City of Sydney Historical Association
2nd March, 2013 - History of Surry Hills & Darlinghurst
9th February, 2013 - Chinese New Year
12th January, 2013 - Tour of St Barnabas Church, Broadway
8th December, 2012 - Colonial Land Use and the Coxes of Mulgoa Valley
7th November, 2012 - Guided Tour of the Town Hall Vaults
3rd November, 2012 - 1954 Royal Tour
13th October, 2012 - Rise of Sydney's Department Stores
14th July, 2012 - Life & Times of Tommy Townshend
9th June, 2012 - "Reynolds" Cottages
19th May, 2012 - St Paul's College Tour
14th April, 2012 - Motorised Mayhem
10th March, 2012 - The Flying Fruit Fly Circus
4th February, 2012 - Quong Tart: High Tea and Scottish Ditties
14th January 2012: Dictionary of Sydney
10th December 2011: Admiral Arthur Philip - The Man
12th November 2011: Glebe Walk
8th October 2011: Bob Carr at the Annual General Meeting
3rd September 2011: History Week
13th August 2011: Tom Wentworth Wills –Visionary Sportsman
9th July 2011: Henry L'Estrange - Funambulist and Aeronaut
11th June 2011: Afro-American Servicemen in WWII
14th May 2011: Government House Tour
9th April 2011: Amazing Stories from Randwick
19th March 2011: The Ones that Got Away
12 Feb 2011: Chinese Market Gardens of Sydney
8 Jan 2011: St Andews College Tour
11 Dec 2010: Garden Palace Scandal
13 Nov 2010: Cumberland Digs
9 Oct 2010: Painting the Rocks
4 Sep 2010: Celebrate History Week
14 Aug 2010: Whaling, Wool and Wealth
10 Jul 2010: The Ones that Got Away
12 Jun 10: Percy Lindsay
8 May 10: Sydney Tramway Museum
10 Apr 10: Making of our nation
13 Mar 10: Reading photographs
13 Feb 2010: Macquarie Place
9 Jan 10: Sydney's Astronomical History
12 Dec 09: The colony
14 Nov 09: Women of The Rocks
10 Oct 09: History of Kent Brewery
5 Sep 09: Scandal, Crime & Corruption
15 Aug 09: Walk-Darling Harbour
11 Jul 09: Redfern Alexandria & Waterloo
06 Jun 09: Pubs & Publicans of Sydney
09 May 09 : C19th Sydney Firemen
18 Apr 09 : History of Darling Harbour
14 Mar 09: Bewitched!
Annual General Meeting 2009
Jan 2009 - Trade Hall
Past Events

JULY 2017

SATURDAY 8th July at 11:00am



COSHA members had a conducted tour of one of Sydney’s earliest churches, the original church was built by orders of the colony's first chaplain, the Reverend Richard Johnson, using convict labour in June 1793. The wattle and daub construction church was later burnt down by convicts in 1798. The current church is the second church building on Church Hill, and was designed by Edmund Blacket. It was built 1848-56. The Church contains interesting objects from the First Fleet onwards.



JUNE 2017

SATURDAY 10th June at 2.00pm

A bit of a tradition with us, each year we have some of our COSHA members presenting some of the stranger stories from our past. This year, once again we are looking forward to three different COSHA members presenting.


Phillip Black, Beryl Davis and Robert Hutchinson with their strange and probably true stories.

There was Q & A session after the speakers presented which was both entertaining and provoking.


MAY 2017


Interpreting the Great Strike at Eveleigh Workshops in 1917

Eveleigh Railway Workshops was a centre for one of Australia’s largest industrial conflicts in the early 20th century. Known as the Great Strike it is a great example of the voice of the people making sure that their voice is heard. The Great Strike began on 2nd August 1917 when the employees at Eveleigh and Randwick Tram Workshops downed tools in protest against new working conditions imposed during a time of war.
Laila Ellmoos told us about these troubled times and how these stories are being retold in photographs and other media at a special centenary exhibition at Carriageworks during July and August.

APRIL 2017




Peter Edwards is a member of Royal Australian Historical Society (RAHS) and also one of the earliest members of City of Sydney Historical Association. He was a committee member for several years, only resigning when he needed more time to finish his book. After many years of research, Peter Edwards has completed his book, The Convict Lottery.

The books has been reviewed by Christine Yeats, Senior Vice President of RAHS and a book note has been published in the March edition of the History magazine.



Frank Hurley: The Man Who Made History

Sydney photographer Frank Hurley captured the first images of Antarctic heroes, World Wars, phenomenal landscapes and mysterious natives in far away jungles, seizing the imagination of all who saw them.
His granddaughter Toni Hurley will tell us about the man regarded as a fearless explorer, master story-teller and creator of some of the most enduring and extraordinary images of the twentieth century.

MARCH 2017

A Very Rude Awakening

This year will mark the 75th anniversary of  the Japanese midget submarine raid on Sydney.  Three midget submarines crept into Sydney Harbour on 31 May 1942, determined to sink the American cruiser USS Chicago. However they didn’t get very far. This is a true but farcical story of what happened to the submarines, and worse, how we –the Australians and Americans- handled the situation.

It is the most amazing narrative of our closest brush with invasion .

Presented by Peter Grose, who is a former journalist, literary agent and publisher and has written several acclaimed books. 







Russell Workman is a professional photographer who worked at both the Nicholson Museum and the Department of Archaeology at the University for many years specialising in the photography of artefacts. He has taught TAFE courses but today he concentrates on heritage photography projects. This will be a brand new exhibition of Sydney heritage photography.





Hitler’s lost Spy










This is the remarkable story of the Swiss born Nazi spy, Annette Wagner who arrived in Sydney in March 1938 and departed Australia in February 1940.
Less than 4 months after arriving in Australia in 1938, she acquired espionage’s greatest communication asset — broadcasting her own programs on public radio to nationwide audiences — a secure channel for transmitting coded messages.
Overlooked in the National Archives for nearly seventy years, the story of the broadcasting spy may now be told. 
This is not just an academic study. Greg Clancy’s uncle knew Wagner and flew her to Newcastle, unaware she was taking aerial photographs of the city’s its steel works during the flight. 



SATURDAY 10 DECEMBER 2016 at 2.00pm

Governor Phillip: Sailor Mercenary, Governor Spy

Presented by Michael Pembroke - writer, naturalist and judge of the Supreme Court of NSW.

Having selected Botany Bay as the replacement for their former North American colonies and as the place to transport prisoners from Britain’s overcrowded gaols, they adopted a new enlightened attitude which would see New South Wales offer their convict population the opportunity to redeem themselves and become model settlers in a new land. In choosing Arthur Phillip to help plan and implement this new policy, history shows us that the British Government chose the right man.

Not only did he successfully lead the biggest and longest fleet transporting convicts through largely uncharted waters ever attempted to that time, but he did so with minimal loss of life due to his policies and practices to protect all concerned from the diseases normally endemic on long sea voyages.


SATURDAY 12 NOVEMBER 2016 at 2.00pm


This is a beautifully crafted and entertaining history of unexpected ‘firsts’ that have happened in Sydney. From the first use of ether by a dental surgeon, to Quong Tart’s first tea rooms, the book explores a number of people, places and events that have shaped our city today.

Written in witty short rhymes, we also learnt about the first pistol duel in 1788, the first cemetery in 1792 and the first traffic light in 1933. Towards the end there is a ‘second helpings’ section which elaborates more information on the stories explored in the book.

Hilary Bell is an Australian writer of stage, fiction, radio, screen, and theatre. Bell is a graduate of NIDA, the Australian Film Television and Radio School, and the Juilliard Playwrights’ Studio. She writes in many different areas including stage, fiction, radio, screen, and theatre.



SATURDAY October 8th, 2016 1:30pm



The razor gangs of Surry Hills and their female figureheads – Kate Leigh and Tilley Devine – have gained notoriety in 21st century popular culture as the epitome of Sydney’s organised crime. But local crims in Erskineville and Alexandria were equally notorious and violent. City Historian Lisa Murray shared some of her latest research on gambling, sly-grog and crime in the suburbs of Erskineville and Alexandria, drawing up the City’s oral history collection.


SATURDAY 10th September, 2016

Dr Catherine Bishop, Research Officer, Dean's Unit - School of Humanities & Comm Arts at the University of Western Sydney talked about:


There are few memorials to colonial businesswomen, but if you know where to look you can find many traces of their presence as you wander the streets of Sydney. From milliners anddressmakers to ironmongers and booksellers; from publicans and boarding-house keepers to butchers and taxidermists; from school teachers to ginger-beer manufacturers: these women have been hidden in the historical record but were visible to their contemporaries.
Catherine Bishop brought the stories of these entrepreneurial women to life, with fascinating details of their successes and failures, their determination and wilfulness, their achievements, their tragedies and the occasional juicy scandal. Until now we have imagined colonial women indoors as wives, and mothers, domestic servants or prostitutes.Her book sets them firmly out in the open.




SATURDAY 13th August 2016


Most Sydneysiders have no idea we have our very own ship’s graveyard in Homebush Bay. They were all abandoned at the end of their useful lives mostly in the 1970s and now adorn the landscape at what is now Wentworth Point. These wrecks are also a photographer’s dream come true. As well as the old ships there, many items of maritime structures still are clinging on the shoreline.

COSHA Committee Member Betty Candy heard about these wrecks and, with a camera, decided to investigate.




JULY 2016



To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Botanical Gardens COSHA arranged a guided tour for members and friends.
The Botanic Gardens were founded on this site by Governor Macquarie in 1816 as part of the Governor's Domain. Australia's long history of collection and study of plants began with the appointment of the first Colonial Botanist, Charles Fraser, in 1817. The Botanic Gardens is thus the oldest scientific institution in Australia and from the earliest days, has played a major role in the acclimatisation of plants from other regions





JUNE 2016

SATURDAY 11 JUNE 2016 AT 2.00 PM



Hail Storm Rose Bay 1942

One of televisions well known weathermen and enthusiastic historians Dick Whitaker wasable to draw on records of how the Sydney weather can become violent.

Major storms are not new to the east coast of Australia and the location of Sydney has placed it in the path of many of these displays of the destructive power of nature.


MAY 2016

SATURDAY 14th MAY 2016 AT 2.00 PM


From 1893, Lawrence Hargrave began investigations that led him to his second great invention of the box kite construction that lifted him from the beach at Stanwell Park, attached to the ground by piano wire. Much of the progress that led to manned flying machines can be traced to that event.
Michael Adams from the Lawrence Hargrave Society at Stanwell Park told his story

APRIL 2016



Governor Lachlan Macquarie was a major sponsor of exploration of the colony. After Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson's successful crossing of the Blue Mountains he ordered the establishment of Bathurst, Australia's first inland city. As the colony opened its horizons, Macquarie toured many of the new settlements with his wife Elizabeth.
Our speaker, Patrick Dodd has five decades of experience in education, training, public relations and tourism. Patrick is now busier than ever as a Volunteer Guide at the Australian National Maritime Museum on HM Bark Endeavour and a Volunteer Guide at the State Library of NSW.


MARCH 2016


‘The Refloating of the Endeavour from the Barrier Reef’

HMS Endeavour of the coast of New Holland, by Samuel Atkins c.1794

Far from help in 1770 and with the potential to destroy Cook’s and Banks’ voyage of discovery, the refloating and repair of the bark Endeavour was not only superb piece of seamanship but also a most significant event for the history of the settlement Australia by the British.
Drawing on the ship’s log, Cook’s journal and accounts from officers and scientists on board as well as the observations of modern historians, Researcher Carolyn Davey revealed the remarkable skill and courage the crew showed as they refloated their ship off the sharp coral.




‘The Anzac Brand, Battlefield innovations and the Engineers War’




Retired Police Inspector Don Eyb spoke about a Sydney favourite
‘ The Police Horses of Sydney’ .

The Police Horses of Sydney, little known to be the oldest continuous Mounted Police Unit in the world- their history, preparation and duties .They used to be on every busy city corner and today are still seen about a myriad of duties, usually at busy events when the crowds are most dense. They were also privileged to appear at the Queens Diamond Jubilee in 2012 with horse from her Household cavalry



Dr Delia Falconer, Senior Lecturer in Creative writing at UTS and a well known Australian author spoke about her new non-fiction book


This book is part of a series in which a prominent author writes about their home city. The aim has been to try to capture the city’s essence. Delia Falconer has captured the very thing that makes Sydney, Sydney. Tales of Sydney’s troubled history are woven with stories of poets, authors and artists, criminals and eccentrics as well as Falconer’s own personal recollections of growing up in McMahon’s Point in the 1960’s and 70’s.



2.00 PM SATURDAY 14th NOVEMBER, 2015


Phillip Black, Betty Candy, John Edwards and Trudy Holdsworth with their strange and probably true stories

With a Q&A session after the speakers had presented where members were involved in the event which was both entertaining and thought provoking.


SATURDAY 10th October, 2015
‘The Luck of the Irish’

The luck of the Irish was chronic bad luck, as their sad history attests. That's how it looked for 250 Irish convicts when their ship, the Hive, sank ignominiously off the New South Wales coast in 1835. Miraculously all survived, guided to safety by local Aboriginal people.
They landed at a time when the so-called slave colony was at its height, ruled by the lash and the chain gang. Yet as Babette Smith tracked the lives of the people aboard the Hive, she discovered a very different story. Most were assigned to work on farms or in businesses, building a better life than they possibly could have experienced in Ireland. Surprisingly, in the workforce they found power.
Babette Smith is one of Australia's most respected experts on convict history, and author of the bestselling Cargo of Women and Australia's Birthstain.

This talk followed our Annual General Meeting



SATURDAY 12 September, 2015
‘The Newtown Ejectment Case

The “Newtown Ejectment Case” was one of the Colony’s biggest court cases. It spanned 10 years and involved over 150 witnesses featuring some of the ‘who’s who’ of Sydney. It was eventually settled out of court by the payment of an unknown sum of money said to have been "considerable". Its precedents are cited in the landmark Mabo case. However, its main interest is the picture it gives of colonial Sydney, including the system that allowed assigned convicts to live away from their assigned places – and undertake other jobs – and the greed that outstripped good sense on the part of the purchasers (who became ‘the defendants’) who sniffed something amiss but went ahead and bought the land anyway.

The speaker Matt Murphy is Newtown’s fire chief and has a passion for history and Newtown’s colourful past.



SATURDAY 8th August, 2015

The Hassall Family 1798-2015 - Missionary Ship Duff

Missionary Ship "Duff"

In 1798 Rowland Hassall, his wife Elizabeth and three sons fled to Sydney from hostile natives in Tahiti where they had been sent from England as missionaries. They thrived in the new colony, preaching to the settlers, building their land holdings and producing a large family whose members include “the Galloping Parson” Thomas, a governess to Macquarie’s family and settlers of the new Bathurst and Mudgee areas. Their names can be found in the streets and parks of Parramatta, Windsor and Camden. Later generations spread across the country and helped develop New South Wales.

COSHA Committee Member, John Brooks is a sixth generation member of the Hassall family and will talk about the Hassalls and trace their fortunes from their origins in England to the present day.


JULY 2015

SATURDAY 11th July, 2015
“James Barnet: Colonial Architect of a Thousand Public Buildings”

Colonial Secretary's Building. Source:State Library of Victoria.

Barnet was Colonial Architect responsible for the building of several important public buildings: Colonial Secretary's Office, Public Works and Lands Buildings, Customs House, Public Library, the Medical School at the University of Sydney and the Callan Park Lunatic Asylum.
When the Duke of Edinburgh visited Sydney in 1868, Barnet was given charge of arrangements for the royal reception and in 1879 was responsible for the design and erection of the Sydney International Exhibition building on five acres of the Botanical Gardens. 
Donald Napper is Emeritus Professor and a past Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the College of Science and Technology at the University of Sydney.


JUNE 2015

SATURDAY 13th June, 2015

Callan Park. Source: Sydney Architecture Website. Sydney Architecture

The Rozelle Hospital site in Sydney’s inner west is 61 hectares of exceptionally beautiful, undulating waterfront parkland. The site incorporates many layers of archaeological, Aboriginal, historical, cultural, aesthetic, and environmental heritage. It contains many heritage buildings, including the original houses (1839 and 1842) of the two estates on which it is based; and the magnificent Kirkbride Block, completed in 1885 for the Callan Park psychiatric hospital is now the campus of Sydney College of the Arts.



MAY 2015


Kitten for Comfort - An Australian Nursing Sister on Lemnos 1915

Image: ‘A Gallipoli kitten and Mascot - Born in the trenches’ State Library of New South Wales – PXE 698

Sydney nursing sister Elizabeth McMillan’s letters from Lemnos are like a ‘voice-over’

for AW Savage’s 1915 photographs of the No 3 Australian General Hospital on Lemnos.

McMillan was one of over 2000 Australian trained nurses who served overseas during

the war. Compared with the medical men the nurses’ casualty rate was low but it has been

estimated that about twenty percent of the nurses returning in 1919 were unfit for further

active service. They were expected to pick up life as if nothing had happened but, just as

it was for the returning servicemen, life for the nurses was never the same again. Clare

Ashton puts McMillan’s letters together with Savage’s images to explore insights into the

lives of the First World War nurses.

Clare Ashton is one of the organisers of a voyage to Lemnos in September 2015 to

commemorate the ANZAC nurses in the Aegean in 1915. She is an Honorary Research

Associate at the University of Sydney’s Nursing School.


APRIL 2015

SATURDAY 11th April, 2015

Historian and weatherman Richard Whitaker tells us about


Image: A watercolour of the view from inside the walls painted by the long term inmate Louis Betrand in 1891. (from Wikipedia Commons)

From 1841 to 1914, Darlinghurst Gaol was Sydney’s main prison. It held both male

and female prisoners and reflected much of the penal philosophy of the time. Corporal

punishment (flogging) was common as were regular hangings that were held down the years,

including the execution of Louisa Collins – that last woman to be hanged in NSW.

After 73 years the old gaol closed its doors because of overcrowding and the impossibility

of expanding into the already built-out area of the surrounding suburb of Darlinghurst. The

existing prisoners were taken out to the new gaol at Long Bay.

Dick Whitaker looks at these long and sometimes turbulent times and shows what an important

part of Sydney history Darlinghurst Gaol represents.


MARCH 2015

SATURDAY 14th March, 2015


Author and historian, Mary Small describes how Lennie Gwyther, a nine-year-old

son of a farmer, rode his pony, Ginger Mick, 600 miles from Leongatha in the Gippsland

region of Victoria to Sydney to witness for himself the celebratory opening of the Harbour

Bridge on Saturday 19th March 1932.

During his journey, newspaper reports of his progress made him so famous that he was

invited to take part in the Grand Procession after the official opening The stuff of legends,

” Lennie's Ride” is the story based on family records of a remarkable young Australian.



SATURDAY 14 February 2015

Red Envelopes, Lucky Gifts

Gift-giving is a tradition in Asian countries in business, family life and during festive celebrations.

During Chinese New Year, the custom of giving and receiving ‘lucky’ envelopes brings good luck.

Gifts also play an important role in foreign diplomacy, where respect for the rules of exchange

and understanding cultural taboos are essential in avoiding embarrassment. The City of Sydney

has a fascinating collection of objects received as official gifts which reflect the unique arts, crafts

and cultural heritage of different parts of the world. The City’s Curator, Margaret Betteridge,

discussed some of the gifts presented to the City of Sydney’s Civic Collection.




A special event involving a panel of COSHA members telling us


A selection of the weirder stories from our past to be presented by members

Dr Shirley Fitzgerald

Celeste Radcliffe

Ken Hall

Tony Barker

These long standing members of COSHA have both presented historical talks and listened to many stories.

They are not sure whether we can believe everything that we hear. You can be the judge as they tell some of

the Taller Tales they have come across..

There will be a Q&A session after the speakers have presented so that other members of COSHA and their friends

can be involved in the event.


The Golden Star Milk Bar, Hay Street, Perth, WA, mid-1930s. 

Photo courtesy M. Coufos, from the In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians, National Project Archives, Macquarie University. 



SATURDAY 11th October 2014
Warren Fahey speaks and sings about ‘Sydney or the Bush’

After the Annual General Meeting at 1.30pm

Speaker commences at 2pm.

Warren Fahey is a cultural historian, writer and performer who uses song, poetry and humour to signpost aspects of Australian history.

Author of 30 books and countless recordings - his latest being 'The World Turned Upside-down - a social history of the gold rush era'.

He has received numerous honours including the Order of Australia, Prime Minister's Centennial Medal, Bush Laureate Award and, in 2012,

Australia's highest award for  service to music, The Don Banks Music Award. He prefers to say he is a graduate of the Dingo University of the Outback.

His latest project includes 7 films highlighting the history of Rookwood Cemetery. His talk for the COSHA - 'Sydney Or The Bush' - will look at various

aspects of 'curious' bush and city history illustrated by folk songs and stories


Saturday September 13th
Horrors of Anzac -Aftermath laid bare

Dr Bruce Scates from Monash University spoke to us of new digitised records that will change the way we

think of the Great War.

To mark the Centenary of 1914-18 the governments of Australia and New

Zealand have digitised a sample of repatriation records-medical, pension and correspondence files

dealing with the men and women who returned from WW1.
Initially the digitisation centres on the first contingent of Anzac forces to sail from Albany in 1914.

Unusually the records will let us hear the voices of the wives and families whose lives were also

changed by the trauma of the men who enlisted in the Great War. This is a very wasat what

happened after the War to end all Wars.


Saturday August 9th

Coast: A History of the New South Wales Edge

In August 2013 North Sydney historian Dr Ian Hoskins, spoke to us about changes of Sydney Harbour.

Now he takes us further afield in his new book that looks from Eden to Byron Bay. The New South Wales

coast is more than 2000 kilometres long with 130 estuaries, 100 coastal lakes and a rich history.

This, the first history written of the New South Wales coast, traces our relationship with this stretch of land

and sea starting millennia ago when Aboriginal people feasted on shellfish and perfected the art of building

bark canoes, to our present obsession with the beach as a place to live or holiday

JULY 2014
Saturday July 12th

‘The Mystery of the Greycliffe/Tahiti Disaster ‘

Nicole Cama, a Curatorial Assistant at the National Maritime Museum, will tell us about one of the great

mysteries of Sydney Harbour. On 3 November 1927, the Union Steamship Company’s RMS Tahiti collided

with the Watsons Bay ferry Greycliffe off Bradley’s Head. It became known as Sydney’s worst maritime

disaster and etched itself into the minds of those who witnessed scenes of ‘indescribable horror’ on the

harbour on that sunny afternoon. That day in Sydney Harbour, 40 people lost their lives and a whole city

was brought to a standstill.

JUNE 2014


"The Fall of Sydney's Department Stores" by Michael Lech

At our 2012 Annual General Meeting we heard from Michael Lech, Curator of the Caroline Chisholm

Museum, about the rise of Sydney’s Department Stores. Now for the other half of the story as he traces

the decline of some of the vast retail organisations that have been taken over, merged, moved interstate

or simply disappeared as businesses.Changes in social behaviour, growth of suburban shopping, consumer

preferences and technology, the emergence of large shopping centres, all have changed the way that we

shop and the retailers that serve our needs.

MAY 2014


“Matthew Flinders, Indomitable Explorer” by Paul Brunton

Even today in the age of satellite navigation and advanced communication the voyages of
Matthew Flinders would not be undertaken by the faint hearted. When Matthew Flinders
arrived in Sydney the coastline was largely unexplored. In 1796 Flinders set about
exploring the coastline firstly around Sydney in a tiny open boat called “Tom Thumb.” He
followed this by circumnavigating Tasmania and charting the entire coastline of Australia.

Paul Brunton, Senior Curator at the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
will take us on a remarkable journey spanning the 20 year career of Matthew Flinders.