Playfair Street

Well-dressed captain of the Rocks Push

1870

Ship

The rowdy pub! Music, dancing and more beer for all, especially for the sailors. Then out onto the rough stone streets, the world listens through the lens of grog.

Glory what a dame!

Glory what a dame!

One sailor notices a woman in a brightly coloured hat appear. She leads, and he follows. The walls of a tiny, slick alleyway rise up around him – maybe it’s Suez Canal, but who can say in that darkness? The lady disappears, replaced by young men dressed like little lords.

‘Their boots were marvels,’ wrote Banjo Patterson at the time, ‘very high in the heel and picked out with all sorts of colours down the sides’.

Dame Dame Zoom In

They’re perfectly stylish as they beat him to unconsciousness

Welcome to the world of the Rocks Push, one of many similar gangs in Sydney, who engaged in turf wars and an array of different crimes against sailors, civilians and police.

Known for their sharp outfits as much as their violence, the Pushes followed a particular structure.

Led by a Captain, the “Larrikins” and their girlfriends, the “Donahs” worked together to rob drunken visitors to the Rocks.

Map
               

Known for their sharp outfits as much as their violence, the Pushes followed a particular structure. Led by a Captain, the “Larrikins” and their girlfriends, the “Donahs” worked together to rob drunken visitors to the Rocks.

Ship

They were essentially just bored young men and women...

...unskilled labourers who supplemented their incomes with petty crimes. Or not so petty crimes as when a sailor was kicked to death outside the James Cook hotel by seven members of the Push.

During the 1880s AND 1890s THE PUSH ENJOYED THE RUN OF THE AREA.

After 1900, however, the government exerted control over The Rocks, clamping down not only the Push, but all life in the area.

During the 1880s and 1890s the pushenjoyyed ther un of the area

The pubs were reduced in number and THE raucous atmosphere

disappeared, rendering the well-dressed Push a distant memory that lived on only in caricature.

Other Stories in Playfair Street

2013

The Rocks Windmill

The Rocks Windmill

The Rocks Windmill was an interactive installation, educational and arts venue that physically reflected the historic windmill buildings that existed around The Rocks and paid homage to baker Robert Sidaway who opened the first theatre in Sydney.

Read the story

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The Rocks Windmill

The Rocks Windmill

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CLICK TO EXPAND CREDITS CREDITS
  • Title SS Austral in Circular Quay West 1882
  • Source Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority
  • Year 1882
  • Title A Lesson in Optics
  • Source The Bulletin
  • Title The city of Sydney and suburban railway extension [cartographic material] / as proposed by Mr. John Young.
  • Creator John Young
  • Source State Library of New South Wales
  • Year 1877
  • Title Ship 'Sobraon' at The Rocks 1871
  • Source Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority
  • Year 1871
  • Title Whalers Arms Hotel in the days of the push, Sydney
  • Creator Sir Lionel Lindsay
  • Source National Library
  • Year1936
SHFA MCA Council for the Arts Visual Arts