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another history of bondi



The murk

Bondi was once a divided beach with the superfluous money sunbaking up at the northern end and the dire need of it at the other.

– and the unspeakably foul drainage outlet that emptied the local stormwater onto the beach about a third of the way between the two divisions exacerbated the separation between north and south.

The Pond. The Blackpool.

– and to the wonder and delight of all of us who wandered the length of the promenade, forever watching over the railings, was the sight of so many gregarious Mediterranean families at picnic and watching their children frolic in this toxic wastewater.

Not to be outdone youths from the local suburbs challenged eachother regularly to see who could trek the deepest into and beyond the drain entrance, miles of pipe rumored to end at the harbour.

How they lied on their return about the depths of the slimed tunnels they slid into, the walls all festooned with rags and the floors alive with voracious rats. Miles of subterrain littered and crushed underfoot with the small grey bones of children who had never drawn breath. The poisoned floodwater alcoves along the way alchemised by their long dead lodgers into a peaceful retreat from the city that both defied and drowned them.

Years would pass before this stagnant pool of road waste and overflowing sewerage systems was diverted into the system that fed the Trevally breeding off the north Bondi outlet.

The particular stink pipe that serviced that disgraceful outlet still stands on the Royal Bondi Golf Course today, and just beneath its reinforced bricks a weary track leads down to the infested water and ammoniac air of the old fishing platforms.

The Murk.

Twenty men of all languages would gather down there on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and in the midst of the piss-stinking mist that shrouded them they would cast their long lines into the strangely grey whitewater that bounded in and out off the cliff base down in that cold and shadowed gully, and a base kind of seawater broke against the cliffs there, one that had hidden beneath its surface so much discarded and fouled toilet paper that we all used razors to cut it away from our lines.

One mile away to the south Bondi would greet the dawn like an overworked whore on a Sunday morning with dozens of French Letters littering her high water mark.

A litter of love, sluiced down the innumerable waste pipes from the Cross to Dover Heights and all laid out like greasy nipple headed balloons on the sand.

A half mile to seaward, and despite all the winds of all the compass, a stinking brown stain of waste blended with the tide visited upon the shore plague after plague of wormlike stools. Soft to the unwary tread, they would drift ashore and be buried under the blown drift of powdery sand.

Nobody ran the soft sand then, and nobody wrote this history.

38 Comments Post a comment
  1. “How they lied on their return about the depths of the slimed tunnels they slid into, the walls all festooned with rags and the floors alive with voracious rats. Miles of subterrain littered and crushed underfoot with the small grey bones of children who had never drawn breath. The poisoned floodwater alcoves along the way alchemised by their long dead lodgers into a peaceful retreat from the city that both defied and drowned them.”

    I marvel.

    January 27, 2011
    • – we fought like rats and loved like cats,

      January 27, 2011
  2. Mr Wolf #

    would you recognise any of the old Bondi today?

    January 31, 2011
    • Just the names carved into the rock above where the old boatshed was – you have to push the caprosma away though – and the gelato bar stills sells cakes – and ravesis is a bastard child of the original

      January 31, 2011
  3. Karen #

    I miss your stuff Pete. Guess I need to visit more often.

    January 31, 2011
    • I’m sticking it all in this one spot, with a few changes – and without our old friends’ comments, more is the pity – so you should come by more often karen, nothing much else has changed


      January 31, 2011
      • I visit regularly and love the reading, but just have nothing to say anymore. I think I am blogged out, to the point of only now remaining a silent witness/lurker/fan … quiet time now

        February 1, 2011
  4. Clifton Evers, quiet or even silent?

    I certainly hope not!!

    February 1, 2011
    • This whole sorry story started with the Larry’s realsurf report (more like a blog than anything else) way back in about ’97 – there was some terrible old rubbish then

      February 1, 2011
  5. Yeah, it has been awhile. I remember the prose back then, and enjoyed it too. I don’t think I paid any attention to the surf report from Around the Bends, just how it was preferred too by the lads there, I bet.

    February 1, 2011
  6. This is an amazing piece of sustained descriptive writing. I, too, admired most of all the paragraph beginning ‘How they lied…’

    October 21, 2011
  7. Alan #

    I used to fish the Murk Years ago 1990s- grew up in bondi Have good memories, Regis pizza , ( where the Sushi Raw bar is) Hungry cowboys ( where Mc donalds is now) Old run down Servo ( The old swiss Grand) Remeber when there was a big pipe in the middle of bondi beach

    December 30, 2013
  8. bondi talk, priceless, the dialect

    December 31, 2013
  9. fred #

    do you remember Black Brenda?

    January 6, 2014
  10. with great adolescent pleasure fred, we could watch her coming and going all day long

    January 6, 2014
  11. Mike Bennett #

    An old surfing mate of mine Dave Hogan, used to fish at the Murk, anybody remember him? He left with an English gal, moved to Vancouver where I was best man at his wedding. Later he moved way up in Canada to never, never land where he hunted, trapped and fished before he passed away. A great guy he was! Regarding the Murk again, didn’t an old surfer Barry Ross, alias “the Silver Fox” die when the rope broke as he was going down to the Murk? That’s a bit of a mystery in itself I think. More old Bondi stories…there’s a ton of ’em.

    March 25, 2019
  12. Terry Jenkings #

    “ South Bondi would greet the dawn like an overworked whore on a Sunday morning “….. captured her greeting beautifully Pete.
    No, it’s not all hipsters and soy beans at the ‘Di these days.
    The local rough edge still surfaces from time to time.
    The Guru who controls “ Sculptures by the Sea “ has recently threatened to take his annual artistic show away from Bondi . No doubt he expected to hear cries of “ shock, horror, please don’t “ from locals !!!! Last local’s comment I saw was :
    “ Piss Off and Don’t Come Back”.

    I smiled when I read this as I was comforted by the fact the lingo and attitude from the Astra still exists in South Bondi.

    July 16, 2019
    • How’s the South Bondi Boardrider’s memorial business with the Pavilion going? The plan for a large, quiet room with deep leather chairs and verandahs overlooking the beach, Smart TVs, SP betting facilities, free OP rum chasers after six and all the fried rice you can eat. Plus a little baccarat facility in a back room.

      July 16, 2019
  13. Terry Jenkings #

    Hello PETE, It’s going …but slowly!!! Once again, those who have never paddled out or walked the Prom barefoot all have surfaced with their views on what should be in the BONDI Story Room !!! However, we are persisting , just like Andy would persist when a new young lady would appear at the South End rocks .
    I’m also finishing the filming for the follow up Documentary. National Geographic were very happy with BONDI FOREVER , as were the Airlines who are running it in the in flight entertainment packages. Should be out late this year or early 2020. There will be a little on the Wheels farewell included in the next one which is titled BONDI GUARDIANS.
    I’ll keep you posted on the Museum. I think it is so important to get that history exhibited , otherwise it will be lost ( Andy posed for a bronze statue when last at Bondi….😦😦😦).
    Look after your self. Sadly, Ronny Silcock passed on recently and when I spoke to him a month or two ago I reminded him of his line in Bondi Forever….” once a Bondi Boy always a Bondi Boy “. He sure was and may he RIP .
    Cheers, Terry.

    July 16, 2019
  14. waltham4433 #

    HI Terry cotact my self col collyer or Geoff rule for more stories re south bondi board rides & further history on BONDI. YES we knew Dave Hogan. & Barry Ross & he died when the rope broke at the Mattiwngs at Dover Heights.Barry & myself rode a dingy from bondi to Camp Cove He dived all the way spearing! What a trip! Ray Young also was well know building boards !

    July 28, 2019
  15. Mike Bennett #

    Hi Waltham 4443. Wonder if you used to drink at the Astra way, way, way back? Barry, and Ray, used to drink there along with Billy Bushell and Noel Ward. They were the “older guys” and had lots of great stories to tell. Other oldies names I can’t remember. Whatever happened to them, still around I hope? FYI I am now an oldie.

    July 30, 2019
  16. waltham4433 #

    mike yes we did drink at the Astra. There was Bob Trenor Graham Rodgers John Burgess Geoff Rule Darcy Neill Rodger Mullhall John Cribb John Eccelston Jim Bown . Col Collyer

    July 30, 2019
  17. waltham4433 #

    Rod Cartlidge Ross Kelly The TOAD Were a few other guys who were at the ASTRA col collyer

    July 30, 2019
  18. Mike do you remember cliff jumping at Maroubra & also Catherine hill bay of the coal loader

    July 30, 2019
  19. Mike Bennett #

    Hey guys, thanks for the memories of the Astra crew & no, didn’t jump at Maroubra and yes did jump at. Catherine Hill Bay. Bloody high wasn’t it?
    Re the Astra how about Jimmy Robison, Brucey Go home, Nyholme and Dinki Di Johnny O’Donovan. The list goes on and on. What about those pies and counter lunches? I lived on ’em.

    July 31, 2019
  20. Terry Jenkings #

    Hi Guys,
    Interesting stuff – sadly I was too young to get into the Astra in the 50’s. I was just a Gremie. In early ‘50’s I had a paper run that included the Astra, Tarleton and Pacific across the road.
    Waltham – I’ve spoken to Col and Geoff Rule’s brother Tony is in both Docos. Rules lived up the way from me in Francis St, our Dads use to drink at the Royal together. I last saw Geoff about a year ago.
    I’ll keep you all posted on progress. Hope things going well in the USA Mike. Send Andy back here – he livened the joint up on his last trip 😂😂 The crew here are still talking about his stories!!!
    Keep Well.

    July 31, 2019
  21. The Royal … somebody tell me they were there for the Saturday afternoon’s talent quests .. then we’d adjourn to John Coady’s place just next door and drink all his old man’s beer. …

    July 31, 2019
  22. Lorraine Lambert #

    Beautifully written. I wonder we all survived the filth. Thank Christ for Good Friday 1989 when almost a 1/4 million people gathered at Bondi Beach for the ‘Turn back the Tide’ concert which was staged as a protest against the pollution by sewerage of Sydney’s beaches.
    Lorraine Lambert (nee lIrvine)

    October 25, 2019
    • Holy Cross girl we’re you? I was in adolescent love with one of the HC girls, sitting upstairs in the 360 from the Junction, nobody beside me, hoping she would find it impossible to sit anywhere else without going back downstairs, and of course nobody did that.
      But she did, leaving me with what turned into a lifelong addiction to Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.

      October 25, 2019
      • Lorraine Lambert #

        Nah, I always use the Lord’s name in vain. Thought it good play on words given the concert was on Good Friday. Went to school at Bondi Beach Public then Dover Heights Girls High, then East Sydney Tech at Darlinghurst for art course.. Born Royal Hospital Paddington and bred Beach Road, Bondi Beach. Left to travel at 23, returned 1973 to Bondi for 4 years then moved permanently to Geraldton WA 1977. Still here returning to Bondi annually to visit mum and friends. I was there for the South Bondi Board Riders Reunion in 95? You there?

        October 26, 2019
        • Passed Bob Barrett coming up the stairs, the mug lair, dressed in black .. before that, in the downstairs bar, I walked up to Cochran who was deep in conversation with who knows who and mussed up his hair … always wanted to do that, envy I guess .. the old rascal.

          October 26, 2019
  23. Terry Jenkings #

    Excellent memory Lorraine Lambert regarding the Turn Back The Tide concert in 1989. It was epic and is covered in a documentary I’m doing called “ Bondi Guardians “ which will have its premiere in around February before being shown internationally and locally by National Geographic.
    Keep your eye out for it as I believe you were bridesmaid to one of the revered Bondi ladies, a former Miss Bondi, who ( with her longstanding husband) are two of those appearing in the footage.
    No matter what you may read about the beach these days, there is still a strong contingent of old school locals looking after the place and passing the baton on to the next generation of Bondi People….the Bondi way of life goes on and will continue to go on.

    October 29, 2019
  24. lorraine lambert #

    Looking forward to seeing your new doco Terry especially with my BFF Sue and Phil Robo included. They really are legendary with regards to Bondi aren’t they? Let me know if there’s a premier, I might come over for it.
    Lorraine Lambert

    October 29, 2019
  25. miles #

    did you fish at the murk? i fished there with my father from the late 60’s onwards. i was 5 and the ladder was frightening to say the least. i also ran 1000’s of laps in the soft sand in the 70’s and 80’s when there was only myself and ted symes. i do remember.

    September 8, 2020
    • I did, Miles, with no success … and just as well because no fish caught in that water could ever taste good. And soft sand running. … here’s me thinking I was the only mug doing it back then.

      September 8, 2020
  26. miles #

    did you mean andy cochrane?

    September 8, 2020

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