Random Friday memory: 1 – John Mystery, my brother, Illawong

Sometimes in the early hours between sleeping and waking a memory comes unbidden. This series will document the more publishable ones! Today for some reason it was the name “John Mystery”.

It did not take me long to recall that he was a prolific writer and editor of children’s books, more than a few of which I must have read in the late 1940s and very early 1950s. Wikipedia:

Lester Basil Sinclair (29 August 1894 – 5 October 1974) was one of the most prolific Australian song writers during World War II. At the same time, Sinclair was an important Australian children’s book author under the pen name John Mystery, publishing over 300 books. Sinclair was born in Yorkshire and emigrated to Australia as a teenager.

I especially remember John Mystery’s Castle – which I am sure I saw. See More about John Mystery.

He built a castle in Illawong, which unfortunately does not exist anymore. The castle was known as Adventure Castle, and stood around where Cranbrook Place is today (at the tip of the Illawong peninsula). Apparently kids used to visit the castle via boat. There’s still a little bit of evidence of the castle’s existence around Cranbrook Place, and apparently, some of the sculptures from the castle’s gardens can also be found.


For more detail visit the source of that image: The Latrobe Journal, Spring 1997, “John Mystery: the nation’s storyteller”.

That castle was in Fowler Road, Illawong, now a full-on suburb in The Shire.


Illawong today

Subsequent memory: my brother married in 1955.


my brother on his wedding day, Vermont Street Sutherland

Sometime early in his marriage he and Aileen lived in a very peculiar house indeed in Fowler Road, East Menai (as Illawong was then known.)  It was like a lodge cottage in the grounds of a large old property and had, I seem to recall, earth floors! I wondered for a while if that was part of John Mystery’s place, but I am sure I would remember that. Rather, I suspect it was part of the country home, Cranbrook, of Robert Fowler (1840-1906), manufacturer and politician.

Information from Sutherland Shire Council: Fowler Road Illawong is “named after Robert Fowler MLA who built his country house ‘Cranbrook’ at Illawong c 1894.”

Just across the river, by the way, is the suburb of Lugarno. I remember the ferry very well. Check this history site.