The Coggan Family

Thomas Colston Coggan was born into the George Coggan Family.  He was grandson to the original George Coggan and his father was also George Coggan and he was born in 1865 into the Bedminster branch.  As to why he was given the middle name Colston, we can only speculate.  Edward Colston was a merchant and controversially a slave trader of the late 1700’s.  He founded numerous charities and schools and today in November they still celebrate Colston Day. 

In his late teens, he married Mary Josephine Calli.  Mary was the daughter of Joseph Calli (Born Taunton, Somerset 1843), so while of Italian descent, they were an English family but Catholic.  Thomas Colston Coggan was disowned by his family and therefore moved with Mary to live on the outskirts of Cardiff in Wales.  Mary died in 1891 and Thomas left for Australia.

Tom Coggan settled in Sydney, where he met and married Minnie Weekes.  Their first daughter Doris,  born in 1897, died of meningitis in 1899.  Tom Colston Coggan, known to everyone as “Coge” was born in 1898 at St Leonards and Minnie Coggan, known as “Trix” in 1901.  

Tom Coggan’s cousin  Rose Coggan had also moved to Sydney from Bristol.  As a young woman, she had worked in the W.D. & H.O.Wills tobacco company in Bristol, rolling cigarettes. She and her husband Archie Stone, bought four blocks of land at Watson’s Bay and built a house on one of them in Cliff St.  Probably when Archie died in 1914, she sold numbers 23 and 25 Cove St to Tom Coggan.  Cliff St and Cove St are parallel and Rosie’s house was immediately behind 23 Cove St.  They built a family home on 25 Cove St, and a workshop/factory on 23 Cove St.  When the children (Tom and Trix) grew up and moved out, they converted the front half of the factory into a one bedroom house and sold off 25 Cove St.

Apart from continuing as a painter, Tom was also beveling and engraving glass and mirrors and manufacturing the first wireless dials in Sydney.  He manufactured glass dials with the stations marked in gold leaf and drilled through the center for the tuning hand.  Kevin Coggan recalled working at the factory on weekends (as did Claire) drilling the hole in the centre of the dials.  Kevin said that he remembered constantly shattering the dials when he drilled them.  This was in the very early days of radio when the “wireless’ consisted of small units which were kept in the wardrobe and had earphones and antennae “whiskers”.  They made all the dials for HMV (Her Majesties Voice), AWA (Amalgamated Wireless Australia -owned by the Federal Gvt.), Philips and a number of small companies that never survived more than a decade.

At some point when his son Tom “Coge” Coggan was working for Sweetacres (James Stedman Henderson Company) as a food chemist, he secured work for his father painting advertising signs for “Jaffas”, “Minties”, “Fantales” etc.  His death certificate issued on 13th April 1941 records his occupation as “Advertising Contractor” and his father George Coggan (Bristol, England) as “Decorator & Signwriter”.  It would appear therefore that painting advertising signs was something he learn from his father.

Coge and Claire married in 1921 and toward the end of the 1920’s built their house at 19 Clarke St, Vaucluse. 

In 1929 they took the family to live in England (Slough, Berkshire).  We know that they were living there in 1929 and 1930 and that Coge attended the Antwerp, BelgiumExposition internationale coloniale, maritime et d’art flamand (1930) A colonial exhibition was a type of international exhibition intended to boost trade and bolster popular support for the various colonial empires during the New Imperialism period, which started in the 1880s with the scramble for Africa.

While on the continent he also visited Holland and the Nestles factory in Switzerland.  We know this because of photographs taken on the voyage out and back and while in Europe.  As to what he was doing, it is more a case of speculation.  Mars established their confectionary manufacturing factory in 1932 in Slough; so perhaps Coge was involved in setting it up.  Perhaps he was also furthering his studies in Food Chemistry as during WW2 he was involved in developing and producing dehydrated foods for feeding the troops.  Perhaps that explains Claire seeming addiction to Deb instant potatoes.

While in England Claire visited two of Coge’s cousins.  All she recalled was that one was crippled (Dorothy) and that Kevin was with her when she visited.  One wasn’t married and the other had twin sons who drove them to the station in Cardif.  They also visited one of Rosie’s relatives who owned or operated an Inn.  Claire said that Trix used to write to a number of the English Coggan relatives.

At some point either before going to England or on returning home; probably the latter, Coge developed the coating for the new product to be launched in 1931; Jaffas.  As he experimented with orange flavoured syrups, he would bring them home in jars and the family used it as topping on icecream.  In the 1950’s and 1960’s there were always jars with slide pourers in the refrigerator, and even when Claire died in 1985, there was half a jar remaining.

Tom snr. suffered from sinus congestion and his solution was to daily bathe at Camp Cove beach where he would do backward summersaults in the water.  He claimed that this forced the seawater up into his sinuses and flushed them out. When Minnie died in 1939, Tom moved into Coge and Claire’s home at 19 Clarke St. and eventually into Ardrossan Private Hospital in Dover Rd, Rose Bay where he died.

When Tom moved to Vaucluse, Coge took over the workshop at 23 Cove St.  He set up large wooden troughs, lined with metal tubs and heaters underneath to melt wax.  Paper was rolled through the molten wax and then hung up to dry on wires strung high up in the ceiling.  All  the ceilings were about 7 meters high.  The business was registered in the name of Claire Haselich, but managed by Coge and operated by Laurie O’Connor.  Coge also worked there on nights and weekends.  Laurie O’Connor’s wife Annie was head of the chocolate department at Sweetacres. 

Right through to the middle of the 1960’s Claire would drop in on Annie at the Sweetacres factory at Rosebery to collect large boxes of chocolates.  Beautiful  gold foil over cardboard boxes.  The boxes were around 40cm square and 12cm deep with around three layers of chocolates.  I also seem to remember a tale about Kevin going missing on the ship as they were leaving Sydney for England in 1929.  He was found under a bunk devouring either a bunch of bananas of a box of chocolates.

While Claire told me that they manufactured the greaseproof paper to sell to companies for packaging food; “big places” would send trucks to collect rolls of greaseproof paper.  On the other hand, Kevin told me that the greaseproof paper was used to package biscuits that Coge made in a factory in City Rd, Chippendale.  Sold as “Pops Cookies”, Coge was moonlighting from Sweetacres, and the greaseproof paper was probably used for both.  In the 1950’s and 60’s, the floor was still coated in melted wax, probably a centimeter thick, and in summer it was soft and despite years of scraping away at it, the floor eventually had to be sheeted over with Masonite fiberboard before carpeting when the workshop was converted into a bathroom, sunroom and bedroom.

During WW2, the Japanese shelled Bondi and like many others along the coast, they had a bomb shelter dug in the backyard at Clarke St.  They also had an emergency gas lantern installed in the kitchen for use during blackouts. Both Donald Coggan and Frank Emmett went missing in WW2.  Claire called on her cousin Roland Wiltshire (son of Aunty Dale) who had a senior position in the army, to find out where they were.  She said that when she found out how Frank had been killed on the Kokoda Track, she wished that she hadn’t.  Donald was missing in Borneo, but then found to have linked up with an American army unit.

In 1951, Coge had surgery.  He travelled to Gosford to recuperate and when complications set in, they couldn’t get him back to a hospital in time and he died at 53 y.o.a.  The house was never a large one.  At the front was a large veranda, bricked in on the sides and at some stage they hung a large canvas blind across it to turn it into a bedroom.  In those less fearful times in the 1950’s, having the children sleep there wasn’t really risky and I seem to remember sleeping there.  Inside the front door to the left of the hallway was the loungeroom and the master bedroom on the right.  Next on the left was the kitchen/dining room and the right the bathroom and another bedroom.  The back had a bedroom that was added later and which Claire used.  I remember being in that room when I contracted three infectious diseases around 1951-2 when we were living there (1949-53), so it was probably added on to accommodate us Crawfords.

Donald and Violet Coggan moved into the Cove St house when they married and stayed until after the birth of Dianne and Ross.  It would have been a tight squeeze with just the two bedrooms (actually a large master bedroom and a sunroom).  They moved to Cheltenham in late1953 or early 1954.  Dianne and I appear in the Kindergarten class photo at Vaucluse Public School in 1953, so they were still there then.

The Crawfords then moved to Cove St and remained till early 1965.  Bruce eventually built the bedroom, bathroom and sunroom into the workshop at the back of the house, but left the door in the back wall that lead via a plank into the backyard of Aunty Rosie’s house.  Jeanne would prepare meals for Aunty Rosie and we would deliver them through the back yard and up the internal staircase at the back of her home.  For years, Bruce used the shed in the back yard to store his radio parts.  We also made use of the clothes line; a wire held up with a clothes prop, and cut her lawn with a scythe.

Claire stayed on at Clarke St. Vaucluse into the 1970’s.  As the house had been left to the three children, with the proviso that Claire live in it till she died, Donald, Kevin and Jeanne had to agree to the sale of the house and the purchase of a new home at Epping.  I suspect that Coge was concerned that left to her own devices, Claire might sell the house, spend the money and then have nothing to live on in her old age.  At some point in the late 1930’s he placed an ad in the Sydney newspapers stating that he would not pay any bills for shoes that she purchased.  Shoeshops were put on notice that she was not to be sold shoes, however over the next 40 years, she was never short of them. (and I perpetuate the tradition)

Claire was a close friend of Alice and Jack Doyle and was the only non family member who knew the recipe for their famous tartare sauce.  She would often help Alice make it.  In the days when Doyles boasted that you could have a second course for free, Alice would serve me larger and larger Snappers as I grew older and finish by asking if I wanted the second one.  From the age of 5 to 35, I could never take her up on the offer.  We followed them from Watson’s Bay to Rose Bay and back again.

The Doyle’s threw a big Christmas party every year.  Or maybe it was just a summer party.  I remember that it was called the Captain Cook Day or some such.  We were all given badges with a picture of the old steamer “Captain Cook” which was the pilot boat that took the pilots out to board ships entering Sydney Harbour and steer them up the channel. There was a day of all sorts of races including egg and spoon, sack, three legged with prizes for everyone.  Gifts for all the children and the picture theatre thrown open for the night.  Alice knew everyone, and if you were missing because of illness, she would send someone around with a present. 

Coggan, Tom Colston (1897 – 1952)
Industrial chemist
Born: 1897?.  Died: 12 May 1952.
Tom Colston Coggan was a staff member at James Stedman Henderson’s Sweets Ltd for over 30 years. One of his first posts was as a laboratory assistant in charge of the manufacture of confectionery at a factory in Slough, England (1928-1930). Coggan then progressed to take charge of several manufacturing departments and became a member of the factory executive. At the time of his death he held the dual position of Chief Chemist and Assistant Factory Manager. Before joining Henderson’s Sweets Tom Coggan was an Assistant Chemist with Lever Brothers in Balmain, followed by a stint with H.M. Customs Laboratory in Sydney and later at Dalgety & Co. in Mareeba. He was a foundation member of the Food Technology Association of New South Wales.
Career Highlights
Chronology 1917 Diploma in Assaying completed at the Sydney Technical College 1923 Diploma in Industrial Chemistry completed at the Sydney Technical College 1928 – 1930 Laboratory Assistant in charge of the manufacture of confectionery at a factory in Slough, England 1928 – 1952 Employed by James Stedman Henderson’s Sweets Ltd
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