Eighty years ago this week - on Thursday, September 18, 1930 - The Sydney Morning Herald reported the death of one of the most eccentric celebrities of NSW.
The body of ''Old Tom'' was found washed ashore near Eden. The paper described him as ''the king of the far-famed pack of Twofold Bay killers'' and ''the last of his tribe''.
The story, ''King of the Killers'', said, ''For over 100 years he and others of the pack, at one time numbering as many as 30'' rendered an enormous service to the community by intercepting migrating whales and trapping them in the bay.
Old Tom and his killer whale cohorts would keep their prey ''corralled until local whalers could complete their capture. While the pack kept the whales cornered, 'Old Tom' would station himself at the river mouth, near the whaling station, and attract the whalers' attention by lashing the water with his tail''.
His death led directly to the creation of the Eden Killer Whale Museum, says a local historian, Barry Smith, who guides school groups and bus parties around one of the state's most unusual tourist attractions.
John Logan, a retired pastoralist who had served as a vet in the armed forces, provided the premises for the museum partly out of guilt. In about 1923, Logan and his neighbour, the third-generation master whaler George Davidson, went out for a day's fishing in Twofold Bay on Logan's motorised yacht, White Heather.
''George happened to have his harpoons with him,'' says Smith. ''So when Old Tom drove a small whale to the surface, George harpooned it.''
Since the 1840s, the whalers had abided by what locals call ''the law of the tongue''. When the killer whales had helped them with a kill, the whalers would tie the carcass to a buoy overnight allowing the orcas to take their feed.
Both benefited, Smith explains, because the killer whales only ate the lips and the tongue - the keenest meat on a baleen whale, leaving the whalers to harvest the profitable blubber and whalebone later.
But this particular day, says Smith, ''Logan saw a storm coming. He said, 'George, this might be the last whale you get all season. If we leave it for Tom, you'll lose it.'
''George said, 'But what about Tom?' To which Logan replied, 'Bugger Old Tom!'
''The upshot was a tug-of-war developed between Logan and Old Tom, which led to Old Tom losing a couple of teeth.
''Logan's young daughter, who was with them that day, remembered her father saying, 'Oh God, what have I done?' Being a former military vet, he knew what a problem missing teeth could be for a killer whale.
''Sure enough, Old Tom died seven years later. There was an abscess in his mouth caused by those missing teeth, showing that he died of starvation.''
Old Tom's skeleton was installed as the prize exhibit in the new museum, where it remains today to the delight of 50,000 visitors a year. A program of activities is planned to mark the 80th anniversary.
The story of Old Tom and the killer whales in Eden was the subject of an ABC documentary by the filmmaker George McKee, who is now working on the screenplay for a feature film.
Killer whales and humans worked together for mutual benefit in other places around the world, says McKee, but what made Twofold Bay different was the co-operation was documented for at least a century.
Smith believes the local Aborigines had collaborated with the killer whales for as long as 10,000 years, believing the mammals were the reincarnations of dead ancestors.
''What does a killer whale look like? It's big, black and covered in white markings. And what does a Koori warrior look like in full ceremonial dress? Big, black and covered in white markings. You can see the similarity there,'' says Smith.
Once Old Tom died, the killers disappeared from Twofold Bay. McKee says there is some evidence the remainder of the pod may have been killed further north at Jervis Bay by Norwegian whalers who thought the mammals were competing for the southern rights, humpbacks and sperm whales which were their livelihood.
But is there another chapter to the story?
''With the increasing number of whales we're seeing here in Eden, guess who else is coming back?'' says Smith.
''It may only be a few years before we see the killers pushing them back on to the shores again.''