Fairground Follies &
La Perouse / Bare Island
Twenty eight members gathered at Harrington Plaza to attend this double barrel heritage outing to Fairground Follies and the historical Bare Island fort at La Perouse. After a 90 minute crawl along the M5 car park we arrived at what was once the industrial and manufacturing heart of Sydney. Our very competent driver, Keith of Travelon coaches, somehow managed to park the bus in front of an old warehouse or factory type building.
We were greeted at the door by the proprietor, Craig, who invited us in for morning tea of cup cakes and lamingtons. Entering the building was like stepping back in time to childhood days spent visiting a carnival or a day at Luna Park. The carousel music rang out and the whole area was filled with an assortment of merry-go-rounds, huge dance hall organs and other musical items from bygone years.
As we enjoyed our morning tea Craig began to explain his passion and lifelong endeavour of sourcing and collecting the machines that filled his antique mechanical music museum. He also described the principle of operation and various levels of sophistication. On moving around the exhibits we were treated to a demonstration of each machine and shown how the musical tastes moved from fairground to jazz in the 40s and robotic style in the 60s. Craig's pride and joy was a huge dance hall organ with 1000 flashing lights which he has named the Taj Mahal. Our Probus group actually walked through this machine and viewed the working components as it belted out the Can Can.
In addition to the music machines the exhibits included a beautifully restored Garrett showmans engine and an exquisite gypsy caravan. Craig related the poignant story of how the caravan was found stored in a shed in one of the only two remaining houses in Marysville, Victoria, which survived the horrific fires of February 2009.
After 2 hours of non-stop demonstrations our group relaxed with a carousel ride before rejoining the bus and heading off for lunch at South Sydney Juniors. The food was excellent and served with minimum of fuss thanks to the pre-ordering by Steve. We were back on the coach by 1.30 and on our way to La Perouse where we were met by Guy, our National Parks and Wildlife guide.
Guy gave us a short talk on the history of La Perouse and the French sea captain from whom it derives its name. After this we spent a short time in the museum at the old cable station before rejoining the coach for a short ride to Bare Island.
The old fort was built in 1885 to protect the entrance to Botany Bay in the event of a Russian invasion. Fortunately, the invasion did not eventuate and after 27 years the fort was converted to a house for war veterans, mainly due to its proximity to the Coast Hospital at Little Bay. Since 1954 the fort has served no purpose other than to accommodate a caretaker. However, the guided tour was very interesting and explained the thinking behind the construction and arrangement of the fortifications. The use of inferior materials during construction has meant that the buildings are deteriorating and in need of constant repair, so the future of the fort is not certain. Unless a viable alternative can be found for its use the old fort may cease to exist and Sydney will lose a significant part of its military history.
After another great heritage outing with our heads crammed with historical information we regrouped for the trip home. Some members took advantage of the short wait for our coach to grab an ice cream from the nearby Mr Whippy van.
All thanks go to Steve White for organising this fantastic trip, arranging the lunch and also for his informative historical preamble to the La Perouse visit.
Sam and Vickie Humphries
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