Riverstone – “This is Your Life”

by Judith Lewis

A play written for the Riverstone Public School’s Centenary in 1983..

Cast of Characters

Riverstone O’Connell flag bearer Bob Gunton
Dodger Simpleton Maurice O’Connell George Freeman
3 Dharug tribesmen Mary O’Connell John Cobcroft
Dharug flag bearer Richard Rouse Langton flag bearer
8-10 Cheer Squad Banjo Paterson William Langton
Samuel Marsden Richards flag bearer Mary Langton
James Ruse Ben Richards

Scene: Old lady sits centre back stage in rocking chair. Garden seat at angle right of stage – close to, but not quite in front. Enter Dodger Simpleton, book under arm.

DODGER (to audience): Welcome to this very special edition of “This is Your Life”. Our guest tonight is someone we all know very well. Come with me and we’ll surprise her. (Goes across to old lady.) Excuse me, is your name “Riverstone”?

RIVERSTONE: Yes, young man, it is, and has been these past 170 odd years

DODGER: Well, my name is Dodger Simpleton and I’ve come to say “Riverstone, This is Your Life”.
Come with me I have a few old friends I’d like you to meet.
Walks towards front of stage, Riverstone using a walking stick. She sits on garden seat.
Listen I hear them coming now.

Aboriginal music played.

RIVERSTONE: Why, it’s my oldest friends – the Dharug aborigines.

Enter aborigines dancing to music.

DHARUG 1: We roamed the land of Riverstone for many hundreds of years before the white man came.

DHARUG 2: Do you remember our camps by the Eastern Creek?

RIVERSTONE: Indeed I do.

DHARUG 3: The last of our people died in 1926, but the spirit of our people will never die.

DODGER: The children of Riverstone will keep this memory alive. Just watch as we go to this commercial break.

Enter children (cheer squad) carrying Dharug flag and black and gold streamers.


Dharug were warriors in days of old,
We’ve learned to fight, we’re the black and gold.

Dharugs move behind Riverstone’s chair, Flag Bearer moves to back left of stage, Cheer Squad leave stage.

DODGER to Riverstone: When the white man came you had some famous settlers. Do you remember this pair?

Enter Samuel Marsden holding a whip and James Ruse with a sickle.

SAMUEL: That’s the trouble with today’s generation James. Not enough discipline. Flog the fiends, beat the devil out of them. That’s what I say.

DODGER: Yes, it’s the Reverend Samuel Marsden with James Ruse. Your close neighbours, Riverstone. Do you remember them?

RIVERSTONE: Poking at Marsden with her stick.
I remember this fellow well. Called him the Flogging Parson. Named Marsden Park after him, they did. Had a property there. Kept convicts on it, used to have them tied to a whipping post and flogged. Only got rid of the post in recent years, I believe. Who’s your friend? I believe we’ve met briefly.

RUSE: James Ruse ma’am. I came to the colony as a convict in the First Fleet in 1788. Governor Phillip allowed me to farm land, near Parramatta, where I grew wheat, maize and vegetables. In 1819 I was granted 40 hectares of land on Eastern Creek at Riverstone near where Park Road is now. I farmed there for a short while before moving on to Campbelltown.

The Infants Department performance took place on the covered area in front of the classrooms on the western end of the quadrangle.
‘Dodger’ Simpson narrates the story of the life of ‘Riverstone’ (seated) as various students representing important people from the history of the town take turns in telling their story.

RIVERSTONE: Oh yes Mr. Ruse I do remember you. It’s good of you to come after all this time.

Marsden and Ruse move to behind Riverstone’s chair.

DODGER: And now, Riverstone, here are two of your very dear friends. But first, this commercial may jog your memory.

Enter children carrying O’Connell banner and cheer squad with green and gold streamers.


O’Connell gave our town its name
The green and gold will win the game.

Flag Bearer moves to back of stage. Cheer Squad leave. Enter Maurice and Mary O’Connell.

RIVERSTONE: My dear friends Maurice and Mary O’Connell. I remember you calling in to “Riverston” with Governor Lachlan Macquarie on your way back from one of your trips with him to Bathurst.

MAURICE: That’s right. In 1810, when Mary and I married Governor Macquarie gave us 2,500 acres of fine bushland. We called it “Riverston” after my home in Ireland.

MARY: Governor Macquarie was very kind to my father and I after the dreadful treatment we received at the hands of the infamous John Macarthur and the wretched Rum Corps.

RIVERSTONE: There aren’t too many towns that can claim to be a wedding present. Maurice and Mary, it’s good to see you both.

Maurice and Mary move to behind Riverstone’s chair.

DODGER: Our next two guests only knew you briefly but each was famous in his own right and wanted to be with you on this special occasion. Listen to the music, it may give you a clue to the identity of one of them.

Music “Waltzing Matilda”. Enter Richard Rouse and “Banjo” Paterson, in riding gear.

ROUSE: I built my house close to you (it’s still standing). I rode regularly across your land to visit my sister, Elizabeth, at Jericho Farm (Windsor Downs is there today).

RIVERSTONE: I do recognise you. You’re Richard Rouse. You were a very important man in the early colony and I specially remember the fine horses you always rode. But, who is your friend?

BANJO: I only made your acquaintance briefly when I, too, rode across your lands on one of Richard’s fine horses. I mentioned his horses with the brand of the crooked R in my poem “The Bushman’s Song”.

RIVERSTONE: Why, you’re Banjo Paterson. I am honoured to meet you.

BANJO: Likewise. (Aside, only for school assembly. Actually, whilst I’m here I’d like to confront a couple of fellows who’ve been making a bit of a hash of my poetry – couple of chaps by the name of Woods and Bannerman),

DODGER: Thank you Richard Rouse and Banjo Paterson. This next commercial will help us to recognise our next guest.

Enter Flag Bearer carrying Richards’ flag and Cheer Squad with blue and gold streamers.


Richards began with cattle few
Now we’re big and strong
We’re the gold and blue

Flag Bearer moves to back of stage Cheer Squad leave.
Enter Richards and others dressed in butchers’ aprons.

RIVERSTONE: Ben Richards, you made my name known far and wide.

BEN: I’ve just come from the Meatworks. My, things have changed in the past 100 years haven’t they? When I began my meatworks in 1878 I had 4 butchers working for me. They worked at night and we loaded the carcasses onto the trains in the cool of the evening so we could get them to the sale yards before spoiling.

RIVERSTONE: Introduce me to your friends – I’m sure I know them.

BOB GUNTON: I’m Bob Gunton, ma’am. I was Ben’s first stockman. My wife Mary and I lived in a large cottage on the hill where the new meatworks now stands. It used to be called “The Kitchens” and Mary helped look after many of the butchers who lived there.

RIVERSTONE: Of course. I remember you and the other drovers bringing the herds of cattle down from across the mountains and up from the Flemington saleyards.

As the story continued, more students representing important people in the history of the town took the stage.
As ‘Dodger’ Simpson narrated the story of the life of ‘Riverstone’ proceedings were interspersed with the cheer squad chanting the war cries of the various school ‘houses’.

FREEMAN: I’m George Freeman.

COBCROFT: And I’m John Cobcroft. We’re two of Ben’s first slaughtermen.

RICHARDS: Did you know, Riverstone, that there was a suggestion, back in 1881, that the first public school should be built on the land where the new meatworks now stands?

RIVERSTONE: No, I didn’t. What changed their minds?

RICHARDS: Can’t you guess?


RICHARDS: The smell from the abattoirs would be too strong.

RIVERSTONE: Hasn’t changed much in 100 yea it?

DODGER: Thank you men. Richards and Butchers, Stockmen move to back of chair. Riverstone, this talk of schools leads us to our last guests.

Enter Langton Flag Bearer, Cheer Squad with red and gold streamers


Langton taught in days of old
We’ve learned to win
We’re the red and gold
L A N G T O N Yeah Langton
Flag Bearer and Cheer Squad move back to others.
Enter William and Mary Langton.

RIVERSTONE: Why, it’s our school’s first teacher, William Langton, and his wife, Mary.

LANGTON: Mary and I came to live here in 1883. We only stayed 3 years but they were busy years for both of us.

MARY: Indeed they were. William and I and six children lived in the two room cottage attached to the school.

LANGTON: Yes and taught 75 children between us using one schoolroom and a weather shed. Did you know Mary taught the Junior Classes for 2 years and the only salary she received was the Sewing Teacher’s allowance.

MARY: And when I wrote asking for some reimbursement the Department told me I wasn’t entitled to it.

LANGTON: There were compensations though. The children were great kids.

RIVERSTONE: I know, I’ve watched them. Dodger, thank you. This has been a very happy day for me. It’s made me feel yes younger. It does us good to remember our heritage. I trust all my children are proud of their school and their town.

DODGER: I’m sure they are. I hope they’ll join us in singing our school song as we remember “Riverstone, This is Your Life”.

Riverstone Public School Song

I wrote the school song for the School Centenary. It was sung by the whole school, lead by the choir and conducted by teacher Mary Gillespie. I later added the last verse not mentioned in the original version.. It is sung to the tune of “The Carnival is Over”.

The Governor’s gift to Maurice O’Connell’,
When he married Mary Bligh.
Thousands of acres of fine bushland,
Riverston it’s name shall be.

The settlers came and built their homesteads,
Carted timber, farmed the land,
Then Ben Richards built his meatworks
And our small town did expand.

In ’83 they built a school here.
‘Twas only small, but how it’s grown.
This school now is our school
And its name is Riverstone.

The Dharug tribes no longer roam here.
Will Langton’s teaching days are done,
But “Knowledge and Friendship’s” still the motto
Of our school called Riverstone
Of our school called Riverstone.

Riverstone Public School Centenary 1983

by Judith Lewis

Foreword: A chance comment made at a Riverstone Festival Committee meeting in January 2016 made me realise that, apart from the scrapbook I compiled at the time, the photograph album and the Centenary Booklet itself, all housed at the Museum, there is little recorded about the week of activities which, in many ways, helped the growth of the Historical Society.

In 1983 the school had a staff of 61 – 41 teachers (two non-teaching), twelve ancillary staff & seven cleaners who were spread over three sites, the Infants Department in Garfield Road, Preschool in Piccadilly Street and Primary Department in Elizabeth Street. School Counsellor, Jill McGregor, was based at the High School but spent much time at the Riverstone Public schools, especially with her “baby” the SLU (Special Learning Unit). The student number for the three departments was 860.

Planning for the Centenary celebrations began in late 1981 when, on 23rd November, Principal Stan Fulker wrote to the Historical Society Secretary, Michelle Nichols, inviting their attendance at a meeting to form a planning committee. The meeting took place on Tuesday, 1st December at 7:30pm.

The Committee was:- Staff & P&C Members:- Judith Lewis Deputy Mistress & Chairman, Margaret Crouch – Library Clerical Assistant & Secretary, May Keegan – Clerical Assistant and Treasurer; Stan Fulker – Principal, Harry Hyland – Deputy Principal 2, Jeanette Edgecombe – Deputy Principal 1, Helen Muir – Deputy Mistress (both Infants’ Department), Ian Woods – Deputy Master; Rose Hanlon – Cleaning Staff and former student. Former Students & Historical Society Members:- – Lorraine Forbes, Sam Lane, Michelle Nichols, Rosemary Phillis; High School History Master:- Garrett Barry, P&C members:- Ernie Benz (former student), John Gooding – President & Publicity Officer, Carol Callanan & Pam Boyne.

Recipe Book
One of the committee’s earliest decisions was to produce a Centenary Recipe Book which would contain recipes supplied by parents and friends of the school. Local businesses were also contacted, to provide a family favourite recipe, plus a brief history of their connection with Riverstone and, if they so desired, to pay $20 for an advertisement in the Recipe Book. Riverstone Meat Co. was approached and agreed to print the book if some manual assistance could be available to help with the printing process (our wonderful ancillary staff happily provided both that assistance and with the typing of the recipes).

Twenty three businesses paid for advertisements in the Recipe Book. Many told their brief history; Conways’ Newsagency for example started in 1921, The Liquor Barn in 1978. Others who contributed included; Tony’s Fish Shop, Geoffrey’s Hair Flair, Nichols’ Service Station, Pad About, Garfield Tender Meats- Munro’s, Liddy’s Place- Lorraine Forbes’, Crosby’s Hardware, Driscoll & Reid, Mrs Coulter’s, Mausy’s, Maureen Tozer’s, Riverstone Hot Bread, Thrift Pharmacy – Mitchell’s, William’s, Callanan’s, Arnolds’, Evelyn’s Gifts – Hawkins’, Wallace Sport & Hobby Centre – Peggy Wallace, Shell Service Station – Stoev’s and Willet’s, Mackers’ Coffee Lounge, Brookes’ Shoe Centre, Riverstone Mower & Cycle Centre – Fred Alcorn’s, Riverstone Floral Centre, Greg Patterson.

Centenary Booklet
Judith Lewis and Margaret Crouch spent a day at the State Archives, then housed at Sydney’s “The Rocks”, where they perused and copied original documents and literature and thus began the compilation of material for the official Centenary Booklet “Riverstone Public School 1893-1983”.

The cover of the Centenary Booklet showing of sketches of the various buildings associated with the Public School by Pam Boyne.

The sub-committee responsible for the booklet was Judith Lewis, Lorraine Forbes, Rosemary Phillis & Michelle Nichols with Pamela Boyne creating the cover and other sketches and Olaf Auzens – High School Teacher-Librarian handling the photography.

Seven special contributions to the book came from former teachers and students; Audrey Gander, Edith Harrop, Rumery sisters Ida and Hazel, Hilda Stanford, Nora Cubitt and David Brown.

    • 96 year old Audrey Gander who, as Miss Welch taught at Riverstone in 1912 and 1913, leaving in 1913 to marry. Until she could find board in Riverstone with Mr & Mrs Ted Garrett, Audrey’s brother drove their horse and sulky, about a five mile journey from Blacktown, and on the way they picked up Edie Brown (Edith Harrop) from Quakers Hill. (Four years after the Centenary when Audrey turned 100 she was living in a Nursing Home in the Blue Mountains. The Tourmaline Hotel loaned the school its bus and Mary Gillespie and Judith Lewis took the school choir to the mountains to entertain the residents and be part of the cutting of her ‘100’ birthday cake).
    • Edith Harrop travelled by train in later years, arriving at 10:30am and returning on the 4:30pm train. Edie had fond and clear memories of life at school during the WW1 years. Main subjects were Writing, Arithmetic, Spelling, Geography, History, Poetry, Singing, Nature Study, Knitting and Sewing and sports or games were Hopscotch, Skipping, Jacks, Rounders and Football. Classes went to Year 5 when you either left or passed your QC (Qualifying Certificate) and went on to either Parramatta Commercial or High School.
    • The Rumery sisters Ida (Voysey) and Hazel (Boag) lived in Rosebank. Their memories were also detailed as was that of Hilda Turner (nee Stanford) at 89 our oldest former pupil. Each of the three concluded with the following comments:- Ida, “I did not enjoy school at all”; Hazel, “I have many varied memories, but I hated it all the same”; Hilda, “I didn’t enjoy school and was glad to leave”.
    • Jim Russell, First Assistant (now his title would be Deputy Principal) shared memories from a much-loved teacher’s aspect and David Brown a student from 1943 to 1948 remembers Jim Russell in 5th class “We idolised him … polite but firm”.
    • David Brown went on to become a school principal himself. Blacktown City Council kindly printed the Centenary Booklet for us. Audrey Gander and Hilda Turner, as the oldest ex-teacher and ex-pupil, were special guests at the 1983 celebrations.

In the 1980s Riverstone had its own weekly paper, the “Riverstone Press”. The Press and other local papers – Blacktown City Star, Blacktown Advocate, Western Districts Guardian, Windsor and Richmond Gazette and Hawkesbury Courier – gave excellent publicity to the Centenary celebrations. Residents were encouraged to drop off old photographs etc. at Liddy’s Place, owned and run by Lorraine Forbes, in Garfield Road (Anne’s Embroidery was there until recently).

Centenary Celebrations – Tuesday
Although Riverstone Public School had opened in January 1883. the Centenary celebrations began on Tuesday 22nd March 1983, with an Open Day and Centenary Luncheon. The Primary Department invited visitors to spend time in classrooms from 9:00am till 11:00am, the Infants Department from 11:00am till 12:30pm and Pre-School from 12:30 to 2:00pm. Senior Citizens and any former teachers present were served Luncheon by the P&C in the Primary School Library. Parents were encouraged to join their children for lunch in the playground. At 12:00pm the play “Riverstone, This Is Your Life”, written for the occasion, by Judith Lewis, was presented. (“This is your Life”, hosted by Roger Climpson, was a popular television programme at the time.) The Riverstone version was hosted by Dodger Simpleton, aka Year 6 student Ben Barker. Fellow Year 6 student, Julianne Shields, played Riverstone. (A transcript of the play and school song appear at the completion of this article.)

Principal, Stan Fulker welcoming guests.
Principal, Stan Fulker with the oldest living ex teacher, Audrey Gander (near the microphone). The oldest ex student, Hilda Turner (nee Stanford), is seated at the right.

Centenary Celebrations – Friday
Friday, 25th March saw the whole school assembled at 10:00am in the quadrangle at the Infants’ Department for the official Centenary Celebrations. The school bell tolled 100 times to officially start the ceremony chaired by Principal, Stan Fulker, who introduced the official guests, followed by Judith Lewis whose welcome address concluded with, “my prayer for today is that each one of you will take away very fond memories both past and present”.

Blacktown’s Mayor, Alderman Jim Lynch and Metropolitan West Region’s Director of Education, Jim Farnsworth, addressed the assembly. The official opening and unveiling of the Commemorative Plaque was conducted by Member for Riverstone, Tony Johnson, who drew much applause when he announced the school would get a new free standing library as a 100th birthday present. The library was built and in 1993, a year after she had retired from teaching, Judith Lewis was invited back to a school assembly where the library was officially named the Judith Lewis Library (a delightful surprise).

Stan Fulker and local MP Tony Johnson at the unveiling of the Centenary plaque.

A Centenary cake, an enormous fruit cake, made and donated by catering staff at HMAS Nirimba, was cut by Mrs Audrey Gander assisted by school captains Michael Brown and Melissa Keegan. The Nirimba staff had one stipulation, the cake was to be shared by all the students (it was much enjoyed!).

Cutting the Centenary Cake
Choir singing choral item.
A substantive crowd gathered for the official events on the Friday.

Interspersed throughout the programme were choral items from both Infants’ and Primary Department Choirs, conducted by Helen Muir and Mary Gillespie. The Infants’ children sang “The Old Bark Hut” and “I Still Call Australia Home”. The Primary Choir sang “Schooldays” and “Any Dream Will Do”. School Captain, Melissa Keegan, led pupils in the school prayer:-

“This is our school,
Let peace dwell here.
Let each room be full of contentment
Let love abide here.
Love of one another,
Love of mankind,
And love of life itself
Let us remember that,
As many hands build a house,
So, many hearts make a school. Amen”

Fellow Captain, Michael Brown also played a part in the programme. Appreciations were expressed by District Inspector of Schools, Mr. L. Craddock and P&C President, John Gooding. Morning Tea, a viewing of the Historical Display, housed in the “old” weather sheds, and much mingling was followed by lunch for the official party. Evening activities on the Friday included a teens’ disco at the High School and a Greyhound Race Meeting held at Richmond.

The historical displays were a popular part of the celebrations.
The Riverstone Public School float passes the Museum in the O’Connell County Fair parade.
The winners of the Historical Society awards featured in the O’Connell County Fair parade.

Special guests who attended the celebrations included Hilda Turner (nee Stanford), a former pupil who enrolled as a six year old in 1896, ex teacher Nora Cubitt (nee McMahon), who taught at Riverstone in 1913, ex teachers Jim Russell (1940s) and Mrs Alisa Paterson & Jim Gormley Principal (1950s) and Pat Rohl Infants’ Mistress (1960s). After 71 years Audrey Gander and Edie Harrop met on the Friday of the official function.

Centenary Celebrations – Saturday
Saturday, 26th March was a busy day, beginning at 11am with the O’Connell County Fair Parade, which saw over 100 decorated floats wend their way from Mill Street up to the Infants’ Department and its surrounds. They passed the original school building (now the Museum) which was open for nostalgic visits. The Centenary Fair was conducted in both the school grounds and its surrounds. From 11:30am till 4:00pm the huge crowd was entertained at two stages, the outdoor kindergarten area and the Garfield Road area backing on to the pool where the Historical Society crowned Jenny Ogg as “Miss Riverstone and District”, Kerry Oznybyshizn, as “Miss Teenage Riverstone”, Deborah Varney as “Miss Crowning Glory” and Michelle Strahan as “Miss Charity Queen”.

Celebrations both inside and outside the school grounds included stalls lining both sides of Garfield Road from the then Masonic Hall, now the Museum, to Piccadilly Street. Activities included wood chopping, dance and gymnastics, Bush Games, Treasure Hunt, The Zodiacs Rock Group, Scottish Dancing & Pipe Band, a repeat performance of “Riverstone This is Your Life”, Fire Demonstration, a Doll Collector’s Display and the Q Theatre’s Children’s Street Theatre Group. A whole beast was donated by the Riverstone Meatworks for a barbeque.

The evening celebration was a Dinner Dance held in the Jack Lang Auditorium at the High School where a capacity crowd of 400 people enjoyed food and fellowship. The function was catered for by ex-students Helen Liepa (nee Wheeler) and Barbara Whyte (nee Strachan). Ex-students’ band “The Zodiacs” fronted by Brian Weaver and Brian McCombe accompanied the dancing. Former 1940s student Clarrie Neal, now Vice-President of the Historical Society, organised a table of fellow students & their teacher, Jim Russell. This was to be the fore-runner for the very popular Riverstone Public School Reunions Clarrie was to organise for the following 30 years. It also marked the beginning of Clarrie’s amazing compilation and collection of Riverstone History Booklets for the Museum’s Reading Room. At the Dinner Dance Primary Deputy Principal, Harry Hyland, presented Judith Lewis with a gift of appreciation for the work she had put into the celebrations.

On Sunday, 27th March the celebrations concluded, with an Interdenominational Church Service at the same venue, which was attended by about 300 people. The service was conducted by Rev. Bill Newton from St. Paul’s Church of England, Rev. Nick Fried from St. Andrews Uniting, Mr. Pearson from the Baptist Church and Sister Maria Roman from the Catholic Church.

The choir began the service with “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord’, this was followed by everyone singing “Praise My Soul the King of Heaven”. Principal Stan Fulker read the first lesson with 93 year old former teacher, Mrs Nora Cupitt, reading the second (and doing it without the aid of glasses)! The choir sang “Pass it on” and pupil Helen Aldridge read the Gospel which was followed by an address. After the hymn “God has Spoken by his Prophets” there was an offering of gifts including one for the United Nations Children’s Fund. The service concluded with the hymn “Lord of Creation”, a fitting finale to what had been a real celebration of the first hundred years.

Photos: Riverstone Public School.

Former Principal Wal Aldridge, former teacher Bill Roach, Joan and Maurie Haylor, former Infants Mistress Pat Rohl, at the open day. (The name of the lady next to Miss Rohl is not known.)
The Riverstone Public School float in the Parade.
Riverstone Public School Centenary Staff photo taken in Term 3 1982.

Back Row:
1. Kay Seget 2. Jim Gillespie 3. Charlie Lane 4. Vicki Malin 5. Paul Regan
6. A. Pearce 7. Brian Hubbuck 8. Sue Tsicalis 9. Joan Woods 10. Julie McMahon

Second Back Row:
1. Christine Chodaeswicz 2. Joy Robson 3. Heather Bromhead. 4. Debbie Burton 5. Darryl Roberts 6. David Bamford 7. Anne? Sutcliffe 8. Warren Minton
9. Jacquie Miller 10. Mary Gillespie 11. Greg Bannerman 12. Lorraine Wood

Second Front Row:
1. Lorraine Bannerman 2. Kerry Garven 3. Mary McNamara 4. Moyra McHugh
5. Helen Palmer 6. Jean Williams 7. Pat Sutherland 8. Leslie Russell 9. J. Cutts 10. May Keegan 11. Maisie Gillespie 12. Ros Benton 13. Jim Lee 14. Lindy Thomas

Front Row:
1. Jill McGregor 2. Helen Muir 3. Judith Lewis 4. Ian Woods 5. Harry Hyland 6. Stan Fulker 7. Jeanette Edgecombe 8. Anna Neill 9. Barbara Roberts 10. Jill Crane 11. Sue Mann

Margaret Crouch, Denise Barker, Jane Pugh, Jenny Speechley
Diane Hungerford, Wendy Bennett, Winsome Phillis, Dorothy Dibley

St. Andrews Players

By Michelle Nichols

In 1970 Reverend Michiel Groenewegen was appointed as the new minister for St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Riverstone and was formerly from St. Mark’s at Collaroy Plateau. Michiel was a young, enthusiastic minister and proficient musician, who had the ability of finding the best in people. He was accompanied by his wife Margaret and they were affectionately known as “Mr G” and “Mrs G” by the congregation.

One of the most memorable undertakings of Michiel’s time in Riverstone was the establishment of the musical group, St. Andrews Players. At that time, there was little entertainment around Riverstone, and the musicals seemed to fill the gap. It began as a group from the Presbyterian Church but grew to involve other congregations as well as members of the Riverstone Community. Some members started out helping behind the scenes including Ern Nichols and Howard Voysey but before long they were encouraged to participate on stage.

The first production by St. Andrews Players was Gilbert & Sullivan’s musical operetta “HMS Pinafore” in 1971. The English duo of songwriter W. S. Gilbert (1836-1911) and the composer Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900) created fourteen operettas in the late nineteenth century which are still popular today. This first play was one of the hardest as members had to be ‘encouraged’ to step outside their comfort zone and take on the persona of some of the absurd characters in Pinafore. The action took place on a naval quarterdeck in Portsmouth in 1878. Michiel was not only the director and producer but also played one of the lead characters, Sir Joseph Porter with Kevin Harkness as Ralph Rackstraw, Stan Pardy as Dick Deadeye and Maisie Gillespie as Little Buttercup. Many other locals stepped up to sing in the chorus including couples Geoff & Win King, Joy & Hilton Hillier and Sam & Mavis Lane. An operetta requires a musician and the pianist was Joyce Nichols, who was one of the organists at St. Andrews Church.

The next production was “Ruddigore” performed in 1972 after only three months of rehearsal. This was a more impressive effort than Pinafore with lavish costumes and sets. Ruddigore or the Witches Curse, was the melodramatic tale which included mistaken identities, ghostly ancestors and of course, villains. The late Maisie Gillespie recalled playing Dame Hannah and in one poignant duet she was to place her head on the shoulder of Howard Voysey. As she was only five foot and her ‘beloved’ was over 6 foot, s
he had to settle on laying her head on his waist and “this caused great mirth in the audience!”

As time went on Michiel nurtured the players, and their performances were enhanced through confidence and practise. Eventually members of the church and community were keen to join the cast or get involved in behind the scenes. Each performance involved the players who had to learn parts and act, (both speaking and singing) as well as sets painted and props to be made, costumes created and fitted, hair and make-up, venues, tickets and programs and publicity, an enormous effort for a small band of enthusiasts. Proceeds from the performances went towards the building fund at St. Andrews, to build a new church on their site on the corner of Garfield Road and Oxford Street.

Program for Ruddigore designed by Jenny Nichols, now Lloyd
Newspaper advertisement for Fiddler on the Roof.
Fiddler on the Roof (left) Michiel Groenewegen, Kevin Harkness, Val Voysey, Barbara Fairhall (now Brookes), Glenda Baltaks, Susan Ferguson, Jenny Voysey, now Leech and Michelle Nichols.
Importance of Being Earnest with Margaret Groenewegen (left) & Karen Nichols, now Esser (right).

In 1973 the Players performed “The Gondoliers” which involved kidnappings, a kingdom ruled by two gondoliers and unrequited love. When Maisie Gillespie one of the main singers of the two previous shows was unable to take part due to ill-health, seventeen year old John Matthews stepped in and played the demanding role of the Duchess.

The next musical from the Players was the two-act operetta “The Sorcerer” another comedy by Gilbert & Sullivan, performed in 1974. This story focussed on Alexis who obtained a special love potion that leads everyone falling in love with unsuitable partners. Leads included John Baltaks, Howard Voysey, Dawn Keenan and Maisie Gillespie. The Headmistress of Riverstone Infants School, Miss Lorna Campbell, conducted the music for this play. Although many of the players were senior citizens and took up the challenge with gusto, a number of young folk took part in the musicals both on stage and off. Romance bloomed for some of the Players in real life as well with a number of marriages taking place as a result, including Alan Brooks and Barbara Fairhall.

The biggest undertaking by St. Andrews Player was “Fiddler on the Roof” in 1975 which had a budget of about $4000, which was a lot of money in those days. It was set in Russia at the turn of the century, it is the story of how a Jewish family deal with traditions in a changing world, told through a series of memorable songs. This was a huge production and included fifty plus performers with about 150 people involved in the overall production. It was held at the newly opened auditorium at Riverstone High School and had great reviews in the media. Tickets were $2 each with pensioners and children half price. Some of the performers had to learn new techniques including Alan Brookes and Bruce McCaull who had to perform the Russian Cossack bottle dance. The cast included Michiel as Tevye and his wife Golde played by Val Voysey with Barbara Fairhall, Glenda Baltaks, Susan Ferguson, Jenny Voysey and Michelle Nichols as the daughters. The Fiddler was played by Kerry Pearce with additional music from organist Joyce Nichols, violinist Judy Matling, drummer Christine Brooks and percussionist Gwen Ferguson.

The Players didn’t always perform musicals. The Oscar Wilde play, “The Importance of Being Earnest” which first premiered in 1895, was performed in Riverstone in the mid-1970s. The story focuses on two bachelors, how they contrived a deception, and the lengths they went to not be caught out. Some of the performers included Karen Nichols, Michiel, Margaret Groenewegen and Bruce McCaull.

The shows were held locally, often to capacity crowds, at the Frank Godfrey Memorial Hall in Elizabeth Street, Riverstone, Schofields Community Hall in Railway Terrace and Riverstone Bowling Club. The shows also travelled to Lalor Park, Collaroy Plateau, Mt Druitt and Epping for special appearances. It was often remarked how well the performances were presented and this was due to the meticulous management by Mr G. He not only performed in the plays but produced and directed. His vision was translated with assistance of many, however a number of key people worked tirelessly behind the scenes, such as Bertha O’Loughlin, who was extremely helpful in the costume department, Jim Ferguson with sets and lightning and Jenny Nichols on the backdrops and artwork. Everyone chipped in to help the performances accomplish a sense of professionalism, despite the fact they were only amateurs.

“Pirates of Penzance” was performed after the Groenewegen family left Riverstone, in 1977, and was produced by Michael Baltaks. It remains one of Gilbert & Sullivan’s most popular pieces with many well-known songs including the Major-General’s song. A performance of this play was held at Glenbrook but eventually St. Andrews Players disbanded.

Bruce McCaull highlighted that being involved with St. Andrews Players gave “a great sense of everybody working together.” Joyce Nichols, who played the piano and organ for all of the musicals, said “her music expectations reached new wonderful levels” and remembers the enjoyment of being part of such an exciting and nurturing group. It was a common theme for those fondly reminiscing, the camaraderie and fellowship of St. Andrews Players.

Special thanks to Michiel Groenewegen, Bruce McCaull, Joyce Nichols, Maisie Gillespie and Mary Pitt for their assistance with preparing this article. Photos courtesy of Michelle Nichols.

Some of the cast from HMS Pinafore. Mavis Lane, Val Voysey, Win King
Michiel Groenewegen, Joy Wells, Marion Smith, Dot Vaughan and Dawn Keenan (front).
Photo: Maisie and Gordon Gillespie
Ticket from the Gondoliers production.
Cast of the Gondoliers on stage at Riverstone.
The two of the male leads of Gondoliers, Ern Nichols (left) and Michiel Groenewegen flanking organist Joyce Nichols.
Sorcerer with female leads Maisie Gillespie (left) and Dawn Keenan.
Back Row: Val Voysey, Marion Smith, Cheryl Voysey, Mary Gillespie and Susan Ferguson.
Scene from Sorcerer with Glenda Baltaks, Dave Wylie, Ern Nichols & Bruce McCaull.
Some of the cast from Sorcerer. Geoff King, Lorna Campbell (musical director),
Chris Soley, Val Voysey, Martin Kisbey, Marion Smith and Bess Robbins at front.

Memories of the RSL Golf Club

by Jim Buchanan

I have been asked to recall some of the golfing history of the Town. I can remember back when I first started learning to play, out at the old nine hole course at Rouse Hill where Aldi and the fast food outlets Maccas and KFC now stand on the Windsor road. I was helped to learn to swing a club by an old gentleman called Arthur Smith and his neighbour, Glen Wood back in the early 1960’s.

After joining the RSL club in 1963 I started playing with their Social Golf Club, playing mostly at Rouse Hill, Mungarie Park down the road and later at Maraylya. John Fulton and Harold Loosemore were in charge, making things run smoothly with a membership of around 80 golfers. To mention a few of the names;

Ron Dobson, Bonnie Mudiman, Jack Place, Bobby McHugh, Kevin Lewis, Glen Wood, Arthur Smith, John Fulton, Harold Loosemore, George White, Dave Whalan, Barry Wood, Bill Wood, Terry Wood, Noel Wood, Kevin Gallagher, Billy Weise, Bob Skinner, Jeff Skinner, Jim Buchanan, John Pringle, Clarrie Neal (snr), Ron Neale, John McHugh, John Mossman, Possum Perret and a host of other names that just escape me at the time of putting this article together, I do offer my apology.

Speaking to an avid golfer, George White about this article, he can recall back to the late 1950’s some of the town’s footballers started playing at Rouse Hill and that Laurie Moulds and Kevin Newman (trotting legends) were also out there swinging their clubs and no doubt talking tactics for upcoming races. The footballers that George mentioned were; Bobby McHugh, Des Cartwright, George White, Charlie Wheeler, Kevin Lewis, Ron Neal, Tony Robinson, Dave Whalan, R. Evans and J. Clarke.

I must say that the RSL Club with Ern Meyers Secretary/Manager, really got behind their social golfers by supplying ample liquid refreshments and trophies for every game. Later they put on BBQs too.

As the years progressed, the club started playing 18 hole championship courses, the likes of Richmond, Windsor, Fox Hills, Ashlar, Wentworth Falls and Springwood. After a few years of licking our wounds and fed up with cricket scores and the loss of a lot of players, it was decided that to return to old Royal Rouse Hill as we called it, wasn’t so bad after all, at least it was nice and close to home for most of us.

Over the years for a small town like Riverstone, we have produced some very fine ‘A’ Grade golfers like George White, Ronnie Dobson, Kevin Gallagher and Billy Wiese to mention a few, whereas others like myself just enjoyed the great company and the social side of it all.

I have included the only photo I have taken at Rouse Hill, if anyone has any that they would like to share with us, please contact the historical society so that we can take a copy and maybe publish them in future articles.

Jim Buchanan receiving an award at Rouse Hill Public Golf Course.
The picnic shelters can be seen in the background.
Photo: Jim Buchanan
Looking across the 9th green at Rouse Hill Public Golf Course in 1999 towards what is now the back of the Mean Fiddler Hotel. Photo: Winsome Phillis

Doreen West – Memories of Golf in the District

As told to Rosemary Phillis

Golf is a great game. You can go out on the course and while you play you can forget about everything else. If you have any problems you can forget about them.

Doreen with her golf trophies proudly displayed in her lounge room. Photo: Rosemary Phillis

I started playing golf when my children were little. At the time I played the piano for dances at Blacktown. The men in the group formed a little golf club and they used to go to the Parramatta Golf Range to practice. I went with them and they encouraged me to have a go. I wanted to play left handed as that is how I played cricket and vigoro, but they said I had to play right handed so I did.

My husband Gordon and one of my sons, Ross used to go out to a small nine hole course at Rouse Hill and play socially.

The first club I joined was Fox Hills as my sister Essie played there. I didn’t drive, so I had to take my clubs by train to Blacktown then bus out to the golf course. I have several cards from prizes I won at Fox Hills during the years 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1977.

I then joined Richmond Golf club. Richmond is a good course as it is nice and flat. After some time they convinced me to become Secretary, which I did for five years. I didn’t know what was involved at the start, but the lady who was Secretary before me was very helpful. I travelled to Richmond by train, taking my clubs and buggy. Eventually I got a locker at the club and was able to leave my clubs there.

I only owned one set of golf clubs. They were second hand when I bought them. I didn’t have a full set, just the main ones, a putter, driver and 3, 5 and 7 irons. Towards the end the driver was looking a little worn. The clubs have changed now; they are so much bigger, the drivers are massive.

Along with others from Richmond, we travelled to other courses including Manly, Rydalmere, Leura, Springwood and Camden. Once a year a group of us travelled to Orange for a week. We played golf and had a look around the area.

Doreen West and Jean McPherson on a golfing holiday at Orange.
Photo: Doreen West

Gordon, Ross and I even played in Queenstown when we went to New Zealand. I still remember the time we played at Leura when the weather changed and it started to rain. It was freezing cold and after that I didn’t play in the rain.

We didn’t have a club uniform, you wore what you liked. Sometimes we might have a shirt with a name on it.

The prize cards I have from Richmond date from 1983 through to 2000. Around 1990 my husband Gordon became very ill and I had to give golf away to care for him. After he died I went back to playing at Richmond. I enjoyed the social side of things and it was good exercise.

I made some good friends, Dot Levick, Margaret Fennell and Heath Topping. We still go out to lunch together and Dot calls around for a chat of a Saturday. Others who I recall playing who came from Riverstone included George White and Dawn Wells.

Jean McPherson was another who was at the club. She was a hard worker for Richmond Legacy and she encouraged me to join Legacy.

I didn’t have lessons except for one day when Billy Dunk (a professional who sometimes played at Fox Hills) offered to give the women there a lesson. Apart from that I practiced by playing.

Except for Rouse Hill I always played the full 18 holes. I won a few trophies (Author note: I counted eight proudly displayed on a shelf.) I also won other prizes that were donated by people including a handbag, set of canisters and a blanket amongst other things.

I enjoyed the drive off the tee and seeing how far I could hit the ball. I didn’t so much like when I got closer to the green as it was harder. I had to make sure I didn’t over hit the green.

Although I didn’t drive a car, I could drive a golf buggy and for the last two years I played I shared a cart with my friend Dot. We made the most of the social side of things, while Dot went around the course. I used to take the biscuits and she’d take the coffee.

I do think the best two sports are tennis and golf. They are clean sports and I enjoyed playing them both.



Looking Back – Christmas in the 1930s

by Winsome Phillis (nee Voysey)

The following article was written by Winsome in December 1985 when her daughter Rosemary asked her to write her a story instead of buying a present for Christmas.

Every year, early in December my sister Elaine and I would have a day in Sydney with Auntie Evelyn and Auntie Hazel. We would catch the steam train that left Riverstone around seven o’clock in the morning, arriving in Sydney around half past eight. Anthony Horderns, Farmers and Grace Bros always had marvellous Christmas displays for children – as well as decorated windows to their stores. An entire section would be made into a fairy wonderland with maybe a walk through passage, or a fairy ride in a coach or train, ending up with Santa in his Magic Palace. After you told Santa what you would like for Christmas you were given a little gift.

These stores often had a pantomime too. The first one I can remember was I think at Farmers. It was an underwater play, with these tiny children as mermaids in shells, and the whole thing was seen through a green curtain which gave it a very realistic effect. I was absolutely fascinated.

Lunch was in one of the stores restaurants, which were beautifully decorated with plants. Farmers restaurant was on the top floor, and you could go out into the roof garden.

After school had finished for the year with its concert and prize giving, and after the Sunday School prize giving was held, seemed to be the beginning of the Christmas season for us. The house would be decorated with paper chains and bells, and each day we would eagerly await the arrival of the postman to see if any Christmas cards came for us.

Elaine and I shared a bedroom at home, and each Christmas Eve we would hang up a pillowcase at the end of our beds. Very early on the morning of Christmas Day we would wake up and crawl down to the end of the bed to see what was in the pillowcases – sometimes we just had to feel the contents, then wait impatiently until it was light enough to see. Then about half past six we would tear down to visit Lal and Uncle Charlie, who always went to visit Auntie Polly, Uncle Charlie Fry and their family at Waverley on the seven o’clock train on Christmas Day. Lal and Uncle Charlie always gave us lovely presents. My kookaburra brooches and my celluloid dressing table set came from them.

Home then 4 Regent Street, later renumbered to 8. Stella Rumery and her nieces Elaine and Gwen in the late 1920s/early 1930s.
Photo: Winsome Phillis

Each year our pillowcases would contain a book, as well as other gifts. For many years I would find a ‘Tiny Tot’s Annual’ full of fairy stories and pictures. Then, in later years I would look forward to the Mary Grant Bruce books, especially the Billabong series. I can still remember sitting in the cool of the hall reading my book when I should have been doing something to help get dinner ready. Elaine would also get a book and often we would get a similar present such as a doll or a tea set in different colours. ‘Puck’ and ‘Sunbeam’ were two of the Annuals the others would get. I can’t remember the third one.

We didn’t have a Christmas tree to decorate in those days, they came along after the war.

Dinner was at midday in the dining room instead of the kitchen where we ate most of our meals. The wooden dining room table could be extended by adding leaves in the middle to accommodate about twelve people. It was always a hot roast dinner, chicken and vegetables, followed by plum pudding and custard. The chickens were in those days bought live from somewhere. Dad had to cut their heads off out in the woodheap and then they were plucked and cleaned using boiling water. I always avoided being around when this was going on, but I didn’t mind eating them when Mum served them up stuffed and cooked at Christmas.

Mum also made the Christmas pudding, which contained silver trinkets and threepences, wrapped in little bits of greaseproof paper so that no one would eat one by mistake. These puddings (she always made two, one for New Year) were mixed in a large china wash bowl about six months earlier, and then hung in their calico wrapping on the back verandah till the day, then boiled again for some hours. They were delicious hot, and also delicious eaten cold with butter.

Christmas tea was a cold meal, with ham that had been previously cooked in the wood copper; lettuce and tomatoes from the garden – ours or Uncle Charlie’s, and stewed peaches from our own trees.

At some time during the day we would take our presents around to show Mrs Crowle and her old mother, Mrs Wilson, who lived in Railway Terrace just a few doors along from Lal’s house. Mrs Crowle’s house always smelt of dogs and Mrs Wilson’s was always dark and smelt of cats. They were friends of Lal’s and always liked to see what we had received for Christmas.

My mother, Ida Voysey, outside our family home. Photo: Winsome Phillis

Auntie Evelyn and a Auntie Hazel visited us in the afternoon and sometimes stopped for tea. Mum often gave them both Cashmere Bouquet Soap for a present, three cakes in a white box, which had the most beautiful smell. Even now the scent of this soap reminds me of Christmas at home, and sitting on the bed watching Mum wrap up her presents.

St. Andrews Uniting Church

by Bruce McCaull

The following article was written by Bruce to appear in the Uniting Church publication Hawkesbury People Power. Bruce kindly gave permission for it to appear in our journal.

This is the story of St. Andrews Church Riverstone. The church is the people who have been called by God to live as his disciples in the world today.

Rev. Graham Beattie in 1982 stated that “The church is not just a building, it is people – people who have been claimed, called and equipped by the Gospel of Jesus Christ to belong to Him and witness to his love and truth in the world.”

It was people of faith who established the St. Andrews Church in Riverstone. Rev. P. Fitzgerald, Minister of Windsor started church services at Riverstone in 1882. The first services were held in the home of John Greig in Garfield Road just up from St. Andrews church today.

The minister was well received and did a good work among the folk who attended. Having established the church services, he encouraged the noble little band of attendees to build a church in Regent St.

St. Andrews in Regent Street (circa 1907)

So St. Andrews in Regent Street (pictured above around 1907) was opened on 2nd November 1884, by Rev. P. Fitzgerald. It was the centre for worship until the new St. Andrews Community Centre was opened 1980.

The original building is still used for worship to-day on the third Sunday of the month. There was discussion about moving from Regent Street to a more central location in 1911. So in 1913 permission was given by Windsor Council for St. Andrews Church to move to the corner of Oxford and Garfield Streets, on Saturday 8th February 1913. From the stories handed down by older church folk, we are led to believe that the church was moved by manpower which must have been an incredible achievement. (Editor: The church centenary booklet in 1982 recorded, “The building was cut in half and each half removed by timber waggon, then rejoined at the new site.”)

From the beginning until 1970 we were part of the Windsor, Richmond, Pitt Town/Ebenezer Parish. So the concept of now being part of the Hawkesbury Zone is not new to us.

1974 was a highlight when Riverstone participated in the celebrations of the 150th anniversary at Ebenezer. Members of Riverstone were in the choir and the celebrations were televised and shown around N.S.W.

St. Andrews has always been active in the community from when the first small band of followers met together in 1882 until the present day. Betty and I have been serving at St. Andrews since 1972. We were asked to be the Camp parents at Clarence for the Riverstone youth camp in 1973. There were about 30 teenagers attending and we had only just been married ourselves.

St Andrews Uniting Church

From there we were involved in the Sunday School, and various youth groups. I even had a stint at teaching Scripture in the high school in the 80’s.

St. Andrews Riverstone have led the way in many ventures with other churches including support of the combined carols, Riverstone Festival, Youth worker and Chaplain in the High School.

Sometime in the late 70’s Mrs. Cason asked me if I would help to put stage props together for the Christmas Carols for our youth group, not knowing she had been told “NO”, we went ahead. The night of the carols there was a break in the music and out we came. Pam and myself carried out the larger stable props, the music started, the sound of the young voices echoed as they came out singing ‘Away in a Manger’ and placing the manger, baby Jesus and animals in the stable. It was a great success. After that all the Churches participated. It grew to become Riverstone’s Combined Christmas Carols.

St. Andrews carols are on December 17th on the grounds and Christmas Morning service at 8am. We hold Special Easter Services on the Thursday and Friday at Easter. Our Sunday Worship starts 9:30 each Sunday, and the third Sunday is held in the Heritage Church followed by a fellowship lunch.

We are still involved in the community with activities including; Monday carpet bowls at 9:30 followed by Tia-Chi at 1:30. Every fourth Tuesday at 9:30, we have a morning tea with a guest speaker. In the evenings each week a laughter group. Wednesdays is Tumble Time for toddlers between 10 and 12. Every third Thursday, a Street Stall at the Town Centre. Fridays, every second week, between 4 and 6pm we have fun afternoons with games, snacks and activities.

A.I.F. ABROAD – Western Front Tour 2016

James Downey

I left Australia on Wednesday July 13th this year with eight other people from Sydney as part of a tour known as A.I.F. ABROAD. It was put together by a fellow from Melbourne who usually runs Kokoda tours, it was mainly made up of WWI re-enactors from all over Australia.

All members of the tour met up while at our stop over in Singapore before heading on to London. We had two days in London before catching a train to Lille in France where we were met by a fellow WWI French re-enactor. He became our first guide while in France and took us to his cafe in Armentieres.

The group outside of the Mademoiselle from Armentieres Cafe.
James is standing behind the flag and Dennis Channels is third from the right in the front row.
Photo: James Downey

We then made our way to our accommodation in Belgium before heading to the city of Ypres to attend the nightly last post ceremony at the Menin Gate. The local fire brigade have sounded the last post every night since 1928, the year after the gate house was officially opened. The Menin Gate contains the names of 56,000 allied soldiers who fought in that sector and died. Approximately 6,000 of those names are Australians.

The group attended the official ceremonies to commemorate the centenary of the battle of Fromelles and Pozieres. I also had the pleasure to be at the burial of an Australian soldier whose remains were discovered on April 25th 2013. He was buried in the Commonwealth cemetery in the shadow of the Australian 5th Division memorial, Polygon Wood.

We visited other Australian memorials, museums and battle fields including Villers-Bretonneux/Hamel and Bullecourt.

Burial of an Australian Soldier at the Commonwealth Cemetery at Polygon Wood.
Photo: James Downey

Several members of our tour found graves and names of family members etched on walls at some of the memorials we visited. I found my mother’s great uncle, Joseph Young, who survived Gallipoli only to be killed in France in 1918. His body was never found. Dennis Channels, also from Riverstone, found his uncle’s name at the VC Corner memorial in Fromelles. His uncle was part of the massive loss of Australian life on our very first night of battle on the Western Front.

The tour ended with my arrival back in Sydney on Tuesday the 26th of July. I brought home several items that I subsequently donated to the Riverstone Museum to try and help tell the story of our service men and women during the Great War 1914-1918. I look forward to seeing them on display.

Shrapnel from Australian Lines at Bullecourt. Photo: Rosemary Phillis

Looking Back – Steam Trains

by Winsome Phillis (nee Voysey)

The following article was written by Winsome in July 1985 when her daughter Rosemary asked her to write her a story instead of buying a present for her birthday.

When we were children living at 4 Regent Street in the 1930s and 40s, our lives were regulated to a certain extent by two things, the Meatworks whistle and the trains. (Steam trains of course, electric trains were part of the great adventure of going to Sydney.) Dad went to work at the Meatworks and soon after the five o’clock whistle went of an evening we would watch for him to come home ’round the corner’ of Railway Terrace and Regent Street.

Back then we went to school at Parramatta, catching the train was just a normal part of our routine. Later on, you would need to be up before the six thirty whistle went in the morning and ready to leave before the seven o’clock one to catch the train to work in Sydney. The train would always whistle as it came past the Meatworks, so that was an extra incentive to hurry.

We didn’t have a car, so to go out for the day to Sydney or anywhere out of town you walked to the station and caught the train. At Christmas time my sister Elaine and I went on the train to Sydney with Auntie Hazel and Auntie Evelyn. The stations between Blacktown and Parramatta were just two platforms, one each way for up and down. Marayong, Quakers Hill and Schofields like Riverstone only had one platform. They were very quiet little places – dirt roads, open fields, lots of trees and not many houses.

Riverstone Railway Station on 26 August 1939.
Photo: ARHS – Singleton Collection No:005586

After we finished 6th class at Riverstone we went on to 1st year at Parramatta Domestic Science School. We caught the ten past eight train to school and arrived home about half past four. We never minded travelling, we had a group of friends to go with and something was always happening – like the boys who used to travel in the luggage racks or pop over the back of the seats and pull faces. (There was one little menace in particular whose name I cannot remember, but he was always doing something naughty.) There was also an old man who lived near the railway line at Quakers Hill. We called him Father Christmas and waved to him every morning as he stood on his front verandah.

It was always our custom to wave to Mum and Lal (Aunty Alice who lived on the corner of Railway Terrace and Regent Street) as the train passed our house, coming and going, a habit that continued for years; Mum on the front verandah or at the kitchen window and Lal at her side gate or out in the garden. My sister Gwen would pick up the daily paper at Conway’s and throw it out of the train window each morning. You had to be a good thrower to get it over the railway line fence. I was never very good, but Elaine and Gwen were. One day however the paper ended up on top of the train roof.

The fence along the line was post and rail. At the end of Regent Street the wire was pulled apart with a bag thrown across the gap for easy crossing. There was a proper foot crossing 100 yards further along near Hunter Street, but we never used that. We were always told to be careful of snakes when crossing the line, as well as trains. Uncle Charlie and Dad would cross the line to walk out to Marsden Park. Sometimes we would go for a walk with Uncle Charlie out along the creek – we loved those walks.

Our trains were usually pulled by ordinary black engines. If we had a shiny green one, we thought ourselves very lucky. Sometimes, if we were running late for the train, we would duck across Garfield Road, through the railway gate and up the front end of the station, but you had to be careful the train wasn’t taking on water, or you could get dripped on from the water tank.

Riverstone Railway Station, 12 July 1958 Loco 3024 Regular Passenger Train
Photo: ARHS – Skiller Collection No:051457

Mostly the carriages were the everyday ones with the centre aisle, seats arranged in fours and the luggage rack above partitions. The real old ones were called dog boxes with each compartment opening directly onto the platform. The nicer, newer ones had side aisles with compartments seating six in 1st class and eight in 2nd class. On the very rare occasions we were lucky to get carriages from a V.I.P. train, with carpet on the floor and individual seats that swivelled around.

Once we went on the North Coast Mail to Nambucca for a holiday. It was very exciting to look out of the window when the train stopped in the middle of the night and see these tiny platforms surrounded by trees and ferns. The trains had their own particular smell from the coal they burnt, especially when going through a tunnel. You were always told not to put your head out of the window, or you would get soot in your eyes.

Sleeping carriages for distance travelling in that time were very interesting, with two bunk beds that folded down out of the wall and a wash basin that also folded into the wall and was very awkward to use as the water sloshed around with the movement of the train.

Inside of a TAM sleeping car.
Photo: Railcorp

There were no buffet cars on these trains. Special stations along the way sold refreshments, but it was a mad rush to get to the counter, get served and then eat or drink in a hurry before the train started again. Gloucester was one particular station that seemed to delight in not being open for travellers, especially if the train was late. Gwen reminded me of one instance where we were reduced to cutting up a pineapple with a nail file to stop ourselves from starving.

Saturday night was our ‘night out’ and often we would catch the train to Parramatta to go the pictures, or to the Old Time dance at the Town Hall, or the 50/50 dance at the Rivoli. (The Rivoli was a hall near the Fire Station.) You had to be careful that you didn’t miss the last train home, which got to Riverstone about twenty past midnight. We then walked home from the station.

We had lots of fun travelling by trains, probably owing to the fact that we always had friends to travel with. We would sew, knit, read, do crosswords or just talk. By about 1950 the group was splitting up, getting married, changing jobs, but it was fun while it lasted.

The Watton Family Story

by John Watton

In the display shed at the Riverstone Museum is a beautiful display case that houses a collection of tools. The case was designed and built by John Watton and Graham Britton. In 2016 Graham convinced John to tell the story of the Watton family and his career.

Lyle Edward John Watton was born in Ryde on 14th May 1903 and was one of six children born to Charles and Harriet Watton of Ryde/Eastwood.

Charles’ father Henry (originally from Hampshire, England) arrived in Australia in the 1850s and bought a large parcel of land in Eastwood. He developed a good size portion of the land into an orchard (peaches, plums, nectarines). Some years after Charles was born (1863) he was able to work with his father on the orchard until Henry’s untimely death in 1899.

Charles continued with the orchard and had the help of his three sons, Vic, Merv and Lyle for a short period of time until his death in 1916. Lyle was only 13 years old at this time. The three sons then took on the job of being orchardists. Lyle left in 1921 to seek other work when he was 18 years of age. Vic and Merv worked as orchardists for several years thereafter.

Lyle (known as Sam) after leaving the orchard sought work at the Riverstone Meat Works (1921-1922). His job and the period of time he stayed is unfortunately not known to us. A photograph of his workmates, Tommy Walland and Bertie Keegan is shown below.

Sam Watton and workmates Tommy Walland and Bertie Keegan

After leaving the meatworks job he returned to Eastwood and then took up a job in Sydney as a Paper Ruler and remained in that job until 1937. A Paper Ruler is a person who can set up, operate or tend paper goods machines that perform a variety of functions, such as converting, sawing, corrugating, banding, wrapping, boxing, stitching, forming or sealing paper or cardboard into a product.

Sam again visited Riverstone during the early thirties to see his two sisters, Myrtle and Ennis whom married two Riverstone gentlemen. Myrtle married Gordon “Dave” Jennings and Ennis married Bob Davis in 1933. We believe it was about this time that Sam met Gordon’s younger sister Gwen and a relationship developed and flourished from thereon and on 14th December 1937 they were married. Sam then moved to Riverstone permanently.

Gwendoline (Gwen) Helena Watton (nee Jennings) was born in Wyong NSW on 3rd July 1912 and was the youngest of six children born to parents Robert Charles Jennings (whose occupation was a sawyer) and Helena Bridget Smith (whose occupation was a housemaid). This was Charles’ second marriage – his first wife bore three girls and a boy.

Gwen and family remained in Wyong for nine years before moving to Richmond in August 1921 and then finally moving to Riverstone in June 1926. The family’s small house was situated on about five acres in Hamilton Street approximately opposite Ark Place. It was hard to imagine how such a large family lived in a home of this size, particularly when it only had two bedrooms, a lounge or sitting room and kitchen in the main building and laundry outside.

Gwen’s occupation before marrying Sam was a housemaid at home and at the old Riverstone Royal Hotel. The time she was employed there is unknown.

Gwen and Sam Watton at Central Station 1937

After Sam and Gwen (my Mum and Dad) married they lived in the little house in Hamilton Street for approximately four years. (Mum’s brothers and sisters had moved out by this time except her parents.)

When I was very young Mum related an event which happened in this house during her teenage years. One day a postman arrived at the front door during an electrical storm. She opened the door after hearing the knock and stepped briefly outside when a bolt of lightning shot through the open doorway, down the hall and out the back door striking their milking cow and killing it.

Another story she told me was when her father caught a crow, he slit its tongue and over a period of time taught it to talk.

Mum and Dad moved out of the little house in 1942. My sister Norma was born in 1938, I was born in 1939 in the little hospital in Garfield Road, now a doctor’s surgery. I was only three years of age but still remember the “big move” from Hamilton Street down through the bush to our “new home” in Piccadilly Street. Mum was wheeling a pram with my baby sister June in it (born 1941) and Norma and I were walking beside her. Dad was leading the way with a 6’0” roll of chicken wire on his shoulder. The little house was subsequently demolished several years later.

This “new” home was an old weatherboard cottage rented from Arthur Britton and consisted of two bedrooms, a lounge room (later to become another bedroom), kitchen, two small store rooms, a laundry room separated by a breezeway and a large shed in the back yard, situated on a large block of land. A few scattered houses could be seen from our house, namely, Schofield’s, Green’s, Drayton’s, Wheeler’s, Stephenson’s (Jockey’s old place).

I loved this old place and it became our home for the next 10-11 years. Alan (1943), Gwenda (1946) and Colin (1949) were born whilst living here.

As soon as we settled in, Dad built his chicken pens and roosts around the big shed then bought some laying hens and a rooster. From that time onwards we always had a good egg supply and eventually some young chicks. He would also buy day old chicks from Jack Marx up in McCulloch Street, rear them up and slaughter them at Easter and Christmas time.

The Watton family 1951

My father’s love for the garden was endless and he worked the spare block beside the house (house and shed being built on one side of the block) in the hours he was not working at the Meatworks, to become a great vegetable garden. This spare block was devoid of everything except grass, weeds, a mandarin tree and a large mulberry tree. Blocks of land along Piccadilly Street were originally surveyed with 36’ frontages. Our block was two blocks joined together.

Initially Dad spent hours, days and then months to develop this block into the garden he wanted. All digging was done by pronged hoe, fork and spade into a reasonable depth of top soil. He built himself a “billy cart” with long shafts each side and would go out into the paddocks surrounding our house and fill it with cow manure. This manure together with the chook poo that the fowls provided, enabled him to fertilise the ground to become rich soil.

Dad planted and grew tomatoes, (red marios – beautiful large reds and full of flavour) beans, peas, potatoes, broad beans, carrots, watermelons etc. year round and to suit the seasons. This virtually made us self sufficient and all this was being done whilst earning a living at the Meatworks.

We grew the freshest and best vegies in town (others would dispute this such as Uncle Gordon (Dave Jennings)) but Dad always had a spirited view and did his best at all times and with great results. When tomato growing, he would take an axe into the bush and cut down suitable saplings to be used as stakes to support the plants and bring them home on his shoulder.

At times when tomatoes and beans were abundant in our garden, Dad would sell a bucket of tomatoes for two shillings and beans for one shilling a bucketful.

All the time this was going on our Mother looked after all housework including cleaning, washing in an old copper, ironing, pegging out on lines stretched between posts and supported by bush poles, and looking after us at the same time.

When Easter came Dad would slaughter his fattened fowls however the plucking and gutting fell into Mum’s hands up to a stage when I was old enough to do both of these jobs. Norma, June and Alan helped with the plucking.

It was hard work for Mum in the 1940s, particularly when we were of primary school age in making sure we were properly attired and clean. I remember she would lay-by most things she required for the house and us as needed. Mostly payment would be made from endowment monies received from the government.

We certainly had the biggest and best mulberry tree in town. When in season all the kids around the area would come to our place with their little billy cans, climb the tree and pick their own berries. A lot were eaten before the billys were filled and taken home.

Piccadilly Street in the early years was virtually a horse and sulky track, rough and muddy in the wet, dry and dusty at other times. Other named streets were mostly tracks but we loved it and it gave us all the freedom in the world living there.

There was so much open land around our house and all of us – boys and girls would mix with other kids and explore the bush, creeks etc. catching crayfish, bird nesting, picking mushrooms and blackberries, trapping rabbits, fishing for whatever was available around the area as well as playing various types of sports on our homemade fields of contests.

For example, we would clear and level the ground by hand to build a cricket pitch; go to the bush and cut down suitable trees to use as goalposts and rails for our football games; dig out ground and fill it with sawdust carried from Dunstan’s Sawmill for long jumping, install posts and rail for high jumping. Kids around our area would come around to play. All this done without costing money (we had none anyway) and held us in good stead for sports later on, particularly with cricket and rugby league.

Dad loved having a small flutter on Saturday’s racing in Sydney and worked for Cecil Alcorn and Jessop Stockwell (SP bookies at the time) looking after the ‘tips’. i.e. Punters would try and pick the winners of each race and put in two shillings for the afternoon. At the end of the day the punter with the most points would win the ‘pool’. Neale Becke and I would hang around and would become the ‘runners’ for Cecil and Jessop when a large bet or bets were placed they would ask us to ride down quickly into town with a note to lay off these bets with other S.P. bookies. We would be paid two shillings per ride into town.

By 1952 Dad had saved enough money to buy a block of land in Mill Street. The block was one of several surveyed in a paddock owned by Fred and Frank Sullivan. The first job he did was to fence
the two sides and rear with split posts, rails and palings and I was helping him. Mainly this work was carried out on weekends. After fencing was completed Dad signed a contract with W. McNamara Pty. Ltd. to build a new house. This was completed in 1953 and we again had the big move to our wholly owned home.

In the meantime Dad was still working in the egg pulp department at the Meatworks and remained in that job until it was eventually closed. He then became a shift worker loading beef carcasses onto refrigerated rail wagons. At sometime thereafter he became a permanent night loader doing exactly the same type of work. A few of his mates at that time working with him were “Sonny” Johnson and Les Teale, Les Britton and Bruce (Bats) Johnson – others I can’t remember. He would leave for work about 2.45pm, come home for dinner at 8pm and return to work until the shift was completed. These working hours suited Dad because it allowed him to work during the morning at home mainly developing a fantastic vegie garden, doing as before in Piccadilly Street.

Mum in the meantime did everything as before but she liked to look after the flower gardens.

Of course there were recreational times in our early years. Mum and Dad would treat all of us to the Royal Easter Show and the Hawkesbury Show each year and we would certainly look forward to it and especially to buy some sample bags on offer. Travelling in these times was always by train and bus.

The Wattons at the 1948 Hawkesbury Show

Empire night was something special – us kids would for months before the night go into the bush and cut down various sized trees and lug them home to a paddock for them to dry out. This took a long time and was hard work. Mum and Dad both helped us to construct the bonfire and to build it as large as we could. We and our friends would have a great night particularly when letting of our fireworks and crackers. In those days everyone was sensible and no stupidity occurred.

Most times we would buy crackers from little monies earned by running errands for neighbours, cleaning out fowl houses, picking up and bagging potatoes and the like.

I attended Richmond High School for four years (1952-1955) and can remember the “dicey” crossing over the two viaducts between Mulgrave and Clarendon. During flood times the water would be lapping the underside of the tracks and six metres plus of water under the bridges. I don’t think safety was thought of by the NSW Rail Dept. in those years.

During my time at High School, sports were my main love, particularly cricket and rugby league in which I represented the school against other schools.

Dad was also a keen cricketer in his early years and his genes must have passed down the line to his three sons because all of us became very much involved with cricket for years to come. When I was about 12 or 13 I was captain of the Riverstone Junior cricket team and remained there for the next three years. Unfortunately we could not win a final – Windsor always had the wood on us. From 16 years of age I was in a very good side captained by Ron Brown for the Riverstone RSL and played in the Parramatta competition. We had some very good players in those years such as Colin Haywood, Bob Brennan, Bob (Bingo) Webster, Ron Brown, Manny McCarthy and others.

Unfortunately a car accident in early 1959 put a stop to all my sports including rugby league (I was playing ‘A’ Reserve at the time) for a long time. Ligaments in my right foot rolled up into a ‘ ball’ and I had to be very careful with what I did.

In the years to come Alan and Colin excelled in cricket playing with the Riverstone & Schofields clubs and rugby league for Riverstone Football Club, wherein they were runners up in the ‘A’ Grade grand final in 1970 and winning in 1971 and 1972 against Mt. Druitt and Windsor respectively. Colin previously represented NSW School Boys in Rugby League and cricket against Queensland in 1961.

After completing High School I gained employment with Bill McNamara in the start of 1956 after asking him if there was an apprenticeship for carpentry and joinery open. I remember asking him one Saturday morning on the corner opposite the Station Master’s residence. He immediately said “What do you know about hammers, saws and wood”. I replied that I had been playing around with these tools since I was seven years of age and I liked doing things with wood.

Bill in his wisdom decided to give me a start the following week at Richmond Aerodrome. My first job was working on the Airman’s Quarters and Ablution Block with Jimmy Hanney under the control of our foreman Peter Rosa. Thereafter, I remained in Bill’s employment with W. McNamara Pty. Ltd. (later changed to the McNamara Group) for the next 37 years in which I was involved with many large projects within in NSW and Qld and at various levels of management and became General Manager of Construction in 1987.

After the McNamara Group decided to close operations I continued my time with Bill in our joint company, Metro West Pty. Ltd. in 1993 for the next 10 years until I decided to retire and do some travelling while still reasonably young.

It wasn’t the end of our Association as I am still involved with Bill in various types of discussions and matters and in touch with him on a regular basis. I enjoyed my entire time in the building industry despite several awkward times with union disturbances.

Alan and Colin also both worked for The McNamara Group on several projects for a long period of time and again on large projects. Alan was Centre Manager of Westpoint Marketown.

My sister Norma was married to Brian Watts (Long’un) and he also worked for Bill for 30 odd years but unfortunately passed away in 2000. June my middle sister is married to well known Rivo identity Barry (Muzzo) Wood and my youngest sister, Gwenda married Frank Whitehead (deceased 2015).

During September 1970 Dad suffered a major cerebral stroke at home and remained hospitalised and cared for until he passed away in July 1974. Mum would visit him every day and each of us siblings would see him in turn on a weekly basis. Dad was 71 years of age. Over the next 21 years Mum lived by herself at home and was visited by all members of the family at various times, but doing it tough with constant pain and without her partner in life.

In August 1992 at the age of 80 years Mum suffered an inoperable tumour on the brain and passed away peacefully in Lottie Stewart Hospital.

Despite the sad times that happen throughout life to us all, we loved our time growing up and living our lives, building our homes and raising our children in Riverstone. Some of us have now left the town but still think very fondly of the good times we had there and often revisit to catch up with sisters, brothers and life long friends.

Photos: The Watton family.