Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Darlinghurst: History: 1923 Petition

I Take But I Surrender*
I am not ready to concede defeat in my search for the secret tunnels. In fact I am so enjoying the adventures I am having in my quest, and the stories I have discovered along the way, that it will actually be disappointing if this little investigation reaches an end. 
Keeping me inspired are the letters and suggestions from readers about methods of finding the secret tunnels, which have included joining a tunnelling association, alerting the mainstream media to my search and - my favourite - employing ground-penetrating radar to find the tunnels. 
But I'm also kept going by the little stories I have unearthed in the City of Sydney Archives as I wade through ancient files associated with the Marist Brothers College. And the best story yet, has to be the one about the police and the council's investigation in to the naughty boys and the bread crusts.

This 1923 council file includes about a dozen letters of correspondence between the Town Clerk's office, the City Health Officer, council aldermen and the Inspector General of Police regarding a petition from May 1923, by the ''various residents and ratepayers in the vicinity of Darley and Liverpool streets'' in Darlinghurst.

''The Marist Brothers carry on a school for boys at the corner of Liverpool and Darley streets, Darlinghurst,'' a letter attached to the petition reads.
''This school came in to existence about 12 years ago, but now over 400 boys attend the school. The playground is a very small one and the boys have turned Darley Street in to a playground, especially that part from Liverpool Street to Wootton Hospital, which forms a cul de sac.''

''The boys use this playground from 8.30 in the morning till dark, taking complete possession of same playing the particular game then in favour, whether it be football, cricket or other sport, obstructing the traffic generally and partly obstructing those residing in the vicinity.
''The boys throw food, fruit skins etc about the street and footpaths and even in to the passages and ventilators of adjacent properties and act in a boisterous and rude manner causing annoyance to the tenants and lodgers occupying the flats immediately surrounding that particular part of the street including the staff and patients at the hospital.''

The petition of about 50 signatures was instigated by Ellen M Foley, who lived at Novar, 4 Darley Street, with her sister Margaret McNab; Geoffrey and Ada Fox; and C&L Hoad. In fact, part of the joy of discovering the petition was learning who used to live in Darley Street and the surrounds.

Maud Riley lived at the family home, Fairmount, with Gertrude and Sydney Riley and Katie McMaster, who all signed the petition. (Ten years later, in January 1933, a motor mechanic John Snow, 20, was shot in the leg by an unseen gunman as he was about to enter the doorway of Fairmount, where he lived.) The Fairmount Flats were listed for sale in July 1929 and it is noted in the listing that the building was on the corner of Liverpool and Darley streets, so perhaps it was this building:

Fairmount? 363 Liverpool Street

The petition also included people with addresses in Macquarie Street in the Sydney CBD, Darling Point, in the city's east, inner-west Dulwich Hill, as well as shopkeeper E.J McGurgan from 389 Liverpool Street and 364 Victoria Street. 

389 Liverpool Street 

364 Victoria Street (since demolished), right of the Green Park Hotel

A representative from Wootton Private Hospital (now known as Iona) also signed the petition and sent a letter of complaint.

The council was the first to investigate the complaint, and sent an officer of the Health and Sanitary Department to carry out surveillance of the street. 

''The pupils certainly play in this dead end street, but seem well behaved for a body of young boys,'' wrote City Health Officer J.S. Purdy.
''Miss Foley is, I understand, of a very nervous temperament, and I believe is more annoyed by the noises made by the boys than by any food scraps that may be thrown about.''

The residents were not happy with that investigation and continued to bombard the council and various aldermen with long, hand-written letters of complaint. In July 1923, Inspectors J.P. Collins and N.J. Courtney, were sent out to observe the boys. This time, with results!

''A further observation was carried out between 12.30pm and 12.55pm,'' the investigators wrote.
''On this occasion the boys were found to be very noisy and two of the lads were found throwing food-scraps on the footway, which consisted of one small piece of bread crust, and in the other case a piece of cake.''

The culprits were 11-year-old David Burfitt, of Anzac Parade, Kensington, south of Sydney, and 12-year-old Charles Currie, of 31 Johnston Street, Annandale, in the inner-west.
The pair were ''called up and informed that they were breaking one of the City By-Laws'' and were advised in future to ''roll any lunch scraps in paper and place them in the garbage tin on the school's premises.''
Investigators Collins and Courtney told the Town Clerk they could take action on the food-scraps but the noise concerns were outside their jurisdiction and should be referred to the Traffic Branch of the Police Department. 
The following month the matter received ''special attention on the part of the police'' and the noise ''has now been returned to a minimum'', wrote the Inspector General of Police in August, 1923:

It is not clear how the police achieved such a hasty and successful outcome. Neither are there any thank-you notes from Ms Foley within the file. 
Fortunately for young Burfitt and Currie, the cake- and crust-throwers, the council considered a warning to the boys as sufficient punishment.
''On account of their tender years a warning has been given them by the Inspector and this is regarded as sufficient in this instance because if they are proceeded against they would have to be taken before the Children's Court where the Magistrate would probably administer a warning,'' the Town Clerk wrote. 
I thought this was such a funny episode in Darlinghurst history and I am amazed that so much work went in to catching a couple of little boys throwing cake and crusts. I wonder if Burfitt and Currie went on to behave themselves or continued to be naughty. I suspect the latter. 

The logo in the photograph above and at the top of this post, was embossed on most of the council's letters. It appears to have been designed in 1842 with the establishment of the Municipal Council of Sydney. It's certainly very different to today's City of Sydney anchor logo.

Which one do you prefer?

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