Blogging the 2010s — 12 — January 2019

Australia Day at Mount Kembla — different!

So, as I said the other day, “This year I will be reprising a pleasant day at Mount Kembla with my cousin Helen and her husband Jim. See the 2016 version at Australia Day at Mount Kembla.” And do read that link too for a history of the pub — which may go back to the 1870s — and the connection to my grandfather, Tom Whitfield. And here, photo by Pieter Homburg, is the delightful pub.

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So we arrived at around 11.30, and soon were eating our lunch and chatting as one does with a cousin.  Some time around 12.30 something odd started happening. What seemed like hundreds of somewhat scary people in leathers arriving, and the roar of myriad Harley Davidsons! OMG — bikies! These are from video posted on Facebook of  Australia Day 2019 at Mount Kembla Pub!

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Yes indeed, there were lots of them — and not a woman in sight! But on closer inspection not all was as it seemed at first. In fact this was a gathering from as far away as Mildura of Longriders! Yes, lots of them: see Facebook:

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Read Biker Church: An unconventional house of God.

Helen, Jim and I did reflect on “judging books by their covers” — but we also left as the pub, which is not very big, was quite overcrowded! But not before we had finished lunch and chatted to a few of the bikers…

Blogging the 2010s — 11 — January 2018

Christos Tsiolkas speaks my mind…

In conversations with friends I have in recent months expressed some disquiet about the series of accusations of sexual harassment, bullying,  and/or sexual assault that have so dominated the media, social and traditional. Part of me keeps harking back to those terrifying scenes in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. You know the ones.

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Today we have the news that Rugby League legend Graham Langlands has died. I did not know him, but a friend here in Wollongong, where Langlands came from, was a lifelong friend. We have been talking over the accusations made against Langlands, as you might expect. It troubles me that so often accusation seems to become fact, even when it is untested. In the case of Langlands it never will be now. Today’s piece by Andrew Webster is, based on what I know from Langlands’s childhood friend, accurate enough.

…many of [Langlands’s friends]  are convinced the St George icon died in his sleep over the weekend at the age of 76 unaware of the serious sexual assault allegations levelled at him in November last year.

Langlands was charged with six counts of indecent treatment of a child under 16 on the Gold Coast, which was related to one alleged event in 1982 between the March 25 and June 30…

Now, the allegations just hang in the air; a sad full stop on his muddled life after football.

Now to Christos Tsiolkas last Saturday. It is a long essay, very much worth reading. An extract:

We don’t suspect that there are reds under the bed any more but maybe we believe that there is a ped, a paedophile, under every third or fourth one. Or if not a paedophile, possibly a white supremacist. In the 21st century these have become our monsters. Of course, our rage and hatred of the child sexual abuser, of the rapist, of the violent racist, all makes sense. I have experienced a glee at watching Harvey Weinstein come undone. I did not know of his sexual crimes but I had hated him for years, because of how he had destroyed careers and reputations in the film industry for decades, and how he had purchased films to never release them so that his own productions would saturate the market and that the labour of love of some poor filmmaker went unseen.

The revealing of the long history of abuse in the Catholic Church has been one of the momentous political moments of the past 25 years. The exposing of sexual harassment across media, business and politics is long overdue…

But I can’t forget the lessons I learnt reading about Joe McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover. I subscribe to a few left-wing news sites that come out of the US and straight after the riots in Charlottesville over the removal of a Confederate statue I read with increasing unease the comments pages, where people gleefully boasted of having found the names of racists who marched in support of retaining the statues, revealed them to employers as white racists, got them sacked from their jobs….

I am nervous of writing this. Of course I am. I don’t want to be seen as excusing harassment or sexual and racist violence. But I think it is fundamental to a functioning and democratic civil society that perpetrators of sexual and racial violence are indicted in the law courts, not on social media. And I don’t think an opinion equates to an action. That is what McCarthy and Hoover believed. I think in that conflation something truly monstrous is born.

I don’t understand those whose righteousness and conviction makes them believe they have the right to play God with people’s lives and reputations. The criminal needs to be held to account and to be punished and also, crucially, to be given the opportunity for rehabilitation. But those so pure that they believe they have the right to toss the first stone, those so certain that they see any doubt as vacillation or compromise, those so furious that they abhor dialogue as co-option and condemn mercy as weakness, I don’t trust them at all. They believe they have the right to play God. I just see them as another form of monster.

Christos Tsiolkas has perfectly captured my own gnawing unease.

Blogging the 2010s — 10 — January 2017 again

Sic transit: Lee from the Albury; TIGS ex-student

The previous post reprising January 2001 mentioned the Albury Hotel. It was a hub for our group in those days, in my case from around the mid-80s through the time it finally passed into history. See More “Neil’s Decades” – 11: 1986 – 2001 at The Albury.

As I said in 2012 in Priscillas I have known: “Oh yes: The Albury – where I met M in 1990 and Sirdan and chatted with the former Premier of South Australia, Don Dunstan – and The Unicorn, and all that 1980s-early 1990s scene.” There are some vids there.

And:

Is it that long ago?

31 Oct 2007

The Empress has sent an edict:

Lest We Forget

31 October 2001

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See also mais où est l’Albury d’antan?

Last night I confessed on Facebook:

Instead of watching what I intended on ABC2 I have found myself deep in memories thanks to Bruce Part’s photos of The Albury Hotel. This is a rendition of one of those photos.

And someone comments on Bruce’s album:

Such an beautiful original old pub destroyed! I was saddened when I finally moved to Syd and it was gone. I met a lovely guy there on my first visit around 1996 and didn’t leave empty handed….a big deal for a country boy!!!

“Such an beautiful original old pub destroyed!” indeed. I hope Bruce finds a few more to share in that “boot box full of photo memories.”

I have cropped a couple and given them the art makeover treatment.

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And a face and smile we all got to treasure in those days: barman Lee Bowman. But much more than just a barman at The Albury: see also this 2010 post. A little while ago Sirdan, now in Queensland, rang me to tell me that Lee had passed away. Today he rang again, having discovered the details. Many a conversation did we all have over the years.

YOU only had to look at how many Bondi clubbies turned up at the hospital in Lee Bowman’s dying hours to realise his popularity.

The 59-year-old was rushed to St Vincent’s Hospital on New Year’s Day after he collapsed on Bondi Beach from a stroke, just hours after winning a club swim race.

Two days later, Mr Bowman was given only hours to live.

More than 50 people gathered by his bedside to say goodbye, some still with sand between their toes.

A nurse was so impressed by the clubbies’ solidarity, she penned them a letter to say she would never forget the day.

“Never in my 15 years of nursing have I ever seen such an amazing group of friends,” she wrote.

“This speaks volume of Lee. He must have been such an amazing man.”

Mr Bowman died late on January 3 but Jacob Waks, president of the Bondi Surf Bathers’ Life Saving Club, said he would never be forgotten.

“He was part of the furniture down at the beach,” Mr Waks said.

“If someone walked past the club, they would see him either sitting outside the club or in the club gym.”…

“He never complained,” Mr Waks said.

“He was one of those people who made everyone feel special. He’d always be there for you.”

Long-term friend Michelle Rogers from the Royal Motor Yacht Club of NSW, where Mr Bowman used to work, said he had a rough beginning in England.

“He kind of grew up on the street until a kind man brought him to Australia in 1977,” she said.

“But whatever happened to him in life, he always showed integrity and humour.”

A service in celebration of Lee Bowman’s life will be held at Bondi Surf Bathers’ Life Saving Club at 3pm on Sunday 22nd January.

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Surf lifesavers paddle out for Lee Bowman.

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Here in Wollongong I was informed by an ex-student I taught in 1971-1974 that one of his classmates (Class of 1975) passed away in the last few days. In October 2016 there had been bad news via Facebook:

Hi Neil I have some sad news. GL has been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. He is currently at home being looked after by his mother and, thankfully is pain free. G and I have grown very close in recent years spending time together each Friday at Wollongong markets. He has seemingly a constant stream of visitors representing his many networks of friends and that is a testimony to what a steadfast, reliable and generous friend he is. He is in good spirits and is prepared for what is to come refusing surgery and chemotherapy. Sorry to be the bearer of such unhappy news….

And then last Tuesday:

Hi Neil…..sadly G passed away this afternoon.

In fact G was the first of my ex-students that I met when I returned to Wollongong in 2010, and I had seen him quite often in the years since. And his amazing mother from time to time.

Until the official announcements appear I am suppressing names, but will add a copy of the relevant notice when it is available.

Update

LEWTON GERRY (GERALD) of Wollongong

Passed away surrounded by loving family on January 10, 2017. Dearly loved son of Sandria and Robert (dec). Loving brother of Rodney, Karen and uncle to Sam. Gerry will be sadly missed by his loving family and many, many dear friends. Aged 59 Years. A true gentleman and exceptional person who will be forever in our hearts. At Gerry’s request no service will be held.

Blogging the 2010s — 9 — March 2010

This one’s out of sequence, but I happened a few days ago to be talking to someone at City Diggers, while watching the start of the Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race, about the time I went to Watson’s Bay by water taxi. So here is the replay!

Guess who and where?

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Water taxi to Watson’s Bay 1 – the Opera House

Photography from a leaping water taxi is a challenge.

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As we hit the stretch towards the Heads and Watson’s Bay the chop grew higher and so did our leaps…

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So do forgive if the horizon tilts a bit…

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Blogging the 2010s — 8 — January 2017

Just a 2019 note: the heatwave returns Sunday and Monday — so bushfire watch resumes.

My Scottish great-grandfather

My cousin Ray Christison has posted this on Facebook.

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January 25 was Burns Night (the night on which Scots celebrate the birthday of the poet Rabbie Burns). This has hit a chord with me this January as I have been busy editing the draft artwork for my biography of my enigmatic and shapeshifting great-grandfather John Hampton Christison. I know that this book has been eagerly awaited by my relatives and by Australian dance historians, and hopefully it will be published very soon.

His is a fascinating story. See many entries, including Neil’s personal decades: 1 — 1815, following on also from my Australia Day post:

I have decided to start a series going back through my “personal” decades – that is mentioning things from family history – starting with 1815, when most of my family connections were elsewhere. One exception — my former sister-in-law’s family: see Family stories 4 — A Guringai Family Story — Warren Whitfield. My former sister-in-law is a descendant of the family of Bungaree.

Sydney was a tad different c.1815:

C 359 Joseph Lycett's painting of Natives and the North Shore of Sydney Harbour, courtesy of Mitchell Library.lightbox

1815

Jane Brooks writes of how Koorie people live in the Domain ‘in their gunyahs made of bushes.’ She also remembers seeing ‘the very tiny canoes with a gin (Koorie woman) fishing in them, quite alone, sometimes with a streak of smoke from it, and we supposed she was cooking.’ (Karskens, p. 209)

See also Bungaree and the George’s Head Settlement: 31 January 1815

On my mother’s side of my family – the Christisons – I note my great-great-great-grandfather David was a teenager in 1815, having been born in 1799 in Fettercairn, Kincardine. Seems the poor old sod died in the poorhouse July 21, 1860 of chronic bronchitis. His wife had also died July 2, 1859 in Poorhouse, Luthermuir, Marykirk, Kincardine.  That I’d never known before. Note Poorhouses in Scotland “provided medical and nursing care of the elderly and the sick, at a time when there were few hospitals and private medical treatment was beyond the means of the poor.”

David’s son, also David (b May 1828), ended up in Australia when his son, John Hampton Christison, brought him here from Brechin in Scotland. Or did he? Is this Brechin David the same as Fettercairn David? The family pictured below are definitely my ancestors and in the later 19th century for sure they were in Brechin. That is surely J H Christison’s parents and siblings.

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David Hampton Christison, father of of my grandfather John, in Scotland. Exactly when and where  was he born?

The photo is from Arbroath near Brechin.

Fettercairn David Senior married a Hampton or Hanton; this suggests that they are my maternal family: the Hampton name persists to this day.   The date on David Junior’s gravestone is one year out though. So I am left wondering if we have two families here…  Mind you, Fettercairn and Brechin are not all that far apart. That poorhouse is halfway between. Perhaps the family just moved a bit south…

See also Fascinated still by (family) history (November 2013) and My great-grandfather: “morally dubious to say the least.”(October 2013).

Then see Neil’s personal decades: 14 – 1885 — Christisons and Neil’s personal decades: 19 – Christisons 1895. If you want more see the tag Christison.

The following was taken about 74 years ago at 61 Auburn Street Sutherland.  L-R: John H Christison Jr, Eric, John’s father, Sophia Jane Christison (my great-grandmother), Roy Christison Senior, and finally my brother Ian Whitfield.

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I note that CNN reports that “half of Donald Trump’s DNA is Scottish. His late mother, Mary Anne MacLeod, was born and raised on the remote and beautiful Scottish Isle of Lewis, before leaving as a 17-year-old for the United States to work as a domestic servant in 1930.” That is the nearest I get to having anything in common with Donald J Tweet, who gets worse and worse as the days go on… See for example Days Into Trump’s Presidency, The Doomsday Clock Ticks 30 Seconds Closer to Midnight.