Balmoral Memories

Posted by
Les 'Tummy' Kewin

For my name and memory, I leave it to men’s charitable speeches and to foreign nations, and the next ages. Frances Bacon 1561 – 1626.

My memories of Balmoral, Mosman

I was born in a little country town called Pericoe near the Victorian border. The Kewin Family moved to Balmoral in Mosman when I was six months of age in 1921 in the early Depression years, my memories from 4 years of age will never fade nor be forgotten. I was number three in a family of five brothers and sisters, Bertha, Gwen, Ken, myself Les (Tummy) and Jack. My father passed away when I was just 3 years old and only 6 weeks before my youngest brother Jack was born, so I grew up knowing the tough times as well as the good times during my early years at Balmoral Beach. With the most wonderful Mother and family I had bestowed upon me and with all my very good friends my very early years were truly spent in paradise.

Early recollections at the time were of Braemar House on the corner Lawry Parade (The Esplanade). Braemar House was a restaurant and dance hall. Next door was the amusement park with swings, slippery dip, hoop-la and many more show time games.

There was a merry-go-round, (with no engine in those days) it was pulled around by a little black horse that we kids and everybody loved. In later years the amusement park was made into tennis courts, a popular sport of the day, but now is developed into homes that exist along the Balmoral waterfront.

I clearly remember Dermot Graves riding to school just above the top of Esther Road. We used to swim the horses along past Joels Boatshed.

The 1920s and ‘30s of the Music Hall Charleston era, the Dance Halls along The Esplanade four in all were Braemar, The Astor, Lavos and Featherstone behind the fish and chip shop and also the butcher shop. As kids we would climb on the vacant block of land next door and watch the adults dancing and being entertained with music of the times.

During this period in time the Mini–Golf craze courses were the rage, actually there were four mini-golf courses at Balmoral at the time in the middle of the Great Depression. There were many empty houses and flats in the area at this particular time. I met my childhood sweetheart Joan during early boyhood days, we grew up together and have been married now for 67 years. We have four daughters, nine grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren. We have lived in 15 different homes in this area but many do not exist to day.

There were quite a few quaint and different characters who lived at Balmoral then, one I remember clearly. He was “Dublin Tom”, well known he was and is mentioned in Mosman Library photos. He lived in a cave just past where the Sea Scouts Building now stands.

Before the trams started to run to Balmoral, the area was served by white buses run by the White Transit Bus Company their depot was on the corner of Military and Cowles Road at Spit Junction. Many the times when there were too many passengers the men would have to get out and walk up Raglan Street to Military Road from Cullen’s Corner. Ladies remained on board. As kids we would hang onto the spare wheel at the back of the bus and scale a ride up Raglan Street, on our way to school.

The were some friends my age during the 1920s and ‘30s. There were the Wylie boys Ronnie and Lennie plus Billy James all from Almora Sreet. We had common back fences and large backyards that went through to Esther Road. Our neighbours were the three Ford brothers, the Pethebridges, Frank and Ted (Bubba), plus my two brothers Ken and Jack and we all played together. There are not many of my old friends now left in Mosman.

As a young boy I had an 8 foot canvas canoe. I would paddle over to Grotto Point lighthouse wharf, dive from the wharf that existed. I would look back at the expanse of the whole escarpment “Balmoral Slopes,” impressions never to be forgotten. We young fellows growing up in Mosman were surely rich with natural gems.

With my mates we would sneak around the rocks at the southern end to swim in Cavill’s Baths, which were the old converted septic tanks. These came from the house up on the hill that had sewerage connected, where as we, living on the flat area at Balmoral we still had an out back dunny, removed once a week by the “Dunny-Man”.

Mosman had a nine hole golf course at the time on Middle Head commandeered by the Navy during WW2 and it still exists, it is HMAS Penguin. The old clubhouse still remains. With my friends we would wait in the bush and fox for golf balls rolling off the fairways show the golfers where they were, even sell them ones we found, this was one of the ways we could earn enough to go to the “Fliks on Saterdee Arvo.” Money was scarce but we survived.

One particular time I remember the finding of an Aboriginal skeleton during the building of the promenade.

Shearers Baths at the ferry wharf and Joel’s boatshed I remember well. Large notices were displayed at the time – Ladies and Gents Mixed bathing Prohibited before 12 o’clock, the order of the day. James’s Dressing Sheds also existed at that end next to the Balmoral Beach Club.

Another of the buildings creating much interest at the time was the Amphitheatre built by the religious sect “Star of the East.” It ended up in controversy, built with money contributed by selling seats to view the second coming of Christ through Sydney Heads and was also used for musical and vaudeville shows at weekends during depression years. Iit was demolished and a large block of flats erected at the far end of Edward’s Beach.

Both my wife and I served in the Australian Army during the war years myself 4 years and Joan for three years.

I was a Butcher by trade having served my time at the well known shop of Pistola’s situated Military Road at the junction of Middle Head, Bradley’s Head and Prince Albert Streets towards the Beuna Vista Hotel and opposite Jewke’s Chemist Shop. Joan and I have been married now for 67 years with the Kewin Clan spread around still holding the values born while growing up in Mosman during the Depression Years. Being Mosmanian and in conclusion…

‘A Mother’s Hope’

Youth fades; Love droops;
The leaves of friendship fall;
A mother’s secret hope outlives them all.
O.W. Holmes

Les 'Tummy' Kewin · 29 January 2009

Your comment

I think this is a wonderful letter posted by my Father re his Mosman Memories

— Jacqui Parsons · 10 February 2009, 05:09 · #

Wonderful memories from a wonderful man & an even better Dad.

— Karen McCann · 13 February 2009, 06:43 · #

Hi, My parent managed Joels Boatshed around 1942-1946. He looked after the boats and mum operated the kiosk at the entrance. I used to play or have lunch with anybody that turned up on the beach. A wonderful place, and sorry to see the boatshed gone. I remember I was not allowed to go up to the top workshop overlooking the baths at certain times as I believe a little nude bathing used to go on. Many fond memories of Balmoral and Raglan Street Mosman.

— Kay Francis · 22 March 2009, 06:07 · #

Billy James was or is my uncle. My mom was Betty. Other siblings were Foncie, Josie, Jack, Molly and Peggy. From what I recall no one used their real names. I know Billy was “Reg”. Betty was “Claire”. You might be able to help with the others.

— Peter O'Donnell · 23 April 2009, 17:25 · #

Les thank you for your wonderful memories of Balmoral. Mine were of a later date mainly the late 50s. My sister and I almost lived at the beach in Summer. Getting up early and running down the hill past Queenwood Girls school, thongs slapping the pavement, hair blowing in the breeze with the lure of the Summer King tide spurring us onward. We didn’t stop ‘till we dove into the crystal clear water. Mostly we had the whole beach to ourselves.

— Rhonda Blunt nee Higgerson · 5 September 2009, 05:14 · #

I also grew up at Balmoral Beach, Esther Road, in the 40s and 50s. Wonderful time of my life, attended Queenwood and left when I was 21 for overseas and never really came back. In the meantime our home on the corner of Esther Road has been demolished and replaced by Units. I’ll never forget my time there and now I live in Germany for just on 50 years. I’m happy here but I still often think of my time at Balmoral.

— Barbara Baumgaertner nee Thompson · 5 April 2010, 16:10 · #

I too lived in Esther Rd, No. 15 at the corner that has been demolished and now 2 prestige units. Very sad the house has gone as it was a really interesting one. Loved growing up in the area around 1968. Spent so many hours on the beach and surrounding area.

— Jane Barnett · 11 November 2010, 04:24 · #

Tommy Joel, he was a wonderful chap, we used to have boat trips from there, a most kind delightful man.

— Terry brown · 24 October 2013, 21:50 · #

Hi I am related to the Joels of Joel's boat yard. Any photos or documents I can see, I would be grateful, plus any stories

— Caroline Morton · 11 June 2014, 21:31 · #

To Caroline Morton: I was a great mate of Norman and Roy Joel in cubs and scouts, Balmoral 12 Foot sailing club and as apprentices in Cockatoo Dockyard. I have a photograph taken outside the boatshed and under the big Moreton Bay fig tree of the 1st Balmoral cubs and scouts in 1939. Norman and I were still cubs then. I also crewed with Norman in his 12 foot skiff “Balmoral” and later he also crewed with my brother and I in “Ronles”. I can send you a copy of this photo if you contact me on

— Donald Skinner · 9 February 2015, 08:49 · #

I believe my father – Hilton- was the older stepbrother of Les Kewin. If you have a brother or cousin named James son of Ken who lived in Mosman then it is probably so. I see in Les’s article a statement about Braemar House being a dance hall. I have an newspaper article of 1927 which shows my dad (aged 20 )was arrested for riotous conduct at a house on the corner of Raglan St And Lawry Parade Balmoral which had been converted into a dance hall where alcohol was sold illegally.

— Alan Kewin · 16 March 2017, 11:55 · #

To Jacqui Parsons and Karen McCann
I believe my father was the older stepbrother of Les Kewin.If you have a brother or cousin named Jimmy son of Ken then it is probably so. I note in Les’s account that he mentions a 1930’s Braemar House in Balmoral as a dance hall. I have a newspaper article from 1927 regarding my father,Hilton – 20 years old, being arrested and fined one pound for riotous conduct at premises of the same address on the corner of Raglan Street and Lawry Parade( The Esplanade) where cardboard had been placed over the windows and the rear room was used as a dance hall where alcohol was sold illegally.It was shown that 19 young local men had formed a club called The Query Club for the purpose. The principal was remanded on 100 pounds bail which seems like it was a serious matter at that time.

Alan Kewin

— Alan Kewin · 18 March 2017, 11:07 · #

We used Joel’s Boatshed for our trips out on Judith, the lovely Boat from The most kind gentle man, Tom Joel, barefooted on all surfaces, always ready with a smile, shy in a way, but lovely lovely man.

— Terry Brown · 1 February 2018, 22:56 · #

Oh, the flashes of memory your letters give.

When the navy had taken over the southern end, the wire mesh fence cut off the best flathead fishing spot ever.

Somehow :) a secret hole under the fence enabled access with cane rod and rudimentary tackle.

I still have a net repairing bobbin that I found in these years…… and now your notes bring back memories.
Yes, hard, sparse years, but full of adventures for a young bloke…… and great flatheads.

With best wishes,

— ray breakers · 6 December 2018, 14:14 · #

Hi Alan Kewin I do believe you are correct Ken was my Uncle & Jim my cousin.

— Karen McCann · 12 June 2019, 15:17 · #