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Thirroul and Railway Families – Ashley Hay – Author

Oops. I confess that I hadn’t heard of the writer Ashley Hay, until the Illawarra Mercury (13/4/2013) featured her in an article on artists and writers, who had drawn inspiration from the narrow strip of land between Thirroul and Stanwell Park. But of course as a Thirroul resident, how could I not like the way the article described how her new book opens –  with Thirroul being “the most beautiful place in the world.

“The Railwayman’s Wife” has been only recently published  –see review and from The Australian, as well as an interview.

I was intrigued as my grandmother “Molly” Mary Constance Callcott (nee Joy) had been a Railwayman’s wife in Thirroul during the 1930’s, as also had her sister-in-law, my great aunt Marjorie Louisa Joy (nee Tollner), during the 1930’s-50’s.

The Callcott’s lived in Harbord Street Thirroul very close to the Thirroul beach, and the Joy’s lived in King Street Thirroul. Coincidentally Molly’s in-laws, Alf and Lucy (nee Midson) Callcott, were the Thirroul real estate agents who had let Wyewurk to DH Lawrence, and his wife, Frieda, in the early 1920’s. Hence the use of the name Callcott for one of the main characters in DH Lawrence’s novel “Kangaroo“. Wyewurk was in fact owned by Lucy’s sister, Beatrice Southwell (nee Midson), my great great aunt.

In the Illawarra Mercury article, Ashley Hay described how her grandfather had worked on the railway and was killed in an accident in the early 1950’s – and how her grandmother then worked in the Library that used to be at the Thirroul Railway Institute Hall. And again, coincidentally, my grandfather Russ Callcott, and my great uncle, Ken Joy both worked at the railway at that time. It seems that Ashley and I had both grown up in the Thirroul area in roughly the same era.

In “The Railwayman’s Wife” Ashley apparently describes the train trip to Sydney, also one of my earliest childhood memories. I live at “Southie” aka McCauley’s beach just north of where the Sandon Point jetty used to be – it features in the book too. Other shared memories – the Glass Roundhouse just over the railway line from my parents’ Redman Avenue Thirroul home, the Hardie Rubber Factory where my Grandmother Molly Callcott, worked after the breakdown of her marriage and was a single mother raising her five kids. So the Railwayman’s Wife is in some ways evocative of my Grandmother and Great Aunt…. there is something rather eerie to see memories & feelings of your early life also captured quite independentlyby a writer.

Ashley’s family story intrigues me as it runs in parallel to the stories of my own family in Thirroul. Looks like I am going to have to read a copy of the book “The Railwayman’s Wife” !

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Lucy Callcott – a Pioneer in Thirroul Tourism

Lucy Callcott (nee Midson), born in 1875,  was the eldest daughter of William Midson and his wife Charlotte (nee Small).  Father, William Midson was a Wesleyan preacher in the Ryde Circuit.  Grandmother Charlotte was the granddaughter of UK 1st Fleet convicts, John Small, Mary Parker and James BradleyCharlotte’s  father was Samuel Small, who was born in 1804, the youngest of John Small and Mary Parker‘s seven children. He had married Rachel Rebecca Bradley, daughter of fellow First Fleeter James Bradley and Sarah Barnes, a convict on the Third Fleet from the UK. Lucy was the paternal grandmother of my mother, Joan Adams, nee Callcott.
Lucy  married Alfred (Alf) Freeman Callcott, a railway man in 1894. During his time on the railway they seemed to have moved around NSW – Hornsby, Hermidale, Lyndhurst-Lochinvar, and finishing at Forbes. Lucy and Alf had two daughters,  Marjorie Lou and Clarice, in addition to their son, Louis Russell Freeman Callcott, who also became a railway man. They moved to Thirroul, after Alf retired from the railway.

According to “The Small Family in Australia 1788-1988″ p625, Alf and Lucy built a large home in Harbord Street Thirroul, (No.5 ?) and ran it as a guest house. Harbord Street had first been subdivided in 1911 (refer “Greetings from Thirroul” –  a small book which documents many of the holiday guesthouses around the town by local Thirroul Historian,  Dr Joseph (Joe) Davis, and his wife, Inga Lazzarotto). See also an article by Anne Woods on Guesthouses in Thirroul, formerly known as Robbinsville, continued to undergo great change after the completion of the South Coast Railway in the late 1880’s – moving from farming to coal, brickworks and of course tourism. 
Around that time there were many advertisements in the Sydney papers for holiday accommodation in Thirroul. They often featured comments like “1 min to surf,” “close to the railway” and “close to the Bulli Pass. Others offering accommodation in Thirroul back then, were the Cooney’s, and also Hughie Ross, father of Kevin and his sister Ruth, also grandfather of Julie Ross (of The Spicey Apple). There were cinemas (Arcadia and New Kings), dance halls, refreshment rooms and Ryan’s Bulli Pass Hotel.
Lucy and Alf were also estate and insurance agents in the town – and were regular advertisers of Accommodation To Let in Thirroul in the Sydney Morning Herald from 1915-1939.  They often advertised reduced rates for the winter months. Lucy continued the business, as a widow, for about 7 or 8 years after the death of Alf. Amongst their most famous clients, were the sometimes controversial English author, DH Lawrence and his wife, Baroness Frieda Von Richtofen. Frieda was also a cousin of The Bloody Red Baron of WW1 Germany. It seems that they were in tight financial circumstances and took advantages of Thirroul’s reduced winter rates, advertised by the Callcott’s.
In 1922 DH and Frieda Lawrence stayed at the Californian bungalow, Wyewurk, which overlooks McCauley’s Beach, and was then owned by Lucy’s sister, Beatrice Southwell nee MidsonThere are varying thoughts on “Kangaroo” – a total fiction or a semi-autobiographic work by Lawrence?
And like Somers in Kangaroo, did Lawrence really make contact with people from both the political “Right” and “Left” of the era in such a short time frame ? It was quite possible, as there people with strong views, from both sides of the political divide, in the Northern Illawarra during that time period. On the Left, there were the Coal Miners, and on the Right, the Small Business Operators. In 1920 John S Kirton was clearly a senior member of the Nationalist Party.
Lucy and Alf’s  son-in-law was Victor Farraher, husband of younger daughter Clarice. He was also a son of Elizabeth Farraher (nee Kirton), sister of John S Kirton, who had opened the Excelsior Coal Mine on his Thirroul property.  So there would have been potentially a close family tie-up between the Farraher family and the Kirton familyAnd both Kirton‘s wives, Florence and Bridget were also sisters to Murty FarraherVictor‘s father. Incredibly convoluted ?
John S Kirton had been President of the North Bulli Shire Council and was also President of the local Nationalist Committee. He presided over a dinner held at Ryan’s Bulli Pass Hotel in 24 January 1920 to celebrate a Nationalist Victory in Federal Parliamentary elections (Source  – Sydney Morning Herald January 26 1920).
Some years later, Victor Farraher was a staunch supporter of Captain De Groote, who rode in on horseback and cut the ribbon at the opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge in protest, ahead of the NSW ALP Premier Jack Lang in the official party, in 1932 (refer Joe Davis‘ book  “DH Lawrence in Thirroul“.
DH Lawrence used the family name Callcott for one of the main characters in his novel, “Kangaroo“. There have also been suggestions that a woman, and her 11 year old son, commenting on the aeroplane landing incident in the novel, are in fact Lucy Callcott and son Russell. However, in 1922 Russell Callcott was already 19 years of age, and much older than the boy described by Lawrence in “Kangaroo“.
So, it was this short stay, at Wyewurk, that provided some of the inspiration for “Kangaroo“, according to Thirroul historian Dr Joseph (Joe) Davis. Coincidentally, Joe also taught Lucy and Alf’s  great grandson, Mark Callcott, at high school – at the time that he was writing his book “DH Lawrence in Thirroul“. Additionally, Joe is also a distant cousin of my daughter Katrina Christian – great great granddaughter of Lucy and Alf  Callcott. It seems that Thirroul has always been that kind of place, with a strong sense of “connectedness”.
For many years, Lucy also found time to be the organist in St David’s Anglican Church in Roxborough Avenue next to Thirroul Public School – a plaque was placed in her memory on the church wall.
Unfortunately Lucy did not enjoy a warm grandmotherly relationship with most of Russ’s children. However it reminds me of the story of Paul Mercurio on the TV program “Who do you think you are ?” Paul discovered that his grandmother ran a hotel in America which left little time for her children, including Gus Mercurio, father of Paul.

Heading into the WWI years there appeared to be a change in the Guesthouse market in Thirroul. Additionally, there seems to be no evidence of any advertisements in the Sydney Morning Herald by Lucy Callcott in the period from 1940 until her death in 1952 (see death – funeral notices below). Perhaps coastal threats during WWII, and then changing tastes in the post WWII era, coming on the heels of the 1930′s Depression years, had caught up with them ?

Despite these  changes in reduced demand for Guesthouse accommodation, a popular seaside camping ground,  operated in Thirroul, adjacent to the Olympic Pool, until the 1960′s. Also, in the 1960′s, Thirroul Beach was becoming a popular day trip destination, with many people coming down by train or bus.  Since then, day trippers have mainly arrived by car, although buses can still be seen at the beach. In the 1980’s with the electrification of the South Coast Railway, many Sydney siders chose to become residents in Thirroul and commuters up to Sydney. 

A small motel had operated in Thirroul since the 1970′s, a notable customer was the artist Brett Whiteley who died there. Whiteley, and fellow artist Gary Shead, had a fascination with DH Lawrence,Wyewurk and “Kangaroo“. Bed and breakfasts, together with holiday home lettings are also starting to appear in Thirroul and its neighbouring suburbs.

Recently Wollorowong, a property in Thirroul had been placed on the market It was among the holiday cottages that Lucy Callcott managed in 1937,  operating as a guesthouse up until WWII. Wollorowong has been described as the last of the Thirroul Guesthouses by Joe Davis.  
Lucy Callcott died in 1952, before I was born. And when I first stood for election as an Alderman on Wollongong City Council in 1989, I was at the Thirroul Leagues Club and was asked by a local was I “a granddaughter of old Mrs Callcott?” I replied no, her great granddaughter.



Sydney Morning Herald Advertisements – a selection of the many ads placed by the Callcott’sfrom 1915-1939
SMH – 27 Nov 1915
Thirroul – Kaludah, 1 min. surf, Superior Accommodation, 30/- week, 6/- day. Mrs Callcott.
Thirroul Kaludah – 1 min surf. – Supr Accommodation. Mrs Callcott. ‘Phone 53 Bulli.
Thirroul Furn. Cottages To Let, booking now for Xmas. Callcott agt. T. ph 58 Bulli
(notes – ’THIRROUL Lulllngton -Guests House under new-L management double single Rooms minute beach gai age excellent table moderate tariffPho-ie 138_’I HIRROUL BEACH – l*urnl6hed Cottages PlatsJ- L Callcott /gent Phone Thirroul 63_ – 25 SMH 1933 http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/17027102
HALF FURNISHFD COTTAGE, close beach and
halhs every convenience, from October 3 ALLhROY Thirroul PO_lYlHRROUL-1 urnished Cottuf.es to Let close beach1 Callcott At,cnt Stamp reply Tele, Bulli 6*
THIRROUL -Furnished COTTAOES near beach A stamp reply A F Callcott Phone Thlr 53
THIRROUL BEACH. -Furnished Cottages. Flats. Í stamp reply L. Callcott. agent. Phone, Thlt ~”
Furnished Rooms stamp reply.
SMH March 20 1937 Thirroul. ”FURNISHED COTTAGE, close beach, accommodate ‘? six, vacant Easter. 11J4.H0._ ‘THIRROUL, Wollorowong … Flat, J- vacant Easter. L. Callcott. Agent. Thirroul 53.
THIRROUL BEACH -Furnished Cottage to letL Xmas also Flats L Callcott Ph Thlr 53
THIRROUL Beach-Private Home Xmas, adults
only £5/5/ week L Callcott 53 Thirroul
Death Notice – Lucy Callcott SMH 30/12/1952 -CALLCOTT, Lucy.-September 29,1952. of 5 Harbord Street. Thirroul widow of Alfred F. Callcott.and dear mother of Marjorie (Mrs.Tiernan. Sydney). Clarice (Mrs. V.Farraher. Wollongong). Russell (Thirroul). Eldest daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. W. Midson (Epping). ;
Funeral Notice – SMH 30/9/1952
CALLCOTT.-The Relatives and Friends of the Family of the late Mrs. . LUCY CALLCOTT, Of  5 Harbord Street, Thirroul, are Invited to attend the Funeral of their beloved Mother; to leave St. David’s Church, Thirroul, To-morrow. Wednesday, after a service commencing at 3 p.m.. for the General Cemetery. Bulli. Church of England portion.
W. J. WILLIAMS, Funeral-Director.
_ Bulli.

Sally Bowen – Drover, Dressmaker, Steelworker, Unionist & Pacificist

Drover, dressmaker, steelworker, union official, political party member & state election candidate, anti war campaigner, health & aged care advocate … and yet, ten years after her 1999 death at Lawrence Hargrave Hospital in Thirroul, the name “Sally Bowen” might mean little to some in the Illawarra. And if they had heard of this pedigree, they may have, quite incorrectly, imagined a stern, forbidding, divisive & judgemental personality.

But to others, Sally Bowen was a woman respected and loved. A warm smile from this pioneering & legendary woman, who also became a dressmaker, able to do beautiful beading on Irene Arrowsmith’s wedding dress. I will always remember that warm smiling, caring face.

Born Sara Elva Gladys Phipps in Gunnedah 1918, the daughter of share farmers, she ran as a Communist Party Australia (CPA) candidate for the NSW seat of Bulli in 1953, 1962 and 1965. According to the biographical entry, under Sara Bowen, in the National Foundation for Australian Women’s register, “At the time of her two later campaigns, she was married to a miner and they had two young children. She was the Vice President of the South Coast District of the Union of Australian Women and a member of the Corimal Miners’ Women’s Auxiliary. A member of the Save Our Sons movement, Bowen was one of the participants who chained themselves to the railing in the gallery of Parliament House (Canberra). She also demonstrated against Australian Iron and Steel, a subsidiary of BHP, for the Jobs for Women campaigns. She had played a leading roll in campaigns for local government reforms.”

Sally Bowen’s story is featured in several books, including Mavis Robertson’s 1980 “Women, class and history : feminist perspectives on Australia, 1788-1978” under “Sally Bowen: Political and Social Experiences of a Working-Class Woman“. This work was later cited in the 1998 “Rebel Women in Australian Working Class History“. And Sally’s story was also told in Anne Deveson’s Faces of Change” under “The Women of Wollongong” – written in 1984, following a period of great upheavals in the steel and coal mining industries. That year she also featured in Tom Zubrycki’s 16mm documentary, “Kemira : diary of a strike” –more. Around that time she was also supporting the jobs for women campaign at BHP’s Port Kembla Steelworks, as she had done since the 1970’s.

The National Foundation for Australian Women’s register entry under Sally Bowen is more detailed, than that for Sara Bowen – “In 1950 she was elected the secretary of the South Coast District Committee of the CPA. She met her future husband, miner David (Dave) Bowen (died 1984) , when she spoke at Balgownie against Menzies’ referendum to ban the Communist Party. They married in 1954 and had two children. Bowen resigned as district secretary of the CPA in 1955 but remained on the committee, later to become president. She worked with the Women’s Centre in Wollongong and Miners’ Women’s Auxiliaries. It was the auxiliaries that initiated the celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD) on the South Coast in 1938. In 1964 Bowen led a CPA women’s delegation to the USSR.

The northern suburbs of Wollongong had been a pocket of CPA activity for decades. Although for many of us locals, the CPA slipped under our radar with the dominating political influence of local RSL branches in the years through to the end of Vietnam War. The Illawarra, including Thirroul, was polarised on the issue, as was much of Australia. Sally Bowen had been an active member of Save Our Sons – which “protested against conscription of Australians to fight in the Vietnam war. The movement made conscription of men under 18, who were not eligible to vote at that time, a focus of their campaign”.

Known as a pacificist during the Vietnam War, in fact Sally had worked in the Port Kembla Lysaght Works, assembling Owen machine guns during World War II. The story of the Owen Gun & Sally’s involvement was recounted in the 1982 play “Diggers Darling” (refer Des Davis’ 2007 PhD Thesis). She also became the shop steward for the Ironworkers union. Before that, like my own father in Boggabilla, she had started out from Gunnedah as a drover – I hadn’t even realised that women had been drovers back then…. and yet there were a number. After WWII Sally left Lysaghts to work in a clothing factory, and found conditions oppressive there. Once again she became a union delegate, later becoming District Secretary for the Communist Party. In the 1950’s she became part of the Peace Movement and the Miners Womens Auxiliary.

It was in 1984 that I first head of Sally Bowen, from Barbara Quintrell, a leader in the Coalcliff Miners’ Women’s Auxiliary, when the Coalcliff mine closure was announced. At the time I had joined the fledgling NIRAG to oppose the construction of a coal conveyor, bins & rail loading facility at Sandon Point, Bulli – straight into the middle of a “blue” within the union movement, involving the Miners Federation, the South Coast Labour Council, as well as various other union bodies.

It was believed by some that the construction of this coal conveyor and coal bins infrastructure would save the NSW southern district coal mines, including the “Old Bulli” pit. In a bid to avoid destructive divisions between the unions and the environmentalists, I had gone along to various miners meetings. At one of these, Barbara Quintrell advocated approaching Sally Bowen to support the Womens Auxiliary at Coalcliff. After I was elected to Wollongong Council in 1991, I met Sally Bowen many times at various functions and meetings.

In 1992, Sally was still campaigning on public health issues, when the local Bulli hospital was under one of its many threats of closure. “ In fact Sally Bowen was also involved in the environmental movement and was prominent in promoting aged care issues. She became chairperson of the Healthy Cities Illawarra Aged Task Force for the South Coast area.” 1994 saw Sally Bowen recording her life experiences in the publication “A Garland of Poetry“, before Len Fox wrote of her in his 1996 “Australians on the Left“.

Below are two of my favourite poems that epitomise Sally in “A Garland of Poetry”

Sally’s daughter, Margaret Bowen, a Thirroul resident, followed in her mother’s footsteps to fight for those less advantaged, ultimately become CEO of the Illawarra Disability Trust, now known as The Disability Trust. In 2012 Margaret was declared Illawarra Business Woman of the Year, for her role in leading The Disability Trust.


Sally Bowen was a principled woman of the Left, a campaigner of various causes for her entire adult life until her death in Thirroul in 1999, reported in the Green Left.

POSTSCRIPT – Sally’s story has been included in a list to fundraise to help others at A Women’s Investment Blog – “Tribute: how your blog post can raise $1000 for people living in poverty – I have some great news to share with you! Over the next week Melbourne based business Incentive House will be contributing up to $1000 towards an Opportunity International microfinance fundraiser by donating $100 for every blog post you write for a special project.”

Stories from Thirroul

A friend, Joe Davis, once commented to me, that lots of interesting people have lived in Thirroul. DH Lawrence stayed here, Gary Shead painted here, as did Brett Whitely who also died here. Mostly it has been males that have received recognition.

But Thirroul has influenced, & been influenced by, many interesting women – some I’ve known, some I’ve read about, or listened to the stories told by my mother. As a child I had been fascinated by these stories, however all too often we are too busy to collect these stories.

By chance I had come across Mary Phyllis Nicol’s story when searching on the Internet during my years as a Local Government Councillor. It seemed that there might be many such stories – so the time finally came to start to collect and share. As is the nature of a village like Thirroul, there are many family interconnections in the list.

Thirroul’s women have had diverse backgrounds, as they juggle many responsibilities and so to give them only a single tag is too constraining. The list will grow, and the spaces fill, with the stories I’d like to collect and share ….

Arts

  • Grace Cossington Smith
  • Judy Bourke
  • Juanita Bailey
  • Margaret Coen
  • Joanne Handley

Business & Professional

  • Sue Chapman – public and private sector executive
  • Anita Comelli – business woman & swimming instructor
  • Judy Stubbs – consultant social planner
  • Maureen Dignam – business woman
  • Margaret Bowen – CEO Illawarra Disability Trust

Community Activists

  • Delwyn Jones – community activist & scientist
  • Shirley Nixon – community activist
  • Cate Wilson – community activist, artist & teacher
  • Ann Ellicott – community activist – Thirroul Village Committee
  • Bonny Martin – community activist – NIRAG
  • Anna Whelan – community activist & consultant social planner
  • Edie Swift – community activist & oral historian

Community Leaders

  • Lyn Jones – Thirroul Village Committee
  • Lenore Gray – Thirroul Village Committee
  • Irene Redfern – Thirroul Senior Citizens Centre
  • Joan Callcott (Adams) – various community groups
  • Marjory Tolner (Joy) – various community groups
  • Marj Hargraves – Thirroul Neighbourhood Centre
  • Dot Sefton – local history
  • Wendy Joliffe – librarian

Educators

  • Pat Bowyer & Wendy Bowyer (Akhurst) – primary teachers
  • Betty Gibson, Pearl Lewis & Mildred Gibson – primary teachers & secondary teacher
  • Chris Campbell – lecturer – Notre Dame Uni Sydney

The Factory

  • Women from Hardies – from northern suburbs tales by Mick Roberts

Good Food & Wine

  • Gaye Kirkman
  • Lisa Ackerman & Suzette DeVille – The Flying Duck Cafe
  • Betty – MARS

Legal

  • Peta Glynn – Lawyer

Nearly Forgotten

  • Beatrice Southwell and Lucy Callcott
  • Mary Hicks

Performers

  • Margaret Fagan – musician
  • Chloe Roweth – musician
  • Amanda Baker – musician
  • Ruth – Thirroul Music & Drama Academy
  • Margaret Wolfe – Eisteddford administrator

Politics

  • Mary Reuben Hargrave – 1st Woman Alderman & Deputy Lord Mayor – Wollongong City Council, publican
  • Helen Gray (Kuiper) – Councillor – Wollondilly Council
  • Kerrie Adams (Christian) – Councillor – Wollongong City Council, technology manager & TJSC mum
  • Alice Cartan – Councillor & Deputy Lord Mayor – Wollongong City Council- Wollongong & TJSC mum
  • Karla Sperling –
  • Betty Woodward – wife & minder of Ald Fred Woodward
  • Sally Bowen – union offical, political & community activist
  • Carol Medcalf – unions, political & community activist, local government executive
  • Di Dixon – union official & TJSC mum

Science & Technology

  • Mary Phyllis Nicol – physicist
  • Florence Violet McKenzie – electrical engineer
  • Karen Fraser – ohs manager
  • Joanne Glynn – environmental scientist

Sports

  • Kerryn McCann – athlete
  • Taurie & Kari Kristiansen – Surf School

The Shops

  • Nelly Parson – Dressmaker
  • Mrs Frost – wool shop
  • Mrs Martin – draper

They Came & Stayed

  • Mrs Vasakos
  • Mrs Crittle
  • Evie Joubert

Writers

  • Baroness Frieda Von Richtoffen (Frieda Lawrence )
  • Susan McCreery
  • Jody Duffy
  • Christine Ambler (Sutton)
  • Jacqueline Coyle-Taylor
  • Mary Ijall
  • Inga Lazarotto
  • Amanda Kunkler

Youth Activities

  • Wendy Momsen – Girl Guides & TJSC mum
  • Rosemary Kettley – Girl Guides
  • Ann Ellacott – Girl Guides & doctor
  • Liz Elliott – Girl Guides & IT manager
  • Girl Guides – international ambassadors
  • Sue Plumb – Scouts
  • Danielle Foster – junior soccer official – TJSC