Memories Of Old St Marys

 Photo of timber logging from the internet. 

By Lyn Forde – President/Research Officer of St Marys & District Historical Society Inc.

1904 To the Editor, Sir—I have perused with pleasure and interest two or three articles from old Penrith identities in the dear old Nepean Times, a copy of which I receive every week. The names, places and individuals are very familiar to me, even as far back as the 1860’s. But as almost all your writers take old Penrith as a subject I would like to say a few words about my own native town of St Marys, or, as it was then called “South Creek” where I first saw the light of day some 50 years ago (1854). However, memory cannot take me back quite that far, but as one of your correspondents mentions the Reverend Elijah Smith, who I remember well as a Sunday school boy I attended regularly at that beautiful old church of St Mary Magdalene on the hill overlooking St Marys that has changed little in 40 years. I can never forget that striking and beautiful motto written in large letters on the eastern end of the church “Reverence My Sanctuary, I am the Lord” under where Reverend Smith would stand, a good, simple old man that he was. I could always be sure of hearing the same text “When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness he shall save his soul alive.” Also, the church wardens, Mr William Beacroft and Mr John King Lethbridge, the latter of who I knew intimately as a young unmarried man and with other boys had received many a lecture from him, but we boys knew his bark was worse than his bite. I am ashamed to say we often imposed on him and a better and more upright man never lived. Our Sunday school teachers were Mr James Moss the son of Mounted trooper Moss who was stationed in St Marys for a long time, and that good kind gentleman Mr Ben Loveday who was accidentally killed at Parramatta some three years ago. Our old friend “Japonica” also belonged to the same school, also James and George Bennett have still stuck to the old town and established businesses that are a credit to them and the district. Also, Mr Andrew Thompson J.P., another enterprising townsman, but it was only “Andy” in those days. I can well remember seeing the contractors’ engine ballasting the railway line between Penrith and St Marys when the old racecourse and “Billy” Beacroft’s paddock were thickly studded with navies tents. Those were stirring times. Old Tom (John) Corry kept the Traveler’s Rest (Stranger’s Home) now kept by Mrs Cott and known as the ‘First and Last Hotel’. A little further down the old western road was where old Tom Paskin had a tannery and saddler’s shop, further down still there was old Billy Dowling who was always singing “The Wearing of the Green,” and at that time he was the principal storekeeper in town. Next came Jimmy Byrnes who I believe still keeps a hotel and must be one of the oldest hotelkeepers in the State. Then came Mr James Bennett (senior) a publican and blacksmith and on the south side of the road Mr John Sherringham, as fine a specimen of a man as could be found anywhere, where I believe two of the family still live in St Marys being Mrs John Hackett (Sherringham) and her brother Billy. Then we had genial Johnny Morrison and James Hackett (senior) both butchers, storekeeper John Guild and Tom Harford who kept a hotel where Martin Brell’s large tannery stands at present (1904). I was nearly omitting one in the person of Mr R Burgess who was Sexton of the church in question for many years and I had the pleasure of having tea with the poor old gentleman just before he died when he was just as cheery as ever, he was one of nature’s gentlemen. These, Mr Editor are a few of the old faces familiar to me and a jolly old lot they were too. Most of them have gone over to the other side. Of course, there are a few evergreens such as Danny Garner, Jim Beacroft and Charlie Andrews who never seem to get any older yours faithfully, W.G.B – From Sleeper Cutters camp, Wauchope, Hastings River – March 31 1904. (PS): Wauchope was originally called “Timbertown” renown for the successful sawmills around this time. (PPS): Reverend Elijah Smith was ordained by the Bishop of London, and, in the same year, was appointed chaplain in the colony of New South Wales, where, on his arrival, he was stationed at Windsor, in which place he remained until 1829. In 1853 he was appointed incumbent of St Stephen’s, Penrith conjoined with South Creek St Marys where he remained usefully employed until September 1868 when he was relieved from active duty owing to his failing health. He died in December 1870 and his body was interred at the Balmain Cemetery, the funeral being attended by many of the clergy and by his late churchwardens.

Source: Nepean Times 9th April 1904, Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 2 December 1870.