Sunday, August 15, 2021

SYDNEY SUBURBS: COMO

 

Como:

Location:

Como is located on the southern banks of the Georges River 27 kilometres (17 mi) south of the Sydney central business district in the local government area of the Sutherland Shire.

Name origin:

Well before it became Como, the locality had been known as Woronora,

In early 1883, a small weatherboard and iron-roofed building called the Woronora Hotel had been constructed by the proprietor, Mr. Thomas Hanley, in response to the rapidly growing railway worker's camp situated adjacent to where they were planning to extend the Illawarra railway line across a bridge being constructed over the Georges River.

In 1922, the postal locality of Woronora was changed to Como upon a suggestion by James Frederick Murphy who at the time owned much of the land that stretched from Sutherland to Cronulla. Murphy likened the area to its namesake in Italy by reason of its similarity to Lake Como.

Gallery:


A stylised image of the old and new Como Bridges


Fisherman’s hut, Como, 1905

The Georges River offered a haven to fishermen and lovers of oysters, who were attracted to this area to fish and collect oysters from the naturally occurring beds. Boating parties of sportsmen and fishermen frequented both the Georges and Woronora Rivers and would have passed by the headland which would become the township of Como.


Railway Bridge, Como, c 1905

Deemed to have one of 'the most beautiful railway bridges in the world', the railway line was opened in December 1885.


Georges River, Como, c1905

Even before the railway crossing bridge was complete, tourists were walking over the unfinished portion. By January 1886, guidebooks deemed Como to be one of a number of attractive resorts along the Illawarra line. Pleasure grounds and rivers suitable for boating were popular places for people from the city to spend their leisure time, and Como was the ideal spot for both. Holiday folk were to come in their thousands. The Holt-Sutherland Estate Land Company provided a substantial wharf and several boats for recreational rowing. James Murphy created a pleasure ground on the tiny headland near the railway bridge and it was not long before other boat sheds were set up to complement the pleasure grounds. In 1890, a new and grander hotel, known as the Como Hotel, was opened to replace the Woronora Hotel which had closed in 1887.


Como Hotel, c 1900

The Como Hotel became a weekend tourist destination for the wider community. It was also used as a meeting place for Germans living along the Georges River, being known locally as The German Club. Unfortunately, on 3 November 1996, the Como Hotel was ravaged by fire as a result of an unattended gas cooker in the restaurant kitchen.




The existing version of the Como Hotel was constructed five years after the second version had been destroyed by the 1996 fire with the rebuild on the same site. It features a modern but sympathetic interpretation of the previous version's Edwardian design – the new restaurant was aptly named "The Burnt Door," and it displays at its centre the charred remains of one of the hotel's doors which had been salvaged from the ashes of the inferno.


At about this time, a musical piece, the Como Waltz, was composed by Thomas Paul Bockelmann and dedicated to the publican and his wife.


Australian author and poet Henry Lawson lived in Como West for several years during and after WWI and was said to have been a regular visitor to the Como area, particularly around the Como Hotel. According to historian Daphne Salt:
"Henry constructed a bush timber railing beside a walkway from his cottage to a rock where he would sit, look at the Woronora River, and write poetry. Lawson also spent much time contemplating and scratching his verse in the Bonnet, Periwinkle Cave and along the secluded and peaceful banks of the Woronora River. The only access was via the Woronora River. Henry rowed his boat, or hitched a river-ride with a local, to the Como Hotel - tying the boat to a post in front of the door. He was regarded as a recluse, an aloof figure sitting in the corner of the pub. He didn't take much notice of what people were saying, not joining in the banter and hilarity. This was attributed to his deafness. He couldn't hear what was going on around him, but he did enjoy the friendly company and he would sometimes recite his poetry or sell them for drinks; and he had his regular spot in the old pub. His mates would come out from the city at the weekend and they encouraged Henry's drinking, often repairing to the Como Hotel. Lawson was one of the geniuses of Australian literature - it is indeed sad that he was dragged down by alcoholism."
Lawson's downward spiral followed the breakdown of his marriage to Bertha and their return with their two children from London in 1902.

Salt:
"Wracked by depression and suffering from acute alcoholism Henry attempted suicide and was admitted to hospital. His inability to pay maintenance cost him six months in prison over the next six years."
Lawson died at 55 in Abbotsford and is buried in Waverley Cemetery.


Henry Lawson (front, far right) at the official opening of the ocean wharf at Cronulla in 1919.


The cottage in which Henry Lawson lived.


Como Hotel before Scylla Bay was filled. Lawson would row to the hotel and tie up at the door.

In 1954 a park centrally located in the suburb was dedicated to Henry Lawson. For a number of years, concerts with an Australian theme were held in the park. The Como pleasure grounds, which had been in decline, were rejuvenated under the care and of the Council, and remained a central focus of the area.


The original Bushwhackers Band performing Click Go the Shears at the Como concert in 1955.


Fancy dress parade from Henry Lawson Reserve to Como West Public School in 1969


Como Tidal Baths

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An additional comment:

I have recently had a bout of ill health. A friend Max E, knowing of my interest in Henry Lawson (he himself also being an admirer of Lawson's literary works), dropped me in a framed portrait of Lawson with get well wishes. The portrait was created by Max . . . 


A lovely work of art and a lovely gesture.  Thanks Max.






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