THE following story was complied by S.W. Ellis, and was sent to me when I was editor of the Bulli Times newspaper in 1993. I discovered this three page typed history, entitled “History of the Bulli Rifle Club”, along with the captioned images, while going through a box of old letters and photos recently.
By S. W. ELLIS
IN approximately 1908 citizens of the adjoining towns of Bulli and Woonona started campaigning in earnest for the establishment of a rifle range in their local area (In fact it would appear that the campaign had started perhaps some three years earlier, but unfortunately detailed records are not available to support this theory).
Other towns in the district, namely Coledale and Austinmer, also had their own rifle ranges as did numerous small towns throughout the state.
On April 27 1908 the then Officer, Supervisor Rifle Clubs wrote to the Mr. W Capon Esq. of Woonona. (Mr. Capon was secretary of the then fledging club and appears in most of the correspodence dealing with the building of the range.)
Mr Capon was advised that “action is now being taken for the resumption of land required for a rifle range at Bulli, and as soon as something definite is arrived at you will be further communicated with.” (Not surprisingly at this point no definite site had been agreed to…).
Whilst there seems to have been an old site (location unknown) it was suggested by Mr Capon, in his letters to the Officer Supervising Rifle Clubs, that there were two favourable sites available in the area. Mr. Capon describes the sites as :-
1). “The old Floyd estate, which Mr Farrell now holds”;
2). “A site at Bellambi on the Osborne estate, once occupied by Mr. Duffy”.
Around this time (1909) a meeting was held and the names of 35 townsfolk were obtained who were willing to become members of the club.
Those members were:
William Henry Capon, miner, 44.
William Arthgur Capon, miner, 16.
Joseph Pallier, cordial mfg, 28.
Joseph R Southall, miner shiftman, 45.
James Charlesworth, labourer, -.
James Morgan, miner, 49.
John Johnston, mine shiftman, 23
Alfred Blatch, tea merchant, 40.
Martin Graham, miner, 23
James Riyon [Rixon], saddler, –
John Morgan, miner, 23.
John Sangster, carpenter, -.
– Butcher, merchanic, – .
Arthur Petersen, miner, 31.
-Duryer, police, -.
-Gibbons, police, -.
Joseph Salisbury, miner
William Laugenberg, miner.
James Astill, miner.
Richard Rirton [Kirton], miner, 21.
Jacob Glass, draper, 51.
Joseph Lewis, miner.
Joseph Southall (jnr), miner.
George Jackson, miner.
William Arthur Lewis, grover.
Samuel Gaham, miner.
Wesley Martin, -.
William Richardson, clerk.
John Hiles, Wardsman, B.C. H.
A. R. Gardener, school teacher.
Conrad Garland, miner.
Edward A. Graham, postmaster.
E. Williams, dentist.
William James Bourke, journalist, 30.
Stanley Marsh, miner, 20.
Henry Marsh, miner, 54.
The club was then to be known as the Bulli and Woonona Civilian Rifle Club. On May 9 1911 advice was received by Mr Capon that funds had been approved for the purchase of the site and erection of the range.
On June 14 1912 work was well underway on the construction of a three target military range at Sandon Point – Bulli.
In fact on this date Mr Capon received :-
1). Standard rules,
2). Rifle club regulations, and
3). Application forms.
Mr Capon also received advice that the club would be loaned “1 Magazine Lee Enfield for every 5 Active members and 1 Martini Enfield for every 2 Active members”.
Rules and By-laws were printed and distributed to members around August 2 1912 via the Captain J. R. Southall and Secretary W. H. Capon.
Interesting facets of these by-laws were :-
# An annual subscription of 10/- per annum, payable quartely,
# The entrance fee for a club match not to exceed 1/- per members.
Shooting continued on this site up until 1957 as moves were made to use the area for a housing estate.
The Club then obtained a 20 year lease from the Bellambi Coal Co. and was fortunate enough to have the army construct a tem target range on the site at the eastern side of the railway.
The range was one of the few which had mounds situated from 100 yards to 900 yards. (This area had already seen service by the Corrimal Club which used steel targets in its regular use of Martini rifles. Additionally the Ingleburn/Campbelltown also utilised the range.)
The club flourished at this site for many years and was a local landmark in the area and, in fact, the target shed was used by passing aircraft as a marker point.Club championships were conducted each year with many local shooters gaining notoriety.
Club champion shooters during the period included such names as George Lewis, Colin Southall, Billy Cleaver, and George and Richard Ellis. An unusual feat was achieved in 1967 when father and son, Colin and Geoffrey Southall, won the senior and junior championship (resp.).
During 1968 Col Southall was instrumental in establishing a smallbore, or miniature class, for local schoolboys. Shhoting was conducted at 25 yards behind the main targets every Saturday monring. It was not uncommon to see as many as 40 young men with every manner of antique and new .22’s being instructed in target shooting and firearm safety.
Again due to the ‘urban sprawl’ the Club was forced to quit the range in 1969. For a short time afterwards the “mimiature” club continued in the grounds of Wollongong High School and the base of an old quarry at Wollongong lighthouse.
In 1971 the club obtained access to dairy paddocks at Jamberoo. A local “cocky”, Mr Bruce Tate, allowed the construction of a 3 target range and shooting commenced each Saturday afternoon, on the proviso that his herd were ushered from the field of fire.
Costs for ammunition at the time were $2.60 for 7.62mm cartridges and $2.00 for .303 cartridges – a cheap price in relation to the costs of the sport in these times!
This arrangement lasted until December 31 1980 when, following the death of Mr. Tate, the estate was split up and Kiama Municipal Council wrote to the club giving notice to quit the range at Jamberoo.
In the absence of a “home” range and declining membership the club effectively disbanded. Some members joined other clubs whilst others took up other discipline such as smallbore and 10 metre shooting.
A change in attitude by the local government at the time caused many shooters to band together in support of their sport and for a brief period in the late 1980s the club started to function again, albeit with small membership, at the Nowra rifle range.
At this point in time the club is effectively wound-up mainly due to the non availability of ranges and a changing community attitude towards the sport.
-Bonnet Bay NSW
-April 2 1993.