Sunday, March 8, 2015

Past Sydney

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Surry Hills was a former slum area of inner Sydney, characterised by crime, violence and low living standards. From the 980’s it has become gentrified with many of the older houses and buildings restored.

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The only information on the glass negative for this photograph is “Percy Branton.” Because his suitcase has an ad for Wrigley’s it has been assumed that Percy was a salesperson for Wrigleys. Note that his hat is tied to his suit coat by a piece of string.

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In the early 1800s, the term swag was used by British thieves to describe any amount of stolen goods. One definition given in Francis Grose's 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue is "any booty you have lately obtained,.... To carry the swag is to be the bearer of the stolen goods to a place of safety.” 

By the 1830s, the term in Australia had transferred from meaning goods acquired by a thief to the possessions and daily necessaries carried by a bushman. 

During the early years of the 1900s, the introduction of the pension and the dole reduced the numbers of swagmen to those who preferred the free lifestyle. During World War One many were called up for duty and fought at Gallipoli as ANZACs. The song "And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" tells the story of a swagman who fought at Gallipoli. The numbers of swagmen have declined over the 20th century but the swaggie remains a romantic icon of Australian history and folklore.

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Named after Lieutenant-General Ralph Darling, who was Governor of New South Wales from 1825 to 1831, Darling Harbour today is a harbour and a recreational and pedestrian precinct adjacent to the Sydney CBD.  It was originally part of the commercial port of Sydney and included the Darling Harbour Railway Goods Yard. During the Great Depression, the eastern part of Darling Harbour (Barangaroo) became known as The Hungry Mile, a reference to the waterside workers searching for jobs along the wharves.

Some other early Darling Harbour horse pics

Horses waiting outside Maitland & Morpeth Hotel, Darling Harbour, Sydney

Horses waiting outside Cochranes Hotel, Darling Harbour, Sydney

Commercial building, corner of Slip Street and Lime Street, Darling Harbour 1907

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Australian 'billycarts' were used as early as the 1880s. They were either literally drawn by a billygoat - hence the Australian name 'billycart'- or small two wheeled hand carts for which the name billycart had already become a generic term.  The term billycart is an Australian variation of the English goat cart which, like the dog cart, was originally an 18th and 19th century form of animal-propelled baby carriage.

Children race their billycarts down Oxford Street in the 1920's

Australian Child's chair cart, 'mail cart' c.1890-1930

Billycart c1950-1970

One small boy pulling another in an early billy cart, on a path in a back yard, c. 1915

Harnessed goats used in a two wheeled cart, called a goat cart or 'go-cart'. The photograph shows two boys playing with a small two-wheeled home-made goat-drawn cart, made from a wooden fruit box or crate marked 'J.T. MORTON' on the side.

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