My not-so-old Chinese friend wants to "Escape from the City". He's looked at "Riverbend" and he's looked at Mays Wharf. Before he goes completely cold on the idea, I'd better share with him some of the history of Mays Wharf which I discovered in Stuart Magee's little book "The Clyde River and Batemans Bay":
... just downstream from where the Buckenboura joins is a most interesting old homestead and the remains of a wharf. The wharf is called Mays Wharf and before that it was Wrays Wharf.
Timothy Wray was a Donnegal man. In 1891 he married a girl in Sydney where he worked as a diver. By a diver, I mean one of those blokes in an overall canvas suit, lead weighted boots, and a steel helmet with a window at the front. As a matter of fact, Timothy's diving suit is now in the Hiskisson Maritime Museum.
He came to Batemans Bay in about 1900 and set up as an oyster man, using his skills and his suit as a diver. You might well wonder how he went about oystering in a diving suit, and I'll tell you shortly, but for now I want to talk about that fine house.
Timothy bought 80 acres at the junction of the rivers, leased another 1000, but did little with the land. It is, I believe I may say without offence to anyone, difficult land to do much with.
Shortly after he arrived he set about building the house, and bricklayers were brought down from Sydney. The bricks were made on site from local clay. It's a full brick house and very strongly constructed. Rather than wire ties between the inner and outer walls, at every few courses they laid the bricks transversely to bind the two walls together. There are three bedrooms, lounge and living-room, each with a fireplace joined to one of the four chimneys. There was a verandah all round and a bathroom at one end of the verandah. The toilet, which was way down the back, was not lacking in character and was a two-holer. Have you ever seen one of those? They are what you might call a pally institution. Well, Timothy had nine children, so I imagine there was an impatient queue at times.
The heart and soul of the house was the kitchen. It was big, and you didn't just cook there. You served the meal at a table which coped readily with twelve.
One of Timothy's nine was Eric. He married a girl by the name of Middleton who taught at a school which had been built behind the house, and whose father was the teacher at the school at Nelligen. The Eric Wrays, in turn, had two children.
The Eric Wrays died intestate. That left a problem which could only be solved by the sale of the property. I think there may have been an intermediate owner for a while but it was bought in about 1965 by William May, more commonly known as Pat.
On his assessment of the land Pat May called the place Poverty Farm - which name still appears on the government map and on the gate. His sons, Alan and Dennis, who run the property today say that on the basis of their experience they have no good reason to change the name of the farm.
Meantime, the name Wray has continued unabated. One of Eric's children was Timothy too. He continued in the line of oyster men though using techniques a little more updated than his grandfather. His widow, Mrs Gwen Wray, lives today in Wray Street, Batemans Bay, She's not sorry her family is no longer oystering. It's a wet, cold, hard life she says.
I don't know enough about it to argue, but I do know this. If there is a finer oyster than a Clyde River oyster I have yet to find it, and I have been looking hard for a long time.
So much for Stuart Magee's potted history of Wrays or Mays Wharf. The Mays no longer own Mays Wharf although a quick search of the local telephone directory reveals dozens of Mays as well as Wrays still living in Batemans Bay and up and down the Far South Coast.
I do believe the Innes family who operate the Innes Boatshed and the Clyde River tourist boat bought the property in 2003 for $940,000. It has been for sale for some time now for $1,980,000.
A mere bagatelle for my not-so-old Chinese friend if he ever decides to "Escape from the City".