The Nethery family

Rear: Cyril, Jack, Greg, Ted, Frank and Bob.     Front: Father Edward, Mary, Sep, Mary (the Mater)

The fifth and final heritage marker which Georges River Council has selected for 2020, to be installed at Anglo Square, commemorates the Nethery family of Westbourne Street, Carlton. The following piece has been provided by William Nethery, explaining the family’s long connection with the area. Accompanying photographs have also been supplied by the family.

Edward Samuel Nethery our grandfather became a school teacher. He was posted to Mundawaddra school near Yerong Creek in the Riverina area of NSW. He was warmly received in the district and remarked on the kind hospitality of the local people. In those days young teachers were offered accommodation with various rural families in the district usually for a few months at a time. It is not known if he stayed with one of the Driscoll families but it would have been likely.

The school pupils were both Protestant and Catholic and it was apparent that the old sectarian prejudices were irrelevant.  He met Mary Driscoll from an Irish Catholic family. They fell in love and decided to marry but encountered strong opposition from his Protestant family. The sectarian divide that existed at the time was a hangover from England and Ireland, however Edward was ahead of his time by wanting to break down this prejudice and remained determined to marry Mary. His letters to Mary Driscoll are testament to his determination and regard for his fiancée. He agreed that the children be raised as Catholics but remained Protestant himself until he converted to Catholicism on his death bed.

Edward and Mary’s wedding took place at the family property “Mossy Dell” Yerong Creek on the 27th September 1911, conducted by Father Timothy Cleary. Everyone was very happy with the wedding being conducted at the family home.

Wedding day of Edward Samuel Nethery and Mary Ann Driscoll, 1911

They moved to Helensburgh south of Sydney when Ted, Frank and Jack were born. Edward was a teacher at the local school. On Anzac Day 25 April 1917 they moved to 27 Westbourne Street Carlton, later renamed Anglo Square. Edward had been transferred to Petersham Commercial School. The following year he was appointed to Hurstville Public School.

Edward and Mary Ann’s youngest child Mary said “Her parents moved into the house at Carlton with three sons, aged between one and five, a dog and a cage with chooks. On the day they moved they came up from Helensburgh by train. They had hired horse-drawn removalists to bring up the furniture. Dad paid them in Helensburgh before they left. The removalists decided to spend their hard-earned cash at the pub at Sutherland and didn’t arrive until the next day. Dad, Mum and the boys had to spend their first night here curled up on the floor waiting for the furniture to arrive. Dad liked the home because it had the paddock outside and they had three little boys who would have somewhere to play.”

Mary continued. “From the front gate growing up we could see the railway line in one direction and Botany Heads in the other. That’s how the house got its name. My mother came from Yerong Creek in the Riverina. My father was posted there as a teacher, met my mother and they married there. During the Great Depression, Dad was talking about having a name for the house when a salesman turned up at the front gate. The salesman saw the view and told us that the Aboriginal word for extensive view was ‘Yeronga’, so that’s what Dad named the house.”

Edward and Mary raised a family of eight children who made an enormous contribution to the St George district and the Australian community. All the children thrived with three of them, Ted, Frank and Mary becoming teachers like their father. Mary met her husband, fellow teacher Paul Bridges when they were both teaching at Hurstville Primary School, where her father had also once taught.

The home was an ideal location for a family with seven energetic boys. Opposite the home was a park where they kicked the football and played cricket with the neighbourhood kids, who included the Lindwall brothers, Ray and Jack, both of whom played first grade for the St George Dragons. Ray also became one of Australia’s greatest fast bowlers and a key member of Don Bradman’s 1948 Ashes team “The Invincibles”.

From their early experiences in the park all the Nethery boys went on to significant sporting achievements. Ted excelled in playing rugby, and captained the first XV team during his last two years at Hurlstone and later captained the Armidale Teachers’ College 1st XV. Frank played 1st grade rugby league for Sydney University. Cyril played Ist grade rugby league and rugby union for St George and was a member of the Australian Combined Services Rugby Union Team during World War Two. John, Greg, Robert and Septimus played grade rugby union, including 1st grade, for St George.

The Nethery family, like many others struggled through the years after World War 1 and the Spanish Flu epidemic. Then came the depression beginning in 1929 and becoming more severe by 1932. Unemployment peaked at 29% and there was a severe shortage of food and household goods. Australia’s dependence on agricultural and industrial exports meant it was one of the hardest-hit developed countries. After 1932, an increase in wool and meat prices led to a gradual recovery. Fortunately for the family, father Edward remained employed as a teacher and like many at the time they had a good vegetable garden and a good chook yard to keep up the supply of eggs. Both parents were from large rural families where they learnt resilience and self-sufficiency.

Edward Nethery taught at Mundawaddera, Windsor, Helensburg, Petersham, Hurstville, Coffs Harbour, Kogarah, Taree, Abbotsford, Undercliffe, and the last three years was attached to the staff at Clemton Park.

Disaster struck the family in July 1935 when Edward became quite ill and had to be taken to St George Hospital. He developed pneumonia and died on the 24 July 1935 aged only 51 years. He had never been particularly religious but during his illness he requested that he be converted to the Catholic faith to be closer to his beloved wife. It was a great comfort to her that Edward was attended by Rev. Father Sobb who administered the Last Sacraments.

Upon the death of their father the older boys felt a responsibility to help with the family finances. Ted and Frank both had started teaching and Jack had left school. Fortunately, Edward’s teaching career provided his widow and family with a superannuation pension for a modest living. Ted received a scholarship to study teaching at Armidale and Frank was doing an Economics degree at night at Sydney University.

When everyone was home the three-bedroom house slept ten people with the boys sleeping on the verandah front and back. Their home “Yeronga” became the centre of family life for over a century to the present day. Frank’s daughter, Frances said the family home was always a place of love and laughter, with their mother making visitors and those hard done by, welcome. “The house has had a lot of gatherings over the years including Mum’s 90th birthday and my wedding reception,”

Ted’s sons Bill and Peter both had fond memories of their visits to “Yeronga”. Being country kids, they loved the sound of the city. They slept on the front verandah and listened to the trains rattling past, the planes flying overhead and the sound of spotted turtle doves in the park. There was always a warm welcome from Grandma and Aunt Mary and ‘Yeronga’ was the centre of the Nethery family life. At night the adults would sit around the meal table for hours talking, while the kids would play in the park over the road.

The boys home safely from War Service.
Rear: Cyril, Frank, Jack, Greg. Front: Sep, Ted and Bob.

All of the seven Nethery boys left 27 Anglo Square to serve their country during World War II. They served in the Middle East, England, Papua New Guinea, the South Pacific, and Northern Australia. They faced considerable perils including Cyril’s dangerous role as a bomber pilot over Germany, debilitating tropical diseases in New Guinea and the Pacific islands. There was also the ever-present danger of sudden attack by enemy forces. Fortunately, all returned home safely after the war.

It wasn’t the first time that family members had returned home safely from war. Frank remembered standing at the front gate at Anglo Square as a little boy seeing two soldiers coming down the street. They were two uncles returning from fighting in France and Gallipoli in WWI.

As the boys married, they established new homes with their new families, but 27 Anglo Square remained the centre of Nethery family life. They produced a post war generation of 38 children, 71 grandchildren and 44 great grandchildren. Five generations after Edward and Mary Nethery first walked into 27 Anglo Square members of the extended Nethery family still gather at number 27 and the children still go across the road to the park to play. 

Mary Ann Nethery snr passed away peacefully at Calvary Hospital Kogarah, at the age of 93 on 11th of August 1978. Her daughter Mary noted: “Mum was a very strong woman; she must have been for her to survive losing Dad and then to see all her seven sons going off to war. Unless people had lived through the war years it is hard to understand what they were like. You would go to school and find your friend wasn’t sitting next to you in the classroom because their father was lost believed killed in action. They had pages of it in the Herald, notices from families whose father had been killed.” Mary’s mother saw all seven of her sons return home.

On Anzac Day 2017, five generations after Edward and Mary Nethery first walked into their house in Anglo Square, members of the extended Nethery family gathered at Yeronga to celebrate.

“We are not sure how many people will turn up,” Mary said. “Our motto is – we have no printed program, just turn up. It’s always been a drop-in centre and the kettle’s always on.” “

One comment

  1. Mary Nethery Bridges is my son Justin Welington’s great aunt. I have enjoyed reading her family history, seeing the family photos and I am so grateful for the open and caring way in which she has shared her stories. . I would dearly like to meet her one day either in this world or in the eternal realm. God bless you Mary and all the family.


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