Sir Roden Cutler, in his introduction to the book Manly 1877-1977, recalled “Ma Maloney, an old Manly identity, opened the new Spit Bridge, I think in the 20s, by riding a camel across it to the tune, so the wags said, of ‘The Cam(pb)els are Coming’.” Not quite - in fact, there were no camels involved in the opening of the Spit Bridge in 1924, but Sir Roden was right in recalling that Ma Maloney rode across the Spit Bridge by camel, a few years later, in 1930.
A Syrian, Mr Forgotta (newspapers of the day spell his name in various ways) brought three camels named Diamond, Lucy and Star, from Broken Hill to Manly Beach in October 1930. ‘Ma’ Maloney got wind of this, and met the camels when they arrived by train at Parramatta, where the local children gathered in large numbers. Accompanied by former Manly Alderman Dick Pearce, Ma triumphantly rode Diamond from Parramatta all the way to Manly. The camels did riding exercise on the sands at Manly throughout the summer, and their owner paid Manly Council £3 per week for the privilege of charging for camel rides, estimated as 15% of takings. The photo shows four girls on one of the camels at Manly Beach in 1930.