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Jack Lang

In their own words

Recorded 1967

Jack Lang
Audio: 2 minutes

My place of birth was in Brickfield Hill, George Street, Sydney. We were a family of ten. My earliest recollection was as a boy in our home, which was over the business place of my father’s, who was a watchmaker and jeweller.

But came one Christmas time, my father – I’d be about seven – was stricken down with rheumatic fever. My mother put some men that were all right – some man, perhaps two of them – in charge to run the business, my father of course on the broad of his back. And when they go to open the shop after the holidays, the place was cleared out. All the valuable jewellery, watches, chains and everything like that. No assets, nothing left – this is my memory – only debts. That was the end of that phase of our family life.

It almost makes me cry sometimes; I think of it even now. There we were, from affluence, a gentleman of the city, honoured by everybody … to poverty. From good living quarters down to the lowest and the vilest spot in Sydney, in Wexford Street. The worst class – I was nearly going to say the poorer class, but it wasn’t that at all. It was the worst class, the lowest class. Prostitutes, all sorts of evil men. And all the, what they would call in those days spielers – lived on their wits. And who had taken the whole family of us from where we lived in George Street down to vile Wexford Street. And there was my father and my mother and the family – no money, not anything. Below poverty.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of Jack Lang is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

Related people

John Thomas "Jack" Lang

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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