Each DigiTale has been written to inform people about someone famous, infamous or obscure. As we publish new articles, you’ll get to know a colourful line-up of true-life characters, including Lachlan Macquarie, Captain Thunderbolt, Bungaree, Charles Ormsby... and countless others!
You’ll also discover the distinctive voices of the passionate history buffs and writers within our volunteer team. Above all else, DigiTales are meant to be entertaining yarns. Some are informed by folk stories, tall tales and hearsay. Others draw on archival newspapers and reliable first-hand accounts. Whatever the case may be… we hope you enjoy them!
One of the names inscribed on the Australian Memorial Walk at North Head Sanctuary is that of Andy Young, a veteran of World War I and II. Harbour Trust volunteer, Andrew M, commemorates – and reveals his connection to – the decorated serviceman, who experienced war first hand before he had reached adulthood.
During his nearly three-decade tenure as the Colonial Architect of NSW (1862 to 1890), James Barnet dominated pre-federation architecture. Volunteer researcher Michele Harper canvasses the career of the tireless public servant including his design work on Macquarie Lighthouse and the other buildings that speak to his enduring legacy.
The former Marine Biological Station at Camp Cove was built as a place for Russian expat Nicholas Maclay to study marine life. Now protected by the Harbour Trust, the sandstone cottage is a monument to the celebrated Russian polymath and humanist. Volunteer researcher Michele Harper celebrates his remarkable life, including his contributions to science and society, globally.
As the old saying goes, ‘behind every great man is a great woman’. According to Harbour Trust volunteer Karyn Johnson, however, Worimi woman Mary Ann Bugg was always a few steps ahead of her celebrated husband: Fredrick Ward, the bushranger and escaped convict better known as Captain Thunderbolt.
During his nearly two-decade reign as Cockatoo Island’s Superintendent (1841 to 1859), Charles Ormsby gained a reputation for his willingness to bend the prison system to his will. Volunteer researcher Michele Harper canvasses the colourful life of the controversial, convict era figure.
At one time stationed at North Fort in Manly, Don Donkin MBE (1929 to 2016) belonged to a very special era of gentlemen warrant officers who led by example, writes Harbour Trust volunteer and presenter Ron Ray. In his words, "The Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery has been blessed by a number of gentlemen but sadly they are a dying breed."
Toby was a Wonnarua man and one of a dozen Aboriginal people who died in custody during the early years of Cockatoo Island’s convict penal establishment. Volunteer researcher, Michele Harper canvasses the life of the man who was born ‘Booral’ and spent his twenties actively resisting European settlement.
Despite a life punctuated by prison escape attempts and floggings, John Crudden – one of Cockatoo Island’s convicts – might ultimately be remembered for his bravery. Michele Harper, a volunteer researcher for the Harbour Trust, charts the troubled life of the Irish expat, sentenced to the island’s penal establishment before he had even reached manhood.
The Australian Memorial Walk at North Head Sanctuary features monuments to the major conflict periods in Australia’s history. Located in idyllic coastal bushland with views of Sydney Harbour, the paved pathway is engraved with the names of servicemen and women who defended Australia in peace time and war. Harbour Trust volunteer, Andrew M, honours two of the men inscribed on the walk: Privates JW and TR Miles, his great granduncles.
In 1871, the former convict penal establishment at Cockatoo Island transformed into an industrial school for girls and a reformatory for young women who had broken the law. Sadly, the reformatory was cruelly mismanaged. Volunteer researcher Michele Harper shares the story of Captain Harris, an American ship master who literally fought for the women of the reformatory.
Bungaree (aka King Bungaree, Chief of the Broken Bay Tribe) is a symbol of significant collaboration between Aboriginals and Europeans. He was also the first known Australian to circumnavigate the continent and the first person described, in print, as Australian. Michele Harper canvasses the life of the celebrated Aboriginal pioneer, diplomat and leader, including his connection to Georges Heights in Mosman.
Cockatoo Island has a remarkable history as a shipbuilding and ship repair facility, contributing significantly to the nation’s maritime affairs between 1857 and 1991. Michele Harper, a volunteer researcher for the Harbour Trust, profiles an esteemed figure from this era – Jack Payne, one-time general manager of Cockatoo Island Naval Dockyard (1921 until 1932).
Harbour Trust sites, including North Head Sanctuary in Manly, occupy a significant place in Australia’s defence narrative. Michele Harper, a volunteer researcher for the Harbour Trust, shares the story of Brigadier Reginal Lee Rex Rabett, CMG – a gunner of renown who contributed to the military heritage of North Head.
Between 1871 and 1911, Cockatoo Island was used to provide boarding and education for wayward or homeless boys and girls. Although many children endured poor treatment, talented swimmer Barney Kieran was one of those who thrived, writes Harbour Trust volunteer Jane W.
Professional boxer. Competitive walker. Convicted forger. Businessman. Hero. Model prisoner. As Michele Harper reveals, John Perry – one of Cockatoo Island’s convicts – was a man with many talents and identities.
Do you believe in ghosts? Ross D, who is a tour guide, recounts a few recent 'encounters' with Minnie, the daughter of Gother Kerr Mann, Cockatoo Island’s superintendent from 1858 to 1870.
Macquarie Lightstation in Vaucluse is home to Australia’s first lighthouse, built over 200 years ago. Michele Harper, a volunteer researcher for the Harbour Trust, reflects on the storied life of Francis Greenway, the convict architect who designed Macquarie Lighthouse.