Ian Jeffrey Whitfield 3/10/1935 – 5/4/2017

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Born Kiama NSW 3 October 1935, died Devonport Tasmania 5 April 2017

I posted on 27 March:

I mentioned on Facebook that I managed to speak on the phone to my brother Ian in Devonport Hospital. A nurse took the call and then passed the phone to Ian. Given the circumstances I didn’t talk long, the real object being to let him know I was aware of what has been happening and was thinking of him. He thanked me.

What I didn’t say on Facebook is that his son in Lightning Ridge (Warren, now back in Townsville) and his daughter (Christine) in Engadine had both told me to try to speak to him — he doesn’t always answer the phone — as it may possibly be the last chance to do so. If a new course of antibiotics started yesterday is effective, that may change. If not…

I was at times teary yesterday, but fortunately not when speaking to Ian.

See also: About the Whitfields: family pics for my brotherEaster Sunday in Surry Hills 2006; In the city seeing my brother off  2006; Random Friday memory: 1 – John Mystery, my brother, Illawong 2015; Family day 2 April 2010; Blogging the Noughties: 2 — 2001. From that last one:

14 December 2001: A long partnership over

An hour ago, Australian Eastern time,

in East Devonport, Tasmania

Norma,

my brother’s partner of 30 years,

passed away after a long battle

with emphysema.

15 December: My brother.

My brother and his partner have been living in Tasmania for many years now; I am not quite sure how many, but certainly more than five. Before that they lived in various parts of Queensland.

One of the ironies of their life together was that they were both married on the same day in Sutherland, way back in 1955, but in two different churches and to two different people. My brother’s first marriage lasted ten years, and it was after the end of that that he and Norma got together. I remember once saying to them that they could have saved a lot of trouble by getting it right on that day back in 1955, to which my brother replied, “Oh well, we still celebrate our wedding anniversary.”

While my brother and I have been in regular contact by phone, especially since our mother died 1n 1996, I have not seen him for many years, and Norma even longer. Unfortunately there is no way I can go down to Tasmania either, not that I could do much.

Ian and Norma were together for over thirty years. A second attempt at partnership suited both of them. They were kindred spirits, and were very lucky to have found each other. In the past few years Norma was basically bedridden, constantly on oxygen for her emphysema. My brother could not have been more loving and more devoted. He certainly had more peace and happiness with Norma over the greater part of thirty years than he had ever had before.

He’s not a young man now; neither of us is. I am not sure what he will do eventually–stay in Tasmania or move back up north. At one time he said he might move back to Queensland, should anything happen to Norma.

My brother had four children by his first marriage, some of whom I see from time to time. Norma had at least one daughter, whom I met, by her first marriage. Ian and Norma had no children by their relationship.

I then quoted what had been one of my mother’s favourite poems. It is appropriate today too.

The deep blue skies wax dusky and the tall green trees grow dim
The sward beneath me seems to heave and fall
And sickly, smoky shadows through the sleepy sunlight swim
And on the very sun’s face weave their pall
Let me slumber in the hollow where the wattle blossoms wave
With never stone or rail to fence my bed
Should the sturdy station children pull the bush flowers on my grave
I may chance to hear them romping overhead.

–Adam Lindsay Gordon

— Between 2001 and 2010 my brother and I saw one another several times, thanks particularly to his daughter Christine Parkes.

  • There will be no new posts on this blog for the next seven days.

Yesterdays — 1944 and March 2017

I mentioned on Facebook that I managed to speak on the phone to my brother Ian in Devonport Hospital. A nurse took the call and then passed the phone to Ian. Given the circumstances I didn’t talk long, the real object being to let him know I was aware of what has been happening and was thinking of him. He thanked me.

What I didn’t say on Facebook is that his son in Lightning Ridge and his daughter in Engadine had both told me to try to speak to him — he doesn’t always answer the phone — as it may possibly be the last chance to do so. If a new course of antibiotics started yesterday is effective, that may change. If not…

I was at times teary yesterday, but fortunately not when speaking to Ian.

I further posted on Facebook:

Document: 14390 Cpl. Whitfield J. N.
Group 833
RAAF
Pacific
16-2-45

My Darling Wife

I came to work this morning thinking it was just another day, another hot steaming day, after a terrific thunderstorm last night. About nine o’clock a chap came in with some demands that had to be attended to and on dating them the realisation struck me, this was no ordinary day to me, but a very special one, the anniversary of the day when I made my very bestest pal in all the world mine for keeps, for worse or better. You notice I put the “worse” first, because I am sure many, many happy days lie ahead for us. Yes, we have had more than our share of worries & I have at times very selfishly added to them, sometimes quite unintentionally, because there really wasn’t any need for you to worry at all. I’m a bit of a tease really… Anyway dearest one I will try to do as you wish me to in everything. I have caused you enough heartaches. I can’t always help this of course, but I fully intend to try and make up for any short comings I may have. I can never repay the debt I owe you for giving me three such lovely children. I love them very dearly, and am exceedingly proud of their nice appearance & manner… .https://ninglunbooks.wordpress.com/…/about-the-whitfields-2/

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Back row: Aunt Ruth, my mother Jean, Uncle Neil (on leave from the RAAF), Aunt Beth

Front row: me, my sister Jeanette, my brother Ian

Probably 1944. Creased because my father carried it with him in Port Moresby 1945.

Australia Day: I like it

I have usually marked Australia Day with a post or more: 2016: Australia Day at Mount KemblaHow inspiring! Deng Thiak Adut’s Australia Day address — he’s now a strong possibility for Australian of the Year 2017; 2014: Anniversary Day/Survival Day, from which:

And then on my mother’s side of the family:

And an earlier post on both:

88” is a landmark documentary that explores the remarkable events that led up to January 26th 1988. The Bicentennial of the First Fleet was a watershed moment in Australian history and it triggered the largest gathering of Indigenous people this country has ever seen, who came together to tell their story. The protest that occurred on that day instigated mass public debate about the concept of Australian history, the position of Aboriginal people in contemporary society and their sheer determination to be heard.

The subsequent events of 1988 changed white and black Australia forever. They led to the establishment of numerous peak Indigenous organisations, a new generation of leaders, new attitudes towards the way we celebrate Australia Day and a realisation of the issues facing Aboriginal people in the present day. For the first time ever, Indigenous people became part of the wider dialogue and there was acknowledgment that January 26th had a very different resonance for the country’s Indigenous communities. A line had indeed, been drawn in the sand.

I was there that day and joined all these people in their march. 26 years ago on the 26th!

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26 January 1988 – image by the great Michael Riley

But none of us are going anywhere, are we?

There may be a time in the future when we have an opportunity to forge a new national day, free of the ambivalence that accompanies Australia Day. But for now, January 26 is it. Let’s use it as an occasion to celebrate our achievements and reflect on the things that we share as Australians.

Let’s also use it to ask whether our country is living up to the best of its traditions. In the words of one patriot, ”My country, right or wrong: if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”

See also my 2012 post  There is a land where summer skies…  Some earlier Australia Day posts: 2007; 2008 – 1; 2008 – 2; 2009 – 1; 2009: 2; 2009 – 3; 2010; 2011 – 1; 2011 – 2; 2011 – 3; 2011 – 4; 2011 – 5; 2011 – 6; 2011 – 7; the page series Being Australian; 2012 photo blog; 2013 – 1; 2013 — 2.

I find myself vexed by those who would have me burn the Australian flag, as some on the left have proposed, including those who regard the current Australian political system as not merely imperfect but as illegitimate, government by “terra nullians” some say, but I am also vexed — more so perhaps — by the self-styled patriots for whom cultural diversity is anathema.

So I wish you all — or those concerned — a happy but reflective Australia Day. By the way, i have just realised that in five years time my paternal line will have its very own bicentennial, Jacob Whitfield having arrived in Sydney in 1822! My brother’s family go back to way beyond that, as he married (without then knowing it) into the family of Bungaree. See Family stories 4 — A Guringai Family Story — Warren Whitfield.

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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….