Our Place: Stories of Woolloomooloo - Biographies

Our Place - Stories of Woolloomooloo - Joyce Higgins Biography


Joyce who was born in 11912 remembers World War I and the departure of the troops, for Gallipoli, from Cowper Wharf. Her cousin had joined the Light Horse Brigade, and she saw them march onto the ship, but was disappointed that they were not wearing their dress uniform. Afterwards, the children, on every ANZAC Day, would have a parade from Plunkett Street School to the memorial gates at the wharf. When the navy took over the wharf, they “put a fountain opposite the gates as a commemoration, but they moved that to somewhere else and put in a car park. I mean, so much for tradition!” At Woolloomooloo, Joyce also saw the men, including those injured, return from the war. The wharf was infested with rats that arrived with the ships: “We had the bubonic plague after they’d arrived back”. Her 15 year-old brother died from the infection: “They took my brother away. They came down and said, ‘Well, he’s gotta go.’ So a horse and cart arrived, with about another four patients in it, he was just put in, and then they were all taken away. I never really knew where they went. … All except the two of us, that didn’t go on the wharf, got the plague. Whole families had it. Joyce also describes day surgery for tonsillectomies at Sydney Hospital, where kids were lined up, attended to, and left to rest a short while on blood-soaked straw palliasses in the operating room, before being sent home.