Neil’s personal decades 30: Roy Christison 1924

During the comparatively short time he was teacher at Dunolly Public School, Singleton NSW, my grandfather was very active in two key organisations: the NSW Teachers Federation and the Workers’ Educational Association.

NSWTF: Throughout its history, Federation has campaigned long and hard on issues affecting public education, teachers’ salaries and teachers’ working conditions, those issues which are at the heart of teaching as a profession in New South Wales.

The first Annual Conference of Federation in 1919 had listed as part of the agenda “inadequacy of teachers’ salaries, understaffing of schools, unwieldiness of classes, insufficiency of accommodation, conducting of classes in sheds, corridors and unsuitable rooms to the detriment of the health of teachers and pupils”. Other matters included “unhealthy congestion of school population in overgrown suburban schools, as against decentralisation into schools with a maximum enrolment of one thousand, the high percentage of unclassified and insufficiently trained teachers, inadequacy of supervision by heads of departments owing to class duties and absence of schools for the mentally disabled”.  Federation continues to campaign on these issues. All go to the very heart of a quality public education delivery.

In the years immediately following its establishment, Federation was concerned to increase its membership. In 1920 the membership of the Federation was 5,600 or 78% of the total membership of the Department of Education. At the end of the Twentieth Century membership was about 64,000. This number included permanent full time school, TAFE and AMES teachers, part time school, TAFE and AMES teachers and casual teachers as well as those teachers in other associated groups. Now, in the 21st Century, membership remains high.


15 May 1924

WEA Hunter has a long and proud history as the leading provider of community based adult learning in the Hunter Region. WEA Hunter (Worker’s Educational Association – Hunter) is a public company limited by guarantee. It is an independent non-profit community based organisation whose sole aim is to promote and provide educational opportunities for adults.

Since 1913, WEA Hunter has delivered a diverse range of learning opportunities for all sections of our community. The Workers’ Educational Association originated in England and was introduced into Australia in 1913. In its heyday it operated in every state except Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Nowadays, the WEA exists in New South Wales (Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong) and in South Australia (Adelaide).

Courses were first offered in the Hunter in 1913 in Newcastle, Waratah and Cessnock. The Northern Branch of the WEA of NSW formed in Newcastle in March 1917.


There was a public debate reported in the Singleton Argus of 7 August 1924, in which my grandfather R H Christison participated. Jim Belshaw will be interested!

On Tuesday night in the Methodist Hall a public debate was held between the W.E.A.. and the R.S. and S.I.L. In the absence of the Mayor, Mr J. Ogilvy presided, Rev. D. Weatherall, who led the W.E.A. team, moved “That the people of Singleton should support the New State Movement.”

R.S. and S.I.L. later became RSL.


  • Nice stuff from Singleton Historical Soc & Museum here.

Random Friday memory 3 – Digit Dick and others

Promised  last week! These go back to this time, or close:


That’s me with my sister Jeanette, who died in January 1952. I would guess this was taken at Auburn Street Sutherland between the late 1940s and 1950. I started school in 1949. I know that I could already read, and among the books in the house – mostly belonging to Jeanette – was a magnificent pop-up Cinderella like this:


I see it could be worth $90+ now! The illustrator was Roland Pym, who died in 2006 at the age of 95.

He produced set designs for Lohengrin at Covent Garden and Eugene Onegin in Paris; he painted murals for the Duke of Bedford at Woburn and for Lady Astor at Buckland Abbey. In later years he was perhaps most widely known for the striking black-and-white book illustrations that he produced for Edith Sitwell’s English Eccentrics, Nancy Mitford’s Pursuit of Love and Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, for which he also made colour plates.

Roland Pym was born on July 14 1910, the son of Sir Charles Pym, a professional soldier, landowner and chairman of Kent County Council. He was brought up at Foxwold, the family home at Brasted Chart, where he lived for most of his life.

Jeanette also had Leslie Rees, Karrawingi the Emu, which I do recall reading again and again. Rees was also the creator of Digit Dick:


I certainly remember that illustration. Perhaps being small myself I identified with the match-box boy!

Now I really do doubt that Leslie Rees was aware of the potential for double-entendre in his hero’s name! It passed me by too at the age of five or so.

Now there is even a Digit Dick website.

See Leslie Rees in The Dictionary of Sydney.

…Rees graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1927 and worked briefly for the State Education Department, before joining the West Australian newspaper as a cadet journalist in the port of Fremantle. In 1929 Rees won a scholarship to study in London and sailed to England on the RMS Orford. The following year he was joined by Coralie Clarke, and they travelled together on the Continent, and were married in St Pancras Registry Office on 19 September 1931. Rees sent regular contributions to the West Australian from London, but between 1930 and 1935 he was the chief drama critic of The Era and met many prominent writers, including Sean O’Casey, Henry Handel Richardson, Somerset Maugham, AA Milne, GK Chesterton, WB Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and C Day Lewis. In February 1935 he interviewed James Joyce in Paris….

Neil’s personal decades 29: 1920s – Christisons 3 – Jean, Milton correspondent

A couple of pieces from my mother’s Milton years from the Sydney Mail.



A forgotten bit of history: the NSW referendum on prohibition, 1 September 1928. Also in 1928:


See Charles Kingsford Smith and the first trans-Pacific flight.

My mother turned 17 in 1928. She had left school at the end of 1923, thus not going to high school. Her mother would have been pregnant with my uncle Neil (b. 1924). Jean was needed at home. Her father Roy, also her only teacher, did later express regret that unlike her younger sister Beth who went to Wollongong High my mother did not get the opportunity to complete her schooling. Clearly she had gifts, as the following poem shows.

By the way, “Cinderella” was “a poet, journalist and children’s author and a founding member of the Society of Women Writers. She worked at the Sydney Mail for over 20 years, …and her poetry was published in the Australasian, the Australian Town and Country Journal, the Lone Hand, the Spectator (London), the Sunday Times and the Sydney Morning Herald.”  Another young writer she encouraged was Judith Wright.


Neil’s personal decades 27: 1925 – Christisons 1

There is such a trove on Trove! By way of background, see More tales from my mother 3 — Braefield NSW 1916-1923, Jean Christison to her grandmother — an undated letter from Braefield, More tales from my mother 4 — Dunolly NSW — and conclusions. Roy Christison was Head at Milton, his next school, from 1925 to 1929. Then Shellharbour 1930.

I am not sure but think this is probably Braefield


13 September 1920

And here is Harry Hamilton.

A few years later my great-grandfather John Hampton Christison died. There are touches of legend in his obituary. By 1923 he was estranged from my grandfather Roy’s family. See John H Christison.


Moving forward to 1926 I find my mother writing in the children’s section of The Sydney Mail, something she continued to do through the 1920s. (A fellow scribe there was one Judith Wright!)


I see my uncle Neil is now with the family – and referred to as Neil, not Nelson.