My first Recollections, 1921 – 1928
I was welcomed into the world at the corner of Raglan Street and Military Road after being born at Paddington Women’s Hospital. My parents were Alfred and Ann Wylie. We lived above Davis’s Hardware Shop on Military Road, a sign on the window in gold read S.E. Davis ex-A.I.F. Next door was Louis Corner and Mr Grubb, the Greengrocer, was on the corner now known as Raglan Square with Portman’s Boutique fashion house and other establishments.
Military Road – A little boy’s view of Mosman Junction
On the opposite north corner was Noake’s Butchery shop and on the west corners were Moran and Cato, Grocers and Jewkes Chemist shop. To the left was the Buena Vista Hotel and further along was the wine shop that we referred to as the Plonk Bar and Dad called it “The thripny sweet-n-dry”. Further along were Radford’s Deli, Frank Carney’s Jeweller, and P. Leahey’s Real Estate, an old wooden shop on the corner of Military and Avenue Roads, these I particularly remember at this early age.
Mosman Public School (my old Alma Mater) was the brick building you can now see located on the Avenue Road corner. The old Bank of NSW, now Westpac, was on the Belmont Road corner.
Further along was the Kinema Picture Show “The Flicks” so important a part of life. Silent films were shown at first, ‘till the arrival of talkies. Al Jolson (Mammie), Tom Mix and “Tonto” (Horse and Cowboy) the talkies came during the 1920s. Next door was the milk bar and during interval young men in white coats and caps would come around with trays on the shoulder crying “ice cream” or “peanuts, minties, lollies, or chocs.” Saturdee Arvo was paradise.
The old Kinema building became the Returned Services and RSL Club, after moving from the original Anzac Memorial Hall which is now the Country Road Boutique. Directly opposite the Kinema was McIlwraith’s grocery store now being demolished and developed,
Coming back from Almora Street was Mrs. Hill’s Bakery (the best shop in the World for a 3d meat pie and a cream puff, ah!!! the smell, fresh bread never to be forgotten). Mosman Post Office, the telegram boys in uniform riding red bicycles. The Northern Suburbs Supply Store where dole tickets were accepted. This was the time of the Great Depression, the 1920s and 1930s, the years that we grew-up in; we were taught survival techniques early in life.
Mosman Horses and Men
To the rear of Noake’s, on the eastern side that is today the car park, is where the horse stables were located. During the early ‘20s the major mode of transport was by horse. Most services were horse drawn, they were used for transporting building materials, household garbage, home deliveries, the milko’s, rabbito’s, bottleo’s, bread, ice, night soil. Even the Fire Brigade was horse drawn the remains I believe still visible at rear of the Mosman Fire Station. The pole outside the Fire Station was used to dry the wet canvas fire hoses after a fire.
Dispersed along both sides of Military Road were stone horse drinking troughs, the blacksmith was at Neutral Bay now the Post Office. Some of my first recollections walking with Dad between two huge horses, “and gee they were big”, to a little kid, to be shod by the farrier, new shoes, clip, clop on the way home, even the horses knew, a great day out.
My father, Alf Wylie, ex-A I F NSW Light Horse No 1115 Rosebery 1914/18, stabled his two draught horses (Clydesdales) one named Sergeant (Red), the other Major (Black), he contracted to Mosman Council’s engineer Mr. Tonkin. Mosman Council was the first to use re-inforced concrete to seal the road surfaces in Sydney, some are still remaining. So there was plenty of work for a good groomsman and a couple of draught horses.
The following infrastructures in Mosman were built using mainly men and horses; the Spit Hill, Balmoral Esplanade, Bathing Pavilion, Amphitheatre, the Promenade, and Balmoral Tip at the southern end of Balmoral and the tram way cutting now listed heritage. Work during those post war years was hard to come by, but to us small fry, Mosman was and still is as close to paradise as you can be on this planet. Life was full of interest, the streets of Mosman were our play ground, we were free, fear was not known to us, people were caring, kind, respectful and we returned the compliments. Today? Another story.
Billy Cart racing down Raglan Street – known as Billy Cart Hill
Cullen’s Corner at the top end of Raglan Street, the home of Sir William Cullen, Justice of the Supreme Court of NSW, and at one time the temporary State Governor, NSW. The estate was known as Tregoyd and later the home of Sir Tristan Antico, founder of Pioneer Concrete and Barramul Stud, Widden Valley in the Upper Hunter Region.
We would race our billy carts down Raglan Street; it was tough to negotiate Cullen’s Corner, avoiding barking dogs; yelling kids chasing us down the hill, a spill and stubbed toes, scraped knees and elbows, no boots on our feet and no arse in our trousers and no cars. They called us the “Toe Rag Kids”.
1925-28 – No. 8 Almora Street, Mosman, Balmoral
In 1928 we moved to a weatherboard cottage at No. 8 Almora Street, Mum, Dad and the elder brother Len, with Lassie, Dad’s prize British bulldog: she took blue ribbons at the Royal Easter show. Dad would say “Ronnie take Lassie for a walk” Ahh Gee!!! No beg pardons from the old man. Lassie fought every dog around, so I would walk her to the beach and we would swim, good shark bait in those pristine waters of the 1920s but we survived and lived to enjoy the salt sea of Edwards Beach. The Frazz, a swimming pool carved out of the rock shelf on Wyargine Point by the young men on the dole and still used today. Hunter Beach, Peggy’s Rocks and the Island Rocky Point. We had to swim across at high water as there was no bridge , the whole stretch of Balmoral with views north, east, south as seen by us was paradise, our very own.
A display of Dolphins close inshore was common at the time. The fishing was plentiful and many residents had meals locally caught, with home grown spuds for chips, oysters from the rocks, winkles and pippies. Aboriginal middens were evident indicating the abundance of food in the area.
As kids we were cautioned about the shark attacks in Middle Harbour, prevalent at the time, as the upper reaches at this juncture were alive with fish of all varieties. The Spit narrows being popular on the run out tide. We were able to walk around the points to Chinamans Beach, The Spit, Cobblers and Obelisk Beaches even to Bradleys Head and the Dungeons, old gun emplacements, at low water, playing Cowboys and Indians and other grand dreams, all part of growing up at No 8 Almora Street.
Local housing blocks usually had large backyards, ours in particular; we kept chooks, ducks and a vegetable garden. The “Dunny” was way down the back with choko vine and was not used at night, too dark, hence the go’zunder. On the back verandah was the fuel copper, tubs, wringer and clothes line and prop close by. A good watch dog was a great asset; of comfort and security to us kids and was kept outside under the house.
When visitors and locals asked us where we came from “We come from Bally” Balmoral was nick named Bally to us. Take the B and the L off Balmoral and you get Almora.
Balmoral at the time was a greater attraction for picnickers better than anywhere else in Sydney. The summer time ferry services came all the way around from Circular Quay, Neilson Park, Clifton Gardens and then Balmoral Wharf, bringing plenty of visitors to the beach, parklands and vacant blocks along The Esplanade.
Entertainment was plentiful with chair-o-planes, roundabouts, the little steam railway, pony rides, lolly shops, fairy floss, doughnuts, ice cream for the kids. The “Good Old Summer Time” Dance Halls along The Esplanade such as Featherstone and Braemar, music of the 1920s, girls, the “Charleston beat”, the memories. No. 8 was close, and with the lights, the music, we slept on the front verandah, even the rain on the tin roof was heavenly rhythm.
Life was one great learning curve at this age the big boys and girls lived in a different world to us small fry. It was “No lip or you get a clip”.
Down the far end of Edwards Beach (northern end) was the Amphitheatre. Sunday afternoon entertainment, Mosman Municipal Brass Band (coin collection), the vaudeville entertainment with Athol Tier and troupe live (silver coin admission). We always had a way to sneak in free at most public venues.
Our backyard backed onto Thompson’s in Esther Road. This was their weekender, where they kept a large canoe. Summertime, about ten stalwart young men would carry it down to the beach, all dressed in shorts and a yellow shirt and off they would go on Middle Harbour for a paddle, hence the nickname the “Balmoral Canaries”.
Sunday Mornings on the beach in our cossies, the CSSSM Children’s Special Sunday School Mission would arrive, the big red banner was erected, and the man and his portable organ set-up, all the local children plus visitors and some adults would arrive at Peggy’s Rocks, the bottom end of Raglan Street. We would have service singing songs “Throw out the lifeline, someone is sinking away” “Build on the rock, the rock that ever stands” and others. We would listen to bible stories, beautiful people the CSSSM. We were so good, that some of us local kids (the Wylie’s) were picked to sing our songs on 2BL radio station. Getting ready to go, Dad going crook, “Hurry up or we’ll be 2BL, too bloody late”. Memories of Mosman never forgot!
Mosman Public School Boys
Mr Smith, Principal, teachers Thornton (Sep) Mrs Burns, Baker (Doughy), Laurie Ward (football coach and Kangaroo an idol) Mr Meany (he could use the cane); our curricular was Science, Woodwork, Tech. Drawing all subjects to QC standard. Wednesday afternoon, school assembly, the school drum and fife band was good, the police escort to Raglan Street, down the hill to Shearer’s Baths and swimming, this I loved. Friday afternoon was football, Rugby, visiting other schools in Sydney. One particular game at La Perouse/Matraville, Mr Baker spoke to us “The Aboriginal boys don’t have football boots and would we play in bare feet?” “Yes Sir, you beauty, we creamed em.” Mosman Memories.
Arrival of the Tram
I think it was sometime around 1924 that the electric trams arrived, travelling along The Esplanade, through the cutting at the southern end and climb to Gordon Street, around the loop with its panoramic view of Balmoral (San Francisco eat your heart out) to Middle Head Road. Before the Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened they terminated at Gore Hill, St Leonard’s, and were later extended to Chatswood and Lane Cove. In 1932 the first Dreadnought, single-carriage decorated tram, Balmoral to Wynyard, what a day! Bally to the city, over the Harbour Bridge.
Growing up early post 14/18 war years at Balmoral were associated with men from the various Returned Services, to sit and listening to their stories, of Battles and Sacrifice in wonderment. They were Heroes all.
Mr. Frank Cluet, (Mrs. Cluet, his wife an ex-Army Nurse, we always went to her with scrapes and tears, “Mrs. Cluet’ll fix it”), lived on The Esplanade. He had lost both legs in the war and was confined to a wheel chair. Mr Frank Morris was blind and his family lived opposite us at No 8, one was always assisting the other. They had a motor launch moored at Joel’s Boatshed next to Shearer’s Swimming Baths used for fishing trips, these people were a great example to us growing up. Balmoral in those years was Blessed with Angels. When I look back the word Mateship now part of life.
On the corner of The Esplanade and Almora Street was the establishment of Dave Smith. Our house was next to Dave Smith’s (Australian Heavyweight Boxing Champion) and his lolly shop and refreshment rooms were on The Esplanade at the Almora Street corner. Next door was his gymnasium where Les Darcy and other boxing champions of the time trained. It was here that we local boys learnt the art of self defence and “The Marquis of Queensbury Rules “ little knowing what lay ahead, for the thousands of my age group, who made the Supreme Sacrifice overseas 1939/45, from around our Nation. Many I grew up with and remember. Saturday or Sunday a boxing ring was set up on the beach and an exhibition was staged for the crowd, great entertainment. Dave Smith and family were wonderful people to us younger generation. He was an Alderman on Mosman Council 1925/31, never to be forgotten, “vote for the man with a punch”.
My first day at school was a disaster. School years commenced at “over 4 and under 5” at Mosman Kindergarten in Gouldsbury Street. The world to me in those days was “up the hill or down the hill” dressed in shoes and socks? Off up the hill we went Mum not happy walking up the Almora grades, 154 steps and then the climb to Military Road and school.
Being left at school I decided this is not for me, so at the first recess I took off down the hill and was waiting for mum to arrive home. I wasn’t popular, poor Mum. Do we ever realize what angels they are when we are so very young? Oh Boy did I cop it from Dad that night so I decided there and then it was the scholastic prowess into the future.
My time at Mosman Bay – 1931 – No. 17 Badham Ave
About this time due to unfortunate family events I moved to No.17 Badham Ave. I was adopted into the family home of Shigeo Sawada, a Japanese business man married to Thelma Illingworth. Thelma was the daughter of Nelson Illingworth, a famous sculptor known for his portrait head and busts of prominent people. Hence my contact with the many artists, musicians, poets and painters that congregated at Lanosa 52 Musgrave St, the boarding house and home of Elizabeth and Nelson Illingworth.
Elizabeth, known as Grandma to me, always said “ Little boys should be seen and not heard”, “Remove your hat when you enter the room” I spent my time listening and learning as I grew up.
My new home at No. 17 Badham Ave was known as Hakone after a town in Japan. It was built sometime in the earlier 1920s on the site of Archibald Mosman’s home, later known as The Nest. The new home at No.17 Badham Ave was not far from the back entrance of Lanosa. At the rear of No. 17 was the Lady Isabella grape vine planted by Archibald Mosman which remained after the demolition of The Nest and under which I spent many a happy hour as did my own children up until the late 1960s.
The arrival of the steam ferries the big K’s the Kuttabul, (WW2 fame Japanese Midget Subattack),Koompartoo, Kosciusko, Kanangra. We took trips to the city looking down at the huge reciprocal steam engine, the berthing at Circular Quay. Being taken to the nearest Sergeants Pie Café, with marble top tables; waitresses dressed in black with white aprons and bonnets; truly indelible memories of a very fascinating real world.
The family I now lived with were very involved in the Scouts so I continued from cubs to First Port Jackson Sea Scouts at Clifton Gardens. The MacDougal, Hope, Christie and Irving families and many other; a new coterie of friends developed although my early mates from Bally were still a part of life and also became part of our scouting activities. Such is the bond that existed and the motto “Be Prepared” essential to what lay ahead after 1939. 1st Mosman Scout Troop became an integral part of life. The Barn, Reid Park, Cubs, Scouts, Sea Scouts, Meetings, District Rally’s, Jamboree’s, Camps, the competition, the challenge, the school activity, all now part of growing up. The leaders of the Sea Scout troop and patrol, a period in my life with lots of treasured memories, thanks to the experience of the leaders who led us, and taught us during the 20s and 30s all Mosmanian, all great.
The Mosman Rowing Club, a seat as coxswain, in the fours or eights training and racing on Mosman Bay. Or off around to the sailing club boat shed near Old Cremorne wharf at weekends hoping to be picked as bailer boy in Desdamona etc. for 18 footers racing on Sydney Harbour. These skiffs could really fly on a run, natural speed, thrill a minute for a youngster.
Around this time 1st Mosman Sea Scouts the Seagull Patrol became too big and so became 1st Port Jackson Sea Scouts under the leadership of Jim Pilcher, whose father was Captain Pilcher Master of the SS Tanda of the E&A Line trading Australia to Japan. Our meeting place was in the basement of his home at Clifton Gardens at the bottom of Thompson Street. Our boats were kept at the Army Water Base at Clifton Gardens especially Coastguard our largest termed a “Captains Gig” double dipping lugsail ex-Navy all very strict and to me exciting. This now was becoming my first taste of the sea, Sydney Harbour. The camps at the Basin on Pittwater, trips on the Erina and Gosford towing Coastguard they were very small ships trading between Sydney/Hawkesbury River with daily farm produce at the time.
1933 – 1936, Neutral Bay Intermediate High School
Around this time I had passed my Q C (Qualifying Certificate) my scholastic ability average, (lack of concentration). I spent the next three years at Neutral Bay Intermediate High School. Having acquired my Intermediate Certificate with a gentleman’s pass 4’bs I was accepted as a Cadet Merchant Navy for a 4 year Cadet apprenticeship training seagoing.
In 1937 I joined Burns Philp & Co. Shipowners (BP) as a Junior Cadet Officer Foreign Going and was in the company employment for 30 years in various capacities. I gained my British Board Of Trade Certificates and served as a Deck Officer on the BP Mainline Passenger and Cargo vessels during the War Years 1939 – 1945. More details of my war years are on our website www.merchant-navy-ships.com
My early years of remembrance must have commenced at around the age of 3-4 years not much earlier always “down the hill or up the hill”. Mosman attracted many post-war returned servicemen due to the amount of relief work available rather than the dole. Government subsidies were spent particularly on public access, recreation, and the beautifying and protection of the local environment, showing fore’sight of early Mosman Councillors and residents to whom we early born and grown-up with, have benefited and still do. “As close to Paradise on this planet you get”
From the mid 1920s to 1938 my association and recollections are indelibly recorded, Balmoral and Mosman Bay, Pre and Post War Years. I would be somewhat remiss not to mention 1939/45 and the Japanese threat to our Nation. To-day looking across to Manly and down to Balmoral from Redan Street, recalling the Civilian Air Raid Precautions in Mosman against the Japanese invasion. A real threat believe me, barbed wire, air raid shelters, NES Wardens’ Posts, precautionary drill in schools and homes of those who still remained in Mosman was very real.
The wartime activity at North Head, South Head, Middle Head – heavy guns by day; searchlights at night. Naval shipping off Balmoral, Mosman’s nine hole golf course now HMAS Platypus, Boom Defence, Oil Tanks, Clifton Gardens, civil activity in the extreme. German Surface Raiders, submarines, mine fields, Japanese Submarines 1942 operating off Sydney, all very real.
As a MN Officer during the war I recall my return to Sydney with great nostalgia and I must say with a lump in the throat and a tear in the eye. Having been involved in the Pacific Campaign for a year or so we were ordered to Sydney to drydock and repair. Steaming down the East Coast we arrived at Sydney; The Heads, Grotto Point lighthouse bearing inline with the tower Parriwi Road light column, the Awaba Street bitumen scar, Balmoral Beach, my “Bally” entrance, line up the obelisks Obelisk Bay, through the Boom Defence Net, round Bradley’s Head light, Mosman, Cremorne, Taronga, the beaches and bays, Mosman skyline, home, friendship, love the gifts of the “Great Architect” of our universe. My post-war years upon return to civvies and always a continuing love of my home my Mosman.
1961 – Back to 17 Badham Ave and in December 1965 moved to 16 Redan Street, Mosman. I think you must have had enough of my story now, so I pass the baton to my progeny Peter, Catherine, Mark and their siblings to cover 40 years of very happy memories of Mosman in the Family Home at 16 Redan St. Mosman.
I found the following song in a supplement article to Mosman Mail, June 13 1903. Composer unknown; this is one verse.
For my life is steeped in thee Mosman’s ! Mosman’s !
And without thee naught could be – Mosman’s ! Mosman’s !
Love I ev’ry stone and tree ! Rain or sun, thou’rt dear to me,
Little suburb by the sea – Mosman’s ! Mosman’s !
Thank you for your wonderful stories. I’ve just bought in Mosman Street and your memories beautifully frame the history of this amazing area.
If any book is published, I hope you have a starring role.
Thank you again.
I’m a translation student at the University of Geneva.
I’m translating the play Blood Relations by David Malouf into Spanish.
One of the characters sings the following verses: “Build on the rock, / The rock that ever stands, / Build on the rock, / And not upon the sands, / You do not feel the storm / Or the earthquake’s shock, / You’re safe forever more / If you build on the rock.
Can anyone tell me if this is a Church song, and to which religion it belongs to ?
Thank you very much for your help!
can you remember if dave smith had a son called cyril smith
we are looking for a cyril smith who had a lollie shop at that time in Mosman family tree search
I was wondering if you remember any of the names of the Christie family, they lived in a house called “Bonnyrigg” Military Road, and other streets of Mosman have been researching my family tree.
Yes Bill we were in the First Mosman Scouts “The Barn” 1920/30’s and remember a Bill Christie think it was the same bloke however not sure.
I was about 8 or 9 yrs old and Bill Christie was our leader he was about 14/15yrs old.
Thats all I know.
Bill Christie was my father. Yes he was in the First Mosman Scouts and from all accounts it was a very enjoyable part of his life. He died 10 years ago aged 81.
I was fascinated to read of your reference to Captain Pilcher of TSS Tanda. I was trying to find some information about him as I found a diary a passenger wrote of a voyage in 1937. Do you know anything about him? Or if any family are still in NSW? Was he Captain of the Tanda when it was torpedoed? If you could point me in the right direction to find out any information I would be very grateful. I really enjoyed visiting your merchant navy ships web site.
Re Ron Wylie’s Balmoral.
What a memory Ron!. I was born in 1941 and lived all those formative years up to 1964, in Cowles Rd Mosman – but my first love was the beach and I became an adopted “Bally’ local, mixing with the Carriers, Fayles, Millers, Ruthvens, Sunleys,James, Aylwyns et al. Haunting “Mrs Rids’(Riddle), corner store, playing tennis on the adjoining Queenwood Girls Court, spearfishing around at Obelisk and the HMAS Penguin wharf (careful not to stand on one of the horde of sting rays that lay on the flat, sandy sea bottom surrounding the base).Sun bathing in front of the “BBC’, (Balmoral Beach Club). And the big freak waves crashing down on a stormy day.
Even in the winter, a group of us trained regularly on the sand prior to the start of the rugby season. So, apart from the earlier 15 odd years recalled by Ron, I too (later), experienced most of those same beautiful places and friendly faces you cherished and am privileged and glad to be able to say: “I too, was a Mossie/Bally Boy to the bootstraps!’.
My Dad William (Bill) Manuel, was the Manager of the “Mosman Meat Service’, at Mosman junction (a hand full of shops up from Lopez’ Fruit shop towards the Beuna Vista and the Wine Bar on the opposite side of the street)…I remember asking my Dad: “Daddy, what are all those people buying in them paper bags?’ “Cough medicine son’
Apart from being a master butcher, Bill was an accomplished fine artist, having successfully gained entry in four major exhibitions, – two Mosman Art Exhibitions and two Archibald Prizes!!).
Recently, my family approached the Mosman Art Gallery with the view to bequesting one of my Father’s paintings, hung in the 1945 Archibald Prize, (Title:‘William Smith, New Guinea campaign’), to the Gallery and were delighted that the Committee saw fit to accept the offer.
As a small child, Bill commenced my art education until eventually, I successfully applied to the National Art School, gained my diploma and spent many years in design studios/advertising agencies – ultimately establishing my own Ad Agency in 1978, (and still operative in 2011 (on a much smaller scale!).
Mosman and it’s environs supplied me with a host of adventures – some cheeky, (like jumping the fence at the Zoo), some fascinating, (the gun emplacements in Ashton Park) and some totally foolish, (like climbing the awesome rock face opposite the Spit Baths, to collect an array of cicadas). It also gave me opportunities and challenges that, later on, helped me embrace life in a positive manner.
To Ann Brech .
My mother (and grandmother) were evacuated from India to Sydney and she stayed and went to school in Mosman as a 7 Year Old . When the Japanese shelled Sydney she was evacuated inland. In 1944 it was deemed safe to return to India and she was on the SS Tanda when it was torpedoed by U181. She is still alive and I would be very interested in any information on SS Tanda or Mosman from this period .
It’s quite a fluke that I landed here again – just out of curiosity to see if anyone had answered my comment. I have put some information and a brochure of the ship which includes photos of inside SS Tanda on www.sealikeglass.com. I have been trying to find out where all the archive material from the E & A line might be kept now – but no luck so far. I was wondering if your Mum has ever written about her memories of this time? All the best, Ann
My father’s much-loved aunt Elizabeth Hemingway moved from New Zealand to Clifton Gardens with her husband W.H. Hemingway in 1920. He was a solicitor. They were divorced some years later – but I am wondering if I have any cousins in Sydney. Do you have any memories of them?
My family lived at 45 The Esplanade, can’t find it anymore. Think the house was called “Tudor Hall”. Would have been around 1950 ongoing. Lovely holidays with family.
Dear Ron, hoping you are still with us and recalling memories of Mosman! My son in law’s grandfather, Cyril Rayner, lived near Athol Hall from the mid 1920’s: apparently his father was a parks ranger then. He also was active in the Mosman sea scouts. Do you anything about the park ranger families in the 1920’s?
To Bruce M and all Mosmanites- Alan Bishop here. I also climbed the zoo wall regularly and fished for the giant carp bred in huge ponds. I am now 80 but kicking on.
I lived at 131 Avenue Rd and had the trams roaring past our front door. Sweet memories.