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:

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Castle Hill Heritage Park

We recently visited the Castle Hill Heritage Park for the second time and made two interesting discoveries.

The location of the Park on 17 hectares of land in Sydney's north-west tells us the story of one of Australia's most important historical sites. It has been dedicated as a "National Heritage Site" by the Commonwealth Government.

In 1801, Governor King established a Government Farm on the site to provide grain for the Colony. It was manned by convict labour.

Many of the earliest convicts were political prisoners from the Irish Uprising of 1798 having been transported for "life" to the colony of New South Wales. It was from the Castle Hill Farm that some 200 of these convicts rose up in rebellion against the authorities on 4 March 1804 and marched to met the Redcoats ( the government forces of the NSW Corps lead by Major George Johnston) at nearby Rouse Hill, in what became known as Australia's "Battle of Vinegar Hill".

The Government Farm remained operational until 1810 when the old barracks buildings were converted into a lunatic asylum by Governor Macquarie in 1811. Subsequently, the buildings were used as a school and later a church.

The photo below is of a painting of the Castle Hill Government Farm circa 1806 near what is now the intersection of Old Castle Hill and Tuckwell Roads. It is attributed to JW Lewin, courtesy of the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW.

The first discovery that we made this time round was the remains of what was an old well on the site (photo at left ).

This adds to the reality of the site as there is very little remaining of any buildings, save for some evidence of archaeological digs that uncovered some stone work

The second discovery was the stone from Vinegar Hill in County Wexford, Ireland (photo at right).

This stone erected as a monument in 2004 explains the significance of the naming of the "Battle of Vinegar Hill". Because the ringleaders of the Castle Hill uprising were Irish, the ensuing battle was named after the uprising at Vinegar Hill, in County Wexford in Ireland in 1798.

History Services NSW has the records for the two main leaders of the Castle Hill uprising, viz Phillip Cunningham and William Johnston. Both Cunningham and Johnston who hailed from County Cork in Ireland, were hanged for their parts in the uprising and so died for their cause a long way from their homeland.

If you are researching a convict ancestor who may have worked in the Castle Hill area, you should go the History Services NSW website at:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Big Dig

In his program, Tony Robinson Explores Australia which is currently screening on the History Channel on Tuesday nights at 7.30pm, Tony Robinson last week visited the site of The Big Dig located in The Rocks between Cumberland and Gloucester Streets in Sydney.

Incorporated now into the Sydney Harbour YHA and The Big Dig Archaeological Education Centre, it is the largest archaeological urban development in Australia. The excavations can be viewed up close by the public from the walkway of Cribb Lane, from Cumberland Street to Cambridge Street, during daylight hours. The Sydney Harbour YHA is built on stilts to allow this public viewing.

We had not previously been there, but it is a truly fascinating place rich in Convict history.

Excavations which began in 1994 have uncovered the foundations of over forty homes and shops and some one million artifacts, giving a priceless insight into the early life of the Colony of New South Wales.

One such artifact that featured on Robinson's program was the small jar with scenes from the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaklava (photo at left).

The Rocks became home to many of the convicts who arrived in Sydney from 1788.

Tony Robinson told us the story of one colourful character George Cribb, convict, butcher, entrepreneur and bigamist. Having arrived in Port Jackson on 20 December 1808 on the ship, Admiral Gambier, Cribb lived on the site of the Dig from 1809 to 1828. Items excavated from his property included a butcher's filtering knife, bones and horns from slaughtered animals, fine hand-painted Chinese porcelain and a small alcoholic still.

Another resident whose house was excavated (as shown in the main photo at top) was the Irish Rebel, Richard Byrne. He arrived from County Cork (a Wicklow rebel of the 1798 Irish Uprising) on board the Minerva on 11 January 1800, with a life sentence in the Colony. He lived in the house from about 1807 with his wife, Margaret and their seven children. Two significant features identified from the house excavations were the well and the hearth.

Being a stonemason by trade, Richard Bryne would have worked on many of the early Sydney buildings of the Macquarie period.

If you are researching a convict ancestor who lived in The Rocks area, you should go the History Services NSW website at:

Monday, May 2, 2011

William Bede Dalley

In Hyde Park North in Sydney NSW, we came upon a monument to William Bede Dalley (as pictured above). His name intrigued me as Mary's uncle was "William Bede". But who was "The Right Honourable William Bede Dalley P C , Scholar, Patriot and Statesman?"

Described in an eulogy as a "Pioneer Statesman", William Bede Dalley, who was born in Sydney on 5 July 1831, made a significant contribution to the state of New South Wales in the second half of 19th Century across the fields of law, politics and literature.

He set trends in colonial dress with his colourful cravats and buttonholes which reflected a unique flair and style.

The statue in Hyde Park was erected by public subscription at the instigation of Sir John Robertson (Premier). It was placed where it is today, looking down Macquarie Street to the Law Courts and Parliament House. There is also a stained glass window and commenorative plaque to Dalley in St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, and a plaque in St Paul's Cathedral, London. Dalley is buried in Waverley Cemetery in Sydney.

But it is his family history that it most interesting to me as both his parents were convicts.

History Services NSW records that his father was John Dalley who arrived in the colony on 31 December 1818 on the ship General Stewart. He was aged 19 years, from Dorsetshire and a wool comber and dyer by trade. He was sentenced to life on 12 March 1818.

His mother was Catherine Spillane who arrived at Port Jackson on 10 July 1825 on the ship Mariner. She was aged 27 years and was a housemaid from County Cork who had been sentenced to seven years transportation.

Catherine was recorded as being at the Female Factory in Parramatta in 1825, and in 1829 applied to marry John Dalley. But as was the case with many transported convicts she had already been married back home and permission was refused.

It you would like any more information on either John Dalley or Catherine Spillane, or are researching your convict ancestor, you can go to the website at :