St Marys Tragedy

Photo of a £40 cheque from Farleigh Nettheim & Co – 1907 from the internet.

IN December 1936 a bike ride to St Marys changed the lives of two friends and their families forever when Thomas Ernest Wright and Francis Edward Spittle both aged 16, decided on a bike ride to St Marys that was arranged on the previous night to visit a friend. Francis and Thomas lived close on Mitchell Road in Enfield. Thomas called on Francis and they proceeded along the Parramatta Road then onto the Western Road and then into Mamre Road looking for someone who was employed by tanners Farleigh and Nettheim at Concord where Thomas was also employed.  Because of the long ride and the weather being hot at that time, the boys made for a waterhole in a creek at the junction of Luddenham and Liverpool Roads at St Marys around 10 o’clock. Thomas said to Francis “what about a swim?” Francis said, “righto” and they undressed, put on their costumes and dived into the water. Francis returned to the bank and again dived into the waterhole, later coming back to the bank and a few minutes later Thomas dived in again but he was struggling in the water and shouted “Help” to him, Frances dived in after him and told him to get on his back, but Thomas was too heavy and was dragging Francis under the water with him, he felt Thomas let go and sink, so he swam to the bank for assistance at a farmhouse where Henry Dowle a dairy farmer at Luddenham Road was bringing his milk into the factory. Coming on the scene and going into the water Henry recovered the body and started resuscitation methods until the arrival of Dr Dalton from St Marys who continued the efforts and with Constable Musgrove from St Marys who also helped with the resuscitation continuing for about three quarters of an hour to no avail. The body was taken to Penrith Hospital morgue. At the inquest held by District Coroner Arthur Judges at Penrith Court House, Dr Dalton said he received a call out to the scene of the accident and the young man was unconscious and quite pulseless and he could hear no heart sounds. It was also mentioned that Thomas was an indifferent swimmer, and the water was very deep where he dived in. A verdict of asphyxia from accidental drowning was returned, there was no post-mortem. Thomas was born at Sutherland in 1920 to parents George Charles Wright & Victoria May Wright (Nee: Hadley). His parents had divorced in April 1928 in Sydney with George being the petitioner on the grounds of desertion for three years and upwards, and in that same year he married his ex-wife’s sister Lynda Lyle Ida May Hadley born in 1895 and died in 1948.  His ex-wife Victoria May Wright married Harry Sidney Savage in 1939 at Petersham and died in 1983 at Dulwich Hill. The leather tannery of “Farleigh and Nettheim” at Concord where Thomas worked was started in 1864 by two Jewish migrants Edwin Michaelis and Isaac Hallenstein, who first settled in Melbourne and commenced business in Lonsdale Street as merchants importing into the new colony, cotton drill, threads and leather mainly for footwear production and built a tannery producing sole leather to meet the strong demand for solid boots and shoes by the increasing number of footwear manufacturers. Their tannery grew quickly, and the two partners felt it was time to start business in Clarence Street called Farleigh Nettheim & Co.  In 1880 they found a few rather dilapidated sheds and some tanning pits in Stanley Street at Concord (or Longbottom as it was called in those days) and buying the property and adjacent land amounting to 7¼ acres that adjoined the mangrove swamps of Canada Bay at the bottom of Stanley Street. John Farleigh was the mainspring of the new tannery in the early 1880’s, unfortunately he died in 1885 and John Lawson, a Tasmanian who was well versed in the technicalities of making sole leather, gave the company the reputation to become known worldwide as the “King of Mimosa” Brand. John Lawson lived and worked in Concord and died at the age of 90 years. The NSW Valuer General who had the responsibility of purchasing property for the NSW Education Department bought the Concord tannery property sold in 1967 for the construction of the Concord High School. Francis Edward Spittle who lost his friend when he drowned on that fateful bike ride to St Marys, had just two months before that fateful day celebrated his successful completion of courses covering two years’ work at the Burwood Evening Commercial School, beyond the primary stage in junior technical and commercial subjects.  Francis was born at Bulli in 1920 to parents James & Clara Olive Spittle (Nee Nicklin). James was born in Lanarkshire in Scotland in 1888 and died in Burwood in 1937. Clara was born in 1893 at Clifton NSW and died in 1950 at Enfield.  According to Francis’s war records he enlisted in the field into the AIF in WW2 fighting in France. He died in 1946 at Enfield NSW. 

Sources: Nepean Times, New South Wales Australia Registers of Coroners’ Inquests, Information from Ancestry family WW2 information from National Archives – 1532/26 R.G. Dept No.4955/28 – Record No. 1010873) – No. NX146175, Information on Tannery compiled by Colin S Dodds last General Manager of the Company, The Sydney Morning Herald, Ancestry, BDM information on Francis Edward Spittle.