Local history, Local stories

Cocky Bennett was no ‘pretty Polly,’ yet when he died on 26 May 1916 in his 120th year, newspaper obituaries across NSW lamented the passing of this ‘venerable’ old sulphur-crested cockatoo. The Sun newspaper wrote:

Goodbye Cocky. Some people may be sceptics, but (I prefer) to believe that Cocky Bennett watched the sailors row ashore when Captain Cook landed. It is good to think that in a time of flux and change there is one old identity whose head is soundly screwed on, and does not grow excited over the trifles which agitate us from day to day. Cocky would not feel regretful at having died before the world had settled with the Kaiser… I like the superstition that sitting somewhere on a high tree Cocky watched Napoleon’s rise and fall; saw the dynasty make a feeble splutter in 1870, and then disappear for ever from the politics of the world. Snug on his perch he saw us progress through droughts and booms and strikes and plagues and land scandals; and after each roaring excitement he saw how the community settled down to its same old business of eating and sleeping and lovemaking.

As ship companion to Captain George Ellis, Cocky Bennett spent almost 80 years sailing the high seas and it is said that he voyaged around the world seven times. When in Sydney, Captain Ellis and Cocky would visit Bowden’s Hotel in the city and it was there that the two became acquainted with Sarah Bennett (then Bowden), proprietress of the hotel. Captain Ellis told Sarah that he had sailed with Cocky since he first went to sea as a boy of 9 and the bird had travelled with him ever since. Whilst at sea Cocky learnt tricks - like pretending to haul in on an imaginary rope as he edged backwards along his perch - and being an innate chatterbox, Cocky developed a vocabulary worthy of an old sailor.

When Captain Ellis (aged 87) died in the Solomon Islands in 1887, Cocky was left to Sarah Bennett. Sarah became publican of the Sea Breeze Hotel at Tom Ugly’s Point and it was here that Cocky set up residence with his new adoptive family in the 1890s.

At Tom Ugly’s Point Cocky Bennett became famous for entertaining pub-goers with his continual dancing and colourful ‘patter.’ He would flap his featherless black wings and squawk “I’ll fly, I’ll fly, my God, I’ll fly.’ Sarah Bennett, attached a collection box to Cocky’s cage and his chatter was an invitation for visitors to donate to St. George Hospital. Enough funds were eventually raised to supply the hospital with three beds, each bearing a plaque inscribed with the words ‘Cocky Bennett Cot.’

26 May 2016 marks the hundred year anniversary of the death of Cocky Bennett.