Canada Bay and the Second World War

This year marks the 75th anniversary of several significant events of the Second World War.

The impact of the Second World War on the local community in Canada Bay is, in many ways, a reflection of the experience of Australia at that time. It was an ‘all-in’ war, placing extraordinary demands on everyone. Parts of the local area became training grounds for Australian and American soldiers, while local industries were geared to war production, producing everything from ships (and the paint to paint them with) to ration packs for soldiers. It was a time of long hours and hard work. The war affected the lives of every man, woman and child in the community.

To coincide with Australian Heritage Festival, the Local Studies Librarian will be speaking on the involvement of industries and people of our area during the Second World War at the City of Canada Bay Museum, 1 Bent Street, Concord on Saturday, 6 May at 1.30pm for 2pm start.

The photograph shows the launch of a ship at Brays Bay built by Tulloch during the Second World War.

Remembering the fallen

Local services marking Anzac Day this year include special recognition of the Battle of Bullecourt at the Breakfast Point War Memorial.

Of the many First World War battles those at Bullecourt in northern France were amongst the most horrific. Four experienced Australian divisions of I ANZAC Corps were part of the British 5th Army under Sir Hubert Gough. The general wanted to attack at Bullecourt to support an important offensive by the adjoining British 3rd Army to the north and the French Army further to the south. However poor planning resulted in heavy losses. The first attack launched at Bullecourt on 11 April 1917 was a disaster. Despite this a further attack across the same ground was ordered for 3 May. The Australians broke into and took part of the Hindenburg Line but no important strategic advantage was ever gained. In the two battles the AIF lost 10,000 men.

The Breakfast Point War Memorial lists the names of eight local men who died at Bullecourt.

The photograph shows the unveiling of the Australian Gas Light Company (AGL) war memorial by Sir Dudley de Chair, Governor of NSW in 1926. It has since been replaced by the Breakfast Point memorial.

Henry Lawson remembered

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Henry Lawson who captured the spirit of Australia through his short stories and poems.

An exhibition to mark the occasion at Five Dock Library highlights his association with the City of Canada Bay. Born in Grenfell on the 17 June 1867, he spent the last period of his life at Abbotsford, where he died on the 2 September 1922. He was also one of the more famous patients at Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital at Concord which he described as ‘a stately home of Rest’ in his poem The Unknown Patient.

Today he is remembered by Henry Lawson Park at Abbotsford and a memorial and hall named in his honour at Abbotsford Public School.

There will also be talk about Henry Lawson’s life and work by Susannah Fullerton at Five Dock Library on Tuesday, 2 May at 6pm for 6.30pm start. More events are planned by the City of Canada Bay in June in Henry Lawson Park.

Above is a sketch of Lawson’s cottage at Abbotsford by John Barclay Godson (read more under comments).

Men of Renown

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In 1927 the HMS Renown conveyed Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI) and Elizabeth, Duchess of York (later best known as The Queen Mother) to Australia for the official opening of the new Parliament House in Canberra. From 1901 until 1927 the Australian parliament had met in Melbourne where it had used the Victorian Parliament House building before the move to Canberra.

While the HMS Renown was in Sydney the Concord Ex Service Men’s Social Club (RSL) hosted a ‘Smoke Social and Dinner’ for officers and ratings of HMS Renown on the 11 April 1927. It was an opportunity for the local RSL to return the hospitality shown to many Australian servicemen on leave in London during the First World War. The dinner included songs and recitations. Among the performers was George McGregor Shaw, Town Clerk of Concord, a man of many talents (see comments below) including a gift for singing.

Eadith Walker of Yaralla also hosted a rifle team from the HMS Renown who competed against the Miniature Rifle Union team at the estate’s miniature rifle range.

Tell us your story

A strike for equality

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During the Second World War women were called upon to fill the factory jobs left vacant by men who had enlisted in the armed forces. Their role became vital in ensuring that factories continued to operate and produce goods and materials essential for the war effort.

While women were expected to fill positions previously held by men, usually the pay was only about half the wages paid to men. In January 1942 forty women working in the shoe cutting department of Dunlop’s factory at Drummoyne went on strike for equal pay. They were amongst the pioneers of the movement for equal pay for women. The men had been paid £4 19 shillings 6 pence per week while the women were only receiving £2 14 shillings per week, with one junior female receiving just 26 shillings for her week’s work. The strike was ‘settled’ by a lift in wages, however, the women still only received 84 per cent of the male rate of pay.

In 1977 Dunlop closed its factory at Birkenhead Point and the site was redeveloped as Birkenhead Point Shopping Centre which opened for trading in 1979. Read more about the story of Dunlop at Birkenhead Point, below, under comments.

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.