Oral History Project

In 2014–15, the Dictionary of Sydney partnered with Liverpool City Council, Oral History NSWand the Royal Australian Historical Society to increase the oral history content on our site.

Oral historian Margo Beasley was engaged to curate the content, working closely with the Heritage Collection at the Liverpool City Libraryto capture excerpts of local people reminiscing about the area.

Recorded over 30 years ago, the people interviewed for the Looking Back at Liverpool Project were born in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. Their voices reflect the attiudes and experiences of those times and capture a period of Sydney’s history that is fast fading from common memory.

There are many stories to be discovered and enjoyed. Here are a few highlights:

  • Henry Lawson’s Dog:  Mr George Bates, born in 1912, talks about a chance ‘meeting’ with Henry Lawson’s dog in North Sydney during his childhood
  • Disappearing walls: Mr Eddie Saunders, born in 1903, remembers the unexplained disappearance of a building wall in Liverpool on a site that once housed a blacksmith’s workshop.
  • Driving police to accidents: Mr Pat Cullen, born in 1912, describes his early days in the motor industry, which included driving the police to accident scenes.
  • Australian artist Eric Wilson: Mr Walter John Ferguson, born in 1912, recalls the noted Australian artist Eric Wilson, who lived in Liverpool, and his painting A Game of Draughts.
  • Motorbike prowess:  Mrs Florence Starr came to live in Austral in 1925 when she was first married at the age of seventeen. She recalls her motorbike-riding prowess.
  • Plane crash: Mrs Lillian Dulcie Watson, born in 1904, was witness to the crash of an American Air Force plane, due to engine failure over Hammondville, during World War II.
  • ‘Bag town’: Mr Carl Borowsky came to live in Liverpool with his family in 1923. He talks about so-called ‘bag town’, which provided housing for families during the depression.

The excerpts cover a range of topics including:

For a full list of transcripts and audio files, click here.

UPDATE: With further funds from Oral History NSW we are building our multimedia search and browse functions to make these histories even more accessible. Stay tuned!

RAHS LiverpoolCityCouncil-logo logo_oral_history_nsw

A game of draughts 1933 by Eric Wilson, courtesy National Gallery of Art (Accession No: NGA 63.116) (oil on canvas 98 x 112 cm Gift of the Memorial School of Arts, Liverpool NSW 1963)


A group of Italian prisoners of war behind the perimeter fence of the main compound at the Liverpool prisoner of war and internment camp November 21, 1945. 1945-11-21 By McQuillan, Ern. Contributed by Australian War Memorial AWM 123706


Detail from MS Hill's 1888 map 'The City of Sydney',  a birds-eye view over the city looking to the south and west across Darling Harbour. http://dictionaryofsydney.org/image/97526

Major sponsors                                                                      Community partnerships