The Penrith area has a lengthy colonial history, dating back to the early 19th century.
In 1804, Irish ex-convict James McCarthy settled in what is now known as Cranebrook, having been granted a 100-acre lot named ‘Crane Brook Farm’, where he would successfully farm wheat and maize, and breed cattle and horses.
Many of McCarthy’s belongings would be passed down from generation to generation, where they’ve now ended up with descendant Ann Dwyer, via her father Kevin Dwyer – a former Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and Councillor on Penrith City Council over a span of 22 years.
As her parents’ only child, Dwyer said she’s ended up with what could very easily be turned into a museum, from convict bricks and heirlooms to fragile paperwork, recipe books, and just about anything to do with Penrith Show and Penrith Lakes from the past century – as well as what she believes to be Penrith’s oldest photo.
Though she can’t place a specific date on the photo, Dwyer estimates it was taken over 100 years ago, and perhaps closer to 200. It depicts a section of the Nepean River and, given recent changes to the region, she thought it was about time it resurfaced in the public eye.
“I just thought it was a photo people might want to look at – I don’t want it to go to waste,” she said.
Having lived in her current home for almost her entire life, Dwyer said she’s no stranger to being surrounded by historical treasures.
“Even when I was in primary school, my father would always say, ‘Look after it all’,” she said.
However, she admits it took her a while to learn to love it all, with her appreciation for the items coming with age.
“My kids don’t appreciate it, and I never did when I was a kid either, because that’s boring,” she said.
“It’s fascinating now, to look at all of it.”
In particular, she said her favourite part of having it all is reading old letters and recounts of day-to-day life.
“A lot of people, like my mother, still to this day, will write down what she’s done every day, what she’s had for breakfast – just their life and how easy it was,” she said.
“We thought our lives were hard, their lives were actually harder.”
Confirming she has no intention of selling any of the items, Dwyer said she’s still making a decision about what to do with it all.
But, for now, she said she’s enjoying spending her days reading, with some of the letters even inspiring her to do the same.
“Some of us were actually talking about it the other day, and we all decided that we were going to post letters to our friends this Christmas,” she said.
Cassidy Pearce is a news and entertainment journalist with The Western Weekender. A graduate of the University of Technology Sydney, she has previously worked with Good Morning Macarthur and joined the Weekender in 2022.