I think the year was 1962. Mosman Council had announced its first council clean up whereby residents were urged to put any unwanted ‘rubbish’ on the kerb outside their houses. In the days following this announcement, the kerbs around Mosman were quickly filled to capacity with anything and everything to be disposed of.
My older brother and I, (he was thirteen and I was nine) decided to investigate some of this rubbish. Much of the so-called rubbish consisted of fine Victorian furniture, a lot of it in very good condition, as well as boxes filled with bits and pieces of whatever. About two blocks from our house in 52 Cowles Road, we came across a large (huge) solid wooden crate. We were extremely curious! After a long struggle we finally managed to force the lid of the crate open. We quickly discovered we had found a treasure!
The large box was filled to the top with books and other items. I remember taking a book, Volume 13: ‘the River War and the Attempt to Rescue General Gordon’. This book related to the Anglo-Sudanese War in the late 1870s and the siege of Khartoum. The book was a large and heavy leather bound volume printed in 1880 and in excellent condition. My brother dug a little deeper and found some rolled up original water colour paintings of Middle Eastern scenes as well as a map of Constantinople c.late 1890s or early 1900s. There were many other books and items including uniforms and a sword, but these uniforms and the sword were further down in the crate and we couldn’t get to them. The items in the crate had obviously belonged to someone of importance who served in the Middle East in the late Victorian period in either a military or diplomatic capacity, perhaps both. We also retrieved a full set of six or seven World War One medals from the crate. Looking back now, it is sad to think how much history finally ended up on the garbage tip…
We took the items home and worried that Mum would be angry at us for robbing them from the kerbside garbage, we hid them under the house. However, they were not hidden well enough. Our dog, Prince discovered the items the following day and chewed up the watercolours and the map. The medals were stolen some years later. The book also eventually disappeared during numerous house movings over the years. I often wonder how much other history was also lost during that first council clean up in 1962.