Early Links – Tuncurry to Forster before the bridge

From the time John Oxley first encountered the Wallamba River estuary in 1818 using dinghy to negotiate across its shoals and narrow channels, this natural barrier always proved a challenge to the movement of both goods and people from north to south.

In 1890 John Kennewell set himself up with a sturdy boat and plied it for hire at a penny per trip across the estuary. He set up masts on either side and those wishing to cross just ran the flag up and waited.

Vehicles presented a small problem, sulkies and smaller buggies were straddled across the boat and, with horses swimming behind, were rowed across the channel. Mr. Kennewell was hired by the government to operate the service and twice a year he walked to Taree to collect his stipend from the Clerk of Petty Sessions. While he was away his daughter Sarah rowed the boat.

With horses swimming behind, a ferry man rows passengers and sulky from Forster to Tuncurry, circa 1895. This, one of the first recorded trips, was that of the Underwood sisters who were daughters of Forster’s first school teacher. It is said they rode their horses into the water and loaded the sulky themselves onto the boat for the journey to Tuncurry. The girls were on their way to a ball at Nabiac, and upon arrival at Tuncurry, waited for the horses to dry before driving on to Nabiac. 

More of this article features in a recent publication titled “Tuncurry, Tapestry of a Town” edited by Susan Gogarty. Copies of this fantastic book are available for sale at the Museum or here online.


  1. I have some information on John Kennewell who started the ferry service between Tuncurry and Forster in 1890 – albeit with a rowboat. The photo in this blog is more than likely of John Kennewell rowing the Underwood girls and their sulky; the next contractor (John Clark) for the ferry service had two sets of oars on his rowboat. John’s story is contained within the Ferrymen book that can be obtained from the Great Lakes Museum in Tuncurry.

  2. Iam the daughter of a Kennewell who came to the Camden haven after the war in the war around 1948…and my father Bill Kennewell was the manager of the Co-OP at Kendall. I was always aware there were kennewells around the manning area and wondered what branch of the family they were from, as it is an unusual name. Anyone have more info on John Kennewell. I only found out a week ago about him?

  3. My husband and I purchased a holiday property in Tuncurry in 2002 and did not know anything about the township until we saw historical photos hanging in a local pub. I’m very interested in more information regarding JOHN KENNEWELL

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