Miss Carey’s Little Park

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© Jim Low 2016


Park sign

My childhood at North Sydney took place in post-War Australia of the 1950s. Thankfully I still have many fond memories of not only the district but also the people I met there.

I lived with my family in Ulleswater, a large, rambling house that dates back to the nineteenth century. In the 1920s it was converted into flats. A significant landmark of a previous era, it overlooks Milson Park.

Milson Park was a very convenient place for me to play with my brother and our friends. It is a large, formally designed and attractive park. In my day, it had a good range of mostly sturdy, metal playground equipment. It was bordered on one side by an open, concrete, storm water channel which was too irresistible for us not to explore. The park is also part of the Sydney Harbour foreshore, meeting the waters of Careening Cove with a fenceless, stone sea wall. Despite the obvious dangers posed by this park from a twenty-first century disposition, parents appeared unperturbed. They seemed comfortable allowing their children to play in the park unsupervised. I spent a lot of time playing there, as did other children of the district. Hide and seek, cowboys and indians, soldiers, cricket, boats, chasings and the like were some of the childhood activities we played.

At the end of Bradley's Avenue, which borders one side of Milson Park, there is another park. It nestles on an embankment above the avenue. This park is a much smaller one and its official name now is The Miss Gladys Carey Reserve. It can be accessed by either steps or a pathway from the avenue.

When I lived at North Sydney Miss Gladys Carey resided with her eldest sister Hilda in my street. I lived at 107 and they lived at 129 High Street.

Gladys Carey was born in London, England in 1881 to Edward and Fanny (nee Prebble) Carey. Her sister Hilda was the eldest sibling, born in Bologne, France in 1878.

The family sailed from the port of London to Australia as unassisted passengers on the steamship Sorata in November 1882, arriving in Sydney on 20 January1883. Along with her mother and sister Hilda who was four, she emigrated with an older brother Edward, age two and a younger sister Emily, age one. Gladys was one and a half years old when she arrived in Australia. The family were accompanied by Emily Holt, a twenty six year old who had been with the Carey family for at least two years as a cook and domestic servant. Mrs Fanny Carey's younger sister, twenty two year old Blanche Prebble, also emigrated with the family.

The reason for their emigration to Australia is still a mystery to me. Surprisingly, and indeed sadly, there is no record of their father coming with them. Just what happened to him is another mystery.

Travelling with such very young children to the other side of the world appears a very courageous and determined act by this young twenty six year old mother. This seems even more so when we learn that Fanny Carey was pregnant when she left England and she had already given birth to Emily that same year. On 3 March, just over a month after their arrival, Mrs Carey gave birth to another daughter whom she named Blanche. The birth was at the family's residence in Falcon Street, then included in the suburb of St Leonards NSW. They lived there at least until 1886.

In May 1888, the centenary year of European settlement in Australia, Mrs Carey sought tenders on the excavation and removal of earth and stone on land in the Southern Highland township of Bowral. The family moved into their new weather board home in Oxley Street, on the foothill of Mount Gibraltar, later that year. Mrs Carey named the home Norwood, apparently after the old London parish name from where her husband came.

The children attended the Superior Public School in Bowral. The large grounds surrounding their home and the close proximity to Mt Gibraltar would have provided the children with plenty of places to explore and play. Gladys's obvious love, shown throughout her life, for the outdoors and the natural world was more than likely to have been nurtured there.

Mrs Carey's sister Blanche also moved with the family to Bowral and with Fanny became 'leading residents of the district'.

OUR DARLINGIn 1895 the youngest child Blanche sadly died of pneumonia. The only family member born in Australia, she was just twelve years old. Only a week before her death, the family had celebrated the news of Hilda's academic achievements at Willandra in Ryde, where Miss Ellen Pye conducted Rydalmount, a private boarding and day school for girls.

Both Gladys and Hilda Carey had careers in the teaching profession. Gladys graduated from the Free Kindergarten Training College in Sydney. In October 1901 she was placed in charge of the new Free Kindergarten School in Bowral. This was the first Free Kindergarten school established outside Sydney. When a new schoolroom was built in 1902 Gladys' "pretty flower-bedecked room, and clever drawings displayed on tho walls" were admired by those who attended the opening.

When their brother Edward married Amy Caunt at St James Church, Sydney in April 1904, he was described as the only son of the late Edward Carey, England. This is the first documented reference to their father being deceased that I have so far discovered. When and where he died is still a mystery. Their sister Emily married Arthur John Debenham in Sydney in May 1910.

At the beginning of March 1917, Mrs Carey's household furniture and effects were auctioned at Norwood. Gladys and her mother left Bowral and moved to the Blue Mountains. Gladys' teaching career was cut short so that she could care full time for her mother. They lived at Arlington, in Walgett Street, Katoomba. The rear of the Carrington Hotel with its large chimney can be clearly seen from the home. High on a ridge, they had expansive, mountain views. Whether the move to the Blue Mountains was made in the interest of Mrs Carey's health is unclear. They resided at Katoomba until August 1937 when Fanny Mary Carey died. By then Gladys had been looking after her mother for 19 years.

Norwood
Norwood today

During her life, Fanny Carey gave generously to a variety of causes, including the Belgium Relief Fund in 1915, the Second Peace Loan in 1920 where she subscribed a thousand pounds, as well as many other local causes.

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