Stinker’s History: The Asquith clan (part one)

Tally and Bowler Asquith are on the extreme right of the line of fishermen sitting outside the Sea Breeze Hotel in the 1950s.

THE Asquith family were among the earliest pioneers in the district, considered to be the original European fishermen on the northern shore who worked the waters in and around Port Stephens.

The first to arrive was Captain William E. Asquith (1853-1933) with his wife Catherine Kent (nee Duncan), who he had met at Pindimar.

It seems, reading from a life profile of William, that he was quite a character.

Born at Botany Bay, he was a fisherman and sailmaker by profession, extending his fishing interests “slightly north into Port Stephens”.

He would apparently disappear for eighteen months to two years at a time.

No one would know where he had been, however it was considered that he left Australia on long sea voyages – maybe he was in Pindimar.

There is one particular interesting trait which has emerged on this line through Catherine’s father, John Duncan.

John was described as having red hair and freckles and to the present day there are many family members with this fair complexion.

Being in the sun for long hours, it is a curse for fishermen to have fair skin.

The Asquiths can blame John Duncan for this family trait.

William died in 1933 and was buried at Stockton Cemetery though the grave is no longer evident.

William and Catherine’s family of seven kids included identical twin boys, Thomas ‘Bowler’ Asquith and John ‘Tally’ Asquith, both fishermen who had eleven and fourteen children respectively.

Every boy in both families became a fisherman.

Tally’s lads – Tommy, Arthur, Maurice, Jonno and Neville – all keen fishermen, had nine sisters.

Bowler’s son Bill, who bought the ‘Eldorado’ off Frank Nicholson and changed the name to ‘Iris A’ before building the 46 foot ‘Farewell’ with cousins Trevor and Danny Asquith.

Frederick ‘Ping’ Asquith, another son, built and worked the ‘Ilma Dale’, a 38 foot Cruiser stern driven by a Perkins diesel, out of Nelson Bay.

The other brothers, Charlie and Bobby, fished together for many years.

They were great mates but still managed to have regular ‘blues’, particularly at the bar of the local pub.

Apart from being very good fishermen they were genuine larrikins and ended up in many sticky situations as you will soon discover.

Bob, the youngest of eleven, was a master boat builder who built and helped to build many 36 foot fishing boats and over 100 dinghies.

The old family home in Magnus Street, Nelson Bay, where the boats were being built, became a meeting place for all the locals and they would gather to discuss anything and everything.

Boat building was a social event at the Asquiths; the tea pot never left the fire and finally the bottom fell completely out.

“We boiled the arse out of it!” said Bob.

Ruth, Bob’s wife, supplied the biscuits in the big square Arnott’s tins with the rosella on the lid.

By John ‘Stinker’ CLARKE

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