Ghosts and other tales of Kiama and district

Lately on the photo blog I have been posting pictures from the trip Sirdan and I made to Kiama last Tuesday. The district is rich in history and folklore. My family comes from this area, and (according to a probably reliable rumour) some of them go back as far as these people do.


See Early history of reconciliation revealed in Kiama!


Henry Kendall

Towards the hills of Jamberoo
Some few fantastic shadows haste,
Uplit with fires
Like castle spires
Outshining through a mirage waste.
Behold, a mournful glory sits
On feathered ferns and woven brakes,
Where sobbing wild like restless child
The gusty breeze of evening wakes!
Methinks I hear on every breath
A lofty tone go passing by,
That whispers — "Weave,
Though wood winds grieve,
The fadeless blooms of Poesy!"

A spirit hand has been abroad —
An evil hand to pluck the flowers —
A world of wealth,
And blooming health
Has gone from fragrant seaside bowers.
The twilight waxeth dim and dark,
The sad waves mutter sounds of woe,
But the evergreen retains its sheen,
And happy hearts exist below;
But pleasure sparkles on the sward,
And voices utter words of bliss,
And while my bride
Sits by my side,
Oh, where’s the scene surpassing this?

Kiama slumbers, robed with mist,
All glittering in the dewy light
That, brooding o’er
The shingly shore,
Lies resting in the arms of Night;
And foam-flecked crags with surges chill,
And rocks embraced of cold-lipped spray,
Are moaning loud where billows crowd
In angry numbers up the bay.
The holy stars come looking down
On windy heights and swarthy strand,
And Life and Love —
The cliffs above —
Are sitting fondly hand in hand.

I hear a music inwardly,
That floods my soul with thoughts of joy;
Within my heart
Emotions start
That Time may still but ne’er destroy.
An ancient Spring revives itself,
And days which made the past divine;
And rich warm gleams from golden dreams,
All glorious in their summer shine;
And songs of half forgotten hours,
And many a sweet melodious strain,
Which still shall rise
Beneath the skies
When all things else have died again.

A white sail glimmers out at sea —
A vessel walking in her sleep;
Some Power goes past
That bends the mast,
While frighted waves to leeward leap.
The moonshine veils the naked sand
And ripples upward with the tide,
As underground there rolls a sound
From where the caverned waters glide.
A face that bears affection’s glow,
The soul that speaks from gentle eyes,
And joy which slips
From loving lips
Have made this spot my Paradise!

And then there’s “Ghost Glen”.

Ghost Glen

Henry Kendall

"Shut your ears, stranger, or turn from Ghost Glen now, 
For the paths are grown over, untrodden by men now; 
Shut your ears, stranger," saith the grey mother, crooning 
Her sorcery runic, when sets the half-moon in. 

To-night the north-easter goes travelling slowly, But it never stoops down to that hollow unholy; To-night it rolls loud on the ridges red-litten, But it cannot abide in that forest, sin-smitten.
For over the pitfall the moon-dew is thawing, And, with never a body, two shadows stand sawing -- The wraiths of two sawyers (~step under and under~), Who did a foul murder and were blackened with thunder!
Whenever the storm-wind comes driven and driving, Through the blood-spattered timber you may see the saw striving -- You may see the saw heaving, and falling, and heaving, Whenever the sea-creek is chafing and grieving!
And across a burnt body, as black as an adder, Sits the sprite of a sheep-dog (was ever sight sadder?) For, as the dry thunder splits louder and faster, This sprite of a sheep-dog howls for his master.
"Oh, count your beads deftly," saith the grey mother, crooning Her sorcery runic, when sets the half-moon in. And well may she mutter, for the dark, hollow laughter You will hear in the sawpits and the bloody logs after.
Ay, count your beads deftly, and keep your ways wary, For the sake of the Saviour and sweet Mother Mary. Pray for your peace in these perilous places, And pray for the laying of horrible faces.
One starts, with a forehead wrinkled and livid, Aghast at the lightnings sudden and vivid; One telleth, with curses, the gold that they drew there (Ah! cross your breast humbly) from him whom they slew there:
The stranger, who came from the loved, the romantic Island that sleeps on the moaning Atlantic, Leaving behind him a patient home, yearning For the steps in the distance -- never returning;
Who was left in the forest, shrunken and starkly, Burnt by his slayers (so men have said, darkly), With the half-crazy sheep-dog, who cowered beside there, And yelled at the silence, and marvelled, and died there.
Yea, cross your breast humbly and hold your breath tightly, Or fly for your life from those shadows unsightly, From the set staring features (cold, and so young, too), And the death on the lips that a mother hath clung to.
I tell you -- that bushman is braver than most men Who even in daylight doth go through the Ghost Glen, Although in that hollow, unholy and lonely, He sees the dank sawpits and bloody logs only.

And that’s not all!

The Headless Ghost of Dunmore House is reasonably well-known in Kiama. The Chair of the Illawarra Business Chamber, Les Dion, of Dion Buses, sent a copy of the Dion family history to the Pilot’s Cottage, in which it is recorded one of his uncles witnessed the Headless Ghost while working as a bus driver on the last Kiama run of the night in the 1950s. According to this account he chased the Ghost with his bus, until it threw a rope up into the trees and disappeared. Other ghost stories mentioned in the dusty old files include the Swamp Bull of Terragong Swamp, near the Honey farm at Kiama Downs. It is recorded in the Honey family history that they went down to a hole in the swamp where they thought the swamp bull lived and blew it up with explosives. Another ghost story mentioned is the sight of the boat coming down Minnamurra river in the early morning mist on Boxing Day, the same time every year as a famous tragedy on the river.

See also Headless Ghost of Dunmore House.

headless-ghost From Dion family memoirs

I remember my father laughing about this story.

See also this excellent blog: Kiamalocalhistory’s Weblog.