Author Archives: Local Studies, City of Canada Bay

The world of May Gibbs

This year’s History Week will be marked with a special talk on May Gibbs in Popular Culture by Alison Wishart at Five Dock Library.

May Gibbs is one of Australia’s most popular and enduring children’s book authors and illustrators. Her picture books have delighted successive generations for over 100 years. She drew her inspiration from her childhood spent visiting the bush south of Perth, and later from her large garden in Sydney’s Neutral Bay and bush walks in the Blue Mountains.

An early environmentalist, she urged her readers to ‘be kind to bush creatures’. This illustrated talk will examine the enduring influence of Gibbs’ artwork and books, her charitable work and how she built her career.

The talk will be at Five Dock Library on Wednesday, 6 September 2017 at 7pm and is free, although bookings are essential. The talk is proudly presented as part of the History Council of NSW’s Speaker Connect program for History Week 2017 and supported by Create NSW.

The images, above, show an illustration from Gumnut Babies by May Gibbs, 1916 (left) and ‘Souriante’ a self-portrait by May Gibbs, 1923. Images are from the May Gibbs Archive, State Library of NSW © The Northcott Society and Cerebral Palsy Alliance.

Mapping our past

A highlight of History Week at the City of Canada Bay Museum will be the unveiling of a recently restored historic map of Concord.

The map was restored through grants received from the City of Canada Bay. The Mayor, Helen McCaffrey, will unveil the map which was originally produced by Higinbotham & Robinson in 1890. The Municipality of Concord had only been formed in 1883, so the highly detailed map provides a window into Concord at that period.

Following the unveiling, the Local Studies Librarian will speak about the Concord community of the late nineteenth century as revealed by the map. The unveiling and talk will be at City of Canada Bay Museum on Saturday, 2 September 2017 at 1.30pm for 2pm start. Details at City of Canada Bay Museum.

A delight to the eye

The establishment of Correy’s Pleasure Gardens in the 1880s made Cabarita a special picnic destination for Sydney-siders in the nineteenth century.

In 1891 the Australian Town and Country Journal extolled the delights of Cabarita:

‘This beautiful spot is a favourite picnic ground for the residents of Sydney, who are justly proud of the magnificent scenery that is to be found in the vicinity of their city.

The journey to Parramatta by rail is an agreeable one, affording ample variety of scenery to amuse the traveller, but the trip up the river by steamer forms one of the most delightful water excursions that any city can boast of. As the steamer proceeds on its way some pretty suburbs are touched at. Passing Drummoyne and Hunter’s Hill the green covered banks on either side disclose to the visitor a constant succession of beautiful scenes, and the windings of the river as they are followed bring into view at every turn some new charm to delight the eye. A little way beyond Gladesville, but on the opposite bank, Cabarita Point, the spot depicted in our illustration, is situated.

At intervals on the river’s banks, pretty boathouses and rustic-looking piers help to give variety to the scene, while the river is dotted here and there with rowing enthusiasts in their out riggers and light skiffs, and graceful sailing yachts slowly gliding over the smooth waters.’

Fun, food and Ferragosto

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of Ferragosto, Five Dock’s fabulous celebration of all things Italian.

To celebrate this year’s event, an exhibition at Five Dock Library looks back at twenty years of fun, food and people which combine to make Ferragosto the vibrant street fair that it is. The exhibition features a digital frame which glides through 100 images from past years.

Ferragosto this year will be held along Great North Road, Five Dock on Sunday, 20 August. The exhibition continues at Five Dock Library until 31 August 2017.

The photograph shows performers (in the tradition of commedia dell’arte) at last year’s Ferragosto.

A gracious home recalled

Wymston was one of many gracious nineteenth century homes in the City of Canada Bay area.

Dr George Fortescue, amongst the first surgeons appointed to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, built Wymston at Chiswick, possibly in the early 1880s. He named his home after Whympston in Devon, the ancestral manor of the Fortescue family.

After Dr Fortescue’s untimely death from typhoid in 1885, the home had a succession of owners, among them noted engineer Henry Deane Walsh, commemorated by Walsh Bay in Sydney Harbour. Susan Rowe explored the story of Wymston while researching her recently published book on Henry Deane Walsh.

The photograph was taken at the time Henry Deane Walsh and family were resident at Wymston, from approximately 1903 to 1906. In 1922 the Wymston estate site was taken over by the Co-operative Box Factory and the house appears to have been demolished about that time.

The name of Wymston Parade at Chiswick is a reminder of this gracious old home.

Rosebank turns 150

From modest beginnings in 1867, Rosebank College has grown and evolved over 150 years to make an outstanding contribution to the education of young people.

Three Good Samaritan Sisters opened a school at Albina Villa, an old house near Parramatta Road, Concord in mid 1867. In the following year, the Rosebank property at Five Dock became available and was purchased for the school.

The fascinating story of the Rosebank College’s growth and development over the past 150 years is told in the recently published book Sursum Corda, lift up your hearts by Thomas Westenberg. The photograph, above, from the book shows students studying algebra about 1910.

Henry Lawson in the Park

City of Canada Bay will be marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of Henry Lawson with a performance of some of his best known works in Henry Lawson Park on 17 June 2017.

Henry Lawson Park at Abbotsford was officially dedicated on 3 September 1938 by Alderman Jacob Henley, Mayor of Drummoyne (on the left), Honourable William McCall, Federal Member for Martin and Alderman Thomas Higham. To mark the occasion, three trees were planted near the foreshore by Eileen M. Buckley of the Henry Lawson Literary Society, Bertha Lawson, his wife and Mary Gilmore, his friend and fellow poet. The tree planted by Mary Gilmore had a plaque with an original verse by her:

‘As weeds grow out of graves and vaults
So from his broken heart his faults
And yet so marvellous his power
His very faults brought forth in flower.’

A round of golf

The Concord Golf Club can trace its history back more than 120 years.

It began as the Sydney Golf Club in 1893 and established a course on the ‘home paddock’ of Eadith Walker’s Yaralla estate, at the corner of The Drive and Concord Road, Concord West. This site was abandoned in 1898 but in the following year the Concord Golf Club was formed and a course established on the western side of the railway line, extending to Homebush Bay.

In 1905 Concord and Strathfield Golf Clubs combined to form the Concord Golf Links Limited with the purpose of purchasing 46 hectares, known as the Police Paddock from the Estate of the late Thomas Walker. This, together with 12 hectares leased from Eadith Walker, formed the nucleus of the present Concord Golf Course.

The photograph shows members of the Strathfield Golf Club in 1898, playing at the original Yaralla course. The Lodge at the entrance to the estate, which can be seen in the background, was used as a club house. Thomas Frizell, seated at the far left, and Alex Orr, standing at the far right, both served as club presidents.

A park fit for a queen

Queen Elizabeth Park was given its name 60 years ago this week.

During the 1954 Royal Visit of Australia, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were greeted by 30,000 school children at Concord Park before going on to visit Concord Repatriation General Hospital. Concord Park had been reserved for public use in 1887. In 1957 it was decided that Concord Park be renamed as Queen Elizabeth Park in honour of the royal visit to Concord.

Queen Elizabeth Park was officially renamed by Lieutenant-General Sir John Northcott, Governor of NSW on 24 May 1957 to coincide with Empire Day as it was then known. In an echo of the Queen’s visit some 1,500 children from local schools were given a half-day holiday to welcome the Governor.

Backyard innovator

The Second World War was a time for individual resourcefulness.

Locally, Kenneth Beames turned his passion for astronomy and building his own telescopes to making optical equipment for the war effort. In the backyard of his home at Russell Lea he made rifle sites, periscopes, reflectors, sighting telescopes and munitions. He constructed his own grinding and testing machinery and even built his own furnace to make his own glass when supplies of lens-making glass ran out due to war restrictions.

After the war he created the largest privately owned telescope in Australia and went on to build his own observatory at Linden in the Blue Mountains which still survives as a testament to his ingenuity. It is believed that he created at least 450 telescopes during his lifetime.

The tear-sheet from Smith’s Weekly in 1941, rightly ranks him among the ‘important people’ who contributed to the war effort in Australia.