1917 saw widespread industrial unrest, beginning in Sydney and spreading across NSW, culminating in a General Strike.
The initial trigger for the strike was the introduction of a new labour costing system by the New South Wales Department of Railways and Tramways which led to workers walking off the job at Randwick Workshops and Eveleigh Carriage Works in August 1917. Discontent spread to other industries as wages had not kept pace with increasing prices during the First World War.
On the 3 September 1917, some 600 AGL (Australian Gas Light Company) workers at Mortlake went on strike. To keep vital gas services operating, positions at the gas works were filled by volunteers, referred to as ‘Loyalists’ by some and less pleasant names by others. The photograph, above, shows the tents of volunteers at AGL, from ‘Everyday scenes at Mortlake Gas Works’ published in the Sydney Mail.
The Gas Workers returned to work on 17 September 1917.
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 It has since been replaced by the Breakfast Point memorial.
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’.
During the First World War 340 Australian Gas Light Company (AGL) workers enlisted to serve from a workforce of 3,000 employees at the Mortlake Gasworks and in metropolitan Sydney.
In 1926 a memorial tablet to the 45 AGL employees who died in the First World War was unveiled at the work gates on Tennyson Road, Mortlake. Sadly, during the redevelopment of the AGL site as Breakfast Point the tablet was stolen. However a new war memorial was created to commemorate their service.
Breakfast Point resident Greg Maunsell has researched the names of those listed on the Breakfast Point War memorial to create a web page in their honour. Greg will share the colourful and moving stories of the men associated with the Mortlake Gasworks who perished in the First World War at Concord Library on Tuesday, 15 April at 1pm.
City of Canada Bay Library Service provides access to two important databases for people wishing to trace their family history, Ancestry and Find My Past.
To coincide with Family History Month, Heather Garnsey of the Society of Australian Genealogists will be giving an informative talk to help family history researchers. The talk is aimed at current users of Ancestry and Find My Past who would like to enhance their search skills and use these databases to greater effect.
The talk will be held at Concord Library on Tuesday, 27 August 2013.
The photograph shows John and Amanda Jane Smith with their children at Mortlake. Behind their home looms one of the AGL (Australian Gas Light Company) Gas Storage Tanks. John Smith was an engineer, born in Kent, who came to Australia to install a new stoking machine at AGL. After serving 15 years with AGL he operated the Petersham Hotel for a period before returning to AGL where he worked until his death in 1927.
Canada Bay Connections includes many aerial photographs which provide a fascinating perspective of our area.
The photograph above shows the Parramatta River looking towards Cabarita and Mortlake. The huge gas storage tanks of the Australian Gas Light Company (AGL) can be seen dominating the landscape.
AGL purchased 32 hectares of land at Mortlake in 1884 and commenced gas production two years later. Following the closure of the gasworks in 1990 the site has been redeveloped for medium-density housing and today is known as Breakfast Point.
The photograph is by Milton Kent (1888-1965) who specialised in oblique aerial photography over Sydney in the 1930s. The image is believed to have been taken in 1939.