Cen­tre of cedar trade by the river

Gun­durimba ri­valled ‘Sleepy Hol­low’ Lis­more and Casino for dom­i­nance


A FEW kilo­me­tres from Lis­more on the right­hand side of the road to Casino there are roads, which are named as streets. Un­til a few years ago when a few houses started to be built there it seemed rather odd.

How­ever, it can be ex­plained by the fact that this area was part of the old town­ship of Gun­durimba which, in its hey­day, was much more im­por­tant than Lis­more, and a ri­val to Casino.

When the cedar cut­ters came to the Rich­mond River District in the 1840s they set up camps at sev­eral spots along the river­bank.

One of these camps, at Camp Creek, was near Wyral­lah, and ap­par­ently in a time of se­vere drought water was scarce and some men went up­stream to find a bet­ter camp­site. They found Gun­durimba. This soon be­came the cen­tre of the cedar trade on the Rich­mond.

There are sev­eral ver­sions for the mean­ing of the word Gun­durimba, although all agree that it is of Abo­rig­i­nal ori­gin.

One ver­sion is that it means ‘fright­ened’ from the Bund­jalung Kun­durim­ban, and pos­si­bly refers to a tribal bat­tle.

An­other ver­sion is that it is from ‘goon­doorimba’ or ‘goon­jer­imba’ mean­ing cross-eyed, pos­si­bly a cross-eyed man, or old man with the palsy.

A third ver­sion is that it is as­so­ci­ated with the word ‘gindihrma’, mean­ing to act in a pe­cu­liar man­ner, to be giddy, to have a headache, and prob­a­bly refers to when the Abo­rig­i­nals were first given al­co­hol.

The old town of Gun­durimba was a rough place of hard­work­ing and hard-drink­ing peo­ple.

There were sev­eral ho­tels and stores.

These were supplied from boats trad­ing up the river, the first of which had to cut the over­hang­ing vines away be­fore it could pro­ceed up­stream.

John Beat­tie owned the Farm­ers Home Ho­tel and it had a rep­u­ta­tion for the qual­ity of the spir­its it sold.

They are said to have had an in­trigu­ing to­bacco aroma and soon made the drinker very merry!

Thomas Barker had a store at Gun­durimba. Barker Street in Casino is called af­ter him.

He was a Scot and his brother, Wil­liam Thom­son Barker, was the first known doc­tor at Casino (and pos­si­bly the Rich­mond). The lo­cal squat­ters had guar­an­teed Dr. Barker’s in­come, but he pre­ferred to live at one of the Gun­durimba ho­tels. He is said to have had a pref­er­ence for whisky although he con­sid­ered that rum was ‘not so bad’.

Dr Barker died from al­co­holism in 1863. It was not long af­ter his death that Tem­per­ance So­ci­eties es­tab­lished them­selves in the Rich­mond District.

Apart from try­ing to stop peo­ple from drink­ing al­co­hol these es­tab­lished med­i­cal benefit so­ci­eties that paid doc­tors’ fees.

It is in­ter­est­ing to spec­u­late whether they would have used the ser­vices of Dr. Barker had he still been alive!

The res­i­dents of Gun­durimba scorned Lis­more and called it ‘Sleepy Hol­low’.

They also re­sented Casino, which was the head­quar­ters of all the govern­ment ser­vices in the District.

The peo­ple of Gun­durimba were a great mix­ture. One ho­tel owner, Wil­liam John­son, es­tab­lished a small pri­vate school.

He had pre­vi­ously been a cedar-get­ter at Bald Hill (Bex­hill) but went to Gun­durimba about 1857.

The post­man came from Bal­lina via Wyral­lah and of­ten had to con­tend with very swampy tracks to get through.

A ferry was in­stalled as, by the 1870s, the town­ship was on both sides of the river.

How­ever, those res­i­dents on the south­ern side had to cross over on the ferry to get their mail – and pay four pence each time for this priv­i­lege! Soon af­ter­wards ‘Sleepy Hol­low’ won the day!

Con­tact the Rich­mond River His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety by call­ing 02 6621 9993, or email info@rich­his­tory.org.au.

The Lis­more Mu­seum at 165 Molesworth St is open 10am–4pm, Mon­day–Fri­day. The re­search is room open 10am–4pm, Mon­day and Wed­nes­day.

A DIF­FER­ENT CEN­TURY: Gun­durimba, 1875, in­clud­ing lo­cal iden­ti­ties.

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