at the water’s edge : History Week 2008 September 6-14

We are celebrating life at the water’s edge during September!


Wherever waters rise or fall, there’s a story, and events across the Leichhardt area in September are a great opportunity to explore just how central the water’s edge has been since before European colonisation.
From photographic exhibitions, speakers nights to guided walks there’s plenty happening – download our events list here (requires PDF reader):dl_brochure_web1
And don’t forget we are  wanting to hear about your time spent ‘at the water’s edge’ – log on and share your memories – see the ‘MY WATER’S EDGE’ tab at the top of our masthead, and get typing!


11 thoughts on “at the water’s edge : History Week 2008 September 6-14

  1. Jill

    the little ‘beach’ at Dawn Fraser baths in Balmain was always sort of special for us growing up in the 1970s, we didn’t have to travel on the bus into town and out again to Bondi or Coggee, we had our own (very little!) piece of sand and water right in Balmain down there at Dawnie baths!

    we used to hate it when the tide was up, though, ‘cos our little ‘beach’ was lost to the harbour when the tide was right up!

    great to read people’s memories on this site

  2. steven

    I know it damages the foreshore, but all my life I’ve got a simple bit of pleasure out of standing on Darling Street Wharf hearing the splash and crash of the wash from boats and ships as they pass by. It’s invigorating, the sound of the splash and salty spray gently reminds me that 70% of the our earth is…water. Its been, gee, 30 odd years since I first stood on the wharf. These days I’m down there 5 mornings a week on my way to work in the city and the spray and splash still brings me a bit of morning bliss.

  3. JESS

    Walking the Bay Run about 6am, the water is so calm its like sheeted glass. Rising sun on the water, the circular swoop and dip of seagulls, a new day.

  4. tigafella

    reading here about old morts dockyard took me back,guys during ww2 when I was a little fella we lived in cameron street, just a stones throw from morts. billy o’shannesy was a school yard buddy we went to birch. public together, and billys old man was night and weeknd gatekeeper at morts.that was pretty good for us, it meant we could get in and really run amok you see, on weekends that is

    you haven’t swum unless you’ve done it in a dry dock thats not dry but full of water. they were building frigates at morts then, and we’d have a blast on sunday arvos swimmin’ and diving in number one dock at morts. no one ever thought too much about getting hurt or coming to grief and we never did harm ourselves. morts was a playground for us, but i reckon it probably wasn’t for the fellas who were working there, musn’t have been you know they were always on strike about something. different world today. thanks guys.

  5. chris

    dad grew up in longview street balmain which is very near
    the water’s edge.

    it was nearer the water’s edge in his day, before most of the houses on the water side of the street were built.

    dad grew up in the depression. he can remember making canoes out of corrugated iron and asphalt from the street and going canoeing in iron cove in these make shift boats.

    in the 1940s he used to go sailing 12 footers in iron cove bay and can remember how the black nor’easters with their strong winds used to come like clockwork in the afternoon.

    dad got an apprenticeship at cockatoo island in 1941 and so served his time learning the boilermaking trade near the water’s edge. there was a pipe which supplied water from elkington park to cockatoo island. one of dad’s jobs was to row over to elkington park to check the water meter to make sure that there was no leak in the pipe.

    dad certainly enjoyed his early years around the water’s edge in rozelle and balmain

  6. Max Sollitt

    Although I grew up in the eastern suburbs I became very conversant with the Balmain waterfront at the age of 19, in 1946, after qualifying as a Sparks, a ship’s wireless operator. In fact, my first trip to sea was in a tugboat, the Heroine, from the shipyard of Fenwick & Co in East Balmain. This was a traumatic experience because the Heroine’s radio-room, about the size of a small crypt, was below deck and stank of fuel oil and I became seasick even before she steamed through Sydney Heads bound for Port Kembla to pick up a tow, a large barge, and bring it back to Sydney.
    A year later, after sailing in Dutch ships, I joined SS Allara, a coastal tramp steamer, at the Adelaide Steam
    Ship Company’s shipyard at Waterview in West Balmain. I sailed in her for a wonderful twelve months, visiting ports all around Australia, before she returned to Waterview for another annual refit.
    I then sailed in a Shell tanker, the Nayadis, for a few months before joining another Fenwick tugboat, the Heros, which had a tiny radio-room the size of a country dunny just forward of the funnel, so plenty of fresh air and no sea sickness on the one trip to Newcastle I did in her. All in all I spent 15 years in the Merchant Navy and now 81 years old live in a little house in Annandale.
    In recent years I have written my autobiography, entitled Catastroscopes, which has just been published and is available at various bookstores in the inner city. Just thought I’d mention it.

  7. Elaine

    Growing up in the Balmain-Rozelle area in the 1960?s holds many wonderful memories for me.Lots of Sunday afternoons were spent in Elkington Park where we had family picnics and enjoyed climbing the trees at the harbour end of the peninsula and watching boats,ferries and yachts sail by. There were swims at the Balmain Baths, bus rides down Darling St, a trip I always found exciting as we came over that last rise and caught the sight and smell of the water, knowing that when we jumped off the bus at Darling St wharf we’d take a ferry ride across the busy harbour waters to Circular Quay. Fishing with a drop line off Thames St wharf was another favourite…we never caught anything much but just sitting on the old squeaky wooden wharf,legs and lines dangled over the edge as the waves from passing water craft rolled in and out below us was a magic way to spend an afternoon.
    I live in Brisbane now but whenever in Sydney I love a bus or ferry ride to Balmain to recapture the beauty,the history, the magic of a great old harbourside suburb and the childhood I spent there.

  8. Robyn Wilde

    Hi,I lived in Balmain in the early 50s. My mother ran a tiny mixed business in Darling Street, very close to the old Colgate Palmolive factory. It was a two story ‘doll’s house’; the shop downstairs and living quarters above. There was a miniscule back yard which stood in the shadows of the factory. During this time I attended Balmain Demonstration School. I believe the school remains operational at this time (?)

    I believe this convict built dwelling still stands, but has changed its mode of operation many times. If someone out there has any photos, both in the 50?s and now, I would be in your memorabilia debt for ever.

  9. Betty Sparnon nee Knight

    our family moved to Pashley St in 1957, and myself and the six other Knight children went to Balmain Demonstration school.
    To grow up in Balmain was a priviledge, in those days very few people had any money and my family was no exception, my mum workes at the Unity Hall hotel for many years when the Honeybrooks had it. they were a wonderful family and whenever we kids went to the pub to see mum or to walk her home as we often did the Honeybrooks would always invite us upstairs to wait with their children. We would often sit on the step outside the pub and many patons would buy us a drink. Everyone loved my mum, known as Eily and she loved being a barmaid. Dad had a day job but also worked for Unity Hall and also the Sacksville in Rozelle.
    There used to be a horse trough on the corner of Beattie & I think Palmer streets and we had a dog called Whiskey that just loved waiting for mum while splashing around in the trough. That was the days of Sharpe bros on that corner, way before Woolies was there. Sharpes corner was a great place as the glass windows allowed us to play silly buggers by standing on each corner and lifting one arm the person on the other side saw both our arms flapping away. the silly, but pleasurable things we found to do.
    Another place to play was the old bomb shelter Punches Park, oh the stories of the fun we had there, and many childhood love affairs were formed in this shelter.
    I started work at Lever Bros aged 14 ( my mum had to get an exemption from school to go to work, as there were 7 children, not all could keep going to school.
    We were never home there were always people to see and things to do. Our parents were always working but were never in danger when roaming the streets, and we never did anything nasty to get ourselves into trouble.

  10. Cathy Larsen

    Dear ‘My Waters Edge’
    I am a designer at Penguin books. I have been looking for images of 1940- 1960s Balmain to use on the front cover of a novel. In one of my searches I found the picture of the street leading down to Mort’s Dock which you have in your blog. I have used this image in a mockup of a cover.
    I need to get a high resolution scan of the image as soon as possible and enquire about reproduction rights. Do you have this photo or is it from another source like a museum, city council collection etc?
    Please let me know urgently. Email me at

    Many thanks, Cathy

  11. Therese Spruhan

    History of Leichhardt Park Aquatic Centre

    I am writing a story about swimming pools I have been connected to and am trying to find out any historical information about Leichhardt Pool. The existing pool was opened on 12 December 1960 so it has its 50th birthday next year. There is very little information around about the early days of the pool and about the baths that existed before the pool was built. I was interested to read the piece from Ellen Williams at the top of this page about her memories of the earlier baths. So if anyone has any information or knows of someone it would be good to talk I would love to hear from them.

    As Leichhardt Pool has a significant diving pool and tower I would imagine there were quite big diving competitions held at the pool so that would also be good to know more about.

    Hopefully this note will unearth some good memories, characters and stories.

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