Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pets in Our History

On our visit to Edinburgh last year, we came upon the statue of the legendary Greyfriars Bobby at the corner of Candlemaker Row and George IV Bridge. Bobby, a Skye terrier who spent 14 years guarding the grave of his master John Grey has been dubbed "the Most Faithful Dog in the World" [Jan Bondeson 2011].

A tourist was rubbing the nose of the statue for good luck!

Back home, apart from the bronzed statue of the Boar at the entrance to Sydney Hospital who since 1968 has been enticing us to rub his nose, we seemingly don't have many statues of pet animals in out city. Or do we?

In our search of Sydney monuments we have found some beautiful little statues of our canine and feline friends who have a place in Sydney's history.

Donna, at Central Railway (at left).

Friend and constant companion to John Hogan of Pyrmont, Sydney.

14/2/1975 - 6/5/1995

Recognised in the Guinnes Book of Records as the World's Longest Living Hearing Guide Dog.

Unveiled by the Hon Brian Langton MP, Minister for Tourism on 10 May 1996, to recognise the love and companionship that all Guide Dogs for the Visually Impaired give their owners.

Biggles at The Rocks (at right)

" Loved Friend of the Rocks"

17/8/1980 - 25/4/1994.

A community project, unveiled by the
Hon Robert Walker MLC, Minister for PLanning and Housing on 16 March 1995.

Islay opposite the statue of Queen Victoria at Town Hall, Sydney (at left).

Favourite pet of Queen Victoria.

Died 26/4/1844

The bronze sculpture by Justin Robson (1987) was modelled from a sketch drawn by Queen Victoria in 1842. Now over a century later, Islay is begging hopefully for a coin to help deaf and blind children of New South Wales.

But my favorite of course would have to be the statue of Trim, outside the Mitchell Library on the Macquarie Street side. (at left)

Trim was "Matthew Flinders Intrepid Cat
who circumnavigated Australia with his Master 1801-1803 and thereafter shared his exile on the Island of Mauritius where he met his untimely death".

Flinders in his book, A Biographical Tribute to the Memory of Trim described Trim's features ..."Trim's robe was a clear jet black, with the exception of his four feet , which seemed to have been dipped in snow, and his underlip, which rivalled than in whiteness..."

On the day that we saw photographed Trim the sun was shining on his paws and mouth as if to emulate that image.

If you are in interested in early Australian History or are researching a convict ancestor go to our website at:

Friday, October 14, 2011

In the Footsteps of Mary MacKillop - The Rocks

Our historical excursions around Sydney would not be complete without following the footsteps of Saint Mary MacKillop in The Rocks area of Sydney.

Guided by the book, A Pilgrimage Through The Rocks, Sydney by Sister Jeanette Foxe rsj 2010, we took a walking tour and came upon parts of Sydney that we had not seen before. The Sisters of Saint Joseph had a presence in The Rocks from 1880 to 1901 where they set up Houses of Providence to minister to the poor and homeless. The Jospehites, as the Sisters were known, also taught at several schools in the area.

Like many of the early historical buildings in The Rocks, several of the Houses of Providence and the buildings housing Josephite schools have been demolished and the sites redeveloped.

However two significant "Mary" sites are still standing in Kent Street.

The first is St Brigid's Church (photo of outside at left and interior at right above).

It was completed in 1835 under the auspices of Governor Sir Richard Bourke "as a Roman Catholic School House to be occasionally used as a Chapel". The building originally housed a school for boys started by the Christian Brothers in 1843. The Josephites taught there from 1884 to 1898.

Today it is a beautiful little Church - a rare find.

The second site is Winsbury 75-79 Kent Street (photo at right ). It was the third House of Providence rented by the Sisters of Saint Joseph from 30 July 1880. Mary MacKillop resided there from February -March 1881.

No longer standing is Cheshunt, the fourth and largest House of Providence, at 3 Cumberland Street, now the site of the Harbour View Hotel. Mary stayed here from December 1882-March 1883 and again from November 1883-March 1884. Next door to Cheshunt was the parish Church of St Michael's built in 1882. It was from here that Mary's Mother, Flora MacKillop was buried following her drowning in the shipwreck of the Ly-ee-Moon off Eden, NSW on 30 May 1886.

Another is St Bridget's Hall School, 89-113 Kent Street, now the site of the Observatory Hotel. The Josephites ran this school for girls from August 1880 until it closed in 1886.

For a History of the Roman Catholic Church in the Colony of New South Wales 1800-1836, go to the Resources link in the website of History Services NSW at

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thornleigh Zig-Zag Railway - A Discovery

Route of Thornleigh Zig-Zag Railway -1883
An interesting afternoon as we traversed the route of the Thornleigh Zig-Zag Railway. This was the third and last zig-zag railway built in NSW (after Lapstone and Lithgow).

It was constructed in 1883 by railway contractors, Amos & Co, as a branch line coming off the main Northe
rn Railway Line just north of what is now Thornleigh Station and descending to a quarry some 35 metres below. The quarry supplied "stone ballast (white metal - metamorphised sandstone) for a southern section of the Homebush (Sydney ) to Waratah (Newcastle) railway line" [Historic Engineering Marker 2006, Thornleigh Quarry].

The zig-zag facilitated the steep descent/ascent to/from the Quarry for the railway trucks carrying the stone to the top for use along the route of the railway line.

While much of the route of the Zig-Zag Railway has today been taken over by residential development, we followed the descent from the top point across Pritchard and Wells Streets to the bottom point neat Janet Street. Then entering the bush from a track off Morgan Street, we came to Zig-Zag Creek (photo at left above) and then up a little further up to the Quarry (photo at right above). It is a huge excavation site. We climbed to the top just below to what is now Oakleigh Park.

On our way back we were attempting to ascertain the actual route for the Zig-Zag, when we discovered an old railway sleeper embedded near the creek (photo above and at left below). Its position would suggest that it is probably part of the original line.

Also nearby was a piece of narrow gauge rail line. (photo at right).

So at least we were close to the original route which appears to have run close to the Creek.

History Services NSW in its Government Contracts and Contractors database has many entries for railway contracts awarded by the NSW Government for the period 1832-1900.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

St Thomas' Church Mulgoa - Two Coincidences

On Tuesday, 13 September 2011, we visited the Mulgoa area and came upon St Thomas' Anglican Church atop the hill. This beautiful sandstone Church was conscrecrated by Bishop Broughton in 1838.

The Cox family, sons of William Cox builder of the first road over the Bue Mountains, had a strong association with St Thomas'. Edward Cox donated the five acres of elevated land on which the church was built. The sandstone used in the construction was cut from Edward's nearby property, Fernhill and from that of his brother, Henry Cox's property, Glenmore (now the Glenmore Country Club).

The graves of Edward Cox of Fernhill, died 18 May 1868 aged 63 years (photo at left) and George Cox of Wimbourne, died 20 August 1868 aged 74 years (photo at right) are found in the cemetery in the Church grounds.

In the following week, on a visit to St Andrew's Cathedral in Sydney, we came across a stained glass window which was "the Gift of George Cox of Wimborne and Edward Cox of Fernhill, Mulgoa, in memory of their father William Cox of Clarendon Richmond NSW.."

Also coincident with our visit to St Thomas', we received a request through History Services NSW for information on two convicts who it turned out were married there in 1845.

If you are researching a convict ancestor area, you should go the History Services NSW website at:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lapstone Zig-Zag Railway

The route of Lapstone Zig-Zag railway is now a popular walking trail. It can be accessed from Knapsack Street near the RAAF Base at Glenbrook.

As part of the construction of the first railway over the Blue
Mountains, the Zig-Zag Railway was built between 1863 and 1865 to overcome the step gradients (ranging from 1 in 30 to 1 in 33) of the Lapstone Hill.

John Whitton, Chief Engineer, originally wanted to tunnel through the hill. But due to budget constraints way back then, he designed a zig-zag (or switchback). This necessitated reversing the train, up or down, one of the three legs of the zig-zag route.

The photos, above, of the track today give a clear impression of the old zig-zag route.

Along the top points of the zig-zag are the remains of a platform. This was the Lucasville Station which was built in 1878 to service the holiday home of one, Mr John Lucas MLA, Minister for Mines. You can see the steps leading to the property but its exact location is not known.

With the completion of the Lapstone Zig-Zag and the Knapsack Viaduct, the railway line over the Blue Mountains was opened to Weatherboard (now Wentworth Falls) on 13 July 1867.

While this section of the Lapstone line was not to remain the permanent route as time passed, its construction was a significant achievement for John Whitton and his team.

Both Mary and myself have enjoyed the work of putting together the blogs on John Whitton and the Lapstone Hill. It s has taken much research, a few car journeys and lots of walking to piece the story together.

History Services NSW in its Government Contracts and Contractors database has many entries for railway contracts awarded by the NSW Government for the period 1832-1900.

Go the website at:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Knapsack Viaduct

Continuing on from the from the carpark at the end of the Great Western Highway, a walkway along the old railway and highway route brings you to the spectacular Knapsack Viaduct.

The sandstone viaduct was designed by John Whitton and built over the period 1863-1864 to bridge the Knapsack Gully on the first railway route over the Blue Mountains. It was the largest viaduct in Australia being 388 feet long, 120 feet high with five spans of 70 feet and two of 20 feet. It was hailed and a engineering feat by our colonial forebears. It was a landmark for nineteenth century travellers to the Blue Mountains and beyond.

It is a massively impressive structure especially from the gully below. Taking the path from the northern side of the viaduct, we descended below to the creek bed where we
could stand next to the sandstone arches. Then taking the stairs up on the southern flank gives further interesting angular views of the viaduct. Further along is the Knapsack Quarry from where the sandstone was obtained for the construction of the viaduct. From here you can ascend to the Elizabeth Lookout and Zig-Zag Railway.

When the railway was re-routed through the Glenbrook Gorge in 1912, the lower section of the older track including
the Knapsack Viaduct was converted into a road, the Great Western Highway. This was the main road up the Lapstone until the M4 Motorway replaced it in 1993. The viaduct was widened in 1938 by moving the stone parapets outwards and placing them on concrete cantilevered slabs.

History Services NSW in its Government Contracts and Contractors database has many entries for railway contracts awarded by the NSW Government for the period 1832-1900.

Go the website at:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

HMAS Parramatta I - the Third Part of the Jigsaw

Today we went on on the Hawkesbury River Heritage Cruise, oraganised by Hornsby Shire Council and compered by historian, Tom Richmond.

Despite the teeming rain today, this wonderful river has so many stories to divulge. As Tom put it, the Hawkesbury is a "passing parade of Australian history".

One piece of history which stood out so spectacularly today between two gushing waterfalls was the wreck of the HMAS Parramatta I opposite Milson Island, where it ran aground in 1934.

We have visited this story in a previous Blog, Bow and Stern Miles Apart - HMAS Parramatta I (15 April 2011) when we located the stern at Queens Wharf Reserve on the Parramatta River, and the bow at the Garden Island Naval Base .

From the view today then, we can envisage the bow and the stern fitting neatly back into the jigsaw of the wreck in the photo above.

If you are in interested in early Australian History or are researching a convict ancestor go to our website at:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

John Whitton and the Lapstone Hill

In very long grass, just off the carpark at what is now the the end of the Great Western Highway at Emu Plains, is an obelisk of blue-grey stone dedicated to the memory of John Whitton (photos above) .

John Whitton was the "Father of the New South Wales Railways" being the Engineer-in-Chief from 1857-1890.

We had previously visited this monument in
August 1985 when the Great Western Highway
was the main road route up the Lapstone Hill. There is also the remains of a Gatehouse
Cottage (photo at right) nearby. It was burnt out in the fires of 1968.

Although today the monument is in a state of disrepair, it stands as a testament to engineering skills of John Whitton, and "In Memory of the Men who worked with Whitton" and to the "Women who Cared". The latter inscription is no longer extant on the monument and comes from notes that I took in 1985.

The monument was fittingly situated at the foot of the Lapstone Hill.

John Whitton oversaw the construction of the first railway over the Blue Mountains in the 1860's and it was the Lapstone incline that proved to be the first major obstacle. To overcome this Whitton designed the Knapsack Viaduct and the Lapstone Zig_Zag Railway. [See separate Blogs].

There is a statue of John Whitton at Central Railway in Sydney (Photo at right).

History Services NSW in its Government Contracts and Contractors database has many entries for railway contracts awarded by the NSW Government for the period 1832-1900.

Go the website at:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Convict Bricks

Yesterday, as part of our current project on early Sydney monuments, we visited the Kings Cross area. We discovered an interesting sandstone wall (in photo above) in a little park just near the El Alamein fountain.

It included a carved stone which was recovered in 1969 from the landscaped gardens of Elizabeth Bay House (built by the Hon Alexander Macleay, Second Colonial Secretary, on a 54 acre land grant given to him in 1828 at Elizabeth Bay).

The wall was also made up of some sandstone bricks from the early days of the Colony. Several of them contained interesting imprints, such as hearts, diamonds and animal footprints (as in the photo at right)

This put us in mind of a similar wall in the Sydney Fernery in the Royal Botanic Gardens (photo at left below). The sandstone used used in this wall is believed to have been quarried locally around 1826 when it was used for the construction of the Governor's Bath House at Farm Cove. Many of the stone blocks have "banker's marks" (photo at right below). These marks identify the convict mason's work for payment. The marks were usually made in the visible face, rather that in the bedding face, in convict brick work prior to 1850's.

If you are interested in Australian history or are researching a convict ancestor, go to our web site at: http://www.historyservices.com.au/

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Captain Phillip's Farm

We had seen and photographed the majestic statue of Captain Arthur Phillip, first Governor of the Colony of New South Wales and Commander of the First Fleet, many times. It is located just inside the Macquarie Street entrance to the Royal Botanic Gardens.

But on a recent visit we came upon another very interesting memorial to Captain Phillip just nearby. Unveiled in January 1988, it a wall (as pictured above) made up of bricks from the 17th century house at Vernals Farm in Lyndhurst, Hampshire UK, where Phillip lived from 1763 to 1774. The bricks were dismantled from the remains of the house and reconstructed here in English Bond, bedded in lime mortar. It was a Bicentennial gift from Mr Geoffrey L Cottee to the people of Sydney.

Also planted nearby is an oak tree grown from an acorn from an ancient tree in the original garden of Vernals Farm. This is a living link with Arthur Phillip set now against the backdrop of the Sydney skyline.

Is is such discoveries such as these that bring the heroes of early Australian history to life.

It was while he was retired on half-pay from the Roayl Navy in 1763, after active service in the Seven Years Wars, that Phillip acquired the properties of Veranls Farm and Glasshayes at Lyndhurst. It was here that he married his first wife, Margaret Denison, on 19 July 1763 and settled.

So along with his naval and administrative experience that he brought to the Colony of New South Wales, Captain Phillip was also a farmer. This undoubtedly assisted his efforts in securing a food supply for new Colony under what were very difficult conditions.

Phillip went on may expeditions around the Sydney area looking for suitable land to farm. The area around Parramatta, which Phillip had named Rose Hill, was very favourable with its good soil, ready accessibility and proximity to water.

By the time , Governor Phillip left the Colony in December 1792, some 1017 acres were under crop on the public domain and important advances had been made towards attaining self-sufficiency in grain.

If you are in interested in early Australian History or are researching a convict ancestor go to our website at: http://www.historyservices.com.au/

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sydney Harbour War Time Boom Net

Sixty-nine years ago on this night of 31 May- 1 June in 1942, the Second World War came to Sydney.

At the time, there was an unfinished anti-submarine boom and net stretched that across Sydney Harbour from George's Head to Green Point at Camp Cove. The photo above shows the foundations of the winch house for the net at Green Point.

On the night of 31 May- 1 June, three Japanese midget submarines enterd Sydney Harbour with intention of sinking Allied warships.

The first, designated M27, became trapped in the boom net and was spotted at 8.15 pm by two Maritime Services Board watchman, James Cargill and William Nagle in a boom boat (as pictured at left, and displayed in the Garden Island Naval Museum). The authorities were then alerted.

The crew of the submarine, Lieutenant Kenshi Chuman and Petty Officer Taeshi Omori, apparently having spent two hours attempting to free their vessel, exploded demolition charges scuttling the submarine and ending their lives.

The second submarine, M22, first attempted to to enter the Harbour at the southern end of the Boom at 10.54pm but was sighted and depth charged by the patrol boat HMAS Yandra. It surfaced at 3.50am at Neutral Bay where it was fired on by HMS Kaminbla. At 5am it was spotted in Taylors Bay and again heavily depth charged the three patrol boats, HMAS Steady Hour, Sea Mist and Yarroma. At some point the crew, Lieutenant Keiu Matsuo and Petty Officer Masao Tsuzuku, too had committed suicide.

The third submarine, M24, fired at torpedo at the USS Chicago at around 12.05 am, but it missed striking the HMAS Kuttabul, a converted harbour ferry being used as an accommodation ship. Nineteen Australian and two British sailors were killed.

Two of the submarines , M22 and M27 were subsequently salvaged and a composite was constructed using the bow section of one and the stern of the other. This is now famously on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

What is less well known perhaps is that the conning tower of M22 is on display at the Garden Island Naval Museum in Sydney (photos below). This made the stories of the War coming to Sydney real for me as I conjectured as to what would have gone on that night.

The bodies of the Japanese submariners were recovered too and their ashes repatriated back home to Japan.

Divers discovered the wreck of M24 off Sydney's northern beaches in November 2006 thus completing the story of a fateful night many years ago.

If you are in interested in early Australian History or are researching a convict ancestor go to our website at:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Choragic Monuments

On a recent visit to the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, a piece of a jig-saw puzzle fell into place for me. We had previously seen the Replica of the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in the Gardens and were keen to research its origins.

This Sydney Monument was commissioned by Sir James Martin, Premier of New South Wales and was erected in the grounds of his residence at Macleay Street, Potts Point in 1870. When this site was acquired by the Commonwealth Government , the monument was moved to the Botanic Gardens at the request of the Minister for Education, The Hon Clive R Evatt, K.C. MLA. The re-commemoration ceremony for the monument on its present site was performed by The Hon W.J. McKell, MLA, Premier and Treasurer on 16 November 1943.

The original Choragic Monument of Lysicrates near the Acropolis of Athens was erected by Lysicrates , a wealthy patron of musical performances in the Theatre of Dionysus to commemorate the award of first prize in 335/334 BC to one of the performances he had sponsored.

With a revival of this style of Greek Architecture in the 18th and 19 th centuries, the Lysicrates monument became the inspiration for similar monuments around the world.

On a visit to Edinburgh (often referred to as the "Athens of the North") last year, we came upon two Choragic monuments on Caton Hill, viz the Robert Burns Monument (photo at left below) and the Dugald Stewart Monument to the Scottish philosopher (photo at right below). Actually we climbed Caton Hill on a beautiful Edinburgh evening at sunset to visit and photograph these this monuments.

Herein lies the genesis of our own Sydney monument. And now with most recent visit to the Gardens, the story has come full circle.

If you are in interested in early Australian History or are researching a convict ancestor go to our website at: