Waterworks to mark centenary of Engineer’s death

Goulburn Mulwaree Council

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This Sunday will mark a unique milestone in Goulburn’s history – the 100th anniversary of the death of the Engineer-in-Charge at the Goulburn Waterworks.

The working week had not long begun on Monday 7 August 1922, when Edward Jacob Woodhart (pictured here in front of the Appleby Bros steam engine, which still operates on steaming days held throughout the year) collapsed and died suddenly in the Pumphouse.

Mr Woodhart fell “into the arms of the faithful fireman”, Robert Geoghegan Jr, a man with who he had worked alongside at the Waterworks for 31 years, “enduring the cold, the heat, the howling winds, the droughts, the muddy waters and the occasional snake in the woodpile”.

The Goulburn Evening Penny Post reported on 8 August 1922, that “widespread regret was expressed in Goulburn when it was learned that Mr Edward Woodhart, city water engineer, had died suddenly the morning of the day prior”. Edward was 63 and had been in ill-health for some time. Colleagues described him as being a “zealous and capable officer and his advice and experience were of great value to the Council”.

Mr Woodhart was born on 23 October 1858. He was the grandson of convicts, he lived in Sydney with his family until relocating to Goulburn in late 1886 to take up the Engineership of the Goulburn Waterworks.

In correspondence he wrote, “I like this job so far but don’t know about the Alderman….I think the Government is the best employer.” However, this was not to be the case as in early 1887 the Waterworks was ready for its transition from the Public Works Department to the Municipality of Goulburn. After successfully re-applying for his job, Edward’s contract stated he was to “serve the said Council as Engineer….and shall keep the city of Goulburn….with a good sufficient supply of water”.

Edward certainly strived to do just that. He was a passionate and dedicated advocate of Goulburn’s water supply. His advice was often sought and quoted in the local press. His passion knew no bounds and on 1 August 1889 the Goulburn Evening Penny Post reported that Edward had been summoned for assault by The Inspector of the Filter Beds and was to appear at the Goulburn Police Court. At this time the Waterworks and reservoir was still under some control of the Harbours and Rivers department, and it seems the two men had a difference of opinion.

The Court heard that Edward had accused the Inspector of “mischief making” and called out to him, “I will chuck you down the embankment” and to “striking him two or three times”. Edward did not dispute these accusations. After hearing witness statements some deliberation ensued and the case was dismissed on the same day

Edward married Ella Harris, a teacher at South Goulburn Public School at St Saviour’s Cathedral in 1894. Ella was just 19 and Edward was 36. They had 11 surviving children, one passing away at 7 months old. The family resided in the house provided to Edward as part of his employment at the Waterworks. Ironically the house, located in Clinton Street, not far from the reservoir at the corner of River Street, had no running water until the early 1900s.

In the memoirs of Edward’s son, Rev’d Norman Woodhart, he describes Edward’s final journey, “on the night of August 8, 1922, when darkness set in and with a few dark clouds moving quietly across the sky as if bidding goodbye, while the Mayor Alderman Rogers, the Town Clerk and friends carried the casket to the train which was soon to move off to Sydney”.

Edward Woodhart is buried at Rookwood Cemetery.

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