Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Characters of Menangle

Every town has its characters. Those people that are remembered fondly and talked about long after they are gone. Menangle was no different. Black Nellie, Granny Farrell and Billy Baldaxe were three personalities much loved from Menangle's early days and I thought I would tell their story. Their stories mostly come from J.J. Moloney and his book "Early Menangle".

Na Daang, also called Black Nellie, was born in the Penrith area and spent most of her life there. She was remembered as being generous, kind to animals and fond of young children. She made periodical visits to Menangle, accompanied by several dogs of various breeds. Her connection to Menangle originated from a visit she made to Camden Park in the 1830s. She met Johnny Budbury, an aboriginal constable and tracker, who had been born and raised in Camden. It was a case of love at first sight. They later moved to Windsor and Johnny at some stage passed away. When Nellie in later years returned to Menangle she stated that Johnny was dead, but that he was a good man and prayed to God before he died. She was very popular in the area and treated well by the locals.

In the years after Johnny's death, Nellie befriended a white woman by the name of Sarah Shand. She lived on her family's farm on Bringelly Road from 1891. Shand wrote about Nellie's life and painted a portrait of her. She was photographed a number of times, including by Sarah Shand. In one photograph her eccentricity is revealed by showing how she wore her usual two dresses. She would often wear as many as seven petticoats at once.

Black Nellie lived until the 1890s. There is some conjecture about where, when and how she died. There is a possibility that she sadly died at Newington Asylum on 10 December 1898. NSW Birth, Death and Marriage records indicate an aboriginal woman by the name of Nellie died there. I hope it is not her and that she moved away somewhere and experienced a peaceful end to her life.

Black Nellie photographed at Penrith in the mid 1890s (Local Studies Collection, Penrith City Library)

Another character from the early days of Menangle was Mary Ann Farrell. "Granny" Farrell was held in very high esteem by the Menangle locals. In the mid-1870s aged in her mid nineties, Granny would frequently walk four of five miles (6.6 to 8.04 kilometres) every afternoon around Menangle. She always stood out in her snow-white hood of the period. She had been married twice, her second husband Christopher dying in 1853 aged 80. Granny Farrell lived by herself after Christopher's death in a house located approximately on the left hand side of Menangle Road, just past the turn off to Glenlee Road, heading towards Menangle. Incredibly, she was aged 105 years when she passed away on 28 February 1885! She is buried with her husband in St John's Cemetery in Campbelltown.

The Farrell grave in St John's Cemetery

The third Menangle character was known as Billy Baldaxe. His real name was probably Baldock. He possessed a fiery temper and a thin physique. Billy was a convict and according to J.J. Moloney, took pride in exhibiting the marks of his 1500 lashes. Moloney went on to describe him as "possibly the best relic of the system" that he could remember. After his emancipation, he was employed by the pioneering Woodhouse family. A search of convict and other records for this man proved inconclusive. 


MOLONEY, J.J. 1929
Early Menangle
Newcastle: The Australian Society of Patriots

Karskens, Grace
'Nahdoong's Song'

Camden Museum Facebook site, 10 September 2020.

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Letters from Thomas

We have written previously about Thomas Gamble, prominent shopkeeper and mayor of Campbelltown. Thomas wrote many letters home to his family, and we are lucky enough to have facsimiles of many of these. They start with his departure from Ireland, and continue until the early 1900s.
His first letter is reproduced here – I have illustrated it with images from that time, which gives a fascinating insight into his early observations. 

Bulls Hotel
Dale Street
July 22nd 1872

Dear Dada
I left Dublin Friday evening at 10 O.C. by the “Longford Steamship”. We got safe here on Saturday morning about 9 O.C.. We had a very fine night and I was not at all sick. I remained on deck until about 12 O.C. While on board I made enquiries about where I could leave my luggage on getting to Liverpool. I found I could leave it at the parcel office of the Princes Landing by paying 1 (sic) on each parcel or box. I thought it better to do that than to be taking them to my hotel and taking them back again. It is from the Princes Landing we will start.

Princes Landing-stage, Liverpool

You will be surprised to here (sic) that we will not leave Liverpool until Friday next, we are to go on board on Wednesday. Had I known that she would not sail until then I wouldn’t have come here until tomorrow however I am getting 3/- for the delay of course that will not pay me but still it is something. I feel very lonely here by myself. Now I know what it is to be away from ones friends. Now I know what it is to be without father or mother.
What most reminded me that I am in England is the absence of priests. I only saw two of them since I came here. Right opposite to where I took my dinner or yesterday I saw about 6 or 7 men preaching in the streets and a crowd listening very attentively to them. I went to church twice on yesterday but I do not like the way they conduct the services here. I went to St John’s church in the morning and to St Nicholles? (sic) in the evening.

St Nicholas, Liverpool

Two very fine old churches they both chanted the services which sounded very strange in my ear. The buildings here are splendid, the corn exchange is the finest I ever saw, also the North Western Hotel in Lime Street, I counted 50 windows in the front alone. I also went to see the Compton House it is much larger than Todd and Davies but unfortunately it is now closed.

The Corn Exchange
North Western Hotel

Compton House

I went to Berkenhead (sic) on yesterday by one of the ferry steamers which ply every 5 minutes for 1 penny. The agents are very nice people (I mean the agents of the Great Britain) they recommended me to this house which I like very much and is not at all expensive. I gave my money to the agents and got a receipt of it from them. The purser of the vessel will give it to me when I land at Melbourne.

The "Great Britain" a 3 masted steamer on which 
Thomas came to Australia

Tell Mama that it’s not that I forget her that I didn’t mention her name before this as she is not a moment out of my mind nor any of you for that matter. I shall always have a letter written on the voyage so that you will have one from me every opportunity I can
With love to Mama George Susan and all at home and accept the same
 from your affectionate son Thomas.

Written by Claire Lynch
Sources - Pamphlet Files Campbelltown City Library

Thursday, 1 April 2021

White Man's Justice

The year 1830 will be remembered as one of the most gruesome in Campbelltown's long history. Between 6 February and 31 August, nine people were hanged in the town for various crimes. This is interesting, as I can find no other records of executions outside of this year, apart from John Holmes hanged in 1829 for setting fire to a barn. Other capital punishment crimes outside this period were carried out in other parts of the Sydney area. 

The following is a list of people hanged in 1830 in Campbelltown and the crimes they committed:

  • Richard McCann – 6 February 1830 – Hanged at Campbelltown for theft, assault and putting in fear in the Goulburn district
  • Thomas Beasley - 8 February 1830 - Hanged at Campbelltown for burglary with assault in the Airds district
  • Joseph Moorbee (Mowerby, alias Nuttall) - 8 February 1830 - Hanged at Campbelltown for burglary with assault in the Airds district
  • Mark Byfield – 8 March 1830 – Hanged at Sydney for the theft of a silver watch[67]
  • Broger – 30 August 1830 – Indigenous. Publicly hanged at Campbelltown for the murder of John Rivett at Kangaroo Valley
  • Peter Dew (alias Saunders) – 31 August 1830 – Hanged at Campbelltown for burglary and putting in fear at Goulburn
  • William Haggerty – 31 August 1830 – Hanged at Campbelltown for cattle theft from Francis Lawless in the Liverpool district
  • John Spellary – 31 August 1830 – Hanged at Campbelltown for cattle theft from Francis Lawless in the Liverpool district
  • James Welsh – 31 August 1830 – Hanged at Campbelltown for burglary from the house of David Reece at Burra Burra, near Taralga.

The usual location for these public hangings in Campbelltown was "The Green" opposite the Court House at what is now Mawson Park. Each of the nine criminals appear to have been buried in the nearby St Peter's Cemetery. Burial records confirm this.

One of the unfortunate people hanged that captured my attention was the aboriginal Broger. He was indicted for the wilful murder of a stockman named John Rivett at Shoalhaven on 6 February 1829. Broger was tried at Campbelltown Assizes on 20 August 1830, found guilty and death ordered for 30 August. His execution had been postponed for a week.

Broger (sometimes written as Brogher), was born about 1800 at Broughton Creek, known today as Berry. His brother's name was Broughton. According to Keith Campbell in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, the brothers responded in different ways to the challenges posed by the increasing numbers of European settlers. Broughton tendered to accept the challenges posed while Broger refused to adapt. One day Broger and another native went to two sawyers, and promised to show them a quantity of cedar trees, but they suddenly attacked the sawyers in the bush, and killed one of them- John Rivett. The other escaped. Broger was eventually captured. When he was brought to the police court he encountered the surgeon, explorer and merchant Alexander Berry. Berry described how 'poor Broger smiled when he saw me. I addressed him and said 'I am sorry to see you here, accused of killing a white man. I did not think you would have killed anyone, I have more than once walked with you alone in the bush when I was unarmed and you were armed with a spear, and might have easily killed me, had you wished'.

Broger, who could speak English, replied, 'I would not have killed you, for you was my master, and was always very good to me'.

Broger's defence was that the sawyers threatened him, and that he killed him in self-defence. However, he was not allowed to speak in his own defence. Meanwhile, the Chief Justice visited him there, when he made a confession, and said that he had eaten the tongue of the sawyer "that he might speak good English". 

Broger's execution on a cold Monday at the end of a Campbelltown winter, was witnessed by a party of natives who claimed that Broger had suffered unjustly and that he had killed in self-defence. Given the nature of the time, I believe this is most likely and that an injustice was served. The fact that Broger was unable to defend himself in court was an appalling reflection of injustice at this time.

Various sources give different locations for the murder of John Rivett. These range from Kangaroo Valley, Gerringong and the Shoalhaven River. The location of Broger's End on the upper Kangaroo River is named after Broger.

Broger's brother Broughton became a tracker and constable, dying in about 1850. As his knowledge and skills lost their value, Broughton was gradually forced into the margin of European Society in the Shoalhaven. His devotion to Alexander Berry entitled him to regular rations but also alienated him from his relatives.

Next time I wander through old St Peter's Cemetery I will spare a thought for this proud aboriginal man. Although buried far from home in a white man's cemetery, I am certain his spirit still lingers in the land he loved in the beautiful Kangaroo Valley.

This is the reputed site of the murder of John Rivett by Broger


ORGAN, Michael 1990

Illawarra & South Coast Aborigines 1770-1850

Aboriginal Education Unit Wollongong University


Australian Dictionary of Biography

Monday, 22 March 2021

Wedderburn Charcoal Pits

Did you know that charcoal was once used to run cars instead of petrol? During World War II, petrol rationing forced many people to find alternative methods of running vehicles. The rationing meant business people with trucks were particularly affected. Campbelltown did not escape this problem, so some Wedderburn orchardists set up a charcoal production business on the opposite side of the road from the school and across the creek. Four pits were dug in the bush. The pit method required a large pit to be dug in the ground and lined with bricks or sheet iron to prevent the charcoal becoming contaminated, and then a small amount of kindling wood was placed in the bottom for lighting purposes after the pit had been stacked with the timber to be carbonized. 

The orchadists used hardwood from the Wedderburn bush for the pits. Once produced, the charcoal was stored and transported in disused grain stacks, with a sack of charcoal weighing about 18 kg. The charcoal was used by those who had fitted a charcoal gas producing unit to their vehicle. The charcoal was placed in a box at the rear which in turn produced gas power to the vehicle. Their are however many stories of poor performances using charcoal, particularly a loss of power.

Pits like these would have been used across Sydney, but most would have since been lost. The pits at Wedderburn still exist owing to their remote location and the stone lining which has helped to keep them from caving in. Only three of the four pits exist.

The Hawkes family with their charcoal burning vehicle at Leumeah around 1941


HOLMES, Marie 2012

A Scapbook of History: Stories of the Macarthur District

Campbelltown: Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

A Local Treasure

Edward John McBarron, born in 1918 at Albion Park, was a well-known Campbelltown figure for many years. As a Veterinary Science student he graduated from Sydney University in 1942. Whilst studying at University, he had been obliged to collect 100 botanical specimens, but continued to collect long after 100. His collection grew to over 15,000 specimens, now a vital part of the National Herbarium.
Eddie, as he was known, became an Inspector of stock at Holbrook and Albury before his appointment in 1953 as a Veterinary Research Officer at Glenfield Veterinary Research Station. This began his long association with the Campbelltown area.
Eddie published many papers and books throughout his life, ranging from veterinary papers on metabolic disorders in cattle to books on the botany and history of Campbelltown. 36 veterinary publications included subjects such as poisonous plants, water-borne bacteria and endangered species. Over 40 publications on local history and flora mainly concentrated on the Campbelltown area.
As a member of the Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society Eddie helped to label and restore exhibits in the Stables Museum at Glenalvon. He was made a Life Member of the society in 1995.
Eddie married Olive Gadd in 1946 and had four children, two boys and two girls. His other interests included the search for the perfect home brew, buying and tinkering with rarely seen makes of cars, and learning foreign languages, particularly French. 

Edward John McBarron (Richard Lawrance Collection 
Campbelltown City Library. Copyright Richard Lawrance)

He was nominated by seven organisations from a cross section of interests for an Order of Australia Medal, which was awarded in 1992 for his efforts in conservation, the environment and systematic botany.
Edward John McBarron passed away on 23rd August 1996 leaving a legacy of a wealth of information collected throughout his lifetime and compiled into readily available formats. We are pleased to hold at Campbelltown a number of Eddie’s publications which have greatly enhanced our knowledge of our local history.

Compiled by Claire Lynch from an adaptation of funeral eulogy given by David McBarron

Grist Mills Vol. 9 No. 4 

Thursday, 4 March 2021

An Aerial View in 1956


This aerial photograph from 1956 demonstrates how much Campbelltown has grown in 65 years. The area shown covers from Kialba Road at the bottom of the picture to Hollylea and the Plough Inn at the top of the image. At the very bottom at the left of the aerial shot is "Kialba" and its surrounding trees. "Kialba" was a large federation-style home located at 29 Kialba Road. The home was built and occupied by Alfred Payten, an architect from the well-known Payten family. It is now vacant land and its palm trees still exist.

In 1956 Kialba Road joined Campbelltown Road. This can be seen in the photograph where it bends to the right and connects with Campbelltown Road. A little further north and Campbelltown Road crosses Bow Bowing Creek. On the banks of the creek at this spot stood the iconic Keighran's Mill. Built in 1855, it was also referred to as Payten's Mill. In later years it had displayed on it's wall an advertisement for Wolfe's Schnapps. The mill was dismantled in 1962. 

Heading further north along Campbelltown Road and on the left is the home "Woodbine". This fine old house could date as early as 1817 and was home to the Payten family from 1873. It was surrounded by magnificent trees such as kurrajongs, acacias, pines and cedars. "Woodbine" was demolished in the 1960s after the land was zoned industrial. What a shame! The site of the house is about where 7 Hollylea Road is today.

The right of the photo shows the growing suburb of Leumeah. The railway lines runs through the middle of the aerial photo between Leumeah and "Woodbine". In 1956 when this photograph was taken, Campbelltown Road was aligned differently. It followed the path of where today's Hollylea Road is located. The two-storey house "Hollylea" and adjacent Plough Inn can be seen on the old alignment of Campbelltown Road at the top of the photo. "Hollylea" was known as The Three Brothers Inn in the early days of the settlement and was owned by Nathaniel Boon.


ALLEN, Andrew 2018

More than Bricks and Mortar: Remembering Campbelltown's Lost Buildings

Campbelltown: Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society

Thursday, 18 February 2021

A Respected Cop


“He was a character, Slats. But he kept the town in order, one policeman. We had respect for him, I think that was it. We had respect. If we didn’t, we got a clip across the ears, or a boot up the backside.” These comments seem to reflect the town’s feelings toward a much-respected cop. A man who well and truly left his mark on Campbelltown.

Bernard Patrick Slattery, known affectionately as Bernie, joined the police force on 3 July 1939, at the age of 21. After initial training, he was posted to Sydney’s Clarence Street Police Station until 1945. Then transferred to Camden, he remained there for eleven years. At Camden he was promoted to Sergeant 3rd Class and then got sent to Grenfell for two years.

A rugby league match at Camden between fierce rivals Camden and Campbelltown threatened to erupt one year in the 1950s. Before the match, Bernard went to both dressing rooms and said we might just arrest someone today. There had never been an arrest at a football match in the area before. It ended up one of the cleanest football games anyone had seen.

In October 1960, Bernard transferred to the position of officer in charge of Campbelltown Police Station. Sergeant Slattery served 12 years in charge of the little station in Railway Street. He lived in the police sergeant’s residence down from the police station in the same street. In those days, the station was closed between midnight and 8am so the telephone had to be answered by the lock-up keeper.

Sergeant Slattery earned a reputation of being a fair and respected policemen. Young offenders, after receiving a stern lecture, then benefited from the Sergeant’s advice. He would say “I am not just a jailer waiting for you to put your foot wrong. I like to think I am here to protect life and property and that I can lead the community and encourage citizens to be law-abiding.” One story told by his son Michael concerned a certain Campbelltown youth who was in the habit of stealing bikes. Sergeant Slattery bought a second hand bike and lent it to the boy but asked him to look after it, including oiling it regularly. He wanted him to bring the bike in every second Saturday so he could inspect the boy’s work. After a while, he gave the bike to the lad permanently.

Bernard rose through the ranks from constable to sergeant, inspector and finally superintendent, where he oversaw a division incorporating Campbelltown, Fairfield and Liverpool. He was later sent to Broken Hill, Philip Street in the city and then Wollongong, before “returning home” as superintendent in charge of I division which covered Fairfield to Bargo. He considered the high spot of his career as the time when he was in charge of police arrangements in Sydney on the day that the Whitlam Government was sacked in 1975.

Following his retirement from the Police Force in 1978, Bernie became a member of the Campbelltown Hospital Board and director of the Campbelltown Catholic Club. He always held Campbelltown dear to his heart. Bernard Slattery died in 2002 aged 83. The cramped and inadequate Railway Street police station, was eventually demolished in 1988. The Police Sergeant’s house was demolished in 1970.


Campbelltown-Ingleburn News, 27 June 1978

Macarthur Advertiser, 15 June 2002

Interviews with Robyn Watson, Ted Sedgwick and Michael Slattery