News and Articles for Jun 2017

ISSN 2207-4910

An Old Inn at the Sign of the “Red Cow”

In 1825, one James Bibb, an enterprising spirit built a hostelry in a clearing by the stately gumtrees at Abbotsford Point on the Parramatta River, and soon the “Red Cow Inn” ministered to needy travellers by the Great North Road. These travellers, who for the most part consisted of small farmers or fruitgrowers from the extensive Parish of Field of Mars, timber-getters from the wild and practically unsettled region extending north to Wiseman’s Ferry and, perhaps, an occasional regimental guard in charge of a squad of convict roadmakers, came to look upon the “Red Cow” as a veritable outpost of civilisation.  In fact, it was the last hotel on the Sydney side of Wiseman’s. The old Inn is probably beyond the ken of most of Sydney’s people today, as also is most likely the Bedlam Punt, which carried traffic across the river at this point. The punt has long since been superseded by the Gladesville Bridge, but the “Red Cow” Inn still stands and its license is extant, although the swinging signboard has given place to a neat brass plate bearing the title, “Sydney Rowing Club Branch” and the license favours club members only.

The old rambling brick and stone structure with its rock-hewn cellar was acquired for the rowing club by Q. L. Deloitte, the father of rowing in this State, in 1872.  The old bar-room, now used as a dining-room, is in its original state, except that an imposing array of club trophies above the large open fireplace has deposed a perhaps equally imposing array of glassware. What convivial parties has this old room housed in days gone by? And of nights, when the large table groans beneath the weight of good fare put forth by the efforts of the club housekeeper, and brawny rowing-men range athwart to do it justice, what ghosts of bygone days peep from the shrubberies in through the windows?

A relic of one of these old-time parties stands in the front garden, in the shape of a bogus headstone which bears the following lines:-“Sacred to the memory of Dusky Bill who opened a Jackpot with a pair of ‘sevens’.” Whether “Dusky” Bill was a gold digger, card player, or rowing man of the last century is not definitely known.

Behind the dining-room are two or three bedrooms which are still used for housing crews in training. A touch of luxury has been given to the venerable hostelry by the addition of an up-to-date billiard-room and a boathouse, whilst wraiths of old timers are scared out of the shadows by the searching glare of electric lights.

(Article by W. J. Hansway, appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald:  Sat 26 Dec 1925)
Stone Wall and Plaque

Update:   There is one wall in the Club preserved as containing the only remaining sandstone bricks of the Red Cow Inn (originally named the Red House and later the King’s Arms) and cottage built in 1837 on this spot.  The four corner holding nails of the plaque on this wall are hand-made square nails used in the flooring of the original cottage.

Grants & Volunteers

Thanks to Museums & Galleries NSW we have received a grant to allow us to purchase some new mannequins to enable us to display more of our wonderful clothing collection, and also to have special boxes made to house some of our bulkier objects to protect them from damage.  The whole of our collection needs to be sorted properly and stored into archive boxes and we are currently waiting to see if we receive another grant to allow us to purchase these boxes.

Volunteers:  We would also like to welcome four new volunteers, all with computer skills, who have come to offer help. Welcome Benson Lee, Clara Ong, Andy Zions and Glenn Armitage. We thank you for your interest and look forward to getting to know you better.

Volunteers at work

Currently our members and volunteers are busy on our computer making sure that everything is correctly numbered and stored in its correct box, according to our collections data base, in anticipation of recieving this second grant.

With so many volunteers we now need to find some more computers so we can keep them all busy.

West Harbour Rugby Football Club

The first rugby club to represent the district was Burwood, which competed in the Sydney Metropolitan Competition until the introduction of district rugby.  The club was formed in 1900 but had to change its name to Western Suburbs District Rugby Union Football Club to satisfy municipal aldermen when it sought a lease on St Luke’s Oval, later Concord Oval.  The club won the Premiership in 1902, at its third attempt. The club’s first captain and Wallaby representative was Stan Wickham, he was joined by Ward and Wheat Prentice.

A second premiership was won in 1929, spearheaded by another international, Sid King. This remains the club’s last premiership in top flight rugby. In 1951 the club was demoted from 1st Division and it was not until 1966 that they were reinstated. The club saw success in the 1970s, with a 17 match winning streak leading to a Club Championship and a grand final berth in which they were defeated by Randwick.

The club was relegated to 2nd Division once more in 1980 only to be reinstated the following year. In the 1980s the club’s home ground, Concord Oval, was redeveloped with assistance from the NSWRU and State Government. The newly named Waratah Stadium became the home base of the Waratahs as well as the venue for the classic semi-final in 1987 between Australia and France in the Inaugural Rugby World Cup, when 25,000 people attended.

The club changed its name to West Harbour Rugby Football Club in 1995 to more truly reflect the club’s location in the inner west. The club is one of 13 sides competing in the NSW Rugby Union Premier competition – The Tooheys New Cup.

The West Harbour women’s team was formed in 1999 and has dominated the Sydney competition, winning their 5th premiership in 2004. The club’s juniors now field twelve teams alongside the five senior and four colts teams.

Overall 22 players have been chosen directly from Wests to represent the Wallabies.

Their Licensed Club (The Pit) amalgamated with Burwood RSL in 2002. Their home ground, Waratah Rugby Stadium (Concord Oval), home of the first Rugby World Cup in 1987 is currently scheduled for redevelopment.

Concord Oval

Who Named the Pig & Whistle?

Way back in the early days of our society we were researching some of the old buildings in the area. One which aroused our curiosity was the ancient hotel, the “Pig & Whistle”, which was being demolished for road widening purposes at 27 Bertram Street, Concord.  An appeal for information found two sources of information:  Mr & Mrs Long of Kingston Avenue, Mortlake and Mr F E Whitehall of 4 Bertram Street – each offering a different story.

Thieving “cows” and the pigs

A man used to drive his pigs by way of Bertram Street to the slaughter house. He would stop outside the building, which at that time was an hotel, and whistle for his pint of beer.  He did not dare to go inside for fear, as he said, “the thieving cows would get some of my pigs”.  So it became known over the years as the “Pig & Whistle”.

Workmen’s Club

The building was never an hotel in the accepted idea of today.  After the Australian Gas Light Co. established its works at Mortlake and began producing gas in 1885, many of its key personnel from the Kent Street (City) works lived in the city and nearby suburbs and the journey to the farm and orchard suburb of Concord was an arduous one, particularly when one had to commence work on the morning shift at 7:00 am.

As some of the employees came on horseback or sulky the “Pig & Whistle” was built to cater for them.  It was built and conducted similar to what were known as workmen’s clubs in England.

There was a hitching rail in front to tie the horses and the gas workers could obtain accommodation and breakfast before commencing the early morning shift.

In fact, it was the Concord Workmen’s Club and soon the Mortlake portion of the municipality was its most prosperous area.

In 1915 it was an estate agency run by Mr. Hipgrave, who came from Burwood Heights by horse cab and later by tramcar, dressed in morning frock coat, striped stick or beautifully furled umbrella, depending on the weather.

Pig & Whistle – front view
Pig & Whistle – rear view
(Note: We only have one photograph of the rear of the building, but we do have two paintings by Robbie Bennett.)

Shipwrecks of Homebush Bay

While browsing the internet recently, researching our August speaker, I came across an article by Cleo Braithwaite, who said:  There is a floating forest growing out of a shipwreck in Homebush Bay.  That was what the internet told me the other day.  I was perusing pictures of the Most Amazing Shipwrecks in the World, looking at the rust heaps in the rest of the world’s backyards, when it turned out wrecks can be found in our very own backyard.  Or at least in a heavy metal-tainted bend of the Parramatta River.

SS Mortlake Bank

The most impressive is the wreck of SS Ayrfield – now home to a healthy hull full of mangrove swamp (the “forest”). The inherent creepiness of shipwrecks is lessened a little here – knowing that they were retired, as opposed to the dramatic end scenes that play out in your head when you look at wrecks that happened out at sea. Also, it’s harder for something to seem too creepy when surrounded by legoland apartments and looking across the water to a monolithic IKEA.

Come stormy skies and dark water these scenes get moody and along with sunrise/sunset, with good reason it’s a popular location for photographers.

How many of we locals knew of this?

Gregory Blaxell's book, The River: Sydney Cove to Parramatta, tells us more about them.

There are a number of shipwrecks still visible in Homebush Bay, including the wrecks of colliers Ayrfield and Mortlake Bank, the tug Heroic, the steel boom defence vessel HMAS Karangi and several barges, dredges and lighters. These wrecks are the remnants of the former use of Homebush Bay as a ship-breaking yard. The wrecks can be viewed from the shore from Bennelong Road at Homebush Bay and Bicentennial Park.

HMAS Karangi was built at the Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Co.Ltd. and launched in 1941. It was one of the four boom working vessels, including the Kangaroo, Koala, Kookaburra and Karangi built at Cockatoo Island during WWII for the Royal Australian Navy.   All four ships assisted in laying defence of Darwin and were there for the first Japanese bombing raid on 19 February 1942. HMAS Karangi was stationed at Darwin until 1943 and in the 1950s it was present at the British atomic tests at the Monte Bello Island. The ship was partially scrapped in 1966 and the remains removed to Homebush Bay for breaking up.

The SS Heroic was a tugboat built in the UK in 1924 and brought to Australia in 1934 where it operated between Hexham and Mortlake, transporting coal to the Mortlake Gasworks of the AGL Company. The SS Ayrfield (originally the SS Corrimal) was built in the UK in 1911 and purchased by the Commonwealth Government and used to transport supplies to American troops stationed in the Pacific region during WWII

Make a note to come along to our museum on Saturday, 5th August at 2:00 pm. to hear Betty Candy tell us more of the history of these wrecks.  See Guest Speakers for full details

Shipwrecks of Homebush Bay: How to get there

From Bennelong Parkway

From Homebush Bay Drive, turning into Australia Avenue, passing Bicentennial Park main entrance, turn right at Bennelong Parkway, follow the signs to the Archery Centre, veering right and over a little road bridge, parking is on your left opposite the apartment block on the corner at Wentworth Point.

Cross the road and follow the footpath (to the left of the apartment block), this will lead you to the water’s edge, to your right you will see a white footbridge and the stunning SS Ayrfield floating on the water amongst the mangroves

What makes SS Ayrfield so special amongst the photographers is the east lying position of the floating forest shipwreck, making it a stunning rustic subject matter when set amongst a sunrise or sunset backdrop.

From Bicentennial Park

From Homebush Bay Drive, turning into Australia Avenue, turn right into the main entrance of Bicentennial Park, follow the road all the way to the last parking lot P10f.   The parking area is directly opposite the Badu Mangrove boardwalk.

This is an excellent scenic 1.3km walking track, which first takes you through the mangrove boardwalk before joining up with the cycleway/footpath, turn left and follow the path all the way to the shipwreck lookout. On your left you will pass the salt marsh, then the stunning waterbird refuge filled with birdlife. You will soon spot the first shipwreck SS Heroic on your right through the mangroves in the water.

Track to the Shipwreck Platform

Towards the end of the track, you will come to a small sandy/pebbly path with a metal plaque on the ground titled “Ship Wreck Lookout” with a brief history. To your right you will find HMAS Karangi. By the water’s edge you will find the old wooden ship-breaking ramp and crane and a telescope to view SS Ayrfield and SS Mortlake Bank.

  • July Guest Speaker: Russell Workman, “Preventing Memory Loss”

    2017-07-01 14:00:00
  • August Guest Speaker: Betty Candy, “The Shipwrecks of Homebush Bay”

    2017-08-05 14:00:00
  • September Speaker & Unveiling our Restored 1890 Map of Concord

    2017-09-02 13:30:00
  • November Guest Speaker: David Jehan, “History of Tullochs, Engineers & Manufacturers

    2017-11-04 14:00:00

3 Flavelle Street (P.O. Box 152), Concord 2137
Phone: 9744-8528

Museum Committee: Meets on 3rd Wednesday of month at 10:00 am at our museum (everyone welcome)

Walker Estates Committee: Meets as required

Executive Meetings: 1st Saturday of month (except January) at 12:00 pm. (Everyone welcome)

City of Canada Bay Museum, 1 Bent Street, Concord
Open Wed & Sat 10am to 4pm
phone: 9743-3034 during museum hours