Group exhibition at the Balmain Watchouse

Historic Balmain and Birchgrove Garden Tours.

History Week 2014 wrap up – WW1 walking tour Balmain

Both History Week Walking Tours were a great opportunity to explore the honour boards and memorials of Leichhardt and Balmain the weather was brilliant and an engaging group of attendees enjoyed the tour.

Balmain WW1 walking tour began with a tour of loyalty square which claims the fame of being the first memorial to be erected in the midst of WW1. It was unveiled on 23 April 1916 just before the first anniversary of the Gallipoli landing.

Stop 1. Balmain Loyalty Square

This is possibly Australia’s first memorial to WW1 soldiers, unusual because it lists only those killed in action prior to the involvement of the AIF on the Western Front in France. It was unveiled on 23 April 1916 just before the first anniversary of the Gallipoli landing to record the names of soldiers form this district who have fallen in the service of the Empire. It was the subject of a a Balmain Council design competition in 1915.

A functional structure it was built as a drinking fountain with a circular base and steps of Bowral trachyte and a four sided superstructure of Pyrmont Sandstone. Balmains dead 38 at the time of its completion are honoured on four marble tablets, below which are four bowls . It is interesting that on later honour roll honour in the Balmain Town Hall there were then 1500 names of serving soldiers.

Our 2nd stop was at the Balmain Rowing Club which displays an honour roll with 73 names of Balmain Men who were members of the Balmain Rowing Club including 11 of which were killed in action including John Booth who lived at 54 Glassop Street, Balmain, Sydney, New South Wales and who enlisted on 16 March 1915.

Private John Booth was a shipwright of Balmain, Sydney, New South Wales was 28 years old when he enlisted at Liverpool, 16 Mar. 1915. He embarked from Sydney on board HMAT A35 Berrima, 25 June 1915 and served with the 20th Battalion, 5th Machine Gun Company A.I.F. at Gallipoli and in Egypt and France. He was killed in action in Belgium, Oct. 1917

His Diary can be found on the State Library NSW Website here

A full list of the men mentioned on the Balmain honour board can be found here.

Stop 3: St Andrews Church Balmain – The Soldiers Memorial Hall

St Andrews Presbyterian Honour Board

19 Men are recorded on the St Andrews Church honour Board, they were members of the congregation. Approximately 1300 Men from Balmain are recorded as enlisting for WW1 on the AIF Records, this figure is increased when navy and figures are added bringing it closer to 1800 men.

St Andrews WW1 Honour Board



Below are the details of three men listed on the honour roll.

Thomas Rodger MACNEE 

Place of birth Balmain, New South Wales Religion Congregational Occupation Civil servant Address ‘Currawinya’, Elliott Street, Balmain, New South Wales Marital status Married Age at embarkation 26 Next of kin Wife, Mrs Myra Kathleen Macnee, ‘Currawinya’, Elliott Street, Balmain, New South Wales Enlistment date 16 September 1915 Rank on enlistment 2nd Lieutenant (Quartermaster) Unit name 36th Battalion, Headquarters AWM Embarkation Roll number 23/53/1 Embarkation details Unit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A72 Beltana on 13 May 1916 Rank from Nominal Roll Captain Unit from Nominal Roll 36th Battalion Recommendations (Medals and Awards) Mention in Despatches

Awarded, and promulgated, ‘London Gazette’ No. 30706 (28 May 1918); ‘Commonwealth Gazette’ No. 165 (24 October 1918). Fate Killed in Action 12 April 1918 Age at death from cemetery records 29 Place of burial Heath Cemetery (Plot VIII, Row J, Grave No. 18), Harbonnieres, France Panel number, Roll of Honour, Australian War Memorial 127 Miscellaneous information from cemetery records Parents: James and Mary MACNEE; husband of Mrs M.K. MACNEE Other details War service: Western FrontMedals: British War Medal, Victory Medal John GOODSIRRegimental number 668 Religion Church of England Occupation Bank clerk Address Town Hall, Balmain, Sydney, New South Wales Marital status Single Age at embarkation 21 Next of kin Father, John Goodsir, Town Hall, Balmain, Sydney, New South Wales Previous military service 44th Howitzer Batt Enlistment date 19 June 1915 Rank on enlistment Private Unit name 30th Battalion, C Company AWM Embarkation Roll number 23/47/1 Embarkation details Unit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A72 Beltana on 9 November 1915 Rank from Nominal Roll Sergeant Unit from Nominal Roll 30th Battalion Fate Effective abroad (still overseas)


Robert Balmain MILNE

Regimental number 58608 Religion Presbyterian Occupation Engineer Address Balmain, New South Wales Marital status Single Age at embarkation 19 Next of kin Aunt, Jessy Milne, 5 Alexander Street, Balmain, Sydney, New South Wales Previous military service 37th Field Company Army Engineers Enlistment date 11 May 1918 Rank on enlistment Private Unit name 1st to 15th (NSW) General Reinforcements AWM Embarkation Roll number 23/111/5 Embarkation details Unit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board A40 Ceramic on 22 December 1914 Embarkation details Unit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A18 Wiltshire on 19 June 1918 Embarkation details Unit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board SS Feldmarschall on 19 June 1918 Rank from Nominal Roll Gunner Unit from Nominal Roll 3rd Field Artillery Brigade Fate Returned to Australia 6 September 1919 Miscellaneous details (Nominal Roll) *Noted Robert NR . . . → Read More: History Week 2014 wrap up – WW1 walking tour Balmain

Do you remember The Greek Club at 406 Darling Street, Balmain?

When we think of Leichhardt and Balmain the Italians seem to jump to mind immedietaly for their rich contribution to the local area through fruit shops, cafes and we shift our focus slightly and look down the lense of local history at the Greeks in Balmain. Unilever was once a large employer of migrant labour particularly Greek, many fish and chip shops, milk bars and hamburger shops along Darling Street between 1960s -1980s were operated by Greek, Macedonian Greek, Greek Cypriot or Egyption Greek origin.

Three was a Greek Club operating in the terrace hous eat 408 Darling Street. Painted Green and with a sign “GREEK CLUB” was nailed in individual reflective red lettering over the door. The Club began in the 1950s and operated for about 10years, there were also two other Greek Clubs ner the Rozelle Juction. Such clubs were male-only bastions. In the late 1950s and 1960s, an after hours Greek Language schoolwas conducted in the former Presbyterian Church hall by Mrs Pavlou.

Greek and Cypriot immigrants were rarely educated and many arrived with only the clothes on their back and a change of clothes in their suitcase. Whilst some were able to purchse their own businesses, the lot for many was exploitative menial work. Most Greek workers took in lodgers. Greek immigrants were huge purchasers of merchandiser sold at street stall and jumble sale fund raisers that local churches ran in the mid-1960s.

If you have any memories or pictures to share of the Greek club or Greeks in Rozelle and Balmain we would love to hear from you.


Getting to the bottom of Balmain’s Dunnies

Join Fergus to hear about his new book on the history of Balmain’s sanitation system – from the backyard to the bedroom en suite.

Join Fergus to hear about his new book on the history of Balmain’s sanitation system – from the backyard to the bedroom en suite.


Balmain Library Leichhardt Library

RSVP 9367 9211 RSVP 9367 9266

6:30pm – 8:00pm 6:30pm – 8:00pm

Free Event ~ All Welcome

Refreshments Served

Original Subdivision Plans now available online!

Exciting News !!!!!

Go to…….Library Catalogue

Just select “Anywhere” and type in “Subdivision Plans” or “Sale Plans”

You can now search our library Webopac for Subdivision Plans just type in “Subdivision plans” or your street name and look to the right hand column for Subdivision plans.

Old Balmain: Soap Manufacturers

Lever Brothers

Two major soap Manufacturers were in Balmain for many years, Lever Bros and Colgate Palmolive, Lever Brothers was surrounded by seven streets and started in the early 1900’s. The company had it’s own sawmill for making their wooden cases for packing of their products. The company had a big hall in Roseberry place, called Sunlight Hall and this was used as a dining room and at times a company dance hall. Two of the old time soaps produced by Levers were Lifebuoy, carbollice toilet soap for bathing and monkey soap for cleaning pots and pans.

Colgate started operating in 1924 and built on the old meat works sight in Colgate Avenue (then known as Broadstairs Street) after the meat works closed down after WW1. A wide range of products were being manufactured at the Balmain factory, not only soap and toothpaste, but shampoo, shaving cream, brilliantine, powder, rouge, and lipstick. The workers at Colgate Palmolive developed skills, speed and pride in their work. Stamping, finishing, wrapping and packing were all done largely by hand.

Colgate Palmolive Products

Old Balmain week 1

Online image collection

Balmain 1860 – 1910 Municipal Jubilee: Bob Wooley Butchery, Rozelle. The " New Model Butchery", occupied by Mr. Robert J. Wooley, situated opposite the then Rozelle Post Office, corner of Darling Street and Weston Victoria Road

We now have 4000 Local History images available on our online catalogue with more to come. They are a collection of images ranging from 1890 -2011 which have been donated, purchased and sourced from special collections and photographers. To search for Balmain historic photographs type in “Balmain”in the search window or try a specific search like “Darling Street”Library Catalogue

Photographed from the Balmain Post Office clock tower looking towards East Balmain, the Mort Dock and Engineering Company works and Ballast Point c.1955

Balmain 1860 – 1910 Municipal Jubilee: Balmain Fire Brigade Station, 391 Darling Street, Balmain.

Oral history @ the library

Oral history is the recording of memories of people’s unique life experiences. Often the only way to find out about the past is to ask someone who knows about it. Through oral history the past comes alive.


Since 1997 we have interviewing people to capture their memories of living and working in the area in earlier times. Interviews are conducted by volunteers, local history staff and oral historians that are funded through Leichhardt Council’s Local History Grants programme. At present 120 interviews are held in digital format and will be going online later this year.


The Oral History Collection covers all parts of the Leichhardt local government area, which comprises the suburbs of Annandale, Balmain, Birchgrove, Leichhardt, Lilyfield and Rozelle. Between 1968 and 2003 the suburbs of Glebe and Forest Lodge also came within the Leichhardt area, so the collection includes interviews relating to those suburbs undertaken between 1997 and mid-2003.


Interviews have mostly been with people who have had a long association with the area. Some of them grew up in the area and went to school here and tell about their memories of childhood and growing up. Others worked in local industries and remember their working lives, working conditions, etc. Some owned small businesses in the area. Many interviewees have useful and interesting comments to make about social conditions in the area during the Depression, about jobs and industries which have now disappeared, and about local businesses and corner shops which are no more.


Hearing the voices of people who actually experienced the times they are describing makes history come alive in a unique and fascinating way. Their reminiscences greatly add to our understanding of the social history of the Leichhardt area, and in many instances, if these memories had not been recorded they would now be lost forever. People can often be much more interesting than documents, and they often have anecdotes to tell which will not be found in the formal records.

Oral history interviewees Molly Mc Sullea, Peter Flaherty and Howard Horwood


The Fishermen of Iron Cove

A collection of 12 interviews undertaken by oral historian Annette Salt in 2006 with the Italian fishing community of Iron Cove

Rozelle Hospital Project

11 interviews undertaken by oral historian Roslyn Burge in 2008/9 with former workers of Rozelle Hospital and its parent institutions Callan Park Mental Asylum and Broughton Hall Psychiatric Clinic.

Transforming the Local

20 interviews by oral historian Paula Hamilton and community volunteers on social and cultural changes in the Balmain area since the 1960s. Interviewees included long-term residents and those who moved into the area in the1970s and 80s. More information on this project can be found at

Leichhardt’s Environment

10 interviews undertaken by the library’s local history staff and community volunteers on environmental change. Interviewees included bushcare and community garden volunteers, local environmental activists and Leichhardt Council staff such as planners and engineers.

With My Heart On My Sleeve – the Weroona Life Stories Project

11 interviews with residents of Weroona Nusing Home, Lilyfield.

Saving 2.6

Our current project exploring the experiences of local residents who fought to save Ballast Point -a 2.6ha headland in Birchgrove- for community open space.

For more information on our oral history collection and projects contact us at or telephone 02 9367 9266