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William Andrew Murphy (1841-1927) the Hermit of Hat Hill Road, Blackheath,
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Image by Blue Mountains Local Studies
William Andrew Murphy (1841-1927) the Hermit of Hat Hill Road, Blackheath

The following is based a transcription from an oral history recording held by Blue Mountains City Library.

Mr Murphy as remembered by Jack and Ted Harris who, during their schooldays, became acquainted with the old solitary who lived at the foot of Hat Hill overlooking the blue expanse of the Grose Valley.

“At this particular spot there was an old gentleman, an old Irishman, by the name of Murphy who with his own hands had built himself a stone house. The stones he collected from the area, a very very rocky area. He used the local soil and mud mixed together for mortar and he built himself what was quite a weather proof and comfortable little cabin.

Now I don’t really know how Mr Murphy took up residence there. I first remember him in 1913 but he was a man, I think, who would be known as a remittance man. I think he probably had been sent out here to Australia because of the fact that maybe he had disgraced himself in his homeland. However, he lived out there, he made his daily trip into Blackheath, which was a five mile trip return, to pick up his money and to buy his provisions.

He was a great nature studier and he fed all the animals and birds in the area and, of course, they became more or less dependent on him for food. And a most interesting man to talk to and one of the attractions of a Sunday afternoon was for our tourist coach to take people, tourists, out to see Mr Murphy just about sundown, all congregate at his stone hut and then he would bring out the food and whistle and call up the animals and they would come – wallabies, possums, all sorts and sizes of birds – and it was something which you would liken to a miniature Taronga Park.

Well, Mr Murphy lived on there for many years and he was no trouble to anybody. He was always happy to interview people, talk to them, discuss the local environment and so on. Then he set his hands to making what would be a millet broom out of a particular shrub which grows in that area and he made a machine to make what looked like a very, very good replica of our millet broom today. But unfortunately for Mr Murphy, although his machine worked wonderfully, as my dad always said, when his brooms dried you had to have another broom to sweep up the mess that his broom left.

However, Mr Murphy was burnt out in a bushfire very similar to the Grose Valley fire of November 1983. He was completely wiped out and we up here on the top end of Hat Hill Road thought for sure that Mr Murphy must be incinerated. That bushfire occurred somewhere around 1918-1919. When the fire cooled off I can remember quite plainly a party of us set out to find what we thought would be his remains and what we found was his stone house still standing, red-hot, no roof, nothing at all left inside it, everything charred and Mr Murphy missing. Scouting around we found the old gentleman, only just barely clad, standing underneath a little waterfall which was his shower, his own private ablution, and he was alive. So a voluntary party set out to make his stone house habitable again. Of course, the old gentleman had received quite a great shock over this fire and he was not able to get about as he did before. He was given a horse as transport but that didn’t work out and the horse escaped. From then on we feel that Mr Murphy was picked up by some of the welfare people and taken to a home.”

Further research has revealed that Mr Murphy started living in Hat Hill Road around 1913 and left Blackheath around 1926, the date of the photo, he was then taken in by the Drane Family of Kogarah where he died in 1927 aged 81 and is buried in Woronora Cemetery, his grave has been recently restored by their grandson Charlie Drane.

Although his brooms were a main source of income, for which he constructed a binding machine utilising cotton reels for pulleys, he augmented this by fortune telling and collecting tips from tourists. His drinking water came from a spring near his hut, but he used the waterfall on a nearby creek for bathing, it was probably the latter that saved his life in the bush fire. His horse which died in the fire was given to him by the Byron brothers who ran a dairy in Blackheath.

His obituary reads:

"HAT HILL’S HERMIT DEAD

Lived life of loneliness for years

Why did Mr W Murphy turn recluse and live a life of almost complete isolation in a little wooden hut which he constructed amid the rugged splendour of Hat Hill?
For years he lived there and in his loneliness won the affection of many plumaged birds in the adjacent bush. The wild thrush used to perch on his shoulder and eat meat from his hand.
He had a fine, generous nature, it is said of him. But he didn’t die in his little hut in the foothills. Instead he died at the residence of Mrs Drane, Wallace Street, West Kogarah, on Wednesday night.
Those who knew ‘The Hermit of Hat Hill’ will regret to hear of his death."

William Andrew Murphy’s death certificate lists his occupation as carpenter and his father as Peter Murphy, farmer; mother unknown; his place of birth was Maitland NSW; the cause of death was gastric carcinoma and heart failure.

© 2008 John Merriman
Ref. The Mud, the Millet and the Magic of Mysterious Murphy, John Low 2006.
Thanks to Charlie and Lynne Drane for extra information.

Note: John Low’s brother, Jim Low, has written and performed a song to Murphy, which is available on CD.
Format: B&W Photograph
Licensing: Attribution, non-commercial, share alike, creative commons. If you use this image you must attribute it to Blue Mountains City Library. Resale or any other commercial use is prohibited without our express permission. These same restrictions apply to secondary users.
Repository: Blue Mountains City Library www.bmcc.nsw.gov.au/library/
Part of: Local Studies Collection
Provenance: BMCC

New Orleans – French Quarter – Johnny’s Po-Boys – Soft Shell Crab Po-Boy
Home buying tips
Image by wallyg
Johnny’s Po-Boys, at 511 Saint Louis Street, has been slinging one of New Orleans’ largest selections of po-boys since 1950–from the traditional seafood versions to the meat overload of the Judge Bosetta special with two types of sausage and ground beef.

The Po’ boy, or Po-Boy , also known as Oyster Loaves, is the generic name for the standard New Orleans sandwich. The key ingredient that differentiates po’boys from other subs is the Louisiana French bread, which differs from a traditional baguette in that it has a flaky crust with a soft, airy center. This is generally attributed to the high ambient humidity causing the yeast to be more active. Traditional versions are served hot and include seafood, roast beef, sausage or ham, but can include nearly any meat filling. A "dressed" po’ boy has lettuce, tomato and pickles; mayonnaise and onion are optional. Non-seafood po’ boys will also usually have mustard–either "hot" or "regular", with the former being a coarse grained Creole mustard and the latter being American yellow mustard.

There are many competing stories as to the origin of the po’ boy. The most widely accepted holds that that it was invented in a New Orleans restaurant owned by Clovis and Benjamin Martin, brothers and former streetcar drivers who opened a restaurant on St. Claude Avenue in the 1920s. When streetcar drivers went on strike in 1929, the brothers took up their cause and created an inexpensive sandwich of gravy and spare bits of roast beef they would serve the unemployed workers out of the rear of their restaurant. When a worker came to get one, the cry would go up in the kitchen that "here comes another poor boy!," and the name was transferred to the sandwich, eventually shortened in Louisiana dialect to "po" boy.

In his book The Art of the Sandwich, Jay Harlow suggests that the namecomes from the French pour boire or "peace offering," which stems from when men would come home after a night on the town, bringing an oyster loaf as a peace offering. Harlow’s account conlates two other stories. The French word pourboire literally means "for drink" and translates as the tip one leaves a serving person or a delivery boy. These tips could be used to buy a small sandwich, which became known as poor boys. A variation on this story is that the tips were "for the boy" rendered in a Franglais mixture as "pour le boy." The Peacemaker (La Mediatrice), an early predecessor of the po’boy, was the name for an oyster loaf–a whole loaf of French Bread, split, hollowed out, and buttered, loaded with fried oysters and garnished with lemon juice and sliced pickles. The name derives from 19th-century husbands who would come in late from a carouse with the sandwich to cushion a possible rough reception from the lady of the house.

One resturaunt in Bay St. Louis, Missippi, Trapani’s, insists that the name "po’ boy" came from a sandwich shop in New Orleans. If one was new to a bar and bought a nickel beer, then he got a free sandwich thrown in. This was sometimes called a "poor boy’s lunch."

Vieux Carré Historic District National Register #66000377 (1966)

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