Carlingford - Eric and Lorna McGraw


Part One

Interviewees: Lorna McGraw, born 1927
          and Eric McGraw, born 1925

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
            for Baulkham Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 30 March, 2007

Transcription: Glenys Murray, May 2007

This interview represents the personal recollections, views and opinions of the interviewee(s)




Now Eric, can you tell me what were the circumstances that led you to becoming a resident at the Boys' Home? (ie, Carlingford Church of England Boys' Home, Pennant Hills Rd - now the site of Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints).

Well as far as I know and was able to glean from my four elder sisters, who have all passed away, I believe that my mother died when I was five from anaemia, I think it was. So there was four sisters. My father became very ill and ended up being hospitalised - I'm not certain when he was hospitalised, but I think it was the Rector of the local Anglican Church who I believe was at the time Reverend Tugwell, organised for me to be placed in the Church of England Children's Home at Carlingford, which was run under the auspices of the Anglican Church, but was apparently run by a separate body. So I grew up there, and we went to the local school... we weren't segregated from the community - we were part of the community. Carlingford was the "Home" area, I suppose... there was the Church of England Boys' Home where I was. Further down Pennant Hills Road before you get to Bettington Road there was the Church of England Girls' Home which is now an American International School. Those girls from there used to go to the same school as we did, which was Carlingford District Rural School (now Carlingford Public School on Marsden Rd), which was, as far as I can find out... James Ruse eventually came out of the Rural part of that school. We were part of the community - we didn't have our own church, we went to the local church, St Paul's Church, Carlingford, on what was then Church Street, but is now Marsden Road. That is now a rare book shop. I feel that I think I had a little bit of input into saving that church, as they were going to demolish it, but a chap named Harold West whose local family - a very well known local family - his mother and father were very involved in the church. His mother had been the organist as long as I can remember. His father had been the verger as long as I can remember. And we were sitting along with one of the church elders one day at an Anniversary Dinner and he mentioned that they were going to knock it down and Harold West and myself spoke up and said "you can't do that!". And eventually they didn't knock it down. So we feel as if we might have (done) a little bit to help preserve that old church. My wife and I were married there.

Which year was that, that you got married?


Yes, he's got it right! 1949.

1949 we were married.

Noller cottage housed the younger boys

We were part of the community. We weren't segregated, so that's probably why we know nearly as much about the district as the locals did, if not more, because we all had inquisitive minds - lots of "free spirits". We went to the local schools, we went to the local church. As we got older we joined the local Boy Scouts. We played cricket in the Northern Districts Saturday morning cricket competition in the Summertime. In the Winter time we played soccer in the Granville Districts competition. We were pretty well regarded in the sporting field. Maybe because we slept in the dormitory alongside each other and were more like brothers and we stuck up for one another. You had to rely on yourself and your mates. We were pretty much our own community, but at the same time we were still part of the community. Quite often boys used to... we went to school... the boys and the girls from the Church of England Homes, and the girls and boys from Dalmar, the Methodist Home which is now where the Alan Walker Retirement Village is. And then there was all the children from their own homes. And there was three categories... we were from the Church of England Home. We were called "Churchies". The Dalmar children were called "Dallies". And if you came from your own home you were called a "Schoolie". And if you had any sense you got on with us because we were the strength - we had more. There was a hundred boys there when I was there and we grew up in a cottage atmosphere. We had two cottages when I was there, I think. There was Noller, which held 30 boys. We had a staff member in charge. Most of them were single, older women. She had her own quarters in that cottage and we had our dormitories, seven and eight to each dormitory. We had to have a cold shower every morning - Winter or Summer. There was hot water but we didn't use it. We never got sick... I don't remember anybody that got that sick there. I can't remember if there was. You stayed in that one until you were probably about eight, I think, and then you moved up to a cottage called Victory. Miss Upton was the staff member in charge of Noller. You went up to Victory where Miss Thornton was the staff member - the House Mother, for want of a better term, although we didn't call her that. You were there until you were about 11 or 12, and then you moved up to Buckland. Both Noller and Buckland are still there to this day.

Buckland Memorial Home

Is Victory still there?


I'm not certain. I must have another look. Buckland was built by Sir Thomas Buckland. A beautiful big old home. We had 40 boys there. Thirty were in one huge dormitory and when you got to be a big boy you moved out onto the balcony where ther was only ten. Now the people that ran the organisation, the homes, were a Mr and Mrs Hill. He took over them... when you got older boys you had Mr Hill who was in charge of the... he was in charge of the whole village, but he took personal responsibility for boys as they got older, so we did not have a lady staff looking after us. We had a man. He was always referred to as "Sir". She (his wife) was always referred to as the "Matron". She dressed like a Matron. She had the most beautiful English speaking voice, like Dame Sybil Thorndike. She dressed in a Matron's uniform - veil and white thing... the lot.

Once again, the cold showers continued, and Mr Hill would stand of a morning at the entrance to the bathroom, which had about six or so showers and your towels were hanging up on hooks in the bathroom. Dormitory by dormitory. There were three dormitories, each had ten beds in it and it was Dormitory One first. You all had to hop in and have your shower and just put your towel and pants on and grab your towel. And it might be a bitterly cold morning, so you'd walk past Mr Hill and he'd say "Good Morning". He'd always call you by name and you'd always call him back by "Sir". And you had your shower. He never faced the showers. Always had his back to the showers. They were side-on, he was back here, the showers were over there. Bitterly cold morning... oh, boys will be boys. We used to race in and grab our towel, drop our pyjama pants and race over to the shower, put our hand in the shower, wet our head and race out again... it was too cold for the shower. You couldn't fool Mr Hill. As you walked past him he'd say "Now go back and have a shower". We never worked out how he knew, but he always caught you, so you didn't bother to try in the end.

Robert Edward Hill and Matron Hill

A lot of the boys left the Homes... one parent, two parents, whatever family were able to take them back home again. A lot of us remained there. They found us a job. I was sent for an interview at Standard Waygoods at Burke Street, Waterloo. An interview for an Electrical Fitter - an apprentice, as I was pretty good with my hands, and scholastically I was reasonably good - I happened to be Dux of the school. I would have liked to go to University, but I'm afraid that was out of the question. I got the apprenticeship and spent five years doing an Electrical Fitting apprenticeship with the associated five years of Technical College training as well. At that time, when we found us a job, we had a building up the top where the Mormon Temple is today - it was called the Hostel. Originally it was a rectory, I believe, for the church. They must have acquired it and it became the Hostel. It held ten boys. We slept usually four to a dormitory up there. We had a House Mother up there, a Miss Avery. She would cook for us and look after us that way. We still had to make our own beds and we also did a bit of the housework. That's where we stayed until we could earn enough money to keep ourselves outside - or our family, whatever members there were that could take you.

Former Rectory, now the site of Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints Temple

I can remember vividly my first wage was 15 shillings a week. Out of that, Mr Hill used to take seven and sixpence for board, and out of that I had to pay, I think it was two and ninepence for a workman's weekly train ticket for the train from Carlingford to Redfern. I was going to the Technical College two or three nights a week... two nights a week the first year I think... and we used to have to buy something to eat which used to cost us ninepence. I think I used to have two and threepence a week left over to have a good time on. But they usually kitted you out in clothes and that. Then you had to buy your own, and if you needed a new pair of pants, you'd go and see Mr Hill when you're paying him your board. The older boys always used to educate the young ones coming through as to how you'd go about this... boys will be boys - worked the system. And you'd pay your board and say to Mr Hill that you needed a new pair of pants. He'd say "What's wrong with the ones you've got?". Oh these are my best pants that I've got on now, Sir, and the seat's a bit thin and the cuffs are worn ot at the bottom. And he said "Yes you could do with a new set". "Righto, son," he said, "keep your board this week and go and buy yourself a pair of pants, but when you get them bring them and show them to me and show me the docket and the change." So you'd do this, and when you saw him in his office after you'd bought them you'd always put the change on your side of the table, not on his, with the receipt, and he'd invariably say now you'd have to try them on, make sure they'd fit nice. He was like a father figure. And we'd say "Well what about the change, Sir?" "well keep the change". So that week you could pay your way out at Epping Pictures instead of having to go in at interval if there was no pass-outs! Then I ended up going to live with a sister at Gladesville. By this time I was going with Lorna. She was a local girl.

Let's go back to the time when your father couldn't afford to keep you. You said he was ill. What was his illness?

He had a mental breakdown.

Is this a result of the War?

I think it's a result of having a reasonably large family of five kids and he lost his wife, and the Depression years... I don't know exactly what caused it, I never found out... I don't know.

And your sisters... were they put in homes?

Well, my eldest sister, she got married and she took the three other sisters into her home with her, so she had a house full. Her husband built a home at Gladesville and they lived with their elder sister until they all got married.

Frank's home, 51 Keeler St Carlingford, built 1927

OK, now Lorna, can I ask you some questions? Tell me a little bit about your parents and their background, and their association with the Hills District.

I suppose it was like a little country place to me. Everybody knew everybody. My mother was born in Carlingford. My father wasn't. He was born at Kemp's Creek. It was all bush around us - the only part that wasn't bush was where we backed onto the school, so you couldn't wag school... our fence was the property of the school. We had one house alongside of us - one block between us, and one house opposite, and that's all the homes there were there when I was a girl. We used to just make your own fun, playing in the backyard, or building bonfires. Dad had a few jobs... he worked in a nursery once, he worked down the line when the War was on, I can't think where he worked - a factory of some sort. He was on a brick cart - that was very heavy going. He ended up with arthritis, very very bad. His hands were twisted right around the wrong way - I've even seen him with arthritis in his chin! He didn't do much work after he was about sixty, he couldn't work.

What was his actual work? Was he a nurseryman...?

No. It was just whatever work he could get, I think.

So your family must have had it tough during the Depression, then, did they?

Well, I suppose they did, but I don't really remember much about it. I mean, we still got our meals. We never went without a meal or anything. But I suppose it was hard, money wise. But they were fortunate and had a home. They had the land given to them by Mum's father. So they were lucky they could put a house on it. I think that they used to pay it off at a very low sum of money, and they did own it after a matter of years...

Who actually built the house?

I don't know. I've got no idea. I do know that Grandfather gave them the land. He gave her one and Mum's brother got land too.

That's quite nice of him isn't it? Did people help each other a lot more in those days, because it was such a small community?

Yes, I think they did. Yes. As you knew everybody and if you wanted something done you weren't frightened to go and ask anybody for help. We didn't have a phone... I know there was only one in Carlingford Road. Only one woman had the phone on, that was in later years though. If anyone wanted a message they rang Mrs Watts.

Carlingford Post Office 1920

So what was in Carlingford in those days? Post Office, Bank...?

Post Office. I worked at the Post Office and General Store... it was all in one. I worked there when I left school and was there until I got married. They delivered the mail - sometimes in a horse and sulky, other times on horseback. When I was leaving there it was on horseback. They used to deliver papers by the horse and sulky, the morning papers, and they'd go out and collect orders for the groceries, come in, get them made up and deliver them back out again. You'd hear a horse coming some days and thought, oh no, here comes the horse and cart... nobody in it. It had bolted. How it ever got around the top of the hill we'll never know. It went around the hill and straight into the backyard, and never tipped over. It didn't only ever happen once - it happened a few times. Then you'd get a phone call: someone come and pick me up, I'm such-and-such... the horse had bolted from North Rocks Road or somewhere. After that they got horseback. Girls used to do it, actually, deliver the mail on a horse.

Sounds all very exciting. They were pioneering days, were they?

Well, we had the grocery store, the newsagent, the Post Office and like a co-op where they used to keep all their oats and bran and everything... they used to deliver all that too.

Was there a bank as well?

There was a bank, but that was opposite the Post Office.

Bank of New South Wales?


Bank of NSW Carlingford c1930 now site of Orchard Centre

So there was a phone in the Post Office? You said they used to call...

Yes, we had a phone. Yes. But that was in late 30's I suppose, early 40's. But I should imagine that they had a phone there for a long time. It actually wasn't in the office, it was in a room of the house.

So you said you started at the Post Office straight after leaving school?


Did you get your Intermediate Certificate?

No, I didn't do that, no. I left in Second Year.

So you were about fourteen and a half or fifteen?

Yes, I think I was just on fifteen, I think. Yes.

So do you remember the names of any of the neighbours that were there around you?

Oh, yes. I remember all those.

Tell me about the people that lived on either side of you and further down the street.

We only had one on one side of us, and that was Les Kenny. He had a poultry farm out Murray Farm Road somewhere I think it was. He used to go around delivering eggs. He had a car - he was the rich man, he had a car. He took us to the mountains once, but Lorna wasn't very good... I was sick the whole way, car sick. He was on one side of us. We had nobody the other side. Bush, the other side. Opposite we had Miss Williams. She was old. I say old... she wasn't that old now. She was old and a very cranky woman. But once again, it was all bush all around there. We used to go over there and cut the trees down for Bonfire Nights and everything. We'd work for weeks to get a bonfire going - we had a large backyard that we could have one in...

You said everyone knew everyone?


So did people help each other out if someone got sick? What sort of things used to happen?

Yes, well I suppose you'd say they did help with a sickness or anything. Yes, they would help one another out. A lot of relations, of course, yes.

Was everyone more or less related to each other?

Yes, a lot were... the Shield's, the Franks's, the Bellamy's and the Mobbs's. They were all connected to somebody.

They were the four big families in the District?

Yes. They were all in the District, yes. There was Catt's too. Catt, she owned the grocery shop there. Auntie Anne, I think her name was. Where De Roos (?) had their shop, right opposite Keeler Street today.

Mobbs Hill Carlingford 1902

What did they sell?

They sold sweets and things. I think it was mainly a lolly shop if I can remember rightly. Uncle Aldridge(?) had a butchers shop.

That was your uncle?

Yes. There was a boot maker or boot repairs, billiard room, milk bar, barber, sawmill, blacksmith's shop. That was all around that same corner. They were all on one area, around a corner. And a baker's shop.

So you wouldn't have to go anywhere outside of this district to get anything would you?

No. It was all there.

What was the atmosphere like? Was it like a village atmosphere?

Well, I suppose living there you didn't know any different. I mean we didn't go very far. I can never remember going to Sydney when I was a girl... can't remember. We'd go to Parramatta, particularly of a Friday night. They had late shopping of a Friday night and we'd go to Parramatta. But, as for Sydney, I don't remember. We used to walk to Epping for the pictures, occasionally of a Sunday afternoon. Used to walk there and walk back. It was a couple of miles I suppose. But we thought nothing of it then, it was the only way to get around.

Your father had a car, did he?

No. We never ever had a car, no.

So when you went to Parramatta, would you go by train?

No, we'd go by bus. When you went to the pictures of a night you'd go by bus. Sometimes you'd have to go out of the pictures early because the bus left at ten to eleven, and there was none after that, so you had to come out to get the bus. I think it was more like a little country place... because there was a lot of orchards and that around us. Just down the road from us there was a very big orchard, with peaches and nectarines and things.

Whose orchard was that?


I think they were famous for their peaches weren't they?

That's right, yes. They had very good fruit.

One I told you about was Bob Brown. He wasn't in that area. He was up on the corner of North Rocks Road and Jenkins Road. He had the best peaches.

1st class, Carlingford District Rural School 1934

Did the people of Carlingford regard themselves as rural or as a suburb of Sydney?

Rural, I think.

Rural, definitely. Well, the Carlingford School was named the Carlingford District Rural School. It was rather unique. You could do languages if you were so inclined. You could take a Technical course. You could do an agricultural course. Whichever course you did you had to do a bit of the other. It was a co-ed school.

I did sewing and cooking there.

Girls had their own Domestic Science building, and if you did the technical side of education, which I did, you had to do one subject in agriculture, which usually you took Agriculture One. And the boys and girls - I don't remember any girls doing it, there were plenty of boys did the Agriculture course... they did Agriculture One, Agriculture Two, Biology and so forth, as well as the core subjects of History, Geography, Maths One, Maths Two, and other subjects - still did those. There was Languages. Not very many people did Languages. Two or three, I just can't recall exactly who did it now.

You both went to the same school?

Yes, yes.

Watts roses Tomah Street Carlingford 1970 looking towards Carlingford School

So you went two years later, then, obviously?


We didn't know each other at school.

Now, Eric, you were at the Boys' Home. How many years were you there?

I went there when I was five. I think I left there when I was about eighteen / nineteen.

And after that, where did you live then?

I lived at Boronia Park at Gladesville for a few years and then I got to know my wife, and we got engaged, and I used to ride a pushbike from Boronia Park to Carlingford to court my wife.

Is that how you met her?

No. We can't recall how we met each other. But we were part of the community. We mixed with the local girls and boys. There was quite a few of us married local girls. Didn't make any difference - we were just the same as anybody. Mum Shields had a Milk Bar there, that's where we used to meet the boys, I think... at the Milk Bar.

Go To Part Two