Neil Murray and Murray’s Self Serve Shop

by Alan Strachan

To the right of the BWS liquor shop on the southern side of Garfield Road East stood a building that has been empty for a number of years. The building was demolished in September this year. This article has been adapted from a full length article by Alan Strachan in 2008, in which he shared some memories of the shop in the time of Neil Murray.

This photo shows the theatre and the shop with matching facades. Warman’s self serve store was set back from the road on the right hand side. The advertising sign was built on the shop next door.
Photo: Verlie Sullivan

The grocery store, on the eastern side of the Olympia Picture Theatre, was operated and later owned by Neil Steward Murray and his mother, Amuri Stella Murray between 1957 and 1976.

1960s. Murray’s shop can be seen in the background of this photo. It was prior to the facade at the front being altered to match that of the theatre.
Photo: Maurie Haylor

I cannot establish when the shop and attached residence were built. In 1920 the shop was owned by Horace and Phillip Bambridge. After 30 years – they sold the store in 1949 to Carlisles Pty. Ltd.

In 1955 Carlisles sold the shop to Aldon Roy Cooke. Delma and Roy Cooke and their son Colin operated the store.
In March 1957, Raymond ‘Charlie’ Kennedy Murrell sold his Olympia Theatre to Neil Steward Murray and a syndicate. Neil was the Company Director of ‘Riverstone Olympia Pty. Ltd.’.

Neil Murray was born in Auckland, New Zealand on 9th April 1916, he was an only child. In the early 1920’s the Murrays moved to Guildford. When Neil left school he went to work with Harringtons Pty. Ltd. He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force [RAAF] during World War II where he was a LAC. He was a Chartered Accountant by trade and because of this he went in as a Pay Clerk. He went to America and came back as Corporal. He was discharged from the RAAF in 1946 and he and his mother operated a small grocery store at Yennora.

Neil Murray

In 1957 Neil took over the lease of the shop from Mrs Delma Cooke, and took up residence at Riverstone. Neil considered that the shop and theatre went hand in hand, being next door to each other. It was convenient for him to live adjacent and run both businesses at the same time.
When Neil took over the shop, he had it converted into a self-serve grocery store. When their shop at Yennora was sold in 1958, Mrs Murray and Neil bought the store outright from Delma Cooke.

Under the ownership of the Murrays, new modern shelving and longer isles and freezers were added to make the store more customer friendly as a self-serve. The shop became known as “Murray’s” Store. Neil employed carpenter Bill Monk of Vineyard to build the new facade on the shop to match the Olympia Theatre next door. He also relocated the front door entrance to the shop to the eastern end of the building. The entrance consisted of two small plate glass wooden framed doors that opened outwards. Three large plate glass windows were installed at the front of the store.
Mrs Maisie [Bottle] Marlin recalls that she first worked at the Riverstone Meatworks before starting to work for Neil Murray at his shop in 1960. Maisie worked the cash register and stacked shelves.

In 1952, Ed Phillis, commenced working in the grocery known as Wood’s Shop where groceries and wine were sold. Ed made up orders and delivered groceries around Riverstone, Box Hill, Nelson, Marsden Park, Schofields, and Vineyard. He worked there for ten years and during this time earned a good reputation and rapport with the customers.

When he finished up at Wood’s shop, Neil Murray offered him a job. When Ed started working at Murray’s he recalls there were five staff. Neil Murray, Maisie Marlin, Matt Coyt. (whose main job was as projectionist in the theatre next door), Barry Edwards and Bill Monk. He also recalled that Mrs Murray was a kind old lady who sometimes came into the shop to help out.

Ed stacked shelves, made up grocery orders and delivered them in the blue Austin A40 utility van. Neil had put a canopy onto the back to protect the groceries from the heat and rain. As most of Ed’s old customers from Wood’s Shop had followed him, it built up the business. After working at Murray’s for four years, Ed decided to call it a day and finished up in early 1965.

Friday the 28th September, 1962 was a sad day for Neil and the staff, when Neil’s mother, Amuri Stella Murray passed away.


Early Monday morning 23rd July 1962, thieves broke the glass doors of the shop and stole a considerable amount of tobacco and cigarettes. There were no more break and enters after that as Neil took on a young, male blue heeler cattle dog, that the previous owners could not control. Because he was savage, Neil named the dog Tiger. The dog was left to roam the yard of a night time. Upon hearing his savage bark and sighting Tiger no one entered the premises.
In 1964, like many other smaller family operated stores, Neil joined the Major Food Centre (MFC) grocery chain group, in an effort to build his business up and to compete with other local shops with cheaper grocery prices and weekly specials. At the time Murray’s had to compete with other self service stores like Warman’s Self Serve across the road, Granger’s Super Market in West Parade over the Railway Line near the Royal Hotel, and Dee-Jay’s/Foodland in Riverstone Parade. The cheaper prices were also to entice residents to shop locally without leaving the district to chase cheaper prices and specials at Blacktown or Windsor.


Neil Murray offered me the job of projectionist and I started working at the Olympia Picture Show in early July 1965. I took Matt Coyt’s place when he left. Neil also offered me a part-time job of delivering groceries in the afternoon from Tuesday to Friday. At that time I was working full time at the Riverstone Meatworks and mostly finished work about 3.30pm. Living close by in King Street meant that I could go home, and be at Murray’s Shop by 4.00pm. I then worked to 6.00pm.

When I started at Murray’s there were five on the staff:- Neil Murray, Maisie Marlin, Bill Monk, Bill Deacon and Matt Dillion. Matt was a junior and his main job was packing groceries for customers at the check-out into cardboard boxes, making the grocery orders up and cleaning when required. His last job of the day was to burn all the rubbish in two 44 gallon [200 litre] drums.
Maisie Marlin and Neil Murray worked on the cash register and the small smallgoods counter which was a small glass refrigerated cabinet which held the smallgoods such as Devon, ham and corned-beef, along with some bulk cheese and soft drinks. Bill Monk and Bill Deacon made up the grocery orders and checked them off before packing the items into cardboard boxes. Bill Monk also delivered the groceries around Riverstone, Schofields, Marsden Park, Box Hill and Nelson.

Introduction of Decimal Currency

A week or two prior to the introduction of decimal currency, the Major Food Centre [MFC] chain group had posters made up for display in shop windows showing prices of items in both pounds, shillings and pence, and dollar and cents. For instance:- Ipana toothpaste price of 2/8 (two shillings and eight-pence) appeared above, and underneath this price was 27 cents. Inside the shop, the prices were marked with both the old and new currency.

C-Day [Conversion Day] or D-Day [Decimal Day] arrived on Monday the 14th February 1966. Neil had been to the bank and had been issued with the new decimal currency on the Friday afternoon, so he could commence trading on Monday morning. Neil gave staff who handled money a crash course in the form of a small test. We had to give him the correct change from $10 after a 27 cent purchase.
The majority of customers on that first day and throughout the week on the grocery delivery runs still paid for their groceries with the old pound, shillings and pence money. Many customers were confused and did not know if they were being short-changed or not. A lot of questions were asked and the older shoppers trusted the staff to hand out the correct change.

Expanding the Delicatessen

In 1960, Marguerite “Margaret” Mayrberger started at Murrays, working the Deli, cash register, making up orders and stacking shelves. Marguerite recalls that whilst applying, she asked Neil Murray if he could guarantee her three years work, as they were getting a new house built in Dingle Street at Riverstone. Neil gave her the guarantee of employing her for more than three years.
Neil realised that Riverstone was fast becoming a multicultural district. A lot of the new residents were Polish and Neil noticed that most, after purchasing large quantities of grocery items in his shop, then went across the road to Mr Jim Curiskis’s shop which sold a larger range of continental meats. His customers purchased meats there and brought them back to Neil’s shop, placing the goods into the box of groceries that they had earlier purchased, ready for delivery.

In 1966 Neil decided to make a larger delicatessen area and stock a wider range of continental meat etc. for his customers and to attract more customers. In the second half of 1966, Neil had Bill Monk undertake the renovations. He built a front counter for the refrigerated glass display cabinet, which held the cold meats etc. Hooks were used to hang the salami, dried eels, and other meats to a swinging type of rail. Fluorescent lights were installed for a brighter working area.

Around the same time a small cool-room was installed. Marguerite proudly took over the new delicatessen and under her charge and personality, the delicatessen attracted both the regular and new customers. These good results were just what Neil had hoped for.
Margaret’s work day started at 9.00am. Her first job was to carry the meat trays from the cool-room and place them onto the shelf in the glass refrigerated cabinet. She took pride in her work and kept the Deli area immaculate. Each morning she wiped down the skin on the rolls etc. of meat to give the meat a fresh appearance. Margaret also worked on the till and made up grocery orders.

5.30pm was closing time. The meat etc. had to be placed into the cool-room and the Deli area had to be cleaned and the floor swept spotless. One of the tedious jobs for her was cleaning down the meat slicing/cutting machine. Margaret would stay back on Wednesday and Saturday after the shop had closed and go through the list of smallgoods and meats to be ordered for the delicatessen. Neil would ring the order through to Presto meats.
The meats consisted of corned beef, square and round ham, Devon, salami, smoked eels. There were also salted herrings, bulk sauerkraut, bulk Hazeldean and Capilano honey in four gallon square silver drums, which were poured into the honey dispenser. Large blocks of cheese included Mortadella, Edam and Gouda, and Bega Tasty. Through the school holidays, a young girl named Anna assisted. In the five years Margaret worked at the Deli – the Health Inspector carried out many inspections, which were always found to be most satisfactory, and she was very proud of this.

Stock Delivery

Margaret recalled the Allowrie and Norco butter trucks arrived every each. Varieties included ordinary and unsalted butter, along with Miracle, Tulip, Meadow-Lea, Daffodil margarine and cooking fat (dripping), The cigarette man drove a large delivery van and made up the order straight away. The tobacco man made his delivery in a small van. The large Streets and Devondale Ice- Cream Vans arrived weekly. Streets ice-cream was in a half-gallon tins and Devondale in the half-gallon plastic tins. If the ice-cream was on special, they would deliver twice a week.

Birds-Eye delivered the frozen foods like T.V. Dinners, fish fingers, peas, beans, cauliflower, prawns etc. weekly. John “the egg man” from Box Hill delivered his fresh eggs daily, and packed his own egg-stand with small, medium and large eggs.

In recalling her time working at Murrays, Margaret remembers one distinct thing about Neil, he wore slippers in the shop all the time, only putting on shoes if he went out of the shop.

In early 1967, Neil decided to have Bill Monk build a modern kitchen, bedroom, lounge room and office area to upgrade the old residence area at the back of the shop. Neil decided to place Bill Monk almost on full-time building and maintenance work about the place. With urgent repairs being required to the shop, residence and picture theatre.

Delivering Orders in the District

I commenced working for Neil Murray full time in 1967. My duties consisted of a combination of unpacking deliveries, packing shelves, making up orders, delivering orders, collecting money and order cards from people’s letter boxes and houses.

To fill the out of town orders, we bought meat from the butcher shop, bulk bird seed, wheat and pollard from the Hardware Store, and fruit and vegetables from Stacey’s Shop down the road. As well as groceries, I delivered a five gallon drum of bulk kerosene for lighting etc. to Miss Cassidy who lived out on the bad bend at Marsden Park They supplied an empty drum, which was filled from a large tank of bulk kerosene located on the eastern side of the shop in the driveway.

I delivered well over 200 grocery orders in a week. Wednesday to Saturday was the busiest time in the shop, where up to 80 or more grocery orders were made up from order cards, the remainder were selected off the shelf and purchased by the customers. The orders were placed into the van in street order and numbers, which allowed me to deliver them quickly. I was only afforded the luxury of two to three minutes per order delivery.

Most of the customers were not home and their orders were left on the front step or verandah, but some trusted me as to the key was kept so as I could enter the house and place the orders in the kitchen. Requests were often made for me to place the frozen food or ice-cream or butter etc. into their refrigerator so it would not melt.

If a customer was home, if time permitted, I often had a short conversation with them, or if they wished to pay for their groceries, I would write out a receipt, take their money and give change from a brown leather money-bag. In most cases it was just a matter of running up to the house, leaving the box of groceries and running back to the van to do the next delivery.

Some customers had delivery times of “before or after” a certain time, as they were going out or not home. We always kept the customer satisfied, and deliveries were made with a friendly smile.

After I had returned from making the deliveries I then had to go through the money I had collected from the customers with Neil to make sure that everything balanced. On Friday night I would often finish with just enough time to get home, have a can of Irish Stew for tea and then be back to run the pictures at the theatre by 7.15.

Sunday was a day of rest and I always looked forward to this day.

Other Self Service Grocery Stores

The two biggest self-service stores at Riverstone that Neil had to compete against were Warman’s/Flemings, just across the Garfield Road, and Foodland opposite the railway station. The competition was fierce on all sides. The specials were the one thing that attracted customers to the shop, and they would go around the three main grocery stores and mostly buy the specials.

Neil had hundreds of MFC specials pamphlets printed and delivered each week by letter-box drop. The pamphlets arrived with the MFC delivery truck on Monday afternoon in a large flat package which contained over 2000. Each week they were a different colour.
Neil decided to employ Teena Duce. Her job was to fill the shelves, make up grocery orders, work on the till when required, assist Marguerite in the Deli, relieve Margaret on the Delicatessen when she went to lunch plus make the morning tea for the staff.

During the first half of 1968, Matthew Dillion finished up and young Clive West took his place. His role included stacking shelves and making orders up, but his main job was to pack the groceries bought at the front till into boxes, then carrying them out to the customers motor vehicles parked up or down the road. Neil wanted the front of the shop clear of groceries at all times.

Order Cards

Customers could attend the store, select their own items which would then be delivered for them later, or they could complete an order card and we would make up the orders for them.

The staff were always kept busy filling the shelves. Bill Deacon wheeled trolley load after trolley load of stores in cartons up the path from the back store rooms. The empty cartons were thrown onto the driveway of the shop and by the end of the day they formed a mountain, which had to be stacked up in a tidy pile ready for packing the grocery orders into.

Most of the staff could glance at the amount of items on the counter and select the right sized cartons to pack them in. During the warmer months, notes were often attached by durex tape to the order cards or on orders picked out by the customer, for perishable goods. I had to pick out the frozen food or butter and place them into the orders, just prior to leaving the shop on deliveries.

A grocery order form. At the bottom of the form Mrs Ferguson requested the order be delivered after 3 o’clock.

An advertising pamphlet from 1972.

Each year many local businesses gave away free calendars to their customers.

A 1963 ad for Murray’s Store and the Riverstone Picture Theatre

Each year many local businesses gave away free calendars to their customers. A 1963 ad for Murray’s Store and the Riverstone Picture Theatre.

About 1968, Bill Monk made a concrete path leading from the back storeroom to the back door of the shop. This path was badly needed, as the old track was not level and during the wet periods puddles of water and mud formed along the dirt track, and many times small stones lay on the track and when the two wheels of the trolley struck them, caused it to tip over and loose the load.

When I first started there were steel shopping baskets with handles for the customers to use. Later, Neil introduced silver shopping trolleys.

Introduction of the Christmas Club

As well as the weekly MFC Specials, there were everyday MFC lower prices. Often, when the shop closed after trading for the day, the manager of Flemings store across the road could be seen checking out the prices of items on special in the front window at Murray’s. Neil would also compare his prices with Flemings, and would lower his prices below theirs. Neil could work out immediately in his head what he could charge and still make a profit. Neil also introduced a Christmas “Xmas” Club for his customers. It was very popular as it allowed them to pay on a weekly or monthly basis, which made it easier for them when Christmas arrived.

Neil’s Role

Besides being the proprietor, Neil’s main job was attending to and maintaining the upkeep of the ledger, so the accounts and staff wages could be paid. In the shop, he worked mainly on the cash-register, but he also filled the cigarette stand and the large biscuit stand which ran parallel to the delicatessen – and both sides of the stand was used for Arnott’s, Peak-Frean’s, Weston’s and other varieties. He maintained the noodle shelf with packets of spaghetti, shells and other pasta.

Neil also worked on the Deli when Margaret was at lunch or not available to serve. He also attended to the travellers from various companies with orders. When the Arnotts delivery truck arrived, all the cartons of biscuits that could be opened and placed onto the shelf were placed onto the floor near the biscuit stand. The cartons had to be used in order of the date on the carton. Cartons of biscuits and potato chips were stacked high on the top self, well away from mice and other pests.

Every year two to three men came in and carried out the annual stock-take at the end of the Financial Year at the shop. The men spent up to three days to carry out the stock-take, which was reasonably fast considering the huge amount of stock that was held on the premises.

In 1969 Les Moulds was taken on at the shop as a junior. His job was packing orders, stacking shelves, and if time prevailed, to make orders up to be delivered. He also had the job of tidying up the pile of cardboard cartons that were thrown out into the driveway during the day, and burning the rubbish in the two 44 gallon drum incinerators down the back yard. At that point in time there were nine on the staff which consisted of Neil Murray, Maisie Marlin, Bill Monk, Marguerite Denman, Bill Deacon, Teena Duce, Clive West, Les Moulds and myself.

In 1969, Neil purchased a new delivery van. It was a grey 1963 Holden Panel Van with no side windows and replaced the beige/brown 1956 Holden Panel Van, which was costing money. All servicing, repairs, registration checks, tyre repairs, and new tyres were carried out and supplied by Nichol’s Garage. Mobil petrol was used in both the delivery van and Neil’s Chrysler Royal car, and both vehicles had monthly accounts with Ernie Nichols

Neil And The Community

Neil Murray was well liked and respected by his staff and customers. He was easy going and nothing was a problem for him. Neil was always in a cheerful mood and laughed and joked with his customers both in the shop, or those passing by on the footpath. He was well respected by the Riverstone community as a whole, and his doings and dealings with the public was honest and commendable. His popularity was probably the reason why he had a large turnover, as regular customers shopped at his store day after day, week after week. Neil had built up his business to a very high standard, with a high degree of service. This could also be attributed to his loyal staff, who were also popular and friendly towards the customers.

At the shop we were a closely knit family and dedicated to our work. Neil Murray was a good boss and one of the boys. The beginning of the end started when Maisie Marlin finished up in 1970. Maisie went to work for her brothers, Ted and Charlie Bottles in the steel/metal game for a few years. Maisie then had a small shop at Chifley for two years, returning to establish a garden nursery centre at her home in Crown Road. Beverly Jessop of West Parade, took Maisie’s place at Murray’s.

Les Moulds left in 1970 to take up an apprenticeship at the butchers shop across the road. Andy McGreggor of Schofields took his place.
Margaret Denman left in 1971 to have her first child. Young Anna [Prom] Everingham of Piccadilly Street took Margaret’s place on the delicatessen.

Using the Old Theatre for Storage

The picture theatre closed in June 1971 and it was then used as a large storeroom. The seating was sold off in late 1971 and the floor space provided an enormous storage area for the stores received on the MFC truck. Time was saved in putting the stores away off the delivering trucks as they did not have to be stacked to any great height, as experienced in the back storeroom. Even when the theatre was still in operation, the front area in front of the stage had been used to store large Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and cereal boxes which arrived by rail at Riverstone from Sydney.

Introduction of a Delivery Fee

In 1971, Neil was forced to introduce a fee of 20 cents for each box of groceries delivered. The charge was to meet the costs of petrol, and because some customers were just purchasing the specials, which resulted in small orders which were not viable to deliver free of charge. The good loyal customers had to suffer the increase because of this. At first, there were no complaints, but gradually customers shopping in person started taking their groceries with them rather than having them delivered. Deliveries dropped off dramatically, but we still had the loyal customers who put their order cards in each week to be made up and delivered.

Daylight Saving and Late Night Shopping

Daylight Saving was introduced on Sunday night the 31st October 1971. It was handy when there were late grocery deliveries past 6.00pm.

On the 16th December 1971 – late night shopping was introduced. Stores were allowed to stay open up until 9.00pm. Neil Murray was not a person who would stand back, and he commenced trading on that first Thursday night, as did the majority of grocery and other larger shops in Riverstone. Late night shopping had arrived just in time for Christmas.

On that first Thursday night all the staff worked until 9.00pm, as Neil was not sure how the late night shopping would go. As it turned out, we were kept busy by customers taking advantage of the later finish and being curious about the new trading hours. Right up to Christmas we were kept busy. Thursday night shopping dropped back after that and Neil worked out a roster system so staff worked back to 9.00 once or twice during the month. He stopped home deliveries after 5.30pm.

The Later Years

On 12th February 1972 I finished up at Murray’s Shop. I had been working at the shop for six years. Bernie Cousins of Riverstone took my place. Even though I had left the shop, I still kept in contact with Neil and his staff. In 1973, Teena Duce left to work across the road at the Delicatessen. This left Neil Murray, Bill Monk, Bill Deacon, Clive West, Andy McGregor, Anna Everingham, Beverly Jessop and Bernie Cousins on the staff.

In 1973 Neil purchased a brick veneer home at 33 Church Street, Riverstone from David and Virginia Butler. The property had a large backyard where the dog Tiger could run about.

Changing Hands

Neil sold the theatre building in late 1973 to Michael and Freda Danziger of Rose Bay. They converted the old theatre building into an Auction Room and Real Estate Agency.

In 1974, after approximately seventeen years in the grocery shop at Riverstone, Neil Murray decided to call it a day and retire at the age of 58 years. The staff at the end were:- Bill “Micky” Monk, Bill Deacon, Anna Everingham, Beverly Jessop, Andy McGregor, Clive West, Bernie Cousins, and of course, Neil Murray. He then leased the shop building to Robert and Freda Krupach.

Two years later Neil decided to sell the shop. Tony Magazzus and Pasquali Monteleones bought the shop and property. Over the years Neil Murray was one of Riverstone’s leading business people.

The Passing of Neil Murray

Sadly, Neil Murray’s retirement was short lived when on Thursday 17th March 1977, following a short illness [Peritonitis], he passed way in Baulkham Hills Private Hospital aged 61 years. His funeral service was held at St. Paul’s Church in Elizabeth Street, Riverstone. The church was filled to capacity and spilled outside onto the street. After the service Neil was laid to rest with his mother. at St. Matthew’s Church of England, Windsor. In his will, he had left his entire estate to the RSPCA so that Tiger, his faithful blue heeler dog, could be looked after the remainder of his life.

The Shop Building in Later Years

I am unable to establish what occurred with the old shop in the years between 1976 and August 1981. Norman Swift leased the shop from Mr Tony Magazzu from the 15th August 1981 until 15th August 1986. For five years Norm Swift traded as Riverstone Trading, a saddlery shop.

When Tony Magazzu passed away, Norman Swift continued leasing the store from the new owner Mr Pasquali Monteleone for a short period, finishing up on the 15th August 1986. In 1986, the building was converted into a fruit shop by Mr Monteleone.

This article was written in 2008. Since 2001, Joe Monteleone and Paul Lazzard in partnership owned the business. The property is owned by Mr Peter Monteleone, Joe’s father-in-law. Mrs Carmela Monteleone often works the check-out, and is Paul Lazzard’s mother-in-law. It is now 22 years since they took over the shop and have been trading under the banner of the Riverstone Fruit Barn and supplying Riverstone residents daily with fresh produce.

In 2008, the building is still standing after being built well over 100 years ago in the late 1800’s. Although there have been many modifications which have taken place on the building over this period of time by the various owners, the building is still as sturdy as the day it was erected.

Postscript: The building had been empty since 2010. In August 2018 it was sold and demolished a month later

Murray’s Self Serve Shop – This 1979 photo shows the building used as Riverstone Pet Supplies
Murray’s Self Serve Shop – Demolition in September 2018 revealed the structure of the facade
Murray’s Self Serve Shop – Advertising revealed during demolition in September 2018.

Armistice Day Centenary

by Rosemary Phillis

What was the Armistice?

The word armistice means “suspension of fighting”. In November 1918 after four years of fighting during the First World War (the Great War as it was known then), the Germans called for an armistice to allow time to negotiate a peace settlement. They accepted the terms of settlement which “amounted to an unconditional surrender” and at 11 am on the 11th of November 1918 the armistice was signed at Compiègne in France. 1

What was Armistice Day?

The moment in time when the hostilities ceased became associated with the remembrance of those people who had died during the war. On the first anniversary of the signing of the armistice, two minutes silence was observed as part of a ceremony at the Cenotaph in London. This two minutes silence was adopted as central part of future Armistice Day proceedings. 2

Changing from Armistice Day to Remembrance Day and two minutes to one minutes silence

After the Second World War, the name was changed to Remembrance Day as the date now became one on which Australians and the British would “commemorate all war dead”. 3

Information on the War Memorial site further 1997, Governor-General Sir William Deane issued a proclamation formally declaring 11 November to be Remembrance Day, urging all Australians to observe one minute’s silence at 11 am on 11 November each year to remember those who died or suffered for Australia’s cause in all wars and armed conflicts. 4

Celebrations at the Signing of the Armistice

It isn’t hard to imagine the joy that was felt throughout the Riverstone district when advice that the war was over became known. There are no known photos of the celebrations in Riverstone, but descriptions in the words in the Windsor and Richmond Gazette help us to imagine. According to the Gazette, news of the official cease fire came through to Windsor around 8 p.m. 5 Presumably it would have been around the same time at Riverstone.

The celebrations in Riverstone were noisy and sustained. They started on Monday the 11th and continued on the next night, on the green in front of the railway station, a mock trial and execution of an effigy of the German ex Kaiser took place.


Riverstone rose to the occasion on Monday of last week – when news came of the signing of the armistice by the representatives of Germany. A number of business men and other residents put their heads together and celebrated the victory by ‘proceshing’ the streets and belting tin cans until the early hours of the morning. – When work at the local meatworks ceased, the band got together, and added much to the enjoyment of all concerned.

On Tuesday night further celebrations took place, when the ex-Kaiser was executed. The deposed Kaiser is generally regarded throughout the civilised world! as the man who was chiefly responsible for the great world war, and on account of the misery brought on the human family thereby, he is the most hated and despised man in the world to-day.

Riverstone showed its utter detestation of the arch fiend on Tuesday evening by holding a mock trial, and afterwards consigned his effigy to the flames. A great crowd gathered to witness the novel proceedings, the trial taking place on the green, in front of the railway station.

The Kaiser’s effigy was the work of Mrs Crisp, assisted by others, and the representation was a faithful one. Mr. H. L. Lawson acted as Crown Prosecutor, and recited a list of the evil deeds the prisoner had committed. Mr. J. S. Hunter appeared for the ex Kaiser, and put up a good fight for his client. The judge. Mr. Chas. Davis J.P. on summing up, returned a verdict of guilty, which was greeted with one loud unanimous cheer from the gathering. His Honor said the prisoner was guilty of murder in its worse form, and condemned the convicted Criminal to be taken to the place of execution and “burnt at the stake”.

The executioner, Mr. A. Bertie, then got Kaiser Billy in tow. He took care that his captive would not do the disappearing trick. The criminal was tied to a nearby tree, and after a baptism of kerosene, was set alight. The people simply went mad with joy, and stones were hurled from all directions at the burning effigy. The Riverstone band enlivened the proceedings with a programme of patriotic music They played splendidly, and were a great acquisition to the celebrations 6

The celebrations continued. Services in the Catholic Churches at Windsor and Richmond on the Sunday were “celebrated in thanksgiving for the glorious victory bestowed on the Allied arms”. 7

After the celebrations

Throughout the war men were returning to the district from the war, while others prepared leave. After the armistice, over a period of many months the servicemen gradually returned home.

The return of a soldier to the town was celebrated each time they arrived on a train. One of the biggest would have been for Herbert Davis who was one of our original ANZACS. He served at both Gallipoli and the Western Front. He arrived home by train on the 24th of November 1918. The railway station was decorated with “an avenue of greenery interspersed with flags and hanging lamps”. The train came in with the whistle sounding, along with detonators and explosions. Approximately 400 people were said to have waited outside the station to welcome him home. There were speeches and musical selections by the local band. At his father’s home, there was an archway of ANZAC flags from the gate to the door. 8

It is also understandable that the celebrations would also have been a time of heartache for those whose friends and relatives had died or been injured during the war.

There is no mention of a service on the first anniversary of the signing of the armistice. However Riverstone saw a major event on 8 November 1919, when the district gathered to witness the unveiling of the local War Memorial. The centenary of this event will be celebrated next year.

[5] Windsor and Richmond Gazette 15 November 1918.
[6] Windsor and Richmond Gazette 22 November 1918.
[7] ibid.
[8] Windsor and Richmond Gazette, 29 November 1918.


Connie Moulds Takes the Reins

by Michelle Nichols & Jonathan Auld

Women in sport are commonplace these days, but there was a time it was a rarity. Despite discord and discrimination throughout the years, by the twentieth century, females were able to participate in most sporting activities. One woman who made a difference was trotting trainer, Mrs Constance Moulds.

Trotting has long been a popular sport in the Hawkesbury area. The Hawkesbury Show featured trotting in the 1890s and a trotting racing club was established at Londonderry in 1912. There were many fine breeders and trainers operating in the district, including Andrew Town, Dr G. M. Slate, and Mr C. J. Roberts with studs at Hobartville, Clarendon and Marsden Park. Trotting was also very popular in Riverstone in the 20th century with the Woods, Dawson and Phillis families. Connie Moulds haled from Riverstone and with husband George were noted pioneers in the trotting sphere.

Constance was born in Rylstone in 1897. Her parents were Dudley Joseph Stephens and Mary Eleanor ‘Nellie’ Calvert who married in 1894 in the Cowra district. Dudley was a police constable from about 1890 until 1899 when he was reported as taking up a homestead selection of about 40 acres at Cattai and later poultry farming. The Stephens family moved to Rouse Hill in 1908. After a long illness, Nellie Stephens passed away aged 42, in 1916. She was buried at St. Matthew’s Anglican Cemetery.

Connie was employed as a clerk and at some stage met butcher, George Francis Moulds, the son of John Thomas Moulds and Henrietta Sherwood, long-time residents of Rouse Hill. The couple shared a love of horses and in 1919, married at Christ Church, Rouse Hill.

Shortly after their marriage it is recorded that George suffered with chronic rheumatism. In 1921, a benefit concert was held in his aid, in the Rouse Hill Anglican Church Hall. The rheumatism forced George to use crutches to move around. George worked as a smallgoods man, and then in 1925, was employed as a fruiterer. The couple acquired the mare, Tiny Loche and won her first three starts. Both worked hard, training horses for themselves, and sometimes for others.

Several years after their marriage, the couple moved to Riverstone and resided in Garfield Road where they focussed on training trotters and pacers. Their only child, Lawrence (Lawrie) was born in 1923. In the 1920s their horses included “Lady Helaine, Ella Huon, Unexpected, Bay Locke, Foch and Apia.”

A race was held at Menangle Park trotting meet in 1924, which allowed women to ride and drive a trotting horse, for the first time in NSW. The race, the Ladies’ Handicap, was very popular. Nine horses were entered in the race and Connie, with Innisfail, won as the favourite 7 to 4. She was also the first woman granted a trainer-driver licence to compete at registered meetings.

Connie frequently attended the meetings at the Richmond Trotting Club at Londonderry, up until the NSW Trotting Club introduced the rule which prohibited women from riding in any events that were not restricted to women. “The stewards later said that men might be inhibited by chivalry from protesting against interference by women drivers” and this obstacle impeded women’s trotting for several decades. But for George, “nothing delighted [him] more than seeing her winning events on the race tracks.”

A terrible tragedy occurred in 1932. While travelling on Windsor Road near Rouse Hill, George was thrown from his sulky when the horse he was training, was frightened by a truck. George fell heavily and his injuries included a fractured spine. Despite the outstanding medical treatment obtained, he lingered for two weeks before passing away. He was only 33 years old and was buried at Rouse Hill Cemetery. George was described with having “a quiet and retiring disposition” and as one who had suffered “more than his share of sorrow.”

Connie maintained her interest in training and she was given official permission to continue preparing her horses. Regardless of her involvement in trotting, things were financially tough, raising her son on her own, during the depression and through World War 2. To make ends meet she delivered ice around the town by sulky. In those days most people still had iceboxes which required blocks of ice to keep perishables cool. She also operated a fish and chip shop in Garfield Road, almost opposite the theatre, which was popular during the movie intervals. Connie attended and performed in many of the local and country shows, winning races and breaking records.

In 1941, 18 year old Lawrie enlisted in the Army serving until he was discharged in 1945 when he returned to Riverstone and married in 1949. From a young age, Connie coached her son, in all things trotting and he went on to become a leading reinsman, and renowned trainer.

Machine Wood was a gelding that brought the Moulds family luck. It was rescued from the knackery and after completing his training, was Lawrie’s first win in 1944 at Harold Park. Machine Wood went on to win at the first night meeting at Harold Park in 1949. Night racing at Harold Park went on to be extremely popular during the fifties with large crowds in attendance. However Connie was not allowed to compete at Harold Park and she had to transfer her horses to a male, to participate. Connie got around the system by entering the horses in Lawrie’s name.

Known as ‘the little mother’ – she was short and recognisable for wearing jodhpurs and a wide-brimmed hat but hardly ever seen in a dress. A pioneer in the trotting field, Constance Moulds died 27 September 1972, aged 75 and is buried beside her husband at Rouse Hill Cemetery. Her son Lawrie passed away in 1982 aged 58.

With thanks to Larry and Leanne Moulds for assistance in preparing this article.

Connie in the sulky. Garfield Road can be seen in the background. The photo would have been taken just down from Pitt Street
Photo: Larry and Leanne Moulds

Connie as a young woman.
Photo: Larry and Leanne Moulds

Connie in her racing silks
Photo: Larry and Leanne Moulds
Connie on her sulky & in racing silks.
Photo: Larry and Leanne Moulds

Queen Elizabeth II Congratulates Queen Nancy I
The Story of Nancy Anderson nee Strachan

by Rosemary Phillis

There are some people whose names spring to mind when you talk about the history of Riverstone and Nancy Anderson (nee Strachan), is probably the best known. Nancy is the original “Queen of Riverstone” and has just celebrated her 100th birthday. It was a fitting acknowledgement for the Queen of Riverstone to receive a congratulatory letter from the Queen of England.

Nancy was born on 27 March 1918. Her parents were Herbert Strachan and Nellie Gunton. She was one of nine children. The children, in age order were, Jean, Marie, Sidney, Ena, Nancy, Joyce, Merle, Maxwell and Barry. The family lived in Richards Avenue (also known as Butcher’s Row) and the children went to school at the Riverstone Public School.

Life where Nancy grew up was captured by Clarrie Neal in a 2004 article on Butchers Row.

No. 35 was another of the original brick homes built in the early 1900’s. It was first occupied by Herb Strachan and his wife Nellie (nee Gunton) until 1934 when they moved into No. 49 after it was vacated by the McNamara’s.

Following the departure of the McNamara’s the house was then occupied by Herb and Nellie Strachan with their 9 surviving children – 6 girls, Jean, Marie, Ena, Nancy, Joyce, Merle, and 3 boys, Siddie (Squeaker), Maxie, and Barry. This family had been living in No. 35 and a larger house was required.

Of the girls, Jean worked in the textiles, Ena was a cleaner in the main office, Joyce in the preserver, and Merle worked in the preserver, packing room and the canteen. The husbands of Jean, Marie, Joyce and Merle all worked at the works. The 3 boys, Siddie, Maxie and Barry all started as drovers at the works, with Siddie spending his entire working life there as a drover. After more than 20 years as drovers, both Max and Barry left the works and sought outside employment.

Nancy Anderson has many fond memories of her younger days in the “Row” with the children playing together and the friendliness of the close knit community. She also remembers the well kept homes with their flower gardens at the front, vegie gardens out the back, and behind the back fence, the dog kennels. Today it saddens her to see the houses starting to deteriorate.

Nancy also remembered the day her sister Marie was to marry ‘Tiger’ Locke, – Marie sitting up in the sulky driven by Joe Fitzgerald, going past their home on the other side of the line, on her way to the church at Windsor.

As a young girl on a hot summers night she recalls the family sitting on a rug on the grass near the watchman’s office watching their father unloading the stock trains. In those days the trains were unloaded at the front of the works near the main gate.
Often the engine driver would step down from his hot cabin and sit with them having a chat. Sometimes these drivers would make sure that lumps of coal would fall from the engine in front of their homes in butchers row, great for use in their fuel stoves.

Nancy was a good vigoro player and was a member of the successful Riverstone Country Life Vigoro team. In the Historical Society’s 1998 Journal Judith Lewis wrote about the local competition and part of the article is reproduced here. Interestingly Nancy was listed as a member of the first Riverstone team in an article in the Windsor and Richmond Gazette.

Nancy behind the stumps on the vigoro pitch.
Photo: Rhonda Rieser (nee Anderson)
Back Row: Iris Wiggins, Lalie Ridout, Jean Wood, Gwen Stanford, Sylvia Wiggins, Florrie Russell, Betty Dench. Front Row: Nancy Strachan, Bonnie Day, Linda Byrnes
Photo: Sandy May

1933. A District Vigoro Association is Formed.

At a meeting at the Olympia Theatre, Riverstone, on 24 January 1933 a Vigoro Association was formed in the Hawkesbury…. The RIVERSTONE team was comprised of: M. Conway, N. Strachan, I., E. & S. Wiggins, L. Byrnes, F. Russell, G. Stanford, B. Day, J. Rabey, J. Woods and E. Drayton….

Nancy Anderson (Strachan), a member of the Riverstone team, was interviewed by her great grand-daughter, Holly Stone, for this article. She remembers her uniform as being a maroon dress with white on it. As part of the uniform they also wore white sandshoes and white caps. They practised twice a week and their coach was Harry Davis.

Nancy also recalls that it cost a penny to play and a bingo team raised money. The Gazette recorded fund raising dances at both Riverstone and Vineyard. The Riverstone function was held in the Olympia Theatre and was in aid of the district association. The Vineyard dance “under the auspices of the Blue Birds Vigoro Club was held on Saturday evening, the funds benefiting to the extent of £4”….

At about the same time, 2 June 1933, headlines blared: “ALL OUT FOR SIX.

One of the most sensational dismissals of a vigoro team was witnessed at McQuade Park Windsor on Saturday afternoon, when Riverstone skittled the home side for 6 runs in their first innings 17 in their second… Riverstone scored 113 and 69… Stanford and Russell, who bowled throughout, were responsible for the collapse… Nancy Strachan scored 48 not out and 22.”

George Drayton recently recalled “when I was young we used to go to the sports ground to watch the vigoro matches. Nancy was a very good player and athlete, she could really hit the ball. People used to start chanting “bring on Nancy, bring on Nancy”. In our eyes she was a star.

After a successful vigoro season in 1933, at the presentation dance at the Olympia Theatre, Nancy was presented with a silver cup for “services rendered to the club as wicket-keeper”.

Back to Riverstone Queen Competition

1933/4 were busy years for Nancy. Not only was she involved in the vigoro club, she also took part in a fund raising event associated with the ‘Back to Riverstone’ week, which celebrated the switching on of electricity and supply of water to Riverstone.

The Back to Riverstone Committee decided that they would raise funds to establish a park in Riverstone. An arrangement was made with the Department of Lands that the Department would resume the land for recreational purposes in Garfield Road and the department would match every £ raised by the Committee. The land would then be placed under the control of Blacktown Council.

The major fundraiser for the Committee was a ‘Back to Riverstone Queen Competition’. There were four candidates, Miss Nancy Strachan, nominee of the Country Life Vigoro Club; Miss Beryl Jarrett (Riverstone Meatworks Candidate); Mrs Maude Stockwell (Returned Soldiers’ Candidate) and Mrs W. J. East (Business Houses Nominee) who withdrew early in the competition, but still raised funds.

Reports of fundraising activities appeared in the Gazette, such as this one from 20 October 1933.

Dance to support Vigoro candidate Miss Nancy Strachan

Nancy embarked on an energetic round of fundraising through activities such as dances and tennis competitions. The Gazette of 19 January 1934 reported: The organisers for the vigoro candidate, Miss Nancy Strachan, in the “Back to Riverstone” Queen Competition, have held a number of successful functions during the past couple of weeks, and no stone will be left unturned during the remaining few days in an endeavour to place her at the top of the poll. Miss Strachan, apart from being a vigoro player, is a really popular young girl.

Popular she was, at a special concert on 26 January1934 (in those days referred to as Anniversary Day), the results of the competition were announced, with Nancy Strachan the winner by over 1300 votes. To thank her supporters she placed a notice in the Gazette of 2 February 1934.

The Queen of Riverstone Coronation Pageant

Plans continued in relation to festivities associated with “Back to Riverstone” week, culminating in a concert at the Riverstone Olympia Theatre, the main feature of which was the crowning of “Queen Nancy”. The following photograph featured in the Gazette of 29 June 1934, along with a detailed description of the proceedings of the evening.

1934. The crowning of Queen Nancy at the ‘Back to Riverstone’ Ball in the Olympia Theatre.
Back Row: 1. Harry Moore 2. Maude Stockwell 3. Beryl Jarrett 4. Nelson Andrews 5. Lyle Rosenthal.
Front Row: 1. Jim Fitzgerald 2. Cliff Conway 3. Fred Dench 4. Joy Allison 5. May Davis 6. Norma Clarke. 7. Queen Nancy Strachan 8. Pat Conway 9. Shirley Duncan 10. Audrey Whelan 11. Neville Waters (hidden) 12. (unknown)
From Photos of Riverstone

It was an extravaganza, costumes were even hired for the coronation pageant. The Olympia Theatre in Riverstone was filled to overflowing long before the proceedings were to commence. The pageant was arranged by Mr M. J. Pressland of Windsor, assisted by the Ladies’ Carnival Committee and the participants had only one full dress rehearsal before the night. Mrs Les Clarke played the marches as the participants entered and left the hall.

A report from the Gazette of 29 June 1934 provided a wonderful description of the event, some extracts of which are included below in italics.

The procession entered the building to a fanfare of trumpets. Mr Rosenthal played the part of the Herald and was dressed in a crimson scalloped cap and feather, crimson tunic and gold lace, cape of crimson with white trimmings, crimson pantaloons and long silk stockings. He was soon followed by Councillor Harry Moore who, in the part of Archbishop, dressed in flowing robes and a Bishop’s mitre, entered the hall and marched up the aisle. He was followed by two Pages (Fred. Dench and Cliff Conway) bearing the crown, orb and sceptre on velvet cushions.

Several other participants took their place, then came the person the audience had all been waiting for. Arriving to a fanfare of trumpets, Nancy entered the hall. The Herald announced the arrival of Her Majesty the Queen (Miss Nancy Strachan), who accompanied by train-bearers (Pat Conway and Norma Clarke), slowly and gracefully marched up the aisle, and, on reaching the stage, was received by the Lord Chamberlain and conducted to the throne. The Queen was attired in an elaborate court dress, her long crimson velvet train being greatly admired.

The Archbishop then made a suitably official speech and crowned Queen Nancy I.

“In as much as it hath pleased the people of Riverstone” said the Archbishop, “To elect a Queen to preside over the destinies of the aforesaid country, and as their choice has fallen upon you, we, your loyal supporters, greatly rejoice at the selection that has been made, and trust that your reign will be happy and prosperous and that you may be endowed with health and happiness. Turning to the Pages the Archbishop received the crown from the velvet cushion, and, placing it on the head of the Queen with his blessing, proclaimed her “Queen Nancy I, of Back to Riverstone Week”.

In her hands he placed the orb and sceptre with which, he said, she was to keep due order and authority. There was a wonderful demonstration by the audience when the Archbishop declared, “Long Live The Queen”. The Lord Chamberlain then curtsied to Her Majesty and by her command read the speech in reply from the throne.

Once the ceremony was over, the Herald announced that the Royal Party would retire. The trumpets sounded, and the Queen rose and bowed to the audience, who applauded vociferously. The procession then filed out of the hall, and a veritable tornado of applause terminated one of the most striking impressive events ever attempted at Riverstone.

Once the excitement of the coronation was over, Mr Rosenthal, President of the “Back to Riverstone” committee, invited all of the candidates back to the stage, where he provided a summary of the results of their fundraising activities, which came to £371 11s. Of the total funds, Nancy Strachan raised £141; Beryl Jarrett, who came second, £135 3s 2d; and Mrs Maude Stockwell, £73 3s 9d. Mrs W. J. East, who withdrew early in the competition, raised £22 4s 1d.

After the coronation, the four fundraising participants were presented with a gold wristlet watch and the proceedings concluded with the singing Auld Lang Syne and the National Anthem. Nancy still has her engraved gold watch, photographs of which are shown on the following page.

The success of the fundraising allowed for the purchase of land for a park and on 3 June 1935 a new 15 acre park and sports ground was officially opened by Major J.B. Shand, M.L.A for Hornsby. The area was known as Riverstone Jubilee Park, but these days is known as the Riverstone Park.

Gold wristlet watch , Riverstone Queen Competition 1/2

Gold wristlet watch , Riverstone Queen Competition 2/2

Nancy Marries

On the 25th February 1935 Nancy married Malcolm Anderson at St Peters Church of England at Richmond. Malcolm was one of the seven children of William and Rosannah Anderson, the others in his family were Alma, Nellie, Edna, Jean, Madge and Mervyn.

Nancy and Malcolm lived in Richards Ave before moving to 17 Bourke Street, where they raised their children, Reginald, Valda and Rhonda.

Nancy’s daughter Rhonda believes that in the early years Nancy may have worked cleaning the Managers house in the Richards Avenue. Most of the time though she worked at a shop across from the Meatworks until the shop burnt down. Then she worked in the Canteen at the Meatworks. At one stage both she and her sister Ena worked cleaning the Office at the Meatworks, Nancy working the afternoon shift.

Malcolm worked for years at Taylor’s Produce store at Riverstone until he became ill and had to retire. Malcolm’s hobby was birds and he built aviaries in the backyard where he kept pet canaries and quail.

Nancy became a grandmother when her children married and had children of their own. Reg married Fay Greenhalgh. Their children were Suzanne, Colin, Kim, Julie and Ron. Valda married Don Moulds and they had Debbie and Vicki. Rhonda married Herb Rieser and they had Duane and Glen. Nancy now has great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.

1957 Nancy and Malcolm Anderson.
Photo: Blanche & Jim Buchanan
Merle Strachan, Nancy Strachan, Max Strachan, Lawson Banks, Valda Anderson, Shirley Wilkinson, Faye Wheeler with Ron on her lap, Joyce Strachan.
Photo: Rhonda Rieser

Nancy near canary cages in the backyard.
Photo: Rhonda Rieser

Nancy and Rhonda.
Photo: Rhonda Rieser
Nancy with her children Reg, Rhonda and Valda.
Photo: Rhonda Rieser

Life in Retirement

When she retired Nancy devoted her time to family, especially visiting those who were sick. She never drove and the family recall how she walked everywhere. Her husband Malcolm died on 22 May 1977 at the relatively young age of 64.

Nancy was a good cook the family enjoyed her scones, baked dinners and her pies, especially the apple and gramma ones.

She enjoyed reading the form guide and putting a small bet on up at the TAB as well as watching football on television. She supported St George before switching over to following Manly.

In later years Nancy moved into a granny flat at her daughter Rhonda’s place and as her health declined she moved in with Rhonda who continues to care for her.

Turning 100

Nancy turned 100 this year on 27 March. She celebrated the milestone with family and friends who called in to visit throughout the day.

The family genes must contain something for longevity, as her sister Merle turned 95 on the same day. In a further co-incidence with dates, her great grandson Tyler was also born on 27 March.

Fittingly, the 21 March 2018 edition of the Hawkesbury Gazette, (formerly known as the Windsor and Richmond Gazette) featured a photo and a lovely article on Nancy.

Nancy received congratulatory letters and cards from the Prime Minister; the Governor General; the State Premier; Kevin Connolly M.P.; Shelley Hancock M.P.; Michelle Rowland M.P. and the Mayor of Blacktown City Council. Council also sent a beautiful arrangement of flowers.

Most appropriately of all, Nancy received a letter from Queen Elizabeth II.

Happy Birthday Queen Nancy. Congratulations on a fine innings, 100 not out.

Happy Birthday Queen Nancy
Photo: Rhonda Rieser
Nancy and her brothers and sisters.
Back Row: Max, Ena, Barry, Sid
Front Row: Jean, Marie, Joyce, Merle, Nancy
Photo: Rhonda Rieser
The Extended family of Herb and Nellie Strachan.
Back Row: George Hopkins, Barry Strachan, Don Moulds, Max Strachan, Blanche Strachan, Sid Strachan, Ena Hopkins, Herb Rieser, Rhonda Rieser, Ken Foster.
Centre Row: Merle Banks, Joyce Foster, Nancy Anderson, Vicki Moulds, Jean Griffin.
Front Row: Wes Mullinger, Christine Foster, Valda Moulds, Brenda Mullinger, Fay Anderson, Reg Anderson. Photo: Joyce Foster

The Strachan Family

by Clarrie Neal

The following is based on an article by Clarrie Neal. Details of the early Strachan families were provided by Alan and Gloria Strachan. The second part of the article covers the connections between the Gunton and Strachan families, in particular the family of Herb and Nellie  Strachan.

James Inkson Strachan

The story of the Strachan family in this district commenced on the 12th July 1839 when James Inkson Strachan and his family arrived as free settlers aboard the Heber. They lived in the Petersham-Five dock area for several years before purchasing The Bee Hive Inn on the Windsor Road, Vineyard, on the 9th January 1854.

The Inn had been built by a James Barnett in 1848 and was used as a resting place for travellers and their horses between Sydney and the Hawkesbury Valley. In 1856 James Strachan bought another 79 acres on the opposite side of the Windsor Road, bounded by Bandon Road, O’Connell and Otago Streets.

Twins were born to his first wife Isabella and after her death he married for a second time (to Elizabeth) and another four children were born.

James Inkson Strachan
1st marriage Isabella Hair
children 1. Isabella R. Strachan (married Frederick John Alcorn)
2. Robert Strachan
(Isabella and Robert were twins)
2nd marriage Elizabeth Crewe
children 3. Jemima
4. John William
5. James Henry
6. Andrew

In 1874 James (Snr) sold the Bee Hive Inn and moved to Windsor, where he died two years later. He left the 79 acre farm to his son Robert.

Robert Strachan

Robert married Mary Ann Phipps in 1865 and continued to live on the farm and orchard at Vineyard. It was here they raised their family of ten children, 7 boys and 3 girls. Alice, James, Annie, Arthur, George, Henry, Frederick, Clara, Alfred and Herbert.

1.  Alice b. 12/11/1865 m. Simon Raines – lived at Westmead
2.  James b. 17/9/1867 m. Nellie Raines – lived at Vineyard then Westmead
3.  Annie b. 3/3/1870
4.  Arthur Charles b. 21/6/1872 m. Eva Lavetta Clout    – Lived at Vineyard where they reared six children, Frank, Thelma, Blanche, Arthur, Dulcie, Lavetta. (Frank’s family of Gloria, Eric, Mavis, Alan and Rosemary also lived at Vineyard.)
5. George Robert b. 21/6/1872 m. Alice Maud Shepherd. – Lived at Riverstone where they reared three children:

  1. Dorrie m. Arthur Keegan (children Kevin and Fay).
  2. Mick m. Florrie (children Betty and Barbara).
  3. Nita m. Alec Goddard (daughter Jan).
6.  Henry C b. 13/3/1877 m. Ruby Gunton – lived at Auburn
7.  Fred Ernest b. 26/7/1879 m. Charlotte (son Lance)
8.  Clara Maria b. 18/11/1882 m. James Wheeler
9.  Alfred b. 22/5/1884 m. Ellie Jane Holm (children Keith, Iris and Esma)
10. Herbert b. 2/10/1886 m. Nellie Gunton – further details appear later in the article.

Early photo of Robert Strachan
Photo: Courtesy Gloria Strachan

Mary Ann Phipps wife of Robert Strachan
Photo: Courtesy Gloria Strachan

The Gunton – Strachan connections

The following details of the Gunton – Strachan family trees were provided by Joyce Foster:

Throughout the 1800s and the early 1900s the family names Strachan and Gunton were widely known throughout the district, the issue becoming even more intriguing as we learnt that many of the families lived along ‘Butchers Row’, and that many worked at the Meatworks.

This inter-relationship is very complex and as it spans the 100 year existence of the old Meatworks, it is a vital link in the history of the Riverstone township and its community.

The Gunton Family

Robert (Bob) Gunton (1860-1940) was the first drover to be employed by Benjamin Richards when he opened his Meatworks in 1878. In 1885 he married Mary Shepherd and they built their house on the Meatworks property, opposite the junction of Riverstone Parade and Hobart Street. The house was often referred to as the ‘kitchens’ and it was here they raised their family of five girls and one boy.

  1. Ruby            m. Harry Strachan.
  2. Olive            m. Perce Douglas – Darcy, Jack and Reg ‘Curly’.
  3. Elsie             m. Gordon Boyd – Gloria, Norma, Laurie, Sam and Gary.
  4. Ila                  m. Joe Fitzgerald – Kate and Ron.
  5. Nellie           m. Herb Strachan (see below for children).
  6. Jack             m. Sylvia Boyd (Esme, Eric and Marion).

Even at this stage the close family ties were evident with the two sisters, Ruby and Nellie marrying two brothers, Harry and Herb Strachan. Also Elsie and Jack both married members of the Boyd family.

Jack and the spouses of his five sisters all worked at the Meatworks. The families of Gordon Boyd, Joe Fitzgerald and Herb Strachan all lived in Richards Avenue, which was always referred to as ‘Butchers Row’. Jack and Sylvia lived on the corner of Hobart Street and Riverstone Parade, on the other side of the line, opposite his parents home.

Bob Gunton was not only drover at the Works, when required he drove cattle over the mountains from the west and from the Hunter Valley. Bob was a renowned teller of yarns and the Windsor and Richmond Gazette occasionally printed some of these tales during the 1890s. Granddaughter Joyce Foster recalled Bob telling these yarns so many times she felt he actually believed them to be true, no matter how far-fetched they were.

When Bob retired he moved to 64 Crown Road, next door to his daughter Olive Douglas. Bob held the position of head stockman until he retired and was succeeded by his son-in-law, Herb Strachan. This family tradition was to continue. When Herb retired, he was succeeded by his son Siddie.

The Family of Herb Strachan and Nellie Gunton

Herb Strachan (1886-1961) and Nellie Gunton (1888-1944) married on 27 August 1908. It is believed they first lived at 19 Butchers Row in one of the original Meatworks houses. As the family grew they moved into No. 35 and then into No.49 when the McNamara family moved from that house out to their farm on Carnarvon Road.

There were eleven children in this family, two died in their infancy.

  1. Jean b. 1909 m. Telford ‘Snowy’ Griffin.
2. Marie b. 1911   m. Sid ‘Tiger’ Locke (children Shirley, Siddie and Lawrence).
3. Siddie b. 1913 m. Esma Marlin (children June, Denis and Brenda)
4. Ena  b. 1915 m. George Hopkins
5. Nancy b. 1918 m. Malcolm Anderson (children Reginald, Valda and Rhonda).
6. Joyce b. 1920 m. Ken Foster (daughter Christine).
7. Merle b. 1923 m. Lawson Banks
8. Max b. 1927 m. 1. Fay Wheeler 2. Blanche Meredith (children Brian and Ron).
9. Barry b. 1934

All nine surviving members of the family worked at some stage of their lives at the Meatworks.

Jean – worked several years in the Preserver.
Marie – worked in the Bag Room.
Siddie – worked all of his life as a drover.
Ena – spent more than 30 years as the Main Office cleaner.
Nancy – spent varying periods working in the old and new canteens, and for a time also worked in the tuck shop opposite the Works. Nancy is best remembered when she was crowned Queen of Riverstone in 1934. (Her story is covered in the following article in the Journal.)
Joyce – worked in the Packing Room, the latter part as the Forelady.
Merle – worked in the Preserver and in later years, the canteens.
Max – worked as a drover for several years before leaving to work for Blacktown Council.
Barry – followed the same course as Max.

Memories from Siddie, Ena and Joyce Strachan.

In a taped interview in the 1980s, with Lorraine Forbes, Siddie recalled:

– the six original homes in the “Row”, with the Strachan family at No. 19, and other homes occupied by the Holloways, Brookes, Jarretts, Robbins and Fitzgeralds.
– carrying the lamp of a night from room to room.
– his father (Herb) recalling his early days living in Brisbane Road.
– the newer homes being built in the late 1920’s and 30’s.
– when they moved from No.19 to No.35, Herb’s brother George moved into No.19.
– collecting mail from the Post Office at the railway station.
– using slates at school for writing.
– walking home from school every day to have their lunch.
– the drip safes and the ice boxes.
– mother using the copper for washing their clothes in the wash house in the back yard.
– the well at the rear of Conway’s shop.

Lorraine also taped an interview with Ena who recalled:

– Gran Gunton’s house on the hill, known as the ‘kitchens’.
– the huge kitchen, with Gran always cooking, preserving and curing bacon.
– the nice gardens and pots.
– the Chinese working in the nearby market gardens.
– the cow bales under the peppercorn trees.
– when the hawkers, Rosie and daughter Delia came with bags of clothes for sale, they would stay overnight with Gran.
– ‘Cockroach Alley’ and the lady known as ‘Beardie’ Mary Johnson.
– ‘Beardie’ paying sixpence to her and Siddie to sneak firewood from the railway sawmills and stack it behind her house.
– the old fire station next to Taylor’s Produce store.

Ena also recalled her father droving cattle bought at Homebush sales back to Riverstone. The sales were held each Monday and Thursday, Herb and his fellow drovers would arrive at the saleyards early in the afternoon, collect their cattle and begin the return trip at 3.00 pm. They would ride through the night, the first part of the trip being along Parramatta Road. They usually arrived back in Riverstone around 6.00 am where the stock were counted to ensure none had been lost. If any stock had been lost, they would remount their horses after breakfast and retrace their route.

Joyce recalled as you worked along the road you could stop and have a chat with everybody. The line wasn’t fenced, you could walk across the lines to the shops, or along the line to get to the station. She loved to visit Gran at the ‘kitchens’, a large rambling house surrounded by verandahs and with many rooms to explore. Gran was forever cooking scones and biscuits and there was always something to eat.

Joyce also has fond memories of when the electricity came to Riverstone in 1934 and her sister was crowned Queen of the Ball at the celebrations. She remembers the first night she turned the light on, how dirty the walls appeared, and wondering how they could ever have read their books by the light from the old lamps.

Further details of the Strachan family can be found in the publication ‘Frank  Ernest Strachan and a History of the Vineyard District New South Wales’ Parts 1 and 2 by Alan Strachan.

Numbers 33 and 35 Richards Avenue in April 1995.
Photo: Rosemary Phillis

Tom Gillespie and the Last Dairy in the District

by Rosemary Phillis

For as long as I can remember Tom Gillespie has been a member of the congregation at St Paul’s Church of England at Riverstone, now known as Life Anglican Church. Tom has been a church warden for years, but it is only now I have come to learn about his day time job as a dairy farmer. It is a role that is fast disappearing with the expanding development. Tom told me that there used to be 48 dairies from Richmond to Penrith along the Castlereagh Road and surrounds. Now there is only one, the dairy that he runs. I interviewed Tom at the dairy on 13 July 2018, in amongst him feeding and organising the cows for milking.

Coming to Australia

I came to Australia from County Tyrone in Ireland in 1961, along with one of my brothers. Another one of our brothers was already living here. We sailed on the ship the Fairsky. I was eighteen at the time.

In those days people coming from Ireland were met at the wharf in Sydney by members of the Irish community. Back then they had a big Irish Club in Sydney. They came to meet you to make sure that you had a place to go to.

We were met by Austin Cathers and Reverend TC Hammond an evangelical preacher who was brought out to Australia by Archbishop Mowll to help with work on a revival of the Anglican Church.

There was a recession in 1961 and it was hard to get work. Mr Cathers managed Buchanan’s Feed Centre at Granville. They had a person away sick with hepatitis and he offered me a position filling in for that person for six weeks, but I ended up being there for several years.

After working with Mr Cathers for a few weeks he came to me and asked what my father’s name was. I told him and it turned out that he had gone to school with my Dad.

Before emigrating, Mr Cathers had been a person of influence in Ireland where he had a lot to do with Parliament after Ireland had split into the various counties. His influence continued even while though he was living in Australia. His daughter Elizabeth would be able to tell you more of his story.

Mr Cathers purchased a house out on the corner of Carnarvon Road and Neville Road and around 1964 my brother and I moved in.

Mr Cathers and his family had a strong influence on me and it was through them that I became a Christian and joined the community at St Pauls Church of England at Riverstone.

Dairy Farming

In Ireland I worked on the land and milked cows for someone else. I started in the dairy industry in Australia working for Stocks and Holdings out at the Red Gables dairy out on Boundary Road.

I met Kay Higgins and in 1967 we married at St Pauls. I decided to have a go at running a dairy of my own. We started out on a property next to the Army Base at Wallgrove, leasing the land and we stayed there until the land was sold to become a tip.

Tom and Kay on their wedding day in 1967. Photo: Tom and Kay Gillespie
Reverend Steve Grosse and Tom Gillespie at St Pauls on 8 March 2015.
Photo: Rosemary Phillis

Our daughters, Joanne and Patricia were born while we were at Wallgrove. They were young when Kay’s Dad passed away unexpectedly. Kay was to go away with her mother for a period of time, so my Mum and Dad came out to help look after the children.

I didn’t know much about my family back in Ireland, having left home to work when I was only young. I knew that one uncle worked on building the Titanic. I hadn’t known a lot about my father, only that he had a hard life, but I learnt more when they came to stay with us. One of the sad things I was to find that was in the war, his first week in battle his brother was shot and died in his arms. It must have been so hard.

After Wallgrove we moved to Schofields and leased the dairy that used to be on the creek side of Bridge Street, just over the Westminster Street Bridge. The land is now covered in houses.

The Dairy at Mulgrave

In the early 1990s we started leasing the present property in Mulgrave Road at Mulgrave. The diary had been built when Alex Bowden purchased the property in 1961. It is interesting to note that Alex was a lecturer at Sydney University and a clever man, I believe that they still use his text books to this day. He was also involved in recycling in the early days.

I love being out here. You can look around and see the mountains, the cars and trains go by in the distance, but there is a peace that you can’t find anywhere else.

A Typical Day

Over the years I have had various employees. We have scaled back from large volume production. These days I have one employee, Ryan Bannano, who has worked for us for around 13-14 years.

We milk around 100 cows. A typical day starts around seven in the morning. The automatic equipment makes it easier to milk the cows, so we don’t have to start as early each day.

We have to put out feed for the cows into large troughs using a front end loader and then round up the cows from wherever they are on the property. Once at the dairy the cows come in for milking. We have the space and equipment to milk six cows at a time. While they are being milked the cows eat a special mixture of food that we make up for them.

The process is partially automated, but we still have to put the milking equipment onto the cows, but when they have finished they automatically drop off. It takes about 2 hours to milk all of the cows.

The cows are milked twice a day and we get 2000 litres per day from the herd. The milk is refrigerated, collected daily and taken by tanker to Lion Nathan over at Penrith.

As well as the dairy cows, we have other cattle on the property. We have Friesians and Scandinavian Aussie Red cows, which we are now crossing with the Friesians. Breeding is via three bulls in the herd. The heifers and kept for the milking herd and the bull calves are reared to a certain stage and then sold.

Times are tough at the moment due to the drought and things are also changing in the industry. There used to be 48 dairy farms from Richmond along the Castlereagh to Penrith. The others are all gone we are the last still operating.

Gillespie’s dairy at Mulgrave in July 2018.
Photo: Rosemary Phillis
This dairy allows six cows to be milked at a time. Each day one hundred cows are milked.
Photo: Rosemary Phillis

The Impact of the Present Day Drought

The severe drought conditions in New South Wales have led to a shortage of food throughout the state which has impacted on us too. The past six months have been terrible. Feed is harder to find and has to be transported in from greater distances which increased the cost. Some of the old timers say it is the worst that they have seen things.

The cows need to consume 3-4% of their bodyweight per day. That is a large amount when you are looking at a 600kg cow. They get fed out in the paddock and we also mix up a batch of grain which they eat while they are being milked. They go through a lot of food!

Normally at this time in the year there would be a bumper corn crop and we would get one to two loads a day of the left overs such as the corn husks. Now we would be lucky to get that per week. We are now feeding the cows on brewers waste which we move out to the feed troughs using a front end loader.

The Herd

In addition to the well known black and white Friesian cows, we also have a breed which is more commonly known as Scandinavian Aussie Reds.

As well as the dairy cows that are in milking we have calves and the bulls that are used to sire the next generation. We raise and build up the small bull calves and then sell them. For the non dairy animals we use green grocer waste vegetables.


Being on the floodplain we have been impacted by floodwaters during flood times but it has never stopped us from being able to run the dairy and get the milk to market. I was told that in the 1961 flood that the water came up to the front gate of the property and that the cows had to be kept on the higher ground.

The Future

With conditions as difficult as they are I am not sure how much longer we will be able to keep the dairy in operation. It isn’t worth rebuilding and upgrading the dairy, but for the moment we will keep going and see what comes.


Due to a number of factors, including the difficulty in sourcing affordable feed for the cows, the dairy closed at the end of October 2018.

Tom Gillespie
Photo: Rosemary Phillis
Loading one of many buckets of brewers waste to be transported to the feed troughs.
Photos: Rosemary Phillis
The cows coming up for the evening milking. Approximately 100 cows have to be rounded up and brought up from the paddocks, morning and night
Photo: Rosemary Phillis
One of the milking bays and the milking machines. There will be one cow each side.
Photo: Rosemary Phillis

Great Aunties (Pertha ‘Auntie Perpie’ Morgan)

by Heather Smith

Everyone should be lucky to enjoy a great aunt, Aunt Minnie, Auntie Mavis or Aunt Hilda a favourite aunt who never married or married and had no children. Our family had a wonderful Aunt known to everyone as “Perpie” originally christened Pertha after her birth place in West Australia. All her life my two sisters and myself and later our husbands, children and grand children were her family. She was tiny and plump with silver hair and always wore corsets to keep her ample figure in check. Due no doubt to her love of sweet things and she could at all times be relied on for a cake or lolly whenever we visited. She had one unusual trait smoking, a habit, which as children we watched fascinated as the ash on the end of her cigarette grew longer and longer before dropping off.

She did wonderful things for us. She made all our fancy dress costumes to wear at the annual fancy dress ball held each year in the Masonic hall at Riverstone (now the Museum). A long parade of cowgirls, fairies, red riding hoods, shepherdesses and ice skating outfits complete with silver cardboard skates covered in silver paper, emerged from our residence. She taught us how to crochet and knit so we could make dolls clothes and later helped me with my first attempts at sewing when I made an off -the -shoulder blouse from my Red Cross veil.

In the middle 1940’s one of the highlights in Riverstone social calendar was the annual debutante ball. Auntie Perpie was determined that no young girl missed out on this occasion due to lack of finances. Long white dresses were borrowed and altered, gloves were supplied and money miraculously appeared for little essentials. Debutants was formerly a custom in England when young ladies were presented at Court to announce their entry onto the marriage market. However at Riverstone it was the first time a young single girl attended a ball wearing a full length white dress, white gloves, silver dance shoes and carrying a posy of flowers. Powdered and perfumed her hair specially washed, set and combed into curls probably set in bobby pins the night before. Sometimes young officers from the Nirimba Naval base at Quakers Hill fulfilled the duty of escorts otherwise it was brothers or boyfriends coerced into Deb practice each week and introduced to the intricacies of waltzing by Mr Syd Heather.

For many years Auntie Perpie not only organized the Deb, balls but also fulfilled the role of Matron of Honor, presenting each Deb to a visiting dignitary and his wife in the RSL hall (now demolished). Once the Swing Waltz or Pride of Erin was completed the debs and their partners were photographed. The proofs of the photos were inspected a week after at the newsagent, ordered and received back two weeks later.

Pertha pictured at debutante balls. 1 of 3, Photos: Heather Smith

Pertha pictured at debutante balls. 2 of 3, Photos: Heather Smith

She loved the Eastern Star, an organisation for the daughters and wives of Masons. The lady members could often be seen on the railway station as they travelled to the meetings in their long white dresses wearing their full regalia of sashes badges and medals. She held the rank of Worthy Matron for many years, I don’t know if this organisation still exists. I think in later years she had a go a bowls but she was never very sports minded.

Pertha pictured at debutante balls. 3 of 3, Photos: Heather Smith

As we grew up Auntie Perpie once again turned her love of small children to the Brownies. She became Brown Owl and taught little girls to cook and earn badges and light camp fires, one Christmas concert she organised the Brownies and they presented Sound of Music to an astounded group of parents and assorted relatives.

In 1970 the Riverstone Netball Club was formed and Auntie Perpie became a devoted follower of the girls’ netball teams. A familiar figure around the courts in Windsor on a cold Saturday afternoon rugged up and wearing a woolly hat she smoked away still allowing the cigarette to burn to a long ash. Disaster struck when the wind blew sparks from her cigarette into her woolly hat which started to smoke, Auntie Perp oblivious to it all wondered what all the excitement was when her woolly hat was snatched from her head and stamped on, then returned to her head with a large hole in the front. Gradually as she got older and her mind started to slip, the girls would move her from one court to another so she could watch her beloved Rivo girls.

She lived in a flat attached to my sister’s house specially built for her and all the kids in the street would congregate there after school. She saved empty cigarette packets and match boxes, silver foil from her cigarette packets and silver milk bottle tops, these were used to build little houses and cars. Endless dead matches were used to play Euchre or Five Hundred, card games we all loved to join in.

We all noticed the decline in Auntie Perp, she would go to the shops every day. and often leave her purse behind at the newsagent, chemist or butcher shops, everybody in the small community of Riverstone knew her and would always ring my sister Nevis so she could pick up Perpie’s purse. She loved to go for a walk around Riverstone with her dog. Unfortunately when she became tired she would sit in the long grass on the side of the road for a rest and we would find her faithful old dog sitting in the gutter where would see him as we drove around the streets looking for her. She never failed to amaze us with her love of children and people.

Unknown to us she booked herself into the Quakers Hill Nursing home. We tried to talk her out of this move but she refused and told Nevis that this was the next phase in her life and she had prepared herself for this change. I can’t remember the exact time when she rang Nevis to announce that she was engaged to another patient. His name was Max and he was confined to a wheelchair and had no legs, she did not see this as a problem. However short term memory loss had set in and within a few weeks this was all forgotten and no more was heard of Max.

Auntie Perpie passed away peacefully in 1974 at 82 years, loved by a large family of nieces, nephews and friends and often stories of funny encounters with her are still shared at family gatherings and with old timers of Riverstone. Everybody should be so lucky to have an Auntie Perpie.

Pertha Morgan – ‘Auntie Perpie’

The Hyde Park ANZAC Memorial – Soil Sample from Riverstone

by Rosemary Phillis

As part of the Centenary of ANZAC, the ANZAC Memorial in Hyde Park in Sydney has been upgraded and extended. Part of the project incorporates an artwork by Fiona Hall in an area known as the Hall of Service.

“The eight walls of the Hall of Service display soil samples from 1,701 NSW towns, cities and districts given as a place of address by First World War enlistees.” 1

Riverstone was one of the towns chosen to be included in the artwork. In 2017 input was sought from the Riverstone and District Historical Society Inc for potential sites where a soil sample could be taken.

The Museum site was selected from our suggestions. It was an appropriate choice, as during the First World War it was the Riverstone Public School and was attended by many of the local servicemen.

On Friday 2 February 2018 Joseph Cosentino from Spatial Services Department of Finance, Services & Innovation came to collect the soil sample from Riverstone. He had already taken samples from other sites in the area including the Hawkesbury Showground and Box Hill.

If you are in Sydney after 11 November 2018, why not take the time to visit the ANZAC Memorial at Hyde Park? You can look for the soil sample from Riverstone on the wall in the Hall of Service.


The Museum building when in use as the Riverstone Public School. The photo was taken in 1919 when peace medals were being handed out to the students. The pupils on the left would be standing just in front of the site where the soil sample was taken from. Photo: Davis Family
Rosemary Phillis and Graham Britton holding the soil sample. Photo: Joseph Cosentino
Soil sample hole in the Museum grounds. Photo: Joseph Cosentino

A Legacy of Caring

by Norma Spice nee Cumming

Editor: At the Britton Family reunion I met Norma Spice. During our conversation I learnt that she and other members of her family had been involved in the community providing accommodation for people suffering from mental health issues and with special needs. Norma attributes their caring role to the philosophy handed down from their grandparents and parents. I asked if she could share their story.

You asked me to write about our side of the family. Each one of us has something to offer in different ways, things that had always been instilled in us from our grandparents and parents.

We learnt the value of family, love and caring, opening our homes to others where all were welcomed. There always appeared to be someone dropping in or staying. We had a great life in Riverstone, going to school, making friends and running free.

Mum was Eva Britton and dad, Stuart Cumming. There are nine children and I am the eldest of the Cumming Clan.

Each member of the family had and still have open homes in some shape or form. Five of us had supported accommodation facilities for those with mental health issues and special needs. The third youngest of us is still involved, having cottages for those who need it.

Other sisters have been involved in community work, craft and two knitted booties for adults and children undergoing chemotherapy in Westmead and Penrith hospitals.

Our involvement with supported accommodation came about when facilities in Queensland were closing down, literally putting people at risk when out in the community with little or no support for them or their families. Social workers were trying to find suitable, safe housing which, when we were approached, agreed to open places where the residents could be accommodated and treated with respect and in a caring way.

At times there were challenges, but I would say our lives were enriched by those for whom we cared for those who are still in our lives.

It was by the grace of God that we were in a position to help those in need. On my fridge I have written a saying that I have had for many years:

“I shall pass through this world but once, any good that I can do or any kindness I can show another human being let me do it now and to not defer it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

I feel that this is the philosophy handed down by our grandparents who arrived in Riverstone one hundred years ago from England.

The Britton Family

by Clarrie Neal and Graham Britton

2017 marked 100 years since John and Harriett Britton first came to the Riverstone district. To commemorate this event, on 1 October 2017 around 100 of their descendants and their families gathered at the Lions Park in Riverstone for a family reunion. In this article we share some of the Britton family history.

The family name of Britton was synonymous with the Riverstone district throughout the 1900s. John James Frost Britton was born in Kilburn, Middlesex on the 9th November 1878. At the age of 20 he enlisted in the Army in the 6th Battalion Middlesex Regiment where he served a period of six years. Shortly after his discharge he married Harriett Susannah Todd on the 12th June 1905, and then worked as a fitter with the London Electricity Council until 1910 when they decided to migrate to Australia.

He and Harriett, who preferred to be known as Sue, along with their first child Arthur aged two months, left England aboard the S.S. Moravia and arrived in Melbourne on the 25th April 1910. After serving a short period at the Army training camp at Albury he worked at the Royal Military College, Duntroon for the next seven years. He then enlisted in the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force Home Service where he served 18 months as a Concentration Camp Guard at Holsworthy.

John James Frost Britton

Harriett Susannah Britton (nee Todd)

John and Sue and their five children came to Riverstone in 1917 where they bought land ‘over the creek’ between The Avenue and York Road. It was here where they continued to raise their family that had now increased to eight children, having lost four other children as infants, including Stanley who died of influenza in 1919. John worked with Blacktown Council and for varying periods at the meat works.

The Britton Family next to their home in The Avenue at Riverstone.
Back Row: Arthur and Les.
Middle Row: Eva, Percy, John and Wally.
Front Row: Frances, Dora, Harriett, George and Mary.

With the boys of the family all keen Rugby League players it was only natural that their mother became an ardent supporter of the game. It was in this supporters role she gained herself quite a reputation, particularly in matches played at Riverstone where she always stood on the same spot on the sideline. She became well known for her forays onto the field and with her freely given advice to all linesmen, referees and opposition players.

Family members recall the day her eldest son Arthur was flattened in a tackle and the referee took no action. Being the ever protective mother she immediately ran onto the field and attacked the ref with her umbrella. The game was held up until order was restored.

An historical article on the Riverstone Club printed in the Rugby League Week magazine on 16th July 1977 recalled –

One of the Butchers most colourful characters was a Mrs. Britton, an elderly lady who always stood in the same spot at the Riverstone games. Mrs. Britton was a health hazard to the opposition players. She often used her umbrella to trip players running up the sideline and several times clobbered them with the brolly.

Harriett died on the 27th June 1942 and was buried at St. Bartholomew’s cemetery at Prospect. John died in 1955 and was cremated at Rookwood.

Harriett, Mary (in the “No More Strikes” outfit) and Frances.

Harriett dressed in John’s First World War Army Uniform
Harriett and Dora on their way to church

John and Harriett’s eight surviving children were –

Arthur – born in England 24th December 1909 and arrived in Australia just two months old. He lived in Piccadilly St. with wife Norma and son Ken; he worked all his life in the fitters shop at the meat works. He loved Rugby League and is recognised as one of the best fullbacks to have ever played for Riverstone.

Les – born at Prahran, Victoria, 5th May 1911. Les also loved Rugby League and at times played for Riverstone, Blacktown and for Barellan in the Group 17 competition. It was at Barellan in 1934 that he met and married Eunice Patton. They came back to Riverstone and lived “over the creek” in Lytton St. for several years before moving into the middle terrace house, next to the Royal Hotel.

In 1946 the family moved into a new Housing commission home in Garfield Road. It was here that Les and Eunice continued to rear their 11 children – Joan, Doreen, Stanley, Geoffrey, Graham, Annette, Lynette, Michael, James, Robert and Patricia.

Wally – born 7th September 1912 at Duntroon. Wally married Ellen Bolton and they had four boys, Ray, Laurence, Alfred and Gordon. He became well known in the district when he worked many years for Charlie Fisher delivering bread to the local residents. In later years he left Riverstone to live on the Central Coast.

Eva – born 15th January 1914 at Duntroon. Married Stewart Cumming and lived in Denmark Street where they raised their nine children – Greta, John, Norma, Nora, Beverley, Sue, Lorraine, Christine and Keven. The family moved to Brunswick Heads in 1964.

Percy – born at Duntroon 6th May 1915 and attended both Marsden Park and Riverstone Public Schools. He left school aged 14 and got a job at the meat works in the cattle yards, running the cattle up to the ‘knocking box’.

With his size and strength Percy at the age of 18 became the ‘knocker’, using a large sledge-hammer to stun the cattle, a job he was to do all his working life. In later years the job was made easier when a captive bolt pistol was used to stun the cattle.

Percy was one of those men that kept a tally of how many cattle had been knocked, and how many were left. All the employees on the slaughter floor, ever anxious to know what time they would finish, always had one question to ask Percy “how many to go, Percy?”. The noisy environment of the area caused Percy to suffer in later years from a marked loss of hearing. It caused much amusement in later years that Percy, even when asked what time it was, or who won the football yesterday, he would always respond with the number of cattle left.

He was a wonderful worker, always arrived at work 30 minutes prior to starting, and rarely had a day off. He was given a gold watch to commemorate his 51 years of service at the meat works. Even after his retirement, he continued his association with cattle by travelling around the country sale yards with George Watson, the company cattle buyer.

Percy married Beryl Tuckwell in 1942 and they had three sons – Barry, John and Douglas. Percy was known by the Britton families as a gentle giant, he became a town identity, and everybody knew him.

George – was one of twins born in Riverstone on the 31st August 1918, the other twin Susan, died aged three months. George was another of the Britton boys to be a good footballer, playing many years with Riverstone and was a member of their Premiership winning Reserve grade team in 1947.

Frances and Mary next to the family home in The Avenue
c1922 The Britton Boys. Back Row: Arthur, Les, Walter Front Row: Percy and George

George married Phyllis Wagner and they lived in Creek Street where their five young children were born. Tragedy was to strike this family when in 1954 George, aged 36, was killed in truck accident at Yass.

To help support the family Basil Andrews and Laurie Moulds organised a gymkhana in the park at Riverstone, with side-shows, trotting races and Jimmy Sharman’s boxing troupe.

Mary – born in Riverstone 10th December 1921. Married Robert Alderton and lived in the old house in The Avenue where they reared their three children Brenda, Sandra and Robert

Frances – born in Riverstone 12th June 1926, married Norm Green and lived in Piccadilly St, where they reared their three children – Carol, Wendy and Geoff.
Frances worked in the General Office at the meatworks for several years prior to leaving Riverstone to take on a dairy farm at Gloucester, on the North Coast.

Frances is best remembered by the family for the day when asked to gather the firewood she collected all the surveyors pegs from a neighbouring development.

This article was compiled by Clarrie Neal from information and photos provided by Graham Britton and Frances Green (nee Britton).

Graham Britton was the driving force behind the 2017 Britton family reunion. Graham is better known to all his friends as “Thrippence”. He was given this nickname by the publican Paddy Morgan when one day as a three year old boy he rode his dinky into the yard of the Royal hotel. When Paddy asked for his name, a shy Graham remained silent; Paddy responded saying “as my little fox terrier there is called “tuppence” and you’re not much bigger, we will call you “Thrippence”. The name stuck.

2017. The Britton Family reunion at the Lions Park at Riverstone. Photo: Rosemary Phillis