Eungai, comprising of the villages of Eungai Creek and Eungai Rail, the surrounding countryside of Allgomera and Tamban, and land along Browns Crossing Road, is a small community on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, mid-way between Sydney and Brisbane. In fact it was said that the railway crossing at Eungai Rail was exactly 333 miles from both Sydney and Brisbane when the railway was opened. The Pacific Highway cuts its noisy way through the district providing a fast route to the nearest towns of Macksville and Kempsey.
For the purposes of this History the area covered is essentially the water catchment of the Eungai and Allgomera Creeks bounded by ridge roads in the surrounding Ingalba and Tamban Forests, also known as the Eungai National Forest. This sclerophyl forest consists mainly of black butt, spotted gum, grey gum, tallowwood, red and white mahogany, and red and grey ironbarks, with flooded gum, turpentine and brush box in the damp gullies. Along with these commercial timber trees there are many lesser species to be found.
This rich covering of forest provided food and shelter for Aboriginal tribes and later attracted the timber-getters in their search for the once abundant cedar. The landscape of today has been shaped by the Aboriginals’ burning of the forest grasses, by the cedar-getters depletion of the cedar forests, and by the later extraction of hardwood. But the selectors in their quest for farmland had the most impact on the landscape. In just a few years large areas of forest were ring barked or burned to create farmland of varying quality. Today Eungai forests still support a timber industry and animals still graze on the grasslands though to a lesser but more varied degree.
The most prominent feature of the district is the 495m high Mount Yarrahapinni. Lying between Eungai and the sea, its many moods dominate the horizon. Whether it is shrouded in clouds, rimmed with fog, bathed in evening sunlight, or battered by fierce storms, this landform is the jewel of Eungai, almost changing its appearance at every glance.
Eungai is in the most southern part of the Nambucca Shire and hence sometimes appears to be ‘the forgotten edge of the Shire’. In 1915 when the Nambucca Shire was formed from the Bellingen Shire the Eungai residents were elated as they expected that "things would be done" in relation to their roads and bridges. It seems like they still are waiting, as being the furthest edge of the Shire things take longer to be done. People on the Nambucca say: ‘Eungai? Isn't that in the Kempsey Shire?’. People in Kempsey were known to say of Tamban: ‘Doesn't it snow up there?’. Eungai was always looked upon as the ‘poor relation’. As far back as 1906 a correspondent in the Macleay Argus stated that: Unkya and Allgomera have not been held in much repute and the evil name still hangs on. Why, I do not know, and perhaps if the question was put to those who disparage it, they would not know themselves.
Why indeed? This History hopes to give an understanding of the development of Eungai to those disparagers, and to those who have lived here and especially to those who choose to live here, in the hope that with that understanding they can develop a sense of community again. A sense of belonging is essential for one to have the need to nurture and protect the beauty that is Eungai. It is said that we should learn by our mistakes. History can show us those mistakes, but it can also show us the mistakes that we make today.
This History is written with this in mind but also out of respect for people's precious memories. Eungai is in a forested area so it was only natural for buildings to be constructed of timber. By flood, fire or termites many were destroyed, but timber also allows for ease of alteration, or movement. Unlike many areas where their buildings of stone or brick still live to tell their tales, many buildings of Eungai have vanished. But history lives with those who have created a life in Eungai. Their memories and traditions need to be preserved. This History hopes to share some of the memories and traditions of when folk were folk.
Life is a time of creating, whether it is a legend, a farm, or a cup of tea, but with creating there often comes destruction, as creating is change. We need to remember those changes, to celebrate those changes, and sometimes to mourn them. This History seeks to do that.
Spelling of place names
The spelling of place names has been a problem as some have changed, and some appear to have various spellings according to various sources. Before 1913 Eungai was known as Unkya so in the text Eungai before that time is referred to as Unkya. The area known as Tamban was Upper Unkya before that time. The spelling of Tamban has caused many a discussion. Although the early spelling was Tanban as of the Parish maps, Squatters Run, and the Aboriginal tribe that dwelt there, the School, Post Office and Railway station were known as Tamban. The Forestry Department appears to use both spellings on their maps and in various parts of the forest. Their signs say Tamban Road and the Shire Council signs say Tanban road. Although I feel the correct and most pleasing spelling is Tanban, Tamban is used throughout this History as it is the most commonly used in the area, unless the road, Run or Aboriginal tribe is mentioned. During my research Allgomera has been spelt as Algomera, Allgomerra, Allgomera and Algomerra though I have favoured Allgomera. Yarrahapinni as it is known today was originally spelt Yarrahappini but I have used the former.
One of the first selectors in the Tamban area was Richard Elliott whose name is given to a road that went through his land. It is known as Elliots Road on its signpost so I have used that spelling when referring to the road.