Story and pictures contributed by Robert Lowe with original text as published in the Sydney Mail 1932
A 460 km round car trip doesn’t sound like much today but seventy-five years ago it warranted an article in the Sydney Mail. My grandparents together with two of their daughters (one of them my mother) were travelling from Sydney to Nerriga in the southern highlands in their 1924 Master Special Buick. The reason for the trip was to visit and provide provisions for their 22 year-old son, my uncle Frank, who had gone there with 3 mates to live cheap and trap rabbits. It was the depression and men who couldn’t find work in the city, went bush, built a wattle and daub hut and lived off rabbit, eating the meat and trying to sell the skins.
The visit had been well planned with numerous letters in the weeks before departure. Frank had written that they had put in a week clearing the track so the vehicle should be able to get right to the camp.
My grandfather writes in the Sydney Mail;
“Despite a cyclone and some inches of rain the previous weekend and the uncertainty of a crossing 15 miles from the end of the outward journey, a start was made on Saturday morning shortly after 7 o’clock. The route was the south coast via Prince’s Highway to Nowra thence in the direction of Braidwood to Nerriga where the main road was left and some miles of unformed road and bush track were traversed. ? N.R.M.A. “Road Before You” maps had been secured and studied beforehand. Nowra, 97 miles, was reached in four and a half hours some time being spent securing a broken radius rod. While this was being replaced, information was sought with regards to the condition of the road to Nerriga, with special reference to the crossing of the Beulah or Endrick River. Nothing was known of the crossing which in normal times, we were told was 15 inches deep. Information obtained was to the effect that a carrier who makes regular trips ! by lorry had left at 7 am. and it was decided to follow. Leaving Nowra at 2 o’clock we hoped to reach Nerriga between 4 and 5 o’clock.”
My grandfather goes on to describe how they followed the lorry’s tracks through the mud and big timber climbing to Sassafras.
“Speed of anything over 15 m.p.h. is out of the question unless the brakes do some hard work…. A mile or two out of Sasafrass the returning lorry was met and we discovered that the Beulah crossing was possible. How deep is it ? was the question. About half way up your battery box was the reply The box is on the running board which is 16 inches from the ground. Add 5 inches for half the depth of the box and there you are – 21 inches and fast-running. Right – we’ll try it. A cheery good-bye and off again. Presently a sharp drop to the left gives warning of the 1000ft drop to the crossing about 3 miles away, so to first gear….Soon a turn to the right brings to view several tents – a prospector’s camp- ?and then the river. The coasting having been in first gear , the crossing was immediately tackled and the engine rev’d up and steered straight for the opposite side.The crossing is estimated at 50 yards and owing to the course of the river, the Nerriga side is very rough and steep. When nearly over, one of the front wheels mounted a stone of fair size, this rolled the water in the shield- which is fitted to the chassis under the sump- round the exhast pipe under the bonnet, and this was lost to view in a cloud of steam. The climb out was safely made and Nerriga reached at 4.15. The main road was left here and a trip over several miles of unmade road is safely made though one place required several attempts to negotiate. Through a gate a bush track is taken -sometimes ?visible, but more often not. Presently a wet patch is struck and without warning both near side wheels drop through a crust to the axles -half an hour of daylight left and three and a half miles still to go. The rest of the journey was done on foot with the aid of a torch and lantern, our destination being reached about 7 o’clock.”
“Sunday morning was spent in getting the car on to firm ground, during which operation it had to be lifted out three times. Camp was left at 9.30 Monday morning, and after a walk of an hour and a quarter the car was reached. Owing to another bogging Nerriga was not reached until 11.45. At the Beulah some of the mud was washed off, and the car made a little more respectable. The water was now two inches over the running board. Nowra was entered two hours later and home was reached about 7.45. The trip by the recorder – which under-registers slightly, owing to larger tyres being used than originally supplied – was 266 miles, petrol used was 18 gallons – approximately 16 m.p.g. and the sump required one and a quarter pints on arrival in garage. The car is a 1924 Master Special Buick, the R.A.C. being 27h.p. weight unloaded 34cwt, but on the trip down something over two tons.”
Unfortunately, Uncle Frank’s luck didn’t get much better. While he was a talented carpenter, cabinetmaker and photographer he was unlucky to be in his prime in the depression and the right age and single when war broke out. He volunteered for the infantry at the start of WWII and was summarily captured by the Japanese in Singapore. He was one of aproximately 2700 POW’s who were imprisoned and died either at Sandakan in Borneo, or on the notorious “death-march” to Ranau in 1945. His parents never learnt his ultimate fate.
The car was owned from new by my grandfather(Frank Higgison), and always garaged in Marrickville, Sydney. It was eventually sold in the 1960’s and it’s current wherabouts is unknown. Having survived intact for 40 years I have hope that it still exists. The original number plates are clearly seen in the photos(N.S.W. 52-937) and if anybody has any information regarding it I would be very grateful to hear.
Pictures 1,2 & 3 show the buick on the road to Nerriga. In picture 4 is Robert’s grandmother and his mother is the young girl in the middle, the other his aunt
Robert hopes that this story will jog someone’s memory and that he will be able to learn what happened to grandfather’s Buick. If you know the Buick’s where abouts today or any of it’s later history, please eMail the information to the webmaster at firstname.lastname@example.org