Friday, November 09, 2007

Armidale Demonstration School - for the girls

Once, as a child, I made an ocean journey
With my parents and brothers; the big ship waited
At Circular Quay, stately in her leisure, while
White-suited stewards trundled trolleys up the gangplanks.
All through the morning we milled around on deck,
Poked around our cabins, said our farewells,
Till ship’s horn roared a warning; All Guests Disembark!
From Jenny Kimberley, Moving Along

During the week I got a very nice surprise, and email from Jenny Kimberley (photo), nee Kemp. The email was triggered by earlier stories on the Armidale Demonstration School (here and here). Jenny's brother Peter was in the same class as me at Dem and then later at TAS (The Armidale School).

I won't repeat the whole email, but I thought that some readers with an interest in Dem might find some of the reminiscences interesting. I have added a few supporting comments.

What a memory you have! I was there too, but a couple of years older and in the girls' part -- never the twain shall meet ... Is there any blog on the girls' school that you know of?

So far, Jen, no. On separation of girls and boys, after a joint time at infants, the primary schools were very separate. The older boys school was at the bottom of the hill, the two story girls school at the top. We only met the sheilas when we had to learn folk dances, or at some combined things like the showing of a film on Hiroshima.

I was amazed to read that while we were in England your teacher covered material on London and whatnot. I remember our 2-year trip quite vividly, especially that boat trip of 6 weeks to get there! I write poems and have written one about that, and the loss of those old liners. I'll attach it in case you like poems.

I have included an excerpt from the poem at the start of this post along with a link to the original on Jenny's web site, Poetry from Jen. I am sure that Jenny's comment is correct, but it did not come from me. I will check with her.

With both a Teachers College and a University, Armidale was very much an academic city from which people went on secondment and sabbatical to other places, always in those days by ship. Jen's poem captures this very well.

I took violin lessons from Mrs. Letters, wife of Professor Francis Letters. ... I visited her a few years ago just before she died, and still have her book she wrote about his career, History Will Out. I played violin for 45 years until my hands got arthritis. At those TAS Gilbert & Sullivan shows, I was in the audience and at intermission, found a dark room to weep in, for grief that I couldn't be in one myself.

I've played in many orchestras and now sing in the Colorado Symphony Chorus, and to my great joy, we've done several Gilbert & Sullivan operas!

The artistic streak clearly runs in the Kemps, for brother Peter took an active part in the TAS G&S. Under the leadership of Jim Graham, the TAS G&S performances were a major school tradition enjoyed by a much wider audience. Australian singer Peter Cousins is one of those who got their start here.

I live in the U.S. and have done (except for 5 years in the 70s), since 1963. The minute I finished at Syd Uni, I was on the boat to Berkeley and my boyfriend's new home there with his family. He was at Syd Uni too. We married and I have two sons, one in NY and one in Illinois. We divorced and I married a second time to the man in charge of UC Berkeley's tandem computers, and sadly lost him to cancer in 1999. Now I live in Colorado and just 3 months ago bought a house here. I'm a writer at a company that creates and optimizes websites.

And so things go. Armidale kids have gone all over the world.

Unlike Sydney or Melbourne, for most kids being born in Armidale meant that you were born to move. Very few now live in Armidale or, for that matter, the broader New England. New England's lack of higher level jobs made movement necessary.

Of my immediate friends at Dem, I do not think that any now live in Armidale. A considerable proportion were to leave Australia, in some cases for ever.

I haven't calculated exactly, but a remarkably high proportion left the country. This is not, I think, unique to New England, but holds across many areas of non-metro Australia. I suspect that once you have been forced to break the links with home, further movement into the unknown becomes easier.

This does not mean that you lose the heart strings to your ancestral homeland. Far from it. But you cannot go back because your homeland - I am not talking about Australia - has gone, changed. But this should really be the subject of another post. At this point, I would just note that one objective of this blog is to give the huge New England diaspora a link back.

Here are some names of kids I remember in Armidale: Gay McKenzie, Diana Ford, Jennifer and Anne Bassett (daughters of the Teachers' College Principal), Margaret Wicks, my best friend, whose father was a social worker, Julie Anne Knaggs, another friend, and many others who I can see in my mind, but can't remember their names.

These are all names that I knew of. As an example, Bob Wicks was in the same class at Dem as Bruce Hoy and myself. I wonder what Mr Wicks would think of the current problems facing the NSW Department of Community Services. I suspect that he would be horrified!

Thank you, Jen, for getting in touch.


Email update from Jen. The story about our teacher using the Kemp's overseas trip in class came from Bruce Hoy.

Jen confirmed that her dad, Leslie (Les) Kemp who had been Vice-Principal at the Armidale Teachers' College went back to Sydney in 1960 to become Principal of Sydney Teachers' College. Brother Chris was also at TAS, a few years behind me.


Anonymous said...

I remember Jenny and also Peter who was in my year. I also remember the other students mentioned.
I find that photo of Fifth Class boys (1955)on one of the sites, quite amazing. I think this was supplied by Bruce Hoy. There are 43 students in the photo!! Unfortunately, I don't have any class photos from those days - they did not take them professionally like they do now. Robert Brown - now Senator Bob Brown is in that photo. He had a sister Janice? who I think was a twin so in my class.

Sue Chapman (nee McSpedden)

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Sue. Yes, the photo is from Bruce. Can you confirm for me just which one is Bob? I thought that he was in the class, but then started to gave doubts?