Billy Murdoch: A Star Cricketer from Balmain

Billy and his older brother Gilbert grew up in Balmain attending Balmain Public School and Fort Street School. At the age of 19 Billy was the first captain of the Balmain Rugby Club, when it entered the Sydney competition in 1874. But cricket was Billy’s first love and he became captain of NSW by 1879 and of Australia in 1880. Gilbert was a member of the Balmain Council for 10 years and its mayor for two.

Billy Murdoch was a colossus of Australian cricket in the 1880s, famous for scoring big hundreds. He scored 321 for NSW in 1882 and the first double century in Test cricket.

April 18th 2019

Balmain Town Hall Meeting Room

6:30pm – 8:00pm


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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.

memorialOur 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.honorboard

john-booth-1Private 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

JOhn Booth

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 Congregational Board

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
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 GOODSIR
Regimental 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

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