was written for ‘Refresh Drummoyne’, the Canada Bay Council urban art project in 2010:

refreshdrummoyne4TIME AND TIDE…

Twenty thousand years ago.
Even longer.
Long long time.
The Wangal people live along the foreshores,
Hunting for possums, building canoes, shifting camp sites with the seasons.
White fella comes and puts an end to that.
Misunderstandings. Smallpox. Rifles. Dying.
So little remains.
A midden or two hidden behind the mangroves down at Sisters Bay,
Where the joggers pound the pavement.


Now the whole peninsula is a 1500 acre land grant called “Five Dock”.
Land around Half Moon Bay is sub-divided and christened “Bourke Town”.
Streets are Catholics and Protestants: Broughton, Plunkett, Polding.
But where is Drummoyne?
Timber merchant William Wright builds his home on the northern-most tip,
Naming it after his family estate in Drummoyne, Scotland*.
Drummoyne springs to life.
The Sienna marble, polished mahogany and admirable grounds are gone.
But time hasn’t worn away the sandstone steps,
Still leading down to the water at Wright’s Point.



Almost the 20th century now.
Farms and dairies. Market gardens.
But is it blissful rural life?
The rattle of horses and carts. Herds of cows trampling the laneways.
Runaway livestock.
Horse training is banned in Bowman Street. Think of the neighbours, please.
Suburbia will soon take over…


1881. Gladesville Bridge. 1882. Iron Cove Bridge.
No wonder Victoria Road is called Bridge Street.
Opening up to fancy new modes of transportation.
The first Drummoyne tram sets off from Central Railway in 1902.
Paddle steamers take folks upriver.
Life gets busier, faster, noisier.
Up in the sky, the buzz of a propeller…


1am. 7 January 1931.
Guy Menzies, 21 year old local, takes off in a single engine biplane.
Heading for Blenheim, New Zealand.
11 hours and 45 minutes later
He makes it.
Well, almost.
Lands upside in a swamp 300 kilometres off course.
Still, makes history as the first solo flight across the Tasman.
Big surprise to family, friends and aviation authorities…
He told them he was going to Perth.



Lights, camera, action!
Drummoyne’s McDonagh sisters.
Industrious, creative, ground-breaking,
Isobel, Phyllis and Paulette
Shake up the Australian film industry.
Write, direct, film and star in four feature films
Including Australia’s first anti-war talking picture.


The Great Depression.
Looking for work? Might get lucky.
Hear they’re building a big sports field down at Taplin Park.
Drummoyne Oval, still home to The Dirty Reds.
“Our name is feared throughout rugby land!”
Doug Walters scores a duck,
Sachin Tendulkar has a nifty bowling spell 4/35,
Steve Waugh smashes 104.
Not just footy legends walk the hallowed turf.

BELL TIMErefreshdrummoyne10

Back to the 1940’s.
The tuckshop at Drummoyne Boys High is a leaky old stable,
Ginger beer comes in big wooden barrels,
And the boys know what the school motto means:
Vincit qui se vincit.**
No young IT consultants or personal trainers here.
These boys will grow up to be god-fearing lamp lighters,
Soap makers and sawyers
Like their fathers.


These days
We speak Italian, Greek, Cantonese, Mandarin, a bit of German,
But overwhelmingly English.
We are strongly Catholic. Or Anglican or no religion at all.
We have long been considered a Labor seat, but not a safe one.
The state electorate of Drummoyne:
1962 Labor. 1973 Labor. 1982 Labor. 2003 Labor. 2011 Liberal.


At Drummoyne Public School,
The children imagine
What they would put in a time capsule.
Canteen prices, letters, their favourite music.
What will Drummoyne be like in one hundred years?
One thousand?
Twenty thousand?



For now, Drummoyne marches to the urban beat.
Waterfrontage, million dollar views, commuting, cycling,
Running in and out of time.
The rhythm of the tides.
Boatsheds and RiverCats, 12 foot skiffs and  tinnies.
The cool shallows of the rocky coves.
Pelicans and saltmarsh, fiddler crabs and yellow fin bream.
We are time poor. Deadlines, commitments, stretching hours.
We are timeless. The river that has given life for twenty thousand years.
Even longer.
Long long time.

-The End-

* Drummoyne is Gaelic for ‘flat-topped ridge’.
** He conquers who conquers himself.

See also:
City of Canada Bay