2015 in review — 2

So this blog has had more visitors than last year but fewer page views.

The most viewed posts and pages in 2015 have been:

  1. 9,076 views: Home page / Archives
  2. 488 views: Outnumbered, Merlin, and other recently seen TV
  3. 212 views: Anzac Girls last night on ABC
  4. 185 views: All my posts
  5. 169 views: Restoration Australia: Keera Vale
  6. 134 views: Reclaiming Australia Persian-style in Wollongong
  7. 130 views: About
  8. 129 views: Tom Thumb Lagoon
  9. 102 views: Lost Wollongong
  10. 96 views: Neil’s personal decades: 11 – 1875 – to Araluen and Braidwood
  11. 90 views: Family history–some news on the Whitfield front
  12. 85 views: Random Friday memory: 1 – John Mystery, my brother, Illawong
  13. 74 views: Friday Australian poem #NS1— John Le Gay Brereton (1871 – 1933)
  14. 72 views: Of Pakistani origin, but not radical extremist…
  15. 68 views: Rush of the “Isabella”
  16. 68 views: Tangible link to the convict ship “Isabella” and the immigrant ship “Thames”
  17. 68 views: What a treasury of family history!
  18. 67 views: The swimmer
  19. 64 views: The silence of the trams
  20. 59 views: Random Friday memory 17 – Caringbah 1965

The highlighted items were posted in 2015.


2015 in review — 1

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 17,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Looking back: Nov-Dec 2015

Had a new food experience…

Eating camel in Wollongong

Posted on November 29, 2015 by Neil

Yes, Chris T and I did try Casablanca on Crown yesterday: see Terror: some good media items, and eating in The Gong. Quoting again the Illawarra Mercury story in that post:

Central to the menu are Moroccan tagines – slow-cooked meats nestled amongst aromatic prunes, orange blossom, chamoula and the bittersweet preserved lemon that is Morocco’s food mainstay.

Cooked and served in the iconic cone-shaped clay dishes of the same name – perhaps with a pot of steaming sweet mint tea – the scene is deliberately different.

“We have many burger places in Wollongong, we have Lebanese and Turkish,” Mr Osaj, 28, told the Mercury.

“But we don’t have Moroccan. I’ve been in Australia for five years and I really do appreciate Australia.

“I wanted to do something [in return] for the people of Wollongong.”

Mr Osaj was an electrician in Iraq before he fled the war there and – after a four-month stay at Villawood –settled in Wollongong.

I tried the camel meatballs. Yes, really camel…

Put aside your mental image of a horrid, spitting beast–camel makes for a wonderful meal. The meat tastes a bit like strong-flavoured lamb, only with a unique, sweet aftertaste that makes pairing camel with sauce a challenge. This mint/yoghurt dipping sauce is the perfect partner for these meatballs, which are sure to be a hit with adventurous guests at your next party.

Made me think of lamb too. In fact of you weren’t told they were camel you mightn’t have known. Mine came with a fresh tomato-based sauce. Not quite as exotic as this from Dubai:


Terror: some good media items, and eating in The Gong

Posted on November 22, 2015 by Neil

Chris T and I ate again at Fuku yesterday; last week we were at Shiraz with Persian D. Next week? Well, this…


Looks good, doesn’t it? That’s the new place, Casablanca, just down from Fuku on Crown Street…

And then there was this….

Best smile and wild weather

Posted on November 2, 2015 by Neil

I have to join in posting the viral smile of the past weekend. Who could resist that smile?



Just in case you have slept through the last three days, or avoid any reference to the Rugby World Cup, the story (ABC version) is:

All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams was presented a new World Cup winners’ medal to replace the one he handed to a young spectator after Sunday’s (AEDT) victory over Australia in the final…

In an act of kindness Williams gave his medal to a young supporter, Charlie Lines, who was tackled by a security guard when he ran onto the field while the All Blacks completed a victory lap…

I brought the random Friday memory series to an end…

Random Friday memory 35 – 1975 of course, plus…

Posted on November 6, 2015 by Neil

Any of us who were around forty years ago will know what this coming week is: the fortieth anniversary of the Dismissal. It is also one year today since Gough’s State Funeral: Gough Whitlam memorial service – in and out of Diggers. On the Dismissal I have posted, among others, Gough – a view from Wollongong.

Last night I posted on Facebook: “The entire Whitlam period coincided pretty much with my working at TIGS, with the denouement happening in my first year at Wollongong High. It’s like part of my own life has died today in a way…”  Also: “Great to see all Parliament rising to the occasion today in the Condolence Debate.”

Someone I taught at TIGS 1971-1974 posted: “It has just occurred to me that myself, [x] and many others like us would have accepted our scholarship and been teachers because our parents could not have afforded to pay Uni fees. I believe I owe my professional career for what it is worth to EGW.” He added: “And it has just occurred to me Neil James Whitfield, that I was sitting my HSC English exam when Gough was dismissed. I recall a teacher walked into the room and wrote this on the blackboard. He then turned and walked out. I recall looking up and thinking “what’s going to happen now”…”

I by then was at Wollongong High. I had forgotten that November 11 coincided with HSC English, but I do recall the shock of the Dismissal. There were significant Wollongong connections too. I see this in Whitlam’s first post-Dismissal press conference:…

See also 35 random memories recalled! and Friday reflective 1: heat and memories which includes memories of a former colleague, Ken Palmer.

Remembrance Day 2015 in Wollongong

Posted on November 12, 2015 by Neil

I went along to the ceremony this year. My photos are not great as my camera is small, the light could have been better, and I was standing back keeping a low profile. The Illawarra Mercury has some much better shots and a report.

Nearby, Paul Cracknell was wearing the naval medals won by his father, who ran away age 15 to World War I, then came out of the reserves when it was time to go one more in 1939.

Ray Reay and Alf Green were National Servicemen mid-last century, and they are still involved with their comrades though the “Nashos” association.

And they joined a diverse crowd in true Wollongong style – from school students to members of the armed forces, police and ambulance officers, tattooed twentysomethings and workers in their high-vis.

Somehow, as Ted Millner lifted his bugle for a stunning rendition of the Last Post, every car in the city centre seemed to suddenly go quiet.



But of course it was Paris that dominated November 2015.

Keep calm and…

Posted on November 16, 2015 by Neil

You know the rest of that I am sure.


I commend Jim Belshaw’s Saturday post and its thread:

Winton Bates said…

Hi Jim
I applaud your efforts to try to keep current terrorism in perspective. My Facebook feed is showing stuff I am not seeing in the TV news of xenophobic demonstrations by French people. There is a risk that reactions will further disadvantage refugees fleeing the war in Syria.

As sadly is clearly happening.  Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and others have rightly said:

Malcolm Turnbull has downplayed the links between refugees and terrorism, saying that most of Australia’s security threats have come from second and third generation Australians….

Greg Barton, Professor of Global Islamic Politics at the Alfred Deakin Institute, said Australia’s situation was very different to the one in Europe.

“We’ve got the luxury of properly, carefully vetting [the Syrian refugees’] IDs and their stories, carrying out background checks before they are accepted and doing things in an orderly fashion,” he told ABC News Digital.

“European authorities are facing a wave of humanity — they don’t have the luxury to do those things.

“Whilst, realistically, it would be foolish to acknowledge that there are no threats, it is also a risk to allow paranoia and anxiety to take hold at a large scale.”

Mr Turnbull also echoed Indonesian president Joko Widodo, who earlier said Islamic State militants committed a “double crime” by defaming Islam…

See also my June 2015 post Contributions to a wiser, cooler look at IS and terror, my March 2015 post Some reflections on the late teen suicide bomber, and my October 2015 posts Class of 95 remembered, and Muslim students today and Adults in charge now?

17 November

Particularly note: Waleed Aly hits out at ISIS over Paris attacks, calls them weak.

WALEED Aly has unleashed on Australia’s politicians and Muslim leaders who have preached “hate” in the wake of the Paris attacks saying their actions actually help Islamic State rather than defeat them.

The Project co-host used his regular ‘Something we should talk about’ segment to not only call for solidarity following the atrocity, which left 132 people dead and hundreds more injured, but to highlight what he says is the truth about the militant organisation — that they’re weak.

“There is a reason ISIL still want to appear so powerful, why they don’t want to acknowledge that the land they control has been taken from weak enemies, that they are pinned down by air strikes or that just last weekend they lost a significant part of their territory,” he said on The Project.

“ISIL don’t want you to know they would quickly be crushed if they ever faced a proper Army on a battlefield.

“They want you to fear them. They want you to get angry. They want all of us to become hostile and here is why:

“ISIL’s strategy is to split the world into two camps. It is that black and white. Again we know this because they told us.”

Aly said ISIL wanted to create World War III, and for societies around the world to turn on each other, and for countries like Australia to vilify Muslims.

He said this “evil organisation” believes if they can make Muslims the enemy of the West, then Muslims in France and England and America and here in Australia will have nowhere to turn but to ISIL…

It is also worth checking last night’s #QandA. Many good things were said, not least by Christopher Pyne.

See also Black Friday 2015.

And from earlier this month by way of contrast:

Wollongong looking festive

Posted on December 1, 2015 by Neil

But a touch quiet last Monday. There will be a short hiatus here too as I have used up my internet quota until Friday.


Looking back: October 2015

The year is almost gone…

Random Friday memory 34: RAM 32k was cool in 1993!

Posted on October 23, 2015 by Neil

In the unlikely event of your sighting a copy of The teaching of reading in the Botany Cluster [compiled by: Neil Whitfield], note that all 111 pages were personally typeset by me in 1993 on the dining room table at my then Elizabeth Street Surry Hills residence with much changing of daisy wheels on a beast like this:


The good people at the Disadvantaged Schools Project at Erskineville had to work from my printouts because their computers could not read my Brother floppy disks.

The Brother WP-80 was “the typewriter that wanted to be a computer” – obsolescent when, thanks to M, I obtained one c. 1993. I chose it because I was terrified still of computers – a condition that lasted until around 1999 – but did understand typewriters…

Other Friday memory posts: Random Friday memory 33: three from October 2005, Random Friday memory 32: my dramatic debut — 1965, Random Friday memory 31 — Ian.

I’m off to Surry Hills shortly, so decided to post here something that really belongs to tomorrow—and it isn’t a memory as much as memories. You see, my brother, who now lives in Tasmania…

turns 80 tomorrow!


That trip to Surry Hills: To Surry Hills again — 1 and To Surry Hills again – 2: Belmore Park. And then there was NRL Grand Final.

Among my reading:

Anzac revisited and how one thing leads to another…

Posted on October 22, 2015 by Neil

Currently I am reading Gallipoli (2011, pb 2013) by Peter Hart.


I am only up to Chapter 5, but that for an Australian is one of the most interesting as it deals with the first landing at Anzac Cove between moonset and dawn, 3.30 am on 25 April 1915. One of the book’s best features, as this review says, is “a trove of primary source material, in particular soldiers’ accounts of their experiences. Gallipoli is replete with lengthy and compelling quotations by Australian, British, French and Turkish soldiers, most never before published.” Indeed they are fascinating.

Most of us have pictured the landing as met with Turkish machine gun fire as the first boats landed, but apparently this was not the case as at that point the relevant Turkish regiment had only one machine gun company of four guns which was being held in reserve some distance away during that first Anzac landing. (See Hart p.84.) Compare Chris Roberts Wartime 50 Feature Article: Turkish machine-guns at the landing.


That is the earliest known photo of the Anzac landing: “Captain Harry Charles Davies went ashore with the 15th Battalion on 25 April 1915. Harry took this photograph at the landing and authorised a patent attorney as his agent. His copyright application was approved. He was shot in the ankle during the charge from the 4th Brigade lines on 28 April and returned to Australia on 10 June 1915. [Item 3791, A1861/1, National Archives of Australia.]” I found that in an article The Battle of the Landing, 25 April – 3 May 1915 on the official Australian commemorative site. It is by one Richard Reid – and that is where one thing leads to another!

Dr Richard Reid,  Irish born and educated, worked for more than 40 years as a high school teacher, museum educator, historian and museum curator. Thirty of those years were spent in Canberra, in institutions such as the Australian War Memorial, the National Museum of Australia, the Senate and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. In 2011, he was the Senior Curator for the National Museum’s exhibition on the Irish in Australia, ‘Not just Ned’.

Richard has written widely on the subject of Australia at war and of the story of the Irish in Australia and has led tours to Ireland, the Western Front and Gallipoli. Recently retired from the Australian Public Service, he is still involved in a major archaeological and historical survey of the Anzac area on the Gallipoli peninsula and various projects on the emigration of the Irish to Australia during the 19th century.

Among Richard’s publications are “A Decent Set of Girls”: The Irish Famine Orphans of the Thomas Arbuthnot, 1849-1850 (with Cheryl Mongan), Farewell My Children: Irish Assisted Emigration to Australia, 1848-1870, Bomber Command: Australians in World War II and Sinners, Saints and Settlers: A Journey through Irish Australia (with Brendon Kelson).

And it was as a high school teacher in Wollongong that I recall Richard from the 1970s to early 1980s. I particularly recall a talk he gave a Year 12 Study Day on W B Yeats.

At that time I did not know my own family hailed originally (1820s) from County Cavan, County Armagh and nearby in Ireland – I had no idea whatsoever! That knowledge only came my way 15 or so years ago, believe it or not. If only I had known! …

I have only just finished Gallipoli, reading it on and off over the past months. I strongly recommend it. October ended on a military note:

Drinks with the Major-General…

Posted on October 31, 2015 by Neil

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…

I see the YouTube I embedded there has gone already. The impermanence of so many YouTubes is a problem.

This post – thanks to Dion’s bus service!

Posted on October 29, 2015 by Neil

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….

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.

Sad events raised the spectre of Islamist violence again. I tried for perspective.

Adults in charge now?

Posted on October 13, 2015 by Neil

This is the Cathy Wilcox cartoon I referred to on Sunday.

Screenshot - 13_10_2015 , 7_59_24 AM

Spot on — not too fawning on Turnbull either. The point about the language Tony Abbott chose is very well made. His folly here really did have consequences.

If you Google death cult ISIS you will find that it seems Tony Abbott was the ONLY world leader to use this term. It may have gone down well with certain parts of the more elderly media, but it clearly didn’t work as part of “deradicalisation”. The trouble is that it infantalises. It precludes any kind of mature response to what ISIS actually is. See also Rachel Olding’s May 2015 Tony Abbott’s obsessive use of the phrase ‘death cult’ fails to resonate with half of Australians.

The obsessive use of the phrase “death cult” to describe Islamic State has failed to resonate with at least half of all Australians taking part in a series of national focus groups.

“Death cult” has emerged as Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s favoured term for the terror group that is usually referred to as ISIL, ISIS or Islamic State.

He has used the term 346 times since September in federal parliament and in press releases, interviews, transcripts and videos released by his office…

Nick O’Brien, the former head of International Counter Terrorism in Special Branch at New Scotland Yard and an academic at Charles Sturt University, said it was important to examine the terms being used for Islamic State because the messaging needed to be consistent.

He said Mr Abbott’s repetitive use of “death cult” added to the confusing labels that muddle the message about Islamic State.

“He seems to be the only world leader that uses this phrase. The Brits certainly don’t use it, the Americans adopted a policy of using ISIL,” he said. “A lot of people won’t know exactly what organisation he’s referring to. There is some amount of confusion.”…

Well, long may Tony Abbott languish on the back bench – or far away — and let the adults get on with running things.

Recently I bought for $5 at el cheapo books Wollongong The Islamist Phoenix: The Islamic State (ISIS) and the Redrawing of the Middle East by Loretta Napoleoni.

From its birth in the late 1990s as the jihadist dream of terrorist leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the Islamic State (known by a variety of names, including ISIS, ISIL, and al Qaeda in Iraq) has grown into a massive enterprise, redrawing national borders across the Middle East and subjecting an area larger than the United Kingdom to its own vicious brand of Sharia law.

In The Islamist Phoenix, world-renowned terrorism expert Loretta Napoleoni takes us beyond the headlines, demonstrating that while Western media portrays the Islamic State as little more than a gang of thugs on a winning streak, the organization is proposing a new model for nation building. Waging a traditional war of conquest to carve out the 21st-century version of the original Caliphate, IS uses modern technology to recruit and fundraise while engaging the local population in the day-to-day running of the new state. Rising from the ashes of failing jihadist enterprises, the Islamic State has shown a deep understanding of Middle Eastern politics, fully exploiting proxy war and shell-state tactics. This is not another terrorist network but a formidable enemy in tune with the new modernity of the current world disorder.

As Napoleoni writes, “Ignoring these facts is more than misleading and superficial, it is dangerous. ‘Know your enemy’ remains the most important adage in the fight against terrorism.”

See her Lateline interview. Read the Introduction to the book. I have found the book very clear. It has also helped me bridge from what I learned ten years or so back (when my everyday work led me into the world of “radicalisation”) to what we confront today, including tragedies like that at Parramatta.

See also: Some thoughts on the Parramatta tragedy, Class of 95 remembered, and Muslim students today and Recent viewing, uplifting and depressing.

A TV and local history highlight in October:

Restoration Australia: Keera Vale

Posted on October 14, 2015 by Neil

Great to see Keera Vale featured in last night’s Restoration Australia. The house itself I see every day.


Image Illawarra Mercury

As I posted in Oldest house in Wollongong?

See also Joe Davis (2011) Pitfalls of rewriting history.


From my window

Looking back: September 2015

One political event stands out, of course. BTW he fell just short of the two years:

Two years of Mr Abbott…

Posted on September 6, 2015 by Neil

Some images that we never quite saw the like of pre-Abbott:



Exit pursued by a Turnbull…

Posted on September 15, 2015 by Neil

Around 11.30am yesterday at City Diggers I said to Alex: “Will Tony Abbott be there at the end of the week?” His answer: “No.” Or as Jim Belshaw posted on Saturday: “Even if the Liberal Party holds the seat [of Canning] without the expected swing, the present Australian government is probably just too accident prone for Mr Abbott to survive.”  (Worth reviewing Jim’s posts on Mr Abbott.)

Turnbull ousts Abbott as Prime Minister in late night vote

Updated about an hour ago

Malcolm Turnbull has won a ballot for the leadership of the Liberal Party by 10 votes over Tony Abbott, and will become the 29th Prime Minister of Australia. Mr Turnbull says he’s humbled and he’s looking to lead a conversation that persuades, rather than lectures the public about the future challenges of the economy and the nation. Changes are expected to the Government frontbench, but Mr Turnbull says he’s not expecting to call an early election…

My favourite commemorative cartoon comes from the great Leunig:


Thank God Tony Abbott’s not running the country

Posted on September 24, 2015 by Neil

Looking back over the past weeks my main feeling is a truly profound sense of relief. The fact that the usual suspects – so-called conservatives — are so unhappy about the toppling of Tony just proves how right it was that it happened. Bye-bye Tones…


One could debate some of it, no doubt, but there is more than a ring of truth about the trenchant editorial in this week’s Saturday Paper….

Thank God!

My library borrowings were outstanding: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra: The Companion, David Day on Keating, and some Aussie movies.

Three great DVDs from Wollongong Library too.


Charles Bean’s Great War: “A thoroughly absorbing new documentary about Charles Bean the courageous Australian war correspondent, intellectually honest, determined to publish unpalatable truths, and to admit where he had been wrong. His description of the, ‘tender Australian public which only tolerates flattery, and that in it’s cheapest form’, rings just as true today.” Melbourne Age.


Satellite Boy (2012) starring David Gulpilil and Cameron Wallaby, filmed in the Kimberley. Well worth seeing…


Message from Mungo (2014) – thought-provoking and scrupulously fair.

Satellite Boy is on ABC1 this coming Saturday.

The random Friday memories continued: Random Friday memory 27: my first election 1966 – and now…, Random Friday memory 28: seeing the Coronation from Sutherland, Random Friday memory 29: 1961-2 – Bea Miles, Random Friday memory 30: spotting the Pardalote.

And in Surry Hills…

Sirdan at the Shakespeare

Posted on September 2, 2015 by Neil

Surry Hills yesterday. And let me say the Wollongong train both to and from Sydney was absolutely on timetable and not too crowded! So take that, Sydney Trains: a compliment.


Shakespeare Hotel front bar

More on Surry Hills and The Shakespeare

Posted on September 3, 2015 by Neil

The lovely woman behind the bar – in fact the licensee, I believe – says she has been at The Shakespeare for FORTY years. What changes she will have seen! Mind you, I was running (we found it best to run) down Devonshire Street SIXTY years ago, en route to Central from Sydney High. Back then Kate Leigh was still alive.

And what changes are coming, as I mentioned to Sirdan and B yesterday. Back in 2012 I posted Return of the tram. They have persisted with this plan

Devonshire Street will look like this:



And speaking of Surry Hills, look at this oldie: Surry Hills. I love the way the thread has become quite a thing over the years!