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 Tommy Smith 1985

Mural at Parramatta, Photo Tommy 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.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

A Hazardous Journey

The Campbelltown to Camden train, affectionately known as 'Pansy', is remembered fondly by those who remember her. The train or tram service as it was known, played an important role in transporting people from both towns to their required destination. Its stations between Campbelltown and Camden included: Maryfields, Kenny Hill, Curran's Hill, Graham's Hill, Narellan and Elderslie. How valuable would it be today and in the future if the line was still functioning. From most accounts the service ran efficiently with the only occasional hiccup of the steep slope up Kenny Hill. Look a little further into the earlier history of the line however and a more troubled picture is revealed.

Incredibly, only week after its opening in March 1882 the train experienced its first accident. At about 5pm a train laden with people who had attended a land sale at Camden was approaching the main line at Campbelltown. The train on descending an incline smashed into a number of ballast wagons. Many were injured, including a Mrs Evans of Glebe who suffered the worst injuries.

Only a couple of months later on a dark night, the train was badly damaged after it ploughed into a large pile of logs, deliberately stacked against the line. The culprits or 'cowardly wretches' as the local paper described them, have always remained a mystery. Whether it was an angry farmer or drunken louts is unclear. The driver and passengers thought an animal had been runover. After the logs had been cleared and the train moved on a second obstruction was encountered. Another larger log was left on the tracks. Several passengers then chose to walk into Campbelltown rather than risk their lives further.

Tramcar used on the Campbelltown-Camden line at Moore Park in the 1880s (photo courtesy of Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society)

Accidents continued on the line in the ensuing years. In 1889 a valuable horse was killed on the line near Narellan and forced the engine to be thrown off the rails. A cow was killed by a tram a few evenings before that. In 1903 a gang of men employed on the line were returning one night from Narellan to Campbelltown on a trolly when it collided with a cow on the rails. The men were all thrown violently on to the metal and suffered serious injuries. The fate of the cow couldn't be ascertained!

In 1905 a man's foot had to be amputated after a serious accident. Mr Alfred Clissold was riding on the rear platform on the last carriage. The guard failed to pull the points and the carriage crashed into the buffer stop causing Alfred to lose the fore part of one foot. He was awarded 1000 pounds damages.Two years later the tram collided with a horse. A boy was riding his horse after a cow that had walked onto the line. He didn't hear the approaching train, which struck the horse and threw him on the roadway. The boy escaped with severe bruising however the horse had to be destroyed and a dog following the boy was unfortunately run over by the tram and decapitated.

Camden tram stranded by flooded Nepean River at Elderslie in July 1899 (Photo courtesy of Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society)

Further carnage occurred in 1914 when an engine collided with a number of carriages near Campbelltown station, causing injuries to two people. In 1919 the train crashed through a flock of sheep on the line. In 1956 a fatality occurred where the Hume Highway crossed the line at Narellan. A 20 Class engine was struck by a brand new truck. Tragically, the owners had invited two of their friends to accompany them when they picked up their new truck from Sydney. All four occupants of the truck lost their lives. No further dramas appear to have struck after this.

The line closed down in December 1962, with a special journey held on January 1, 1963- the last journey 'Pansy' would make.


McGill, Jeff 1993
Campbelltown Clippings

Pearson, Malcolm 2013
Recollections of Pansy (The Camden Train)

Various newspaper articles provided by Trove

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The Way We Were - Part 6

Here is the next part of our "Way We Were" series.

Steve Roach Collection, c1960.
Above is the former Fieldhouse Store, later home to the Campbelltown News. Next door is the Jolly Miller Hotel built in the late 1840s, and later known as the Commonwealth Hotel, converted to residential flats in 1939.
Shown in 2017, now home to the Macarthur Legal Centre. The building next door was demolished in the early 1960s.
Oliver Collection, 1950
1 Minto Road, (corner Redfern and Minto Rds), William Harris' store, with Post Office and residence attached, built c1925 on land previously owned by the Porter family.
The shop now houses Minto Newsagents, and no longer sits alone on the corner!
Soiland Collection, c1945
Front view of the Minto store.
The same view 72 years on. A much busier corner than it used to be, with the railway station and a number of shops adjoining on either side.
Local Studies Collection c1983
Roadworks outside St Patrick's College. This site was originally a prep school for boys named St John's or "Westview". St Patrick's moved to this site in 1970. The original location of St Patrick's was in Quondong.
The same view in 2017, with a sealed road, much bigger trees and a new wall.

Written by Samantha Stevenson and Claire Lynch
Our Past in Pictures database

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

"The Legend of Fisher's Ghost" - musically speaking.

The legend of Fisher's Ghost has been celebrated in popular culture in many ways over the years. Related in countless newspaper articles, as well as poems, songs, books, plays, an opera, and film, it once attracted the attention of notables such as Charles Dickens, who published a version of the story in his magazine "Household Words", and entertainer John Pepper, who used it as the subject of one of his stage illusions in Sydney in 1879.
Campbelltown City Library is fortunate to hold a copy of one of these tributes - "The Legend of Fisher's Ghost", written by Catherine Fields musician Jimmie McFarlane, and produced by Don Watt at Earth Media Studios, Milsons Point. With Jimmie's band "Country Road" playing the backing, the single was released with another of Jimmie's compositions on the flip side - "The Camden Train".

The cover of "The Legend of Fisher's Ghost" 

The record was completely financed by the licensees of The Good Intent, Jim and Evonne Rook. On Thursday March 19th, 1981, they launched the record at a special event at the hotel.

Jimmie McFarlane sitting on Fisher's Ghost Bridge

Jimmie was born in Bulli, and spent some years of his life at Glenmore House, in the foothills of the Razorback near Camden. Writing "The Legend of Fisher's Ghost" was prompted by a strong interest in the local area and it's history. Sadly Jimmie died at the age of 46, but we are able to remember him though his work. We have very kindly been given permission to upload "The Legend of Fisher's Ghost" via the following link.

Written by Claire Lynch
Campbelltown Ingleburn News 1981
Macarthur Advertiser 1981
Special thanks to the McFarlane Family (Casey McFarlane, Glenda Wenban, Sandie McFarlane)

Monday, 23 October 2017

"The Gut Factory"

William (Wilhelm) Klages and his family arrived in Ingleburn as immigrants from Switzerland in 1928. Ingleburn was a small village at the time with a few shops, poultry farms and dirt roads. William established a factory with a compatriot, Adolph Bolliger, which used sheep intestines for the manufacture of medical sutures. This was known as the Olympic Gut Manufacturing Company and was situated on the corner of Kings and Fields Roads, Ingleburn.

William (Wilhelm) Klages (Truth, 27.11.1932)
Two years on, the partnership between Bolliger and Klages was dissolved and a new one formed between William and Paul Witzig. The business must have proved successful as permission was obtained to build a new factory and offices in Kings Road. In 1939 the company was renamed the Australian Suture Company - trading as ASCO. Johnson and Johnson later took over the company.

ASCO - the "gut factory" (Campbelltown Library Local Studies collection)

Margaret Firth of Ingleburn remembers her time working at the factory -
"Oh well, he used to make the surgical gut it was, he used to get the special intestine things from the abbatoirs, and they used to prepare them, sterilise them and all that sort of business, cut them up, and then we girls used to have to roll them, when it was dry, roll them and smooth them down, and they'd get it fine enough to sew eyes with, you know, and then the coarser stuff".
William's son Eric learned the trade after attending the local school, Granville Technical College, and then studying chemistry at Sydney Tech. He worked for the family business before building his own factory, designing machines for treating, stretching, polishing and manufacturing what was commonly known then as "catgut" - nothing to do with cats! He also branched out into the manufacture of tennis racquet strings and violin strings.

A 1946 advertisement for Spiroflex tennis gut strings.
Eric's business was known as "Spiroflex, and was on the corner of Carlisle and Cambridge Streets, Ingleburn. At one stage the factory was turning out 3 million feet of gut a year for surgical sutures alone, with more than 90% of the product for export.
Eric died in 1982, and the factory ultimately closed in 1986.
Eric Klages checking the quality of the material under manufacture.
(Macarthur Leader, 5.12.1972)
Written by Claire Lynch
Local Studies Pamphlet files
Grist Mills Vol.21 No.1
Margaret Firth oral history - Local Studies collection
"From many lands we come" by Hugo Bonomini et al.

Monday, 16 October 2017

A Bird's Eye View

Local identity Lennie Hayes recently donated this wonderful aerial photograph of Campbelltown taken about 1959. The scene is dominated by Crompton Parkinson's factory in the foreground built in the 1940s. It was the first major company to build in Campbelltown. Many of the buildings have sadly been demolished. Some streets such as Milgate Lane (first street to the left of Crompton Parkinson) and Railway Street (extreme left) have lost all their buildings. How many buildings do you recognize?

Thanks for your donation Lennie and saving the photo from the scrapheap!