The home (centre) built by Jean and Samuel Anderson at Clarks Beach.
The home (centre) built by Jean and Samuel Anderson at Clarks Beach.

Why the 'e' from Clarks must go

It’s only one letter and, in the scheme of things, it’s not such a big deal.

But we should get it right. And it should be fixed.

Forget what all the signs say and the Geographical Names Board of NSW’s take on it – Byron Bay’s Clarks Beach should definitely be spelled without an ‘e’.

Who says so? Long-time Byron Bay local and surfing identity Keith Anderson, that’s who.

 And he should know – the beach, he says, is named after his grandparents, James and Elizabeth Clark – no ‘e’.

But it hasn’t stopped every official sign in the Bay – and just about everybody else – spelling it with an ‘e’.

 Keith says his grandfather, James Clark, came to Byron Bay in 1902 for health reasons and found a quiet area in the corner of the bay and set about clearing lantana and scrub to make way for a house.

James had taken out a Miner’s Right which entitled its holder to take up a small area of unoccupied Crown land.

The home he built on the site at Clarks Beach was quite primitive with a wooden floor and walls that were timber at the bottom with the top half canvas and a tin roof.

James mined for beach gold from which he made jewellery and he also worked at a sawmill located where Woolworths now stands.

 In 1914, Byron Shire Council decided to turn the area into a picnic area and wanted to evict James from the site.

 He refused and the matter ended up in the courts. When James produced his Miner’s Right, the judge decided he didn’t have the jurisdiction to settle the matter so James kept his land.

 Before James died in 1923, he had the Miner’s Right transferred to his wife’s name. The council tried to evict her, but again failed.

 In that same year, the council turned the area into a camping ground and Elizabeth Clark was given the job of caretaker.

 Elizabeth transferred the Miner’s Right to her daughter, Jean, in January 1945.

Two years later, Jean and her husband, Samuel (Reg) Anderson – Keith’s parents – built their home at Clarks Beach with the help of local fishermen and they helped Elizabeth with caretaking duties.

Keith has very fond memories of living at Clarks Beach, walking along the beach into town with not another soul in sight and looking across to The Pass from the veranda to check out the surf.

 If there were three or four people in the surf, Keith deemed it ‘too crowded’ and wouldn’t go out.

The idyllic lifestyle came to an end in 1975 when Samuel and Jean handed in their Miner’s Right and moved to Sydney and the Department of Lands disposed of the home.

 Ironically, in a letter to the Andersons, the department referred to the removal of their cottage from ‘Clarkes Beach’ – with an ‘e’.

The department got it wrong.

And so did Byron Council when it had signs made for the present day caravan park, now managed by the Department of Lands.

If the town is to remain true to its historical links, the council should lobby to have the ‘e’ removed – officially.

FOOTNOTE: And Paterson Street has one ‘t’, not two. That should be sorted as well.

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