Recalling the Shellharbour that was…

Last night I had a chat via Facebook Messenger with one of my Shellharbour cousins, who no longer lives there. I had not seen or spoken with this cousin for decades! I mentioned how different Shellharbour is today. She agreed, saying she couldn’t live there any more…

Here is how it was when my parents were young in the early to mid 1930s:

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And here Shellharbour township c 1948, in my own early childhood.

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And today, all suburbia…

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See also My 1947: ShellharbourShellharbour: very nostalgicMore “Neil’s Decades” –6: Heimat/Shellharbour.

My 1947: Shellharbour

Chatted to my older brother (82 later this year) about the Shellharbour holiday shown in this photo:

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The brat on the left in the sleeveless dark jumper is me, then Mum and Dad, cousin Betty, and in the front row left my sister Jeanette. I am not sure who the other two girls are. There was also a photo, now lost, of my older brother with an air rifle in a bushland area known as Blackbutt. Ian remembered that. He was 12, he said, which confirms my thought that this holiday (in my father’s home town) was in 1947. So I am probably 4 years old.

My brother also confirmed my memory that we stayed at Mrs Dunster’s guest house. See this from 9 August 1947:

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I was absolutely fascinated by “the weck” as I called it on Bass Point, clearly visible from the verandah of the guest house. My brother actually remembers the event itself, fully described on Michael McFadyen’s Scuba Diving site.

The SS Cities Service Boston was an oil tanker being used during World War 2 to supply the Australian and Allied forces with fuel. Built by Bethlehem Ship Building Corporation Ltd at Sparrows Point, Maryland, USA, for Atlantic, Gulf and West Indies Steamship Lines and launched as the SS Agwipond in April 1921, the ship displaced 8,024 tons and had a waterline length of 141 metres. Its overall length was 146 metres…

Requisitioned by the US Department of War Administration for World War II and operated by them until its sinking, the Cities Service Boston was travelling to the Middle East from Sydney in convoy when it went off course and ploughed into the rocks of Bass Point…

Although the ship sank on 16 May 1943, the only report of the incident at the time was in the Herald on 19 May when it was reported that four soldiers were drowned when washed off a rock platform on the South Coast. It was reported that eight soldiers were swept into the sea out of 34 standing there. It did not report why they were there or give any explanation as to what happened. Absolutely no indication was given to the fact that a ship was sunk that night.

This was because of wartime censorship preventing most bad news from reaching the public. It is interesting to note that the same edition of the Herald carried the good news of the “Dambusters” which happen only short time before. The same edition also had the bad news of the loss of the hospital ship Centaur on 14 May 1943, two days before the Boston was lost (this made the Japanese out to be heathens for sinking an unarmed hospital ship) and was included for obvious reasons.

No other mention of the wrecking appeared in the media until exactly six months after the wrecking when an article appeared on 16 November 1943 in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph actually mentioning the wrecking and the loss of the soldiers. As well as reporting what happened, it reported on the Wollongong Coroner’s Court inquiry into the deaths….

Well worth reading the rest of that.

Another local civilian from Shellharbour, Eric Dunster (?), was driving a milk truck. During break in weather he saw a ship up on Bass Point. He drove out and left the truck near where gates are now into the reserve. He walked out, at 45° due to the strength of wind. Looking back towards Shellharbour he saw there were huge seas hitting the rocks. He got out there about the same time that the soldiers arrived. The rain was horizontal. He helped set up the gear and after a while he left due to the weather.

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The “weck”

For more on the Dunster family see Children of Shellharbour’s The Hill.  Now some pictures that evoke that holiday of seventy years ago.

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The wooden bridge across Lake Illawarra

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The road to Shellharbour

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Shellharbour rock pool, probably  in the mid 1950s

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The jetty my grandfather rebuilt in 1909

Related: visit Shellharbour History in Photos on Facebook.

Revisiting June 2016 – via 1959

A nostalgia hit for me, published yesterday on the Shellharbour Pictures page on Facebook:

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Shellharour with jetty: 1959 My grandfather rebuilt the jetty in 1909. Compare 1934.

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Now to June 2016.

End of June, and looking forward to voting KAOS!

Posted on June 30, 2016 by Neil

Second things first. It appears, as William Bowes’ Poll Bludger indicates, that Mr Turnbull’s party will get back in on 2 July, but with a reduced majority.

Daylight has finally opened between the two parties on the BludgerTrack poll aggregate, without quite freeing the Coalition from the risk of a hung parliament.

The Senate should be fun all round.

Bear in mind what is hiding in the basement, should Mr Turnbull get up. The influence of such should be proportionately stronger if Mr Turnbull is weakened.

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Here be monsters!

Following Mr T’s awful warning, if not quite in the spirit it was offered, I am definitely opting for KAOS all round! Exactly how is my business…

Interlude: M of Venice

Posted on June 26, 2016 by Neil

Or rather, M in Venice. One of a set he posted on Facebook on 24 June, though by then he was no longer in Venice. He was in Florence a few days ago.

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Great photo!

Very incomplete personal takes on Brexit

Posted on June 25, 2016 by Neil

“Certainly going to be interesting to see what happens in the UK in this coming week” I wrote here on 21 June. Well, that was a bit understated, eh!

Now I’m wondering if they should be dusting off the Honours of Scotland.

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Perhaps because I am conscious that the greater part of my ancestry derives from Scotland and Ulster (maternal and paternal lines), I still tend to see the UK through that lens.

The Brexit vote showed interesting divisions on those lines.

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See more maps here.

I must admit this aspect rather pleases me: “People gathered in Edinburgh and Glasgow to demonstrate against the result and show support for migrants.” Then there is this:

[Scotland’s First Minister] Ms Sturgeon said: “After a campaign that has been characterised in the rest of the UK by fear and hate, my priority in the days, weeks and months ahead will be to act at all times in the best interests of Scotland and in a way that unites, not divides us.

“Let me be clear about this. Whatever happens as a result of this outcome, England, Wales and Northern Ireland will always be Scotland’s closest neighbours and our best friends – nothing will change that.

“But I want to leave no-one in any doubt about this. I am proud of Scotland and how we voted yesterday.

“We proved that we are a modern, outward looking and inclusive country and we said clearly that we do not want to leave the European Union.

“I am determine to do what it takes to make sure these aspirations are realised.”

Here is a personal take from Edinburgh.

Amelia Baptie, 36, a mother of twins, said she was “heartbroken and devastated” by the result, as were most of the parents she spoke to in the playground.

She said: “I think if it was about hope on the Leave side then some good could come out of it, but it was about hatred.

“I am upset and worried. I don’t know what has happened to England. They have gone so much to the right and Scotland is being pulled along. My parents live in France and they are very worried now if they can stay, and about their income.”

I worry about some of the types in Europe who have been rejoicing about the UK’s choice – the likes of Le Pen and Wilders.

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See Exploring my inner Scot

I really do think we might see another Scottish Independence referendum not far into the future.

Another element in the UK vote was generational. This 21 June article by Chris Cook on BBC foreshadowed that.

A new piece of evidence on this has been released by Populus, a pollster that is doing a lot of work for the Remain camp. Their data suggests:

  • People aged 65 and over are 23% more likely to vote Leave than the average voter. Voters aged 18-24 are 37% more likely to back Remain. Those aged 25-34 are 19% more likely to back Remain than the average voter, the poll suggests
  • Students are 54% more likely to back Remain than the average person. Graduates are 21% more likely. Meanwhile, people with no formal qualifications are 48% more likely to back Leave…

After the event see  ‘What have we done’ – teenage anger over Brexit vote.

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Finally, a different, wider viewpoint: The Long Road to Brexit.

Markets are stunned. Commenters are shocked. But future historians may view this moment as inevitable…

The debate has cut across the usual divisions of Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat. There are left-wing Brexiteers (who dislike the EU for its lack of democracy and enforced economic austerity) and left-wing Remainers (who like its internationalism); right-wing Remainers (who see the EU as a huge market) and right-wing Brexiteers (who see it as an affront to national sovereignty). There has also been a national dimension: The biggest supporters of Brexit have been the English, and now suddenly the Welsh; the Scots and Irish, for different reasons, have taken the opposite view.

The campaign has highlighted differences too among generations, among regions, and perhaps most importantly among classes and among cultures. Supporters of the “Remain” campaign were disproportionately the young, educated middle classes, who saw the EU as both in their interests and as the political equivalent of motherhood and apple pie. Supporters of Brexit were disproportionately older, less educated, and less wealthy, and think their voices are more likely to be heard in an autonomous national state. Attitudes to immigration from the EU — unrestricted under EU law and running at nearly 200,000 per year — became the shibboleth. Remain saw immigration as a token of enlightenment, economic freedom and cosmopolitanism. The “Leave” campaign saw it as a cause of depressed wages, stressed public services, and long-term danger to national identity. The EU question has become more polarized ideologically in Britain than anywhere else in Europe…

Where indeed will it all end?

Post script

Have been reading heaps of posts. This one stands out: Called back to the present by Scottish physician Bob Leckridge, now living in France.

… and Jim Belshaw:

I watched the UK’s Brexit vote first with interest then with fascination and then with a degree of  horror. I was opposed to the original decision to join the EEC, but after forty years membership unpicking the whole thing becomes difficult. Further, the campaign itself and the consequent vote played to and accentuated divides in the UK….

Alas!

Yes, Jim’s post has disappeared! But now it’s back!

And finally…

Look at Steve Cannane, Brexit: Is Scotland brave enough to defy the UK? and Ian Verrender, Brexit will deliver a few home truths, both on ABC.

HSC 50 years on

Posted on June 20, 2016 by Neil

Featured in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

There were no calculators. Cigarettes were puffed on the school oval at lunchtime. One-third of students took French. And the most controversial musical you could study was West Side Story: that was the Higher School Certificate half a century ago.

This year marks 50 years since the first group of students exited the Victorian-era Leaving Certificate and entered the uncharted territory of the HSC after the Wyndham report changed the face of education in NSW.

And also in this year’s HSC Study Guide supplement:

This year marks the HSC’s 50th year. Since 1967, more than 2.3 million students have successfully completed the HSC and used the skills and knowledge gained to embark on the next stage of life at university, TAFE or work.

The HSC has evolved to reflect a constantly changing world, growing from 29 courses to 104 courses with exams. The first HSC included Sheep Husbandry and Farm Mechanics. The 2016 HSC includes Software Design and Development and Information Processes and Technology.

Students today are enrolled in five English, four maths, five science, eight technology, 63 language and 13 Vocational Educational and Training (VET) courses and 27 Life Skills courses…

Sheep Husbandry was not on offer at Cronulla High School where I as a newly minted English teacher fronted what would be the first 3rd Level (i.e. bottom) English Year 11 class in 1966. So strictly speaking this year it is 49 years since that first HSC, which was sat in 1967.

I did return to Cronulla back in 2011. See these posts: How young we were! (and do read the comment thread!) and Here I am at the Cronulla High 50th!

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Revisiting Cronulla High in 2011

See also my 2013 post If the jacarandas are out, the HSC must be coming… and my 2015 post Educational opportunity in Australia – 2015 and 1965.

Orlando

Posted on June 14, 2016 by Neil

There is no way I can hope to do justice to the horrific events that played out at The Pulse in Orlando. Let me first share Sydney’s response.

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See Candlelight vigils held across Australia to honour Orlando shooting victims….

Revisiting February 2016 – with a preface for Christmas Eve

A few must reads from a good/bad news week

Eric Tenin in Europe, a photoblogger of note, drew attention to this: This is the truth about the Berlin Christmas market terror attack. Do give it due thought as it swims rather against the tide at the moment.

I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve said since: “This is the legacy of Angela Merkel’s open door to refugees.”

Well, no it isn’t.

This is the legacy of people who believe that what they FEEL is the truth must BE the truth. And that’s not how truth works.

Here is the truth we know so far…

Second, I endorse HRH the Prince of Wales.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s religious Thought for the Day slot, the prince delivered an outspoken attack against religious hatred and pleaded for a welcoming attitude to those fleeing persecution.

He said: “We are now seeing the rise of many populist groups across the world that are increasingly aggressive to those who adhere to a minority faith. All of this has deeply disturbing echoes of the dark days of the 1930s.

“My parents’ generation fought and died in a battle against intolerance, monstrous extremism and inhuman attempts to exterminate the Jewish population of Europe.”

The prince did not mention any politicians by name, but his address will be seen by some as a veiled reference to the election of Donald Trump in the US, the rise of the far right in Europe, and increasingly hostile attitudes to refugees in the UK.

“That nearly 70 years later we should still be seeing such evil persecution is to me beyond all belief,” he said. “We owe it to those who suffered and died so horribly not to repeat the horrors of the past.”

Finally, I commend C August Elliott to you. “C August Elliott is a former soldier, completed foreign language (Arabic and French) and anthropology degrees to the Masters level at the ANU and he now specialises in conflict ethnography and political anthropology in the Islamic world. Read his blog.” His latest on ABC: Melbourne terror plot: Extremist radicalised terrorism is a statistically enduring anomaly.

But while ISIS-inspired terrorist plots are on the rise in Australia, the nativist movement which is sweeping the West — exemplified by Trump, Brexit, Le Pen and One Nation — is a phenomenon which is tied to “fear of small numbers” — an inflated perception of actual risk.

At first glance, Mr Dutton’s comment that “of the last 33 people who have been charged with terrorist-related offences in this country, 22 of those people are from second and third generation Lebanese-Muslim background” seems pretty alarming…

There is a problem amongst Lebanese-Australian youth which police and community groups need to redress. Even still, we need not let the Minister’s alarmism colour our perceptions of the Lebanese community as a whole.

If there are in fact 22 young terrorists out of a community of 203,139 (the number of Australians who claimed Lebanese ancestry in the 2011 Census) a better way to truly gauge the scale of the problem comes from appreciating the reality that only 0.0108 per cent of Lebanese-Australians have demonstrable ties to terror….

Back in February

One theme to emerge and which continues to this day is profound disappointment with the person formerly known as Malcolm Turnbull.

Show some backbone, PM

Posted on February 25, 2016 by Neil

Looks like we are seeing on several fronts what the corollary of “agility” is for Malcolm Turnbull – a surgical removal of the spine. Very disappointing. I borrowed my heading from Sean Kelly at The Monthly.

Turnbull caves to Liberal right-wingers*…a couple of weeks ago I gave credit to Simon Birmingham, appointed education minister after the snarly mess Christopher Pyne had made of that portfolio, for sticking up for a schools program that was under threat.

Under that program a teaching manual, aimed at combating bullying against young people who might be just discovering they were lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex or transgender, was distributed in schools.

As the Australian reported at the time, the program has the backing of the Australian Secondary Principals Association, beyondblue, headspace and the Australian Education Union.

Some religious groups, however, decided they knew better. The Australian Christian Lobby spokeswoman said that forcing students to imagine themselves in a same-sex relationship was a “form of cultural bullying’’.

Yes she did.

Birmingham didn’t give some mealy-mouthed comment in response to this garbage. On the substance he pointed out the program was opt-in for schools, and on the principle he said: “Homophobia should be no more tolerated than racism, especially in the school environment. The resource is intended to support the right of all students, staff and families to feel safe at school.’’…

Today Malcolm Turnbull hung Birmingham and his pretty principles out to dry. At the prime minister’s invitation, the minister will report back to the Liberal party room on the results of an independent review of the Safe Schools program that will now occur. (For “invitation”, read “order”.)

In other words, he gave a whole lot of oxygen to the very debate his own minister had recently called “foolish”….

See also Max Chalmers, The Anti-Gay Emails To MPs: Safe Schools Program Will ‘Destroy Civilisation’Safe Schools: Education or social engineering?, Safe Schools: Malcolm Turnbull requests investigation into program helping LGBTI students, Jill Stark, Safe Schools program: why zealots are trying to drag us back to the dark ages. From that last one:

Imagine being 12 years old and seeing your name scrawled across a school toilet door next to the word “faggot.” Or being beaten up and spat on by a gang of classmates who discovered you were a “tranny.” What if you were kicked out of your football team because you weren’t “masculine” enough?

These are just some of the real life school experiences young people have shared with me over the past few years.

We may pride ourselves on being the country of the “fair go” but in 2016, bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) children remains rife in our schools. It makes the relentless and vicious attacks against a program set up to protect those children even more abhorrent.

As Malcolm Turnbull yesterday caved into his party’s religious right and announced an investigation into the Safe Schools Coalition one thing became clear: we are in the midst of a culture war. And vulnerable children are being used as cannon fodder.

In a Coalition party room meeting on Tuesday, February 23, Senator Cory Bernardi called for the program to be defunded, claiming it was being used to “indoctrinate children into a Marxist agenda of cultural relativism.”…

Now I am such a Marxist, eh! Why only a couple of days ago on this blog I was commending Robert Service’s Comrades: A World History of Communism (2007) to my readers! A Marxist I really am not, but I do embrace diversity as a core aspect of the human condition and commend any society or program that does the same. Hence on Twitter I wrote yesterday: “I totally support #safeschools.” I also retweeted: “RT @JoshThomas87:.@TurnbullMalcolm You’re turning out to be a real shit bloke.” Among others.

First, a really really good idea is to read the actual stuff that Safe Schools offers.

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I think it is brilliant and just wish that it had been there ten to fifteen years back when I was still tutoring and teaching and even on a high school welfare committee. Mind you there have been precursors like Bullying No Way and Racism No Way in NSW.

Of course I have form. Some will know my English/ESL blog, now an archive and not maintained, began as a semi-official resource c. 2000 to 2005 in the school I was working in. There is a section there called Diversity. A subsection is GLBT resources, that being the acronym 10-15 years ago. Now of course it is dated and who knows how many of its many links still work? But I am proud still of this. first written over ten years ago:

The theme of this page may offend some, but my position is that such offence is less than the needless suffering, failure of self-esteem, depression, and even sometimes suicide, that dishonesty about this subject can lead to.

Nor am I advocating a “lifestyle”: to quote from an article mentioned below:

There is a big taboo about converting straight people to homosexuality. (Personally I think the chances of that actually happening are as good as your chances of getting kicked to death by a duck.)…

See also from February 2016: Mardi Gras recycles: 2008, For the 78ers and Ian Thorpe, Gayby Baby, and today in my life.

More “Neil’s Decades” –6: Heimat/Shellharbour

Posted on February 5, 2016 by Neil

Several decades here, but let’s start with this photo from 1956.

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That’s Shellharbour’s ocean pool, image from Shellharbour History in Photos. It’s a bit unclear but I could almost believe the man right foreground is my father, especially if what is immediately behind him is a white dog (is it?) in which case the kid running towards him may well be me! We were holidaying in Shellharbour in the summer of 1956.

That pool was renovated and renamed Beverley Whitfield Pool in 1994. See Beverley Whitfield on the Shellharbour Local History blog.

12661968_1740439649512704_2123985810144368757_nL to R: Edgar (Dunc) Gray, Mayor Cec Glenholmes, Beverley Whitfield, Andy Gerke and Terry Gathercole

Andy Gerke was Beverley’s uncle, and my cousin Una’s husband. Sadly Beverley died two years later at the age of 42. I was at the funeral, but circumstances had led to my family not seeing much of the Shellharbour Whitfields after 1975.

For my father Shellharbour remained Heimat.

Heimat is a German concept. People are bound to their heimat by their birth and their childhood, their language, their earliest experiences or acquired affinity. For instance, Swiss citizens have their Heimatort (the municipality where the person or their ancestors became citizens) on their identification. Heimat as a trinity of descendance, community, and tradition—or even the examination of it— highly affects a person’s identity.

Though in the war years he broke away yet he always was rooted in that place and time 1911-1938. Indeed he returned in 1970 until illness/distress forced his return to Sydney in 1975. Strangely I too have returned in a way, back here in Wollongong almost six years now after an absence of 30 years, But I have only been back to Shellharbour once, and that just before I actually returned to the Illawarra. See Shellharbour – a double post (2010) and more posts here, here and here.

You see, there is much of Heimat in Shellharbour for me too, even if my parents left it before I was born. We did constantly visit in my childhood, and many a story have I heard about the place. But the place of my childhood is not there any more. Well, it is, but its surrounds buried under suburbia, some of it good and some of it rather awful. Progress I suppose.

Here is my childhood’s Shellharbour:

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My brother spent his first year or two in Shellharbour, having been born in Kiama.

Bloody hot! And more on WHS centenary

Yes, hot hot hot! In Sydney:

Sydneysiders are in for another scorcher after enduring unusually mild overnight conditions not seen in December.

The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting a top on Wednesday of 38 degrees, matching Tuesday’s maximum of 37.8 degrees…

Sydney has only had three previous back-to-back days of 37.8 degrees or warmer weather, the most recent in November 2002, said Agata Imielska, senior climatologist at the bureau. The other two occasions fell in January – in 1946 and 1960…

Through the night, the temperature in Sydney has remained above 27 degrees, with the coolest point so far coming at 6.34 am, with 27.1 degrees recorded at Observatory Hill, bureau data shows. At this stage it is the highest December minimum since Christmas Day in 1868. Penrith residents fared better, with the mercury dipping to 21.8 degrees at 5.18 am, although temperatures have jumped above 29 degrees since.

Only a handful of monthly records are older than the 1868 record, with the bureau’s data beginning in 1858…

A warming climate means “progressively, these older temperature records are being broken”, Ms Imielska said.

Not only are hot records falling at a much higher rate than cold-weather ones, the margins by which records are being eclipsed is also tending to widen, she said.

Tuesday’s heat was widespread. Adelaide, Canberra and Melbourne all joined the Harbour City in topping 33 degrees, the first time that’s happened in December since 1965, Weatherzone said…

Here in West Wollongong the public electronic thermometer outside the Catholic Church hit 41 yesterday and was on 30 at 6.30 am.

Meanwhile Wollongong High School (of the Performing Arts) has been celebrating its centenary:

Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts marked a milestone in style on the weekend.

The school has been celebrating its 100th anniversary and this culminated in a centenary dinner at the WEC on Saturday.

Teacher/librarian Liane Pfister said more than 700 people attended, the oldest of which was 96…

I thought about going but quite frankly could not afford to. However I have been interested. See also Notable pupils from Wollongong High’s 100 year history where you may find some pictures, including these two.

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Wollongong High School’s official open day in 1916 at its original site at Smith’s Hill.

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Intermediate Class (Third Year) –1917

Those photos have a sad family connection: see my June 2016 post  Wollongong High’s centenary, my family history, WW1.

I taught there 1975-1980, with a hiatus for secondment to Sydney University 1977-1978. My Uncle Keith Christison and Aunt Beth Christison (Heard) went to WHS in the 1930s. I had an Uncle, Colin Whitfield, who was part of the founding intake. He was born in 1901, but I never met him…

For the sad story behind these see Neil’s personal decades: 20 – Shellharbour Whitfields 1905 and Neil’s personal decades 26: Whitfields, Christisons, and more — 1915.

In Shellharbour the home front for my family was a sad place in 1915, as posted in More Whitfield family history last year.

My uncle, Colin WhitfieldObviously I never knew him, nor he me, though when I was in high school I used an Algebra textbook that was in our house, inscribed with his name. This is such a sad story. I had never before seen this detailed version, though it confirms the oral accounts I have had of that dreadful tragedy back in Shellharbour in 1915. Illawarra Mercury 9 April 1915….

Not far away in Albion Park Cemetery you can find the grave of Bert Ernest Weston, an exact contemporary of Colin and no doubt one of the boys mentioned in that story. He passed away in 1996. Quite a man, it appears…

He wrote an account of Wollongong High School as he and Colin Whitfield would have known it.

The writer’s secondary schooling sat astride the four year segment before and after Wollongong High School was born, and also coincided with the 1914-1918 World War…

Two bursaries were allotted to the South Coast each year. I achieved one of them. This entailed automatic posting to the first year Latin class, which had no fixed home. For twelve months we averaged four shifts per day to a room from which the occupiers had gone to a science lesson, then to the weather shed, thence across the street to the old Technical College and finally to finish the day crowded on to a verandah. The following year we were housed in a portable wooden room where we remained until the start of third year saw the move to Smith’s Hill.

You will note that my Uncle Colin died in early April 1915…

Related: Wollongong High: more on the centenary.