Monday, May 24, 2010

Suburb No 36: Botany

I have to be honest. I spent my first half hour in Botany wondering what other suburb I could do
instead. Then slowly but surely this enigma of a suburb revealed its secrets, one by one. So much so
that by my last afternoon in the place I found myself wondering how I could move there.

Some history: Dharawal people first in. Captain James Cook lands in 1770, along with botanist
Joseph Banks. As a result, the area was called Botany Bay and the suburb, Botany. Fishing village
then industrial, albeit with a popular 'resort' and zoo, the Sir Joseph Banks Hotel, on the then
shores of the bay (now reclaimed). While still very old Sydney suburban, a 'new Botany' appears
to be emerging, helped along by the recent influx of inner-city and eastern suburbs types seeking a
home without a choking mortgage.

Part 1: In the beginning

everything changed when the Endeavour sailed into town

all was not well on the glistening coastline

Banks the botanist

globetrotting Banks

botanist at work

i do believe that is a rare species of flower kind sir

Pandanus Tectorius - 'Screw Pine'

Grevillea Robyn Gordon and Waratah

Grevillea Moonlight

Part 2: The hotel

The original Sir Joseph Banks (SJB) Hotel was built in 1844. It sat right on the bay and included the first
zoo in Australia, with creatures from all over the world. Since then a lot has changed: the sea was
filled in to create more land so that SJB now sits on the edge of green not blue. And the hotel is
no longer a hotel but five separate apartments. In 1987, the Pleasure Gardens were created
around the building as a reminder of what once was. A golf course and wetlands sit adjacent to SJB.

the Sir Joseph Banks Hotel

daytrippers arrived by horse and carriage, then tram, then car

a rare beauty

echoes of the past

birds in paradise :: 1

birds in paradise :: 2

birds in paradise :: 3

birds in paradise :: 4

do not feed the birds bread, even if it is gourmet sourdough

playing golf where once was water :: 1

playing golf where once was water :: 2

the 'new' Sir Joseph Banks Hotel (1920)

Part 3: An education

My dramatic shift in attitude towards Botany was helped by my 'education' at the local school.
I just happened to be in the area when Botany Public School was opening its 'historic pathway'.
Listening to the speeches given by school staff, former students as well as the Deputy Mayor of
Botany, I quickly realised how much depth and history the suburb has. The school itself began life
in 1848, making it the oldest public school in NSW. 

the history lesson is free

back to school, 50-90 years later

voices like angels

red ribbon day

Deputy Mayor does the honours

former students - father and daughter :: 1

former students - father and daughter :: 2

current and former student - grand-daughter and grandfather

Myrna, 1944

Kindy class of the 1940s - Clarence and Ted :: 1

Kindy class of the 1940s - Clarence and Ted :: 2

back in the playground, 60 years later - John, Ted and Clarence

former students - sisters

current student, Taneisha, Koori

Taneisha helped design the banner for the 2010 Redfern Street Community Program

Botany Public School

after school, off to Tae Kwon Do

Aside from the school's history, I was really impressed with how it's run. It's a public school that's proud
of its heritage - and present. I was especially impressed with how Deputy Principal, Arthur Taylor, deals
with any troubles angst-ridden boys may have - using drama and music to improve their communication skills.
I also loved how much the other Deputy Principal, Mark Illich, is so into the history of it all.

Deputy Principal Mark, with the 'history' books

Deputy Principal Arthur, has got the boys all figured out

king of the school, Principal Jason King

Part 4: Across the road at the pre-school

Deputy Principal, Mark Illich, from Botany Public School was kind enough to take me across the road
to visit another historic building, the School Of Arts, built in 1867. It's now a great little pre-school
named after a former town clerk, John Brotchie (also a former student of Botany Public School).

School of Arts, now John Brotchie Pre-School

John Brotchie's name on Botany Public School's old register

let's call him Keith

pirate ship, Botany style

growing young minds and tall flowers

Part 5: Des Donley

I met Des wandering off home after visiting the shops. He seemed happy enough, for a 96 year old
man. So I was quite surprised to learn he's had a hell of a life. Half white Australian, half Aboriginal,
Des was taken from his mum at six months. In and out of foster homes with one particularly bad
experience as virtual slave labour. He then spent most of his life as a union delegate and I couldn't
really understand why, but he told me he was or is still waiting to get paid for years of work.
You'd hope to have it a little easier by 96 wouldn't you? I'm not the only person who found Des's
story compelling - a book was published about him last year, 'Slipped through the net', by Elly Inta.

Mr Melrose Desmond Donley

he's half and half

lost in memories

despite his losses, Des still manages to smile


Part 6: Ronny and Terry, car mechanics
When I drove past Bahram's, a slightly art deco-ish looking building containing the workshop of brothers
Ronny and Terry, the afternoon light was streaming in the back of the place, giving what is essentially
a messy, greasy garage a lovely glow. I had to have a look.



Ronny, fixer of cars

nice wall hangings

they look like kids again

Ronny's son's Cortina

getting cars back on the highways

Part 7: Botany Road

after the storm :: 1

rain and shine

from far across the seas, Bangledesh

Town Hall

after the storm :: 2

Part 8: Botany's industrial face

containers for neighbours :: 1

pleasure and pain

'woolwasher' way back when

containers for neighbours :: 2

creatures from the sea

boat ramp :: 1

boat ramp :: 2

Part 9: The 'new' Botany

Botannix is a cafe-yoga studio-art gallery-landscaping business run by Jeff and Andrew. They left
Newtown for a change of pace and the space of Botany. Not far down the road is a cafe and baking
school specialising in sourdough. Sure signs that Botany is indeed changing - that and the fact that
real estate is no longer a steal.

the changing face of Botany

to keep your wheels spinning, go to yoga

they're also landscapers

syrups in sunlight

symbols of the divine

sign of the times

pizza party :: 1

pizza party :: 2

repeating patterns

nice colours

four seasons in one day

Part 10: And finally, best car in Botany

Pink :: 1

Pink :: 2

Pink :: 3

As I was driving home, all I could think about was how interesting it would be to live in Botany -
until I saw this shot and had to stop. The guy was so silhouetted that I couldn't read his face to
see what he was thinking about the strange lady stopping her car in the rain to take a photo 
of him. But I smiled and hoped he understood.

who are you?

Is there beauty in Botany? A whole load more than I would ever have imagined. 

See you next week.


  1. Beautiful. Well done again Louise!

  2. Wow!! You really nailed Botany!

    I opened up the page thinking I would have a quick flick through and then return later for a better look but before I knew it, I found myself captivated and completely lost in Botany with all hope of a "quick flick" gone ...

  3. As usual, loving the light Louise.
    Botany cemetery, full of history? Perhaps next time.
    Thanks, loved it.

  4. Now I'm all homesick again. My dad worked out that way and took me fishing there sometimes. As a kid I was fascinated by Captain Cook and Joseph Banks. All I want to see is a thunderstorm over Botany Bay.

  5. wow...loved your pics of botany...the link was provided by our school, botany public. love your style. i see my burb in a very new light now..thanks!!

  6. Adam - Thank you!

    Jodie - Botany is a big story isn't it? Glad you found it captivating.

    Di - Sheez, missed the cemetery - where is it?!

    scream4noreason - Ah, thunderstorms, how I love them too. They'll keep.

    Noni - So happy you like them, I was wondering if anyone from the school had seen the images. It's a great school but I'm sure you know that already.


  7. For some reason this one made me teary... don't know why as I have no special attachment to the suburb. Never thought Botany would do that!

    Another great entry... thanks.

  8. J.D. (Biker) at WindsorMay 24, 2010 at 6:30 PM

    Gr8 Louise...way cool...

  9. Wow Louise, thank you. My favourite so far. Very well done, am thrilled to see this post and coverage of such an historic suburb.

  10. What a great blog! I'll have to check in for the next one, when are you doing Kogarah?!!!

  11. Hi Louise
    After a little bit of my own research, Botany Cemetery is in Matraville, Bunnerong Road, so next door to Botany. Interesting place though, looks out over market gardens (or it did last time I was there for a family funeral).

  12. Whilst I am 'busy' at work, I have decided to revisit each of your suburbs so far in reverse order and choose a favourite. Of course, couldnt' decide on just one already!! So.....
    'Who are you'
    'Four seasons in one day'
    'Clarence and Ted 1'

    Hope you dont mind...

  13. Another amazing post.

    I love the shots from the school reunion.

    Keep up the good work, and I can't wait for the book.

  14. I live down the road and Botany has been slowly opening up to us, showing what a diverse and interesting place it is, as my 10 year old said yesterday, "residential one side - industrial the other" and for me a lot in the middle!

  15. Excellent, Louise, excellent.

  16. loved the photos of the school mates reunions - beautiful

    will definitely be back to check out your next visit

  17. How amazing to see all that in Botany - who would have thought it? Love the 'new' Botany, as well as the old, old.

  18. Anon 1 - I was completely teary when I was shooting at the school's celebration. And I didn't know anyone either. But you don't have to know people or a place to feel what we all share in common I guess.

    J.D. - Glad you like! How's the bike?!

    Tony - Wasn't it you who suggested Botany? Well, thank you if you did. It's a special place.

    Charley - Kogarah, hmm, could be interesting.

    Di - Wow, thanks for all your comments on the different suburbs. Always interesting to see what images people like best.

    Trent - Thank you - and yes, the school reunion was quite lovely. You can just picture those guys as little kids can't you?

    Anon 2 - Observant 10 year old! Absolutely right.

    Jamie - Thank you - did you like the botanic references?!

    Anon 3 - Thank you - as I just said, the emotion on those old friends' faces is beautiful.

    Nat - Yes, there's definitely a new Botany emerging. Interesting to see how it goes from here - maybe a little like Danks St, Waterloo.


  19. Great post and photos again. You've told a lot about the people of the suburb, caught some characters and personalities.

  20. botany is slowly changing from an industrial suburb through the week with a quiet village atmosphere to a thriving residential hub, some say bring back the old and to a point I would agree

  21. Thanks for this lovely spread on Botany ....I live in one of the Townhouses that join the Old Sir Joseph Banks Hotel ....and with a young Family here am very happy we chose to live in this suburb ...