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Sydney Charles Cunynghame (1833–1921)

An interesting link with the earlier days of Australian settlement was broken by the recent death at his home, Back Creek, Oberon, of Mr. Sydney Cunynghame. Born on the western side of Sydney Cove, 88 years ago, his father was the late Robert Dryborough Cunynghame, his mother being Mary, daughter of Sergeant Charles Whalan. In his very early life he left his father, and went to reside at Prospect, with his grandfather. At the age of 11 his uncles, Charles and James Whalan, took him and his older brother, the late Charles Whalan Cunynghame, of Oberon, to their new settlement at that place, first known, as Bullock Flat. He went back to Sydney again, but returned at the age of 13, and never crossed the mountains again. All his journeys were made before any railway was thought of in Australia, per the homely medium of the dray, and it is recorded that in all his long life he made one railway journey only, for one mile, between Kelso and Bathurst. He spoke often of his long ride to take up land, first to Hartley Vale, but the magistrate not being there, he rode on through what he remembered as "The Gap," to what is now Lithgow, though in those days there were only one or two homesteads there. He was engaged in his early years in carting wattle bark from the slopes round the Jenolan Caves to Bathurst, and many were his adventures and experiences.

His account of the discovery of the Caves was that his uncle, James Whalan, while riding along with the police after a bushranger, noticed what he described as the "arches" in the side of the mountain. On his return he spoke of them to his brother Charles, who set out for them, and after a strenuous time, succeeded in locating them. For many years this public-spirited citizen acted gratuitously as guide to the Caves.

His knowledge of the bushrangers extended far before the Ben Hall gang's time, and he could recall the doings of the old timers, Lowrie and Foley.

He spoke of the devotion to their work of the old Bathurst doctors, who, in spite of being exhausted by fatigue from one long trip, would immediately start on another, and for a fee which would now be regarded as ridiculous.

It is rather curious that the two lives of the deceased gentleman and his father covered the whole period of Australian settlement. He was the last survivor of his generation of the family, and up to the last few weeks displayed vigorous health and an excellent memory of long past events.

Original publication

Additional Resources

  • funeral, Lithgow Mercury (NSW), 16 February 1921, p 2

Citation details

'Cunynghame, Sydney Charles (1833–1921)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Cunningham, Sydney Charles

5 September, 1833
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


12 February, 1921 (aged 87)
Oberon, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.