Monthly Archives: September 2015

It all began with Florence

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Florence Nightingale, who came to prominence during the Crimean War, is regarded as the founder of modern nursing. In 1867 Henry Parkes appealed to Florence Nightingale for trained nurses for the Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary. The following year Lucy Osburn arrived in Sydney and modern nursing practice began in Australia.

The City of Canada Bay Museum currently has a display, ‘It all began with Florence’, marking the involvement of Australian nurses in the Boer War through the First and Second World Wars to more modern conflicts. Among the stories is that of the hospital ship Centaur which was sunk during the Second World War with great loss of life. The Centaur is commemorated by a beautiful stained glass window in the foyer of the Concord Repatriation General Hospital, shown above.

The display continues at the City of Canada Bay Museum until December.

A convivial day

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Russell Barton (1830-1916) rose from humble beginnings to become a pastoralist, mine-owner and politician.

In the late 1870s he built Russell Lea Manor on 24 hectares of land at Five Dock. The property was subdivided in 1913 to become the suburb of Russell Lea.

Barton was the eldest of thirteen children and with his wife Jane McCulloch Davie had a large family of eleven children. The photograph shows a family gathering at Russell Lea which may well be the occasion of Russell Barton’s 80th Birthday. A newspaper report from September 1910 described him as ‘one of the busiest of business men in Sydney… After a convivial day… when family members met to wish him ‘many happy returns of the day’ he was in his office on the following morning attending to urgent important matters’.

More photographs of Russell Lea Manor can be seen on flickr.

The story behind the sculpture

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The sculpture by Nola Farman at Brays Bay Reserve commemorates Commonwealth Ship Building Yard no. 4 which operated there during the Second World War.

As the war intensified in the Pacific there was a need for small vessels to operate in the waters to the north of Australia. The government established the Small Craft Directorate of the Department of Munitions to construct small shallow-draft ships, known as ‘lighters’. Several companies around Australia were involved in their construction. At Rhodes the Tulloch plant established shipbuilding facilities at Brays Bay. Tulloch concentrated on fabricating the bow, first mid-ship section and steel superstructure, while the stern and rear mid-ship sections were constructed by Waddingtons at Granville.

The exact number that were built and launched at Brays Bay is unclear but there were at least 13 and possibly as many as 24 vessels built according to David Jehan in his recently published book on Tulloch.

In addition to the sculpture, the site of the slipway is still visible and some of the names of the ships are recorded along it. The Australian War Memorial holds a fascinating series of drawings of the Tulloch operations at Brays Bay by R. Emerson Curtis.