Out of work and searching for some means of support during the Depression years former Kurri Kurri miner Arthur Murdoch knew, from previous experience in Port Hacking, that a steady but meagre income could be made by shovelling crushed shells into bags.
The shell grit, as it was known, was vital in the chicken sheds as it toughened the eggshell. Without the grit, in the chook’s diet, their eggs were too fragile to sell.
The Steamship Pappinbarra ran aground near the `grit hole’ in 1929, one year before Arthur Murdoch arrived.
Looking for a shell grit deposit closer to home Arthur was fascinated by an article in 1929 reporting the running aground of the ship Pappinbarra on the northern wall of Fingal Island near a small cove named “Shelly”. Could this mean a deposit of shell grit?
Riding his bike to Fingal from Newcastle, Arthur crossed the spit to the wreck of the ship and was rewarded by discovering a large deposit of grit.
Back in Nelson Bay Arthur was fortunate to meet local fisherman Jack Lund who had a launch that was soon loaded with bags, shovels and camping gear. Within an hour Arthur was on his way to his new home.
With Jack’s help, Arthur continued digging grit until 1947 only interrupted by the War.
The full account of Arthur’s adventures can be found in the book ‘Sheer Grit’ which is an excellent documentation of pre-war life in Port Stephens. As it’s out of print there are several available at different times from abebooks.com