Penrith City Library 2019 History Calendar

2019 calendar

Our 2019 history calendar is now for sale.

Purchases can be made at Penrith Library’s service desks or Nepean Family History Society

On sale for $10

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Noble work recognised: Penrith City Library remembers the Great War.

On 21 November, the Library hosted a commemorative event to recognise the work and sacrifice of our local men and women during the First World War. Our last Our Fallen booklet was given out to attendees. These booklets have contained the biographies of each local fallen soldier and can be found on this website at The Noble Work Recognised Project for 2019 was also launched – this publication project will include all of our previous Our Fallen booklets, plus biographies of local nurses who served as well as the stories of the men who returned.

The night also included a talk by Dr Penny Stannard, curator at State Archives. She spoke on State Archives’ photographic exhibition, Windows into Wartime, which is currently in the Library. Researcher Steve Ford also spoke on researching military ancestors. Steve also presented the Library with photographs of headstones of local soldiers in France.

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Windows into Wartime – Home front insights through the lens of NSW government photographers


Penrith City Library is hosting this NSW State Archives exhibition from 24 October to 30 November 2018.

The exhibition presents a selection of historical images taken by government photographers during the time of Australia’s involvement in the War to the cusp of its transition into post war society. This exhibition provides insights into the home front during the First World War, 1914-1918.

Please note: exhibition is unavailable on Wednesday mornings and Thursday 15 November 2018

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Noble work recognised: Penrith City Library remembers the Great War

Mertoun Mills

Save the date – 21 November 2018

Time:  6pm for 6.30pm

Supper on arrival

An evening of reflection to mark the end of the Great War 100 years ago. The evening will be filled with information sharing, remembrance and storytelling. This special evening event will be our way to pay tribute to the five years of service to our country by our local men and women.

The evening will include:

*         Talk by Steven Ford on researching our family’s military history

*         Talk by Lorraine Stacker, Penrith Librarian and the presentation

of the final (1918) Our Fallen booklet to those present. Lorraine will also launch the Library’s publication project Noble work recognised: the City of Penrith remembers the Great War. This publication will be launched October 2019 and will include the biographies of our fallen soldiers, the biographies of our local nurses who served in the war, selected biographies of those who returned, histories of local honor rolls and war memorials and soldier settlements.

*         Talk by Dr Penny Stannard, NSW State Archives Senior Exhibitions

Curator on the Windows into Wartime exhibition that will be in Penrith Library from 24 October to 30 November

A special evening not to be missed. Tickets ($5) will go on sale from 22 October – so save the date.

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West Fest event – 10 October 2018

Penrith City Council and Penrith City Library are hosting three events as part of West Fest – an event celebrating the culture and heritage of Western Sydney organised by Office of Environment and Heritage. West Fest is a two week festival which will be held in multiple locations across Western Sydney from 6-21 October 2018.

Three events will be held in Penrith City Library.

Heritage Seminar Series: Everyday management of your heritage item

A seminar designed for people who own heritage items and want to know more about cost-effective and practical ways of looking after them. Learn how to diagnose common heritage building issues, how to access information and support, and how to find professionals and tradespeople who can give you the advice you need.

Date: Wednesday 10 October 2018
Time: 6pm – 7:30pm
Location: Penrith Library

Tickets are free but need to be booked through the West Fest website
Register your attendance

Heritage Seminar Series: Heritage advice for real estate agents

In this one hour session, designed specifically for real estate agents, learn more about how to find information about heritage properties and what heritage listing might mean for a new owner. Bring your own laptop or tablet to get some hands-on practice during the session.

Date: Wednesday 10 October 2018
Time: 3:30pm – 4:30pm
Location: Penrith Library

Tickets are free but need to be booked through the West Fest website
Register your attendance

Code Club for Kids

As part of West Fest, the Heritage Near Me program is hosting free coding workshops for kids aged 8–12 years across Western Sydney. Code Club for Kids will teach beginner coding skills over a 60 min lesson using the platform ‘Scratch’. Kids will explore the culture and heritage of Western Sydney while learning how to build games and animations using block coding!

This event is delivered in partnership with Code Club Australia, a charity with the aim of giving every child the skills, confidence and opportunity to shape their world through digital technologies education.

Everything is provided, and each child needs to be accompanied by a responsible adult.

Date: Wednesday 10 October 2018
Time: 10am, 11.30 am, 2pm and 3.30pm
Location: Penrith Library

Tickets are free but need to be booked through the West Fest website
Register your child’s attendance


The Penrith City Library Local Studies Room will be also be open and staffed all day until 6pm on this day – feel free to wander in and have a chat about how we can help you find out more about the history of your house and the local area.

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UNSW’s Short course in Managing Historical Documents



The UNSW Short Course in Managing Historical Documents, which will be offered over two consecutive weeks from Monday 5th November to Friday 16th November, 2018, through the School of Humanities and Languages at the University of NSW, will be of interest to persons who are responsible for the care, control, custody and management of archives and historical documents in schools and colleges, local public libraries, community organisations, hospitals, religious congregations, museums and historical societies.

Stage 1 (Week 1) of the Short Course will be conducted in the Morven Brown Building at the School of Humanities and Languages on the Kensington Campus of the University of NSW, during which four visits will be made to archival institutions in the Sydney Metropolitan Area with the aim of illustrating the theoretical principles underpinning the work of the professional Archivist in controlling archives and historical records as applied in a variety of archival contexts.

Stage 2 (Week 2) of the Course will comprise an Archives Field Practicum of five days’ duration at the Seymour Centre, the performing arts centre of the University of Sydney, where participants will undertake the identification, differentiation, arrangement and description of the archives of the Seymour Centre, and compile an inventory of the archives of the Centre for the University of Sydney Archives and for the Seymour Centre. The Short Course is of particular relevance to Local Studies Librarians who are responsible for the management of Local Government Council Archives and collections of personal papers and the archives of community organisations.

The Application Form and details about the Short Course can be found at the following url:

For enquiries about the content of the Short Course in Managing Historical Documents for 2018contact:

Dr Peter Orlovich
Visiting Fellow
School of Humanities & Languages
University of NSW
Telephone: 9587 0377


Note from Penrith City Library

I highly recommend this course for anyone interested in finding the best solution for archiving to all of those pieces of paper, documents, ephemera, photographs etc. I completed this course many years ago and I am still benefiting from it, at work and at home.

Lorraine Stacker
Library Research Services Supervisor
Penrith City Library

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National Family History Month

August is National Family History Month and Penrith Library has arranged a varied programme of activities during the month.

Tickets will be available from Penrith Library from 16th July. Most events are free, but bookings are essential due to limited space for some sessions.

To book a place at any of these activities, call into any branch of Penrith City Library or call (02) 4732 7891 or (02) 47327860, or email:

All activities are located within Penrith Library, 601 High Street, Penrith.

Tuesday 7 August – 10am – 12.30 pm (PC Training Room) – Family history research with a local twist – Interested in getting started with your family history research? Research Services Librarian Lorraine Stacker will present a talk on getting started in family history using online resources, and, Research Librarian Ann-maree Bonner, will detail some of the wonderful local records that can be used to flesh out your family tree.

Bookings essential – FREE event

Leitch family

Wednesday 15 August – 1pm- 4pm (Peter Goodfellow Theatrette) – Workshop: Connecting culture: tracing ancestors – Come, meet and listen to the State Library of NSW’s Indigenous Services team. They connect people with their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and provide help in exploring Indigenous family history using the diverse and extensive collections of the State Library.

Their session will be followed by Penrith Library’s family and local history historian, Lorraine Stacker, who will step through her research into the Indigenous family history of a family member.

Tea and coffee facilities available

Bookings essential – $5

State Library of NSW, Indigenous Services Team


Saturday 25 August – 1pm – 3pm (PC Training Room) – Workshop: Researching NSW land records online – Family historian and land records expert, Stephen Ford will step you through the mire of land records in NSW with some fascinating and thought-provoking results.

Bookings essential – FREE event

Stephen Ford talk

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Adam “Scotty” Denholm – Local police officer turned Skippy trainer

police pic

Second Emu Plains Police Station

The second Emu Plains Police Station was built in 1908 and was used up until 1921, when the resident police officer Constable Samuel McLean retired. Following his retirement a decision was made not to appoint another police officer at Emu Plains, however the house was still used as a residence for police officers. One of the most interesting officers who lived there was Adam ‘Scotty’ Denholm who started up the Dog Training Unit with NSW Police training dogs for tracking. He continued this work while living at Emu Plains and in fact the kennels were moved to Penrith occupying some of the site the Civic Centre is on now. He was a bit of a media star and his first dog Tessa was preserved by a taxidermist and is now in the Police Museum in the city. Scotty Denholm left Penrith and went on to train all the kangaroos for the Skippy series.


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Toby Ryan – celebrating his 200th birthday

Toby Ryan (NFHS)


Nepean Family History Society in conjunction with Penrith City Library will celebrate local colourful identity James Tobias (Toby) Ryan’s 200th birthday on 3 February 2018.

Penrith City Library have also kindly digitised the facsimile copy of Toby’s Reminiscences of Australia published by Nepean Family History Society in 1982.

3 February – Celebrations will commence at 1.30 with the Mayor of Penrith Councillor John Thain arriving at 2 pm.

At: Old School Residence, Emu Plains, off Lawson Street, Emu Plains NSW 2750

The afternoon event will include:

  • Welcome by President Stephen McKenzie
  • Talk by Jan Thomas, President of Nepean FHS when Toby’s book was produced. Jan will speak about the creation of their facsimile edition and the people involved
  • Talk by Penrith Library Librarian and historian, Lorraine Stacker on Toby and his family
  • Mayor John Thain  will launch the digitised copy of Toby’s book
  • An invitation for descendants to say a few words
  • Raffle draw of NFHS facsimile copy of Toby’s book
  • Cutting the cake
  • Afternoon tea
  • Sale of Toby’s digital copy of his book ($20)
  • Display of Ryan family history
  • Display of Ryan’s original 1894 copy of Reminiscences of Australia – normally located in Penrith Library’s Research Room
  • Nepean FHS Library will be open from 10 am for research



James Tobias (Toby) Ryan was born on 4 January 1818 at Castlereagh, the son of convict John, and Mary Ryan. His mother was the daughter of Anthony Rope and Elizabeth Pulley, First Fleet convicts. His father, John Ryan arrived in 1815 on the Indefatigable with a life sentence. In 1827 he took over the Rope farm at South Creek. After boarding school, Toby worked with his father, but following some problems with the police, he left the district for the Hunter where he spent some years timber-getting, farm labouring and horse-breaking. he overlanded cattle to Port Phillip before returning to the Nepean district around 1838.

In 1840 he set up as a butcher in Penrith and became an auctioneer. By 1852 he had built Emu Hall, an impressive home on the Emu Plains side of the Nepean, where he entertained visiting politicians and dignitaries. The growing confidence of the district’s leaders in their ability and economic soundness was demonstrated by their Penrith Nepean Bridge Company venture, proposed before the discovery of gold. In 1850, a group of local businessmen, including Toby Ryan, Robert Fitzgerald from Mamre at St Marys, Edwin Rouse from Berkshire Park and John Perry from Penrith, approached the government to sanction the formation of a company to build a toll bridge over the Nepean River. The proposed bridge would replace the government ferry.  The government sanctioned the proposal on certain conditions. The company had to raise £6,000, the bridge had to be at least 26 feet wide, completed within three years and kept in good repair. With all conditions met, the company was entitled to charge a toll for thirty-three years. Afterwards the bridge, land and toll house would become public property.

The low-lying ironbark bridge was constructed from the present Punt Road at Emu Plains across to the Governor Bourke Hotel (just south of the Log Cabin site). It was 700 feet long and 30 feet wide and opened for traffic on 1 January 1856. The company held a grand ball for the opening, with over 500 people attending. Chandeliers were strung across the bridge under swaths of canvas. Just eighteen months later, floodwaters washed away the pride of Penrith on 29 June 1857. Afterwards, it was estimated that it would cost £2-3,000 to repair the four destroyed central piers and the end sections. The engineer, with limited knowledge, had constructed the bridge piers on the bedrock, without fixing them into the riverbed.

Undaunted, the company began construction of the next bridge in July 1859, with a different engineer, who was instructed, against his advice, to re-build it on what remained of the previous bridge. This bridge fared little better and was washed away by another flood in May 1860. The end portions remaining of the first bridge were washed away this time and the top of the bridge was carried about a quarter of a mile down river and dumped unceremoniously on Toby Ryan’s land.

Robert Jamison was the first local resident elected to Parliament. When electorates were redistributed in 1858, a single member Nepean electorate was created with Penrith as its main urban centre. In the ensuing election of 1859 Jamison was elected. His election as the first member for Nepean helped bring the district into a wider political arena, opening up the minds of its residents to the possibilities and opportunities of the future. His defeat by Toby Ryan, at the 1860 election, ushered in an era of the local man, for the local people. Ryan’s home, business and perspective were firmly within the district.

Between 1860-72 Ryan represented the Nepean in the Legislative Assembly. Never a contender for ministerial rank, he was a popular and amusing back-bencher. The St Marys community also depended on the Member for Nepean to make representation to the government on matters such as roads repairs and improvements, health and safety and economic development.

Toby Ryan and T R Smith were appointed to undertake valuations of the 413 properties in the district when Penrith was incorporated as a Council in 1871.

Ryan was also well known as a sportsman, a good boxer, crack pigeon shot and successful racehorse owner and breeder. He was financially ruined after the destruction of the first two bridges over the Nepean River, which he helped finance. Ryan, a larger than life character published his rambling Reminiscences of Australia in 1894. His bankruptcy in 1871 had forced the disposal of most of his property at Emu Plains and Penrith by 1880. When Ryan died in 1899, his obituary recorded Reverend Fryer’s words at the graveside at Emu Plains, ‘he would be long remembered [and] cherished’.

In 1879-80 Toby was licensee of the Crown Hotel in George Street. He was again bankrupted in 1885. His occupation was asphalter. By the 1890s Toby and his wife (Sarah Hadley) ran a boarding-house in Francis Street, Sydney.

In his Reminiscences of Australia (1894), Ryan made many exaggerated claims including that he had met Bold Jack Donohoe, and to have been associated with Edward Hargraves. There is probably an element of truth in some of it. And to quote the Australian Dictionary of Biography, there is ‘a simple warmth, generosity and tolerance, and an eccentric prose style reminiscent of his parliamentary speeches. Ryan’s language, ‘unmistakably vigorous’, ‘rudely eloquent’, but ‘nearly always opposed to the rules of the grammarians’, is a useful reminder that he was a genuine character, a self-made man proud of his descent from emancipist stock’.

Ryan died at Woolloomooloo on 17 October 1899 and was buried with family members in the Anglican section of the Emu Plains cemetery. Toby and Mary Dempsey (1817-1864) married on 16 August 1838 at Castlereagh. They had four sons and four daughters. He married his second wife Sarah Hadley (d.1923) on 16 September 1866. They had one son and three daughters. A Freemason for fifty-six years he was, in December 1862, the first worshipful master of Queen’s Lodge 982, Penrith.

toby headstone



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2018 History Calendar

2018 calendar front cover

Penrith City Library’s 2018 History Calendar is out and for sale for just $10 at all Penrith Library branches and Nepean Family History Society (

Our calendar celebrates the many anniversaries in our history, especially the forming of the Nepean Rowing Club in April 1928. Also, we again commemorate the sacrifice of our local men during the First World War. Twenty-One men from our district died during 1918 in faraway places such as France, Damascus and Baghdad.

Also, in January, James ‘Toby’ Ryan of Emu Hall celebrates his 200th birthday. The Library is currently digitising a facsimile copy of his 1894 book Reminiscences of Australia. You can view his original 1984 book in the Library’s Research Room. The Nepean Family History Society produced a facsimile edition in 1982, which was their first publication. On 3 February, the Mayor will join with the Library and Nepean Family History Society to celebrate Toby’s life and commitment to our Penrith area. Toby, a grandson of Anthony and Elizabeth Rope, was the main financial backer for the first two bridges across the Nepean, built in the same location where the green bridge is now under construction. Ryan was also our elected Member for Nepean in the 1860s.

Another significant date in 2018 is the 200th anniversary of the 3,000 acre land grant to James Erskine, which he named Erskine Park.

The images in the calendar have been mostly sourced from Penrith City Library’s Photographic Collection. Over many decades the Library has gratefully accepted photographic donations from the public which, added to the Library’s own photographic archive, has created an impressive visual history of our City.


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