Hilda Booler (photo courtesy of the Booler Family)
Hilda Booler (photo courtesy of the Booler Family)

Hilda Booler (1900 – 84) lived for 44 years at 12 Ferry Road.  Her son Des (1928 – 67) lived there all his life. 

Both are commemorated locally.  The Hilda Booler Kindergarten in Jubilee Park was established in 1965 when Des was Chairman of the Sydney City Council’s Health and Recreation Committee and the Booler Centre in Camperdown was opened by Sydney

Lord Mayor Doug Sutherland after Des’s death.  Hilda’s grandson Bradley was one of the kindergarten’s first pupils and eleven members of Hilda’s family attended the opening of the community centre.

Hilda Margaret Alleyn was of Irish ancestry.  Her great-great-grandfather was Sir John Hyde of Creg Castle in County Cork.  Her grandfather, William Placid Alleyn (1833 – 1907), was born in Limerick and her grandmother Bridget McNamara (1833 – 1906) in Tipperary.  After migrating to Australia the couple were married in Sydney’s original St Mary’s Cathedral in 1853. 

By 1863 William had set up business as a butcher in Broughton Street and by 1871 he was established in St Johns Road near Ross Street in a fine building (now demolished) featuring his name on the facade.  His neighbour for many years was James Flutter, a carpenter turned boat builder and steam joinery proprietor.  Soon William owned several butcher shops in the district.  He and his assistant Tom also sold meat from a horsedrawn cart which did a daily round supplying the locals with small orders of mutton and beef, chopped to order on the spot.  To discourage the hordes of flies which accompanied the cart its floor and the carcasses of meat were strewn with eucalyptus branches.  By 1893 William had sold his St Johns Road butchery and opened a grocery next door.

Bridget and William had seven children of whom three survived infancy.  Julia, the eldest, married Tom Brady, an Irishman who owned a bus company in Marrickville.  Ellen Teresa married M J Conlon and moved to 20 Broughton Street.  The youngest, William John Alleyn (1869 – 1937), lived all his life in Glebe.  He was Hilda’s father, marrying Margaret Clare Riach (1872 – 1943) in 1894.

Between 1895 and 1910 Margaret and William had seven children; Eileen, Mary (known as ‘Mollie’), Hilda, Dorothy, Bridget, John Placid and William Hyde.  The family moved house frequently within the suburb (68 St Johns Road, 28 St Johns Road, 87 Campbell Street, 145 Bridge Road, 94 Derwent Street, 10 Water Street, 44 Denman Street, 30 St Johns Road, 24 Avon Street, 67 Lombard Street, 17

Hereford Street and 26 Hereford Street).  Other extended family members also made Glebe their home for many years; the Dickensons at 78 Forsyth Street, the Walkers in Mitchell Street and the Conlons at 69 Glebe Street.  Hilda’s sister Eileen and husband Bernard Gale were long-term residents of Avona Avenue.  (Their son Kevin edited the Glebe Observer and became secretary of the Toxteth Progress Association.)

In a district where Protestants were politically dominant, the Alleyns were staunch Catholics and pro-Labor.  In 1911 and 1917 William junior stood as a Labor candidate for election to Glebe Council, finally gaining success in the 1920s when his cousin Bill Walsh was Mayor.  During World

War 1 he was assistant treasurer with the Glebe Local Distress Society which gave ‘relief to the necessitous poor of the district’, raising funds through activities such as a street carnival, euchre party, vaudeville concert, and a football match and a picture show at Wentworth Park.  (Tom Keegan MLA, Catholic and Labor, was the Society’s president.)  A member of the St Vincent de Paul Society for more than 50 years, Bill Alleyn was reputed to be the first altar boy to serve mass at St James’ Church.  He was a bus driver and storeman before working at the Eveleigh railway workshops.

Please let me know if you live in one of the many houses  once occupied by a  member of the Booler family.  

Educated at St James’, Hilda travelled by tram with Eileen to Marrickville in the school holidays to deliver lunches to the bus drivers employed by their uncle, Tom Brady.  After leaving school Hilda was employed as a seamstress by Grace Brothers, making frocks for country customers.  Of her siblings, Dorothy – later a nun – worked as a dressmaker, Eileen and Mollie were saleswomen and Bridget was a clerk.  John, a first-grade rugby player who represented NSW in cricket in 1929, was an electrical fitter and saw active service with the army from 1940 to 1944.  William died at age 28.

In 1925 Hilda married Harold Booler, a sheet metal worker.  They lived at 67 Lombard Street before moving four years later to 12 Ferry Road where they raised four daughters and two sons (one baby died when 10 days old).  Hilda also took in a three-yearold whose mother asked her to mind him ‘for a few days’.  The toddler, Lennie, finally left when he was 15, with ambitions to become a jockey.  

Hilda did nearly all her shopping on Glebe Point Road near her home.  On the corner of Ferry Road was Jones’s grocery run by three bachelors and their sister who sold just about everything including wine bottled from casks.  At 6pm (liquor law ‘closing time’) the bottles were covered over.  Next door was a ham and beef shop run by Bill Beasley.  Next door again was Dawson’s fruit shop, then a boot maker, and a private library.  

On Saturdays Hilda and her mother travelled by tram into town to go to the movies.  The Boolers watched the Astor cinema, now the Valhalla, being built and saw air raid trenches being dug nearby during World War 11.

Hilda’s mother Margaret attended the Children’s Court regularly on Mondays and arranged for girls in trouble to be cared for by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan at St Magdalene’s Retreat, Tempe.  She was also a foundation member of the Catholic Women’s Association and president of the Charity Branch Sewing Guild.  At her funeral the St James’ School guard of honour included 16 of her grandchildren.

Hilda’s sister Mollie was involved with the Children of Mary Sodality and the Legion of Mary, while Dorothy became Sister Mary Phillipa with the Little Company of Mary, the ‘Blue Sisters’ who ran Lewisham Hospital.  The Booler children were educated at St James’ and Hilda made ties for the uniforms of all the students.  The family doctor was Horace Foley, a Catholic and a prominent member of the ALP who practised for decades at 202 Glebe Point Road.  Sometimes the Boolers saw another Catholic doctor, Eddie Armstrong, at number 222. 

Frequent visitors to the Booler household included Federal MHR Jack Beasley who lived at 27 Allen Street and who became a member of John Curtin’s war cabinet; Tom Keegan whose career as a State parliamentarian lasted from 1910 to 1935; and local shopkeeper Bill Beasley who in 1956 staged a dramatic walkout of ALP members from Glebe Town Hall to form the Glebe branch of the DLP (its first meetings were held in his home, Toxteth Lodge).

The most active politically of Hilda’s children was Des who, while immobilised for two years in RPA Hospital following a childhood accident, read widely and was largely self-educated.  Afterwards he remained arthritic and used a walking stick.  He first stood for public office at age 22, his mentor being Dan Minogue (for whom Des named Minogue Crescent).  While Secretary of the Glebe North Branch of the ALP, Des became a City Council alderman in 1962 and was remember of the Leather & Allied Trades’ Employees’ Federation and senior vice-president of the Glebe Police Citizens’ Boys Club.  Following a requiem mass at St James’ his funeral procession was given a police motor-cycle escort to the Northern Suburbs Cemetery. 

Hilda Booler died in 1984 at her daughter Mary’s home in Baulkham Hills where she had moved after Harold’s death some ten years earlier.