27th June 2022

ISSN: 2207-4910

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July Guest Speaker

Just a reminder that our July speaker, Warren Fahey, will be talking about his book “Dead and Buried”, the curious history of Sydney’s earliest burial grounds.

You are invited to join us at our museum at 1 Bent Street (just around the corner from Wellbank Street) on Saturday, 2nd July at 2:00 pm sharp to find out more about this subject.

Following the talk you are invited to stay for some light refreshments and a chance to chat with the speaker and our volunteers.

These talks are open to everyone.  Admission is free but donations are always welcome.

See poster under “Guest Speakers” in side column for full details.  Please feel free to forward this on to anyone you think might be interested.


Getting Old

Last year I joined a support group of procrastinators. We haven’t met yet.

The biggest lie I tell myself is “I don’t need to write that down, I’ll remember it.”

I don’t have grey hair; I have “wisdom highlights”! I’m just very wise.

I decided to stop calling the bathroom the “John” and renamed it the “Jim”.  I feel so much better saying I went to the Jim this morning.

Of course I talk to myself. Sometimes I need expert advice.

When I was a child I thought “nap time” was a punishment. Now, as a grownup, it feels like a small vacation.

If God wanted me to touch my toes, He would have put them on my knees.

I have more friends I should send this to, but right now I can’t remember their names.

Now I’m wondering: did I send this to you, or did you send it to me?


Why Were Convicts Transported to Australia

Until 1782, English convicts were transported to America. However, in 1783 the American War of Independence ended. America refused to accept any more convicts so England had to find somewhere else to send their prisoners. Transportation to New South Wales was the solution.

Life in Britain was very hard. As new machines were invented, people no longer needed to do farming jobs so they moved to the cities. The cities became overcrowded. Many people didn’t have a job and were very poor. People stole things to survive. Minor crimes such as stealing items worth more than 1 shilling (about a day’s wages for a working person), cutting down a tree in an orchard or stealing livestock were punishable by transportation. The prisons quickly became full and prisoners were kept in old, rotting prison ships called hulks. These ships were usually old naval or merchant ships that could not go to sea anymore but could still float safely in the harbour.

Conditions in these floating gaols were terrible. The hulks were overcrowded and cramped, often there wasn’t even room to stand up! A hulk could be up to 65 metres long. This is the same size as 6 buses placed end to end. On board each hulk there could be up to 300 convicts. There were many diseases on board and convicts died. Between 1776 and 1795 nearly 2000 out of almost 6000 convicts held on hulks, died. The majority died from diseases such as typhoid and cholera.

The convicts were not fed very well. The people in charge wanted to keep costs low. The daily diet was often made up of ox-cheek, either boiled or made into soup, pease (peas), bread or biscuits. The biscuits were often mouldy. Tobacco could be supplied as part of their ration as a reward for a job well done or for good behaviour.

Convicts got up at sunrise and worked hard for up to 10 hours a day. All convicts were sentenced to hard labour as part of their punishment and could be forced to work at just about any manual task such as timber cutting, brick making or stone cutting.

In the 21st century we are accustomed to thinking of imprisonment as one of the more obvious forms of punishment for convicted criminals. This was not so in the past.

The industrial revolution, social change and war caused great changes in the lives of British people in the 17th and 18th centuries. Extreme poverty was a fact of life for many, and desperate people resorted to crimes such as theft, robbery and forgery in order to survive. If caught and convicted, they faced a harsh and complicated criminal code. Imprisonment was only one of a range of sentences that judges could inflict and, with no national prison system and few purpose-built prisons, it was often not their first choice. Instead, most criminal offences were punishable by death, public humiliation in the form of branding, whipping, hair cutting, the stocks or the pillory, the imposition of a fine, or transportation overseas.

British authorities had used the transportation of criminals overseas as a form of punishment since the early 17th century, particularly to provide labour in the American colonies. When, in the 18th century, the death penalty came to be regarded as too severe a punishment for offences such as theft and larceny, transportation to North America became an even more popular form of sentence.

The American War of Independence (1775–1783) put an end to this human export. Convicts sentenced to transportation were sent instead to hulks, old or unseaworthy ships, generally ex-naval vessels, moored in rivers and harbours close enough to land for the inmates to be taken ashore to work. Although originally introduced as a temporary measure the hulks quickly became a cost-efficient, essential and integral part of the British prison system.

Once tried and sentenced convicts were sent to a receiving hulk for four to six days, where they were washed, inspected and issued with clothing, blankets, mess mugs and plates. They were then sent to a convict hulk, assigned to a mess and allocated to a work gang. They spent 10 to 12 hours a day working on river cleaning projects, stone collecting, timber cutting or embankment and dockyard work while they waited for a convict transport to become available. In some cases convicts sentenced to transportation spent their entire sentence (up to seven years) on board the hulks and were never sent overseas.

From 1776 to 1802 all English hulks were operated by private individuals such as the shipowners Duncan Campbell and James Bradley, under contract to the British government. These included the JustitiaCensorCeres and Stanislaus on the River Thames at Woolwich, the Chatham and Dunkirk at Plymouth, the Lion at Gosport and La Fortunee at Langstone Harbour near Portsmouth.

Transportation as a ‘solution’ to the problem of rising crime in Britain in the 1800s

In the 1800s crime courts were looking for a punishment that was not as extreme as hanging, but tougher than a fine. Transportation had been used as a form of punishment since 1717.

With many prisons full – sending criminals to Australia seemed an option. Over 80 years more than 165,000 convicts were transported to Australia. At first convicts were kept on old warships where one in three died because of terrible conditions. Many were sent to America and later to Australia. Seven out of eight of these people sent to Australia were males; some were as young as nine or ten; some were over eighty.
 
From England the transportation ships sometimes stopped off at Gibralter, the West Indies, South America or the Cape of Good Hope, to pick up fresh water and food supplies, before they ended up at any one of the Australian penal settlements.

Once in Australia, convicts lived in barracks and worked in gangs, building roads and bridges or working on farms or quarries. Some were sent out to work for farmers. If they behaved themselves, their sentence could be reduced by a ‘ticket of leave.’  The majority of convicts decided to stay in Australia at the end of their sentences, recognising that they could make a better life there than returning to Britain and, probably, poverty and crime.

Rich criminals were not sent to Australia as they could afford to pay a fine instead of being transported.

Hulks in Australia

Although the Australian colonies were established as penal settlements with the prisoners assigned within the community, the need for more secure accommodation quickly became apparent, especially for refractory or rebellious offenders and those found guilty of an offence in the colony, called secondary offenders. Following the British example, colonial authorities in New South Wales, Van Diemen’s Land and Victoria purchased old or unseaworthy ships and converted them into floating prisons.

The hulks in Australia had two main uses. They provided prison accommodation when existing colonial gaols were unsuitable or already full, and they served as floating holding pens for prisoners convicted of secondary offences while they awaited ships to transfer them to dreaded places like Norfolk Island or Port Arthur in Van Diemen’s Land.

Main photo: Prison-ship in Portsmouth Harbour, convicts going aboard. Edward William Cooke, 1828, hand-coloured etching.. Rex Nan Kivell Collection, National Library of Australia: an9058453.


Drummoyne Remembers

If you look at enough Great War memorials, it becomes apparent there is little uniformity in the way they are presented. Some list names in alphabetical order, others separate these by rank or in the order individuals enlisted. Before 1927 there was no national agency to collect the names of those who served or died in the war and their commemoration was left to local communities, who relied on what resources and information were available to them. Many of the earlier memorials, such as the Drummoyne Soldiers and Sailors Memorial (pictured) listed the names alphabetically, but then as the war dragged on, in the following years additional names were added at the end of each list.

The Drummoyne Honour Memorial was intended as a temporary measure. It was replaced by a permanent memorial near the entrance of what was then the Drummoyne Municipal Council Building. The structure took the form of a three-tier base with six Greek-style columns supporting a roof that surrounded a stone core, on which the names of the servicemen and women were inscribed. The memorial was unveiled on ANZAC day 1928. Similarly, the foundation stone of an enclosed memorial rotunda in Five Dock Park was laid in January 1923 and progressed as funds allowed.

Local residents applied to the Drummoyne Soldiers and Sailors Welfare Association to have their names included on the Honour Board. The names, however, do not accord with those on the memorials that replaced them. There are many more on the original list. Where the Committee estimated there would be 600 men “who heard their country’s call and responded”, more than 3,600 names are listed on the board.

The difference may be explained by the difficulty of determining who is a local. The application for enlistment (attestation) for example, asks the address of the next of kin, which was not necessarily where the serviceman lived. On the other hand, a name on a school honour roll, only shows that this person at some time attended that school, even if only briefly. Records such as place of birth, employment, church attendance or participation in a sporting or social club, are likewise inconclusive.

It was not unheard of for men to enlist under a different name – perhaps to evade paying maintenance to a wife and dependent or because they were under 21 years and needed their parents’ consent to enlist. Others simply availed themselves of an opportunity to assume a new identity. To compound the difficulty of tracing these men (mostly men), so that they become more than just “names” was the practice of listing only the initials of first names. At the time there were quite a few names with the same initials as well as identical common names. The only way to clearly establish identity is to trace the serviceman or woman through the mother’s maiden name. This too, is not always successful.

Harley James Allcock

One of the most valuable resources available to local historians, as well as those pursuing their family history, is the Drummoyne War Service Record, held by the Local Studies Section of Canada Bay City Library. This beautifully illustrated record was created by Drummoyne resident and lithographic artist Henry John Allcock Baron. Poignantly, Henry and Emily Baron’s only, son Harley James, was amongst those listed in the Record as being killed in action in Belgium in September 1916, aged 22.

Canada Bay Heritage Museum is currently compiling a register of servicemen and women associated with Canada Bay, who served in the Great War. The research includes information about what happened to soldiers, sailors, airmen and nurses when they returned to Australia. Thus far we have researched more than 800 persons and estimate there are several times that number whose stories are yet to be uncovered.

We are looking for any photographs, family stories or other information relating to those who may have had an association with Canada Bay, and who served in World War I. If you are engaged in finding out more about a relative who had a Canada Bay connection and was involved in this war, we may be able to help you.

Andrew West


Vale Peter Woods, OAM

It is with sadness we record the recent passing of Peter Woods.  Peter was a long-time member and supporter of our society

He joined Concord Council in 1977 and served for a total of 26 years, including 10 years as Mayor, remaining with the City of Canada Bay for a term following the amalgamation of Drummoyne and Concord Councils.

He was a tireless and lifelong champion for local causes in our area. One of his greatest achievements was foreshore access for all.

Our sincere sympathy goes out to his wife Joyce, daughter Rebecca and grandson Archie.


Catherine Helen Spencer

The People on Australia’s Banknotes

Australian banknotes contain portraits of Australians and others, from royalty to poets and preachers, who have played a significant role in the life of the nation.

The people on the banknotes have made defining contributions to Australian society in many fields of endeavour, and their mark on our national story is honoured through their representation on the banknotes.

The Federation $5 banknote.

This was issued in 2001 to commemorate Australia’s Centenary of Federation.  It features Sir Henry Parkes, a prominent politician often referred to as the “Father of Federation” and Catherine Helen Spence, who led the way for women’s rights in Australia.   It is her story we now tell.

There is a stern-looking woman on Australia’s five-dollar note, and it is unlikely many know who she is or why she is there.  Her name is Catherine Helen Spence and she was a very progressive lady.

Born in Scotland in 1825, she was one of eight children. Before she could complete her education her father went bankrupt. He decided the best prospects for their future lay in South Australia, so he borrowed money, uprooted his family and headed for the colony in 1839.

From an early age, Catherine decided she would become a teacher and author. With the determination that always remained with her she achieved the first of these ambitions in 1845 when, with her mother and sister’s help, Catherine opened her own school.

In 1854 her second ambition was realised with the publication of her first novel.  This, along with her second book, was published under a man’s name, but her next six were written under her own. Her manuscript Handfasted caused much controversy because it argued for changes to laws and customs governing marriage.  Laws and customs that kept women financially dependent and subordinate to men. Her writing went against the thinking of that time. It was not published until 1984 over a century after it was written.

When Catherine became a journalist she again had to write under a man’s name, her early articles bore her brother’s byline.  Catherine was the first woman in Australia to become a professional journalist.  Despite the barriers erected, she persisted and her journalistic career spanned 60 years.

Catherine used her articles and columns as a forum to campaign for the vote and equal opportunity for women, and for social reform. She was also concerned about the plight of destitute women and children and set out to address this. She helped found the Boarding Out Society in 1872. The agenda was to place children into suitable homes that fostered a stable family life, instead of condemning them to institutions. Catherine herself raised three families of orphaned children.

She knew to escape poverty women needed an education, to this end she was involved in the establishment of kindergartens and the Advanced School for Girls. The first government secondary school for girls in Australia eventually led to women being admitted to teacher’s colleges and universities.

Catherine believed effective voting (proportional representation) was the only fair system of parliamentary election and spent many years pursuing this even to the extent of mentioning it in two of her novels. In 1892 she took up public speaking, in that year alone she gave about forty addresses throughout the state and made effective voting a much talked about topic.

The best opportunity for Catherine to achieve effective voting came in 1897 with the election of candidates for the Federal Convention.

Women in South Australia gained the vote three years earlier, which meant Catherine could nominate as a candidate.  She grabbed the opportunity only to be told that even if she did win her seat she would not be allowed to sit in the house.  Catherine was excluded from the lists of the main parties, but made it onto a liberal organisation’s list of “10 best men”.

She wrote in her autobiography:- When the list was taken to the printer – who, I think, happened to be the late Federal member, Mr. James Hutchinson – he objected to the heading of “10 best men”, as one of them was a woman.  He suggested that my name should be dropped, and a man’s put in its place. ‘You can’t say Miss Spence is one of the “10 best men”. Take her name out.’ ‘Not say she is one of the “10 best men”?’ the liberal organiser objected, ‘Why she’s the best man of the lot.’

Despite having such encouraging endorsement when votes were counted Catherine was placed 22 of 33 candidates. She received 7383, not enough to win one of the seats allocated to South Australia. This was the only time Catherine ever stood for a political position, running an election campaign was an expensive enterprise, and at 71 Catherine’s yearly income was less than 300 pounds.

Never one to be inactive she continued to work for the advancement of women in a male-dominated society. She felt this could be achieved through means other than the political arena and encouraged women to become involved in public affairs. She herself sat on the boards of many organisations and continued to campaign for effective voting until her death in 1910 at the age of 85.

This was written by Annie Smith and appeared on the Facebook page of “Australian Early History.   It is part of “Australian Women in History”.


Vale Betty Stirratt

It is with much sadness we wish to inform you of the passing of Betty Stirrat on 2nd June at the age of 96.

Betty was a former member of our society and one of our last direct links with Dame Eadith Walker and the Yaralla estate.   Her father was the electrical engineer on the estate and she and the family lived in “Magnolia”, the engineer’s cottage.   This house is still standing and has been converted to a dementia daycare unit.


The First Gravestones

There is substantial evidence to suggest that the very first gravestone ever dates back thousands of years to Roman and Celtic cultures.  As modern technology progresses, new discoveries are still being made about the origin of famous and mysterious ruins.  Historians have recently come to believe, through new evidence, that Stonehenge was actually a burial site.

While the date of creation of the first gravestone remains shrouded in mystery, what historians have been able to discover is the reasoning behind this now modernised practice.

The practice, while varying greatly worldwide in terms of material used and superstitions, shared a common theme of marking a grave by inscribing the deceased’s name, age and date of death to signify who was buried there.  The practice of inscribing a small, sentimental quote was only developed much later on in history as elaborate burial customs gained traction.

The materials used to create gravestones have consistently varied through many social, political and economic factors throughout history.  Wood, marble, granite, bronze, and sandstone have all been used as gravestones, depending on the time and place in history.  However, granite remains the most popular material used today due to its price and durability.

Throughout history, it was believed that placing heavy objects on graves, such as rocks and sticks, was a way to prevent the dead from rising, a superstition practised by many in 18th century Britain.  This created the phrase “grave-stone” and, from this superstition came the original construction of stone coffins.  In modern times the terms tombstone, headstone, gravestone or grave markers all refer to the entire monument, including the headstone and base.

Originally a tombstone was the stone lid of a stone coffin, or the coffin itself, and the gravestone was the slab that was laid over the grave.  A headstone has always been referred to as a marker of stone at the head of the grave with an inscription on it.

Grave Markers

If you visit a cemetery, you will notice a lot of symbols engraved onto many headstones. You may think that these symbols are chosen for headstones at random, but that’s far from true. Each symbol that is etched onto a gravestone has a very specific meaning. Usually, the symbol has some sort of significance to the one who has passed.

In order to understand these symbols, listed below are some popular ones, along with their meanings.  These are actually only a handful of monument engravings you will see in a cemetery. Many other popular symbols exist, and they are fascinating to explore.

When a loved one passes, there are many considerations when planning a mural and memorial.

Some Gravestone Symbols and Their Meanings

Arches and gates:  Passage into the next life.
Anchor:  Navy, hope, safety.  If attached to a broken chain, life cut short.
Angels:  God’s messengers and guardians; dropping flowers may signify grief, mourning.
Bird:  Flight of the soul.
Book:  Book of life, Bible, scholar.
Clock:  March of time, usually stopped at hour of death.
Clover (3 or 4 leaf):  Christian trinity, possible Irish ancestry.
Column  and/or Pillar (broken):  Life cut short, sudden death.
Column and/or Pillar (unbroken):  Complete and full life.
Crown:  Reward, glory.
Cross:  Eternity.
Daisy:  Innocence, often children.
Forefinger pointing down:  God reaching down for the soul.
Forefinger pointing up:  Soul’s passage to Heaven.
Handshake:  Welcoming of a soul into Heaven;  bond between spouses.
Heart:  Romantic Love.
Ivy:  Friendship, fidelity, immortality.
Knot (tied):  symbolises marriage and unity.
Lamb:  Purity, gentleness, innocence (popular on children’s graves).
Mortar and Pestle:  medical professional.
Oak leaf:  Strength, stability, endurance.
Olive Tree or Branch:  Peace, forgiveness, reconciliation between man and god.
Rose:  Love, beauty, virtue, motherhood.
Rosebud:  Youthful death.
Scales:  Justice, law.
Shell:  Birth, resurrection.

A Word of Caution:  Tombstone scholars still debate the meanings of certain symbols, so you could find varying interpretations.  This is especially true across cultures, though you may be surprised at the similarities in meanings throughout the world.

Still, a revelation about your ancestor’s life may just be right in front of you, hidden in plain sight.

Special Note:   The speaker at the museum on Saturday, 6th August at 2:00 pm will be a member of the Friends of Rookwood.


Upcoming Events

  • Guest Speaker: Rookwood Cemetery
    Guest Speaker – 2022-08-06 14:00:00

  • Guest Speaker – Dead & Buried
    Guest Speaker – 2022-07-02 14:00:00