St Marys Creative Writers Group

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The St Marys Creative Writers Group was founded in 2001, from a project for local women to record their stories, funded by the NSW Government, Family and Community Services, Community Builders Program.

When the project ended the participants made a decision to continue and the St Marys Creative Writers Group was officialised. Longstanding member and current facilitator, Gayle Barbagallo writes on behalf of the Group in celebrating 15 years of creativity.

I for one am extremely grateful that those ladies kept it going because in 2007, I joined the group and have loved every minute spent in the company of my fellow group members. On the last Friday of each month I know I will be entertained in the nicest possible way as I listen to the various works of this delightfully diverse and talented group. Many members of the group have been successful in having their works published as well as winning various local and international writing competitions. However, I believe being a success in writing is as simple as putting pen to paper and beginning the story. Being published or winning a prize is the icing on the cake, but first you need the cake! I would like to thank all members past and present, for their friendship and contributions over these 15 years; and to all of the staff at the St Marys Corner, Community and Cultural Precinct and participants in this year’s Queens Riches and Textures Project for their support and encouragement.

Gayle Barbagallo

St Marys Creative Writers Group's Submissions


Malevolent clouds that obscure the sun,
advance like a belligerent battalion.
Armed with cannonballs of frozen ice
and missiles that sizzle and spark.
They assault the earth in violent bursts,
aided by cyclonic winds that tear and destroy.
Then driving rain, gushing cold and hard,
unrelenting as day follows day.
Water drips and seeps where it doesn’t belong,
making it all grey and wet, mouldy and dank.
In the blackout I watch the candlelight flicker,
a prisoner of dry places, I await the light.
Creeks become rivers, rivers become floods
and when the power is restored I watch the news.
A house sails past like a macabre Noahs Ark,
as uprooted trees spin in the swirling torrents.
People row down Main Street past their local Woolies
whilst a Golden Retriever paddles by seeking home.
Finally a break from the violent wind and rain.
Above an insipid sky appears sad and dejected.
I see so many abandoned umbrellas along the street
that lift and flap each time a car rushes past.
They remind me of grounded birds with broken wings,
rejected, with no hope of salvation.

Gayle Barbagallo

Rods to Recovery

Walking on gravel
walking on temporary grey carpets
repairs everywhere,
the next right turn is Queen Street.
Known as being of unique and exceptional character,
the Street’s odyssey of revitalisation has begun.
Warning signs
drilling and digging
people keep walking
shops carry on selling
and the birds continue singing.
Thanks to YOU, the past… YOU have served us well,
the present of now has been appealing for its transformation
to add... to subtract… and to abstract.
The rundown buildings will be re-engineered;
there will be more colours, flowers and echoes.
A permanent art gallery will find its way next to a garden
on the street an odeum,
weekly musical performances would play
symphonies, country and contemporary.
The reception desk is a fountain marbled
with assorted pebbles and ladybirds.
Tomorrow needs the present
the renaissance of Queen Street is
the road to the future.

Adel Farag

A Place to Call Home

Win smiled as she stirred the cake mixture in a large bowl, it was one of a set of aluminium ones she had bought from a shop in Queen Street, St Marys some forty years ago. The shop was long gone now, replaced by a chemist, but the bowls remained as good as new. St Marys had a village atmosphere then, which, thought Win with a smile, has not diminished over the passage of time. The shopkeepers’ were still friendly and many of them happy to call you by name.

Later that day Win went to the fish shop also in Queen Street, it been in existence even before she came to live in this happy place and they still served the best fish and chips Win had tasted since leaving England, the country of her birth in search of a better life with her beloved Alfie. Alfie was sadly long gone now, but whilst he was alive, he had always bought his clothes from Jim Mills in Queen Street, and bought Win birthday and Christmas gifts from Doves jewellers every year. Most of the little restaurants then had been Chinese ones, and without fail Win and Alfie always had a Chinese take away on a Friday night, it was a ritual they kept up for many years. She was all alone now but the neighbours were very kind and always kept a friendly eye on her, and living in her little house in Phillip Street meant an easy walk to the shops. The community spirit in St Marys reminded Win of the village in Sussex that she had grown up in, the people here are just as caring she thought to herself, and they look out for one another. Win especially loved Christmas because every year the local Council put lights in the trees and Queen Street turned into a magical place at night, all that was missing was a fall of snow which certainly wasn’t likely to happen, but still, you can’t have everything in life she mused!

Win commented regularly to friends and neighbours that the people living in St. Marys were down to earth, hard-working folk, often struggling financially, emotionally and physically to assimilate into a new country, and adapting to the ways of the people in a strange land, and she had said to her neighbour only yesterday, “you know Carol, the warmth of the community spirit here always makes you feel as though you have a warm cloak wrapped around you, it makes you feel safe and secure.” Carol agreed, her daughter Julie lived in an affluent suburb on the North Shore but there was none of the friendliness there, neighbours kept to themselves and rarely spoke except for the odd ‘good morning’, and even after ten years she and her family still felt as though they were strangers in the street.

It was a sunny day with no wind, Win finished her shopping and walked down to a group of creative writers, yes she thought to herself, I might even try making a vase one day soon. A mature gentleman came and sat nearby, he smiled tentatively at Win, “it’s a great day, he said. “Yes,” she replied in her soft voice with a smile, “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.” The man opened his arms expansively “We’ve got our swimming centre, shopping centre, library, little cafes, clubs, pubs, medical centres, entertainment and plenty of green spaces all on our doorstep – it doesn’t get any better than that.” Elsie looked down at her hands folded in her lap and sighed, “yes, I agree, we are really lucky to be living in St. Marys!”

The man looked at his watch, it was 10.30am, “I don’t suppose a nice lady like yourself would allow a bloke to buy her a cup of coffee, and my name’s Ted by the way, retired now, the wife passed away three years ago, lost my best mate I did.” Win looked at the man thoughtfully, he was rather distinguished looking and seemed to be about her own age, she smiled shyly at him. “Well, the Rustic Chef cafe is just across the road, and coffee would be nice, but only if you allow me to buy you a muffin to go with it, and my name is Win, well, it’s really Winnifred, but no one ever calls me that these days.” Ted smiled back at her, “Well Winnifred, come along, how about we get to know one another over coffee and muffins.” He held out his hand and helped her to her feet, she felt his large, rough hand enclose her small soft one, then she put her arm through his outstretched one and together they walked over to the traffic lights to cross the road. “Yes” she thought to herself, St Marys is a great place to call home at any age.

Gabrielle Moran OAM

The Wagon

Blue and red bearing
proud and tall standing
extravagance caged.
You bare the legacy
of fathers,
of brothers,
of sons.
You stand tall,
you stand proud.
Breaking records.
You hide in ashen mystery.
Cloaked of international glory,
spokes throughout the world.
Your caged extravagance,
standing tall and proud.
Bearing red and blue.

Joel Stoneburner


He smiled and gave a wink
the crook of mouth twitched
his beard long and snow
He stood between the farms of Dunheved
the estates of Werrington House
and the residence of Tregear
he roamed respected, revered.
And like ‘the head of the sun’
that raged through his home years ago,
80 feet high, the cancer raged through him.
300 mourners wept for the coroner,
cried for their warden.
They gathered with 70 vehicles
and fifty horsemen
like volunteers combating a fire
to lay to rest the oldest magistrate
in the graveyard of St Mary Magdalene.

Michael Stoneburner

Liquid Amber Trees

Quieted is my soul
your colours inspired
me each season.
Gentle breeze would
tickle and sway your branches.
Aromatic puffs
filled my senses
enlightened my spirit.
Autumn was showered
in your beautiful shades
reds, browns and gold.
You touched out the cold
the winter freezes.
I shall miss you my friend.

Jacqueline Tasik

St Marys community members submissions

St Marys

st marys to kingswood / take it back to mount druitt / a town where
it’s no good / people / always smoking / drinking / fighting / always
feeling no good / representing my hood / i repeat my hood / yeah
that’s my logo / OK without a pause without a lie / every night people
cry / always just wanna die / i’m sick of you’ll standbyers / i’m not
here to waste your time / take a minute take the time / why you are
here paralysed / who got you are hypnotized / police don’t do much /
violence getting too much
ROCK with DA beat / now SHAKE yourself a bit / now kick back
relax now / i reaper my hood now love the way i’m living / respect is
in my hood now / no dough /we play hard / shout out to my boyz /
now 2760 homie that the code here / dam proud of being a saint since
the day i moved here... / hope i made myself clear / lil / homie don’t
cry now / it’s time to spit some rhymes out / no need for a crime a
minute buys a hate / but you don’t need to do that time now...
klong athum is ma name / and everyone’s in the game / rocking
dancing in the streets / knocking over all the seats / st marys here / i
am where we are / once again ma hometown / now i’m here / ready to
showdown / and be who I claim / ma dreams to finish high school /
uni / get a job / finish ma studies / and go out with all ma buddies /
become a doctor and serve in south sydan
yo / what’s good? / st mary’s is the hood / i look fly in the hood /
think you’re cool but looking like a fool / i look good / came up for
school / yeah let’s do it again / penrith is the game / yeah i live and die
/ but lie / street dream is the life / respect and laugh / i wonder / i’m
so fly / boy / my words rhyme / just need some time…

Abaker Athum

Impressions of Renoar

…you wanted to know tales of
queen st / ... i’ll tell you one…
/ today on my way home i met
an elderly gent i know / many
know this man / he used to
dress up as santa & run up &
down queen st giving out lollies
/ when it wasn’t christmas time
he’d still be giving out lollies /
he’d mow people’s lawns / he
was everywhere somehow /
smiling / helping / laughing /
telling jokes in his irish accent /
walking the neighbours dog
because they didn’t / you name
it / he did it... / ...he sat in his
fibro house alone today waiting
for an ambulance to take him
to palliative care so he could die /
he said... / i was the only one
there until - called away by the
scourge of my own life../ / he
might be in hospital now / he
might still be sitting there / i’m
about to go check / that
painting? / if i didn’t know
people like him and my
grandparents / i wouldn’t
believe things like painting
shows… / i hope their days


A St Marys' Lass

Growing up in St Marys, Queen Street to a lot of us was our entertainment. The Crown Theatre, where many a happy time was spent with family and friends at Saturday’s matinee. I can remember the first picture I saw at that Theatre just after it opened. Sir Edmund Hilliary had climbed Mt Everest and a documentary had been made. We were at St Marys’ Public Infants School and were given an excursion to the Crown to see it. We were marched into the building by a side front door and had to sit on the floor right in front of the screen and look up. Since that time I cannot sit any closer than the back row. Another early film I saw there was called Darby O’Gill & the Little People and that really frightened me so much I can remember it to this day. That screaming banshee will stay in my head the rest of my life. It was only in later life that I found out my family came from Ireland and that film has had less of an impact as time goes by.

Once high school came along, it was a place where the latest date was consummated with a kiss in the back row. Anything further than that was definitely frowned upon and not encouraged. Shopping for those first small kitten heels was a pleasure at Fay’s and Flint’s Shoe Shops. The first anticipated bra, sewn by my Grandmother, was made with material bought from Green & Petrich where an Aunty worked. Carson’s Fabrics was also frequented by my Grandmother who was a local dressmaker. Bowman’s Bus Service took us from St Marys to Penrith to shop and hangout as well as watching our St Marys’ football lads up against the Penrith team and to go to the Nepean Theatre in the night-time. Spiro’s was a favourite with us teenagers, especially after the movies. Koning’s Cakes was the place to go for yummy cakes and pies.

The Patricia Salon was my first taste of earning money when my Aunty gave me a job on Saturday mornings in her hairdressing business, and just up Queen Street, her husband, my Uncle, had his barber & tackle shop that is still there and now owned by Guido. My first job at Cuckson’s & Son on Forrester’s Road saw me walking Queen Street to work and home five days a week, then on weekends to catch up with those friendships I still held dear from school. Lammings Store was a treat with lots of great things to spend your pocket money on. Beacroft’s Butchers was on the corner of Queen Street and the Highway and I was happy to buy the meat there for the family dinners. I loved the sawdust on the floor and the big chopping block.

Who can forget all those wonderful Spring Festivals with different floats coming down the street and it is still going strong after all these years. Dad bought our first TV at King & Lewis and Mum frequented St Mary’s Home Improvements, George Purdue and the Home Bazaar shops for the latest in home wares. Because it was more convenient, my mother shopped at Anania & Mercuri Vege’s shop that was closer to our home.

St Marys Mower Centre was the place Dad was happy to shop to help with fixtures for our belligerent mower. Mills Mens’ Wear was the place to buy our school uniforms and Rex’s kept men’s wear up to date, St Marys Radio shop was also frequented by our family and friends. In 1953 Neales’ store was built on the opposite corner to Beacroft’s Butchers and became one of our family favourites. Our old family friend Cliffy Nowland worked there and most likely had his haircut from Mick Codner’s barbershop close by.

When we were sick, it was up to the Renshaw Chambers to see Dr Renshaw and find out what was wrong. I can see my Aunty now, practically running past our house pulling her dilly bag and shouting out a greeting as she went on her daily shop up Queen Street. Lee Driving School taught lots of kids to drive. I have a small recollection of passing the old Bennett Wagon Works before it was pulled down. When trains were taken to visit family and friends, we all walked up and down Queen Street. The St Marys’ train station was the place where our local soldiers came back home from World War One. Each soldier coming home was given a procession down Queen Street to the venue of the family’s choice for a well-earned welcome home reception and a chance to catch up with friends and family not seen, sometimes for the entire four years of that war. The local RSL Hall was just behind Queen Street and was where the old Bowling Club car park is now. Many a local celebration was held in that RSL Hall, including my engagement party in the 1960’s.

I remember also falling over in Queen Street in the 1970’s walking on the pavement. I wore those chunky high-heeled sandals (silly me) and went down a small hole. Luckily I had on a long skirt and my modesty was covered but not the embarrassment on my face. I realised after having been helped up that nothing was broken so I could continue down Queen Street head held high but limping. Coachman’s Park for several years was the gathering place for outdoor entertainment. It was just recently and on a lovely summer’s evening I enjoyed the festivities for the children of the latest Disney film along with a historical photo display of St Mary’s History by Fusion. Even though I am getting on, I enjoyed the film and as I still live in the district. I hope happy memories and the pleasure of walking Queen Street is still to be had.

Lyn Forde

Be Home Before Dark

A childhood memory from growing up in St Marys

I can hear mum now, “be home before dark!” as I’d run off to play. “OK Ma,” I would call back,
but my mind was already racing ahead to the adventure that was waiting for me. At lunchtime,
my school friends and I would talk about building the biggest and best cubby house ever! The
plan was to raid our backyards for any old crate boxes, rope, old fence palings anything really,
the rest we would find in the paddock down near the creek.

It was the beginning of summer, lovely and warm, the grass was green and dry, flowers were
out, and you could hear the hum of bees. I could see my friends down near the creek and they
had already started building the cubby house. Branches had been stacked together sort of like
a tepee, maybe not quite straight but it looked like it wouldn’t fall down.

Everyone was talking at once, but the plan was quite clear to us all, so at that point I joined in
the melee and proudly produced an old piece of tarp. Everyone agreed that it would keep the
rain out, should it rain or it could be used as a wall, or even a floor, the possibilities were endless.
On and on the planning went, there was no hurry as our cubby would take its shape over
the summer months and would finally exhaust itself when the coolness of winter would come.
The sun was getting low and mum’s words I could silently hear, “be home before dark!” and
then all of the sudden I could see it in my friends’ faces that they had heard the same silent call
as well. With a scramble we raced back to our homes yelling out to each other until out of sight.
Huffing and puffing running quickly through the front gate, around the back screaming, “I’m

Caroline Volkiene


Cherry blossoms and Eucalyptus,
Flowers bloom, in St Marys.

Tomoko Ward

St Marys

The poem written circa 1920, select and submitted by Norma Thorburn, member of St Marys and District Historial Society

Nine and twenty miles from Sydney
as you go by road or train
there’s a little valley township
St Marys is its name.
Tis built upon the South Creek’s banks
that lively, oak-clad, winding stream
that flows its way through fertile lands
so peaceful and serene.
If you care for landscape scenes
you will surely get your fill
when you look down on that valley
from Church or Quarry Hill.
The town was famed for wool and leather
in the days that have decayed
and the wagons, drays and lorries
the Bennett brothers made.
In that very splendid district
many million bricks were made
In the days now past and gone
when that was quite a trade.
If only Victoria Park could speak
what wondrous tales from it you’d share
about those careless happy days
when it was called The Square
It could tell of all the bullocks
that were roasted on its green
of the glorious games of football
by sportsmen strong and clean.
It could tell of games of cricket
of how the wickets soon did fall
when demon bowlers, Royal and Tolhurst
did send down the ball.
Oft in the Park, I sit and ponder,
underneath the shady trees,
and hear the voices long departed
murmur in the leaves.
I seem to hear their voices calling
seem to see them sitting there,
and to hear the good old yarns they told
on Sundays in The Square.
But soon, now, we old men must follow
of joys and cares we’ve had our fill,
to sleep with friends departed in
the Churchyard on the Hill. 

George Sullivan


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