by Rodney Hammett, 1 August 2020

Neighbours Sarah Peninton and Doris Flanagan living respectively at No 13 and No 11 Bridge Rd were partners in crime when hauled before the Magistrate at the Glebe Court on Tuesday 3 September 1929.1

On an afternoon in August, both women were accused of having used insulting words, from their balconies, to labourers on their way home from George Hudson’s Glebe timber yards during the 1929 Timber Strike. Nos 11 & 13 Bridge Rd still exist today; they were close to the Hudson’s site which is now occupied by the Sydney Secondary College. Sarah and Doris were convicted and bound over for 12 months.

The Courts weren’t as forgiving to 19-year-old machinist Sydney Arthur Henry Cuthbert for having used insulting words to a crane driver during the same strike. He was fined £3, with 5 shillings witness’ expenses, the option being 21 days’ hard labour.

The plaque at Sarah Peninton Reserve (photo: by Rodney Hammett)

Sarah’s exploits are remembered with the naming of the Sarah Peninton Reserve and the plaque beside Bayview St, Glebe, near the Glebe tram stop.

\Doris’ story has however largely gone unreported – until now.

Doris Adelaide Aitken, the sixth of eight children, was born in Paddington in 1890 to parents Duncan and Annie Crawford. She married Hugh Flanagan (b 1885) in 1909. Her father was a slater, no doubt working on the Paddington terraces still existing today. Older brother Wilfred, a slater, and Doris’ husband Hugh, a wood machinist, both enlisted for WW1 in 1915 then fortunately both returned in 1919. Hugh suffered a gunshot wound to his back while fighting in France in 1917 which must have troubled him for the rest of his life.

(image: Rodney Hammett)

After the war Hugh most likely returned to work at the George Hudson complex beside Blackwattle Bay and was therefore on strike when Doris had a few colourful words to say to the strike-breakers.

Doris and Hugh had three children, Leonard (1910-1954), Doris Lilian (1912-?) and Mavis (1914-1994). They rented numerous houses in Glebe; 15 Cowper St (1910), 6 Queen St (1915), 10 Taylor St (1920-1927), 11 Bridge St (1928-1931) then at 58 Talfourd St from 1932 until Hugh died in 1946 with Doris last being recorded there in 1954.2 What happened to Doris after 1954 is unknown.

Of the children, Leonard was a troubled man, not helped by his WW2 experiences between 1942 and 1945. Nothing definitive has been found of Doris Lilian following her marriage to Charles Robert Stewart at St John’s Church; on 20 April 1935.

In Glebe in 1939, Mavis married Scotsman Watson Rennie. He had arrived as a three-year-old with his parents in 1914. Enlisting for WW2 in July 1942, Watson became a captain in the Army, and remained a soldier until 1958. After his military career he became an electrician. The family settled in the Gosford area, where Watson died aged 78 in 1989. Mavis lived until 1994 when she died aged 80. Both are buried at the Palmdale Lawn Cemetery on the Central Coast.

Sarah Ellen Peninton (née Farley) had married Benjamin Peninton in Glebe in 1907. She was the eighth of nine children to Phillip and Elizabeth (née Callaghan). Sarah, born in 1882, was a Glebe girl, her father one of the numerous carriers living in the suburb.

Benjamin came from a Glebe family, too. His father, Christopher (1861-1896), was born in Sydney while mother Margaret Byrnes (1863-1902) hailed from County Clare in Ireland. It seems Benjamin’s grandfather Reuben had been transported to Tasmania in 1832 as a 13-year-old for stealing two silver tea-spoons; he later became a stonemason in NSW.3

Benjamin and Sarah had a son in 1910 who unfortunately only lived five days. Joan (1912-1996) followed, then Phyllis (1913-1976) and Margaret (1915-1987). Benjamin was a carter, possibly working with his father-in-law, Phillip.

Moving from 13 Bridge Rd in the late 1930s the family lived at 112 St Johns Rd where Benjamin died in 1947 aged 67 and Sarah at the age of 70 in 1952. Both are buried at Rookwood Cemetery, Benjamin in the Anglican section and surprisingly (maybe) Sarah in the Catholic section.

Rodney Hammett

[1] Sydney Morning Herald 4 September 1929 p.11 [Timber Strike Cases]; 2 Sands Directories & Electoral Rolls. 3 family trees.

Another view of Sarah Peninton Reserve (photo: Rodney Hammett)