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Friday, July 22, 2011

Early Residents: De Carteret Lockie

Goods train in Springwood c1880s. 
Photograph shows level crossing that existed before overhead bridge.

De Carteret Lockie was Springwood’s second 'official' stationmaster.  He had been stationed at The Rock near Wagga Wagga and was appointed to replace James Tanner at Springwood in October 1885. He married Annie Batley in Orange in 1876. The couple had three sons, Horace, born in Orange; Sidney born in Bathurst and Percival born in Cootamundra. Little De Carteret was born while they were in Springwood. He was baptised by Reverend Cranswick on 6 April 1886. This event made him one of the first babies to have been christened in Christ Church, Springwood.

 Their stay in the area was short lived because De Carteret was promoted to Millthorpe in December 1886. His replacement was Harding Melville who was not appointed until August 1887.

Crime Doesn't Pay

Reported in the Northern Standard (Darwin) 12 July 1938 the arrest of several men on charges of robbing goods trains.  Detectives had been trying for some time to discover the persons responsible for the thefts.  They were thought to hide in the loaded goods trucks, and to throw the goods out along the railway line only to be collected later. 

Detective Webb secreted himself in one of the west bound goods trucks where, on its approach to Valley Heights, he witnessed goods being thrown out onto the line.  Four men leapt of the train, which was going slowly, and proceeded to run back picking up their spoils.  Webb alighted the train and with revolver drawn, pursued the thieves. When he ordered them to 'put their hands up' two obeyed but two absconded. 

Police visited homes in the Penrith and Bankstown area following the arrest of the two men at Valley Heights and a further eight men were arrested.  Another man (said to be a businessman) was taken into custody and charged with receiving. 

Northern Standard  12 July, 1938, p. 6.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Early Residents - John Lawler

Like some of his business contemporaries, John Lawler purchased property in the Springwood district towards the end of the 1800s. The land in question was situated on the border of Springwood and Valley Heights and the Nepean Times (26 March 1898) reported: ‘Mr Lawler of furniture fame is building a residence near Brady’s Gates on the same side as Mr Gamson’.  

However, the Nepean Times correspondent was somewhat concerned, and stated on 7 May 1898 that the site Mr Lawler had chosen for his house was somewhat uneven. The home lived up to expectations despite this small obstacle and today remains one of the finest homes in the district. It is listed on the council’s heritage register. The cottage known as Eringah is located in Railway Parade, Springwood and bears the appearance of an English castle due to work carried out in the 1970s by the Bunda family who purchased the property sometime later. 

There was more drama to follow when a quarryman, working on the project, was fined for having too much powder (dynamite) on the job, and insufficient means of storage. The quarryman was obliged to appear in Penrith Court House.

Before building their mountain home in Springwood the Lawler’s were well established in the retailing world of Sydney. The 1875 Sands Directory listed John as owning a home named Maryville at 295 Glebe Road, Glebe. He was a bedding manufacturer by trade with premises located at 510 George Street, Sydney. According to a book written some years ago on the history of Glebe, Lawler was given credit for introducing kapok and wire mattresses to Sydney. Before the introduction of these modern materials, and depending on income, the only bedding materials available were horsehair, feathers, or straw. However, the same tome mentioned that the early wire mattresses sold by Lawler required a ‘key’ to re-tension the springs when they slackened.

Kapok was a highly flammable material and caused several fires at his premises. Nonetheless, Lawler’s business venture flourished. He is given the dubious credit of building the first high rise building in Sydney, and his last premises rose to a height of six storeys. The building is believed to have been the first retail store in Sydney to install a lift. Unfortunately for Lawler, this modern architectural miracle met with disaster when it was burnt to the ground, and he did not rebuild again. A fireman was killed by falling debris during the fire, and the Lawler’s bore the brunt of £40,000 in damages

The Sands Directory of 1885 referred to Lawler as a ‘bedding manufacturer and importer of brass and iron bedsteads’. His address was 608 George Street, but apparently he had another premises located at 6 Union Lane, Sydney. The former may have been a showroom.

Lawler was born in Ireland according to the Sydney Morning Herald and was still a young man when he arrived in Australia.[1]  He is thought to have married Mary Anne Donahue daughter of John Donahue in 1866.  The couple are believed to have had several children including Frederick A. c1869,  Alfred J. c1867, William J. c1871, Catherine Josephine c1877, Mary May c1875, John L. c1874.  Mary Anne died in 1882.[2]  

He is thought to have married Sarah Elizabeth Bennett in 1884 and four more children were born.  They were:  Annie Ellen c1884, Mabel Ruth born c1886, Venetia Marie born c1888 and Elizabeth born c1890. The Sands Directory listed John Lawler & Sons, 608–12 George Street, Sydney, Mattrass (sic) Mft.  A “Public Notice” that appeared in the newspapers in 1899 stated that Lawler had conducted business in Sydney for upwards of forty years, trading as a bedding manufacturer and furniture warehouseman.[3]  The notice advertised the fact that he had transferred his business over to three of his eldest children namely Frederick Andrew, William John and Catherine Josephine Lawler.[4]  John Lawler & Sons sold a variety of furnishings that included music stools, , chairs, hallstands and whatnots to the local market but had a large export market as well.[5]

It would seem that retirement from his business may have prompted his move to Springwood.  Lawler moved easily into the civic and social life of the area when he became a permanent resident.  He joined the Progress Association and later, was appointed one of the Vice Presidents of the Cricket Club. In 1900 he was appointed as a Reserve Trustees.

Venetia Lawler in garden of Fels Ridge
His four youngest daughters from his second marriage were educated locally, and in 1901 Miss M. Lawler was Dux of the Springwood Ladies College. Miss A. Lawler was presented with a music medal in the same year.  It was in 1901 also when the Nepean Times reported that Miss Venetia Lawler took charge of the ‘flower stall’ at the Springwood Ladies College fete. The girls attended the school in the time of the Misses Berne.

Two years later Lawler purchased a considerable amount of property near Springwood railway, intending to subdivide it into smaller lots. In 1904 it was reported that he was building shops ‘not quite as big as his Sydney house’. The shops, which burnt down and were rebuilt in 1924, were located approximately where the ANZ Bank stands today. Lawler leased these to various tenants. 

Sadly, in 1902, William John Lawler, one of the sons from his first marriage, committed suicide by taking poison.[6]  It would seem that William, only twenty nine years old, was suffering depression at the time.  John Lawler appeared on the 1903 electoral roll and was described as having independent means. In 1904, Eringah was leased out and the family moved to Manly for a period of six months.  He is listed in the 1916 telephone directory and died in 1918.[7]  His estate was valued at almost eighty  thousand pounds, which was mentioned in the Sydney Morning Herald 27.4.1918.  Fifty six thousand of that amount represented property.  Sarah died in 1936.

Lawler left his estate divided between his wife, son and four daughters, with all of them having an equal share. Venetia went on to marry William Arnold Wendall of Mosman, and Elizabeth married Timothy Carroll of Toorak, Melbourne. The other two daughters remained single.

Despite what has been written elsewhere, Lawler did not donate Eringah to the order of the Sisters of St Joseph and in fact the home was sold c1924–5 for £3,000 to the Misses Veronica O’Brien, Mary Meskill, Mary Mulheron and Bridget Delaney. These ladies may have had some association with that order but it has not been recorded in Council documents.

There is also conjecture that two of Lawler’s daughters joined the order after finishing their education. It is possible that Mabel Ruth may have done so, but highly unlikely that Annie Ellen did as she owned property and a home in Springwood until c1939. The Lawler home Eringah, although much altered today, is still located in Springwood Avenue and was named The Bungalow.  There has been some suggestion that Eringah was the Irish word for castle however this is incorrect.  It would seem Eringah is a shortened version of the phrase 'erin go bragh' which has several meanings including 'Ireland forever.'  The Irish word for castle is caislea'n.  

Pamela Smith: 
Although changes have been made because of new information, the original article was taken from The Making Of A Mountain Community, A Biographical Dictionary of the Springwood District.   

[1] Sydney Morning Herald, 6.4.1918, p. 14.
[2] Ibid, 6.11.1882, p. 1.
[3] Ibid, 11.7.1899, p. 1.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid, 23.12.1897, p. 3.
[6] The Advertiser, New South Wales, 4.6.1902, p. 7.
[7] Sydney Morning Herald, 6.4.1918, p. 14.