Shaws Bay, showing the Pilot's Cottage and other buildings associated with the Ballina Pilot. Note the quarry holes were formed by the removal of columnar basalt to contruct the Ballina breakwall.
Shaws Bay, showing the Pilot's Cottage and other buildings associated with the Ballina Pilot. Note the quarry holes were formed by the removal of columnar basalt to contruct the Ballina breakwall. Ballina Shire Council records

Pilot's wife dies young at height of his career

THE white headstone, cemented in three parts at the pioneer cemetery, of a young wife at East Ballina has opened up a treasure trove of early life.

The port in Ballina in the early 20th century was at a time when shipping was the main form of transport for delivering goods and people.

Sophia Jones was only 37 years old when she passed away on October 31, 1908.

The small plaques cemented in the brick wall at the East Ballina pioneer cemetery, mark the nearby remains of Sophia Jones, wife of Captain David Jones, pilot of Ballina port between 1905 and 1909.
The small plaques cemented in the brick wall at the East Ballina pioneer cemetery, mark the nearby remains of Sophia Jones, wife of Captain David Jones, pilot of Ballina port between 1905 and 1909. Samantha Elley

She was the wife of Captain David Jones, a Welshman who had come out to Australia and taken up the position of 'pilot' at Ballina's pilot station in 1905.

Captain Jones was the third appointed pilot at the busy port since the establishment of the station in 1853.

At the time, Ballina port was seen as the "'heart valve' through which life on the river was maintained, pumping in men and money and supplies, and pumping out hundreds and thousands of feet of cedar" according to author Glen Hall in his book Port of Richmond River (1840s to 1980s).

The pilot's station where the Jones' lived was made up of a pilot's cottage at Shaws Bay, as well as cottages for his assistant boatmen and crew.

A flag was erected at the station to signal to vessels, coming and going from the river, when they could cross the bar safely.

Other roles of the pilot included taking daily soundings of the bar and making rescues when required.

Captain Jones was involved in the rescue of all passengers on the ill-fated steamer, the Lady Musgrave when it ran into trouble in 1904 at Ballina.

He had risked his life to help one passenger who was unable to extricate himself from the sinking ship.

During the time Captain and Mrs Jones lived at the pilot's station, sea trade at Ballina would have been at its peak.

It wouldn't be until the development of road and rail travel from the 1930s onwards that sea and river trade would die down.

Mrs Jones had suffered poor health for some time and it was on the last day of October she succumbed to her illness.

At the time the Northern Star reported her funeral was very largely attended.

In memory of their Welsh heritage Captain Jones had the phrase 'Hyd Y Wawr' (Until the Dawn) etched on her headstone.

Shortly after his wife died Captain Jones left the area to take up the role of pilot at Newcastle's port, where, after a short stint at the Tweed, he returned and was promoted to shipping inspector until his death in 1929.

References

* 'Pilot Vessel PV Richmond' Significance assessment prepared for Ballina Shire Council by RPS Australia East Pty Ltd, November 14, 2012, Page 10.

* 'Captain David Jones', The Sun, Monday, September 2, 1929, Page 8.

* Hall, G. (1983), Port of Richmond River (1840's to 1980's), 2nd edn., Ballina Shire Council: Ballina.

* 'Death of Mrs Jones', Northern Star, Tuesday, November 3, 1908, Page 2



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