Monthly Archives: December 2013
On Christmas eve 1913, as the ship Aurora left Antarctica to return to Australia it was hit by a storm, making it ‘a very miserable Christmas’. It was two months before the ship arrived in Adelaide on 23 February 1914.
So ended the remarkable exploration of Antarctica which had begun in 1911 under the leadership of Douglas Mawson. The Chief Medical Officer and Bacteriologist on the Australasian Antarctic Expedition was Archibald Lang McLean. He grew up in Five Dock where he attended Five Dock Public School. He graduated in medicine from the University of Sydney in 1910.
The epic story of the expedition is recorded in Mawson’s book The home of the blizzard which is available for loan from City of Canada Bay libraries. Archibald McLean helped to edit the book for publication.
McLean went on to serve in the First World War and was awarded the Military Cross. He died in 1922 at the age of 37 from tuberculosis, a result of his war service.
The illustration shows memorabilia from the expedition presented by McLean to Five Dock Public School. This memorial unfortunately no longer exists but his name is commemorated by McLean Nunataks, a geographical feature in Antarctica and a plaque at the University of Sydney.
In 1943, Hycraft Carpets at Five Dock sent a newsletter to its workers on active service during the Second World War, reflecting on the effects of rationing on the home front:
‘Some of the boys have said they would like to be at our Xmas party, but we did not have one last year, and this year we are not holding one because we can’t get the food for such a party, nor any decorations, nor entertainers… We certainly miss the yearly party, but will make up for it when you all come home. However, the Government have come all over generous, and told us we can each buy [450 grams] of bacon at Xmas!… Sydney presents a strange sight these days with all it’s queues… we even have to queue for potatoes at Five Dock.’
This contrasts with the photograph, taken a few years earlier, of McIlrath’s Grocery, 189 Victoria Road, Drummoyne when both food and staff were in plentiful supply for the Christmas season.