Rampant Sydney Boys High Nostalgia

It’s all because they just digitised the archive of “The Record going back to the first one in 1909.

I attended as a kid from 1955 to 1959, returning as a teacher in several capacities as a casual/part time/semi-permanent late 1985-1987, late 1989, 1991-2005 with other stints as ESL teacher at SCEGS Redlands helping a friend with Korean students, various at Sydney Girls High, and half of 1993 on a research project on Reading for the Disadvantaged Schools Program in the Botany area. Not exactly a normal career but not unsatisfying. But Sydney High very much was at the core for 20 years until I retired in 2005. I maintain an interest in my old age.

I begin with a presentation showing how the school defines itself in 2022. There have been many developments since 2005 when I ended my main stint there, but I witnessed those changes beginning. See my October 2020 post Yesterday was World Teachers Day

On Facebook I said:

International Teachers Day conversation 1 at Diggers — with Leo Tobin, who was around the teaching traps down here in the Illawarra even before I was. Many a story we swapped about Wollongong High and Brian Downes, the legendary “Basher” Downes! 50 years of memories.

Conversation 2 — by phone — with Kim Jaggar, Principal of Sydney Boys High on his 21 years in the job there. On ticklish issues like what to do about students running away to join ISIS! (Kim was absolutely brilliant and those kids are now OK and no longer kids!)

So much that man has accomplished in the old place.

On that “ticklish problem” (in 2015) see Bringing it home.

Sydney Boys High 2022

There are plenty of previous blog posts here on various aspects of my story and the school.

Looking back

What fun I have been having with “The Record” archive! Naturally I sought first one of the few pictures of me in it.

See the kid whose face almost merges with the conductor’s?

That’s me at 13! The kid on my right in the front row is Peter Hely (RIP) who later became a rather famous lawyer in Sydney. A Federal Court judge in fact!

This is one of the songs we sang, though not as well I suspect as this Taiwanese group.

And then there was my 1959 Prize for Service to the School — as a librarian….

Mind you there is plenty of more generally interesting social history in that archive. Take 1943, my birth year:

That list goes on for nine pages! All from just one Sydney school!

Evocative

A morning assembly in 1990 — though that year I was teaching adult Asians (plus one French tennis coach from Club Med) at Wessex College of English, especially Chinese, Koreans, Indonesians and Japanese, thus beginning my ESL trajectory. We visited SBHS though.

Redfern on our minds

Thirty years ago one of the great speeches in Australian political history happened in Redfern.

As that thirtieth anniversary comes around , all the more reason to embrace the Uluru Statement from the Heart, constitutional recognition, and the Voice to Parliament.

The gist is all in this great speech of 30 yeara ago!

Posted on  by Neil

The next several posts will be photoposts about the weekend 6-7 December 2014. And a good one it was. Sunday I took the 7.45am express to Sydney, getting off at Redfern.

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I hadn’t been to Redfern in quite a while. The immediate purpose of the trip was lunch with M at The Shakespeare Hotel in Surry Hills, but I decided, it being Sunday, to go early enough to attend South Sydney Uniting Church. I hadn’t been there for quite a while; I suspect this was the last time: South Sydney Uniting Church last Sunday. It proved a bit of a bonus because along with some old friends there were quite a few Indigenous Australian young people from Arnhem Land and Darwin down for some conference or other.

But on the way I paid another pilgrimage.

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Redfern Park

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Bunburying

Bunbury +‎ -ing, coined by Oscar Wilde in The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) after Bunbury, the fictitious invalid friend of the character Algernon whose supposed illness is used as an excuse to avoid social engagements.

I loved this announcement on Facebook from my alma mater and former workplace.

I messaged Mitchell, a former SBHS student, now an English/ESL teacher and a FB friend quite well known to some of my other friends there and on this blog.

Me: Loved the idea of this but obviously I won’t be there.

Mitchell: haha good on them!

Seems to be an all male cast too, as well as multicultural — as is the school. The free cucumber sandwich is jusr brilliant!

My Wollongong High colleague from the 1970s commented:

How delightful that students are still performing plays such as The Importance of Being Earnest. The farcical comedy and the witty dialogue can still entertain a contemporary audience. And with the added accompaniment of cucumber sandwiches, who could resist! So many witty quotes I still remember……”I’m sick to death of cleverness. Everybody is clever these days.” “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” are just a start!

Took me back twenty years!

Mitchell and Sirdan — Shakespeare Hotel June 2009

Thursday, March 21, 2002

(Mitchell was by 2002 well into his university studies.)

Cecily. Well, I know, of course, how important it is not to keep a business engagement, if one wants to retain any sense of the beauty of life, but still I think you had better wait till Uncle Jack arrives. I know he wants to speak to you about your emigrating.
Algernon. About my what?
Cecily. Your emigrating. He has gone up to buy your outfit.
Algernon. I certainly wouldn’t let Jack buy my outfit. He has no taste in neckties at all.
Cecily. I don’t think you will require neckties. Uncle Jack is sending you to Australia.
Algernon. Australia! I’d sooner die.
Cecily. Well, he said at dinner on Wednesday night, that you would have to choose between this world, the next world, and Australia.
Algernon. Oh, well! The accounts I have received of Australia and the next world, are not particularly encouraging. This world is good enough for me, cousin Cecily.
Cecily. Yes, but are you good enough for it?

That is of course from Act II of The Importance of Being Ernest and still got a good laugh from an Australian audience on a warm night when there was hardly a neck tie in sight!

Particularly when Cecily was played by a six foot tall Australian male in a fetching Edwardian summer frock.

Yesterday was a sheer delight. I met Mitchell for lunch where we discussed some matters of mutual interest. We then remembered that a rather important horse race was being run that day, or at least Mitchell did, so we went in search of a betting shop, managing to walk straight past the nearest one. However, we found another and Mitchell made a small investment on our behalf, which (it turned out) confirmed my ambivalence about gambling…

Then to the New Theatre where we met up with PK, Sirdan and Colin. The first play, Gross Indecency was Moises Kaufmann’s docudrama on the trials of Oscar Wilde, and is quite a splendid play. Peter Flett as Wilde was convincing in appearance and I was moved, I have to say, particularly by the speeches of Wilde towards the end as his life descended into chaos and the prison house beckoned. The Marquess of Queensberry, on the other hand, was just a bit too caricatured. There was a delightful sequence where Queen Victoria was literally wheeled in to sign into law the Act forbidding “Gross Indecency” (except between women).

One could not but be struck by echoes of the past week in Australia (the Justice Kirby issue).

The Sydney Morning Herald reviewer had damned the second play, The Importance of Being Ernest out of hand. It is, admittedly, Barry Lowe’s transformation of the text: we find ourselves at the beginning in Reading Gaol, the prisoners (including Wilde) circling in the exercise yard. Then we move to Wilde’s memory of the performance of The Importance of Being Ernest with Wilde sitting to one side of the stage. Twice he appears within the play; after the interval we enter the theatre and see Wilde talking to Cecily, who addresses her first lines to him. Then near the end, Wilde makes a short speech just before the last few speeches of the play. I thought it worked very well, particularly when you had just seen Gross Indecency.

The play itself was fresh, funny, well-paced, and the audience loved it. Sirdan had never read the play before or ever seen it, and he really enjoyed himself. The fact all parts were played by men was not at all disturbing. In fact it added to it, in my view. They did not camp it up outrageously but stayed in character and respected the text; the disjunctions, when they occurred, were delicious. I loved it. So did Mitchell, and PK, who is a bit of a purist when it comes to theatre.

We concluded the Herald reviewer must have been to another play!

Between plays we had the most delicious African food in a restaurant in King Street.

It was a really beautiful afternoon/evening.

Later

I had fun rereading The Importance of Being Ernest at various times during the day.

Then, this evening at 7.30 SBS showed the first episode of the PBS series on the reign of Queen Victoria. I certainly learned something from it. Next week it deals with India–must watch.

Stephen Fry as Oscar Wilde

Thanks for the memories, Facebook and blogging! 50 years…

Back to when I was teaching at The Illawarra Grammar School and looked like this:

Wollongong 1973

Teaching at TIGS and always treated with the greatest respect:

A colleague in the Art Department was David Humphries, a most interesting young man who had himself gone to TIGS. He went on to considerable success, as this from 1996 shows. He is still quite recognisable to me as well in this one.

Yesterday Facebook sent me this:

On Facebook I wrote:

Wow! It’s 14 (sic — 16 in fact!) years now since I dined at his place…. I guess we have both aged!

Marvellous having a blog by the way from which I can pull up not just the memory of meeting up with David again but what I said and did at the time!

That refers to these entries

Random notes 23 September 2006

My colleague of thirty-four year ago, David Humphries, and I have made contact. I am having dinner with him soon. He tells me the internet is renewing all sorts of contacts. I mentioned my own a few years ago with Jay Caselberg (James A. Hartley), a novelist now living in Germany it seems. Unfortunately a “senior moment” blocked the name as I was talking to David, but (obviously) I recall it now. Then more recently there had been Scott Poynting and a class-mate of his, Ralph T, whose brother Ian T was a classmate of Simon H, who I have maintained contact with all these years. Wednesday night could prove interesting.

Lord Malcolm is still in the hospice, but the Swans winning through to the Grand Final has obviously brought him back to life. He tells me he comes home on Monday.

The public art of David Humphries 28 September 2006

David

Here is where I had dinner last night and a few red wines, meaning I do feel a touch seedy this morning… But what a great night it was, excellent conversation going back thirty years and more. I took the bus out to Rosebery and entered David’s studio, greeted by Jacko the red-tailed black cockatoo flying freely through as wonderful an interior garden as you could imagine. The pictures don’t do it justice….

Yes, in 2022 it is as I remenber it from 2006:

I see writer Jay Caselberg is mentioned in the first of those entries, the pen name of J Anthony Hartley — a student of mine back in 1973 at TIGS. He shared on Facebook today: Selected Poetry by J. Anthony Hartley.

J. Anthony Hartley is a transplanted British/Australian author and poet. He has had pieces appear in Short Fiction, Hybrid Fiction, Short Circuit, Unthinkable Tales, The Periodical, Abandon Journal, and forthcoming in The Quarter(ly), Underland Arcana, among others. He currently resides in Germany and can be found at http://www.iamnotaspider.com and @JAnthonyHartle1. Apart from short fiction and poetry, he also writes the occasional novel.