85-year-old grandmother discovers her family history at Gunners Cottage in Point Nepean
Wednesday 30 January, 2019
Over the holiday period, 85-year-old grandmother Joy Gray (née Bird) and her family visited Point Nepean National Park in Portsea for a day out. Joy had some recollection of a personal history in the area, but did not remember much more than being born in the cottage there. It was after all, a very long time ago! Imagine her surprise when as the family found their way to Gunners Cottage they discovered an interpretive sign on the front of the cottage that referred to the Bird family history and its connection to Point Nepean.
The current use of Gunners Cottage as a satellite information point for visitors to the site reflects the multifaceted uses Point Nepean has had as migration centre, army base of operations and National Park. Built in the 1870s, it’s a modest building that is utilised as a starting point for the many walks, or cycling adventures to the forts and Range Area, and exploration opportunities visitors can make around surrounding park. Visitors can also catch the Point Nepean Shuttle Bus from this location.
Gunners Cottage is one of dozens of buildings that have been preserved over many years and form a living history of the area. Unusually for a building It’s actually had a nomadic past, given it was relocated from its original position south of Eagles Nest where it originally formed part of the defence complex.
In 1933 Joy’s Father Ernest William Bird was the stationed Army Cook for Fort Nepean. He lived in Gunners Cottage with his wife Victoria Blanche Bird and five children – Ray, Jack, Alan, Teddy and Joy. Joy was actually born in the cottage itself. It is not known when the cottage was moved from Eagles Nest to its current location.
The family were stunned and gratified to find their history so lovingly preserved, and really appreciated the efforts and assistance of Parks Victoria rangers in providing further information and assist them on their trip, as well as being able to share their story with other visitors. Joy appreciated the use of an all-terrain wheelchair.
“I would not have been able to see so many different areas of the national park – some of the most picturesque vantage points in Victoria I hadn’t before seen - without the use of the wheelchair as it gave us an incredible level of accessibility. We were very grateful for this feature.” said Joy.