Maybanke Susannah Anderson (nee Selfe) (1845-1927), feminist, teacher, social reformer and local historian, came to Sydney from England in 1855. In 1884, deserted by her husband, she created Maybanke College, a successful school. She was a leader in the Womanhood Suffrage League, a member of the Women’s Literary Society, a founder of the Australasian Home…

John Ignatius Armstrong AC (1908-1977), politician and businessman, was born in Ultimo, baptised at St Bede’s Church Pyrmont, where he had his primary education. He worked and lived in The Butchers Arms (now the Dunkirk). A good boxer and better debater, he was a lifelong member of the Labor Party, which he represented in the…

The soprano Cheryl Barker and the baritone Peter Coleman-Wright were based in London when they chose to come home to Australia with their son Gabriel in 2005.  During their glittering international careers, they had often sung in the Opera House and were sure of more engagements, but they did need advice on where to live in…

Jack Beasley

John Albert (Jack) Beasley (1895-1949), trade unionist and politician, was born in rural Victoria and came to Sydney in 1918, as an electrician at Cockatoo Island. He became a shop steward for the Electrical Trades Union and was President of the Labor Council of NSW (1922-28) and of the E.T.U. (1924-30). He fell under the…

Jane Ann Cooper Bennett was born in Manly in 1960 and brought up by her mother and grandparents. In 1982 she attained a Diploma of Fine Arts, and a Graduate Diploma a year later. She has taken full advantage of rare access to buildings under construction or about to be demolished, creating narratives of decay,…

Francis Bertie Boyce (1844-1931), Anglican priest and social activist, came with his family to Sydney from Devon in 1853. Five years later his accountant father died, so Francis left school and worked in a bank. He taught Sunday School, and was ordained a priest in 1869. He worked in western New South Wales until 1882,…

James Buchan, pastor of the Pyrmont Congregational Church, was born in Scotland, educated at St Andrews and Edinburgh University, and came to Pyrmont in 1885 as pastor of the Congregational Church. The building was completed by 1888, and Buchan was its pastor until 1920, the year before he died. His ministry retained the commitment of…

Anna Maria Bunn, nee Murray (1808-1889) was born in Ireland and migrated to Sydney with her widowed father Terence and one of her two brothers. In Sydney she met Captain George Bunn: they married in 1828 and settled in Pyrmont. George, a mariner, businessman and magistrate, died in 1834, leaving Anna with two sons, some…

Bill Burton was born in Glasgow in 1952 and brought up by his grandparents until 1964 when his parents took the family to Tasmania. At 14 he ran away and for many years worked as a jackaroo, seaman and especially as a roadie. He settled into a Bowman Street squat in 1972. There he developed…

Jack Byrne

John Ronald Timothy (Jack) Byrne (1894-1962) served in World War 1, and was then employed by the council for 25 years. Starting out as a fitter and turner, his activities as a union organiser provoked his employer. He turned the tables in 1950 when he won pre selection (and election) for Phillip Ward. He continued…

Joseph Cyril Carroll was born in 1901 in Ireland and fought on the Republican side in the War of Independence. He was imprisoned in Dublin before leaving Ireland in 1922. He jumped ship in Sydney in 1924 and became an apprentice engineer at Mort’s Dock, rising through the ranks until he was able to run…

Lucy Chambers, A Pyrmont Diva (1834 – 1894) In October 1893 the Sydney Mail reported: ‘Last Melbourne Town Hall appearance of Madame Lucy Chambers’, and reminisced that ‘a few fathers and mothers remembered her as a girl of 16 in Sydney, her native city; even at that age, her fine contralto voice and power of dramatic expression…

Brian Cooper

Brian Leonard Cooper, born in Melbourne in 1936, was a Cooperatives Officer in Papua New Guinea until 1960. He encouraged Papua New Guineans to take the initiative in their own economic and political development, four years ahead of Australian policy. On the advice of Prime Minister Menzies and Attorney-General Garfield Barwick he was arrested in…

Mr Cope, Alan Moir

James Francis “Jim” Cope, (1907– 1999) was a member of federal parliament and Speaker in the House of Representatives for two years 1973–75. Born in Surry Hills, Cope became a glassworker and rose to Federal Treasurer of the Glassworkers’ Union. In 1955 he was elected to the seat of Cook in South Sydney, for the…

Sidney Joseph Fegan (Sid) 1910-2003 was living in Ultimo when he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in 1943. He was discharged in 1946. The Fegan family epitomised the Labor Party patronage system, in which an alderman nominated young men and women to city jobs, and the families always elected Labor candidates to office….

Joseph Marie Garavel (1824-1885), Catholic priest and educator, was priest-in-charge at St Bede’s, Pyrmont, from 1879 to 1885. He was born in Savoy, which became part of France in 1860. He studied in Pont-de-Beauvoisin until he entered a seminary in Paris. He joined the New Zealand mission in 1849, completed his studies at sea, and…

Edward (Ed) Ginzburg, community activist, was born in 1967 in the Soviet Republic of Kyrgyzstan. When his parents separated, his mother took him to Odessa, where she remarried, then to Russia. When Ed was 12, the family arrived in Sydney. Shortly after, the family was relocated to public housing in Waterloo, where he spent most…

Donald Grant

Donald McLennan Grant was born in 1888 in Inverness and apprenticed as a dental mechanic before he migrated to Sydney in 1910. He was associated with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and, when war broke out, he drew record crowds to the Domain where he inveighed against conscription and favoured industrial action, including…

Charlie Hackett

Charlie Hackett (1899-1976), the “King of Ultimo”, got his first job in the City of Sydney at the recommendation of John Harris. He joined the Municipal Employees Union, and managed it to ensure jobs for youngsters, whose families remembered the favour at election after election. He was described as ‘the Council employment officer’. Through the…

Surgeon John Harris came to Sydney in 1790 with the NSW Corps. Like other officers he joined factions, quarrelled, embezzled funds and was court-martialled. He was granted a large amount of land, named it Ultimo and developed it as an English country house. Having no children, he bequeathed his estate to the children of his…

John Harris Mayor Elect

John Harris (1838–1911) alderman and MLA was born in Londonderry and arrived in Sydney in 1842 when his father inherited parts of Surgeon John Harris’s estate. He left University to manage the great estate that he inherited from his father, and lived at Bulwarra House, Ultimo, amid this property. In 1874-83 and 1886-1911 Harris represented…

Margaret Harris, born in 1844, inherited a quarter of her father’s half share of Surgeon Harris’s estate. As Ultimo developed swiftly from the 1860s onwards, her 20 acres of land yielded a bountiful income. She built Littlebridge as her home in William Henry Street and lived there all her life. Margaret devoted her life to…

Matthew Harris portrait.1919 (mayor 1898-1900)

Sir Matthew Harris (1841-1917) was born in 1841 in Ulster. In 1844, when his father inherited part of Surgeon John Harris’s estate, the family migrated to Sydney. Matthew was educated at the Normal Institution, Sydney Grammar School and the University of Sydney (BA, 1863). In 1868 he married Frances Lane. Like his three brothers and…

John Harris (1754-1838), naval officer, surgeon and landowner, grew up in County Derry and reached Sydney in 1790 as a surgeon to the NSW Corps. Like most other officers he quarrelled (and was twice court-martialled), embezzled funds, was rewarded by factional patrons with grants of land, and used convict labour to improve this land. Unlike…

Pat Hills

Patrick Darcy Hills (1917–1992) was an Alderman and Mayor, member of State Parliament and Minister. In 1954 he won the seat of Phillip and was a member of the House of Assembly until 1988. His career in the Labor Party hinged on his ability to rally the Catholic vote, especially after the ALP/DLP split. The…

Marcelle Hoff, born in 1947, was a counsellor before she was elected a City Councillor in 2004. She graduated from Charles Sturt University with a degree in Adult Education and has diplomas in conflict management, psychology and as a business coach. In 2003 Marcelle, along with many other residents, were shocked by plans to sell…

William Morris (Billy) Hughes (1862-1952), short and skinny, charming and brutal, eloquent and savage, was always a fighter. In his long political career, he was expelled from several parties and coalitions. Laurie Fitzhardinge describes him as an Australian nationalist and a British loyalist, who fought for the interests of working people as he understood them….

Richard Johnson (1753-1827) was the first clergyman in Australia. In 1786 he was made chaplain for NSW and sailed with the First Fleet. He appealed in vain to successive governors for labour to build a church. He also complained that his salary was inadequate to support his large family, but he did receive 160 hectares…

Thomas Jones (? – 1799) soldier and murderer, was a private in the NSW Corps in 1795 when his officers awarded him 55 acres at the North Eastern tip of Pyrmont. Such land grants were made as an incentive to develop agriculture to make the colony self-sufficient in food. This grant – Jones’ Farm –…

John Karlik

John Karlik was born in Prague in 1930. In 1939 he and his sister Vera boarded a train to England. “I didn’t even realise I was saying goodbye to my parents, they just took us to the station” he recalls. They were among the last of 10,000 children rescued from Nazi persecution by the kindertransport…

Andrew Joseph Kelly 1901-1902, City of Sydney Archives

Andrew Joseph Kelly (1854 – 1913), drayman and publican, was born in Dublin and went to sea at a young age. He worked as a wharf labourer in Liverpool and served in the US Navy before he settled in Sydney in 1881, as a wharf labourer. He was active in the Wharf Labourers Union, and…

Sir Edward Knox (1819-1901) founder of CSR was born in Denmark. At 16, he entered his uncle’s London merchant house but chose migrate to Australia. Arriving in Sydney in 1840 he joined the Australian Auction Co. and in 1843 became manager before he transferred to the Australasian Sugar Co. With two associates he bought Bowden’s…

Edward William Knox (1847-1933), general manager of CSR, was born in 1847 in Sydney, second son of Edward Knox. This was a high-achieving family: Adrian became Chief Justice of the High Court; Thomas became managing director of Dalgety & Co. Educated at Sydney Grammar School, Edward William joined CSR in 1864. In 1870 he took…

Karel Joseph Koenig (1898 -1994) was a “Dunera Boy” who arrived at Jones Bay Wharf in 1940 as an interned enemy alien aboard the Dunera, together with over 2,000 internees of similar background. Most were Jewish prisoners of German and Austrian background. Karl Koenig was born in Brommov in the Sudeten region of Czechoslavakia, Jewish…

Peter Allan La Fontaine_

Peter Allan La Fontaine was a solicitor and Labor party member in Pyrmont when he was elected in Phillip Ward in 1974. During his second term, Labor and the Civic Reform group were evenly balanced, and Labor gained the upper hand when one of the Civic Reform group defected. La Fontaine caused great dismay in…

William Lambert

William Henry Lambert (1881-1928), politician and union leader, was born in 1881 near Orange, son of an Irish-born stonemason and his native-born wife. He attended primary school and worked as a shearer. In 1909 he became an organizer for the Australian Workers Union (AWU), and in 1915 secretary of its central branch, a post he…

Major General Edward Macarthur 1858

Edward Macarthur was born in 1789 and was taken to Sydney the next year by his parents John and Elizabeth. After schooling in England he helped his father to depose Governor William Bligh in 1808. He returned to London carrying his father’s version of the rebellion – and the first bale of merino wool to…

Elizabeth Macarthur (1766-1850), was born in Devon, where her parents equipped her to manage complicated affairs, vital skills after she married John Macarthur in 1788. Their first son Edward was born before they sailed in 1789 to join the NSW Corps. A daughter born at sea did not survive. In Sydney she bore four more…

John Macarthur (1767-1834) was born near Plymouth, relatively poor, and struggled to join the British Army until 1788. Next year he became a lieutenant in the NSW Corps and sailed with his wife and son in the Second Fleet. He fought a duel, provoked another fierce dispute and suffered serious illness before he reached Sydney…

Michael Robert Matthews, born in 1946, was a distinguished scholar and long-term resident of Ultimo when he formed the Active Residents Committee, to address the suburb’s neglect and agitate for improved services. In 1982 he published Pyrmont & Ultimo: a History, which recorded a precinct whose people were distressed by industrial decline and about to…

The McElwaine family were intimately involved in Pyrmont life during the 1970s, when father Bob owned the Terminus Hotel. Bob was a dedicated runner as well as a publican. He competed in the Sydney to Melbourne ultra-marathon in 1983, coming second behind Cliff Young. Cliff knew that Bob was skint, and gave him the prize…

Printing Industry Empoyees Union badge

Bob McKinney, born in Pyrmont in 1901, was a community-minded activist and a Protestant who supported Catholic and Labor Party causes. He devoted much of his life to the management of junior soccer in the Pyrmont Junior Soccer Club and state-wide, the Pyrmont Swimming Club, the Pyrmont-Wentworth Cricket Club, and later Rugby League. His other…

James Leslie McMahon

James Leslie “Les” McMahon was born in Sydney in 1930 and trained as a plumber and gasfitter. He became an organizer of the Plumbers’ and Gasfitters’ Union. He was elected to the City Council in 1967 and 1971, and represented Sydney in the federal parliament from 1975 (when he succeeded Jim Cope) until he retired…

Daniel O'Connor

Daniel O’Connor (1844-1914) was born in Tipperary. In 1854 he migrated with his parents to Sydney. After a few months schooling he worked in his father’s butcher’s shop. He read avidly, and was essentially self-taught. With his own butchering business, by 1871 he had amassed fourteen houses and £7000 which he lost in speculation in…

Maurice O’Dwyer, born in 1880, was brought up on the NSW South Coast, and moved to Pyrmont by the time he was 19. He was not only a reliable and much loved milkman: he became a St Bede’s parishioner in 1899, and joined the local St Vincent de Paul Conference, of which he was made…

Patrick O’Toole (1808-1879) was born in County Wicklow, and married Teresa Boyle in Dublin before the couple arrived in Sydney in 1842. As a stonemason, Patrick was drawn to Pyrmont, and as an active and literate Catholic he campaigned for funds to build the St Bede’s Church. The family prospered, becoming owners or lessees of…

David Ryan - 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade training at Kensington, Australian War Memorial

David Joseph Ryan (1890-1927) was born in Sydney and educated by the Patrician Brothers at Redfern and Holy Cross College, Ryde. He was a committed Catholic. After service in the First World War, he was an Alderman for Denison Ward, from December 1918 to November 1921. When he was elected, with William Lambert, this was…

Charles Saunders (1824 – 1893), entrepreneur and stonemason, was born in Devon, and brought his family to Sydney in 1852, soon after gold was discovered in NSW. Next year Charles leased land from the Harris family, beginning a relationship which benefitted both families. This land, in what was then Ultimo but is now Pyrmont, was…

Richard Sonnenfeldt made landfall in Jones Bay, Pyrmont, on 6 September 1940 aboard the notorious MV Dunera. At the end of his long life, he penned this striking understatement: ‘I would call my Dunera voyage the start of a very interesting life.’ Like many other German-Jewish refugee ‘Dunera boys’, he made the 750-km rail journey…

Virginia Spate, 1937- , art historian and Pyrmont activist, was born in the United Kingdom, lived in Burma until evacuated during the War in the Pacific, and settled in Australia in 1951. After studies at Melbourne University and Cambridge, she took her PhD at Bryn Mawr College, USA. She lectured there and in Cambridge, and…

Jean Stuart was born in the 1930s, trained as a teacher, became head teacher of a public school and lectured in a Teachers College. When she retired, she renovated derelict houses and re-sold them. The last of these ventures was the former Caledonian Hotel, which had long been occupied and trashed by squatters. This ambitious…

Sir Allen Arthur Taylor (1864-1940), timber merchant, ship-owner and politician, was born at Wagga Wagga. Moving to Sydney about 1882, he attended night-school while working. Moving into timber, he founded the firm of Allen Taylor & Co. Ltd. In the 1890s he also chaired two coastal shipping firms, and became a director of financial companies….

Edward Trickett

Edward Trickett (1851 – 1916), oarsman, was the first Australian world champion in any sport, from 1876 to 1880. Immensely tall and powerful, he worked first as a quarryman: he met his wife while delivering stone for a lighthouse at South Head. At age 10 he came second in a race for boys under 16….

Isaac and Susan Wakil had more influence in Pyrmont than most of the people who have lived here. As youngsters they fled from Iraq and Bessarabia (now Moldova/Romania) to Sydney, where they met and married in 1955. They made their fortune in the clothing industry, and during the 1970s invested the proceeds in property. Much…

James Robert Wilshire was born in 1809 at Sydney into a family of Congregationalists, and prospered in the tannery business. In public affairs he advocated abstention from alcohol and supported J.D. Lang’s campaign against transportation. He was elected the first Alderman for Phillip Ward in 1842 (until 1853 when Council was replaced). In 1843, as…

Edward (Ed) Wright (1926 – ) was born in Mount Street, Pyrmont, to Walter and Caroline Wright (nee Moore). At four, he attended Maybanke kindergarten, until it closed and he transferred to Ultimo School. When he completed school at 14, his father interceded with the local Alderman, who found him a job in “Youth Cleansing”….