Alice Brown

Alice Brown was born in 1917 in The Rocks and grew up in Millers Point in Sydney. She left the area in 1956. In her interview she describes her family’s long association with the area, the maritime locality, neighbours, hawkers, local businesses, recreation and many other topics. In the excerpt below Mrs Brown recalls her mother’s death during the influenza pandemic of 1919.

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.

My mother was born in Tasmania. Dad was a seaman and he was born in Kent Street, Millers Point. I think he was at sea when mum caught the flu in 1919 and she was only sick a couple of days and she was taken to the temporary hospital in the Deaf and Dumb Institute in City Road, where she died. She left three of us. I had two brothers, George was the eldest, he was four and a half, and Eddie was three and a half, almost four, and then myself, I was a year and eleven months. She died in June 1919. My grandmother took us down to 84 Kent Street, Millers Point where I lived until I was twenty-nine. But Mum wouldn’t stay at home. My grandmother wanted her to stay at home, and she would nurse her, because Gran had been nursing some of the neighbours as well.

Ruby Colbeck next door to my grandmother in Kent Street, she had just got over the flu, and she said to my mother, ‘Are you frightened?’ and she said “yes” and my grandmother reckoned she frightened herself into it. But she wouldn’t stay home, she thought she’d get better at hospital. Gran often said it was very bad weather and of course in those days I believe the ambulances were not like now, they were only canvas and that. They took her to a couple of hospitals, Canterbury and somewhere else, but they couldn’t get in and she was within six weeks of a confinement.

Frank Heimans