The Dominey Family of Port Stephens region

The women of the depression at Winda Woppa with Leila Dominey and baby daughter Beryl centre.
The women of the depression at Winda Woppa with Leila Dominey and baby daughter Beryl centre.

THIS week News Of The Area begins a regular feature called “Remember When” and we look forward to sharing your stories from days gone by, with all of our readers.

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Life was tough in the 1930s during the depression years and, like so many, the Dominey Family lost their home in Cessnock.

Sam and Leila Dominey had six children between the ages of two and 12 when they made their journey on the back of an old ute to Winda Woppa, to move into two old fishermen’s huts situated on the sandy foreshore.

There was no electricity and water was drawn from a nearby well, but the hut was semi furnished and it included a small boat.

The Domineys arrived with five suitcases, two sugar bags and three kerosene lamps which was all of their worldly possessions.

Fishing brought in a small income with Sam and his son Cliff being away for two to three nights at a time, sleeping in the boat and storing fish after putting them through the “smokehouse” at Tamboy.

Cliff Dominey and his Dad Sam Dominey.
Cliff Dominey and his Dad Sam Dominey.

In 1933, a few mates came up with the idea of prawning and selling them at the Newcastle markets.

It didn’t take long until Sam and Cliff became known as two of the first professional prawners on the Myall and over the next nine years they made their living from the Myall waterways.

The bottom dropped out of the prawning industry and Sam found employment on the wharves in Wollongong.

The Domineys packed up and moved, only returning to Winda Woppa annually to visit their mates.

Fast forward to the year 1990, Cliff, now 70 years old, had retired, his wife Dorothy had passed away and two years later his only son John, 32, tragically took his life.

Six months later, Cliff explained that he intended to build a houseboat and launch it at Dirty Creek at Nerong and live his final years showing his family the majestic Myall Lakes.

The houseboat the “Jay Dee” that Cliff built.
The houseboat the “Jay Dee” that Cliff built.

Cliff succeeded with his plan naming the houseboat the “Jay Dee” after his son’s initials and nickname.

The houseboat slept ten and was launched in late 1991 at Nerong.

Cliff guided the family tours down the Myall waterways with stories from his youth, making new friends and renewing old friendships.

In 1994, Cliff passed away in his daughter Maggie’s arms and it seemed the right thing to have some of his ashes placed where his heart lay.

A fleet of vessels joined the Coast Guard in a procession to scatter Cliff’s ashes on his beloved Myall.

Returning to Nerong wharf, Cliff’s mates and local friends planted a pine tree in the Marina Park.

The Pine Tree at Nerong that stands as a living memorial to Cliff Dominey (Beryl Dominey, sister now 87, embraces the huge pine).
The Pine Tree at Nerong that stands as a living memorial to Cliff Dominey (Beryl Dominey, sister now 87, embraces the huge pine).

Twenty-three years on, the pine tree stands more than 20 metres high and at its feet is a memorial plaque with Cliff’s name.

Maggie Dominey, Cliff’s eldest daughter, moved to Nelson Bay just over 20 years ago.

Today, standing on the Nelson Bay foreshore, Maggie can see the huge Pine tree across the other side of the Bay at Winda Woppa, marking the area where the Dominey family’s love of
the Myall waterways first began.

Maggie Dominey, Cliff’s eldest daughter, looks out toward the Winda Woppa Pine that stands as a memorial to the Dominey’s love for the Myall waterways. Photos supplied by Maggie Dominey
Maggie Dominey, Cliff’s eldest daughter, looks out toward the Winda Woppa Pine that stands as a memorial to the Dominey’s love for the Myall waterways. Photos supplied by Maggie Dominey

“Who would have thought all these years on, that two pine trees would still be standing as a landmark and memorial for the Dominey family,” Maggie Dominey told News Of The Area.

“The first at Winda Woppa where the journey began and the other at Nerong Village where the journey ended,” Ms Dominey said.

If you have a story about your family living in our beautiful area throughout the years, News Of The Area would love to hear from you too.

By Jewell DRURY

One thought on “The Dominey Family of Port Stephens region

  1. Wow Jewell. What a legacy. I’ve always wondered how that amazing tree got there. Might have to check it out close up next time I’m over there.

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