Cecil Whitney’s treasure trove of local history seeks an interested collector

Cecil Whitney, proud of his family’s involvement in building Coffs Harbour, stands on the Jetty where his grandfather supplied wood during its construction.

BORN at Upper BoBo, Cecil Whitney has spent a lifetime collecting items of historical significance to the Coffs Coast, a treasure trove which now needs a new home.

At 82-years-old, having worked in 20 different trades and industries throughout his career, Cecil has amassed an enormous amount of historical paperwork and memorabilia relevant to the local area.

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Curious by nature, Cecil is an avid snipper of newspapers, creating folders galore of cuttings.

At his long-time home in Coffs Harbour, Cecil has boxes and boxes of photographs and documents dating back over a century.

Many students will remember Cecil as Mr Whitney, the manager of the Coffs Harbour Museum in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“Their teachers got the kids to call me Professor because I knew such a wide range of history about Coffs Harbour,” Cecil told News Of The Area.

Cecil’s family connection to the region dates back generations.

His grandfather, Raymond Whitney, owned 1,500 acres at Upper BoBo.

Today that land is home to Rodger Pryce’s Brooklana Angus Stud farm on Whitneys Road.

Living in a rainforest in the late 1800s Raymond Whitney was a wood supplier in the burgeoning timber industry on the Coffs Coast.

“Thousands and thousands of logs from Whitneys Farm went overseas in the late 1800s and early 1900s for house building and railway sleepers,” said Cecil.

When builder and contractor Thomas L Lawson successfully tendered for the construction of the Coffs Harbour jetty, he appointed Raymond Whitney as one of the timber suppliers from 1890.

“They used turpentine and stringy bark, there’s not much difference, they’re both resistant to water bugs and worms and used for their strength and durability.”

There were 32 different types of timber grown on Whitneys Farm.

“There was bonewood, hard as anything; it was sent to England and used as handles on cutlery.

“There were eight different types of gums, used for house timber and weatherboards.

“The stringy bark was used for bridge building.

“And when they brought the railway through Brooklana and Lowanna they used our timber, the best timber,” he said.

“Ash wood, silky oak and coach wood, all from Whitneys Farm, went off to New Zealand for use in ship building, the top of the ships and masts,” he said.

Living remotely in the 1940s Cecil barely had access to schooling.

He went to Brooklana school and when the bus run was introduced, he went to Ulong.

“I started when I was nine and left when I was eleven.”

Short on traditional schooling himself, but fascinated by history, Cecel has been an inspiration to many a local student through his dedicated work with the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum.

“We had between 65,000 and 70,000 students through the museum from the end of the ‘90s and early 2000s.”

Busloads of school children would arrive when the museum held a special exhibition.

“They’d arrive at Coffs Showground and camp overnight.”

Strolling along the Jetty today, walking stick in hand, Cecil is living history.

His memory is full of Coffs Harbour’s past.

If you can provide a home to some of Cecil’s collection or for more information, contact andrea@newsofthearea.com.au.


One thought on “Cecil Whitney’s treasure trove of local history seeks an interested collector

  1. That photo you are holding Cecil is now history. Coffs Harbour no longer wants to associate itself with logging even if it means the Jetty can not be repaired! Koalas are more important than a tourist site! And Coffs Harbour absolutely does not want residential and commercial housing on the foreshores.

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