THE HISTORY OF THE SYKES FAMILY IN AUSTRALIA
THE HISTORY OF THE CURRAWANG POST OFFICE
Currawang and Spring Valley are ‘localities' in the region south of Goulburn, New South Wales. They are too small to be called towns. George Sykes settled in the area of Spring Valley, and several of his children settled in farms around the Spring Valley area. Different members of the Sykes family were associated with the Post Office over the fifty year period between 1880 and 1930.
In May 1866, over sixty petitioners asked for the establishment of a post office at Currawang, in the Goulburn District. They said: ". . . more than 100 inhabitants are now resident in the neighbourhood, and daily increasing since the opening of the copper mines . . . that more than 50 miners and others are at present employed by the Currawang Copper Mining Company with every probability of a large increase of men. . . that there is no post office within a distance of two and a half miles—one at Spring Valley, and another at Kenny's Point—at which place there are only very few inhabitants, and at these places there is only one delivery and departure per week."
The occupations given by the petitioners included those of miners, farmers, carpenters, blacksmiths and sawyers.
The postmaster at Kennys Point reported that a private road diverged from the main road about two miles on the Kenny's Point side of Spring Valley to the Currawang Copper Mines, and thence back to the main road. A mail line to serve the proposed office would be about one mile and a half, and would cost little. Alternatively he suggested that if an office were established at 'Armstrong's' expense would be saved as his place was within 300 yards of the mines and on the main road. He described Armstrong as "a respectable store keeper." The manager of the Currawang Copper Mining Co. Ltd. in supporting the nomination of Armstrong as postmaster advised that the store keeper was willing to accept the appointment, and that his store was situated in "the direct line of road to Bungendore and Queanbeyan."
The Currawang Post Office was established on 1st September 1866, with John Armstrong in charge. His postal allowance was £12 a year. Mails were exchanged with Spring Valley and Kenny's Point. At the time J. M. Munoz of Goulburn held the contract for a once weekly mail service between Goulburn and Kenny's Point via Bangalore, by horseback, for £40 a year.
In 1867, Munoz's contract specified "Goulburn, Spring Valley, Currawang, and Kenny's Point via Bangalore." It was still once weekly by horseback, for £40 a year. Upon appointment John Armstrong, who gave his occupation as farmer, nominated as sureties John Graham and Edward Graham, both commission agents of Sydney. Later a report advised that the post office was kept in a private room and the postmaster was a "settler" who kept a boarding house for miners. Money Order facilities were made available on 20th November 1872. In November 1874, John Armstrong advised that he was moving to Wagga Wagga and nominated Thomas Fox, storekeeper, as his successor. A largely signed petition supported Fox's nomination as postmaster. Thomas Fox became postmaster on 1st January 1875. The salary was still £12 a year. About this time a small petition recommended the appointment of Mr William Mills, Junior, a storekeeper and butcher, as postmaster. However Fox had already been appointed. (N.B. This meant at least two storekeepers and a butcher's shop in 1874.)
Thomas Fox's sureties were William Cooper and John Kenny, both graziers. Charles Fox, a brother of the former postmaster, became postmaster on 1st February 1878, following his brother's resignation. Another applicant for the position of postmaster was Mary Johnson of Currawang, whose application was supported by a petition from residents. Charles Fox's sureties were William V. Cooper, a farmer of Currawang, and Patrick Byrne, a farmer of Warrawilla, Collector.
Charles Fox resigned and nominated Mr Edward J. Kenny (husband of Ellen Sykes) of Kenny's Point, Currawang, as his successor. As Kenny was taking over Fox's business, the post office remained at the same premises. Edward James Kenny was appointed on 16th June 1880. By this time the postal salary was £16 a year. He nominated as sureties George Sykes, Senior (Ellen's father), farmer of Spring Valley, Currawang, and John Kenny, grazier of Lake George, Currawang.
Mrs Ellen M. Kenny (nee Sykes), wife of the postmaster, succeeded him in charge of the office on 18th September 1883, after Kenny had advised he would be absenting himself from the office for some months. Mrs Kenny's sureties were George Sykes (her younger brother) and James Payne, a dealer and butcher, of Currawang.
In February 1897, Patrick F. O'Brien of Clarevale (husband of Mary Martina ‘Stella' Sykes, daughter of Stephen – who was a brother of Ellen and George, mentioned earlier) made representations through E. W. O'Sullivan, M.P., for the removal of Currawang Post Office to Mr Sykes' premises which were about one mile nearer to Spring Valley. (This was how 'Telegraph Hill' was named.) He wrote: "Over 20 years ago the office was removed from Spring Valley to where it is at present. The reason was the starting of the Currawang Copper Mines, the population was increased thereby in that part of the district. The office was shifted about four miles further from Goulburn. This should be considered re cost of carrying mails. I suppose you are aware of the cessation of work at the mines. They have been idle about fifteen years; and all the increase of population have long since departed. A company started to work there quite recently, but after doing little prospecting, it has been abandoned . . ."
About this time Ellen advised of her intention to resign as postmistress and nominated her younger brother Stephen Gregory Sykes as her successor. She described him as a confident and reliable person. His premises were centrally situated one mile north from the post office, along the Goulburn road. There was local dissension concerning the most suitable site for the office, those in the vicinity of the old office wanting it to remain there.
W. O. Cooper wrote from Currawang House, against the removal and said that the office was situated within 100 yards of the public school, and children belonging to the various households obtained the letters upon leaving school, without having to travel two miles for them which would be the case if the office was shifted to Mr Sykes' premises. He owned the premises used as a post office. There were petitions for and against the removal. However the majority favoured the removal to Mr Sykes' place around which the population was more concentrated. Stephen Gregory Sykes at the age of 55 was appointed postmaster on 21st April 1897. His postal salary was £20 a year.
A mail timetable was arranged as follows:
Leave Currawang, Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday,7 a.m.
Arrive Goulburn, Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday, 11.15 a.m. Leave Goulburn, Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday, Noon.
Arrive Currawang, Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday, 4.15 p.m.
Receiving Office, Willaroo
In June 1897, Sara Cooper wrote from 'Currawang House', claiming that the post office should not have been removed, and that many inhabitants were inconvenienced. She mentioned that it had been situated in a house on the Estate, for which a rental of 1/- a week had been charged. As the place was "the proper terminal" of the Goulburn-Currawang mail contract, the postal inspector recommended that a receiving office be established at Currawang under the name of 'Willaroo', and that Mr James Blakely be appointed receiving office keeper, with an allowance of £5 a year. James Blakely was appointed receiving office keeper on 12th July 1897. However this arrangement was cancelled, and the office was opened on 10th August, in charge of Mrs M. Payne, Junior.
By opening the receiving office at Willaroo the postal inspector had hoped to end the dissension concerning the location of the post office.
Post Office at Willaroo
Eventually Miss Cooper's efforts in obtaining a post office were successful, and the status of the Willaroo office was raised to that of post office, on trial for twelve months, from 15th September 1899, in charge of Mrs. C. M. Deane.
New Postmistress, Currawang
Miss Stella Sykes succeeded her brother and took charge of the Currawang Post Office on 1st November 1901. Miss Sykes was twenty years of age, and her postal salary was £17 a year. When Stella resigned her younger sister Miss Angela J. Sykes became postmistress on 1st November 1905 (she would, several years later, become Sister Mary Casimir). The office remained at the same premises. Early in 1909, statistics for the previous year showed that each week 60 letters were being posted and 12 mails were sent and received. The annual revenue was about £17.
In June 1914, the Department of Lands advised that there had been same confusion concerning the names of two post offices. These were 'Currawang', near Goulburn and 'Corrowong', about 11 miles from Delegate. According to the Department of Lands both of these spellings were a corruption of the original and correct name 'Currowang'. The letter went on to say: "Currowang near Goulburn is the oldest established place, the name being shown upon Sir Thomas Mitchell's map of New South Wales published in 1834, while the locality near Delegate appears to be first mentioned about the sixties; and it would therefore perhaps be advisable to alter the name of the latter place."
A telephone and public telephone office was opened at Currawang during 1914, making it possible to send and receive telegrams.
Money Order facilities were withdrawn from Currawang from 1st January 1916. However representations through Mr Osborne Chapman, M.P., resulted in the re-establishment of money orders from 1st March 1916. During 1916 proposals were made by the Department of Education to change the name of the Public School, and Willaroo was suggested. However following a petition from residents this was abandoned.
C. P. Barden succeeded Miss Angela J. Sykes on 1st July 1919. At the same time the Money Order facilities were discontinued.
Patrick F. O'Brien (husband of Mary Martina ‘Stella' Sykes, fourth generation) took charge of the office on 9th November 1926, and the office was removed to O'Brien's residence, Clarevale . The next in charge was K. S. O'Brien who took over on 1st October 1927.
A telephone exchange, with one subscriber, was opened on 10th April 1930. K. S. O'Brien was succeeded by Miss Angela Josephine O'Brien on 1st July 1945, and by Roy R. Rowlands on 1st February 1948. The Office was closed on 31st March 1962.
Kathleen Sykes, fourth generation