Great works at Mortlake

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Local Studies recently received a wonderful donation of photographs of the AGL (Australian Gas Light Company) works at Mortlake from GML Heritage. It includes a series of AGL images taken prior to the redevelopment of the site as well as some interesting early images of the gasworks.

AGL purchased 32 hectares of land at Mortlake in 1884 and commenced gas production two years later. The gasworks dominated the Mortlake landscape for over a hundred years until its closure in 1990 when the site was redeveloped for medium-density housing and today is known as Breakfast Point.

The photograph, above, is from about 1900 and shows AGL’s first Retort House (on the left) which was at the heart of the gas manufacturing operations. At this time the gas was made using coal which was transported to Mortlake from Newcastle by colliers, known as ‘sixty milers’ (the distance between the two locations). On the right can be seen the Blacksmith’s shop which has survived and been restored to become the Breakfast Point Sales Office.

The collection donated by GML Heritage will be digitised and added to ‘Canada Bay Connections’.

Canadian connections

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The historical link between Saint-Cyprien-de-Napierville, Quebec and the City of Canada Bay was marked last week by an exchange of letters as an expression of friendship. Appropriately the ceremony took place at the Canadian Exiles memorial at Bayview Park, close to where the exiles were set ashore in 1840.

The events of 1837-1838 which led to the French Canadian Patriotes being exiled to Australia, where they were incarcerated at Longbottom Stockade, Concord have left their mark on our area. The names Marceau Drive, Chateauguay Walk, Exile Bay, French Bay and our namesake, Canada Bay are a reminder of their story.

While most of the Canadian Exiles returned to their families and friends in Canada in 1842, Joseph Marceau who came from Saint-Cyprien-de-Napierville chose to stay and make a new home for himself in Australia.

The photograph shows Pierre Marcoux from Quebec, who is working on a documentary on the Canadian Exiles, with City of Canada Bay Mayor, Helen McCaffrey (for more images, see flickr).

New displays for a new year

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City of Canada Bay Museum will re-open on 14 January 2017 with a range of new displays.

Special panels mark the 200th anniversary of the first formal celebration of Australia Day by Isaac Nichols in 1817. Other new displays highlight the museum’s extensive clothing collection, with everything from hats to underwear. A fascinating array of shoes was recently acquired from Hardwick’s Shoe Store which closed last year after 114 years of trading.

City of Canada Museum is open on Wednesday and Saturday from 10am to 4pm. There will be a special ‘Morning at the Museum’ for children organised in conjunction with City of Canada Bay Library Service on Wednesday, 25 January 2017.

Idyllic Rhodes

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In the early 1900s Rhodes was still largely rural.

Uhrs Point at Rhodes takes its name from George Richard Uhr (1822-1864) who built his home there, overlooking the Parramatta River. Uhr held the position of Deputy Sheriff and later Sheriff of NSW. He was, like his brother William Cornelius, also an amateur composer. Records indicate he composed The Australian Rifle Corps March for pianoforte which is now apparently lost. The property was later owned by Charles Davis who built his home, ‘Llewellyn House’ there in 1886.

In 1912 the land was subdivided for housing. It was advertised as being twenty minutes from the city and famous throughout Australia as the starting point of all the great boat races.

Llewellyn House at Uhrs Point is just visible in the background of the photograph, above, taken from the opposite shore at Riverside Estate, Ryde in about 1910.

The original photograph is held by Ryde District Historical Society.

La Piazza Parlante

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A new art installation The Italian Talkative Square La Piazza Parlante in Fred Kelly Place, Five Dock, celebrates the area’s rich Italian heritage through a blend of art and oral history.

Artist Marta Ferracin collected stories told by older members of the Italian community who came to Australia from the Aeolian Islands, Sicily, central and southern regions of Italy. Marta gathered the stories from community meeting points such as Fred Kelly Place, All Hallows Catholic Church and Club 5 Dock. Many arrived in Australia with little more than the clothes they wore. Some boarded a ship bound for Australia believing the journey would take only two or three days. All contributed much to the wonderful diversity of our area.

Three colourful sculptural works in Fred Kelly Place are the focal point of stories which are broadcast on the themes of ‘Emigration’ (blue spikes) playing Thursday – Saturday 10:00 – 10:50am (or 11 – 11:50am during daylight saving time), ‘Tradition’ (yellow spikes) playing Thursday – Saturday 3 – 3:45pm (or 4 – 4:45pm during daylight saving time) and ‘Characters’ (orange spikes) playing Thursday – Saturday 5 – 6pm (or 6 – 7pm during daylight saving time).

For more information and photographs see artpharmacy consulting. A wonderful video of the work can be viewed on vimeo.

Greetings from afar

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During the First World War the Australian Comforts Fund co-ordinated the distribution of small gifts to soldiers to make their life a little more pleasant.

It was formed in August 1916 and co-ordinated the efforts made by various existing State based patriotic funds. In the field, its activities were overseen by commissioners who held honorary rank as officers. Local Drummoyne Alderman, Mayor and politician, Thomas Henley was one such commissioner who visited Egypt, France and Britain in his work for the Australian Comforts Fund. His own son, Lieutenant Harold Leslie Henley was killed in action on 15 August 1916 in France.

This postcard was distributed to soldiers by the Australian Comforts Fund at Christmas 1916. It was sent by Private Henry George Jeffery to his family in Five Dock. Harry was killed in action on 4 October 1917 in Belgium.

The postcard artwork is by Laurie Tayler (Lawrence B. Tayler), an Australian artist and cartoonist of the period. The gentle humour of the postcard (‘People have been very kind to me in London’) belies the horror of the First World War experience.

‘Can it’

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In 1951 the company Gadsden-Hughes was formed by the merger of J. Gadsen Pty Ltd and Richard Hughes Pty Ltd, two of Sydney’s largest tin and metal container makers.

J. Gadsden Pty Ltd began in Melbourne in 1889 when Jabez Gadsden started experimenting with the processes of printing on tinplate. In 1896 Gadsden imported a flatbed lithographic press from Britain and established a tinprinting and decorating works. The company produced the first printed can in Australia – a tea caddy commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The company continued to expand and by 1936 operated twelve factories throughout Australia and New Zealand.

In Five Dock the firm of Richard Hughes Pty Ltd had similarly found a ready market for tin and metal plate containers. In a 1940 advertisement, above, the company claimed to be ‘the largest can-makers in the Southern Hemisphere’. Located at Queen Street, Five Dock the company was an important local employer, producing everything from paint cans for Berger to fancy chocolate tins.

The photograph below shows the Richard Hughes Pty Ltd factory in 1937.

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(A special thank you to Lois at the City of Canada Bay Heritage Society for providing information)

Chiswick Splash

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Chiswick Baths and adjoining Chambers Park were developed largely through the efforts of the local community.

The Chiswick Progress Association suggested a pool and public reserve at Blackwall Point Road in 1944. At that time the population of Chiswick was ‘scarcely 220’.

It was not until 1956 however that the Chiswick Baths were finally opened. The pool was maintained through community volunteers with financial and material support from Drummoyne Council (and later the City of Canada Bay). The original wire netting used to section the pool off from the Parramatta River was purchased from the nearby Lysaght factory.

Sixty years on the tidal pool remains a popular spot with locals.

On Sunday, 20 November 2016 from 10am to 1pm there will be a range of activities to celebrate 60 years of fun and enjoyment.

Telling their stories

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The Drummoyne Amateur Swimming Club has played an important part in the recreational life of our community for over a hundred years. It has had great success in fostering swimming not only at the local level but is associated with some of Australia’s greatest sporting achievements. Its history is studded with the names of famous swimmers and coaches.

The photograph shows coach Forbes Carlile (wearing a white t-shirt)in the early 1950s coaching young swimmers at Drummoyne Swimming Pool.

Past and present members of the Drummoyne Amateur Swimming Club will be coming along to Five Dock Library on Tuesday, 15 November 2016 from 6pm to 8pm to share their memories and stories of the club. The stories will be recorded and added to the library’s oral history collection.

Anyone interested in the history of swimming is welcome to come along and share in the club’s rich history of sporting achievement.

Remembrances of war

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Throughout the City of Canada Bay there are many memorials, large and small, dedicated to the memory of local men and women who served our country in war.

Local Studies is custodian of two memorials to those who served in the First World War, the Drummoyne War Service Record, which records those who served from the Drummoyne area and the Lysaght Bros Roll of Honour, which records the names of workers from the Lysaght factory at Chiswick who served .

The beautiful memorial, above, pays tribute to nine soldiers from the Five Dock Methodist Church (now Five Dock Uniting Church) who did not return from the First World War. Undoubtedly it was crafted with love and compassion.

Images of some of the war memorials in the City of Canada Bay can be seen on flickr.