Respectability achieved–and rapscallions left behind?

Here’s a bit of history.

The demands for self-government by the free settlers of New South Wales and the other colonies were largely met when the Imperial Parliament passed the Australian Colonies Government Act of 1850. This authorised the Legislative Councils in the Australian colonies to pass bills establishing themselves as bicameral legislatures. In 1853, proposals were submitted to the Imperial Parliament from the New South Wales Council. After some amendments, the Imperial Parliament passed a Constitutional Statute in 1855, (Imperial Act18 & 19 Vic. No.48 Cap.54). This authorised Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, to assent to a bill passed by the Legislative Council of New South Wales (New South Wales Act 17 Vic. No.41) giving New South Wales a fully responsible system of government, with two Houses of Parliament.

It was not, however, fully representative government. The franchise was still property and gender based, with only men able to vote; but it was a very low property qualification and it was a poor man who could not vote. To register, potential voters had to be male adults of over 21 years who owned freehold property of at least 100 pounds per year, or leased property with an annual value of at least 10 pounds per year, or occupied lodgings or rooms with a rent of at least 10 pounds per year or had an income of at least 100 pounds per year. In the nineteenth century, women were not considered capable of making a rational choice at the polls, so were therefore not given the franchise.

The property qualification for Members was lowered, but because Members of Parliament still received no salary, only those who were wealthy could afford to run for Parliament.

The first New South Wales Parliament established under this new Constitution met on 22 May, 1856. The population of the colony was approximately 300,000.

And here is a very respectable looking chap:

FotoSketcher - william1a

That’s William Whitfield, born 16 Mar 1812 in Cootehill, Drumgoon Parish, Cavan, Ireland and died 12 Oct 1897.  He had arrived in Sydney 11 Apr 1826 on the Thames, master Robert Frazer, from Cork, Ireland. By 1856 he was in Picton, NSW.


This is my branch of the Whitfields, and we have been fortunate in having a great family historian in Bob Starling. “Jacob Whitfield’s journey from Cootehill County Cavan Northern Ireland to the land down-under : embracing the Whitfield family history /​ by Robert Starling… Research relating to Jacob Whitfield (convict) transported from Ireland 1822. Jacob’s wife Mary and four children migrated on the ‘Thames’ in 1826. Mary and two children died on the voyage. William, the only son of Jacob to survive was responsible for the Whitfield name propagating to towns of Picton, Braidwood and the NSW South Coast.”

Now the old Jacob was, it appears now, a horse thief. (See Family stories 3 — About the Whitfields: from convict days. This is very messy, having just grown over ten years and more. Make sure you trawl through the comments!  Also, in 2008 I walked Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills, formerly Macquarie Street South, “Looking for Jacob”.  I kind of found him in what is left of “Market Lane”…


According to this, William and his wife, Caroline Philadelphia WEST, lived in Elizabeth Street from 1836 to 1846. Jacob, we know, had a hut in the area – all of this in that yellow square.

Ramana in Pune will be interested in what is on the Elizabeth Street frontage now, as he recently told me in Facebook about going there once!

One of the remaining mysteries about Jacob concerns his final years. On Trove I have tracked down the latest mention of him in a case where he wasn’t the defendant!



The rest of that paper is rather devoted to the subject of gold…

So Jacob remained in Market Lane until at least the second half of 1851. In a 2011 comment on “About the Whitfields: Convict Days” Bob Starling wrote:

For some years I have been searching for Jacob Whitfield’s death. It was noticed that Jacob gave his religion as a Quaker on one of his applications to marry. With this fact the Quaker society in Sydney has carried out some research and came up with the following piece of information:

“In searching the incomplete records we have of burials in the Friends Burial Ground within the old Devonshire Street (Sandhills) Cemetery, I came across a reference to:
“Burial Notes missing of … Jacob Whitfield” Unfortunately, there is no indication of his date of death or burial. Burials took place in the Friends Burial Ground from about 1837 through to about 1880.”

Whilst we can now accept that Jacob died in Sydney, probably between 1851 and 1856 we cannot quite put him to rest until we find an exact date.

He was certainly around for a long time.


From Bob Starling

Bit of a villain though, it seems.



It turns out there is another Whitfield family altogether extant – and with Shire links.

Perilous Seas: The Whitfield Family – Ancestors & Descendants England & Australia 1605-2012

The Whitfield family farmed in the Tyne Valley of Northumberland before moving to iron works on the Derwent River in Cumberland where two daughters drowned in separate accidents. Descendants experienced contrasting fates. One, James Whitfield made a fortune on the Australian goldfields before becoming a successful entrepreneur in Workington. His siblings lived and worked in industrial towns and the youngest, William Whitfield became a master mariner in Australia, experiencing a number of misfortunes before returning to Hull, Yorkshire, leaving his Australian family behind.

Now that is interesting, because my father used to say his Aunty Jessie and one other family member had traced the family to Hull, and there was allegedly a lost fortune there… That must be this family, but there is no doubt there is no close connection.  I suspect OUR Whitfields arrived in Ireland in the 17th century as part of the “plantations”.

And as for Jacob? Given the respectability his son William achieved I am beginning to think he was simply left behind when William and Caroline went south. Certainly he was erased from the family memory as I first encountered it in Picton in the 1950s with yet another William Whitfield – Dad’s Uncle Bill.

You will recall that we “found” Jacob, my convict ancestor, or we at least found the part of Sydney where he is known to have resided in the second half of the 1830s through early 1840s. By the 1860s the family had moved on – Braidwood, Picton… My grandfather was born in Picton in 1867. Him I remember. Just. He died in 1948. His brother William I remember more clearly, because he survived well into the 1950s. That William – son of William, the son of William, the son of Jacob – was still riding horses and ploughing his orchard almost to the year of his death. I remember his house, with its (to citified me) rather magic rural air, and tales of this one and that one, and timber getting, and horse breaking, and blacksmithing, and bullock teams… And Sao biscuits with tomato and cheese…

The tales never went back more than about one generation…

I think I can see why, for several reasons. Sometimes my father would mutter about the Old Testament curse on “the sins of the fathers”… Perhaps too, given what the area they had left behind in Surry Hills had become by 1900, you will see why it didn’t figure in the stories… Anyway, it was not part of my grandparents’ generation’s personal memories. They had become country people.

It’s on!

Yesterday they were getting the big screen ready down at Wollongong Mall.


And this morning? Well, I didn’t get up before dawn, but did turn on the TV just now to see…



Seems to have been a good Opening Ceremony – and I am sure I will see it during the day…

Hard to believe it is so long since Sydney, and even harder to believe that I BLOGGED IT! That was such a good time!  It is easy to be cynical about the Olympic Games, and much of that is justified. However, I can’t be bothered watching Gruen Sweat either: you can overdose on cynicism.

And I have the bug and have had especially since 1972:



My cousin Beverley. I coached her, you know – in English for the School Certificate. So I have held that gold medal in my hand.

Sadly, died of heart failure in 1996.

Temps perdu–Whitfield’s, not Proust’s–1 — 20th century

The first thing to come my way was a special edition of Aero Magazine.


Now I need to refer you to Closely watched planes 1 and About the Whitfields: loss in my “Specials” archive.

14390 Cpl. Whitfield J. N.
Group 833

My Darling Wife

I came to work this morning thinking it was just another day, another hot steaming day, after a terrific thunderstorm last night. About nine o’clock a chap came in with some demands that had to be attended to and on dating them the realisation struck me, this was no ordinary day to me, but a very special one, the anniversary of the day when I made my very bestest pal in all the world mine for keeps, for worse or better…

Thus begins a letter from Port Moresby reproduced on the second of those two pages.


One of my father’s wartime photos

Sadly many more have been lost over the years

Now I am not absolutely sure which squadron my father was in, or if as a “carpenter-rigger” – so described in his discharge papers – who appears to have been involved in salvaging bent aircraft – I have seen a file of correspondence with the higher-ups in the RAAF my father was engaged in, including some recommendations of his that seem to have been adopted – he was attached to several. His discharge papers don’t say. One thing I do know is that he rather specialised in Kittyhawks. 82 Squadron seems a possibility.


So I was drawn to a photo in that copy of Aero.


Now the more I look at the guy in the cockpit the more convinced I am that it is my father!



I guess I will never be sure.

The same issue has this photo of someone I once met and talked with for an hour or more: Richard Cresswell. As I mentioned in “Closely Watched Planes”:

I met Wing Commander Cresswell — as he became — purely by chance one night at the Sydney Intercontinental Hotel in 1988 and had quite a long conversation with him; but that’s another story.



Fragments from Auburn Street 60–70 years ago — 4

dadraafComing back from the war my father (right) determined to build up his own business as a builder and developer, partly in response to the post-war housing shortage and related policies.

In the 1930s, Sutherland, like everywhere else in Sydney, suffered the Depression, with many families in trouble and in need of assistance. It was not uncommon to see unemployed people selling flowers along the road to the cemetery. Despite this, Sutherland was the first township to have a baby health centre. The work of Father Thomas Dunlea, Roman Catholic parish priest at Sutherland, was notable at this time. He took in homeless boys and later rented a small cottage in the centre of town to accommodate the growing number. Due to overcrowding and insufficient space, it later moved to Engadine and became the well-known Boys’ Town.

In 1939 a railway line from Sutherland to Cronulla was opened and completed the network of links between the shire suburbs with Sutherland as a hub.

Postwar Sutherland

As Sutherland was so close to the national park, residents used parts of the park closest to the township for recreational purposes. With permission of the Park Trust, an area had been used as a rifle range from 1915, set up primarily by councillors and local businessmen. Over the years other sporting and recreational activities had also been held there. In 1950 due to the housing crisis the rifle range area was used to temporarily house low-income families in a camping ground that operated until 1958. By then housing was more easily obtainable, so the remaining people were moved. The area then became playing fields, known as Waratah Memorial Playing Grounds.

Dictionary of Sydney

County of Cumberland Planning Scheme

The County of Cumberland Planning Scheme was arguably New South Wales’s first attempt at a comprehensive and coordinated town plan for metropolitan Sydney, and, after a short and troubled history, it was ultimately a failure.

Aware that postwar growth would put pressure on Sydney’s existing footprint, in July 1944 the Labor Premier William McKell announced that he intended to introduce legislation concerning both

the extension of the boundaries of the City of Sydney, and the Union of Areas in the County of Cumberland.

The second proposal was a most radical innovation in metropolitan governance, in that it created a tier of government intermediate between local and state governments – the Cumberland County Council – to oversee preparation and implementation of metropolitan Sydney’s first statutory plan. The Cumberland County Council was established under the provisions of the Local Government (Town and Country Planning) Amendment Act 1945, which enabled local councils to prepare comprehensive local planning schemes for the first time. The process was overseen by a new Town Planning Branch in the Department of Local Government,with another new creation, the Town and Country Planning Advisory Committee,providing high-level ministerial advice.

Released in 1948 but not legally gazetted until 1951, the County of Cumberland Planning Scheme has been described as “the most definitive expression of a public policy on the form and content of an Australian metropolitan area ever attempted.”

It drew inspiration from the London plans of Patrick Abercrombie, and introduced land use zoning, suburban employment zones, open space acquisitions, and the idea of a ‘green belt’ for greater Sydney. The Main Roads Department supplied plans for an expressway network. The scheme tied in with the Commonwealth Government’s strategy to prepare for predicted rapid postwar growth, and in June 1947 the Cumberland County Council was inaugurated by state parliament, to prepare ‘for the guidance and control of growth in the County’ – ultimately the future direction of growth for metropolitan Sydney.

Dictionary of Sydney




Comfort Homes eh! I had forgotten that business name, but the front room at 61 Auburn Street was the office and Mum the receptionist. It was a mixed success, as by 1951 dad was back working with C S Boyne, a Real Estate Agent in Beverly Hills and a relative of my mother’s mother’s family. In due course in the 50s he had a semi-independent enclave in another Beverly Hills agency, Sproule’s.  By the later 1950s he was independent again at Jannali and Sutherland.

Sometimes the business prospered mightily, sometimes it didn’t.  I’m afraid I took as little interest in it as possible!


Bread delivery, Sutherland in the 1920s. Same thing and maybe same cart was in Auburn Street in the 1940s – along with the milko and the ice man.


Mail delivery in Jannali in the 1950s.

Fragments from Auburn Street 60-70 years ago — 1

It appears that when I was very young we got about in something like this:


How do I know? Well, thanks to The National Library of Australia’s Trove. But I think our car was black or brown…  I should also add that for some reason I have remembered the phone number of 61 Auburn Street: LB 2271. In the 1940s it was one of the few telephones in the immediate neighbourhood.

Looks as if Dad was trying to fix it but ended up selling it for parts. I have a feeling the car belonged originally to either my Grandfather Whitfield or my Grandfather Christison. I vaguely remember its back seat…



Back ten years or so I posted About the Whitfields: Wandering Willie’s Tales:

The street was a dirt road, washing away into great ruts when it rained heavily enough. Sutherland was still in touch with its semi-rural past then. The site of Gymea High School was still a dairy farm. Old Fred [Vallance] two doors down kept a cow, his backyard extending into a sizeable paddock. In his cowshed he had a gas mask from the war. It fascinated me. The cow terrified me, though its milk sustained me during the war and the period of shortages immediately after. In their backyard the Doyles had a goat.


Not the only cow either.


I remember the Allens – about three houses towards Flora Street (and Marshall’s corner grocery, now a wine shop) on our side of the road. And as for the Vallances at that time:



Their great-grandson – or great-great-grandson? — is now Headmaster at Sydney Grammar School.

More next post…

Now what was its name…?

I was asked a simple question this morning:

Thanks Neil, The links are great and the other photographs from Auburn St are really evocative–we’ve been telling our kids about it and explaining how this is a little bit of history right here! I did notice a house name plaque in one of your photos (and can see on our wall where it use to be). Any chance you recall the name of the house?


Houses used to have names quite commonly, as in this case in East Redfern/Moore Park.

And it appears my first home, 61 Auburn Street Sutherland, did have a name, but I can’t recall it and neither can my older brother.


The mystery name plate – my Uncle Eric and his son John there, before 1943.

When I can get hold of my one surviving uncle, Neil – after whom I am named – I will see if he remembers.


My Uncle Neil in the backyard of 61 Auburn Street. That yard went half-way to Acacia Road, Kirrawee, then. The house has long lost the land it then stood on.


My brother Ian. That has to be the earlier 1940s, before I was born.


Ian again on the front veranda of 61 Auburn Street.


All of us and a cousin, with Ian lurking in the background and me next to my sister and cousin, Mum leaning over my cousin.

FotoSketcher - auburn2acut

A rather ghostly image of 61 Auburn Street on 21 March, 1949.

Digging on Trove I have however found some new things, of which next entry!