Safe amid the billows
In 1896, Patrick Thompson Taylor, businessman and alderman, was elected Mayor of Mosman.
The Scottish emigré had come up in the world. He “was a prosperous man, a respected figure in the Sydney establishment and a member of the prestigious Union Club and the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, with friends in high places.”
These were pioneering days when the interests of progress, self-made opportunity, politics and financial gain tended to go hand in hand. By 1896, P. T. Taylor was a major shareholder in the North Shore Steam Ferry Co.1
Taylor was a director from 1899 when the company was reconstructed as Sydney Ferries Ltd. From this basis in local shipping, he acquired interlocking directorships in steamships, gas companies (purchasing coke for his vessels), ice-works (using a gas works’ residual product, ammonia) and insurance. His business interests benefited from urban growth on the North Shore and from financial management involving share-splitting.2
Mosman Council had been formed in 1893, and Alderman Taylor was one of its founding fathers. Breaking away from North Sydney, an election was held on the 6th of June with votes cast at a skating-rink in Mosman.
Pat Taylor and five other businessmen of one kind or another3 were elected. Other Councilors included a Librarian in charge of the NSW Public Lending Library, a conveyancer and a former North Sydney Alderman, Archibald McAlpine.
On nomination by MacAlpine, seconded by Taylor, [Richard Hayes] Harnett was unanimously elected Mayor for the balance of the year … At their next meeting, on 15 June, the aldermen began dealing with many of the inaugural matters that required attention. They resolved that there should be three standing committees (Works, Finance and General Purposes) and a Committee of the whole Council; that the position of Council Clerk, Treasurer, Inspector of Nuisances and Collector of Rates should be advertised at a salary of 75 pounds; that office furniture, a safe, cash box, stationery and copying press be purchased or rented at an initial cost of no more than 25 pounds; that a temporary bank overdraft of no more than 200 pounds be obtained; that two temporary maintenance men be employed to keep gutters clear; that a committee be appointed to report on the removal of nightsoil and garbage; and that Mosman’s financial position vis-à-vis North Sydney Borough be ascertained.4
At the second meeting a simple crest, seal and letterhead symbol was adopted, designed by Bulletin artist Livingston Hopkins, resident of Raglan Street, featuring a spouting whale surmounted on the horizon, backed by a rising sun. (The cannons and HMAS Sirius were added later in 1952.) A Mr. White of Neutral Bay submitted the Latin motto Tutus in Undis which translates roughly to “Safe Amid the Billows” or “Secure in the Waves.” As historian Gavin Souter notes, the phrase was not to be found in any dictionary of Latin quotations, so its exact meaning remained ambiguous.5
In October, 68 street gas lights, lit by a horseman with a lamp-pole at dusk, were installed.6 (By 1916 they were replaced with electric lights.) Mosman was serviced by the North Shore Steam Ferry Co. It connected with the tramways running up Avenue Rd from Mosman Bay wharf, along Military Rd, through Spit Junction to Cremorne, Neutral Bay, and North Sydney. In 1916 the line was extended from Mosman Junction to Taronga Zoo, then down to Athol and the new wharf.
By 1896, Mosman Council had outgrown its rented premises. It resolved to build a council chambers at the corner of Spit and Military Roads at the cost of 1,100 pounds, which they did in 1900. This is the current site of the council, rebuilt in 1940 and 1988.7
In 1896 the Sunday Times described Mosman as a “progressive borough”, twenty minutes “steaming distance” from the hustle and bustle of the city. The council’s founding Aldermen and Mayor were borrowing and spending on capital works and encouraging economic and urban development, resulting in “well-formed roads and handsome residences.”
Main streets were connected to the city water supply and gas from the North Shore Gas company. Mosman was being transformed from “an old-time sylvan and rustic village” to “a beautiful and salubrious suburb.”
A description of Mosman would be incomplete without some reference to some of the older residents who have identified themselves with its rise and progress, such names, for instance, as Mr. E. M. Sayers, the first returning officer of the municipality ; Mr. R.Harnett, an extensive landowner, and one of the pioneers of the district ; Mr. Alderman Cowles, and Mr. P. T. Taylor, J.P., the present mayor …
Doubtless, many erstwhile admirers of Mosman will regret its transformation from a convenient rural pleasure resort to a pretty and flourishing residential district, but such a change was rendered inevitable sooner or later by its unrivaled position and proximity to the city…
… It should be the aim of the Municipal Authorities to preserve as far as possible the natural beauties of the foreshore which forms on three sides of their borough and thus secure for the place a widespread and permanent popularity …
It is somewhat significant that the awakening of Mosman and its remarkable progress has been subsequent to its separation from North Sydney and its creation into an independent Municipality a little more than three years since.8
WW1 and beyond
When war broke out in 1914 the Taylor family did their bit, 3rd son ‘Bill’ Taylor recalled:
There were three sons in our family. Under the volunteer system of enlistment in Australia, it was decided as a family policy that my brother Kenneth and I would go to war. Since my father was already engaged in national work for the Government, our elder brother Donald would remain home to help maintain the family affairs. It was, we thought a fair allocation – two out of three to go.
Ken was killed in France. Bill went on to become an ‘Ace’ and a household name in post-war aviation.
In 1913 Pat Taylor signed off on a deal with striking gas workers for better pay and conditions. Industrial unrest flared up again during the war.
After the gas works had become involved in the 1917 strike, Taylor arranged evening entertainments for the volunteers who replaced the strikers. He was one of the negotiators when W. A. Holman and his followers joined the Liberals to form the National Party. Taylor remained influential in the new party and raised funds for it. He was nominated to the Legislative Council in 1917. His gas company was allowed a remission of £14,000 for losses incurred in the 1917 strike and shortly afterwards was permitted to increase the price of gas.9
When not engaged as a director or member of NSW Parliament, Pat Taylor enjoyed sailing at Pittwater (where he once owned Scotland Island) and farming at Hartley.10
Appendix: Pat Taylor’s election promises
P.T. Taylor’s pitch to the voters of the newly formed suburb was as follows:
BOROUGH OF MOSMAN. MUNIICIPAL ELECTION. Mosman’s Bay, 1893.
In consequence of the separation of Mosman’s Ward from the Borough of North Sydney having taken place, it will be necessary (to enable me to sit as Alderman of the Borough of Mosman) to come before you for election. Since you did me the honor to elect me as one of your representatives. I have not thought it advisable to advocate any expenditure in our Ward, as I think we can get a better result for our money under our own management than as a Ward of North Sydney. I, therefore, devoted a very considerable amount of time to pushing our separation forward, recognising this to be a matter of great urgency. The result has now been attained, and I think it is a matter for congratulation that we are clear of the Gas Question and the probable responsibilities pertaining thereto. We have now a free hand in regards the lighting question and can make our own arrangements. I feel sure with competent and careful management, we can make a model of our new Borough.
My short experience in the Council of North Sydney has more fully convinced me of the advisability of the step we have taken in obtaining separation. In consequence of the late heavy expenditure of that Borough, had we remained part of it we would not expect to receive much expenditure for improvements for some time to come, and the ordinary maintenance work would no doubt been neglected. when we take into consideration the fact that, against our debt of 3400 odd [Pounds], we have two very valuable assets – viz., overdue rates amounting to a large sum, and the rates now due to end of financial year- our position is a very strong one, and infinitely superior to that of our parent Borough.
During our first year of independence, I would strongly urge economy. It will take quite that time to acquire the requisite knowledge to enable us to judiciously administer our funds, and any immediate rush into heavy expenditure on what might appear on the face of it a great improvement means borrowing heavily, and possible disappointment at the result of our expenditure.
A matter which will require great consideration and attention at the hands of your representatives is the improvements of access and approaches to the ferry. I think a moderate sum should be expended in widening the Avenue Road sufficiently to allow of a footpath and a somewhat wider roadway from Ranger’s Gate downwards, and also forming the road to proper levels. I also think Musgrave street from Point Wharf, should be improved sufficiently to allow vehicular traffic and widened at the bottom; and the foot of Mosman’s Street should be made accessible for vehicles.
Our wharves should be improved, and the landing places made somewhat more attractive.
We should urge upon the Government to continue the tramway, if not to the fortifications, at least to Buena Vista and also to the Spit.
With regard to water frontages, I think no more valuable asset could be obtained for our Borough than these, and wherever procurable they should be conserved. I succeeded in getting a motion passed in the North Sydney Council for a deputation to wait upon the Minister for Works, requesting him to cause to be constructed a stone dyke, 12 feet wide, from the wine shop to foot of Boyle Street, on the site of the present old bridge. this would be of great service to residents on the quarry side and would be the “thin end of the wedge” towards reclaiming that part of the bay, and also give a valuable water frontage. We are very much in want of a reserve for recreation purposes. As the Borough becomes more densely populated the difficulties in procuring this will increase, so I think it will be the duty of your representatives to move in the matter without delay.
A number of side-streets of the Borough, where many good houses have been erected of late, are greatly in need of improvement. I refer more particularly to the streets in the vicinity of the tram terminus, and also Spofforth, Boyle and Shadforth Streets.
I am in favour of giving access, if only by pathway, to every resident of our Borough. I think, if a man pays rates and builds a house, the council should enable him to reach his residence with some degree of comfort.
Baths at Balmoral Beach would be a great boon to the residents, and would, I believe, be a source of considerable profit to the council. I should advocate any early erection of these.
As a constituted Borough we will have more power in dealing with the ferry and bus services, and there are several matters in connection with both which require attention.
I would advocate the planting of trees in all our main streets. the expense is light and the benefits to be derived are many.
The question of drainage will before long have to engage attention, and with the natural facilities afforded to the great fall to the water on all sides, our Borough should be kept in a well-drained and healthy condition.
I would favour the Council feeing a firm of competent advising engineers, as the work could be done cheaper and better than having an unqualified engineer at a low salary.
In conclusion, I would say that if you decide to again return me as one of your representatives, I will do my utmost to fulfill the trust and work for the good of the district generally. I am a thoroughly independent candidate, not being tied to any party, and in offering you my services I do so believing that I can fulfill the duties pertaining thereto impartially, as my interest is purely a public one.
faithfully yours, PAT. T. TAYLOR.
1 Heather Radi, ‘Taylor, Patrick Thomson (1862–1922)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/taylor-patrick-thomson-8764/text15361, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 15/06/2016
3 Souter, Gavin Mosman: a History Melbourne University Pres, Carlton, Vic 1994 p110
4 Ibid p111
5 Ibid p113
8 SYDNEY’S SUBURBS. (1896, September 6). Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW : 1895 - 1930), p12. Retrieved June 17, 2016, from nla.gov.au/nla.news-article130401424
9 Heather Radi, ‘Taylor, Patrick Thomson (1862–1922)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/taylor-patrick-thomson-8764/text15361, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 22 November 2018.
10 Ibid. Sailing was also a favourite past-time of his sons.
Follow the P.G. Taylor story in the following articles:
Raglan St. to RFC: Bill Taylor’s school days & calling to the skies.
Raglan St. to RFC: Pilgrimage to ‘the silent fields’
Raglan St. to RFC: Bill Taylor: boy mascot company commander avoids the Valentine’s Day mutiny