Vol. 1 No:10 2003 WINTER

St Marys & District Historical Society Quarterly Newsletter

MARTIN BRELL - Master Tanner

was born at "Glenmore", Mulgoa Road in 1856. Martin's father, Daniel Brell did an extensive trade over the Mountains in the days before the coming of the railway. The Brell family lived for some time in Castlereagh Street, Penrith. On leaving school he was an apprentice to John Henry Paskin the tanner, at his tannery in Penrith, he also had a tannery in St Marys. When completing his apprenticeship with Paskin, he went to work in some of the Windsor tanneries. In 1880, at the age of 23, Martin bought Alexander Simpson's tannery on the Great Western Road (Highway) which was situated just about opposite the Tennant Road turnoff at Werrington, because Alexander was leaving the district. The purchase of the tannery used up all Martin's savings, leaving little to commence operations, so hoping to secure a bale of hides in a deposit, he attended a Sydney hide premises where they sold to the highest bidder. He questioned the auctioneer about purchasing some hides on a deposit, or pay for a dozen hides, but was told they were not allowed to break a bale. Unknown to Martin, his conversation was overheard by another St Mary's tanner and when Martin was out of range, the tanner purchased a bale and arranged consignment to Martin at the St Marys goods yard. He was notified by the stationmaster on their arrival at the goods yard, but Martin replied he had not purchased them, but as they were in his name he had to pick them up. This act of friendship from the unknown tanner, led to a very prosperous life of tanning by Martin, which lasted 55 years as a master tanner. His speciality being the high grade harness leather. He married Elizabeth Yanz in 1881 and as his sons became old enough, they came into the tanning business. Martin died at his residence "Four Winds" St Marys, next to his tannery in January 1934 at the age of 77 years. The sons took over for a short while and ran the tannery, but family disagreements caused it to close down. In 1935 in September, the property was sold and the premises demolished. The tanning pits, which still contain some of the dumped machinery, are still there. Part of the tannery premises demolished was a brick building that was once the barroom of the "Cottage of Content" hotel and under the floors workmen found coins to the value of 160 pounds (from a farthing to a golden half sovereign). There was also many tokens, some celebrating the opening of the railway from Sydney to Parramatta in 1855. The hotel was built in the early 1830's. Thomas Herford closed it down in 1866.


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"The Crown Cinema" - St Marys

This cinema was in Queen Street, and as kids growing up in St Marys in the 1950's, we had a history lesson at the Crown. It was the conquering of Mt Everest by Edmund Hilliary and Sherpa Tensing, which has always left a vivid memory. Another not so vivid memory was the movie "Darby O'Gill & the Little People". It had screaming banshees and a lot to do with death that left me with nightmares for years. I remember rolling "Jaffa's" down the wooden isles and an ice cream cake on my birthday because my mother joined me up in the "Birthday Club". We had our first real kiss in the back row in the dark, and one Saturday with a friend, we sneaked in at half-time to see "Bye Bye Birdie" after coming back from a "Bandstand" TV show. The old "Crown" was entertainment for all us teenagers growing up in St Marys. If we wanted to travel, there was two cinemas in Penrith and the Blacktown Drive-in that became popular with boys who had panel vans and station wagons with curtains, so you can imagine that the Drive-in became popular and led to the demise of many cinemas, including the "Crown" which closed down.

Crown Cinema

Thelma & Ann Ritzrow passing the Crown 1950's

Original photo owned by the Ritzrow family                                      Information submitted by Lyn Forde




This Newsletter is a free publication. Articles in this Newsletter may be republished if permission is given by the Society.

Please contact:-


Norma Thorburn 9623-9557

Lyn Forde 9673-3506

While care is taken to ensure that all articles are accurate, the opinions expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily those of the Society

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Old Buffers

"OLD BUFFERS" of 1899 (original photo owned by Margaret Player)

The "Old Buffers" movement commenced in the 1880's, to help preserve old acquaintances and loyalty to the town on the part of its St Mary's citizens who had left the area. For nigh on half a century, St Marys enjoyed the distinction of being the only town in Australia that for year after year, held a reunion of past and present residents, by means of what was known as the "Old Buffer's Reunion & Cricket Match".

The first coming together of the townspeople of St Marys was originally in 1856, when "O'Connell's Square" (as Victoria Park was known at that time) was sold to James Hackett and then won back by the people of St Marys, who celebrated by way of a "Bullock Roast" in their beloved "square". This celebration was the first of what became an annual commemoration known as the "Bullock Roast & Sports Day".

The first cricket match held on Victoria Park was in 1890, and down the years the fraternity continued to function, save for a few lapses during the First World War and again in the Depression of the 1930's and as one generation passed on, the next took their place and in this manner, the association continued to be rejuvenated until September 1938, when it ended through lack of interest. Pleas by the last three survivors of the 1890 originals at this last reunion, brought little response, and as such the "Old Buffers" passed into history.

Three prominent townsmen who helped begin the "Old Buffers" movement, were George T Bennett (Wagon Builder) Andrew Thompson (Master Tanner) and William Fleming (Brick maker). The first match in 1890 was described as "24 old buffers, some over 60 years of age, hunted for the ball in dress ranging from professional togs to moleskins and cabbage tree hats. No one had to run very far, for there was no hard hitting and when there was a good hit, the chances were it would at least fall to one of the 24 scouts or else got lost in the long grass. Besides, over the 2 rail fence - but a short distance away, was counted as 2 runs and after 48 wickets had fallen, someone yelled 'damn cricket, lets go to dinner' which had been prepared at the Commercial Hotel". These reunions were financed by donations, raffles and the sale of tickets for the after dinner dance. George T Bennett was one of the three original old buffers to play in the last match in 1938 at the age of 85 years.

The term "buffer" was used both humorously and disparagingly to describe an elderly man and comes from the French word "foolish fellow", however, it acquired an affectionate meaning and it was in this sense that it applied to the cricketers.

Research from Nepean Times & the late Albert Evans - information submitted by - Lyn Forde

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Grateful thanks to Penrith Library for conservation of this worthy Newspaper.

- A ghastly word, yet one that quietly follows us all. Who will go next? It is not long since I noticed the passing away of an old man (Mr Lalor) and now his wife puts on the shroud and goes after mate after suffering a few weeks of pain and trial.

This week too the mother of Mrs Dan Paskins has gone over to the great majority and Mrs Perrin the sister of the late Mrs Bowley on Church Hill has likewise been laid to her last rest. Surely the scythe has mowed deeply and the harvest is being gathered in and all the while we marry and are given in marriage. We compete and struggle, one tramples down another and we live as if we were destined to abide here for ever. When shall we learn wisdom?

22ND OCTOBER, 1892
A startling accident occurred here on Thursday a little before noon to a Miss Nies of Luddenham. As the young lady was driving into St Marys along Mamre Road about opposite Fleming's Mart, her horse which had tried several times the same day to break away, got beyond her control and bolted and in galloping round the corner of Western and Mamre Roads near Mr Corry's boarding house, Miss Nies was thrown out of the cart. She was luckily thrown clear, but received a nasty gash on the forehead and a severe shaking. Dr Scott fortunately happened to be on the scene and attended the injured lady. After a short rest, her forehead was stitched up and she went to look after her cart which had been taken into Mr Cott's yard in a complete wreck. After throwing the driver out the horse careered up church hill till running foul of a fence the cart was upset.

8TH JUNE, 1899
The Late Rains
- The great rain has gone and St Marys has once more assumed that peaceful tranquillity so characteristic of it. I think the downpour of 20 inches in 4 days has broken the record and considering this, we may thank our stars for having such good get away for water. I thank goodness there has been no loss of life (human life I mean). Those families residing in the vicinity of the Creek all had to move to higher ground, and the old hands say that the water was every bit as high as that disastrous flood of 1867. Mr John Hackett is a pretty heavy loser; 30 or 40 head of sheep of his were washed away as well as a lot of pigs. There ought not to be any more grumbling about shortness of water for the next 12 months.

The Roads - Since the rain, mud has been the predominant element of St Marys and surrounding district. The wood drays come in from the bush only half loaded, the horses, drays and drivers are all mud too.

Damp Houses - Through the late floods the houses have got so damp that nearly everyone has a cold, some more serious than others. A few cases of diphtheria are reported.


The St Marys & District Historical Society meets every 4th Saturday at 1.15 pm - at the St Marys Arts & Craft Centre 2 - 6 Mamre Road, St Marys.

(Please see Page 2 for phone details)

Any comments on this Newsletter are encouraged

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