1957 or MCMLVII


CUM esset Caesar in citeriore Gallia [in hibernis], ita uti supra demonstravimus, crebri ad eum rumores adferebantur litterisque item Labieni certior fiebat omnes Belgas, quam tertiam esse Galliae partem dixeramus, contra populum Romanum coniurare obsidesque inter se dare.

“When Caesar was in Hither Gaul [in winter quarters], as we have shown above, numerous rumours were brought to him, and letters also…”  Then something about Belgians…? Yes, I have the eBook now!


I.—While Caesar was in winter quarters in Hither Gaul, as we have shown above, frequent reports were brought to him, and he was also informed by letters from Labienus, that all the Belgae, who we have said are a third part of Gaul, were entering into a confederacy against the Roman people, and giving hostages to one another…

In 1957 I sat here and read that.


Edgar Bembrick was the legendary Latin teacher of us mob in 3B. I was 14. He, I suspected, personally knew Julius Caesar, in fact probably taught him. In fact it appears he was born in 1890. In 2007 I wrote, referring to 1959:

Edgar Bembrick, my Latin teacher in my last year in high school — his last year too as he died before that year was over — was in some ways as boring a person as you could hope to meet, and with a face remarkably like a prune. However, there was a twinkle in the eye and an awesome reputation in his subject area: “Don’t use that crib, son; I wrote it.” He would also come into the lesson without a text book and tell us what page to turn to and would then proceed to his exposition without recourse to anything other than his memory. He once claimed to be able to complete any line of Latin or Greek verse we could throw at him. We never caught him out. 

The French teacher was truly ancient, speaking a strange kind of French he apparently honed among the poppy fields of Picardy. He was quite awful, actually, so I will pass over his name.

Now English with Mr Harrison was a delight.

Fifty years ago my English teacher was a Mr Harrison. He could claim just enough eccentricity, often a quality in an inspiring teacher, as he was famous for weaving and making his own suits. What he was especially good at was reading aloud. I still remember his reading of The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico as particularly magic. In my own teaching career there have been times, I like to think, when inspired by Mr Harrison’s memory I too have held a class captive by reading something or other. This has been especially valuable with classes who are not all that good at reading. I can remember doing things like serialising novels: Robbery Under Arms and Kidnapped come to mind, not to mention a Macbeth where I took all the parts for a scene or two, and it was only when in a Wollongong HSC class I began to read parts of Patrick White’s The Tree of Man aloud that I saw for myself how good it in fact is! I would urge all English teachers to develop this old-fashioned skill.

In senior years my teacher was Mr Smith, or “Rockjaw”. Younger than Mr Harrison, and of the belief that Rugby Union is “poetry in motion”, he did manage to stimulate much interest in the texts we had to study even if his dramatic skills were not as good as Mr Harrison’s. He did give us a good grounding, for those times, in critical reading; he rubbished me at one time for suggesting that film might be worth studying! Called me “Wordy Whitfield” too on occasion. I wonder why?


1943 Sydney Boys High staff. The year I was born.

Those still around in my time there are in bold.

Back row: T B Ingram, O A Taylor, E G Evans, K J Andrews, W B Rowlands, H J Brayden, C H BLack, E Bembrick, H Edmonds, B T Dunlop, W E Gollan, J E Hagam, A H Webster
Second row: J R Towns, W E Cummings, T L Pearce, T A Pearson, H C Allen, R W Hundt, J Dabron, M R Callaghan, L C Kemp, W J Acason, LA Swan
Front Row: L A Basser, A H Pelham, N R White, Miss E Cochrane, P W Hallett (Deputy Headmaster), J H Killip (Headmaster), Miss M Smith; D R Blakemore, W H Edmunds, E P Patterson, J S Rae
Absent: A F O’Rourke

And there were us kids, of course. For some reason I especially remember in that room F, who sat in the back row most often, from time to time with his dick out, as I recall. Those desks could conceal a lot, and F had a fair bit to conceal.


Public transport 1957


Anzac Parade, school kids waiting.


North Sydney Pool, where we had our school swimming carnivals.


Avery Avenue, Kirrawee, where I lived 1956 through 1958, behind the tree on the left. And yes, we were close to transport. That’s the Cronulla line on the right. It took about an hour and a quarter to get to SBHS from here.