Edward J Brownlee

A biography of Edward James Brownlee of Leichhardt NSW Australia by his son Ian Edward Brownlee.


Edward James Brownlee was born at View Street, Annandale, NSW on 6 February 1915. Edward parents, William Somerville Brownlee and Maria Bessie Chadwick soon after moved to 32 Alfred Street, Annandale, where on 26 January 1917, their second child, Marie Elizabeth Brownlee was born.

1917 was the year of the great strike and with the worry of no steady income; 34 year old William accepted an offer from his brother, Robert Duncan Brownlee to work for him in his sawmill, at Ourimbah, N.S.W. The family moved to Ourimbah, living in a house owned by Robert in Chittaway Road, not far from the mill.

Young Edward started school at Ourimbah Public School at the age of five. In those days there was only the one school house, which still stands today (1984), although it has been added to. Edward Brownlee remembers that there were up to forty five children in the class when he was in attendance. Each morning on his way to school, he would drop his fathers morning tea off to him at the mill, taking a short cut through the paddock that separated the mill from Chittaway Road.

Edward played cricket and rugby league at Ourimbah School and was always a keen follower of these sports in the Wyong district. He was a good all-round sportsman, as he always went well at whatever sport that he played. The Wyong district produced many fine sportsmen, cricketers like the Cliftons and Davidsons from Lisarow/Niagara. Ernie Clifton and Arthur Clifton were to eventually play cricket in the Sydney first grade competition. Allan Davidson was a good all-rounder, who played for Australia. He was born at Wyong and today (1984), is President of the Cricket Association.

William and Maria had their third child, Thelma Christina Brownlee on 26 December 1918. These were good times at Ourimbah, it wasn’t far to The Entrance and Gosford. The only way that you could get to The Entrance was to catch a train to Wyong, then travel by launch down the Wyong River and across the lake. Taylor Brothers had around three launches running from Wyong to The Entrance at this time. Edward remembers his Uncle Jim, Uncle Tom and their families coming up on weekends and holidays (James Brownlee and Thomas Duncan Brownlee). Robert Duncan Brownlee had cottages and his son Robert William Brownlee used to meet the launch at the wharf in his horse and sulky to take his lodgers luggage to the cottages. Robert Duncan Brownlee worked with the Taylor Brothers in a boatshed known as “Taylor Bros and Brownlee, Boatshed”.

Another of Edward’s uncles worked at the mill. John Brownlee used to cut timber on the saw bench, later driving a horse team to cart timber from the mill, over Tumbi Umbi, to The Entrance. John in later years became manager of the mill. He lived in Dog Trap Road, when William and Robert Brownlee lived in Chittaway Road. When Robert Brownlee moved to The Entrance, John Brownlee moved into his home, opposite William’s. William and Maria later moved to a better house in Maitland Road, towards Lisarow.

In 1927, William, Maria and their three children moved to Bombay Street, Lidcombe, leaving the mill to work at the Homebush Abbatoirs. William Edward Chadwick lived with Catherine Bell Brownlee in 75 John Street, Leichhardt. He died on 15 August 1928 and William and Maria moved in with Catherine, who was now aged 74 years old. It was at John Street, that William and Maria’s fourth child, Enid Gladys Brownlee was born on 18 June 1931.

In 1931, during the Depression, Edward started up with Stuarts Sunlight Cooperage as an apprentice Cooper. He spent the next five years learning the trade of making and repairing wooden barrels.

Steel drums came into use just before the war and the cooperage started dealing in second hand drums. The business grew, with drum re-conditioning plants in Hill Street, two in John Street, two in Moore Street, Leichhardt, one at Camelia near the race course, Newcastle, Brisbane and Adelaide. About 1960 Rheem, who were also reconditioning drums bought out Stuart Bros Cooperage.

Rheem had no interest in wooden barrels so Jimmy Stewart, Edward James Brownlee, Harold Smith and Les Congdon went into partnership taking over the business and commenced trading as General Cooperage on the corner of John Street and Hill Street Leichhardt.

On 25 January 1934, Catherine Bell Brownlee passed away in the heat of a summer day. After her death, William and Maria moved again, this time taking their family to 26 North Avenue, Leichhardt. In 1939, the family moved once again, this time to 92 Catherine Street, Leichhardt.

Edward married Caroline Sarah Harding on 28 May 1949 at the Presbyterian Church in Leichhardt. Caroline was the youngest daughter of Robert Andrew Harding and Emily Austin Smith. Both Edward and Caroline played tennis. Edward played A-Grade for Bon-Espirit in Catherine Street, Leichhardt and later represented the Balmain District in the Blackwell Cup. About 1958 Edward started playing Lawn Bowls at Gladstone Park Bowling Club. He has taken many trophies and his name appears in most events on the Club Championships Board.

Their first child, Ian Edward Brownlee, was born on 27 March 1951 at Annandale and Donald James Brownlee was born 26 April 1953. Donald passed away on 17 September 1959, at home.

Edward worked at General Cooperage (formerly Sunlight Cooperage) until his retirement.

To be expanded and added to . . .


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