NotesThis shield was presented to George McCredie on 19 October 1900 at a ceremony at the Australia Hotel. The premier, Sir William Lyne, made a presentation to George McCredie on behalf of the citizens of Sydney in recognition of the patriotic and effective manner in which he carried out his duties when in charge of the operations for stamping out the plague. Mr McCredie, he said, had been accused of disregarding the consideration of the economy, but the emergency precluded due regard being paid to the economy. The presentation, he hoped, would prove a salve to Mr McCredie's feelings in respect of the attacks which had been made upon him. (Sydney Morning Herald, 20 October 1900)
The plague broke out in Sydney on 19 January 1900, when the van driver and resident of the Rocks, Arthur Payne, was found to be infected and sent to the quarantine station. Two months later, after some difficulty finding men prepared to work in plague affected areas, George McCredie was appointed to take charge of all quarantine activities in the Sydney area. The son of a builder from Northern Ireland, McCredie was born in Pyrmont in 1859. He had been apprenticed to the Adelaide Steam Navigation Company at fourteen and trained as a carpenter and joiner. At the time of his appointment he was in partnership with his brother A.L.M. McCredie. Their firm of architects and engineers undertook major engineering projects including docks, reclamations, warehouses and factories. In 1891 he bought land at Guildford and built an Italianate mansion, Linnwood. The following year he was appointed mayor of Prospect and Sherwood and in 1893 he was elected the Member for Central Cumberland.
George McCredie started work on the plague affected areas of Sydney at 4 pm on Friday March 23rd, making a house to house inspection. He later wrote, 'the first area of quarantine contained many things disgraceful in the extreme; accumulations of filth, utter disregard of sanitary arrangements ... numerous sad cases of poverty were met with.' Residents had to remain within barricaded areas as the work of cleansing, limewashing, burning and in some cases demolition took place. Work was completed on July 17 at a total cost of 63 935 pounds. In all, 303 cases of the plague were reported in Sydney and of these 103 died.
George McCredie directed that photographs of housing and conditions in plague affected areas be taken and six volumes survive in the Mitchell Library collection. These provide an extraordinary document of the destitution and poverty that underlay seemingly prosperous Sydney. The photographer, possibly at McCredie's direction, was careful to include men, women and children in the photographs and these provide a particularly poignant reminder of the difficult lives of working people at this time. As a result of the revelations publicised by McCredie, an extensive program of 'slum clearance' was embarked upon and the issues of housing, council regulation and slum landlords were widely debated.
The shield was given to the donor by his father, Ludovic George Houston McCredie who had inherited it from his late father George McCredie. George McCredie died in 1903 from, it was said, the effects of working in plague affected areas. He left a wife and seven children. The shield has been in the glass fronted case as long as the donor can remember.
OwnedMcCredie, George 1900