Beverley Sutton

Beverley Sutton was born in the late 1930s and four generations of her family have lived in Millers Point. In her long interview she talks about her grandparents; parents; various places she’s lived in in Millers Point; her father’s waterside and other work; her mother’s cleaning jobs; playgrounds; childhood; fishing; swimming; religious differences; entertainment; living conditions; housework; different expectations for for boys and girls; marriage; and the future of Millers Point. She bought the lease to a boarding house in 1977 and discusses at length different kinds of tenants, the difficulties and responsibilities of being a ‘head tenant’; and the ‘Battle of the Landladies’. In the excerpt below she recalls the renting arrangements for locals when the Millers Point housing stock was still under the authority of the Maritime Services Board.

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.

The normal system, and this happened when I got married. I lived in a boarding house in Lower Fort Street, so once I was married I was able to go down and put my name down on the Maritime [Services Board] list. They had two books: one had your name in it and the other, as properties became vacant, they used to put the street numbers in the other book. Now they’d rule it off every now and again, depending on how many names they had and how many properties, they would rule it off when they had an equal number.

Sometimes they would automatically allocate a house, because if it were a large house, four-bedrooms, and then you had a family that was waiting, then sometimes they would just get a direct allocation of that house. But where they had maybe just married couples, or married couples with one child, and they had several of those and several properties that would be suitable, well then the system would be that they would have a hat with your name in one hat and the street number of the house in another and they would just pick that out. Then they would say to you, ‘Well look, you’ve been allocated that house, go and have a look at it and see it you are happy with it.’ If you weren’t you had the option of then going back into the next ballot, so you’d go back into the next book and you’d have to wait. But if it was suitable well then you chose that house.

When I got my house there were two around in Merriman Street, both very tiny but because we didn’t have children that was all we were able to qualify for. We chose the one that we thought suited us best and that was that.

Siobhán McHugh