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Photograph of Alacrity guard ship

Date: c 1910
Overall: 190 x 252 mm
Medium: Black and white photograph
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Rachella Chidgey
Object Name: Photograph
Object No: AX001144

User Terms

    The guard ship ALACRITY in Middle Harbour.

    SignificanceThis is a rare view of the guard ship ALACRITY, posted to the Bantry Bay explosives magazine.
    HistorySeveral generations of the Chidgey family all worked handling explosives on Goat Island and other places in Sydney Harbour including Bantry Bay. The island had long been used as an arsenal, built by convicts in the 1830s. The convicts were moved to Cockatoo Island in 1838 and the British Garrison used Goat Island for ammunition storage. From 1870 Australian Colonial troops were stationed there, guarding commercial, naval and military explosives, until 1893 when the military ammunition storage facilities were constructed further from the city at Newington.

    During the late nineteenth century, dynamite and gelignite was shipped from Nobels factories in Glasgow. Vessels would anchor at Rose Bay and the explosives transferred for storage at Goat Island, then used for mines or roadworks throughout New South Wales.

    Goat island continued to be used by commerical explosives operators until 1900, when it was hastily requisitioned for emergency use as bacteriological station during the outbreak of bubonic plague in Sydney. Hulks were used to hold the explosives, moored in the then secluded Bantry Bay in Middle Harbour.

    In 1917 Bantry Bay - named after a long, sheltered bay in Ireland - became an explosives sotrage area for the NSW Department of Mines. An explosvies handling depot was built on shore.

    Joe Chidgey was a wireless operator in the Navy and then after the First World War he - like the rest of the men in his wife's family - also worked in explosives handling. Joe was responsible for arranging fireworks displays for many public celebrations on Sydney Harbour. The Duke of Edinburgh was apparently particularly pleased with the display for the Royal visit of 1954, which included 'fireworks portraits' of the Duke and the young Queen Elizabeth II.

    By the 1970s the Department of Mines had no further use for the Bantry Bay area and it was turned to parkland. The buildings were heritage listed and in 2010 NSW National Parks & Wildlife manages the site.

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