The Graham Family

In 1857, Mr James Graham was the Signal Master and was involved in the wreck of the Dunbar. The story of his wife’s premonitions and “visions” of the sole survivor is told in my page “Wreck of the Dunbar”.

In a history of Watsons Bay published by a newspaper in the early 1900s, it was recorded: “The establishment of public worship is a story  of primitive Christianity that makes one understand why the Founder sought his followers among fishermen. Pilot Siddins, keeper of the Macquarie Lighthouse, and his son (also keeper afterwards) held service in his largest room for people of all creeds. Mrs. William Charles Wentworth and her children attended, with the family of Newtons, the oldest fishing people in the Bay; also Mr. Thomas Sidney, and his family. So far back as 1833 we find records of the foundation of the South Head Congregational Church (long prior to Pitt-street 
Church). The funds were raised by liberal contributions, collected by Captain Siddins, and Mr. and Mrs. James Graham (his son-in-law and daughter) ; Mr. Chas. Graham (a son) still lives 
at the Bay. 
The church was opened 1841 by Dr. Ross, the Rev. Mr. Crook going every Sunday 
from Sydney to take service. In 1847 Mr. Peacock was the clergyman. He lived in a small weather 
board cottage (now pulled down), opposite the Signal Station. In 1842 the Rev. Mr. Threlkeld, 
who had been aboriginal missioner at Port Macquarie, took the service, also coming weekly 
from town. In 1845, he went to the South Head to live, and the simplicity of the times is shown 
by the pastor and his family living in three small room’s, under the same roof as the church, behind 
the hall for worship. This has caused it to be called “the church with the chimney.” Not only did Pastor Threlkeld preach and conduct service, christen, marry, bury, and spiritually advise, but he held day school in the hall ; and many residents of the Bay, now elderly, learned the elements of education under his kindly guidance. He was succeeded by the Rev. Mr. Traveller, who had the church for some years. In those times sectarianism was little known, and the Rev. George Macarthur and others have preached in the church, which was attended by everybody around. 
Some time ago it was decided that the old building, long disused in favour of a fine new galvanised iron erection in the Bay, should be offered for sale, and the council contemplated using 
it for offices, but Mr. Lambert, a zealous worker in the Congregational cause could not bear to think that the building “from which so many prayers had risen” should be used for other purposes, so she bought the property, and it still stands, somewhat desolate and ruined, but undisturbed. The writer is indebted for this information to Miss Threlkeld, a daughter of the clergyman and granddaughter to Mr. Thomas Arndell,  second assistant surgeon on H.M.S. Sirius. 

South Head Cemetery

In 1885, an early swimming pool was created when the ‘Bogey-Hole’ was rough-hewn from the rocks off Green (Laings) Point by Jack Graham and Reg Newton. The swimming hole is still visible today and its story told at the “Bogey Hole” page.

The Bogie-Hole

Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1883 – 1930), Tuesday 13 November 1906, page 6           TWO BOYS INJURED.                                                                                                     About midday yesterday two boys, James Graham and C. Rawlins, were thrown from a horse in Pacific-street, “Watson’s Day, and severely injured. The former sustained concussion of the brain, and was rendered unconscious. Rawlins had three ribs broken. Both boys were taken to their homes and attended by Dr. Macarthur. At a late hour last night Graham had not recovered consciousness.

An original Grahams boat.

James McFarlane Graham was born on Londonderry, Northern Ireland in 1818, briefly lived in Kent St., Sydney before moving to Newcastle where he married Maria Johnson in 1850.  He was the Signal Master at the Nobbies lighthouse when his wife and newborn son John James Graham died in 1851.

He moved to Southhead as the Signal Master in 1852 and married Jane Siddins, the daughter of Richard Siddins, the Lighthouse Keeper.  He remained the Signal Master until 1889, when he retired at the age of 71, to a house in Elswick St., Leichhardt where he died in 1894.  Jane died at Riley St., Surry Hills in 1912

Jane Graham (Siddins) was famously recorded as have seen the wreck of the Dunbar in her sleep and insisting her husband go and find the only survivor.  This story is recorded at the link to the family at WaramiSydney.

James and Jane had 13 children; 11 sons and 2 daughters between 1853 and 1870 when Jane was 43 years old. A number of the children died in their teens, however John and Charles lived and died in Watsons Bay.  John bought the Edwards boatshed next to the Newtons tearooms (Doyles) on Marine Parade and in time his son Jim Graham inherited the business which he operated up to his death in 1963.  The boatshed was then acquired by the Doyles and their restaurant extended across the site.  John and then Jim lived in the weatherboard cottage further along marine Parade from the boatshed.

I have memories of all the fishermen of the bay gathering in front of the boatshed of a morning after they had finished fishing for the day.  Of a Saturday and Sunday morning I would pass them all, seated on the ground with backs leaning against the shed doors.  Only a little conversation and a quite smoke.  They would advise me of the weather I could expect over the next five hours or so when I would be sailing in a Sabot, 12-foot skiff or VS.  They could predict when to expect wind shifts and the best course to be sailed to take advantages of the changes.

Graham’s Boatshed beside Doyles

Charles worked at the Watsons Bay Post Office for 20 years as a postman.  When it was closed, he was presented with a shotgun as he had a reputation as a Pigeon Shooter.  His brother Robert also worked for the Post Office in various partn of the country, retiring at Wallsend where he was also presented with a shotgun with which he won numerous national shooting competitions.

Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Tuesday 30 May 1911, page 3



Residents o£ Watson’s Bay last evening tendered a smoke concert to Mr. C. A. J. Manuel, late postmaster, and Mr. Charles Graham, letter-carrier. Both officers have been removed’ from the district, owing to the Postal Department lowering the grade of the local post-office. Mr. Manuel has been postmaster there for 21)4 years, and Mr. Graham has distributed the letters of the suburb for 20 years. The Mayor (Alderman Johnston) presided, and presented Mr. Manuel with a travelling bag and a set of silver entree dishes for Mrs. Manuel. Mr. Graham received a double-barrelled breech-loading gun, with which to win greater fame as a pigeon-shooter. “I don t think,” said the Mayor, “that the local residents need have any fear that the firearm is going to be used to commence a bombardment of the Japanese camp at Parsley Bay. Our people have got over their hostility- to the little Japs.” Captain Paulson said that it was unfortunate that the Postal Department should have been guilty of such a retrograde move as they had made in taking away the post-office from Watson’s Bay. The time was not far off when Watson’s Bay would be a large and important suburb… It needed a telephone exchange badly, oven now, and it was the height of folly for the authorities to try to hinder its progress. It was not good business. A post-office was an absolute necessity in the district. The Mayor should put all possible pressure on the shortsighted, bungling department, and endeavor to get the public utilities so badly needed in the suburb. Mr. Lock, president of the Rose Bay Progress Association, said that the removal of the post-office from Watson’s Bay reflected discredit on the Postal Department. Watson’s Bay would soon have to be connected with the Bondi tramline, via Bellevue Hill. The Minister for Public Works had already admitted that Bondi Beach must be linked up with the Bellevue Hill line, and Watson’s Bay must be made more accessible. The whole of the extensive coastline ought to be thrown open to visitors by the construction of this connecting tram section. Telephones were used by 45 local residents, but it the present prohibitive charges were removed the number of subscribers would be trebled immediately. A local telephone exchange was therefore urgently needed. The Mayor: It costs £10 a year to keep a telephone down here. Another Resident: It costs me £13 10s a year, making only four calls a day. Mr. Lock said that his telephone at Rose Bay was within the two-mile radius, and his telephone bill was only £3 15s a year. This showed clearly how badly off the Watson’s Bay people were. Several other residents voiced the same complaints.

Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer (NSW : 1898 – 1954), Friday 13 March 1942, page 1


An old and respected resident of the district in the person of Mr. Robert Richard Graham passed away in the M.R.D. Hospital on Thursday week. The late Mr. Graham, who was in his 89th year, had been a patient in the institution for a week. The subject of this notice was born at South Head Signal Station, being the son of Mr. and Mrs. McFarlane Graham — his father being at the time signal master at South Head Signal Station.

The late Mr. Graham entered the Postal Department as a boy at. the G.P.O., Sydney. From there he went to Braidwood as telegraph operator, thence to Goulburn. His first appointment as postmaster was to Moulamain, from where he was transferred to Condobolin, Booligal and then Taree (when the post office was next to the Court House). He remained at Taree for 10 years as postmaster and was then transferred to a similar position at Hamilton and later to Wallsend, where he retired 32 years ago. Mr. Graham then came to Sidebottom, where he resided for the rest of his life. There he conducted the receiving office for seven years and then his son conducted it for seven years.

The late Mr. Graham’s wife predeceased him four years ago at the age of 84 years. The members of the family are: Mrs. J. Nicholson (Sidebottom), Mrs. S. Isaacs (Warburton, Victoria), Mrs. P. Everingham (Baugalow), Mrs. T. Donnelly (Lismore), Mrs. Alf. Chapman (Lamblon), Mr. Joseph Henry Graham (Sidebottom), Messrs Ernest and William Graham (Cudgera, Tweed River).

Brothers of deceased were: Mr. William Graham (deceased, retired signal master at Ballina, aged 90), Mr. John Graham (Watson’s Bay, deceased, 80), Mr. Charles Graham (Watson’s Bay, deceased, 79), Mr. Sydney Graham (Leichardt, deceased, 60), and Mr. Jos. Graham (Leichhardt, deceased). The only surviving brother is Mr. Arthur Graham (Cudgera), who is 70 years of age. There was also one deceased sister.

The funeral took place to Redbank cemetery on Saturday morning, when Rev. W. Latham conducted the service. A Masonic service was read by Bro. W. Wrigley. We are informed that whilst at Braidwood, during an outbreak of diphtheria, Mr. Graham cured many cases which were given up. He was a great pigeon shooter in his early days and von a valuable gun trophy at Melbourne against high class shooters. He was a good shot with revolver or gun.

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