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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

World War One - Photography

A story related to Springwood Historians recently suggested that soldiers serving overseas in World War One were deprived of recording their experiences in photographs.  However, an advertisement in a newspaper and subsequent research has revealed that Australian and indeed British soldiers were entitled to take a 'small personal camera' with them on active service.(1)

An article in the Photographic Collection of The First World War Poetry Digital Archive confirmed three main categories of photographers during World War One; official, press and amateur.  Official photographers - like Charles Bean - were given commissioned status and documented the conflict at home and on the Western fronts.  However, even though photographs were distributed broadly in newspapers and in propaganda material and provided official military records they were still subject to military and civilian censorship. 

Press photographers had a degree of freedom in Egypt and Mesopotamia but rigorously restricted in places like the Western Front.(2) While restricted, these photographs provide evidence of the growing participation of civilians - especially women - and are a valued social history and military resource.

The photographs of the amateur photographer are no less valuable because they provide other visualisations of military life, however, how much or little they portrayed depended on the where they were stationed and the view of their commanding officers.(3) It would appear that Australian soldiers may have taken the Kodak Vest Pocket camera and an advertisement of the day implied that it was simple to use and required no skill or prior knowledge of photography. (4)  The advert suggested it weighed 9 ounces, was made for rough use and most importantly would not rust.

Limitations of the equipment then available limited the quality of the photographs.  Nevertheless, they are an important and extraordinary birds eye account of the conflict and the individual experience.
Pamela Smith
1. Oxford University, The First World War Poetry Archive, The Photographic Collection,, accessed 23.10.2012.
2. ibid.
3. Unidentified article, What Every Soldier Needs - the Vest Pocket Kodak.
4. ibid.
Other resources
Camerapedia, Vest Pocket Kodak,, accessed 23.10.2012.
Photographs: Google Images


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Early Residents - John Rae

Rae, who was born in Scotland in 1813, was the son of a banker. He had been educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and later went on to study at the University of Aberdeen. Articled to a solicitor, he later continued his literary interests and law studies in Edinburgh. After deciding to migrate to Australia he joined the firm of North British Australasian Loan and Investment Co. He arrived in 1843 aboard the Kinnear. Unfortunately for Rae the firm was almost broke by the time he arrived.
He married Elizabeth Thompson in 1854 and the couple made a home at Darlinghurst. Rae was the Town Clerk of Sydney in 1851, and together with Charles Cowper, he sought an investigation into the state of the Council. He supported the setting up of a select committee that appointed three commissioners: G. Eliot, F.O. Darvall and Rae himself. However charges of mismanagement and neglect saw the Legislative Assembly dismiss the commissioners and restore the Council to a corporation in 1857.
John Rae watercolour of George Street Sydney
Rae travelled overseas and was a noted educationalist, photographer, and amateur artist, painting for his own pleasure. Rae was also a director of the Australian Gaslight Co. and owner of the People’s Palace. The 1875 Sands Directory refers to Mr John Rae as being the Under Secretary of Public Works and Railways, while the 1882 Gibbs and Shallard directory mentions the residence of J. Rae at Valley Heights. This may very well have been the cottage Tusculum, as the index mentions that it was one of the principal residences then existing in Valley Heights. Other residences mentioned were those of I. Brennand, W. Deane, W. Dawson (Upton), and Mrs Berne.
The Valley Heights property had first been acquired by Mr T.R. Smith under conditional purchase, but in later years was bought by Rae. Clarence Radford Chapman, a civil servant, together with Lancelot Percival Brennand, whose address was care of the Treasury, purchased the property when Rae died in 1900.
In 1882 the Nepean Times reported that a discovery of silver had been found in the mountains. The article went on to say that the peculiar discovery had been made on the property of Mr John Rae by a pig rooting around in a paddock close to the homestead. A search of the area revealed Spanish dollars dated as old as 1804, bearing the heads of Ferdinand and Carolus. Amongst the hoard of coins was also a ‘colonial holey dollar’, a five-shilling Bank of England and four lion shillings dated 1826. The paper stated that the mystery was unlikely to be solved, since judging by the dates on the coins they had probably been buried for some fifty years.
Article from Biographical Dictionary of the Springwood District
Pamela Smith

Early Residents - Signor Achille Simonetti


The Nepean Times (15 August 1894) mentioned that Simmonetti, who was an eminent sculptor, had commenced operations on his land facing the Western Road nearly opposite Mr M. Chapman. He had erected a room on the property prior to building his cottage and had also been busy planting some vines.

It is likely that the Signor was in fact Achille Simonetti who was born in Rome in 1838 and died at his home at Birchgrove in March 1900. He was the son of Louis, also a sculptor, under whom he trained. He was educated at the Accademia Nazionale di San Luca and  migrated firstly to Brisbane and moved to Sydney by 1874. Simonetti established a large studio at Balmain and worked on St. John’s College within the University of Sydney.

During the period 1874–80, he won many prestigious awards and travelled overseas and interstate to exhibit. In London he exhibited a bust at the Royal Academy of Arts. He was befriended by Sir Saul Samuel and soon became the most fashionable sculptor in Sydney.

Simonetti received many commissions like the one (photographed above) from Sir Henry Parkes to construct a monument to Governor Phillip that would be sited in the Botanic Gardens. The cost of the piece was to be £10,000 and it was to be completed by 1893. After several delays the work was completed and unveiled in June 1897. Unfortunately, the fifteen-foot statue of Phillip and his companions was unfavourably received. Although talented and productive, Simonetti’s estate was valued at only £529 when he died in 1900. He died of heart disease at the age of 62.

The Art Gallery of NSW, the Legislative Council and the University of Sydney all hold examples of his work.

Article from Biographical Dictionary of the Springwood District
* It is likely that Simonetti was responsible for the statues that once graced Michael Nason Chapman's garden at Faulconbridge.  These were discovered in recent years by the owners of Phoenix Lodge.  One is thought to be the bust of General Gordon
Pamela Smith



Friday, October 5, 2012

Dr Herbert Michael ‘Paddy’ Moran and “Santa Chiara” Springwood



At the presentation dinner held to award the first ever Rugby Olympic Gold Medal in Britain in 1908 Dr Herbert Moran replied to a toast by Sir G. Rowland Hill.  Moran declared that - even though the Australians were delighted with their reception - it was unfortunate because when they decided to enter the contest ‘they hoped that they would conquer or be conquered by the best teams in the world.’ [1]  South Africa and New Zealand declined to take part and France – unable to raise a representative team – pulled out at the last minute.[2]
Moran (1885-1945) was born at Darlington Sydney was the second son of Irish-born baker, Michael Moran and his Australian-born wife Annie nee Quain.  He attended Darlington Public School, St Aloysius’ College Surry Hills and briefly, St Joseph’s College Hunters Hill before moving on to attend the University of Sydney.[3]  He played Rugby for a Rose Bay club and the university before representing New South Wales against Queensland in 1906.[4]   The following year Moran was resident medical officer at the Royal Newcastle Hospital.  In 1908, he captained the first Wallabies tour of Britain from which that first Rugby Olympic team had been selected.[5]  It has been said that Moran helped to shape future Rugby captains.
Plagued by injury, Moran played in an unsuccessful Test against Wales and at the completion of the series, took his F.R.C.S. in Edinburgh and worked in hospitals in London and Dublin. Returning to Sydney, Moran practised at Balmain and later in Macquarie Street.  He married Eva Mann at St Mary’s Cathedral in April 1914 before returning to Britain in 1915 to join the Royal Army Medical Corps. 
Eva was one of several children born to James E Mann and wife Flora nee Farrall.   The Mann family arrived in Springwood c1891 and initially leased a property at Faulconbridge.  It is evident that the family followed the Catholic faith because in 1892 Mrs Mann, a church member, very kindly placed her carriage at the disposal of the Roman Catholic Church so that dignitaries could tour the district.  The family reappear in June 1894 when Silva Plana became their home for the winter. However they left the area in August of the same year to take up residence at their new  estate at Mt Wilson.  The Mann family subsequently owned both Denarque and Yengo.   Silva Plana reserve at Mount Wilson was so named in fond memory of the Springwood residence and donated by Esmey Mann, Eva’s sister.[6]
Moran, already a captain in the Australian Medical Corps, served as a lieutenant at number 23 Stationary Hospital, Indian Expeditionary Force in Mesopotamia before returning to Sydney in 1916 then worked as an honorary surgeon at St Vincent’s Hospital.[7]  G.P. Walsh, in The Australian Dictionary of Biography, stated that Moran had a notable surgical career specialising in cancer research and the use of ‘gamma irradiation through the medium of metallic radium.’[8]  Leading the field in the new technique, Moran travelled widely, published journal articles on the subject and studied and lectured in most parts of the world.[9]  For example, in 1927 he spent almost a year at the cancer research centre in Paris.  Moran used this accumulated knowledge at the Royal Price Alfred, Lewisham and Royal North Shore and Prince Henry Hospitals when he was honorary consultant and honorary radium therapist in the 1930s.  Highly respected in his field, Moran was a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine London, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and St John’s College at the University of Sydney.[10]
In 1924 Moran purchased lots 4, 5, 6, and 7 from the Springwood Brick and Tile Company.  The property, although now reduced in size, formed the corner section along Hawkesbury Road and what then was known as Charles Street (now Silva Road). The property was originally part of John Frazer’s Silva Plana Estate, which was subdivided c1920–2. During that same year, Dr Moran set about building the cottage ‘Santa Chiara,’ which has been located there ever since. [11]
It is thought that Moran’s fascination with all things Italian is likely to have influenced the naming of his cottage in Springwood as Santa Chiara was an ancient citadel located in Naples.[12]  He spoke Italian, French and German and was a life member and president of the Dante Alighieri Art and Literary Society Sydney and deputy president of the Modern Language Association.[13]  Founded in Rome in 1889 by Nobel Prize winning poet Giosuè Carducci, the Dante Alighieri Society today still promotes the appreciation and understanding of Italian language and culture worldwide.  The Sydney Society is one of 450 operating internationally, and encompasses one of the most prestigious Italian language schools in the country.[14]  Moran was also responsible for initiating Italian studies at the University of Sydney.    
 In 1931 he was awarded the Paul Poselli Medal for Italian literature.  Moran wrote several medical books, but his autobiography, Viewless Winds: Being the Reflections and Digressions of an Australian Surgeon, written in 1939, is regarded as his finest work.  Other works include Letters from Rome: An Australian’s View of the Italio-Abyssinian Question (1936), Viewless Winds (London 1939), Beyond the Hill Lies China (Sydney 1945), My Fashion (London 1946).  Walsh suggested that Moran’s books display considerable literary talent.[15]
Although his politics are unknown, in 1932 Moran interviewed Signor Mussolini. Moran, somewhat impressed by the leader, was to alter that opinion later.  Moran received the honour of Knight Commander of the Order of the Crown of Italy and the Chevalier of St Maurice and St Lazarus.
Moran retired from medical practise in 1935 and a rift in his marriage may have caused him to revisit Italy.  Santa Chiara was let and in 1936 a caretaker was put in charge by the Perpetual Trustee Company who administered the property while Moran was overseas.  Later he went to England to lobby political leaders in an attempt to mend the breakdown of Anglo-Italian relations but without success.  Although Moran offered his services to the Italian government at the outbreak of the war in Abyssinia, for the greater part of the Second World War, he was President of the military boards at Colchester military hospital.  He earned the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Royal Australian Military Corps.
Fortunately Moran reconciled with his wife before he died at Cambridge, England in 1945.  He never returned to his mountain home.  Ironically, the cause was a malignant melanoma.  Wife Eva and son Professor Patrick Moran survived, and the family remained owners of the property in Springwood until at least 1946.  At that time Miss Ada F. Moran of Coogee retained lots 4 and 5.

[1] Rugby in the Olympics, 1908 London Olympics, olympics/history.htm,
  accessed 8.9.2012.
[2] G.P. Walsh, Moran, Herbert Michael (1885-1945), Australian Dictionary of Biography online, National Centre
  of Biography, Australian National University,
[3] Walsh
[4] Walsh.
[5] Walsh.
[6] Springwood Historians, The Making Of A Mountain Community: A Biographical Dictionary of the Springwood District, Springwood Historians, 2001, p. 221.
[7] Walsh.
[8] Walsh.
[9] Walsh.
[10] Walsh.
[11] Springwood Historians, The Making Of A Mountain Community...pp. 233-234.
[12] Walsh noted that Moran was haunted  by the art, letters and antiquities of Italy and the majestic history of Rome and the Renaissance.
[13] Walsh.
[14] Dante Alighieri Society, Sydney,, accessed 8.9.2012.
[15] Walsh.