Drinks with the Major-General…

After lunch at City Diggers yesterday I was joined at my table by one of the RSL types. I had no idea who he was, but he was a most pleasant companion, a few years older than me. The penny dropped as he told me he had been a soldier for thirty years or so and mentioned some places he had been. When I asked what his rank was when he retired he said “Major-General”… Oh… The chats you can have here in The Gong!

In 2008: “At Victoria Barracks, Sydney, the Governor-General, as Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Defence Force, and Mr Bryce, as guests of the Colonel Commandant, Major General Hori Howard AO MC ESM, attended a parade…”


And there he is last Anzac Day: Centenary of Anzac marches on in Wollongong: photos. And have a look at this:

And now anticlimax time: this month’s stats on this blog.

October 2015 has averaged 48 views a day, up on September. The most viewed posts have been:

  1. Home page / Archives 730 views in October
  2. Restoration Australia: Keera Vale 129
  3. Iconic Darlinghurst business closed 33
  4. Outnumbered, Merlin, and other recently seen TV 26
  5. Some thoughts on the Parramatta tragedy 25
  6. All my posts 21
  7. Random Friday memory 17 – Caringbah 1965 16
  8. Reclaiming Australia Persian-style in Wollongong 15
  9. Thank God Tony Abbott’s not running the country 14
  10. About 13
  11. To Surry Hills again – 2: Belmore Park 12
  12. Reprise, but not entirely pleasant 12
  13. Educational opportunity in Australia – 2015 and 1965 12
  14. Lost Wollongong 10
  15. More information than you asked for… 10
  16. William and his tribe… 9
  17. Stray stories of family and Australiana — 1 9
  18. Tom Thumb Lagoon 8
  19. Friday Australian poem #NS1— John Le Gay Brereton (1871 – 1933) 8
  20. Some thoughts on Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl 8

Wednesday at the Brewery

Rather than a random memory today I continue the previous post – from before the bus adventure. It has been quite a while since I last went to The Brewery. It has a new look and a new menu now. I selected a pasta dish with lamb meatballs from the specials board. It was very good. And a half-pint of Apocalypso.




Here is a memory though: Wollongong turns it on — 1. And another: Lunch at Steelers with long-lost cousin….

How time passes!

This post – thanks to Dion’s bus service!

Dion’s Bus Service is a living legend in the Illawarra.

Dion’s Bus Service was founded in 1923 when Thomas Dion commenced operating a service from Wollongong to Balgownie followed by a service to Bellambi. It is currently the oldest operating bus operator in the Illawarra.

From December 1927 until 1931 a coach service was operated to Sydney. In January 1928 it commenced operating route 1 services from Wollongong to Austinmer, along with five other operators. In August 1929, Barney Dion commenced operating a service from Wollongong to Kiama…

That Kiama run has long ceased, but there is a story about it my father told me. It is recounted here.

And that’s not all!

The Headless Ghost of Dunmore House is reasonably well-known in Kiama. The Chair of the Illawarra Business Chamber, Les Dion, of Dion Buses, sent a copy of the Dion family history to the Pilot’s Cottage, in which it is recorded one of his uncles witnessed the Headless Ghost while working as a bus driver on the last Kiama run of the night in the 1950s. According to this account he chased the Ghost with his bus, until it threw a rope up into the trees and disappeared. Other ghost stories mentioned in the dusty old files include the Swamp Bull of Terragong Swamp, near the Honey farm at Kiama Downs. It is recorded in the Honey family history that they went down to a hole in the swamp where they thought the swamp bull lived and blew it up with explosives. Another ghost story mentioned is the sight of the boat coming down Minnamurra river in the early morning mist on Boxing Day, the same time every year as a famous tragedy on the river.

See this 2013 story:

It’s not often you bump into a local legend on a bus – or driving one, for that matter.

Aged 93, Les Dion snr took a lap around Wollongong on one of his family’s iconic buses yesterday to celebrate 90 years of Dion’s Bus Service.

From humble beginnings with a single Model T bus with wooden seats and canvas sides in 1923, Dion’s grew into an Illawarra institution as it ferried thousands of locals  to work, school and beyond.

‘‘I’m proud as punch for what the family did,’’ said Les Dion jnr, now manager of Dion’s after taking over from his father.

‘‘They went through some tough times, the Depression and the world wars, so it’s some pretty big boots to fill.’’

To celebrate nine decades in the Illawarra, Dion’s yesterday offered free bus rides to its customers.

Jacob Robinson, of Fairy Meadow, was one of those who instantly recognised Mr Dion snr when he got on the bus.

‘‘I remember Les when he used to drive my bus to school,’’ Mr Robinson said; Mr Dion snr only retired from driving buses at age 85.

‘‘Dion’s is one of the most recognised names in the Illawarra. It’s massive for any company to reach 90 years in business.’’

As a comparison, Dion’s has lived through 23 Australian prime ministers; is six times older than the WIN Entertainment Centre;  and had been in operation for almost 20 years by the time Wollongong was officially named a city in 1942.

The company also started at a time when Chinese immigrants were a marginalised section of Australia, making its success all the more remarkable due to tense race relations at its inception.

‘‘The Chinese heritage, that was a challenge as well, but when you look at this community, everyone is so respectful of them,’’ Mr Dion jnr said.

‘‘That’s what makes the job hard, living up to the standards set.’’

And as for the future?

‘‘I don’t know about another 90 years, but we’ll be around as long as we can,’’ he laughed.

Let me tell you about yesterday and the Austinmer bus – possibly this one:


I had spent some time with friends at Steelers but rather than lunching there I went over to The Brewery. After an excellent lunch I wandered out to the old Catholic cemetery to pay my respects to the memorial of William Smith, who arrived in 1822 on the “Isabella 1” with my convict ancestor Jacob. See Tangible link to the convict ship “Isabella” and the immigrant ship “Thames”.


I then wandered over to City Beach:



Returning to the bus stop nearest The Brewery I saw that the 2.30 Dion’s Austinmer bus was about to go. I decided to catch it back as far as City Diggers, where I alighted.

No sooner was I off the bus than I realised my mobile phone and my camera were no longer in my pocket. Tragedy! I contemplated what to do over a glass of red at Diggers, then went down to the bus stop near the Greater Union cinema and waited for Dion’s buses returning to Wollongong. The driver of the one I stopped rang the depot and reported my loss. About ten minutes later as that same driver was outward bound up Burelli Street he called to me out the driver’s window: “They’ve been found!” and told me to go to the Depot in Fairy Meadow.

I did so – by Dion’s bus of course. No phone or camera handed in yet though. The woman at the desk contacted the driver of the bus I had been on originally, which happened to be returning to Wollongong at that precise moment – and yes, he had my things. As soon as I reached the stop near the Depot he arrived, gave me back my belongings, and a free ride back to Wollongong. So around two hours after my loss all was restored!

So you see, if it wasn’t for the lovely people at Dion’s those photos above (and a few more) would have gone forever! But Dion’s have a reputation for kindness. The story goes that during the Depression they often gave battlers free rides.

Saving our bacon…

As Reuters reports:

Bacon lovers took to social media on Tuesday to express disdain over a World Health Organization report that said processed meat is likely to cause cancer.

The hashtags #FreeBacon, #Bacongeddon and #JeSuisBacon were among the top-trending topics worldwide on Twitter for a second straight day.

Celebrities, politicians and ordinary consumers were reacting to Monday’s announcement by the WHO that eating processed meats including hot dogs, sausages and bacon can cause colorectal cancer in humans, and that red meat is also a likely cause of the disease.

It is probably an excellent idea to go to the source at WHO:

13. Could you quantify the risk of eating red meat and processed meat?

The consumption of processed meat was associated with small increases in the risk of cancer in the studies reviewed. In those studies, the risk generally increased with the amount of meat consumed. An analysis of data from 10 studies estimated that every 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by about 18%.

The cancer risk related to the consumption of red meat is more difficult to estimate because the evidence that red meat causes cancer is not as strong. However, if the association of red meat and colorectal cancer were proven to be causal, data from the same studies suggest that the risk of colorectal cancer could increase by 17% for every 100 gram portion of red meat eaten daily.

16. Should I stop eating meat?

Eating meat has known health benefits. Many national health recommendations advise people to limit intake of processed meat and red meat, which are linked to increased risks of death from heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses.

Finally, nutritionist Rosemary Stanton writes in today’s Sydney Morning Herald: Don’t panic, there’s no need to ban bacon or barbecues (but you should eat less).

…there is convincing evidence that the substance causes cancer and is a potential hazard, depending on the circumstances. In the case of processed meat, for example, the report notes that each 50g portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 per cent. It also notes that even though the overall risk of developing colorectal cancer may be small, that’s a significant increase and particularly relevant for consideration as meat intake increases throughout the world.

Instead we’ve had media headlines, blogs and comments of outrage because Group 1 agents also include tobacco and alcohol. In fact, WHO explains clearly that this does NOT mean that all substances in Group 1 are equally dangerous. The classification system describes the strength of the scientific evidence about an agent being a cause of cancer but the actual risk depends on other factors. For processed meats, this includes the quantity consumed.

The Australian dietary guidelines took the findings of research and non-conflicted expert reports into account in setting a weekly limit of 450 grams on red meat and moving processed meats into the category of “discretionary” choices. Such foods can be avoided or consumed only occasionally in small quantities. No need to ban bacon or banish barbecues…

It strikes me that there is little in this story that I have not heard before; it’s just that it is more systematically laid out by that latest WHO report. It should also be kept in mind that our usual freshly made snags or bangers are not “processed” as in “transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation” — unlike your cabanossi etc.

And now from the category food on this blog:




Photoblog recycle: October 2010 — cannons

Wollongong’s cannons

Posted on October 2, 2010 by Neil



See Smiths Hill Fort at Cliff Road.

Since the end of the Crimean War (1853-1856) there have been at least two scares of the Russians invading Australia. These resulted in Royal Commissions, which urged an upgrading of Wollongong’s port defences. The outcome was that in 1873 the NSW Government received 23 cannons, all 80-pounders, as a gift from the Imperial Government. This was followed in 1879 by three 68-pounder Crimean War relics being relocated from Sydney to Wollongong and placed on Flagstaff Hill. These guns were mounted on wooden bases.  

The Royal Navy, in the mid 1880s, and the Legislative Assembly of NSW were of the opinion that enemy ships could demand bunker coal in return for not bombarding the town or invading the country and that the ports of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong were prime targets.

Though Wollongong had cannons installed on Flagstaff Hill these, by 1887, had a very short range and were regarded useless. The solution was to build a concealed battery on high ground with underground rooms for supplies, ammunition and shelter with emplacements for two 80-pound cannons on iron carriages.

At the height of the Russian Invasion scare the Government acquired 2½ acres of land along Cliff Road. W Hart of Sydney carried out the construction of Smith’s Hill Fort for an overall cost of £2,000 with work commencing in 1892.

The threat of an invasion had disappeared before the fort was completed in 1893, but the cannons were used extensively for company training under the supervision of Major Henry Osborne MacCabe and maintained by the Wollongong-Bulli Half Company.