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…

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…

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…

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…

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 (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…

James (Big Jim) Healy (1898-1961), trade unionist, quit the Labor Party to join the Australian Communist Party, before he was elected general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation (WWF) in 1937.  In that role he transformed the federation into a modern union with a national policy and a national journal, the Maritime Worker, which he edited. As…

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…

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…

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…

John Dunmore Lang (1799-1878), Presbyterian minister and political crusader, was the most creative and the most disruptive force in Australian politics from 1823 when he arrived from Scotland. His political achievements are listed in the Australian Dictionary of Biography: the cessation of transportation, the separation of Victoria and of Queensland, the introduction of responsible and…

The Lockley family’s history illuminates life in Pyrmont and many other societies. John Lockley was born in Wales in 1838, worked on the goldfields and arrived in Sydney as a carpenter. In 1862 he married Jane Gilmour from Scotland who worked in the shops they owned, and produced ten children. John was a collier (selling…

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…

Barbara Mackay-Cruise, younger daughter of Noel and Lillian Lamidey, was brought up in rustic Canberra where (in 1942) Noel became Secretary of the Aliens Classification and Advisory Committee. After the War, the family moved to London, where Noel was Chief Migration Officer, initiating and managing the assisted migration scheme. High Commissioner Beasley persistently opposed this…

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…

John, Robert and Thomas McCredie lived and worked as masons and joiners in northern Pyrmont in the 1860s, well placed to take advantage of the industrial transformation that followed the gold rushes. In 1868 Thomas took a lease on a parcel of land that Edward Macarthur had failed to sell, and began quarrying stone for…

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…

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…

As industry flourished in Pyrmont and the population expanded, Irish families were well represented. In the aftermath of the Great Famine, emigration offered salvation, and Irish people in Sydney encouraged their kin to follow them. Several families of O’Tooles migrated in this way: Patrick O’Toole (1808-1879) was born in County Wicklow, and married Teresa Boyle…

Frank Sartor (1951-   ) was Lord Mayor of Sydney from September 1991 to March 2003, then elected to the Legislative Assembly. He retired from politics in 2011. Sartor graduated from the University of Sydney in chemical engineering and accountancy. He began his political career in Newtown as a community activist, publishing a newspaper and running…

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…

Arthur Malcolm Stace (1885-1967) “the Eternity Man” was born into poverty in Redfern, and lived a life of petty crime and alcohol until he enlisted in the AIF in 1916. In 1919 he resumed his former life, until 1930 when a preacher inspired him to give up drink and help other down-and-out men to recreate…

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…

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….

Carole Barbara Twist (nee Maxwell), community creator, was born in Rozelle in 1944, the eldest of three children in a violent, joyless and impoverished family. While looking after her siblings, Carole attended several schools before the family settled in Ryde, where she developed her abilities as a runner. In 1962 she married Oliver Richard Twist….

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…

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”….

Billy (Keith William) Young was born at Hobart in 1925 and spent his childhood in poverty in Ultimo. When his father joined the Communist Party and died fighting for the Spanish Republic, friends and neighbours looked out for Billy. He became street-wise helping barrowmen in Paddy’s Market, learning to avoid school and all other authorities….