Summer 2004

St Marys & District Historical Society Inc - Quarterly Newsletter
 Our members would like to wish you and your family a Happy 2004

 Last year, our Society participated in the annual St Marys Spring Festival in September, 2003, by way of our usual float. Our theme was the 190th anniversary of the official crossing of the Blue Mountains by Blaxland, Lawson & Wentworth, who left on Tuesday, 11th May, 1813 from “Blaxland Farm” which was situated on the left bank of South Creek about 3 miles from St Marys. Their aim was to mount the “main” ridge from Emu Plains and follow a route similar to that of the Great Western Highway at Mt Victoria and then follow a finger ridge to Mt York, arriving late on the 28th May, 1813. By the 31st May, 1813, they had been travelling for 21 days and had covered about 93 km, their turn-around point was Mt Blaxland. They returned to Emu Plains in 5 days. Governor Macquarie took no action to exploit their discovery as their report to him played down their achievements and Wentworth went so far as to advise that a railway across the Blue Mountains was impossible.

Members “Blaxland, Lawson & Wentworth”

 Members walk behind the float



The St Marys & District Historical Society meets every 4th Saturday at 1 pm -
at the St Marys Arts & Craft Centre 2 - 6 Mamre Road, St Marys.

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



Norma Thorburn 9623-2307

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) Any comments on this Newsletter are encouraged

Page No. 1

Mechanic’s Institute was on the Highway at St Marys. In the 1860’s the site of the institute was in the possession of Patrick Donnelly, a tanner who had a small tannery on the west side of South Creek. He was a man much impressed by the good work and popularity of the Mechanics Institute in England and before he died in 1879, he willed that site to be for the purpose of a Mechanics Institute only, nominating as his Trustee’s - Joseph Sainsbury, a prominent builder in the town, and James R Woodland who was a tannery worker in the 1860’s (but was to later have his own tannery).
The foundation stone was laid on the 18th May, 1901 by Mr Samuel E Lees M.L.A. for Nepean. A sealed box which contained a 1901 copy of the “Nepean Times” & “Sydney Morning Herald” was placed in a cavity under a stone with some coins, and the following statement:-


Foundation Stone was laid 18/5/1901 by Samuel E Lees, M.L.A., Chairman, J.H. Beacroft Esq & Mayor, Officers:- President V.A. Jones, Vice-Presidents:- D. McDonald, P.J. Turner, Hon. Secretary, A.U. McSkimmering, Hon.Treasurer, Rev. Dixon Hudson, Committee:- Mrs A.H. Loveday, Miss Pearce, Andrew Thompson, William Garner, J.J. Giles, E.J. Robbins, James Hope. Architect: William Sykes, Builder: Joseph Sainsbury. Erected to commemorate the advent of the new century and the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia. Seven months later, on Saturday 21st December, 1901 the building was officially opened. The ladies of the Committee made special provision for the entertainment of those 80 or so who attended the opening. The proceedings opened with the Mayor (Alderman J.H. Beacroft) thanking the Committee for the honour of opening the new building. He looked upon the Institute as a service for the old and young alike, and trusted that the young men of St Marys would find the hall advantageous for them to use. Bringing his speech to a close, he expressed his pleasure in declaring that the St Mary’s Mechanics Institute duly opened and trusted that the affairs of the Institute would be of benefit to everyone in St Marys. A social and musical program, including refreshments was then staged. The highlight of the evening was the presentation of a flag to the Institute by Sergeant H.C. Gates of “K” Company, Penrith on behalf of the late Trooper E.H. Ransley (Boar War). This flag, a Union Jack, was one of the first hoisted over Bloomfontein upon its capture by British forces, and was procured and brought over by Sergeant Gates at the request of Trooper Ransley, who had wished to give a to the Mechanics Institute but had unfortunatelydied before being able to get one. Sergeant Gates then opened the parcel and unfolded the Union Jack and presented it on behalf of the late Trooper Ransley to the President of the Institute, Mr V.A. Jones. On the wall above the entrance to the Institute, was a white marble plaque with the following inscription “To the memory of Trooper E.K. Ransley, Native of this town & at one time Secretary of this institute, who died in the Imperial cause at Sterkstroom, South Africa on 27/4/1900 aged 30 years. A member of the 2nd Contingent NSW Mounted Rifles - I fought the good fight” The building comprised of 2 large rooms, each 36’ x 20’ (feet) - the upper room became the billiard and games room and the ground floor was used for classes, lectures and reading. Tournament games of euchre, cribbage, dominoes and drafts were played regularly. The institute was built for the sum of 400 pounds to which the townspeople subscribed almost half. Membership in - 1907- had 76 members, the highest number in 1930 with 181 members, but by the meeting in July 1941, it was being debated whether the Institute would continue because of lack of support. In 1971, the building and its land was sold to local businessman W.E. Cuckson by Penrith Council, who had obtained it under Section 357A of the Local Government Act with the stipulation that it be demolished within four months of purchase. The demolition was carried out in September, 1971 - 70 years after erection.

Page No. 2

Nepean Times

R. O’Brien -  General Carrier
Penrith to Parramatta
Orders left with Mr E W Griffiths
Opposite St Marys Post Office
or phone St Marys 50


Call on “The Golden Rod”
R. O’Brien
Choice Fruit & Vegetables
Fresh Daily - Keen Prices
Orders taken for general carrying
Parramatta to Penrith daily

Nepean Times - 13th January, 1944 - Cycle Accident
On Sunday last, George O’Brien (9 years) son of Mr & Mrs Ray O’Brien of St Marys, sustained abrasions to his head when a bicycle he was riding in a westerly direction in Victoria Street, St Marys ran into the side of a car which was turning into Pages Road,driven by Mr Henry Albert Dales of William Street, Kingsgrove, formerly of “Mamre”, St Marys. Mr Dale took the injured lad to his home. He is now little the worse for his mishap.

“Ray” O’Brien was born Herbert Sydney O’Brien at Newtown on the 3rd June, 1914. He married Mary Elizabeth Kinnery at St Mary Magdalene Church in 1932 and they lived at 557 Western Highway, St Marys. Ray is the carrier mentioned in the Nepean Times advertisements above. He and Mary had 9 sons and 1 adopted girl being, William, George (who had the mishap with the bicycle), Jack, John, Keith, Ron, Denis, Warren, Michael and Rhonda. “Ray” had the first fleet of trucks for many years in St Marys that delivered bricks from the Penrith brickyard to surrounding districts, including Camden, Enfield and Cumberland. “Ray” helped coach the St Marys Rugby football team - A Grade Premiers of 1945 and also helped run a picture show which was situated on the Highway at St Marys. He died aged 61 on the 19th July, 1975 and was cremated at Pinegrove.

“Ray’s” mother, Jane Henrietta O’Brien was born around 1877 at Camden to William Brown and Anne June Boyd of aboriginal decent belonging to the Tharawal Tribe. Jane was taken from her parents and put into service to work for James Hall and his wife at “Mamre” house. She married Sidney Augustus O’Brien on the 27th August, 1912 at the Presbyterian church at Penrith and they had twin sons, only one son, Herbert Sydney survived. After leaving “Mamre” Jane was given a horse & sulky as a gift from James Hall and when she and Sidney divorced, she worked as a mail contractor for the St Marys Post Office for many years, delivering and picking up mail between St Marys, Littleham and later Werrington. Jane died on the 5th September, 1961 at the age of 84 years and is buried at St Mary Magdalene Churchyard, St Marys.

Jane Henrietta O’Brien

Ray O’Brien

 (Information supplied by member Joan O’Brien)

Page No. 3


David became a member of our Society in 2002, and has since divulged a very interesting career, starting at the age of 15 working as a cadet photo journalist at his father’s office in Fleet Street, London. David says, “my job was to get back to the ‘Daily Mail’ in Fleet Street, process the glass plate film taken by the photographer, print it and have it on the art Editor’s desk for the next edition - and maybe have a “scoop”. National Service - Three years later I was called up for National Service and served in the Medical Corps at Colchester Military Hospital - Garrison Town. After passing the medical training, I spent the next two years steering a trolley around the wards, administering drugs (penicillin - sulphur, which I admit wasn’t very exciting but better than marching around the parade grounds. Ice Skating - On my discharge from the army and during 1950, I was offered a contract to perform in my favourite sport at that time (which was ice skating) with “Holiday on Ice” in London and for the next five years I appeared in a featured role which was an exciting experience, lots of fun and you got paid as well! T.V. Cameraman - At around the age of 28, I thought I had better get “a proper job” and became a T.V. cameraman in the big Wembley studios in London, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Roger Moore, Warren Mitchell and Rolf Harris - who was a mate in those days (before the wobble board). Australia - In 1959, I was married and had a life and job that could have gone on in a predictable way, but an “Aussie” in the studio was looking for volunteers to help start up the networks “downunder” and I found myself on a boat to Australia in a matter of weeks. First stop was Channel 9 in Brisbane, and then later in Sydney to start up Channel 10 at Epping. This was Australia’s best T.V. complex at that time and some of the best shows of 1970’s to 80’s were - “No 96”, “Sound of Music” with Bobby Limb and Dawn Lake, the “Johnny O’Keefe Show” and my favourite which was the “Mike Walsh Show”. I took Long Service Leave from Channel 10 and spent travelling the world with my son Hugh, and at one time on an extended trip in Europe, I studied their colour T.V. Systems. My last job for Channel 10 was helping them to switch systems from black & white to colour T.V. Opera House - In 1973 I was the “Outside Broadcast Technical Director” for the Queen’s Opening of the Opera House and just three years later I was working at the Opera House staging the operas and ballets until my retirement in 1995. In all, I was there at the opening in 1973 and working there in 1988 for the 15 year celebrations”. David came to live at St Marys to be close to his son, Hugh.

David (yellow) listening to Churchill Election Tour 1945

David (yellow) & the cast of the Mike Walsh Show


page 4