Book no longer a pipedream

An interesting family connection with the Goulburn Historic Waterworks has been researched by council’s museum officer Julianne Salway.

Robert Hebden Sidney Geoghegan was employed as the fireman at the waterworks from 1886 to 1891.

His son, Robert Geoghegan Jnr, took over when his father died at the age of 46 in 1891 and served with the waterworks for a period of 49 years, from 1891-1939.

Robert Senior was responsible for looking after the waterworks’ two boilers, and would have to keep them clean, collect the wood to keep them fired and to keep them operating at all times to ensure a steady water supply for Goulburn.

Ms Salway has written a book entitled ‘Goulburn Historic Waterworks- Human Connections: The Geoghegan Family’.

“I came across the family’s history just by looking through the files at work,” she said.

“I started reading and I thought ‘Oh this sounds really interesting’ and I started to compile bits and pieces of the family’s history and got photos, and started to work on the book. Mr Geoghegan lived in the little cottage on the site with his family and was in charge of the boilers 24/7, even though he was only paid for a seven hour day.”

Ms Salway outlines in the book the importance of a regular, clean water supply to most country towns and regional cities in NSW in the late 19th Century.

“There was an increasing demand for a reliable clean water supply for colonial NSW, and in 1880 the ‘Country Towns Water Supply & Sewerage Act’ was approved, which opened the way for most rural towns of the time to put together water supply schemes.

Commencing in 1883, Goulburn, along with Bathurst, Wagga Wagga and Albury received the first and grandest of these schemes,” the book states.

“Seven alternatives were proposed for Goulburn’s water supply in 1876, and these were:

1. Wells in Eastgrove

2. Pumping from Thornes Bridge

3. Gravitation from Mulwaree Ponds

4. Pumping from the junction of the Mulwaree Ponds and Wollondilly River

5. Pumping from the Gibson St area

6. Gravitation from the Wollondilly River; and

7. Pumping from Rocky Point near Marsden Bridge.

The last site was seen to be the best, as it was close to the city and the waterworks were said to be the best in the colony at that time.”

Robert Geoghegan Jnr then took over in 1891. He would go on to work there for nearly 50 years.

He didn’t always live on site however, moving to a property on Clinton St in 1928.

Robert also married Annie Brogan in November 1897, who was born in Goulburn and raised on the family property at Spring Valley near Collector. They had six children, all who were born at the waterworks and it is believed that the last born child, Terence died as a result of drowning in 1913.

The book is currently on sale at the waterworks for $2.50, and Ms Salway is encouraging anyone interested to come to the site and have a tour.

“Waterworks volunteers are currently working on renovating the Geoghegan’s cottage in preparation for opening as part of the Waterworks Museum project in the near future, and I will have a proper ‘book launch’ then,” she said.

“I’m also keen to sell it down at the Visitor Information Centre, and if anyone is interested in conducting a tour I would be more than happy to accompany them.”

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