Tales of the Elvina

Church Point Ferry Service: the ElvinaThe Elvina, the Falcon, and Driver Lenny Duck

Before the Community Centre and fire brigade, before electricity connection and Tarrangaua, before Eastern and Bell Wharves, and even before the Sydney Harbour Bridge… there was the Elvina. She has much to celebrate. The Elvina is the longest serving passenger ferry in NSW and her story is rich.

Jimmy Goddard’s grandad built the Elvina at Palm Beach. She was built for the Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company, and originally named the ‘Falcon.’

Ferry in service, WW II…

The ferry service began in 1924. One of the first drivers was a demobbed Norwegian seaman, Einar Holst Fredriksen, AKA Fred. But motor forward a couple of decades. It’s World War II. All dinghies, skiffs and yachts were to serve the war effort.

The Elvina (then Falcon) played her part moving troops to the gun emplacements on West Head, not to mention most people around Pittwater. Post war, December 1951 to be precise, E.H. Caldwell of Church Point purchased the Falcon. Her moniker was soon the Elvina, named after Pittwater’s Elvina Bay, serviced by the Church Point Ferry Service.

Ferry Master, Lenny Duck…

Elvina ferry near Church Point, 1976 (photo courtesy of Graeme Andrews)

Elvina near Church Point, 1976 (photo courtesy of Graeme Andrews)

The best known of the ferry drivers was Mr. Lenny Duck. Lenny was a local bloke, driving the ferry prior to the existence of water taxis. It seems he was himself a taxi of sorts. Early flights, medical emergencies, out of hours issues, Lenny could be enticed out of bed to help.

And there were the regular after-hours runs. Tanya Mottl worked at a Newport restaurant. After work Lenny picked her up – as long as she brought dessert.

Margaret Molloy remembers Lenny delivering mail and taking the Molloy family back to Church Point after the last ferry. He thought they were having such a good time he couldn’t possibly take them away before dark.

Reminiscing about the Elvina, it’s only right to linger long on driver Lenny Duck. He loved the old girl, and to this day the Elvina is moored outside the house where he lived. When Lenny decided to retire, the Elvina was brought out for his last shift.

Ode to Lenny…

Lynne and Michael Clay, long time residents of Elvina Bay, wrote an ode to the man, which she has kindly allowed us to use. It too is part of the Elvina’s 100-year story:

Through rain, hail, lightning, sunshine, bushfire smoke, moorings too close together –

From southerly busters, howling nor-easters, hot summer nor’ westers that sear the inside of your nostrils and threaten bushfires with every gust, to the bitterly cold winter westerlies that dry out your lips and hands till they split…. The weeks of rain where you got soaked tying up the ferry and collecting fares-

Here’s to a very special man – a man who wore shorts right through winter, and to days when there weren’t any outboard motors of tinnies, no electricity, a monthly garbage service, when we all tied our putt putts to Church Point Wharf and parked our cars between the Pasadena and the Blacklers boatshed (now the mini- market)

To the sounds of the World War II air raid siren at the old Fire shed… which still make the hair stand up on the back of my neck!

And do you remember Denis Ryan playing the double bass and the bagpipes as he travelled around the bays on the back of the ferries? Or when the Elvina had no wheel-house and you had to drive with the front window down because the spray on the window made it hard to see- needless to say you and the passengers got wet, but never a complaint-

You have seen all these things and more. Here’s to the Beaver, Wagstaff, Church Point, Curlew, and Elvina and here’s to you. Our heartfelt thanks for being such a thoughtful considerate and helpful friend over the thirty plus years we have known you.

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