Calling All Cars

In 1894 the residents of Rockdale and district were entirely devoid of police protection at certain times. During big festivities in Sydney the few district police were withdrawn to reinforce the metropolitan squad. Rockdale Council was so concerned by this danger that it raised the matter with the Minister for Justice.

On Boxing Day 1894 “there was not a policeman between Sans Souci and the Cook’s River”. Alderman Hegerty reported to Council that a number of larrikins had taken possession of Moorefield Hotel on Boxing Day. Alderman Duigan said that a number of scoundrels called at his hotel that day and threatened that if they were not served with free drinks they would stone the house. They had also treated some of the local shopkeepers in a similar disgraceful manner.

This occurrence was directly responsible for the erection of the first lock-ups in the district.

This article was first published in the October 1962 edition of our magazine.

Browse the magazine archive.

Kevin Little, third-generation stained glass artist and restorer (1930 – 2022)

Stained glass artist and restorer Kevin John Little was born in Sydney in 1930. Both his father, William Little, and grandfather, David McColl Little, worked in stained glass. David McColl Little established D.M. Little & Co. in Barden Street, Arncliffe in 1905, advertising as leadlight workers and glass merchants.

Kevin Little designed, produced, and restored windows for churches throughout New South Wales, including the Anglican Church at Canterbury, St Thomas’ Church, North Sydney, and Manly Presbyterian Church.

Kevin John Little retired to Robertson in 2015. He passed away on 7th March 2022, aged 91.

The Encyclopedia of Australian Glass in Architecture has published a biographical article.

Kevin Little in his Barden St, Arncliffe studio (photo courtesy of Jane Dyson)

Book Review: Sydney by Delia Falconer, UNSW Press 2010 (293 pages)

Reviewed by Laurice Bondfield

Strictly speaking this is not a history book. It is more a meditation on what makes Sydney unique; one of a series in which “leading Australian authors write about their hometowns”. Nevertheless for history buffs there are many delights to be found in its pages. Chapters titled “Ghosting”, “Dreaming”, “Living” and “Sweating” delve into what Sydneysiders past and present thought, felt and wrote about their city.

From the story in Ruth Park’s autobiography “Fishing in the Styx” of finding an Aboriginal carving of a snake under the outdoor toilet of her house in Neutral Bay to quotation from Kenneth Slessor’s book on wicked Sydney of the thirties “Darlinghurst Nights” with its wonderful illustrations by Vergil Reilly; history, literature and poetry provide pointers to what lies beneath the glib description coined by playwright David Williamson in the 1980s “Emerald City”. The author’s personal recollections of living in central Sydney as a child and later in the late 1970s as a student when as she says “the inner city was a ruin” – Glebe, Balmain and Newtown being the haunts of the impoverished looking for cheap places to live – will revive memories for many. As will her stories of the great department stores like Farmers and the emptiness of Martin Place on a Saturday afternoon during this time.

The outer suburbs are not neglected either as so often happens in books about Sydney. Incidentally for local St George readers there is a wonderfully stinging description of Arncliffe’s “commonness” in the 1930s (and isn’t that a lovely reminder of the language of the time, when calling someone or something “common” was definitely a put-down!) from Sumner Locke Elliot’s novel “Fairyland”.

This article was first published in the January 2011 edition of our magazine.

Browse the magazine archive.

Early Jewish Pioneers in the St George Area

by H.L. Kahana

My topic concerns the early Jewish settlement in this area, the era of the Illawarra Jewish Association of the 1930s and the establishment of the Illawarra Hebrew Congregation in April, 1943.

In the 1930s, the Great Depression raged. King George V and Queen Mary were succeeded on the throne by Edward VII, who abdicated after 11 months and was in turn succeeded by George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Franklin D. Roosevelt became President of the United States, Hitler ruled Germany, Mussolini ruled Italy and Stalin ruled Russia, the Spanish Civil War was the prelude to World War II.

The names Scullin, Lang, Lyons and Stevens dominated Australian politics. Rabbi Francis Lyon Cohen, after 29 years as Chief Rabbi of the “Great”, died in 1934, succeeded in office first by Rabbi Ephraim Levi and in 1940 by Rabbi Dr. Israel Porush (I was Rabbi Porush’s first Bar Mitzvah, in Australia.)

A steam train ran from Kogarah to Sans Souci, replaced by trolley buses in 1937. The railway line was electrified to Sutherland in 1926. Sydney had just a million people and there were only 24,000 Jews in Australia in a total population of seven million.

The Jews of the St. George area were, in the main, British or Australian born and their earliest organisation was the Illawarra Jewish Association (1931-5). The names of the pioneers of the 1930s live on with their descendants in our Shule of today; the names Belinfante, Haneman, Kahana, Morley and Stone for instance. The Solomon family (Esther Tooler’s parents) were also among the pioneers.

The Illawarra Jewish Association held many functions, including:

(1) Meetings and socials at the Allawah Hotel (“Mine Host” was association member Jack Shaw);

(2) Communal Seders at the Masonic Hall – well attended. Picnics at Como;

(3) Arranged right-of-entry scripture classes at Hurstville and Brighton-Le-Sands schools. These were taught by the Late Abe Rothfield, M. C., M. A;

(4) The “younger set” organised dances, socials and even fielded a cricket team in the Jewish Sports Association competitions.

The minutes show that a letter of congratulations was sent to Sarah and Joseph Morris on the birth of their daughter Dawn (now Dawn Kahana). Patrons of the Association included Judge Cohen, Sir Daniel Levi, Sir Isaac Isaacs and Mr. Morris Symonds. The names Steenbohni, Shaw, Barr, Israel, Benjamin, and Biermann also appear as office bearers. The Association folded up in 1935.

In the period leading to World War II, Polish and German Jews who were able to get out of Europe before World War II, settled in the area. By 1943, Mr. Haneman was able to bring together the established British and Australian Jews and the newcomers and start a congregation in this area. Because the railway line passing through the area is the Illawarra line, the congregation adopted as its name “Illawarra Hebrew Congregation“.

Mr. Nathan Haneman was born in Memel, Lithuania, where he attended yeshivot. He later went to Mainz, Germany, before moving to Italy where he lived for 19 years. His wife, Malke, was born in Libau, Latvia (known these days as Liepaja). They had three children, Ben, Eugenia (Jean) and Aliza (Joyce). Mr. Haneman wrote to Rabbi F.L. Cohen, the then “Great”. Rabbi Cohen painted such a picture of prospects in Australia that the Haneman family settled here in 1928.

Rabbi Cohen had a “thing” about Jews forming “ghettos” in this very Anglo country and persuaded Mr. Haneman to go to the suburbs. Mr. Haneman established a business and home in the Kogarah – Carlton area. He sought out and found Jews in the area, and at the beginning of 1943 decided the time was ripe to establish a Jewish congregation.

At a meeting held at Mr. Haneman’s home on 21st February, 1943, Messrs. Haneman, Stone, Kahana, Bratt and Liachowski decided to form a Hebrew congregation. The inaugural meeting was held on the 4th of April, 1943 and attended by 18 people. Elected to office were: President, Mr. Nathan Haneman, Hon. Secretary, Mr Phillip Stone, Hon. Treasurer, Mrs. May Solomon. As far as I know, our congregation was the first in Sydney to have a lady on the board (and this was in 1943!) Membership fees were fixed at one pound and one shilling per annum.

Friday evening services were held in a small room adjoining the St. George Technical College and later in a room at the Kogarah School of Arts. A chazan was engaged for the High Holy Days’ services, assisted by Mr. Haneman and Mr. Bratt ( our two Friday night readers). A Sefer Torah was lent to the congregation by the “Great”. Our services were modelled on those of the “Great” which is still our “mother congregation” Alma Mater. At our social functions, we were often entertained by pianists Raymond Fischer and Albert Landa.

During the war years, we had a spirit of togetherness, that we have not known since. We urgently needed the company, companionship and understanding of fellow Jews. The candles, alight on Friday evenings in the shtibl at the School of Arts, had a magic of their own.

I remain ever grateful to my teacher, Mr. Haneman, who took me to the “Great” every Shabbat morning for seven years and taught me Hebrew at his home on Shabbat afternoons. He never took a cent from me. It was his mitzvah.

This article was first published in the January 2000 edition of our magazine.

Browse the magazine archive.

Sir James Joynton-Smith and the Building in Lydham Hall’s Bellingham Painting

by Bette Ross

The lovely scene in S.R. Bellingham’s painting of Coogee Bay, painted circa 1882, and hanging on the left hand side of the Dining Room fireplace has a story behind it. To begin with Sid R. Bellingham is referred to in a number of Art Encyclopaedias as an artist of unknown background or “very little known about this Artist.” Very disconcerting when one wants to know from where he came, what else he painted and what eventually became of him. One thing is certain, he was neither born, married nor died in New South Wales between 1788 and 1945, just as he left no Probate up to 1982 in New South Wales, however he did write a small book around 1920, held in the Mitchell Library, which he named “Ten Years with Palette, Shotgun and Rifle in the Blue Mountains.”

C. Moore (Mayor, 1863)

So let us put Mr. Bellingham aside as we have no alternative and concentrate on the building standing high on the hill above the northern cliffs in this paining. This historic home was built circa 1862, at approximately the same time as Lydham Hall, for Mr. Charles Moore. It was designed by the well-known architect Thomas Rowe. Moore became Mayor of Randwick in 1863, later Mayor of Sydney and was responsible for preserving the Sydney Common, subsequently named Moore Park in his honour. He named his home Ballamac, apparently derived from his birth place Ballymacarne in Ireland.

By 1875 this mansion had become Baden Baden Hotel and one of its proprietors was Louis Franks an artist who painted many local scenes. Baden Street is to its east. In 1912, millionaire and entrepreneur, Sir James John Joynton-Smith purchased the property, now named Hastings House, and lived there until his death in 1943 aged 89 years.

Joynton-Smith as this gentleman was familiarly known, had been born at Hackney in London, the eldest of twelve children of James Smith and Jane Ware. His father was a master brass finisher, gasfitter and ironmonger. Joynton-Smith was baptised as James John but by at least the mid 1890s was known as Joynton-Smith. At the age of twelve years he worked for a pawnbroker and then a stationer before becoming a cabin-boy on a steamer sailing to Italy. He was then engaged as Third Cook making for New Zealand in 1874.

His next employment was as a steward on a coastal vessel. Then in hotels, eventually becoming an Hotel licensee in Wellington. He married in Auckland in 1882 but the marriage did not last. In 1886 he returned to England where he lost his savings gambling. This was a hard lesson by which to learn. A little later he returned to Wellington and was founding secretary of the Cooks’ and Stewards’ Union.

1890 saw Joynton-Smith in Sydney working as a calligraphist on illuminated funeral descriptions. For four years from 1892, he managed the Great Central Coffee Palace Hotel in Clarence Street, and then leased the Imperial Arcade Hotel (dropping the word Imperial and naming it the Arcadia) between Pitt and Castlereagh Streets. This was in 1896 and he conducted it as a residential hotel. By 1924 he owned the entire arcade, and later the Hotel Astra at Bondi and the Carlton in the city.

In 1911, Sir James Joynton-Smith purchased the Carrington Hotel in Katoomba (previously known as the Great Western and originally Crushers). He already owned the Hotel Imperial at Mount Victoria. The Carrington with permission, was named thus by the previous owner in 1886 in honour of Lord Carrington who was then Governor of New South Wales. Today many pieces of the silverware at The Carrington bear engravings of JSMT (Joynton-Smith Management Trust), Hotel Imperial and Hotel Arcadia.

In 1901 Joynton-Smith was made a Justice of the Peace. He established the first electric light plant in the Blue Mountains and purchased two theatres at Katoomba, leased the Hydro Majestic at Medlow Bath, built the Log Cabin at Penrith and a tearoom on the way up to the mountains.

Also in 1901, he leased Brighton Racecourse at Rockdale and owned and drove many trotters. Two years later he leased land at the ‘swamp end of Glebe’, renovated it and renamed it Epping, subletting the course to the New South Wales Trotting Club. Taking up the option to buy the racecourse in 1911, he then sold it to the Trotting Club, and it became Harold Park in 1929. He had in 1908 opened Victoria Park racecourse at Zetland which became the first course to cater for ladies by providing retiring rooms. This very modern showplace closed down in 1944.

Joynton-Smith’s interest in sports resulted in him financing football matches between the Wallaby (Rugby Union) team and the Kangaroos (Rugby League) team in 1909, with the proceeds going to the (Royal) South Sydney Hospital which he founded, and of which he was President in 1910. He was at one time a director of this Hospital and the Queen Victoria Home for Consumptives at Wentworth Falls and the first president of the Picton Lakes T.B. Soldiers and Sailors’ Settlement.

The Right Hon. J. Joynton Smith, M.L.C., Lord Mayor of Sydney, 1918.

In 1912 he was nominated to the Legislative Council but was never active and retired in 1934. He was an independent alderman of the Sydney Municipal Council for Bligh Ward 1916-18 and supported by Labor was elected Mayor. He was tireless in his efforts to raise war loans and the Red Cross used the basement of Hastings House for the war effort, making camouflage nets, knitting for the forces and other innovative works. The basement contained a large well which he made safe by securing its coverage for the voluntary workers.

His patriotic and charitable works brought him a knighthood and he became K.B.E. in 1920. Two years earlier, he launched a newspaper presenting his views. This was called Smith’s Weekly and in 1923 Smith’s Newspapers Ltd published the Daily Guardian and from 1929 the Sunday Guardian. He was proprietor from 1930-9 of the Referee and Arrow, selling the two Guardians to Sir Hugh Denison in 1930, remaining Chairman of Smith’s Newspapers until the middle of 1939.

He was known as a fluent and logical speaker, generous with time and money for community causes as reflected by his purchase of a rare exhibit for the University of Sydney in 1914. He backed Sydney’s first radio station 2SB (2BL) in 1923. He was a man who enjoyed his wealth and time, not only with what has been so far noted but also as a practical joker, conjurer, singer of Cockney songs and playing the concertina. He was noted for his pince-nez or monocle (having lost an eye in his youth), his moustache and very sleek hair-do.

Joynton-Smith owned another mansion at Warrawee called Mahratta, but it was at Hastings House (portrayed in Bellingham’s Coogee Bay painting) that his death took place on 10th October, 1943. He was survived by his third wife, Gladys Mary (nee Woods), a daughter and a son J. Joynton-Smith. Hastings House today has been divided into apartments but remains unaltered externally.

Sources:
Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1891-1939 Vol. 8
Australians from 1939, Chapter 12 “Press, Radio and Television”
Randwick and District Historical Society
Randwick Ramble, 5th edition (Part 1: Coogee and Clovelly)
Sydney Morning Herald 23.11.1861, 11.10.1943, 12.10.1943
The Carrington Hotel, History Notes.

This article was first published in the January 2000 edition of our magazine.

Browse the magazine archive.

President’s Report 2021

Well, who would have thought 2021 was destined to continue in the same vein as 2020 due to COVID-19 related sickness, death and Lockdown restrictions impacting family, friends, the business and health sectors plus leisure pursuits to name but a few? May Australia and hopefully the rest of the world turn a corner into a more positive 2022…The COVID-19 lightning bolt which struck once, then twice but we hope will not strike thrice?! Let us all hope and pray for a much gentler and kinder 2022.

The St. George Historical Society Inc has joined a great throng of like societies which have been embroiled in learning how to adjust to a new paradigm. Our meetings have necessarily been curtailed by Government and Bayside Council restrictions. This has been challenging, but at least with modern technology, communication updates have still been possible on a timely basis. Nonetheless, in person, face-to-face gatherings are without doubt the most rewarding and popular forms of communication and interaction for social gatherings such as our monthly meetings.

A review of the Society’s activities makes for sobering reading. Of the possible 10 monthly meetings between February 2021 and November 2021, Lockdown restrictions, a clash with ANZAC Day and a freak storm event resulted in the cancellation of 7 and due to being unable to access the Senior Citizen’s Centre due to a Bayside Council error, potentially the aborting of yet another meeting. We must thank the quick-thinking Hortons for use of St. Peter’s Anglican church Cooks River for saving the day. The Lord on this occasion did indeed provide! Sadly, we will not be able to access Lydham Hall for this year’s Christmas party due to ongoing renovations. We shall canvas members’ thoughts for an alternative venue.

2021 coincided with the Golden Anniversary of the opening of the Lydham Hall museum and the Diamond Anniversary of the St. George Historical Society Inc. Alas, due to the pandemic and long-awaited works being undertaken at Lydham Hall, possible celebrations have necessarily been deferred; but significantly not cancelled!

Although monthly meetings have largely been in recess, I can assure members, much indeed is happening ‘behind the scenes’ as it were. Laurice and Tina will each provide updates as to what has been negotiated with Bayside Council and Lydham Hall respectively.

I take this opportunity to thank members of the Society’s Executive and Committee for so freely and unselfishly giving their time and talents. Specifically, I would like to thank Barry Johnson in his capacity as the Society’s Editor in recent years and wish him well in his well-deserved retirement from this role. The reformatting and colourisation of the ‘Our History’ newsletter was revolutionary and has been well-received. Well done good and faithful servant!

Laurice Bondfield has worked tirelessly during especially challenging times and on occasion, had to manage exasperating circumstances. Many telephone calls and e- mails have been had between Laurice and Bayside Council as regards COVID-19 Safety plans and securing meeting rooms. She has in addition spent hours reviewing Government COVID-19 information websites and liaising with members, the Society’s committee, the Leader newspaper and guest speakers, collated meeting agenda, taken monthly and committee meeting minutes, helped with the logistics of the meeting room set-up and brought COVID-19 supplies for all our use. I am sure this list is not exhaustive…but I think this should give some idea of what Laurice has accomplished this year. May she continue to keep on keeping on!

Tina Workman indeed lives up to the first syllable of her surname. Work she has and how! Whilst managing the Society’s finances would ordinarily be her principal duty as Treasurer and presumably has the odd challenging moment; NOTHING could compare with her undertakings at Lydham Hall! Fortunately, because of her profession, Tina has the trained eye for detail and design so critical at this watershed period in the Museum’s history. She has had to negotiate with many stakeholders such as Bayside Councillors, Council tradesmen, specialist heritage architects and consultants plus of course the Lydham Hall Management Committee, as much needed external restoration and some internal renovations to this historic house have been actioned with still more to be undertaken before the overall project is finalised.

Tina has necessarily adopted a ‘roll up the sleeves and get cracking approach’. Over perhaps hundreds of hours including many weekends, Tina has cleaned and catalogued upwards of 500 individual pieces and upgraded the associated displays. There is still at least another 1,500 objects to be given the same treatment. Tina has fortunately been assisted by Councillor Liz Barlow, Laurice, the Rankins and others on occasion. The work has been long-overdue and herculean in scope but ultimately will make the Lydham Hall Museum a viable concern in the years to come. Suffice to say, “Tina, thank you very much and do please take time to breathe, eat and sleep”!

I would also like to acknowledge the contribution of Robert McGarn to the Committee. Although Robert is very much a quiet achiever, he regularly provides insightful feedback to ideas and proposals. In addition, he has the handy talent of keeping abreast of local news and happenings, much of which would probably otherwise escape the Committee’s attention.

Finally, I wish all members a happy, healthy and holy Christmas. May 2022 prove to have significant respite from COVID-19 and provide the opportunity for our society to joyously celebrate milestone occasions deferred from this year plus a return to some semblance of normality for all Australians.

Best wishes,
Wesley Fairhall
President

Michael Gannon

(A talk delivered at St. Michael’s Church, Hurstville on the occasion of its Centenary in 1987 by Alderman R. W. Rathbone)

There is some doubt about when Michael Gannon was actually born. His marriage certificate and his convict records all indicate that he was born in 1798 but his death certificate would suggest it was the year 1800. There is no dispute about the fact that he was born in the town of Mullingar in County Westmeath, Ireland, the son of John Gannon, a carpenter and joiner and his wife Alicia.

The family were poor but God-fearing and Michael was given what little education they could afford. He was apprenticed to his father’s trade and showed some promise as a woodturner but he was also the wild one of the family surviving several scrapes with the law in his teenage years.

Eventually he found lawbreaking more exciting and remunerative than carpentry and in December 1819, he was arrested and charged with highway robbery. At the Lenten Assizes in County Meath in April 1820, Michael Gannon was sentenced to transportation for life whilst his younger brother, James, received a sentence of 14 years transportation for being in possession of forged bank notes. They left old Ireland’s shores on 22nd August 1820, aboard the convict transport “Almorah” of 416 tons burthan and arrived in Sydney Cove exactly four months later.

The Convict Records held in the State Archives describe Michael Gannon in the following terms, he was aged 22, was 5’6.5″ tall with fair pockmarked complexion, brown hair and hazel eyes. In 1823 he was assigned to Joseph Broadbent, a carpenter and builder, in whose employ worked a seventeen year old chambermaid named Mary Ann Parsonage. Michael Gannon and Mary Parsonage were married the following year.

It is some indication of Michael Gannon’s personality that despite his unprepossessing appearance and in a Colony where men outnumbered women by more than three to one, a woman born free was prepared to marry a convict under a life sentence. To add to this interest, Mary Parsonage was a Protestant whilst Michael Gannon was a Catholic and they were married in an Anglican ceremony in St. Phillip’s Church, Church Hill, by the Assistant Colonial Chaplain, Rev. William Cowper.

Perhaps the clue to this unusual arrangement can be gleaned from the fact that early the next year Mary Gannon petitioned Governor Darling to have her husband legally assigned to her as a government servant which meant that Michael Gannon was hers not only by marriage but by government assignment as well.

The 1828 Census reveals that Michael and Mary Gannon and their four year old son, John, were living in Cambridge Street, Millers Point in the area now known as The Rocks and Michael was following his profession as a carpenter. On 18th July 1829, when he was granted his Ticket of Leave, Michael Gannon’s description is again recorded. He was still 5’6.5″ tall but his complexion had changed from fair to pale and the colour of his eyes from hazel to grey and by November 1835, when he was granted a Conditional Pardon his hair had already begun to turn grey and his complexion had changed from pale to ruddy (he had obviously been out in the sun). He remained 5’6.5″ tall.

During these years Gannon had worked hard. He had prospered as a carpenter and had developed into a builder and property owner. In 1843 he became the undertaker for Catholic burials within the town of Sydney and was in partnership with his brother as an auctioneer and commission agent in Lower George Street. The Depression of that year, however, played havoc with his enterprises4 and he was declared insolvent. Salvaging what he could, he obtained publican’s licence for an inn on the Cook’s River Road at Tempe and was settled on the site of today’s Government Bus Depot by 1845.

By this time Michael and Mary Gannon’s family had increased to ten. John born in 1825, Mary in 1827, Robert in 1829, William in 1831, James in 1833, Frederick in 1836, Joseph Napoleon in 1838, Alfred in 1840, Alicia in 1842 and Maria in 1845. All but Mary survived to adulthood.

Again, because of his industry, Michael Gannon prospered. In the late 1840’s he purchased land in the City, at Petersham and along the Hawkesbury River but perhaps his most important acquisition was the 1,950 acres originally granted to Captain John Townson of the N.S.W. Corps in April 1810 and sold to the enterprising ex-convict, Simeon Lord, two years later. This vast tract of country, which today covers all the suburbs of Hurstville, Allawah, Canton and West Bexley remained entirely undeveloped because there was no access from it to the settlement at Sydney. After Lord’s death in 1840 the grant had passed to John Holden and James Holt but even after the building of Forest Road between 1843 and 1848, little development took place. On 18th November 1850, they, in turn, sold it to Michael Gannon for the sum of £732 – £68 less than they had paid for it only six years before.

Almost immediately, Gannon set about realizing on his newly acquired estate. Section One covered the whole of the present day suburb of Carlton whilst Section Two covered most of West Bexley. Each section was divided into Lots ranging in size from 15 to 30 acres and these were offered to would-be purchasers on extremely generous terms financed by Gannon himself at 10 percent deposit and 6 percent interest repayable over a period of 20 years.

One of the earliest buyers was a man named George Perry who acquired the 18 acres now partly occupied by the buildings of the Sydney Technical High School in January 1854 for £160. Perry’s receipts for the land he bought are still in existence and whilst the interest payment was always made in cash, the capital repayment was made almost entirely in bags of charcoal, sucking pigs, fat pigs and on one occasion, a heifer.

By 1855 there was quite a reasonable population in the area and a number of these people ascribed to the Catholic Faith. To attend Mass, it was necessary for them to travel all the way to Sydney and even after the building of St. Patrick’s Chapel along the Rocky Point Road at Kogarah in 1865, the journey was long, arduous and inconvenient. Section One of Gannon’s land was partly bisected by a narrow, deeply rutted track later known as Willison Road and it was down that lane that the Catholic inhabit- ants of the area, by now known as Gannon’s Forest, made their way to Mass each Sunday. It is reported that the bend in today’s Willison Road at its junction with Short Street was occasioned by the early Catholic inhabitants of the district as they struck off across country to reach St. Patrick’s on their Sunday pilgrimages. The fact that this diversion actually reached the Ioggerah Road at a point occupied by Edmund English’s Koggerah Family Hotel some two miles distant from the church suggests that the diversion catered for both the physical as well as the spiritual comfort of those who used it.

No doubt out of concern for the convenience of the Catholic residents of Gannon’s Forest and the fact that the only school in the district was a tumble-down affair conducted under the auspices of the Church of England, Gannon donated a site for the erection of a church. On 24th November 1655, Michael Gannon of Cook’s River in the Colony of N.S.W. Innkeeper, transferred to Rev. John Bede Polding, Roman Catholic Archbishop and Rev. Daniel Maurus O’Connell, Roman Catholic Clergyman, that parcel of land in the County of Cumberland, Parish of St. George commencing at a marked stump on the New Line of Road to the Illawarra comprising all ways, lights, sewers, watercourses, easements and appurtenances for the erection of a Roman Catholic Church and no other purpose whatsoever. The sum paid by the Church was a token ten shillings and the deed of transfer was executed and witnessed by Gannon’s solicitor son, Frederick.

Michael Gannon was now 57 years of age. His family was growing up and were doing very well. Frederick was a solicitor, Alfred a wealthy land speculator, William a prominent race horse owner, his champion stallion, “Arsenal” winning the 1886 Melbourne Cup. William was later to become the licensee of the prestigious Petty’s Hotel. Gannon’s daughter, Maria, was also to achieve some prominence as the mother of Major R. W. Lenehan, the controversial Breaker Morant’s commanding officer during the Boer War.

Gannon had won a reputation for fair dealing in business and enjoyed universal respect as a man of property, a good father and family man, a faithful member of his Church and a man of generosity and compassion. He also enjoyed considerable respect among the Colony’s Establishment for, despite his convict beginnings and his Irish ancestry, he was an unashamed loyalist and a conservative in his political allegiances. Apart from a short stint as an alderman of the St. Peter’s Council, he never sought election for any public office but he was invariably a member and Often the Chairman of the Campaign Committee of the more conservative candidate for any election in the seats of Cumberland South Riding and Canterbury which at one time or another covered this area. In particular, he was a close personal friend of the conservative Protectionist, John Lucas who s an implacable opponent of Sir Henry Parkes, was responsible for opening up the Jenolean Caves and was the author of the original White Australia Policy.

In the early 1850’s Michael Gannon gave the land on which the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul at Tempe was erected and for many years, until its abolition in 1872, he was a member of the Cook’s River Road Trust. In 1864 he had offered 8 acres of land from his estate at Hurstville to establish a public cemetery in the St. George District and in 1881, waived all claim to the land on which St. George’s Anglican Church, Hurstville stands after it was discovered the church had stood for 25 years on land that had never been legally transferred to it.

In August 1874, Michael and Mary Gannon celebrated 50 years of married life together, an occasion which saw assembled not only a devoted family but a host of other admirers as well and when Mary Gannon died in March the following year there was a further outpouring of the love and respect in which this fine pioneering couple were held. Michael was to live on for another six years, lonely, broken and embittered by the loss of his beloved helpmate and when he was finally laid to rest beside her in August 1881, it brought to an end not only a chapter in this district’s and this church’s history but the end of an era in a family that was to make its mark in many areas of endeavour in this state.

I do not know what motivated the original builders to choose the name of St. Michael as the name for this church but if it was not intentional then it was indeed a fortunate co-incidence for Michael was also the Christian name of the good, wise, far-sighted and very compassionate man who gave the land on which this church now stands.

This article was first published in the March 1990 edition of our magazine.

Browse the magazine archive.

Book Review: Governor Macquarie, His Life, Times and Revolutionary Vision for Australia by Derek Parker, Woodslane Press 2010 (252 pages)

Reviewed by Laurice Bondfield

This book has been published to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Lachlan Macquarie’s arrival as Governor of NSW. It is a straightforward biography quoting extensively from his journals, letters and dispatches so you get a lively sense of his personality and attitudes as well as a clear narrative of the events of his life.

One trait that particularly stood out for me in this account was his sense of adventure and love of travel. After serving in Canada during the War of Independence and Indian campaigns in Travancore and Cochin among others he returns to England in 1807, not by the usual direct sea route but overland. His route took him through Persia (modern day Iraq) to the shores of the Caspian Sea, then north to Astrakhan, beside the Volga River to Tsaritsin thence to Moscow and St Petersburg. His adventures did not end there as he sailed from Kronstadt through the Baltic in appalling weather, visiting the British fleet which had just taken Copenhagen and taking time to see the sights of the city before reaching Yarmouth after several times being becalmed or delayed by contrary winds. After he returned to England in 1822, instead of resting from his difficult time in Australia, he, his wife and son set out on a year long Grand Tour of France and Italy. He must have enjoyed the chances his governorship gave him to travel around NSW and Tasmania!

Of his time as governor, you get the impression that a man of honest and straightforward character like Macquarie was bound to find difficulty in dealing with touchy and rancorous free settlers and devious emancipists, while receiving only lukewarm support from the Colonial Office. “He has been accused of too freely taking men and women at their face value and while this is a likeable trait, its effects are sometimes troublesome”(Derek Parker p. xiii Introduction).

When reading of his rise from a poor family on the Isle of Mull via Army service (and Scots connections!) to the governorship you wonder how much his open minded attitude to the emancipists, although official Colonial Office policy, was coloured by his own experience.

In conclusion, this is a well-rounded biography of Lachlan Macquarie, intended for the general reader. It is a corrective to some histories which concentrate exclusively on his time as governor and ignore or give short shrift to his early life or his personality or private life.

This article was first published in the January 2011 edition of our magazine.

Browse the magazine archive.

The Bexley Ladies’ College

by Frances Stacey

“Rockdale College” was originally founded by the Rev. C.T. Forscutt, when he was 40 years old. He was born in Newtown and became a preacher at the Enmore Tabernacle for some years. Later at the age of 40 years, he decided he would found a Boys’ School and was greatly encouraged by the late Dr Prescott of Newington College at Stanmore, who was his life-long friend. He acquired three cottages in Henry Street, somewhere between Sydenham and Tempe, overlooking the railway line on the left, going towards Rockdale. I believe these cottages to be still there – one or two turnings to the right after leaving Sydenham Station and moving towards Tempe. He started his school with, forty boys. After some years there, and the school increasing in numbers, Rev. Forscutt bought a fine property in Bexley, in about 1880. It is thought the home was built by Mr Tidswell, who was t think, at that time, a Wine and Spirit Merchant.

The land was bounded by Gladstone Street, Queen Victoria Street and Monomeeth Street. In Gladstone Street, it adjoined another lovely old home built and occupied by another Tidswell family for. many years. Later this property was bought by Mr George Hudson of the Timber Mill Business. This home finally became “Margaret House” and used for entertainments. Also adjoining was the large residence in Dunmore Street built by Mr Conley. It still stands there as Fairmont Hospital and is the only one of the old homes to be still standing.

The School stood in fourteen acres of land all told and a photograph of the old home may be seen in Lydham Hall. In the College Prospectus it was quoted as “standing in its beautiful park-like grounds overlooking Botany Bay.” The view must have been very lovely then!

A school hospital was built near the lower end of what was called the A.E. Watsons Reserve and on the Monomeeth Street side where the old stone stables were situated. Here were housed the horse-drawn coaches and horses all cared for by “Charly” who always had his “hand bitten”. He was never without a smile to us all and we all loved him. He once allowed me to climb up on to one of the carriages! Barry Humphrey attended to all the outside work in the garden and his wife Agnes did the house-keeping. All were kind and gentle.

The large grounds were sheltered by pine trees where the children could play. They also had a big see-saw and swings.

As the school grew in numbers, Mr Foscutt built a large building in Monomeeth Street. The ground floor was a very large school room, built with a stage at one end for concerts. etc. On one side was a hail with a music room and sitting room, the other with a large hall leading to the front door. On the other side was a verandah looking right down to Gladstone Street and the old home. Upstairs were all the boarders bedrooms.

I can remember one morning so clearly when we had a bad thunderstorm. One of the chimneys was struck by lightning. It was so frightening and I saw Mr Forscutt stagger backwards hold his hand to his forehead, and also one of the teachers with my class right under the window on that side. I picked up a piece of that chimney and kept it for many years with My own geological specimens, but can find it nowhere now! Should I ever find this it will go to “Lydham Hall”.

Many readers may be interested to know that when in later years the old stables were demolished, the bricks which I imagine were standstone, were used by Mr Forscutt to build cottages near the railway at Banksia. The old stables were built to the design of an English barn.

The front verandah of the building in Monomeeth Street was built with a beautiful arch, believed to have been a replica of the arch at the Marist Brothers at Kogarah.

In the early years of the College, a Garden Party was held “in the park-like grounds” each year. Members of Parliament and many other notable people . also were invited – most in those days coming by train. Rockdale Station was beautifully decorated for the occasion with bunting. James Cook – the local member of Parliament at that time – always attended. At that time the school was a “Boys’ School” and it was quite some time before it was to become a “Girls’ School”.

This article was first published in the February 1980 edition of our magazine.
Browse the magazine archive.

Old St. David’s Church Of England Arncliffe

by Peter Orlovich

The following article, from the researching pen of Mr. Peter Orlovich, M. A. , a member of our Society, deals with certain phases of the early history of Old St. David’s Church of England at Arncliffe, and also throws light on the pioneering Hannam family who were amongst the early settlers of the area. The article was initially prepared for the congregation of, shall we say, New St. David’s, located at Forest Road, Arncliffe. Through the kindness of the Rector, the Rev. N. G. Robinson, our Society has been permitted to republish the article, which has great historical value. So little information has survived in relation to Old St. David’s, a circumstance brought about by the loss of relevant minute books and a somewhat chequered existence under different administrations. A further article, to be published by the Society, is in course of preparation.

The story of Old St. David’s Church of England, Arncliffe, might be said to commence with the conviction and transportation of Reuben Hannam alias Richard Hannam to New South Wales in 1811. Reuben Hannam, a brick and tile maker by calling, and a native of Somersetshire, England, was convicted at the Somerset Assizes on the 31st March, 1810, and sentenced to transportation for life. He arrived in Sydney on the convict transport “Admiral Gambler” on the 29th September, 1811, and in due course was employed as Overseer of Brick Makers in Sydney.

Rueben Hannam’s Cottage (Wolli Creek)

In August, 1813, Reuben Hannam addressed a Memorial to Governor Macquarie, in which he stated:-

“That the Memorialist is a Prisoner of this Colony, and arrived in the Ship Admiral Gambier, having much reason to consider that his Term of Transportation is during his natural Life. That the Memorialist left in England, a Vhf and Children for whom he has entertained a Serious affection, and whom, he has most lamentably to reflect, must be under extreme hardships in their native country as they are bereft of their only succour a Husband and a Father. That the great and compassionate goodness of his Most Majesty extended tcr your poor Memorialist that mercy which continues to him a blessing of existence, so that he might cordially repent of his past Errors, and regenerate in this distant Region, under Your Excellency’s benign authority, wherefore, your Memorialist, conscious that the power which interposed in lengthening the days, had no less in view, the promotion of the happiness of your Memorialist, should his conduct render him worthy of the favourable charge, he entertains a hope that through the Medium of Your Excellency’s humane Representation and interposition, his Wife and Family may be permitted to follow his footsteps and to share his Destinies, which Memorialist is assured his forlorn partner would very gladly do. The Memorialist therefore supplicates Your Excellency in this behalf; that he may share in the bounty which has extended itself so generally for the good of the Unfortunate, most humbly prays as the greatest blessing he can derive on Earth to see his Dear Wife and Children once again, and believe great and good Sir, that his tears and theirs gratefully flow in praise of your goodness &c

Reuben Hannam”

This Memorial, together with a certificate signed by the Rev. William Cowper (Assistant Chaplain) and Isaac Nichols (Principal Superinten- dent of Convicts) testifying to the good conduct of Reuben Hannam in the Colony, was transmitted by Governor Macquarie to Under Secretary Goulburn on the 20th August, 1813 with a request that the documents be submitted for the favourable consideration of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Earl Bathurst, and recommending him to- order a passage for Hannam’s wife and children “in one of the first Convict Ships coming out to this Colony.” (Historical Records of Australia, Ser. 1, v. 8, p. 78-79)

As a direct consequence of Reuben Hannam’s Memorial, his son David embarked on the “Lady Northampton” about the same time and sailed for New South Wales, his age then being about 8 years. David Hannam settled in the colony, and on the 15th November, 1825 was ordered or promised 60 acres of land by Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane. The land was soon thereafter occupied by David Hannam in the Parish of St. George, County of Cumberland, although the grant was not made until the 31st August, 1833 by Governor Bourke, on the condition that 16 acres be cleared and cultivated, or buildings or fences erected, or other permanent improvements made to the value of £10. Reuben Hannam was granted 100 acres on the same date adjoining his son’s farm.

David Hannam married Mary Masterson of the Airds district on the 17th March, 1828 at St. Peter’s Church, Campbelltown. David was then aged 23 and his wife was 17 years old. They resided apparently on the farm at “Cook’s River”, with John Masterson, aged 12 years, and three assigned or emancipated convict labourers.

In 1857, David and Mary Hannam had a family of twelve, Reuben (28 years) John (25), Elizabeth (23), Mary (21), Phillis (18), David (16), James Australia (14), Charlotte (12), Sarah Jane (10), Catharine (8), Lydia (6) and Louisa Ruth (born 6th April, 1857).

Reuben Hannam died on the 14th December, 1852 aged 73 years, his wife predeceasing him at the age of 62 years on the 5th February, 1852. David Hannam died at the age of 67 years on the 5th September, 1872 at his residence on the “New Illawarra Road” at Cook’s River. He was survived by his widow, four sons and eight daughters.

Old St David’s, Arncliffe

The site of Old St. David’s Church, Arncliffe is located within the primary grant issued to David Hannam. There were clearly two churches erected on the site. The earlier of the two appears to have been erected early in 1861, and a reference to its construction was made in The Church of England Chronicle, vol. 5, No. 5, March 7th, 1961. p. 36:-

“PARISH OF ST. PETER’S, COOK’S RIVER”

“A small School-house has lately been built for the benefit of a numerous and scattered population south of the Cook’s River Dam. Half an acre of land was kindly given by Mr. D. Hannam several years ago, and some money collected, the work was begun, but soon failed; and a traveller through the retired bush between Woolli Creek and the Eastern Wollongong Road, would have stumbled suddenly on grass-grown ruins of rubble work, half raised between rough hewn corner posts. During the last few months a sub- scription has again been set on foot and carried out with praise- worthy zeal by wives of two respectable cottagers, so that on the whole £42 has been raised. The building was recommenced, the front and two end walls of good stonework, the back wall of slabs, in the hope of afterwards adding two rooms for a Teacher’s residence. The roof is of galvanised iron for security against bush fires; the ceiling and slabs inside neatly covered with calico; the floor of Asphalte, which will, it is hoped, combine a constant dryness with freedom from white ants. The building is 22 feet long, by 14 feet wide, and 8 feet high under the eaves, and the whole presents a pleasant appearance. A neat pulpit and forms (to seat about 40 persons) complete the furniture inside. The whole cost is £43.

On Sunday afternoon, February 24th, the first service was performed by the Rev. A. H. Bull, M. A. , Minister of the district of St.. Peter’s, who purposes to attend there on alternate Sunday afternoons.

A collection was made after the service amounting to £1.11. lOd. , to complete the funds required.

Mr. Charles Kellett has undertaken the charge of the school., which having no aid from Government, must at least for the present depend on local resources.

A.H.B.”

St David’s Church of England (circa 1875)

The second church -, the. present structure – appears to have been built sometime between 1875 and 1892, for in 1875, the Rev. Stanley Howard, incumbent of St. Peter’s, Cook’s River, recorded his observations of the original School-house and church in a letter to a relative, a copy of which was published in the Church of England Messenger, Arncliffe of August, 1934. (See attached copy).

The Town and Country Journal of the 27th August, 1892 featured an article on the churches of Christ Church, Bexley and St. David’s Arncliffe, including sketches of both, and the latter is quite clearly the present Old St. David’s. “It has not much pretension to architectural beauty, but is not unpicturesque”, noted the observer .. . . “St. David’s is a much older building than Christchurch, and what there is of architecture is of an early English character. The weather stained shingle roof gives a good bit of rich brown grey., and the primitive belfry is, in its way, not uncomely.”

There are, however, two main questions which I consider essential to a more rounded history of the Church, but which I regret I have been as yet unable to answer:

(1) When, and what form of legal title to the land occupied by the Church was actually granted to the Church or its trustees?

(2) When the present structure was built?

I regret I could not undertake the research to establish these points at present. I trust this information supplied will be of some benefit.”

“St. Peter’s Parsonage,

St. Peters, nr. Sydney, N. S. W.

Monday, 22nd August, 1875.

I have long contemplated a day’s riding in the bush with my good neighbour, Mr. Done, over the River, to view his parish. We agreed to do it this day: so I provided myself with a bag full of edibles not to be despised even by a dainty appetite; and we met at the dam at 10 o’clock. First we rode for about a mile and a half to Arncliffe Church, which was certainly a remarkable edifice. I hardly ever tried to sketch in my life before, as you will suppose when you see the accompanying attempts; but I feel I must try and put a few lines together to give you an idea of the reality; and I think I have partly succeeded. Someone who visited it said they must certainly not destroy that when they built another, but leave it as a “fossil remains.” The attempt at the sketch inside is the least successful, because I can’t manage the shading — but I must send it. The Vestry you see is an old clothes horse done up with canvas and whitewash. Over the desk is a. hole in the ceiling — for ventilation I suppose — from which frequently appears a large green snake, hanging down over the preacher’s head. On the walls are tacked pieces of bent tin supporting “patty pan” to hold the candles. A very old-looking table and a few clean benches completes the ecclesiastical furniture of this Cathedral Church I must confess that it looked clean enough in spite of the rest.

St Davids, Arncliffe – 1875

From this we rode through the bush, along roads which were often the merest tracks, to Belmore. We occasionally got on a good road for a while, and passed nice cottages with pretty orange trees loaded with fruit in the gardens. Then we would suddenly dive into the forest again, and ride through tall, thick bush, among which the acacia was most lovely, in full blossom, so rich and golden. Belmore Church is better than my sketch represents. We heard the children read. Then we rode to Connelly’s Creek, and, borrowing a “billy-pot” and cups (yes, and she actually gave us saucers and spoons, which quite spoilt our bush tea, as it requires to be stirred with a stick to give it its true flavour), we found a sheltered place at the foot of two big gum trees and lit our fire, and thoroughly enjoyed our lunch. It was great fun Mr. Done is an elderly gentleman, but full of spirits, and a most genial as well as spiritually minded companion. I believe he felt as much as a boy as I did The spot will not soon be forgotten by me. If I were a sketcher I would send you a pencil representation of it. I need hardly say that it was (as George used to express it when we went for expeditions together ) “sanctified by the word of God — – it was John xvii — and prayer.”

Then we rode up a slope on the opposite side of the little creek, and dived again into a very pretty piece of regular forest, amongst which the rays of the afternoon sun shone softly and richly. After a few miles we came to Lord’s Forest Church, which I had not time to put on paper, but I send you an extract from an inscription. We reached Mr. Done’s house at Rocky Point — a small but very substantial new parsonage which he has had great difficulty in raising — at sunset. I could not stay to touch the neatly prepared tea, but hastened home, having thoroughly enjoyed the 26 mile ride.”

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