Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Belshaw's World - Rugby League, Dem and more nostalgia

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on 22 June 2011. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line. You can see all the columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011.

At the end of my last column I said that I would continue the story of my return to Armidale for the Armidale Dem (Armidale City Public) School 150 year celebration in my next column. I was out of words! 

At the end of the first official assembly and our visit to the school library to look at all the memorabilia, we were all cold and hungry so decided to find somewhere warm for lunch. It was almost two, so it depended on what was open. 

We ended up at Impies. This was open, warm and the food was good, so good that we made it our headquarters from that point. There were a number of Dem groups present, so we added to the throng, settling round the table and yarning while we waited for our food. 

Phil Emery reminded of the time we played together for the Methodist Order of Knights Rugby League team down at Narrabri. I had been at TAS too long, Phil suggested. I had forgotten how to play League! 

He was right, of course. However, it reminded me that my football career began playing League for Dem. Coincidentally, my career also finished with a League match, playing for the ANU (Australian National University) in the Molonglo Shield, the ACT first grade Rugby League competition. 

I remember my last game quite vividly. I was playing on the wing for the students against HMAS Harman. 

The Navy boys had two advantages over ANU. First, they were quite fit. More importantly, they knew how to play the game! 

I quickly realised that there was no point in marking my fellow winger because Harman kept scoring long before the ball reached him. I ended up marking the entire Harman back line, forlornly chasing the line across the field hoping that I could bluff them to pass so that I might at least get a tackle in. 

Sometimes I was successful, more often not. I think that the final score was something over 100 to nil!

I may seem to have digressed, but there is a point. 

Most school reunions focus on the class or school. This one was a little different, much broader. 

Even today, Armidale is not a big city. However, it was less than half its present size when I was at Dem. This means, as with Phil and the Okay League team, those attending lap and overlap. This was not just a school function but a city reunion, and that makes for a very special feel. 

The organising committee had arranged for an informal get together at the Armidale City Bowling Club on the Friday night. That gathering was again fun. 

There were the Voisey girls telling me that the Deerfoot the Indian books that their father had lent me were now with his great grand children. 

Doctors Belshaw and Voisey, they became professors later, were friends who campaigned together for regional development. Prof Voisey helped brother David build his first crystal radio. 

There were names from the past – Basset and Madgwick, as well as many others. Talking to Andrew Blackie and Gayle Davies, you have three kids whose parents were all in the economics department. Andrew was in Armidale for just two years, but ended up marrying a local girl. 

At the end of the session we again adjourned to Impies, joined by a group of parents whose children had gone much later to Armidale City Public. That was fun, providing an insight into the later Armidale period. 

Saturday was the procession. It was bright but very cold. We stood outside the court house with waves of photo taking, and then followed the kids back to the school with bands in front and behind. The last time I was actually in an Armidale procession was back in the 1960s for Prosh.  

The following official assembly was very well done, and from there we went to another round of gatherings. 

I seem to have run out of words again with more still to say. Perhaps I should finish by just saying that it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. 


Anonymous said...

I only ever remember you in the ANU 3rds!

Anonymous said...

And Stockton Public School's 150th will be in Sept 2011. You may wish to publicise that.

Jim Belshaw said...

Good morning, JC. How embarassing! You may well be right. The thing that stands out in my mind was that it was Molonglo Shield, the senior comp.

On Stockton, I put up a post a little while ago inviting people to give me details of their reunions. I checked the school web site last night, and all the details required are there, so I will certainly run a story.

Nugget6 said...

Hi Jim, just came across your comments on Molonglo Shield. I was at Harman in those days I became President of Harman Rugby League and Vice President of ACT Rugby League prior to the formation of the Raiders where i then had the Jersey Flegg Side. Great days and nothing like the Mess drinks after the matches on the Harman Oval. Returning to Canberra for a re-union during ANZAC week of 2012 of personnel who served out the back of Harman at Bonshaw Receiving Station,surrounded by sheep. Rather secret back in those days.Looking forward to walking out on the oval to soak up the memories of those days. Oval now named after our then Patron Admiral Sir Victor Smith (Combined Chief of Staff). A great man who adored his footy team

Terry Nugent

Jim Belshaw said...

Hullo, Terry. Great to hear from you. It seems a very long time ago! Have a great reunion.

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