Farewell to Cpt Korff's descendent

Cheryl Whelan.
Cheryl Whelan.

A WOMAN who was a direct descendent of Coffs Harbour's founding father will on Friday be farewelled by her family and friends.

Cheryl Whelan, who was a great great granddaughter of Captain John Korff, died last week aged 62 after a  lengthy battle with cancer.

Her husband of 30 years, the Reverend Doctor Graham Whelan - best known for his work as the Coffs Harbour RSL sub-branch padre - said Cheryl's passing meant a living link with the city's history had been severed.

"Cheryl was very proud of being related to Captain John Korff, and even though her illness meant she couldn't participate in last year's sesquicentenary celebrations, we had a wonderful view of the parade from our balcony which overlooks the harbour," Rev Whelan said.

"That harbour is the one Captain Korff sought shelter in in 1847 so it was a very special place for Cheryl to spend the last part of her life."

Mrs Whelan, who was ordained as a pastor in the LifeHouse Church earlier this month, was a descendant of two of Capt Korff's sons, Gordon and John, and her family tree can be traced to Russia as far back as 1090.

She was one of two children (the other is Pamela) born to Gordon and Gladys Korff.

She grew up in the Hunter Valley and went on to become a primary school teacher before teaching high school in Sydney.

She moved to Coffs Harbour 11 years ago and taught at Bishop Druitt College, retiring at the end of June last year.

"Since moving up here from Sydney there has been more of a connection with John Korff and with Coffs Harbour itself," she told the Advocate during a story on the sequicentenary last November.

Her funeral will be held at The LifeHouse Church in Orlando St at 11.30am on Friday


In 1847, Capt John Korff (a ship's builder and ship's architect) and his two sons sailed a small 27-tonne ketch, named The Brothers, up the coast with the Bellinger River as his destination.

He had aboard a party of six pit sawyers for cedar cutting.

While awaiting the chance to cross in over the dangerous bar of the Bellinger River, a southerly gale swept up and Capt Korff decided to seek refuge for the small vessel approximately 20 miles north of the entrance.

The Brothers reached the southern headland of Coffs Harbour and remained sheltered there for four days until the gale blew itself out.

While in the waters of this haven Capt Korff's sons, Frederick and Gordon, went ashore on the sandy beach.

On returning to Sydney it is stated Capt Korff reported to the proper authorities that there was a safe shelter for ships in a southerly gale under the lee of the southern headland, or off the island, which he named Brothers Island after the name of his ketch.

The name was given to the harbour and the islands as Korff's Islands.

It was obvious Capt Korff was credited with the discovery of the harbour.

The first official use of the name Coffs Harbour appears to have been made in The Gazette notice of December 24, 1861.

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