Saturday, April 28, 2007

New England Australia - Newcastle's decline

I think that many Newcastle people would be surprised by the heading of this post. But it's true.

Growing up, those in country NSW used to refer to NSW as Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong. Now NSW should be written nSw.

Growing up, Newcastle was NSW's second city, the biggest city in New England. It had a unique and distinct place. That place is going.

The use of language by the NSW Government and the Sydney media shows this clearly.

I was surprised during the last elections to find that the Sydney Morning Herald included the Lower Hunter in its central coast election maps. Talk about the tail wagging the dog. But then I found a series of NSW Government maps that simply showed Newcastle as part of Greater Sydney.

We can see this in the NSW State Plan where Newcastle is treated as one of Sydney's ring cities.

Newcastle people really need to watch this or the place will become just another Sydney suburb.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New England's Aborigines - the Birpai: web references



Photo: ABC Mid North Coast. Coorah Canugan Badu Exhibition Closing Ceremony. Kattang Dancer Joe Archibald on the hunt for some honey. In the background playing the didge is one of the exhibition's curators Birpai man Stephen Donovan.

In an earlier post on visitors to this site I mentioned the visitor who searched on the Birpai, the Aboriginal people occupying the Hastings and Manning River Valleys.

I also said how disappointed that visitor would have been by the results. So for his/her sake as well as my own, I thought that I would do a brief post pulling together some of the web references on the Birpai. I can then use this as a base to do a fuller post later.

First, as a general comment, while those in the Hastings Valley say Biprai, those in the Manning Valley often refer to the Biripi. They are the same people. As a second general comment, there are a lot of fragmentary glancing references that make a full search difficult.

AIATSIS has a 2003 list of references on the Birpai language and people, although I find the lay out complicated.

The Greater Taree City Council has a very useful heritage section on the Birpai. The Kendall site contains a short summary. There is a another very useful page on the Tobwabba site that deals with the Worimi and Biripi and sets a historical context. The Great lakes museum has a short page on early contact with Europeans. A related Great Lakes page can be found here.

The Timbertown site also has a useful page focused on the use of wood. The site page includes a list of references and also provides an introduction to the Dick photographic collection. Even though the photos were staged, this is by far the best collection of photos on traditional Aboriginal life in New England.

The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has an interesting page that provides a snapshot of the position of the Birpai people in 1998.

Another interesting snapshot is provided by the minutes of the Purfleet community meeting. The NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs Two Ways report on the North Coast sets a general context on current Aboriginal conditions on the broader North Coast region.

Arts Mid North Coast has a useful page giving contact details for various Aboriginal organisations.

The booklet prepared after the construction of the Cowarra dam contains some limited information. The Dooragan National Park Management Plan (July 2004) has some material including the story of the three brothers. Another short National Parks reference can be found in the material on the Barrington tops.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Australia's Aborigines - the need to localise



Photo: Thomas Dick Collection, Port Macquarie Historical Society, the Birpai

In my last post on what brings people to this site, I mentioned the search that had been done on the Birpai, an Aboriginal language group in the Hastings and Manning River Valleys.

The person searching would have been disappointed. So I thought that I should add a post pointing to some reference sources. But before I do so, I want to make a general point.

Without checking precise post references, I have said before how hard it is to find information about Australia's indigenous peoples at local or regional level. I think that this is a major gap.

If we really want to recognise the past of our indigenous peoples and integrate it properly into national history, we must localise it. People find it much easier to understand and identify things relevant to their own immediate areas.

Postscript

I have been trawling through web pages relating to the Birpai. There is a fair bit of information but it is all over the place.

One simple, cheap and useful thing that could be done by either the NSW or Australian Governments is to pay for the creation of web sites covering the the different language groups such as the Birpai to act as a central information point.

Simple because the technology is not complex. Cheap because web costs are low, while one or two full time researchers could progressively create the content for a lot of sites in twelve months. Useful because it would help both our indigenous peoples and those like me who are interested.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

New England Australia - what brings people to this site

I have been reviewing visitor patterns to see what brings people to this site.

Of the last ten hits, one was a direct hit, one a referral from the New England History blog, eight came in through search engines.

The first search on Google Australia but whole web was on nsw election 2007. The story I did on the New England results came up on the first page and drew the visitor. The search also picked up two broader posts I did on Personal Reflections , so three of the top ten items picked up by Google were in fact written by me.

I write from a personal perspective, but I also try to give both links and data, so I hope that the visitor found the material of some use.

The next search, again on Google Australia and whole web, was on "G A Robinson" Lismore. I have mentioned Mr Robinson a number of times in the context of the foundation of New England Airways (list of posts here), so these posts came up in the first ten hits.

I had not done this exact search myself before, so picked up a few more references myself. One was a short factual note on oldbeacon, a second a passing reference in John Gunn's book on Amazon.

The third search on Google was buzo, alex. This picked up, again in the first ten references, the story I wrote about his death. I have noticed over time a steady interest in Alex. The story on him on Wikipedia is very short. I hope that someone with more literary knowledge than I have will extend it at some point.

There were two searches, different IPs, on Google Australia but whole web on Slim Dusty. Both picked up the story on the Slim Dusty Centre project in Kempsey.

Interestingly, the first search on slim dusty history brought the story in among the first ten. In the second on just slim dusty the story came in at number 43, so my visitor had to go through a few pages to find it.

History birpai tribe on Google Australia whole web brought this blog up in the first ten. I am sure that whoever was searching was disappointed because I have only one passing reference. I can do something about this.

A ninemsn search on the university of new england's centre for local government brought this blog up number one. A totally undeserved result brought about by the way the search engine robots combine words.

Finally, a Google search on towns in new england nsw captured the story I wrote on New England's poor towns at number 3.

This result made me a bit uncomfortable. That story was sparked by Professor Vinson's study of disadvantage and addressed a failure in public policy. I would not want the post to be seen as a total story of all New England towns.

I have written about a fair number of places. I wonder how I can make this more accessible?

A few late additions

I had just finished this post when a few new hits appeared.

Still on the weird and wonderful was the search on Google on number of children per Morman family 2007. I have one reference in one post to the Morman Church, the story on my year five class at the Armidale Demonstration School that somehow bringing the site up in the first ten.

Next came a search on ninemsn on stats youth crime in cessnock nsw australia. I think from the words on the search page that my post on the NSW State Plan was the trigger here, but when I followed the msnsearch link back it bought up a number of posts in a series, some form of consolidation brought about by the msn search robots.

Then there was the search on king family at bingara. Here my story on the death of David Armstrong who was born in Bingara and was known as the king came up as the second item. I hope that my visitor found the story of some interest, although it had nothing to do with the King family as such.

I am always interested in New England families, so followed some of the links myself.

The first click led me to Message Stick on the National Indigenous Times (19 April 07) focused on finding missing relatives. Nothing on the King family, but interesting.

Then a click took me to the Peerage.com, a genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain as well as the royal families of Europe. This is a somewhat eccentric but interesting site maintained by Daryyl Lundy in New Zealand.

Here I learned that D'hrie King, the daughter of Frank R King of Bingara, married Sir William Windsor Broun of Colstoun, 13th Bt. Here I found a list of people with some connection to the peerage grouped by NSW town or suburb. The list is not complete, the Crofts are not on it as a New England example, but it is still an interesting byway.

Another link led me to Joyce and Neville Bryant's home page.

While they now live in Stanthorpe just over the New England border in Queensland, Joyce was born in Glen Innes and then boraded in Armidale to complete her secondary education at the Armidale High School in the early 1950s. The site includes some interesting material on the Hartman family of Glen Innes.

Yet another link led me to Aussie Rhonda's Geneology site. This is a very good site with a strong focus on the western New England Tablelands and slopes. It includes a useful page of resources. Saddly, when I went to leave a message in the guest book I found that this section of the site had been closed because of, you guessed it, the impact of spammers.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

New England Australia - a few inland pubs and clubs


Photo: Uralla Main Street. Stature of the bushranger Captain Thunderbolt at Front

Pubs and clubs offers travellers so much more than food and drink – they give you that unique opportunity to meet the people face to face, and the opportunity to connect with the local community.

If you’re travelling through Big Sky Country in NSW – that’s somewhere between Armidale, Tenterfield and Moree – then consider stopping at a pub or club along the way, even if it’s just for a quick meal and cold drink.

Tamworth

The country music capital has many good pubs and clubs. For live music, try The Pub or the Scully Room at the Southgate Inn. The totally transformed Good Companions Hotel offers patrons several eating areas.

West Tamworth League Club, better known as Wests, offers two award winning dining experiences along with live music on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s a club with plenty of entertainment and promotions, including cash giveaways, free poker and regular raffles happening every week. Banjos Family Restaurant offers casual bistro style dining with open air dining on the verandahs overlooking Scully Park. The menu is modern Australian cuisine and it’s open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. Neros Café is a casual dining venue with light meals, gourmet salads, coffee and cakes and is open seven days to late. Wests is situated on the south western side of Tamworth.

Just one block back from Peel Street in Tamworth’s CBD is Wests Diggers, a club with pool tables, big screens for sports, and live music in a tropical-style courtyard. There are three dining facilities here – Nero’s Café, like the one at Wests, the family- friendly Pedro’s Mexican Cantina, serving tasty Mexican dishes and Smoky’s Bar and Grill, a dinner venue for lovers of country music lovers and great food.

Get more information on Tamworth’s pubs & clubs at http://www.visittamworth.com.au/ or phone (02) 6767 5300.

Armidale

There’s a diverse range of pubs and clubs in Armidale, from those appealing to the university crowd to the family-friendly venues. You’re certain to find something that appeals to your taste.
The Wicklow Hotel is a classic Armidale pub with a kids club and stylish dining area while the New England Hotel, better known as The Newie, is the gathering place for students in this university town. For clubs, try the Armidale Ex-Services Club or the Armidale Bowling Club. At the Ex-Services Club has the Tuscany Brasserie serving delicious meals seven days a week while the Bowling Club offers and extensive bistro menu.

Get more information on Armidale‘s pubs & clubs at http://www.armidaletourism.com.au/ or phone 1800 627 736.

Glen Innes

Among the many pubs and clubs, there are three venues here with a unique country feel that truly reflect the Glen Innes region. The New England Club is a traditional, heritage style club catering for conferences, parties or that casual afternoon drink, with an elegant restaurant, Braemores on the Park.

The Club Hotel, a staple part of the local community since 1906, is popular with locals for lunch, a quiet drink or a night on the town. The Railway Tavern is a traditional style pub with a beer garden, great pizzas, bar meals and TAB facilities, and a relaxed atmosphere catering to the whole family.

Get more information on Glen Innes‘ pubs & clubs at http://www.gleninnestourism.com/ or phone (02) 6730 2400.

Gunnedah

Some 60kms outside of Gunnedah, The Royal Hotel at Tambar Springs is worth dropping into for a drink or a meal in a friendly country pub. It offers bed and breakfast facilities at very reasonable rates.

Get more information on Gunnedah‘s pubs & clubs at http://www.infogunnedah.com.au/ or phone (02) 6740 2230.

Moree

The Post Office Hotel has three separate dining areas and prides itself on quality pub meals. There’s a beer garden and you can get lunch and dinner six days a week.

Get more information on Moree‘s pubs & clubs at http://www.moreetourism.com.au/ or phone (02) 6757 3350.

Inverell

Recently refurbished, the Inverell RSM Club caters for everyone and has just introduced a BBQ on the deck on weekend nights. Diggers Brasserie, with a kid’s room, appeals to families, and the auditorium is an excellent concert venue.

Get more information on Inverell’s pubs & clubs at http://www.inverellonline.com.au/ or phone (02) 6728 8161.

Guyra

Donna’s Bistro at The Guyra Recreation and Bowling Club serves Australian meals Friday night to Sunday night. There’s regular entertainment and bar facilities are open throughout the week.
Get more information on Guyra’s pubs & clubs from http://www.guyra.nsw.gov.au/ or phone (02) 6779 1577.

Narrabri

One of the North West's most historic ‘watering holes’ is the Cuttabri Wine Shanty. Found on the old Cobb And Co route between Wee Waa and Pilliga, this property was issued with Australia's second wine licence, and is thought to be the only wine shanty still operating in Australia today.

Get more information on Narrabri‘s pubs & clubs at http://www.visitnarrabri.com.au/ or phone (02) 6799 6760.

Tenterfield

The Tenterfield Golf Club is more than just a lovely spot for 18 holes. Along with squash courts, a snooker room and entertainment, its restaurant serves up some delicious meals, using the freshest ingredients.

Get more information on Tenterfield‘s pubs & clubs at http://www.tenterfield.com/ or phone (02) 6736 1082.

Warialda

The Warialda Golf and Bowling Club has a casual bistro offering traditional Aussie fare like roast dinners and steaks. Open for dinner Thursday through to Monday. Children are welcome.

Get more information on Warialda‘s pubs & clubs at http://www.gwydircountry.com/ or phone (02) 6729 0046.

Bingara

The Bingara RSL Club is a popular meeting place for the locals, offering casual dining, regular entertainment and bar facilities.

Get more information on Bingara’s pubs & clubs at http://www.gwydircountry.com/ or phone (02) 6724 0066.

Nundle

The Peel Inn is a historic pub with a spacious beer garden, which is a popular lunch venue with day-trippers to the village of Nundle. It offers accommodation and function facilities as well. Sunday lunch is a specialty here, as is Christmas in July.

Get more information on Nundle‘s pubs & clubs at http://www.nundle.info/

Quirindi

In town, one of the favourites with the locals is The Royal Hotel, a relaxing place for a cold drink. In nearby Wallabadah, the Marshall MacMahon Inn, built in 1867, has BBQ facilities, an open fireplace and a small number of rooms.

Get more information on Quirindi‘s pubs & clubs at http://www.lpsc.nsw.gov.au/ and follow the tourism links or phone (02) 6746 1755.

Walcha

The Commercial Hotel, built in the 1860s, is a classic corner pub offering meals in its refurbished restaurant, as well as country style accommodation.

Get more information on Walcha’s pubs & clubs from http://www.walcha.com/ or phone (02) 6774 2460.

Uralla

With a sensational undercover beer garden, The Top Pub in Uralla offers meals, regular entertainment and accommodation. It’s a very child-friendly pub, providing pencils and colouring in sheets to children on arrival.

Get more information on Uralla‘s pubs & clubs at http://www.uralla.com/ or phone (02) 6778 4496.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Clarence River and the Great Big Water Grab 2 - the issues



Photo: Clarence River near Ulmarra

In my last post I spoke of Mr Turnbull's grab for the waters of the Clarence River to provide water to the people of Brisbane and South East Queensland. In this post I want to spell out the issues as I see them as simply and as clearly as I can.

Any proposal of this type will generate opposition as well as a range of responses, especially from those with environmental concerns. These are important issues that need to be addressed. But I think that there is a broader set of principles involved.

As a statement of general principle, most if not all Government decisions over resources create a pattern of winners and losers.

In the case of the Big River, the immediate losers are the people of the Northern Tablelands and the Northern Rivers who lose access to a resource, the winners are the people of Brisbane and SE Queensland who gain water.

There are direct and indirect or longer term losses associated with the Clarence proposal. Direct losses include the potential affect on the livelihood of those who depend upon the river. Indirect losses include the opportunity costs associated with loss of alternative uses of the water.

There are no benefits that I can see for the people of New England to offset these losses. All benefits flow to the people of Brisbane and SE Queensland. To add salt to the wound, to the degree that the Turnbull proposal involves tax payer money, then the people of New England will in fact be subsidising Brisbane.

This leads me to my first conclusion. If the dam is to proceed, the people using the water should pay the full cost of the water including any direct losses plus opportunity costs, the people of New England should be compensated for those losses and costs.

Two issues then arise. How do we place a value on the losses and opportunity costs? What mechanism might be used to distribute the payment for the losses and opportunity costs?

These are not easy questions to answer to begin with, with the difficulties increased by the absence of any form of New England Government.

To illustrate this last point, consider the difficulties facing the NSW Government in responding to this issue.

The NSW Government does not recognise the New England I am talking about as an entity in any sense what so ever. This makes it hard for it to deal with the issue.

The Iemma Government faces a second problem in that adoption of the approach I am talking about would in fact seriously constrain the future freedom of the NSW Government to do as it wills. Here we have already seen in the case of the proposed Tillegra dam that Sydney itself is quite prepared to play water politics, to override local interests, to gain immediate political advantage.

In all these circumstances, I think that the most that we can expect from the NSW Government is a political response determined by its judgement about the various political forces involved.

This leads me to my second conclusion. If we cannot rely on either the Federal Government or State Government to recognise, let alone respect, the New England interest, then it is up to the people of New England to discuss and present issues in a way that forces consideration of the New England interest. The starting point here needs to be a revived conversation about possible uses of the waters of the Clarence.

I say conversation because I do not think that there is any present agreement even on the issues themselves. I may be wrong, but I have the strong impression that the water grab took people by surprise even though it has been clear for some time that water politics would lead to such moves.

In the meantime, political forces are likely to stall the dam in the short term.

The Federal ALP has attacked the dam, while the Federal National Party itself is vulnerable in some New England electorates. However, the issue will not go away. For that reason, I think it important that the conversation be pursued.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Clarence River and the great big water grab.

Map: Clarence River Valley

I am of course sorry that SE Queensland is suffering from water shortages. But if they want water, they can bloody well get it from elsewhere.

The point? The Federal Government says that Brisbane should solve its water problems via a dam on the Clarence River. This is a big New England River that rises in the New England Tablelands. It is totally within New England.

Leave aside environmental considerations. If Brisbane is to get water from a New England river then they should pay full price so that money can be used to build New England.

If this happens then there is at least a payback. But at this point there is no suggestion that there will be any payment.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

NSW Elections 2007 - New England Outcomes

I have now had a chance to go through all the results for the New England seats in the recent elections for the NSW Parliament.

There are twenty New England seats in the Legislative Assembly including Barwon, a seat that is only part New England. It is too hard to go through on a booth by booth basis in Barwon to separate the New England booths, so I have treated Barwon as a New England seat.

I have a problem in presenting the results in that I have still to work out how to create a table in a blog post, so I still have to present the results in text form.

Labor (ALP plus Country Labor) ran candidates in all twenty seats, gaining 30 per cent of the vote (NSW average 39 per cent), winning six seats, down two. Labor seats are all in the Lower Hunter - Cessnock, Charlestown, Maitland, Newcastle, Swansea and Wallsend.

Country Labor is a strange beast. Registered as a separate party to give the ALP some country exposure, it remains a creature of its parent. Country Labor runs in inland seats only ( the coast is no longer classified as country) and garnered 3.1 per cent of the total vote.

While I have not calculated figures for the previous election, the combined Labor vote was down because, among other things, of the independent challenge.

The National Party contested thirteen of the twenty seats, gaining 28.78 per cent of the vote (NSW average 10.1 per cent), winning nine seats, up one. National Party seats are spread outside the Lower Hunter - Ballina, Barwon, Clarence, Coffs Harbour, Lismore, Myall Lakes, Oxley, Tweed and Upper Hunter.

The Liberal Party contested six of the twenty seats, gaining 8.53 per cent of the vote (NSW average 26.9 per cent), winning one seat - Port Stephens. This is the first time for a number of years that the Liberal Party has held a New England seat.

The combined coalition primary vote (Nationals plus Liberals) in New England totalled 37.31 per cent, slightly higher than the NSW average of 37 per cent.

Twenty three independents contested thirteen of the twenty seats, gathering a collective 21.17 per cent of the vote (NSW average 8.9 per cent), winning four seats - Lake Macquarie, Port Macquarie, Northern Tablelands and Tamworth. In addition to the headline independent candidates who attracted the core attention, independents in fact score quite well in a number of other seats.

The Greens contested all twenty seats, gained 8.3 per cent of the vote (NSW average 9 per cent), winning no seats. I had expected the Green percentage to be higher, above the state average, because of the higher Green vote in parts of the coastal strip and especially the far North East seats. However, this was offset be very low Green votes in inland seats.

Four other minor parties also contested the election:
  • the Christian Democratic Party contested ten of the twenty seats, gaining 1.38 per cent of the vote (NSW average 2.5 per cent)
  • Australians Against Further Immigration contested ten of the twenty seats gaining 0.89 per cent of the vote (NSW average 1.5 per cent). Here I looked especially at Tamworth where AAFI had high hopes of gaining votes from the refugee dispute. I was please to see that AAFI gained just 435 votes (0.98 per cent).
  • The Fishing Party contested two seats, gaining 0.54 per cent of the vote (NSW average 0 per cent)
  • The Australian Democrats contested four of the twenty seats, gaining o.38 per cent of the vote (NSW average 0.5 per cent).

Following the 2003 election, the New England party distribution was ALP 9, NP 8, independents 3. Accepting that a New England Assembly would have had more seats, the proportions would likely have been the same. On this basis, the most likely outcome in 2003 would have been an ALP minority Government kept in power with independent support.

This time, the Party composition of a New England Lower House would be National 9, Liberal 1, Labor 6, independent 4. The most likely outcome would have been a coalition or National Government, again kept in power with independent support.

Mind you, the dynamics in a self-governing New England would have been different. Freed of the tarnish of the NSW Labor Government, it seems quite likely that a New England ALP Government would have been able to retain power.







Saturday, April 07, 2007

New England Airways - two more photos

My thanks to Bruce Robinson for sending me some more photos of New England Airways, New England's first major airline. For those interested in the history of New England Airways, a list of previous posts on NEA can be found at the end of this post.

I normally compress photos to save space and speed loading. However, if I load the full photo you can then see the detail by clicking on it, so that is what I have done in this case. Later: This does not appear to work in this case. Not sure why.

Photo: The following photo shows a Shell tanker fuelling the Ryan. Bruce advises that the vehicle is a Crossley and was converted from the limo that was used by the Duke of Gloustershire during his visit to Australia.The guy in the seat of the Crossley was Ralph Virtue (Keith's brother) who was killed in the Puss Moth crash near Byron Bay.


Photos: The first photo shows the Ryan outside the NEA hangar, the second shows a Stinson flying over Sydney.


Previous Posts

11 September 2006. New England Australia - Aviation introduces the story of the founding of New England Airways by George A Robinson.

12 September 2006. New England Airways - Postscript provides access to some very good early photos of NEA passengers.

14 September 2006. New England Airways - Follow Up contains some further musings plus photos.

17 October 2006. New England Australia Aviation Pioneers - the Virtues introduces another pioneering New England family closely associated with the history of New England Airways.

4 January 2007. Transport Pioneers - The Robinson Family; a further note outlines the early story of the Robinson family as transport pioneers in the Macleay Valley.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Armidale Demonstration School Year 5 1955

Bruce Hoy kindly sent me this photo. Bruce and I were friends at Dem (the Armidale Demonstration School) but then lost contact. He found me through my blogs.

You can enlarge the photo if you left click on it. I am in the third row to the the right wearing an open necked check shirt. I have something of that dreamy look that marked many of my photos at the time.

The photo's composition and its its grainy texture will take you back into a now vanished world. I have referred in passing to that world. For example, here and here in my migration matters series on my personal blog.

The Armidale Demonstration School was just that, a school where students at the Armidale Teachers College came to see teaching in practice. This meant that it had certain advantages, including a school library. However, it still operated in a different way from today.

To begin with, class sizes were much larger. There are 45 kids in the photo, but my class reports suggest a class of 49. By 1955, the first waves of end war and baby boomer children were reaching the school.

While the boys and girls primary schools were on the same site, there was no co-education outside a limited range of activities. All our primary teachers were male. In fact, after infants I did not again meet a female teacher until university.

The boy's buildings were old, built in the shape of a U with a wing at the front then two parallel wings, infants on one side, primary on the other. In the centre was an open court yard with (as I remember it) a stone covered well. Nearby was the school bell.

The rooms themselves were very plain, with pot wood bellied stoves that were lit to provide heat in Armidale's sometimes cold winters. We made ink by mixing water with ink powder and used pens that were dipped in the ink stored in ink wells on the desks. These pens made sometimes lethal weapons - my memories here are not always pleasant - and could be thrown up to stick in the wood ceilings in a very satisfying fashion.

The grounds were big but undeveloped with many iron stone outcrops. This provided a solid base for games untrammelled by modern concerns about risk and insurance. However, we had no playing fields as such.

There were two open at the front weather sheds where kids gathered on cold days and where the mums sometimes served coco in the morning, at least to the lower grades.

Because of growing numbers, Siberia, the name given to the first temporary two class building used for lectures to trainee teachers back in 1928 before completion of the new buildings at the Armidale Teachers College, had been relocated on the Dem grounds to provide extra class room space.

1955, the year of this photo, was not one of my happiest years. Mr Johnson, the teacher, and I did not really get on. In the two previous year I had had Mr Fittler who had really brought me along. I still remember arriving in third class and finding the work hard.

In my half yearly report for third class I came 39th in a class of 44. I managed to get 80 per cent for reading, something that was already an obsession, but my marks then tailed away to 69 per cent for English, 67 per cent for social studies, 50 per cent each for writing and composition, 45 per cent for arithmetic, and o per cent for spelling.

Mr Fittler commented that "James tries very hard but is handicapped by his very poor spelling and lack of manual dexterity." Lack of manual dexterity is right. I would do anything to avoid wood work! As for spelling, my view was that you did not need spelling to read, only to write. Mr Carr as head essentially said that he was sure I had greater ability than the results suggested.

I did indeed do better. By the end of third class my average marks had increased from 52 per cent to 74 per cent.

I have written a fair bit on my various blogs about change in Australian education. Looking at my reports I can see that this process was already underway and earlier than I had realised.

My first report has marks and a place in class. My second report for year 3 and my reports for year 4 have marks but no place in class. Then from the start of year 5 marks vanish to be replaced by As, Bs and Cs. So we have already entered the domain in which comparison was discouraged. I still remember, in fact, how angry I was when they abolished certain school prizes before I had a chance to go for them.

Returning to the photo, there is much greater variety in clothing than there is today, nor is this necessarily related to income.

Phil Brown (back row, fourth from the left) looks very neat indeed in his tie and blazer. Mrs Brown who was on her own supporting her family by working as a secretary. must really have battled to get him that neat. Half the group has ties, half do not. In all, there is still a very English feel to the clothes. And certainly there are no designer clothes!

This was a very mixed group, far more mixed than you would get today. Schools were zoned, most children went to public schools, especially in the country, so there was far more mixing across social groups. The University of New England had gained full autonomy the year before, so kids such as me from academic families mixed with kids whose dads (they were mainly dads who worked) did a whole variety of things.

These kids would go everywhere.

I have already mentioned singer Peter Allen as a Dem kid, although he was earlier. Another Dem kid was Green's leader Bob Brown. I looked for him in the photo, but cannot remember when he left Dem.

Earlier when I did a story on the actor Brian Barnes I got some things badly wrong because my memory, while apparently so clear, proved completely unreliable. This may well be the case with Bob. Further, there were in fact two Browns. But let me just report as memory.

I did not know that Bob experienced problems at Dem that forced him to leave Armidale, although I do remember my parents talking in hushed voices at one point about some problem at the school. I do remember Bob as a nice boy who lived in the police houses over the back fence from the school.

Looking at others, I mentioned Philip Brown. Phil and I were friends over a long period. We were especially active Methodist Church activities including the Junior Order of Knights and the Methodist Youth Fellowship.

Phil, Henry Person and I did a lot of sometimes strange things together. We went shooting and exploring and made rockets and cracker guns. For a period Henry went out with the New England writer Gwen Kelly's daughter, who if my memory serves me correctly described him something like this in a story in a women's magazine.

And then there was my daughter's blond haired, blue eyed boyfriend, Henry. He built a phone system to our house so they could talk. He said to me, hold this Mrs Kelly and you will get an electric shock. I held it, and I did!

I could not find Henry in the photo. Like Philip, his mum was alone and in Mrs Person's case earned her money by cleaning, including cleaning at our house for a period as well as the Buzo's, Alex and Adrian's parents, who she thought were wonderful.

Henry, Philip and I were in and out of each other's houses all the time. For a number of years after I left Armidale I got together with them every trip back. I remember trying to persuade Phil to go back to study, something that he finally did. Around this time he became a Morman and moved to the US where he is now teaching at Brigham Young University. For Henry's part, he became a TAFE teacher.

Brian Harrison's dad (Brian is third from the right, second row, glasses) was a local solicitor active in the New England New State Movement. Brian and I went to The Armidale School at the same time and then to the University of New England where we studied history together.

Like me, Brian was part of Isabel McBryde's pioneering prehistory group. His 1966 thesis on the Myall Creek Massacre - the first time Europeans were executed for murdering Aborigines - was the first academic study of this event and perhaps the first study of its type in Australia.

Brian was bright and intense. He and I argued religion and philosophy at school and university and were involved in some of the same Christian study groups. We also did Elementary Latin together as an extra at UNE, a subject Brian passed with ease but where I preserved my long standing relationship with Latin by failing abysmally.

Much later Brian would convert to Roman Catholicism and join a religious order. Here I found a Wikipedia stub on him that has been removed, but still exists as a cache.

Father Brian Harrison, O.S., M.A., S.T.D., is an Australian Catholic theologian and a prolific writer on religious issues. He is a professor at the Pontifical University of Puerto Rico, and also an Associate Editor of the Living Tradition, a publication of the Roman Theological Forum hosted by the Oblates of Wisdom in St. Louis, Missouri.

He is doctrinally conservative. While opposing the incorrect interpretations of the Second Vatican Council allegedly made by Progressivists and Modernists, he also opposes what he considers an excess - the criticism of the actual texts of that Council, by such people as Traditionalist Catholics.

The little I have seen of Brian's writings suggest that he is still the same old Brian.

I have mentioned before the importance of religion in that far country that was Armidale of the 1950s and early 1960s (here for example).

I do not mean that ordinary conversation was dominated by this, but Christianity and its formal mechanisms and ceremonies was a central feature in a way that is no longer true and would indeed make most Australians of 2007 very uncomfortable indeed.

This was not always good. I was at the Methodist Church one Sunday when someone behind me dropped a ball. This rolled down the floor to the front of the church. For some reason I felt obliged to go and get it. This led to public criticism of me at the next Dem assembly for letting down the school. I still remember how hurt I felt.

The Somerville twins were the children of the Professor of Physics at UNE. Many found them difficult to tell apart. Paul is in the second row last on the far right, while Malcolm is in the front row sixth from the left. Bruce Hoy remembers meeting the twins on hist first day.

The first two classmates I met in kindergarten were Paul and Macolm Somerville. They were wearing khaki shirts, shorts and socks and I thought they looked real cool! They had been shown into the classroom at the front of the old building by Mrs Halloran, the Principal. This classroom had a masonite floor with white tramlines painted around it which was used when we were taught dancing. Ah the memories!

They are just as neat in this photo.

I had a lot of contact with the twins, in part because of the UNE connection, in part because of the Methodist Church where we went to Sunday School and Church together. This continued when the twins went to UNE especially through MYF, although they followed family tradition and studied science. Both became geophysicists, working globally with a special focus on vulcanology and earthquakes. For a number of years I saw them on some of their visits to Australia.

I did not know that Malcolm had been killed until Bruce mentioned it in an email. Here I found a rather nice obituary in an AEES newsletter. It begins:

We have tragically lost one of our wiser members. Dr Malcolm Somerville died in a house fire near Adelaide late last year and is sorely missed by his family, friends and colleagues in Australia and overseas. Softly spoken and with a wry sense of humour he would probably, as his brother Paul commented, have found something ironic about the date of his death; the ninth day of the ninth month of the ninety ninth year.

The article then says a little about his pioneering work including work on tsunamis before concluding:

Quiet, intelligent, good humoured. If there was one word to describe him it was that he was a gentleman, an eccentric, rather old-fashioned gentleman who loved jazz, red wine, large Cuban cigars and engineering seismology. His counsel and company will be missed for a long time.

I though that this captured Malcolm rather well.

Bruce Hoy can, I think, be found in the second row eight in from the left. Bruce's dad was the mechanic at the local Holden dealer. He and I spent a fair bit of time reconstructing parts of Dumaresq Creek near Bruce's house.

I lost contact with Bruce after primary school, but he has had at least as interesting life as any in the class.

After completing his Leaving Certificate in 1961, Bruce joined the Commonwealth Bank, resigning in 1967 to join Joined the Territory of Papua and New Guinea Administration as a clerk, serving in a variety of roles.

In 1978 he moved to the National Museum as the inaugural curator in the new area covering the Second World War and Aviation. This went through a number of name changes from War Museum, to Aviation, Maritime and War Branch to finally Department of Modern History, a position he held until 23 July 1988 when the position was localised and Bruce moved back to Australia.

While with the Museum, Bruce developed strong links with the US Department of the Army and their MIA (Missing in Action) programme, and continued with this work with the Army on a contractual basis until 1993. During his association with the US military, Bruce located approximately twelve previously missing aircraft that resulted in the recovery of almost 90 Americans. In his words: "Quite a satisfying period of my life."

Kneeling beside Bruce in the second row are Robert (Bob) Howie (left) and Peter Kemp (right).

Bob, whose Dad was Professor of Psychology, is another example of what came to be known as the siblings, the children of the early staff at the New England University College. Life was not always easy for the siblings in those early days. I have lost contact with Bob, although I am still in contact with his sister Janet.

The Howies lived in a big house in Garibaldi Street whose front lawns sloped steeply down to the highway. This was a street we knew well.

Tony Crane, the son of the Principal of the Armidale Teacher's College lived next door to the Howies. Just up the hill were the Halpin twins, Michael and Richard. A little younger than me, we (my brother and I) formed a close friendship with them in part because our parents were friends. Sadly, Richard died very young. Philip Brown lived across the road, as did the Jones, another family we knew well through the Methodist Church.

Peter Kemp with his shock of fair hair is on Bruce's right. Peter was another Dem boy who went onto TAS (The Armidale School).

Now a solicitor in Sydney, Peter was part of the more artistic set at TAS who gathered around the annual Gilbert and Sullivans, a very major school production. I was too shy and nervous, too wooden, to ever be part of this group. Peter really was very good.

As the final person in what has now become a very long post, Kennie (Ken) Simpson is kneeling on the far left of the second row. Ken lived in East Armidale. While I did visit him, I have very vague recollections of his family, but I think that they were pretty poor.

I really got to know Ken a little later through scouts where we were both patrol leaders in Second Armidale Troop. Why Second Armidale I never knew, there certainly wasn't a First!

Ken was a very good patrol leader and I suspect that, like me, scouts provided an environment in which he could flower. He did not go onto university, but instead became a clerk in a local solicitor's office where he completed his legal qualifications in the old fashioned way.

Later he became a solicitor at Dorrigo where I met him again in 1972 when I was campaigning for Country Party preselection for the seat of Armidale. Sadly, Ken is another in the group who died early. I am not sure of the exact date.

I hope that this post has not been too boring for those without Dem connections, but I do find it interesting just how far we have spread. It's also interesting looking back into that now very distant world.

I would love to find out what others have done. Do let me know via ndarala(at)optusnet(dot)com(dot)au.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The New England Diaspora - Keeping in touch with home

The number of New Englanders living now living outside New England is unknown but huge.

For those who want to keep in touch with home, the various ABC radio regional web sites provide access to some information. Those sites are:

Sunday, April 01, 2007

New England's Aborigines

Short post to say that over at the New England History blog I have put up a long stocktake post drawing togther some of the posts I have written across blogs dealing with New England's Aboriginal peoples.

I think that this is an important topic. While the stocktake post is very long, I hope that it contains some material of interest.