Late in 2011 MHS published Marrickville: a past worth preserving. This 182 page book is a collection of articles submitted to an essay competition organised by the Society.
Joint editors Keith Sutton, Richard Blair and Lorraine Beach describe the work: ‘How do we categorise this book? These essays are so disparate. We’ve got family histories and reminiscences, histories of businesses, suburbs, Marrickville’s unique Symphony Orchestra and Horticultural Society, Empire Games at Henson Park. It’s all worth reading, all worth recording. It is indeed a past worth preserving. That’s what we’ve done, and we hope you and future generations enjoy it.’
A summary of the contents in order of publication:
A fresh look at 19th century St Peters, by Robert Horton
The author raises questions rather than forcing readers into opinions about the recording of the history of St Peters. He invites readers to continue their own studies of the ‘gentlemen’ of the area.
A St Peters family, by Laurel Horton
This is the story of the Hoppitt family, who settled in the St Peters area in the 1850s. Seven generations of this family have lived or still live in the area and the author painstakingly studies the family membership and their lives.
By the Blue Lagoon – a family memoir, by Merle Kavanagh
The author links her family history to the history of St Peters. The author describes her early childhood in St Peters. Her home was near what her father had coined ‘The Blue Lagoon’ – a romantic name for a water-filled and debris-littered former brick pit, off May Street St Peters.
Charles Abel and his food empire, by Lyn Collingwood
A comprehensive look at the founder of a major Marrickville industrial organisation known as Marrickville Margarine, which originated in Newtown but relocated to Edinburgh Road Marrickville. ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter!’ was a well known advertising slogan, when the company was fighting the dairy industry. This battle between butter and margarine reached as far as the High Court in 1955. Numerous products and brands came from that Marrickville factory, including Eta peanut butter.
Employment of children, by Laurel Horton
A look at the subject of the employment of children in brick pits in the local area. In 1875 a Select Committee was appointed by the NSW Parliament to investigate this appalling problem. The author examines the committee’s work and follows through until the Public Instruction Act of 1880 that effectively stopped the practice by requiring children up until age 13 to attend schools.
Family life at the rectory: St Peters Church Cooks River 1920-1933, by Rosalind Torrent
A family history, with the research concentrating on the personal aspect. A fascinating glimpse of family life in a church environment, especially the life of the author’s grandfather, Reverend Arthur Reeves, her father, Frank, and her mother Dulcie, whose maiden name also was Reeves, but not related.
Forgotten memories: Marrickville Road in the 1960s, by Chrys Meader
Recollections of the author’s early life and times, with a focus on the Marrickville Road shops and their owners; and her childhood experiences, some good, some bad, such as the dreaded Salk vaccine immunisation injections.
Henry, his roses, four siblings and their Francophile brother – a memoir on the Quinns’ 52-year residency in Petersham, by John Chappell
An extended family history. Among other places, the family with its six never-to-marry siblings lived in Glebe and Petersham. Henry’s ill-fated rose garden project was symbolic for the author; while the Francophile brother, Jack, who became the state parliamentary librarian, bought a French car rather than an American one.
James Conley and family of Kingston, by Patricia Steane
The Conley family lived at Kingston, an area subdivided from farming land near Australia Street Newtown. James Conley became a prominent personality of the area, and ran the Kingston Lodge Hotel from the 1850s until his death in 1876. In 1862 James was one of more than 200 residents who partitioned the Government to form a municipality for the area.
Marrickville Municipal Symphony Orchestra (1930-1953), by Robert Parkinson
A study of a major organisation in Marrickville’s history which details the works of the main conductors of the orchestra. Fred Hanney and Haydn Beck. Each conductor had different approaches to the work or the Orchestra and its changing personnel. The essay links the local story to a wider NSW context.
Marrickville: my ‘Shangri-La’, by Mary Cleghorn
In a gentle look at past years in Marrickville the author remembers an era that was much less complicated than today. She details many snippets from her childhood, and is instrumental in organising a Strollers dance reminiscent of a Marrickville institution.
Memories of ‘my’ Newtown, by Betty Biffin
The author presents a pleasant trip down memory lane, including an interesting story of wartime experiences. A description of life in three different residences in Newtown, the business that operated in the suburb from the 1930s (for example in King Street), and the personalities who made up so much of the character of the suburb.
My memories of Livingstone Park, by Peter Chinn
A whimsical reflection on the author’s childhood playground of Livingstone Park and Oval, Marrickville. When he returns to the park his childhood memories and associations are rekindled.
Stories behind the names, by Laurel Horton
A story of the ‘occupants’ of St Peters Church graveyard, raising intriguing questions about some of the burials in the cemetery and noting the colourful people who provided those ‘stories behind the names’.
St Peters: connecting with a written past, by Robert Horton
An interesting perspective on history, drawing on letters and notes about various places, churches and other landmarks. The author traces family histories, among others, the family of historian Manning Clark.
The Bible bashers: the Churches of Christ in the Marrickville area, by Lyn Collingwood
The author begins with a look at Sister Ada Green, a long time notable street preacher, who converted to Church of Christ beliefs; then examines the activities of the Churches of Christ in mainly Enmore, Petersham and Marrickville. She also notes the visit by American evangelist Dr Chapman, who drew enthusiastic audiences in Sydney Town Hall in 1909, and the controversial 1916 referendum on 6 o’clock closing.
The Marrickville Horticultural Society: a blooming history, by Peter Cousens
The author examines a little studied aspect of suburban history, namely, the formation and operation of a horticultural society that flourished from the 1930s to the early 1960s. Those were the times when flower and plant shows were popular cultural and social events in Sydney.
The stained glass windows of St Peters Church Cooks River, by Laurel Horton
A descriptive look at the people who are remembered by these attractive windows and the stories of the window donors: ‘… in memory of…’
Theo Flynn, by Lyn Collingwood
Theo Flynn was, among other things, film star Errol Flynn’s father: Theo Flynn was a teacher at three public schools in the Marrickville area – Stanmore, Camdenville and Marrickville. We are told of a life of significant scientific and academic accomplishments in biology and zoology, and his later defence of Errol’s reputation.
Two Newtown identities, by Fred Sinfield
The author examines two Newtown jewellers and medallists – William Trantum and William Pritchard – who were prominent in the first quarter of the 20th century. He notes the involvement of Trantum in a major strike – in the sense that Trantum made medallions for the strikers.
Whatever happened to Emanuel Brace?, by Kate Dunbar
Emanuel Brace was one of three absconders implicated in the death of Robert Wardell in September 1834. The other two, Jenkins and Tattersdale, were hanged, but Brace escaped his fate by informing on the other two. The author reveals Brace’s colourful life that followed. An unusual topic to tackle, given that most writers concentrate on Wardell himself.
World sport comes to Marrickville, by Shirley Doolan
A detailed look at the rarely examined subject of how the cycling track events and the Closing Ceremony of the 1938 British Empire Games came to be held at Henson Park, Marrickville attracting some 40,000 people. In these momentous Games, Australia won 24 first places, including two cycling events.
This book is on sale for $35 and is available at MHS meetings or by post. Cheques or Money Orders for $35 (made out to Marrickville Heritage Society) can be sent to MHS, PO Box 415, Marrickville 1475
Marrickville Heritage Society thanks Marrickville Council and the Royal Australian Historical Society for part funding the publication of this important work. For the record the essay competition was won by Peter Cousens.