BEACH LIFE: Author Marie Riley with Marj McKenzie. Marj's parents Roy and Molly Purcell had a shop at MacMasters Beach in the 1950s.
BEACH LIFE: Author Marie Riley with Marj McKenzie. Marj's parents Roy and Molly Purcell had a shop at MacMasters Beach in the 1950s. Contributed

A masterful story: New book tells story of MacMasters Beach

MARIE Riley firmly believes MacMasters Beach is a unique community, centred around an equally exceptional surf lifesaving club.

And now the facts are in black and white for all to see, because the local historian and author has written a book about it.

MacMasters Beach Surf Club - The Story of a Unique Surf Club and Community traces the area from its original Aboriginal inhabitants to its early settlers and the development of that all-important club.

"The surf club is the centre of our existence," said Marie, who first came to MacMasters Beach with a friend in the 1950s, and had a weekender from the 1970s, before deciding to make it her full-time home.

Her links to the area go back even further, with Marie tracing her family back to the Davises, after whom Davistown was named and the Picketts, of Picketts Valley.

 

Lifesavers on duty in 1945.
Lifesavers on duty in 1945. Contributed

MacMasters Beach was actually named after the McMaster family, with Alan McMaster buying about 600 acres in 1855 and calling the property Corribeg, after his home in the Scottish Highlands.

Marie said no one was quite sure when the 'a' was added into MacMasters, or why, but some council signs to this day have the old McMasters spelling (whether by accident or design, who knows?).

Despite its undeniable beauty, the beach itself is quite dangerous, so back in 1945, resident Harry Lee recognised a surf club was needed at his new home, where visitors often got into trouble in the waters.

 

Pat Cunningham and Terri Richie promoting their favourite beach in Mann St.
Pat Cunningham and Terri Richie promoting their favourite beach in Mann St. contributed

He started out with a borrowed reel from the Terrigal Surf Club, which he brought down the hill from his home to the beach each Sunday with the help of his family.

By about 1948, the club had 10 members and the first fibro clubhouse was built, annual membership of which cost five shillings.

To this day, no lives have been lost while club members have been on duty.

MacMasters remains the only community surf lifesaving club on the Central Coast which owns and maintains its own clubhouse, on land leased from the Department of Lands.

 

Keeping the beach safe in 1958.
Keeping the beach safe in 1958. Contributed

The existing brick clubhouse (which has undergone a number of extensions) was erected in 1975 after a slightly bumpy start.

Marie explained that members were holding a fundraising party on the land after the original clubhouse was destroyed by storm, but were reported to the police for having a keg of beer on site.

When the reluctant police arrived on the scene, they told the revellers they might as well finish off the keg while they worked out who to arrest.

The volunteer was charged and, when their day in court arrived, the judge actually apologised that he had to fine them for raising money for a community cause!

 

Jean Ellis enjoying time on the beach.
Jean Ellis enjoying time on the beach. Contributed

It's one of a number of stories Marie's research has uncovered over the four years that she spent creating the book.

"I interviewed dozens and dozens of people, and people were extremely generous in lending me their photos and sharing their stories," Marie said.

With a population of just 1217, according to the last Census - which doesn't account for the holidaymakers who have been coming, in some cases, for generations - Marie said MacMasters Beach didn't have a lot in terms of shops or other facilities, but its welcoming, supportive and family-friendly community spirit had, and always would, set it apart.

Marie's book costs $35. Email mbriley@ optusnet.com.au.