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Image credit: Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Corps During "Smoko" at Chowder Bay (1945). Australian War Memorial Collection (089236.)

Historical people

Want to meet some of the historical figures associated with our beloved destinations on Sydney Harbour? 

Check out our library of articles, below, introducing you to famous, infamous and obscure individuals (as well as a few contemporary personalities). These include Captain Thunderbolt, Lachlan Macquarie, Bungaree, Mary Gould… and many more! 

Written by passionate volunteer researchers, the articles include comprehensive biographies and entertaining yarns. Some are informed by folk stories, tall tales and hearsay. Others draw on archival newspapers and reliable, first-hand accounts. Enjoy!

Georges Heights
Camilla Hildegarde Wedgwood: Pioneering academic

In this article, volunteer researcher, Michele Harper details Wedgewood’s career, including her advocacy for social justice and her work with the Australia School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) – a former tertiary institution on Sydney Harbour that operated on land that is today managed by the Harbour Trust. 

Sub Base Platypus
Commander Sandy Coulson CSM RAN rtd: A trailblazer for women in the Navy

Commander Sandy Coulson CSM RAN rtd was a trailblazer for women in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), achieving many firsts. Notably, she was the first female Executive Officer of the RAN submarine base HMAS Platypus (now known as Sub Base Platypus) in North Sydney. Further, she was the first female member of the Directing Staff for the RAN Staff College when it operated out of HMAS Penguin at Balmain.

Georges Heights
Richard Leplastrier: Acclaimed Australian Architect

Professor Richard Leplastrier is an acclaimed Australian architect with a distinct architectural style that melds tradition and innovation. In this article, Volunteer researcher Reto Oechslin, delves into Leplastrier's early career, award-winning designs – including Georges Head Lookout at Georges Heights, Mosman – and his lasting passion for preserving Australian architectural heritage.

North Head Sanctuary
John Kinsela: Indigenous wrestler, Olympian and veteran.

From a young age, John Kinsela OAM – a proud Wiradjuri and Jawoyn descendent – showed immense talent in wrestling and went on to represent Australia in two Olympics. However, his journey didn’t end there. In this article, volunteer researcher, Michele Harper, details Kinsela’s decorated career as a Vietnam veteran training at North Head in Manly as well as his remarkable passion for social justice with the youth community.

Cockatoo Island
Sir Charles Augustus FitzRoy: The Influential Governor of New South Wales

Sir Charles FitzRoy was a prominent figure in New South Wales during a time of rapid transformation. From his early military achievements to his appointment as Governor-in-Chief, FitzRoy faced significant challenges. Volunteer researcher Michele Harper delves into the conflicts Fitzroy faced, his popularity as a governor, the tragic events and scandals that marked his tenure and a historic landmark that speaks to his enduring legacy: Fitzroy Dock at Cockatoo Island.

Cockatoo Island
Julian James King-Salter: The controversial dockyard boss

Captain Julian James King-Salter’s six-year tenure as General Manager of Cockatoo Island’s Naval Dockyard was fraught with difficulties. According to volunteer researcher, Michele Harper, while the naval engineer’s management style faced criticism – and he contended with industrial unrest amongst his workers – the island’s shipbuilding and ship repair programme was a success under his leadership, with several vessels launched.

Woolwich Dock and Parklands
Thomas Sutcliffe Mort: A Pioneer of Australian Industry

Thomas Sutcliffe Mort was one of Australia’s most successful businessmen during the 19th century, rising to prominence within a decade of his arrival in the colony. In this article, volunteer researcher Michele Harper details the life and career of the enterprising British expat, including his role in establishing Australia's largest dry dock, Woolwich Dock.

Georges Heights
Colonel Barbara Maxwell: Last director of the WRAAC

Colonel Barbara Maxwell served with the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps (RAANC) and the Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps (WRAAC), including at Georges Heights in Mosman, during a time of great social change for women in Australia. In this article, Michele Harper – a volunteer researcher with the Harbour Trust – charts Maxwell’s rise through the ranks of the WRAAC to become the organisation’s fourth (and final) director by the late 1970s.

Macquarie Lighstation
Governor Lachlan Macquarie: Nation builder

In 1810, a humble Scottish soldier by the name of Lachlan Macquarie ended a rebellion and became the fifth Governor of New South Wales in Australia – a role he held for more than a decade. In this article, volunteer researcher, Michele Harper considers Governor Macquarie's reputation as a nation builder and details his achievements, including the eradication of corruption, the implementation of societal improvement policies and the advocacy for emancipists.