Friday, 19 January 2018

A Cycling Tragedy

One warm spring day in 1961 two local boys were doubling on a bicycle coming down Bradbury Avenue. They turned into Lindesay Street and made their way towards Allman Street. The boys were chasing leaflets that were dropped over the town from an aeroplane. The leaflet drop was part of a promotion by the Campbelltown Chamber of Commerce to encourage people from the town to shop in Campbelltown before thinking about going outside the town to shop. The leaflets were numbered and shops were giving gifts to customers if their number matched those within the store.

On approaching Allman Street the boys, Douglas Perryman and William Dowser, became distracted by the leaflet drop and didn't notice a car coming into the intersection. This was when Lindesay and Allman Streets were unsealed and before a stop sign had been erected at the intersection. Both boys suffered severe head injuries. Douglas died instantly and William a few hours later.

This week I interviewed ninety six year old Elsie Evans at her home in Lindesay Street. Elsie lives in the same house that she was living in on the day of the accident. She heard the accident and ran out to give help to the boys. Elsie was a trained nurse and sat in the back of the ambulance with the boys on its way to hospital at Camden. She told me "Hank (the ambulance driver) told me you could get in the back. These days look at all the equipment they've got but back then we had nothing". The boys' families were found and taken directly to Camden unaware of the condition of either boy.

The tragedy not only forced Council to erect a stop sign at the intersection but it also changed the attitudes of parents towards their children owning and riding bicycles. Sadly the 'Spring Shopping Fiesta', as the day was known, will always be remembered for one of the town's most devastating tragedies.

This is the exact site of the accident photographed in 2006 by Stan Brabender

Elsie at her home in Lindesay Street in 2018. She was first on the scene in 1961.


Crowley, Julie
'Living on the St Elmo Estates: the story of one man's trust"
In Grist Mills
Vol. 30, No.1, March 2017

Campbelltown-Ingleburn News, September 26, 1961 p3

Elsie Evans Oral History Interview 17.1.2018

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Prisoner Photographs

NSW State Archives has recently digitised its collection of gaol photograph description books.  The documents cover from 1870-1930, and include more than 47,000 photographs of prisoners.  In most cases these will be the only photos of a person.  A bonus is that as well as searching by name, you can search the index by place of birth.  A search for prison inmates born in Campbelltown brings up around twenty-nine men and six women.  They include Carmel Willis Gee, the son of a prominent and well-respected local identity named William Gee. William Gee served with Campbelltown Council as an alderman as was active in the Congregational Church. His son Carmel Willis Gee was born in Campbelltown in 1882. In 1910 he was gaoled for nine months for two counts of larceny. He also served a concurrent charge of misappropriation of funds by an accounting officer. Carmel died in Campbelltown in 1915. There are also wonderful gaol photographs of Bridget Mahoney. Bridget used Alice Northcote, Alice McPherson and Mary Smith as some of her many aliases. She was gaoled over a plethora of charges in her life time including stealing, indecent language, indecent behavior and riotous behavior- just to name a few!

The link to the site is

There is also an exhibition called Captured: Portraits of Crime 1870-1930 that can be viewed at the Western Sydney Records Centre at Kingswood. It runs until April 28 this year.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Looking Back at Minto

The library recently received donations of photographs taken mostly in the Minto area. Thank you to Gary Monkley for his generous donation! I thought I would show you three of the more interesting shots.

Below is a photograph taken in 1972 of Minto Public School Sport's Day at Coronation Park. This is the park where today's netball and soccer complex is located. Does anyone out there know what direction the photographer is facing? In the background is a road. Would this be Ben Lomond Road?

This photo below is of Minto Road taken in 1967. The paper shop on the far right still exists but everything else has completely changed, including traffic in the street! The railway station is out of the photo to the left. The house next to the shop is now the site of the car park of the popular Chan's Tea House.

This last one is of Ben Lomond Road between Pembroke and Eagleview Roads. Can you believe that! It was taken on January 25, 1948. The car is a T-Model Ford owned by Aubrey Stenhouse.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Catastrophic Lightning Strike

As I sit at my desk this afternoon anticipating a much welcome storm brewing from the south, I remember recently reading about a devastating storm that struck Campbelltown a time long ago. The day was the 9th of February 1856 and the Sydney Morning Herald described it as "the most terrific storm opened that has occurred within the memory of the oldest resident".  I'm amused at the language that was used then to describe such events, like the apocalypse had arrived and the earth would be destroyed "...lightning shot down in vivid streams, awfully grand, quivering like blades of fire in deviling streaks; filtering like radiant streamers till lost among the clouds, which looked like giant batteries erected in the heavens; when on a sudden, a flash of lightning with startling thunder, that was sufficient to appal the stoutest heart and shake the strongest nerve, induced each one to conceive his own doom at hand".

A bolt of lightening had struck the road near Fieldhouse's Store. It appeared to bounce off the road and struck the shop with an almighty force. It smashed the doors, windows and shelves into "atoms" as the report described, and set fire to various articles. Inside the shop were the Fieldhouse brothers, a Mr Whiteman and a little girl named Byrne. Edwin Fieldhouse was knocked down senseless and lost his sight for around five minutes. The others were all injured but survived the experience. The Fieldhouse's suffered severe financial losses and it was feared that the shop would be re-built. It wasn't and in fact still stands today at the southern end of Queen Street.

An early but undated photograph of Fieldhouse's Store.


Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday 12 February 1856, p5

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Arnold St Claire

During the 1960s, Arnold St Claire lived in Campbelltown with his wife Claire. A talented artist, he was a finalist in the 1965 Sulman Prize, and a finalist in the 1966 Archibald Prize. It was during this period that Arnold was also a regular cartoonist for the Campbelltown Ingleburn News.
A real character, Arnold held an art exhibition in a butchers shop in 1966, with 35 paintings on show. He also painted murals on the walls of the Railway Hotel in Queen Street.
Gordon Fetterplace remembered Arnold pulling off the "most successful hoax in Campbelltown history". The artist had negotiated with Fontainebleux (the former sister city of Campbelltown), for a prestigious local exhibition of French art. Gordon recalled dropping in to see Arnold a few nights before the exhibition to find him hard at work painting a number of boat and wharf scenes. Unfortunately the art had failed to arrive from France, so Arnold was improvising. The big night was a huge turnout, with art critics and official visitors, all looking at Arnold's paintings!
During the early seventies, Arnold completed a 3 tonne, 7 metre high statue of a rearing horse for  his friend Tommy Sewell, Hawkesbury businessman and horse trainer. The statue stood in the forecourt of Tommy's Tourmaline Hotel, named after Tommy's sprinter King Tourmaline. Tommy Sewell said of Arnold "he was a wonderful man - never before or since have i ever met a character like him".
Sadly, Arnold suffered from mental illness and alcoholism, and during one of his stints in hospital, he painted murals on the walls of the Male Admission Ward building, part of the Parramatta Psychiatric Centre Complex.

Mural at Parramatta, Photo Dr Terry Smith 1985

Mural at Parramatta, Photo Dr Terry Smith 1985
Arnold died on the 24th May 1974 in Hornsby Hospital of pneumonia following 8 days of the now infamous and discredited "Deep Sleep Therapy" administered at the Chelmsford Private Hospital.
A recent interviewee said of Arnold "He was one of our first known resident artists. A fantastic gifted man".

Written by Claire Lynch

Campbelltown Clippings - Jeff McGill
Local Studies Pamphlet Files
Robyn Watson Oral History

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Big Industry Moves In

Campbelltown had to wait until 1956 before it got its first major industrial factory. Crompton Parkinson, an electrical equipment manufacturer, purchased the Blair Athol estate in July 1945, but postwar credit restrictions delayed its move to Campbelltown. This was much longer than the two years they were expecting to be in operation by. Already a major enterprise in Five Dock, the original factory had little room to expand. Campbelltown had been chosen because of its proximity by road to the raw material supplies at Port Kembla and the Sydney market. It was also cheaper land that wasn't hemmed in by an urban area. Despite an inadequate water supply or road access, the western side of the railway was eventually chosen to expand its production facilities. The company soon became the biggest employer in Campbelltown.

Crompton Parkinson's new factory can be seen in the foreground of this 1957 aerial shot of Campbelltown (Lennie Hayes Collection)

Crompton Parkinson's main production line consisted of hand-wound electric motors and electric pumps of very good reputation. The products were used in many places, ranging from the Blue Mountains' sky-way service to many backyard pools and ponds. Virtually every petrol bowser had the work of Crompton Parkinson employees within.

Two workers on the assembly line

An addition to the plant was built in 1978, which gave the facility an area of 155,000 square feet. By 1980, when it was at its peak, Crompton Parkinson employed 120 at its Campbelltown facility. In 1989 the company became Brook Crompton Betts as a result of a merger with Betts Electrical Motors. In the early 1990's new management saw the decision to close down the Campbelltown operation and move it to Revesby. After only six months this plant closed down too and the company moved overseas.

Staff Christmas Party in 1991

Crompton Parkinson started a move by a number of major industries to move to Campbelltown. These included clothing and table linen manufacturer Nile Industries who opened in 1960. It was followed by Harco Steel in 1968, Blue Strand Industries in 1969 and Bullmer's Strongbow Cider in 1970.