Thursday, 20 July 2017

A little bit of Australia in the 1930s

I am in Australia gazing across at the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or at least a bit of it.

The year is 1930 and the bridge has been under construction since 1923.

Now I am indebted to my friend for both the pictures and the story.  June and I first got together when we discovered a common interest in Alexander Somerville the radical journalist who came here in 1847.*

For me he was a fascinating link into the politics of the 19th century and for June a direct descendant, and so we began writing to each other and discovered our joint passion for all things historical.

June has be kind enough to contribute to the blog over the last few months and I am pleased that she done so again with the story of that iconic bridge which along with Opera House features in so many photographs of Sydney.

“The first proposal for a bridge across the Harbour was made in 1815 by the NSW government architect, Francis Greenaway, an ex convict. 

Other crossings were suggested, including a number for a tunnel. A regular ferry service began in 1842 from Dawes Point to Blues Point. 

(There is now a tunnel as well). Work commenced on July 28 1923 and the bridge was formally opened on Mar 19. 1932 by NSW Premier J T Lang, although the ceremony was disrupted by Francis Edward de Groot, a member of the New Guard, who dashed in and cut the ribbon before the Premier could do so!

The steel arch span is not the world's longest, but it was the world's most massive arch. The main span is 503 m long. The top of the arch is 134 m above sea level. In July 1959, two extra road lanes were opened after two tram tracks on the eastern side of the deck were removed. 

Train lines also run over the bridge. We have visited the pylons at the city end of the bridge and these days, for people who don't mind heights, there is a walk up the span to a magnificent view over the Harbour. I hope this information is useful.”

But equally fascinating is the picture of her father’s car.

“This photo was taken by my father in 1930 when he and my mother first visited Sydney in his first car, a Chevrolet tourer, I think it was called. 

It was when the Great Depression first hit Australia and an acquaintance of Dad's had just bought himself a new car and found himself in financial trouble. 

So Dad, a working class man, helped him out by purchasing his car.

It was Dad's pride and joy until 1938 and his children have fond memories of holidays with the car although Dad's justification for buying himself a car was the difficulty of carrying the tools of his trade, brushes, paint and ladders with a motorbike and sidecar.”

So there you have it a glimpse in to the history of a Australia, as ever the blog has got the lot.

Pictures; from the collection of June Pound

*Alexander Somrerville,

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