The Graham Family: Good news on the Nambucca

Grandma Graham and family
Grandma Graham and family

The Graham family folder at the Headland Museum is brim with anecdotes and testaments to their active lives. In particular there is an account by Winifred which brings the early life on the Nambucca right out into the open.

Winifred Agnes Graham, nee Wilson, was born in England in 1873 but from her own account was on the Nambucca from an early age. She describes Nambucca Heads in its early shipping days.

"Nambucca was noted for its cedar and we had quite a lot of small sailing vessels and steamers running here to take away the cargo and bring in our stores. We had no breakwater in those days and vessels often got bar bound. I have seen as many as 20 bar bound for weeks. Then when the day would come for them to go, what a lovely sight!"

Winifred went on to provide an account of daily events.

"The butcher and baker came from Macksville once or twice a week in pulling boats. [Pulling boat means likely a row boat.] In the early days we had no doctor nearer than Kempsey and only horses to travel with. Living was a lot harder than it is today."

The wreck of the Albany in 1905 brought about some bonuses for the locals according to Winifred.

"A not to be forgotten event was the wreck of the Albany at Swimming Creek. It was a big boat and carried a large cargo. After a few days it broke in two and things started to come in with the tide. There was calico, cashmere, cotton, socks, wool and brooms. There were also sacks of flour that were only wet a few inches in. When the insurance man came they sold it and the women made bread for months after with it."

Winifred's future husband, William Roger Graham was born at Kempsey in 1867. On his death in 1949 the Nambucca News published an account of his life.

His father, also William, was a police trooper who was wounded in the rebellion known as the Eureka Stockade on the Victorian goldfields.

By the age of 16 William was cedar-getting at Taylor's Arm, rafting logs down from Boat Harbour to the Heads. He married Ada Waters in 1893; however, she died five years later and in 1900 he married Winifred at Bowraville.

William and Winifred lived at Kempsey for a time until William was employed in the breakwater quarry at the Heads and similarly worked on the quarry at Bellinger Heads, now Urunga. He was then a ganger on the roads for Nambucca Council.

Ridge St Nambucca Heads 1934, showing Eichmann and Graham homes

Ridge St Nambucca Heads 1934, showing Eichmann and Graham homes

William and Winifred then established the first newsagency at Nambucca Heads. A grandson recalls memories of them.

"It was a modest little paper shop. Winifred was a fascinating character. She prided herself on being well educated and coming from an upper middle class background. Though she didn't have a particularly good voice she would burst into song at any time."

He continues, relating the creativity of Winifred.

"When she wasn't teaching her grandchildren and their friends new songs, she was at her sewing machine making costumes for concerts. She must have loved the war because it gave her the opportunity to stage 'Penny Concerts' to raise funds for the war effort."

William was also community minded as he was a trustee of the School of Arts, warden of the Church of England and patron of the football club. The Graham family were also volunteer observers or aircraft spotters during the Second World War along with the Eichmanns and postmaster Beasely from their adjoining residences on Ridge Street.

William died in 1949 and Winifred in 1960. They are buried in the Nambucca Heads cemetery.

  • This article was written from the records of the Nambucca Headland Museum.