Home Map Mobile Tour 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Frog Hollow

Of all the wretched traps that festered in East Sydney, the worst was Surry Hills's Frog Hollow, located on and around the sheer cliff that plummeted from the western side of Riley Street, between Ann and Albion Streets. In the decade before World War I until the late 1920s when, mercifully, it was raized, criminals battened themselves to Frog Hollow like fleas to a rat. The frogs which gave the swampy, crater-like gully in the bowels of the Riley Street escarpment its name sensibly departed to more congenial surroundings sometime in the 1800s, leaving the stinking labyrinth of narrow, dark and airless alleys and higgeldy-piggeldy, jammed together hovels to a scarborous collection of blackguards and their bare foot children, mangy pets and vermin. Local clergymen had no trouble evoking a picture of hell for their parishioners - they merely told them take a stroll to Frog Hollow.

There, lawbreakers schemed robberies and murder, lay low from the police, hid their stolen goods, gathered in the notorious Sunbeam Hotel to grow woozy on opium and cocaine and gut-rot booze, suffered the agony of venereal disease, died of plague, and bashed, raped and otherwise abused one another. The area was headquarters for many mobs, and none more forbidding than the Riley Street Gang, whose raggedly handsome leader, armed robber Samuel 'Jewey' Freeman, lived in a shack there. When he was not robbing people at gunpoint, Freeman's idea of fun was beating senseless the last rag-tag manifestations of the old Surry Hills larrikin youth gangs, namely the Forty Thieves and the Big Seven, who attracted a police presence in the Hills that Freeman (with serious villainy of his own to conduct) could well have done without. In 1913, Freeman was joined by his latest lover, a wild, thirty-two-year-old thief and prostitute named Kate Leigh.

Adapted from the award winning book Razor, by Larry Writer © 2001, Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd. Second edition now available with new material. Find out more >> about the bookBuy the book >>