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Doreen sets the record straight about an island named Sue

Doreen Bellamy with some first-fleet records. Photo: Contributed
Doreen Bellamy with some first-fleet records. Photo: Contributed

EIGHTY-FIVE-year-old Doreen Bellamy wants to set the record straight about how Susan Island on the Clarence River got its name.

"I'm 85 now and it's about time I corrected a few things," she said.

Mrs Bellamy said she had read a number of conflicting accounts about how Susan Island was named.

"Some books I've read say Susan Island was named after John Small's wife, but that can't be right because his wife was Elizabeth Patfield," she said.

Mrs Bellamy's late husband Milton Charles Bellamy was a descendant of Grafton pioneer John Small - one of the first to venture up the Clarence River following early European settlement.

John was the son of convicts John Small Snr and Mary Parker, who both arrived at Botany Bay with the first fleet.

Records of the first fleet show John Small was aboard the Charlotte, while Mary Parker was sent on the Lady Penrhyn convict vessel.

After arriving in Australia, the couple married and John Small was later allotted 30 acres at what is now Ryde.

"Australia's early colonial history was quite ugly in many ways, but it was also a blessing in disguise being sent here as a convict, especially for all the later generations." Mrs Bellamy said.

Small and Parker had five children, with third-born John venturing to the Clarence Valley in search of timber.

Mrs Bellamy said John Small and Henry Gillet sailed to what is now Grafton in 1837 after hearing Richard Craig's account of the cedar trees that lined the banks of the Clarence River.

"After finding the cedar trees they sailed back to Sydney where John took out a timber licence and left Henry to build a bigger and stronger boat," she said.

The new larger boat was named the Susan.

"The ketch was moored between the island and what is now South Grafton, so that's how I think Susan Island got its name," Mrs Bellamy said.

"Susan wasn't a person, she was a ketch."

John Small's Cedar secret soon became public knowledge and by 1857, just 20 years later, Grafton was declared a city after thriving on the timber trade boom.

Topics:  susan island


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