Thursday, May 12, 2011

New England passings: Peter Gray, Maurice Kelly, Wilf Dews & Kevin O'Donohue

In this post I just wanted to record some New England passings. I try to do so from time to time because it captures some of the New England experience.

Peter Gray (1980-2011) became a national figure when he threw his shoes at JoPeter_Gray-420x0hn Howard on the ABC's Q&A program in a gesture of contempt for Howard's decision to embroil Australia in the war in Iraq.

Peter Robert Gray was born on May 10, 1980, in Newcastle, one of five children of Bob and Lyn Gray.

He went to Merewether High School then divided his time between study at the University of Newcastle (which he left with a bachelor of arts, majoring in classics) and the defence of biodiversity in the forest.

He became a dedicated environmental campaigner, one of the more swashbuckling members of Newcastle climate change action group Rising Tide. Rising Tide had a talent for the visual. Their blockades of coal ships in Newcastle Harbour attracted considerable attention.

For more see the obituary by George Woods with Harriet Veitch.

Former UNE academic Maurice Kelly died in April. I do not think that there is an obituary yet. Many UNE people will remember Maurice very fondly. His role in the promotion of classics and in the development of UNE's Museum of Antiquities is marked by the annual Maurice Kelly lecture series. One of the reasons why classics has survived at UNE when it has vanished at so many other places is because of people like Maurice. The survival of classics is part of the reason why UNE still offers a broad university experience when so many other have become little more than degree shops.

My thoughts are with wife Gwen, a well known New England writer, daughter Bronwyn and all the family.

At one stage Bronwyn was friendly with Henry Person, a friend of mine.  Gwen wrote an entertaining piece for a women's magazine, I think that it was the Women's Weekly, about her daughter's blond haired, blue eyed boyfriend Henry. Henry was into many strange things, including (as I remember it) the construction of a phone system from his place to the Kelly house. One line that stands out in my memory: "Henry said, hold this, Mrs Kelly, and you will get an electric shock. I did and I did!"

wilfred-dews-420x0 Hunter Valley coal miner Wilfred Dews (1909-2011) loved planting trees.

Rohen Conners obituary tells the simple but remarkable story of a man who persuaded the BHP to develop colliery gardens and went on to have a major impact in preserving the Hunter environment. The photo shows Wilf Dews in the 1950s with a tree plaque, part of the program he started for BHP.

Kevin O'Donohue (1934-2011) was a well known Sydney radio identity and maverick. His connection with New England was peripheral, two years at Armidale's 2AD radio station. Why, then, am I including him?

For several reasons, in fact.

This year is 2AD's 75th anniversary. Former manager Don Thomas has been preparing a history to go onto the station web site. It's not yet officially on-line, but you can find the initial and still to be completed version here. Then Peter Davidson's obituary provides a short but interesting picture of the radio scene in NSW. This includes the movement of people between stations.

This is important to me, because some of the research and writing that I am trying to do looks at the New England radio scene, the rise of the medium, its influence and then its transformation over the second half of the twentieth centuries.    

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