This week, with Tartan Day being just around the corner (July 1), it seemed like the perfect time to examine the Burns Statue in the Domain. This statue is just one of the many statues which are to be found in and around Sydney’s beautiful Botanic Gardens and Domain.
So why, and how exactly one might wonder, did Sydney come to have such a grand statue of a Scottish poet? Sydney has, since colonisation began, had a strong community of Scottish people, and in the late 1800s a group of these Scots came together to raise funds for a statue of the iconic poet, Robert Burns. They pledged to eat Haggis each year on January 25, and collect funds for the rest of the year to make the statue a reality. In 1898 though, the group decided they needed to enlist the Highland Society of New South Wales. They handed the accepted funds (over 55 pounds) to the society, and the society took up the cause. So loved was Robert Burns by the Scottish Australians that a Mr Muir even published a brochure called “An Australian Appreciation Of Robert Burns” to further support the cause. Finally, after years of effort and fundraising, in 1905 the statue was completed, and unveiled to a crowd of thousands in late January.
The statue itself was the work of London sculptor F. W. Pomeroy, who masterfully created the statue which shows Burns leaning on a plough and wearing clothing which is much the same as that seen in portraits of the poet. The poet is holding a pencil and note pad, posed to compose a new work and over his shoulder falls a length of Scottish plaid. The plaid cascades down the poets back, across the plough and partially hides a Scottish thistle, the symbol of Scotland, and an aspect of the statue many are likely to miss.
The image above is a beautifully captured glimpse into what Sydney Station, now known as Central Station, looked like in days of yesteryear. It is an intriguing glimpse though, showing something which most passengers would likely not have seen, or at the very least, not noticed.
The site where Central Station now stands preserves evidence of the very first phase of railway in NSW. Not only does it encapsulate the changes from steam to electric railways, but also changes in the technology which has been used for signalling. Over time Central has had a variety of signal practises, including the signal boxes pictured above. Signalling had not always been part of railway practice in Australia. In the earliest years it had seemingly been assumed that trains would, if they kept to the time table, and even if they operated on the same line, not crash into one another. The earliest use of signalling came in the late 1870s, when there had been several very close misses between trains. Then, in 1878 two trains collided at Emu Plains, and this crash (which killed three) put an end to trains running on single lines. As more lines were introduced, and the system became more complex, signalling became vital to safely running the railway system.
In 1906, when Central Station expanded to include platforms 9 and 10 four signal boxes had to be added. These were overhead signal boxes which used a mechanical system for signalling, but in 1910 electro-pneumatic technology was introduced and only 2 signal boxes were needed. By the 1920s the signal boxes were vital parts of the complex railway system at Central, which had complicated lines, cross overs, junctions and points. The signal boxes kept the passengers, and the valuable railway system and machines themselves safe.
This week, the Past Present decided it was time to share this amazing image of a hill in Newport which is known as Bushrangers Hill. Such an evocative name surely has a fascinating story to match and research reveals this is indeed the case.
Bushrangers Hill may suggest the hill was named because of bushrangers, but this isn’t the whole story. The hill is actually most closely associated with an Aboriginal police tracker known as Bowen. Bowen was the son of the famous Aboriginal Bungaree. He was a very successful police tracker and also customs officer. In fact so successful was Bowen that the Sydney Herald even reported about him, and the information he had provided which led to the capture of thee dangerous bushrangers. Bowen left his job as a police tracker for a time to sail to the Californian gold fields, but he returned and resumed work with the police, again helping to apprehend bushrangers, including two convicts who had escaped and were bushranging on the Northern Beaches.
Of course, being a tracker, Bowen made many enemies. According to many, in 1853 he was encamped at what is now Bushranger Hill and sitting by the warmth and light of his fire. The hill was used by several bushrangers and four happened upon his camp where one, known as Casey, murdered Bowen. John Farrell, who was a farmer at Newport and friend of Bowen discovered his body and had it taken to St Lawrence Presbyterian Church for burial. This is perhaps the reason for the name of the hill. Others however say that Bowen shot Casey and that Farrell did not find Bowen’s body or indeed know who was responsible for his death. According to this story, Bowen died closer to Sydney, though there is no record of how he died.
With holidays rapidly approaching and the June long weekend upon us, it seemed the perfect time to share the image above. The image is an evocative glimpse of what camping in Australia, and particularly in the Illawarra area was like in the early 20th century.
Camping has an incredibly long history in Australia. Aboriginal people lived in temporary dwellings, moving around the country from one place to another, while early European colonists often lived in tents of necessity. In fact the first fleet brought with it more than 600 tents! In the 1820s, people who visited Australia actually saw camping as the real Australian experience or the ‘Australian way’. History in Australia, an indeed the history of Australian development, is inescapably linked to camping.
By the 1860s though, camping was beginning to take on a new dimension, people were choosing to set up temporary camps for recreation and holiday camping was born. Water, whether a coastal beach or quiet river meander was often a real feature of holiday camping, and even today many campers head to campgrounds on the coast or situated next to a picturesque river scene. The image above captures a camp along the Minnamurra River. Whether it depicts a temporary holiday camp, or something of a more permanent settlement is unknown, but certainly, it is a glimpse into a national pastime which has been with us since the very beginning.