Ingacy Zlotkowski > Profiles

Professor of Modern Languages
First Polish pioneer of Wollongong
First Wollongong multilingual interpreter
Prominent citizen and a man with the vision for
greater Wollongong
Lived in Wollongong 1854 -187Os
Died 3 February 1886 Five Dock, Sydney
Buried at Rockwood Cemetery, Sydney

Zlotkowski Heights may be remembered by some of the older citizens of Wollongong. The name arose from their owner for 30 years, Ignacy Zlotkowski. His vision and contribution for a greater Wollongong marks him as the first Polish pioneer of the region who for 20 years called Wollongong home.

A professor of modern languages, Ignacy Zlotkowski was born in 1817 in Warsaw, Poland, into a family of Polish nobility. In 1841 he escaped from Poland1 to France, and then to Scotland as a political refugee using his French passport, where he taught languages at Aberdeen University2, Kings College (1) . After leaving Scotland in 1852, Zlotkowski arrived in Australia on board the Banshee on 5th March 1853 as one of a few paying passengers. He brought with him recommendation letters from England and Scotland which contributed to his naturalization in just few days after his arrival on 17th March 1853 (2).

Arriving in Wollongong
His arrival in Wollongong is unknown, but in June1854 he became an owner of a block of land and its building located at Harbour Street Wollongong3 (3). In the early1850s the building was used as a Medical Centre, then as a Concert Hall which Zlotkowski would occasionally let the building be used free of charge for charity functions (4). In December 1858 the building became the premises for the Smith and Sons Dancing Academy (5). Since the late 1870s, the building stood empty several years until it was demolished in the1880s. It was sold by Zlotkowski’s family to Sisters of Good Samaritan in 1897 (3).

Zlotkowski and his family
In 1855 Ignacy Zlotkowski married Jane Haigh of Market Square4 in Wollongong’s Presbyterian Church on 18th September 1855 (6). They had four sons and two daughters. The Zlotkowski family lived in Wollongong for nearly 20 years. During this time, they lived in Jane’s family home in Market Square, and then moved to their farm house in Montenegro5 (Black Mountain) (7) near Mt. Keira, later known as Zlotkowski’s Heights. In the 1860s the family moved to “ Bayalla” cottage, Smith Street Wollongong and they lived there till the early 1870s (8).

Contribution to education
Ignacy and Jane were both involved in teaching. Jane Haigh, who was known in Wollongong as Madame Zlotkowski, owned and ran a private secondary school for boys, which was located in Market Square (9).

In the 1860s and 1870s Zlotkowski traveled to Sydney to teach French, German and Italian in a private school located at the University of Sydney Hall (10).

His children attended Wollongong National School6 and Zlotkowski himself was involved in the school’s life. He was not only involved in organising a testimonial for the then school’s teacher7 but he was also a chairman of the ceremony, which was attended by many prominent citizens of the town like Charles Throsby Smith, John Stewart and George Hewlett. After the ceremony, an Illawarra Mercury journalist wrote “Mr. Zlotkowski proved himself as a fine fellow in the matter; he had come out in the right manner and in the right time and he trusted that they would find him working in future occasion” (11).

Multilingual interpreter/translator Zlotkowski was Wollongong’s first multilingual interpreter and translator. On 7 April 1856, the Illawarra Mercury published “A Noble Act”, French literature translated into English by Zlotkowski. The editors of the Illawarra Mercury valued his opinion about the new German Periodical (published in German) which was subscribed by the handful of Germans living at that time in Wollongong (12).

His multilingual skills and proximity to Wollongong Harbour were used to help to communicate with French, Italian and German migrants who were arriving by steamers from Sydney, usually to work as servants on the farms. He was not only an interpreter and arbitrator (walking to Kiama when needed) but an advocate for their rights. In his own article to the Editor of the Illawarra Mercury he wrote: “ …. I think that every farmer that hires the foreign servant ought to provide him with food whilst on board, and a cart ought to be ready for him, to take him and his luggage to his new home…” (13).

In 1863 his knowledge of French was also used by the Wollongong’s Mayor, Dr. Lambert. One such occasion was the meeting that took place at Mt. Keira Mine, when the Dr. Lambert tried to convince a French steamer commander that the coal from the Keira and Bulli mines was a good quality and could be imported to France (14).

Popular and influential citizen of Wollongong
It is not surprising that Zlotkowski’s name came up during a nomination meeting for the Alderman of Wollongong Municipal Council. The meeting took place on 17 February 1864 at the Wollongong Court House. Zlotkowski stated before the voting started, that he never had political ambitions. Regardless, voting was in his favor (15). Why was this Polish man was so popular, why had he so much trust and respect.

The town trusted him on two occasions, choosing him as one of three representatives to go to Sydney with the petition to the NSW Minister of Public Works. Once in May 1864 regarding the poor quality of work carried out in Wollongong Harbour (16) and the second time in September 1864 when the town was lobbying for a railway track from Bulli to Wollongong. The track could be used to transport more coal from local mines, creating jobs in the Illawarra (17) . In 1876 even when he wasn’t living in Wollongong any more, he wrote to Benjamin Palmor, Esq., Mayor of Sydney to call a public meeting regarding the construction of a railway from the “deep waters of Port Jackson through vast Coal-field of the rich and fertile district of Illawarra to Shoalhaven” (18).

Zlotkowski was involved in other areas of public life. He was a very active member of Wollongong Harbour Improvement Committee (19), member of Illawarra Improvement Society (20), an honorary treasurer of Wollongong Agricultural Society (21) and a chairman of public meetings on many occasions, particularly elections meetings (22).

Zlotkowski Heights Ignacy is remembered as the owner of Zlotkowski Heights, the area between Mt. Keira Road, Robsons Street and Keira Mine Road which he and his wife owned since 1856 to 1887 (23).

This was farming land, well cleared with a dairy cottage on it and beautiful views of Wollongong and the ocean.

In 1858 St Michael’s Anglican Church, located on Corrimal Street was demolished and rebuilt on its current site on Markets Street using its original stones . The expansion of the church required additional stones which were brought from Zlotkowski Heights.

Zlotkowski’s family left Wollongong in early the 1870s and moved to Marrickville, Sydney where he taught languages in a private school at the University of Sydney Hall.

He died on 3 February1886 at Five Dock, Sydney and was buried at the Rockwood Cemetery, Sydney. Once a respectable and active citizen of Wollongong, he became the forgotten first Polish pioneer of this town.

After Ignacy Zlotkowski’s death in 1886, the land was divided with new streets created and named after Wollongong aldermen: Parsons, Cochrane, Poulter and Armstrong. An auction took place on 2 November 1887 with live music, free drinks and free transport from the outskirts of Wollongong. Most of the blocks were sold on that day including the 24 acre block known as Gallagher’s farm (24).

In the1900s, many miners cottages were built in the newly subdivided area as it was close to Mt. Keira Mine. Even in the1950s, the area was still referred to as “Zlotkowski’s Heights, Zlotkowski’s Hill or just Zlotkowski. It is unfortunate that none of the created streets were named after him.

Written by Zofia Laba © Zofia Laba
Research by Barbara Mazur and Zofia Laba

I would like to acknowledge the help which we have received during our research from Timothy Zlotkowski, Jane Styles (descendents of Ignacy and Jane Zlotkowski), Terry Bugg, Karen Parker, Ray Bush and Bill Dargan (members of Illawarra Family History Group) and Carol Herbern (member of Illawarra Historical Society).


1 From 1796-1918 Poland didn’t exist as an independent country, it was ruled by Russia, Prussia and Austria
2 Zlotkowski was well educated and fluent in Latin, French, English, Italian and German.
3 Currently St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Chapel is located on this site.
4 Jane Haigh was born in Halifax, Yorkshire England in 1835. She arrived in Australia in 1845 with her father Joseph Haigh (a wool-merchant), her brother and two sisters.
5 Black Mountain - an area near the Mt. Keira, Wollongong
6 Wollongong National School was located on the corner of Crown St. and Kembla Street. Currently Wollongong Town Hall is present on that site.
7Jabez Clarke was the Wollongong National School’s teacher, who in 1862 was leaving the district after 11 years of teaching.

1. Police, De La Prefect de. Permis de Sejour (Copy of a French pasport) . Paris, France : s.n., March 26, 1842.
2. Shipping Intelligence, Arrivals. Sydney Morning Herald. 5 March, 1853.
3. Office, Land Title. Zlotkowski, Ignacy. Vendor's Index (pre-Torrens) 1896-1897,. Part B. Refer: Book 605, No 370, Deed Type C. Queen's Square, Sydney : s.n.
4. Concert Hall. Illawarra Mercury. 22 April 1858.
5. Notice. Illawarra Mercury. 2 Dec.1858.
6. Church, Presbytrian. Declaration (copy of a marriage certificate) . Wollongong : s.n., 15 September,1855.
7. Births. Sydney Morning Herald. 23 March 1858.
8. Zlotkowski, Ignacy. Original Correspondence - Kerosene. Illawarra Express. 6 May 1865.
9. Pioneer, By an Old. Reminiscences of Illawarra, Series XIX. Early Education in Illawarra. Illawarra Mercury. 22 February 1924.
10. Advertising, Educational . Sydney Morning Herald. 26 August 1865, 9 January 1867, 1 February 1868, 16 January 1869, 23 July 1873 .
11. Presentation of a Testimonial to Mr. Jabez J. Clarke. Illawarra Mercury. 23 December 1862.
12. New Periodical . Illawarra Mercury. 1862.
13. Zlotkowski, Ignacy. To the Editor of the Illawarra Mercury. Illawarra Mercury. 10 March 1856.
14. Merecury, Illawarra. Our Forgein Coal Trade. Sydney Morning Herald. 12 March, 1863.
15. Election of Aldermen. Illawarra Mercury. 17 February 1884.
16. The Wollongong Harbour Works. Sydney Morning Herald. 14 May, 1864 pg.5.
17. Railway from Bulli to Wollongong . Sydney Morning Herald. 21 September 1864 pg.13.
18. Metropolian and Illawarra Railway. Sydney Morning Herald. Friday 3 March 1876.
19. Proceedings of the Wollongong Harbour Improvement Committee . Illawarra Express. 10 April 1861.
20. Dand Drift . Illawarra Mercury. 27 January 1864.
21. Balance Sheet of the Illawarra Agricultural Society F.R 1865. Illawarra Mercury. 3 March 1865.
22. Municipal Election. Illawarra Mercury. 10 February 1864.
23. Fras. Woodward, Solicitor, Wollongong. Abstract of the Title (Willim Hurt, John Francis Hurt, Patrick Carroll, Samson Davis Marks, and Joseph Hart to land near Wollongong in the County of Camden and Colony of New South Wales, know as the Zlotkowski Estate. 1892.
24. Zlotkowski Estate . Illawarra Mercury. 3 November 1887.




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