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Yaralla Open Day

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The City of Canada Bay Heritage Society once again will be hosting an open day at Yaralla on Sunday, 26 April 2014.

Visitors will be able to enjoy a guided tour of the stables, dairy, squash court and gardens of the Yaralla Estate. There will also be a display of historic photographs, Vintage Cars and a petting zoo for children. Bookings are essential.

During the First World War, Eadith Walker, the owner of Yaralla, was a great supporter of the Red Cross and injured soldiers. In April 1917 she loaned her other residence, Shuna at Leura in the Blue Mountains, as a convalescent hospital for soldiers with tuberculosis. The photograph shows a wounded lieutenant at a Yaralla garden party in 1918.

Don’t applaud, throw money!

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During the First World War, those at ‘home’ did what they could to show support for the soldiers on active duty.

There were a variety of fundraising activities, such as the Grand Patriotic Carnival at Five Dock. Money raised would often be used to provide ‘comforts’ (little gifts) for the soldiers. Women and girls would knit socks for the soldiers, often including notes of support and encouragement to the soldiers. Bob Jeffery of Five Dock received a parcel at Christmas 1916 which included a pudding, jam and chocolates. Bob wrote back to nine year old Ethel Elliot who had sent the parcel and they continued writing to each other for the rest of their lives, although they never met until 1972.

The photograph, above, is a rare image of a concert held at the Five Dock School of Arts to raise funds for the Red Cross. Ena Jeffery (sister of Bob) recalled that as a young girl she sang, ‘Won’t you buy my pretty flowers’ at the concert. ‘I threw flowers from my basket to the audience and they in turn threw money on to the stage to help the Red Cross.’

Hessian haute couture

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In March 1943 the 3rd Women’s Hospital was established in the former Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital to provide for the needs of servicewomen. The nearby 113 Australian General Hospital dealt with surgical cases while the Women’s Hospital provided for patients recovering from illnesses contracted while on active service, such as malaria.

Later in the same year a Red Cross recreation centre was opened for patients. It provided a space for women to recuperate and included a craft room where they could engage in handicrafts to pass the time. The City of Canada Bay Museum has a small but fascinating collection of some of the handicrafts produced by the servicewomen. One of the most striking items is an embroidered dress and coat made of hessian.

The 3rd Women’s Hospital closed in May 1946.

Russell Lea Nerve Hospital


In 1918 the Department of Defence purchased Russell Lea Manor to be used as a convalescent home for soldiers returning from the First World War who suffered from shell-shock and other nervous conditions. At the request of the Department of Defence, the Red Cross operated the hospital. Generous donations were made from Red Cross branches to create a modern facility for up to 60 patients.

At the instigation of Eadith Walker, owner of Yaralla and a great supporter of the Red Cross, the ‘colour cure’ was adopted. Avant-garde artist Roy de Maistre was commissioned to devise a colour scheme for the wards which gave special attention to the therapeutic value of colour.

A contemporary newspaper described a ward as ‘painted in colours which are supposed to suggest a day in spring… The ceiling is of sky-blue, the frieze being repeated in a slightly lighter shade. A picture rail of delicate green acts as a gentle break to the peculiar shade of yellow which covers the walls – suggestive of sunlight. The floor is covered with a dark green covering and grass-green mats… the furniture and woodwork are of a pale primrose colour. The lamp shades and bed spreads are, also, of primrose, while the curtains are of a soothing shade of deep violet.’

The hospital closed in 1923 and the building was demolished two years later.

The Red Cross also operated another convalescent hospital at Five Dock called ‘Novar’ (see comments below).

Cupid camouflaged


One of Local Studies’ treasures is the program for the 1918 film Cupid Camouflaged. Made by the Red Cross Committee to raise funds during the First World War, it was filmed at several locations around Sydney, including scenes in the gardens of Yaralla at Concord West.

The story of Cupid Camouflaged involved a budding romance between Rosita Manners and Tony Martin. Rosita’s ambitious mother, however, hopes to see her daughter married to Lord Valentine Loring but it turns out that Loring is an impostor, nothing more than a dress designer with social pretensions!

Cupid Camouflaged was presented as the highlight of a special charity evening at the Theatre Royal, Sydney on the 31 May 1918. It was later screened at the King’s Cross Theatre. Like many early Australian films, it apparently has not survived.

City of Canada Bay Museum holds a rare album of photographs of the film Cupid Camouflaged. The photograph shows a scene from the film at Yaralla, owned by Eadith Walker. Eadith along with other members of the Red Cross Committee were extras in the garden party scenes. Committee members were a roll call of Sydney society’s best known names of the period. Also among the extras was Mrs Victor White (Ruth White), mother of the author Patrick White.