The Baynie Family

Alma and Anthony Baynie, immigrated to Australia, from a little village called Bane, high in the mountains of Lebanon. Together with their daughters Emily aged 5 and Adeaby 18mths and Alma 5 months pregnant with their 3rd child, the family arrived at Circular Quay in Sydney on 17th April 1925.

Alma and Anthony Baynie

On their arrival, Alma and Anthony were taken to stay with fellow Lebanese in Redfern. In the 1920’s there was a significant community of Lebanese living in and around Redfern. They were known as ‘The Syrian Warehouse Men’ of Redfern because Lebanon was not independently recognised until 1943.

In the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s a number of Syrian men ran manufacturing and haberdashery warehouses in and around Surry Hills and Redfern. They recruited the newly arrived fellow immigrants to Australia as ‘hawkers’ and organised accommodation for them in local boarding houses around the Redfern Precinct. 

Anthony and Alma Baynie stayed in this community for approximately 6 weeks and then they moved to Wahroonga, in the Hornsby Shire, making them one of the first Lebanese families to move to the north side of Sydney.

This was unusual as generally, the Lebanese immigrants stayed in and around the inner city and Eastern suburbs.

Baynie Family 1948

After their 3rd daughter Mary was born, in August 1925, the family rented a home in Waitara. They did not have a support network and since they spoke very little English, these early years were very difficult for Anthony, Alma and their three little girls.

Anthony quickly found work as a gardener and was able to eventually set up a bootmakers/repair shop near Waitara station. Alma became a Hawker around the North Shore of Sydney. Over the years they worked very hard and were able to purchase a home in Thornleigh.  After some time they had made/saved enough money to take a mortgage on a small dairy nearby in Sefton Rd at Thornleigh where they established a market garden that was mostly worked by Alma and her older daughters.

From here the Baynie family expanded to include 5 more children, Peter, Margaret, Jean, Joseph and John. The family worked tirelessly and generously, under the direction of Mary, in welcoming, housing and supporting hundreds of Lebanese immigrants to establish themselves in their new home, thus commencing a pattern of chain migration that resulted in approx. 9,000 Lebanese living in the Hornsby shire today.

The book, As Cedars Grow, as told by David Brown, the first child of Mary (nee Baynie) and Frank Brown, and the first grandchild of Alma and Anthony Baynie, tells the inspirational story of this amazing family.