I have always acknowledged my Newcastle roots and the part it has played in my life’s journey. I consider myself to be a proud Novocastrian and want to illustrate the role it has played in my upbringing and my life to date.
My mother was brought up in Holmesville, by her Scottish parents,she was educated at Barnsley Primary School. My father was brought up in Kurri Kurri, where his father ran a barbers shop in Lang Street, Kurri Kurri until he lost it in the Great Depression.
My father was educated in Kurri Kurri followed by a brief period at Maitland Boys High School. He joined the Australian Army and was based at Fort Scratchley before going to Darwin in August 1944. My mother worked at various jobs in Newcastle. My parents married in 1943, and lived in Newcomen Street, Newcastle for some time. After the war, my father worked in public transport in Newcastle. My parents later moved to a house in Wallsend, which is where I grew up.
I was born in the Mater Hospital, Waratah. I was educated at Jubilee Road Infants and Primary School, now called Elermore Vale, and later attended Wallsend High School for years 7 to 10. My last two years of education were completed at Hunter Girls High School, now the Newcastle School of Performing Arts.
I grew up doing a variety of activities. I was an only child so I learnt to be independent. I recall summer weekend afternoons swimming at Newcastle Baths; then having fish and chips enjoying the view over Newcastle Beach. Occasionally, in the winter months we would watch a game of soccer at Wallsend.
I remember the weekend country drives in my Dad’s 1960 two toned grey Holden. My father was a keen gardener, so often the destinations of these trips were determined by where he could get some manure for his lovely vegetable and flower garden.
We visited Port Stephens, Raymond Terrace, Windsor, Gosford, Scone,Muswellbrook, Maitland and countless more places. Longer trips were made to Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra. I learned to be an inquisitive and adventurous traveller, qualities I have used well on all of future overseas trips from 1974 onwards.
In towns, which had a museum and an old cemetery, my parents and I would inevitably pay a visit. I was destined to grow up appreciating the importance of local history. I still occasionally visit old cemeteries.
On Saturday afternoons, my father would often garden. He also enjoyed a life- long interest in horse racing. I would be summonsed to tell him when the next race at Randwick or Flemington was being broadcast on 2KY. He did not listen to all races, choosing what he wanted to hear from Randwick , Flemington , Eagle Farm etc. Occasionally, I would be taken to the races in Newcastle or to Randwick Racecourse. I recall visits to open days of horse stud farms in the Hunter Valley. My love as an adult, of horse racing, followed from this exposure to racing at a young age. On October 13, 2016, I published The History Moorefield Racecourse, Kogarah (1888-1951), a project which had taken me over 20 years.
In primary school I recall playing vigaro. I played hockey in high school and competition netball in the Newcastle competition on the weekends. In high school, I also enjoyed athletics, particularly the 100m and 200m sprints, relays and the long jump. I usually used Wallsend Oval for athletic training.
On Sundays, I attended Sunday School and Church at St Andrews Presbyterian Church, Wallsend. I attended wearing my best dress. My mother was a dressmaker, so I was fortunate to always have lovely dresses to wear.
My Scottish Grannie, my mother’s mother, lived with us in Wallsend, Newcastle for some time until her passing in 1961.She had previously lived in Holmesville, near West Wallsend.
I commemorated, on April 19 2012, the one hundred years since Grannie came to Sydney from Glasgow, Scotland by undertaking a special event .This took place 100 years to the day since she sailed past Albany. I put a bottle out to sea in the Southern Ocean, 60 nautical miles south of West Cape Howe, the most southerly point in Western Australia. Inside the bottle was a message detailing Grannie’s life.
My parents and I moved from Wallsend, Newcastle to Ryde, Sydney at the end of 1971. We kept in touch with our Newcastle connections through phone calls, letters and the occasional visit.
I completed my degree, BA Dip Ed at Macquarie University, Sydney and was appointed in 1976 to Figtree High School, Wollongong for my first teaching appointment. In 1976, I finally learned to drive! This meant that I could return to Newcastle in my car to catch up with friends and family friends. As the years have gone by, many family friends have passed on, others have moved. I remain in contact with a Wallsend High School friend, who lives in Perth and a Hunter Girls High School friend, who lives in Adelaide.
I decided that it would be appropriate to celebrate my 6oth birthday in 2014 in Newcastle. Maria, my girlfriend and I travelled from Sydney to Newcastle for a long weekend. My birthday dinner was held at a Merewether Beach Restaurant.
In 1991, I was elected to Rockdale Council, and re–elected in 1995. In 1999, I moved to Kogarah Council, where I remained as an elected representative until 2008. The seventeen years on Council were challenging at times, and this necessitated a thick hide!
I believe that my Newcastle background influenced “my politics.” As a young child growing up, my late father spoke regularly of world events and political issues. I was very aware from a young age of world events and Australian politics. In 1981, I returned to Macquarie University to undertake a Diploma of Urban Studies. The subject matter, the urban environment, was by its nature political. Politics became a natural progression for me as a result of my background, and my exposure from excellent university staff to these issues.
My parents had strong ties to Newcastle throughout their lives. Since my mother’s passing in December 2002, I have donated an annual Speech Day prize in her memory to her former primary school, Barnsley Primary School. I provided a dedication to my late father in my Moorefield Racecourse, Kogarah book , which I published in mid- October 2016. He had influenced me greatly with his love of racing history.
I have continued throughout my life, at varying times, to visit Newcastle. I enjoy its heritage, the wonderful beaches, walking out to Nobby’s Lighthouse along with the opportunity to see the changes in the City. It is also a good point from which to visit Port Stephens and the Hunter Valley.
I remain a Novocastrian at heart……
My entry in the Hunter Writers Competition, March 2017