Alf and Lucy Callcott Estate Agents in Thirroul 1915-1939 – and the D H Lawrence Conection

According to “The Small Family in Australia 1788-1988″ p625, after Alf Callcott retired from the railway, he and Lucy built a large home in Harbord Street Thirroul, and ran it as a guest house – it was “Kaludah”. Harbord Street had first been subdivided in 1911 (refer “Greetings from Thirroul” –  a small book entitled “Greetings from Thirroul” which documents many of the holiday guesthouses around the town by local Thirroul Historian,  Dr Joseph (Joe) Davis, and his wife, Inga Lazzarotto). Alf and Lucy‘s son Russell Callcott would then still have been a young boy. Below – see an ABC video of Joe‘s collection of old postcards of Thirroul – hint click on the blue bars & then white arrow to get the video going.

Around that time there were many advertisements in the Sydney papers for holiday accommodation in Thirroul. They often featured comments like “1 min to surf,” “close to the railway” and “close to the Bulli Pass.  Others offering accommodation in Thirroul at that time were the Cooney’s, and also Hughie Ross, father of Kevin and his sister Ruth, also grandfather of Julie Ross (of The Spicey Apple).

Alf and Lucy were also estate and insurance agents in the town – and were regular advertisers of Accommodation To Let in Thirroul in the Sydney Morning Herald from 1915-1939.  They often advertised reduced rates for the winter months. Lucy continued the business, as a widow, for about 7 or 8 years after the death of Alf.

Amongst their most famous clients, were the sometimes controversial English author, DH Lawrence and his wife, Baroness Frieda Von Richtofen. Frieda was also a cousin of The Bloody Red Baron of WW1 Germany. It seems that they were in tight financial circumstances and took advantages of Thirroul’s reduced winter rates, advertised by the Callcott’s.

In 1922 DH and Frieda Lawrence stayed at the Californian bungalow, Wyewurk, which overlooks McCauley’s Beach, and was then owned by Lucy’s sister, Beatrice Southwell nee Midson. There are varying thoughts on “Kangaroo” – a total fiction or a semi-autobiographic work by Lawrence?

And like Somers in Kangaroo, did Lawrence really make contact with people from both the political “Right” and “Left” of the era in such a short time frame ? It was quite possible, as there were people with strong views, from both sides of the political divide, in the Northern Illawarra during that time period. On the Left, there were the Coal Miners, and on the Right, the Small Business Operators. In 1920 John S Kirton was clearly a senior member of the Nationalist Party.

Alf and Lucy Callcott‘s  son-in-law was Victor Farraher, husband of daughter Clarice, was also a son of Elizabeth Farraher (nee Kirton), sister of John S Kirton, who had opened the Excelsior Coal Mine on his Thirroul property.  John S Kirton was also a one-time Mayor of the Bulli Shire Council. So there would have been potentially a close family tie-up between the Farraher family and the Kirton family. And both Kirton‘s wives, Florence and Bridget were sisters to Murty Farraher, Victor‘s father. The Farrher’s had been involved in local political and civic activity for decades by 1922.

Kirton was also President of the Nationalist Committee and presided over a dinner held at Ryan’s Bulli Pass Hotel in 24 January 1920 to celebrate a Nationalist Victory in Federal Parliamentary elections (Source Sydney Morning Herald January 26 1920).

Some years later, Victor Farraher was a staunch supporter of Captain De Groote, who rode in on horseback and cut the ribbon at the opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge in protest, ahead of the NSW ALP Premier Jack Lang in the official party, later in 1932 (refer Joe Davis‘ book  “DH Lawrence in Thirroul“.

DH Lawrence used the family name Callcott for one of the main characters in his novel, “Kangaroo“. There have also been suggestions that a woman, and her 11 year old son, commenting on the aeroplane landing incident in the novel, are in fact Lucy Callcott and son Russell. However, in 1922 Russell Callcott was already 19 years of age, and much older than the boy described by Lawrence in “Kangaroo“.

Nevertheless, it was this short stay, at Wyewurk, that provided some of the inspiration for “Kangaroo“, according to Thirroul historian Dr Joseph (Joe) Davis. Coincidentally, Joe also taught Lucy and Alf’s  great grandson, Mark Callcott, at high school – at the time that he was writing his book “DH Lawrence in Thirroul“. Additionally, Joe is also a distant cousin of Katrina Christian (and her father, David)  – a great great granddaughter of Alf and Lucy Callcott. It seems that Thirroul has always been that kind of place, with a strong sense of “connectedness”.

Among the holiday cottages that Lucy Callcott managed in 1937 was Wollorowong, which operated as a guesthouse up until WWII. Wollorowong has been described as the last of the Thirroul Guesthouses by Joe Davis, at the time that it was recently placed on the market.  Additionally, there seems to be no evidence of any advertisements in the Sydney Morning Herald by Lucy Callcott in the period from 1940 until her death in 1952 (see death – funeral notices below). Perhaps coastal threats during WWII, and then changing tastes in the post WWII era, coming on the heels of the 1930’s Depression years, had caught up with them ?

And what of the impact of these changes in the Thirroul Guesthouse market on the Callcott family finances ? Perhaps some hardship – although Lucy was by now 55 years of age. However son, Russell, and his family were also living in Thirroul across the road from his mother, Lucy, by 1938, the year of the birth of Joy, Russell‘s youngest child. Russell was by then employed at the Thirroul Railway Station. This was also about this time his  marriage with Mary (Molly), was showing significant strains, before finally breaking down. And any hardship, arising from the changes in the Thirroul Guesthouse market, felt by Lucy and Russell, would have been dwarfed by that experienced by Mary (Molly) and her five children. And whilst the Thirroul Guesthouse market had evaporated since WWII, Alf and Lucy‘s son, Russell Callcott,  was also a landlord of rental property in Harbord St Thirroul, at least into the 1960’s.

Despite the changes in demand for Guesthouse accommodation, a popular seaside camping ground,  operated in Thirroul, adjacent to the Olympic Pool, until the 1960’s. Also, in the 1960’s, Thirroul Beach was becoming a popular day trip destination, with many people coming down by train or bus.  Since then, day trippers have mainly arrived by car, although buses can still be seen at the beach.

A small motel had operated in Thirroul since the 1970’s, a notable customer was the artist Brett Whiteley who died there. Whiteley, and fellow artist Gary Shead, had a fascination with DH Lawrence, Wyewurk and “Kangaroo“. Bed and breakfasts are also starting to appear in Thirroul and its neighbouring suburbs.

Sydney Morning Herald Advertisements – a selection of the many ads placed by the Callcott’s from 1915-1939

SMH – 27 Nov 1915

Thirroul – Kaludah, 1 min. surf, Superior Accommodation, 30/- week, 6/- day. Mrs Callcott.

15/9/ 1917 –

Thirroul Kaludah – 1 min surf. – Supr Accommodation. Mrs Callcott. ‘Phone 53 Bulli.


Thirroul Furn. Cottages To Let, booking now for Xmas. Callcott agt. T. ph 58 Bulli

(notes – ‘THIRROUL Lulllngton -Guests House under new-L management double single Rooms minute beach gai age excellent table moderate tariffPho-ie 138_’I HIRROUL BEACH – l*urnl6hed Cottages PlatsJ- L Callcott /gent Phone Thirroul 63_ – 25 SMH 1933

SMH – 24 November 1924


halhs every convenience, from October 3 ALLhROY Thirroul PO_lYlHRROUL-1 urnished to Let close beach1 Callcott At,cnt Stamp reply Tele, Bulli 6*

THIRROUL -Furnished COTTAOES near beach A stamp reply A F Callcott Phone Thlr 53

6/5/1932 SMH

THIRROUL BEACH. -Furnished Cottages. Flats. Í stamp reply L. Callcott. agent. Phone, Thlt ~”

Furnished Rooms stamp reply.

SMH March 20 1937 Thirroul. “FURNISHED COTTAGE, close beach, accommodate ‘? six, vacant Easter. 11J4.H0._ ‘THIRROUL, Wollorowong … Flat, J- vacant Easter. L. Callcott. Agent. Thirroul 53.
THIRROUL BEACH -Furnished Cottage to letL Xmas also Flats L Callcott Ph Thlr 53

THIRROUL Beach-Private Home Xmas, adults

only £5/5/ week L Callcott 53 Thirroul

Death Notice – Lucy Callcott SMH 30/12/1952 -CALLCOTT, Lucy.-September 29,1952. of 5 Harbord Street. Thirroul widow of Alfred F. Callcott.and dear mother of Marjorie (Mrs.Tiernan. Sydney). Clarice (Mrs. V.Farraher. Wollongong). Russell (Thirroul). Eldest daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. W. Midson (Epping). ;

Funeral Notice – SMH 30/9/1952

CALLCOTT.-The Relatives and Friends of the Family of the late Mrs. . LUCY CALLCOTT, Of  5 Harbord Street, Thirroul, are Invited to attend the Funeral of their beloved Mother; to leave St. David’s Church, Thirroul, To-morrow. Wednesday, after a service commencing at 3 p.m.. for the General Cemetery. Bulli. Church of England portion.

W. J. WILLIAMS, Funeral-Director.

_ Bulli.


One Response to Alf and Lucy Callcott Estate Agents in Thirroul 1915-1939 – and the D H Lawrence Conection

  1. travelgenee says:

    What a great job pulling together this #TroveTuesday piece. Such a great source is Trove, Fran

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