Looking up - Sydney's history from a new angle


William Henry Paling

Posted by lindabrainwood in Blog on November 26, 2014. [No comments]

Front cover of the 'Sydney Railway waltz' 1855  by William Paling, courtesy National Library of Australia nla.mus-an6340871

Front cover of the 'Sydney Railway waltz' 1855 by William Paling, courtesy National Library of Australia nla.mus-an6340871

Music is an integral part of our society, and something that 2ser promotes. So today Lisa and Mitch had a look at a musician and an entrepreneur who promoted music in Sydney. He is a Dutchman who came to Sydney in the mid-19th century and left his mark on Sydney. His name is William Henry Paling.

WH Paling, Courier Mail, 22 October 1953, p11

WH Paling, Courier Mail, 22 October 1953, p11

Paling arrived in Sydney in 1850s. In 1855 to celebrate the opening of the first train line from Sydney to Parramatta, Paling composed the Sydney Railway Waltz, complete with locomotive sounds – the rhythm of the train, the sound of the whistle. You can view the complete sheet music on the National Library’s website http://nla.gov.au/nla.mus-an6340871

He put on concerts and taught music at private colleges, but it was his music shop that really took off.

William Paling was the founder of WH Paling & Co. It became a Mecca for Sydney’s music lovers. He imported musical instruments and published and distributed sheet music. Palings Christmas annual with new and poplar songs with choruses was very popular festive season entertainment in the 1880s and 1890s.

Paling moved with the times. As his business grew he moved from Wynyard Square to George Street, eventually building a large showroom at 338 George St and associated music practice rooms in Ash Street. These buildings were connected by Palings Lane.

He also embraced the latest technologies for music, selling the Edison phonograph and later in the 20th century his music store sold radio sets and promoted the latest movie stars at the talkies.

Paling was also a generous philanthropist. He donated a large farm at Camden and £10,000 to establish the Carrington Convalescent Hospital. He also served the community, as an elected alderman for Petersham Council from 1876 to 1889. He was Mayor in 1881-2, apparently the very first Dutch-born mayor in Australia.

Paling died of a heart attack in 1895, and is buried in Waverley Cemetery.

The name of Palings survived in the music chain stores that William founded. Palings stores survived into the 1980s and until their closure claimed the mantel of the oldest music shop in Sydney.


For more on the amazing William Paling see the Dictionary’s entry by Edward Duyker http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/paling_william_henry

and the Australian Dictionary of Biography


W.H Paling & Co., 356 George Street, Sydney, courtesy State Records NSW 4481_a026_000041

W.H Paling & Co., 356 George Street, Sydney, courtesy State Records NSW 4481_a026_000041


Luigi Coluzzi

Posted by Lisa Murray in Blog on November 17, 2014. [2 comments]

Italians arrive on Alitalia, Mascot 30 June 1965. By Hickson, Jack. From the collection of the State Library of New South Wales, d7_20107 / Australian Photographic Agency - 20107, Mitchell Library

One of the first interviews the Dictionary commissioned when it started was with Luigi Coluzzi, one of the men who introduced Sydneysiders to espresso coffee in 1957. You can hear Luigi’s story here on the Dictionary here: http://dictionaryofsydney.org/audio/19970

The lifting of government controls on the import of coffee in the 1950s coincided with the arrival of hordes of coffee-loving immigrants. By the early 1960s coffee ‘lounges’ were appearing in Sydney’s suburbs, heralding the beginning of Sydney’s current love affair with its coffee.

Luigi’s Bar Coluzzi was special. A charismatic and charming man, and a former boxing champion, Luigi attracted boxers, actors, lawyers and theatre-goers to his bar. Initially located on William Street, Bar Coluzzi moved to Victoria Street in 1970. There were crowds of people and it was partly due to Bar Coluzzi that we got outdoor dining and the cafe culture we have today.

Luigi Coluzzi contributed to East Sydney’s and Darlinghurst’s Italian feel. Other resturants also opened in the 1950s: in Stanley Street, La Veneziana opened in 1952 and No Name in 1959; nearby, in Yurong Street, Giuseppe Polese opened his famous Beppi’s Restaurant in 1956 (decades later, in 1992, Polese establish the restaurant Mezzaluna in Potts Point). Other iconic meeting places for Italians were the Atlanta Club, Mario Abbiezzi’s Garibaldi Bar in Riley Street, the Bar Coluzzi in Darlinghurst, and the Cafe Sport in Leichhardt. You can read more about the Italian influence in Sydney in our article by Gianfranco Cresciani on the Dictionary.

Mr Coluzzi died last week at the age of 84. You can read his obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald which tells the full story of this great immigrant who gave us good coffee. Or check out an article about Luigi in Sydney Time Out from 2008.

If you missed Lisa’s segment with Mitch on 2SER Breakfast last week, you can catch up here. Listen in this Wednesday morning for more Sydney history at 8:20am, 107.3


Sydney’s horseracing history

Posted by Jacqueline Spedding in Blog on November 5, 2014. [No comments]

Northern end of Hyde Park 1842. Contributed by City of Sydney Archives SRC9145

It’s that time of the year again where everybody is talking about the Melbourne Cup – ‘the race that stops the nation’ – but what about Sydney’s connection with horse racing? The Dictionary of Sydney website reveals a few surprising facts:

The first official horse race in Sydney was run in Hyde Park in 1810, two weeks after the park was formally created by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. It was a three-day event, with a silver cup valued at 50 guineas as the prize and an extra 50 guineas up for grabs for the winners. At the top of Market Street a grandstand was put up near the winning post and the course ran in a clockwise direction toward Macquarie Street, along College Street, around Liverpool Street and returning across Elizabeth Street to the winning post. It’s a little difficult to imagine Hyde Park as we now know it now with its trees, pathways, the Archibald Fountain and the ANZAC Memorial, once being a racecourse! It didn’t last very long though, races were held until 1821 when Governor Thomas Brisbane placed a ban on official racing.

Venture south west into the suburb of Canterbury and you might have noticed there’s a racecourse. It turns out horse racing has been popular in Canterbury as early as the 1840s. A man called Cornelius Prout declared a part of his property open for use as a racecourse. Prout was a fairly enterprising individual – he also operated a punt across the Cooks River – much to the annoyance of his neighbours who were forced to pay a toll on a bridge he constructed across the river. Local publicans would organise race meetings to entertain their patrons frequently using their own horses for the races. In 1878, 3,000 people gathered for the races in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday with many of the people walking from Ashfield train station to the course.

In 1884, the place received a makeover and Canterbury Park Race Club was established with a recreation park, racetracks and a grandstand built. It might surprise some that there was a zoo on the racecourse with kangaroos, wallabies, emus, kookaburras and other native Australian animals and operated up until the World War I. During the World War II the course was taken over by the Australian Army and used for various purposes much to the annoyance of racegoers.

Canterbury Park Racecourse continued to flourish up to the 1990s, however, it ceased to be used for training in 1998. It may not be the horse racing hub it used to be but next time you go past you’ll now know how it all started!

You can read more about the history of horseracing in Sydney in Richard Waterhouse’s article on Culture and Customs for the Dictionary and Lesley Muir and Brian Madden’s article Canterbury Park Racecourse from 2013.

Many thanks to Nicole Cama for today’s post and radio spot. If you missed our weekly Dictionary of Sydney segment on 2SER Breakfast, you can catch up here.


Living with sharks on the Georges River

Posted by Lisa Murray in Blog on October 29, 2014. [No comments]

Beryl Morrin, who lost both arms as a result of a shark attack in the Georges River on New Year's Eve, with a nurse at Canterbury Hospital 10 February 1935. By Sam Hood. From the collection of the State Library of New South Wales, hood_11846 / Home Away 11846, Mitchell Library

If you grew up beside a tidal river in Sydney, chances are you have heard local stories of shark attacks. Some of these have been documented in a new article by Sharyn Cullis as part of our Georges River Project, which we proudly launched last Thursday evening.

The danger of sharks has never been great. The statistical record of shark attacks in NSW from 1791-2009 reveals that before 1974, people were far more likely to be the fatal victim of a shark attack than since and the danger has been greater in estuaries (tidal rivers and their mouths) like the lower George River and Botany Bay.

While shark attacks were recorded in Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River from 1791 onwards, the first attack for the Botany Bay/Georges River system was recorded in January 1906. This does not mean sharks were not present in earlier days: far fewer swimmers were widespread in the Georges River, confined instead to areas like the celebrated Brighton Baths in Botany Bay, established in the 1880s.

A series of attacks – both fatal and serious maullings – were reported in local papers in the 1930s and 1940s. Summer was particularly dangerous. Newspapers reported these shark attacks in the Georges River and framed the events in terms of innocent swimmers, marauding monsters and brave rescuers. Our article gives details of several locally “famous” attacks, including Beryl Morrin, a 13 year old who lost both arms as a result of a shark attack on New Year’s Eve in 1934. Beryl was not expected to live but mirraculously did so. She went on to become a local legend, showing pluck and resilience after such a serious setback, riding bikes and swimming on regardless. We have a photograph of plucky Beryl recuperating at Canterbury Hospital.

One trend that wasn’t regularly reported is the number of people who were attacked outside of shark nets. Netting of river beaches and favourite swimming spots was a practical protection that many ignored to their own peril. There have been no recent fatal human shark attacks in the Georges River, yet studies confirm that sharks still move up as far as Liverpool Weir, 45 kilometres from the sea.

Sharks live on in the river and in our collective imagination. Stories today are shared in online chat forums by kayakers, wake-boarders and people who fish the river. One fisherman in 2009 boasted of catching a bull shark in shallow water at a popular prawning spot on the Georges River. Characteristically, catching prawns requires standing in the in shallows with hand nets, on nights in the dark period of the moon cycle, so the fisherman issued this sinister warning: ‘It’s only a matter of time’.

You can hear Lisa’s segment with Mitch on 2SER Breakfast this morning here and read more about our Georges River Project on the Dictionary here. Don’t forget to listen in next Wednesday morning for more Sydney history at 8:20am, 107.3


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