Stories from Manly's past - local history from Manly Library.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Visitors to the current exhibition at the Manly Art Gallery on the history of the Royal Far West Hospital may have seen that Prime Minister Robert Menzies visited Manly on 14th March 1964 to open the George Moncrieff Barron building at the Far West Hospital. It rained heavily on the day, and he made his speech from under an umbrella held over him by Norman Drummond, whose brother, Reverend Stanley Drummond, had founded the Far West scheme. Sir Robert gave a quick speech, saying “I don’t want to miss my bus – I declare this building open.” Afterwards he was given a civic reception, and it was stated at the time that this was the first time a Prime Minister had visited Manly.
However, it wasn't. PM Joseph Lyons had visited the Far West Hospital in September 1933. And Earle Page, later to be the caretaker Prime Minister in 1939, visited Manly in 1923 with a delegation of MPs in response to concerns about the Quarantine Station. In 1908, before he became PM, William Hughes came to Manly, with a group of MPs looking at how best to develop North Head; and Edmund Barton lived in Manly for a year or two before becoming Australia’s first Prime Minister. So Manly has had its share of Prime Ministerial notice.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Lottie Fevyer, a Manly champion







Historians of swimming in NSW may be interested in a recent donation to our collection of material relating to Miss Lottie Fevyer.
Charlotte Elizabeth Fevyer (Lottie), born 1898
[1], was a talented young swimmer who was the schoolgirl champion of NSW over 50 yards in 1914-15. She was an early female recipient of the Bronze Medallion of the Royal Life Saving Society in 1914. She was good enough to be mentioned in the same breath as Mina Wylie and Fanny Durack (pictured above), and frequently swam against them. She swam for NSW in matches against Queensland, and visited Queensland with the NSW team. Lottie was a member of the champion ladies team, Metropolitan, in the NSW championships, which beat off the challenge of Mina Wylie’s team (Sydney) and Fanny Durack’s (Eastern Suburbs).

Sadly, she was too young to attend the 1912 Olympics, and by the time of the 1920 Olympics, she had lost her edge, although she was still good enough to race against the then-world champion, America’s Ethelda Bleibtrey. She switched her interest to diving, and in February 1918 she came second in the Australian diving championships, behind Miss Lily Beaurepaire, (sister of Frank), at Brunswick Baths, Melbourne. In 1920 she went one better and became diving champion of Australia.[2] Her speciality was the ‘neat dive’, as in the photograph here, taken at Manly Baths. From time to time she took part in diving exhibitions as one of a troupe of talented divers coached by Len McCarthy.
She married Mr Arthur Wigney in 1922
[3], whose family had a well-known jeweller’s business on the Corso, but she died suddenly in February 1926. She is buried in Manly Cemetery plot H.398, close to her parents’ plot.[4] Her funeral was attended by many notable local sporting figures.
Two stained glass windows in St Matthew’s Church, Manly, dedicated in 1942, commemorate her father, Edward Fevyer.
Lottie’s brother, Edward William Fevyer was a keen amateur film-maker, and his home movies of life on Sydney Harbour have been deposited with the National Museum of Australia and the Maritime Museum.

[1] NSW BDM 13500/1898
[2] SMH 11 February 1918; 12 February 1920.
[3] NSW BDM 7853/1922
[4] Buried 18 February 1926, aged 27. There is a headstone.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

First woman surfer


Who was the first Australian woman surfer? Credit is generally given to Freshwater's Isabel Letham, who was introduced to the sport by Duke Kahanamoku, when the great Hawaiian visited Australia in the summer of 1914-15, and who persisted with the sport for many years after. But Kahanamoku showed other local girls the trick on the same tour, among them a young Manly girl named Isma Amor. Not only that, it appears Miss Amor had been surfing well before the Duke’s visit.
Isma Amor was born in 1898. Her father owned a thriving business engraving medals, and the family lived at well-to-do Addison Road, Manly. From a young age she was a keen swimmer.
Reg Harris, in his 1959 history of Manly Surf Life Saving Club, Heroes of the Surf states: “In the 1912-13 season a number of Manly L S club members decided to persevere and master the art [of surfing]. They included Jack Reynolds and Norman Roberts, Geoff Wyld, Tom Walker, a 13-year old boy named Claude West... and an outstanding woman surfer, Miss Esma [sic] Amor”
[1] (at which time she would have been 14 or 15 years old). The evidence is that surfing was established at Manly by 1912, and it would have been surprising if some of the bolder girls had not given it a try.
A press article from 1918 states: “When Duke Kahanamoku visited Australia two years ago [sic] he introduced the exciting sport of surfing on a plank, and among those he initiated into this trick was Miss Amor. The young swimmer represented NSW in a carnival in Brisbane several years ago, and was schools champion of NSW two years in succession.”
[2] The article notes that Miss Amor was in Melbourne accompanying the NSW Ladies’ team to compete in the National Ladies Swimming Championships.
In 1920, she married Angus MacPhillamy, who had been a Flight-Lieutenant in WWI, and had been severely injured in a crash in 1917. Their son Owen was born in 1922. The family later moved to Forbes, NSW, where Mr MacPhillamy was able to fly his own plane over the family property. Isma’s swimming and surfing career came to an end after her marriage.
She died in 1985.

The photograph shown here is from the Herald (Melbourne), 9 February 1918.


[1] Harris, Reg S, Heroes of the Surf, p53-54.
[2] Herald (Melbourne) 9 February 1918.

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Monday, September 06, 2010

Little Manly again


This photo makes an interesting comparison with the one posted a few days ago. It shows Little Manly in April 1965, from the same vantage point as the 1920 photograph. How much change has taken place. Subdivision has resulted in blocks of units being built, and the Eastern Hill is now a mass of housing. The boatshed at Little Manly is approaching 50 years old here. Still visible are the roof-line of Elim in Addison Road, and the large house on the right hand side, with its verandahs enclosed.

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Thursday, September 02, 2010

WWI verse


Recently we were given a copy of a leather-bound edition of the poems of Longfellow. The book was inscribed “Jack Hardie, Manly, 9th April 1919”. Inside the volume there was a slip of paper with a drawing of violets and a poem, which runs as follows:

Scottish Australians

What are ye daein’, ma buirdly Scotch callants
Say what are ye daein’ sae far frae the front
Why are ye no getting’ honour an’ glory
Amang the brave lads wha are bearin’ the brunt.

Why should they fecht, while you’re playin’ fitba’
An’ hangin’ on trams like toads to a tree
I ken yer feet’s cauld; yer herts maun be frozen
Ye ca’ yersels Scots, but I doot me ye lee.

Scotland, I ween, ne’er gaed birth tae a coward
Her ladies were aye ‘mang the first in a fray
Het feet or cauld feet be sure never fashed them
Naethin’ but death ever kept them away.

Why are ye shrinkin’ this danger sae deadly?
Why are ye shamin’ the land ye ca’ Hame?
Oh! Could I rouse in yer bosom some manhood
Would that my pen could awake ye tae shame.

Dinna ye prize what yer forefathers focht for?
Are ye no Britons, the sons o’ the free?
Why dae ye dally? Yer country is callin’
“Come tae my help, boys, I’m waitin’ for ye.

Gang up tae the Barracks, nor wait tae be driven
We’ll send you away wi’ a gallant hurrah.
Yer name be inscribed on the roll call o’ honour
Belov’d if ye live, and bewail’d if ye fa’.

It’s likely that the poem was addressed to Jack Hardie. Australian War Memorial records reveal that a Jack William Hardy of 28 Sydney Road, Manly, enlisted on 9 May 1915. He was a carpenter, aged 21, and he entered the 19th Battalion AIF. He was wounded at Gallipoli, and subsequently lost his left leg, but survived the war.
The bad verse is typical of many of the patriotic poems published in the press in the early years of the War. It’s the work of someone for whom Scots was not the natural idiom. “Buirdly Scotch callants” smacks of the worst of the 19th century poetess. It’s lamentable to think that doggerel such as this in any way could have persuaded someone to join up.

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