George John Apap, Railway Terrace Schofields

by Carmen Salkeld

George John Apap

For decades machinery has scraped at the earth on Railway Terrace, Schofields. During the second half of the 20th century, it was tractors hoeing up the earth, in preparation to plant seeds for parsley, lettuce, spinach, spring onions and prickly pear. In 2017, it is the teeth of heavy excavators carving canyons into the ground where one day carparks will be built below multi-storey apartment complexes.

Today, in 2017, there is dust, destruction and noise. The cars of busy city commuters line Railway Terrace all day as trains run on the dual line every 20 minutes or so. The street is now a four-lane highway, lit with bright orange street lights that can be seen for miles around. A monolith that is a Woolworths supermarket has risen from the earth where once the Teumas used to live. A sea of roofs has invaded Peels Dairy.

This is what I see today as I stand in the driveway of 279 Railway Terrace Schofields. The land is five hundred metres from the train station and so is being developed for medium density housing. Where once a modest fibro tile dwelling was home to a family of five, four blocks of four to five storey town houses will rise out of the ground. Railway Terrace, the main thoroughfare between Quakers Hill and Riverstone, has become an extremely busy road.

It wasn’t always like this. When I first stood in the driveway of the property in 1976 I could see for miles around. The property was farmed to lettuce, next door was a horse paddock and as far as the eye could see was open land with homes dotted here and there. There was a beautiful vista across Peels Dairy to the mountains shrouded in their blue haze. It was quiet, very quiet. The road had only recently been sealed and was two lanes. Cars passed infrequently – although quite quickly as there was an unlimited speed limit! The railway was only a single line and came through every half hour or so. Only one street light shone on the bend so that drivers wouldn’t keep driving into Mr Cody’s paddock (even though some still did).

279 Railway Terrace, Schofields.

Opposite the property was the Schofields Aerodrome. Every Friday afternoon plane enthusiasts would come to fly their small planes and meet at the clubhouse. It also operated a flying school for those interested in becoming pilots. I used to enjoy watching the planes over the weekend until 3.00 pm Sunday when the planes would stop.

George Apap aged 17 on his parents Massey Ferguson tractor.
George Apap’s parents, Joe and Josephine Apap with his grandfather and sister. The photo was taken in Malta.

I loved the routine of the area. The school bus that picked up the neighbour’s children at 8.00 am, the Bush’s truck that picked up the scraps from the butcher at the end of the day, the Australia Post truck that went past the house at 5.15 pm each day. When we were working in the farm these would be our clock.

Schofields was a real country town. Everyone knew each other and was ready to lend a helping hand or piece of farm machinery. You met your friends at Rothwell’s Hardware, Schoie’s shops or church on the weekend.

On the 20th November 1968 George John Apap purchased the odd shaped piece of land which became known as Lot 6 Burdekin Road for seven thousand pounds. The land was originally part of Portion 44 granted to James Chisolm on the 10th June 1815. Prior to George purchasing the property it was part of a parcel of approximately twenty five acres of land that was used to farm gladiolas. In fact for many years after it became a market garden, gladiolas would still pop up around the boundaries of the property. The original parcel was subdivided and George purchased the piece of land that went around the bend where Railway Terrace turns into Burdekin Rd. Essentially the property sits on the boundary of Schofields and Quakers Hill.

George was born on the 7th September 1951 at Model Farms to Maltese immigrant parents. He was the seventh of ten children and the first in his family to be born in Australia. The family were from Gozo in Malta where traditionally people farm the land. When George was ten years old the family purchased five acres of land at Lot 8 Walker Street Quakers Hill and had a market garden. George went to school at Quakers Hill East Public School when it was located at Lalor Road Quakers Hill. From there he continued his education at Patrician Bros College in Blacktown. George was clever, resourceful and creative but school did not suit him. He left school after completing Fourth Form (Year 10) and joined his father in the farm where they grew lettuce, tomatoes, beetroot, potatoes and other vegetables.

In 1968 when George was 17 he and his father Joe decided they needed to expand the farm. They needed fresh land so they could rest part of the farm on Walker St. They sowed lettuce at the Railway Terrace farm in long straight rows across most of the property and built a small shed to house the machinery and shelter from the weather at lunch time. There were two driveways – one at the Burdekin Road end and the current driveway on Railway Terrace.

George and his father worked the property together for about five or six years. They farmed during the day and George would take the vegetables from both farms to the Haymarket now known as Paddy’s Markets, Haymarket, in the early hours of the morning three times a week to sell. This arrangement worked nicely as father and son got along well and had similar ideas as to how the farm should be run. George used to say how much he loved the farm and being outdoors, working with his father. He would come to the farm early in the morning and work before the heat of the day and head home around lunch time to eat and rest. In the afternoon he would work on machinery or packing boxes and when it was starting to cool off he would go back to Schofields and work weeding or chipping or picking the lettuce. When he saw the Bush’s truck go past he would know it was around 6.00 pm and time to start loading the truck for market and heading back home, which would still take another couple of hours.

George had many, many friends and family in the area and some would stop by for a chat while he was working. He relished these occasions as he loved nothing better than a cup of coffee and a chance to catch up. As a special treat, when English migrants May and John Cody moved in across Burdekin Road, May would sometimes take George freshly baked cakes for morning tea as he worked in the farm.

Steve Attard (my brother) sitting on the Bedford truck George purchased to work for the DMR. The family’s first car, a V8 XB Falcon, sits at the side of the house. Photo taken looking towards the Blue Mountains.

In 1973 George decided to join his brother-in-law Charlie Azzopardi driving a truck for the Department of Main Roads (DMR). His father was now starting to move towards retiring and only wanted to farm the Walker St farm. George started on the DMR with the family Chev truck which had been used for taking the crops to market.

A year later, George bought an orange Bedford which had a canopy for collecting workers from the depot in the morning and taking them to the job site and back again in the afternoon. During the workday, George and the Bedford would cart hot mix and other materials needed for road building.
When he came home from work at the DMR at 4.30pm, George carried on working the farm. By now he was picking parsley to take to the market at about 9pm twice a week. By 1975 a new market had opened at Flemington saving western Sydney farmers time delivering their produce each week.

That year, George and I met at Blacktown RSL Club. In 1976 we moved a three-bedroom fibro house from Toongabbie to 279 Railway Terrace, Schofields in anticipation of our marriage in March 1977. George always said he positioned the house on the land that wasn’t much good for growing lettuce anymore! The house needed lots of work – painting, walls moved, a new bathroom and kitchen. We furnished it with items donated by family and made do until we could afford better. Of course we thought it was wonderful. Over the years we added a laundry and family room and had it covered with aluminium cladding and aluminium windows. We raised three children in that home and had many family celebrations there. A couple of the grandchildren are old enough to remember the house and often say to me that they want to go to the ‘old house’.

c1976. Carmen and George at a friend’s wedding.

George had planted parsley before the wedding. While we were away on our honeymoon in South Australia, George phoned his mother and she told him the price of parsley had gone up significantly in his absence. Our honeymoon ended promptly and we returned to Schofields to pick parsley and take advantage of the high prices. Over the next twenty years parsley would take over our lives.

Veronica, Joe and Simon in the house vegetable garden, looking towards Burdekin Road and Quakers Hill.

In 1979 we began to grow a summer crop to compliment the year-round crop of parsley. That first summer we grew capsicums, and in the following summers we grew lettuce, beetroot, spring onions, spinach and rhubarb.

Our first son, Simon, was born in 1979, followed quickly by our daughter, Veronica, in 1980. It was about this time we decided to be a little more self-sufficient so we bought a Friesian cow for milk, and, with the leftover milk, I used to make Maltese cheese, known as gbejniet. It is similar to ricotta cheese and we used it for cooking, drying and peppering – and the kids often snacked on the cheese fresh from the fridge. Like everything we grew on the farm, we gave any extra cheese we had to grateful neighbours, friends and family.

We bought chickens, planted a kitchen garden and raised calves for meat. We had a gaggle of geese which were a wonderful weeding system. The geese do not like the taste of parsley, but would gladly eat the weeds that grew between the stalks, saving many hours of manual labour.

Back then, we did not need to buy much at the supermarket during our weekly shop. The baker, Joe Camilleri, used to deliver bread, Dick Stacey used to arrive in our driveway once a week with his covered Ute loaded with fresh produce so we could buy whatever fruit and vegetables we couldn’t grow ourselves.

In those days, we rarely went on holidays as George would use his Christmas break to do jobs around the farm and harvest his summer crop. In 1983, we had our third and final child, Joseph. Of all the children, he was the one who loved the farm the most. George was his hero and he loyally followed his father around the farm all day.

c1981. George Apap and Simon (aged 2) sitting on the New Farmliner tractor.
George, Joe and Veronica with Blue the dog. In the background is Laurie and Rose Bigeni’s house
George Apap, Joe and Veronica picking parsley

All three children learned to drive the blue Farmliner tractor as soon as their skinny legs were long enough to push the clutch all the way in. The tractor had become a bit of a joke in the neighbourhood. Everyone else was buying well-established brands of farm machinery such as Massey Fergusons. However George insisted he was a “trend setter” not a trend follower and went ahead and purchased his Romanian-made tractor because it was all we could afford. It may look a little worse for wear, but that Farmliner is still running almost 40 years later. Who’s laughing now?

Our children were involved in the life of the farm by the time they were school age, often weeding the parsley after we had dispensed with the geese. The geese had become a menace to our neighbours who were growing shallots and the geese loved to feast on what they thought was grass. The children also helped in the farm by carrying bunches of parsley to the shed for washing, packing broccoli in boxes and carrying empty boxes for lettuce.

Joe, Simon, Carmen, George and Veronica at Carmen’s 40th.

As much as they complained about having to “slave away” in the farm on a Saturday morning while many of their school friends got to watch cartoons on TV, some of their favourite childhood stories revolve around the jokes and stories their father used to tell them as they worked together in the farm. And despite her threats, our daughter never reported us to welfare for breaching child-labour laws.

As they grew older the children helped pick the parsley and eventually had their own summer crop of spinach or spring onions to keep them from being bored in the summer school holidays and to earn money for extras like musical instruments and spending money. George taught them about the realities of running a business by paying them what they earned from selling the crops at the market, minus the cost of seed, water and transport.

In the early 80s we had two steers which were very difficult to manage. George had planned to fatten them up in a spare paddock and sell them for meat. However the wilful cattle insisted on jumping the fences. George often used to put them on long chains giving them an ample space to graze. Then, one day, our neighbour came to tell me the steers were on the loose. They had run all the way up to where Woolworths stands today. On the way, I had attempted to stop them by chasing them, grabbing at the chains before they overpowered me and got free again. Thankfully Railway Terrace was not a busy road at that time and few people witnessed a young woman chasing two steers up the road!

Finally two Prospect Electricity workers helped me drag the steers in the direction of our place before they ran into our neighbour’s front paddock. We locked the steers in there for the afternoon until George got home from work. Infuriatingly, when it came time for George to bring the steers home, he just picked up the chain, said: “C’mon!” And they calmly followed him home.

George was an ideas man. He liked a good get-rich-quick scheme. Over the years his schemes included:
–  Attempting to grow rhubarb, which did not grow well. We ultimately only ended up with enough rhubarb to stew and top our ice-cream with.
–  Growing lettuce with hydroponics. He trialled a few pipes in the backyard but decided against it. Soon after a few other local farmers had success growing lettuce hydroponically.
– Growing Christmas trees. After planting about 100 trees, he loved them to death. We only managed to grow enough trees to cut down our own fresh trees for a few Christmases.
– His final scheme was planting prickly pear – a Maltese fruit that grows so prolifically it was declared a weed at one stage. It was legal to grow them provided you could keep them contained. Unfortunately George did not live long enough to take them to market.

But most important to George was having the most impressive parsley. It was always the crop with the least number of yellow leaves or weeds. Even when he went on holiday, George would insist on stopping in if he saw a market garden with a crop of parsley. He would chat with the farmer and compare notes.

Beyond the farm, we had gardens around our home. I had roses bordering the front lawn and native shrubs in front of the house. Years later, when George and I decide to pull up the native shrubs to plant a hedge, we failed to tell the children. One day they arrived home from school to see a bare front garden and Joseph told his father: “I hope you’ve got your bags packed, because when Mum comes home she’s going to do her block.”

In the backyard we had a mulberry tree, fig tree, lemon tree, orange tree and prickly pear tree. One day in the mid-80s George brought home a gift for me, a small eucalyptus tree. He assured me it would not grow tall. Over the years we watched it soar to at least 25 metres!

George also planted a bamboo tree which was not supposed to grow very big. He had brought a bamboo shoot back from Queensland and over the years we watched the bamboo tree grow to a massive girth, providing a home for many snakes and other creepy crawlies. It became a landmark in the local area.

In 1987, I went back to work at the local school so we scaled back the farm somewhat. We stopped growing Continental parsley, keeping only the curly parsley growing. We got rid of the cow as I no longer had time to make cheese.

During the late 1980s and early 90s, George carried on working the farm as a second job, but his work became less predictable, making it hard to work the farm when he came home from his day job. He also wanted to pursue his interest in 4-wheel-driving and camping. After almost 30 years of broken sleep to deliver his produce to market, George was getting tired.

By 1997, George had closed the farm, and we just had a kitchen garden. With all his spare time, George soon became fussy about the lawn, but with so much more to care for than a usual suburban patch.

By this stage, George’s mother Josephine had moved in too. In 1994, we moved a mobile home on to the property for her. It should not have been a difficult manoeuvre however it had rained quite a bit in the week before the flat was due to arrives and the ground was quite sodden. The semi-trailer could not move into the best position to unload, so instead a crane was brought in to fly the flat over the top of our house before it was placed on its piers. George really enjoyed his mother living even closer. He was an amazing son always so considerate and thinking about his mother’s needs. George would visit her every day, stopping in to her flat even before he came into our house. She was equally good to him – always cooking his favourite food. She passed away in May 1999 just after Mother’s Day. He was devastated by her death.

On February 17, 2001, George was shopping at Sultanas Pet Supplies on Grange Avenue at Schofields. He had chatted to the owner, who was married to George’s second cousin, before getting into his Toyota Hilux to go home. Unfortunately, he collapsed from a heart attack at the wheel, thankfully before he had started moving. At just 49, George died at the scene, in the town he loved.

As I said before, George had many friends and family and they all came to pay their respects when he passed away. The funeral was held at Mary Immaculate Church Quakers Hill. The church has a capacity of 1000 and it was full to overflowing with people out in the carpark. He was a terrific man who was always ready to help anyone he could, even before they asked. George had a wicked sense of humour that kept everyone in stitches. He was very well read and most of his truck driver friends would recognise his truck, not by the model, but by the Sydney Morning Herald spread out on the windscreen of the truck while he read it from cover to cover. His loss was hard for us to bear and seven grandchildren will only know him from the stories we tell about him.

I carried on living at 279 Railway Terrace Schofields, but never worked the farm again. By this stage residential development was going on all around and I knew it would only be a matter of time until I sold. This story has become incredibly common in the belt of market gardens which once dominated western Sydney. As residential development takes over, Sydney has lost most of its food bowl and fresh produce has to be brought in from further away.

George and I had seen and heard of multiple plans from Blacktown City Council and the NSW Government to subdivide our property for residential development since the mid-1980s. We never seriously considered trying to stay at the property after it was rezoned for residential development as we knew the council would charge us rates for every rateable residential block they could fit on our five acres. The price of the rates would make it entirely unsustainable to remain.

In 2014, Blacktown City Council bought about half of the property for drainage, which will look much like a park. In 2015, developer Boris Pyatt bought the rest of the property with the intention of building four apartment buildings. Shortly after I moved out, the house we had lived in and raised our children in, was razed along with the sheds, gardens and trees. The property had been in the family for 38 years full of memories good and sad and many, many stories.

Two years later, the only recognisable thing is the driveway.

Looking down the driveway towards Railway Terrace in 2012. The crop in the foreground is parsley. Photos: The Apap family.
1970 Aerial photo of the Apap property near the junction of Railway Terrace and Burdekin Road at Schofields. Photos: Lands Department
1994 Aerial photo of the Apap property near the junction of Railway Terrace and Burdekin Road at Schofields. Photos: Lands Department

St John’s Church of England, Marsden Park

by Winsome Phillis

On 2 April 2017 the official launch of a new Life Anglican Church at Marsden Park took place. The congregation presently meets at the Richard Johnson Anglican School Marsden Park Campus. In the future, plans are to build a new church on land in Excelsior Avenue (formerly Vine Street West). In this article we recall the history of the previous Church of England at Marsden Park.

In the year 1899 meetings were being held by the Church of England people in Marsden Park to establish a Church in their area. A donation of land by Mr Claus Witt, of Surrey Hills in 1900 made this possible, and on October 13th, 1909, the historic event of laying the foundation stone of
St John’s Church took place. The ceremony was performed by Mrs G.G. Kiss of Clydesdale. The new church was on the north western corner of Grange Avenue and Richmond Road.

At this time Marsden Park was linked with the Parish of Castle Hill and the Rev. E.G. Cranswick, was the Rector.

The Church was built by Mr Fred Rothwell who camped on the site whilst doing the job.

Seventy-eight days later, December 30th, the Church held its first service. The cost of the building was approximately £120, which was subscribed within twelve months. The Dedication Service was performed by His Grace, the late Archbishop Wright, this being the first dedication service held by the late Archbishop in Australia. He was assisted by the Rev. E.G. Cranswick, Rector, with
Rev. Pitt-Owen as Curate.

“Opening of the new Anglican Church at Grange Farms, opened 30 December 1909 by His Grace Archbishop Wright, with Rev Cranswick from Castle Hill in attendance and Rev Owens from Riverstone.” Photo provided by Les Tod from the Town and Country Journal, 19 January 1910 p24.

According to the Windsor and Richmond Gazette of 8 January 1910, the celebrations in relation to the opening ceremony continued on the following Saturday when A sports gathering was held in the afternoon at which numerous prizes were distributed amongst a large number of competitors. This was followed by a tea meeting and concert which were both largely attended. A sumptuous repast was provided by the ladies, and a good programme was rendered, mostly by local artists.

On Sunday afternoon, 2nd inst, a special thanksgiving service was conducted by the Rev. R.H. Pitt Owen, when the church, which had been decorated for the occasion, was well filled. A suitable sermon was delivered, and all were very much encouraged to find so many attending. It is expected that in future a service will be held regularly instead of twice a month as heretofore.. Service next Sunday at 3 p.m.

The foundation stone from St John’s is presently in the grounds of the Life Anglican Church, Elizabeth Street in Riverstone.

The first wedding held at St John’s was that of Alice Bere and Frank Voysey on August 30th, 1910.

Other Marriages included:
– Harry Moore & Myra Maud Wood, March 5, 1913.
– Charles Jones & Ruby Stubbings. January 15, 1921.
– Percy Drayton & Kathleen C. Clarke. August 13, 1921.
– Charles Evans & Evelyn Norris. July 29, 1922.
– Ernest A.E. Parmeter & Caroline Smith. August 12, 1922.
– William A. Morgan & Esther E. Evelyn-Liardet. September 23, 1922.
– John W.F.J. Rothwell & Myra E. Mangold. February 24,1924.
– Arthur Glew & Elizabeth Giles. January 11, 1926.
– William Watts & Winifred E. Rimmington. August 25, 1928.

Some of the Baptisms:
– Ada Locke. February 18, 1917.
– Frank Marfield. October 24, 1920.
– Nancy Berrell Shrubb. May 30, 1926.
– Gloria Rose Aelison. August 29, 1926.
– Thomas Eric Whitehead. December 12, 1926.
– Kenneth Robert Voysey. April 17, 1927.
– Edward Alan Delafield Gwatkin. August 28, 1927.

Rev. W. J. Owens, the first Rector of St John’s. He was inducted on Thursday evening, May 17, 1928, by the Rev. T. Knox, Acting Rural Dean of Parramatta, as Curate-in-charge of the Provisional District of Riverstone, which included Marsden Park.


According to the booklet Church of St John’s Marsden Park 1909-1959:

For 19 years St. John’s Church was linked with the Parish of Castle Hill, and in 1928 application was made for a separate Parish, namely Riverstone, and in that year Rev. W. J. Owens became the first Rector, and he served faithfully for six years, endearing himself to the people with whom he was associated. The Rev. W. R. Brown followed Mr Owens in the capacity of Rector, and was in the Lord’s service here for two years. Time marches on, and the Rev. R. R. Hawkins took office from Mr. Brown, and was actively engaged in the work for 15 years. It was in 1952 that the Rev. W. Hayward answered the call to the Parish and laboured diligently here until 1957, when the present Rector, the Rev. H. W. Robey took office.

Rev. H.W. Robey was followed in 1960 by Rev. R.S. Barker and then long serving rector Rev. Cyril Turner who was minister from 1964 – 1976. He was followed by

Rev. W. Newton from 1976 to 1984. Rev Newton was the final minister at St John’s Marden Park.

Following are some of the excerpts from the Church newsletters of the time referring to St John’s:

Parish News. June 1928.
Churchwardens: Major McClean, Messrs. A. Shields and R. Bere.
Church Committee: Mesdames McClean, Shields, Nairn, Townson, James and Bere, Misses Remington (possibly should have read Rimmington) and Griffin.
Parish Council: Major McClean.
Church Secretary: Major F.W.D. McClean.

The Church News
September 1928.
Women’s Guild: President, Mrs McClean: Vice President, Mrs James;
Secretary, Miss Rimmington;
Treasurer, Mrs McClean.

February 1929.
“We give our very hearty thanks to Mrs Pearce for a fine linen cloth, with most beautifully worked lace, for the Communion Table. It is a notable addition to our little Church, not only from its intrinsic value, but from the very large amount of labour that was put into it.”

The Minister’s Report, May 20, 1929 speaks of additions at Marsden Park.
Expenditure. Buildings-Additions and Furnishing. £7.5.6.
Debit:- £50, last instalment on private loan for building.

Mention is made at this point of “special efforts to raise sufficient to pay off the long-standing loan from Mr Buckland, and this has been accomplished.”

December 1931
Church Secretary. Miss N. Griffin.
“Mr Andrew, of Riverstone, has made an excellent job of the alterations to the Church; the pivotting (sic) of the windows and the putting in of the louvers has immensely improved the ventilation. Formerly a summer afternoon in the Church partook of the nature of a penance, for the heat and stuffiness were almost unbearable; since the alterations, these inconveniences have been banished, and one can be at ease inside the Church, however warm it may be outside.”

December 1932.
The Sunday School picnic to be held Saturday, December 10.
Sunday School is held every Sunday at 3.30 pm.
“Mrs Townson, the devoted Superintendent of the Sunday School, makes the long journey from her home Sunday after Sunday, wet or fine, with unfailing regularity.”

January 1933.
Report of picnic organized by Mrs Townson. Helpers: Mrs Shields, Mrs Voysey, Mrs and Miss Griffin.

The booklet The Church of St. John’s Marsden Park 1909-1959 recorded that:

At some time in the 50 years after the opening of St John’s the church was extended by the construction of the large porch…..

The porch at the front and extension on the back of the church. Photo supplied by Les Tod
This photo shows the new porch at the front of the church. A note on the back of the photo says that the young man is the Minister’s son. Photo: The Bere family
Interior of St Johns in 1959. Photo from the Church of St John’s Marsden Park 1909-1959 booklet.
The newly located church hall in 1959. Photo from the Church of St John’s Marsden Park 1909-1959 booklet.

The Witness.
September 1954.
Rev. W.F. Hayward
“An enthusiastic Working Bee of ladies and men has made wonderful improvements to the interior of the church building and to the fences surrounding Church property. For all who are taking part we offer our sincere thanks. Also recorded with appreciation are the donations of ornamental trees by Mr. & Mrs. Cuff and Mr. F. Mangold.”

A Car Drive has been planned for 18th September. Destination is Camden-Vale where an inspection of the Rotolactor on a Model Farm has been arranged.

The Church Hall

In 1955, the adjoining block of land was purchased for £150 and plans were made to build a Church Hall. The story was detailed in the booklet Church of St John’s Marsden Park 1909-1959:

For some years this corner of the Parish has felt strongly the urge for expansion, and in 1955 negotiations for the purchase of the adjoining block of land were put into operation, the sum of £150 being the purchase price, and through appeals to the parishioners and encouragement from our Rector, the said sum was raised immediately. It was in 1958 that the Rector and Wardens decided upon the purchase of an Army Hut. (According the Geoff Follett, the hall was relocated from HMAS NIRIMBA at Quakers Hill.) A site at the rear of the church was cleared, the piers placed in position, and the building erected thereon at a cost of £550. In this year, inspired by the Rector, further voluntary efforts were made by the male members of the Church, and we give thanks to God for the completion of this Sunday School Hall, which will enable us to carry on, still further, the work of his Kingdom at Marsden Park.

The Witness.
December 1958.
Rev. H.W. Robey
The painting of St John’s is practically completed, and work is continuing on the S.S. Hall.
In November the first birthday of the “Younger Wives” Group was held.
The newly formed Marsden Park Fellowship, under the leadership of Mr. Charles Cuff is gaining in numbers –meeting every Friday evening at the Church.
Guild members held a very successful cake and fancy stall at the local school on polling day.

The 50th Anniversary of the Church was held on the 13th October 1959, and was also marked by the Consecration Ceremony. At this Service a plaque was placed in the Church:

Inscription of service plaque placed at St John’s Church of England Marsden Park
1959 Consecration of the church hall. Photo supplied by Les Tod
Church Committee Members Back Row (L. to R.): W. Carr, H. Cuff, The Rev H. Robey, F. Norris, E. Bennett. Front Row (L. to R.): Mesdames Voysey, E. Norris, F Norris, Cuff, Sutton, Huckin, Norris Snr. Photo: Riverstone and District Historical Society Inc

The Church of St John’s Marsden Park 1909-1959 booklet also detailed some of the workers who were not available to be photographed:

In addition to those members of the working teams attached to St. John’s Marsden Park, there are the following who were not available to be photographed.

Church Warden and Sunday School Superintendent. Mr. N. Bodenham.
Church Committee: Mrs Whiting, Mrs Bodenham and Mr Follett.
Ladies Guild: Mrs Bodenham, Mrs Carr, Mrs Whiting.

1959 Consecration of the church hall. The photo shows some of the locals attending the service. Photo: Riverstone and District Historical Society Inc

The Witness.
December-January 1961-62. Rev. R.S. Barker
Combined Christmas Party to be held on Tuesday 12 December at the Sunday School Hall.
A street stall will be held adjacent to the Polling booth at the School.

September 1963
Annual Medical Mission service held in August. Speaker Mr. Reg Roberts from North India. Many items were brought along to be sent to North Australian Mission Stations.

Notes from the Minute Book of the Ladies Guild. Marsden Park. 1958 – 1963:
A meeting was convened for the purpose of forming a Ladies Guild on May 12, 1958 at the home of Mrs Cuff. Those present at this first meeting were – Mrs Watts, Mrs F. Wells, Mrs F. Norris, Mrs E. Norris, Mrs Norris Snr., Mrs Sutton, Mrs Huckins, Mrs Walkly, Mrs Dwyer, Mrs W. Carr, Mrs Cuff, Mrs Whiting, Mrs Bodenham.

The Ladies Guild. Back Row (L. to R.): Mesdames Henderson, Huckin, Heath, Bray, Wells, Sutton, F. Norris. Front Row (L. to R.): Mesdames Voysey, Follett, E. Norris, Cuff, Watts, Shields, Norris Snr. Photo: Riverstone and District Historical Society Inc

This Minute Book covers the meetings from May 12, 1958 to March 13, 1963.
The Guild arranged catering for local parties, Men’s dinners, Fetes, cake stalls etc., as well as organizing the Flower Roster and the Church Cleaning Roster.

Sunday School was held regularly. Mrs Norris and her daughter Margaret ran it for some time. Wayne Olsen was a teacher.

On May 7, 1960, a letter of thanks was forwarded to Mr Flint of the Meat Works for the donation of smallgoods for a Tea Meeting.

In 1969 a Diamond Jubilee Anniversary service was held. Many functions were held in the Hall. Sometimes big dinners were held there. Minnie Humphreys would do the catering, up to 130 place settings would be hired.

Services in the Church were discontinued toward the end of 1977, due to the unsafe condition of the Church building. The building was demolished in 1979 and in 1980 the land was sold.

After the Church was closed, the Foundation Stone was brought in to St Paul’s Church at Riverstone. It is presently located behind the Church Hall and it is hoped that it can be relocated to Marsden Park when the new church is built.

Until recently the site operated as Parklea Plant and Pots and the church hall was used as their indoor display centre and office. The site is now vacant, awaiting the next stage of development in the Marsden Park area.

A.P. Motors – 50 Years in Riverstone

A.P Motors, 50 Years in Riverstone

Charlie Persak started his spare parts business 50 years ago from the family home in Creek Street. He moved to the current premises in Railway Terrace, leasing the building from Wally Wood and purchasing the building in the early 1970s. Charlie, Gwenda and Adam have opened the business seven days a week for the convenience of customers. Sadly, Charlie passed away recently, still operating the business that he loved.

c1909. The premises when in use as Charles Davis General Store.

c1980. AP Motors. On the left hand side details of the former occupants can be seen with “Davis Bros Store” and a “Nestles milk” ad painted on the wall.
AP Motors, The business as it stands today (2017)

Photos: Rosemary Phillis

Jeffrey Clive Skinner

by Heather Smith

Jeffrey Clive Skinner was born on 14th September 1939 at Manly District hospital. The youngest of 5 children to Alexander and Gladys Amelia Skinner.

Jeff’s career as a young boy in Manly was anything but promising. Waggin’ school soon bought him to the notice of the Truant Inspector. He was a pupil at Balgowlah Public school when he managed to truant school for three months before the Education Department caught up with him. He was moved to Harbord Opportunity school as a last ditch effort by family and the Department to straighten him out. Running with a pretty wild gang his criminal career came to an abrupt halt when an older boy in the group stole some money and bought seven air rifles and they graduated to shop break & enters. Finally the Police caught up with him and he was sent to Yasmar Boys home.

He recalls his father was a hard but fair man but his Mother meted out the punishment with a leather strap. On his release from Yasmar Jeffrey now 16 years old embarked on a career of unusual jobs but none would prepare him for the unique job that would eventually take over his life.

Jeffrey has never been afraid of work even as a school boy waggin’ school, and living near Balgowlah Golf club he did odd jobs helping the course designer on the upkeep of the greens. Using his initiative he would pick up any loose or unclaimed golf balls in the creek behind the 4th bunker, wash them and sell them back to the golfers for 6d (5c) each. This career was so successful that he was eventually banned from all local golf courses in the area.

No longer allowed to pursue his golf ball recycling business he turned to “spriggin” at Manly Warringah Bowling club. This back breaking job was to use a 3-pronged tyne fork punching it into the green to aerate the soil and allow water to penetrate to the grass roots.

Finally in 1959 at 20 years Jeff married a local Manly girl Maureen the love of his life and they became the parents of three children. Two boys, Lance and Jai, and his daughter Tania. In the meantime his brother Robert Henry moved to Riverstone for work and in early 1960 Jeff came up for a visit. Naturally they visited the local hotel for a beer and it was in the pub he was offered a good but complicated deal to purchase a property in the area. The problem was the present owner still owed money to the previous owner. Finally when the deal was sorted Jeff was the owner of two old houses on three acres of land in Terry Road for a cost of eleven hundred pounds ($2200).

Jeff paid cash for the sale and immediately rented out the two houses. A year or two later he and his family decided to move into one of the houses and he was soon involved in another recycling career.

He invested in an old utility and scoured the district picking up scrap metal which he sold to a scrap dealer on Windsor Road, Vineyard. Seeking to expand his one man operation he acquired six ferrets and branched out into rabbit hunting. He sought rabbits far and wide – Sofala, Warragamba, Peak Hill and across the Hawkesbury area. He would catch, skin and sell the meat, however he was unable to dispose of the pelts. Inquiries with Akubra who used pelts in the manufacture of felt for their famous Australian hats would only accept the skins in 15lb (7 kilo) lots and Jeff and his ferrets were not able to keep up this supply. Once again he embarked on his golf ball recycling business, he and his mate Alfie became a familiar site scouring the fences around local golf courses.

Like a true Aussie entrepreneur Jeff’s business was conducted in the local pub. Cecil Thacker the caretaker of Howard & Sons Fireworks Co., Box Hill NSW approached him with the offer of a job in the factory making railway detonators. Now known as Railway Track Signals (RTS) detonators were manufactured exclusively by Howard & Sons Pyrotechnics (Manufacturing) Pty. Ltd. They are used as a safety and signalling device by railway organisations to alert both drivers and others working on or near rail lines of an approaching rail vehicle or other hazard.

Each day Jeff made 120×72 trays of detonators placing small amounts of black powder into a moulded weatherproof 50mm steel base each base was then placed into a wooden “bra” tray and shifted into the drying room. When drying was complete as a further security measure a metal clip held the lid fast and a wire clip added to attach to rail track the entire detonator was dipped in paint and packed into boxes of 12 for transport.

When Old Nick (the only name he was ever known by) decided to retire from Howard & Sons (Manufacturing) Pty Ltd, Les Howard, who was in charge of manufacturing fireworks came to Jeff and informed him that he had one week to learn the job.

In retrospect the job Jeff had to learn was very dangerous. He had very little education and no training in any type of chemistry or physics. He was mixing highly volatile black powder with chemicals using a recipe handed down through three (3) generations of Howard family. Hand written in a little black book and translated each day by Les Howard who was dyslexic. The abbreviated version of each chemical was written on the shed wall and wiped out at the end of the day.

Jeff mixing chemicals at Howard and Sons Fireworks factory.

Howard & Sons became famous worldwide when they secured a contract with Disneyland and Disneyworld USA to supply hundreds of six inch plume silver and mauve aerial shells for their nightly fireworks display. China conceived fireworks in 9th century, hundreds of years later Italy perfected the aerial shell. Projected into the sky from a mortar culminating in brilliant burst of coloured stars. Each company had their own jealously guarded secret recipes for the coloured stars and Howard & Sons were no exception.

The basic construction of aerial shells has never changed since first introduced by the Italians however once detonation was by a hand held device (port fires) they are now literally blown into the sky by computers. Jeff remembers clearly the primitive mixing of the compound making coloured stars. Ingredients were loaded into a cement mixer and as it turned the mix gradually changed into small balls which were turned onto a wire rack to dry.
The stars, bursting charge and fuses were packed into each half, sealed to form a round ball the lifting charge was attached to the base. The entire shell was covered in brown paper and ready to pack for the next display.

Diagram from web page.

For some forty years Jeff held secrets which overseas pyrotechnicians would have loved to have known, however he never revealed to anyone the secret of the mixes he learnt from the late Les Howard.

Jeffrey’s ability to overcome physical and mental setbacks would have stopped a lesser person in their track. A young man when he lost his leg he has been a familiar figure around Riverstone for some 50 years. Walking with the aid of one crutch he has never let it stop him from working, driving, ferreting and fishing. However the loss recently of his wife Maureen has been the final blow to Jeff., now confined to a wheel chair and after spending time talking to him you can still see that his mind is sharp as a tack and I am sure there is some plot hatching in the back of his brain for a new “re-cycling” scheme.

Jeff relaxing with a beer.

Photos courtesy of the Skinner family

Violet Alderton

by Coral McDonald

In 2001, the Federation Pathway at Schofields Public School was officially opened using the same scissors that were used to open the Sydney Harbour bridge in 1932. Coral tells the story of her Aunty, Violet Alderton and how the scissors came to be used at Schofields.

Violet was born in Leichhardt in 1914, the daughter of Leslie James Alderton and Violet Lillian Cooksey. Other children were Bert (Bertrand) (1910), Leslie Richard (1912) and Stanley (1916).

The Aldertons were from Schofields and Violet’s mother and father settled there, raising their four children.

Les Senior and Junior, Stanley and Violet swimming at Eastern Creek. Photo: Coral McDonald

Being the only girl, Violet was a bit of a tomboy when young. As she grew, she experienced poverty. Father worked on the wharves, but they were called out on strike. The Depression was hard on everyone. Violet’s mother, although from a wealthy family, was the one who worked, taking in washing, collection and selling firewood and playing the piano for concerts and dances. The children left school, but only Les found work.

Being staunch Labour supporters, Violet’s parents much admired Jack Lang, the Premier of New South Wales. Somehow it was arranged that Violet to work for him at quite a young age. She was his chauffer and personal assistant until he retired. Violet developed from a tomboy to a person to enjoyed dressing very stylishly in expensive Fletcher Jones suits and skirts, as well as the best of shoes and handbags, coats and dresses.

Her first car was a 1948 Ford Mercury, followed by several Jaguars. All were lovingly cared for and enjoyed by her and her family. She looked for quality in everything, including food and later houses.

Violet’s 1948 Mercury. She looked after the car so well that it was sold for more that she paid for it. Photo: Coral McDonald

Her great loves were animals, music and dancing. She was so proud the time she was the belle of the ball at Oakville in her early 20’s. Marriage didn’t appeal, but there were a number of beaus.

Because of her love of animals, Violet persuaded her brother Les to partner her in the purchase of poddy calves to raise and sell. Les was not to know that she would name each one and that not one would ever be sold.

Her first home was built in St Albans Road, Schofields, where she lived for some years. Moving to the Blue Mountains seemed a good idea, so the house was sold and Violet moved into a beautiful home in Faulconbridge. It soon became apparent that the climate was too harsh, so a new home was built in Schofields, which included a flat for her dad. He passed away however, before it was ready and so Mr Lang, who was still running his newspaper in Auburn, moved into the flat. Many were surprised to see him travelling on the train to work each weekday. Later he became very ill and died in his 90’s. Some items were willed to Violet by Mr Lang, including the scissors which were used to cut the ribbon at the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Violet felt that these scissors should be available to the public for viewing and so donated them to the NSW Government.

The scissors which were used to cut the ribbons to open the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932 and the Schofields Public School Federation Pathway in September 2001. Photo: Coral McDonald

In 2001 the Schofields Public School centenary footpath was laid. The donated pavers were inscribed with the names of staff and pupils, past and present. For the opening ceremony, Mr John Aquilina, the Minister for Education, (accompanied by armed security guards for the scissors), cut the ribbon. They were allowed to be used on this occasion because Violet had been in the first kindergarten class at the school. Her elder brother, Bert, was the school captain and had made a speech at the opening of the school in 1923. Embarrassingly, it was discovered that Mr Aquilina was left handed and couldn’t cut the ribbon – school captains to the rescue! They all managed to cut the ribbon together.

School captains, Michael Soul, Nicholas Aylott, Natalie Youreb and Elise Hunter. Violet Alderton and John Aquilina standing on the Federation Pathway. Photo: Coral McDonald
Holding and discussing the scissors. Minister for Education, John Aquilina, Violet Alderton and David Simmons, Principal of Schofields Public School. Photo: Coral McDonald

Violet and her sister in law, Jean, were very good friends. They both enjoyed being well dressed and going together to shop, lunch, see movies or just driving to have a picnic, or visit her brothers. However much of her time was taken up caring, firstly for her father and later, Mr Lang.

Violet (on the left) and her sister in law Jean Alderton on the front verandah at Hebe Cottage. Photo: Coral McDonald

After the death of Mr Lang, Violet’s cousin visited her and told her of the loss of his son. The two decided to help each other. Violet purchased Hebe Cottage, with an intention to bring it back to its past beauty. During her childhood, it had been owned by the Bliss family, and Violet would play there with the children.

Hebe Cottage in 1991 after some of the restoration work had been completed. Photo: Rosemary Phillis

Her cousin built stables and a trotting track to train his horses and assisted with some of the restoration work. Much was done to the outside and interior of the house plus electrical and plumbing repairs. The back portion of the house had to be left as money was short.

Sadly, at this time, there was friction between the cousins, and Violet was showing early signs of dementia. The property was sold and her new residence was the Windsor Country Village in Bandon Road at Vineyard. Gradually, the dementia became more advanced and Violet experienced a slight stroke. Whilst in hospital, it was decided that a care home was the best home for her, and she lived at St. Hedwig’s Blacktown for the remainder of her life. She passed away the day after her 95th birthday.

Violet repeatedly declared that she had a wonderful and interesting life. She was a loving and caring person, admired by family and friends.

Riverstone Primary “Wows” Opera House Audience

by Mary Pitt (nee Gillespie))

(My memories of a special Vocal Ensemble when I was a teacher at Riverstone Primary School)

Imagine the world-renowned grandeur of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, an audience of 2,700 people, a full orchestra seated on stage, ready to perform their selection, and a very small group of young students lit only by a large spotlight. As their voices join in harmony, there is an eerie hush and it is impossible to describe the atmosphere as the entire audience hangs on every sweet note.

In July, 1984, the Riverstone Primary Vocal Ensemble, under the direction of teacher, Mary Gillespie, gave their memorable performance at the Sydney Opera House, as part of the NSW Education Department, Festival of Instrumental Music. This prestigious event was the forerunner to the School’s Spectacular and there was a long and arduous audition process. The Vocal Ensemble successfully negotiated this, as one of only 3 primary schools in the state to do so. On the night, we performed two items, but we certainly stole the show. There were only two small microphones and our accompaniment was provided by a single grand piano. Still, the performance was magical, particularly the solo by Vanessa Pohl, whose bell like voice rang throughout the whole Concert Hall. Even today I get goosebumps remembering the moment.

Following our rehearsal earlier in the week, we hired a bus to take the Ensemble and all the family members, to the actual concert. We set off with great excitement and lots of hilarity. I don’t know how the students were able to sing after they had chatted so much on the way. The bus was supposed to ensure that we all arrived relaxed and comfortable. In reality, it was Mary’s way of making sure everyone arrived on time and dressed in their newly redesigned uniform!

The Vocal Ensemble made numerous performances prior to and after their Opera House performance. There were performances for elderly local residents groups, the “Super Citizens”, as they liked to be called, awards at the Local Hawkesbury District Eisteddfod, guest appearances at the St Paul’s Church of England (Riverstone) Centenary Luncheon and a very special celebration at Wentworth Falls, celebrating the 100th Birthday of an ex, Riverstone Primary, teacher. We also regularly performed at school events, such as assemblies or concerts. (Newspaper clippings of these events can be found in the Riverstone Historical Society archives.)

The most exciting of our “after performances” was the invitation from the Department of Education to use their professional recording studio, to make a “tape” (the now superseded means of permanently recording music). It was 13 very excited young students and a very excited young teacher, who piled into cars and headed to the studio. After lots of hard work and a few outtakes, we produced our very own professional recording, although to date it has not been released on the charts or on iTunes!

Karina Richens, Vanessa Pohl, Sandra Saliba, Melinda Volman, Kim Biddle, Michelle Voss, Brett Simpson, Kelly Crouch, Lizza Knott, Louise Dwight, Debra Noonan, Sandra Noonan, Brett Beazley. Teacher: Mary Gillespie

Reluctantly, I said goodbye to this special group of students, who had achieved so much in a short twelve months. They practiced hard and long in their own time after school, and with minimal complaints and lots of laughter. As they set off to High School, I know they carried memories of their performances with them.

The following year, we formed another vocal Ensemble and also added percussion this time. Although this new group of students did many local performances, they were not selected to perform as an individual act at the Instrumental Festival and had to content themselves with being part of the massed choir. This was still an honour and a great experience and also gave us the authority to say “We’ve performed at the Sydney Opera House, have you?”

Jean Antonie (John) Ouvrier and the History of Vineyard

by Ron Mason
20th March 2016

In July 1841, at a time when the O’Connell’s Riverston Estate was essentially an unfenced grazing property and long before the existence of the village of Riverstone, Sir Maurice O’Connell engaged two French vinedressers, Jules Vaillant and Jean Antonie Ouverier to prepare the ground for, and plant a vineyard at his Riverston, property.

1856 Riverstone Estate 59 Farms Subdivision Map, showing the location of the vineyards and paddocks near Eastern Creek and the Windsor Road at the bottom.
A close up of the vineyards and paddocks in the 1856 map.

The two Frenchmen commenced work immediately and soon they and their workmen had prepared three acres of land and planted 5000 vines. These were the first grapes to be planted in the district and although the vines flourished the relationship between O’Connell and the vinedressers did not. O’Connell took action against Vaillant for the non payment for a horse that O’Connell had sold him. Vaillant’s response was that he expected the cost of the horse to be deducted from the money owed to them for the work they had undertaken. Vaillant and Ouverier then took joint legal action against O’Connell for non payment for their services. Not surprisingly this action was unsuccessful.

These events ended the Frenchmen’s involvement with O’Connell but it would seem that they had done their work well for in 1844 it was reported that “several of our gentry attended at Riverston, on the Parramatta road, the property of His Excellency Lieutenant General Sir Maurice O’Connell, for the purpose of witnessing the sale of a part of the same by auction, … they proceeded through His Excellency’s splendid estates of Mount Macquarie and Riverston, to the vineyard on the eastern creek, where a substantial repast, provided by the host of the Daniel O’Connell Inn, awaited them.”

O’Connell’s land did not sell at this time. However, the vineyard appears to have flourished and even expanded and throughout the 1850s and 60s there are references to it, one notably describing it as consisting “of the very best description of grapes.”

In the meantime Jules Vaillant had departed the Colony for Tahiti. However, Jean Ouverier, or as he now anglicised his name, John Peter Ouvrier, choose to settle in the area and establish his own vineyard. This is confirmed by a firsthand account given by T. C. M. Hyland in 1906. According to Hyland “Many years ago the late Mr. Ouvrier (father of Messrs Charles, John, and James Ouvrier) owned and worked a large vineyard in this locality. During the grape season this vineyard, being the most important convenient to Windsor, was a great resort of the Windsor people, who always spoke of going out to “The Vineyard,” which eventually became the recognised name for this part of the district. Some time ago, when I succeeded in having the local receiving office converted into a post office, and when we were enjoying the novelty of seeing ‘The Vineyard’ post mark on our letters, the district Progress Association represented that ‘Vineyard’ alone would be a more suitable name for the post office. This name it now bears, though the local public school still retains the original name — The Vineyard — which most of the residents use, and the euphony of which is apparent.”

Ouvrier’s vineyard was indeed significant in size and production. In 1851 he advertised that he had “2000 GALLONS COLONIAL WINE ON SALE, At the Riverstone Vineyard, near Windsor. THE wine is warranted to be sound, of different ages, and at very moderate prices. Samples to be had at the Cellar.”

The ad as it appeared in the Empire newspaper of 20 October 1851

Hyland’s account is collaborated by the later recollections of Thomas Davis who wrote “56 Years Ago [in 1878] When I first came to Riverstone Mr. Charles Ouvrier’s father had a fine grape vineyard on Bald Hill, now known as Vineyard Hill. Mr. Charles Ouvrier, who was born on the property is still going strong at the age of 76 years, during the whole of which period he has never been away from the district. The late Mr. Thomas Schoffel’s father took over the vineyard from Mr. Ouvrier on lease.”

However, fifty years after the first vines were planted virtually all of vineyards in the area were wiped out by the Phylloxera mite. Notwithstanding this, the locality is still known as ‘The Vineyard’.

Quite some years earlier than these events John Ouvrier had married a local girl, Ann Hynds, from Box Hill and reared their family at ‘The Vineyard’. He died in 1884 at the age of 79 years and was survived by his wife who lived on in the family home until her death in 1918. According to her obituary “They had a family of stalwart sons and daughters, all of whom are very highly respected, throughout the Hawkesbury district. There are no more honorable people than the Ouvriers — as straight as a gun barrel, all of them, and with a healthy contempt for anything crooked mean or despicable.”

Jack Ouvrier’s (Jnr.) Slab Cottage. It was located on the corner of Brennans Dam Road and Windsor Road and according to Doug Bowd was demolished in 1968. Photo: Macquarie Country by Doug Bowd.

Three of their sons, Charles, James and John continued to live in the Riverstone district for many more years. James and John both operated local sawmills and both prospered. Both also had a son killed during the First World War. James’ son, Alfred Joseph Ouvrier, was killed on the Western Front on 14th September 1918. His death is recorded on the Riverstone War Memorial.

Garrett Lawrence Barry

by Walter “Wal” Smith

The following is the Eulogy for Garrett that I gave at his funeral service at St Marys Church in Sydney. The funeral cortege was piped by an Irish Piper from the Cathedral down to Park Street. The piper was actually a teacher at Ulladulla High School, where Garrett’s son Ben and his wife Anita work. He travelled from Ulladulla specifically, and would not accept any payment. Quite a number of people that Garrett knew and/or went to school with him attended the service. The wake was held at the City Tattersall Club, with a burial later at Castlebrook. Garrett’s last resting place is about 10 plots away, and in line with the Vinegar Hill Memorial. I can’t think of a more fitting location.

“I was asked by Kay to give a eulogy for Garrett, from the perspective of our friendship, escapades, and achievements that the family may not be aware of.
It has been our privilege to have known this great man, brilliant educator, confidante, and all round good bloke. We have been honoured to have called him our friend.

The following is by no means an exhaustive list, but just a taste of our friendship over more than 42 years.

My wife, Lorraine and I first met Garrett at a dinner party, sometime in 1975, by a chance meeting with a teenage friend whom we had lost contact with some years before, and now was living in the same town. This dinner was to introduce us to Garrett, who was the History Master at Riverstone High School, and the formation of an historical society in Riverstone was discussed.

Garrett was appointed the History Master at Riverstone High School in 1975, and was the driving force behind the relocation to the school of a slab hut, to be re-erected by his students, to house historical items and become a focal point for their historical research and studies.

An unexpected find occurred when Garrett discovered some students smoking behind buildings where they should not have been. His astute eye saw that the roll-your-own cigarette papers were pink with printing, and quickly established that these papers were important, gave the lads an ultimatum, show me where you found these or face sterner action.

Little did Garrett know he was about to make history himself.

He found that they were using ballot papers from the 1901 election.

Bundles of papers from the 1898 Constitutional Referendum and the 1901 poll were found in a rural shed in the Hawkesbury, and though water damaged and stained, provide a remarkable insight into the forming of Australia’s Federation.

Some of these are now held in the State Library of NSW, state and federal archives, Museum of Australian Democracy and displayed at the Old Parliament House. With the majority being held at the Riverstone Museum.

Through this discovery, Garrett was able to give his students a first- hand insight into Australia’s Federation ¾ of a century earlier.

During his 10 year tenure at Riverstone, Garrett accumulated about 4,000 items of historical artefacts. In Garrett’s inimitable way the students were encouraged to help preserve some of the agricultural items.

Garrett Barry with friends Lorraine and Wal Smith in 2010 at the Official Opening of the Display Shed at the Museum. Photo: Rosemary Phillis
Garrett Barry and students work on re-building the Arthur Strachan Cottage in the grounds of Riverstone High School. Photo: Riverstone High School

With a growing collection it was important to have a home and to establish a museum, and give Riverstone a perpetual source of pride and interest.

The Bicentennial was due in 1988, and our main focus was to obtain a Bicentennial Grant to establish the museum.

Garrett had his eyes firmly focused on the original School House which was at the time the Masons meeting hall. As Garrett was the President of Riverstone Historical Society the process of getting on the Bicentennial Committee began, finally he, Rob Reilly and I were accepted to the Blacktown Bicentennial Committee, and after lengthy selection processes, the Riverstone Historical Society was successful in obtaining a Bicentennial Grant of $80,000. This was helped by the fact that we had raised $10,000 in fundraising. Council purchased the School House and an agreement was reached. The Museum was finally a dream come true.

A short time later, Garrett heard about the Australia Museum in College Street Sydney, getting rid of some of their glass showcases, Garrett decided that we needed the showcases, so he organised for my truck and some able bodied people to head into town to get them. But what he had not counted on was that it was the day of the first City to Surf Run, this caused panic, where to park the truck while dismantling the cases and then load the truck. Luckily he had a professional glass mover to help us.

Garrett then got a transfer to Jamison High School, and the panic was on, how to get all his artefacts moved from Riverstone to South Penrith. Again my truck came in handy and with his sons Jono and Matt, my two girls, Lorraine and I, moved his “Stuff”. Garrett told me later that the Principal at Jamison High nearly had a heart attack when he saw what he had, as he expected only a couple of items, not a museum.

Around this time Garrett found a farm and historical machinery clearance sale at Yass, that may have some items suitable for our museum, and suggested we attend the sale to see what was available. On the sale day Garrett, Lorraine and I left early to get there by 10.00am.

What an adventure, the sale was in a muddied paddock, lots were not numbered, and this should have alerted us to what was ahead. We went around earmarking what Garrett considered we needed, the auction started and so did the rain. He was bidding and I lost track of what we were getting. Because of the rain vehicles were getting bogged, adding to the chaos. We were soaking wet, daylight was fading so we decided to find a motel and collect our stuff in the morning.

We got back to the farm early in the morning and started to load the truck. A woman came up to Garrett and I and said “Have you seen my pony cart?” No said Garrett, but the woman looked up to the truck and said, “That’s my Cart” and Garrett fluttered his eyes and smiled his most charming smile and said “Wal, I think we should get that off for the lady”.

We set off back to Sydney about 1.00pm and decided to stop outside Goulburn for Macca’s.

When we got to Marulen, we went through the Truck Weighing Station and started up the hill when we got a flat tyre. Pulling over I discovered we didn’t have a Jack or brace, so Garrett and Lorraine went for a walk to see if a farmer could help. In the meantime, I was able to wave someone down who promised to get the weigh station guys to ring the NRMA.

Garrett & Lorraine had no luck, and we waited for the NRMA, So began another adventure.

The NRMA guy turned up but had nothing to remove the tyre, I asked if he could go to Marulen and borrow some tools, he replied; “No, no one in the town would help me they don’t like me.” Garrett asked what he suggested we do, but his suggestion that we just leave the truck on the side of the highway and go into Marulen to see if the heavy truck mechanic would help tomorrow was not an option, as it would more than likely not have anything left when we got back.

The NRMA man suggested that we turn the truck around and drive back to the weigh station, which again was not an option, as it would probably blow the other tyre, which it did. We walked to the weigh station and told the operators of our predicament, who then waved down a bus heading to Sydney and hitched a ride for Garrett as he was anxious about getting back because he had to open the school on Monday morning.

The bus pulled over had a load of footballers on board, who were on their way home from a game in Canberra, but the driver was concerned that his delay had something to do with his passengers, or being overweight. He was certainly relieved when told that Garrett only needed a lift back to Parramatta, that he was only too happy to oblige. Garrett sat on the step and joined the footballers in song. He was deposited at Parramatta and was able to catch a train home and the school was safely opened Monday morning.

Lorraine & I arrived back in Sydney 3 days later, with the truck tyres mended but that’s another story.

Shortly after, Garrett, got another transfer this time to Nyngan, Kay and the boys were off on a new chapter of their lives. When the Nyngan floods came, Lorraine & I headed out to Nyngan to help clean up, but Kay and Garrett insisted they were OK, and took us on a tour of the surrounds, Garrett at the time had a Leyland P76 and he didn’t want it damaged in the floods so he took the car and put it in the athletic field to keep it safe as it was the only flood free part in Nyngan. Garrett suggested that we take Kay and son Ben back to Richmond, which we did.

When I was elected to Blacktown Council I was regularly invited to different sporting functions, as my wife was not too interested I often took Garrett with me, he loved these events, and you could bet that he would find at least 2 – 3 people he either knew, taught or taught their parents, he always enquired where they grew up and went to school etc.

If he went somewhere and he would buy a raffle ticket, put a $1.00 or 2 in the pokies, or place a bet, you could be sure he never came out of it without making a profit. Earlier this year Garrett took me to a Hawkesbury race meeting, and told me how to read their form. All I knew about horses was the nose crossed the line first, and the tail followed. I took too long making my selection, so Garrett went off and placed his bet. That bet returned him almost $2,000 for his $12 bet, THANKS MATE. You didn’t tell me what you were going to back.

One great excitement for Garrett was when he was contacted by a former Riverstone High boy called Allan Barry, Allan was no relation but they had developed a special bond, and because of Garrett’s influence, had become a very successful businessman. He had never forgotten the extra tuition Garrett gave him at a time in his life when he needed a mentor. Garrett was thrilled when he got a call from Allan to catch up.

During his last illness it was a privilege for Lorraine and I to assist him and Kay where we could.

On Thursday week ago Kay called to see if we could take Garrett to Norwest Hospital, as the ambulance would not take him there as requested by his doctor. When we got to Atkins Cl. Garrett was in a bad way, so Kay & I got him into the wheelchair and out to my car.
On the way down the street, Garrett said, “How about we drop into the Club on the way” with a little laugh,” I said what do you think of that Darl, there was no answer, Garrett said “who are you talking to?’ I said “Lorraine”, he said “you silly bugger you left her behind with Kay”.

The seriousness of the trip became more apparent when Garrett said his oxygen was running out. The race to the hospital became more urgent, and the speed limit was reached and exceeded with me even passing a highway patrol car. We reached the hospital as the oxygen ran out completely, fortunately, there was a Patient Transport vehicle parked at the Emergency door and I was able to get them to assist Garrett. Even to the end we shared a last adventure. As Lorraine said on Sunday night, “The world has lost a wonderful person, teacher and Historian and we have lost a great friend”.

Until we meet again, thank you for the journey Mate.”

The photo above appeared thirty years ago in the Blacktown Advocate of 9 December 1987.
1946 – Ron’s wedding to Joan Andrews (nee Stanford). Photo: David Andrews
Ron in his Army Uniform. Photo: Coral McDonald (nee Alderton)

Ron Andrews

by David Andrews

Ron Andrews

My father, Ron Andrews, lived almost two-thirds of his life of 88 years in Railway Parade, Riverstone (now known as West Parade). He was born in 1924 at 35 Railway Parade in a sturdy weatherboard house with a covered verandah on two sides. The house is still there.

Soon after Ron’s birth town water was extended to the houses in the street and his parents no longer had to rely on water tanks and the fickle rainfall. In the biographical notes that Ron assembled shortly before his death in 2012, he remembered the day in 1932 when electricity was connected to the house. He observed that electricity meant no more smelly kerosene lamps and no more reading in bed at night by candlelight.

Eventually, there were more far-reaching changes. The wireless brought entertainment into the living room. Ron’s parents would listen to radio dramas and children were expected to maintain silence or face the consequences. The fuel stove was replaced by an electric model – no more rising early in the morning to chop wood, no more choking smoke in the kitchen, and no more unstoppable heat that made hot days even hotter inside.

Ron was keenly aware of the effects of these developments because during his childhood he always helped his mother with her housework. He also assisted his father with his carpentry and picked up skills that were to last him a lifetime.

When Ron ventured into the work force, he quickly became aware of one of his fellow travellers on the daily train trip to and from jobs in Sydney each day. He started a friendship with a striking brunette, Joan Stanford of Richmond. It was the beginning of a life-long partnership.

Ron and Joan became engaged during World War II. They were married soon after Ron’s discharge from the army in 1946. Ron’s notes record his frustration with the delays the young couple encountered in building their own home in the tight post-war economy. They chose a block of land at what was then 37 Railway Parade (now 24 West Parade), next door to the home of Ron’s childhood years.

There is little said about the war in Ron’s notes. He volunteered and served as a signalman in New Guinea. His notes do recall a chance wartime meeting with his older brother, Basil, who was serving at an adjacent base. Ron also kept a poem penned by another signalman with a scorching wit. One of the verses records that Ron – nick-named “Andy Beau” – took such good care of his uniform that he slept with it neatly folded underneath his sleeping bag to ensure that the trouser creases were properly maintained.

1965 – (left to right): Scott Andrews (David’s brother), Ron Andrews, David Andrews. The boys are wearing Riverstone Swimming Club tracksuits.
1953 – a family gathering – back row (left to right): David Andrews, Joan Andrews (Ron’s wife, David’s mother), Jean Alderton, Freda Andrews, Nellie Stanford, Molly Stanford, Jacoba Andrews (Ron’s mother), Coral McDonald; front row (left to right): Basil Andrews, Ron Andrews, Clarrie Stanford, Jim Andrews, Ray Stanford. Photos: David Andrews

That poem revealed some key features of Ron’s personality. He was a fastidious man who put a whole-hearted effort into everything he undertook. At school he revelled in the precision of technical drawing and achieved a strong result in the Intermediate Certificate.

He threw himself into sports – rugby league, cricket and tennis. Ron’s league team at Westmead Tech was at the top of the competition table when it played against Ashfield in a curtain raiser to a test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Rugby league remained an abiding love for Ron. If Riverstone played at home on a winter Sunday, he would make the short walk to the park to watch the local A Grade. He was also a long-suffering supporter of Parramatta and enjoyed occasional test matches at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Ron fondly described the legendary 1951 French tourists as the best football team he had ever seen.

Later, Ron attended almost every league match my brother, Scott, and I played for Riverstone and even some of our high school matches when work commitments allowed. He greatly enjoyed the friendship of the fathers of our teammates and he always seemed composed regardless of the dramas of such a physical sport. If Ron shouted, it was to encourage or instruct. I recall him telling me to use your fend, tackle low, and run it up hard. It was good advice for both football and life.

Ron had several changes of employers during his working career. Immediately after the war, he spent some time at Riverstone’s meatworks and also worked for suppliers of butchers’ materials and equipment. His employers prized his reliability, his honesty, his perseverance, and his ability to relate to clients as friends. He was chosen to fix seemingly unfixable problems and to develop new business in difficult or remote parts of New South Wales.
Nevertheless, it was his family that came first for Ron. Throughout their married life, he made sure that Joan had everything she desired. He made ample provision for the education of his children and for a happy retirement in Bateau Bay. The achievements of his grandchildren were sources of great satisfaction and he never tired of hearing about them. During his retirement years at Bateau Bay on the Central Coast, Ron spent countless hours researching and documenting family history, teaching himself to use a personal computer as part of the process.

Ron described the move to Bateau Bay as the best he had ever made but he never forgot his beginnings in Riverstone. His retirement unit at Kiah Lodge was originally a base for expeditions to parts of Australia he and Joan had always wanted to visit. It later became a secure haven as Ron’s health waned.

1975 – (left to right): David, Ron, Joan and Scott. (Taken in front of Ron’s house in Railway Parade, now West Parade.)

Memorable Moments

by Judith Lewis OAM

For this year’s journal I originally planned to write an article on Riverstone Public School from 1943 (the year I began school there in June aged almost 6) to 1992 (the year I retired after 30 years of teaching. I taught 27 years at Rivo, from 1958 to 1960 at the Infants and from 1968 to 1992 at the Primary as Teacher Librarian with the last 5 months as Relieving Principal). The article grew too large so I decided to just include some excerpts. The Schooldays Article will make its way into the Museum’s collection.

I had retired in late 1960, to become a mum. In 1966 the first of my three boys started school in Kindergarten. I joined the Mothers’ Club and, when Infants’ Mistress Pat Rohl learned I had been a teacher she began trying to talk me in to coming back to teaching. I returned for 1 term (which became 2). A new class 1A/2D was formed.

One student, son of an army officer, was a disruptive child who rebelled against all authority. The worst day we had with him happened at lunchtime. He clashed with someone in the playground and when called for by the teacher on duty, grabbed a garbage bin and somehow was able to climb, with it, to the top of the weather shed where he held the bin and challenged someone to come and get him. We sent to the Primary Department for some male help, Deputy Principal Bill Roach and another male teacher arrived. They talked him down. I’m not sure how they did it as the rest of the school had been taken inside to classes and I guess without an audience he may have realized he wasn’t achieving much. Dad was called and he was away for a few days. He was much subdued when he came back. A bit of army discipline may have helped but then again, it may have been part of his problem.

1983 was the School Centenary Year. As Chairman of the Centenary Committee it was a very busy time for me. In February the school held its Swimming Carnival. As usual the school was closed for the day but there were always a few children who didn’t produce the obligatory permission note. I volunteered to stay behind with them if I could use the classroom next door to my office in the Special Learning Unit. Everything was going well. The children were working on activity sheets, coming into the office to have them marked. There was a small group ‘chatting’. In that group was a student who was an elective mute in grade 3 of the SLU, She had never spoken a word in three years of schooling, but spoke proficiently at home.

School Counsellor, Jill McGregor, had, earlier in the year, at a Staff Meeting where she discussed the ‘new’ SLU students, told us how she had even tried ringing the girl’s home after school. As was ‘the norm’, the student had answered the phone, but as soon as she realized who was on the line, she hung up. Nothing worked!

I’m not sure what topic was being discussed when she suddenly spoke! The room was silent till one of the voices said, “she spoke”. Indeed she had and she quietly joined in. That afternoon Jill McGregor arrived to work in her office, also in the SLU. Someone noticed Jill walking across the playground and the children begged to be allowed to go and tell her the news. The girl went with them but wouldn’t speak much. By the end of the week though she was chatting away with the best of them and, by Year 6, her teacher, Brian Hubbuck, was asking how to “shut her up!” In 2015, in the Christmas card I received from Jill she commented, “I still remember so clearly the day the girl with whom I’d tried everything to get her to talk, talked for you.” I don’t believe I did anything ‘special’ I think she was just ‘ready’.

One of my students was one of the nicest kids you would ever meet. When he came up to the Primary Department he had a bad speech impediment and his mother was taking him to a specialist in Richmond for treatment. The library at this time was still in two classrooms. Every afternoon after school he came in to close the library windows for me. I had never asked him to do this, he had simply seen a need and acted on it. His therapy was successful, so much so that he achieved something no SLU student had ever been able to do before, or since. In Year 6 he was voted in, by his peers, as School Vice Captain. Recently I met him and his daughter. Naturally she was a nice kid too.

Following the Centenary a new library was built, on the land where the tennis court had been. It was a haven for the ‘misfits’ in the school. They felt safe there. Glass walls meant I could work in my office yet see the whole library. Board games were popular, as were school photo albums. One particular SLU boy would stand at my office door and announce, “All you chilluns be quiet. Lewis has a headache”. He often would bring me flowers at lunchtime, weeds carefully picked from the school grounds. He always waited till I found a vase for my ‘flowers’. The whole school knew when he had done good work. I was now Assistant Principal and in charge of the SLU. Teacher Bev Shearston would send him to show me his work and he would start to call out as soon as he left his room, “Look Lewis, look!” On my retirement I received a gift from him, a notebook and matching address book which I am still using. The card thanked me for making him feel ‘special’. He was!

The library was a good place for teachers to send kids whom they felt needed some ‘time-out’. I could usually find something to keep them busy. A Year 6 boy, was one of them but he missed a fair bit of school and often was sent to me, with the request that I please find him something to do. One day I sent him on a message to the canteen. The ladies working there had just made scones. He wanted to know if they would teach him. A time was arranged and he got to make his scones and they were pretty good.

Each Christmas, Library Clerical Assistant Margaret Crouch and I would take Year 5 and 6 Library Assistants on a ‘Thank You’ Outing. This particular year we had gone to The Roxy Theatre in Parramatta to see Storm Boy. I was sitting next to a Year 6 Librarian when a Year 5 boy turned around and called out, “Look at Brooksie sitting next to Mrs. Lewis”. I called back, “It’s OK; his mother and I were in the same class at primary school together”. The Year 6 boy next to me looked at me in horror, “Gosh. I didn’t know my mother was THAT OLD!”

In 1994, retired, I began teaching Scripture to Infants’ classes, Kindergarten and Year 1. One ‘Scripture’ story I love to tell was related to me by the student’s mother. She and her mother-in-law were discussing whether God was a man or a woman. The boy was listening. He piped up, “He’s a man”. “How do you know?” asked his mother. “Cause Mrs. Lewis told us”, was the quick reply. “And how does she know?” persisted his mother. “Cause she lives with him” came the same quick reply. “Oh” said his mother, “so how come she teaches you Scripture each week?” “Well, she has got a parachute you know.” The young man had the final word. Who could argue with such logic?