A Link with the Past

by Fred Gannon

In his beautiful home at Tempe Mr. Fred Gannon, who is the oldest solicitor on the rolls of New South Wales, now spends the quiet evening of his days. He has reached a hardy old age of 85 interesting years; his wife is still living, and his sons and relations worthily carry on the famous name in the legal circles of Sydney. Time was when Mr. Gannon held for many years the largest criminal practice in the city, and his experiences run far back to the beginnings of the State.

Mr. Gannon is supposed to be an invalid; but his long record in sport has left him hardier than the average man of middle age. His memories are clear about famous criminals, but more vivid in his remembrance of the shooting matches he won and the games he had played. His house is filled with trophies won at pigeon shooting; one room is almost lined with silver prizes. He was a great cricketer in the old Albert Ground – in the days when it was not considered playing the game to bowl overhand; and as a fisherman he was famous.

Mr. Gannon was born in Argyle Street. His father, Mr. Michael Gannon, was a well-known early settler. He bought what was afterwards known as Gannon’s Forest, an expanse of bush that started from Arncliffe and extended to Hurstville, 2400 acres of valuable firewood. He paid for it only 7/6 an acre; and his son, Mr. Leslie Gannon, solicitor, holds the original deed. Gannon’s Forest nowadays includes all Bexley, Rockdale, Carlton, and Hurstville, and every acre is worth approximately £500.

Michael Gannon was a shrewd man. There was only one way of getting into Gannon’s Forest to cut firewood, and only one way to come out – that was at the dam at Tempe. There was a toll-gate there, and Michael Gannon was on the spot. Every cart going in to cut firewood had to pay toll to the owner of the forest for his load. Thousands of loads were cut every day to keep the home fires of Sydney burning.

Sixty years ago Cook’s River was the Potts Point of Sydney. It was the residential area of all the leading men of those days; and the curious visitor will find to-day the remains of fine old houses, each set proudly on one of the high hills. Tempe’s great industry was shell-gathering, to burn for lime; for this was before the great discovery of good limestone quarries. The late Mr. D. Cairncross, of Rockdale, was one of the early lime-burners.

The communication with Sydney was chiefly by ‘buses, and when the road was muddy the ‘bus proprietors got any price they demanded. There were profiteers even in those days.”

This article was first published in the February 1970 edition of our magazine.
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