Denny Mason

by Clarrie Neal

In 2003, Denis Mason, a much loved resident of Riverstone passed away. This article was compiled by Clarrie Neal from information provided by Denis in two interviews April 1999.

Denis (Denny) Mason was born in Riverstone on the 1st August 1912, the second son of Frank and Emily Mason. There were three other children in the family, Monica, Brian and Pat and they were reared in the family house “on the hill” in Garfield Road near the Catholic Church. Denny was also known as Danny or Dinny, depending in which area of Riverstone you lived.

Denny attended the Riverstone School that is now the museum. With his primary schooling completed he then attended Granville Technical College for two years, recalling that his best friend in those days was a lad known as Vic Hey. Vic was a very good Rugby League player who represented Australia, played in England, returning to coach Parramatta for 6 years.

Denny loved to play cricket and has fond memories of one day when, as a slightly built lad of 16 years playing for Riverstone against Freemans Reach, he scored 18 runs. What made the day so special was that Denny scored most of the runs off a bowler named Charlie Nicholson, who played Shield cricket for NSW and later Australia. Denny always considered Charlie to be a gentleman, as he showed a lot of sympathy to the lad at the other end that day and allowed him those 18 runs.

In 1916, when Garfield Road was a gravel track, one of the first people in the district to own a motor car was George Terry of Rouse Hill. Denny recalls, as he heard the car, a 1912 Maxwell, coming up the hill he would run out to the cutting to watch it pass by. He also recalls Edwin (Ted) Rouse being driven into Riverstone in his horse and sulky with Jack Hynds as the driver.

As a youth he became very interested in motor bikes, owning at various times several old English built bikes including a Norton, a Velocette, a B.S.A. and a rare old Calthorpe. This interest in bikes meant he became a good friend of Rod and Noel Terry who each owned a Douglass bike.

He also remembered the time when Geoff Terry returned from the 1st War with a new Sunbeam bike, and it being virtually wrecked when Gerald Terry was riding it along the Windsor Road and smashed into a cow. After the motor bikes came the cars. Denny’s first car was a Morris 6 that he purchased in 1950. His next car was a Chrysler Plymouth.

Denny’s first job was working as a labourer with the engineers at the Meatworks, earning 16 shillings a week. After two years with the engineers he gained a job with the Egg Board in Mountain Street, Ultimo where he spent four years. Denny remembers that he had to catch the 5.40am steam train to Sydney and that there were four girls from Riverstone working at the Egg Board, including Molly Buchan and Enid Freeman. He had to walk to the station and be careful when walking under the awnings of the two shops located where the Commonwealth bank is now, because there would often be cows sleeping under the awnings.

When the travelling became too much Denny boarded in a house at Paddington. It was while working at the Egg Board that he met Gwen Torr who also worked there. Denny recalled that he was earning 3 pounds per week and that Gwen was earning 27 shillings per week. From this amount she kept 7 shillings for her fares and gave her mother 20 shillings to help support her father and two brothers who, because of the depression, were unable to get work.

Denny married Gwen in 1932 in Sydney and, when they were put off by the Egg Board, they came to Riverstone, where they first lived on the opposite side of Garfield Road – in the house that Brian Mason later occupied. (Frank Mason gave each of his sons a parcel of land. Monica, his daughter was a nurse and she was killed in an ambulance accident in the 1920s. This had a great impact on all three of the boys.) The house next to the Church was built prior to WW2 probably around 1937. The 1950 addition was built by Jim Hanney. It was in this house they reared their five children – Margaret, Terence, Irene, Jean and Kay.

Riverstone was still badly affected by the depression when they arrived and Denny spent a considerable time working for the dole with Blacktown Council. He eventually gained a casual job at the Meatworks, working with Bill Turner and Joe Fitzgerald unloading the stock trains that arrived throughout the night. He gained permanent employment in the freezers in 1938 and worked there for 36 years until he retired in 1974.

To help support a growing family he started repairing bikes in a tin shed he used as a workshop. This practice of repairing bikes kept on growing and became Denny’s major hobby. At the time Coulters also had a bike shop, but from about c1960 Denny became the only bike repairer and decided to build a new workshop. The two best known and most popular bikes he sold were the “Alban” which he assembled himself and the “Malvern Star” which came ready assembled.

It was about this time Victa Mowers had a dispute with Rosenthalls, their agent in Riverstone. Victa then approached Denny Mason and asked him to become their distributor for this area, which he readily accepted. It would be fair to say that just about every family in Riverstone during that period had, at one time or another, bought a mower or a bike or had one repaired with Denny Mason. Also sold from the shop were many smaller electrical goods, such as toasters and irons, etc.

Denny had the misfortune to have thieves break into his workshop one night and steal goods valued at 1,000 pounds. Some months later the same thieves returned but this time Denny was ready with a guard dog and a shotgun – the thieves never ever returned after that episode.

In c1988 Denny transferred the business to the town area, where it was run by his daughter Irene for several years before being sold in c1994. Denny suffered a sad loss in 1994 when his wife Gwen, after a marriage spanning 62 years, passed away at the age of 81 years.

Denny, with his pleasant easy going nature was a wonderful man to deal with, many families in Riverstone realising this when, if they were struggling and wanted to buy an item, Denny would allow them to pay it off by instalments, and he never ever charged any interest.

A little incident he recalled when I interviewed him just about says it all for Denny, One day while waiting outside a shop in Marketown a lady came up to Denny put her arm around him and placed a big kiss on his cheek. Denny said “that was very nice of you,….. but what was it for”.

She replied “when I was a little girl my parents bought a bike from you and it was the happiest day of my life, I wanted to kiss you there and then to say thank you, but I was too shy. I am now 55 and not so shy and I still regard it as the happiest day of my life, so thank you”.

Riverstone in the Great War (World War I)

by Shirley Seale.

1914 was not a good year in the Hawkesbury. There was a serious drought which had begun in 1911 and was not to end until 1916 and as this was a farming area, the continual dry weather would have been a great worry to families dependent on livestock or crops. A butchers’ strike in March would have adversely affected the wages in the town of Riverstone where many of the men worked at the meatworks. There were five trains a day to and from the city from Riverstone and horses and carts were the common forms of transport, although cars were making an appearance. The recommended basic wage for a family of four was 2 pounds 8 shillings a week. Since a Speedwell bicycle cost 8 pounds 10 shillings, almost 4 times that amount and a wristlet watch was 4 pounds or almost 2 weeks wages for a family, people were not conspicuous consumers of luxuries. An unskilled labourer was paid 8 shillings and 6 pence a day for a six day week.

Local people had a lot to think about just keeping their lives together and the rumblings about trouble in the Balkans would not have had a high priority. However we were still proud sons and daughters of the Empire. We were taught English history, not Australian, in our schools and we had “God Save the King” as our national Anthem. Our king was George V. We celebrated Empire Day on 24th May, Queen Victoria’s birthday, each year with special school assemblies, later a half day holiday and fireworks. When war was declared on 3rd August 1914, the Prime Minister declared, “When England is at war, Australia is at war!” Two weeks later when he had been ousted at an election, the new Labor Prime Minister, Andrew Fisher declaimed, “We will defend the Mother Country to the last man and the last shilling”. England accepted the offer made by the P.M. of 20,000 men in the Australian Imperial Force and 10,000 had enlisted in Sydney alone by the 20th August.

So how did Riverstone people learn about the war? It took nearly three weeks for the Windsor Richmond Gazette to mention it, on 28th August, the Sydney Morning Herald, would have news, but the telegraph wire service did go to the railway station, which also housed the post office at Riverstone and from there word would have spread by word of mouth. For us, with our instant access to news from around the world as it happens, together with graphic pictures, this slow dissemination of knowledge is hard to grasp. Our population was between 4 and 5 million at the start of the war, not counting the Aboriginal people. Duntroon Military College had opened in 1911 but it took four years to train an officer, so the first trainees had not yet graduated.

Patriotic fervour swept the land and eager young men, to whom it seemed a wonderful adventure hurried to enlist. All told 416,809 enlisted in the course of the war, about one tenth of our total population. Most of them were tradesmen aged between 21 and 30 years of age and 81% were single. By the end of the war 60,284 had died and one in two families had suffered a bereavement. There were not enough trained men in Australia to train the recruits and they were sent to Egypt for training. The first 38 ship loads left from St George’s Sound in WA on 1st November 1914. Enlisted recruits were paid 6 shillings a day, all found. The cost of the war was so great that in 1915 income tax was introduced for the first time. 4 million pounds was raised in 1915/16 rising to 10 million by 1918/19. Still by the end of the war Australia’s debt was 291 million, and NSW had to find almost 2 million pounds to fund the 65,165 war pensions that were granted. The war took a heavy toll from everyone.


At first young men rushed to join up. They were swept up in the patriotic fervour that enveloped the country. However as reports and letters came back home from those who had been first to go, the enthusiasm waned and earnest appeals were made for more men. Riverstone held a huge and enthusiastic recruiting rally at Riverstone Meatworks on Tuesday, 16th November 1915. Mr J.P. Quinn presided. Speakers were Mr R. Atkinson Price MLA, Corporal McQueen and Quartermaster O’Brien, both of the latter having recently returned from Gallipoli. The meatworks management promised to reinstate them when they returned and to make up the difference in their salaries.

The speakers called for volunteers to go and fight and eleven young men handed in their names. They were John Robbins, Joseph and Leo Birtle, Robert Case, Stanley and Cecil Alcorn, Jack Towers, Joseph Green, Frank Keegan, George Croft, T. Humphries and Fred Hurley. It was proposed by Joe Birtle and seconded by John Robbins that a route march from Riverstone and district to Sydney be organised. This was carried unanimously. The meeting was considered to be the best ever held in Riverstone. Within days three other lads had enlisted although their names are not given. There is no further information on whether the march took place or if the impetus was lost after the meeting ended.

And what happened to these volunteers? John Robbins, known as Jack, a promising cricketer whose father had instructed the local rifle club in drill at the outbreak of war, was sadly killed in action in France. His brother Eric was wounded but returned safely. The Alcorns and Frank Keegan and Fred Hurley were welcomed home as were Jack Towers and Joe Green, although they were wounded and their welcome home was delayed.

Posters were made to encourage women to urge their men to enlist, and to stir up the younger lads, 200 boys under 18 who were too young to fight were marched to towns around the Hawkesbury area, including Riverstone. They were called “Boomerangs” in the hope that they would return safely home again.

Empty Saddle Clubs were formed and at large gatherings such as the Windsor and Riverstone Agricultural Shows, horses with saddles but no riders were led into the arena and willing men leapt up into the saddle where they were immediately processed by recruiting officers. They were attempting to fill the Hawkesbury Light Horse numbers and the men were promised that they would train and stay together. This was great for morale but had a devastating effect on the district when a unit was involved in a battle and many friends and brothers were killed and wounded on the same day.

As films were available these were shown. At Riverstone Picture hall, Lt Church an Anzac, showed pictures of “The Landing”, “Charging the Cliffs” and “Lone Pine” and told the tale of our boys outwitting the wily Turks.

Other names from the district to enlist were Ambrose Mason, Charlie Fisher, Jack Conway, the Alcorn brothers, the Alderton brothers, the Schofields, the Draytons, the Kennys, the Pyes, Robert Jones, Claude Voysey, Joseph Brown, Ernie Marlin, John Jones, F Hayward, J Wiggins, Eric Robbins, Gunner Witts, George and William Teale, Cecil Greenshaw, Rupert Vidler, Robert Rankin, Alex Stubbs, George Stell, Harry Smith and J Pollard. Many of these kept in touch during the war and were able to give each others families news of their loved ones

Women’s Role

In 1914, women were still in corsets and long dresses. They were still largely under the protection and the thumbs of their fathers, brothers and husbands. Very few women worked outside the home and they were not encouraged to think of a career. There were women school teachers, nurses and shop assistants. When war was declared the women too wanted to be involved.

2139 nurses served abroad as members of the Australian Army Nursing Service, but women doctors, few as they were, did not get appointments as it was considered it would be too much for them! 130 nurses were seconded to the British Army and 22 masseuses were sent overseas. Before the war ended, the shortage of available men had seen women employed for the first time in banks, the Public Service and insurance companies. The first policewomen were also appointed, but they were all expected to give up these jobs and go back home when the war was over and the men returned. Women offered their services as ambulance drivers and cooks but were not accepted. They formed the Australian Women’s Service Corps and offered to take on jobs at home to release men for overseas service but were rejected. However most of the work done by women in the First World War was voluntary and unpaid.

One of the things they did was join the Red Cross. Riverstone formed a branch in September 1914 under the Presidency of Mrs Anstey, the headmaster’s wife. Mr Cohen, a local storekeeper, donated a roll of flannelette for their use. It was necessary for the Red Cross to assist in sending comforts to the troops as they were very poorly supplied. Each soldier was issued with only three pairs of socks and in the trenches, when everything was wet this was not enough. Women knitted as much as they could. Rosemary Phillis of Riverstone says her grandmother, Ida Rumery, recalled knitting socks for the Home Comforts’ Fund. They knitted even as they walked around the house. The leg and foot were no problem but shaping the heel was very difficult. Later as steel for knitting needles became scarce, the women used bicycle spokes instead. My Aunt Muriel did that. Altogether the Red Cross forwarded 1 million pairs of socks to the soldiers during the war. Sometimes they would tuck a note into the toe of the socks they knitted and often received a reply from a grateful soldier.

All sorts of events were held to raise funds, for the women sent tobacco, reading materials and extra food and warm clothing too. A cricket match was held at Riverstone between the young men and the ladies of the district. The men, to ensure that the ladies were not at a disadvantage, played with their opposite hands and used stumps and pick axe handles as bats!

When the people at home were told what a difference sandbags made for safety around the gun emplacements, these too were added to the things that were sent. One of the most enthusiastic young women in this area was Miss Matilda McCabe, a Riverstone schoolteacher, who formed a first aid class, and had taken part with gusto at every community function organised in the district. As First Aid trainer she had 25 women and girls in her team and, dressed in nurses’ uniforms, they often formed a guard of honour with arches of flowers for the enlisting soldiers to walk through at the community farewells. She announced she was going to England to nurse the soldiers and was presented with a gold watch and other gifts at a farewell. But true to the limitations placed on young women in those days, her mother’s dying wish was that she should remain at home to nurse her brothers if they came home from war wounded, so she stayed at home.

Riverstone women also had organised a Home Comforts’ fund and in 1916, when the troops were fighting in the cold trenches of France, had handed the mayor a parcel of winter clothing. This often included sheepskin vests and soldiers wrote home expressing appreciation of the goods sent to them. About now, the recipe for Anzac biscuits was circulated as a treat which could be sent in tins to the troops without deteriorating. Patriotic Funds were organised throughout the district and many social functions were held to raise money for the boys at the front. By this time the realities of war were being felt in Riverstone and some of the money raised was set aside for the widow and family of Private James Symons who had been killed in battle.

Another local woman, Maude Butler, who had been refused enlistment as a nurse, made news as she travelled to Sydney, persuaded a barber over his own judgement to cut off all her hair, bought a uniform from a willing soldier, purchased puttees and belt and climbed the stern rope of the troop ship after dark. She remained hidden for three days when hunger forced her out. She was transferred at sea to another boat returning to Melbourne, where she was again dressed as a girl and returned to Sydney. Two months later she did it all again! This time she had to give an undertaking to stay home. She only wanted to be a nurse she said, and if she had been a man she could have gone to the front. “One must admire the girl’s persistence”, wrote the Gazette, “it contrasts with the able bodied shirkers who are so numerous in city and country alike”.


Each local community felt the urge to farewell their recruits in a memorable way. Functions were given at Vineyard and Kurrajong, Marsden Park, Schofields, Windsor, Wilberforce, Kellyville and Riverstone. At each function the troops being farewelled were presented with gifts to take with them to remember the best wishes of their friends and families at home. Among the gifts presented were; wristlet watches, wallets, pocket testaments, pipes, sheepskin vests, fountain pens, and shaving kits. In Riverstone the farewell evenings were usually held at the Oddfellows Hall, and most of the residents were present.

The hall would be decorated with flags, Chinese lanterns and crinkled paper. Typically there was a concert held first, followed by supper and then the presentations. The local dignitaries were present and often a career soldier from Sydney addressed the meeting. Sometimes it took the form of a fancy dress dance with people typically dressed as Britannia, France, Russia, Australia etc. Patriotic songs were sung by local soloists such as Mr Teale, Misses Cole, Bell and Griffin. Recitations were given and after supper, dancing continued until 2.30a.m.

At a farewell evening held at Riverstone in August 1915, after Mr Kiss of Clydesdale had wished the recruits good luck and a safe return, hoping that their noble example would be followed by others, Staff Sergeant Major Harvey of Victoria Barracks spoke in a much more sombre note. “These men” he said, “were the best in the district. Britain wanted all the men she could get. So far 30 men had enlisted from Riverstone. It took 2 tons of lead to kill a man and 1 in 10 die on the battlefield”.

Not deterred by the statistics, Edwin Schofield, on behalf of those going off to the battlefield, said they would do their best and hoped to return crowned in glory and they would not disgrace their land. He later became a Lance Corporal. Later, Edwin and his brothers Aubrey and Horace were given another farewell by the Loyal Pride of Riverstone Lodge, where he was presented with his second set of pipes, and was assured by Brother Vaughan that the Lodge would keep them all financial during the war and if they were disabled or numbered among the fallen they would receive full benefits. Once again Edwin replied on behalf of the others and said he felt it his duty to enlist and called upon all unencumbered men to do the same. He would like to see it ended before he was called upon to take life, but if wanted he hoped he would be able to do his duty for the Empire. Toasts were made to the soldiers and their parents. Aub and Edwin returned safely, but Horace was killed in action in November 1916 and the same community turned out for a memorial service in his honour.

In June of 1916 a Soldiers’ Presentation Committee organised a musical evening and presentation; with the watches being presented they were told that as they reflected the time the faces would remind them of the faces of their friends and well wishers assembled.

Private Fletcher a teacher, was given afternoon tea by staff and former pupils at Riverstone school. He returned safely to resume his job. And so the lads from Riverstone left to do their best for their country, strengthened by the community’s good wishes,

Stories and Letters.

Most of the local lads had never travelled far from home before and started off to see the world. Private Herbert Davis of Riverstone had sent his parents 800 views and photographs – in fact so eager was he to document everything he saw, that his camera was taken from him for a while. He had survived Gallipoli but was later wounded in the Dardanelles.

As news was hard to come by for those with family at the front many parents gave the letters they received to the local paper to be printed in full for others to read. William Teale of Riverstone was a frequent, descriptive writer. On the way over on the troopship, he had won the heavyweight boxing championship He turned 21 in Egypt and told his parents he had reached 6 feet in height. He said he wasn’t sorry to leave Egypt as he never wanted to see another place like it. But in his next letter he moaned “They put us in an even worse place — Arabia. It isn’t even fit for the natives who live here. All you see is sky and desert where we had our trenches. Flies in millions- 130 degrees in the shade and one pint of water a day! When next he wrote he had wonderful news for his parents. While in Malta for a couple of days there were three other boats in harbour and he signalled with flags to see if his brother was on board any of them. He was. The ships were 1/2 a mile apart but he swam over and pulled himself up on a rope. “George nearly fell overboard when he saw me”. They chatted for 1/2 an hour then George’s boat left and no one knew where they were going. Will later went to France where ” the fire from the guns make it as light as day and they make the ground shake”. Will got back home safely but George lost his right eye in France.

Another local family to receive lots of letters were the Kennys. Bert Kenny had worked at the rneat works and had left with the 2nd Light Horse in June 1915. He had been shipped along with the horses and the weather in the Great Australian Bight had been so bad that some of the horses got influenza and died. The boat was declared unfit for horses and they were taken off at Fremantle. Bert wrote about the scenery in Suez and was surprised by the fertile country and to see donkeys and camels being used as we would use horses. Bert Kenny developed diphtheria while overseas, and when he returned home, the Gallipoli Star he had been given by a grateful wounded Turk he had assisted was put on display in Davis hardware store. His brother Jack was wounded in Heliopolis after six weeks in the trenches and after some weeks recuperating was sent home. There he was persuaded to write about his time in Gallipoli for the paper. “On 19th August we were issued with … rations, ammunition and water. It weighed about 100 pounds in all … we were disappointed at not being able to see the enemy although … I saw a good many of their dead lying in front of the trenches, a result of an attack made a week before… For a good time only 27 feet separated us from the Turks … Were trenches are so close hand grenades are largely used by both sides … when one does succeed in getting into our trenches it is customary to throw a blanket or coat over the grenade and lay flat on the ground, trusting to luck, but the explosion causes a great rush of air into the lungs of those around, frequently bringing on a haemorage (sic) of the lungs”. Jack re-enlisted when he recovered and eventually returned home safe.

Ambrose Mason had been studying to be a teacher when he enlisted. He wrote home in August 1916 to say he couldn’t believe that he had picked up a copy of the Windsor and Richmond Gazette on the battlefields of France. It was like meeting an old friend, he said. A short time later, Harry Turnbull wrote to his family from a hospital in Wales to say that he had heard that an A. Mason had been killed. Such was the communication of the day that it was some time before the family was notified that it was true. His mother wrote to the Red Cross for confirmation or otherwise. Ambrose, by this time a corporal on the Western Front, had gone with others to secure an enemy machine gun and had never come back. It was a long time before their bodies were found. He had sent his mother a postcard on which he had jokingly written .”We will all be dead soon”. In August of 1919, a memorial font was dedicated to his memory at St John’s Catholic Church at Riverstone. It is now in the possession of a family member.

Mail came in various ways. Jessie Alderton of Schofields received a message by “bottle post” from the brother who sailed in 1916. “Just a line over the water”, it said. “I have not been sick and am as happy as a king and if this finds you, keep it to remember it as a swimming note, so I now send it overboard. Your loving brother Harold”. The bottle was found on a beach at Ram Head in Victoria and sent on by the finder. Harold later lost an eye , but returned home.

The local boys told it as it was when they could get through the censorship, and one letter really brings home the terrible hardships they were going through in the trenches. George Teale of Riverstone wrote on Christmas day, 1916, “we have just finished our dinner. We had some stew and a piece of plum pudding and a packet of biscuits, so we made the best of things. The pudding was not bad only we had to get a piece of string to pull it out of our jaws, it was that sticky,… The big guns never stop they are going day and night. They sent Fritz over his Christmas dinner today. There was a big bombardment. It is very wet over here,… plenty of snow, plenty of mud, plenty of shells. Did little Arthur and Fred hang up their stockings for Christmas? I hang mine up every night full of water.” Is it any wonder the ladies kept knitting socks? George was later gassed, lost his right eye, but returned.

How lucky we are that families kept these letters and cards and that the Windsor and Richmond Gazette published so many of them during the war years for all to read.

Returning Heroes Welcomed Home

The district folk were looking forward to welcoming back to their midst the sons who had fought for their country. The various lodges, the Patriotic committee and the specially formed “Welcome Home Committee” made sure that each soldier was met with suitable celebration when at last he returned. First the ladies decorated the railway station, usually Riverstone as the main station in the area, but sometimes Schofields Siding if the soldier had come from that district. The station was covered with bunting and greenery and flags and sometimes the colour scheme was chosen to match the battalion colours. A huge crowd always was there to cheer the homecoming hero.

News travelled fast in the small community and the families were notified in advance of the date of arrival. At first only one or two soldiers arrived, but after peace was declared and the war was truly over, by 1919 as many as a dozen troops would be on a train, and the railway had to put a limit on the number of people who could squash on to the platform. There were speeches at the station and almost always Mr J East, who owned the Royal Hotel at Riverstone, offered his car to be decorated and used to convey the soldiers to their homes in style. A formal celebration and welcome home was held at a later date in the evening. The whole town turned out to welcome Fred Wiggins and his “Pommy” bride, the first war bride to come to the district. She was given a bunch of flowers as she alighted from the train to her new home.

One memorable welcome took place to welcome home the James, Schofields and Alderton boys. A banner was erected with the soldiers names shown in a horse shoe. The huge crowd admired the decorations which included Chinese lanterns, and Mr Kiss of Clydesdale drove them home in his decorated car. Sometimes a choir sang, schoolchildren often called to sing “Home Sweet Home”, or the Riverstone brass band under the direction of Otto Warters played suitable selections.

At the Oddfellows Hall or the Picture Hall, a celebration took place for the boys. There was a band, usually a concert and speeches praising the exploits of the troops, their modesty and patriotism. They were presented with inscribed gold medals and often with a kiss offered by lady relatives or friends. Above them were suspended on occasion, “tricky little bags”, which were punctured to release confetti on the recipients as they received their medals. Sometimes pretty girls were used to sprinkle the confetti instead. Then came a sumptuous supper and dancing and games until the small hours.

By 1918 the welcome home evenings were sharing with the farewell evenings for those going to the front to replace those coming home. By 1919 there were so many men returning to the district that it was decided to wait until 14 or so had returned and then hold a combined event for them. They were to be feted in the order their names appeared on the war Honour Roll.

The community felt a responsibility for those not at home and regular working bees were held to keep their farms and orchards in order, and volunteer labour was freely forthcoming along with monetary donations to build a house for the family of John Symons who did not return.

A very touching welcome home was given to Private E. Griffin of Marsden Park who returned after 4 years service. He had been an original Anzac and had left a wife and five children to do his bit. The following verses were composed by his wife and read by one of his children at his reception on 30th January 1919.

Today we are all so happy,
‘Cause our Daddy has come home-
From the fighting and the bloodshed,
From far across the foam.
We are proud of our soldier Daddy,
And the brave deeds he has done.
God bless our glorious A I F
And bring them safely home.

Then it was back to reality again for the diggers. No trauma counselling, no de-briefing, just back to work and family. Charles Knight and Jack Towers were so ill they had to be taken straight from the troopship to the military hospital. Charles had been wounded in the thigh a year previously and was still partly paralysed. Jack was still in critical condition two months after his return. However when he did return a joyful welcome was waiting with his house decorated with flags and his family out in force to welcome him home.

Many were shell shocked having seen their friends blown apart or buried alive in the trenches. Some from Riverstone committed suicide, unable to forget what they had lived through, Councillor Pye who spoke at many of the functions said they had come back from the “jaws of hell” and that they might look all right but 9 out of 10 of them were not all right and never would be all right again. However, following the war the Spanish flu epidemic hit hard and one local soldier’s wife who had travelled to meet him in Sydney was dead three days later. Alfred Brookes who had settled to poultry farming on his return was moved to resume his old job as warder at St Vincent’s Hospital to ease the staffing difficulties during the epidemic. The Gazette called it a “fine spirit of patriotism”.

The returning soldiers were careful to praise the local people who had kept them supplied with comforts and Christmas parcels while overseas. In the Riverstone area the troops had special framed “Thank You” boards made for the women who had supported them. They had medallion photographs of the men and two of the boards can be seen in the Riverstone Museum.

Memorials and Honour Rolls

Each community wanted to honour in a permanent way the men who had given their lives or years out of their lives to preserve the Empire. Plans were underway for these memorials and money was being collected long before the war ended. Kellyville erected a panel of maple under glass, with the names of 32 local soldiers, on the outside wall of the school where it could be read by those travelling by.

Riverstone collected for an Honour Roll and raised 60 pounds at a meeting held at the Picture Hall. It was planned to erect a temporary board in the waiting room at the railway station. This was unveiled by R.B. Walker MLA in October 1918. There were 128 names on the board with more to be added. The local band played, speeches were made by Councillor Pye, Mayor Chandler, Ensign Jones of the Salvation Army and others, and the ceremony was followed by refreshments at the Oddfellows hall. The Oddfellows Lodge had their own Honour Roll as did many firms and associations locally.

By March of 1919 The Memorial Committee of Riverstone, with Councillor Pye as Chairman, had raised 50 pounds for a permanent memorial to honour the dead of the district, and were hoping to raise 50 more. The railway department had approved the use of land outside the entrance to Riverstone Railway Station as the location for the monument. It eventually was to hold 22 names and was opened with great ceremony by R.B. Walker MLA on a blistering hot day on the 8th of November 1919. The monument still stands in its original place today and is viewed by the hundreds of people who use the station each day. It is the setting for the local Anzac Service each April.

Spoils of War

At the war’s end, all the towns and communities which had sent soldiers to battle, were presented with a trophy as a district memorial to the efforts of the citizens. These were distributed by the Australian War Memorial. Riverstone and district received a German machine gun of the Maxim type. This was claimed for the district by Lt Fred Hayward of Marsden Park. The gun was captured by Australians near Lille …. Mr Charles Davis followed through with the claim.

The gun was delivered to Riverstone Railway Station in April 1921, where one of the signatories for its safe arrival was Roderick Terry of Rouse Hill Estate. The gun was placed at Rouse Hill School where it remained until the 1960s as ex-pupils of the school recall. When the school residence was built the gun was removed and subsequently lost and at the time of writing has not been recovered.


  • Video. 1918 Remembered. Chris Masters. ABC 1988
  • Bassett, Jan. The Home Front. 1914 – 1918. South Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1988
  • Video. The Christmas Truce. The History Channel 2002.
  • Windsor and Richmond Gazette. 1914. Microfilm, Hawkesbury City Library.
  • Bartlett, Norman. Australia at Arms. Canberra, Australian War Memorial, 1962.
  • Gow, Rod and Wendy, and Birch, Val. World War 1. Hawkesbury Heroes. Volumes 1 and 2. Rod and Wendy Gow. Publishers. Cundletown. 2001.
  • Macquarie Book of Events.
  • Bowd, D.G. Hawkesbury Journey. North Sydney, Library of Australian History. N.d.
  • Ardley, Daisy. Kellyville a Pleasant Village.
  • Everett, Suzanne. World War 1. Sydney, A.P. Publishing. N.d.
  • Matthews, Tony. Crosses. Australian Soldiers in the Great War. Brisbane,
    Bollarang Publications, 1987.
  • Riverstone Public School Centenary Booklet. 1983.
  • Odgers, George. Diggers. The Australian Army, June 1860 – 5/6/1944. Sydney,
    Lansdowne Press. 2000.
  • Morrissey, David. Two World Wars. Macmillan 1986. A Children’s History of Australia Series.
  • Video. Australia in World War 1. Australian War Memorial. 1997.
  • Members of the Riverstone Historical Society, who contributed memories of their families, postcards and photographs which made the era come to life.

For the entire text of the letters quoted, and for information on the soldiers and their families in the Great War in this district, I recommend the two volumes of Hawkesbury Heroes, where the Gows have indexed the excerpts from the Windsor and Richmond Gazette for the war years. Further information can be obtained from the Riverstone Museum.

Living in the ′70s

by Wendi Nichols

Dr John Wilkie once told my father Ern that “if he didn’t watch his eldest daughter – she would come to a BAD END” − HUH − I’m still waiting—-

To say that I come from a large family is probably an understatement. My dad, Ern Nichols had two brothers and one sister. His mum, Florence Nichols had nine siblings. My mum Joyce (nee Leach) had one brother and one sister, her mum Flo Leach (nee Belshaw) had six siblings and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. I was lucky enough to have four sisters (all younger) who I still consider to be my BEST friends, even though when younger we had the odd blue (another gross understatement).We had a lot of family functions when growing up, most of them held by maternal grandparents Bill and Flo Leach. These were held at their property on the corner of Riverstone Parade and Edward Street, next door to Hoods’ wrecking yard. These functions were attended by everyone that could possibly claim some type of kinship, whether fair or foul and a good time was had by all. Pop would dress up as Santa at Xmas time and Uncle Johnny Leach would supply the music, such as Elvis and a lot of Rock N Roll. The younger kids would play until late.

Typical attendance was Great-Grandma Belshaw, Great-Great Auntie Maudie and husband Jack, at least four great aunts, spouses and children, then the aunts, uncles and cousins too numerous to mention, at least 40 to 50 of us. It was really great because we were all so close knit and even now we don’t need a big excuse to get together, boil the kettle, pour the tea and off we go!! I just have to add that my Nana Leach was a liberal type of person and loved reading, devouring all types of diverse material. I would spend a lot of time with her, weekends, school holidays etc and she passed this love onto all of us girls. My greatest achievement was reading her copy of Harold Robbins ‘Carpetbaggers’ when I was eleven – as it was a fairly explicit (for those days) adult book. I never told Mum until I was in my mid twenties!!!

I hung around a lot with my sister Jennie, who was a year younger than me and we thought we were very ‘special’, too special in fact for the likes of Riverstone which felt very old fashioned, the residents seeming to be a bit out dated and set in their ways – we were in the ‘IN’ crowd. Our great loves when growing up were Bands and music followed by high fashion and I suppose Boys were factored in there somewhere as we grew into our teens. That last bit was probably a bit understated—but—. This from the two girls who at probably 8 and 9, couldn’t understand why our parents wouldn’t take us into Mascot to see the Beatles arriving in the early 60s. But then they did come across with the goods when the Monkees came to Sydney in later years – I actually shudder now when I think of that.

We spent a lot of our pre-early teenage Saturday afternoons going to the matinees at Mr Murray’s Olympia picture theatre in Garfield Road. Elvis featuring largely here (another shudder at this juncture). We would scrape up enough money for some small snacks at intermission (who remembers intermission and also why isn’t it around anymore – think TITANIC etc). Sorry – to continue…….The only Milk Bar we were allowed to go to was the Wattle owned by Mr Notaris, down near Rosenthall’s old shop. We’d all bolt down there for the cheapest portion of hot chips, enviously eying the kids who were allowed to go to the café next door to the pictures. It wasn’t worth the effort of doing the wrong thing at that stage because as sure as eggs were eggs, the minute you stepped a foot wrong, some well meaning customer of Dads would DOB on us.

There was a lot of angst happening with the clothing thing. You had to be dressed “JUST RIGHT” especially if in case somebody you knew saw you. What we didn’t realise was that we probably knew nearly everybody anyway.

When I was in 6th class my mum (a follower of high fashion, herself) bought me my first pair of ‘heels’ from Alan Pfeiffers A&A shoe store in the Main Street, up near the Post Office. They were brown, pointy slingbacks with a bow on the front –they’d actually be OK to wear now and I have a red pair very, very similar.

It was very exciting when the Riverstone Pool opened up or the “POOLS” as it was called by a lot of us – well…..there was a small wading pool so pools was correct!!! In summer there was a never ending round of swimming – a lot of good excuses to be made up of why we needed to go swimming. It was hot, wasn’t it, we needed to practise before we went to ‘training’. How important it was if you were a member of the Riverstone Swimming Club. I earnt my ½ mile and mile badge in that original pool – I must have swam ten thousand laps….well – it felt like it. Friday nights for the races were also a very social occasion even if you weren’t participating. There wasn’t a lot of swimming done during our daily visits either, gossiping and eyeing off all the Boys and we did spend a lot of time running off the younger siblings and their numerous friends.

It was also good fun when the Circus came to town. It would be set up in the paddock opposite the Infants’ school and later after the first pool was built it was moved over behind it, near the Market Street end. I loved the swingout swings which seemed very daring. Once I won a bowl with George Harrison on it from the moving clowns. I still have it today and as I’m writing this I’m thinking it might have some type of wholesale value (how does E Bay work?).

In 1966 I started High school and in one of our first classes we were asked to put our hands up if we were smacked at home. Of course, Cousin Julie and I obliged and were soooo embarrassed as we were the only ones!!! When complaining to Mum and Dad about it “it’s not fair etc etc” he said “Oh well, next year there’d be another one because Jennie will be there too!!!” He went on to say we were probably the only truthful ones.

When I was in year 9 and 10 I would go riding on my pushbike with my friend Anne Vos, who lived in Edward Street. Her family emigrated from Holland when she was about 12 and her dad worked out at the Scheyville Camp. We would ride up in the bush at the back of Hamilton Street and inspect all the rubbish that had been dumped up there. It was kind of like a free garage sale – I remember on one of his walks my Dad bought home an old bedside chest. I don’t think Mum was impressed then, but just recently we caught Dad trying to pass it off as one of his rare finds, he still keeps it for tools and wouldn’t sell it at a garage sale.

Geoff Pfisters’ Barber shop down near the Commonwealth and National Bank laneway was also a good source for time wasting, especially when he hired a new apprentice, Jim I think his name was. He had very long black hair and was in a BAND!!! The only band we had in Riverstone was the ‘Zodiacs’ with Brian McCombe (now King Brian at RetraVision) and Brian Weaver but their music wasn’t really to our taste.

After I left school and started work in Sydney I talked my Mum into giving me “a nice home perm”. (She did this for a few of our relatives.) Poor Mum – she had this vision of lovely curly ringlets and what actually happened was that it turned out like a Jimi Hendrix AFRO. I was ecstatic. It was just as I had planned. Dad made me grease it with something like Californian Poppy to flatten it, but when I went out I would give it a shake and hey presto – it was frizzy again.

A favourite past time was to catch the first train up to Richmond after the line had been flooded out. My cousin Julie arranged for me to go with her one afternoon. We told our parents we wanted to see the floods, but she was actually meeting a boy her parents didn’t approve of. I can tell you now – it was pretty hair raising – the line was moving back and forth with the water at Mulgrave and Clarendon. It was just under the track!! When we arrived at Richmond, I thought it would be a hive of activity, but it was just as dead as Rivo ever was.

We all went to a Big dance held in the Old Picture Show in Windsor (George Street). There were a few minor name Bands and it was supposed to be a Big night. A lot of kids from Rivo went. One I remember distinctly was Owen Binks, who actually has ended up with my cousin Sandra. Owen had very long hair and was also ‘different’ he drove a VW Bug. I must say that even today Owen still sports a mean mullet!!

When I started work in the City life was better, a bit more satisfying, I could shop at brand name stores – (as I had for a few years) BUT it was more on tap – if you know what I mean, like, Merrivale, Cue, In Shoppe etc. You always tried to be dressed properly for every occasion or so I thought – for example you couldn’t go to church unless you wore purple blue mascara and false eyelashes on the bottom. A la Twiggy!!

After the perm incident a few of the churches in the town combined to hold a Young Peoples’ coffee night at the Baptist church. Jennie and I of course were allowed to go. I wore a new maxi coat with flares and was very pleased with myself, because a lot of the people were shocked at my (modern) outfit.

My Dad was a church elder and had a bit to do with the organising of the Big event. When we were leaving for home and saying goodbyes, Dad asked a few of the boys if they would like a lift back to Schofields. They thanked Dad and said they would walk. Imagine our horror upon hearing the news the next day on the radio that they had all been hit by a drunk driver on the way home and only one survived. Most of them had been in my class in 4th form.

Catching the train to work in the City was an eye opener. I left at 10 to 7 and my sister Jennie left ½ an hour later. Dad would start the car up and gun the motor. I’d run out the door clutching books and makeup etc always running late. One day he reversed out the driveway and as I got to the door he zoomed off down the road – he forget me – how bad was that—

The actual train trip was great – if you travelled in the big old steam train carriages pulled by a big diesel engine. First Class all the way to Central. The seats were like lounges some had tables, we played cards sometimes – all carriages had a toilet and running drinking water. Something which I thought was strange was that when you sat in a particular spot some of the older men seemed cross. What was happening was that we didn’t know the seating arrangements. They all had their favourite seats that they sat in all the time.

I was allowed to work at my Dad’s business – which most of you knew as Nichols Service Station. I started there officially when I was eleven. I worked mostly Saturday afternoons. I can remember an earlier time when I was probably about five. I had been waiting for Dad to take me home. He was in and out of the office (which was down near the bank laneway in Garfield Road at that stage). I thought I might like to try out the phone which was a large mysterious affair up on the wall with a windy handle. I had to climb on a box to use it but couldn’t get it to actually work. I was amazed when Dad told me later that I wasn’t allowed to touch the phone – wow – how did he know – well,
Riverstone was on an exchange then and the receptionist had rang him back to DOB on me – sprung again!!!

Some visits to the garage were met with great trepidation. If Grandma Nichols was in attendance, we had to endure an underwear ‘inspection’. She would always check us to make sure we had the correct cold weather accessories, such as singlets (fleecy), spencers (long) and yep, you guessed it warm undies (fleecy). How embarrassing – we always did though.

After the garage had moved up the road to opposite the Uniting Church we would spend a lot of time cleaning the shelves and rearranging the stock which wasn’t always allowed – but it looked better – didn’t it? My Great Grandfather, old ‘Pop’ Nichols, would be sitting in the corner near the cash register, a regular fixture even in later years, sipping his endless cups of black tea followed by the big procedure of taking a Bex (which we sold singly in 1 dose). He would keep an eagle eye on us to make sure we were on our Best Behaviour – I suppose he dobbed on us too!!! Looking back it must
have driven Dad, Grandma and Pop to distraction having us just drop in to help out, but they were more encouraging when we were older and earning a wage there. It was good because we earnt a bit of pocket money to enable us to buy our own clothes and be a bit more independent.

My Dad particularly gave me a good grounding in how to deal with all sorts of people during work and also in life and my Mum taught us that there was another world outside Riverstone, and I don’t mean that in a Bad Way.

A Century of Public School Sport

by Judith Lewis

On 30th March 1889 a general meeting held at Castlereagh Street Public School, Sydney, saw the formation of the Public Schools’ Amateur Athletics Association (PSAAA). This had little effect on Riverstone district schools as the PSAAA was confined to the metropolitan area, which then extended south to Hurstville, north to Hornsby and west to Granville. For the first 25 years the single PSAAA event was the Annual Sports’ Carnival. In 1895 Windsor and West Maitland, were included in the carnival.

Crowds of 40,000 to 50,000 people would gather with up to 12,000 children participating before the Governor General, State Governor and Premier and the Minister for Public Instruction. Between 1889 and 1894 the carnival was a one-day affair, held on a Saturday. It then became a two-day event, held on a Friday and Saturday. Events included sprinting, walking, sack races, drop and kick a football, throwing a cricket ball, a 400-yard obstacle run, drill events, tennis, bicycle races and numerous displays. Most events were exclusively for boys in 14, 12 and 9 year age divisions, with tennis provided for girls. As well as individual events, competitors from various sports, ie. teams of cyclists, footballers and runners, competed against each other in tug-o-war.

Sport for Riverstone district children at this time was mostly confined to games such as marbles, jacks, cricket, rounders and skipping played before school and at lunchtime. Some classes stayed outside after morning flag raising to do exercises or drill. A piece of sports’ equipment issued to schools was described as a stuffed bag about 12 inches long and 4 inches round attached to a piece of rope. A child stood in the centre of a circle of children and swung the bag around. The other children had to jump the bag.

In 1892 an afternoon cricket match between boys from Riverstone and Marsden Park schools saw respective principals Bernard Carroll and William Broadfoot arguing publicly in the Windsor and Richmond Gazette. Bernard Carroll’s superiors censured him for going into print over the issue.

In November 1889 Bernard Carroll’s students enjoyed a sports’ day when they met at the school and were led to ground behind Mr E. McDonnell’s residence by the Windsor Band. Here sets of cricket tools, rounder balls and bats, swinging ropes etc. were already provided for them. The children ran for prizes and every child received one. About 300 adults and children attended.

By 1895 there were 59 schools competing in the PSAAA’s Annual Sports’ Carnival when the first relay race, 4 x 400 yards using no batons, was contested. In 1898 the Parramatta District Schools held a Sports’ Carnival at Parramatta Cricket Ground. Also in 1898 events for Infants were included with a 50 yards handicap race for boys 8 years and under and a boys’ tricycle race. William Arnott, the biscuit manufacturer donated tins of biscuits as prizes for children competing at both the Sydney and Parramatta carnivals. This 1898 tradition was to last till 1970, when every competitor at the State Athletics’ Carnival received a packet of Arnott’s biscuits.

The Windsor and Richmond Gazette of 15th October 1898 reported “Fairfield” grounds were the scene of animation on Wednesday last, when fully 1000 persons must have been present at the third annual gathering held under the auspices of the Hawkesbury District Teachers’ Athletics Association. It was a red- letter day for the children, nearly every school being represented… A band discoursed selections of music on the ground during the day. Schools involved included Bullridge, Comleroy Road, Currency Creek, Freemans Reach, Kurrajong, Pitt Town, Richmond Superior, Riverstone, Tennyson, Wilberforce and Windsor Superior. Events included Bicycle Race (four times around the park), Apple and Three-legged Races, Throwing at Wicket, 100 yards Sack and Skipping Races and 400 yards Obstacle Race. Riverstone winners were Evelyn Myers in the 50 yards for 9 years and under and J. Myers who dead-heated with A. Conroy in the 75 yards handicap for 14 years and over.

In 1899 the PSSAA Annual Sports’ Carnival, now a one-day Friday event held at the Agricultural Ground, included a massed non-competitive physical education display. Events were organised separately for boys from metropolitan schools and country branches and new events such as clubs, dumb-bells, obstacle races, 3-legged races, hurdle races and a running high jump were included. For girls there were skipping races, fancy skipping and hoop races. A testing event was a novelty race in which competitors had to skip 50 yards, hop 25 yards, race backwards 25 yards, eat a bun, crawl on hands and feet 25 yards and run home 50 yards (hopefully not choking on the bun!).

City business continued their PSSAA support. In 1901 William Arnott donated medals for prizes; in 1903 Mr Mark Foy donated three gold medals for swimming; in 1906 Griffith Bros. Teas donated 500 boxes of chocolates as prizes; from 1908 Jeweller Percy Marks regularly donated medals. Children received free milk from the NSW Food & Ice Co and CSR supplied free bags of sugar. Individual sports began to be introduced – 1897 saw the formation of a swimming sub-committee with the All Schools’ Championship being held in 1898. A 100 yards Schoolgirls’ Championship was contested in 1907; inter-district rugby began in 1903; Australian Rules’ Football in 1904; soccer in 1907. By 1911, 14 schools were playing in competition baseball and lacrosse was becoming prominent. By 1914, competition had begun for girls and boys in tennis and for boys in cricket. It was 1920 before rugby league was officially sanctioned as there was concern that schoolboys’ amateur status would be affected by playing the ‘professional game’.

At the Annual Carnival in 1904 dancing was included as an event for girls and the next year dancing was extended to three separate competitions – Highland Fling, Hornpipe and Irish Jig. The Minister for Education, in 1907, agreed to the closure of all metropolitan schools to enable children to attend the Sports’ Carnival. Affiliated schools in country districts were also allowed to close for their sports’ carnivals. A 1909 baseball competition involved individuals running around the bases, fielding a ball at short stop and throwing it to first base.

In 1913 a sub-committee organised high schools’ competition in various sports, a forerunner of the CHS. Competition for girls was limited to athletics, swimming and tennis. In 1917 a girls’ winter games Field Day was held at the SCG with exhibition games being played in hockey, lacrosse and basketball. The following year saw the formation of the Girls’ Secondary Schools’ Sports’ Association (GSSSA) and competitions began in hockey, rounders, vigoro and basketball. The GSSSA remained autonomous till its affiliation with the PSAAA in 1961. A sprint championship, baseball and primary girls’ tunnel ball, were included in 1919 with 84 events, 46 for boys, 38 for
girls. By 1939 there were no longer primary girls’ competitions. They were given PSAAA representation in 1952, competing in basketball (which became netball in 1968) and softball.

The Parramatta PSAAA branch was one of a number formed in the 1920s, holding its inaugural carnival in 1924. In 1927 a public address system was used. Previously a large gong would ring up the races. By 1933 the metropolitan PSAAA was conducting 41 annual district competitions. Until 1931 compulsory junior cadet training had been part of the school curriculum. Early carnivals included military style events such as drill, manual exercise and volley firing in two ranks, physical drill with arms, cadet and band races in full uniform and sham fighting, with associated ambulance work, between companies. In primary schools this same course of instruction was carried out under
the title of Physical Training. WWII caused a shortage of rubber for football bladders, English willow for cricket bats and the supply of cricket balls. Post war, schools purchased equipment from Army amenities.

In the 1930s, 40s and 50s the land in Garfield Road, opposite the school, was used for games of cricket, softball and vigoro. There was a basketball (netball) court in the school grounds near the Piccadilly Street entrance. Jim Russell, First Assistant 1944-48, a Cumberland First Eleven cricketer, coached the boys after school. He recalled the cricket and football teams did very well in PSA competitions in those days. Two of his students, Kevin Lewis and Matt Johnston, remember Jim Russell taking a football side, by train, to play against Wentworthville Public School. Riverstone won the game. The Wenty boys didn’t take kindly to being beaten and chased the Rivo lads along the stormwater channel back to the railway station. In 1948, when the senior boys went by bus to play against Quakers Hill School, teams of girls also went to play basketball and softball. The girls’ games were not part of any organised competition.

When Wal Aldridge came to Riverstone Public School as principal in 1960, he was impressed by the students’ sporting ability. He set about building a school pride and self esteem using this as his catalyst. Since then Riverstone’s students have excelled in district competitions, a number of students taking this competition to State level and some being selected in State teams. A Riverstone Primary student to shine in 1962 was Graham Barlow who broke the state record in winning the Shot Put event at the NSW State Athletics’ Carnival. In 1969 the PSAAA became 4 autonomous bodies – CHSA, GSSSA, the NSW Girls’ Primary School Sports’ Association and the NSW Boys’ PSSA.

In 1971 the Boys’ and Girls’ Associations amalgamated to become the NSW PSSA. Many of Wal Aldridge’s pupils went on to excel in sport at Riverstone High School, opened in 1962. In the 1969 University Shield Rugby League competition Riverstone was coached by Maths’ teacher, Lewis Jones, a former Welsh and English international rugby player. On the Wednesday afternoon, when the game between Riverstone High and Griffith High was played in Riverstone Park, Riverstone almost came to a standstill. The meatworkers were ‘on strike’ that afternoon, most shops closed and both primary and high school students were also spectators. The crowd was estimated at 10,000. The match was reported on in the Sydney evening papers. One spectator with mixed loyalties was Wal Aldridge, then Principal at Griffith Primary School. Griffith Radio broadcast the game back to Griffith, whose side was beaten by the close score of 9-7.

Riverstone’s University Shield team was again victorious when a convoy of buses and private cars made a weekend trek to Orange for a Sunday game against the local high school. The semi final, in which Riverstone was defeated by Tamworth, was played in front of a capacity crowd of 62,000 at the SCG in a lead-up to the Third Test between England and Australia . The noise of the crowd was so deafening that Vice-Captain David Andrews stated “We didn’t hear the hooter go so we weren’t aware the game had started”. The Riverstone team for that game comprised: Fullback – John Hannon,
Wingers- Lyn Kingma & Scott Andrews, Centres- Darryl France & George Petrow, 5/8 & Captain- Zac Olejarnik, Half- Bruce Rutledge, Lock & Vice-Captain- David Andrews, 2nd Row- Phil Vaughan & Les Blake, Props- Graham Barlow & Vener Poniewerka, Hooker- Brian Strachan. Later, Zac and Darryl went on to represent their state in the NSW CHS Rugby League side.

In 1971 Riverstone High’s girls’ tennis team were joint winners, with Caringbah High School, of the Florence Conway Cup, a State wide competition in its inaugural year. Twenty teams contested the competition. The Riverstone High team was comprised of Wendy Drayton, Kaye Crawford, Christine Burke, Robyn Bludhorn & Christine Schofield. To reach the final, Riverstone defeated Cumberland 8-0, Ryde 8-0, Tamworth 6-2 & Mackellar 5-3. Riverstone produced its own official programme for the final, which was noteworthy for its sense of history and for a strongly feminist point of view. Kaye and Wendy were then chosen in the state team that defeated Queensland in the Pizzey Cup. The 16 strong team of boys and girls from NSW won by 24 rubbers, 89 sets to 12 rubbers, 35 sets.

In 1978 school captain Garry Allison, a member of the CHS State Water Polo team, was the only Riverstone High student, to date, to be awarded a CHS Blue.

In 1982 Michael Petersen swam for NSW in the Pan-Pacific Games in Brisbane. He came 2nd in his Individual Medley, 3rd in the Butterfly and 2nd as a member of the NSW Medley Relay team.

Brian Allen, whilst a Year 6 student at Riverstone Primary in 1987, was selected to play in and captain the State’s PSSA Cricket team. A Riverstone High student to excel in a non-school sport in the same year was Rouse Hill’s archer, Mark Locock, who was 1st in the Junior Australian Bowhunters and in the Junior Australian and South Pacific IFAA and 2nd in the World Junior Bowhunters’ Championship held in the USA. In 1988 Marsden Park’s Daniel Gallagher gained a 3rd place in the 12 Years Boys’ Shot Put at the CHS carnival. In 1989 & 1990 he won Gold and also won his event at the Australian Schoolboys’ Championship and at the 1990 Pulsar Games.

Volleyball saw Susan Sancbergs represent in the NSW Under 17 team in 1989. Both the girls’ and boys’ teams from Riverstone High were runners-up in the 1992 Open Schools’ Cup, with Suzanne Engelhard receiving the prestigious honour of being named “Most Valuable Player of the Tournament”, which included a cash scholarship and a top of the range “Shark Watch”.

Later that year the Girls’ Volleyball Team was to come 2nd in the State Knockout, being beaten by Westport High Port Macquarie in the final. The Team was Suzanne Englehard, Daniella Kucic, Renee Gauchi, Belinda Kidd, Marina Mauritski, Susan Sancbergs, Leanne Austin & Michelle Wicking. The Boys’ Volleyball Team defeated Westfield High 3-2 to take the State Title. The Boys’ Team was Daniel White, Justin Wicking, Chris Callanan, Mark Van Uden, Michael Shields, Brock Turner, Kobie Turner, Kent Powell, Neil Callanan & David Loveday. In the same year, Michael Shields was to prove his versatility as an all-round sportsman by being selected in the under 19s State Outdoor/Indoor cricket team. Volleyball was strong at Riverstone High for a number of years. In 1994 Kobie Turner captained the NSW Under 17’s Men’s Volleyball Team and in 1995 he was one of only 180 high school students from across the State to be awarded a Pierre de Coubertin Award from the Australian Olympic Committee.
In 1995 Renee Bevan, a Year 10 student, was to represent NSW and Australia in soccer and Darren Campbell was to earn a bronze medal at the State Swimming Championships. Lauren Stacey was one of a number of Riverstone High students who visited the USA with the Australian Rope Team where the senior team was placed 6th overall in the World Invitational Rope Skipping Championship. Aaron Gregory, a Year 6 student at Riverstone Primary School, was a member of the 1997 NSW Primary Schools’ Rugby League side. Playing at either centre or on the wing, he was the team’s leading try scorer with 12 tries.

At the 2000 Paralympic Games all Riverstone cheered loudly when Riverstone High swimmer Alicia Aberley, contesting 7 events, won 2 silver and 2 bronze medals in the S14 category.

A former Riverstone High student who went on to represent Australia in Commonwealth and Olympic Games was John Maxwell. Until injured, John played fullback for the 1969 University Shield Rugby League side. During his high school years he took up Trap Shooting. John was selected in Olympic Games’ teams for Seoul (1988) and Atlanta (1996), where he came 4th in the Trap. John won Gold and Bronze medals at the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games; Australian Champion of Champions Olympic Trench Shooter in 1988, 1992, 1993; National Trap Champion 1988, 2001 and 2003; a Bronze Medal in 1993’s World Champion Universal Trench; coached the Australian Olympic Squad in 2001-2002 and was Commonwealth Games Clay Target Coach in 2002. He is now, in 2004, Coach of the Ireland Olympic Shooting Team.

In October 2003 two former Riverstone pupils, Joel Clinton and Shane Rodney, played in the Penrith Panthers Rugby League team which, as Minor Premiers, defeated Eastern Suburbs 18-6 to win the NRL Grand Final, in what has been described as the best ever Grand Final match. Joel was chosen in the Australian Kangaroo team to play against the New Zealand Kiwis and to tour England.

The first hundred years plus of sport in public schools in the Riverstone district would have been echoed in districts across the state.

COLLINS, Bill, AITKEN, Max & CORK, Bob, One hundred years of public school sport in New South Wales 1889-1989, NSW Sports Association, New South Wales Department of School Education, New South Wales Combined High Schools Sports Association, 1990.