The Annual General Meeting of the St George Historical Society will be held on Saturday 16th July 2022 at 2pm at Level 3, Rockdale Library.
All office holder positions are empty at the time of the AGM. Nominations for positions are to be issued to Secretary no later than 7 days before the AGM. Nominations will also be taken from the meeting floor at the time of the AGM.
Office Bearers to be elected
Lydham Hall Management Committee (up to 4 positions)*
Lydham Hall Sub Committee
Office Holder Nomination Form
President The President is the administrative head of the Society and directs its affairs subject to the control of the Committee. He or she is a member of all sub-committees and shall chair all Meetings of the Society.
Vice president The Vice-President acts as a consultant to the President and shall take the place of the President during his or her absence.
Secretary The Secretary is the executive officer of the Society and custodian of its records, keeping minutes of the Society and Committee, conduct correspondence, act as liaison officer with officers of other associations.
Treasurer The Treasurer is responsible for the recording and reporting of the Societies finances, including the collection of money for membership, sales, events, as well as responsibility for any investments.
Curator The Curator oversees the collection by managing the acquisition, preservation and display of objects currently kept at Lydham Hall.
Librarian The Librarian oversees the collection of research and reading material available for members and visitors at Lydham Hall.
Lydham Hall Management Committee (up to 4 positions) The LHMC is a joint committee with Bayside Council and will consist of 3 councillors and up to 4 members representing the Society. Terms of reference are yet to be finalised but it is anticipated that the LHMC will manage the building and the grounds on behalf of Bayside Council and will support the SGHS in the preservation, management and interpretation of the museum. The LHMC will meet (at least) quarterly to oversee the management of the museum.
Lydham Hall Sub Committee (up to 4 positions) LHSC will oversee the day to day activities of the museum including being on hand for openings, setting up exhibitions and events, and general maintenance and care of the house and the collection.
Magazine Editor The editor co-ordinates the articles and distribution of the Society magazine, Our History, which is published quarterly.
Public Officer The Public Officer is required to liaise with the Department of Fair Trading and the National Charities and Not For Profits Commission for the required correspondence regarding the Societies activities.
Publicity Officer The Publicity Officer manages the activities related to the public face of the Society and will be responsible for marketing the aims, events and activities of the Society. The publicity officer will manage the Societies social media (Web page and Facebook page) and will liaise with the Marketing team at Bayside Council to promote the Society and Lydham Hall.
Research Officer The Research Officer will undertake research on behalf of the Society and respond to requests for information from members and the general public.
Please note that some of the terms used in this article reflect the attitude of the author or the period in which the item was written and may be considered inappropriate today.
It is questionable if, after a lapse of some two hundred years, there still remains any undiscovered information relating to the multifarious activities associated with the everyday life of that distinguished Yorkshireman, Captain James Cook. Much has been published about his three historic voyages of discovery, undertaken between the years 1768 and 1779; to we Australians the most important of his achievements was the finding and charting of some five thousand miles of the eastern coast of Australia One can only speculate as to what would have eventuated if this great sailor had not ventured into the South Pacific Ocean, circumnavigated the islands of New Zealand, and sailed westward to gain a land- fall of the Australian Continent at Point Hicks.
The biography of James Cook teems with interest. He was born on October 27, 1728, at Marton-in-Cleveland, a small farming village in Yorkshire, England, the son of a Scottish labourer and his Yorkshire wife. The cottage where James Cook was born has long been demolished but the field in which it stood is called “Cook’s Garth”, It would appear that his early days were spent at a farm at Great Ayton where, between carrying out the usual agricultural chores, he attended the local village school to gain the rudiments of an education befitting his then status in life. At the age of seventeen he entered an apprenticeship with a shopkeeper, generally spoken of as being a huckster, or pedlar, who had his business at The Staithes, a small fishing village gathered around its dividing creek on the rock-bound coast of the North Riding of Yorkshire. This shop has also disappeared, and perhaps the only survival associated with the Cook family may be the neat little home now so well preserved in the Fitzroy Gardens in Melbourne.
James Cook was successful in transferring his apprenticeship to a Quaker coal merchant and shipper at Whitby, by the name of John Walker. Under the watchful eye of his new master young Cook served for the next three years in the various colliers plying from Newcastle- on-Tyne and Whitby to the coal depots ranged along the Thames at London. More adventurous journeys were also made across the German, or North Sea, to the Baltic ports, where the coal cargoes were replaced by pine timber cut to lengths suitable for the English market. In addition to learning the first principles of navigation Cook applied his talents to the study of mathematics, and at the age of twenty-seven he held a “Mate’s Certificate acting in this capacity on numerous ships until 1755 when war broke out between England and France It was a time when the infamous “Press Gangs” came into active operation and no male was safe from their attentions, particularly those with any sea-going experience. In this year Mr. John Walker offered him a command. Cook thought it wiser to join his Britannic Majesty’s Navy as a volunteer and, as an Ordinary Seaman, went aboard the H.M.S. Eagle, of sixty guns, which was then berthed in the Thames at Wapping Old Stairs. His next four years were -spent before the mast but they also brought him some influential friendships which culminated in his being raised to the rank of a master. On the strength of this important office he was given command of H.M.S. Grampus, but owing to one of those book-keeping mistakes, which are so common in any, service, it was found that the master in command of this vessel had never left his posting. As a result of this contretemps of the “Silent Service” he was transferred to H.M.S. Garland, as far as the books were concerned, but it was quickly learned that this latter vessel was well away to sea and could not be contacted. However, the third posting which Cook obtained, and actually gained, the mastership of the good ship “Mercury’, under the command of Sir Charles Saunders, was soon engaged in Canadian waters co-operating with the military forces of the intrepid General Wolfe, a gentleman who had designs on the capture of Quebec.
Owing to the lack of knowledge of the then uncharted waters of the mighty St. Laurence River, it was deemed impossible to use the guns of the fleet to the best advantage, consequently a survey of the river, made under the cloak of darkness, became imperative. Cook was chosen for this risky operation, and in a small boat, pulled with muffled oars, he silently stole, night after night, along the river taking the necessary soundings so as to be acquainted with any navigation obstacles. The French forces at length became aware of these nightly excursions and set a watch of Indians to circumvent further ventures in this direction. They closed on the boat, and in the succeeding melee the Indians boarded one end of the boat as Cook left, in a great hurry, at the other end. The survey work, carried out under such difficult conditions, ultimately resulted in the capture of Quebec, much to the mortification of the French.
After all this excitement the British fleet spent the winter at Halifax in Newfoundland, and Cook had the honour of being transferred from the H.M.S. Mercury to the Admiral’s Flagship, the H.M.S. Northumberland, which was classified as a first class man-of-war. Cook now charted the surrounding Newfoundland and his excellent work, coupled with his prowess appertaining to navigational procedure, brought him to the notice of the Admiralty. The H.M.S. Northumberland returned to England in the early part of 1762, and on December 21 of that year Ships-master Cook wedded Miss Elizabeth Batts at Barking in Essex, a lass who came from Shadwell. In the course of their married life the Cook’s raised a family of six children. However, as with most sailors, their married bliss consisted of many disconnected honeymoons, arranged according to the posting of the vessels by the Naval Authorities, Four months after his marriage he was surveying the islands of Miquelon and St. Pierre, and later, in April, 1764, he was placed in command of the schooner Grenville and again sent to the coasts of Newfoundland for further survey work, returning to England each autumn and leaving again in the spring, a routine arrangement which continued until 1967. The publication of his charts relating to Newfoundland, and his observational details concerning a solar eclipse created great interest and brought him favour of the Royal Society, and promotion from the rank of Master to that of a Naval Lieutenant, Just rewards for a great man.
Scientific circles at this period were all agog over the phenomenon of the Transit of Venus which, according to astronomical calculations, would pass across the disc of the sun during the year 1769, The Royal Society considered that the best place for an observation would be on some island in the mid-Pacific Ocean and made application to King George III to make such observation a national undertaking. For once the King was gracious and gave his Royal Consent to the proposition Now followed a hurry and scurry to get things moving. So much had to be considered in detail, particularly things appertaining to qualified personnel, in addition to that appertaining to seamanship in uncharted waters. Alexander Dalrymple was the man chosen to lead the expedition, but he could’ not make a decision one way or the other, consequently he was passed by in favour of Lieutenant James Cook, who, in addition to having the requisite knowledge from a scientific angle, also possessed first class qualities as a navigator. Once the leader was chosen there followed a search for a suitable ship. The East India Company’s vessels were scanned. Likewise one of the three-decked West Indiamen, and also an Admiralty frigate, but all to no avail. Cook’s strength was his self confidence and he had no ‘hesitation in recommending for the contemplated mission the small bargue, of 370 tons burden, named the “Earl of Pembroke”, which had been specially built as a collier for the Newcastle and Whitby coal trade. No doubt Cook knew well the worth of these strongly constructed colliers, broad in beam and of shallow draught, ideal qualifications for the important job on hand, The “Earl of Pembroke” was cleaned of its coal dust, and spent some time in the docks being refitted and armed with ten carriage and twelve swivel guns, just in case. Under its new Admiralty ownership the squat vessel gained the name “Endeavour Bark”, and its holds were stored with pro- visions and gear to last for a period of eighteen months.
The “Endeavour Bark” lay quietly at anchor in the Thames whilst the important scientific personnel were being recruited. At this period Joseph Banks, later Sir Joseph, decided to join the expedition. He was a wealthy mart and the then president of the Royal Society. Banks was born on February 13, 1743 at Westminster and over the years had acquired an interest in natural history in all its numerous phases. He was responsible for selecting a staff of eight men, all of whom were well equipped for collecting, studying, and preserving natural history specimens. Dr. Daniel Carl Solander, a Swedish botanist attached to the British Museum, volunteered to accompany the expedition, and Sydney Parkinson, an able draughtsman, was also listed amongst the scientific personnel.
At long last the expedition was ready to leave the shores of England and the “Endeavour Bark” sailed from Plymouth Sound on August 26,, 1768. The ship’s complement included a captain, two lieutenants, three midshipmen, a master, a boatswain, a carpenter, other petty officers, forty-one able seamen, twelve marines, and nine servants Cook was a determined administrator and drove himself as hard as his men, yet they followed him through thick and thin. It is true that some of the crew grumbled as his hygiene requirements, so necessary for their health, and his methods to overcome the malady of scurvy also came in for criticism. This foul disease was brought about by a regular forced diet of salted meat, often in a putrefied condition and generally without vegetables of any kind. It is understood that Cook particularly favoured lemons as an antidote.
After a voyage of some six months the Atlantic Ocean was crossed and the perils associated with the rounding of Cape Horn accomplished. The “Endeavour Bark” now entered the of times tranquil waters of the Pacific Ocean, sailing in a general northwesterly direction to gain the Island of Otaheite, which was reached after another four months had passed. Here a small protective fort on the island was built and an observatory established. After a period of some two months had passed, without trouble from the very interested but uncomprehending native population, the Transit of Venus was witnessed in a cloudless sky. The scientists were jubilant with the success of their observations as they had a bearing on astronomy in general and also bore relationship to the science of practical navigation.
Leaving Otaheite Cook sailed southwards on the homeward journey, intending to pass round the Cape of Good Hope en route, thus circumnavigating the world in the course of the voyage. But his commission required him to investigate the possibility of there being a great land mass in the hitherto unexplored part of the Southern Hemisphere. To this end he reached the coasts of the islands of New Zealand in August, 1769, eventually making his headquarters at Ship Cove in Queen Charlotte Sound, at the north-eastern section of the South Island. From this base he charted the coast lines and took formal possession of the islands on behalf of the British Crown, bestowing on them the name New Zealand, the ceremony taking place on January 30, 1770. After completing the survey of the area Cook left Cape Farewell on March 31, 1770, and steered a westward course for nearly three weeks when land was sighted, on April 19, 1770, by Lieutenant Hicks, and named Point Hicks in his honour. It has been related that “Cook must have been deceived in some way by the sand-hills of the Ninety-mile Beach, for on that part of the Victorian coast there is no such point to be found”.
The hitherto undiscovered eastern coast of the Australian continent was thus discovered. Cook now sailed northwards, making a chart of the shoreline in detail and seeking a harbour where the ‘Endeavour Bark” could be beached and its bottom cleaned and scraped of its weed growth and barnacles. Many of the more imposing natural features were named as they hove into view, such placenames being in general use to-day. Then came a calm which stopped further progress for an hour or two, giving the opportunity, and also the desire, to inspect as to what lay beyond two opposing headlands more or less immediately opposite their becalmed ship. In due course the wind came up and this large enclosed bay was entered, and after the anchor had been dropped near the western shore of the southern headland, which Cook had named Cape Solander, the first landing was made in search of water to replenish the ship’s tanks. This famous place is now known as Kurnell, the name, by all accounts, being an aboriginal corruption of the surname Connell, one of the much later land-holders of the immediate district.
The “Endeavour Bark” dropped its anchor opposite a group of eight mia-mias, constructed of sheets of bark held up by suitably disposed sticks of short length. In the afternoon of April 28, 1770, Cook made his initial landing on Australian soil, his pinnace coming to rest against a low rock outcrop jutting into the shallow water near the shoreline. It was his intention to make friendly overtures to the natives, but these naked savages clearly showed that they were not amused by this, to them, unwarranted intrusion. They followed the landing party along the sandy beach, brandishing their spears and boomerang in a most warlike manner. They were all quite naked and had adorned themselves in fanciful designs carried out in white pipeclay, an ingredient often to be found in layers beneath sandstone rocks. A couple of the men came down to the landing rock with their spears held aloft making threatening gestures and shouting words which could not, of course, be interpreted. Stones were thrown, and later, spears and for their own safety the mariners had to frighten them off with a discharge from their muskets, the weapons being loaded with small buck-shot which would cause more discomfort than injury. These measures were ultimately successful, and the boat party searched for and found a small trickling stream of fresh-water nearby which served to replenish the ship’s tanks.
The scientific members of the expedition had a wonderful time exploring the local forests surrounding the bay, finding all manner of strange plants which, to them, flourished in what appeared to be a topsy-turvy world. They became acquainted with the beauteous flora of the Hawkesbury Sandstone country and also that of the sand dunes ranged along the length of the beaches. The age-old gum trees, of great girth and writhing shapes, were duly admired, likewise the fertile swamplands which lay just beyond the dunes. The creatures of the wild were there in profusion, all of distinct types and unknown to European eyes. The sight of kangaroos and wallabies, which abounded in the scrublands around the bay, filled them with awe and mystification. There were gaudy lorikeets to be appreciated and also shot for the pot. Meanwhile fishing parties found their nets to be so full of stingrays, amongst other fish, that Cook dubbed the locality as Stingray Bay, but the enthusiasm of Banks and his associates led him to record the placename as Botany Bay, and so it has remained for the east two hundred years. The Union Jack was daily hoisted after Cook had formally taken possession of this new and delectable territory.
It is evident from Cook’s chart of Botany Bay that both George’s River and Cook’s River had been explored upstream for at least a mile or so from their respective mouths. It is to be understood that these two names were not bestowed on these streams by Cook, but appear to have been in use at the time of Governor Hunter as both are mentioned in his despatches to England.
Cape Banks at the northern entrance to Botany Bay, and Point Sutherland and Point Solander on the southern side, were recorded on Cook’s chart, together with two markings where freshwater was to be found, one at Kurnell and the other at Towra Point. All in all some three and a half days were spent in a most satisfactory way amidst the delights of Botany Bay and its immediate surroundings, after which the “Endeavour Bark” once again sailed northwards along the coast, the log book mentioned another opening in the sea-cliffs which they did not explore, but on which they bestowed the name Port Jackson, as the entrance apparently gave on to a large harbour.
Pressing onwards Broken Bay was passed and noted. Not having time to explore these several, to him, minor indentations, Cook continued northwards, naming Smoky Cape and Byron Bay en route. At Point Danger the “Endeavour Bark” nearly finished its days upon a sunken reef, hence the placename which still applies. Moreton Bay was next mentioned, likewise the fantastic Glass House Mountains, and so the process of naming outstanding places of spectacular interest was continued until Cape Tribulation was reached. Here the vessel had the misfortune to run aground on a sunken reef and it became necessary to lighten the ship preparatory to floating her off at the next high tide.
Six heavy guns, together with a quantity of chain cable and iron and stone ballast were heaved overboard, together with anything else of a disposable and weighty nature. It was necessary to fully man all the ship’s pumps until about midnight of the following day, when the tide was such that the ship gave a violent lurch and floated free once again. With the now tired men still pumping hard in relays lasting about five minutes each sails were set and two days later the muddy estuary of the stream, which Cook dubbed as the Endeavour River, was entered.
Here the next seven weeks were spent in beaching the vessel and repairing its damaged hull and careening the outer shell generally, The scientists aboard explored the adjacentbush land on their botanizing expeditions whilst the repairs were being made. When everything was shipshape Cook sailed eastwards and searched for and found a channel which led through the Great Barrier Reef and into the compaxtive safety of the open sea. Then a northward course was set to eventually round and name Cape York, and at the nearby Possession Island, Cook once more “hoisted English Colours” and took formal possession of the whole eastern coast and its hinterland, later adding the name New South Wales to his journal.
Satisfying himself that New Guinea and New Holland (or should we say New South Wales) were separate island, Cook set sail for Batavia, arriving at that steamy tropical port on October 11, 1770. Here the “Endeavour Bark” underwent further repair and overhaul at the local dockyard, necessary work which delayed his departure until December 26, 1770. Then rounding the Cape of Good Hope he once again entered the Atlantic Ocean and arrived in England on July 13, 1771, after a most remarkable world-wide voyage which had lasted over a period of almost three years.
It should be mentioned at this juncture that the 1969 Barrier Reef Expedition for the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (U.S.A.) was responsible for searching for and eventually recovering the jettisoned cannons, iron, and stone ballast and other material from the “Endeavour Bark”. The cannons were encrusted with coral and other growth and, after most careful cleaning and handling were taken to Melbourne for further treatment and ultimate disposal to approved museums.
Captain James Cook made three voyages to the South Seas, not being fated to return from the last. Among other places he went to Hawaii in the Sandwich Islands. The natives were notorious thieves and one night the ships cutter was stolen. Cook went ashore to see the local king about the affair, and getting no satisfaction, decided to take the king aboard his ship as a hostage held against the return of the missing cutter. Seeing that only bloodshed could follow Cook released his prisoner and hailed for the ship’s boats. As the embarkation proceeded the natives showered the seamen with stones, little damage being done by this volley. The first boat filled with its complement and left the shore leaving Cook to wait for the second boat only a few yards away. Standing on the beach he was struck down by a native, falling into the water and was, in this prone position, stabbed many times. The second boat crew came to his rescue and in the ensuing melee a marine and three sailors were also killed and several others wounded. It is generally presumed that Cook’s body together with the bodies of the other fallen men, were dragged to the tribal huts and there eaten by these cannibalistic savages. A landing party from the ship later recovered his mortal remains, and placed in a coffin, they were committed to the sea with full military honours.
Thus ended the adventurous life on one of England’s greatest sailors, his death taking place on February 14, 1779, at Kealakekua Bay. In this bi-centenary year, 1970, full honour must be afforded to the memory of Captain James Cook, the discoverer of New Zealand and the eastern coast of Australia. His statement, when dealing with the charms of Botany Bay in particular, “the land had a very agreeable and promising aspect” still stands today, although we may wonder if he would condone some of the modern “improvements” which have served to ruin its foreshores for all time.
This article was first published in the April 1970 edition of our magazine.
The Cato Street Conspiracy of 23 February 1820 was an attempt by a group of radicals to assassinate the British Cabinet while they dined at the house of Lord Harrowby in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, London. This act aimed to precipitate a revolution, depose the King, change Britain into a people’s republic, and liberate Ireland. The conspiracy failed – but not without loss of life. Much has been written about this event, typically ending with the gruesome hanging and beheading of five plotters outside Newgate Prison on 1 May 1820, or shortly thereafter. More than these men however, were convicted of high treason for the part they played. Another five had their sentences changed to transportation for life, and one to six-months’ imprisonment. To-date the story of the five transported conspirators has for the most part remained untold. In this book, Kieran Hannon moves the Cato Street Conspiracy beyond May 1820, by exploring the fates of the transported conspirators: Richard Bradburn, Charles Cooper, John Harrison, John Shaw Strange and James Wilson. It is the first attempt to extend the existing Cato Street Conspiracy narrative, and our understanding of this historically significant event.
Kieran presented a fascinating preview of his new book at our February 2021 meeting. Purchase Designing and Dangerous Men: The Story of the Transported Cato Street Conspirators at the Book Depository.
based on some recollections of Mrs. A. B. Christison
In the mid 1880’s Henry Kinsela took up 27 acres of timbered land at the junction of Forest and Stoney Creek Roads. Here he built a gracious two-storied mansion “Kinsel Grove”, which faced east with a delightful view of Botany Bay. The entrance gates were in Forest Road and a curved driveway brought one to the front steps. The wide door opened into a spacious hail, on the left of which was Kinsela’s study. Here he spent most of his time guarded by a huge dog. This dog was very friendly to friends but always barred the way to strangers. The grounds were divided into three sections. These surroundings of the house were laid out in lawns and gardens. Here a lot of entertaining took place always with a brass band in attendance. From the back of the house to what is now Highworth Avenue were the coach house (later to become a bakery) groom’s residence, stables and a paddock for the horses. A little distance from the front of the house and running to the junction of the two roads was a park like enclosure where shady gums and English trees grew and several deer grazed.
Apart from his interest in his father’s funeral business, Kinsela owned huge areas of real estate. He took an intimate interest in his church giving considerable financial assistance to St. George’s Church at Hurstville as well as a large and inspiring stained glass window which he presented in 1889. He was one of the prime movers in the founding of Christ Church at Bexley which also he richly endowed.
Although he was handicapped with a practically useless right arm, he was a particularly keen sportsman. As well as deer, he kept at “Kinsel Grove” kangaroos, wallabies, emus, hares and a string of well-known racehorses. He was also the owner of a remarkable trotting stallion “King Harold” and three or four beautiful Hungarian ponies. He was a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Show and won many prizes.
It is interesting to note that in spite of his crippled right arm he was able to drive single-handed a coach and six horses, a feat made possible only by the unusual influence he had with these animals.
With Charles Lardner he convened the first cricket meeting which ultimately became the St. George Cricket Club and had a cricket pitch laid on his back paddock. He became the first secretary of the club and was the president of the original St. George band to which he made a munificent gift of £100 for the purchase of the band’s instruments.
At Burraneer Bay, an arm of the Port Hacking River, Henry Kinsela built his country residence – a large stone cottage set in grounds terraced to the water’s edge. Here a boatshed was built and also a swimming pool. On the rocks nearby was a plentiful supply of oysters. Kinsela gave the band many enjoyable picnics at his Port Hacking residence and it was no uncommon sight in those days to see the St. George Band being rowed around the port in Mr. Kinsela’s clipper whale boat, while the dulcet music wakened echoes across the bays.
This home still stands as does the lovely avenue of gum trees which led down to it.
In March 1915, this patriotic and public spirited gentleman and sportsman passed away, mourned by a widely drawn circle of friends and admirers and lies peacefully in the little old churchyard at St. George’s.
This article was first published in the February 1963 edition of our magazine.
The majority of our pioneers made their homes along the Rocky Point Road. At the time of which we are speaking this road was primitive and often dangerous. The Rocky Point Road ran from Cook’s River Dam to Rocky Point, or Sans Souci as we call it today. It was an extension of the Cook’s River Road from Newtown, which was then the principal shopping and trading centre of the entire Botany Bay District. As the traveller crossed the Dam into St. George, he paid toll at the toll bar 150 yards from Mr. Spark’s old Bathing House and a little further along he came to the junction of the Rocky Point and Muddy Creek (now West Botany Street) Roads. From this junction the road to Rocky Point began to rise steeply up Arncliffe Hill, known to our pioneers as Cobbler’s Pinch. After negotiating the rocky brow of the hill the road ran down sharply to a natural stream which crossed it near the present site of Spring Street, Banksia, and continued across swampy ground in what is now the vicinity of Ricketts & Thorp’s factory. Here the road surface was mainly corduroy track, for it skirted an extensive swamp between the present site of the Town Hall and the corner of Bay Street. Further on was another creek crossing close to Skidmore’s Farm where Muddy Creek or Black Creek was often impassable after rain.
It is no exaggeration to say that the early roads through the district were deterrents to the traveller.
In 1871 a traveller passed along Rocky Point Road and has left us this description.
“After passing Cook’s River Dam, for a mile or so, I pity a traveller’s poor bones if he proceeds faster than at a slow walk – but afterwards the road is tolerably good. It appears that the part of the road just described is a kind of “no man’s land” which partially accounts for its ill conditioned state. Beyond this we come upon numbers of market gardens and nestling among them a neat well-kept nursery called “Rosevale” which, when we passed, reminded me of a rich Brussels carpet, a patch of dahlias as a centre piece with their many varieties of colour, being its chief attraction.”
When the railway came to Rockdale in 1884, one reporter described our town – such as it was – as “a pretty little village”.
If we could go back in time and walk the rutted, dusty length of Rocky Point Road from Moorefield to Arncliffe, this is what we would have seen had we confined our observations to the eastern side of the road. From the boundary fence of Peter Moore’s estate “Moorefield” – the fence that ultimately became President Avenue – we would have made downhill to Skidmore’s Bridge which was built in 1862 and was the first improvement of its kind provided from Government funds in the district. It was merely called Skidmore’s Bridge because it was adjacent to Frederick Skidmore’s farmlet. On the eastern side of the road the principal families were those of Samuel and John Schofield, gardeners, Joseph Twiss,engineer, and Thomas Mascord, gardener and orchardist. No doubt many of you are familiar with the old Mascord home which still stands in Chandler Avenue but faces towards Rocky Point Road. In rear of these properties lay the Patmore Swamp, so called after the original grantee of Moorefield, Patrick Moore, who received this land from Governor Macquarie. This swamp, once a paradise for sportsmen who came there to shoot the abundance of water birds, was a continuing problem to many Councils over the years. After heavy rain the swamp came right up to the lower levels of Bay Street and was one immense sheet of water from that point to Moorefield. Boats could be rowed on it: indeed, James Beehag’s granddaughter informed me that her mother once fell out of a boat in the vicinity of what was previously James Street – named, of course, for James Beehag, the original proprietor of the land thereabouts.
But we have strayed from our subject ….. let us return to Rocky Point Road. Crossing the bridge near Skidmore’s Farm we would have encountered the homes of two professional men living near Dr. Lofberg’s residence; they were James Gannon, barrister, of “Kent Villa’ and William Rudolph Clay, Rockdale’s first doctor, whose home was “Montreux”. James Gannon was a relative of Michael Gannon, the one-time proprietor of much of present day Hurstville, then known as Gannon’s Forest.
Then came a small shop kept by John Andrews, draper, but cared usually in charge of his wife. It was Mr. Andrews who conducted Rockdale’s first school in the Wesleyan Chapel built on James Beehag’s land and from which Chapel Street took its name. As we proceeded past Andrew’s we would have passed Mr. Bryant’s saddlery, F. and A. Moir, timber merchants, several small shops and the branch of the Australian Joint Stock Bank, which closed its doors in the great bank crash of the 1890’s. Speaking of banks, the position on the corner of Bay Street and Rocky Point Road now occupied by the Bank of N.S.W. was originally church land, part of the Wesleyan’s gift from James Beehag ….. and two large trees stood on the very corner. In rear of the trees, fronting Rocky Point Road, was an ironmongery kept by Mr. Harry Jobbins and nearby on the Bay Street frontage, was the greengrocery of Benjamin Bowmer. Other pioneer businessmen on this eastern side of Rocky Point Road were Charles Barsby, draper and boot importer, who came to Sydney from Victoria, opened a business in Hurstville and later conducted two shops at Kogarah and Rockdale. His Kogarah premises are now occupied by Turner Bros. Rockdale’s first Chemist was T. P. Swindale; his business later passed to Oscar Lofberg.
Bay Street was and still is the bisector of Rockdale township. In an age when most people and even doctors fondly believed that all ills could be cured by sea bathing and ozone, Bay Street carried much more traffic than Rocky Point Road because it led directly to the beach. This easy access enabled Rockdale to leap ahead of Kogarah in popularity, principally as a holiday resort, but also as a residential area. This traffic was, of course, the direct result of Thomas Saywell’s enterprises at New Brighton, Lady Robinson’s Beach – or Brighton le Sands as he later called this imaginative venture.
Saywell’s tram was the link between Rockdale station and Lady Robinson’s Beach … but before the tram tracks could be laid Bay Street had to be made. From the beach front to Farr Street it was little better than a chain of ponds; between Farr Street and the station there was a small mountitn of rock, one of the features that prompted Mary Ann Geeves, when requested to give the settlement an official title, to coin the descriptive name of “Rockdale” ….. a dale surrounded by rocky outcrops. When this rock was excavated at Thomas Saywell’s expense, the spoil was dumped into the marshland known as Frog Hollow which extended along the eastern side of Rocky Point Road, as we mentioned, from the corner of Bay Street almost to Bryant Street. In places this water lay more than a foot deep and supported a lush growth of bulrushes In rear of the swamp were age old mahoganies, about 100 feet high. Frog Hollow was well named because when night fell the residents of this little hamlet were regaled with a croaking chorus which was louder than that in “The Frogs” of Aristophanes. Even after the swamp was filled in and shops were built along the eastern side of the road, the frogs remained.
Apart from the few shops, the principal landmark between Bay Street and Bryant Street was the Grand Hotel, of which Mr. Charles W. Linke was mine host. It was the second hotel in Rockdale, the first being John Keats’ Royal Hotel. In rear of the Grand and extending to Bryant Street was Bray’s Paddock. The Brays were indeed a pioneer family; William and Walter Bray were both builders and William Bray Jnr. was a van proprietor. Their neighbour and relative was Mr. William Matheson. Mr. Bert Matheson who did so much for the Boy Scout Movement in this district is a grandson of Mr. Bray.
The street which now bears the name of Mr. E. J. C. Bryant was once the boundary fence of Conrad Frank’s garden and orchard. I am reliably informed by some schoolboys who tasted them eighty years ago that Frank’s peaches were the finest in the district ….. particularly when they were stolen, forbidden fruit always being sweeter.
Adjoining Frank’s to the north was Iliffe’s “Rosevale” nursery which was mentioned earlier.
The first name for Bestic Street was Goodes Road, so called after Richard Goode whose market garden was nearby. This was a most interesting thoroughfare which could have become the focal point of Rockdale. In 1882 whilst the railway was still being built, there was some doubt as to where the stations would be located. The plan was to space them as evenly as possible having regard to the existing hamlets along the route – although, with the possible exception of Hurstville, there were no centralised communities of any significant size. By May 1882 the location of Arncliffe station was certain; it was dictated by the great tunnel which is now an open cutting on the southern side of Arncliffe village. But the exact position of Rockdale Station was very much in doubt. Thomas Saywell, with his wealth and connections, kept himself abreast of developments. When he suspected that the station might be placed near what is now Bestic Street and was then Goodes Road, he approached Council in January 1883 to open this thoroughfare all the way to the beach, undertaking to contribute a substantial sum towards the cost of the work. No doubt he envisaged his tramway taking this route from the new station to his planned holiday resort at Lady Robinson’s Beach. The plan came to nothing, however, for the Rockdale station was eventually pegged out further south on Yeoman Geeves’s property and Saywell was then committed to the infinitely greater expense of cutting down the great rocky barrier in Bay Street to strike the levels for his tramway. Consequently Goodes Road remained in its pristine state.
At the northern corner of Goodes Road and Rocky Point Road was Peter Hermann’s garden, noted for its delicious strawberries. This portion of Bestic Street was often called Hermann’s Road in the early records.
Adjoining Herrmann’s property was Philipp Muhlhausen’s orchard. Like the Franks, Reuters and Herrmanns, the Muhlhausens were German migrants. The children of our pioneers divided their attention between Frank’s peaches and Muhlhausen’s quinces in their quest for vitamin C. At Frank’s it was a question of climbing a fence but Muhlhausen’s orchard could be entered much more adventurously by crawling through a subterranean drain which ran beneath Rocky Point Road. However, Mr. Muhlhausen knew about the larcenous tendencies of boys. His first line of defence was a pet parrot which screamed at the approach of strangers. Muhlhausen himself also kept a shotgun which he loaded with a mixture of shot and saltpetre … and his third protection was his son Fred, a giant of a man who could lift two boys across his outstretched arms.
Next to Muhlhausen’s was William Lawrence’s paddock which ran to the alignment of Spring Street. At the northern corner of Spring Street was Alfred Vincent’s nursery on the lower slopes of Arncliffe Hill and next to it the charming residence, still standing “Elysian”, the home of successful printer H. W. McKern.
But we have come far enough. The road has been rough and dusty and we are tired from climbing Arncliffe Hill. It is fortunate that we are right at the door of Mrs. dune’s well-named hostelry, “Botany View”.
– a precis of the talk delivered by Mr. Geeves at the October 1962 meeting of the St. George Historical Society.
This article was first published in the February 1963 edition of our magazine.
M.L.A. Canterbury 1887-1894; M.L.A. St. George 1394-1908 M.L.C. 1908-1932. Premier of N.S.W. 1904-1907
by Alderman R. W. Rathbone
Joseph Hector Carruthers was born on 21st December 1857 at Kiama N.S.W. one of nine children of John Carruthers, a prosperous Scottish migrant farmer and his wife, Charlotte Prince. He was educated at William Street and Fort Street Schools in Sydney, Metcalf’s School in Goulburn and the University of Sydney from which he graduated with his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1876 and his Masters in 1878. He was articled to A. H. McCulloch and admitted as a solicitor in June 1879. In December the same year, at the age of 21, he married Louise Marion Roberts in St. James’s Church, King Street. They settled first in Ocean Street, Woollahra and then at Kogarah, later moving to Russell Avenue, Sans Souci.
Although slight of stature and frequently dogged by ill-health, he was an enthusiastic tennis player and represented the University at both football and cricket. It is the game of lawn bowls, however, for which he is best remembered and which he is credited with introducing into the St. George district.
He soon became involved in land speculation as a sideline to his conveyancing duties and made considerable sums of money from the land sales which followed the opening of the Illawarra Railway Line in October 1884. This he invested in grazing properties in the Central West and Monaro Regions. He was an active member of the Kogarah Progress Association, Patron of the movement working for the incorporation of Kogarah as a Municipality and Honorary Solicitor to the committee seeking the establishment of a public hospital in the area.
He first became interested in politics while still at the University when he worked for the return of the liberal Dr. Arthur Renwick for the University seat in the N.S.W. Parliament against conservative protectionist, Edmund Barton and in February 1887, was approached to stand as a Free Trade candidate for the four-member constituency of Canterbury in succession to William Judd of “Athelstane”, Arncliffe who had decided not to seek re-election. This seat covered the whole of southern Sydney from Watson’s Bay to Liverpool.
Despite his lack of political experience, he proved to be an energetic and capable. campaigner and topped the poll ahead of retiring member, William Henson, book publisher Alexander Hutchinson and race horse owner William Loyal Davis.
Of Canterbury’s four representatives Carruthers was soon marked out for ministerial preferment. A strong supporter of Sir Henry Parkes, he used his maiden speech to make a plea for the building of a tramway from Kogarah to Sans Souci and in November 1887, piloted through the House the Bill to change the name of the Municipality of West Botany to Rockdale. The same month saw him pressing for a protective fence for Arncliffe School where the cutting down of Cobblers Pinch at the entrance gates had made conditions extremely hazardous. The following year he demanded completion of the Western Outfall Sewer which at that stage was discharging into Cook’s River and acquisition of land at Kurnell for a public reserve. He was, in short, a most active and effective local member and no subject was too trivial to engage his attention. Throughout 1888 he did not miss a single sitting of the House but it was his well reasoned advocacy of Boards of Conciliation and Arbitration to settle trades union and labour disputes and for the provision of financial endowments to local government authorities which won him widespread notice and support.
The Parkes Ministry lasted until January 1889 when a revolt of his own supporters caused Parkes’s resignation and new elections. Carruthers again led the Free Trade team in Canterbury where his personal popularity ensured them the easiest of victories. When Parkes reformed his Ministry after the election, Joseph Hector Carruthers was named Minister for Public Instruction.
This was a particularly difficult portfolio because the full effect of Parkes’s Public Instruction Act of 1880 was only then beginning to be felt and existing school facilities were being strained to breaking point. Those schools which did exist were hopelessly overcrowded and new schools were needed in many rapidly expanding districts. There was a serious shortage of properly trained teachers and few facilities for secondary and tertiary education. This was a challenge that was to prove no match for Carruthers. Although, perhaps, the most harassed and closely questioned member of the Ministry, his great tolerance, patience, courtesy and understanding together with an acute intellect, unflagging industry and economical administration made him by far the most popular, approachable and respected member of the Government. During those years new schools were built at Kogarah and Hurstville and a school established at Hurstville West (Mortdale), the first mentioned being considered the finest educational building of its day. Moves were also made to establish a Teachers Training College but his most lasting monument was the establishment of our present system of technical education and the building of the Ultimo Technical College in 1891. Carruthers was also responsible for starting the School Penny Banking system and endowing the Women’s College within the University of Sydney.
The early 1890’s were, however, completely overshadowed by the Great Maritime Strike which brought N.S.W. to a standstill, disruption to industry and commerce and misery in many homes. After nearly twelve months of riots, strikes, lockouts and privation, the strike collapsed and the maritime unions were crushed. It was out of this strike that the Australian Labor Party was born and when the next State Election fell due in June 1891, one of the 45 seats in which the new Party ran candidates was Canterbury. Although a number of prominent St. George families which had previously supported Carruthers and the Free Trade Party switched their allegiances to Labor, Carruthers again topped the poll by thousands. But 36 Labor candidates were successful and in the new Parliament they held the balance of power. After a short flirtation with Parkas they switched their support to Protectionist Opposition Leader, Sir George Dibbs. This caused the resignation of the Parkas Ministry. Carruthers then moved into opposition where, in true character, anything he had to say was fair and helpful to the man who had succeeded him.
The next two years were, unfortunately, to prove very difficult for him. He suffered one of his most serious bouts of ill-health and his marriage ran into difficulties when his wife became an alcoholic. This resulted in an undefended divorce suit in 1895 when Carruthers was granted custody of their daughter. Throughout 1392 and 1893 his impeccable attendance record suffered and the only time he received a mention in the press was in June 1893 when, in an impassioned and thoroughly out of character speech, he accused the Premier, Sir George Dibbs, of deliberately withholding vital information which the police needed for the prosecution of a man named McNamara whose boiling down works at Rockdale were creating a public nuisance.
Just before the 1894 election fell due the Government abolished the old multi-member electorates and created in their place 125 single member constituencies. One of the new electorates was called St. George and embraced the three municipalities of Rockdale, Hurstville and Kogarah. Although there had been some speculation that, because of the state of his health and his marital problems, Carruthers might possibly retire from politics, the calling of the election seemed to give him new heart. George. Houston Reid had replaced Parkes as leader of the Free Trade Party and with the tide flowing strongly in his favour, fought an inspired campaign. Carruthers was his chief lieutenant. The result in St. George was such a foregone conclusion that Carruthers spent the greater part of the campaign speaking in other electorates where he was in great demand. One of the issues of the election was abolition of the Legislative Council and it was during this campaign that he made his now famous retort that “Anyone who felt the need for two chambers would do well to buy a kerosene tin”. The result was a Free Trade landslide, Carruthers polling more than seventy percent of the votes cast in St. George. After the declaration of the poll from the steps Of the Rockdale Town Hall he was carried shoulder high along the main street.
When Reid formed his Ministry, Carruthers was appointed Secretary for Lands. Like Public Instruction a decade before, this portfolio had been plagued by controversy but his penchant for reform, investment experience and legal expertise made him the ideal choice for the office. His proposals for closer settlement of rural holdings were considered to be a master stroke. The life of this Parliament, however, was dominated by the push for Federation of the six Australian colonies. This movement had begun as early as 1853 but State rivalries had ensured that little progress was made towards it. French and German colonial expansion in the Pacific in the 1880’s and a critical report in 1887 on Australia’s total inability to defend itself in the event of a hostile attack gave the matter more urgency and from the time of Parkes’s memorable speech on 24th October 1889 at Tenterfield, the move towards Federation gathered momentum.
Reid had little enthusiasm for Federation for, although he genuinely believed in the linking of the six Australian colonies, he realised it could only be achieved at the sacrifice of his beloved doctrine of Free Trade. Free Trade was the means of raising revenue by low duties on consumer goods and a graduated system of personal Income tax. The opposing doctrine of Protectionism was one of little or no personal income tax but high duties on consumer goods. This was practised by the five other Australian States. Carruthers was even less enthusiastic for, as an ardent States Righter, he could see the capital of the new Commonwealth of Australia being established in Melbourne – then Australia’s largest city and Victoria dominating the new Federation. When the first Referendum was held in 1897 to approve the Federal Constitution, Reid and Carruthers refused to instruct their supporters which way to vote and as a result, most Free Trade voters abstained. The affirmative vote failed to reach the minimum figure of 50,000 required under the enabling legislation. In July 1898, Parliament having run its three year course, new elections were held and Carruthers, because of his equivocation on the issue of Federation, found himself strongly challenged in St. George by an enthusiastic Federalist, Colonel George Walker Waddell, Chief Inspector of the Australian Joint Stock Bank and Commanding Officer of the Third Regiment, N.S.W. Volunteer Infantry. Although both Reid and Carruthers were returned their majorities were greatly reduced, the Government lost ground and it was obvious that despite the fact that the voters were satisfied with the administration of Reid and Carruthers, they also wanted Federation. A second Plebiscite was held in June 1899 and this time the Yes vote reached the required figure.
Reid continued on as Premier and Carruthers as his Minister for Lands where his never failing courtesy, firmness and fairness enabled him to resist the pressures from interested groups without giving offence to anyone but above all else he remained the local member extra-ordinary. His remarriage in January 1898 to Alice Burnett of Bexley, whose father was the Superintendent of Mails, only added to his immense popularity. In April 1899, Reid reconstructed his Ministry and Carruthers was promoted to the portfolio of Colonial Treasurer, the second most senior ranking position in the Cabinet after Reid himself but he was only to hold this office until September when the Labor members combined with Opposition leader, Sir William Lyne, to bring down the Government.
The year 1900, saw him devoting more and more time to his growing family and entertaining extensively at his new home, “Ellesmere” in Vista Street, Sans Souci. He was also able to concentrate on his flourishing legal practice and although he was still a persistent questioner, he spoke only briefly in the House.
The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act received Royal Assent on September 17th 1900, one of the last acts of the dying Queen Victoria and Australia was officially declared a Nation on January 1st 1901. The first election for the Federal Parliament was set down for 29th and 30th March and a great scramble ensued to contest the new Federal electorates. The whole of the St. George district along with Sutherland, Canterbury, Marrickville and Newtown was located in the Federal Electorate of Lang and it was assumed that Carruthers would be the Free Trade candidate for this seat but Carruthers had other ideas and there was quite a little pique expressed locally when he stated flatly that he had no interest in Federal politics and had no intention of-deserting St. George for the rarefied atmosphere of the Federal Parliament. Premier Lyne was elected for Hume and Opposition leader Reid for East Sydney. This meant both major Parties in N.S.W. were left leaderless. John See succeeded Lyne as Premier and proposed a composite government consisting of representatives of all three Parties. This was flatly rejected by the other two.
When the Free Trade Party came to replace Reid, Carruthers appeared to be the logical choice but to everyone’s surprise it preferred the ailing Charles Alfred Lee, Member for Tenterfield who had served briefly as Reid’s Minister for Justice and Secretary for Public Works. Carruthers had favoured a composite government and had badly misjudged the feeling of his own Party on the matter. He was plainly disappointed and when State Elections were set down for July 1901, he seemed to have little heart for the fight. The Free Trade Party or as it had now become, the Liberal Party, began to fear that Carruthers was running dead and St. George could well be lost to the Labor Party. Despite his reluctance to campaign and a bitterly cold wet winter’s day, his supporters turned out in sufficient numbers to give him a comfortable win.
See continued to lead a Protectionist (now called Progressive) administration backed by Labor and in the months that followed, we see Carruthers in an entirely different role. Aggrieved at having been passed over for the leadership of his Party, he voted against his own leader on the question of reducing the size of the N.S.W. Parliament and featured in an ugly affray with Government members when the question of extending the franchise to women came before the House. Carruthers claimed women had not asked for the vote and their influence was more paramount in the home. In any case, he maintained, it would be necessary to provide separate polling places for women which would be both costly and inconvenient. Works Minister E. W. O’Sullivan described Carruthers’s speech as “ingenuous and leavened with crystallised conservatism” whilst Labor leader McGowan claimed he had no backbone and the barbed tongued John Norton, accused him of being the greatest confuser of issues of all time.
In September 1902, Liberal leader Lee resigned and this time, Carruthers was the unanimous choice of his Party. He immediately set the Liberal Party away from Free Trade V Protectionism and based it on anti socialism and reform. N.S.W. was experiencing its worst drought in many years, unemployment was rising and O’Sullivan’s grandiose public works were placing an intolerable strain on the State finances. The Peoples Reform League had been formed which demanded a reduction in the number of members of Parliament, curtailment of overseas borrowing and general economy of administration. When the Premier declared St. Patrick’s Day a public holiday in order to consolidate his support among the State’s large Irish Catholic population,the worst outbreak of sectarianism the State had ever experienced took place and resulted in the formation of the Protestant Defence Association led by the fiery Presbyterian prelate, Rev. W. M. Dill Macky.
Under the name of the Liberal and Reform Party, Carruthers now embraced most of the principles of the Peoples Reform League. In total contrast to his attitude only a few months before, he wielded the Opposition into a solidly united unit exhibiting a toughness and a political astuteness which amazed even his closest friends. He toured the country forming branches of the Liberal and Reform Party and attracted many converts from the Progressive Party. Carruthers also realised the potential danger of the Labor Party which he trenchantly described as “a bunch of parasites fastened onto the backs of the country’s workers” and sought to pin many of the criticisms of the Government on the fact that it was being held captive by Labor.
Dill Macky’s Protestant Defence Association also grew spectacularly and began to infiltrate the Liberal and Reform Party to such a degree that many Catholic Liberal voters were forced into the ranks of the Progressive and Labor Parties.
Early in 1904, Sir John See resigned as Premier and was replaced by Thomas Waddell but practically the whole of 1904 was given over to party pre-selection ballots for the State Election due in August. No party had more difficulty with these than Carruthers’ Liberal and Reform Association. The number of seats in the Legislative Assembly had been reduced from 125 to 90 and this meant many sitting members faced one another in party pre-selection ballots. Protestant and Temperance elements exerted great influence in Liberal ballots whilst the U.L.V.A. (United Licenced Victuallers Association) was active in Labor ones. Hordes of independents, independent Liberals and Unendorsed Liberals plagued the official Party and vote splitting in the first past the post system of voting threatened to cost Carruthers any hope of defeating the combined Progressive-Labor forces.
Carruthers campaigned like a man possessed. The Government was in deep trouble and when the numbers went up on election night, the Liberal and Reform Party had won a narrow majority of the 90 seats. The Progressive Party had been decimated and for the first time in N.S.W. Labor became the official Opposition. Carruthers offered to fuse his Party with the remnants of the Progressives to create a united front against Labor but this was rejected.
He now found himself both Premier and Treasurer and imposed an iron discipline on his Ministry and his parliamentary members. Taking advantage of the better seasons, he implemented measures of economic recovery, aided business, reformed the civil service and cut rail freights. He extended local government to all sections of the State except the sparsely populated Western Division, improved the State’s financial standing overseas and set up the Government Savings Bank of N.S.W. But his period as Premier was no bed of roses. His economies did not go far enough for the more extreme elements of the Reform Association and the large expenditure for public works provided in his 1904 budget brought bitter criticism from that quarter. Failure to act on the liquor question brought down upon his head the considerable displeasure of the Temperance Alliance and his enlightened industrial policy drew criticism from manufacturing interests who claimed he was trying to placate the Labor Party.
Carruthers, however, could be a very determined man and refused to be bullied by the extremists. During 1905 his government built up an impressive list of achievements. The Education Department was reformed and the first Teachers Training College established. The celebration of Empire Day was introduced. The Burrinjuck Water Conservation Scheme was commenced and Local Option Polls re-introduced. Carruthers balanced the State’s budget and general prosperity ensued. At the same time he incurred the wrath of the Protestant Defence Association when he appointed a number of Catholics to prominent positions in the Public Service and raised it to fury when he flatly refused to bring in legislation to compel convents to open their doors for public inspection and to bring Catholic industrial establishments under the Industrial Act. He also offended many Methodist supporters In his own electorate by declining to take action against Chinese market gardeners who worked on Sundays.
He successfully withstood the backwash of the Royal Commission into the Administration of the Lands Department which revealed widespread irregularities in land deals by Lands Minister, W. P. Crick, during Sir John See’s term as Premier.
Throughout 1906, Carruthers plugged doggedly on ignoring criticism of the management of the Railways Department, refusing to be rushed into hasty decisions, always steering the middle path. He amended the Gaming and Betting Act provoking a head on collision between the “Sports” and the “Wowsers”, passed the Murrumbidgee Canals Construction Act which allowed the development of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and provided the money to allow sewerage to be extended to the Illawarra Suburbs. He induced the banks to lower their interest rates to encourage investment, began work on the Mitchell Wing of the State Library and established chairs of Agriculture and Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney.
Carruthers was, however, constantly vilified by the Sydney Morning Herald which took every opportunity to denigrate hi:s achievements and to ridicule him personally. He had made it very clear from the commencement of his administration that he, and not the editor of this journal would dictate what legislation he put before the parliament. He was also criticised by a number of members of the Legislative Council who represented the manufacturing interests and did not endear himself to them when he snapped that he was thinking of abolishing this Chamber as it was nothing more than a haven of rest and replacing it with a panel of newspaper editors.
Despite these detractors, he kept the parliamentary Liberal Party and the outside organisation solidly behind him and vigorously defended his administration at every turn. In May 1907 he succeeded in fusing his Party with the Progressives and brought Progressive Leader, Waddell, into his ministry as Colonial Secretary and in September, he faced the people of N.S.W. for their verdict. The Protestant Defence Association, The Temperance Alliance, the Manufacturing Interests and the Sydney Morning Herald were left with no alternative but to support the Labor Party or to hold their peace. Labor accused the Government of being nothing more than the voice of the Methodist Church. Dr. Dill Macky said Labor was the voice of Rome. Cardinal Moran advised all Catholics to vote against any candidate wearing the endorsement of the Protestant Defence Association. Voting was particularly heavy and Labor made some gains in the suburbs but the tighter and more disciplined Liberal organisation picked up a number of seats lost on a split vote in 1904 and the Government found itself returned with a substantially increased majority.
Carruthers scored a personal triumph in his seat of St. George being returned by the greatest majority ever recorded in a State seat up till that time. The Labor candidate, veteran campaigner, George Black, did not even wait for the poll to be declared. But the three years of constant turmoil and criticism had taken Its toll on his never robust constitution. Two days before election day he had collapsed after addressing a meeting at Bexley. He was desperately in need of rest and suffering from increasing deafness and in the face of mounting industrial unrest and difficulty in reforming his Ministry, he resigned the Premiership and the leadership of the Liberal Party, leaving almost immediately, on an extended visit to England. His Party, the electors of St. George and the people of N.S.W. were stunned.
The Herald could hardly restrain Its glee. In a most patronising editorial It regretted his illness but declared “He has proved himself a politician of the most aggressive type, wanting in magnetism and with no remarkable amount of tact, often impetuous in his decisions but able to carry them into effect with determination”.
Whilst in London, he was offered the vacant Agent General’s position but declined although he did represent N.S.W. at the Franco British Exhibition there. He was also Invested with an honorary doctorate of laws from the University of St. Andrews and before returning to Australia was knighted by King Edward VII with the K.C.M.G. In October 1908 he resigned his beloved seat of St. George and was appointed to the Legislative Council. Not yet 52 and considerably recovered from the exhaustion which had caused his resignation as Premier, he became a most active and useful member of that Chamber. He led the Council’s opposition to the McGowan Labor Government’s proposals to tax rents and incomes from farming and grazing on freehold land but strongly supported the same government’s amendments to the Industrial Arbitration Act. It was not long before he became the unofficial leader of the Non Labor forces in the Legislative Council.
With the outbreak of the First World War, he threw himself enthusiastically into War Charity work and supported W. M. Hughes’s efforts to impose Conscription. He had moved from Sans Souci to Waverley in 1909 but continued to be active in Non Labor election committees in the St. George district at each election. He supported T. J. Ley against the Nationalist Party in 1920. In 1919 and 1920 he chaired the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Agricultural Industry of N.S.W., the most extensive and in depth study of its kind ever undertaken in the State and so impressed his Party that when Nationalist Premier Holman lost his seat at the 1920 State Election, there was a strong move to draft him back into the Premiership. He served as Vice President of the Executive Council and Government Leader in the Upper House in Sir George Fuller’s ill-fated Seven Hours Ministry on 21st December 1921 and again in those positions in Fuller’s Second Ministry between 1922 and 1925.
He proved a major thorn in the side of the first Lang Government between 1925 and 1928 and showed that he had lost none of his political sagacity when, even after Lang had swamped the Legislative Council with new appointments pledged to vote for its abolition, he was able to get 50 of the 98 members to petition the Governor for its retention. He played no small part in resisting the excesses of the Second Lang Administration which finally resulted in its dismissal in May, 1932. It was Ironic that the same man who had been so savagely criticised by the Sydney Morning Herald in 1906-1907 was eulogised by that same journal in 1932 as “that bulwark against Labor extravagance”.
By now he was nearly 75 years of age and on 10th December 1932, shortly before his 75th birthday, he died peacefully at his home, “Highbury”, in Old South Head Road, Waverley. Apart from his political career he had had many other interests. He had been a member of the Senate of the University of Sydney and one of the founders of the University Union, President of the N.S.W. Chamber of Agriculture, a member of the Royal Agricultural Society, a trustee of National Park and the National Art Gallery. He was a past president of the N.S.W. Cricket Association, played bowls regularly and enjoyed fishing and shooting. He was a trustee of the M.L.C. Assurance Company, a director of the Kembla Grange and Moorefield Racing Clubs, the National Insurance Company and the Australian Widows Fund. He held extensive pastoral holdings in mid western and southern N.S.W.. For many years he had had a fascination with Captain Cook and was responsible for setting aside the Captain Cook Landing Place Reserve at Kurnell as well as being chairman of trustees of the Reserve for many years.
He was survived by his second wife, Lady Alice, three of his four sons and four daughters and lies buried in South Head Cemetery. Perhaps the most eloquent summation of the life of this outstanding man was made by Sir Henry Manning who succeeded him as Government Leader in the Legislative Council – “He looked at the world in a big way. He eschewed the small things of life and concentrated on the things that mattered. He brought to bear a most masterful hand, a most subtle intellect and a most persevering energy to every task he undertook”.
Once again it is my pleasure to report to Council and the St. George Historical Society another year of intense activity and sustained public interest at Lydham Hall.
During the year 2,030 people visited the home, a decrease on the previous year but one caused almost entirely by a succession of petrol strikes which resulted in the cancellation of a number of group visits. Visitors from interstate and overseas were particularly extravagant in their praise of the home. Perhaps the most important visitor of the year was the internationally acclaimed Australian authoress, Christina Stead, who spent her childhood at Lydham Hall and whose book The Man Who Loved Children is centred on the house. Her visit in August was her first since she moved to Watson’s Bay in 1913.
Further development and restoration of the property has been maintained at a high level. The former upstairs storeroom has been completely renovated and is now open as an exhibition room displaying our extensive collection of clothing. Plans have been prepared for landscaping the rear garden and provision has been allowed by Council to refloor the verandah and reslate the roof. Arrangements have also been made to renovate the larger of the two upstairs display rooms. This will complete the total restoration of the inside of the building.
Another matter of importance has been the considerable amount of new information which has come to light about the building during the year as a result of research into the development of the suburb of Bexley which I undertook in connection with the writing of a book on the subject. Lydham Hall stands on portion of the original Bexley land grant. It has always been assumed that information on the building supplied by the previous owners had been correctly researched. This is not the case. Lydham Hall could not possibly have been built in 1855 as an elaborate plaque on the front of the building proclaims as Joseph Davis did not buy the land until November 1859. It was not built (as previously claimed) by a Dutch stonemason named James Benson but by a Swedish stonemason named Sven Bengtson and his son Solomon Peter Benson whose granddaughter is still living at Casula. Action is in hand to correct these facts.
The year under review has also seen a veritable flood of additional artefacts and objects of interest come to Lydham Hall, together with the purchase of a new hall table, the disposal of two surplus chests of drawers and the gift of an attractive period china cabinet by the National Trust.
As a further attraction, souvenir teaspoons of the house are now available and these have proved most popular.
Whilst much has been achieved, two problems remain. One is to see that the property is continually and effectively promoted and the second is to ensure that a constant stream of people is available to assist Miss Otton in conducting visitors through the home. Lydham Hall has brought great credit to both the Rockdale Council and the St. George Historical Society. The Council has more than played its part in the restoration and promotion of the building but the flow of people prepared to assist in showing visitors through the building has often been very thin indeed.
To those people who have helped, the Local Committee would like to express its deep appreciation for Lydham Hall simply could not function without them.
The Committee would also like to place on record its unreserved praise for the Curator, Miss Otton, for the way in which she conducts the home, her complete dedication to her job and the immaculate way in which the home is always kept. She is a unique lady in a unique position and we are most fortunate to have her services.
Finally, we wish to acknowledge the willing co-operation of Mr. Kevin Casey of Council’s Staff, and the technical expertise of Council’s senior carpenter, Mr. Lloyd Deller, who has done so many jobs for us with such expert results and with a sense of complete dedication and commitment.
Alderman R.W. Rathbone. Hon. Secretary, Lydham Hall Local Committee. 24th March, 1980.
This article was first published in the May 1980 edition of our magazine.
Through the courtesy of Mr. George Barnidge, of Sans Souci, one of the steam-tram drivers associated with the now long defunct Kogarah to Sans Souci Steam Tramway, which closed on Sunday, July 4th, 1937, we are able to publish a list of the personnel engaged with the running operations of this fascinating line at the last period of its existence. Many of the men concerned have passed on, but it is fitting that their names and occupations should be placed on record, as many of these people are, or were, old residents of the St. George District.
Strangely enough amongst the final allotment of steam motors in use on the Kogarah run was No. 1A which, apart from workshop spells, was engaged in puffing along the various steam tramways of the Sydney Metropolitan area since it first took up these duties on September 15th, 1879. It was really an old smoky warrior, and is now preserved in the safe care of the Arts and Science Museum, here awaiting the opportunity to be placed on permanent display when that organisations Transport Museum becomes an established fact. Mr Barnidge sends a little ditty which circulated at the Sandringham Running Shed about the time of its closure, relating to the then projected departure of motor No. 1A, a measure taken before the last days of the line, in order to preserve the veteran engine from the stupid attention of destructive vandals. The ditty reads as follows:-
My work out here is done, And when I leave this Kogarah scene Thats the last youll see of steam. No more I’ll grunt and puff, I’ll leave to you the trolley-bus, Good-by No, 1A,
Is there any other man-made machine which can inherit such sentimental attachments as those appertaining to a steam locomotive?
At one period throughout the day, a service each quarter of an hour was given to the travelling public, and was greatly appreciated. This meant that four trams were in constant use at one and the same time, and to see the tram motors, five being required to run this timetable in rotative fashion, was one of the everyday sights at Kogarah, at least to those who looked on with interest and had an appreciation of the hustle and bustle of traffic movements. At the end of each trip at Kogarah, the motor would be immediately uncoupled, and away she would steam up the line, past the post-office and through the railway gates to the comforts of the coal stage. Here another motor, which was waiting, would come forward from a back siding onto the main tram line, and then reverse to join the tram-cars waiting patiently at the foot of the railway station steps. A loud whistle would sound, and away the tram would go, outward bound for the delights of Sans Souci and Sandringham, and all stops in between. After each round trip had been made at Kogarah, the black-shirted driver would alight from his little engine, gripping a long-spouted oil-can, and proceed to carefully oil the various axles and sliding portions of the engines mechanical anatomy, a procedure so necessary for their smooth and high-speed running. Meanwhile, coal would be quickly shovelled into the small bunker at the rear of the motor, and a leather hose, connected to the water main, passed through the side window of the motor to replenish the contents of the saddle-tank above the little boiler. Then everything was ready, with a minimum of fuss, for the next outward journey.
Drivers of the motors concerned with the tramway in its latter days, are listed as follows:- L.Backford, L. Black, J. Burford, A. Harvey, W. Kavanagh, A. Keen, C. Megaw, J. Minehan, E. Stanton, W. Stokes, G.Tatley, and W,Tuckwell. There was another group, classified as Acting Drivers, which comprised the following list of worthy men: G. Barnidge, W. Breary, J. Bricknell, W. Chalmers, E. Howard, J. Kelly, R. Nesbit, N. Westfallen, and A, Whittaker.
Collection of fares was carried out by a hardy group of men, classified as conductors, who walked the narrow foot-boards ranged along the outside of the tram-cars, hanging on for dear life at times, and always in danger of being swept off the tram by some foolish motorist in a crazy hurry. Through rain, wind and fog, they plied their somewhat hazardous occupation. These men had to conform to all manner of directive regulations as to fares, general deportment, the changing of postal boxes, which in those gladsome two-mail delivery days, were suspended from the rear apron-plate of the rear carriage, and also the wiping clean of seats and the ‘avoidance of touching passengers”. These exemplary men comprised Messrs. S. Berry, J. Budge, A. Gary, R. Harrison, J. Huegill, G. Junk, C. Keep, W. Marshall, W. Smith, E. Wallace, N. Webb, W. Winney, and L. Wollet.
The workshop staff were most important, responsible for the maintenance and good order of both the motors and the tram-cars, a work which called for both knowledge and trained skill. Three mechanical fitters, Messrs, A.Antonio, F. Floras, and H. Hunt, were employed on a shift basis. Boilermakers allotted to the depot were Messrs. A. Ingram, E. Slade, and G. Sutherland, with G. Paul responsible for washing out the boilers preparatory to examination or the clearing away of any internal sludge deposit. Three cleaners, Messrs. D. Jones, J. Nevin, and R. Truscott were provided on the tramway to keep the carriages spick and span. The most important job, one calling for much laborious work at times coupled with great skill, was that of the three men responsible for the fettling of the tramway tracks, Messrs. R. Bull, W. Connor and J. Johns.
The Sans Souci Steam Tramway functioned smoothly and well under the administration of that redoubtable man, the late W. Pendleton, the officer-in-charge. This estimable gentleman hailed from the Newcastle Tramway System, and was most efficient in carrying out his multifarious duties in a way which did not give offence to either the travelling public, or the men placed under his directive control. As one who always took a personal interest in the operation of the Kogarah to Sans Souci Steam Tramway, and was mindful of its efficiency under difficult traffic conditions it has been most pleasant to record the names of the personnel associated with the line at the time of its closure of this extremely interesting but now long defunct form of public transport.
This article was first published in the March 1970 edition of our magazine.
In the year 1898, Mr. J. C. Walker of Rockdale, who had been a conductor of military and public bands in Sydney and suburbs for some years, decided to form a brass band in Rockdale. He had a few instrumentalists who were willing to join, but not sufficient for a complete band. There were many young men who were willing to learn, but no instruments were available.
Mr. Henry Kinsel of “Kinsel Grove”, Bexley, a friend of Mr. Walker’s, offered to make a donation and also to lend sufficient money to purchase the necessary instruments.
Captain Berry of the Rockdale Fire Brigade, offered the recreation room of the Fire Station as a practice room for the band.
Mr. Walker taught a number of the young men to play the various instruments and in a short time had a good combination.
At the inaugural meeting, it was decided to take the name of “Rockdale Fire Brigade Band”, with Mr. Walker as conductor and chairman and Mr. Gus Ostland as secretary.
In order to meet their financial obligations, it was decided to approach the business people of Rockdale for assistance and in return the band would give its services by playing in the shopping centre on Saturday nights, the shops then closing at 10 p.m. This arrangement proved quite successful as it brought crowds from other suburbs and naturally the business people benefited quite a lot financially.
This arrangement continued for many years until the beginning of World War II.
The Band’s first patron was Mr. Thomas Saywell, who owned practically all of Lady Robinson’s Beach (now Brighton-le -Sands) and the President, Mr. Jack Barsby, owned a draper’s store at the corner of Rocky Point Road (now Prince’s Highway) and Bay Street, Rockdale.
The Band entered its first competition held on the Sydney Cricket Ground, under the auspices of the Highland Society of New South Wales at their annual Highland Gathering, and it was fortunate enough to win first prize. Throughout its lifetime it won a great many prizes.
Although the Band had been carrying on successfully for some time an incident occurred which was to cause a change in its name. The Band as usual was playing in the main street of Rockdale on the Saturday night but in one of the side streets one of this State’s politicians was speaking on behalf of a candidate for the coming elections. It is not known whether the Band’s music attracted the crowd away from the speaker but he became very annoyed and made some very nasty remarks about the Band and wanted to know what Band it was.
It so happened that the politician was a member of the Fire Brigade Board, to whom he complained, with the result that orders were given that the Band had to vacate its practice room at the Fire Station, Also, it had to drop the name of Fire Brigade.
The business people and supporters of the Band were very annoyed at this turn of events.
It was then suggested that an approach be made to the Rockdale Municipal Council to allow the Band to take the name of the “Rockdale Municipal Band” and although there were one or two objectors the Band then became known under this name.
Naturally it had to try to find a place to practice and after very serious consideration, it was decided to buy a block of ground in Cameron Street, near Bay Street, Rockdale.
Members of the Band personally approached people of the district for financial support and finally sufficient donations were collected to pay for the ground. They were then successful in floating a loan from a businessman in Rockdale which enabled them to build their hall. Costs were kept down by members giving voluntary labour in the building of same.
The hail became very popular for dances, weddings and socials with the result that the debt on the hall was soon paid off and the hall became the property of the Band.
The politician really did the Band a good turn for he resulted in it getting a home of its own.
Alderman William Taylor, M.L.A., Mayor of Rockdale, was patron for a number of years, followed by Mr. Carl Skarratt of Bexley. Both these gentlemen have passed on. Mr. Alan Stirling was President for a good many years.
Besides Mr. Ostland, the following members occupied the position of secretary, Mr. H. Wennholtn (original proprietor and editor of the “Propeller” Newspaper) 4 years; Mr. J. P. Parr, 2 years; Mr. A.B. Christison, M.B.E. (who pioneered and organised the St. George Eisteddfod in 1916 for the purpose of assisting the Band’s finances) 33 years; and finally Mr. A. Green.
Mr. Charles Walker (son of the Bandmaster) became the champion cornetist of New South Wales.
During the First World War, the Band worked very hard to supply the soldiers with comforts and also assisted other organisations with their efforts. All through the Band’s career, it assisted at hundreds of charitable and public functions.
When the Second World War came, all eligible men were taken into the Army and finally the tradesmen still in its ranks were absorbed by the Civil Construction Corps leaving the Band with six players.
As it could not continue under these conditions, it finally disbanded in 1944 after 46 years of faithful service to this district.
This article was first published in the October 1962 edition of our magazine.
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.