Rookwood is home to both the notable and the notorious, from suffragette Louisa Lawson, comedian ‘Roy Rene’, fiery politician ‘Big’ Jack Lang, Sydney Morning Herald founder John Fairfax, and the nineteenth century Chinese businessman Quang Tart, through to convicts and gangsters.
In this series of short biographical films – titled “Rookwood Notables” – fascinating aspects of Sydney life are told through the stories of publisher, John Fairfax, retail giants, David Jones and Anthony Hordern, comedian, Roye Rene aka “Mo McCackie”, and celebrated Chinese merchant, Mei Quong Tart, each of whom are buried at Rookwood Cemetery.
Peter Dawson was a renowned singer, composer and gramophone recording artist. Dawson commenced singing lessons at the age of 17 and won many contests. He published his autobiography, Fifty years of Song in 1951.
Renowned suffragette and newspaper proprietor Louisa Lawson was a pioneer ahead of her time. Louisa was the mother of Henry Lawson, noted Australian short story writer and balladist. A well-educated, creative woman who also wrote poems and short stories.
Pioneer newspaper publisher John Fairfax – who purchased The Sydney Herald, later to be renamed The Sydney Morning Herald – was a model of enterprise and determination. Fairfax emigrated from England in 1838 with five pounds in his pocket… although it’s now safe to say he spent it wisely!
David Jones & Anthony Hordern
Legendary retailers David Jones and Anthony Hordern each established department store chains that dazzled the colonies when they opened their doors for trade in the first half of the 1800s. At one stage Anthony Hordern's Sydney emporium offered over 54 acres of retail space and sold everything from “a needle to an anchor”.
Better known as “Mo McCackie” – Australia's most successful vaudeville star – Rene was one of the world's greatest clowns as well as a singer, actor and radio star. The film features some rare recordings of 'Mo' from the famous radio series “McCackie's Mansion”.
Mei Quong Tart
This reveals some of the story of the Chinese businessman who became the darling of Sydney society operating six outstanding tea rooms, and who contributed to Sydney in so many colourful ways. A wonderful story of early integration.
In 2015, one hundred years on, Australia remembers its role in the ill-fated Gallipoli landing.
Other centenaries, particularly the 1916 battles of the Somme and Fromelles, remind us of the futility of war and the senseless loss of life.
Contact us for more information about the remarkable history of Rookwood Cemetery.