During the recent re-organisation of the R&DHS library, many interesting finds were made. ‘BY THE BUNNERONG LIGHTS’ by Allan Bartlet, an autobiography, dedicated to his parents Leslie James and Elizabeth Bartlet, was one of these.
The five volumes cover incidents that had happened to the family during the period before, during and after the Great Depression. (1929-1939).
Allan had nine brothers and two sisters, and they all contributed stories to the autobiography. The stories give an insight into living conditions and how poorer people of the time made some money.
The family moved house many times but they were never far from the Bunnerong Electric Power Station. They were amongst early residents of Matraville, Mascot, Botany and other suburbs. Some of the children went to school at the Perry Street Convent at Matraville.
He mentions places that no longer exist, such as Bushgrove Hill on the outskirts of Matraville, Frog Hollow at Botany, Springvale and Brand a small village opposite the Long Bay Jailhouse.
Other stories make reference to the Chinese Market Gardens, various hotels, tanneries, the Woolwash Mill, the Paper Mill, horse breaking and racing, fishing, brickworks and more.
The story is as much a social history of the local area as it is an autobiography.
Fiona Archinal, R&DHS Librarian.