(To the Editor of the Maitland Mercury.)
SIR,-I notice in your issue of the 8th inst., a letter on the reservation of timber, signed by Thomas Shaw, I believe some of his hints are good, and as this is a matter which concerns many, perchance a hint from one who has had 40 years’ experience may not be out of place. So I will be as brief as possible, and confine myself to a few remarks only.
First-The wilful and shameful destruction of timber. At present the law is, that any man holding a license can go on to Government land (except Reserves) and cut away at any tree or sapling he thinks fit. No one has a right to interfere with him, so long as he holds his license ; he is never asked what he means to do with the timber he falls. No doubt you will say, surely no man on earth will fall timber without making use of it. But I can prove to you that it has been done, and that in a wholesale manner. On the Nambucca there have been hundreds of trees, both cedar and pine, cut down many years ago. And they are still there, and will ever remain so, as they are now too rotten for any use. On Camden Haven, a few years ago, the inhabitants took a sudden fit and cut down every beech tree that could be found ; in fact millions of feet, and there it lies, rotting on the ground ; and many a tree of hardwood as well-and yet the people who cut the said timber had no way of removing it to market. So there it remains, a loss to the man who would have used it, a loss to the colony, and a loss to the world at large. And yet the present licensing system allows this wholesale destruction, Surely this system could be improved upon, and before I close I shall give you my idea on the matter, and I hope some of your readers will give a better.
Second,-I will now make a few remarks on the reservation of timber. Government has adopted a plan of making a reserve of certain portions of land in various places on the East Coast, for the sake of preserving timber. My opinion is, the plan is rotten in the core. The reserves are made where the best timber is to be found. So far so good. But tell me what they mean by preserving timber that has arrived at its full growth, and every day turning back to its mother earth. This seems to me to be wilful waste, and almost as bad as the men who cut timber and leave it to rot. I may be wrong, but I am against all special timber reserves. I would say, throw it open, and let us have free trade, and encourage colonial industry. At the same time I would make it the special duty of the local constable to ascertain if each man had a license, and what they were cutting for ; see that they mean to use the timber they ore cutting down. And above all, see that no hardwood timber is cut down less than two feet, or six feet in girth, three feet from the ground. This would be preserving timber in the right way ; for timber in this country does not take so long to grow as some think it does, I know large trees that were only saplings thirty years ago ; and at this place we have trees a foot through that were only whipsticks six years ago. And Mr. Hibbard, of Port Macquarie, tells me he knows trees at Shoalhaven three feet through that were mere saplings seventeen years ago (spotted gum). I will now draw to a close, and I trust that some other hand will take the matter up. I have merely given my own opinion, and I think any one who does so deserves a certain amount of credit, let him be right or wrong If I was to go on and state the use and durability of each kind of tree I do not know where I would end.
Third.- This much I may say : people must not run away with the idea that because timber is of a certain kind it must be good. Such is not the case. For instance, the ironbark at this place is a poor wood indeed ; at Gloucester, the kitchen at the old accommodation house was shingled with ironbark shingles in the year 1836, yet the roof is waterproof. It depends on the ground and locality where the timber is grown, In the school house, in Port Macquarie, the rafters are saplings, known as the leaf tea-tree ; and although they were put there under the cruel lash and the bitter years of tyranny, yet the said rafters are as sound as the day they were put there.
Laurieton, 14th January, 1881.
[We need scarcely say that we shall be glad at any time to receive and publish letters such as the above, and we hope the important subject of timber conservation will receive due public attention till amendment in the law and “practice is achieved.
James Bell was transported for housebreaking in 1831. He married Wilhelmina McLeod on 29/9/1840 at the SCOTS CHURCH, PATERSON. Wilhelmina was the daughter of WILLIAM MCLEOD and JANET MACKAY and was 17 years old when she married JAMES.
Their son , JOHN BELL, married Mary Ann McNeil in Taree on 27th June 1878. At the time John gave his place of residence as RAWDON VALE , district of Gloucester. Roy Burton was told by a now deceased aunt that John’s parents were James and Wilhelmina which we now know to be so. Witnesses to the marriage of John and Mary Ann were JOSEPH LAURIE and MARGARET BELL. Joseph Laurie Snr owned property at RAWDON VALE locality. The witness Joseph Laurie was probably the fifth son of Joseph Senior. (Refer to “EARLY HISTORY OF THE CAMDEN HAVEN” Page 16. The LAURIES.The LAURIES were then living at PEACH GROVE now known as LAURIETON.
John’s eldest sister married a LAURIE. His brother NORMAN BELL married AGNES FRASER whose mother was JANET LAURIE and named their daughter JANET LAURIE BELL.
When John Bell and Granny Bell left the Tweed they lived the rest of their lives in LAURIETON.
An article with Joseph Laurie presiding as magistrate
The Maitland Mercury… Thursday 23 November 1882, page 6