Local Church Service on the Radio


On May 15 at 11 a.m. on 2FC the people of Riverstone will be able to hear a “home town” church service broadcast.

The A.B.C. recorded the morning service at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Riverstone.

The Service conducted by Rev. Michael Groenwegen, B.A.B.D. and the choir conducted by Miss L. Campbell of the Infants School with Joyce Nichols organist, put together a church service full of participation.

Bible readings and prayers by Susan McCaull, Win King, Alan Brookes, Warren and Bruce McCaull all added to the feeling of the service.

The congregation must be commended for their involvement in the service and their response and assistance to Mr Groenwegen in his exacting preparation for this service.

From the Riverstone Press 27 April 1977

The McNamara Family

by Clarrie Neal

The McNamara story in Riverstone commenced when Henry (Harry) McNamara, working as a rabbit inspector with the Pasture Protection Board in Nyngan, decided to come to Sydney in 1918. Shortly after he arrived he married Olive Roper, a girl who had come to Sydney from Barmedman, NSW. A few years later when Harry got a job at the Meatworks as a stockman and buyer, they came to live in Riverstone with their two eldest children, Molly and Jack.

They moved into the end house at 49 Richards Avenue and it was here their other four children were born, Tommy, Bill, Monica and Brian. Harry in the meantime had invested in 200 acres of land on Carnarvon Road where he had intended to farm and raise stock. In 1935 the family left Butchers Row and bought a house and another 40 acres on Carnarvon Road where they set up a poultry farm. This land was on the opposite side of the road to their previously bought acres.

In 1938 tragedy was to strike the family when Harry was killed in a car accident at Bowral while returning home from the sale yards at Moss Vale. His wife Olive was left with six children to rear, and in the days when there were no social security payments. Realising the house was not suitable for her growing family and having no forms of transport to get into town, Olive decided to sell the farm and move into Riverstone, buying a house and 10 acres of land at 57 Riverstone Road.

With the help of sons Jack, Tommy, Bill and several neighbours she set up a poultry farm, selling the eggs to support the family. Olive was known to all in the community as Mrs Mac, and during the war became a strong supporter of the local Red Cross branch. She passed away in the mid 1990s aged 94 years and was buried alongside her husband in the cemetery at Riverstone.

Their six children attended Riverstone Public School and all became well known and respected members of the Riverstone community.

1. Molly. Her first job was as the cashier in the Meatworks butchers shop opposite the Royal hotel and later she became the telephonist in the main office at the Meatworks. During the war she met Joe Loos, an American sailor serving on their Corvettes, the U.S. navy’s submarine chasers. After the war they married and lived for several years in the USA where their son Jack was born. Returning to Australia they moved into the family home in Riverstone Road, enabling Molly to help her mother. Molly also returned to her telephonist job at the Meatworks, a position she was to hold till she retired.

2. Jack (1922 – 1944). The outbreak of war saw Jack enlist in the RAAF to become a pilot, his initial training was done at Bradfield Park, Sydney, and he completed his training in Canada. From Canada he was seconded to the RAF in England as a Captain, flying many missions in the Sterling, the largest of the British bombers. In 1943 Jack was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French Government. The press report read –

“It has been officially announced that Pilot Officer J. H. McNamara, RAAF, of Riverstone has been awarded the Croix de Guerre. News has been received by his widowed mother, telling how on the field of battle, General Koenig, of the Free French Forces, pinned the decoration on the breast of her eldest son, who had accomplished notable work in dropping supplies to the Marquis (the French Underground), before the liberation of France.”

On the 28th November 1944, on a mission over Norway dropping supplies to the Norwegian Resistance, a Lancaster bomber piloted by Jack was brought down by German gunfire. The plane crashed in a field near Sande (pronounced Sonda) but nothing more was known of the fate of the six crew members. At the time the McNamara family was notified that he was missing; but it was not until some time after the war ended that it was confirmed that all six crew members had been killed instantly. Bill recalled this period as being very stressful for his mother and the family, knowing Jack was missing, all the time fearing the worst, and clinging to the hope that he may have survived and had been taken as a POW.

In 1959 Bill had the opportunity to visit Norway and wanting to visit his brother’s grave, hired a car and an interpreter. Driving some 30 miles out of Oslo they came to Sande and eventually located the church and the cemetery, Bill recalling that though it was spring-time, the fields were still covered with snow.

As they got out of the car they were approached by a group of children on their bikes, curious to know what Bill and the interpreter were doing there. When Bill’s mission was explained to them they put down their bikes, then trampled the snow down to make a trail leading to the area of the war graves site. As they led them along the trail, they were proudly telling the story of how these men were their heroes, how they had helped the Norwegian Resistance during the War.

Later the Pastor of the Lutheran Church related to Bill the events of that day in 1944. The plane had completed its mission that night when it was hit and crashed in a nearby field. Aware that the Germans would only bury the men in a mass grave, the Norwegian Resistance were anxious to recover the bodies first and give them a proper Christian burial. Following a skirmish at the crash site at daylight next morning, the Germans retreated and left the bodies to the Resistance and the victims were given a proper burial. Today, each grave is marked with a proper War Service headstone. The Pastor went on to explain that the village of Sande hold their Remembrance Day (similar to our Anzac Day) at this cemetery site each year.

3. Tommy b.1923. Attended Riverstone Public School, then Westmead Technical College for a few months before leaving when he was aged 14 years. He recalls while still at school doing the odd jobs such as cutting firewood, ploughing the paddock, growing crops, feeding stock, etc. Another of his jobs was to milk the Meatworks manager’s cow when he was away buying stock.

His first job was at the Meatworks as a drover and one of the first items he bought was a sulky from Charlie Fisher to enable his mother to get to Jack Abell’s place in South Street, Marsden Park where she worked one day a week to help support her young family. He paid two pounds for it and Charlie gave him the sulky, and also all the harness and gear that went with it. Tommy said it was a beautiful hickory sulky and the pony used to pull it was the one the McNamara children had learnt to ride on.

He enlisted in the AIF in January 1942, along with his mates, Cliff Conway and Harry Groves. Their initial training was done at Bathurst, then in Queensland at Charters Towers, Hughenden, and Canungra where they completed their jungle training. They were then shipped to Bougainville. Tom was discharged from the Army in 1946 and returned to his employment at the Meatworks. He married Mary Doolan in 1949, eventually moving into a house they built adjacent to his mother’s in
Riverstone Road. It was here they raised their four children – Christine, John, Michael and Marie.

He was now a member of the staff at the works, working for varying periods in the Beef House, Laboratory, Margarine, Packing Room, Boning Room, Local Sales and as a stock buyer. In later years he was in charge of the stockmen, the dairies, the paddocks and was responsible for the Company putting 135 acres under irrigation and growing their own stock feed.

4. Bill (see below).

5. Monica. Worked as a secretary in the Sydney office of the movie makers Metro Goldwyn Mayer. At the age of 21 she applied to become a Sister of the Order of St Josephs of Orange of California. Completing her training she came back to Australia and taught Kindergarten at Gymea for several years, before returning to America to study to become a teacher of the intellectually disabled. Successful, she returned to Australia and was posted to Toowoomba where she taught the disabled for a period of 17 years.

6. Brian. The youngest in the family, left school and served a four year apprenticeship as a hairdresser with Dick Alliband in his Windsor shop. When illness forced Ossie Robbins to retire in 1954, Brian took over the hairdressing business in Conway’s shop. From 1964 to 1968, he operated his business in the old Commercial Bank building in Garfield Road. Brian was a keen sportsman, played Rugby League with Riverstone and with the Parramatta District Club. Though Brian liked to discuss all the sporting events of the day, Rugby League was the favourite topic in his saloons.

4. Bill (William). Was born on the 19th October 1927 and attended Riverstone Public School from 1934 to 1940, then completed his secondary schooling with three years at Auburn High School gaining his Intermediate Certificate. With Jack and Tommy both away at the war, it was left to Bill to do most of the work on the farm.

He recalls during these schooldays how he always wanted to become a builder. He remembers fixing structures and nailing iron on to fowl sheds that had blown off in the wind, then the next storm would blow it off again. It made him more determined than ever to become a builder, so that he could help his mother by fixing these things properly.

With his schooling completed he became an apprentice carpenter at the Meatworks, signing up for five years with the Riverstone Meat Company and attending Granville Technical College. At the end of World War 2 and with agreement from the manager Ned Leeson, Bill transferred the final two years of his apprenticeship to home builders Jim Hanney and Athol Rankin.

At the completion of his apprenticeship and with the two years’ experience he gained with the home builders, he was able to branch out on his own as a builder. He recalled while building a house at Wentworthville, he would ride his bike to the station and catch the 5.40 a.m. train. Returning of an evening a young lad named Peter Rosa would often run out and ask Bill “did he have a job for him”. One day Peter came out and as he was running alongside, he was told to be on the 5.40 a.m. train the next morning. So from an interview conducted on a push bike began the career of a man who worked with Bill for 40 years, coming through the ranks to become the McNamara Group’s General Manager.

Bill married Pat Hynds in 1950 and they built a home at 22 Hunter Street, Riverstone. It was a fibro house with a tiled roof. Bill well remembers the board floors, the brown paper blinds, and the kitchen table he built himself, an old door attached to the wall at one end and supported on two legs at the other. Here they commenced raising their six children – Anthony, Carol, Alan, Sharon, Christopher and Maureen. The family lived there until the 1960s. Needing a larger home they built on a three acre block overlooking the golf course at Kellyville. Ray Brookes was the carpenter to build this home. Following several smaller jobs, the first home Bill built in Riverstone was in West Parade for George and Una Drayton. After building several homes in the district he commenced construction work and many of his earliest jobs were at the Richmond Air Force base.

In 1953 he built his office and joinery factory in Riverstone Parade, Riverstone, being one of the first factories to be built in that industrial area. A fire in 1960 destroyed much of this factory, including the offices.

After using his home in Hunter Street as a temporary office for a short time, he decided to move his office to a renovated house in Church Street, Parramatta. As the company expanded he moved to larger offices in Parramatta CBD, ultimately being located in his own building, the McNamara Centre.

The original RSL Club at Riverstone was a converted Army hut. Bill gained the contract for the first extensions, and then many other extensions that followed. Bill recalled his dealings with the committee members of the day, Charlie Fisher, Steve Simmons, Bert Clinkie, Harry Dobson and Dave Justice.

When the Riverstone Bowling Club first formed in the 1950s they had the old clubhouse from the Windsor Club transported to their site on the corner of Mill and Pitt Streets. So successful was the club that within a few years they had Bill McNamara design and build the clubhouse that stands today.

The construction jobs continued to grow at Richmond Base, with Bill winning contracts to build new mess halls, sleeping quarters, and the control tower. He also gained contracts to build Lithgow Workers Club, extensions at Lithgow Small Arms Factory and Ingleburn Army Camp.

As a 29 year old he spent six weeks touring America, a trip he described as most enlightening, enabling him to recognise the many opportunities for growth and development that existed in Australia at that time.

Following his return from the States and with his confidence of the future, the McNamara Group became involved with large scale developments and built such places as the WestPoint Shopping Mall at Blacktown, Marketown Malls at Riverstone, Leichhardt, Newcastle, and Gosford. Numerous high schools were also built, including Dundas, Mt. Druitt, Glenfield, Macquarie Fields, and Fairfield.

He also built numerous churches and retirement villages throughout New South Wales and Queensland, including the Willows Retirement Village at Northmead. Some of his landmarks in the Parramatta district include the McNamara Centre, the Octagon, the United Permanent Building, the Parramatta Cultural Centre, the J.A. Fleming Stand at Rosehill, the Hunter Street car park, and the Riverside Theatres.

Other big projects were the Country Comfort Inn at Pennant Hills, the Penrith Panthers Motor Inn, Penrith Park Grandstand, Knightsbridge shopping centre, Blacktown RSL Club, Parklea Prison, Century Radison Hotel at Kings Cross and the hotel opposite the Sydney Entertainment Centre.

He built and owns the 450 acre Del Rio Tourist Resort at Wisemans Ferry and has never missed an opportunity to promote tourism in the Western areas of Sydney. At its peak the McNamara Group employed some 300 people.

He is intensely proud of his staff from Riverstone and cannot speak highly enough of what their efforts meant to the success of the McNamara Group. He said any story on McNamara must mention such people as Peter Rosa, the Watton brothers John, Alan and Colin, his secretary for 34 years Jan Goddard, Neville Vaughan and his son Garth, Donny Moulds, Ray Brookes, Alwyn Mills, Jim Hanney, Bluey Buchan, Warren Cook, Laurie and Barry Greenacre, Brian Watts, Ronnie Watts, Warren Wiggins, Mark Stacey, Charlie Wallace, Robert Dobson, Barry Crouch, Jimmy Wolffe, Trish Doolan, Reg & Barry Woods, Herbie Reiser, Graham & Les Britton, Neville Biddle, John & Robert Abell, ‘Poppy’ Cameron, (with sincere apologies to all those people we have failed to mention).

With all his success in the building industry, Bill has never forgotten his links with Riverstone, often referring to it as the ‘Golden Town of the West’ and is proud to recall his childhood memories there.

As a young man Bill played Rugby League with Riverstone for several years and later worked on the committee. Throughout his life he continued this interest in football, became the club’s Patron, and gave up much of his valuable time to coach the junior teams for many years.

He was the man responsible for building the Footballers’ Hall at the corner of Creek Street and Garfield Road. He organised the removal of the two army huts from Ingleburn and then provided much of the labour to help the volunteers assemble it. The hall was opened in 1957 and was used for Balls, dances , wedding receptions, parties, club meetings etc. for the 30 years it existed.

He has always maintained a strong interest in the community, with such activities as –

  • Chairman of St. Gabriel’s School for deaf children for 30 years.
  • Trustee for the Parramatta Stadium for 10 years.
  • Chairman of the Economic Development Board of Greater Western Sydney for 4 years.
  • Patron and Life Member of Riverstone Bowling Club, almost from its inception.
  • Patron and Life Member of Riverstone RSL Club.

Bill McNamara’s efforts to the community were rewarded on Australia Day 1985, when he was awarded the Order of Australia Medal. I am sure that every resident of Riverstone will agree with me, this was an honour richly deserved by a person who has done so much for the community.

Compiled by Clarrie Neal from information provided by Bill and Tommy McNamara in May 2000.

The Dying Butcher’s Farewell

By E.W. Forbes For Herman Wittig

This poem appeared in the W. & R. Gazette on the 18th December 1897, along with this footnote:-

Herman Wittig’s address is Riverstone – the best shop outside Sydney for a shave, shampoo, or a haircut. Pipes repaired and cleaned, and good cigars and tobacco.

A butcher from our meatworks, lay dying in his bed
His comrades standing by could see, his life had almost fled.
They listened with an anxious ear, to what he might say
They knew full well he could not live, till dawned another day.

“Oh, comrades” said the dying man, “one last fond wish I crave,
Do take me to Wittig’s shop, to get a decent shave.
In days gone by he cut my hair, made me look spruce and clean
And many a time in Wittig’s shop, some splendid work I’ve seen.

“My uncle from strange foreign lands,
Had youth and beauty in his looks, when shaved by Wittig’s hands,
And Mother, ‘ah friends’, she was the kindest of mammas
Would often say she loved the smell, of Wittig’s best cigars.

“She always gave us good advice, as only mothers can
And she told us when we learnt to smoke, that Wittig was the man
Who sold the best tobacco, and did a roaring trade
And put all the other shops in town, completely in the shade.
“Tell her I did my work real well, and if her poor heart frets

Tell her I smoked my farewell smoke, in Wittig’s cigarettes.
She knows that I obeyed her, then ‘twill her poor heart cheer,
But give my love to Wittig, lads, I cannot linger here.”

“I’m dying, yes, I’m dying,” gasped the gallant butcher, when
He gently sighed and breathed his last, amidst the bravest men.
And when he reached the golden gate, St. Peter shook his hand
And told him amongst the angels, to take a glorious stand.
Good old St. Patrick welcomed him, and hoped he’d always stop,
For well he knew that he had brought, some weed from Wittig’s shop

The following is an excerpt from the booklet “The Hairdressers” by Clarrie Neal.

The Barber’s shop in many country towns was not just a place where you got a haircut and a shave, for the locals it was a meeting place, a place to talk and where you learnt what was happening in the town. This was certainly the case with Riverstone. With no electricity, hair was cut with scissors and hand held clippers, and shaving was done with a cut-throat razor.

In 1894 Mr Herman Wittig, Hairdresser and Tobacconist, operated the ‘London Shaving Saloon & Store’ at 16 Garfield Road. This was the same building used as a shoe shop by Eric and Fay Brookes from the 1960s.

The poem above, written by a butcher from the Meatworks, gives an indication of the respect Herman Wittig received from the community. However, this respect could not endure through the years of the First World War, and Mr Wittig, a barber in the town for more than 20 years, saw many of his customers desert his business. He was virtually forced to leave Riverstone because of his German ancestry.

The Battle of Vinegar Hill

by Chris Counter

The Battle of Vinegar Hill Re-enactment at Rouse Hill was a significant cultural event in 2004. This is the experience of Chris Counter who started out with only a general interest in the subject but unexpectedly finished up reliving the history of those days in March 1804.

Courtesy of my employer Sell & Parker Pty Ltd, I attended a fundraising luncheon at Parliament House on 16th July 2003, for Blacktown City Labor Councillors. Councillor Alan Pendleton, Mayor of Blacktown City gave an address in which he spoke of the forthcoming commemoration of the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Vinegar Hill. Having an interest in local history, I was immediately excited by the prospect of a local celebration.

Following mounting publicity about the event I decided on the 21st February this year to contact Historica Pty Ltd, the organizers of the re-enactment, to offer any last minute assistance on the weekend of the celebration, with the rider that I was prepared to do anything to help. (To be honest I was thinking of some sort of administration work).

As advised by Historica, I completed a participant application form and returned it by the cut off date of 27th February, ticking off in the appropriate box my availability to help at all events. On Monday 1st March, I received an e-mail asking if I would like to participate in a group re-tracing the 30 kilometre walk of the convicts involved in the breakout from Castle Hill Government Farm to Rouse Hill (site of the Battle of Vinegar Hill), via ‘Sugar Loaf’ (Constitution) Hill in Wentworthville. I was very pleased to be asked and agreed after a 10 second consideration.

As this was to be an authentic re-enactment, guidelines were issued as to what to wear and what not to wear. I immediately began a search amongst friends for hemp rope, a wooden water bottle, a plain coloured wool blanket and an old black lantern. The costume was to be loaned by Historica.

On Tuesday 2nd March, I shaved off my moustache for only the second time in 20 years and shaped my beard in a style after Joseph Holt, an Irish leader who, whilst involved in the planning of the uprising, did not take part. My wife suggested I now looked like a leprechaun (which was not my intention).

I arrived at Rouse Hill Regional Park at 3pm on Thursday 4th March, 200 years to the day of the rebellion. We were due to leave by bus for Castle Hill Heritage Park, (the original site of the Government Farm), at 6.30pm. The time spent in between was used to sort out clothing, get dressed and into character. At 5.30pm an urgent call was received at the park from Blacktown Railway station, where a late arrival from the North coast had just arrived. He was asking for suggestions on how he could get to the park in time to catch the bus with us. With no other way of him getting to the park on time I offered to drive to Blacktown and collect him. In the last minute rush after we arrived back at the park I left my food in the car, which was to be somewhat of a relief later that night as you will read further on.

16 of us, led by Dr Stephen Gapps, arrived at Castle Hill Heritage Park at 7.30pm. As we circled the crowd on hand for the commemorative ceremony of the breakout at the Government Farm, I felt the first of what was to be many goose bump attacks. As speeches were being made by the dignitaries present we walked quietly through the crowd to the official dias where we stood for a few minutes before moving off past the archeological diggings of the convict barracks on route to Constitution Hill Reserve. Walking silently past the diggings under the full moon was a very eerie sensation.

As this was a serious re-enactment there was a reserved attitude amongst the group. Most of us were carrying a lighted lantern and a 2 metre long wooden pole, some with bayonets attached. All of us carried a bedroll over our shoulder. As we headed toward Castle Hill shopping centre the odd passing motorists gave us a wave and a toot which was encouraging.

We arrived at Constitution Hill Reserve at 11.15pm most of us tired and weary. Stephen insisted that we should immediately practice some drill then have a few drinks as had been done on the same spot 200 years before. To his commands we practiced our advancing and ordering of the Pike (our poles) until there was some form of synchronization to the movements, then we practiced marching. It was goose bump time for me as we marched in the moonlight on top of the hill, the air still and warm.

We were not permitted to light a fire. As it was a mild night we decided not to use the tents that had been dropped off at the park earlier in the day. We laid out our blankets on the grass and had a few drinks, my drink was of the roughest grog I have ever tasted. Not unlike, I would imagine, the spirits looted by the rebels on their journey in 1804. There was talk of what the rebels would have been thinking 200 years before when there was no signal fire to be seen at Parramatta. A burning Elizabeth Farm would have been clearly visible from this elevated position and given them reason to move on to Parramatta. The absence of the signal forced the change of plan to turn to the Hawkesbury, seeking supporters to join their ranks.

Food was now being shared around. Crusty bread with thick hunks of cheese and preserved meat, unwrapped from rough cloths. At that point I was glad I had left my food in the car as, forgetting to be completely authentic, my wife had wrapped my shaved turkey, camembert and sun dried tomato sandwiches in those neat zip top plastic individual sandwich bags! I did not tell the others about that.

Just before bedding down, 2 of our party decided that rather than face a night under the stars and another 15 kilometre walk at dawn, they would prefer to be picked up by their wives and taken home. There were now 14 of us left. The last attack of goose bumps for the day came as I lay looking up into the sky thinking that, whilst so much has changed in NSW over the last 200 years I was able to look up at basically the same sight seen by the insurgents in 1804.

Not long after dawn the next morning we packed up our gear, posed for some photographs for the Sydney Morning Herald, then proceeded on with our journey (having no tea, coffee or breakfast). As we neared the junction of the Windsor Road and the M2 motorway we were joined by another walker who was not able to start with us at Castle Hill the previous night. Our number was now 15. Passing motorists took a great interest in us as we walked on the side of Windsor Road. Traffic in both directions tooted their horn and waved as they passed. We were stopped by the Police as we approached the junction of Seven Hills Road. A motorist had called them to report a sighting of a “Bunch of men wearing turbans and carrying sticks with knives tied on the end”. Even though the Police had been advised of our intended route they were obliged to check out the report. They left us, chuckling to themselves.

By the time we reached the corner of Sunnyholt Road, where we stopped for refreshments, another three of our group felt they should not continue. Bleeding blisters and swollen feet might mean they would not be able to join the Battle Re-enactment on Sunday if they carried on, so a lift was provided. Our group now numbered 11.

We reached the perimeter of Castlebrook Cemetery at 11am where we rested until 11.30am, the time that the battle took place in 1804. At 11.30am we walked across the lawn and up the hill to the Battle of Vinegar Hill Monument where the Commemoration Ceremony was taking place. We arrived to cheers from other costumed re-enactors and the crowd gathered to hear an address from, among others, the Mayor of Blacktown and the Irish Consul General.

I suffered my final attack of the goose bumps on this walk as we stood for one minute silence, exactly 200 years to the day and time that the Battle of Vinegar Hill took place.

Once I had accepted the invitation to “walk the walk”, I assumed that I would not be needed to take part in the actual re-enactment of the Battle of Vinegar Hill on Sunday 7th of March. During the walk however I found out that I would be the only one of those walking not to take part in the battle, so I decided that I should join in.

I was not available to rehearse on Saturday or to see the steady stream of more than 200 enthusiastic volunteer re-enactors on both sides that came from far and wide to take part in the event. A live-in authentic camp site of more than 30 tents was being set up to demonstrate camp life in 1804.

On Sunday I arrived at Rouse Hill at 8.00am. I had driven from Gladesville through pouring rain that gradually abated until I reached Rouse Hill where it had thankfully not rained at all. There was plenty of activity in the park with portable stages, stalls, seating and toilets now evident in various sections. Whilst it was overcast there was a general buzz of anticipation, dare I say excitement, among the people present. More importantly the general public was beginning to come in the gates. I was issued with a facsimile of a wax sealed copy of a pass signed by Lieut Col Paterson adjutant for Governor Phillip Gidley King. This security pass was to be used for coming in and out of the camp which was closed to the general public but on view to them from all sides.

By 10.30am we were practicing drill, I had been seconded to the 2nd division of pike, a group of about 50. Following drill practice a group of Irishmen from Wexford in Ireland joined our ranks. The Irish accents in the ranks seemed to add greater authenticity to the cause though “Billy”, standing next to me dressed in a crisp white shirt, nicely pressed dark waistcoat and trousers, Nike sandals and socks, looked slightly out of place.

There was no doubting his enthusiasm for the event however which was infectious to those surrounding him. He tried to explain to me the Irish meaning of the word “vinegar” which apparently has a different meaning to that known to us. His soft voice, a quick rain shower and the growing din of those around us, prevented me from clearly hearing his explanation.

At 11.30am we were due to start the re-enactment but as so many people were still moving into the park and toward the viewing area, we were delayed. The atmosphere was tense. Calls of Death to the Lobsters, (a term used in the 1800’s for the red coated troops of the NSW Corps), rang loud as did insults back from the troops to the croppies. By the time we moved off in formation to the area where the re-enactment was to take place we looked and sounded to be a rowdy angry mob. “Death or liberty” was the catch cry.

The crowd cheered their encouragement as we came into view which predictably lifted even higher the spirits of all taking part. During the extremely noisy and smokey battle those chosen to die, be wounded or run away, did so on cue until the battle ended.

Those chosen to die stayed where they fell until after the battle, at which time they were retrieved by a descendant of one of the original participants in the battle in 1804. I found this to be a particularly moving end to the re-enactment.

At the end of the day Historica Pty Ltd presented us with a “Kings Shilling” as payment for the days work in the re-enactment.

So what is the legacy of this re-enactment and the cultural events leading up to it? It has highlighted to the people of NSW, more importantly the people of Western Sydney, the significance of this incident that has for so long been ignored. A false sense of history has been created through lack of education relating to the uprising, its causes and its consequences. This commemoration will surely correct that by encouraging more debate and research on the subject.

Souvenir certificate from the Vinegar Hill celebrations at Castle Hill Farm on 4 March 2004.

Rouse Hill & Aberdoon House

by Jilly H. Warren

The following article was extracted from a booklet on Aberdoon house written for the occasion of its official opening. The complete booklet is available at the Riverstone Museum.

During 2002/2003 Aberdoon House has been restored to its appearance in the 1890s when this area of Rouse Hill was a very busy village, half way between Parramatta and Windsor. Within a few short years, the popularity of the new Railway and the building of the Meat Works in Riverstone saw a decline in Rouse Hill as a village centre. It took almost another 100 years for Rouse Hill to become a vibrant community once again, with Aberdoon House and the new Rouse Hill Community Centre playing an important part in that activity.

The land on which Aberdoon House stands is now only 3.9 acres, (1.54 hectares) a fraction of the original 50 acres granted to Thomas Clower an emancipist, in January 1818. The adjoining property of 35 acres was granted also on that date to former convict William Harvey.

In 1826 Irish emancipist Hugh Kelly of Irish Town (today’s Kellyville) and sometimes referred to as ‘There or Nowhere’, bought both the Clower 50 acre grant and Harvey’s 35 acres. In Hugh Kelly’s will of 1835 he left this 85 acres which he called his Vinegar Hill Farm to his brother ex convict Owen Kelly, who then sold it to another ex convict John McKenzie of Pitt Town in 1840. Shortly after, in 1841, McKenzie sold Vinegar Hill Farm for £150 to brothers, William and Dr. Alexander Gamack. It is the Gamack brothers who first subdivided the land, calling it the Village of Aberdour, named after the village of their birth near Edinburgh, Scotland. The residual of Vinegar Hill Farm, 68 acres 1 rood 2 perches, (the land not part of the village) came into the sole ownership of Alexander Gamack, a surgeon in the Colonial Medical Service, by December 1843.

The Village of Aberdour encompassed approximately the area bounded by today’s Windsor Road, east along the fenceline of Christ Church to Clower Avenue, north following Clower Avenue across Aberdour Avenue to an imaginary fence, returning west to Windsor Road beside today’s butcher’s shop. The park called the Village of Aberdour Reserve was named on the original subdivision as Buchan Square, and was a similar shape and dimension.

In the Australian of April 1841, an announcement is made for the forthcoming sale of the allotments in the newly formed Village of Aberdour: Below is an extract of that advertisement including a cute rhyme:

Messrs. White and Co., on Friday
the 23rd Day of April, this same being St. George’s day:
…this favoured spot of nature, where the surrounding scenery is truly delightful, the land fertile, the air salubrious, the water pure and delicious in the never failing streams which flow on either side of the village, enlivening and ornamenting the landscape, and in the rippling currents fish, such as perch, mullet etc. are numerous and delight to sport in the translucent wave,
Where fish cry out,
“Now come and hook me,
Bring your frying-pan and cook me.”

Alexander Gamack retained ownership of Vinegar Hill Farm until 1875, when he conveyed it to Henry Nicholls for £136. Henry Nicholls’ two sons gained ownership of Vinegar Hill Farm by gift, John receiving over 9 acres outright in 1876 and James receiving the rest of the farm in 1878, his father retaining life tenancy. In 1882 the main farm now reduced to 58 acres 0 roods and 1 perch was sold to Isaac Rhodes Cooper for £450.

I have no information on Isaac Rhodes Cooper and the “NSW Post Office Directory of 1886-7” is no help either, listing him just as Isaac Rhodes Cooper, no profession mentioned. In his third year of ownership, April 1885 he mortgaged the farm, discharging the mortgage just prior to selling it in 1886 for £890 to John Charles Burrell, a Chemist of George Street West, Sydney (today’s Rocks area). It is probable that Isaac Cooper was the builder / refurbisher of Aberdoon as shown by the doubling of purchase price and the mortgage of 1885, although there is also a substantial jump in price from 1875 (£136) and 1882 (£450).

If there was a residence on the original Clower grant, it is not mentioned in any conveyance, nor is the residence we know existed on the Harvey grant, until the sale of the estate after John Burrell’s death. It is in John Burrell’s will we first encounter the name Aberdoon. No explanation for this name can be accounted for except perhaps a corruption of Aberdour. The name Aberdour we know to be correct because of its connection to the birthplace of Alexander and William Gamack. The name Aberdoon has no precedent until the late 1890s, but as can be seen today, this name is clearly visible on the lintel over the western door, accompanied by the date 1887. William Harvey’s residence during the first years of the grant as noted in the General Muster and Land and Stock Muster of NSW 1882, would have been very austere, with no luxuries just basic shelter, built from whatever was at hand. The area at that time was a very inhospitable place a long way from civilization.

There is some evidence to believe that there was a very basic rubble cottage where Aberdoon House stands today. It would have perhaps had a dirt floor, no glass in the windows, solid timber shutters and one or two doors with, in the first instance, a thatched roof, later perhaps one of bark or shingles. This is a conclusion I have made based on the rubble interior of the present house. During refurbishment it was discovered that Aberdoon’s interior (the original 4 rooms and hallway) is cement rendered rubble. It had been supposed that the walls were two layers of stone, rubble filled, the same construction technique used at Rouse Hill House. This is because they both have quoining. Quoining is the smooth stone corner detail on this house, partly a decorative feature, but more importantly a construction technique to strengthen the building. Although rubble was mentioned in the 1950s refurbishment of Aberdoon, it surprised many of us to find the cement render was adhering to rubble only.

In the late 1880s during the first golden period of Aberdoon House and farm, Rouse Hill Public School and a five roomed teacher’s residence was built (1888) on the hill opposite Rouse Hill House. It replaced the earlier church school and later public school of 1875, which was part of the Christ Church Rouse Hill complex of buildings that also included a teacher’s residence. The church had been built in 1863 without a chancel and vestry, which was not added until 1878, the year the church was consecrated. The teacher’s residence was also erected during this period. A Police Station (Watch House) stood from 1842 until the early 1900s, across Second Ponds Creek on the corner of Windsor and today’s Annangrove Road. When the Watch House was built, Annangrove Road did not exist. During the 1880s, also, within the Village of Aberdour, George Whitling built a rather stylish home on the Windsor Road, adding a separate building for the Post Office and General Store. This house, today’s butcher’s shop is all that remains of the original group of buildings. The large verandahs have been demolished, along with the outbuildings, tennis court, neat picket fence, general store and post office. To the south along the Windsor Road across what is today’s Aberdour Avenue stood the stone and weatherboard Emu and Kangaroo Inn and outbuildings. Further along on the Parramatta side of this complex, just past Christ Church, stood the Queen’s Arms Inn, a well patronised coaching inn of two storey brick, stone foundations and verandahs to both storeys. It was here in 1857 that the first post office, known as the Vinegar Hill Post Office began in a back room of the inn. Names associated with this inn are the Retallick and Schofield families although the inn was actually owned by the Hon. Robert Fitzgerald and his family from 1840. There was a short period of other ownership in the middle of the century, with Robert regaining the property by 1853. Robert Fitzgerald was son of ex Irish convict Richard Fitzgerald of Windsor, who reputedly was related to the Earl of Leinster, Lord Fitzgerald a well known United Irishman. Robert married Elizabeth Henrietta, youngest daughter of Richard Rouse of Rouse Hill House. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly and was appointed to the Legislative Council. In 1863, Robert through a deed of gift gave ¾ acre (approx. 3000 square metres) of this land to the Bishop of Sydney to build Christ Church.

The Mean Fiddler was built circa late 1830s and is the same building we view today as the single level stone building at the front of the complex. It at one time had substantial outbuildings including stables, a ballroom and a blacksmith’s. Other names for the inn that operated here for many years were the Royal Oak, and the Half Way House. During the 1970s, it was called Windsor Way when it operated as a restaurant and also as an antique shop. The original grant for this property was to John Davis in January 1818, the same date as that of Clower, Harvey and Thomas Kelly. Thomas Kelly owned the original grant of 46 acres between the Village of Aberdour and The Royal Oak (Mean Fiddler). Later owners of this property are known to have been John Booth and wife Sarah Tighe, John Seath and family and the Petersen Family.

As the Emu and Kangaroo Inn disappeared from the village shortly after the mid 1880s it was the probable source of the stone used to build or refurbish Aberdoon House in 1887. Or perhaps it was stone from the first Vinegar Hill Tollhouse, also long since vanished from the area. It once stood on the hill opposite Rouse Hill House, somewhere in the vicinity of the 1888 Rouse Hill School. Wherever the stone came from historians and the heritage consultants agree that the stone used for the 1887 house appears to be reclaimed stone. It is pigeon picked, a trademark of the convict era.

John Devlin and Margaret Devlin, great grandparents of Elizabeth Plimer of Canberra, (descendent of the Swanns) were the caretakers of Aberdoon during the ownership of John Burrell. It is to Elizabeth we owe thanks for the interesting photo of Aberdoon, used as the template by the Council for the restoration of the house. We have other oral information transmitted via the Swann grandchildren of the happy times spent visiting the Devlin’s at Aberdoon, where John and Margaret spent their later years contentedly growing fruit, vegetables and flowers as caretakers for John Burrell. These items would accompany the grandchildren to their home at Elizabeth Farm, in Parramatta. A close examination of the Swann family photo of Aberdoon reveals that there once was a pseudo widow’s walk of wrought iron to the apex of the roofline, a typical high Victorian architectural device. It is hoped that at a later date this unusual wrought iron decorative feature can be added to the roof. Following the death of John Burrell in 1898, the executors John Devlin and his son-in-law William Swann sold the property, with the proceeds going to John Burrell’s niece in England. It is in John Burrell’s will that we encounter the first official use of the name Aberdoon.

The next owner George Whitling had previously been the coachman for Rouse Hill House, but owing to the Rouse family’s financial difficulties, he was no longer employed by them and had taken the opportunity to set himself up in business as the owner of the General Store and Post Office. The signatures of 1898 preserved on the wall of the present house are Arthur Whitling, Joe & Arthur Sherwood, Billy Chambers, Percy (?) Stranger, the rest indecipherable. Arthur Whitling was the only son of George and Mary Whitling who later served on Baulkham Hills Shire Council for many years, commencing in 1912, retiring in 1941. He also served many terms as Shire President and in other community organizations. A park in the centre of Castle Hill was renamed Arthur Whitling Castle Hill Park, in 2001. Joe Sherwood was employed in the Rouse Hill General Store and I presume Arthur Sherwood is his brother. These Sherwood’s were related by marriage to the Whitmores, who owned 29 acres to the north of Aberdoon and are well known Hills residents. I do not know who Billy Chambers was or who the other person is whose signature looks like Percy Stranger. However, the Strangers are also well known in Rouse Hill and Kellyville.

In 1912 George Whitling died, his wife Mary in 1916, both are buried in the Rouse Hill cemetery. The property was sold to James Hogan, by the executors Arthur Whitling and his brother-in-law Arthur Albert Roberts. James Hogan sold it soon after in 1919 to John (Jack) Campbell Lamont. Jack also owned at this time the Post Office and General Store on Windsor Road. He had the mail contract from Baulkham Hills to Annangrove in the 1920s and operated a Model T Ford Bus, which acted as a school bus for the area. Aberdoon later passed to his son, John Marr Lamont, as a gift, full ownership not being obtained until after his mother Janet released ownership to him in 1932. The Lamonts were well known local people. Doris Lamont, nee Bennett, wife of John Marr was so well respected that the craft pavilion at the Castle Hill Showground was named after her. Several families of Lamonts still live within the shire. Sometime during the early 1900s (Lamont ownership) the slab barn that stands to the south of the house was refurbished. We know it was during the Lamont ownership as the words “Lamont and Riverstone” (the nearest railway station) are still visible on the underside of the corrugated iron roof sheeting.

During the years 1934 – 1938, Aberdoon was leased to a Michael Brown and was believed to have operated as a dairy. John Marr Lamont sold it in 1938 to Caroline Pearce (probably a member of the local Pearce family), pioneers of the Hills District and previous owners of large tracts of land in Seven Hills, Kellyville and Rouse Hill. In 1944 her husband Joseph William Pearce, as executor, sold Aberdoon to Miss Dorothy Frazer of Parramatta. Dorothy Frazer only held Aberdoon for a short time reselling to Dr. Rex Angel Money in 1947. Dorothy remained as caretaker until 1949. A photo of Aberdoon during the ownership of Miss Frazer, in the Money family papers, shows the house minus the verandah, with a filled in skillion of weatherboard to the eastern façade and small square porch to the western façade. There are fixed hooded awnings over the windows.

Dr. Money was an eminent Neurologist, an Australian pioneer in the field of Neuro Surgery. He ran Aberdoon as a hobby farm with a wide variety of animals, including cows, pigs, horses and poultry of various kinds. Dr. Money kept meticulous notes on the health of each animal, their breeding programme, and in the case of their death, performed autopsies to discover the cause, carefully documenting these details in his notebooks. Aberdoon was a happy home for Dr. Rex, his wife Noppy, their two daughters, Angela and Carole, and their many weekend guests. The visitors in the Visitor’s Book constantly praised the fresh country air, wholesome country food and hospitality. In their absence the family relied on the services of a caretaker to look after the farm. During the first years of their ownership, a major refurbishment of the house was undertaken under the supervision of an Architectural firm in Sydney, Fowell Mansfield & Maclurcan. A local builder Gaston Lester of Castle Hill son of a local family who lived in Nelson was contracted to do the work. The rubble interior of the house was a major cause of the delay, as was rising damp and last minute additions to the original plans. Gaston quarried stone for the refurbishment from his family property in Blind Road, Nelson, an area that had been called in the past The Rocks or The North Rocks.

The architects first suggested design for the refurbishment of Aberdoon was for an extension each side to create the complete Regency (George 1V) house. However, this design was never built owing to the high cost and the building material rationing (a result of WW11). Only the northern wing was added. This wing created an ultra modern 1950s home with kitchen, bathroom and laundry/mud room. French doors were added to the two bedrooms on the southern side. The weatherboarded eastern side was stripped and received a delicate verandah embellished with wrought iron posts and lace inserts. The southern elevation received a large pergola on which to train the wisteria already growing. Shutters were added to all the windows and painted dark green and the rather plain exterior was painted with several layers of pale pink lime wash, the recipe of which, Dr. Money had brought back from America. It was said to be the paint used on the White House in Washington.

Major refurbishment to the inside of Aberdoon House was also done at this time. A neat fibro caretaker’s cottage was added to the eastern gateway of the house paddock.

During the next few years, Dr. Money also bought other properties in the village adding about another 20 acres to the property, including the Wright family property known as Araluen. It was Dorothy Wright Haywood who first told me about the wrought iron decoration which had been on the roof of Aberdoon House. Because of these early memories I traced the house to Elizabeth Plimer and her knowledge of her ancestors connection to Aberdoon, although she was unaware of the house name or exactly where it was.

Dr. Rex later changed his land from old systems to Torrens Title and sold in 1973 his bottom paddocks (William Harvey’s land) as Lot 2, to Amalgamated Developments Pty. Ltd., although he retained until the late 1990s the use of that land for agistment. He later sold all the other allotments he owned in the village and more of the original Clower land still attached to Aberdoon House so that at the time the Council bought the house and farm, the land size was a mere 3.9 acres (1.54 hectares). Fortunately the Council also bought the land fringing Caddies Creek, part of William Harvey’s 35 acres (and part of the original Vinegar Hill Farm), for Community Open Space. Retained as a tranquil oasis to regenerate into natural bushland, this reserve connects visually to the newly refurbished Aberdoon House and its curtilage. This particular reserve forms part of The Greenway, a soon to be completed pedestrian and cycling corridor starting at Bella Vista Farm, Norwest and finishing across Windsor Road in the Rouse Hill Regional Park.

If you stand on the verandah and look to the east, towards the William Harvey Reserve you will see the recently completed Cultural Experience of six large standing stones with interleaving smaller stones. These artworks are designed to evoke the “Spirit of Place”, to tell the story of what was, what is and what is hoped for the future. Take time to stop by and feel the “Spirit” of Rouse Hill.

Enjoy also the vista and perhaps a visit to Rouse Hill House and Rouse Hill Regional Park visible on the skyline to the west, and the Rouse Hill cemetery on the right down Aberdour Avenue, just before the shops. Many of the people who lived and worked in the Village of Aberdour, the greater village of Rouse Hill and at Aberdoon are buried there.

Riverstone Motor Bike Club

by Robbie Shepherd and Barry Crouch

The year was 1957 and I waited with great anticipation for September 29th to come. On that day, I would be 16 years and 10 months old and could obtain my Learner’s Permit to ride a motor bike and so be able to join the Rivo Motor Bike Club, which had been formed the year before, in 1956. My father had agreed, reluctantly, to me buying a motor bike, providing it was a small one, such as a BSA Bantam 250cc. Imagine his reaction when I arrived home with my “Pride and Joy”, a 1955 model Thunderbird 650cc capable of doing 100 miles an hour.

Barry and I have tried to put together some details of the Club, its members, the activities we were involved in and some of the memorable events. As the years pass the details become a bit scratchy, but the memories linger on.

The Club had about 30 members and Club meetings were held weekly, in the hall behind the Olympia Picture Theatre. The President of the Club was “Tip” Davis, a man in his early 40s then, but to us young blokes he was ‘Old Tip’. You could fill a book just on a story about ‘Old Tip’, but, to sum him up, he just loved motor bikes and he had a shed full of them. Most of these bikes were very old, such as the 1920 model Rudge, and were used for one of our favourite pastimes, ‘Scramble Racing’. I remember starting out racing on one of these old Rudges. They were rigid framed and just riding tested every bone and muscle in your body.

The Club Secretary was Jackie Townsend and the Treasurer was Freddie Alcorn. Fred gave that job away in 1958, I think, and I landed it. Another very important position in the Club was that of Road Captain, which was held by Johnny ‘Big Bear’ Leach. Johnny was an excellent choice for this position because, as well as being a great bloke, he was also a very good and very safe rider and would always stay within the speed limits. The Club Rules were that the Road Captain led the group and nobody was allowed to overtake him.

Other Club Members I remember at the time were Charlie Bottles, Jack ‘Hopalong’ Cassidy, Bill Clarke, Tony Cousins, Barry and Eric Crouch, “Digger” and Ronnie Dillon, Tom Edwards, Leo and Peter Floyd, Alan Greentree, Tony Harris, John Hart, Bill Henning, Jimmy Jones, Ian and Ross Justice, David Keys, Eric Magennis, Alan Marshall, Harold Partridge, Norm Seget, Chris Spryn, Arthur Sullivan and Brian Thompson.

Our official Club Colours were black and pink and we all wore our club jumper, which was a black polo neck with two inch pink stripes, on outings. Mostly, in those days, the motor cycles were English made Triumphs, BSAs or Velocetts, Nortons, A.J.S.s and the odd Harley Davidson. Japanese bikes were not heard of and I think the first one on the market was a Honda Dream. Peter Floyd bought one and it ‘blew up’ in the first two weeks. The Japanese have come a long way since the 1950s.

Most of the racing events we competed in were on what was called ‘Scramble Tracks’ (similar to motor-cross tracks). Most of these were just tracks we made ourselves in back paddocks, up the sides of hills, down through creek beds and over mounds (jumps). We had our own track on a property at Maraylya and also used to ride with the Hawkesbury Club on their track at Bilpin. We also raced on dirt tracks at Blacktown, Penrith and also Moorebank, which was the Big Event of the year.

There was, in those days, a fairly large bitumen circuit at Mount Druitt and the Club was invited to race there on 28th September 1958. The Club’s two riders were Bill Henning and John Leach. They trialled on the Saturday, 27th only to have both bike engines blow up. England’s World Champion, Geoff Juke raced his 500cc Gilera at the same meeting, winning his race. He had three bikes each worth £16,000 ($32,000). For the times this was the equivalent of about five years annual salary. Jack Townsend bought a racer and competed in these high-speed events for a while.

Apart from attending and competing in race meetings, another of our formal activities was Road Trips, a day’s outing or a weekend away. Our favourite time of year was Easter as the Motor Cycle Races were held at Bathurst, with the trials on Good Friday and the races on Saturday. In 1958 and 1959 Riverstone District Motor Cycle Club was invited to the Easter Races at Bathurst to be road marshalls helping to control the races.

Each year we would leave from our favourite meeting place, the Aussie Café next to Conway’s Newsagency on the Thursday night. Our destination that night would be Lithgow where we would all meet at one of the pubs. At closing time (10:00pm) we went to a Chinese Café for a meal and then off to the Pine Forest just out of Lithgow to ‘sleep’ the night. When we arrived there were always a few cars in the off-road parking area we stayed in but, for some reason, not long after we pulled in we had the place to ourselves. The next morning we would ride into Bathurst and set up camp on top of Mt. Panorama where we would stay Friday and Saturday nights until the Bike Races were over.

This event attracted Motor Cycle Clubs from all over NSW and Victoria so it was a pretty lively time. I remember one Saturday night every pub in town shutting its doors as the bike riders in their hundreds went from one pub to the next. I guess we must have seemed like a pretty wild bunch and, for those times, I guess we were. Sure, we had a fair bit to drink, rode too fast and got into fights, but, compared to today, we were pretty tame. I remember, in particular, one year in Bathurst the word got around that one of the “Beagle Boys” (a club from Victoria) was carrying a knife, but nobody saw it.

The Bike Races finished on Saturday and, after much partying on top of the mountain that night, we would leave on a road trip on the Sunday morning. Usually we would head off to Jenolan Caves and would stay at Tom Wilson’s guesthouse known as the “Half Way House”, which is still there. We would party again on Sunday night but there was never any trouble. (I guess we were a bit burnt out by then and the people who ran the place knew how to handle a group of young blokes.)

One of our longest, and most memorable road trips was at Christmas time in 1958. Five Club Members, Tony Cousins, Barry Crouch, John Leach, Norm Seget and Robbie Shepherd rode to Queensland for two weeks. It rained for ten of the fourteen days we were away!

Our involvement in the Riverstone Motor Bike club ended in 1962 but we believe it continued to function until 1974, with new and younger people coming in and some of the older ones carrying on.

There are so many stories that could be told, some that should and some that shouldn’t, but time and space are running out and I will leave that to others who may want to continue.

Maybe some of these people would like to “pick up the ball”, or should I say “kick the bike over” and ride on from here.

Recollections of My Elderly Brother Harris (Growing up in Schofields)

by Olga Robshaw

This is an edited version of a speech written by Olga to be read at her brother Harris Davis’ 80th birthday. It is printed with the kind permission of the family.

As a small, very shy, and rather plump little girl, I always thought that my older brother, Harris’ principal role in life, was to ensure I knew my place in the pecking order, and that I didn’t attempt to challenge his four year age seniority and superiority. He went about his self appointed task by teasing, and heckling, but looking back, the age gap was perhaps bridged when I was in my early teens, and active on our tennis court.

Our childhood was idyllic – our parents’ lightly wooded 25 acre property, bordered by a creek and neighbouring paddocks, was our playground, where we could wander freely without fear of molestation.

When I first started at Schofields School (three miles away) a square rig buggy driven by a Mr Hanson was my transport, along with seven or eight local youngsters. My brother found this a great source for teasing, calling me a baby as he sped by on his bicycle.

School holidays were carefree – as there were no girls living close by in our rural community, I was permitted to ‘tag along’ on excursions with my brother and his friends as a kind of second class male, earning my place in this select young male society by meekly accepting the menial tasks of fetching and carrying and generally making myself useful.

The thick maze of prickly bushes bordering one section of creek pulsated with the cheerful calls of goldfinches, red heads, blue wrens, and other small bird life. It was here where we spent many happy hours on bird trapping expeditions. It was very important to a ‘second class boy’ like me to learn how to emulate the example of my brother and his friend Jim, to wriggle noiselessly on my stomach to place the traps containing the ‘caller’ bird in place. The silent wait for results whiled away many childhood hours.

As a ‘follower’ I waited patiently at the bottom of trees for my brother Harris and his friend Jim, as they scaled up what seemed incredible heights to raid birds nests for eggs (collecting and ‘blowing’ eggs for their collection was a brief craze.)

A young magpie named Jacko, who apparently had fallen out of his nest, became a much loved family pet after one of these excursions. I also remember my mother being given the task of trying to rear a young owl, all beak, and practically no feathers.

Another source of fun was for us to ride, bareback through the maze of prickly bush, on Dad’s old draught horse, Lassie. However Lassie secured revenge on her young tormentors one day, by charging under an overhanging tree branch, just high enough for her to clear, but sweeping we three young riders, Harris, a ‘city slicker’ Bruce Ward Smith, and I off.

A suspension bridge, strung high above the creek was also a great source of fun, adding to our spirit of adventure. It also presented a great opportunity for a sadistic older brother to torment a young sister, by swinging the ropes vigorously when she was halfway across the bridge!

Fishing was also a very popular activity, using rods fashioned from wattle branches, with wattle gum for adhesive, and often a bent pin for a hook.

Bakers Lagoon some miles away was the scene of many of our fishing excursions – until I committed the unpardonable sin of catching the very large goldfish for which Harris and his mate Jim had been angling for more than a year. I was really sent to ‘Coventry’ over this cardinal sin, being made to trail about six paces behind, in uncomfortable silence as we walked home.

Perennial floods in Eastern Creek often brought flood waters up to my father’s middle paddock, but Harris and I found the ‘pickings’ good, as we salvaged pumpkins and other vegetables, washed down stream from a flourishing Chinese market on what we called ‘Cow Flat’.

Harris and Jim built a number of canoes from corrugated iron, hammered flat, and soldered together, to launch in our creek, with varying degrees of success. The most memorable occasion for me was when their newly built canoe capsized, on its initial launch, catapulting both paddlers into the muddy waters. Perched on a branch overhanging the water, I watched as they struck out desperately to swim to the bank, only to find that they were in a mere 18″ of water. Their frantic (but quite unnecessary) swim to safety, made me laugh so heartily that I too fell into the water.

As our bedraggled trio wended its way back up the hill to home, I again had to trail some paces behind the pair, who were very annoyed I had been a witness to their embarrassment.

Mushrooming was also another popular activity after rain, with Pye’s Paddocks (some miles away) the most rewarding area for picking. We always kept a watchful eye on the brahmin cattle grazing nearby, and on a number of occasions had to scramble hurriedly through the barbed wire fences to safety.

Bush pilots who at times parked their flimsy aircraft on paddocks between Schofields and Quakers Hill, in between barnstorming exhibitions in the country, were also a great source of curiosity. We watched with interest as they patched up their planes in what surely could only be described as a ‘shoestring’ operation. Times were tough, and they certainly lived ‘rough’. This area was later to become the landing strip for planes from a British aircraft carrier during World War 11, when the carrier was in port. Later it became the small private Schofields’ Airfield.

Life in the area was never dull, for gliders taking off and landing from an elevated paddock in Rouse Hill was yet another activity which Dad drove us to see.

I still remember the excitement when Dad, along with hundreds of other motorists, responded to a radio call to line the perimeter of Richmond Aerodrome landing strip, when ‘Smithy’ was making his epic flight from New Zealand. The light had failed, but on signal all the motorists switched on their lights, and ‘Smithy’ was able to land safely.

Our paternal grandparents, Nanny and Puppa Davis, lived at Riverstone on several acres of land. I remember a number of Christmas dinners there, when our family joined other relatives to tuck into the huge country style spread. Centre piece was always a pig’s head, with the traditional apple tucked into its jaws.

Nanny, who cooked the most wonderful ‘brownies’ in her wood stove, was usually up before dawn to prepare the Christmas feast, and despite having to cope with searing temperatures in her kitchen, always appeared serene, and happy that her family was there to share Christmas. I still remember the curing ‘green bacon’ hams and ‘black pudding’ sausages which hung from the kitchen’s smoke stained ceiling.

Puppa, who these days would probably be described as having a ‘short fuse’ loved to sit on his front verandah, and to await for one of his old adversaries, Mr Bliss to pass by. They would exchange mutual insults, such as ‘scab’ etc. which appeared to make their day. I’m sure they both enjoyed these encounters! Puppa kept a ready supply of cow dung, to burn to keep the mosquitoes at bay. My memories of him include his traditional Sunday morning breakfast, when he enjoyed a very large plate of steak and pungent onions. No wonder he suffered from high blood pressure!

He also enjoyed ‘entertaining’ any family gathering with songs of interminable length, accompanied by a concertina; also provoking a skittish display from his horse, as it pulled the family sulky, to impress any spectators who happened to be nearby, with his horsemanship.

The depression between Schofields and Riverstone was called Bliss’s Hollow and I remember always diving under a car blanket in the back seat when we were being driven home, because Harris had assured me there was a GHOST there. Even when I was a teenager riding home with some girl friends at night from a CWA Younger Set dance, I always pedalled harder when I reached the hollow, to escape this imaginary ghost.

Before a bathroom was added to our Schofields’ home, our nightly ‘tub’ when we were small, was taken in front of the kitchen stove.
In times of drought (before the advent of a city water supply) Harris and I really enjoyed being loaded up on the family dray, with the copper, washing, picnic lunch (and bath tub) to make our way to the creek. We kids thought this was quite an enjoyable adventure, but to my mother (brought up with all the refinements of a North Shore home) it must have proved quite a chore. The same round bath tub and hot water from the copper ensured we had a good cleansing scrub before we headed for home.

A large underground well, built by my father, stored ample drinking and domestic water for our house. One of Harris’ chores was to hand pump water up to a small elevated tank, to ensure our house water supply. Always a salesman, he regularly managed to convince his friends this was a fun thing to do, and he was never short of volunteers to carry out this task.

A significant milestone in our young lives, was the connection of our property to a city water supply, followed some years later by an electricity service. Diplomatically, we were jointly given the privilege of switching on the lights for the first time in our home.

Dad was given charge of a water standpipe outside our property, from which property owners without a city water supply could fill up their tanks in times of drought.
There was much excitement when ‘Cow Flat’, an area on the other side of our creek, which featured a circular road around some rather ramshackle farms and houses was ‘discovered’ as an ideal racing track for motor cycles.

So this normally sleepy country circuit became the mecca for top Australian racing motor cyclists, and the locals (including my brother and his mate Jim) enjoyed the cacophony of sound, fumes and spectacle, with hundreds of motor cycle enthusiasts from many parts of the Eastern states. The racing circuit was used for a number of years, until other venues proved more attractive. Dad, of course, was kept busy supplying water from the standpipe, to water the track between races.

Harris for a brief time bred Yorkshire canaries, which he exhibited at various caged bird shows, with some success. When he moved on to other interests Mum inevitably ended up being the ‘carer’ of course.

We both shed tears when our pet fox terrier, Tim, died after being shot by a distant neighbour. We both felt we had lost a loved family friend. He had accompanied us on so many of our excursions, and we missed him immensely.

My brother spent many holidays with Aunty Olga and Uncle Bill at Normanhurst, revelling in the company, particularly of our cousin Heather, and being taught billiards by our grandfather, ‘Da’ Harris.

Meals were sometimes an ordeal if Da Harris was around, for he would circle the round table at which we children were seated, and if we weren’t sitting up straight, he would poke a cane down the back of our clothing. One really had to watch their ‘P’s and Q’s’ when he was around!

Heather also loved to come and stay at Schofields with us, and got involved with the billy cart rides downhill, and rambles through the bush.

Our French grandmother (Francelene) who was meticulous about the correct use of the English language, was a strict task master on speech. If we excelled in any particular school subject, we took after her, but any other traits which she considered undesirable, were darkly referred to as being inherited from Dad’s family!

Other relatives who also played a significant part in our lives when we were young, included Dad’s sister, Aunty Lil, and her husband Frank Norris, with whom Dad and Mum often enjoyed playing cards (500). Uncle Frank always encouraged players to hold their hands up high. No wonder! If their backs faced a large wall mirror, their cards could clearly be seen!

Dad’s brother, Uncle Ern, a naval man, was always a popular visitor, arriving with Aunty Chris, who rode pillion on his ‘Indian’ motor cycle. We all admired Aunty Chris’ beautiful braids, which she wound around her head, and tucked securely under her motor cycle helmet.

My father eventually replaced our T model Ford, with a new Ford tourer. I remember our car ending up in a deep culvert near the turnoff into Windsor Road, (due to the stiffness of the steering wheel). My mother sustained a broken jaw, which later had to be wired, and Harris, Heather and I secured a lift from a passing truck, loaded with cabbages and cauliflowers for the produce markets. Harris and Heather rode precariously on top of the produce, on the back of the truck, but my brother teased me for quite some time afterwards about being the ‘baby’ who had to ride in the truck cabin.

Our father always believed that if there was a track, it could be accessed by our car, and we enjoyed many camping excursions to remote places such as Burragorang Valley in the days when camping was a rare experience. Uncle Bill and Aunty Olga and their family often accompanied us on these excursions.

School holidays were always enjoyable, for they signalled a six week camp at first Dee Why, and later at Avalon Beach, with Jim Fenwick keeping Harris company. I remember the running boards of our tourer being so loaded with luggage, ‘chooks’ tied up in bags for successive Sunday dinners etc. that Harris, Jim and I had to clamber up and over closed rear doors, to reach the back seat.

The ‘chooks’ were secured by thin ropes to scrub at the rear of our camp and duly fed and watered until it was time for them to become Sunday dinner. Needless to say pandemonium reigned when several escaped on one occasion, necessitating a frantic hunt through the scrub to recapture them.

The sand hills at the rear of our camp provided a great ski run, with iron utilised as a toboggan for a fast run down the slope, and the rocks were a fascinating playground as we foraged for crabs and cunji for bait. Dad, who was still working through the Christmas period, rejoined us at weekends.

Empire night was always exciting, as family and neighbourhood friends were invited to share the huge bonfires which Dad built on spare land at the rear of our property. Many tales were told long after about basket bombs and sky rockets going off, with Uncle Bill and others joining in the light hearted fun.

At a time when mini-golf was the rage, Harris and Jim created their own mini-golf course, from all types of materials scavenged from the farm. Just as we all eventually mastered the course, interest waned, and other activities beckoned.

I recall when Dad was teaching Harris to drive. Invariably Harris was allowed to take the wheel as we were travelling along the corrugated dirt Blacktown Road – a relatively quiet route. Seated in the back seat, Mum and I had to endure the frequent stops and starts when Dad would order Harris, to “stop the car” when he made some driving error. We didn’t enjoy those excursions, for Dad was a hard task master!

When Harris was to be confirmed at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Riverstone, I can remember the frustration the family experienced when our car wouldn’t start! Also how the ponderous weight of Mr Dawes, a church elder, and senior Works executive, would cause the pew to act like a mini-seesaw, if we were unlucky to be seated alongside him. He also had the unnerving habit of sternly gazing around the congregation, to see who was behaving appropriately during prayers!

After Harris became interested in playing tennis, on the Marsden Park court of the Griffin family, our father decided to build a tennis court at the rear of our home, utilising a horse and scoop to excavate the sandy loam in our middle paddock, for the court surface.

The court opened a new chapter in our lives, and our ‘Woodbrook’ court teams enjoyed competing first in the Hawkesbury District Tennis Competition, and then later when district boundaries were changed, to Blacktown District.
Harris was an accomplished player before I started to play in lower ranked district tennis competitions, but I recall the fun we had, on a tandem bike borrowed from family friend Sam Lane, cycling around to round-robin tournaments held on district courts.

In those early days, the sumptuous sponges served up for afternoon tea were very much enjoyed by we teenagers. I still have the very large enamel teapot used to serve afternoon tea on our court, during competition and social games.

On weekends at virtually first light, it was not unusual to find some of our tennis playing friends turning up for a ‘hit’.

Tennis players included the very likeable Clarrie Neal (Senior) who thought nothing of walking from Riverstone with his wife and two small sons, to play on our court. A gentleman on and off the court, and a wonderful sport who didn’t mind playing with newer players like me in social games, he was probably the most outstanding player in our ‘A’ competition side.

We also enjoyed competing against other tennis family groups such as the Gallens. We more often than not won on matches played on our home court, but the Gallen court, which featured pines growing very close to the sidelines was another story! We seldom won there, for the Gallens always played the sidelines, giving us no opportunity to effect a safe return. Gordon Barker, who married Eva Gallen, and later became Shire President, was a member of the Gallen’s ‘The Pines’ tennis team.

Other regulars were Sam Lane, whose action on the net was likened to a man standing on a bull ants’ nest, his wife Mavis, Bill and Thalia Griffin, the Platt brothers Lance and Hilton, Hector Alcorn and Thelma Bliss.
We have since shared many joys and sorrows with the Lane family, and continued a friendship which started when my father, as a sturdy school boy, prevented a diminutive Sam Lane being bullied on his first day at Riverstone School.

Top riders in our district at that time were Lance Skuthorpe (Senior), a colourful old showman, his daughter Violet and Lance Junior, who lived in an old house near Schofields’ Railway Station, with Mrs Skuthorpe and another daughter, Madge.

District rodeos and steer roasts were very popular at the time, attracting big crowds at celebrations to mark the switching on of the ‘lights’, ‘Back to Riverstone’ special days etc. The Skuthorpe family of course were the ringmasters.

Harris acquired the use of a big bay horse, Bugle, loaned by the Marriott family, and later bought Duke, a rangy chestnut ex-racehorse, which he enjoyed riding to gymkhanas, and through the surrounding countryside with his mates.
When Harris left school, he was employed in the Test Office at Riverstone Meat Works. Here he met Ted Parsons, Lance Platt, and Stuart Angus, who became family friends. Ted introduced us to Margaret, from Quakers Hill, and they were frequent and welcome visitors to our court, and home.

Thursday nights at our home became regular ‘sing-a-long’ sessions around the piano, as I played their favourites ballads, such as “Danny Boy”, “I’ll take you home again Kathleen” etc.

When they were leaving their wedding reception, guests were very amused that Ted joined Harris in the front seat of his borrowed car, and Margaret joined me in the back seat. None of us thought that this was a bit odd! To us it was just four friends together, going for a short drive! 6

These carefree days, before the advent of World War 11, included regular Saturday night dances on the large back verandah of the Griffins’ home at Marsden Park, where Nellie (Griffin) Carr belted out old time dance music on the family piano. Bill Carr, of course, accompanied his wife Nell, and old district identity Bob Beer was said to shake out the moth balls from his special funeral suit, to wear on these occasions.

Trips to Windsor to see the movies were also a popular Saturday night occupation, with a number of us crammed into the dicky seat of Billy Griffin’s car. As a teetotaller, Harris was much in demand to pour the drinks at parties, and to drive his less than sober mates home. How times have changed.!

World War 11 ended those carefree days, changing all of our lives forever. Some of our friends and people we had known since childhood were destined to serve with the armed forces; some were lost on distant battlefields, others died in Japanese POW camps. Others like Harris were directed into essential services, backing up the Australian forces by maintaining the food chain.

On reflection, as my brother is about to celebrate his 80th birthday, and I think about the good times that he and his family, and my family have enjoyed, even though we have lived most times in different states, I must admit that having an ‘elderly’ brother, hasn’t altogether been a bad thing!


Olga Robshaw

by Clarrie Neal

A Schofields’ resident who has served the community well over the years is Olga Robshaw, daughter of Herbert and Elizabeth Davis who lived on the top of the hill in Grange Avenue.

Olga was a Life Member of the Blacktown Women’s Bowling Club, achieving that honour after 37 years as a member, including many years as the Secretary, Vice-president, and President. She is also well known for her interest in garden clubs, and for the beautiful floral arrangements she created on special bowls days.

Olga is best remembered as the face of the Blacktown Advocate, serving 22 years as a writer, owner and editor. Olga featured prominently in the special issue of the Advocate printed on the 16th March 1995, to celebrate its 50th Anniversary.

Olga took over the reins in 1953, with the previous owner Jack Ward as a salesman, who was described by Olga as being ‘kindness itself’.
Running the paper with three young sons to look after was not easy but Olga said the support she received from the community was tremendous. She had a strong commitment to the area. When she took over the office was in Crabbs Chambers in Campbell Street but the paper was printed at Macarthur Press in Parramatta.

By June 1955 Olga started printing the paper in Blacktown, after finding and converting an old sawmill in Doonside Crescent. The masthead on June 2nd proudly stated ‘Printed in Blacktown’.

You used to do everything then, Olga said. I went to council meetings, I did the writing, the layouts, and I would proof read. I would sometimes help print it and then help deliver. It was an all night job, I’d have a few hours sleep and start it all over again the next morning.

Olga’s parents Elizabeth and Herbert Davis gave her a lot of support in running the paper. Her father would deliver the paper to the bakers to be delivered with the bread in the morning. Bert was tragically killed in an accident at Schofields’ railway crossing in 1959 while out delivering.

A disastrous fire in the printing works in 1964 just about knocked us out Olga said. The next year Olga sold the paper to the Cumberland Newspaper Group, which had been printing the rival paper the Blacktown Post. The Post was incorporated into the Advocate in 1965.

When Sam Birney started the Advocate in 1944 it was a ‘two page rag’, but when Olga sold it to Cumberland it was a respected 24 page paper with a circulation of 21,120.

Another article in the special 50th year edition told how the paper helped the community, under the heading ‘paper helped local causes’.

The people of Blacktown had a lot of heart. People just didn’t sit back and wait for things to happen, they made them happen.

There wasn’t a swimming pool in the area so we formed a swimming pool committee and started to raise money for one. We didn’t have an ambulance station so we got up a committee. We set up another committee to get a hospital.

I used the Advocate to further good local causes and that’s what a good local paper should do. The paper was a good influence in the community.

The area really has changed from when I was at the Advocate. It has gone from that horse and buggy, pothole-mentality to a thriving city. When I first became editor Blacktown was a sleepy place, the shops would still close for an hour at lunchtime.

When the Blacktown railway crossing was replaced by a bridge in 1955, Olga actually wrote a death notice about it, saying the crossing would not be missed.

Olga left the Advocate in 1976 and retired from journalism in 1985.

Olga Robshaw passed away on the 25th of September 2002. A keen gardener, Olga started a garden club in the Hills Shire around 1992. In 2003, in her memory, the Olga Robshaw Encouragement Award for gardening was introduced as part of the Baulkham Hills Council Orange Blossom

More details on the life of Olga Robshaw are available in a folder at the Bicentennial Museum at Riverstone.

Noela Strange-Mure

by Clarrie Neal

Noela Strange-Mure’s Riverstone story begins in the 1920s when her parents, Charles and Gladys decided to leave the city life of Randwick and bought five acres of land in Piccadilly Street, opposite Park Street. Charles, who had been an Alderman on Randwick Council and was a Gallipoli veteran, wanted the land for his hobby of gardening.

Charles then built his own home and it was here that they reared their three daughters – Betty, Dorothy and Noela. Gladys was a music teacher who encouraged her three daughters to learn singing and music from an early age but Noela was the only one to make it a full time career. Noela said her mother had a beautiful singing voice and was an excellent pianist. She also said both her older sisters had beautiful singing voices and would have had successful careers had they not opted for marriage.

All three girls attended Riverstone Public School, and Noela has many happy memories of her childhood days – the vigoro games on the grounds opposite the school, the air raid shelters in the school grounds and the drills, her sister Betty serving in the Women’s Land Army during the War, her father building their tennis court, then building their own air raid shelter just behind the court. Noela regarded herself as a tomboy, often ignoring the dolls in the pram, preferring to fire stones from her catapult or swing from the rope on a tree on a nearby creek.

She recalled the time her mother, walking through the paddocks to Martin’s dairy, was chased by a bull, and diving through a barbed wire fence to escape, she badly gashed both legs. These wounds developed into ulcers and she had many visits to Windsor Hospital, eventually having to travel to Sydney Hospital for specialist treatment. Aub Gillespie, the taxi proprietor would take her to Sydney, wait nearby while she received her treatment, then would take her for a tour of different scenic parts of Sydney to cheer her up, before returning to Riverstone.

After his return from the First World War her father felt that people should know more about the effects of war so he spent many hours writing a book he titled ‘Diggers Daily Doings’. Noela does not know what happened to the book, and she doubts that it was ever published. Charles was a keen gardener and a handyman who built the pulpit at St. Paul’s Church in Elizabeth Street.

Noela’s secondary schooling was three years at Parramatta High School, followed by five years at the Conservatorium of Music studying singing and learning the piano. Her first job was three months in the Packing Room at Riverstone Meatworks before going to David Jones where she learnt Commercial Art.

It was at David Jones she became the leading soloist with their choir, under the guidance of Linley Evans. She was a regular entrant in the Sun Aria contests held in the 1950s and ‘60s.

She recalled the long days when studying at the Conservatorium, catching the 5.40am steam train and not getting home until 10pm or sometimes later. She recalled the cold frosty mornings, riding her bike to the station, often arriving at the same time as the train, with the station master saying “just get on the train, Noela, I will park your bike”. He would park her bike in the passage way of the Post Office and Parcels Office, along with all the other commuter’s bikes.

With no television, our entertainment was from the radio stations. A popular show at the time was a talent quest known as the Amateur Hour, hosted by Dick Fair. Noela entered this quest and won, largely due to efforts of her former teacher Mrs McCormack who solicited many votes through the
Riverstone school, and a friend Mavis Wilson, who did the same at her workplace, David Jones.

As a young girl Noela would often ride her bike out to Rouse Hill house to sit and talk and sometimes sing with Nina Terry; she has fond memories of those days. Noela is mentioned in the book ‘Rouse Hill House’ singing at Bobbie Terry’s wedding reception held at Rouse Hill house in 1949. While studying music, Noela gained a lot of experience singing at weddings and concerts in
the district. Some of the weddings in Riverstone she recalled were Judith and Kevin Lewis, Winsome and Eddie Phillis, Joyce and Glen Wood, Fay and Eric Brookes, Max and Fay Strachan, and she has many memories of the various concerts held at the time.

When Noela found travelling from Riverstone was taking too much of her time, she decided to get a unit in the inner city. Completing her studies, her first position was with the Arts Council, recalling that one of their Australia wide tours of country towns involved travelling some 12,000 miles in four months. Her next position was four years with the Repertory Opera Company, followed by 15 years with Opera Australia. Each year these groups spent up to six months on the road.

This article appeared in the Telegraph in 1956, under the heading – ‘Spotlight for Noela’ Every understudy prays for the chance to make the big time – and on Thursday night petite Sydney soprano Noela Strange-Mure took hers with both hands. Only the night before the Australian Opera Company’s final performance of Puccini’s ‘Turandot’, Noela learnt that Morag Beaton, who sings the title role in the opera had taken ill and she would have to stand in for her. A very nervous Noela went on – and wowed ‘em. “Noela was fantastic” the Company’s manager (Mr Doug Abbott) said last night. “I was a bit edgy about how she’d go. It’s a terrifically demanding opera – only the very best of sopranos would dare tackle it.”

Mr Abbott needn’t have worried. Noela sang, and the audience cheered. Noela, 26, had been biding her time for the past six months singing in the opera’s chorus.

Explaining her sudden success she said: “If it hadn’t been for Morag’s reaction to antibiotics I may never have got my chance. She developed a throat and chest infection a few days ago and instead of getting better, her face and throat became swollen and broke out in a rash.” Just to show there were
no hard feelings, Morag sent her understudy two sheaves of flowers.

The records show she has performed with the best, has met many famous people, including the Queen, and is recognised as one of our leading sopranos.
Her favourite memories include appearing-

      • with Dame Joan Sutherland in ‘Tales of Hoffmann’
      • with Joan Bronhill in ‘Don Pasquale’
      • as Princess Turindot in ‘Turindot’
      • in the starring role of ‘Fenena’ in ‘Nabucca’
      • playing the lead role of ‘Sister Angelica’ at the opening of the Sydney Opera House
      • appearing in many Operas at Sydney Opera House
      • in many productions of Gilbert and Sullivan, including, Iolanthe’ and ‘Pirates of Penzance’
      • in ‘Tanhauser’
      • ‘The Sound Of Music’ at the Tivoli.
      • playing the role of ‘Dame Nellie Melba’.
      • meeting the Queen twice.
  • Performances with Opera Australia include leading soprano roles in – Soeur Angelica (Sister Angelica);- Nabucco (Fenena); – Cosi Fan Tutti (Fiordiligi). Leading soprano roles in other opera companies’ productions of Madam Butterfly; Faust; Pagliacci; Cavalieria Rusticana; Force of Destiny; Nabucco and The Flying Dutchman.

Noela has appeared in most of the older theatres in Sydney – the Capitol, Her Majesty’s, the Elizabethan Theatre in Newtown, the Tivoli and the Empire. She recalled the evening she travelled into Sydney for a performance at the Empire, only to find it had been burnt to the ground that afternoon.

The first time she met the Queen was after a performance of an Opera Australia production, a formal affair, the second time was in more unusual circumstances.

One morning as she was getting out of bed, listening to Alan Jones on 2UE, she realised she knew the answer to a quiz question being asked. She phoned the station, was put on hold, and in discussion with the receptionist was asked did she sing, to which she answered “Yes”. She was asked to sing ‘God Save The Queen’ and when finished was surprised to be told by Alan Jones she had won. Somewhat confused by the sequence of events, she tried to explain she had not entered, and was even more confused when told she had been chosen to present a bouquet of flowers to the Queen at a function at the Convention Centre at Darling Harbour.

Another special memory is when she was asked to sing ‘Beyond the Sunset’ at the memorial service held for Police Commissioner Mackay.

Noela expresses gratitude to the many people who have encouraged her during her career. Her teacher George McNeilly, who had learnt from Dame Nellie Melba’s teacher; Mr W. Ferguson from Riverstone who organised a concert at the Sydney Town Hall that gave her the opportunity to appear with Dame Joan Sutherland and June Bronhill. Roy Watterson with his  wonderful melodious tenor voice who has appeared in many duets with Noela at the Welsh Society functions. Roy has been the President of the Welsh Society for many years and is currently the producer of the ‘Good Old Days’ concerts at the Sydney Town Hall.

She demonstrated she still has a magnificent voice when singing ‘Climb Every Mountain’, playing the role of Mother Abbess in the ‘Sound Of Music’, held at Castle Hill and several other Sydney venues in July 2002.

Noela continues to maintain the high quality of her artistic work which has distinguished her singing career since its inception and has given pleasure to so many.

Growing Up In Riverstone in the 1940s

by Heather Smith

I first commenced at Riverstone Public school in 1943. The large imposing building on the top of the hill, on the corner of Garfield Road and Piccadilly Street, still stands there to-day proudly announcing its formation in 1928. There were only a few other buildings around it, the Masonic Hall as it was known then and is now the Riverstone Museum, and on the opposite corner was Mrs Jarrett’s house and a short run down the hill in Garfield Road was Mulford’s Tuck shop. Where the Riverstone Swimming centre now stands, opposite the school, was vacant land with a small creek running through it where the girls played vigoro and the boys played football.

Two large weather sheds stood across the asphalt playground at the rear of the main building, its demarcation of ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ rigorously observed. Thirty years later when I was President of the Riverstone Infants School Mothers club I still felt a twinge of guilt when I walked up the steps of the ‘Boys’ weather shed. Remembering how strictly we were segregated in the 40s, this also carried over to the bubblers and toilets at the rear of the weather sheds.

Mr Millerd was the dominating figure in our school world in the 40s. Teachers were female – Mrs Webster, Mrs McCormack and Mrs Whyte are the few that I remember. However later as World War 11 gradually came to an end there was a trickle of male teachers coming back onto the staff. Mr Russell was the first returned serviceman to appear back on the all female staff.

School went in at 9.30am and came out at 3.30pm. There were no school uniforms, school buses or school fees in the 40s and all your exercise and text books were provided free of charge. In 5th and 6th classes we wrote with a pen and nib dipped into an inkwell inserted on your desk. Everybody walked to school and the majority of boys were bare-footed summer and winter. At lunchtime those who lived nearby ran home for their lunch. If you didn’t go home at lunchtime your sandwich was wrapped in greaseproof paper and often smelt of leather as many of us carried our lunch and books in a leather satchel slung over the shoulder. Best of all was when our Mother let my sisters Nevis and Sue and I buy our lunch at the tuckshop – we ran down the hill at lunchtime to be first in line to pick up our order. I still remember walking home from school on a hot afternoon and being able to buy from the tuck shop a frozen orange which lasted for ages.

My friends at school in those days were Barbara Strachan, Diane McHenry, Nanette McGroder, Dawn Sullivan, Jeannie Wheeler, Phyllis Kingman, Ellen Crouch and Effie Hilton. The boys were Johnnie Waters, Leon Turner, Peter Bradley, Norm ‘Steamer’ Jennings, Mervyn Tracey, Phillip Rosa and Barry Fletcher. Ellen Crouch and Barry Fletcher were the clever ones, the rest of us were so-so and Johnnie Waters always sat up the straightest when it was time to go home.

School work was less interesting than to-day. ‘Tables’ dominated the morning sessions and we recited them in a sing-song voice in unison progressing from the 2 times tables in the lower classes up to the full gamut of 2x to 12x in 6th class. This was followed by Mental Arithmetic and Spelling and woe betide any student whose concentration was seen to be straying. The offender was quickly brought back to reality by a piece of flying chalk delivered by Mr Millerd. He could transverse the class room from a standing or sitting position at the front with unerring accuracy to the recipient in the back. History, geography, composition and reading rounded out our curriculum. When I look back we were taught more about English history and the British Empire than ever we were about Australian and local history – not realising at the time that we were living it.

Corporal punishment was permissible in the 40s but usually only undertaken by Mr Millerd in extreme circumstances and later by Mr Russell his Deputy. Naughty girls were given a slap on the legs or hand with a ruler by a female teacher. The cane was reserved for the boys and the pronouncement of the caning brought stunned silence to the rest of us in the class room. The offender following Mr Millerd out to the hallway or his office to return a short time later red in the face stoically holding back any sign of tears and rubbing the injured palm on his rear end. Later in the playground, taking on the status quo of a hero for the rest of the day, he pronounced it was a ‘sixer’ and proudly displayed the reddened palm to all and sundry and boasted of the ruse he had used to lessen the pain.

Games were played with fierce determination. I don’t recall playing much organised sport. Our sports ground was a dusty playground. No time was wasted during the breaks from lessons and a dusty playground was the ideal spot to draw circles for marbles, the owners ‘taws’ and ‘alley’ carefully guarded in a calico marble bag or a grubby handkerchief. The sticks for ‘fly’ could be set out in the dirt track paralleling Piccadilly Street. Hopscotch was better drawn with a piece of chalk on the asphalt but a passable game could be played in the dirt. Jacks were a great wet weather game as we could sit in the weather shed and play with a set of knuckle bones which were a plentiful commodity from the meatworks. If you were really brave you could participate in a game of ‘brandings’ or the more gentle ‘O’Grady Says’ or ‘Statues’.

Special public occasions generated enormous excitement – when the circus came to town the large tent was erected in the vacant paddock beside Conway’s Newsagency much to the annoyance of ‘Jockey’ Stevens who liked to sleep there in the summer under his cardboard boxes.

The act that captured the imagination of my sisters and I was always the beautiful girl in a tutu doing tricks on bare back horses and we envied the lucky local boy who was chosen from the crowd to participate. He was attached to a rope and with the horse cantering around the ring he would attempt to stand on its rump and was then sent soaring from the back of the cantering horse up into air much to the excitement of the watching crowd below. There were clowns, trapeze artists, tight rope walkers, elephants and a scary lion taming act which brought “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience in breathless anticipation. Everyone imagining what would happen if the lions refused to obey the order of the whip and chair or worse still ESCAPED!!!.

The Annual fancy dress ball was another highlight usually organised by the CWA or Ladies Auxiliary and held in the Masonic Hall and costumes were a jealously guarded secret until the night. Our Mother could not sew but our Aunt Perth Morgan invented all sorts of amazing outfits from the most unlikely sources. She fashioned circus girl outfits from old evening dresses, Indian and cow girl outfits from dyed hessian chaff bags and one year she dressed my sister Nevis and her friend Beverley Crouch as statues of a Shepherd and Shepherdess. They paraded in outfits made from white
bed sheets, cotton wool wigs and smothered in make up of white talcum powder. Once the parade of costumes was over, prizes awarded and supper served children were expected to go outside and play but when dancing commenced for the adults we children loved to join in the Hoky Poky, the Palais Glide and the Lambeth Walk and during the intervals we dragged each other along on our haunches on the slippery floor or did spectacular glides the full length of the hall.

As children we loved nothing better than the excitement of a big flood. We could stand on the hotel verandah and watched excitedly as the water crept up from South Creek and across the meatworks paddocks heading towards the railway gates. Firstly Justice’s and Hughes’ houses disappeared and then the meatworks houses facing Garfield Road, the Ferguson’s, the Millerd’s and the Turner’s until only their corrugated iron roofs could be seen. Then the ‘dunny cans’ would come bobbing along washed from the back yard lavatories, proving “yes”, many houses across the creek had gone under the muddy floodwaters.

I couldn’t finish my tale without paying tribute to Mr Murrell and our weekly visit to the Olympia picture theatre in Garfield Road. Each Saturday afternoon we queued up with our sixpence admission in our hand entering into a world of fantasy delivered via Hollywood; cartoons, newsreel, then the serial and quite often a “B” picture. At interval we went into Grainger’s shop next door or raced down to the Wattle milk bar further down the street to spend our threepences on a carefully selected bag full of lollies or fourpence on a milkshake or ice cream soda.

Then back for the main picture. Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry and his horse Champion, Roy Rogers and Trigger were our favourites. My sister Nevis loved Maria Montez and Hedi Lamarr, also ice skating pictures starring Sonja Henie. Whistling, catcalling and foot stamping was kept under control by Mr Murrell and Mrs Harris. Ever vigilant, they patrolled the aisles with torches, flashing the light into the faces of any over active offender with the threat of removal if they didn’t calm down. Our memories of the pictures were often carried over into scrapbooks where we cut out and collected pictures and stories of our favourite film stars and glued them into the pages which we compared and swapped with friends. America and Hollywood seemed so far away and could have been on another planet, for all we knew about this country was gleaned from the pictures.

To-day in 2004 we know these memories of growing up in Riverstone whether it was in the 20s, 30s, 40s or 50s are unique and special to us. Each time the Vice-President of Riverstone Historical Society, Clarrie Neal, organises a reunion of those who attended Riverstone Public school, the numbers continue to grow, proving to us all (at the risk of sounding sexist) “You can take the girl out of Rivo but you can’t take Rivo out of the girl.”