The Mysterious Origins of the Bogey Hole

‘Wildly alluring – Place of the Heart’ by Frances Thompson Newcastle Herald 16 October 2010 pp. 4-5

Background to the original 2010 post. (Please note the links to the LPMA site are now dead) This post was updated in 2019 with extra material kindly provided by Susan Effenberger.

“We attended an information session yesterday (1 December 2010) organised by Andrew Ling from the LPMA, and the designers Steve and Barney Collins who took us through their rationale and draft plans to address the safety concerns for Newcastle’s historic Bogey Hole. They want to retain the “wildness” of the place, and fix up the slippery stairs problem by floating a walkway over the top of the original stairs, then curve around to a platform. It looked pretty good. More information and draft plans could once be accessed here on the LPMA’s website – Restoration of safe access to Newcastle’s Bogey Hole . You have until December 10 to comment to If you are interested in attending future info sessions email:

Origins of the name ‘Bogey Hole

by Gionni Di Gravio

The Bogey Hole Baths, under Shepherd’s Hill, belonging to the Corporation, have been enlarged, deepened, and have an iron railing placed around them for safety. Major Morrissett, the second last Governor of the Penal Settlement, made the walk now so popular round the Upper Reserve or Horse-Shoe Bend. He was very fond of sea bathing, and had a hole excavated in the rocks, which he used as a bath. The place was for years referred to as a “Commandant’s Bath”. It was afterwards considerably enlarged and called the “Bogey Hole,” by which it has ever since been known. – John Windross & J.P. Ralston. Historical Records of Newcastle 1797-1897. Newcastle, 1897. p.40

We haven’t found anything referring to the excavation of baths in Morrissett’s testimony to Commissioner Bigge, and neither would we expect it.

It was probably a ‘foreign order’ for the Commandant’s pleasure to pull a number of convicts from another task to his private bath. I have asked NSW State Records to look into whether there exists any records of its original construction.

The earliest reference to it we have found (located in January 2012) is a Conrad Marten drawing dated the 13th May 1841 and held in the State Library of New South Wales. It was labelled “Morrisets Bath”.

76. Morrisets Bath, Newcastle, 13th May 1841

Item 76 Morrisets Bath, Newcastle, 13th May 1841
from Sketches in Australia, 1835-1865 by Conrad Martens (1801-1878)
View Album:

This drawing then enabled us to locate a mention of “Morriset’s Bath” in the Sydney Morning Herald for the 16th April 1851 p. 3:

Possessing a good climate and means of sea-bathing, Newcastle is much frequented by invalids and visitors during the summer season, and would be much more so were house-room less difficult to be procured, and the facilities of sea-bathing encreased ; some improvements to this end have lately been made. Formerly “the ladies’ corner” of the beach, and Colonel Morriset’s bath, were alone available for bath-ing purposes, but now a ladies’ bathing-house, which is much in request, has been constructed near to the breakwater on the harbour side. The city contains many good and respectable looking houses, although none of them can lay any claim to architectural beauty. – See: Port of Newcastle

The earliest mention we have found thus far that in the newspapers as the ‘Bogey Hole’ is from as early as 1861. (Source: Trove)

A search through the meanings of ‘bogey’ prove quite interesting, as all are derivations refer to the supernatural.

bogey – In English folklore a horrible evil spirit or hobgoblin, usually big and black, who scares children. The “Bogey-Man” or “Boogie-Man” arrives at night and appears in bedrooms and at the sides of beds. In appearance the bogey often looks like the dark silhouette of a man. The bogey is called the bwg (ghost) in Welsh, bogle in Scotland, and Boggelmann in German. Among other names are bug-a-boo, boo, bugbear, bock, and boggart. The Irish puca is similar. Bogey also is another name for the DEVIL.
– Rosemary Ellen Guiley. The Encyclopedia of Demons and Demonology. p.33

Bogy, bogey. is related to ‘bogle’ and ‘bug’. Earliest 19th century use as nickname for Satan. Hence the proverb bogey, the “colonel” at golf. Perhaps ultimately cognate with Puck.
Bug = Spectre from Welsh ‘bwg’, ghost.
Bogle [Archaic] spectre (c.1500) Probably from the Celtic cf. Welsh bwgwl, meaning terror.
– Weekley, Etymological Dictionary.

Bogey – probaby derived from the Slavonic bog meaning god.
Other forms of sprite, spectre or goblin are:
bog-a-boo, boo (Yorkshire)
boggart, bogle (Scotland)
boggle, begest, bar-gest, boll, boman and bogey allied to boll (Northern) – meaning apparition.
– Lewis Spence. Dictionary of Occultism

Colonel Bogey was the imaginary player in golf that the other players were supposed to compete with, instead of with one another.

The scholar who did the hard yards tracking down the etymological origins of the word ‘bogey’ appears to be John Fiske who published his work around 1872. His analysis appears on pages 141-143 of the edition below:

Myths and Mythmakers: Old Tales and Superstitions interpreted by Comparative Mythology by John Fiske.
Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1902.

He believes the “Bogie” to be identical with “Puck” and the Slavonic “Bog”, “Baga” of the Cuniform inscriptions, “Bhaga” of Old Aryan in the Sanskrit of the Vedas and “Bagaios” the Phrygian Zeus. It originally denoted an unclouded sun or noon day illumined by the solar rays.

In speaking of the origins of Buckle Street as an older trackway or road used in the sense of Bogle or Bogie, Harold Bayley says:

It was always the custom of a later race to attribute any great work of unknown origin to Bogle or the Devil, e.g., the Devil’s Dyke, and innumerable other instances.
-Harold Bayley, Archaic England pp. 518-519


The elemental Bog is the Slavonic term for God, and when the early translators of the Bible rendered ” terror by night ” as ” bugs by night ” they probably had spooks or bogies in their mind. In Etruria as in Egypt the bug or maybug was revered as the symbol of the Creator Bog, because the Egyptian beetle has a curious habit of creating  small pellets or balls of mud. In Welsh bogel means the navel, also centre o/ a wheel, and hence Margaret or Peggy may be equated with the nave or peg of the white-rayed Marguerite or Day’s Eye? – Bayley ibid p. 233

The Bogey Hole is a special and sacred place that needs to be approached with respect like we would a holy grotto. It is a mysterious place that obviously had connections for our forebears as a place of ancient spirits and ghosts.

It has just dawned on me that perhaps the ‘Bogey’ or ‘Bogey Man’ is none other than Major Morrissett (King Lash) himself.

Origin of the term Bogey Hole

By Sue Effenberger

Many accounts suggest that Bogey (also spelt bogie) came into the Australian dialect from Dharuk, the Aboriginal language of the Sydney region, where it meant ‘to bathe or swim’.

From ANU Australian National Dictionary Centre Australian Words A-B, the earliest records show the term being used in the pidgin English of Aborigines.


Historical Records of New South Wales II: I have bathed, or have been bathing… Bogie d’oway. These were Colby’s words on coming out of the water.
1830 R. Dawson, Present State of Australia: ‘Top bit, massa, bogy,’ (bathe) and he threw himself into the water.
1840 By 1840s it was naturalised in Australian English.
1841 Historical Records of Australia: I suppose you want your Boat, Sir; Yes, said Mr Dixon; well, said Crabb I suppose we must bogey for it. Yes, said Mr Dixon, any two of ye that can swim.  In Australian English a noun meaning ‘a swim or bathe; a bath’ was formed from the verb:
1847 A. Harris, Settlers and Convicts: In the cool of the evening had a ‘bogie’ (bathe) in the river.
1869 W.M. Howell, Diggings and Bush: Florence was much amused the other evening by her enquiring if she (Flory) was going down to the water to have a ‘bogey’. Flory was much puzzled till she found out that a ‘bogey’, in colonial phrasing, meant a bath.
1924 A boar was discovered by two of us having a bogey in a 16,000-yard tank about five miles from the river.

G. Mackenzie, Aurukun Diary: A bogey is the Queensland outback word for a bath or bathe.  A bogey-hole is a ‘swimming or bathing hole’.

Bogey Hole Newcastle NSW

An Historical Timeline

(Created from the work of Sue Effenberger)



In 1818 Major James Thomas Morisset (1780-1852) was promoted from Lieutenant to Major in the 48th Foot regiment, and relieved Captain James Wallis as commandant at Newcastle, where he became magistrate. He earned praise at Newcastle for the continuation of Wallis’s work, improving the breakwater and Macquarie Pier and building roads and barracks.  There he earned a reputation as a good penal administrator, who paid attention to the fair and individual treatment of convicts.  In 1821 Governor Lachlan Macquarie visited Newcastle and admired Morisset’s public works, naming Morisset’s Lagoon in his honour. Special commissioner John Bigge singled Morisset out for praise in the “The Bigge Inquiry” Royal Commission that he conducted from 1819 to 1822, when he published the first report.  He published the second and third reports in 1823.  The terms of the reports were to investigate the New South Wales colonial government, then under Governor Lachlan Macquarie, including finances, the Church, judiciary, and the convict penal system.  Bigge praised Morisset for his treatment of convicts and also admired the constructed public works in Newcastle for their “durability rather than ornamentation”. It is during this period, using military labour, that Commandant Morisset either began, or continued the construction of the Bogey Hole ocean bathing pool facility after Captain Wallis initiated it.  These baths served Morisset during his term as a private bathing place, known as the “Commandant’s Bath”.  Its original size is estimated as 15 feet long, seven feet wide and six feet deep.He left Newcastle in 1823.



Most historical accounts accredit the first construction into the natural rock platform between 1819 and 1822 to Commandant James Morisset.  There is speculation about whether he commissioned his soldiers or convicts to do the work, because he wished to use it as a private ocean bath.  Alternative accounts state that previous Commandant Captain Wallis began the works for the Bogey Hole before him, around the time of first settlement.



John Bingle (1796-1882) writing in 1873 recalls his first visit to Newcastle in December 1821 (Past and Present Records of Newcastle New South Wales by John Bingle, 1873. p.7) and given a tour with Major James Thomas Morisset (1780-1852) which included the Bogey Hole (referred to as “Morriset’s Bath”). He says:

The Commandant’s Residence named the Government House, was situated in the line of Watt-Street, about one hundred yards from the corner of the Barrack wall in Church Street. This building was a convenient and pretty cottage, but was unfortunately destroyed by fire some time after Major Morriset left to join his Regiment. At the back of it, over a hill, the Major had made a pretty (p.12) walk called the Horseshoe, the only outlet even to the present day, in the shape of a pleasant stroll, and as the rocks washed by the sea he had a bath excavated for his own use, which remains in its primitive state – called Morriset’s Bath. – Bingle, Past and Present Records of Newcastle NSW, pp. 11-12.

1830 Plan of the Town of Newcastle (John Armstrong) – Click for a higher resolution copy


The Armstrong map of 1830 denotes the church, parsonage house, and cemetery south of Church Street that had been granted to the Church of England.  According to one historical account (Hunter 2001) the Church of England in the 1830s returned some of this land to the east back to the Crown in exchange for other land.  On this exchanged land at the coastal edge, new military barracks, offices, gardens and a parading ground replaced the deteriorating structures of Watt Street, dating from the rule of Morisset.  The remaining land became reserved public land. These reserves became known as Upper and Lower Reserves and today, they are respectively Fletcher Park and King Edward Park (including Shepherd’s Hill).  The reserves included pasture land, creeks, mines, ventilation shafts, water pits, the obelisk where the government windmill stood and perhaps the rock ledge.  Around this time Bogey Hole had the name “Commandant’s Baths”.  The government dedicated the reserve at the top of the cliff for public recreation since 1863, from the Australian Agricultural Company coal grants.  Newcastle Municipal Council had control over the site. Armstrong map of 1830 notes “Formerly Commandant’s Residence”, “Old Flag Staff”, “Coal to the Rise or East of this Yellow Line Has Been Worked”, referring to the coastal strip including the cliffs alongside King Edward Park.  The Commandant’s residence was probably on the south bank of the creek draining to the “Blow Hole” north of “Bogey Hole”.



On the 13th May 1841 Conrad Martens visits the site of the Bogey Hole, then known as “Morrisets Bath” and creates a pencil drawing. Item 76 The original is held in the State Library of New South Wales. “Morrisets Bath, Newcastle, 13th May 1841” from Sketches in Australia, 1835-1865 by Conrad Martens (1801-1878) View Album:

76. Morrisets Bath, Newcastle, 13th May 1841 – Click image for larger version



First representative government granted to NSW and district councils with limited powers and inadequate resources.



Newcastle has a reputation for being a sea-bathing place and residence for invalids (Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser 19/4/1851). Earliest mention of Bogey Hole as “Colonel Morriset’s bath” is 16 April 1851:

“Possessing a good climate and means of sea-bathing, Newcastle is much frequented by invalids and visitors during the summer season, and would be much more so were house-room less difficult to be procured, and the facilities of sea-bathing encreased ; some improvements to this end have lately been made. Formerly “the ladies’ corner” of the beach, and Colonel Morriset’s bath, were alone available for bathing purposes, but now a ladies’ bathing-house, which is much in request, has been constructed near to the breakwater on the harbour side.” – see: 1851 ‘PORT OF NEWCASTLE.’, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), 16 April, p. 3. (Supplement to Sydney Morning Herald), viewed 24 Apr 2019,

Further mentions as “Morrisett’s bath” see:



First order of business for the newly formed Newcastle Business Chamber is to lobby the Government to grant the Horseshoe, coastline and Obelisk area that John Bingle had visited all those years ago to the citizens of Newcastle. They also asked for two blocks of land in Watt Street to establish am Exchange and Reading Room.

The Government were induced by the Chamber to grant the citizens in perpetuity (35) thirty five acres of land as a recreation ground in the most delightful and picturesque part of Newcastle from the top of Watt Street round the Horse Shoe, to the Obelisk. – Bingle, Past and Present Records of Newcastle NSW, p. 21



Details of the proposals were recorded on an official Government Chart dated July 1860, copies made and distributed to citizens in the Town:

The Exchange and Reading Room, with offices and shipping books similar to Lloyd’s of London, was established at the same time as the Chamber of Commerce, May 1856, and destroyed in 1859 as I have just stated. …Soon after the formation of the Exchange, and when in working order, they applied to the Government to allot then a piece of land for the erection of a suitable building, which was given at the same time the post-office site was selected, and the adjoining allotment to it was given as the site of an exchange, and was marked so on an official Government chart, issues from the Surveyor General’s office, Sydney and dated July 1860. – Bingle, Past and Present Records of Newcastle NSW, p. 23

See the 1860 “Bingle” plan here:



Earliest known newspaper account as “Bogey Hole” 1861 ‘CORRESPONDENCE.’, The Newcastle Chronicle and Hunter River District News (NSW : 1859 – 1866), 11 December, p. 2. , viewed 24 Apr 2019, For all subsequent newspaper articles on the “Bogey Hole” see:



Crown dedicates 40 acres for recreation purposes (NSW Government Gazette 16/7/1863) in the present site of King Edward Park.  This included the area occupied by the present day Shepherds Hill military fort.  The green edging around the Reserve on the map does not include Bogey Hole, but would require further historical status to verify with certainty.  Control of the baths passed to the Newcastle Municipal Council for public use as a pool.  Men and women were not allowed to use the baths at the same time.  As the baths did not adequately address all of Newcastle’s needs for sea-bathing, citizens continued to agitate and plan for public sea baths.



Past and Present Records of Newcastle New South Wales by John Bingle, 1873.

John R. Bingle’s personal copy of the Past and Present Records of Newcastle New South Wales. (13.8MB PDF File)

John Bingle (1796-1882) account of Newcastle’s history is published. (See 1821 entry above) Provides an account of a visit to Newcastle in December 1821 with the then Commandant of the Penal Settlement, Major James Thomas Morisset (1780-1852). He was taken on tour around the site of the town, and surrounding areas behind the Government House now King Edward Park and Bogey Hole.


In a dense fog, the SS City of Newcastle (an iron paddlewheel steamer engaged in the Sydney-Newcastle-Morpeth cargo and passenger trade) ran aground on rock just south of the Bogey Hole.  Passengers and crew stepped ashore on a plank without even getting their feet wet.  After remaining on the Bogey Hole Rocks for many years, the rusted remains of this ship were eventually reclaimed by the ocean. The steamer’s crank shafts were housed at the former Newcastle Region Maritime Museum.

Onlookers from the cliff above Shipwreck of the City of Newcastle, 1878 (Photo Credit: Digitised by Anne Glennie from Glennie Family Albums) Click for larger view


Shipwreck of the City of Newcastle, 1878 (Photo Credit: Digitised by Anne Glennie from Glennie Family Albums) Click for larger view


Shipwreck of the City of Newcastle, 1878 (Photo Credit: Digitised by Anne Glennie from Glennie Family Albums) Click for larger view



Heavy seas swept a man at the Bogey Hole into ‘the well-known dressing cave‘. The man survived with cuts and bruises but his experience cautioned swimmers.

Bogey Hole (circa 1880s?) (Courtesy of the Mr. E. Braggett Collection) See:



With the increased interest in Ladies’ Bathing, Newcastle Borough Council decided to allow bathing of both sexes at any hour “provided costumes be worn”.  The wearing of costumes was by no means universal.  “   The…ladies baths on the ocean beach below Ordnance street were renovated furnished with bathing requisites by the Council.  At the same time Council deepened and enlarged the Bogey Hole and put around it an iron railing for safety” (NMH 7/6/1909).  James Dimond rescued Miss Annie Leonard from drowning after being swept from the rocks.



1884 Plan for enlarging the Bogey Hole by William Hestlow, Chief Architects Office, Newcastle City Council. Received and referred to Improvement Committee 17/3/1884 adopted 7/4/1884 vide Improvement Committee report dated 24/3/19884 Edward S Holland Town Clerk. (Source: Newcastle Region Library).

Newcastle Borough Council enlarged the Bogey Hole to its present size and added stanchions and chains in 1884. Council contracted out enlarging the Baths to their present size, which is about seven times the Bogey Hole’s original capacity. “…the track and flights of steps from the Recreation Reserve down to and across the horseshoe gully are completed, and two small bridges constructed.  At the end of a sidling path a rough flight of steps lead directly down to the hole itself…it has been very greatly enlarged and a capital clear salt water swim may now be had at any time entirely free of danger of sharks or otherwise…’(NMH 2/9/1884).

Locals urged construction of places for dressing and undressing, so that the improved baths would not become a white elephant.  The improvements produced ‘one of the finest swimming baths in NSW or Australia’.  It was ‘over 50 feet long and nearly as broad’ with a depth varying from five feet six inches to three feet six inches and a bottom ‘almost as smooth as a billiard table’ filled with pure sparkling sea water, so clear that one ‘could distinguish a button or a pin at the bottom of the deepest part’.  Best of all, these baths had no problems with ‘sharks, stingarees or jelly fish’ and boasted an iron safety rail, access track and bridges, as well as stairs and ledges cut into the rock face.

Within a month the Bogey Hole became ‘the aquatic hunting ground of the Newcastle larrikin and the most loathsome place of rendezvous in Newcastle‘. Police were being urged to reclaim the area from the lurchers.  Bylaws defined for Council’s indoor Corporation Baths also applied at the Bogey Hole. The baths catered mainly to male swimmers, with women only admitted only at set times.

There have been minor modifications to the baths since.  The changes affected mainly the area above the baths, including post war construction of the caretaker’s cottage, removal of the original timber change sheds, removal of a timber picket fence, and alterations to access steps and ordinance fencing.


Cliff overlooking Bogey Hole, circa 1884. (Photograph by George Freeman) See:



Newcastle proclaimed a city for a second time.  Tenders closed for the caretaker role at the Bogey Hole. Perhaps influenced by British indoor public baths which were often combined with public wash-houses and used washing machines to launder their towels, Newcastle’s mayor undertook to make enquiries about providing a washing machine for towels at the Bogey Hole.



Walter Hendy undressed, left his clothes at Bogey Hole and disappeared mysteriously (SMH 17/2/1890)



1891 Ralph Snowball glass negative showing Bogey Hole. See:



Public baths (unconstructed) at Newcastle Beach dedicated 4/12/1893.  Council put the popular Bogey Hole in order and installed dressing-sheds and showers to use water piped 150 yards from a natural spring.



Newcastle Borough Council considered the Bogey Hole safe for bathers ‘except in the roughest weather and during high tides‘, but was ‘largely patronised‘ even in heavy seas.  Council considered its iron stanchions and chains ‘efficient protection against the backwash‘.  The caretaker provided bathers with towels.  The Bogey Hole had become known as ‘the place where many generations of Newcastle boys have taken their first essays in natation …and breasting the billow‘.  In spite of the dangers of breaking surf, people lined the paths to the Bogey Hole to ‘lave their limbs in the fresh and cooling wave’.  During school vacations, the Bogey Hole was a ‘favourite place of resort with the youthful as well as the adult portion of the sterner sex‘.  The NSW Govt revoked the dedication of gaz 16/7/1863 (gaz 153 3/3/1894).  The new dedication added an area of 1ac 2r 23p for defence purposes to the original area of 40 acres for recreation purposes.



Newcastle’s retiring mayor organised improvements to the Bogey Hole to prevent bathers being violently dashed into the caves.



Newcastle became a seaside resort, “possessing a good climate and means of seabathing it is much frequented by invalids and visitors during the summer season…formerly the Ladies corner of the beach [end Ordnance Street] and Colonel Morisset’s bath [Bogey Hole] were alone available for bathing purposes but now a ladies bathing house which is much in request has been constructed near to the breakwater on the harbour side” [end of Zaara street?].  Photos of old Newcastle Turner and Sullivan.”   Within the last few years the ocean beach from the end of Telford Street to the end of Zaara Street has been gazetted a public bathing place.  Since then, Council has effected extensive improvements along the beach (NMH note Public baths ded 8/12/1893 Plan 1133-3070 30/6/1905).



Ground “creep” at Newcastle purportedly caused by subsidence from the AAC mine workings (“Sea Pit”) behind the cliff and up the Hill.  The “creep” was said to extend in a north-easterly direction from Ordnance Street along the cliff to the Shepherds Hill military fort.  This caused the cliff to crack for some distance and many boulders loosened and fell into Bogey Hole (SMH 16/5/1906).



As Newcastle’s Soldiers Baths and its Bogey Hole were primarily for men’s use, closure of the indoor Corporation baths meant Newcastle’s women and girls had very limited access to good venues for learning to swim.



Half a ton of rock fell into the Bogey Hole in a single rock fall.  Royal Commission enquiry into the 1906 Newcastle creep, describing water gushing from the cliffs above Bogey Hole.  AAC denied that the subsidence from coal mining had any effect on the surface (SMH 4/3/1908).

The Bogie ‘Stole’, Newcastle Beach, June 1908. (John Turner Collection) See:



The Reserve above Bogey Hole named King Edward Park in memory of the late King Edward who died on 10/5/1910



Newcastle City Council.  The Bogey Hole was ‘practically the only place in Newcastle where swimming can be taught, making it desirable that women and girls have access to it’. More than 100 ladies petitioned the council seeking to have more hours at the Bogey Hole reserved for use by women and children on weekdays and on Saturdays. Despite concerns that it might have to provide a female attendant at the Bogey Hole on those days, the Newcastle Council approved ladies use of the Bogey Hole on two afternoons a week.



Rock climber became stranded for an hour and half 140 yards up the cliff at Bogey Hole when the cliff crumbled away underneath him (SMH 15/2/1915).  His rescuer dug footholds for him with a pick and shovel so he could climb to safety.



James Clunes died from injuries sustained whilst constructing a path to Bogey Hole and being hurled down the cliff by rockfall, and crushed by a large boulder (SMH 8/7/1922).  That same year Ernest Whitton a 15 year old fell down the cliff into the sea (SMH 20/9/1922).



Boulders and loose shale fell into the sidewalk to Bogey Hole.  No injury or loss of life (SMH 31/12/1936).



A car crashed through barriers and fell 230 feet.  Surprisingly the driver and passenger survived the crash without a scratch. (SMH 16/9/1927).



A man fell over the cliff to the rocks below and was rescued semi conscious.  He managed to crawl out of the reach of waves that would wash him out to sea.  He was intending to shelter the night in an old disused shed (The Argus Melbourne 23/4/1928).



An abandoned suitcase, a hat and pea rifle at Bogey Hole aroused police suspicion, but they could not find a crime (SMH 15/5/1935).



Image from: Progressive Sydney as it stands today : a pictorial directory of its most attractive centres, in sepia. Adelaide : G.H. Baring, 1938. See:
Cover title. At head of title: 1788-1938, 150 years of progress in New South Wales. “Including Parramatta, Granville, Newcastle, Mayfield, Toronto, Manly, Katoomba, Blackheath, Mt. Victoria, Bathurst, Orange, Bondi, Wollongong, Port Kembla, Goulburn, Tamworth, Broken Hill, etc.” Foreword signed: G.H. Baring. Advertising matter interspersed.
Loaned by Mr Russell Rigby April 2013.


The Bogey Hole Baths (1938) See:


“We must remember that the beaches of Australia has not always been thronged with surfers, bronzed lifesavers, and trunks that Mr. Spooner cannot ban. Although swimming dates from the earliest days of settlement, it was not till 1900 that surfing became popular. In the early days of Newcastle, swimming was confined to compulsory dips for convicts after their voyage up from Sydney, and the more leisurely recreation of military officers in the sparkling depths of Major Morriset’s bath, now the Bogey Hole.

As the numbers of free citizens in- creased, the sport became more usual, but it was still restricted by regulations that quite out-Spoonered the most binding red tape of to-day. Then in 1900 surfing came to stay, its devotees quaintly garbel from ankle to neck in the most horrible costumes that the debased minds of milliners could conceive. The sexes bathed separately, and bathing was done before breakfast.

Public Works
Public works by convicts became common in Newcastle about the time that Captain Wallis was commandant. Evidently, he did not consider convict labourers or their work sufficiently interesting to merit his attention.
As memorials of their sweaty and often bloody toil, however, the convicts have left the breakwater connecting Nobbys with the mainland, and the unique bathing pool called the Bogey-hole.
The Bogey-hole was built by convicts under the direction of a former Commandant (Major Morriset), whose house was situated somewhere near the present intersection of Watt and Church Streets, and connected with “Morriset’s Bath” by a pleasant path called the “Horseshoe Bend.”
Until 20 years ago the Bogey-hole and the approach to it were comparatively primitive; the lower part of the Horse- shoe Bend was a vast rubbish dump over which rats scampered when stones were thrown among the piles of tins and other refuse, and the swimming pool was hidden from view round a narrow path that ran along the side of the cliff. Chains hanging from the side of the pool at strategic spots appeared to be English, rather than colonial in origin. They smacked of Brighton (England) rather than of Bondi, for the Australian can generally emerge unaided from a bath.
The Bogey-hole is the convicts’ unwilling but very acceptable gift to later generations of Newcastle people. It is a romantic spot that has seen the supremacy of man during the earliest swimming days; the first challenge of woman in her neck-to-ankle costume, when the sexes were still segregated in public bathing places; and the final triumph of woman, who now bathes mixed in the Bogey with but scanty protection against the appraising eye of her male companions.”

– From 1938 ‘PICTURES FROM THE PAST’, Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), 19 February, p. 5. , viewed 24 Apr 2019,  



There were sixty to seventy swimmers in the pool, women in the dressing shed and boys sunbaking on the top, when a large boulder crashed from the cliff top though the women’s dressing sheds at Bogey Hole.  All escaped injury.  The crashing boulder made a noise like a shell exploding.  A young boy, Peter Youll, was playing with his brother when he fell down the cliff (SMH 9/11/1940).



City of Greater Newcastle Council sought a Department of War Organisation permit to make improvements to Bogey Hole Baths and provide accommodation for its caretaker.



A rockfall caused by heavy downpour at Bogey Hole destroyed the caretaker’s cottage, seriously injuring the caretaker.  A large boulder sent Bogey Hole’s 60-year old caretaker Alexander Stevens and sent his wife into shock. Stevens was taken to hospital with a fractured skull and concussion, as well as abrasions to his head, hands and shoulder.  His subsequent death had been attributed to the accident *(Canberra Times 17/4/1946).  A 3 ½ year old child was swept from the rocks by a wave at the baths (SMH 4/2/1946).



The caretaker’s cottage at the Bogey Hole was in a shocking state and being vandalised.  Two youths drowned in heavy surf when they were gathering fishing weed from the rocks (SMH 8/3/1948).  Newcastle Surf Club members were recognised for their bravery in trying to rescue the stricken youths (SMH 16/4/1948).



Council planned a new caretaker’s cottage in a new location to replace the older cottage abandoned after a boulder fell on it.



Newcastle’s Greek and Macedonian Orthodox community began celebrating Epiphany services at the Bogey Hole including the Blessing Of The Seas, traditional in the many Aegean communities.  The ceremony involved tossing a cross into the Bogey Hole for the unmarried men of their community to dive in and retrieve.  Finding the cross was thought to confer good luck on the finder.



The cliff road to Bogey Hole was temporarily closed when boulders weighing 10 and 20 tonnes crashed from a severely eroded cliff face at Newcastle South Beach.  Newcastle City Council undertook essential works to stabilise the cliff.



NSW Government listed Bogey Hole on the State Heritage register.

A wave knocked a man exploring the base of the cliff unconscious and he drowned when swept from the rocks.  The same year a man dived into the Bogey Hole, hit his head in shallow water, and sustained severe spinal injuries.  When other swimmers and safety crew winched him to safety a huge wave pounded the rock where he had been lying.

A rockfall near the Bogey Hole forced the Newcastle City Council to close the Bogey Hole.  Bogey Hole only reopened after Council removed loose sandstone, stabilised the cliff and completed the latest section of Bathers Way.



Newcastle City Council completed the pathway extension through King Edward Park from Shepherds Hill to the Bogey Hole. NSW Government provided $490,000 towards the Shortland Esplanade cliff stabilisation project and $5,000 towards the Newcastle Emergency Management Action Plan for conditions of high seas and storms.



State Government and Department of Lands resumes management of the Bogey Hole under the CLA 1989.  Government concerns prevail over the cliff stability and public risk and debate regarding its future use and liabilities as a public amenity ensues.



Due to the fatalities and serious injuries NSW State Government decided to close Bogey Hole in October with appropriate signage and fencing.



Care control and management for the site is currently covered by the Newcastle Coastline Management Plan, etc and is currently being documented through the Newcastle Coastline Revitalisation Project and Master Plan underway as a public private partnership project, LPMA being one of the agencies.  Nathan Luke died on Australia Day whilst diving into Bogey Hole after hitting his head on a submerged rock (The Herald 23/2/2010).



Bogey Hole is a much-loved bathing place in the dramatic and natural setting of the rocky Newcastle coastline.  The site is heritage-listed on registers for both NSW State Heritage Inventory and National Trust of Australia (NSW). Today the Bogey Hole remains the oldest constructed ocean bath in Australia.  It is still a popular swimming hole and place of social interaction, providing an exhilarating interaction with the ocean.

Throughout history, there have been periodic episodes of rock falls and swimming accidents leading to injury and death.  Therefore, government agencies remain vigilant about public access, risk of rock falls, and safe ways that the public might freely enjoy this significant heritage site.

18 thoughts on “The Mysterious Origins of the Bogey Hole

  1. A couple of other mentions of Bogey/Bogy/Bogie –

    The concise new Partridge dictionary of slang and unconventional English – Eric Partridge/Tom Dalzell
    Bogey – verb – to swim and wash in a creek, dam etc., especially after a day’s work; ( of working dogs) to take a dip in a body of water to cool down and as a break from work. From Dharug, Australian Aboriginal language of the Sydney region

    Robert Dawson’s Present State of Australia: a description of the country etc….p166 – with members of the Port Stephens tribe – ‘I at length told him we must go, when he said, “Top bit, massa, bogy,” (bathe;) and he threw himself into the water, where he enjoyed himself as long as I could stay.’

    Alexander Harris’ Settlers and Convicts…p132 – ‘I went off into the bush after breakfast, and lying under a thick shady tree read all day till three o’clock in the afternoon: then had my dinner; and in the cool of the evening had a ‘bogie'(bathe) in the river.

  2. Thanks Jen. I think your finds are more closer to the mark! Do you have a date for the ‘new Partridge Dictionary reference’? The Dawson reference is also excellent because we have ‘bogey’ recorded in Canon Carlos Stretch’s aboriginal words notebook as meaning ‘to bathe’ but he provides no source for where the word comes from. This, at least lets us know that it was in use as early the 1820s. So thanks very much for these references. Regards, Gionni

  3. The new Partridge Dictionary was published 2006. They don’t seem to have a reference other than ‘1788’ .

    There is a mention of ‘bogie’ in The Historical Records of New South Wales Volume II (Grose & Paterson 1793 – 1795) p699 in the ‘Journal and Letters of Daniel Southwell’.

    Daniel Southwell arrived on the HMS Sirius in 1788. He recorded a list of words used by the natives of the Port Jackson district and noted ‘bogie’ as meaning ‘to dive’.


  4. from the NSW Heritage Office website on NSW Ocean Baths:

    Bogey Hole

    “The term ‘Bogey Hole’ does not relate to any fearsome bogey man’. The term ‘Bogey’ derived from a word meaning ‘to bathe or swim’ in Dharawal, an Aboriginal language from the Sydney area.

    While the Newcastle Bogey Hole was cut into rock, other bogey holes are ocean baths of the ring-of-rocks type like the Bogey Holes at Bronte, Bondi and Mollymook. The terms ‘bogey’ for swimming and ‘bogey hole’ for swimming place are still in common use in many parts of NSW and Queensland.

    Scuba divers also refer to a certain sea cave in the cliffs of Jervis Bay as the Bogey Hole.”

  5. Another English dialect meaning for ‘bogey’ is wriggle – as in swimming or dancing. In the US, there is the ‘boogie-woogie bugle man from Company B’. Boogie turns up in song lyrics from the 1920s to mean dancing. There is also (to be less polite) the schoolboy’s term for snot, ‘boogers’ or ‘bogey’, ie something long and wriggling. Boogie, like bugger – another word in the same interesting sound group – can also have a sexual meaning.

  6. Is bogey an Aboriginal word? The Oxford English Dictionary does not record any earlier uses of bogey to mean swimming, or boogie to mean dancing prior to 1849 when it first appears in print and is thought by one writer to be ‘Aboriginal’.

    bogy | bogey, n.2

    Pronunciation: /ˈbəʊgɪ/
    Forms: Also bogie.
    Etymology: Apparently Aboriginal word.
    Austral. slang.

    b. A bathing-place, a bath. Also attrib. Hence as v. intr., to bathe.
    1849 A. Harris Emigrant Family viii. 145 ‘Bogie,’ I suppose must be aboriginal also.‥ Its signification is a bathe.
    1893 K. Mackay Out Back iv. 50, I don’t care to bogey in our drinking tank.
    1928 ‘Brent of Bin Bin’ Up Country (1966) ii. 24 They‥took her for bogeys in the swimming hole.
    1934 Bulletin (Sydney) 13 June 19/4 Blacks on the tidal creeks and rivers of Queensland prefer to bogey when the tide is on the ebb.
    1941 S. J. Baker Pop. Dict. Austral. Slang 11 Bogie, a swim, a bath, or wash. (2) A swimming hole, a bath. Also, ‘bogiehole’, ‘bogiehouse’.
    1946 F. D. Davison Dusty viii. 82 They went down for a bogey on warm days.

    For ‘boogie’, the term does not appear until the 20th century in the US.

    a. A party, esp. a rent party.
    1917 (title of jazz piece) Boogie rag.
    1929 in B. Rust Jazz Records 1897–1942 (1978) 516 We’re gonna pitch a boogie right here.
    1960 P. Oliver Blues fell this Morning 163 He re-christened the [boogie-woogie] style after the ‘boogies’ or parties on the South Side.
    1976 G. Oakley Devil’s Music 163 When rent day was due, you ‘pitched a boogie’, inviting the neighbours round and charging an entrance fee of perhaps a quarter and a jug of gin.

    R.M.W. Dixon, Australian Aboriginal Words (OUP, 2006), p. 200, says the word is Dharuk:
    bogey /’bougi/ Also bogie. [Dharuk, Sydney region, intransitive verb root bugi-, ‘to bathe or dive’.] Used as a noun to mean ‘a swim’ or ‘a bathe’.

    However, a search in Google Books prior to 1850 shows that ‘bougie’ is also an English term for a long thin tube or catheter used for surgical procedures. A long thin tube used for musical purposes is called a boogle or bugle.

    The ‘Reel o’ Bogie’ was a Scottish term for a wild dance, with ‘bogie’ here probably meaning bogey, ie the devil. Robert Burns has a drinking song called ‘Cauld Kail in Aberdeen’ which refers to this in the refrain, eg: ‘Gie me a lass baith clean and tight,/ To dance the Reel o Bogie’. This doesn’t sound too decent….

    So, my suspicion is that bogey is one of those English words which Aborigines thought was English, and English thought was Aboriginal.

  7. Bogey is definitely derived from the Polish_Slovonic word BOG-BÓG for GOD! Specifically God of GOOD. What we are looking at is the forgotten history of POLISH BRITAIN which I have been uncovering over the decades. (With a deep satisfaction)

    This is a short list of POLISH words, otherwise considered ENGLISH.

    Not a word in any British history book under 100 years of course.
    Im over 65, am fully Polish_English bilingual live in Australia, and have been deep into linguistics from the age of 6 years. And Yes Australia is a Polish word.

    Here is a test for you. So you think you can speak good English do you?
    Then hwat ( Correct english misspelling of the original Polish WAT whhw, ie not ‘what’ <transpose) do the following words actually mean in English

    I think you will find these words are meaningless to you. If not let me know by email.

    Good luck POSSUMS.!!!!

    Anthony Jeleniewski , Essendon, Australia.

  8. From the discussion, so far, there would appear to be two likely origins of bogey being used to describe Morriset’s swimming hole. They would be the possible reference to the man himself by those who worked on constructing the bath, or perhaps a reference to the dangerous nature of constructing it. Having seen the way this area is scoured by heavy, violent and sudden wave activity on many occasions, I would be very surprised if lives were not lost during construction. The second and perhaps, more likely possibility being the adoption of the Aboriginal word and its highly appropriate use to describe the bath’s purpose.

    As a 60 year old Novocastrian, born to a family with it’s roots in Newcastle for well over a hundred years, my gut instinct is to accept the theory of a ‘place of danger’ in the same way as the ‘Bogey man’ was used to instill caution/fear by my parents, there was many a stern warning about the ‘Bogey Hole’ in my childhood years.

    Having said that, the Aboriginal terminology, is compelling.

    An aside: Bogey has been in use by U.S., British and Australian,aircrew to announce the presence of a potentially dangerous aircraft for as long as there has been airbourne conflict. Although never having heard the term used at sea, I would suspect it would have been in use there at some time and would reinforce the danger warning probabilities of its use in reference to Morriset’s bath.

    Confirmation of either theory would be great.

  9. Keith, like your theory.

    My following comments are in connection to those made “Convict Era Tunnel (c1816) and Brick Culvert (c1850s). Comments submitted by uoncc.

    The Bogey Hole that the convicts built is long gone with only a slim 1 inch high by 2m long section left, roughly speaking.

    To use Bingle’s report (written 1821) (printed 1873) is a valid bit of research but in disregarding further research you are not restoring a story to a place but creating a new one to suit your views. In your reply you state that Bingle’s description of the Bogey Hole is valid as it is a “eye witness account.”

    63 years after Bingle’s report and 11 years after it was printed things changed!!!!!

    I now provide the following descriptions recorded by the Newcastle Morning Herald:

    NMH, 18 June 1884, Page 3
    “The well known in short, locally historic bathing place, “The Bogey Hole,” under Shepherds Hill, has lately undergone so complete a metamorphosis that few of its old habitues could now recognize it. The contractor for improving it has already cut a series of steps and planked them from the Recreation Reserve near the Hospital for the Insane, right down the mouth of the Horseshoe Gully. Across this bridge is being formed and along an opposite escarpment a sidling track has been partially cut out. Thence a good approach follows to the Bogey Hole itself. A workmans camp has been pitched on the cliffs near the old coal seam, the latter having been so far dug out that an excellent supply of bituminous coal is now exposed and may be had “addibitum” for the mere trouble of picking it out. A glance from the overhanging cliff shows that the contractor has not been idle. A broad deep race has been cut in a northerly direction from the old bathing excavation, and all around huge boulders have been dynamited away. When complete there will in all probability be a space fit for a hundred yards swimming match in what is known to old country clubs as “a four lengths sprint.” For some days past work has been temporarily impeded through rough weather, but sufficient progress has already been made to afford a tolerably fair index that, when complete, the job will be a satisfactory one. We are rather inclined however to think that the contractor has rather bitten his fingers by the low amount of his tender.”

    NMH, 19 November 1884, Page 3
    (Part of larger article) see “IMPORTANT BATHING IMPROVEMENTS, etc”)
    “Arrived at the site, of the old “Bogey Hole” a stranger would be perfectly astonished at the change that has come o’er the spirit of the dream. From being a dull, damp, miserable looking rockhole, almost inaccessible, the place has been metamorphosed into one of the finest swimming baths in New South Wales – we might almost say, about the finest in Australia, and challange contradiction. Broad flights of steps have been cut from the rocks above, and ledges for dressing or promenading formed in all directions.
    The old “cave” has now several tiers of rock-cut dressing shelves provided, and all around additional conveniences are not wanting. Of the bath itself too much cannot be said. It measures over fifty feet long, by nearly as many broad, and shelves from a depth of five feet six inches, to three feet six inches at its shallow end. The bottom is almost as smooth as a billiard table, free from boulders or jagged stones, whilst the pure, sparkling sea-water is so transparent that one could almost distinguish a pin or a button at the bottom of the deepest part. Being, of course, absolutely enclosed, the intrusion of sharks, “stingarees,” jelly-fish, or anything of the sort, is quite out of the question. A sluice is also provided, by means of which at any time the water can be let out, and the interior cleansed. The barrier against forming a swimming club is at last satisfactorily removed; and doubtless before many weeks are over one will be in full swing.
    A spin of twice up and once down the bath gives as nearly as possible one hundred yards; and as the depth is regulated strictly on a par with that of nine-tenths of the leading English and Continental baths, there is nothing to prevent our crack swimmers making a match or a series of matches at any time. Accommodation of every sort is being provided; and it is well worth the while of those who have not been thereabouts for some time to stroll over with a towel and judge for themselves.”

    These articles are clearly public records and therefore not bias to any claims as to the history of the Bogey Hole site.

    The “bath” was not “expanded by public works over the years” as claimed in your reply and if so claims of evidence of convict “pick marks”, for theoretical example, could never be validated to provide evidence of convict involvement in the construction of the present day Bogey Hole.

    To provide a comparison example some “shaft” coal mines were “open cut” mined to extract the last of the coal. The “shaft or adit,” usually a round hole in the ground, was the visible evidence of underground mining which would have been removed as part of the excavation of the “overburden” (dirt) to gain access to the remaining coal (pillars) that was left to support the roof of the underground mining.

    At the end of the “open cut” mining clearly nothing would remain of the original “shaft” and tunnels to validate any claims that “open cut” mining involved underground mining practices.

    To say convicts were involved with open cut methods of mining would be clearly a lie due to technology and engineering issues of the day. To say convicts mined the area before the open cut methods were used would be closer to the truth.

    Its simple case of great grandfathers axe. Two handles and a new axe head, replaced over the years, and still some people will be stupid enough to claim the axe belonged to their grandfather.

    If anybody wished to challenge my comments concerning the loss of the Bogey Hole in 1884, it is a simple matter to request the original plans, at Newcastle Library, and view the original diagrams of the excavation of the convict Bogey Hole (shaded in Blue) and compare the excavation work (in pink) that was proposed and completed to form what we see today.

    It should be a simple matter to check my facts, if you wish, as the library accepted my research and added it to their local history collection around 17 years ago.

    I was surprised when I found the folder (this year) which I had donated as I had forgotten I had given it to the library. How long have you had an interest in history? Long enough to forget?

    An academic degree takes a second to read but a life has many stories to justify qualifications.

    Historians record history this is a fact, but I ask what do you do with the people who become history? Apparently you ignore them!

    1. Thanks Graeme. So your point is that when people refer to the Bogey Hole they should refrain from referring to it as a convict built place, and alter their description to reflect that it now resides on the site of an original convict era bath, that was later destroyed in the 1880s to construct the bathing hole as we know it today. Correct?

      1. Yes, the bogey hole location “was” the site of a convict built bathing place.

        In relation to heritage listing, the site still has its aesthetic features that may demonstrate the reasons for the sites title of a “bogey” hole. These being an isolated and dangerous place with a “cave” (roof) that lends itself to mystery and fear.

        Yes, bathing has occurred at the site for longer than the present hole has existed.

        Public bathing use could be seen as a separate issue to private bathing use in relation to heritage listing. Is the site the oldest “public bathing place” or the oldest bathing place?

        If you wish to state that the present bogey hole is convict built maybe we should change the name of Newcastle Baths back to “the square hole” as the previous bathing hole at that site was called.

        Like the Bogey Hole the “square hole” was consumed by the construction of the baths.

        Maybe some people might want to argue that the “square hole” was enlarged.

        If it was enlarged rather than removed the title of “Newcastle Baths” is historically incorrect as it does not recognise the enlargement of the existing bathing place.

        Again I will say that if the “square hole” was removed when the Newcastle Baths was constructed then the present day title “Newcastle Baths” should be acceptable without argument.

        The “square hole” was a private venture just like Morriset’s “foreign order” and then at a later date the “square hole” was converted into a public bathing place.

        Same story, different times and different place.

        Most people would not know what I am talking about as the “square hole” is not a well known as part of Newcastle’s history.

        Should we refer to the former Newcastle Hospital as convict built as the hospital occupied the site of the convict hospital up until recent years?

  10. A belated contribution to this discussion. I have no expertise in Aboriginal languages nor the origin of Australian slang. But as a local historian I can observe two things: Australians in the nineteenth century, particularly in the country had such a close relationship with local Aboriginal groups; working and warring and interacting and co-habiting. As a consequence, there was much cross-pollination of the two languages. As the result, in publications like “The Bulletin” a sort of street argot of “pidgin Aboriginal” words and phrases emerged. This was around the 1880’s and 1890’s. Words like “Binghi” (the stomach), “Baal” (bad or not) “Bundi” (for club) and many others.
    It is possible to read in local histories of coastal places up and down the coast from Sydney, reference to “sea bathing” and the use of local “Bogey holes”. For instance, at Bondi, local white people observed the local Aboriginal inhabitants diving and swimming in the sea. At that time most white people did not swim and were scared of the sharks. Aboriginal women and children often cooled down in the hot weather frolicking in naturally occurring pools in the rocks beside the ocean. Often on the rock shelves. They called these “Bogey” holes. From the Sydney language word for “To swim, dive, or bathe” (Macquarie Dictionary: Macquarie University: 1983). For a good many years, Aboriginal people and sailors were amongst the only people who could actually swim !. Colonel Morrisset’s pool would have been for cooling down and the healthy new fashion: “sea bathing”. Of course, also unlike Aboriginal inhabitants, European born men and women did not bathe in public together. So I believe the word “Bogey” stems from the Sydney Aboriginal word for “To Swim”.

  11. Further to the above, Jacqueline Troy’s “The Sydney Language” is readable Online. In it, she notes from various sources, seven records of uses of the word: “bugi”; “bogi”;”boga”; “bogay”; “boge”; and “bogee” meaning “to swim” in the Sydney Aboriginal Language. Amongst others is Judge Advocate David Collins. So there appears to be a much earlier established provenance, than a 1900 “Maitland Mercury” publishing of an article on the NQ Bellinden-Ker Mission, where the Deaconess Ethel Colyer records the use of the word; or 30 miles south of Cairns, where Erskine Deame recorded its use “most universally adopted by the whites in these parts” in May 1910.

  12. My 1895 Websters International Dictionary has the following:

    Bogey – noun, A goblin; a bugbear. See Bogy.
    Bogy – noun; plural Bogies – (see Bogle) A Spector; a hobgoblin; a bugbear.
    Bogle – noun, {Scot. And North Eng. Bogle, bogill, bogill, specter; verb, to terrify.
    Boggard – noun; A bogey.

    I am preety sure the word “Bogey” has nothing to do with “indigenous Australian” culture.

    Funny coincidence that the same word would be in use on opposite sides of the world prior to European arrival in Australia.

    Something I also found, on the Internet: (I have no faith in this source.)

    Boggard – Bogart – to monopolise or keep to oneself selfishly.

    Morisset certainly seemed to have exclusive use of the “original” swimming hole he had dug out of the rock.

    Sorry I have not found a “paper reference” to back up this definition but it seems to provide an answer to the question of the origin of the title “Bogey Hole” prior to its demolition and use by the public after enlargement.

    I would like to beleive this but without a “paper reference” we may as well be using Wikipedia.

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