City of Sydney Historical Association
COSHA
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
13th August 2011: Tom Wentworth Wills –Visionary Sportsman

On Saturday 13 August 2011, Greg de Moore spoke passionately to COSHA about his research into one of Australia’s least known sporting heroes, Tom Wills.

Greg de Moore is a consulting psychiatrist at Westmead and Blacktown hospitals and his biography Tom Wills: His Spectacular Rise and Tragic Fall (Allen and Unwin) was short-listed for the National Biography Award.


Wills was born in NSW, near Queanbeyan. The year was 1835. His father was editor of the Sydney Gazette; his mother raised and schooled in western Sydney. At the age of four, Wills and his family travelled to Victoria. There, growing up with the Djabwurrung Aborigines in the Grampians, he played their games and learnt their language. A lone white boy within Aboriginal clans, he earned their affection. Wills' father wished his son to become a lawyer, a statesman. With ambitious designs, he packed his 14-year-old son off to Rugby School in England. At Rugby, Tom absorbed the rules of the school's winter game: hundreds of boys shoving and kicking a football towards H-shaped goals. It was also whispered that in Wills, England was seeing the emergence of a brilliant young cricketer.

At the age of 21, Wills returned to Australia. If you can imagine a young man with the looks of Errol Flynn and skills of Ricky Ponting, then you'll understand his impact.

Wills dashingly strode on to the Melbourne Cricket Ground, handsome to a fault and with a physique that made women swoon. This was the man the colonies had heard about. The man who could bowl and bat like no other; who quoted Hamlet in his letters to the press. He and other young Turks wrote the first rules of what would become Australian Rules football. But it was on the cricket field that he was best known. Everyone wanted Wills.

But one event was to crush his spirit. In 1861, Wills' father left Victoria and bought a new property in central Queensland, not far from modern-day Springsure. Wills travelled with his father, along with more than 20 Victorian settlers, to this new land. Then, on the afternoon of October 17,1861, local Aborigines on Kairi land attacked and killed 19 white settlers. Among them was Wills' father. Fortuitously, Wills was away from the campsite. When he returned, several days later, the dead were already buried. It was the single biggest killing of white settlers in this country's history. The retribution, murky in details, surely killed hundreds of Aborigines.

In the shadow of his father's death, Wills undertook what I regard as the most significant act in Australian sporting history. He captained and coached an Aboriginal cricket team from western Victoria. This troupe, with Wills as its visible figurehead, travelled around Victoria and NSW. In Sydney, their base was Manly Beach. The team travelled to Newcastle, Wollongong, Campbelltown and stopped to played a team from Parramatta. The locals won by four runs. This tour was one of the first great acts of reconciliation between black and white.

But the life of a cricketer was not easy. It was a time when cricketers openly drank alcohol for breakfast and dashed from the field for a splash of liquor. In Australia the favourite drink was iced claret under the hot sun of Melbourne and Sydney. Sadly, almost predictably, Wills' life ended violently. In 1880, at the relatively young age of 44, Wills, now an alcoholic, stabbed himself in the heart.