Newspapers recorded appalling tragedies, resulting from lives of quiet – or not so quiet – desperation.  In 1889 one such event caused three deaths: Ralph Monahan, his wife Amy, and their three-year old son Isadore. Amy’s mother, Mrs Moses, was an eye witness to the shooting, which she described to the coroner.  She also stated that 30-year-old Ralph,…

At the end of Wharf 21, Jones Bay, a sign commemorates Pyrmont’s most significant arrival, the troopship Dunera on 6 September 1940. During the Battle of Britain, British authorities crammed 2542 male ‘enemy aliens’ and 300 badly led and ill-trained soldiers onto the Dunera – double its capacity – and sent them to Britain’s old…

As the Department of Main Roads ploughed through houses, hotels and other buildings (including the Boys’ Brigade centre) there were several confrontations with residents, unionists, environmentalists and squatters.  One pitched battle in the spring of 1974 was reported at length and with relish in the University of New South Wales students’ paper, Tharunka (9 October…

In 1931, at the height of the depression, the Lang government planned to provide bread for people on the dole. Mr A.M. Shadler was contracted to provide the bread. He had financial backing up to £50,000 to carry out the dole bread contract, but many bakers and flour millers withheld supplies. In August the government…

Bubonic plague struck terror in Sydney in 1900. Also known as The Black Death, this – at least the third global pandemic – was carried from China and India on trade routes, so most infections occurred near the harbour. There was no cure, mortality rates were usually 50% and victims died in agony. Nobody was…

Interim Park was demolished in 1997, when residents were outbid by developers. Residents then resolved to protect and preserve a Chinese flame tree which was ideal for climbing. The tree was fenced off, but residents surrounded the work site in protest. Bill Burton asked them to charge at the gate: when they did, distracting the…

Newspapers offer chilling accounts of the lives of the Cottle family. In 1914 George Percy Cottle was a printer in his 30s, married with two sons, two and four years old. His odd behaviour had cost him his job. Witnesses said “when Cottle was sober he was eccentric, and when under the influence of drink…

A few days before Christmas 1890, George Henry Wilson (alias Grieve) and Alfred Grieve (alias Graham) managed to rob the Pyrmont branch of the English, Scottish, and Australian Chartered Banking Company. They first introduced themselves to bank staff as detectives, sent by Detective Inspector Camplin, to warn them that the bank was to be “stuck…

Wool Store Fires were especially troublesome. Lanolin in the wool seeped into the wooden floors of the wool stores, making them perpetually risky. Arson was a constant anxiety and an occasional reality: for example, two attempts were made on the Country Produce Selling Company in 1922 (Cairns Post, 31 March 1922; Wyalong Advocate, 31 March…

Henry Phillips, a drover, was gored to death by a bullock. At the Coroner’s Inquest, Isaac Creary told how he and Phillips brought 20 cattle from Parramatta, then turned to fetch a bullock that had broken down: they went on foot; deceased had his two dogs with him; they found the bullock about a quarter…

Homicides prompted inquests which open small windows into the lives of victims, and sometimes perpetrators. The saddest are infants, suffocated during or soon after birth, carefully wrapped, poorly concealed, and impossible – at that time – to identify. One girl in a waterhole (Evening News, 6 February 1879, p 3), another in the harbour (Daily Telegraph 31…

Frederick Giblett, a former bank clerk, had fallen on bad times.  In August 1899 he was boarding in Jones Street.  He had been courting Eliza Absalom, a cousin of his ex-wife, who with her sisters made a living on Fig Street as dressmakers. Giblett’s marriage proposal was refused, but he persisted. One evening, when he…

Water sports were a popular form of entertainment in Pyrmont, with sailing and rowing regattas held as early as 1847. The 1848 regatta, honouring Queen Victoria’s birthday, featured eight races, with significant prize money. As the occasion became more formal, spectators could observe from a decorated flagship, while booths on shore sold food and drink….

The Pyrmont Republic, declared on 23 August 1992, was the most spectacular of several protests against the State Government’s heavy-handed redevelopment of the precinct. The closure of heavy industries in the 1980s, especially CSR, prompted the State government’s “urban renewal”, transforming Pyrmont from low-rise, low-income cottages into high-rise, up-market apartments. The Republic’s stirring manifesto did…

One winter evening in 1906, Charles Ritchie was assaulted on the corner of Pyrmont Street and Pyrmont Bridge Road. His young friend, George Bennett, was incensed that a youngster had attacked a disabled old man, and gave chase. He caught the bully and a fight erupted, in which Bennett was stabbed. He staggered to O’Donnell’s…

Shark caught in Pyrmont - 1928

On Saturday 11 January 1896, Alfred Johnson was near the public baths at the end of Point Street when a huge shark seized a boy swimming in the harbour in water up to his waist. Alfred rushed into the water and struggled with the shark, forcing it to release the boy. Unfortunately the boy, William…

Two-up kip for tossing the pennies

Australia’s Biggest Two-up School Put Out Of Action Mirror, Perth, 12 February 1955 AUSTRALIA’S most notorious two-up school was  – and still is – known as Tommo’s, conducted by a man known as Joe Thomas, and in spite of fines, it returned him a fortune. In the opinion of ex-Sergeant Joe Chuck, Joe Thomas had…

We were meant to celebrate underneath the arches, but when wet weather threatened we made a strategic retreat underneath the grandstand. The occasion on Sunday 27 February [2011] was the celebration of the removal of the infill from the arches of the railway viaduct that crosses Wentworth Park, and the rebuilding of the eastern and…

The Maitland Daily Mercury Monday May 17, 1937 ELEVEN HURT Unionists Attack ‘Snipers’ SENSATION AT PYRMONT SYDNEY, Monday A man was taken to hospital and ten others suffered slight wounds caused by blows with pieces of wood and iron and wharf labourers’ hooks in a fracas between unregistered wharf labourers and members of the Waterside…

Ball games for everyone

In 2009 Blackwattle Cove Coalition, a group with representatives from community groups in Pyrmont, Ultimo and Glebe, resolved to work with the Wentworth Park Sporting Complex Trust to make Wentworth Park more accessible to its neighbours. One action was to stage the Wentworth Park Games, which became an annual event from 2009 to 2012. Their…