Boating On Sydney Harbour


View to south over Coogee Beach with half dozen boats on sand. Homes on steep slopes facing water in distance.

This week, with the weather beginning to cool down and winter approaching, it seemed the perfect time for The Past Present to turn its attention to a popular beach pastime. In summer, the beaches become a haven for water sports and swimming, but as winter approaches, more people begin to look for different ways to enjoy the beautiful harbour and various other waterways. Boating has long been a popular choice.

Recreational sailing in Australia actually has quite a remarkable history, which stems from the history of Sydney as a working harbour. Some of the earliest boat races to be held in Sydney were between the captains and crews from ships which were visiting Sydney harbour. The smaller skiffs which were carried on board the large boats (and some boats even carried specific racing skiffs) would be used for the races. As time went by, regattas became more organised, and they also became popular public events which many Sydneysiders watched from the increasingly crowded shoreline. From 1837 here as even an annual regatta to celebrate the founding of the NSW colony!

Slowly but surely, boating became a more widespread, popular pastime. The public no longer simply watched from the shore. Boats could be hired out from many different boat sheds and beaches. Today, boating continues to be a popular pastime.

Spring Street, Sydney

Pitt And Spring Streets Sydney Front

The image above is a beautiful and fascinating glimpse into the history of Sydney. Showing bustling streets full of pedestrians, horses and carts and cars, it also captures a fascinating time in Sydney, when the new automobile, and old fashioned horse power coexisted side by side.

Yet few Sydneysiders are likely to be able to tell you exactly where this intersection, of Pitt and Spring Streets, is. In fact, Spring Street, although still in existence, is just a small laneway today. Yet once, it played a fascinating part in the history of Sydney’s water supply.

When Captain Arthur Phillip (also known as Governor Phillip) arrived in Sydney he selected the site based on what became known as the Tank Stream – Sydney’s vital fresh water source. The Tank Stream was mainly fed from a swamp in the area of todays Huge Park, but there was also a number of springs along the course of the stream. One of the largest of these springs was in the locality of Spring Street.

Mary Really Did Have A Little Lamb

Mary Had A Little Lamb School FrontThis week, with Easter upon us, and lambs an iconic symbol of Easter, it seemed the perfect time to share this image of a schoolhouse. Although the image is not an Australian one at all (it is a schoolhouse in Sterling, Massachusetts, USA), the story behind the image is a fascinating one.

Most Australian’s would know the childhood rhyme ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’, yet very few realise that the rhyme is based on a true event. Mary Sawyer, born in 1806, lived in Sterling, on a farm with her family. One morning her father and she went out to the barn and found two lambs had been born during the night. One though was close to death because it’s mother had not accepted it. Mary asked her father, and was given permission to try to save the lamb and raise it herself. She spent all day and night nursing the lamb and much to her delight, it survived. Yet having been hand raised, it didn’t much care for the other sheep, but preferred horses, cows and of course, Mary herself, who the lamb would often follow around.

One day, Mary and her brother set off for school and the lamb followed. Mary’s borate, Nat suggested they take the lamb to school and when they arrived, Mary tucked the lamb into a blanket at her feet. Eventually, the lamb made a noise and was found out, but the teacher reacted well, laughing and sending the lamb outside for Mary to take home later in the day.

This would have been the end of the story, were it not for the Nephew of the local minister visiting at the time of the events. The nephew, John Roulstone penned the first few stanzas of the famous poem and handed them to Mary a few days later – and thus the rhyme was born!

George Street Sydney

George Street South Sydney Front

The image above showcases an extraordinary view of a street all Sydneysiders know, whether they love it or not. Yet few Sydneysiders realise that this street has such a long and fascinating history. Indeed few would realise that this street is the oldest in Australia!

George Street was the first street to be built by the colonists when they arrived in Sydney Cove. Yet it was not a carefully planned street, or even truly ‘built’. Early in the history of the colony Governor Phillip began to have public buildings built along a fairly level ledge of land to the Western side of the Cove. Soon enough a rough path was being worn along which people travelled between the buildings being constructed and the Cove itself. This is how George Street began its life.

Of course, several of the main streets of Sydney were laid out by the early 1800s. This included George Street itself. By 1803 the military had completed the building of several roads, removing many trees in their way. The stump of one was nine yards around (a little over 8 metres) and took 16 men 6 days to remove. A hole had to be specifically dug in which to roll the stump and it took 90 men to roll it into the hole. This tree was once in the area of George Street.