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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Early Residents - James Tanner

Although it is generally claimed that Thomas Boland was Springwood’s first stationmaster and this occupation is listed for him on some family documents, it was James Tanner, his son-in-law, who was the first officially appointed Stationmaster, taking up this appointment on 1 January 1883 at an annual salary of £150. Prior to this date Springwood was only listed as Springwood Platform with E. Fishlock in charge.
James was born in Temple Bar in about 1831, parents James, a hairdresser, and Eleanor, nee Higham. He married Ellen Louisa Boland in 1864 in Sydney and commenced working for the Railway in 1876. Ellen and James were said to have had 8 children although we can only find 7 listed in the birth registration records: Ernest J. 1866, Maude Mary 1870, Frank 1872, Paul 1875, Ellen Ruth 1878, Roger Bede 1880 and Naomi Agatha 1883, all born in Sydney.

Reading through the Springwood reports in the Nepean Times, however, there is often mention of James Tanner junior. There is also mention of a Master Edgar Tanner captaining a cricket team in 1883 and adding to the success of the Springwood Literary and Debating Club concert in 1887. We can find no official record of an Edgar Tanner either. Were the Bolands continuing with their habit of swapping names?
In 1883, James was in trouble with public education authorities and appeared in court in February, charged with failing to send to school a female child for whom he was a guardian. He pleaded not guilty, stating that the child was in his employ with the permission of her parents and his agreement with them was that she was to receive clothing and accommodation with no mention of school. He said that he was certainly not her guardian. She was receiving basic instruction in reading, writing and arithmentic from members of the Tanner family. The schoolteacher, Mr Schowe, said she was not educated to the required standard, but the magistrate ruled that James had done his duty by her and dismissed the charge.

In 1885, James was promoted to Rylstone and De Carteret Lockie replaced him at Springwood on 27 October of that year. It appears, however, that some of the family continued living in Springwood with Frank Tanner being mentioned in the cricket news in 1890 and 1891. Frank was also lost with another young man in Sassafras the same year, but it was not until April 1892 that it was reported that ‘an old time resident has returned to reside here’. James had retired from the Railway and he and his family were occupying a cottage opposite the Station.

James Tanner now became involved with the Springwood Progress Association and was elected to a Committee to find a suitable site for a hall, and was later elected to a Committee of Management. He and several of his children were very musical and he is often mentioned as being the accompanist at concerts, as well as at the Hughes’ surprise party. At concerts Frank and Roger played the piano and Paul the violin and singing, while James junior played the piccolo. One concert report referred to him as James Tanner KTW (Knight of the Tin Whistle). In April 1895, the Times reported:
A party of our enthusiastic young residents started on Tuesday night by train to Katoomba from which point they intend ‘stumping’ it to the Jenolan Caves and back—Percy Croucher, Pat Ryan Jnr and Jas Tanner. They have gone fully equipped with a penny whistle and a banjo, so they will march with martial music.

The Tanner girls had their share of musical talent, too. At a Cricket Club concert Miss May (Maude Mary?) performed the ‘Skipping Rope Dance’ and the ‘Fan Dance’. On another occasion it was said that Miss Naomi Tanner sang very sweetly ‘Hazel Dell’. The reporter awarded her first place for singing.

In April 1902 the Nepean Times reported that Mr Tanner was very ill and unable to leave his bed. He died a few days after this at the age of 71. Ellen died in 1925. 

From The Making Of A Mountain Community, A Biographical Dictionary of the Springwood District.

More on James Tanner
His death was recorded in the Sydney Morning Herald 8.5.1902.  The newspaper stating that James Tanner, a native of London, died at his Springwood residence.  He was connected to the ‘mechanical staff of the Sydney Morning Herald’ before entering Government Service.  He was a stationmaster at Springwood where he remained for 14 years before removing to Rylstone. 

Sketch of first Railway Station at Springwood

Goods Train at Springwood Railway crossing c1880

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