Vol 18. No 2. July 2011 Page 2


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By Robert Whitelaw

ON SATURDAY, 2 July 2011, I helped an intrepid group of visiting academics - who were visiting Sydney to attend the 12th International DH Lawrence conference - retrace the ferry-and-tram excursion DHL and Frieda made to Manly and North Narrabeen the day after their arrival in Sydney on May 27, 1922.

In the course of my tourist-guide narrative, I described the large holiday home (now sadly demolished) at the end of Lagoon Street, North Narrabeen, owned by Mrs Emma Schultz, and how it fitted the description of "the end house" in Kangaroo, and how, in 1909-1910 - some 12 years before DHL and Frieda arrived - the house had been the base for the first manned, heavier-than-air flights in Australia.

I pointed out that there were interesting links between the building industry and the military personalities who took part in those 1909-1910 flights; their continuing friendships into the 1920s and beyond; and the political and returned-servicemen milieu Lawrence describes in Kangaroo.

One visitor asked where this research had been published, saying it could have wider literary implications in discussions of DHL's craft - in particular, his creative use of real events and real people. I replied, rather awkwardly, that the research had been a curiosity-driven exercise on my part, with no particular thought of academic publication. This article, however, is an effort to put in print for a wider audience the story of Emma Schultz's end-of-the-road house at Narrabeen.

Emma Schultz (1875-1951) was the wealthy wife of a prosperous and well-connected North Sydney Master Builder, Charles Schultz (1872-1945), who, though born in Queensland, was of Prussian parentage. He regularly undertook public and private building projects for some of the leading architects of the day. The Schultz family had a large house in Burns Bay Road, Lane Cove, and Charles himself was a Justice of the Peace (when such things had particular community recognition), while the Schultz children were sent to elite private schools in Sydney.

In 1905 Emma purchased seven large sections of land on the then isolated northern end of the North Narrabeen peninsula, including a waterfrontage on to the lagoon and overlooking the sand dunes and nearby ocean (the holding comprised the suburban block bordered today by Lagoon, Ocean and Malcolm streets). To gain an idea of the size of the purchase, some 19 modern houses, apartments, and shops have been built on the original block.

Today the block appears as a singularly unattractive jumble of utilitarian apartments and flashier housing situated on ill-shaped, battle-axe sites. But in 1905 (and still in 1922 when DHL and Frieda walked there) it was an ideal, unspoilt holiday and weekend retreat for a growing family and the Schultz's wide circle of friends in the building and military/aviation sectors.

The original location of Emma's house can still be readily identified today by the stand of high palms along the lagoon edge (originally planted at the front of the house) and by a single, high, pine tree at the back of the house.

Watercolour of "Billabong" painted by George Augustine Taylor in the 1920s

On this land, Charles Schultz built his wife a large, two-storey holiday house across a sloping site on the Lagoon Street side of the block. A recent interview with a Schultz grandson confirmed that visitors normally accessed the house through a Malcolm Street walkway directly to the second floor, and then into a purpose-designed reception area that had adjoining bedrooms intended for weekend holiday use (see drawing). The Schultz family and their wealthy friends would have had motor cars, and these would have been parked outside the upper Malcolm/Ocean Street level for ease of entry.

A plan of the "Billabong" property drawn from memory by
Charles Schultz's grandson, Michael

At the time, the two-storey Schultz house (called "Billabong" by the family) was a stark contrast to the weatherboard "shacks" built further down the street. It was constructed in a distinctive architectural style. Charles had experimented with what would today be called Besser-brick fabrication, and at ground level the house featured a patterned-stone facade with blocks made of sand collected from the nearby dunes. The upper floor was of a more-standard timber-and-plaster construction.

Yet, with a squint of the eye, one can see how it might have reminded DHL of the Cornish stone-and-timber buildings in St Columb, Cornwall. (In Kangaroo, Lawrence says that on seeing "the end house", Somers' heart flew to Cornwall and the village of St Columb Major. He called "the end house" St Columb in the novel.)

Hitherto, Emma's house at-the-end-of-the-road has been overlooked by literary historians, possibly because, as a now-demolished holiday house on the then outer extremity of Sydney, it did not attract the interest of even the most determined and diligent of researchers.

(Comment by Robert Darroch - our attention had been directed elsewhere - to "Hinemoa" at nearby Collaroy, where we could place Jack Scott.)

Moreover, until recently it had been by no means certain if DHL and Frieda had travelled to far-off North Narrabeen the day after their arrival for any purpose other than perhaps looking for cheap transit accommodation. It could well have been that the "end house" in chapter ii was simply another Lawrentian literary invention.

The research breakthrough came in 2010 with a fresh effort to see what might have induced DHL and Frieda to take a long tram trip to North Narrabeen and then trudge nearly a mile along a sandy road to the tip of the Narrabeen peninsula.

This fresh effort was encouraged by the growing body of work by local historians on the activities of right-wing para-military organisations in 1920s Sydney - groups such as the King and Empire Alliance, the Old Guard, and later the New Guard (Lawrence readers will be recall that this is the milieu "fictionalised" by DHL in Kangaroo).

More recent research by Robert Darroch, Dr Andrew Moore and John Ruffels pointed to the activities of some key figures in this milieu - people such as such as George Augustine Taylor, Florence Taylor, and Charles Rosenthal - in flying experiments in 1909-1910 at North Narrabeen.

Some cross-disciplinary trawling last year turned up a privately-published monograph by former President of the Royal Society NSW and aviation historian, David Craddock. This 1999 paper, entitled Feeling the Air, described in considerable detail (with photographs) the building of Taylor's first gliders, partly constructed for military purposes, and the subsequent careers of several of the key the participants.

Importantly, Emma's house overlooking the lagoon was identified as the place on the peninsula were participants stayed and socialised over periods of weeks during the experimental flights, with temporary sheds on the block being used as hangars for the gliders.

Apart from the social friendship between the Taylors, Rosenthal and Schultzes, the three were also connected professionally. They were all leading members of the close-knit (almost Masonic) Sydney architectural and building community.

(It is worthy of note that, some 50 years later, Florence Taylor had a paragraph especially inserted in her husband's biography Some Chapters in the Life of George Augustine Taylor to recall the help and friendship of the Schultz family.)


Photographs of the Schultzs and friends at "Billabong" in the 1920s and 1930s

As his statue in the nearby Narrabeen shopping centre proclaims, George Taylor was in December 1909 the first man to fly in Australia in a heavier-than-air aircraft from the dunes at North Narrabeen Beach.

The same day, his formidable wife Florence tucked her frock into her boots and became first woman to fly. An hour later, Emma Schultz took to the air and became the second woman to fly in Australia. Later the same afternoon, a young carpentry apprentice (later Sir) Edward Hallstrom, who had helped build the gliders, also took to the air.

Local history stories of the North Narrabeen Surf Club and of growing up on the peninsula in the 1920s confirmed the social standing of the Schultz and the prominence of Emma's at-the-end-of-the-road house. Interviews with helpful Schultz and Taylor descendants provided further details of the house, its interior, and some useful sketches and contemporary snapshots.

Interestingly, the Lagoon location, curious building construction, female ownership, and vehicle parking arrangements of Emma's house uncannily fit the northern end of the Narrabeen peninsula described "fictionally" in Kangaroo. Lawrence's "end house" in the novel appears to have been a real place, with real people engaged in ongoing and meaningful professional and social contact.

Aviation aside, by 1922 the Taylors were actively involved in many aspects of Sydney life, editing a bevy of architecture and building industry journals, warring with the Burley Griffins, and engaged in numerous political and returned servicemen causes.

George was the editor/publisher of a magazine for an ex-servicemen organisation headed by Sir Charles Rosenthal. Before that he had also worked for the Bulletin in Sydney and for Punch in England, and had been a prominent member of Bohemian Sydney in the 1890s. The Taylors in the 1920s were at the very centre of Sydney's vibrant journalism and publishing world.

When Lawrence arrived in Sydney, Charles Rosenthal was no longer a rising artillery officer, a military colleague of George Taylor, and a failed Army aviator (he had crashed an aircraft on a flight to Parramatta - a perilous journey given his considerable bulk).

By 1922 he had become a bemedalled war hero, a knighted Major-General, a member of Parliament, a future President of the Australian Institute of Architects, and - most significantly - the current President of the patriotic, right-wing, anti-Catholic King and Empire Alliance (whose launching in Sydney in 1921 had been attended by his building industry colleague and fellow aviator, George Taylor).

However, in late May 1922 George and Florence Taylor were no longer in Sydney. They had embarked on a sea voyage to Europe, leaving a temporary gap in the local world of working journalism.

DHL and Frieda arrived in Sydney - two weeks after the Taylors' departure - carrying Letters of Introduction and, perhaps, hopes of some remuneration to help defray their local costs while they waited for money from overseas for the next stage of their journey to America. (One of the Letters of Introduction, which we know Lawrence did not present, was addressed to a member of the staff of the Bulletin.)

Thus the question has been raised why, on that memorable Sunday afternoon in May 1922, did DHL and Frieda travel so many miles out of their way to remote North Narrabeen, then trudge along that sandy road, to precisely where Emma Schultz's house stood. Was it merely a sight-seeing excursion?

Instead, is it not more likely that DHL's Letters of Introduction were taking him to a Sydney contact who, it turned out, also happened to know that the Taylors had just departed, and that one of the organisations for which the Taylors wrote might be in need of temporary editorial assistance?

(In Kangaroo, Cooley asks Somers if he is going to write something for their Diggers organisation.)

Could DHL and Frieda have been invited by that contact to come that Sunday for afternoon tea to Emma's house to meet some of the old glider group and King and Empire Alliance personalities, who were otherwise up there for a social weekend?

Was Charles Rosenthal there that weekend, and did DHL, having observed his remarkable physical figure and compelling personality, creatively seize on the opportunity to conjure up the central figure in Kangaroo?

Real places, real people enhanced by genius?

Is it also possible that, on the same Sunday afternoon at Emma Schultz's house, amid the social chat, one of the prominent Friend family (who were leading building industry suppliers within the Taylor/Rosenthal circle) became aware that DHL and Frieda were looking for temporary, writer-friendly accommodation, and recommended a newly-vacant cottage across the road from a family member's own holiday cottage in Craig Street, Thirroul?

The story of "Wyewurk" and its architect Roy Irons is, however, a tale for another day.

Suffice that a good day was recently had by our DHL Society of North America cousins…

…photographing the Tea Room building on the Corso probably visited by DHL and Frieda; crossing over the road and dipping toes into the surf at Manly ocean beach; viewing the spectacular panorama of Sydney from North Head; motoring serenely along Ocean Street where DHL and Frieda trudged all that way on their first full day in Sydney; standing on the sand dunes where Florence Taylor and Emma Schultz became the first women to fly in Australia; and, finally, ending up at Taronga Park, where the young apprentice Edward Hallstrom later used his manufacturing fortune to develop a renowned Zoo on the leafy Harbour's edge.

Robert Whitelaw, now retired, is a History Honours graduate from Sydney University in the 1960s. His research skills were further honed by several decades as a policy officer with the Australian Government.

Photographs: courtesy of Michael Schultz, grandson of Charles and Emma Schultz