Agnes Phillips was born in Scotland in 1916 and lived in Millers Point from 1920 after her parents migrated to Sydney. In her interview she recalls her mother’s work after widowhood, childhood, religion, school, entertainment, neighbours, shops, trams, and her work at Woolworth’s and an advertising agency in the city. In the excerpt below she recalls the impact of her father’s death on her mother’s way of life.
This interview is part of Housing NSW’s 2005 Millers Point Oral History Project. The City of Sydney acknowledges the State Library of New South Wales as the archival custodian of the project and digital preserver of the masters.
Dad was a cook on a ship named Gunarva and it foundered off Terrigal Beach, off the coast, and he was drowned there. She [mother] was left with three children, my brother was eighteen months old and Jean was three and I was ten by then. She was given some compensation, which wasn’t very much in those days, so she ended up buying the lease at 71 Lower Fort Street [a boarding house].
Then in the meantime the Depression was on so she was keeping the whole house, because nobody was working in the house, so she was paying all their electric lights and gas, so she was keeping not only three [children], she had two couples and I think three [additional] children. The Richards was one couple, Browns was another and they came from Kurri Kurri, looking for work.
One couple had the back balcony room on the first floor, with kids of course, the other couple had the front balcony room and the attic as well. We had four rooms because there was my brother, my mum and me, and my sister. We had the room downstairs [basement], the kitchen and a little bit of a dining room there.