The Bayswater Historical Society Story
At the 1990 City of Bayswater Annual Electors’ Meeting, a need was voiced re the history of Bayswater and pioneer residents (early settlers). A working party was called together on 3 December 1990 at which Marlene Robinson from the Bayswater Ratepayers Association (BRA) put forward an initiative to establish a Bayswater Historical Society.
A subsequent meeting in January 1991 resulted in a Steering Committee which had no shortage of volunteers for positions. All but one of the steering committee carried on, and thus the Bayswater Historical Society was born, in February 1991.
The inaugural meeting of the Bayswater Historical Society took place on 2 April 1991, at the Bayswater Senior Citizens Hall and was well attended by local Members of Parliament the Hon. Ms Kay Hallahan, Dr Judy Edwards and Mr Fred McKenzie. The then Mayor of the City of Bayswater Cr. John D’Orazio and Councillors Pat O’Hara, Michael. Sabatino and W. Morrow were also present along with about 90 members of the public.
The inaugural Management Committee consisted of Paul Jaman, Chairperson; Les Lawrence, Vice Chairperson; Shirley Babis, Treasurer, Grace Hardie, Secretary; and general members Lorna Lawrence, Len Craddock, Monica Everatt, Michael Sabatino, Pat O’Hara, Marlene Robinson. Nadine Gibbons was subsequently co-opted as a Minute Secretary.
The monthly General Meetings were held at the Senior Citizens Hall during the first three years with Management Committee Meetings held in private homes for the first year or so. During those first meetings members did like to yarn over old photographs. The Society also had guest speakers as often as possible, with topics that included the Methodist Church, WW2, family histories and many more.
Marketing and advertising played an important part in getting people to the meetings as well as to join the Society. Secretary Grace Hardie eventually caught the attention of the local community newspapers right from the start and did not let the momentum flag. The monthly meeting notice was routinely in the local paper, as was the Sunday “Open House” notices. Articles on local history would appear regularly, and “Letters to the Editor” were published frequently, especially during the formative days. The meetings were held on Wednesdays, then Tuesdays and then late mornings on the fourth Sunday of the month, with the “House” being kept open for the public during the afternoon.
In 1991, the then owners of Leighton House (now Halliday House), Kingsley Dixon and Lionel Johnston offered the BHS the opportunity to open their house to the public on the Australia Day holiday weekend in January and again on Foundation Day in June. The 100-year-old house had been restored by these two young men, and the interest shown by the public was overwhelming. The house was opened again in 1993, and subsequently purchased by the City of Bayswater when it went on sale.
In 1990’s membership stood at 210. Some of the elderly members have passed on, and a few others have resigned for various reasons. The Society is affiliated with the Royal WA Historical Society and developed a good working relationship with Swan-Guildford, Bassendean and Maylands Historical Societies. Bayswater, together with Maylands and Swan-Guildford are all on the Perth-Midland Railway Line and are also on the Swan River.
The City of Bayswater, as a local government area is surrounded by Stirling, Swan and Bassendean and includes the suburbs of Bedford, Embleton, Noranda, Morley and Bayswater. Many new residents and indeed a lot of the younger people relate to Bayswater as a suburb, and then to their own local area. They were disappointed to find that there were no separate historical societies or histories of the other suburbs.
The Society set up displays at Halliday House, Bayswater Hotel and the various fairs in the area, including at John Forrest SHS, City of Bayswater garden, Galleria Shopping Centre and at the Early Settlers Luncheons. The displays aroused considerable curiosity from members of the public and gave people the chance to identify individuals and places from the many photos the Society have acquired and an opportunity for local community members to reminisce. Sub-committees were formed for the purpose of collecting, collating and recording the history of Bayswater. An oral history group has produced about 50 tape recorded interviews. There was also a research group, heritage group, cataloguing and index group and a group of ladies who regularly held workshops on textiles, i.e. restoring clothing and linen from a much earlier period.
The City of Bayswater celebrated 100 years in 1997. Local Historian, Dr Catherine May was commissioned to write the history of Bayswater, Changes They’ve Seen: The City and People of Bayswater 1827-2013. During the time of her writing the City of Bayswater Municipal Heritage Inventory was also drafted. The City celebrated in many ways with the Society contributing and being part of the celebration. Grace Hardie worked so hard for the Society and gave considerable help to Dr May by way of information and photographs. She was subsequently awarded the “Freedom of the City” by the City of Bayswater to acknowledge her enormous contribution. Sadly, Grace died suddenly in 1998 and was further acknowledged with a tribute rose garden in Halliday Park named after her.
** The Bayswater Historical Society wishes to acknowledge Shirley Babis for this story.
Founding Treasurer and Member Shirley Babis
I was appointed as the inaugural Treasurer of the BHS in 1991 and served in that position until my resignation at the 2017 AGM. I served for a total 26 years! I was born in Guildford in 1936 and grew up in Bassendean. I mainly lived in Embleton from 1961, and until more recently in Dianella where I still reside. My interest in genealogy and family history led me to become a member of the WA Genealogical Society. My ongoing research required a knowledge of local history which also led to my memberships of various historical societies such as the Swan-Guildford in 1987, Bayswater in 1991 and Bassendean in 1992.