Colouring unlocked the story of my family in the late 1930s!

One of the old family photos I colourised today is this one of my brother Ian (1935-2017).


By the brickwork I know this is my own early childhood home, 61 Auburn Street, Sutherland NSW. Other than the fact Ian looks a bit real-boy mucky, he also looks under five years old, wouldn’t you agree? Now that puzzled me as I thought my immediate family arrived at Auburn Street as a wartime thing. Before that, I thought, they had been in Shellharbour, where they married, then Wollongong.

But that picture has to be no later than 1939, possibly before war broke out.

I knew that my grandparents Roy and Ada Christison had moved from Shellharbour to Sutherland in 1938 when Roy took up headmastership of Caringbah Public School. I find a NSW Teachers Federation Illawarra Association Annual Report dated 18 March 1938.

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Nice to see Grandpa was a conscientious Federationist!

Now my parents were married in 1935, Ian being born in October. Going on stories my parents told (especially my mother) I know they first lived with my Whitfield grandfather, Tom, in Shellharbour. I have seen the house, which is/was in Addison Street. It was not a totally happy arrangement as Tom was a bit of a Tartar and mum stood up to him. Mind you, it turned out Tom rather liked that…. I recall a story of my mother being shocked one day when he turned up with two dead Rosella parrots and told her to pluck and cook them.

Dad was working for Tom but itching to leave, not discouraged I suspect by my mother. I think, but am not sure, that he worked briefly at the Port Kembla steelworks, while he, mum and Ian moved to Wollongong — somewhere near the Catholic Church. A flat or boarding situation, where there were bedbugs.

So what happened next? Without realising it, I had the likely answer in a post on this blog some time ago: “Elizabeth Anne Hunter had married one Albert Boyne in 1891. My father for some time just before World War 2 worked for their son, Cyril Boyne, who was a Real Estate Agent and Auctioneer.”


That is a reference from Cyril Boyne, dated 3 May 1938. So now I think that at that date my mother, father, and Ian were already living at 61 Auburn Street, Sutherland.

Contemplating the photo of my brother generated this sorting out of my family’s story!

Next day

In the uncertain hour before the dawning (thanks, TSE) two things occurred to me about the above. From somewhere in my buried memories came the possibility that Dad worked for a while in Wollongong for Vandyke Brothers, builders, who were active in the region in the late 1930s.  I should mention that Dad was a carpenter, and old Tom a builder of some repute.

Second, I think that the first place Mum and Dad lived on his taking up employment with Cyril Boyne was Earlwood, an inner western Sydney suburb. I think it is fair to say that Dad, while an excellent carpenter thanks to Tom’s sometimes harsh tuition, was both ambitious and a dreamer. His ultimate goal was to be a businessman in his own right, a goal he at times achieved after the War, but which eventually came crashing down on us all — though not through anything shameful Dad did. I suspect Dad’s agenda was to outdo old Tom, even after Tom had departed this life (1948). Dad used often to say disparaging things, not always appreciated by my Christison uncles, about “wage plugs” — those who worked for others. So I also suspect Dad chafed under Cyril Boyne, especially maybe given the job with him had been organised by the Christison/Hunter side of the family, no doubt to help Mum. Therefore perhaps taking up residence in Auburn Street coincided with Dad’s leaving Cyril Boyne’s employ. Then came the War, and Dad joined the RAAF 8 April 1940. In many ways this was a good period for him, and his contribution respected.


Canberra and Shellharbour: colourised ancient pics….

Shellharbour first: my grandfather Roy Hampton Christison was c.1935 Headmaster of Shellharbour Public School. (I visited it with him in 1959 on the occasion of the school’s centenary. He was then the oldest surviving Principal.)

Shellharbour Public School 1930s


The Headmaster’s residence, Roy Christison and his wife Ada — my grandparents

In 1954 and again in 1955 my family spent Easter camping by the Cotter River in Canberra. I recall Dad and Uncle Neil Christison trying trout fishing — and of course we did the sights. Here is a small selection.


Cotter River camping ground 1955 — Dad’s brand new Standard Vanguard with overdrive. L-R Uncle Neil, Aunt Fay, a friend of theirs — Judy, me, Mum.


Parliament House 1954 — decorative arch for the Royal Visit


War Memorial 1954

Blogging the 2010s — 41 — April 2018

And special thanks to “Happiness Engineer” Herman who solved the problem whereby my wifi was blocking access to everything behind the scenes here.

Cronulla on my mind

Had an email the other day:

I just stumbled on an old webpage of yours that mentions Mt Keira, and its significance in Dharawal culture. You go on to describe the story of how Mt Keira and the Five Islands were formed. There’s a suggestion that you had just read about it in a book you had found in Wollongong Library. Would you be able to tell me which book it was?

Well, I did reply. Received another email just now:

Many thanks Neil,

After checking the two PDFs that you suggested, and doing a bit more searching, I was able to find the story in one of Michael Organ’s PDF’s, which gave the source of the story as featuring in the Illawarra Mercury in 1950.

So I think I was able to get to the source of the story that you mentioned in your blog, which has been very helpful to me.

My point of interest was in fact trying to find the origin of “Lilli Pilli” as in the place name, and since it turns up in that story with exactly the same spelling, I was very curious about it.

By the way, I’m sure it will interest you to know that I was a student at Cronulla High School, while you were teaching there, from about 1965 to 1970, although I was never in one of your classes, I remember you as (I think) a member of the English staff, is that right?

Almost right, except that 1969 was my last year. I had a great visit to the school for its 50th anniversary, and a follow-up lunch at Hazelhurst in Gymea. See posts tagged Cronulla.



Shellharbour on my mind — Roy Christison

post on Facebook’s Shellharbour History and Pictures has generated this wonderful war-time picture of my uncle Roy Christison Junior, my grandmother Ada Christison, and my grandfather Roy Christison Senior in Sydney. (Note the tram!)  Posted by my cousin Linda Christison.

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In that same Facebook thread someone asked if anyone had seen a photo of Ada and Roy taken in the 1930s when Roy was headmaster of Shellharbour Public School. Well, I have: it is in my collection. That is the headmaster’s residence in Shellharbour.



Blogging the 2010s — 39 — April 2016

More on Anzac Day

I went down to City Diggers yesterday. As I said on Facebook:

Fascinating conversations at City Diggers Wollongong today, one with a Macedonian who arrived Oz 1990 and had recently been back witnessing the refugee crisis, and the other with someone who served on HMAS Murchison in the Korean War. The things you can learn from a good conversation.

On the second see HMAS Murchison in the Han River.He told me about this. See Wikipedia. I wish I had known more when I had that conversation!

My cousin Russell Christison added this photo:


Also on Facebook is this wonderful photo of the dawn service yesterday at Shellarbour Village.


This is a place I get very nostalgic about. See last year’s post Next Saturday is the centenary Anzac Day. (Or rather of the Gallipoli landings.)

Thinking of my father’s home town of Shellharbour…

My uncle Ken’s name is on that memorial. See ANZACS born in Shellharbour, NSWRemembering some of our Anzacs, and Illawarra Remembers

Just back from East Redfern/Moore Park

Had dinner with M last night – Cleveland Street’s “Little India”. Stayed overnight at M’s in East Redfern. Been quite a while since I was last there. Here are a couple of memories, as I had no camera this time.


M’s orchid 2009: On a balcony overlooking South Dowling Street.


South Dowling Street from M’s Balcony 2009

I did spot the weird structure taking up an inordinate amount of space in Moore Park. Bloody awful, and useless! See Bridge to nowhere: The plan to give away Moore Park (ABC Radio National 20 March 2016).

Mark Davis: It’s Saturday night at the Sydney Football Stadium, less than an hour before kick off between the Waratahs and the Reds, and the stadium is starting to fill. Thousands of fans are trudging up the hill from Central Station in the CBD, a kilometre away.

To finally get into the ground, fans have to cross here at the intersection of Anzac Parade and Moore Park Road. 400 metres down the road sits a new and rather gigantic pedestrian bridge. But the fans are still crossing here at the lights.

Why choose here and not the bridge as your crossing point?

Man: Because this is a direct line. It’s in the wrong spot.

Mark Davis: It should have been here, if it was a bridge it should have been there.

Man: It’s in the wrong spot. Any dill can work that out. It was always in the wrong spot up there.

Mark Davis: And if you look over there I think there’s a couple of people on that bridge, it’s bizarre…

Tibby Cotter Bridge aerial shot ABC

This month the new stadium scheme came unstuck: Football codes unite against Mike Baird’s plan to build on Sydney Football Stadium site.

201 years ago at Minnamurra River

Between Shellharbour, my father’s birthplace, and Kiama. See Random Friday memory 22 – Beethoven in Minnamurra. Last night it featured in WIN local news.

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A memorial has been set up marking the Minnamurra Massacre of October 1, 1818.

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Here is an account from Mike Donaldson, Les Bursill and Mary Jacobs, A History of Aboriginal Illawarra, Volume 2: Colonisation, Dharawal Publications, Yowie Bay, 2017.

The fate of the people of Illawarra was sealed by a notice from the Governor in the Sydney Gazette of 28 September 1816. Those who have obtained promises of allotments are hereby required to avail themselves of the approaching occasion of the surveyors being on duty in Illawarra to get their locations marked out to them and for this purpose they are required to meet the Surveyor General at the hut of Mr Throsby’s Stockman in Illawarra, or the Five Islands district, at noon on Monday, 2 December 1816.

In the hut of Throsby’s stockman, at what now is the corner of Smith and Harbour Streets in Wollongong, that fateful meeting resulted in 2,100 hectares of Dharawal land being given to five non-resident gentlemen. These grants were practically free and each landholder was provided with convicts to do whatever work his stockmen required. The formal stealing and occupation of Dharawal land had commenced.

But taking the land by legal fiction was one thing, securing it was another. In October 1818 Lieutenant Weston, land owner at Dapto and Cornelius O’Brien, formerly a stockman at Sandon Point and now the overseer of a property at
Yallah, organised a group of seven labourers and convicts. Unusually armed with muskets, cutlasses and pikes, they headed to Kiama supposedly to fetch two muskets lent to a group of people living on the Minnamurra River. According to Young Bundle, who was long trusted by the British, the posse killed all the people at the camp.

Word of the massacre spread rapidly through the community. Responding as one, they very quickly returned all the guns –– quite a few –– that they had borrowed from the whites, removing that excuse for further acts of evil.

The attackers admitted only to wounding a boy in self-defence. After a sharp letter of protest from Charles Throsby to Governor Macquarie, the murders were investigated by D’Arcy Wentworth, the Principal Superintendent of Police, along with other magistrates. They took no action against the killers despite a letter from Governor Macquarie to D’Arcy Wentworth expressing his “surprise, regret and displeasure” at their findings.

This process of land alienation was repeated in Shellharbour where another small group of white men met on 9 January 1821 to give to and receive from each other more Dharawal country. Very soon, D’Arcy Wentworth, the colony’s Principal Superintendent of Police, Principal Surgeon and founder of the Bank of NSW, owned more than 5,000 hectares of mainly Wodi Wodi clan land, in addition to the land he already owned elsewhere. And the clearings continued.