Aug 25, 2010

The Origins of Mascot

Suburb Takes off with airport- Southern Courier 24 August 2010 by work experience student James Mcdonald

Mascot rose from humble beginnings as a scattering of dairy farms, piggeries and gardens on the outskirts of Sydney. Today, the suburb is one of Sydney’s most eclectic, featuring residential areas nestled among industrial and commercial areas, including Australia’s largest airport.

Maie Barrow, the archivist at Mascot Library, said Mascot’s journey through time had been a unique and interesting one. “Back in the mid-1800s, this was a long way from the city and people were out here living the country life,” she said.

The push to incorporate began as residents demanded roads and infrastructure, which required ratepayer funding. This was resisted by the farmers and industrialists, but in 1888 the area became the municipality of North Botany, alongside the sister borough of Botany. At the time, the area had a population of 2000 in 400 dwellings.

After incorporation, it was decided that Botany would be a pleasant place to live. Applications for slaughterhouses, poultry farms and boiling-down works were refused.

“This went on until 1911 when the people decided they didn’t want to be called North Botany anymore,” Mrs Barrow said. “What they really wanted to be called was Ascot, like the racecourse.”

The postmaster-general vetoed the name because there was an existing Ascot in Victoria, and after a competition for a new name, Mascot was chosen by referendum, ahead of Boronia and Booralee.

“Mascot went on happily until the big amalgamations in 1948, when the Mascot became part of Botany,” Mrs Barrow said.

Today the suburb of Mascot continues under the City of Botany Bay and while the times have changed, the memories remain.

“The racing industry has been quite important in Mascot for a very long time,” Mrs Barrow said. “The whole area used to have a lot of pony clubs and two racecourses. The owners of the horses weren’t rich, they were ordinary people.”

At the old Rosebery Racecourse there was a thriving trade in race- related industries, including gambling.

“I have met many an elderly gentleman who now tells me that he was a bookie’s runner in his youth, and it kept him in pocket money,” Mrs Barrow said.

“The airport came and it swallowed up the old racecourse but it was exciting in its own way. People tell me they used to visit their friends in Lauriston Park, which has now disappeared completely. On weekends, they would sit on the back porch and look at the planes taking off.”

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