In my box of family photographs is a small blue silver edged invitation to the Diamond Wedding Anniversary of Mr and Mrs H.A. Wood on Wednesday 30th September 1952, at their home, Margaretta Cottage, Glebe Point. I met my great grandparents only that once, however vivid in my memory is jumping and sliding on the magnificent wooden staircase with my cousins while my great grandparents, both silver-haired, cut the cake decorated with a diamond ring. Great grandfather looked on rather disapprovingly at the youngsters frolicking on the stairs.
Henry and Emily Wood were married in Luton, England 1892 and had two children, Hilda and Frederick Henry (my grandfather), born 9 August, 1895 at Luton in the Sub-District of Nottingham South West, England. The family sailed for Sydney in 1900 in a Third Class berth on the Orient Liner Oruba and settled at Margaretta Cottage, 6 Leichardt St, Glebe Point. Hilda and Frederick Henry were followed by two boys, Sydney and Sydney Newton, neither surviving, then Florence, Herbert, Louisa (“Louie”), twins Reginald and “Dolly”, Harry, Arthur and Rosa (possibly Rosetta after Henry Alfred’s mother). Rosa was born in 1915 while Frederick, my grandfather, was at Gallipoli.
My grandparents’ marriage certificate dated 24 February, 1917, states Henry Alfred Wood’s Rank or Profession as Hat Manufacturer. My Aunty Sylvia remembers visiting the cottage as a child, with her mother, Ethel (“Gert”) Wood, entering via the back lane, never by the front entrance. Henry and Emily conducted a Millinery business in the stables behind the house and my grandmother always encouraged Sylvia to be polite and perhaps she might be given a new bonnet. Young Sylvia only once went onto the front lawn. She would sit for morning tea at the table of a rather large kitchen where the family would eat. A photograph of Fred and Gert’s three boys, Allan, Harry, and my father Fred Wood, was taken in 1928 in the front garden of the cottage.
My father, Frederick Wood (Jnr), who died in 1993 told me that Henry Wood stood for election, most probably for the Conservative Party. He was a prominent businessman and a member of Tattersall’s Club in Sydney. During the War (WWII) he would entertain his son and grandsons at Tattersall’s. My father also reported that Henry had race horses that my grandfather trained hence his successfully enlisting in the Light Horse.
Young Fred worked as an apprentice cabinet maker for Heath & Company at Alexandria, Sydney. The boys at Heaths purchased lunch from a Vine’s grocer’s shop in Belmont St where Fred met Ethel Gertrude (“Gert”) Vine. Two weeks after his nineteenth birthday, my grandfather left home at Margaretta Cottage to enlist in the 1st Light Horse Regiment on 24 August, 1914. The Regiment was commanded by Colonel Hugh Venables Vernon, grandfather of Katharine Vernon of Glebe. I once asked my grandmother “How did you meet Pop?” She laughed and replied: “He courted me by riding out in full uniform to my father’s shop. I laughed as he reared his horse up in front of me. He was always such a larrikin.” … first entry in Frederick Henry Wood’s Service Record is 24 August, 1914 – “10 days Detention”.
Also in the 1st L.H. Regiment Machine Gun Section was 34 year old Trooper Arthur Ernest Coulter, from Forbes, NSW who later married Hilda Wood, and also 26 year old George Herbert (Herb) Puckett from Yass, NSW. Whilst serving at Pope’s Post, on the Gallipoli Peninsula the 1st L.H. Regiment was called to form a Valley night patrol in the Monash
Valley North (N.Z. Valley). Sharpshooters worked in pairs – one observing and one shooting. In the early hours of 1 June, 1915, one shot rang out and both my grandfather and his mate Herb fell with gunshot wounds; Herb in the right elbow and Fred in the right thigh. Fred was invalided to Glymenopoulos Hospital at Alexandria and embarked for Australia on H.T. Euripides, arriving back at Margaretta Cottage 1 October, 1915. He was discharged Medically Unfit on 27 November, 1915.
In November 1941 my grandfather enlisted first in the Garrison Battalion and then, after being accused of taking the ‘soft’ option, in the 12th Australian Water Transport Operating Company, putting his age down to serve together with his four sons. All five came home.
Henry Alfred and Emily Wood died around 1956 and Rosa, who lived with them, inherited Margaretta Cottage. She continued the Millinery business and took on boarders. The house was then sold in the mid – late 1960s, to Dr Vincent Sheppard. In 1973, a year after my grandfather died, my grandmother gave me directions to Margaretta Cottage and I found the house at 6 Leichardt Street, secluded behind a tall hedge. In 2010 I discovered that the annual Glebe Music Festival was conducted at Margaretta Cottage. Eager to be able to visit the house that had been so pivotal in my family, I contacted Dr E. David McIntosh, finding that David was indeed the owner. Together with my niece Amity, I was invited to be his guest at the Music Festival in 2010. Some 58 years later, I was once again able to stand (not frolic!) on the staircase and to visit the bottom storey rooms and the stables.
What began with Henry Alfred Wood and Emily Gardner now amasses to close to a thousand descendants whose lives have been enriched through a heritage of courage and strength, tempered with humour and a selflessness and commitment to fight for freedom and to stand by a mate.
– Anne Flood