Another newspaper article

Clifftoria -from postcard

The local Goulburn paper knew a good thing when they saw it and took the article written by Mary Gilmore that I posted earlier and rewrote it.   It is really quite interesting to compare the two.  They added more local details. For example the brewery that was behind Cliftoria and faced onto the other street is long gone.  I have not been able to find out any information about it so far.  They also interviewed one of Daniel Kennedy’s grandsons.

Read and enjoy.

Forgotten Formula for Iron-like cement.

Secret that Goulburn Laughed at

Does an easy solution to the recently discovered seepage through the wall of the Burrinjuck Dam lie in the grave at the Kenmore cemetery of Daniel Kennedy, Irish-born Goulburn plasterer, whose extraordinary skill in the work of preparing cement is still perpetuated in a number of old buildings in this city?

To the average reader the suggestion may somewhat startling but relatives and a few experts who have examined Kennedy’s work are confident that present day artisans – equipped with the mysterious formula used by that man – could repair the dam with iron-like cement which would withstand the ravages of enormous pressure and Father Time – himself.

Although many years dead, the late Mr. Kennedy, who was recently described by the noted Australian writer, Mary Gilmore, as “a genius born out of his time” is well-remembered by many present day residents of Goulburn and with the exception of those who knew him intimately, his fame was perhaps due more to the fact that he was the first man to introduce iron bedsteads into Goulburn, rather than to the fact that he could produce a cement that a bolting horse or cart could mark.

Born in Dublin, Daniel Kennedy came out to Australia with his parents when only nine years of age. Goulburn was selected as the place to settle and the boy had his first glimpse of the city – then merely a village – from the knoll near the Fitzroy Bridge at North Goulburn where his parents camped. It is recounted that years later he returned to this spot and built a house in which he subsequently died. That house was only recently demolished and relief workers who were engaged to do the work discovered that the foundation was made of broken glass and lime. Whether the late Mr. Kennedy had placed any of his secret mixture into that foundation will never be known but some of the workmen who demolished it declared that they had never struck anything so hard.

Mostly in Goulburn

Upon settling in Australia, Kennedy spent practically the whole of his life in Goulburn, leaving it for a few years only to reside in Sacramento, United States of America, from where he returned with the iron bedsteads which, it is believed, were the first used in this district.

“Cold” beds

Commenting on this innovation which, it is stated, set the whole town laughing, Mary Gilmore in a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald stated that; “As he had to bring the bedsteads back with him they were probably the first iron ones to reach there. They were so alien to the times that people talking of them remarked that they would be cold to sleep in and not warm like cedar. Dan Kennedy’s reply was that they might be cold but that they could be kept free of vermin for they could be scalded without destroying the polish.

Like his father Daniel Kennedy was a plasterer – an occupation which was subsequently carried on by his seven sons – but as his father did not take a very active interest in that trade, it has never been discovered whether the latter imparted knowledge of the “iron cement” to his son or whether the product was “invented” by the fertile mind and skilful hands of Daniel Kennedy himself. In some quarters it is believed he may have made his discovery while in America. At the time he resided in Goulburn, English and German cement was largely used in the building trades and although the imported article cost about £6 to £6/15/ a cask – the same quantity would now cost about 15/ – Kennedy’s cement was apparently too expensive and was never placed on the market. To prove that it was at least as good as imported cement, however Daniel Kennedy used it in several of the buildings that he erected for himself and these include a villa in Sloane Street, which at one time was occupied by a well-known medico of the era, Dr Sinclair. In her article, Mary Gilmore refers to this house which she describes as a ‘typical Dan Kennedy building – graceful in design”.

A Challenge

“A builder, whose name I have forgotten, bought it in later years,” adds Mary Gilmore, “Being at the place one day I told him that I recognised the style and the substance in the delicate and slender veranda pillars. “But they are iron!” exclaimed the builder owner “No cement could be as fine as they are: it would break”. “They are cement” I repeated, laying my hand on one for the reassuring feel of the material. “You get a file or knife” I added “and try if they are iron!” He took out a knife. “You are right” he said, as he filed at an edge. And was he eager as the others to know how the compound was made.

Perhaps the best example of Kennedy’s work is to be found in the Georgian style mansion which stands in Clifford Street near the intersection of Clifford and Faithfull Streets. Known as “Cliftoria” the building was erected to serve as a hotel and in addition to handsome stables and men’s quarters contained a bar room, a tap-room, and a magnificent cellar. At the time Mr Kennedy was under the impression that the main road to Crookwell and Bathurst would embrace Clifford Street but the road was subsequently changed to Goldsmith Street and Mr Kennedy used the building as a residence.

A Brewery

He had also constructed a brewery – bearing his name – at the rear of “Cliftoria” and facing Faithfull Street and this was conducted by the Kennedy family for some time later being taken over by a man named Charles and latter still by a Mr Allen. This building, however, contained little cement work. Describing “Cliftoria” in her article Mary Gilmore states “The pillars on the front of “Cliftoria” are of the cement Dan Kennedy made. They are enormously thick and no ordinary tool will more than mark them, while Goulburn tells a story of a bolting cart that bumped into one, and although the cart broke, the pillar it was not even marked. The flags that floor the colonnade and also the courtyard between the kitchen and the house are of the same material; and these flags are as smooth after fifty years (and perhaps more) as when they were first put down. “I remember my father, about 1882, urging Kennedy to write the formula as he might get a knock or a fall and forget what it was. “Even if I did” said Kennedy, “it is so simple that I could rediscover it from the materials of which it is made””

Formula gone

Speaking to an Evening Post representative, Mr F. Kennedy, a well-known Goulburn plasterer, who is a grandson of Daniel Kennedy, says that as far as he is aware the formula used by his grandfather died with him. It was never committed to paper but it is known that most of the ingredients, at least, were drawn from around Goulburn. The subject of this article once informed his grandson that there was sufficient cement rock within three miles of Goulburn to supply the world when the chemical to treat it was found. His grandson believes that his grandfather was referring to his own formula when he spoke of the “chemical” but he never told him the secret.

Live Oyster Shells

Both Mr F. Kennedy and Mary Gilmore agree on the point that live oyster shells were used in the mixture but as the latter points out this is not singular as it was an established practice. The former expresses the opinion that the shells were used to make shell lime while Mary Gilmore reiterating her statement that all builders used live shell at one time declares “Advertisements for tenders always called for live shell to be used and the makers of lime advertised ‘made of live shell’. So it may be that proportion need lay the secret of Dan Kennedy’s cement. But having in mind that what analyses can do today remembering that examples of his making can still be seen in Goulburn and realising what cement means to Burrinjuck and other similar reservoirs it might be well to investigate and perhaps find the secret. Because anything that might be of national worth has always meant so much to me it may be that I set too high a value on the Kennedy discovery but as least the facts speak in the flags and pillars still to be found in Goulburn and which have never been duplicated by anyone but the original maker.”

Little more can be said about Daniel Kennedy and his formula for apparently the secret formula lies with him in his grave. It is worthy of note however that although many of his ideas were too advanced for the period in which he lived and although “he died a broken man” he achieved through his splendid skill memorials which might aptly be called ‘sermons in stone’. Those “memorials” in a why reflect his life, for the late Mr Kennedy was an upright citizen whose integrity of purpose will outlive any hardness that his many disappointments may have brought him.

Daniel Kennedy was married in Taralga district to a Miss Croke, who was related to a famous Lord Mayor of Dublin and an equally famous Archbishop of the same city. There were three daughters and seven sons of the marriage but only one Mr Joseph Kennedy of Hobart survives. All the sons were plasterers by trade but two of them achieved wider fame by way of the stage. One of these Mr James J Kennedy, who died in New Zealand, was an actor of a very high degree while, as is fairly well-known, the son now residing in Tasmania has appeared in films.

Meanwhile in Goulburn the name of Kennedy is still being carried on in the plastering trade by Mr F Kennedy and his son. It will be seen that interest in this work has been maintained in the Kennedy family for five generations.

Goulburn Evening Penny Post (NSW: 1881 – 1940) Thursday 26 August 1937 p 1 Article

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s