by the river
morning was bright and clear. A cold blustering southerly cut through
my fur as Joadja and I went down to the station around nine to catch
the train to North Sydney.
carriage was full of Reconciliation marchers and as we emerged from
the underground the Harbour Bridge was already packed.
North Sydney station a huge crush of happy people shuffled off the train,
out onto Blue Street and south towards the bridge. Blue Street. Ah yes,
William Blue was black, I remembered. A Jamaican transported for God
knows what petty crime.
was a triumphant crowd. A huge Aboriginal flag flew from the top of
the bridge. Everybody was stunned at the numbers. The road rises slightly
as you approach the southern tollgates and I looked back. There was
a sea of people stretching across the bridge and I knew then that over
a quarter of a million people would walk over it for Reconciliation.
we got to the southern tollgates Jo said: "Show me this historic
house you're doing the investigation about. Can't we get there on the
so we left the marchers and took the fifteen minute ride on the Airport
Line to North Arncliffe.
the tunnel, the sunlight falling into Wolli Creek Station caught us
by surprise. We walked up the stairs to ground level and we might be
have been in the country somewhere. According to the aerial photos I'd
seen, there was once a gravel depot here, but the sunken platform now
lay in the middle of an open field.
did they call it Wolli Creek station?" Jo asked.
Wolli Creek joins the Cooks River just on the other side of the Illawarra
Line over there and I gather there was once a tramway depot here called
Wolli Creek Depot; and then again, there was that long fight to save
Wolli Creek from the M5 freeway, so I guess it's apt."
the station we turned east, walked over the levee bank and out onto
the floodplain which runs down to the edge of the Cooks River. Tempe
House lay beyond an ugly chainwire fence. John Verge designed it for
Alexander Brodie Spark, a most successful merchant of Old Sydney. It
looked quietly elegant, a cultured Englishman's Italianate utopia.
romantic!" exclaimed Jo. "Exquisite! Reminds me of a painting.
Perhaps one of those views of the English countryside by Constable?"
closer to home. I think we've seen it somewhere. A bloke called Samuel
Elyard painted the house just after it was finished in 1834, or maybe
'36. It's in the Mitchell Library. Conrad Martens painted it too."
what do the developers want?"
want to throw up an arc of 13 storey flats from the riverbank, over
the top of the station, around the back of that little church and Tempe
House and over to the edge of the Princes Highway. There'd only be this
little strip of land in front of the house running down to the river."
terrible! Something like this should be treasured. It should all be
parkland. I can see a village back over there, south of the station.
That would be lovely ... but for heaven's sake, it shouldn't be Hong
Kong by the River."
was such a small space, about 250 metres wide, sandwiched between the
Illawarra Line and the Princes Highway, maybe five or six hectares in
all. So little to save, and yet what a difference it'd make.
walked down to the river in silence. In the little park on the other
side a few dozen people were picnicking.
penny for your thoughts", said Jo.
was thinking about Old Willy", I said. "He was Brodie Spark's
Aboriginal boatman. He used to meet Spark over on the other side and
row him across. He must have known the river before the white men arrived.
Saving this place from the greedheads should be as much for Old Willy
as for his master".