Carlingford - Eric and Lorna McGraw - Part 2


Part Two

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 recollections, views and opinions of the interviewee(s)



Tell me about the transport arrangements in Carlingford. I believe there was a train station?

There was a Carlingford station yes.

There was Carlingford railway station. I had the full history of Carlingford railway station. Of an evening they used to leave three carriages up at the dead end which is along side the Carlingford Producer’s Co-op. At five to six the next morning, weekdays that is, the engine used to come up from Clyde. On board would be the driver, the fireman and the train guard. They would go and pick up the three carriages and it was the guard’s duty to hop down and mechanically connect the engine to the carriages and connect the air brakes and so forth. Then it would pull up to the station and that would be the first train. At five to six there were probably only a dozen people waiting to get on. Then the next station was Telopea, Dundas, Rydalmere, Camellia, Rose Hill and Clyde. You got off at Clyde and you caught an electric train to the city or wherever you were going. One incident I recall, we missed the train this morning I think we slept in. The engine came up Jack Humphreys I can remember was the guard, he hooked the train up and it pulled the carriages up to Carlingford Station. People got on and away it went. They got to Telopea and they couldn’t stop the train. Carlingford is reasonably high elevation and it’s all down hill. So (?) lines are always at the river and it couldn’t stop there so they left the people stranded. It got to Dundas, now Dundas was a reasonably big station. There’d be quite a few people waiting there. They couldn’t stop it there either so it went straight through there. Next station is Rydalmere, Rydalmere is right alongside Victoria Road in those days the traffic naturally wasn’t like it is today. There was a set of gates which closed off the train line so cars and vehicles could go through on the road. The porter’s job on the station was to open those gates for the train just before it was due to arrive and lock the traffic off. Unfortunately he didn’t know that the train was early because it hadn’t been able to stop at the previous stations. No mobile phones in those days. Of course when the train got there the gates were closed against it. Too bad it just cleaned the gates up went straight through those went straight through Rydalmere couldn’t pull it up there. Just before Camellia is the river crossing and the bridge.

Carlingford Railway Station 1986

It levelled out there and they were able to stop the train just before Camellia station. If my memory serves me I think that the guard got suspended. It was during the war and manpower was a bit short. They didn’t sack him I think they might have suspended him for a short period of time. That was one incident that I can recall. Unfortunately we missed the train that day so we missed the fun and games.


What had the guard not done so the train wouldn’t stop?

Apparently he hadn’t hooked up the hydraulics so the brakes didn’t work on the carriages. The brakes on the train worked but the brakes on the carriages, three carriages were pretty heavy.

I think we only had one bus then. We used to go from Pennant Hills to Parramatta same driver used to go backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards.

It was the red bus, Morrow his name was. He wore a dustcoat and a hat.

Now tell me a little bit about the fruit growers and what challenges they had to unload and load their fruit?

They used to do most of it from Carlingford station. They’d go to Carlingford station and put them on the train. That’s the only way back in those days that they did it. Until they started to get big vehicles and their own trucks and things and taking them. No it was done by train.

Loading fruit at Carlingford Station c1915

Lorna’s mother did tell us that she could remember when there were horse and drays lined up from Carlingford station right to Mobb’s Hill waiting to get their things on the train. Something that is not done now Carlingford and surrounding areas all the churches used to have what they called Harvest Festival. All the farmers used to bring a lot of their produce like the Sydney Show. At Harvest Festival time the church would be full of all the produce produced by the local farmers. It was blesssed by the minister or the local priest or whatever and it was known as the Harvest Festival. We had a choir at the boy’s home and Mr and Mrs Hill were great on singing and they formed a choir of the boys. I was in the choir but I shouldn’t have been I couldn’t sing to save myself. You worked your way into the choir because one of the perks was that at Harvest Festival time. We had a truck at the boy’s home I suppose it would be a one tonner and so we used to all pile in that. We’d go out in that. One church that comes to mind is St Jude’s at Dural up here which is near us now. We’d sing at the evening church service after Harvest Festival time and then all the produce that was there they’d load in onto the truck and we’d take it back to the Boy’s Home. So we got fresh fruit and fresh vegetables delivered to us. But I can tell you this if there was any watermelons put on the back of the truck they usually weren’t there by the time we got back. Because we all got stuck into them and ate them we shouldn’t have but we did. Boys will be boys. Right up to the boy’s home was Chinese market gardens and now you go to Carlingford you’d think they were still there because in the shopping centre there’s so many Chinese and Asians there now. But they were the only Chinese in the area market gardens right opposite the boy’s home.


Was it fun to go and see what they were doing?

We were all scared stiff if I remember. We were all scared of the chows as we called them. We used to nick in there and they used to have China pear trees which are usually like trying to eat a rock they’re that hard. But we always used to race across the road and down the paddock and pinch the China pears and get out as quick as we could. Dunno why we bothered because they were practically uneatable.

Can either of you remember the war years in Carlingford what were they like?

Dad was a warden and he used to go out at night with his tin hat on. I don’t know what they did but they used to walk around and make sure everyone had the blinds and everything down when the sirens went made a blackout by pulling everything down.

Ration books?

Oh yes I’ve stuck many of those in we used to have coupons for sugar, tea, butter. You had to put them in a little book so you could get more when they come around. To get more butter and things there was rationing for clothes and everything then. You had to have a lot of coupons to get a new dress or anything then. Fortunately my mother used to make all mine so it was much easier.

Petrol, the bowsers were out on the gutter, two bowsers hand pumped.

Only one.

Only one was there.

Oh hand pumped.


So there was one petrol station in Carlingford?

One petrol bowser no petrol station just one bowser.

Carlingford Post Office 1920

Who had that one outside?

We did the Post Office did that was part of us too.

It’s not shown there but it was right at the edge of the footpath there.

And the Police Station, the police box was just there.

And there was a horse trough at the top of the hill. I don’t remember that but I know where it was.

Right in the middle of the road was the horse trough. Strange place to have it but it was there.

It was in use?

There was a horse trough on the corner of Carlingford Road, Keeler Street and Pennant Hills Road where the blacksmith was right alongside it.

Have to checked recently to see if it’s still there.

Oh it’s not there now the blacksmith is long gone.

Shops and things there now.

Let’s talk a bit about religion in Carlingford. Was your family religious for instance?

I wouldn’t see real religious but yes we attended church all the time. You’d go to Sunday School and then go to church in the evening. I was in the choir I was confirmed there Church of England. We had physical culture that was a great thing physical culture really enjoyed that. It used to be in Carlingford at the Memorial Hall and then they moved to Dundas.

Bjelke Peterson?

Bjelke Petersons yes.

She won a lot of medals but they were all stolen when the house was burgled.

Any relation to the famous Bjelke Petersons of Queensland?

I don’t know.

I wouldn’t think so but I don’t know. I doubt it. We used to have competitions and all I made some good friends there.

Eric McGraw at Carlingford Church of England Boys Home c1940

Eric of course being at the Church of England Boys' Home you would have had a fairly good dose of religion as well?

No strange as it may seem they didn’t. Religion wasn’t pushed down our throats at all. We were expected to say your prayers at night time. But on a bitterly cold night you’d often slip into bed quick and shut your eyes -kid you were asleep. They wouldn’t wake you up to say them. No religion wasn’t pushed we never had our church. Christian values were taught sure but other than that religions wasn’t pushed down our throats whatsoever. There was never any of this nonsense that you read about in the papers today that’s gone on. I was talking to a mate this morning he was a year older than me and he brought the subject up saying that you were coming and he said “he can’t recall anything untoward happening to any of the boys or anything”. Ok we got the cane Mr Hill would give you the cane if we’d come in and we’d been out raiding. Pinching fruit from the local orchards and he caught you Ok you might get four whacks of the cane. But you got that at school anyhow. You went to school and you knew you were going to get the cane you’d find a peppermint tree and rip the leaves off and rub them all on your hand thinking that didn’t hurt so much. I don’t think it made any difference.

Was there any divide between the Catholics and the Protestants?

Yes I’d say so.

Yeah a little bit yeah.

I think there was.

Well there was one Catholic family that used to give us a bit of stick and used to give Lorna’s family a bit. The funny part about it was that they ended up intermarrying in later years.

(Eric discusses aspects of his working life outside the Shire, including working for the Government, followed by working for himself...) I started up E H McGraw Pty Ltd Electrical Contractors and Engineers and we once again we worked from home. Even when we moved to Pennant Hills I operated from our own home at Pennant Hills from a workshop garage underneath the house. Then I moved my business itself up to Pennant Hills roughly behind where the Telecom is today up there. I rented some premises and I moved the business up there and from that we went into a bit of engineering as well. We were servicing power tools, rewinding electric motors, doing a bit of electrical work doing a bit of special one off design for clients.

Carlingford Produce Store, near Carlingford Railway Station 2004

We sort of outgrew that and I decided that this was no good renting a place so I had to look for a place. This was pretty hard to get but I found that the railway had some land right near Carlingford Railway station they weren’t wanting to sell it but they were willing to lease it so they leased me the land on a twenty year lease. I moved my business down there and I ended up building my own premises which is still there to this day. The promise by the State Rail Authority was if and when they sold the land that I would have first offer on the land. Unfortunately for me they didn’t keep their word and when the lease was up they just threw it open for auction and I had to go to the auction and try to buy my own building back as it were. Unfortunately for me the next door neighbours who had a service station they wanted the property too so they were bidding against me and they forced the price up. I managed to stave them off but then the agent came up to me at the auction and said “well you’re the highest bidder but the State Rail want more money otherwise they’ll put it up for auction again” I’m not going to say the amount but it was quite substantial what they wanted extra. My son and I were there and I said “give me a few minutes” so I rang the bank manager up. I said “look I need some more money” so he said “you’ve got it” so I went back in and bid the extra money I got the property and I owned it. The funny part about it is eventually we sold it who did we sell it to the service station next door. Cause they only wanted to give me what I’d paid for the land, the land value and I said “you go away I’ve put a substantial building on this you’ve got to buy that too”.

Carlingford Produce Store interior roof view 2004

That basically allowed me to retire I was at retirement age and I was thinking about it anyhow. And my son when he did his HSC and we were on holidays on the beach at Blue Lagoon and he said “can I have a talk with you” and I said “what about” and he said “what about what I’m going to do after school” and I said “what are you going to do” and he said “well I’d like to come into the business if you’ll have me”. I said “sure, I’d love to have you on a couple of conditions at work I’m the boss and if the men have a go at you that’s your problem not mine, you have to put up with it” He come and joined the company and he’s turned out to be a very good business manager he’s very good at business, very good indeed. He’s kept the company going we changed the name from E H McGraw to McGraw Electrical in the process. We also had an engineering shop there where we did motor rewinding and power tools servicing and we also had a showroom selling power tools. The building industry collapsed in I think it was 1987 and we had to shut the power tool saleroom down and there was still a market in the motor rewinding business, swimming pool pumps we decided that might as well do the rest of the swimming pool servicing so we opened a pool shop. All from the one premises and we had a pool shop there and we formed a company called “Poolwise” a name which my son thought of and we had a very successful pool company. We weren’t building pools just servicing them and servicing all the electrical stuff that went with it. Eventually it got too much trying to have all these things so we sold the pool company

Shop on Pennant Hills Rd near Coleman Avenue 1940s, owned by Allan Kitching

Oh by the way before this a friend of mine built some new shops at Carlingford just near the station. A friend of mine great Carlingford family called the Kitchings. Alan Kitching he used to be my scout master actually and he was building these shops so I went over to Alan and I said “I’ve always wanted a hardware shop, how about letting me have one of these shops”? So he said “right”. In those days a handshake was all that was needed. So he said “which one do you want”? So I said “the biggest one there”. We shook hands and that was the deal. Before it was finished he came to me and said “hardware stores don’t bring customers food shops do” Those days supermarkets weren’t around and a family called Burke(?) he decided to open a supermarket and he decided to open it down there but the shop he wanted was the one Kitching had promised me. Alan came to me and said and Alan had been in the food industry all his life. He said “look they’ll bring customers and you won’t how about you move to the next shop on one side before you get to theirs. They’ll drag customers past your shop then and a smaller shop it’s not very big” Well he said “a deal’s a deal if you say no you’re keeping that shop that’s it we shook hands on it. But I said no I could see the logic in his argument so I swopped. I said “I’ll take that one”. Within six months I had a business going because they dragged customers past my shop and so we had that. My wife used to help me in the shop and my brother-in-law and I kept the electrical business going. Then eventually it got too much and we sold the hardware.

Kitching's Shop additions, Coleman Ave 1960

Now can I ask you both about the changes that have happened in Carlingford since you were very young what were the major changes in the suburb?

Mainly buildings and houses going up you wouldn’t see a spare block of land there.

The urbanisation of the area.

Oh it just went ahead very quickly.

What happened to the orchards?

They went there’re all houses on those.

Well the orchardists were always struggling and then everything came out of what they called The Green Belt. The Green Belt you couldn’t use for anything other than agriculture. The local orchardists were suddenly getting money in their pockets by selling their orchards. So every orchard that I can remember is now urbanised. There was dozens of them.

The house next to us it didn’t go up till 1952 when Yelland’s built next to us. That was the only one they built next to us then that started it and then right up the road.

So was it the Council that rezoned the land for residential use.

That area where Lorna was that was already zoned for living but a hundred yards away opposite Carlingford school on the corner Rickard Street and what was then Carlingford Road that was Catts' orchard. That was all orchards and poultry farms.

When you look at Pennant Hills Road today do you recognise it from the days of your youth?

Yes I think I do I suppose we used to walk it so much. Pennant Hills Road itself hasn’t changed that much the route or anything. Used to ride bikes a lot. I got a bike during the war a new bike you couldn’t buy them at the time and the Post Master signed a form so that I could deliver telegrams on it and that was the way I got the bike.

Husbands or sons who’d been killed in the war and everything was notified by telegram so it had to be delivered the telegram personally to the people.

All telegrams did really, but they were coming through at the time all the people who’d been killed in the war and everything.

Many people in Carlingford as well they got killed in the war?

Yeah there was quite a few of them. We used to have dances each time they came home on leave we’d have a dance in the Memorial Hall for them. But there was quite a few got killed yes.

Carlingford Memorial Hall 1980s. It was demolished 1987

It must have been quite devastating for a small population like Carlingford.

Well I would have hated to be delivering I never delivered one of those telegrams the boss did he knew how to approach the people.

Well you were only a slip of a girl.

Now Eric you said that Pennant Hills was a dirt road when would that have been?

Well I asked my mate this morning on the phone this morning about it. I said “what was Pennant Hills Road like” I said it was about 1936 when they concreted it and he said “yeah that would be about right” I think it was a dirt road or just stone. I think it was just rubble and then they rolled it and they built the concrete mixing plant up on Thompson’s Hill (actually on Pennant Hills Rd leading up to Thompson's Corner).

You’ve seen lots of changes in Carlingford over the many years that you’ve lived here. Which Carlingford do you prefer the old one or the new one?

Oh I suppose we always prefer the old and we remember the new things and forget the bad things.

I still think the young ones today could take after us a bit how we made our own fun and whatnot. Now they have to have everything and are run everywhere no walking.

For instance we played cricket in the Northern Districts we would walk from Carlingford carrying our heavy cricket bags to Meadowbank playing fields down by the river.

Dad used to have one it was about this long yeah.

We used to walk to Brush Park, Meadowbank playing fields from Carlingford and walk home again. Later when we were working boys we bought a bike. My first bike cost me two pound and I scratched every bit of paint off it with a Gem razor blade and painted it by hand and no brakes. It had a back pedal brake I think and if one of us had a bike you’d double your mate to cricket and I can remember Mick McLean and I were going to Meadowbank to play. Mick had a bike I didn’t so I was on the back holding the pads and the stumps inside the pads on the back and Mick had the cricket bat across the handle bars. We were going down the big hill at Brush Park there which was pretty steep and one of the stumps fell out of my grasp and went straight through the back wheel. I wasn’t very popular. So we had to walk and carry the bike.

That’s really what some people might see today as the primitive days of Carlingford?

That’s right.

So you lived through all that and have a seen a change so what do you think is the future of Carlingford then?

Unfortunately the way it’s going we went for a drive the other day off Post Office Road which is right in the centre of Carlingford. We could not believe our eyes. The multi storey huge blocks of apartments that are going up in Carlingford are unbelievable. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. I didn’t know it was going out there because you have to turn off the main road and go round there. Now where there was all cottages there is all high rise apartment buildings and to me that shouldn’t be allowed. There are no backyards anymore nowhere for the kids to play.

I think I like it back in those days better without all the shops and everything being around.

Shops near Coleman Ave 1990s

What about you Eric?

Oh I prefer those days. I can remember when I was living at Lorna’s place, her brother and I, Les and I walked across the paddock set up a net trap which you spring by remote, not by remote control that they have today but a piece of string. We trapped something like fifty gold finches in one spring of the net. We trapped these birds and took them back and put them in the aviary. Today I haven’t seen a gold finch…

You never see a sparrow

Hard to see a sparrow today even but you don’t see them now. Gold finches, there was abundant wildlife there. Birds double bars, diamond sparrows, lorikeets, finches all sorts of finches just in the bush.

My father used to go rabbiting just across the road from us, go over and catch rabbits.

The ferrets.

Bandicoots and things.

Put ferrets down the rabbit hole. Put the ferret down one hole with a net and the rabbits would come out of and get caught in the net.

That sounds like a very rural atmosphere?

Oh it definitely was.

No longer the Carlingford that it was?

No different all together go down there now and you don’t know anybody.

All right I think where coming to the end of our interview, is there anything that we haven’t spoken about that you feel is important?

My sister also married a boy from the boy’s home.

So they make good husbands do they Lorna?

Yes unfortunately he was killed in a vehicle accident. He served his apprenticeship as a boilermaker and then he bought his own brick truck and he bought a brand new brick truck after a few years and had a contract with Eastwood Brick Yard and unfortunately he was travelling in the brand new truck up Lapstone Hill going up the mountains and he was going up and a chap in a truck with a dog trailer behind it come round the bend and the coupling snapped and the dog trailer flew across the road and took Ted and his truck over the side of the mountain.

That’s very sad.

He’d just been elected district governor for Lions for the district and on the next Tuesday he was due to fly to Mexico for his inauguration for the district governor and he was killed on the Thursday I think.