Monthly Archives: October 2015

A grand steeplechase

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In the 1840s enterprising Charles Abercrombie purchased land at present-day Birkenhead Point and established an orchard and a ‘salting and boiling down’ works.

Abercrombie also laid out a racecourse on his property where the first steeplechase race in Australia was held in 1844. The ‘Five Dock Grand Steeple Chase’ had nine leaps, including a 6 metre pond leap and a 1.4 metre stone fence.

The Sydney Morning Herald at the time declared that the ‘first race was regarded as the best that ever took place in the colony, and far exceeded the expectations of the most sanguine sportsmen present.’ The prize for the first race was sixty sovereigns (£60) and was won by Mr Kemble’s British Yeoman, ridden by Gorrick, with Mr Bryant’s Highflyer, ridden by Watt, coming second. Abercrombie’s own horse, Emancipation, came last in the second race and second in the third event.

A delightful series of lithographs held by the Mitchell Library (State Library of NSW) records the event.

Currently a display at Five Dock Library, ‘Once we had horses!’ celebrates local horses through a selection of historical photographs from Canada Bay Connections.

Rhodes multimedia history project

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City of Canada Bay has recently launched the Rhodes multimedia history project which features oral histories and videos of thirteen local community members and three community groups (Rhodes Volunteer Fire Station, Dragon Sports Association and Rhodes Multicultural Community Association).

Council worked in partnership with local residents and Peta Khan from Maitree House, the project’s creator. The videos celebrate the diverse and vibrant community now living in the Rhodes precinct.

The videos can be viewed on City of Canada Bay’s Youtube Channel.

The videos will also feature in an opening display at The Connection, Rhodes Community Precinct in 2016.

The photograph shows dancers, organised by Rhodes Multicultural Community Association, performing at the Rhodes Moon Festival.

Restoring their names

Concord War Memorial

Erected in 1921, the Concord War Memorial has been the focal point for Anzac Day services for over ninety years.

Some 600 men and women from the Concord area enlisted to serve in the First World War, a remarkable number considering the population at the time is estimated to have been less than 11, 000.

At present conservation work is being carried out on the marble tablets so the names will be legible once again. Thus the original intention of the memorial ‘to perpetuate the memory of our nurses, sailors and soldiers who enlisted in the Great War 1914-1919’ will be fulfilled.

The work will be completed by Remembrance Day, 11 November 2015.

Celebrating Halloween through the years


Eadith Walker’s lavish entertainments at Yaralla were a highlight of Sydney’s social scene in the first part of the twentieth century.

One such party on the 31 October 1913 celebrated Halloween. Guests were transported from Sydney on the steamer Bronzewing and on arrival at Yaralla found that ‘Everything was beautifully arranged. The grounds were illuminated and the house decorated most appropriately with yellow drapings and black figures… of black cats, spiders, owls and bats… some of the electric lights were painted to represent witches cauldrons.’

City of Canada Bay Heritage Society will be hosting an open day at Yaralla on Sunday, 25 October 2015, 9.30am-2pm. While Concord Library will be celebrating Halloween this year with a special ‘Trick or Treat for UNICEF’ on Saturday, 31 October 2015, 2-3pm.

Cabarita Park

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Cabarita Park has continued to evolve over a period of some 135 years since it was dedicated as a ‘Reserve for Public Recreation and Access to Wharf’ in 1880.

In the early days it was an important vantage point for rowing races held on the Parramatta River which was promoted by the extension of the tram service to Cabarita in 1907. Over the years extensive plantings of trees and gardens together with facilities such as the Federation Pavilion and Concord-Cabarita Coronation Baths combined to make Cabarita Park an important recreational area.

The process of change and development continues with ‘The Conservatory’, an exceptional arts and cultural facility which will be completed next year.

The photograph, above, which shows Cabarita Park in 1923 was recently donated to Canada Bay Connections.

Maison Lepailleur

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Pierre Marcoux in Canada has kindly sent a photograph of François-Maurice Lepailleur’s family home in Chateauguay near Montreal, Quebec to Canada Bay Connections.

Lepailleur was a bailiff at Chateauguay and a leader in the Canadian Rebellion of 1838. Originally he was condemned to death by a court martial but his sentence was commuted to transportation to Australia. Together with 57 other French Canadian prisoners he arrived in New South Wales in March 1840. They were imprisoned at Longbottom Stockade, near present-day Concord Oval until being granted pardons in 1844.

Lepailleur kept a journal from the time he learnt of his exile until he was reunited with his family some five years later. His journal, published with the evocative title Land of a thousand sorrows (1980), provides an insight into the convict system and Sydney in the early 1840s.

Chateauguay Walk at Cape Cabarita is one of many local place names which reflect Canada Bay’s links with the story of the Canadian Exiles.