Crossing the Parramatta River (part 2)
Date posted: February 14, 2017
As previously explained, the Bailey and Cashman families took over the crossing service from about 1832 or soon after – both families competed for customers, each having a boat ready at any time. Old timers tell us that when a boat was required on the northern side, a hurricane lamp would be lit and slowly swung back and forth; the first boat to reach the other side would get the trade for about 2 cents per person. The type of boat used was known as a Waterman boat; examples of this boat can be seen in the National Maritime Museum.
Having made the crossing, the longest part of the journey would begin, first the long climb to the waiting coach at Punt Road. There were no way-stations and the coach would stop at the many creeks for the horses to drink, also to allow the passengers a comfort stop, so the journey would normally take up to ten hours from Bedlam Point to Brookvale.
The Bailey family had many interests, a quarry hotel called the Red Cow, and of course taking picnickers to the other side of the river. The remains of the quarry can be seen today at the far end of Battersea Park, the hand drill marks still visible. A gesture of outstanding generosity was the donation of the whole of this piece of land to Drummoyne Council.
One can only imagine the strength of character of our early travellers.
Local stone was quarried from nearby for the front of the inn, split hardwood slabs formed the sides and a slate roof over an old sail completed this welcome scene.
The Inn was a primitive long hut built with anything they could find – with two small rooms, three beds in each; the larger room was for everything else, cooking, drinking, not forgetting the nightly entertainment … one can only imagine what that was!
A good test for our modern outdoors people: try sleeping on a straw bag covered with a blanket, plus having the wind howling through the walls. Any takers?
An open dray would take them to the new convict-built Parramatta Road. There they would board the coach and four to Sydney.
Nothing of the Red Cow Inn survives other than the cellar. A plaque has been erected in the Sydney Rowers Club to commemorate the spot where the Inn once stood.
A swimming baths existed in front of the Scout Hall and the 12 foot sailing club and in the late 1800s and early 1900 a tram ran down almost to the wharf. The Council converted the quarry to a picnic ground and with the addition of the tram, the park became a very popular place. Old-timers say that the boat shed made more money selling hot water for the traditional Aussie cup of tea than by ferrying passengers across the river.
Today, Ryde Council has built a very fine wharf at Bedlam Point and the National Parks have built a raised walkway to view the untouched landscape, as it was in the beginning. For those who are adventurous, you can walk to the top and dine at the now-famous Banjo Paterson Cottage Restaurant.
(Another excerpt from Abbotsford Cove Community Centre website, written by Don Coulter. published with permission.)