Janet and Cathie Farley

Janet and Cathie Farley are mother and daughter born respectively in the late 1930s (in Scotland) and in the late 1950s in Millers Point. In their interview they reflect on their lives as mothers, workers and as part of the local community. They discuss housing in general including living in boarding houses, employment, demographic change, and the ‘separation’ of Millers Point from The Rocks and Dawes Point nearby. In the excerpt below Janet talks about the various local cleaning jobs she did to survive in the 1960s and ‘70s which included the now notorious period of excessive drinking associated with early closing of hotels.

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.

I used to leave the house about half-past four in the morning to start work at the Customs Department [nearby at Circular Quay]. I worked there until just after seven-thirty, eight o’clock, to get home and make sure the kids were up, ready for school and fed, and lunches ready. Then I went back to the Wynyard Hotel to do a housemaid’s cleaning job until after lunch time. Then I done the housework and whatever else I had to do before the kids came home about three o’clock, so as I could start work down at Customs again until after seven o’clock at night. It was a long day, but as I said, we had to do it; it was something you just got used to, it was something you had to do to survive.

There were no pensions in those days, you got very little from anybody in those days. After I left the Customs Department I started in the Captain Cook [Hotel] and then I done the Palisade [Hotel] after I left the Captain Cook and then I done the Wynyard Hotel. I got an easier go up at the Wynyard Hotel  because they were  early closing some times, it was more business people up at the Wynyard than what it was down the Palisade and the Captain Cook because they were working-class wharfie pubs type of thing. So you got in there and done whatever. They left you alone to do your job, type of thing and what you couldn’t do, you done the next morning, you’d just go down there a wee bit early. You had to clean what was lying on the floor, or wherever else.

Siobhán McHugh