Wednesday, September 06, 2006


© Malcolm Sealy 2007

The History and The Founders related as an experiment in historical time


Most stories start in the past and run forward in chronological order. In relating this piece of history I am inviting the reader to look at events in reverse order.

This will be an experimental journey backwards through time from the present day to the end of the 18th century and from Australia to various parts of England and Scotland.

By starting our journey from what we know of Coolangatta Estate today we shall be able to trace happenings stretching back in time and to see how these became embodied in the two outstanding men and their families who created and re-created.

Furthermore, we should be able to see how the events of the past have had their influence in getting us to the present.

Understanding the place and its background and following my journey back in time to the beginnings should enable one to enjoy the similarities of time past and time present – in the words of T S Eliot

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past

The events in the history of The Estate and its present and past owners are

1 The official opening of the Hotel & Resort Complex in 1972

The conception of the Vineyard & Winery in 1988

The Presentation by St Andrews to the Estate 2002

Present day operations and developments

2 Colin James Bishop makes first purchases of part of The Estate 1946

The Bishop family history in Australia from 1827

Dairy farming on the old site from 1947

The beginning of Restoration and change of structure 1960

3 The death of David Berry and the legacies 1889

Sir John Hay’s management of The Estate 1880 –1909

Major Alex Hay’s management to 1941 – succeeded by son Berry Hay

4 Alexander Berry founds Coolangatta Estate 1822

Edward Wollstonecraft dies 1832

Berry’s brother and sisters arrive 1836

Alexander Berry dies in Sydney 1873

5 Alexander Berry Merchant Adventurer on the High Seas 1801 – 1819

The City of Edinburgh 1806 – 1810 – world travels

Partnership with Edward Wollstonecraft 1819

Berry & Wollstonecraft Sydney Merchants

6 Alexander Berry’s formative years 1781 – 1806

Cupar High School, St Andrews, Edinburgh

The East India Company voyages

Trading from The Cape to Australasia

The scene today is markedly different from 1822 when Alexander Berry first set foot on his settlement and established his homestead on ground between the mountain of Coolangatta and the sea. Where there are now Vineyards, Hotel accommodation, Tennis and Croquet courts, Golf course and carefully-tended garden areas, at that time there was an expanse of brush and swamp intermingled with grass and alluvial soil.

One feature which remains but little changed is that of Mt Coolangatta itself. This dominating and brooding ‘sugar loaf’ shaped mountain, with Aboriginal significance, can be seen from wherever one travels across the original 10, 000 acre land granted to Berry and Wollstonecraft.

When Berry arrived with his crew and convict party they were very much aware of Mt Coolangatta, the convoluted estuary of the Shoalhaven and the Crookhaven River.

The Cross of St Andrew, partnered by the Flag of Australia fly over the remaining acres centred on the Homestead of Berry’s settlement at The Historic Coolangatta Village Resort on the South Coast of New South Wales five miles east of Nowra and at the edge of Seven Mile Beach.

Alexander Berry is a favoured son of St Andrews, born near Cupar in the Kingdom of Fife on St Andrews Day, November 30th 1781, he graduated from the Universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh, qualified as a Ship’s Surgeon, sailed and traded with the East India Company, became one of Scotland’s greatest Merchant Adventurers and Australia’s first millionaire. His achievements, influences and legacies were to have far-reaching effects.

Alexander Berry’s life has been described in fragmentary fashion over the years but his humble beginnings from tenant farmer’s son in Fife to a global mercantile trader to his settlement and development of the Shoalhaven Area in New South Wales is a story of endeavour and determination unique in its geographical and historical setting.

His voyages around the world in a 520 ton sailing ship, the City of Edinburgh put him in much the same category of explorers such as Captain Cook in the Endeavour and Darwin, in the Beagle.

His objectives were different from those of Cook and Darwin but his aim of achieving commercial success in the southern hemisphere led him into many risky and dangerous places aboard this redoubtable ship. After it finally foundered in a storm near The Azores, his escape and survival culminated in his meeting his business partner Edward Wollstonecraft at this journey’s end in Lisbon and Cadiz.

No less a visionary and no less determined, is his successor, Colin James Bishop. Born in 1921 almost next door to The Coolangatta Estate, he it was who started to buy the remains of the site after the disastrous fire of 1946. For a while he used it as a dairy farm whilst developing his vision of restoring the historic Estate on its original layout from the preceding century but in a new environment.

There is an uncanny similarity between the Berry family and the Bishop family and their contributions to the Estate. As Berry enlarged his settlement in the area, he urged his three brothers, and two sisters to come to Australia to help him - eventually in 1836, the brothers, William, John and David and the sisters, Janet and Agnes sailed from Scotland and settled in Coolangatta. Just over 100 years later Colin Bishop received, and continues to receive, the support of his three sons, Paul, Bruce and Greg and the two daughters, Robyn and Megan in managing The Coolangatta Estate.

From the fiery dilapidation of 1946 the Estate has been re-built ashes to come alive again in the form of a Hotel Resort complex, harmoniously combining The Coolangatta Estate Vineyard and Winery and creating an atmosphere of history and, at the same time, meeting the demands of today’s visitors.

There are a number of significant dates and periods between 1781 and today which involve the two principal men and their families and by starting from today and working backwards we are able to trace both the similarities and the differences which weave themselves into two centuries of settlement, endeavour, achievement, decline and renaissance.

The majority of the layout is just as the first settler, Alexander Berry would have remembered it. In wandering around the Estate on many occasions during the last ten years I sometimes have the feeling that his influence pervades the area and is still manifesting itself in the achievements of the present owners.

The original plan of Berry’s settlement below the eminence of Mount Coolangatta is fully preserved. If anything, it has been added to and enhanced with its cosy 9 hole Golf Course, the Croquet lawn, Tennis courts and, above all, the acres of Vines which clothe and beautify the undulating slopes of the Estate. Berry’s ghost would be delighted with the Vineyard as he himself experimented with cuttings of grapes given to him by his friend James Busby.


As the Old Testament relates, Naboth had a vineyard and lost it – he lost it to Ahab through the scheming of Jezabel. Alexander Berry had a vineyard which he called Naboth on Sydney’s North Shore and after his death it too was lost after the total Estate had been auctioned off to pay for his legacies. A hundred years later, Greg Bishop has named his latest block of vine plantings “Naboth” in memory of Berry’s experimentation with vines on the Shoalhaven Estate in the 19th century.

However, this time it is unlikely that history will repeat itself at Coolangatta as the young vineyard – 17 years old – is in good heart and producing nationally recognized quality wines in the experienced hands of Greg Bishop who has worked, studied and observed hard and long since 1988 so as to achieve recognition and success in this new wine region of Australia.

The Shoalhaven rightly announces itself as Australia’s newest wine region and the Coolangatta Estate Winery, whilst not the first in the region, has brought enthusiasm and leadership to the area – other vineyards are now being established and in the old domain of Berry’s thousands of acres there are more than a dozen.

Nowadays it is difficult to imagine Coolangatta Estate without its clothing of vines around the historic site which blend in harmoniously with the rolling slopes in the lee of Mt Coolangatta and the restored buildings of the original Homestead and Estate.

Greg Bishop is modest in describing his development of the concept of Wine Tourism in this area. The first plantings were made by him in 1988 of Sauvignon Blanc were made by him for two main reasons; firstly, to take advantage of the disused old Dairy Site and then to clear the area of lantana and blackberry growth which had taken over whilst they were pre-occupied with building up their Resort Business.

In the following year 1989 Chardonnay grapes were started, to be followed shortly by Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, there are now 11 blocks of vines each just over an acre in extent.

The success of the Coolangatta Estate Vineyards is three-dimensional – Greg’s innate enthusiasm for growing plants in general and his love of vines in particular, the relationship with Tyrell’s in the Hunter Valley and Wine Consultant, Dr Richard Smart now living in Tasmania.

Greg well remembers his uncle’s house in East Nowra with a pergola covered by a grape vine. He admired its shape and beauty whilst sitting under it and picking and eating the fruit. Memories of this vine may have been imprinted on Greg’s mind when he set about his first plantings.

As for deciding on suitable varieties, he simply contacted the local Nurseries and took whatever was available at the time – the choice of Sauvignon Blanc was a happy accident as it took to the climate eagerly but, with subsequent plantings, grape variety considerations became more important.

Greg kept in mind two objectives; he did not envisage production in quantity, for, on a practical level he was much more interested in supplying his own quality product for consumption in the Alexander Restaurant and at The Cellar Door. Secondly, he looked to set high standards of quality for this new vineyard and, in doing so, he was prepared to sacrifice quantity for quality. This two-pronged objective has been carried through with determination and single-mindedness and has brought Coolangatta Estate Wines into a bracket of excellence which compares more than favourably with older and better known vineyards.

By the time of the first vintage a relationship with Tyrrell’s Wines had strengthened and developed out of their original relationship as a preferred supplier of carafe wines for use at the Bush Banquets and other Restaurant functions.

Murray Tyrrell agreed to vinify their production although none of the participants had any clear idea of what to expect from these first blocks of plantings on this site. They expected no more than an average quality wine and 1990 produced just that – but it was pleasantly acceptable and easy on the palate.

The Tyrrell influence for Coolangatta Estate and the region has been strong for they were the first, as professional and experienced winemakers, to see the quality potential of wines in the Shoalhaven Region.

In 1991 the first Chardonnay plantings came to fruition and the wine was exceptional. It was a Gold Medal winner at the National Wine Show held in Canberra and so there was considerable excitement at what had been achieved in just over three years.

But, then the climatic difference in 1992 taught Greg a hard lesson as it was an exceptionally wet year and the quality dropped.

In wine terms, they had always been in unknown territory as this is not by any means the easiest place to grow grapes because of the above average summer rainfall – but, on the other hand the Hunter Valley is subject to a similar precipitation and so they looked to professional and scientific management of the vines to cope with these conditions.

Greg had been to Cassegrain Wines in the Hastings Valley to get some advice on his problems and through them he heard of Richard Smart who had been a Consultant to Cassegrain.

Richard Smart was invited to Coolangatta and this was to be the beginning of an essential and fruitful relationship.

Shortly after his visit in 1992, his first recommendation was to halve the number of vines. Whilst this seemed a very drastic step, Greg, once he had got over the shock, could see that quality must dictate the decisions. Even though they had been feeding the plants well, probably to the extent of over-feeding, the plants were bunched together and keeping out the sunlight with an excessive canopy. The vines had been planted with a spacing of a metre and this meant that the shoots were over-crowded and the fruit in the middle of all these leaves and shoots quickly rotted through their proximity to each other.

By reducing the number of vines the spurs, the buds which produce the shoots were now spaced at 15 per metre. This was achieved simply by reducing the overall quantity of vines.

The trellising was changed to the Scott Henry system which enables the sunlight and breezes to get in amongst the bunches of fruit and shoots so that after rain they can dry out rapidly before any rotting can start. Greg says that the maritime breezes are a godsend in this climate.

Greg Bishop is full of praise for Richard Smart’s powers of observation and uses his book “Sunlight into Wine” as his Bible. The first steps towards recovery had been taken and now it was time to look at balancing nutrition with analyses of the soil and to check that they did not over-water during dry spells.

Soil management systems were introduced which entailed making a V cuts through the centre of the rows with a grader blade so that the top soil from this point was pushed around the roots of the vines. This channel between the rows provides quick drainage whereas, before, the soil quickly became waterlogged and boggy so that mechanical equipment could not get on the ground to carry out spraying and maintenance.

The result is that after a downpour of more than 8 inches of rain, they are able to be back on the blocks within 24 hours. These basic but drastic changes as recommended were the salvation for the vineyard and from then on these systems formed the basis of progressive management refinements.

Experience and attentive observation go hand in hand. When the plantings first started Greg was very much on his own but since then he has built up a network of contacts particularly in the Hunter Valley wine Region so that all producers of quality wines can exchange views and knowledge regularly and informally.

The choice of particular varieties has become much more selective – the aim being to get looser bunches, thicker skins and earlier maturing. Undoubtedly, the best results come from the white grapes which mature at least three weeks earlier than the reds.

The latter are ripening well into March when the hours of sunshine are diminishing. It is almost impossible to produce big full-bodied reds from this area and, rather like the Hunter, the reds are medium-bodied. The Semillon grape has the greatest potential even though it is quite difficult to cultivate successfully as they have a tendency towards thinner skins which are liable to split.

They try to confine their sprays to organic ones as far as possible when dealing with downy and powdery mildew and work to a preventative programme – every 10 to 14 days the sprayers are at work and not waiting for trouble to show itself and this means that as the season goes on, the spraying can then be tapered off. The biggest problems are fungal diseases and botrytis in very wet weather.

Their venture into Sparkling wines in 2001 to celebrate Col Bishop’s birthday was a great success and made from pure Chardonnay grapes – Blanc de Blancs. The bedrock varieties of their vineyard are Semillon, Verdelho and Chardonnay. For reds they use Cabernet and Chambourcin and are now experimenting with a new variety for this region – the Tannat grape with a strong tannin nature from the French/Basque region.

The combination of Tyrrells and Dr Smart had the greatest influence in wine growing for the Shoalhaven.

It seems to be the question of balance – you need to know when the leaf area to fruit ratio is correct. Good viticulture means that by the time the fruit starts to ripen and goes into raisin you want the shoot tips to stop growing so that all the energy goes into the bunches of fruit. When Greg said that Richard made them pull out every second plant, the objective was to bring the vines into balance. Smart is a promoter of the big vine theory so that in a standard Hunter Valley vineyard (a summer rainfall area) you have two standard poles and wires with one main vine attended, as it were by two shorter ones. This prevents a mass of leaves creating humidity and causing rot. The big vine can have its buds spaced out and the two attendant vines get their bunches hanging in little “windows”. Eight wires are on the Coolangatta trellises which is a variation on the Hunter system – it works because it gives vital ventilation.

Ventilation apart, Dr Smart’s book called “Sunlight into Wine” emphasises that when the sun can actually focus on the majority of bunches and leaves, it will aid all the quality processes for the living vine. Better sugar, acid and colour levels – it is a productive way of cultivation as the quantity as well as the quality is increased markedly.

Shoots must not be shaded otherwise they just produce leaves and not the fruit which is to be the following season’s crop.

There are rose bushes at the end of each row and raise the most asked questions at the Estate. Nowadays they are there for aesthetic reasons and to supply flowers for decoration but in less technological times they monitored the onset of fungal diseases – different mildews and powdery blight – as roses are the first to be susceptible to many diseases including the vineyard scourge – blight.

Greg continues to experiment and run trials with different species every year and different methods and as they have plenty of space they can expand their volume. But, from their present annual 55 tons of fruit they are able to supply most needs at the present time.

The Cellar Door sales are based on the Caves de France – wine tourism is the way ahead for them. The two unique features are the history (Alexander Berry) and the way the wine integrates into the history. Good for Coolangatta Estate and good for the region and district – with a new emerging wine region it acts as a catalyst to develop tourism and the local council here are now encouraging their efforts. The area is beginning to compete with the Hunter valley and although there is not the same volume and number of vineyards there are many more attractions in the hinterland – fishing, touring through the Morton National Park and sightseeing at Kangaroo Valley. All, and more, and a little more than two hours drive from Sydney.

The Coolangatta Estate wines are not blended – just like the wines of the Loire – and so variations of the vintages year on year adds an extra charm and mystique to the boutique wine producers.

This is business horizontal integration with farming roots and there is now good local interest and support to add to the regular visitors from Sydney. The Conferences business has grown enormously – last year they provided for 77.

Greg’s objective from the beginning was to convince Regional people that they had a good product. Ninety five percent of the wines sold in the restaurant are their own which means that the locals are buying as well - they take their visitors from overseas or Sydney and show them a new wine industry plus the history of the settlement.

Extra paragraphs to fill page – up to date awards etc


We now have to turn the clock back 60 years to the end of the Second World War.

By this time in 1946, despite the earlier efforts of Major Alex Hay, a relation of Alexander Berry, his children had been unable to control the decline of the Estate. There was every indication that the original Estate would now, after 124 years, revert to nature and become just another grazing meadow with all trace of Alexander Berry and his work effaced.

Fortunately, at this time, the present owner, Colin James Bishop makes his appearance on the Coolangatta Estate stage, even though he had been waiting, as it were, in the wings.

During his childhood in the 1920s, Col had been living on his father’s farm Coralholm on the edge of the Coolangatta Estate and had seen its glory fading whilst it and the area, now called Shoalhaven Heads and originally called Jerry Bailey, became geographically more and more isolated as the towns of Nowra and Berry expanded.

Shoalhaven Heads in the 1920s was home to two familes – the Hutchinsons and the Bolts. They provided the first camping sites which were mainly used by holidaymakers from Sydney and keen fishermen. These holiday areas were reasonably comfortable with basic essentials. Through word of mouth, more people started to arrive and build small cottages but the impetus for a population exansion was brought about by the 1929 Depression as Sydney folk sought a cheaper way of life in the country. The building of shacks and shanties was allowed by Council for annual ground rents of £3.00. This resulted in unplanned development which has since been tidied up. At the eastern end of the area land was sold off in blocks which resulted in a more orderly village development.

Coolangatta Village had developed its trade with Sydney by sea from the very beginning but now that there were road and rail links from Sydney to Berry, Bomaderry and Nowra, it was by-passed as a main route. The railway line from Sydney had reached Bomaderry in 1893 and the first official train from Sydney arrived on June 2nd. Although, in 1885 Parliament had voted to extend the railway to Jervis Bay, this was never carried out, owing to the cost of bridging the Shoalhaven at Nowra.

Changes for the better in the district came after the first timber bridge was built across Broughton Creek on the Bolong Road in 1935.

Life became less hard on the dairy farms with the coming of electricity. Milking machines took over from milking by hand and as tractors and mechanised farm machinery increased, so living standards improved. The raising of herd testing standards and pasture improvements were being strongly promoted in the Berry area by Major Alex Hay. Whilst these general improvements gathered pace, the Estate continued to decline.

Col Bishop was aware of all this on the borders of his property and had asked Elizabeth Berry Hay if she would consider selling the Plumber’s Shop which had the potential for conversion into a home. She offered to sell the Servants’ Quarters instead right in the centre of the Estate. The deal was done and Col now had a foothold in the Estate proper.

Col continued to restore old surviving buildings and let them for holiday accommodation. Col could see that with the rapid changes taking place within the farming industry, an increase in the size of dairy farm holdings was essential for individual farmers if they were to survive, let alone succeed.

So it was that Col had his eyes on the 32 acres which Elizabeth had inherited and negotiated the purchase of this land. Included in this purchase was free use of the Dairy so as to establish a milk quota but it meant exceptionally long working days in running two dairy herds for the next eight months.

By 1955, Col Bishop was able to buy more property on the Estate which included the Plumbers’ Shop, the Stables, Nona Hay’s Cottage and the Billiard Room.

Whilst Col was building up the dairying side, the Hay era was declining further with the Bishop stewardship in the ascendant – the residue of the property was bought from Miss Lyons who became Executrix of the Estate. This included more acreage, the Great Hall and adjoining rooms which were to form the centre of the Estate’s regeneration.

The acquisition of the 278 acres was for the Bishop family and Coolangatta Estate a turning point in their fortunes and the beginning of the Berry Estate renaissance.

This was the time in which Col made his first moves in reviving the Estate whose history had intrigued him for years. The position was naturally superb and he had a vision of re-establishing the glory days and at the same time capitalising on his farming background – just like Alexander Berry.

Until about 1922 all the land formerly owned by Berry and the Hays covered the whole Shoalhaven district but by Col’s schooldays because of sub-division and sales there were only two farms left which were part of the Estate Village controlled by Major Alex Hay.

Col recalls mixed emotions once he had become the owner of this formerly famous property – there was a certain mount of pride in stepping into the shoes of Alexander Berry and his successors but he was faced with enormous tasks to fulfil if his vision were to be successful.

Like Berry he was to experience frustration with establishing his agricultural business. And then, when turning to a diversification, the dead hand of government bureaucracy and indecisiveness was to give him sleepless nights. But Col had in him a background of experience of difficulties as had Berry and this seems to have given impetus to his inherited determination to succeed and, again like Berry, he never despaired.

Col’s life became a routine of farm work in daylight hours, including milking the herd and building restoration at night – ultimately this resulted in a comfortable family home.

Because of the pressure and need to establish a home and maintain viability with the farm, plans at the back of Col’s mind to restore the Estate had to take second place at this period. The dairying had become very important, and time-consuming and the buildings had to be used as facilities and accommodation for the employees. .

By 1960 when all the residue of the Estate of the estate including the stables, blacksmith’s shop, cottage, Billiard Room and probably most important of all, the Community Hall had been finally sold to Col the Berry era in name had come to an end.

For the first time the property was now owned by a family, unrelated to the original settler. But it was to be a vital revival for Estate with new visionaries with new ideas and concepts.

The period between 1960 and 1968 is when the next significant decisions were taken after much discussion and debate. It is much in keeping with Col’s character and background to combine caution with inspiration and to be able to encompass a feeling for the past with an eye to the future. It is reminiscent of Alexander Berry who came from Scottish farming stock and turned to a life of business and land development in the same way that Col moved from a farming upbringing to move into the tourism, catering and the entertainment business.

Restoration year, or rather the start of restoration was 1968 and Col had, and needed, full family support in spite of his own inherited physical strength, endurance and being blessed with good health – his good sense of humour sustained him during some black periods.

Out of all the advice offered, the suggestion of creating a holiday resort with accommodation within the existing buildings seemed the most viable.

The old Metropole Hotel in Sydney was due for demolition and, having finally realised that no financial support would be forthcoming from any local council source, Col decided to take the plunge. He bought at the sale during two days enough materials and furniture to fill four lorries which were brought to Coolangatta and stored in the Great Hall and Billiard Room whilst discussions went as to how to finance and organise the project.

The first decision had to be made on a suitable builder with flair and imagination to carry out the master plan which had been drawn up by John Fisher, head of a Sydney architectural practice. The plan received Council approval within a week which contrasted markedly with the delays over its earlier negative attitude.

Stewart Priddle of Berry agreed to work in conjunction with Col with complete openness as only estimates of costs could be made. But with these estimates as near to reality as possible an approach to the bankers was required. Although the farming business was profitable and provided background financial stability, the bankers, understandably, could not believe that a motel in what was seen as a “remote area” would succeed.

After much discussion and refusal, Keith Angel, Col’s Bank Manager told him that the only way forward would be for him to raise half of the estimated cost privately and the Bank would contribute the other half.

With the assistance of his Accountant in Nowra, Tom Tait, this private money was raised within three weeks so that the work could start. Col’s feeling of relief and pleasure after all the years of planning and effort was counterbalanced with a question in his head of “What have I done ?”.

For the next two years work continued under the supervision of Stewart Priddle but it was financially very close to the margin and, in addition, half way through the restoration work, the Bank started to waver in its support because of the general financial climate existing at the time. Col remained firm in his relations with the Bank which with reluctance kept to its commitments.

The first event to christen the new venture was the wedding of Col’s niece on 10th December 1971 and arrangements were ready just in time with the bridegroom helping with the cleaning on the morning of the ceremony. The wedding guests were the first occupants of the ten motel rooms which were then available. The next date of importance was planned for the following year on the sesquicentenary of Berry’s arrival – June 23rd 1972.

On this day, the Coolangatta Estate was opened as a Motel by the Minister for Tourism. A good publicity effort was made to emphasise the fact that it was exactly 150 years since Berry had first decided on this spot for his settlement in the south. It drew a very large attendance with more people on the Estate than had been seen on the occasion of David Berry’s funeral in 1889.

The usual problems associated with catering and accommodation and casual labour were experienced so that eventually the Restaurant management came back to the family which continues to this day. Greg Bishop’s involvement has been of the essence in the Motel’s success.

Greg has followed the past family tradition of coming in to help before his educational wishes had been fulfilled. He would have liked to have followed a University course in Agronomy. But, at the age of seventeen after school at Bomaderry High and Scotts College at Bathurst he found himself drawn into helping on the farm and the Estate which his father had spent the twenty five years before in rebuilding and renovating.

Before that the dairying side of the farm had continued and the three sons helped at week-ends with the milking. Greg says that although his interest in growing plants was strong, this interest was made even stronger by having to milk the cows at inflexible times. From an early age he had grown plants from seeds and cuttings and as he grew older he was always the one in charge of the family vegetable garden. He entered exhibits at local agricultural shows with considerable success.

With the Motel launched in 1972 he found himself in at the deep end, partly because family help was needed and because he wanted to learn “hands on” how to manage and run the hotel and tourist business which was now beginning to take shape.

Within two years there were 25 rooms available for occupation – more than double the number at the opening in 1972.

At this time it was run as a basic Motel but it was difficult to manage efficiently because of its layout remaining as originally established with Reception not close to the entrance. Dinners were only provided at week-ends whilst, during the week visitors had the choice between a “TV dinner” delivered to their rooms or visit the local Bowling Club’s Restaurant at Shoalhaven Heads.

1974 saw a period of world recession arising out of the OPEC Middle East oil pricing problems and the increase in world inflation which was to trouble governments for years to come.

The family re-doubled it support as in the past so as to keep outside labour to a minimum. The cleaning, administration and cooking were all family matters and you might liken it to rather large sprawling Bed & Breakfast set-up with historical connections and beautiful country surroundings and the sea.

Between 1974 and 1988 there was no clearly defined marketing development plan. With no outside financing the Bishops had to be opportunistic and use profitable periods to the full. Depending on the cash flow situation, Greg and Col would get together and decide what to do next. General refurbishment was always important and then an extension to the Restaurant was started - the first extension was in the Barrel Room area which is now between the north entrance and the Conference area.

Here they started a small self-cook indoor barbecue grill which was run by one staff member with the guests coming in to select their steak take it to the grill where salads would be available. The introduction of this popular “self-catering” arrangement enabled them to open for food every night.

Whilst Col was in the States on a trip, Greg decided to extend the Restaurant further – the two of them seemed to make a habit of starting something new and major whilst the other was away from the Estate. Col and his son Bruce returned to find an outside paved pergola area with a roof - when Col saw it he said “I’ve only got one complaint – you didn’t make it big enough”.

At about the same time they started providing for parties in the old sunken pit where a whole pig would be barbecued enabling them to cater for sixty or more people at a time. Later this was extended into what was called the Garden Restaurant which became extremely popular and meant that they could cater for nearly 150 people. This was the beginning of attracting wedding receptions and other parties.

In those days its reputation and popularity developed from word of mouth referrals and some regular advertising in the NRMA hotel and tourist guide. The market has always been drawn from Sydney – interest had grown to such an extent that by the mid-eighties they sometimes had accommodation booked nine months in advance.

They have maintained a family atmosphere in the accommodation and have aimed at value for money. This creates a nice contrast between the sophistication of the Restaurant and the Conference rooms and the guest rooms. They could spend a fortune on completely modernising the accommodation but this would mean a leap in charges which would change the profile of their clientele and mean the sacrifice of the structure and shape of the original settlement.

A boost to their financial position was the innovation of the Bush Banquets. Col happened to call in at The Journeyman Restaurant and Bistro at Berrima one evening on his way back from Sydney and was very impressed with “The Goodtime Bush Band” which was in full swing. It was nearly Christmas and Col made a happy and profitable decision to book the band after taking the family and staff up to Berrima for a party and to discuss the possibility of a new venture. The Bush Band was booked to come to Coolangatta every Thursday night for a month during the Christmas holidays. So popular was the entertainment that it ran for nearly eight years.

This seven year period built up their capital so as to expand facilities - the Golf Course was laid out at this time and continues to be an attractive nine hole course on the lower slopes of Mt Coolangatta which appeals to all sorts and conditions of players.

In 1988 the Restaurant business was booming and the present day restaurant which can seat 300 was built at this period in its commanding position with views across the Shoalhaven estuary and completed in 1989. This coincided with another recessionary period in Australia and, the Bishops, like many other businesses somewhat over-extended themselves and suffered some worrying times but, like the Bishops of earlier days, they always had the strength of the family to hold things together. They had to economise and cut services but they got through and living on the site became rather like living on the farm in the old days.

Alexander Berry and Colin Bishop although distant from each other in time, origins and background resemble each other markedly in many aspects. Both came from farming families with inherited doggedness to create successful ventures in unpromising circumstances. Very few people had any confidence in Berry’s ability to build a promising settlement in Coolangatta in 1822 as, although there were areas of fertile land available this was subject to flooding and much of the rest was swampy. Add to that the lack of communications between the Shoalhaven and the main market in Sydney, except by sea, then Berry’s achievements, with the assistance of his brothers and sisters, by the end of his life is remarkable. The cattle we see today grazing in the local farmers’ fields are descendants of the import of quality cattle which Berry initiated, and which was continued by Major Alex Hay in the 20th century, so that he is the “father” of the dairying industry in New South Wales. Berry started from scratch on the site below the mountain of Collangatta whereas Colin Bishop bought the original 300 acres of the homestead area which was in a ruinous and dilapidated condition after the fire of February 1946.

Both had visions of developing a beautiful but inhospitable situation into a viable business and in spite of the frustrations of bureaucracy and lack of official support both pressed on regardless and achieved successful goals.

Both men created a “village” as opposed to an agricultural operation. At its zenith, Berry’s village had as many as 300 people working in the area, not including tenant farmers, but over the years it declined to a population of just 2 when Colin Bishop bought his acreage. At the present time, the Bishop Estate gives employment to a hundred people, full-time, part-time and seasonal, and that does not include the suppliers to the enterprise.

All this has developed since the re-opening of the site in 1972 but nothing stands still in the Bishops’ Coolangatta Village today any more than it did in Berry’s time there. The present family management are forever looking to improve and expand their Hotel/Motel/Restaurant business so as to adapt to changing modern demand and lead the way in innovation.

It is a happy coincidence that Berry chose a site which was to be within twenty four hours reach of Sydney by boat for the export of his produce for this in modern motor travel equates to about two hours which means that Sydneysiders have this area more or less on their doorstep.

So, by modernising and enlarging the layout and accommodation the Bishops are able to count on regular conferences and weddings both large and small. There are now 35 hotel rooms with the accompanying facilities of golf, tennis, swimming croquet and games rooms. The Restaurant seats 100 and when combined with the reception area and breakfast room and bar can accommodate 300 or more people for major functions. In addition the Great Hall is now a Banquet Room which can seat 140 and is the scene on Saturday nights of Mr Berry’s Banquet which is described “as a nostalgic night of entertainment with bush dancing, old time dancing, singalongs, variety and rock and roll”.

The Bishops have followed French tradition with their Cellar Door wine and cheese tastings and sales with an emphasis on Regional produce from Milton, Kangaroo Valley, Tilba and Bodalla with the cuisine linked to Estate produced wines in the dining areas.

Within the last eighteen months the area abutting the Cellar Door has been cleared so as to give good views of the Pacific and surrounding landscape. Here has been constructed the James Busby Luncheon Marquee (named in honour of Berry’s lifelong friend) which complements the Cellar Door and Alexander’s Restaurant.

All these up to date activities have not been allowed to disturb the original layout of Berry’s settlement and Homestead, and although new accommodation has been added, there still remain nine of the original buildings. These include The Cottage which was originally the home to the daughters of the Hay family who inherited the Estate from Berry and is now contains six resort rooms following restoration and modernisation:

Convict Cottage has also been restored and is a free-standing resort suite and its design which was typical of many of the convict cottages scattered around the village has been carefully preserved as it is probably the only surviving one of its kind in the district and The Stables which have been converted to six rooms.

Also in hotel use today are the Billiard Room and the neighbouring Surveyor’s Rooms, The Servants and Groomsmen’s Quarters and six more stables, The Harness Room, Blacksmith’s Shop, Plumber’s Shop and the Community Hall.


We now leave Coolangatta Estate as a revived post- Second World War entity and move back to pre-First World War years and the beginning of the 20th century. Sir John Hay had been managing The Estate since the end of the direct line of the Berrys under David who had died in 1889. He was to die twenty years later with the financial situation still precarious and the problems now facing his successor were significant. The man upon whom the responsibility for the Estate now fell for the first four decades of the twentieth century was Major Alex Hay.

He, a half-brother of Sir John had been born in New Zealand at Parua in 1865 but had spent most of his life in the Shoalhaven district.

He took a great interest in military matters and because of this he was always referred to locally as "The Major". In 1896 No 2 Half Squadron of NSW Lancers was formed in Berry under the command of the, then, Captain Alex Hay. A photograph of Alex Hay in profile with a military-style moustache makes one understand why he was affectionately known as "The Major". He had an upright bearing and combined a disciplined approach to life with humanity and consideration for his fellow men.

There is a report in the South Coast Register of April 2nd 1898 which tells of the Berry Lancers being "the major military organisation in the district.” Alex Hay was 49 at the outbreak of the First World War and had read widely in his youth of British military history. Although he was very much involved in the Berry Military organisation and had trained along traditional Army lines, he was prevented from going to the Boer War through the necessity of taking on the management of The Coolangatta Estate.

Alex Hay, once the decision had been made, threw himself into the task with enthusiasm and vigour.

Alex Hay was a great believer in dairy herd testing and the need to upgrade and modernise the local milk industry so as to keep pace with competition from overseas.

He also wanted to raise the general standard of education in the region and spent money freely in an attempt to found a local University. It was not until the year 2000 that the Wollongong University Campus in Nowra was established.

He started the Junior Farmers Movement and gave substantial prizes to the Berry Agricultural Society for the encouragement of young farmer produce at annual shows.

He made many visits overseas and after studying dairying methods in Canada, Denmark and England, he urged the local farmers to adopt the scientific methods being used in Europe. During the 1890s many dairy farmers had been forced to give up their leases because of low prices for butter in the English market so they needed as much encouragement as possible to improve quality and efficiency.

With this in mind the Estate set up a large Creamery, the remains and site of which are there today adjoining Berry Railway Station
for the purpose of having all milk processed centrally so as to ensure good grading of the cream before it was turned into butter. It was built under the control and supervision of the best Butter maker in the district and used the best of Denmark’s technology. After some years the quality of Australian butter equalled that of Denmark and Belgium. This was not before Alex Hay had to put over quite drastic ideas which went against traditional methods with regard to cattle breeds.

A select herd of imported pure bred dairy cattle bought from Europe was installed in the stud farm at Coolangatta and this marked the beginning of the change to Jerseys and Ayrshires from the native “buffalo” type.

In the Illawarra south coast a breed called the Australian Illawarra Shorthorn developed with a foundation stock deriving from Devons, Shorthorns and Ayrshires – a dash of Dutch cattle from the Berry herds was also present. They were bred specifically for higher milk production and they were large animals, red and roan in colour.

In order to achieve improvements considerable culling based on milk quality was necessary and proved unpopular. All milk suppliers were invited to have their milk individually tested at the Factory Laboratory with separate reports produced. Individual cows were also milked on successive days in their home farm stalls and the milk carefully recorded for quantity and quality. This was the first move towards giving the farmer an accurate knowledge of each of his cows measured by butter fat content.

Given this information, culling of the less productive cattle could be carried out scientifically and the quality of the milk improved.

He was able to vary the original David Berry bequest to the Berry Hospital so as to provide funding for a Stud Farm and an Experimental Farm both of which were approved by the Government and established at Berry.

Whilst Sir John comes across as a rather hard man in dealing with tenants, Alex Hay, on the other hand, seems to have reverted to the quieter style of David Berry and was able to persuade rather than demand.

His popularity stems from a genuine interest in helping dairy farmers in particular to try to improve the quality of their herds and their products and, secondly, from generally being a likeable, fair and quiet spoken person who had an aura of authority about him.

The advantages deriving from the draining and clean water schemes renewed the Estate at a time when it looked to be in decline and opened up the age of modernised butter making in the Shoalhaven. The water schemes were carried through by the Estate Engineer John Wright under the direction of Major Alex Hay.

Despite the strenuous work involved in organising the testing and improvements of dairy herds and pastures, the maintenance of the butter factory and milk condenseries, he still found time to support community societies in sport and pastimes.

He represented New England in the Federal Parliament and visited England, America and Canada several times on behalf of the Estate.

He became involved in the Queensland meat industry and bought into pastoral properties in the Northern State - these diversifications and investments probably diluted the financial strength of the Hay inheritance even further, but there is no doubting the quality of his intentions.

Alex Hay had married Florence Burdekin in 1900 who came from a wealthy Sydney family and preferred her circle of acquaintances in Sydney to the less sophisticated rural scene.

Their three children who were born between 1902 and 1914 were educated in Sydney and, Burdekin apart, were rarely seen in Shoalhaven.

Alex Hay is reminiscent of the old fashioned "gentry" of England between the two World Wars who did not flaunt their wealth or position and thus lived in harmony with people of a different economic and social scale.

Phillip Smith, a descendant of Guy Fawkes and the Faulks family who farmed at Coolangatta remembers the Major as a good friend to his family and a kindly person who was wont to go shooting quail across the Estate and leave some for the enjoyment of his tenants during these expeditions.

With the death of The Major in 1941, control of the Estate passed to his son Alexander Berry Hay who was always known locally as "Berry".

It seems that Berry Hay did not inherit directly from Major Hay after his death in 1941 but that control of the inheritance passed to his wife Florence ( the daughter of Sydney Burdekin) and that she made provisions from the estate in bits and pieces in the form of allowances for the children as she continued to live in Sydney.

Berry Hay was in no way an unattractive man - born in 1904 in Sydney, he had been well educated at an expensive private School on Sydney’s north shore. Berry Hay was a popular man amongst the more raffish Berry set and was a frequenter of the Berry Hotel - an appropriate haunt for a Berry as it stands on the site of the Inn which Alexander Berry is said to have constructed for his workers in 1863 and which was originally called the Broughton Creek Kangaroo Inn.

It seems appropriately ironic that the last of the Berry bloodline to be directly involved with the Coolangatta Estate should carry the three family names of the founders and successors - Alexander Berry Hay. He seems to have had none of the drive and determination of his forbears nor any serious interest in improving the Estate.

After his second marriage to Elizabeth, however, desperate efforts were made to try to restore the health of the Estate. There was a renewed interest in growing tobacco during the Second World War and the leaf crop used to be dried in what was the Blacksmith's shop area. However, there are rumours of erratic behaviour by Berry and his wife Elizabeth little of which redounds to their credit.

In 1946, we reach the lowest point in the story of the Estate for an extensive fire started just before midnight on February 26th. The cause of the fire will never be known but it was certainly not accidental. All local histories and newspaper reports are vague about the fire and it is often described as "malicious" and an "act of vandalism".

Berry Hay certainly knew that this fire would mark the end of the established order of the Alexander Berry settlement which had lasted through many changes for over a hundred years. After the fire, Berry Hay lost whatever intermittent interest he had had in the Coolangatta Homestead.

Chapter 4

After Berry’s death in 1873, the Estate was bequeathed to his brother David who, with William, were the only surviving members of the family. Nancy had died earlier in the year, Janet in 1860 and Barbara in St Andrews in 1871. William died two years later leaving all his property to David.

The estate now totalled just under 100 square miles in area and included the towns of Bomaderry, Broughton Creek and extended from Gerringong to Greenwell Point.

David survived his eldest brother by sixteen years and concentrated on the promotion of land settlement. Even before Alexander’s death he had shown his interest, skills and social conscience in developing acceptable leases. This had gone on for forty years until his death in 1889 even though his brother, Alexander had given him nominal encouragement. Alexander retained his original vision of broad acres as far as the eye could see and good beef and dairy cattle with as little boundary fencing as possible. As times changed he could see that his old position as the pioneering overlord of all he used to survey was now in decline.

Although life for most of the families was hard and the climate often extreme – the floods of 1870 and in other years were disastrous - one comes across reports which show the effect of the railway and visitors. This local press report appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald in August 1855.


It may be interesting to some of your subscribers to hear a little now and then of this very beautiful district. Blessed by nature with an excellent climate and productive soil it has long been kept in the background from the disinclination of the largest landed proprietor to let off or sell his lands; this disinclination is now passing away and a liberal and free letting of land is now taking place.

The splendid estate of Messrs Berry, without an equal in New South Wales (or perhaps the world) is being divided into comfortable sized farms and the forest and bush are fast falling in all directions before the improving hand of man; houses are been erected in all directions and the lucky tenants of the land are busy clearing and fencing.

Wheat sowing is now over and all are busy about potatoes but rain is much wanted not having had anything like the quantity that has fallen in other parts. The strong north west winds have dried the ground and water holes so that unless rain comes soon the chances of a good potato crop will no be very great. The wheat crop is, however, looking well, and is of a much greater extent than last year – the late high price of wheat having put our farmers all in the humour of growing it.

We lately had a visit from Mr Fairchild and company who gave a few concerts and finished with a Ball. We can scarcely call ourselves a musical community nor are we much given to visiting Balls. Nevertheless I think that Mr F did not do too badly although it could only be now and then that such a speculation could pay. An itinerant organ-grinder much to the astonishment and delight of the children paid us a visit. Such are some of the effects of the steam railways communication.”

Alexander Berry had loved books all his long life beginning with his early days at Cupar Grammar School and, as a brotherly tribute, David erected an appropriate library on the Estate where the large collection left could be properly arranged and displayed.

This original site is marked today in the grounds Estate stating that the actual Library itself was given to the local Anglican church at Shoalhaven Heads. This wooden building is the guardian of one of the seven book cases made using wedges designed by David Berry.

William Purdie, a fellow Scot and local cabinet maker and joiner was commissioned to carry out the work. Born in 1819 and apprenticed as a cabinet maker in Scotland, he emigrated to Australia in 1841 but found little work to employ his talents in Sydney. After a period fencing in Kangaroo Valley he joined the Berry Estate where he worked as a carpenter and builder. David’s remembered Purdie’s cabinet making abilities and asked him to produce cases based on the style of a single breakfront Scottish mahogany bookcase brought to Australia by Alexander Berry. These bookcases were described in the press in 1889 as “being made at Coolangatta Park of cedar cut and sawn on the Estate”.

William Purdie and his descendants would probably be surprised at the value put on them today as news of two of these bookcases surfaced recently when they were bought at auction in Sydney for $51,750.00.

Coolangatta and Broughton Creek had now become a vibrant township and in order to supply the wants of 400 Estate tenants every trade was represented – amongst them stonemasons, carpenters, harness makers, tailors, tanners, blacksmiths and wheelwrights.

Prefabrication of timber-framed dwellings had already made an appearance at this time with the steam-powered sawmill in full production with houses and barns “framed” and delivered in ready cut form for erection on site.

As David aged he decided that he should delegate the running of the Estate to his cousin, Mr John Hay, as General Manager. He was forty years old at this time with 20 years of business experience in New Zealand.

Faster steamships had replaced the older vessels; new schools were built and the areas of individual farms enlarged and their leases extended. More areas were cleared, surveyed, sub-divided and leased with farm buildings and fences renovated.

During David’s tenure substantial improvements were made to the Berry Showground with the erection of a new grandstand and outbuildings. The area of the show grounds was greatly extended and a full-sized Show Ring laid down. The result of this was that the Berry Agricultural Show Ground became one of the finest in country New South Wales. The work put in hand at this time survives to this day with the annual shows at Berry attracting large crowds.

The hamlet of Broughton Creek was now replaced by the Township of Berry named in honour of David Berry and his elder brother. Streets were laid out on a grid system and allotments of building land leased. Banks, hotels and a Post Office soon appeared and today it is an attractive town set amidst beautiful natural surroundings between the mountain valley of Kangaroo Valley to the north with the Shoalhaven River and the Pacific to the east.

It was designed by Howard Joseland who married Blanche the daughter of Jessie Mcleod who was the second wife of David Hay the son of Ann Tod and John Hay.

David’s funeral in 1889 was attended by more than 2000 people who converged on Coolangatta where he was laid to rest in the private cemetery – a grateful tenantry subscribed to pay for the granite monument to his memory which stands in the park opposite the Railway station.

“ This monument was erected by the Tenants and friends of the late David Berry in remembrance of a kind and considerate Landlord and true friend of the people. Unveiled by Mrs John Hay of Coolangatta 24th November 1897.”
There is no clear record of what was said by Alexander to David and William on his deathbed and David appears to have become morbidly and excessively worried about carrying out the wishes of his brother and deciding what were his legal and moral obligations.

David Berry must have realised what would be the effects of the combined size of the legacies for the University of St Andrews and the Hospital for the town of Berry on the financial future of the Estate.

My assessment is that Alexander would have asked that St Andrews should certainly benefit from his Will and David would have wanted a local living memorial in the form of the David Berry Hospital. This would, of course, relate to Alexander’s medical background and care for the sick in his early travelling days with the East India Company. David Berry who seems to have lived an isolated and unhappy existence in Coolangatta until his death then made his decision to meet both of these wishes – at the time, the break-up of the Estate seemed inevitable but the work put in on the Estate was such as to allow the Shoalhaven district and its succeeding inhabitants to enjoy the area as it is today.

As a sale would be necessary, the Trustees planned a comprehensive scheme to improve the value of the Estate, foremost amongst which was the further reclamation and draining of the swampy brackish areas.

One or other of the legacies could have been taken in its stride but the combination of the two led to the necessity for the Trustees, Sir John Hay and Dr Norton to sell off most of the Estate.

Its value for probate purpose was £1,252,975 ( in today’s dollar values about $165,000,000.00) deriving from Coolangatta, North Shore and personal holdings. The endowments included £100,000 sterling to the University of St Andrews in Scotland, and an equal endowment for a public hospital just to the east of the town of Berry.
One third of the Estate was bequeathed to Sir John and shortly after he asked his half brother Major Alexander Hay to take over as General Manager.
Extensive reclamation and drainage of the swampy areas along the flood plains had been put in hand so that by the turn of the century there were more than 125 miles of drains and ditches dug at various depths from one to three metres.
Almost a third of the land consisted of alluvial flats. In its natural state this part consisted of a series of fresh-water marshes with surfaces at the lowest about one metre below the flood level of the region. This being at the lower end of the Shoalhaven River estuary it was subject to flooding just below the surface levels of the marshes. With flooding at spring tide these swamps would be inundated by salt water and so tidal sluices were designed to prevent the invasion of salt water. A double advantage for grazing and general farming was that these sluices also stopped the accumulation of fresh water after heavy rains to which the region is prey into stagnant pools. Thus the water was kept on the move and under control.
On 29th March 1892 the sale of the Berry (Shoalhaven) Estates began and continued for three days. The entity was divided into three for the purpose of the sale - firstly the Gerringong farms of which there were four and totalling 175 acres. Next came the sale of the whole township of Bomaderry followed on 30th March by the Numbaa estates which consisted of between five and six thousand acres. This was included in the Municipality of Numbaa which had been incorporated in 1868. The population at the time of the sale was over a 1000.
The sale terms were all standardised at 25% deposit, 15% within two years and the balance over 5 years with an interest rate of 5% per annum. In all cases preference was given to tenant farmers to secure the land they had formerly farmed and from this date many of the present family holdings date their freehold.
Despite the sale there was still insufficient money to fund the Berry hospital bequest and so land to the value of not less than that required in North Sydney was handed over to Trustees appointed for that purpose. The Government of New South Wales then passed the David Berry Hospital Act in 1906 from which date the hospital became the responsibility of the Government. The disposal by sale of the Estates in Shoalhaven and North Sydney began in 1892 and was not completed until 20 years later in 1912.


Chapter 1

Alexander Berry often referred to his birth on St Andrews Day in 1781 and the violent snowstorm which accompanied it as

“perhaps an indication of a stormy life. But St Andrew seems never to have left my side; I have passed through many dangers and have weathered many a storm and, thank God, never yielded to despair”.

His father James Berry, married to Isabel Tod, was 31 years of age at the time of his birth. His father and grandfather had been tenant farmers at Lucklaw near Logie some seven miles to the north east of Hilltarvit.

His mother, gave birth to a further nine children. The last born was Nancy on 27th July 1802 at which time they moved to Errol in Perthshire in the Carse of Gowrie on the northern side of the Firth of Tay. This is the same year in which Alexander, now aged 21, is starting his first appointment with the East India Company.

His parents had worked hard on the land and had risen through their own efforts to become part of the middle class of Scotland. They instilled in him a sense of self-discipline and the importance of a good education so that, first in age and probably in ability, Alexander was given the best of educational opportunities over and above the other children who remained at home to help on the farm.

What Alexander remembered of his schooldays is that they were happy ones.

He attended the Burgh School in the old market town of Cupar in Fife where he received his elementary education in company with his constant companion, George Walker, with whom he remained in touch by letters all his life.

Apart from the normal routine of schoolboy life, he became obsessed with the wider world beyond this corner of Scotland through their purchases of books from Tullis the sole bookseller. Visiting itinerant booksellers also peddled their wares on market days and the love of books which remained with him to the very end of his life was engendered in Cupar and St Andrews as were the stirrings of his compulsion to explore unknown territories overseas.

His father bought him what was to become a treasured copy of "Salmon's Geographical Grammar" which influenced him greatly and further opened the windows of his enquiring mind.

The overseas world beyond Britain and Europe was as yet largely unexplored and, Captain Cook and a handful of like-minded navigators and mariners apart, knowledge of the rest of the world was mostly based on surmise.

Eight years old when the French Revolution broke out, by the time he is at St Andrews University, the news of the Royal Navy’s exploits and successes were being celebrated. He began his studies at University just before his 16th birthday when, accompanied by George Walker, went up to St Andrews University. In the Session 1796 - 1797 in the United College of St Leonard and St Salvator he officially matriculated on February 16th 1797. The age of entry to the University at around fifteen had scarcely changed since the Middle Ages.

Many years later, Berry liked to feel that he had influenced the naming of the suburb of St Leonards, which encompassed his house in North Sydney, from his association with the United College of St Andrew and St Leonard. He also enjoyed the fact that St Leonard was the patron saint of convicts and prisoners.

He recalls comments on Dr Johnson's visit to St Andrews. Johnson had described the Library as "not very spacious but elegant and luminous". Berry appreciated the adjective "luminous" as his reading there illuminated his mind with the unknown lands overseas; amongst his readings were Cook’s Voyages and the three volumes of Hawkesworth’s Voyages and more than half the books he borrowed during the first term dealt with travel and natural history.

After two years at St Andrews Berry decided to change Universities. He was influenced by the fact that in 1798 the School of Medicine at St Andrews was in decline. His father’s influence was also a factor as he was keen that Alexander should pursue a medical career being ambitious for him to improve his standing in society. A Physician surgeon had acquired gentlemanly status at the beginning of this century.

Berry was never to forget his two years at St Andrews and his legacy of £100,000.00 at the end of the 19th century saved the University from financial disaster. Part of the legacy founded the Berry Chair of English Literature by which his name is remembered today as is his representation in the annual Kate Kennedy Procession.

At Edinburgh, he matriculated in the three sessions 1799 - 1801 and qualified with the Diploma of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1801.

He qualified for first Surgeon’s Mate’s Medical Certificate on 5th May 1801 enabling to hold this position in a first-rate ship of the line. This was extremely important to him at the time for during his student days he was much impressed with the role of the Royal Navy on the world stage. The victories of Duncan at Camperdown in 1797 and those of Nelson at the Nile (Aboukir Bay) in 1798 and Copenhagen in 1801 gave added incentives to his intention to combine his father's wish that he become medically qualified and his personal ambition to join the Royal Navy and voyage abroad to explore territories overseas.

However, Alexander’s plans were to receive a sharp rebuff from his father on his return home from Edinburgh who argued strongly against a career in the Royal Navy. Alexander was persuaded to renounce his earlier intentions.

This change of plan is crucial to Berry’s later career for, through his father’s connections with the Chief Officer of an East Indies Company vessel, he accepts an appointment as Surgeon’s mate of an Indiaman bound for China. This first voyage with the East India Company to Java and China opened his eyes to the mercantile potential of the Southern Hemisphere. In those days, the Surgeons and Officers of the Indiamen all acted as individual traders and were allowed a certain personal trading tonnage. In general terms, they all became mercantile traders whilst fulfilling their maritime commissions.

Berry was extremely fortunate in his first trading venture for by being very cautious he only used his credit to a very limited extent and dealt only in currency by buying gold dollars for sale in China.

Market conditions were found to be extremely depressed and those who had made large investments in material goods suffered heavy losses.

After returning from China, Berry decided to make further progress in this type of business and obtained a second commission. He was appointed Surgeon of the Company’s ship the Lord Hawkesbury having received commendations from the Chief Officer and Surgeon of the earlier voyage.

This was a transport ship designed for military use and on board was a large detachment of the 17th Regiment with a complement of 300 which included women and children.

On this occasion he was able to take full advantage of the market conditions and trading opportunities, and sold his considerable investment in goods to take to India at a substantial profit.

This was the first of many bold, and sometimes risky, decisions he was to make during the coming years but the experience proved invaluable for him later on. Apart from the commercial advantages, he gained considerable experience on these journeys in learning how best to look after large groups of humanity in difficult and isolated conditions.

He set himself the objective of caring for health and hygienic matters based on what he had learned at Edinburgh and had taken note of the precepts practised by Captain Cook with his crew in the Endeavour to combat scurvy by a strict health regime.

He was rightly proud of the fact that not one person succumbed on that voyage east - which was exceptional in the circumstances - and he landed more of the military than had been taken on board. Three embryo soldiers were born during the passage to Madras.

Despite, such personal successes for Berry, both medically and financially, the enjoyment of his new career was tarnished by his having to witness the daily round of floggings – the basis of military punishment at the time. He records that "I was on good terms with the military, both men and officers. The only disagreeable thing on board was the constant floggings; and I was responsible that the men who were so punished were not flogged to death".

He was able to have some mitigating influence during the voyage and made it his own general rule that those due for such punishment should never have more than one half of the sentence carried out.

He crossed swords with the Regimental Colonel on more than one occasion and stood his ground particularly when there were indications of unhealed wounds brought about by scurvy. One old offender's condition forced Berry to speak plainly and their exchange indicates the difference in attitudes

"after the soldier had received a moderate punishment, I addressed the Colonel, and said that it would be unsafe to give that man any more punishment. The Colonel replied 'if we are to trifle with these fellows in that way, we shall have to punish them every day in our lives'. He stepped up beside him and said, ‘Colonel Stoven, I have nothing whatever to do with the expediency of punishment; my only duty in this case is to give a medical opinion, and if that man gets any more punishment I am not answerable for the consequences”.

The man was released but not before the Colonel had said that he was sorry that he could not give him more punishment but that he would bear it in mind should he offend again.

The return voyage from Madras with the embarkation of the remains of one of Wellington's regiments after the Battle of Assaye "where they had buried seventeen officers in one grave, and where only two officers were not wounded" was an altogether different matter. The Battle of Assaye in India was the culmination of the first of Wellington’s "close run" things. After war had broken out in August 1803 between Sindhia and the Rajah of Berar and the British, the Duke fought a brief, brilliant but bloody campaign.

It was the campaign in which Wellington maintained that he learned his trade and the battle which ended the Maratha Confederation was “the best fighting I ever did”. Most of the men were either sick or wounded, or both, and many of the troops subsequently died from their wounds. Alexander was saddened by these deaths which could not be prevented owing to the then current state of medical knowledge.

"I was almost broken-hearted about it, and felt ashamed to have to report their deaths to the Commanding Officer of the ship. My old college chum, the Rev George Walker told me some time afterwards that he had met several of these poor fellows who did get home in a ferry boat, passing from Leith to Fife, and heard one of them entertaining the other passengers about their adventures in India. The man said that he had come home in the Lord Hawkesbury. Then said Walker “you must know Mr Berry, the Surgeon". 'That indeed I do” replied the man, “and a very good man he was !”

The combination of sickness, death and excessive punishments turned Alexander away from the medical world and the military systems towards commerce and seamanship. He decided to abandon medicine and instead of continuing in his hybrid position in the East India Company service he decided to use the past profitability of his trading to start his first commercial venture by sailing to the Cape of Good Hope which had only recently been taken from the Dutch.

Berry concluded his time with the East India Company by recording that

"having here mentioned how I taught myself navigation, I may perhaps add that, before leaving London, I provided myself with certain law books on commercial affairs, which I also studied during the voyage. These works were Chitty on Bills, Abbott on Shipping, Parks on Insurance and Blackstone's Commentaries - the constant study of which, unfortunately, made me a 'Conservative' ".

During the voyage, Berry realises the importance of good navigation. He discovered that the Captain relied solely on dead reckoning and meridian observation of the sun. By chance they were able to check their longitude by talking to a nearby Portuguese ship and found that they were more than 5 degrees adrift of their estimated position. The Portuguese were used to taking lunar observations but the Captain was unable to calculate them. Berry examined the sextant on board, took it to pieces, cleaned it and re-assembled it correctly. Thereafter, he took lunar observations for the rest of the voyage with the result that they sailed into the Cape of Good Hope without difficulty.

Chapter 2

After his arrival in Cape Town, Berry’s meeting with Francis Shortt, whom he had known as a fellow medical student at Edinburgh University, focussed on the information they had received about the great food shortages in New South Wales. These were caused by the serious flooding of the River Hawkesbury north of Sydney in 1806 which had inundated the fertile alluvial valley. They agreed to try to take commercial advantage of this situation with a 50/50 shared investment in the purchase of suitable stocks of provisions.

Obtaining supplies was easy enough but obtaining a ship was extremely difficult. There was a shortage of vessels for charter as most of the English shipping had gone to Argentina to support the British attack on Buenos Aires

Eventually, the partners found a prize ship called the Rapadora of 520 tons. This they bought and re-named her the City of Edinburgh in honour of their joint studies at the University of Edinburgh. This purchase marked the beginning of Berry's many adventurous voyages. In this ship he travelled to many countries including Tasmania, Australia, New Zealand, Polynesia, South America and the Azores. It covered more than 50,000 nautical miles during its stormy career.

From the amount space given to describing his many dangerous adventures in his Reminiscences it is clear that Berry thoroughly enjoyed the experiences of dealing with famous and infamous characters in the Colony of New South Wales as well as risking life and limb when up against cannibal tribes in New Zealand and Polynesia. He is also well in advance of his time in treating the indigenous populations with a balanced respect for their abilities whilst being upset by what he sees as barbaric practices based on tribal revenge for assumed insults.

For the journey to Sydney, the City of Edinburgh was loaded with a variety of goods including grain, salt meat and 22,000 gallons of spirits. This latter consignment was a shrewd move by Berry in anticipating the “Rum currency” of Sydney Town but it was to be the cause of a major disagreement with Governor Bligh. Berry then sailed as The Superintendent of Cargo and left the Cape on 4th September 1807 on this enterprising voyage to Australia.

Shortt stayed behind in Cape Town to stabilise their business partnership and to look to its future financial health but he found himself in a debtor’s prison for a short period because of owings which had accumulated from the speculative borrowings to found their commercial ventures.

Berry’s first encounter with stormy waters occurs within the first two weeks out of The Cape. The City of Edinburgh ran into a succession of violent storms which destroyed the main and mizzen masts. The remainder of the journey was under jury rig. This reduced speed drastically and the earliest safe landfall possible was Port Dalrymple just to the east of Devonport on the north coast of Van Dieman's Land - now Tasmania - where Colonel Paterson was the Lieutenant-Governor.

Berry records that the people of Port Dalrymple were “in a state of destitution, and they were subsisting chiefly on the flesh of kangaroos, which they caught in the bush. The arrival of a vessel with provisions was a god-send to them. I made no attempt to take advantage myself of their necessities; but, on the contrary, readily sold them all the provisions they required, at fair and reasonable terms.”

Whilst at Port Dalrymple news arrived that Hobart Town was suffering just as badly. Berry's decision to go to Hobart was strengthened by information that conditions in the Hawkesbury were much improved now that the floods had subsided.

Paterson strongly recommended that he sail direct to Sydney but Berry felt that both from a commercial and humanitarian point of view he would sail to Sydney via Hobart Town. His decision was justified as he found living conditions to be very poor and he was able to sell all of the provisions he could spare.

Thus, when they finally arrived at Port Jackson on January 13th 1808 the cargo now consisted mostly of spirits. Alexander Berry had suffered badly from the very hot weather and immediately upon arrival he retired to bed with a high fever. Once recovered, there then ensued a succession of meetings and arguments with Governor William Bligh of Bounty fame. The first outbreak of verbal hostilities concerned the cargo – Bligh felt that he had “used this great Colony very ill in giving those paltry fellows of Dalrymple and Hobart the pick of the supplies” and that the amount of spirits was “enormous, outrageous and provocative”.

It is not surprising that Bligh should have been angered by the arrival of this amount of liquor as he had precise orders from his predecessor, Governor Gidley King, to control the spread of the effect of Rum in Sydney in these words “we do therefore strictly enjoin you to order and direct that no spirits shall be landed from any vessel coming to our settlement without your consent previously obtained for that purpose….”

Whilst Berry must have surely known of the alcohol problems in Australia, he probably had not anticipated the outburst of Bligh. Berry insisted that his sales of the other provisions were in the name of humanity in Tasmania and tempers cooled somewhat until it became known that he had spoken to John Macarthur. This name
stirred up more recriminations, for unbeknown to Berry, Macarthur was to be put on trial for having illegally imported stills against Bligh’s orders. Macarthur had as his objective the downfall of Bligh as he stood in his way of land settlement claims and spirit importation.

To Berry's extreme annoyance and disgust, the spirits from which he had been expecting a high return were ordered to be held in The Governor’s Port Jackson store. It was some time before Berry was able to obtain the release of the liquor.

There was no stability in currency during this early stage of the Colony's development and the internal economy was largely based on supplies of rum or grog. Most wages were paid in kind and often in rum so that instead of currency, financial control of the colony depended on the cornering of rum. Day to day management was in the hands of the grasping New South Wales Regiment; derided as the “Rum Corps” which was specially raised for administration purposes only and had no military experience or discipline. The officers enlisted in this Corps had only one thing in mind and that was to use their position gain a monopoly of the rum and acquire land cheaply.

Not two weeks after Berry’s arrival, and on the twentieth anniversary of the First Fleet's arrival, on 26th January 1808, the “Rum Corps” marched on Government House with Colonel Johnston at its head and deposed Governor Bligh in a farcical military coup.

Colonel Johnston requested Bligh to resign his authority and consider himself under house arrest.

The mutiny was fired by rum at the dinner on the night before and the evening after the insurrection Macarthur and his cronies led Sydney Town in a drunken celebration. William Bligh had yet another Mutiny on his hands.

In London, Johnston was found guilty of mutiny and cashiered - a very light punishment indeed. He eventually returned to NSW as a private citizen. No action was taken against any of the Regiment's officers.

John Macarthur is generally remembered as the creator of the Merino wool business in Australia – the ‘sheep’s back’ from which the Colony prospered before the discovery of gold later in the century. However, he is not often portrayed as a grasping Scot who manipulated those about him to disturb established law and order. He it was who behind the scenes provoked the “Rum Corps” into the march on Government House and the overthrow of Bligh’s Governorship which was working to bring order out of chaos in the new Colony.

Bligh travelled extensively in New South Wales and got to know the difficulties of the population under his control. The total numbers were not much above 12,000 even after nearly 20 years of settlement with about 7500 in the immediate hinterland of Sydney Town, some two thousand on the banks of the Hawkesbury and the Nepean Rivers 60 miles away and a further 2000 some 16 miles west at Parramatta.

Bligh found himself more in tune with these people trying to cope with a land of "drought and plenty" and establish a decent life, than with the traders and politically activated fortune hunters in the heart of Sydney Town.

Before Berry arrived on the scene, Bligh had already alleviated some of the effects of the disastrous Hawkesbury River flooding of 1806 when the grain crops were all but wiped out.

He arranged the slaughter of cattle from the Government herd so that meat could be distributed to the hungry settlers in the region. He went further and provided incentives for growing more grain by promising to purchase for the Government store all the surplus at a fair price of ten shillings a bushel. It resulted in the cultivation of larger areas of land than ever before.

Berry had made an offer to evacuate a shipload of settlers on Norfolk Island to Hobart in exchange for a supply of sawn timber. The trip to Norfolk Island was delayed because of re-fitting difficulties in Sydney until the winter months of July. On reaching Norfolk Island the ship was frequently driven away from the coast by storms and strong winds for weeks at a time. Captain Piper was the island Commandant and treated Berry with great hospitality. A pilot was sent aboard from whom he procured a certificate to the effect that every exertion had been made by the Master and officers and that the delay in loading the ship arose entirely from weather conditions from which the ship sustained damage.

The City of Edinburgh finally left for the River Derwent in Tasmania on 9th September 1808 where she arrived on October 2nd with 226 migrants aboard - 91 men, 29 women and 96 children. This contingent made a total of 554 people removed in eleven months from Norfolk Island.

The Acting Governor, Major Foveaux gave orders that all the timber that was ready for Berry should be used for the erection of new barracks for soldiers in Sydney. This is when Berry feels that the contract was not honoured.

Chapter 3

Because of the intransigence of the Acting Governor Foveaux plans, therefore, had to be modified because of the failure to obtain a cargo of timber or anything else for trade back at the Cape. Berry was in a dilemma because he could not risk a trip round Cape Horn with an unballasted ship.

First of all he considered a direct voyage to Fiji to obtain sandalwood but in the end he decided to go there via New Zealand where he could pick up Kauri spars.

At this time there were two types of timber in great demand – the Kauri tree, one of the tallest in the world, and ideally suited to sailing ship construction for masts and spars, and sandalwood, originally found only in India.

In the New Year, Berry once again leaves the safety of Port Jackson and heads eastwards to New Zealand which had not yet been formally constituted.

On arrival at the Bay of Islands, the ship anchored at Tippuna which was the residence of Tippahee - the chieftain who had been expected to be able to supply the spars. However, there was no timber of this sort in the district and the supplies could only be obtained from an adjoining area controlled by a chief named Tupe.

Berry therefore decided to visit Tupe by longboat but he was surprised at the distance involved and it took them all of eight hours before they reached Kowa which was Tupe’s residence. Tupe appeared, dressed in European clothes and accompanied Berry in his longboat back to the City of Edinburgh and piloted him skilfully and safely back to Kororarika where a large quantity of Kauri timber was available and launched as spars into the river in the form of a raft.

Berry has been associated with three particular species of timber since the beginning of his trading days – the Kauri tree for ships masts and spars, Sandalwood and finally when he settles in the south of New South Wales, Red Cedar. All three woods contributed to the beginnings of his commercial progress.

The Kauri, which grew prolifically in the northern half of North Island, was always in demand in the 19th century – its durable properties and its impressive trunk does not taper towards the tip and generally broadens where the branches join it - ideal for carpenters to shape and work for masts and cross spars. The gum deposits exported from New Zealand to Europe formed the early basis of varnish, paints and, later on, linoleum.

Sandalwood is a fragrant wood, applied to any of a number of woods. The 'true' sandalwood is from the genus Santalum; it is found in southern India and many south Pacific islands. It is most commonly used for insence, perfume and fine woodworking. It is said to have been used for ambalming the corpses of princes in Sri Lanka before the 9th century. Jewelry boxes, fans, and ornate carvings continue to be made in many parts of Asia using sandalwood. Today, there is a developing sandalwood industry in Western Australia.

The City of Edinburgh had taken on water off and on since leaving Cape Town but now it was clear that the voyage between Sydney and New Zealand had caused the leaks to become dangerous.

There was a risk in tying up on the shore of a country which was inhabited by unpredictable natives but with the co-operation of Chief Tupe they were able to construct temporary accommodation on the shore and guard the stores and provisions on the beach.

Part of the stock of Kauri spars was used as staging for the men to work upon the repairs - particularly the caulking of the topsides. Berry was troubled by the problem of getting at the bottom of the ship. Despite the urging of the officers he was uneasy about beaching and thus stranding the vessel in what could easily turn out to be hostile territory.

He finally devised an original scheme for having the boat "hove to" by attaching water casks to the mast heads. These were hoisted up empty and then filled manually without any rough movements which might have endangered the masts. This method was successful and Berry comments rather smugly, “What a pity that this simple and easy way of getting at a ship’s bottom did not occur to Captain Cook when he repaired his ship at Endeavour River”.

Further repairs to the hull took nearly three months but when she was righted “she was found to be as tight as a bottle”.

Finally, they set sail for Fiji and sighted the island of Tongatapu and did a brisk trade with visiting Tonganese in their trading canoes. After obtaining good fresh supplies of fruit they sighted on the following day the little island of Nomuka – today it is classified as uninhabited – and Berry searched for a safe anchorage. The Chief’s son Taomaal approached and offered to show them where the great chief Toote, as Captain Cook was called, had anchored.

On the following day Berry was invited to see the house that the Chief’s grandfather had provided for Captain Cook during his visit in either 1773 or 1777 and found it to be a long and lofty structure with more than a hundred people sleeping in hammocks slung from the roof.

Arriving at the Fijian Group in search of sandalwood, the first visit was to the island of Opuna, now re-named Tavenui, some 250 kms to the north west of the main island and without realising it, Berry and the crew fell into the arms of a cannibal tribe.

At the beginning all seemed amicable and the inhabitants treated them as friendly visiting strangers, but, without warnin on the following day, the whole crew were made prisoners and they seemed destined to end their lives as the main course for the next cannibal feast.

Berry knew from tales he had read of this cannibal region that the tooth of the sperm whale was regarded as traditionally sacrosanct and so he offered one of these as a “tapu” for their release.

After discussion amongst the elders, the Chieftain agreed to accept this as ransom and called the prisoners into his presence. Despite this understanding, Berry had serious doubts and the Chieftain then asked for the ransom to be doubled to two teeth.

Even though this turn of events seemed only to delay the inevitable, the demand was agreed to. When it was presented to the tribal chief Berry asks for permission to leave. At this point the old man began to look doubtful and hesitated to give a clear answer.

He then added that the bush was full of armed men. Berry stood up to his full height of over 6 ft and with his temper roused at this deceitfulness, he snatched back the ransom from the chief and accused him of treachery and going back on his word.

This unexpected and audacious behaviour threw the Chief and his councillors into some confusion and by standing up to them in such a manner they were so put out that after some more delay and conferring amongst themselves they were finally allowed to leave.

Berry was never sure if his apparently intemperate action saved the day or whether there was a fear amongst the tribe that the rest of the ship's crew were preparing muskets and cutlasses for a rescue attempt.

But there is a bizarre footnote to the incident - he was told many years later by a visitor to the same island and tribe that the Chief was so impressed with Berry and his crew that he wanted to appoint him as commander of his "army".

Free to leave the ship set course for the islands of Mbau and Viti Levu where they achieved their original objective of obtaining a satisfactory cargo of sandalwood.

With the primary mission accomplished, they turned to the south west for New Zealand so as to prepare for the voyage to Cape Town.

Before this work could be put in hand, Berry becomes involved in searching for the scene of the Boyd which had been reported as attacked and sunk.

The massacre of the crew and passengers of the Boyd is an ugly episode in the early history of New Zealand. The Boyd, a brigantine of 395 tons displacement was carrying over 70 people and crew; she had arrived at Port Jackson with convicts in August 1809 and was returning to England by way of New Zealand where they planned to load timber and spars from an area renowned for the Kauri tree.

The incident has been related in various versions but the treatment of one of the Maoris on board seems to have triggered the “utu” or revenge. A young son of a Whangaroan Chief, Tara was among other Maoris on board and seems to have been unhappy about his treatment. The reasons given for this are that he did not pull his weight and that the Master treated him with racial disrespect. It is likely that a combination of the two were responsible. However, the massacre and cannabilism which resulted were out of all proportion to the accusations.

Whangaroa harbour was reached safely by the Boyd and the reception by the locals seemed peaceful enough. On the day after the ship was anchored, the Maoris told the ship's master, Captain Thompson, that they would show him where to find spars for loading as cargo. On landing, there was no sign of any trouble, but, once the boats had been left high and dry by the tide and there was no means of escape, the Maoris taunted the sailors and butchered them. They then returned at nightfall dressed in the clothes of the victims to complete the massacre of those left on board the Boyd.

Berry learned of this massacre when talking to some friendly Maoris, in the Bay of Plenty, and decided to visit the scene so as to see what effects could be saved for future use, to ensure that the relatives of the survivors knew of the fate of their loved ones and to see if, by any remote chance, there were any survivors who might have hidden in the bush in the confusion.

He set off with three heavily armed boats for Whangaroa on December 31st 1809 along with the mate, James Russell and a native guide called Matenangha.

They found the wreck of the ship in shallow water by the harbour beach near Kaeo burnt out with scorched and bleached human bones scattered around. The ship had been towed until she grounded and the burning of the Boyd was not intentional but arose from an accident when Tara’s father tampering with a flintlock ignited some gunpowder killing himself and four others instantly.

Despite the suddenness and ferocity of the assaults, four people escaped with their lives - Mrs Morley and her child, Betsy Broughton daughter of Commissary Broughton and a young cabin boy Thomas Davison.

After a lengthy search by Berry and his men they came across this group of four survivors whom they were able to free from the natives nearby through the giving of a ransom.

They then searched through what was left of the Boyd and came across the ship's papers. To Berry’s amazement the find included the duplicate copies of the letters and bills he had left in Sydney for forwarding to London. These were all parcelled together along with other documents together for safe keeping on their own ship.

It was Berry’s intention to send all these to London as soon as they made the next landfall. In the event he was unable to carry out this intention until they finally landed in Lima in Peru but eventually all reached their destinations safely.

He did not take revenge on the Maori, as had been rumoured, but he decided to teach them a lesson they would never forget. A firing squad was set up and the prisoners were lined up as if for execution - the order to fire was given but no deaths resulted as he had given orders that the muskets should be loaded with powder only and no ball.

He later wrote that he was not put on this earth to be judge and executioner amongst people whose cultural traditions were different from the Europeans.

These incidents, although horrific, were not general and he was mostly on very friendly terms with the Maoris and South Sea Islanders wherever he made landfall. He rated the Fijians as being very advanced and compared them very favourably with the ancient Greeks whom he reckoned to be hardly more civilised, and in shipbuilding and navigation definitely inferior.

Berry now had the survivors from the Boyd on his own vessel. Three of them were to become part of his future life in different ways.

Betsy Broughton eventually arrived in Australia and married Charles Throsby of Throsby Park and thus became a good near neighbour of his to the south of Sydney and Davison accompanied him to the mouth of the Shoalhaven in 1822 but was drowned whilst impetuously trying to get across the sandbar at the river's mouth.


With these events behind them they now resumed their intended course for the Cape of Good Hope and left New Zealand on January 26th 1810.

Berry was relieved himself and particularly for the survivors as passengers, that the seas were calm during the early part of the voyage for it enabled them to recover their strength and morale.

This respite was not to last long for as they approached Cape Horn a violent equinoctial gale blew up and the ship's sails were badly damaged. Their problems were added to by serious damage to the rudder when the stern was struck by enormous waves which left the ship floating out of control.

Under Berry’s directions the demoralised crew managed to construct a makeshift rudder but they had drifted out of directional control for almost two weeks. There seemed to be little to be hoped for in this bleak situation in this part of the world.

One sleepless night as Berry lay awake in his creaking cabin he looked in his book chest for a copy of Virgil. Not finding it he took out the Bible which fell open at Ecclesiastes and he began to read

"Whatever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might for there is neither work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave whither thou goest"

He took this as a portent that his safety and future life would depend upon his own efforts and exertions and that positive action must take over from hopelessness and the lethargy of despair.

He regarded this event as the beginning of his determination to succeed in whatever he chose to do in the future. At once he felt buoyed up with great enthusiasm for the tasks ahead, and he was able to get his new motivation through to the crew members. He told them that only their best efforts would bring them out alive and that it would be far better to die whilst trying to improve their lot than sitting around waiting for more disaster to strike.

Two days later, the weather eased and the colour of the water changed – a sign of nearing land – as the City of Edinburgh drifted into a bay on the coast of Tierra del Fuego. Thir position was about forty miles to the south of the western entrance of the Magellan Straits where the land between them had been appropriately named Desolation Island by Captain Cook.

The bilge pumps were blocked and had ceased to function efficiently, Berry had them brought up on deck where they were cleaned and re-installed. By freeing the ship of its waterlogged state they were able to navigate more effectively and, with some difficulty they emerged from the bay.

By this time Berry could see that trading back at the Cape would have to be abandoned and he decided to sail northwards to Valparaiso – again his plans were disrupted by more storms from the north-east which their progress.

The crew, quite understandably, with rations depleted wanted to seek shelter on the coast of Patagonia but Berry insisted in pressing on even though they now had the same distance to travel to Valparaiso as from Sydney to Norfolk Island - at least a thousand miles. A month later, they were able to anchor at Concepcion where a boat was sent to Talcahuano to top up their victuals. Berry himself went to Tome for extra provisions and, some days later they arrived at Valparaiso harbour.

After a week’s rest, Berry became even less popular with the crew because of his decision to trade in Peru – a further thousand miles to the north. This they did and made a safe landfall at Callao close to the capital, Lima.

He was fortunate in choosing to harbour at Callao for the Archduke Charles had just arrived and he went aboard to meet the Captain. He was an understanding and helpful mariner to whom Berry recounted the story of the Boyd and asked him if he would take its log book to the owners in London. This was immediately agreed to and as Berry had a day or two before the ship departed he wrote up an account of the events at Whangaroa which was later published by Constable. It was at Lima that the survivors of The Boyd massacre disembarked and made their various ways back to London.

Berry then set about obtaining a cargo for the vessel which was now seaworthy again after repairs. It took him hours of discussion and bargaining before he was able to obtain a satisfactory cargo of copper, tin and Peruvian bark. Before setting sail for Cadiz via Rio de Janeiro, the City of Edinburgh sailed further 800 miles north to Guayaquil in Ecuador to fill up with cacoa to complete the cargo – a further 800 miles north.

With the cargo complete it was time to retrace their course to the south and then north again on the eastern coast of South America with a distance in prospect of about seven thousand miles. The destination of Rio de Janeiro, was on the same latitude as Lima on the opposite coast of South America. This time they rounded the Horn without mishap or incident and the weather was reasonably good all the way to Rio.

The next leg from Rio was to be the last journey for the City of Edinburgh. Shortly after leaving the safety of the massive natural harbour at Rio they encountered more storms which finally overwhelmed this well-tried ship. They were near to The Azores when the ship became waterlogged, and, with the longboat damaged, it was necessary to lighten the City of Edinburgh by jettisoning all non-essential items. Those on board hung on until the very last moment but finally left the ship when the water was almost level with the lower deck.

So ended the doughty career of the City of Edinburgh having started as a re-named prize of war and sailed some fifty thousand miles, many of which were in uncharted seas. It was four and a half years since Berry had first sailed in her from Cape Town to Australia.

The long boat looked to be very crowded, so much so that five of the crew decided to abandon it and trust their lives to the smaller boat.

Whilst this decision may have helped the rest, sight of the five was lost after dark and they were never seen again. Berry’s boat leaked badly and all night they ran before the south-westerly storm with everyone frantically bailing with anything that came to hand. When the wind moderated they could see the mountain tops of Fayal. For the next thirty six hours they ran before a heavy northerly gale, but at daylight they found themselves north of The Azores group and with the wind now shifting to the south they were able to look for a landing on the island of Graciosa.

Chapter 5

They signalled to a group quarry workers who indicated a safe sandy cove and soon after reaching dry land Mr Bethancourt, the island Administrator whose house was nearby. All of Berry’s possessions, with the exception of his watch which he kept with him until his death, were lost – his treasured books, precious papers and most of his clothes. He arrived barefoot ashore without even a pair of socks to his name.

Whilst Berry was glad to recover his strength in the pleasant surroundings of Graciosa, he found Mr Bethancourt’s religious correctness as a strict Roman Catholic rather irksome. Berry was anxious to get on with his business affairs and was relieved when arrangements were at last made for them to sail to the harbour of Angra on the island of Terceira.

He was welcomed by the British Consul but, as soon as it became known that he was a medical man, he found himself in great demand for consultations owing to the shortage of doctors.

Within a week or so the battle schooner Thetis arrived in the Bay and Berry was given passage to St Michael’s Island from where they were able to obtain passage to Lisbon aboard a cargo transport the John. During this trip, Berry once again helped a Ship’s Master with his navigation by instructing him in the proper use of the sextant.

Berry seems to have received a cool welcome from the British Consul in Lisbon, Mr Jeffreys. He was extremely unhelpful considering Berry’s experiences and problems and Berry records that the last time he had been treated so badly was when he met Governor Bligh in Sydney. Berry writes “I suppose he was a descendant of the notorious Judge Jeffreys of James the Second”.

Having left Jeffrey’s office he found that his shipboard acquaintance Toledo had already obtained a passage on the Confianza bound for Cadiz the following morning. Toledo immediately returns to the Spanish Ambassador and obtains an order for Berry’s passage to Cadiz as well. On the following day Berry goes aboard the ship which was at anchor near the mouth of the Tagus.

Having been introduced to two Spaniards who had been on the ship since London, he asked them who they were waiting for – it turned out to be Edward Wollstonecraft who had been transacting business with the De Zastel company - a large Spanish merchant from London. This was to be a significant and happy meeting for the two of them despite the fact that initial impressions were not encouraging. Wollstonecraft is introduced in Berry’s words as “a tall, formal-looking young man, dressed in black, came on board, who had some conversation with his friends, and I saw that he gave me a look askance, but did not take any further notice of me. He took a book out of his pocket and sat down on a seat on the deck and began to read it.”

Despite Wollstonecraft’s somewhat aloof manner, Berry sat himself down next to him and asked if, whilst in De Zastel’s office, he had heard of a ship named the City of Edinburgh. Wollstonecraft replied by saying that the vessel was long overdue and he thought that it must have perished after such a long period without news.

To his surprise he learns that Berry is the owner. He is amazed and intrigued by the story of the City of Edinburgh from the owner’s mouth.

Berry soon realises that Edward would probably be related to Mary Wollstonecraft as he had read “The Vindication of the Rights of Women.” Edward revealed rather reluctantly that she was his aunt and it was clear that it was a family connection of which he was not particularly proud.

Berry says “This is the way our acquaintance commenced. Wollstonecraft afterwards became my partner and his only sister became my wife. We always lived together in the same house and as members of the same family until death parted us. He died in 1832 and my wife in 1845. My wife spoke French like a Parisian, and our tastes as regards literature were nearly alike.”

Despite this initially unpropitious meeting it led to a business relationship and friendship between them which developed and prospered as a partnership until Edward’s death.

Berry, was the more entrepreneurial and adventurous whilst he, with something of a legal background, was an excellent organiser and a man who gave great attention to detail. They were ideal complementary personalities and without his solid support and background Berry could never have achieved what he did. As the friendship between Berry and Wollstonecraft developed they agreed to share lodgings together in Cadiz and after more discussion it was agreed that Edward should become Berry’s agent in London and eventually his business partner.

The voyage to Cadiz passed without incident but Berry still seems to attract danger wherever he goes and, no sooner had they anchored in the harbour, than Marshal Soult having repaired his guns renewed his bombardment of the City which had started earlier in February 1810. Most of the missiles landed amongst the shipping and these were replied to by the naval vessels so that the “fiery missiles” were criss-crossing each other very noisily. Berry just complains of the headaches caused by the noise – as for sleeping at night “I slept in the Posada and was the only one in the house that slept; all the others keeping on the watch all night. But I had now become so reckless that I did not care a button for Soult and his missiles. When one went over me I always awoke but fell asleep again; Soult’s missiles were moonshine to the dangers I had undergone”.

It was during these bombardments that the difference in attitudes of Berry and Wollstonecraft were illustrated by their reaction to the dangers of the siege. Soult re-commenced another bombardment a day or two later and after someone had been killed in the fish market Wollstonecraft said “We had better get out of this” – Berry’s response was that there was very little danger and it is “50,000 to one against them hitting us”. Wollstonecraft replied – “I have no objection to your calculation of chances, but I like my own better.”

Shortly after this, Edward left for London leaving Alexander to transact his insurance claims. Berry was involved in protracted negotiations with these claims and litigation stretching back to dealings with Shortt in Cape Town and Foveaux in Sydney.

Before Berry can leave for London he succumbs to a Yellow Fever epidemic in Cadiz – he describes in detail how he suffered from this infection and he became increasingly depressed over his weakened physical condition. Finally, after taking advice from local Spanish friends he starts to recover and looks for a passage to England. He finally embarks on a small boat which had arrived from Exeter and hopes that he is on the last leg of his world journey. Berry’s troubles are still not yet over, for, on the second day at sea they were captured by “a Yankee privateer near Cape St Vincent.”

He put together his clothes and papers in a leather portmanteau but the trunk of old Spanish books which head collected since the sinking of the City of Edinburgh, was confiscated and, to add insult to injury, whilst on the gangway one of the officers pretending to help him seized his portmanteau which he never saw again.

The Captain treated him in a surly fashion and had a rough and motley crew “of English, Irish and Scotch renegades.” A sail was seen in the distance and the privateer gave chase to what turned out to be a Swedish ship from Gothenburg and ordered them to take the English prisoners on board with him. Here Berry was well looked after on the voyage to Malaga where, with the help of the Consul, he found suitable lodgings.

He was introduced to a man by the name of Kirkpatrick who became the grandfather of the French Empress Eugenie. This Hanoverian Consul, from the Clan McPatrick, gave Berry much help during his short stay.

He was also a wine expert with his own vineyard and was to be of great assistance to James Busby when he made his tour of Spain and France in 1831. In a sense, therefore, the two Australian pioneers, both born in Scotland, unknowlingly crossed paths in Malaga before they were to have greater contact in Sydney in later years.

The only route to England because of a shipping shortage was to be via Cadiz. He returns to Cadiz in company with his French friend M. Legal and returns to his former lodgings. Weeks later, Berry finds that the Captain of the ship which had brought him from Malaga now has freight for Bristol and Liverpool and provides him with passage to Bristol – this time the voyage was without incident.

The journey by coach from Bristol to London was extremely uncomfortable but he arrived safely at Greenwich “more an invalid than anything else for I had never entirely recovered from the effects of Yellow Fever”.

Berry was at Greenwich until 1819, still working on the insurance claims for the loss of the City of Edinburgh. Wollstonecraft and he had many discussions about the potential for trade and business with the Antipodes. By the time the insurance claims had been satisfactorily completed they had decided to start trading with Australia. Berry’s own experiences in that region indicated the potential for profitable business exploitation. Berry therefore arranged to sail as Superintendent of Cargo to Sydney on July 31st 1819, having said a fond farewell to Elizabeth for whom he had conceived and developed considerable affection during his stay in Greenwich, on the chartered ship Admiral Cockburn. He was to be followed shortly by Edward who arrived in September on the Canada.

They both worked vigorously in Sydney to build up their various business ventures and Berry remained in there until March 1st 1820 before returning to London in the Admiral Cockburn.

They were engaged in many complex business deals for it was a time of rapid development and change for Australia with the lessening of convict transportation and with free settlement becoming the major economic and social influence.

Edward was in full and dominant command of the administrative business arrangements using his organising and administrative skills to great advantage whilst Berry was looking further ahead to the possibilities of obtaining grants of land for the future and doing his best to get them recognised by the members of the hierarchy in Sydney Town.

He was particularly keen to get on good terms with Governor Macquarie and in this he was successful - he later learned that The Governor had become aware of his business activities before he sailed here on the Admiral Cockburn for he had recorded in his Diary for the arrival date in July that "this date arrived Admiral Cockburn - Capt J Briggs, A Berry Supercargo".

In order to strengthen their wishes to exploit and develop pasturage and acreage he had been given a letter of reference from the Colonial Office in London which could have enabled the Governor to authorise the issue of a grant of land to the two of them.

However, Berry decided to stay his hand on the use of this letter until the last possible moment and, in the event, not at all as he felt that they would be better served by applying from a position of established strength as local business developers than through influence from the Home Government.

Berry therefore wrote to the Governor in a memorandum requesting a grant of land. He made the point that there was still money owing to the firm of Berry and Wollstonecraft from the time of the timber deal with Foveaux.

He included a statement regarding his intention to return to England so as to bring out another large cargo most of which would consist of agricultural implements as well as a flock of merino sheep. He had had this in mind after his talks with Macarthur when he first arrived in Sydney during Bligh’s spell as Governor.

He had expected that these points would be strong enough to influence Macquarie in granting pasturage.

However, the reply was very disappointing and indecisive. There was a loophole or a lifeline in the letter which indicated that his instructions prevented him from making grants to any person who could not settle in the Colony or at least reside in the Colony. He concluded by saying that he would consider a grant to him after he had returned from the voyage to which he had referred and taken up residence.

In the meantime, during the few months that he was in NSW before returning the following year Berry visited the Hunter Valley to the north of Sydney where coal was being mined with agriculture developing harmoniously alongside and over the seams of coal.

He was much more interested in the Southern Highlands around Berrima and Bong Bong and estimated that the area would be much more favourable than the Hunter for a mixed agricultural development. On his return from the Southern Highlands he did his best to promote these plans to those with political clout, chief amongst whom was, of course, The Governor, and he asked for permission to select land in the Berrima area. This came to nothing as it seems that Macquarie had forgotten his request with the press of other affairs on his hands and his absence in England.

Nevertheless, he was strengthening his reputation and standing with Macquarie who now regarded him as one of the principal merchants of Sydney. Furthermore, he was asked to act as a "King's Messenger" by being entrusted with confidential despatches from the Governor to the Home Government in London –

"this Despatch will be delivered to Your Lordship by Mr Alexander Berry, an eminent Merchant of this place, whom I take the liberty of Strongly recommending to your Lordship's kind patronage and Protection; Mr Berry being well acquainted with the present State and Resources of this Colony, the principal parts which he has seen, I beg leave to refer your Lordship to him for such information respecting it, as You may be desirous of being put in possession of"

But, in spite of this recommendation, Berry knew from local talk that it would be unwise to pin too much faith in Macquarie's position now that he was due to be replaced as Governor by Sir Thomas Brisbane.

Berry sets off for London once more in the Admiral Cockburn to enlarge their export business connections. Edward Wollstonecraft remained in Sydney to look after their store by the Harbour and fight the long legal battle with his original business partner in South Africa, Francis Shortt.

Berry made it his business, whilst delivering the despatches to the Home Government, to get in touch with the newly appointed Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane. When they met he expressed surprise that the new Governor was not to be granted the use of a frigate with naval protection for such an important trip. But Sir Thomas replied that the way things were "that I had my allowance and would have to finance my journey from that alone".

Berry saw the opportunity here to help Sir Thomas and his family and at the same time further his own interests in obtaining land grants. He was able to charter the Royal George, which was loaded with an immense cargo and, at the same time, was able to offer excellent accommodation for Sir Thomas and his family and his entourage which was gratefully accepted.

Even though Sir Thomas would be in a privileged position in Sydney it was still only thirty three years since the First Fleet had anchored in Port Jackson harbour and so he was probably glad to have the acquaintance of someone like Berry who had seen the Colony at first hand and knew the structure of its political, social and business fabric.

Also aboard the Royal George was Thomas Davison the cabin boy whom he had rescued at Whangaroa and had subsequently taken to Lima. From Lima, Davison had made his own way to London which at the time Berry had thought rather ungrateful. Now, he had got in touch with him again and asked if he might sail as an able bodied seaman on the vessel and take employment with him.

During Berry’s absence, Edward Wollstonecraft had not been idle and had built on the contacts made by Berry with Macquarie. In the event, Macquarie had agreed to a grant of 2000 acres based on the fact that Edward was resident in Australia.

Edward then took up 524 acres of this grant as a start on the North shore of Sydney. He chose this area because he found the store and accommodation at Lower George Street bad for his health. Unfortunately, Edward was to be dogged by poor health throughout his life in Australia and he never attained the longevity of his partner.

This was the beginning of the popularity of the North Shore which had been much neglected because of the difficulty of the Parramatta river crossing from the town centre on the south bank of the Harbour.

Wollstonecraft had built for himself a modest cottage which because of its elevated position he called Crow's Nest Farm Cottage. His sister, Mrs Berry, described it as pretty “in a picturesque situation surrounded by geraniums, roses and orange blossom”. Until its demolition in 1905 it stood on the north west corner of present day Shirley Road and Nicholson Street and looked down to Berry’s Bay and the River Parramatta. It was an apt and appropriate choice, being in such a commanding position and overlooked their development of stores and wharves on the harbour shore close by.

By now, the firm of Berry & Wollstonecraft had become one of the most successful mercantile businesses in the Colony. They owned and chartered many ships and were involved in the import and export of timber, wool, hides and other merchandise.

They can claim to be amongst the first exporters of Australia's staple resource - coal. In 1823, for example, Berry sold 180 tons to Rio de Janeiro by taking advantage of contacts made during his earlier visit. More was to follow as the Hunter Valley became extensively mined.

Although their business was developing in an excellent fashion, Berry still felt considerable disappointment at not having been given grants of land in the Berrima district. Because of this, they seriously considered putting all their resources into mercantile import and export business dealings and put on one side the immediate idea of investing in agricultural and farming developments.

However, Berry’s Fife background and breeding had put land and farming into his blood and he was determined to bring the two together for the future. Although he had said to his partner that they should concentrate on trade, he still continued to seek ways and means of obtaining a grant before too many new settlers beat him to the available opportunities.

Both partners kept in social touch with those of influence as they wanted to make sure that the voyage in the Royal George in which Berry had accommodated the new Governor would be to their ultimate advantage.

In January 1822 Berry sailed in the Snapper with the Governor's agreement to explore the South coast. Firmly fixed in Berry’s mind was the idea that this would give him the opportunity to assess the potential of the area and to consider where he might, given a reasonable grant, establish an agricultural and forestry settlement.

He had read of George Bass’s visit, in an open whale boat, to the mouth of the Shoals Haven River in 1797. He was also intrigued by the fact that most reports of the area were generally unfavourable - even Surveyor-General Oxley had only looked at it superficially in 1820 - and he believed that this was because no-one before had really thought of making a serious assessment of the immediate interior and hinterland.

He knew that stands of red cedar, the only indigenous deciduous tree in Australia, were plentiful in the area and had been forested some ten years earlier near Kiama just to the north. He was keen to assess the amount available as it would demand high prices in Sydney Town.

After his return from this exploratory expedition he described it along with the geology of the coast in a paper which he read to the newly-formed Philosophical Society – the forerunner of the Royal Society of New South Wales - of which Wollstonecraft was a foundation member.

Whilst he was thus involved in exploration, pressure on the Governor from England to reduce overall expenditure in the Colony helped matters in general to swing in favour of the partners’ wishes for a substantial grant of land.

Sir Thomas, in order to meet his new instructions, began to amend the terms appertaining to land grants to the effect that with every 1000 acres allocated to free settlers, one convict would have to be taken on and maintained for a statutory period of at least eight years by the grantee.

This was a move designed to cut down on the cost to the Government of maintaining convicts and which was put at £16.00 annually per man.

This change in policy was a great opportunity for the partners to apply for a grant of about 10,000 acres. They immediately applied for this acreage to the north of the Shoalhaven River in addition to the 3500/4000 acres which had already been granted south of the river. They were happy to give an undertaking to maintain the 100 convicts free of charge for 10 years and the area granted was located between Broughton Creek now the town of Berry, Gerringong, Nowra and the sea.

As the cost of maintaining convicts was put at £16.00 per annum, they were renting land at £16,000 spread over for ten years, or £1600 a year for 10,000 acres. A bargain indeed; but in the event it was much more advantageous than that as the demand for "government men" exceeded supply and they never had to support the full establishment of convicts.

Berry’s reasons for choosing the Shoalhaven were based on the lack of confinement to a narrow coastal strip and the fact that the River Shoalhaven within its fertile valley length was likely to have good alluvial land.

The area was dominated by the "mountain" of Coolangatta and the position and greenness of the countryside - despite the brush - reminded Berry of his farming youth in Fife. But he was also impressed with the three main qualities of the area - good sea communications from the Shoalhaven and Crookhaven to Sydney; the immediate prospect of good profits from felling cedar followed by the development of mixed agriculture on good alluvial earth as the land was cleared.


Chapter 1

The grand venture begins with the purchase of the Blanch, a half-decked boat bought from the Government for £250.00 which was then loaded with sufficient supplies to tide them over a lengthy period. As a sign of their mixed farming intentions there were two boars and six sows on board.
Berry was delighted that Hamilton Hume had agreed to accompany them as his knowledge of the hinterland immediately beyond Mt Coolangatta towards Kangaroo Valley was considerable. Hume was also a great protagonist of Berry’s project.

The experiences were a mixture of extremes – including loss of life, the cutting of Australia’s first canal, exhilaration at the potential and concern over the difficulties to be surmounted. Berry however, never despaired.
Davison was in charge of the vessel as it cleared Sydney Heads very early on June 22nd 1822 and Berry, in his forty first year, was in good spirits as he saw this new journey as an astute gamble to provide a great leap forward for the partnership.

The next day June 23rd at 6.30 a.m. they saw Cullingatty Hill as Berry termed it about 10 miles to the south west at the southern extremity of Seven Mile Beach. The view today from Black Head at Gerroa to Mt Coolangatta is much the same as on Berry’s visit with Seven Mile Beach extending southwards in a crescent with its attendant dark vegetation and inland swamps.

Berry had noted the dangerous sand bar at The Shoalhaven estuary during his earlier visit and although the weather was good on this occasion and the sea smooth, heavy surf and breakers stretched across the river entrance. Despite Berry’s fears, Davison was certain that they could cross it and believed that the dangerous appearance was due to the glare of the sun. Reluctantly, Berry agreed that he should take a boat, manned with volunteers and examine the entrance.

Davison was accompanied by Kelly, Dunn, Turner and Charcoal the Aborigine. As they approached the breakers Berry became alarmed and signalled that they should return to safety. They took notice at first and put the boat about, but, after some discussion amongst themselves they turned and made an ill-fated attempt to find a way through. Almost at once the boat capsized and they were seen struggling in the surf and trying to cling to the boat. Shortly after, they were washed away and neither the boat nor the men could be seen from the Blanch. Berry and his crew then made for Crook Haven River and as they entered it they saw Charcoal walking along the outer beach. He was taken on board in an exhausted condition and said that as far as he could tell all the others had drowned.

It was decided to make a search along the beach from which Charcoal had appeared. Two hours later the team returned with Turner who had floated ashore by hanging on to the boat and they were just in time to save Dunn’s life who had managed to keep afloat in the surf. He was hauled ashore given, some restorative spirits and water and started to recover by the warmth from the hastily kindled fire. Next he was brought on board the Blanch in a weak and very badly bruised condition. The boat was also recovered but Davison and Kelly were never seen again.

The convicted men were, unsurprisingly, a surly lot and so to avoid any problems Berry soon put them to work with what spades were available under the supervision of the overseer to try to cut a channel across the isthmus at the place where they were able, on the day following the fatal accident, to haul the boat over the sandbar into the Shoalhaven River.
Although the resulting "canal" was but 209 yards in length, Berry was surprised at the extent of their achievement considering the inadequacy of the tools in their possession in both design and quality.
It was finished in twelve days and was the first canal cut in the Colony. They all watched the swirling waters with some pride as they flowed through the gap for they had changed the face of nature there forever and created the present day entrance to the Shoalhaven River. As the waters continued their unchecked passage, it soon became wider and deeper.
This pioneering work also created the island of Comerong which was bounded by Seven Mile Beach, Crookhaven Heads, the Shoalhaven and the Crook Haven River linked by what is today called Berry’s Canal on topographical maps. A chain-drawn ferry, traversing the canal, now links the mainland to Comerong Island
Berry was now determined to explore inland and while the canal was being cut he had set off on 30th June up river in a small boat and struck camp at Bomaderry.
After returning to the base camp set up earlier at the foot of Mt Coolangatta, he then climbed to its summit and surveyed the wide expanse of country spread out around him.
The view was truly magnificent. Australia is a land of expansive views but this area was exceptional in its balanced aesthetic proportions and subtlety of contours and slopes, so much so that it reminded him of his native Scotland and other parts of Great Britain.
He then re-crossed the river and walked through the brush and examined the fertile land around Numbaa and Terara south of the river. He was satisfied that this should be included in the grant of land and spent the night in a hut near to the canal excavations.
On July 2nd there was more land evaluation, tracking and other exploratory activities as they followed the course of Broughton Creek which is a tributary of the Shoalhaven coming into it from the north east. From what is now the town of Berry, they then headed to Black Point, the headland at Gerroa and finally returned to their base camp.
Two days later they again crossed the Shoalhaven River and Berry decided on the site for their first settlement on level ground at the very foot of Mt Coolangatta and where from this point the ground falls away gracefully and gently towards the north and towards the sea and the river. Here they had another Crow's Nest vantage point in the south to match the one at North Sydney established by Edward Wollstonecraft.
Berry seems to have been concerned at the amount of effort which would be required from his team to achieve his dream. Their first attempts to clear land were frustrated by the density of the brush. Hamilton Hume was supervising this effort but owing to the inferior nature of the tools available this was very quickly abandoned.
After all their initial successes in finding the area and seeing the potential this left Berry frustrated, depressed and disappointed.
He decided to view the panorama once more. He climbed to the summit of Mt Coolangatta which had drawn him here in the first place and he was re-invigorated and inspired by the view. Reviewing the scene made him even more determined to develop this area.
From the site of where the settlement was to be based looking up to Mt Coolangatta there is a striking resemblance to Berry’s birthplace and the hill behind. A comparison of the Ordnance Survey maps of north eastern Fife and the Australian topographical maps of Shoalhaven show this clearly. This resemblance was emphasised in 1981 in a report in the Fife Herald News of a visit of the Cupar Historical Society in June of that year.

“The members went up to Hilltarvit Mains to see the house where Alexander Berry was born and to view the farm generally where this famous settler grew up. In the company was Dr Philip Hill of the University Department of Astronomy, who had just returned from Australia and who had been to the Shoalhaven and Coolangatta.”
Standing at the front door of the farmhouse and looking up to the top of Wemysshall Hill Dr Hill remarked upon the similarity of the site to that of the settlement of Berry’s at the foot of Coolangatta Hill.

Standing there in 1822 amongst the huts at the base of Coolangatta and looking upwards, it is not improbable that Berry’s “inward eye” saw himself standing outside his old home and looking up to the top of Wemysshall Hill.

Returning from the summit, Berry soon let his determination show in the fact that within a couple of days or so, huts were being erected on the settlement site alongside stockades for penning the cattle which were to be brought in from Sydney and the sties for the pigs which they had brought with them.
Whilst progress was now in train, Hamilton Hume had gone on an exploratory visit to the west looking for a way across the mountain ranges. He could see that it would be advantageous to have two routes to Sydney - one by sea and the other overland. Berry went with Hume to assess the condition of the tracks and to see if they were on strata which would provide a safe and stable overland route to Sydney through the Southern Highlands.
After this he continued to beat the boundaries of his new domain whilst the unloading of the Blanch continued.
Once he had satisfied himself as to the likely limits of their land grant he started to prepare a report for the Governor. When this had been done, on July 23rd, a month or so after entering the Crookhaven entrance, he boarded the Blanch once again and left the Shoal Haven en route for Sydney crewed by himself as Master, with a Steward and two or three natives.
He was aware that regardless of his enthusiasm and optimism for the future of the area selected, there was doubt in the minds of others who could only see the problems and not the opportunities. He was pleased, however, that Edward Wollstonecraft supported his forecasts for the future of the area wholeheartedly.
The opinion and reports which the experienced and reputable Hamilton Hume had circulated on his return to Sydney of the success in clearing the site and, in particular, his success in gaining the confidence and co-operation of the local Aborigines was invaluable. This latter point was of great significance at a time when conflicts arose between settlers and the indigenous tribes through ignorance, indifference and resentment on both sides.
He could now go ahead and register his area claims and did so. These were approved in principle subject to official surveys to be done in the future. But much work and clearance had been done on the settlement and nearly eight years were to pass before the grant of land was officially confirmed and in the meanwhile there was much bureaucratic procrastination.
He was convinced that he had been wholly right in maintaining his good and friendly relationships with Sir Thomas Brisbane whom he had brought out as a passenger on the Royal George. Subsequent events over the registration of title confirmed this view.
Once the Grant was confirmed Berry immediately expanded the area they had been granted and in later years between 1837 and 1840 thousands of acres were added to the estate by further purchases from the Crown or from original grantees. By 1840 the estate covered nearly fifty square miles.
Further acquisitions were made so that by the mid-nineteenth century the territory extended to over 100 square miles - an unprecedented empire, the first of its size in Australia, had been established in the course of thirty years.
Whilst Berry was working away energetically at the settlement in the south, his partner, ahead of the official grant was none the less busy on other business matters in Sydney.
Because Berry was so focused on this settlement and could not delegate the running of the operation to anyone else, Edward's immediate plans to go back to London in furtherance of more import and export trade were disrupted through Berry’s earlier dealings in South Africa. This arose from the fact that Francis Shortt with whom Berry had been in partnership from the time of the purchase of the City of Edinburgh, some sixteen years earlier, had arrived in Sydney without warning at about the time of Berry’s departure for the Shoalhaven. He immediately started legal proceedings against the two partners, jointly and severally. The case dragged on inconclusively for some five years and was finally ended with Shortt’s death.

Chapter 2
As general merchants, shipping agents, importers and exporters and retailers, the partners managed to blend their backgrounds of farming, shipping, commerce and the law very effectively so that apart from importing a wide range of merchandise they were amongst the first to gain the benefits from opening up Australia's export markets.
And then they became involved in shipbuilding as well. Although Berry had looked at the overland route with Hume during the first stay at Coolangatta it was to be a long time before these routes became a practical option for the regular transport of merchandise.

Therefore, in order to sell the produce from Coolangatta in Sydney and because of the paucity of road links, they were forced to start shipbuilding for their own use at Shoalhaven.
As the agricultural production accelerated they then had to construct a large store in 1830 on the western side of what became to be called Berry's Bay in Sydney Harbour alongside the existing wharf built there by Wollstonecraft. The other Berry’s Bay is still to be seen at the edge of the Shoalhaven River not far from the present entrance to the Estate where Berry’s ships were built and loaded with produce for Sydney Town.

In the two years between the time in 1822 when Berry selected and decided on the site for his settlement, had cut the canal, by 1824, the efforts to drain the swampy ground and clear the bush had gone well. Berry must be credited with his ability and persuasiveness to get the convicts motivated.

He was now keen to expand the dairying side of the operation and so he bought cattle from various settlers in the Sydney area with the first draft of cattle brought down to the settlement during these early years.
There were only 72 beasts in all but they formed the breeding base for the dairy industry which has developed in the Illawarra region and spread beyond the boundaries of the estate. He liked to feel that this dairy bloodline would extend down the years long after his death and be a living testimony to his efforts.

Berry, being the first in the area to create the concept of a farming village community, also became the first to set up a dairy on the south coast. Within two years of his arrival, he records that “a shipment of farm produce to Sydney – included in this shipment 78 lbs of butter and 20 cheeses”. So, by the end of 1824 his first dairying trade with Sydney Town had begun.

Within another ten years or so the dairying herd at Coolangatta had increased in quantity and quality. Whilst the first dairy structures were hurriedly installed and crudely made from packed mud, as the brickfield production improved, later buildings were more substantial. On his grants south of the river a large dairy was developed at Jindiandy close to Upper Numbaa.

By September 1840, Alexander Berry writing from Sydney was asking for plans of the new buildings, dairy and barn which were in course of construction. Within two years they were milking 200 cows.

Butter production increased to meet demand but at this time the methods used were primitive and unhygienic. The making of butter was a “cottage” industry with the plentiful supply of timber making construction of milking rooms and verandahs easy for the siting of “holding” pans. After hand-milking the liquid would be placed in these broad shallow “settling” pans and after a day or two when the cream had risen to the top, it would be scooped off and made into butter in box churns. Mostly it was churned by hand although on larger farms, horse-driven churns were employed. The resulting butter was washed and rinsed with whatever water came to hand – be it from roof tanks, wells or streams and creeks. The surplus sour milk and buttermilk flowed through wooden drains to the piggeries.

The butter itself would be placed in boxes with salt added and left overnight for this to penetrate the mass. Then it would be packed into wooden kegs before shipment to Sydney by sea.

The Coolangatta residence had been started in 1823 and completed a year later - the buildings were arranged on a classical courtyard layout enclosed on three sides by stables, a store and the homestead.
The demand for tobacco was always strong amongst the increasing population of Sydney and their first crop was extremely profitable. This came to two tons in weight in 1823. It had other advantages in that free distribution to the convict labourers markedly improved their attitude.
Much fruitful agricultural production came from the work at Numbaa in the alluvial plain and here and in adjoining areas saw the planting of wheat, maize, barley along with the establishment of orchards and market gardens.
Thus, in a very short time, the plans for diversified and mixed farming were showing great promise and this was especially gratifying in view of the rather gloomy forecasts made by many people who had only assessed the area superficially in the first place. The ten years from establishing the settlement to the death of Edward Wollstonecraft in 1932 sees an expansion of agriculture and forestry on the site out of all proportion to the equipment available
Within two years at Numbaa combined with the Coolangatta site over 300 acres of land had been cleared and cleaned for cultivation. Already cropping were 120 acres of wheat, 3 of barley and 5 of tobacco. The orchards took up a further 12 acres.

Livestock consisted of 15 horses, 600 horned cattle and 350 hogs and these were being increased steadily.

At Numbaa the farming activities expanded further with new varieties of "red" wheat being sown and varied with barley, oats, flax and hemp. whilst back in Sydney regular shipments from the south arrived so that additional warehouses and wharves were built or acquired.

At this time locally produced maize was added to the daily food ration for the working staff. Following on from this and as recommended by Berry, the Government agreed that maize meal in place of wheat should be issued to all prisoners employed by the Crown. This was a shrewd recommendation by Berry as he held a contract to supply the Government with 700 bushels of good maize at five shillings and nine pence a bushel.

In August 1829 the first shipment of sheep arrived at Numbaa and in the following month a parcel of "Sea Island" cotton seeds were used for a trial planting.
The standing cedar in the area had always attracted interest for profitable investment and seven "free" men were taken on and they agreed to saw timber for Berry at Broughton Creek. The overseeing sawyer had measured 630,000 feet of cedar and further successful finds of standing cedar for cedar were made by the overseer Souter in surrounding areas.
Six rafts of cedar logs were despatched to Sydney in December where demand was continually increasing.
The success of the enterprise was now being recognised and a letter from James Atkinson a noted NSW expert in agriculture reads as follows: " the improvement you have effected in clearing, enclosing and especially drainage are extremely judicious and reflect infinite credit on your judgement and spirit and I have no doubt you will experience great and permanent benefit from them. I have never seen anything at all approaching to these in the Colony, and they are highly worthy of imitation. The improvements are in fact in such magnitude and character that I could hardly recognise the place as it is now six years since I was there last...."

De Mestre, had lately received a grant of 1300 acres next to the 2000 acre grant to Berry at Numbaa and this was of some concern to Berry as he had no wish to have his property overseen.

In addition, this property took in Terara Village and a stretch along the river bank to Nowra. De Mestre called the estate of his Terara, the name of which may have derived from Terar in Martinique where de Mestre was born. Thirty years later, Etienne de Mestre was making plans to be owner of the first winner of Australia’s equivalent of the English Derby, the Melbourne Cup, and entered two horses for the opening meet on November 7th 1861. Inheritor had been bred by de Mestre but Archer whose name is famous for having won the race two years in a row was leased for the race and had been bred in Braidwood – a famous gold town between Goulburn and the coast. He was a powerful horse at 16.2 hands and had a rolling gait when galloping and was noted for racing with his tongue hanging out. The name is commemorated in numerous streets all over the country.
Berry was now finding that more and more grants were bordering his property and he became embroiled in much argument and legal action to prevent encroachment.
The development of the estate up to 1827 was mapped in pencil showing the country north of and including the Shoalhaven River to the head of Broughton Creek. It marks Pig Island (Burraga), Broughton Creek, Bomaderry Creek and shows the western side of Broughton Creek as a "Large Swamp".

The partnership with Edward Wollstonecraft comes to an end with his premature death in 1832. Edward never seems to have been in good health from the time he arrived in the Colony. He found the atmosphere in George Street where they had the main Sydney business enterprise uncongenial and moved to clearer air on the Sydney North Shore. He suffered an undefined fever combined with a skin disease whilst at Coolangatta which resulted in a steady decline and eventual death. It meant that he never lived long enough to see the fruits of their joint enterprise and although he and Berry often had disagreements, his contribution to the success of the Berry vision was vital. Half of his estate was left to his sister and the remainder to Berry.

The value of the linkage of Berry to the Wollstonecraft family should not be under-estimated even though Alexander may seem to be centre stage most of the time. Berry throughout his life was a risk-taker and had survived many dangerous situations at sea and on land and was quite fearless in the face of overwhelming odds. Edward Wollstonecraft, on the other hand, was more cautious and gave much attention to detail and this buttressed Berry’s bolder actions and contributed greatly to the success of the overall venture in Australia.

After the death of Edward Wollstonecraft in 1832 Berry becomes obsessed with the need for a replacement to help him – he would prefer the family despite his often expressed criticisms. But not long before Edward’s death he writes to David Berry about the visit to England of Dr Cook - Berry’s general physician – and the fact that the family declined to accompany the doctor to Australia even though passages had been booked. The doctor showed Berry a letter of excuse from John and Berry angrily writes to the family “I must say that I cannot fathom what you are about…….. I have often while unable to manage my affairs properly had seriously to lament that I had so many brothers who preferred a life of idleness at Cromwell Park to coming here to assist me.”

Later in 1834 again writing to the elder brother John he pointed out that he would by now have been very well off financially had he joined in at Shoalhaven – he goes on to say - “Since the death of my partner I have been struggling with my unwieldy concern…….. if you do not soon make your appearance there are only two safe courses to adopt; either to break up my establishment, or to adopt some steady young man in your place and to renounce you all for ever. As the establishment is daily advancing to perfection the latter is what you will compel me to do…”

This threat seemed to have its effect, although it was not until two years later that the family finally took ship for Sydney. However, John Berry wrote in June 1835 that all the family had finally decided to “set off immediately” and he hoped that not many months would pass before he would have the pleasure of meeting Alexander at Sydney. Nevertheless, “immediately” in the event meant another year was to pass before they arrived in the Mid Lothian from Leith.


The three brothers, John, William and David accompanied by two of the three sisters, Janet and Nancy, finally settled at Coolangatta for the rest of their lives. Barbara remained in Scotland and married George Armitt.
Alexander had started to exhort his family to emigrate to Coolangatta to help in his enterprise with the idea in mind of creating a Berry family dynasty, by the time his father died in 1827.

During the time between Edward’s death and the arrival of the family members, Alexander and his wife Elizabeth spent a good deal of their time at Coolangatta.

The new Berry family members were very much turned in upon themselves and although largely protected from the rawness of life in this remote area, they found it difficult to adapt to such a revolutionary change in their life styles at middle age. John himself was 50 and David 41 so it was by no means an easy decision to uproot themselves and start a new life on the other side of the world.

Apart from Barbara, who refused to emigrate, none of them married. Alexander was disappointed that they never thought of marriage and the family succession of the property.

The Berry direct bloodline ceased when David, the last of the ten children born to James and Isabel Berry, died in September 1889.

John spent his life at Coolangatta almost entirely in the saddle and under his management mixed agricultural gave way to grazing. It was said that for John Berry, “beef – on the hoof, in the cask and in the tin – was king.”

Nevertheless, there was no let up in the drive to improve the quality of their cattle be it for beef or milk and the results of this can be seen today in the dairy farms of the Shoalhaven district.

Edward Wollstonecraft had said that at one time Alexander’s infatuation for mixed agriculture had led him into forgetting the importance of stock improvement. He also began to see that the future might well lie in leasing out large portions to interested tenants as grazing stations and reserving one very large one for themselves.

Wollstonecraft had built his Crow's Nest Cottage on his grant of 500 acres with a commanding view of Sydney Harbour in probably the best position on the North Shore, whilst Berry later built Crow's Nest House. Edward's cottage was modest and small whereas the latter’s was an architectural masterpiece of the day and was the subject of a painting by Conrad Martens. Unfortunately, Mrs Berry did not survive to see or enjoy it.
From 1840 onwards we see the expansion of free immigration and the introduction of clearing leases in the Illawarra. These were effectively land leases at reasonable rents with conditions attaching to them to ensure that the land was properly cleared of brush and then managed efficiently. John Berry could see the advantages in reducing work for the family and increasing income.
Salt pans were worked at Lower Numbaa beside the Shoalhaven River. These were necessary for the production of salt beef to meet Government contracts obtained in Sydney.
The great days of the Shoalhaven as a breeding ground for young stock were drawing to a close. John Berry had been an indefatigable stockman but his death after falling from his horse coincided with the introduction of tenant farmers.

Twenty acre plots were then leased rent-free on condition that they were cleared and fenced at the end of two to five years depending on their location. Leasing of the estate started in 1850 and the tenant farmers began to establish dairying as the chief industry of the Shoalhaven district.
The centre of farming was still based at Coolangatta where by 1849 there were thirty six tenants with families totalling 145 added to which were labourers and their families bringing the total to more than 200. In 1851 sixty leased farms were in place with a population now grown to 474.
The clearing leases eventually come to an end, having outlived their usefulness, and were substituted with rental payments for farms or production on what was called "halves". The estate owner allocated the land and the seed and the tenant gave back half the crop as payment in return.
By 1854 maize, wheat, barley and potatoes were growing in abundance, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, so that ten stores were now in operation. More and more vessels were plying trade between the Shoalhaven and Sydney.
Wheat was well suited to this area and prolific crops were returned until the late seventies when "rust", which had started to be seen in the sixties, got out of control.
Whilst farm developments were proceeding, the Berry family continued to expand their holdings. The tenancy system took some of the direct control away from Alexander but he continued to be a humanitarian influence.
Alexander's influence faded as David took increasing management control of the Estate and its many enterprises and he retired to become rather reclusive after the death of his wife before he himself died at the age of 92 on September 17th 1873 in Crow's Nest House north Sydney.. He was now only survived by William and David having been pre-deceased by his only surviving sister in March - she being buried in the family burial ground set apart at Coolangatta on the southern slope of the hillside. William Berry subsequently died in 1875 leaving David as the sole survivor.
David Berry continued the management for a further sixteen years after Berry’s death and devoted this to land settlement. New areas were cleared and others expanded.
Under David Berry's leadership an Agricultural Association was set up in 1863 and subsequent Agricultural shows drew attention to the produce of the area and reminded farmers of the advances which had taken place within the last forty years since Berry had seen the potential for the region.
By the end of the seventies most of the cedar had been cut out and the clearing leases had given way to individual farms which were mostly arable but superseded by dairying. Coastal shipping was the main source of transport and communication for the Shoalhaven River and Broughton Creek had become commercial highways.

Overland routes were still primitive using bush tracks and packhorses which carried goods to the ports.
By 1856 some 34 years after Berry's first encampment at Coolangatta there is a description by Mossman in his Australian travel book of the region. In the morning, he writes, "we started out for Coolangatta which is situated on the Shoalhaven River at the extreme south of the Illawarra country" and, after riding comfortably along the firm sands of Seven Mile beach, "we entered a belt of land through which a road had been cut with a bridge over a small creek. Crossing this bridge we emerged from the dense brushwood and suddenly came into beautiful open country, with Coolangatta Mountain rising to a height of 900 feet before us. The view is exceedingly picturesque; on your left is the dark belt of wood skirting the sea; on your right a forest of the finest timber; and before you is the beautiful conical hill seen through an open space of considerable breadth extending for upwards of a mile to its base which slopes down to the mouth of the Shoalhaven river.
On the slope which faces south, is the residence of Alexander Berry Esq, a member of the Legislative Council. It is a cottage residence having a large verandah in front with numerous offices and small dwellings behind; the whole forming a square of some extent.
The Proprietor was from home but we were most hospitably received by his two brothers and a sister and every attention was paid to our comfort.
In the morning accompanied by Mr Berry's brothers we rode partly and climbed partly to the summit of this mountain. It is of a conical shape; and to the very top the soil is of the richest kind and everywhere covered thickly with grass. Mr Berry has cut down the trees on the ridge which forms the spur sloping towards the house, so that there are not any trees to obstruct the view as you ascend. After climbing many parts much too steep to ride, we arrived at the summit and were amply repaid for our trouble. The view from this eminence, as well as of the hill itself, is splendid; you are perched upon the pinnacle of a mountain, rising in giant-like grandeur from a plain, supported, as it were, by three spurs, which, from the elevation of the eye, appear like buttresses; one is towards the house, a second stretching to the confluence of Broughton Creek and the Shoalhaven River and a third towards the country inland - all three being about equidistant and giving what we should call a graceful form to the mountain. On a fine day the view of the surrounding country is one of the most beautiful we remember to have seen in the colony. Looking towards the east, you have the coast-line running north and south, strongly marked by the broad dark belt of wood which we have mentioned, and dividing the wide expanse of ocean beyond from the open and cultivated lands lying at your feet.
Glancing your eye along the spur on which the house is built, you see a green meadow at its foot, on the margin of the River Shoalhaven which stream cuts through the belt of scrub into the sea. Beyond the river appear the waters of the Shoalhaven and the Crookhaven connected together by a canal cut by the enterprising proprietor and forming an island of the headland in between; in this channel there is sufficient water for a small steamer or coasting-vessel to enter. This brings your prospect more to the south where an extensive lagoon is visible and, in the far distance the harbour of Jervis Bay.
Turning towards the interior, between the distant ranges and the banks of the river, are broad flat lands which the application of modern improvements in draining and culture by Mr Berry have made a valuable property. To the westward you see the Broughton Creek at your feet, winding through a wide plain, showing here and there evidences of man's industry; and in the mountains beyond are the famous Shoalhaven gullies, ravines of great depth from 500 to 1200 feet and of tremendous appearance. Lastly, turning towards the north, you have the splendid view coastwise terminated by Mount Keira.

We returned to breakfast passing through the cultivated ground near the house and could not but remark the completeness and extent of this princely property. Mr Berry selected this spot in the early times of the Colony when grants from the crown could be obtained on easier terms than now. And, certainly the property, not from its extent alone, but from the richness of the land - stated to be superior to that of Illawarra - is perhaps the most valuable in New South Wales. The improvements which have been added to it from time to time, and the application of the best system of culture to the soil have made these broad lands what they are - a princely possession which we trust the respected proprietor may long live to enjoy."
This description contrasts markedly with Justice Field's impressions during his visit in 1823 - thirty two years before - " I fear in Berry's case man has taken possession before Nature has done her work. Immense swamps and lagoons have only been just left by the sea and the present land is indifferent to grazing. Still, though the cedar groves end before the Shoalhaven is reached, the sea is open for the export of any produce that can be raised up from patches of alluvial soil lying on the alternate projecting points of the river. Mr Berry need not be alarmed that any occupation of the immediate back country would shut in his cattle run."
Berry's work and drive showed what could be done despite the apparent disadvantages as described by Field and, when we come to 1875 another legal man gives his views 53 years after the beginnings.
"The lands south of the Shoalhaven are chiefly owned by Mr Berry, the heirs of the late Mr de Mestre and the Elyard family. They include three townships - Numbaa near the river and opposite the mouth of the Broughton Creek with its comfortable houses, well stocked stores and excellent farm separated by the highway. Terrara, on the sands with its big houses and little cottages almost on the banks of the river and likely to be swept into it by the next flood. Nowra on the hill and out of reach of the floods and most other things too."
He describes Numbaa as having stores, a post office and 40 inhabitants whilst Terrara is bigger with five stores/shops, three pubs, a bank, newspaper and telegraph offices with over two hundred inhabitants. Nowra, at this time relatively undeveloped had 120 citizens a Court House, one pub, one shop and a Post office.
He refers to the ferry crossings on the river – “one is maintained by Berry for both his tenantry and the public. There is a river crossing by punt between the entrance of the Broughton Creek tributary to the Shoalhaven and two other ferries, one a Council initiative further inland near Bomaderry Creek and an intermediate private ferry at Terrara”.
Shipbuilding was essential for getting produce to market in Sydney and other areas and three new vessels were launched at Shoalhaven - the Union in 1840 and, later, the Coolangatta and the Plover of Sydney.

The Illarua Water Mill was erected at upper Numba for grinding wheat and maize and in order increase timber production, a saw mill worked by water power was installed at Broughton Creek to replace the old hand sawing pits.

This was a busy “village” with more than 250 people working at various trades as the innovations of the brothers and the purchase of more modern machinery took effect. Their achievements are the more remarkable when one remembers that the British industrial revolution had only been established some fifty years before.

Exports of tallow and hides were developed as a complementary business to agriculture – this was very profitable and Berry writes to his sister in Scotland in 1846 that “in the last twelve months we have slaughtered upwards of a 1000 head of bullocks, some weighing as much as 1400 lbs., merely for their hides and tallow and we have large pots for this purpose two of which can hold a dozen bullocks.”

Experiments were made in producing condensed milk, preserved meat and gelatine – the necessary equipment for these experiments were built on site demanding expertise in soldering and a type of welding.

With everything going well, 1848 saw the death of John Berry from a riding accident. Whilst out with his groom they gave chase to a wild dog on April 15th – John Berry was thrown from his horse and broke a leg. Complications set in and within four days he was dead. Whilst this was bitter personal blow to the Management such a head of steam had been built up that David and William were able to continue profitable development of the Estate.

Following the arrival of his brothers in 1836 and once the management was firmly in their hands, in consequence of his building Crow's Nest House and the death of his wife in 1845, Berry paid only fleeting visits to the Estate which he had pioneered. But we have on record many written complaints and near insults from North Sydney to the management from Alexander Berry. However, one feels that his bark is worse than his bite and, as the letters demonstrate, criticism is mixed with concern for their welfare.


What would Alexander Berry think of the Coolangatta Estate today ? One feature is still unchanged and unchanging – Mount Coolangatta. This brooding mountain just under 1000 feet in height has been watching over the scene from time immemorial so that our two hundred year travels are small in comparison. Its tree covered slopes look very different from varying view points. Seen from the Kingsford Smith memorial Gerroa on the northern edge of Seven Mile Beach it has that flattened conical “sugar loaf” shape.

When viewed from where Berry landed at the sandy bar of the River Shoalhaven, it has a much sharper and peak-like shape as it lords it over the settlement and the developments at Shoalhaven Heads. Wherever you travel around the original hundred square miles of the Berry territory, be it from Gerroa to the north or out past Terara, Numbaa and Jindiandy to the south, one is always conscious of the benign sight and influence of this central feature. We can get a good idea of how Berry saw Coolangatta from his boat the Blanch in 1822 by standing at the eastern extremity of Black Point at Gerroa.

If Berry came by sea today from Sydney he would certainly dislike the unplanned sprawl of camping and housing developments at the southern end of Seven Mile Beach but approaching his old Homestead along the Bolong Road in the lee of the mountain he would certainly approve of the sight of the well-laid out golf course, which would remind him of St Andrews in miniature, sloping down to the north, and the vineyards which stretch from the higher ridges to the edge of the road.

He would delight I think in the flags welcoming visitors from far and wide – The Flag of Australia and the Saltire of St Andrews and I have little doubt that he would admire the changes and achievements of his present day successor Colin Bishop and his family.

He was also a very long-serving and outspoken Member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales but on retirement to North Sydney he became rather reclusive and kept to an intimate circle of intellectual acquaintances. This may explain a lack of recognition in his lifetime and beyond and also perhaps that his wealth did not become distributed until sixteen years after his death in 1889 through the will of his brother David.

He also made this comment in one of his letters “Neither must you imagine that the people of New South Wales are thankful to the town of Cupar in Fife for giving me as an Australian Colonist – I have told you how they pitied me and condoled with me for taking Shoalhaven – but when they found that I did not ruin myself but was to a certain extent successful – they began to envy me and abuse me for obtaining so much land.”

As for myself, as an Englishman and a graduate of St Andrews who enjoyed the lectures of the second holder of the Berry Chair of English Literature, Professor Adam Blyth Webster (a New Zealander of Scottish descent), it is appropriate that I should quote from another Englishman, Edward Topham who in 1775 summed up the Scottish influence overseas as follows:-

“Go into whatever country you will, you will always find Scotchmen. They penetrate into every climate: you meet them in all the various departments of travellers, soldiers, merchants, adventurers, domestics.

Consult the history of their own nation from the earliest period, and that of other nations, and you will find that if any dangerous and difficult enterprise has been undertaken, any uncommon proofs given of patience or activity, any new countries visited and improved, that a Scotchman has borne some share in the performance”

Ó Malcolm Sealy 2006