Place is People – Annandale 1907-2007 – a book launch

Leichhardt Library hosted the launch of a publication by writer/historian/performer Mary Haire on Wednesday, 9th April. UTS journalism student Dan Bishton attended the launch and posted this report for LOCAL NOTES:

Local historian Mary Haire launched her new book to a packed Leichhardt library on Wednesday April 9th. The event opened with a speech from fellow actress and author Judith Nunn. Haire; an historian, actress and 23 year Annandale resident took on the project with a $5000 grant as one of five local history grants awarded by Leichhardt Council last year.

Place is People – Annandale 1907/2007 presents a colorful cast – leaders, ghosts and chimney-sweeps feature in twin portraits of a suburb a century apart. Haire reveals uncommon knowledge of a mild suburb in her obvious delight for untold stories – two examples being Annandale’s sudden secession from Leichhardt Council and Sydney’s bubonic plague outbreak – complete with the district’s own rat catchers.

Born in Perth, Haire moved to Annandale in 1985. She cites the inspiration for her forays into Annandale’s past as her discovery of the story of Esther Abrahams, a Jewish convict who arrived in Australia on the first fleet and eventually became first lady of the colony. “I discovered Esther at the Jewish Museum, I’d never seen her name in Annandale – I was fascinated, and from that moment I decided I wanted to bring her back to Annandale.”

Esther’s story became the basis of a guided walk started by Haire in 1999, which covered important sites in Annandale’s development from estate to municipality. The success of the walks led into a successive set of local history projects that have culminated in the publishing of Place is People.

Haire’s Annandale projects aim to provide a reference point for current social developments by drawing strong parallel between the two eras, for example the recent influx of wealth into the suburb that is comparable to its 1907 status as one of the wealthiest in Sydney. Her motive in drawing this comparison is an attempt to regain an element she’s seen disappear. “I think we’ve lost our sense of community generally,” she says. “I want people to go away and be stimulated to think – not just have some entertainment and then close the book. I’d like to inspire people to be more community minded, and I’d like people to be inspired to do something themselves on heritage and history.”

Place is People: Annandale 1907/2007 is a limited release of 250 copies, and is available for sale through Leichhardt Library.