Greetings from Balmain 1 : Hannah Parkes and the White Bay paperseller..

Beatrice Bush, White Bay c1980. Photographer Barry Flakelar.

12 Balmain locals were asked to choose a photograph from our collection and invited to tell us what the image said to them. This week, Hannah Parkes on Beatrice Bush, the White Bay paperseller.

I must have been quite young, around seven years old I imagine, but I still very clearly remember sitting in the back seat while my mum and dad would buy their daily paper from ‘the paper lady’ ( I now know her name was Beatrice) on Victoria Road.

Mum and dad were insistent the paper had to come from her, so gaining access to the daily news relied on traffic light changes, traffic conditions and whether she was available for a sale. It could be quite a stress, but much more interesting for a kid than heading to the shop.

My Dad Roger said ‘the paper lady’ stood for the ‘dying of an era in Balmain’.

“What she stood for was a working class suburb. She was a character doing what she could to make it,” he said.

“She always wore Dunlop’s, she never looked angry, everyone tried their hardest to get their paper from her, even if it caused much consternation with the traffic. That would never happen now,” he said.

Hannah Parkes

Take a walk. .

The Heritage Group of Leichhardt District (HGOLD) has recently published a collection of historic walks in the area, compiled by Jeannette Knox and funded through Leichhardt Council’s Local History Grants Program. There are 11 walks in all: six in Balmain, 3 in Leichhardt and one each in Annandale and Lilyfield/Rozelle. Each one is accompanied by a map and there is historic detail about each suburb as well as about the buildings and other sites, illustrated with a number of photos.

Information is also provided about the duration of each walk and public transport connections to each area. The book is spiral bound for easy use while walking and there is space for your own notes at the end.

This is the ideal solution for people wanting to discover more about where they live, or for those outside the area who are interested in the history and heritage of one of the oldest parts of Sydney. Best of all, these walks can be undertaken in your own time, doing as much or as little as you like.

Exploring Leichhardt Heritage costs $20 and is available from the Balmain and Leichhardt libraries, the Customer Service Centre next to Leichhardt Town Hall, at Journeys Bookshop in Booth Street, Annandale and Shearer’s Bookshop in Norton Street, Leichhardt, and from the Balmain Association.

Further information about HGOLD is available at:

Balmain Boys Do Crime

A short film from our History Week 2009 event

Balmain Boys Do Crime from Localnotes on Vimeo.

Air raid shelters, Balmain

Sunlight Oil and Soapworks (later Unilever) Balmain, c1928

Betty Sparnon grew up in Balmain and writes “we often played in the old air raid shelter near Unilever and I recently met another child of Balmain who remembers an air raid shelter under a factory opposite the Dry Dock Hotel. How can we find out more about these shelters?”

We searched our collection but haven’t uncovered anything that would assist Betty. If you have any information on air raid shelters around Balmain, contact us at and we will pass this information on to Betty.

Balmain To Glebe

Pictorial History Balmain to Glebe covers the suburbs of Annandale, Balmain, Birchgrove, Leichhardt, Lilyfield and Rozelle. Glebe, although no longer part of the Leichhardt municipality, is included for geographical and historical reasons. Each area has its own story of settlement, growth and development from Aboriginal occupancy to the changing face of suburbs in the 21st century. In that time span colonial estates and humble workers’ cottages gave way to subdivision as suburbs developed away from Sydney. Annandale, the Johnston family’s vast estate, was later planned as a model suburb. Balmain began with a rich maritime history and the creation of the famous Mort’s Dock. Birchgrove, another colonial estate, witnessed an engineering marvel with the building of the underwater tunnel from Long Nose Point (Yurulbin) to Greenwich. Threatened demolition and unsympathetic development brought about the creation of the Balmain Association (1965), the Annandale Association (1969) and the Glebe Society (1969) by concerned citizens who wished to save the intrinsic character of these areas. Written by Joan Lawrence and Catherine Warne.

History Week 2009

Scandals, Crime and Corruption

Exhibition: BUSTED! A snaphot of crime in Balmain

Dates:September 5 – October 31

Cost: Free

Where: Balmain Library,

Balmain Town Hall building

370 Darling Street, Balmain


Family history BALMAIN Workshop:- you’ve done the research, now what?

Join genealogist Terri Kempe as she discusses techniques and strategies to use when writing up family histories and memoirs.

Date: Tuesday September 8

Time: 6.30pm

Cost: Free

Where: Balmain Library

Balmain Town Hall building

370 Darling Street, Balmain


BALMAIN Author talk: RAZOR by Larry Writer

Date: Tuesday September 15

Time: 6.30pm

Cost: Free

Where: Balmain Library,

Balmain Town Hall building

370 Darling Street, Balmain


History Council History Week 2009

celebrating History Week 2008 – row, swim, sail, fish, bathe!

70 people joined us down on the waterfront at Balmain’s Dawn Fraser Baths – the oldest surviving tidal-baths in Australia- as we celebrated History Week 2008.

Heritage consultant Meredith Walker gave an illustrated presentation on the history of bathing pools around the Leichhardt and Balmain foreshores, and Leichhardt Rowing Club’s Barry Moynahan held our attention with his words and an image presentation exploring the history of the Club that was opened in 1886 by Sir Henry Parkes.

Meredith Walker has identified 9 bathing pools that have existed around the Balmain and Leichhardt foreshore since 1875. We’ll be putting up some of her research into swimming baths here on LOCAL NOTES soon.