NOTED local historian Tony Griffiths is calling for public assistance as he researches a fascinating local historical figure. Over the past 30 or so years Tony has explored and recorded the history of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory and now his focus is on a former employee.
… So I got a Morris car case – 7ft x 6ft, or nearly – and had it turned into a dwelling, standing on billy-cart wheels so that it became a ‘vehicle’ and so dodged building restrictions.Heliodore Hawthorne
During the Second World War an artist named Heliodore (‘Dore’) Hawthorne, while working as a Viewer at the Small Arms Factory, made many sketches of life inside the Factory.
After the War these were expanded into 40 paintings and exhibited to considerable acclaim in Lithgow and Sydney in 1945 as the ‘Factory Folk’ series by ‘Brendorah’ – Dore from the Bren Gun Section.
While on the midnight to dawn shift, Dore found it very difficult to sleep during the day because of noise from others in the hostel who worked the Factory’s evening shift. So bad did this become that she moved out of the hostel and camped in the grounds of the Cooerwull Academy.
As she described in a letter written in 1965: “… So I got a Morris car case – 7ft x 6ft, or nearly – and had it turned into a dwelling, standing on billy-cart wheels so that it became a ‘vehicle’ and so dodged building restrictions.”
From her writing it seems that she lived in this ‘cabin’ from about 1943 to possibly 1951.
In it, in 1945, she took her paintings and “framed them and stored them in my packing case home where I slept and cooked and shivered as well.”
This ‘cabin’ raises some questions: from where did she get the Morris car case; did she have permission to park it in the grounds of the Cooerwull Academy; could she have converted it into a home all by herself; if not who helped her?
If anyone living in Lithgow in 1945 has any memories of her cabin, or of Brendorah herself, please pass them on to Tony to add to the story of her life. Tony can be contacted on 9450 1693, or via email at email@example.com
For those interested in Brendorah’s works, the Small Arms Factory Museum has a display of paintings.