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August 15, 2013


Su Compton

I've been looking for info on the origin of Corfu Steet and happened upon your site. Loved your descriptions and photos, it made the Loo come alive for me and of course I'd love it if you had and ideas about Corfu St. I wondered if it could have been named by Maltese who came from Corfu? I know the Maltese lived in the area and worked as fishermen or on the docks,but I don't know if any came from Corfu.
Reading of your Romani origins why not think of a history of Romani people in Oz?

Tony Johansen

Hello Su,
Corfu Street has a really fascinating history and it predates the development of Woolloomooloo as an official suburb. Corfu is a Greek island and the Greeks were traditionally famous fishermen in small boats but the Corfu fishing enclave did not arise simply because fishermen migrated. From 1815 to 1864 Corfu was ruled by Britain and thus, as with the Maltese, it was easy for men from Corfu to become sailors on British ships. Many ships had Maltese and Corfu-Greek sailors (a 19th century version of the modern practice of employing Filipino crews) and inevitably in major ports of call such as Sydney there developed Mediterranean enclaves made up of those who were no longer fit for ship duty (often due to accident or epidemics of serious disease onboard), or for other reasons couldn't get a job on a ship, or who simply got sick of the sea, had a scare with storms, pirates etc.

In Sydney the Mediterranean enclave was in Woolloomooloo because the they were expert fishermen and before Woolloomooloo was developed there was a fishing community dependent on the shellfish on the mudflats as well as regular fishing from boats. This industry was mostly killed by the building of the stone quay in 1866 and the reclamation of the mudflats behind. The start of that process was in 1850 when Forbes Street was extended down to the edge of the planned quay by dumping fill from city excavations for new buildings. Thus the road-base of Forbes Street is the first part of the reclamation process. By the time the finger wharf was completed in 1898 the fishermen & their descendants had mostly been pushed out or had become dock workers.

Corfu Street was one of the first side streets from Forbes and followed a pre-existing track which was known locally as Corfu Street which became the official name of the street in 1850 or thereabouts. It is not known exactly when the use of the name on an unofficial basis started. The original track developed as access to several fishermen's houses in that area. Many of the Mediterranean fishermen there were born on the island of Corfu, hence the name.

Re Romani info. I am in a long process of updating a lot of the old pages here and I intend to include a bit of Gypsy stuff. I expect that it might take a few months before that is all complete.

Su Compton

You are a wonder and I really thank you for that info. As it turns out my ancestor who owned a house in Corfu St was a British soldier, of Irish origin,who served in Corfu as well as other places. As his house was number 1 and so I imagine it was one of the first houses built there maybe it was built by one of the Corfu sailors/fishermen? It was a two storied stone house and was valued at way more than the other houses that surrounded it so whoever built it must have had some skill and money. I'm in touch with the present owner and she's going to look up the title deed.

As for so called gypsies in Oz- my mother was born in Rockhampton in 1911 and she told me that gypsies came to town and went from door to door and that one of them read her palm. Her reading was accurate.
Thanks again.

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