.

The burden may be eased a little when our regional equivalents are able to repay the effort with a unique contribution to the historical record. So it was recently in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s TV series Back in time for the corner shop – the 1970s. 

The 1970s episode discussed the changes in food habits and cooking, and a new trend towards healthy eating defined as vegetarianism. By way of example, the episode quickly showed the front page of the Coffs Harbour’s  Bananacoast Opinion from 12 February 1975:

LEARN VEGETARIAN COOKING (1975, February 12). The Bananacoast Opinion (Coffs Harbour, NSW : 1973 – 1978), p. 1. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article254797367

Our history started yesterday. We don’t necessarily have to wait very long to reuse it.

Lassified cads

The Apex Agitator, 1 April 1965, p.1; 13.845, Coffs Collections https://coffs.recollect.net.au/nodes/view/66846

For a brief bright shining moment, it is possible to measure the cohesion of a community via its publicly expressed sense of humour; the ability to laugh at itself. The Apex Agitator is a case in point.

The Apex Agitator, 1 April 1965, p.20

Seemingly, a lot the businesses operating in April 1965, from the long-standing such as W. H. Bailey and Sons (on page 5) and Lindsay Bros Transport (on page 15) , to the short-lived: Murrays Seed Store on Moonee Street (on page 5) were able to come together in a series of advertisements for this one-off newspaper edition.

The Apex Agitator, Glynns Cordials, p.3.
The Apex Agitator, p.3
The Apex Agitator, p.7
The Apex Agitator, 1 April 1965, p.6







The Lassified Cads  (Classified Ads) are on page 7 – click here to read them all. Then try searching for some of the above-named businesses in Coffs Collections.

The Basket

J. H. Howarth, Passenger transfer by basket for the SS Orara at the Jetty, 1920 (1920). Coffs Collections, https://coffs.recollect.net.au/nodes/view/45570

A poem, by Rosemary Nisted

Once upon a time Coffs Harbour Jetty had a track.
It bore a little crane that trundled out and trundled back.
When little ships came sailing to Coffs from Sydney town    
The crane was used in every case to set the cargo down.
It carried food and barrels and drums tied in a net,
Though for transferring humans they'd thought of nothing yet.
It swung cattle though, and horses, suspended in a sling.
It carried pigs and sheep I'm told, and every living thing,
And in return it loaded ships with timber tied with chain.
But that people could not go that way was obviously plain.
Yes. Humans were a problem. They were fussy as could be,
They feared the nets and slings and chains might drop them in the sea.
(though most young men and children thought the sling might be good fun,the ladies knew to travel thus was simply never done.)

Until one day a weaver cried 'I have a bright idea
I'll weave a sturdy basket, it will work well, never fear.'
And so he did. And so it did. And all were happy as you please
To be picked up and swung across the gap of raging seas.
So then each Sunday afternoon folk came from far and wide
To see the doughty travellers taking their basket ride.
The crane, to give the kids a thrill, was friendly as could be.
It would put them in a basket and dip them in the sea.
The lighthouse keepers too were glad to see that basket come,
For food and fuel and visitors from ship to shore were slung.
Spare parts and books and cleaning cloths, and tools and boots and more,
Swung in that sturdy basket across the rocky shore.
And so it was through two world wars, through fifty years no less,
The basket swung both to and fro. It was a great success.
Until at last, the travellers used cars, and rail and plane,
And put an end to steamer ships - they never came again.

Written in August 2000; published  in the Coffs Coast Advocate, 6 March 2001, p.12

Percy Crook, The SS Orara II disembarking passengers by basket at Coffs Jetty, 1908 (1908). Coffs Collections, https://coffs.recollect.net.au/nodes/view/45589