Monday, November 26, 2012

Lucy Callcott - a Pioneer in Thirroul Tourism

Lucy Callcott (nee Midson), born in 1875,  was the eldest daughter of William Midson and his wife Charlotte Small).  Father, William Midson was a Wesleyan preacher in the Ryde Circuit.

Grandmother Charlotte was the granddaughter of UK 1st Fleet convicts, John Small, Mary Parker and James Bradley. Charlotte’s  father was Samuel Small, who was born in 1804, the youngest of John Small and Mary Parker's seven children. He had married 'Rachel Rebecca Bradley', daughter of fellow 'First Fleeter James Bradley and 'Sarah Barnes', a convict on the 'Third Fleet' from the UK. Lucy was the paternal grandmother of my mother, Joan Adams, nee Callcott.

Lucy married Alfred (Alf) Freeman Callcott a railway man in 1894. During his time on the railway they seemed to have moved around NSW – Hornsby, Hermidale, Lyndhurst-Lochinvar, and finishing at Forbes. Lucy and Alf had two daughters,  Marjorie Lou and Clarice, in addition to their son, Louis Russell Freeman Callcott, who also became a railway man. They moved to Thirroul, after Alf retired from the railway.

According to “The Small Family in Australia 1788-1988″ p625, Lucy and Alf built a large home in Harbord Street Thirroul, (No.5 ?) and ran it as a guest house. Harbord Street had first been subdivided in 1911 (refer “Greetings from Thirroul” -  a small book which documents many of the holiday guesthouses around the town by local Thirroul Historian,  Dr Joseph (Joe) Davis, and his wife, Inga Lazzarotto). See also an article by Anne Woods on Guesthouses in Thirroul, formerly known as Robbinsville, continued to undergo great change after the completion of the South Coast Railway in the late 1880's - moving from farming to coal, brickworks and of course tourism. 

Around that time there were many advertisements in the Sydney papers for holiday accommodation in Thirroul. They often featured comments like “1 min to surf", "close to the railway" and “I". Others offering accommodation in Thirroul back then, were the Cooney’s, and also Hughie Ross (also grandfather of Julie Ross of The Spicey Apple), and his sister  Ruth. There were cinemas (Arcadia and New Kings), dance halls, refreshment rooms and Ryan's Bulli Pass Hotel.

Lucy and Alf  were also estate and insurance agents in the town – and were regular advertisers of Accommodation To Let in Thirroul Sydney Morning Herald from 1915-1939.  They often advertised reduced rates for the winter months. Lucy continued the business, as a widow, for about 7 or 8 years after the death of Alf . Amongst their most famous clients, were the sometimes controversial English author, DH Lawrenceand his wife,Baroness Frieda Von Richtofen. Frieda was also a cousin of The Bloody Red Baron of WW1 Germany.

It seems that the Lawrences were in tight financial circumstances and took advantage of Thirroul’s reduced winter rates, advertised by the Callcott’s. In 1922 DH and Frieda Lawrence stayed at the Californian bungalow, Wyewurk, which overlooks McCauley’s Beach, and was then owned by Lucy’s sister, Beatrice Southwell nee Midson.

There are varying thoughts on “Kangaroo" – a total fiction or a semi-autobiographic work by Lawrence? And like Somers in Kangaroo, did Lawrence really make contact with people from both the political “Right” and “Left” of the era in such a short time frame ? It was quite possible, as there people with strong views, from both sides of the political divide, in the Northern Illawarra during that time period. On the Left, there were the Coal Miners, and on the Right, the Small Business Operators. In 1920 John S Kirton, owner of the Excelsior Coal Mine was clearly a senior local member of the Nationalist Party.

And Lucy was seemingly interconnected into this milieu. Lucy and Alf's  son-in-law was Victor Farraher, husband of their younger daughter Clarice. Victor was also a son of Elizabeth Farraher (nee  Kirton), sister of John S Kirton, who had opened the Excelsior Coal Mine on his Thirroul property.  So there would have been potentially a close family tie-up between the Farraher family and the  Kirton family. And both Kirton‘s wives, Florence and Bridget, were also sisters to Murty Farraher, Victor‘s father. Incredibly convoluted ?

 John S Kirton had been President of the North Bulli Shire Council and was also President of the local Nationalist Committee. He presided over a dinner held at Ryan’s Bulli Pass Hotel in 24 January 1920 to celebrate a Nationalist Victory;  in Federal Parliamentary elections (Source  - Sydney Morning Herald January 26 1920). Some years later, Victor Farraher, wrote in support of Captain De Groote, who rode in on horseback and cut the ribbon at the opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge in protest. This was ahead of the NSW ALP Premier Jack Lang in the official party, in 1932 (refer Joe Davis‘ book "DH Lawrence in Thirroul“).

DH Lawrence used the family name  Callcott for one of the main characters in his novel, “Kangaroo“. There have also been suggestions that a woman, and her 11 year old son, commenting on the aeroplane landing incident in the novel, are in fact Lucy Callcott and son Russell. However, in 1922  Russell Callcott was already 19 years of age, and much older than the boy described by Lawrence in “Kangaroo“.

So, it was this short stay, at Wyewurk, that provided some of the inspiration for “Kangaroo“, according to Thirroul historian Dr Joseph (Joe) Davis. Coincidentally, Joe also taught Lucy's great grandson, Mark Callcott, at high school – at the time that Joe was writing his book “DH Lawrence in Thirroul“. Additionally, Joe is also a distant cousin of my daughter Katrina Christian - great great granddaughter of Lucy and  Alf  Callcott. It seems that Thirroul has always been that kind of place, with a strong sense of “connectedness”.

 For many years, Lucy also found time to be the organist in St David's Anglican Church in Roxborough Avenue next to Thirroul Public School - a plaque was placed in her memory on the church wall. Unfortunately Lucy did not enjoy a warm grandmotherly relationship with most of Russ's children. However it reminds me of the story of Paul Mercurio on the TV program "Who do you think you are ?" Paul discovered that his grandmother ran a hotel in America which left little time for her children, including Gus Mercurio, father of Paul. Perhaps it was the same for Lucy ?

Heading into the WWII years there appeared to be a change in the Guesthouse market in Thirroul. There seems to be no evidence of any advertisements in the Sydney Morning Herald by Lucy Callcott in the period from 1940 until her death in 1952 (see her death – funeral notices below). Perhaps coastal threats during WWII, and then changing tastes in the post WWII era, coming on the heels of the 1930′s Depression years, had caught up with them ? However she continued as a landlady, being driven around the northern suburbs by her son Russ, so she could collect the rent from her tenants.

Despite these  changes of reduced demand for Guesthouse accommodation, a popular seaside camping ground, operated in Thirroul, adjacent to the Olympic Pool, until the 1960′s. Also, in the 1960′s, Thirroul Beach was becoming a popular day trip destination, with many people coming down by train or bus.  Since then, day trippers have mainly arrived by car, although buses can still be seen at the beach. Lucy's son Russ continued to be a landlord during this period.

In the 1980's with the electrification of the South Coast Railway, many Sydneysiders chose to become residents in Thirroul and commuters up to Sydney. And a small motel had operated in Thirroul since the 1970′s, a notable customer was the artist Brett Whiteley.Whiteley, and fellow artist  Gary Shead, had a fascination with DH Lawrence, Wyewurk and "Kangaroo".

Bed and breakfasts, together with holiday home lettings are also starting to appear in Thirroul and its neighbouring suburbs. Recently Wollorowong, a property in Thirroul had been placed on the market. It was among the holiday cottages that  Lucy Callcott had managed in 1937,  operating as a guesthouse up until WWII. Wollorowong has been described as the last of the Thirroul Guesthouses by Joe Davis.

Lucy Callcott died in 1952, three years before I was born. And when I first stood for election as an Alderman on Wollongong City Council in 1989, I was at the Thirroul Leagues Club and was asked by a local "Was I a granddaughter of old Mrs Callcott?" I replied "No, I'm her great granddaughter". Despite the tensions that had existed in my family, nevertheless I have to acknowledge Lucy Callcott's pioneering contribution to the early days of tourism in Thirroul and as a small businesswoman  nearly a century ago.

Sydney Morning Herald Advertisements – a selection of the many ads placed by the Callcott’sfrom 1915-1939
SMH - 27 Nov 1915
Thirroul – Kaludah, 1 min. surf, Superior Accommodation, 30/- week, 6/- day. Mrs Callcott.
Thirroul Kaludah – 1 min surf. – Supr Accommodation. Mrs Callcott. ‘Phone 53 Bulli.
Thirroul Furn. Cottages To Let, booking now for Xmas. Callcott agt. T. ph 58 Bulli
(notes - ’THIRROUL Lulllngton -Guests House under new-L management double single Rooms minute beach gai age excellent table moderate tariffPho-ie 138_’I HIRROUL BEACH – l*urnl6hed Cottages PlatsJ- L Callcott /gent Phone Thirroul 63_ – 25 SMH 1933
halhs every convenience, from October 3 ALLhROY Thirroul PO_lYlHRROUL-1 urnished to Let close beach1 Callcott At,cnt Stamp reply Tele, Bulli 6*
THIRROUL -Furnished COTTAOES near beach A stamp reply A F Callcott Phone Thlr 53
THIRROUL BEACH. -Furnished Cottages. Flats. Í stamp reply L. Callcott. agent. Phone, Thlt ~”
Furnished Rooms stamp reply.
SMH March 20 1937 Thirroul. ”FURNISHED COTTAGE, close beach, accommodate ‘? six, vacant Easter. 11J4.H0._ ‘THIRROUL, Wollorowong … Flat, J- vacant Easter. L. Callcott. Agent. Thirroul 53.
THIRROUL BEACH -Furnished Cottage to letL Xmas also Flats L Callcott Ph Thlr 53
THIRROUL Beach-Private Home Xmas, adults
only £5/5/ week L Callcott 53 Thirroul
Death Notice - Lucy Callcott SMH 30/12/1952 -CALLCOTT, Lucy.-September 29,1952. of 5 Harbord Street. Thirroul widow of Alfred F. Callcott.and dear mother of Marjorie (Mrs.Tiernan. Sydney). Clarice (Mrs. V.Farraher. Wollongong). Russell (Thirroul). Eldest daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. W. Midson (Epping). ;
Funeral Notice - SMH 30/9/1952
CALLCOTT.-The Relatives and Friends of the Family of the late Mrs. . LUCY CALLCOTT, Of  5 Harbord Street, Thirroul, are Invited to attend the Funeral of their beloved Mother; to leave St. David’s Church, Thirroul, To-morrow. Wednesday, after a service commencing at 3 p.m.. for the General Cemetery. Bulli. Church of England portion.
W. J. WILLIAMS, Funeral-Director.
_ Bulli.

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