Believe It Or Not: The Bill Ripley Story

Front cover of the two volumed book about local legend Bill Ripley authored by his grandson, Stuart Ripley. Limited numbers now for sale locally at the CTC / Hawks Nest Newsagent.


BELIEVE It Or Not: The Bill Ripley Story is the incredible tale of Bill Ripley from Tea Gardens.

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The two-volume hardcover has been carefully compiled by Stuart Ripley, the grandson of the book’s leading man.

The biography starts from in the early twentieth century with Bill as a young man, working as a deckhand on the store boats trading across the waters of Port Stephens.

He quickly became a capable seaman, which refined his talent for professional sculling, then a top international sport.

Successfully combining work and sport, Bill gained his Harbour Master’s Certificate and won a State sculling title, earning the title of ‘coming champion’.

World War One broke out but the keen young man was deemed medically unfit.

He overcame the stigma through achieving the merit of ship’s captain.

He piloted the local emporium trading and cargo steamers Nepean and Coweambah (G.A. Engel & Sons) that travelled to Port Stephens and bi-weekly to Newcastle.

Resuming sculling, his successes against the world’s best accorded him an international rating and a tilt at the world championship.

Bill happily retired early from professional sport, enjoying his marriage, family, and working in Tea Gardens.

World War Two tore peace apart, and Bill assisted the United States Army in defending Australia from the Japanese.

He was part of the US Army Small Ships Section, skippering a Tasmanian tugboat ferrying supplies through enemy lines to Allied forces holding the Papua/New Guinea coast and neighbouring islands.

Bill and his crew were on constant alert from enemy attack and at times they were bombed and strafed by Japanese raiders.

Bill went on to be decorated by the United States Army for contributions in defending Australia.

Sadly, those services were not recognised by the Australian government, Defence, and affiliated bodies.

Bill returned to Tea Gardens and started a successful career in real estate, donating the land to the RSL Club and for the local Ambulance Station.

He passed away peacefully in 1970.

Author and grandson, Stuart Ripley loved hearing the tales about Bill, sharing, “Besides being a family thing, I believe the publication is an important historical document that you will not find in any of the official histories. Most of the war section in the book is a transcription of my grandfather’s WWII notes/diary.”

Local writer, Ann Scully, told NOTA, “The book provides refreshingly divergent insights into the traditional interpretations of events that defined early twentieth-century Australia. For readers who appreciate a narrative of originality and discovery, grab this good read and enjoy.”

Believe It Or Not: The Bill Ripley Story is available from Hawks Nest Newsagency, Tea Gardens CTC or contact


By Sandra MURRAY

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