Memories Of A Second Class Cricketer

A Good Innings

 III

“Look after that shine please!”

John Blomley, Brilliant Swing Bowler

imagesAttribution: Wiki Commons

I have explained earlier, in my personal cricket narrative, that in 1958 I gave up my sporting ambition and returned to teaching. My appointment at a one-teacher school in the outer reaches of the Hunter Valley, with week-day accommodation only, meant that I spent my weekends closer to the city of Newcastle. So how could I not play cricket again?

The 1960 green field I had the good fortune to return to was situated at Stockton, on the north side of the Hunter River. It was a joyous return to the welcoming friendships and support I found there in that club that was a vibrant part of the Newcastle competition. I hope my surviving team mates and all families will forgive me if I focus just on one team-mate. After all these years I realise more strongly that ever what a brilliant human being he was.

My motive therefore is to make this little piece of mine an obituary in effect to a special friend, John Blomley. Off the cricket field when I knew him, John was a doctor serving the Stockton community in particular. On the playing field he was a star. That star shone not only on the cricket field. As a medical student he had been a fine Rugby Union centre-three quarter with Sydney University, New South Wales and Australia.

Here is a little more on the football side of things:

Born 7 March 1927 at Tumbarumba in New South Wales, Blomley attended St Joseph’s College, Sydney where he came under the watchful eye of the famous rugby coach, Brother Henry. Here, the young Blomley learned the rudiments of the game. Brother Henry insisted on a solid foundation for the young footballer. “There is no room in a college fifteen for a boy whose hands are not safe,” he counselled. “All the footballers at the college must learn the rudiments of the game.”

So Brother Henry turned out Jack Blomley as a polished inside back. After leaving St Joseph’s College in 1944, Blomley entered Sydney University to study medicine and naturally played for Sydney University in the metropolitan competition.

… Although he declared himself unavailable for the Australian Universities tour of New Zealand early in the year, Blomley looked forward to the 1949 representative season with the Maori side touring Australia for a Test series to be followed by a Wallaby tour of New Zealand. Blomley won selection in the New South Wales team that met the Maoris in the third match of their tour. The visitors produced a strong forward display to win 19-14, but Blomley did enough to be selected to play for Australia in the first Test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

(Source: Loc.cit. the link below)

Here is an image of John at the height of his Football power. He was known as Jack in his Rugby days.

blomley-john

  Attribution: Loc. cit. the link below

You can read more on the Rugby career of John here at this Rugby site.

Returning to matters of cricket, I can say with some confidence that wicket keepers tend to judge bowlers’ ability accurately. The bowler has a huge hand in the making of the ‘keeper’s status. Part of my destiny was to keep wickets to the bowling of John Blomley.

Now although I was a mere second class cricketer, I have been lucky enough to keep wickets to a number of Australia’s Test bowlers including Johnny Martin, Pat Crawford, Grahame Corling, John Watkins and (as a Golden Oldie) Robert Holland. I have batted against Gordon Rorke, David Sincock and Peter Philpott, all Test bowlers. You can add to that perspective keeping wickets for countless other bowlers from inter-varsity and the Grades of Sydney and Newcastle, as well as the brilliant Merv Black at Arundel for the Australian Old Collegians. Nowhere in that conglomeration of experience can a find another John Blomley.

I am not saying he was the best in my experience. But he was up there, unrecognised largely, with the stars. He was unforgettable with his wit and boundless energy. How sad for him to die aged 43.

John loved every moment of his cricket. His enthusiasm was catching. He polished that ball, especially at Stockton’s oval, like the finest medieval craftsman at work. If you bounced that ball with a throw, you were doomed to hear a torrent of abuse.

He rode the mystic winds of Stockton Bight with that ball like Pegasus. Perfect control with windy support. Three outswingers and then a sudden inswinger at LBW time. A sudden slow ball for a caught and bowled. A faster one, the wicket broken and a bail harmlessly hitting my jaw.

John was a busy doctor too. More than once play was interrupted by the urgent needs of a patient.

He was patient with me too, amidst all of his quest to overthrow batsmen. Cheerful with mistakes and generous with success. I still replay a missed stumping that would have given him a hat trick. It was a legside inswinger that left the batsman and me stranded and resulted in four byes. I have replayed that moment so many times that I am sure I could catch it now, old as I am.

It is such a long time now since I marvelled at John Blomley. We all fade away eventually don’t we? All that is left of our dreams is a memory in the minds of others. But somehow that is a very important place to be.

R

Tea Break From The Cricket

Poems Through A Glass Starkly

News

  A Word On The Yellow Press

That picture above of the Yellow Kid is linked to the reason we have the current term “Yellow Press.” The cartoon character was the creation of Richard Fenton Outcault who was working in the 1890s in the United States for the extremely racist media mogul Joseph Pulitzer and his New York World. Outcault with his narrative cartoon style is generally regarded as the beginner of newspaper comics.

The Kid was an overtly shallow and uneducated character and spoke in a kind of  uneducated and “immigrant” language. One key aim: denigration. Pulitzer would have been pleased with the colour yellow as he had an intense hatred of Chinese, especially the mid-nineteenth century gold seekers. The head of the Kid was shaved, a common sight in that age of head lice, and he wore a nightshirt that was an inheritance from a sister and on which were written strange, attention getting statements that many thousands of readers took delight in.

Now the story of the Yellow Kid or, to give him his appointed name Mickey Dugan, has a quite startling relevance to our contemporary lives. His adventures were set in a New York Slum – Hogan’s Alley – in a time of widespread poverty and vast social and racial tension. These exploits captured the interest of a multitude. Newspapers largely without real news suddenly were beginning to make a profit – a big profit. Two pennies bought Mickey; to Hell with thinking about worldly matters!

The Yellow Kid was very significantly a distraction from vital news. He sold newspapers and helped change Pulitzer’s insignificant rag into a goldmine of 300,000 circulation. Arm in arm with rape and murder and scandal and war the Kid helped set a news-media pattern that still exists all around us today. The task for Pulitzer and Hearst was not to educate with true, important information but rather to present news selectively and fill the gaps with non sequiturs. That meant attract attention in your market in any way you can.

So today, when chosen samples of worthless and sensational trivialities seize our time and create a vast ignorance of reality, the  name”Yellow Press” is relevant. Mickey Dugan and his world live on.

Randolf Hearst saw the yellow light and stole Outcault from Pulitzer with a higher salary. The Yellow Kid remained the property of Pulitzer (verified by court decision) but another colour achieved similar objectives. But the diversion from reality continued. Other distractions like Buster Brown flourished.

Here is Buster.Buster_Brown_alone_mod_color-1

Attribution: Publisher: New York Herald. Date: May 4, 1902. Artist: Richard F. Outcault.

In contrast to the Yellow Kid, Buster Brown was good looking. Buster Keaton at the time was a child actor so the name was popular. The character was drawn first for Pulitzer but when Outcault transferred to Hearst the character went too as another circulation booster for Pulitzer’s former protege and then his rival. Buster appeared for both magnates but a court decision forbade the use of the name by Hearst. Hearst created many more circulation boosting comic figures. Let us not be too hard on the comics as a distraction. They often entertain after all. It’s non stop murder, rape, scandal and violence including war subject matter that need a line to be drawn. The saddest line of all is always a Siegfried line. What have the media done recently to stop wars?

_________________________________________

An Examination of Testing 

It’s testing time in the madhouse

As the beasties seek to see

If the alphas, gammas or deltas

Deserve a right to be

But the testers have delusions

That illusions must be inclusions

So that all they ever find at best

Is who can do their test

No data on morality in this ordeal hiatus

Just an empty number that proclaims your evil status

Sweet alpha we cannot kiss today for I’m an epsilon

I failed their test and can you guess I am now fit to be spat upon?

So all we humble guinea pigs must make a contribution

While flaws and lies imposed on us have a normal distribution

Someone should write a poem now to expose this dark stupidity

Reliable yes to sort the sheep but what about the validity?

Attribution. Cartoon Source: http://www.thelandscapeoflearning.com/2012/09/please-climb-that-tree.html Date of Visit: 16 October, 2017

_________________________________________

 

 Ad Ventures In The Gloom

Whoops we diddle and take ‘em down

Fiddle the riddle and kindle the middle

Bash the rash and fake the cash

All for the sake of a sale O

Beguile the smile and sell off the Nile

Export the nought to feed the rort

Flog the log till we’re all agog

All for the sake of a sale O

Enchant the egg to fall off the wall

Invent a rent for the incident

Conjure the wise to standardise

All for the sake of a sale O

Walk like a noodle to feed the fake

Peddle a medal to market the rash

Rat the fink so the price will sink

All for the sake of a sale O

Hoodwink the horde but smile the while

Hoax the folks and delude the fool

Inveigle the bagel to feed the greed

All for the sake of a sale O

Outwit the weather and say it’s fine

Pull a fast one on the last one

Cock-a-doodle let us canoodle

All for the sake of a sale O

17 October 2017

images

Attribution: Source Creative Commons; precise origin unknown.

a150_a4

Attribution: Source Creative Commons. Link: https://unclestinky.wordpress.com/category/pop-culture-stench/page/2/ Date: 17/8/2017

After the break, more cricket.

R.

Memories of a Second Class Cricketer

A Good Innings

II 

One of the most captivating aspects of the Victorian age was its tendency to confuse issues which ought not to have any logical connection at all. Among these the concept of the Gentleman loomed like a cloud over the landscape, permeating every backwater of social intercourse, tilting the balance of debate.

Benny Green A History of  Cricket  Barrie and Jenkins, London, 1988, p. 125.

The theme of this second part of my cricket tales is overwhelmingly ‘my gentlemen.’ It had nothing to do with class or with a capital ‘g.’ The only social status they had was to be in the same place as I was for a serious cricket match. Many of them are no longer alive yet I feel so fortunate they are still with me in my mind.

My performance for Combined Country in February 1957 led to my selection in the Petersham-Marrickville First Grade Team. Our home ground was Petersham Oval. I love that ground.

It was our school home ground for Fort Street and we won the Sydney High Schools competition in 1949. Our opening bowler at the time was Alan Wyatt who went on to open the bowling for New South Wales. I gained selection in the Combined Sydney High Schools team as an opening batsman. I had not taken up wicket keeping at this stage.

Here is our Petersham Marrickville team in 1957 as revealed by an ancient press clipping. These people are some of my ‘gentlemen’ but as you can see, the newspaper decided to give them capital letters.

Petersham

Clive Johnstone was at times captain of New South Wales. Noel Hughes had recently returned from a stint with English cricket. His sons, young at this time, were to grow into a distinguished cricket and football family.

Johnny Martin was yet to be the noted Test player. He was incredibly hard to “read” as a bowler for the wicket keeper that I was. We had an agreement that he would nod for a wrong ’un. Alas his mind and his body were not always in harmony so I would often get the wrong message. Poor batsmen though! He would trick them constantly too. But then I had to stop the ball to prevent four byes.

Johnny Martin was a lovely human being. A man of massive talent with bat and ball. As a first slip player he often stopped byes from a ball I missed. He was a true friend, humble and supportive. I had got to know his two brothers too in earlier days.

Vince was an opening bat for Stockton in the Newcastle competition I later played in. I rode in a taxi, when I was teaching in Maitland, driven by Johnny’s brother Tom. He said to me, “Keep an eye out for that young fellow (brother John). He’ll play for Australia some day.” He was right.

Johnny is also famed for his big hitting on Melbourne Cricket Ground. With ordinary bats too, not the supercharged 20/20 ones of the present.

Kevin Cantwell was a slow medium for whom I stood up to the stumps and got a stumping in one match match against Gordon. He was a brilliant field and a leading baseball player. I remember Brian Taber as the Gordon ‘keeper in that match, before his Test fame had arrived.

Pat Crawford had just returned from bowling for Australia at Lords . He was quick. I had met him in the National Service strangely enough. He represented New Holdsworthy’s troops while I was the wicket keeper-batsman for Old Holdsworthy. Keith Herron, a First Grade wicket-keeper for Drummoyne and a very diminutive person, had to deal with Pat’s bowling on a mat. I remember one of the deliveries almost going for six byes – or more accurately these days six wides.

Pat was kind to me and supportive, a rather overwhelmed country lad that I was. The other three team members were very good bowlers. Bruce Livingstone was the opening bowler for New South Wales, along with Pat Crawford.

Ken White was a skilful off spin bowler. Television came to Australia in 1956. The ABC was televising Grade cricket matches in 1957. In our match at Bankstown Oval, Alan McGilvray and Michael Charlton were busy describing our all-day performances. Ken was bowling to new batsman Grahame Thomas. He moved out to a yorker, missed, the ball hit my ankles and I missed the stumping. Thomas went on to get fifty, play for Australia and have an oval at Bankstown named after him. So as I see it everything happens for the best.

Ron Briggs for Bankstoen had been batting all day before Thomas came in, and finished with 187. Alan McGilvray was very sympathetic for the stressed out keeper with hours in the field who missed that one of so many balls. Had I made that stumping perhaps there would be an oval named after me instead of Grahame. (Only joking,) Just a few mistakes sent me to Second grade and thence back to a lifetime of teaching not cricket.

Combined Country 

Here is an ancient and  just surviving record of the Country innings on the first day of that match: February 13, 1957.

Petersham.pdf 2

My happiest memories are linked with the human qualities of the players, the gentlemen. First, the chance to talk for an hour after the match with Brian Booth, a captain of Australia, was a delight. A man of great status, he was so humble and so easy to talk to. His words were a fine complement to the artistry of his batting I observed on the field. His opening partner Warren Saunders was also a sheer delight to share time with.

Here is the Sydney innings. It clearly shows the cricket powers of those two players in particular.

Country Inns 1

It was an interesting experience too to be treated by the Cricket Association as representative players. Accommodation in the now extinct Hotel Sydney was very comfortable. Hire car transport to and from the SCG was relaxing for the players. Cricket boots left in the dressing room over night were cleaned with bright whiteness next morning. A small player wage we got to cover costs was quite an honour and a new experience.

Sam Trimble broke a finger facing Gordon Rorke. He was taken away for medical treatment and resumed his innings later. That was the starting moment perhaps of an illustrious career with Queensland and later Australia.

The haloed SCG itself was another joy. That “visitors” dressing room had served many players of distinction. A haloed place to be,

My other Sydney opponents in that match of long ago are still remembered.

Ken Muller I had met in my school days. He was a Fort Street student as I was. Peter Philpott was twelfth man for the 1949 Combined High Schools team I played in. He was a thoughtful bowler who turned the ball quite sharply and deserved more wickets. He was also a stylish batsman. I was destined to play against Grahame Thomas later in the year, as I have discussed elsewhere.

My Second Experience of Sydney Grade  

In the 1957/58 Sydney season I played four matches in First Grade and two in Second Grade. I batted only twice in the four First Grade matches for 20 not out against Gordon, and 49 not out against Waverley. I was not called on to bat against Western Suburbs and Bankstown. In Second Grade I scored 71 against Paddington at Rushcutters Bay and 20 against Glebe-South Sydney at North Sydney Oval. So my batting average was rather good.

After the demotion I felt a stronger calling from the profession I loved — teaching. I decided to leave the city, if the Department of Education so decreed, and rejoin the permanent teaching ranks. I was appointed far from the city cricket scene to a one-teacher school at Chichester via Dungog in the Hunter valley.

At Chichester I was unable to get weekend accommodation so I had to stay with my parents at Ferodale, four miles north of Raymond Terrace.

Thus, with the help of Fate, I was able to return to cricket at Stockton in the Newcastle competition. This in many ways was the beginning of another cricket adventure. The next part of my narrative will focus on this.

To end this chapter, these links might interest you:

(My special thanks to the wonderful Marrickville cricket researchers.)

Marrickville Cricket Club, in my time joined with Petersham, has a long and proud history commencing in 1910.

Notes From The Net and My Memory

As you know, I played with Johnny Martin and Pat Crawford. I admired from outside the fence Barnes , Alley and Moroney. Alley became a test umpire in England and in his very first Test with the very first ball he had to give a decision. It was out, caught behind and he was right. Andrews was before my time.

I saw Jack Moroney when I was an admiring kid, hit a six right over the rail arches in a Grade match at my Glebe home ground, Jubilee Oval. He was a solid Test opener but he could be aggressive too. Two ducks in a match were an inaccurate cause of demotion in that seven Test match career. He was a high school maths teacher by profession.

Marrickville CC’s players include Johnny Martin, Pat Crawford, Sid Barnes, Bill Alley, Jack Moroney and Tommy TJ Andrews  It has been home to Australian Captain Bob Simpson and three of Bradman’s ‘Invincibles’ – Ernie Toshack, Bill Brown and Ron Saggers. I remember the grace of Ron Saggers when he played for New South Wales. To clash in time with Test star Don Tallon from Queensland was bad luck for Saggers.

Here is a link to the Marrickville site:

http://www.marrickville.nsw.cricket.com.au/content.aspx?file=4224%7C23309m&print=1

Leg bye now,

R

Memories of a Second Class Cricketer

A Good Innings

I

Because cricket was for many years my chief escape from what are sometimes  laughingly called serious affairs, I promised myself I would never write about it. This is the seventh book I promised never to write.

Benny Green A History of  Cricket  Barrie and Jenkins, London, 1988.

For my agnostic father Alex, cricket was a religion. Perhaps it was an obsession.

Whatever it was, he bowled countless leg breaks or wrong’uns to my brother Vic and me in our backyards or on holidays wherever we went. That was probably the reason I hit Australian leg-spinner Peter Philpott for four leg-side boundaries on the Sydney Cricket Ground for Combined Country against Sydney in 1957. I don’t wish to imply I was ever a first-class cricketer, so that makes those boundaries an even greater achievement for my Dad.

During our annual visits to Berrara, a camping place of long ago (in the Forties) south of Nowra, off Fisherman’s Rock Road, we took a big spade and made a turf wicket for the “Test” matches that went on through the school holidays. There were plenty of players from the tents around us.

Mum and Dad were parents of the Great Depression and I was born in the alleged winding down year, 1933. Dad made me a billy-cart for Santa one Christmas, and added a cricket bat he also fashioned himself. Lots of cricket bats followed though, real ones, with compound cricket balls (cork not leather)  to play with as times changed for the better.

I remember buying a Stuart Surridge bat from Mick Simmons’ sports store:  George Street, corner with Campbell Street. Simmons made his money first from tobacco and then branched into sporting goods. Creams and shirts were bought there too. I loved going into that shop. Mick also would employ famous sportsmen to serve there, another big attraction for me and many others. Sport was not a corporate business then so the “stars” of the time were probably often glad of that job.

As I write, other sporting stores of my era come to mind. I bought my first wicket-keeping gloves from Bert Oldfield’s store, 243 Pitt Street Sydney. He taught me where to stand behind the stumps, advice I kept for the rest of my wicket-keeping days. A funny anomaly in those first cricket days was the sticky stuff we used to put on wicket-keeping gloves. Now I realise that if you didn’t concentrate, didn’t watch the ball and thus moved too late and snatched, the glue was a waste of time and money.

Yes times did move on as I’ve implied. In that past, you oiled your bat with linseed oil  – quite a test of your loving care. I think I remember rolling it with a broom handle and bouncing cricket balls on the surface to harden it. How different things are now – iron clad surfaces already on some of the bats you buy!

I remember too Stan McCabe’s store. He was a very quiet man who always served you courteously and humbly.  I bought in particular practice cricket balls from him. I was very sad to hear of his untimely death when it happened long ago now. His deeds against bodyline don’t die.

My introduction to Sydney Grade cricket came from Glebe South Sydney. This was because we moved to Newtown. I have learnt that the administrators of the grade competition decided, I think around 1910, that you had to live in the area of the club you played for. That aimed to strengthen the competition and draw crowds. So because I lived in Newtown, off I went to Jubilee Oval Glebe via the Glebe Point tram.

Albert (Tibby) Cotter, Warren Bardsley, Charles Kelleway and Bertie Oldfield all played for Glebe. Cotter, Bardsley and Kelleway also went to Forest Lodge Primary where Bardsley Senior was headmaster for many years, having taught one time in Warren, New South Wales. Oldfield was secretary of the Glebe Club in 1915.

Tibby Cotter was actually killed, in his life’s prime,  at the Battle of Beersheba in October 1917. He chose to join the cavalry charge although not strictly required to do so. As I write, the centenary of that event is being celebrated with full military honours. We can actually join the celebration of this and other fatal events for a deposit of $500 AU and then further payments. Death and destruction have strange bedfellows these days.

We young Glebe players were cared for paternally by a small group of senior players. I remember especially Jim Bowden, the First Grade keeper and later a Sheffield Shield umpire. A lucky friend for me. There was practice at the nets and there were practice matches mixing the grades on the main oval.

It was a great inspiration for us lower grade players to practice with the seniors. Ron Kissell, a state player, was there. He played eleven first class matches for New South Wales between 1946 and 1952. Bobby Madden was also there, an opening batsman briefly for New South Wales and a soccer player for Australia. I remember when he was dismissed for 99 for the state. 

One of the umpires in those practice matches was George Borwick, an umpire in the Bodyline series. Mrs Borwick made and served, with other ladies, afternoon tea for us. That was the kind of community we had then and will always need.

Mr Borwick was an influence on me. I remember a durable piece of advice: “If you think you are not out, look in the scorebook.” That has stabilised me many times since.

I was chosen in the club’s Green Shield (under 15) team as a leg spinner. I remember in a match at Waitara Oval that the fence was far to close for my bowling..

I made it into Fourth Grade as a batsman however, and so began a beautiful friendship. Then a wicket-keeper was needed so I volunteered. The friendship blossomed. Jim Bowden was a great help to me down a few years.

Those years passed and I worked my way up into Second Grade. Never to First Grade with that club.

Then came the family move to Ferodale, four miles north of Raymond Terrace on the Pacific Highway. In his usual way, Dad fostered my cricket interests as well as all the others. In conversation with Doug Rawlings, the manager of a shoe-store in Raymond Terrace, Dad found a link with Northern Districts Cricket Club in Maitland.

Another beautiful friendship began there, both with Doug and family and with cricket. Maitland has a special place in my life. I met my wife there much later. The cricket too is a lasting memory.

I remember Doug Rawlings, a memorable man who drove me up from Raymond Terrace each Saturday, and often rolled the wicket before a match. Col Johnstone, a State second eleven player, was our captain and my mentor. Our opening bowler’s name was indeed Mudd. The other opener was Keith Smith – a source of inspiration too as he had lost an arm in a factory accident. He batted quite well and bowled very well. He got a hat-trick against a visiting Sydney team (Western Suburbs). There, with those true friends, I studied the game further.

Inter-district cricket was one of the joys of that time. I met Doug Walters then, a while before his fame. He was a Dungog lad. I noticed the strength of his forearms.

The inter-district cricket led to selection in the Combined Country team of 1957.

Combined Country Selection

It all happened because I had resigned from teaching for a year to play cricket. First came the selection trial match at Tamworth. I survived that. On next to another match in Armidale. I survived that. Finally on to Grafton Oval. No mistakes there either, and I remember taking a diving catch out near square leg. That may have helped me gain selection in the final team.

At this time of writing I interpose a momentary reflection on Robert Holland. “Dutchy” has just passed away. Fate has been kind to me as I had the honour of playing Golden Oldies cricket with him in Vancouver and in Queensland.

A most inspiring person. Kind, humble and gifted in sport. I was present at the Sydney Cricket Ground when he took ten wickets against the West Indies when they were at the height of their power. I lost my voice for a week or so from cheering. I remember his Lords achievement of many wickets too.

Another kindness of fate was my sitting next to him in an Air New Zealand plane en route to Vancouver for twenty-odd hours. There was so much to share on that lucky journey. He told me of his talk with Bill O’Reilly when he Robert was chosen for Australia. O’Reilly told him the bowler was captain when the bowler bowled.

When he went to England, Robert saw fit to talk to the great English leg break bowler Douglas VP Wright, whom I saw dismiss Don Bradman with a lifting “leggie”  at the SCG just after the war. Wright apparently took eleven hat-tricks in his cricket lifetime. The advice from the Englishman, who by the way had a long run up and spread his arms like wings just before his last stride of the delivery, was to bowl the third ball of the hat-trick fast and on the stumps.

“Dutchie” was a gentle man; he was humble and not intent on winning above all else. I am so lucky to have known him and he gave me a stumping in one of his Golden Oldies overs. I am sad he has gone but memory eases the pain a little.

Now back to my narrative… (I will go on writing from here soon.)

Au revoir to the reader,

Royce

Gateway

My Time With Gateway

This is a little story about a university group. It is a tale of adversity, determination and, in many cases, ultimate triumph. The students who joined that group had experienced life the hard way. Some had been floored by drugs, there were several divorcees with children, one candidate had MS and used to talk to me each week about how his friends were getting weaker and sometimes dying; I have a beautiful painted shell given to me by one of several indigenous members of the group, and there was a blind student who typed her answers deliberately without using brail.

Gateway was a program, funded by the Federal Labor government in 1989, at the University of Wollongong. It was a spin off from the similarly funded “New Start” program, which my colleagues and I ran at UWS, two years before, with promising success.

This so-called equity scheme was a one-semester course for non-matriculated students to give them a chance to enter university. There was an English component, a mathematics component, and introductions to various aspects of university life, such as the library and the student union.

I am not a mathematician so my information on that is zero, except to say that the staff member was a revered member of the Mathematics Teachers’ Association, had both feet on the ground, and was a highly experienced university teacher.

As for English, we taught them that when you speak, you write on air, but when you write for formal occasions such as essays or examinations, it stays there for everyone to see and judge. We focused on the university essay and ways to make it good. We discussed especially the power of the sentence as a package of meaning; faulty package: damaged meaning.

We explained that every essay, whether it is an assignment or an exam question, ALWAYS has two components: the topic words, which tell you what to write about, and the directives, that tell you how to write about it. So, for Compare and contrast Sydney and Melbourne as modern cities, the topic words are Sydney and Melbourne, and the directive is compare and contrast as modern cities. To succeed here, you must talk about both cities; you must both compare and contrast them and not merely describe them; you must also discuss them as modern cities, not (necessarily) as football teams.

There is another essential. To do well you must have worked hard and know a lot about the two cities. The point though was that a fountain of knowledge sabotaged by irrelevance or incompleteness leads to at least disappointment, if not failure. Naturally spelling, grammar, style and narrative structure were among the outcomes of the weekly marking and post mortem discussions.

Can you decrypt this code I filled their first essays with: KTTQ?

It was Keep To The Question. Failure here still is a common weakness.

Candidates were given a 250-word essay to write each week. It was marked and returned to them in the next lesson a week away. There was always a post mortem session on strengths and weaknesses before the next lesson started. Words in excess of 250 were penalised. Too many, and the essay was marked but with a zero score. They were all informed of Blaise Pascal et al.’s famous words: “I am sorry I have not time to write you a short letter; I have to write you a long one.”

We worked through some of the commonest university tasks: description, analysis by resolution of controversy, analysis through definition or clarification, analysis through interpretation, the writing of technical reports and individual creative responses. We learnt the best way: with quick feedback from our mistakes. Everyone had to give a speech before the class group (a terrifying task for some) and we nurtured each other through that and every other ordeal. It was good for me as the teacher too. To teach is to learn something twice. Notice I prefer the word “teach” to “lecture.”

Now I want to talk about a few people I remember specially. No names, as we have such respect for each other, and they seem to be sitting beside me now, although it is part of two decades ago.

In one of the night classes, a man and a woman were sitting at the back of the room. I said to the class, “I might bring my ‘thesises’ next week to show you.” Within about two minutes, both of them were standing up waving their dictionaries at me. “You should have said “theses.”

I was a student of Professor Wilkes, at Sydney University. He had spent much of his life getting rid of Latin and Greek endings in English. I brought them my Collins Dictionary, which Professor Wilkes edited, and there was my version too. But I agreed with them that their version was easier to say.

The male student is a lawyer now. During his Law studies, he became World Champion Client Interviewer. It was a very big contest, run for law students around the world. He won the final in Scotland. The woman who waved the dictionary was an expectant mother. The baby joined us about a week after the Gateway course finished, and I had the delight of giving a present to a beautiful baby girl. Her mother was a brilliant student, went on to an honours degree and a position at the university.

On another occasion, I was spoken to on the telephone by the daughter of a potential student, who was seeking admission to the program for her mother. It turned out that both the mother and father were involved in a bus disaster some time previously in Queensland. Both were unconscious for a long time and both eventually survived. Recovering, they returned to Wollongong and were getting on with their usual life when the father dropped dead at the family home. The daughters wanted a remedy for the empty sadness.

We admitted the mother to the course. I could hear the screams of joy from her daughters in the background when I rang to tell them. That student walked with the aid of a walking stick. I remember her delightful, meticulous, small handwriting, and her willingness to discard her former ways and try something new. One of the first things I had said to each beginning class was “Warning! Warning! This course is dangerous to your preconceptions.”

The vision I remember most, however, of that particular brave person is her long walk to the stage on Graduation night, without her walking stick, in a beautiful, sparkling, black dress that contrasted with her neatly arranged, white hair. She entered university and studied with one of her daughters.

On another memorable occasion we had a call from the Secretary of the Steelers Rugby League Club, seeking a place for one of his young players. I was impressed by the caring attitude of that League official and his concern for the player’s welfare. The young man was qualified to enter the course, so in he came. He did the course, but was a star second-rower in First Grade for many seasons, with no time for university. Perhaps he could have used his entry qualifications later in life.

I remember too, a brave and diligent divorced mother with children who was badly treated by a recalcitrant ex-spouse. She dreamed of becoming a family lawyer. She became one.

We had a very popular leader of a musical group, suddenly dreaming of becoming an academic. Through Gateway, he gained university entry and an Honours degree in Creative Arts. He went on to his PhD thesis. Alas! When he passed away two years ago, I lost a true friend.

I am not sure I can explain the success of this group. In the six years I taught in the program, I could feel a sense of their bonding, their support for each other in a common cause. It is something that is hard for teachers to create, and even harder to define.

The Gateway group was the most successful of any identifiable undergraduate group in the University. Changes came, with lack of funding from the Federal Government, but I was gone then and the struggle belonged to somebody else. Sadly that gateway is now closed.

I still have a message from one of the women in the very first Gateway class, on a card given to me on my retirement from the University. It says, “Royce I will never forget you.” She had won the University Medal for Psychology.

Somehow, when I think of all my failures, of all the things I wish I had done better, people like these tap me on the shoulder and say, “Never mind; you did your best.”

So here I am in the wasteland of advanced maturity. Can you imagine how I feel, with my background, when I see the barriers to university study placed on students today. Wherever I go – OfficeWorks, Woolworths and Coles checkouts and elsewhere – I wish young people good luck with their studies and with their HECS payment. Almost always they smile back and thank me.

I have three degrees, each taking six years of part-time study. Because of the whims of time I have not paid one cent of HECS.  In fact the Department of Education of New South Wales actually paid for my first degree’s university tuition.  Such a golden age that was. Somebody then understood that the thousands of pupils in my 50 years of teaching would all fill workplaces and pay taxes. Lord what fools these present day political mortals be!

And what bigger fools vote for them!

Afterthought

If you have failed in one of those diabolical, terminal, one-off qualifying tests and still want to go to university, don’t give up. Go for it as a provisionally matriculated student. You’ll have experience on your side. R.

Nostalgia

Good morning

Illness and life-struggle have kept me away from this place for a while. I am glad to be back. It seems sometimes almost a duty to keep on sharing.

When you are old, above the average life span, it is hard not to think of the past. Old friends who seemed eternal pieces of the establishment are no longer with you. They keep tapping you on the shoulder and softly saying, “Should auld acquaintance be forgot?”

There is “Abba” for instance, an old mate from the distant past to the almost present.  A fellow teacher he was, like me destined for New South Wales classrooms. A shearer’s son whose courage, determination and acquired wisdom made him eventually the principal of a big Sydney high school. We shared “National Service” (Conscription) too, in 1951. The light of his laughter in later times still lingers. We claimed to have prevented a bigger war at the time. No conflict would have been feasible with soldiers of our ineptitude.

There is Nanny too, my Grandfather, who enlisted in the Eighth Division at the age of 60 (declared age 45) and was captured by the Japanese at Singapore. He taught me to count in Japanese when he came back, weighing six stone seven, in 1945, after helping to build the infamous Burma Railway.

And George, a recent demise. Another teaching colleague. I need advice of his no- nonsense kind, and I long for his companionship today. A life-member teacher unionist and primary school principal, George still reaches out to me with an awareness of so many things I could have done better in my early life.

So there they are – old friends. Let them be for now. Let them rest with Don Bradman and Pete Seeger and Humphrey Bogart and Richie Benaud and all the others. They’ll be back whenever a thought demands it.

Other memories are here now. Age gives you a big data base of recollections. In the Thirties and Forties you were a child of the British Empire. In cinemas you stood up before the feature film, for the national anthem. It was “God Save The King” until February 1952. In those young days you loved the  “cracker night” of every Empire Day. Catherine wheels and double-bungers and throw-downs and rockets and the big bonfire made childhood gloriously exciting. You learnt in Fifth and Sixth Class (primary school) that all the red countries in your atlas were part of the “Empire on which the sun never sets.” Nothing to do with communism.

Memories now of that BIG war. From 1939 to 1945 Russians were “goodies.” You liked them and you hated Hitler and Tojo, drawing spiteful pictures of the “baddies,” sometimes on your desk. During that war life was threatening. Even though you were merely a child, the memories remain strong.

The gun flashes out to sea off Cronulla were like sheet lightning. The city of Sydney seemed to have lost all its lights. Cars had funny metal things over their headlights with just a small slit for the light to come out. Some had big boxes on their roofs burning stuff as substitute for petrol. Food and clothing were rationed, as was petrol. During a film at a “picture show” you were asked to buy War Bonds to help beat the enemy. You were also warned that the enemy was listening behind walls so you mustn’t speak about war secrets. Chewing gum disappeared in those war years. It must have been reserved for soldiers and other war personnel.

All the railway stations had their names taken down. There were steel piles on the beaches to stop invasion forces. Fighter pilots were heroes and you could see them training overhead.

I knew their names as later I knew sporting names: “Paddy” Finucane, “Bluey Truscott, Clive “Killer” Caldwell … I loved watching the Hurricanes skimming the waters of Yowie Bay and the rest of Port Hacking. As a non-war excitement, I was also enchanted by the Tiger Moths that stalled and spun far up in the sky over the Port Hacking/Sutherland area where my first home was. Those non-war pilots were adventurers too. You don’t see arial games any more like those ones. The sky is needed by the commercial aircraft companies, the air force and the police. No one flies under the Harbour Bridge now either.

Back to the war. The searchlights practising at night and piercing the World War II sky are also unforgettable recollections. Anti-aircraft practice was noisy, but no enemy ever bombed lucky Sydney. Perhaps that is one reason we participated willingly in later wars.

I remember too, aeroplanes towing practice targets a considerable distance behind them on a long lead. The pilots of the planes doing the towing now seem to me very brave in their fearless disregard of the possibility of friendly fire disaster.

My parents’ newspapers provided other entertainment for us “kids”. There were “Bluey and Curley” exploits of mischievous soldiers, “Boofhead” tales of the funny idiot, “Ginger Megs” who was one of us, “Saltbush Bill” on Eric Jolliffe’s farm, my hero Buck Rogers who foretold the future, “Dick Tracy,” Brick Bradford and “Prince Valiant”. Then there was The Phantom or Ghost Who Walks, who left the imprint of a skull on your jaw when he knocked you out. You could buy the skull ring for your own pretended belligerence. Best friend of all for me was Mandrake the Magician, who gestured hypnotically in Mum’s Women’s Weekly that came out every month.

The modern wonder of the cyber world might give you a chance to share my remembered comic fun here.

Cinema serials were full of excitement too. “The Green Hornet,” and  “Roy Rogers”  have never left my memory.

There was no television in my childhood. The radio was king. I used to sit up close to the set to listen to “The Search For The Golden Boomerang.” Tuckonie the youthful indigenous adventurer was my hero. I loved the introductory music too. I think it was “The Dance of the Flutes” from Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite”. Fancy a tale of a hero such as Tuckonie in the era of the White Australia Policy! There were other heroes too: First Light Fraser, Biggles (who still makes me sizzle sausages), Hop Harrigan, Superman, Tarzan, The Shadow, The Lone Ranger. “Hagen’s Circus” is also an exciting memory.

As with the “Golden Boomerang” music, the “Dad and Dave” theme is also strong in my memory. It was “Along The Road to Gundagai,” music and Lyrics by Jack O’Hagan. It was played between scenes at different speeds according to the excitement pitch of the moment. It also introduced and ended each episode.

Laughter was easy to get from the radio too. Rex Dawe’s “ Yes What” is forever funny. “Dad and Dave” with Dad’s “starve the lizards Mabel” and Dan Agar’s “Mrs ‘Obbs” still bring me pleasure and I still hear Lou Vernon’s whistling of “Annie Laurie” (I think) as he introduces his serial episodes with, “Hello. Aye it’s me, Doctor Mac.” Mum listened frequently to “Portia Faces Life,” “Martin’s Corner,” “Big Sister” and “When A Girl Marries.” Radio drama has been accurately called “Theatre of the Mind.”

Well there you are. Your past stays a part of you in spite of the intrusions, the retroactive inhibitions psychologists refer to. I could ramble on further about radio because it was embedded so firmly in my childhood mind.

If you would like to learn more about those experiences, you might enjoy a visit to here.

As I said before, the past seems to rear up at you when you get old. I hope my words suggest that it is not always an enemy. “Nostalgia” seems to sum up the situation pretty well: Greek nostos – return home; algos – pain. But what’s in a word? Meaning as well as beauty is often in the eye of the beholder.

Time is so valuable these days. I don’t mean the money-grabbing television time. I mean the real stuff. I’ll end by going back again, just a little way.

joan tree poem

Until next time, soon I hope,

Royce

Please Spend Time With The Remarkable Ernest McQuillan OAM NOW

A day in Ern’s life so many decades ago

What does a day in your life mean to you?

Much routine, no doubt. Work somewhere, unless you are like me and dispensed with. Then home.

But What of Ern’s Day?

Rather different from yours or mine it’s quite an adventure to tell you. I’ll do my best with that adventure.

The first thing to note is that in those early days, beginning in the 1940s, Ern’s camera was a vital instrument of a major newspaper. It was its eyes. There was no television in Australia until the late Fifties, and even then TV took a long while to find its way into every home.

James Dibble reading the first ABC television news in 1956. Attribution: Wiki Commons
James Dibble reading the first ABC television news in 1956. Attribution: Wiki Commons

Radios had to be licensed. Portable radios were not so common. You had “live” or immediate awareness of world events only if you were involved in the actual disaster or were in fact present when, say, Bradman scored his hundredth hundred.  The other immediate source was the radio if you had one and paid the licence.

A Philco "Cathederal" radio from the 1930s. Attribution Wiki Commons.
A Philco “Cathederal” radio from the 1930s. Attribution: Wiki Commons.

The standard way of getting the latest news was to read about the event in your paper perhaps around twenty-four hours later and see Ern’s pictures.

Moving pictures with voice over would take longer –  a week or more later. “Live” images in your living room were nothing but a distant future dream.

Ern and his colleagues were therefore key sources of news in that world. They were a kind of small model of what America’s Paramount News  used to call itself:

The Eyes and Ears of the World.”

So the teenager, fresh from school, was thrust into the front line of news reporting. He had to learn his craft quickly. He was well taught, for example by people like Charlie Cameron, an old time master photographer in charge of the distribution of photographic materials to the staff of Truth and Sportsman Ltd. Charlie and others mentored the lad, yet he was never spoon fed. Photographic resources were costly and money was scarce in those early years.

If you were sent out on a job, no matter how sensational or significant it was, you were never given more than six film frames for your camera. You would get them in a blackened box, 35mm raw materials. You really had to know your craft to avoid waste. You would fix one into a 4″x 5″ frame, load it into the magazine at the back of the camera and eventually take the shot. That was it: “One strike and you’re out!” Bad shot! Missed the target! Cut off a head! Too bad. No second chance.

Ern knew nothing of the present day digital simplicity: click click click click and then pick the best shot. Not satisfied? Click click click again and then take your pick.

The important point to note here is that the progress we accept as normal today was still to come. Newspapers, in Ern’s golden days, were overtly and so obviously the focal points of information for the mass of ordinary people. In the train on the way to work of a Monday morning, all you would notice was not people’s heads, but their newspapers. You would see row after row of them in every carriage.

This was the most common way we found out things. Attribution: Wiki Commons
This was the most common way we found out things. Attribution: Wiki Commons

Headlines! Headlines! Headlines! Constant repetition if you happened to walk down the carriage aisles.

Such a contrast to today: everybody cocooned in iPhones or the equivalents.

Newspaper advertising then was very profitable too. Ern had to get things right to preserve the paper’s good name linked to advertising.  To survive for fifty years in the profession, you had to conquer the challenges –  the shortages of time (deadlines were deadly) and equipment and funds. Your survival depended on your own determination and inbuilt personal resources.

The Forties and Fifties were a special time for the movies though, and news began creeping in there too.  “Picture Shows,” as we teenagers called them, began to have additions called Newsreels to bring the news to you in a retarded kind of way,  maybe a week or so after things happened.

These news elements were gradually creeping into cinemas from the Forties. In these cinemas for each program of feature films there was a usual place for newsreels, possibly Cinesound, Movietone or Gaumont British or Universal or Paramount news, before the main feature(s).

If you were a news addict, you might visit one of the newsreel theatres – small venues that showed a continuous array of around eight to ten collections of assorted, brief news documentaries. Those shows kept on repeating until closing time and, if you were part of the audience, you got up in the dark and walked out when the item you first saw came round again.

It is quite clear from this isn’t it, that newspapers and the photographs they contained, in the earlier times of Ern’s professional life had far less competition than they have today? Their status was naturally higher.

Let us look now at more details of Ern’s working day.

Ern travelled to work in a train. Sometimes by tram or in a bus. To jobs far and wide public transport was his only recourse. He had to be ready for anything on these sorties of his. He had to be prepared with equipment for any kind of news events the gods or Fates decided on. So ALL his equipment had to go with him on every job. This was far from easy.

His Speed Graphic camera for example, had monstrous weight that seemed to double after even the shortest walk.

Here is Ern showing his heavy equipment to Richard Nixon,
Here Ern shows his heavy equipment to Richard Nixon.

Then there were the telephoto lenses; the filters; the wide-angle lens. On a country job you had a bigger load to carry. You needed the chemicals for developing and printing the pictures, photographic paper, clips and string to hang the prints and let them dry. All this on top of your toothpaste and clothing and normal travellers equipment. As a former boxer and Rugby League winger Ern was fortunate to be fit enough for the task.

Apparently  a request was made to the boss of one paper, Sir Frank Packer, for something to carry small items in. Some of his photographers were soon jokingly referred to as “the plumbers” because Sir Frank had bought each of them a plumber’s bag for this purpose.

Improvisation was the key for out of town work. Dark rooms are not automatic inclusions in country hotels. Running water was also a necessity as well as the darkness, so a toilet or a laundry might have to suffice.

Let us say, to create an example, there was a break-in at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, across the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, Australia.

Lithgow Small Arms Factory, Our Sample Job. Attribution: Wiki Commons.
Lithgow Small Arms Factory, Our Sample Job. Attribution: Wiki Commons.

Ern’s transport on this job would be a steam train from Sydney’s Central Rail Station to Lithgow, a distance of some 89 miles or 143 kilometres.

 

 

Ern's early transport to "the Bush." Attribution: Wiki Commons.
Ern’s early transport to “the Bush.” Attribution: Wiki Commons.

Should it be winter when you arrived in Lithgow, you would be weighed down further by an overcoat or else freeze towards death.

Now the Press Photographer’s Role

This is how you would complete your mission. First, your visit to the news scene. Then the shots, determined by your artistry and sense of newsworthiness.

Then it would be full speed to a dark room, wherever it may be. Develop your prints in your  container with the room essentially at the right, and only the right, temperature. The developer liquid of ready mixed chemicals then had to be quickly rinsed off. Then the fixing in another solution. Then the hanging out to dry in the darkness. Then came the printing , the 8″x 6″ or 10″x 8″ photographs for the editors to construct a story around. This stage too was work for the true artist. Perfection was never automatic.

The next stage of the process seems to us with-it folk of the twenty-first century rather quirky. It was off to the Post Office and the 6″x 5″ picturegram sent to the journalists and editors back in town. Things were out of Ern’s hands then. The experts at head office had their materials to prepare for the next deadline.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

So there you have it. That will have to do for now: just a taste of a past era told to me by a master, always with a twinkle in those eyes and a smile on that face. It has been my great good fortune to know Ern and listen to his stories.

If you would like to share more of Ern’s adventures, you might enjoy a visit to this site.

If you have a special interest in Horse Racing, you might find interest at this site.

Simply for a little more pleasure in Ern’s company, you might find that pleasure here.

 Thanks for sharing this time with Ern and me. I know Ern would want to join in with those thanks.

I hope you too feel that publishers and film makers should link up with Ern while the chance exists.

Regards,

Royce.

 

Attribution:

Adding to what I said in my previous posts:

 I am learning to share life also with all the wonderful image makers of Creative Commons and Wiki Commons. 

It’s such a joy. It works for me. I want to recommend it to anyone who reads these thoughts.  I wish – especially wish for this post, to acknowledge the mastery of the Russian artist whose work is my featured image (and whose name I have not yet been able to share because of language difficulties).  More details can be found at the link below. As with all material used independently by me, my best course seems to provide the link to my source.

♦♦♦

Please Note: The works of original artists used by me on this post are unchanged and used totally independently by me. As you can see, in my effort to show respect for the artists, I have linked to where I found each image. If I have erred in any way, please advise and I shall remove the problem. In response to each picture I have used my imagination to try with my words to leap into different parts of your thinking space. I feel so fortunate to find such shoulders to try to stand on.

 Afterthought

I would like to end with these two quotations by Elizabeth Barrett Browning on photographs. I have treasured them for a long time.

Elizabeth_Barrett_Browning_by_Michele_Gordigiani_1858. Attribution: Wiki Commons.
Elizabeth_Barrett_Browning_by_Michele_Gordigiani_1858. Attribution: Wiki Commons.

I long to have such a memorial of every being dear to me in the world. It is not merely the likeness which is precious in such cases – but the association and the sense of nearness involved in the thing … the fact of the very shadow of the person lying there fixed forever! It is the very sanctification of portraits I think – and it is not at all monstrous in me to say, what my brothers cry out against so vehemently, that I would rather have such a memorial of one I dearly loved, than the noblest artist’s work ever produced.Elizabeth Barrett Browning(1843, letter to Mary Russell Mitford)

The charm, one might say the genius, of memory is that it is choosy, chancy and temperamental; it rejects the edifying cathedral and indelibly photographs the small boy outside, chewing a hunk of melon in the dust.Elizabeth Barrett Browning

My Source Is: http://www.photoquotes.com/showquotes.aspx?id=36&name=Browning,Elizabeth#ixzz3PFJxgqbY

R.

Racing: More On The Importance Of Being Ernest McQuillan

1948 Cox Plate Racebook
1948 Cox Plate Race Book

This race book is a kind of carbon copy of many  years for Ern. The W S Cox Plate for 2014 has just been run at the time of my writing of this post. Ern and I feel we owe the remarkable Cox family the respect of beginning this post with a link to its position in the Racing Hall of Fame. Perhaps you will follow that link as time suits.

And now back to Ern McQuillan’s links with racing history.
Ern McQuillan OAM
Ern McQuillan OAM

So the years have moved relentlessly on for Ern, as they do for all of us. War after war, season after season, he was there with his heavy camera and the few resources he was allowed, telling us through his own artistry what had happened in places where we couldn’t go.

Now the reputation of the media has become somewhat tainted in recent times. The truth there is often elusive and clouded by agendas of powerful people. Not so the images Ern has left us. They are for me one source of uncontaminated truth.That is the excitement I have found in the time I have shared with him in these later years.

One of the greatest joys has been Ern’s insight into racing. That is why, as the Victorian Spring Season is with us again in Australia, I thought I must share some of that joy with you in this post.

I am going to let Ern’s pictures do most of the work.

Ern was there in 1951. Michael, his son, arranged the layout.
Ern was there in 1951. It’s his picture.Michael, his son, arranged this layout.

This picture is a remarkable collection of images of the great Sydney jockeys of the Fifties and later. Ern knew them all and was a close friend of several, including their families.

The Munro photo is a result of a special request from Darby for a BCU. As Ern put it to me, “He was not exactly the most handsome of men.” It’s a lovely, warm photo however. The “Demon Darb” was very pleased with it. Me too.

The shot of George Moore actually hides tennis shoes, socks and shorts. Ern interrupted tennis at George’s home with a request for a picture in colours for the next day’s edition. George willingly interrupted the game for his friend but requested no jodhpurs—such a nuisance to put on and take off.

Ern's Picture of the crowd on a big race day at Randwick in 1953.
Ern’s Picture of the crowd on a big race day at Randwick in 1953.

The times do keep on changing. Ern’s visual record shakes us with awareness of this change. These recollections from Ern’s and my life’s journey might bring this awareness a little more strongly into your mind.

We remember when it was illegal to bet outside any sporting venue. With racing, for example, so keen were the owners of racecourses to make you attend, that radio’s race callers were prohibited from entry into the courses. People like Ken Howard and Cyril Angles in these prohibition days had to call the races from long distance, perched in precarious vantage points such as trees or hastily erected platforms or rooms with windows, all OUTSIDE the course.

In time, the pressure became too great and they were let in. Here is Ken Howard calling the 1941 Melbourne Cup. What a joy to hear that voice in 2014! How lucky we are government archives have given us this site!

Radio stations in the Forties and Fifties were not allowed to broadcast the prices of horses until after the last race. Nor were they allowed to give any indication of favouritism or betting markets. Television and TABs et al. were future dreams to come true. SP betting was big business throughout Australia at this time.

John Wren (With thanks to the lovely site of Tim Vagg)
John Wren (With thanks to the lovely site of Tim Vagg)

John Wren, for example, the famous business man, political figure, and enemy of Frank Hardy, got his start through SP Betting.

As a Newtown kid like Ern, I remember the SP runners. Mine, in Georgina Street, was a thin little chap wearing sandshoes, quite thin and pale with an anxious look on his face and constantly glancing behind him like an escaped, present day asylum seeker. My “mob” lived in a three story tenement and we would lower our bets from the first floor balcony on a long piece of string. If we won, we would collect our winnings downstairs with the front door half open.

The Totalizator (Off-course Betting) Act 1964 (Act No.1, 1964) changed all of this. What a different world we have now! No need for me to tell you about that.

Here’s Ern’s next image from the past .

Racing as the crowd above would have seen it.
Racing as the crowd above would have seen it.

Notice the Flat opposite the members’ heads in the foreground. No longer available to spectators (the Flat I mean, not the heads). The Flat was where I went—it was the cheapest viewing spot. Have you ever thought of how big attendances at venues were in those pre-television days? That was the only place you could see the events as they happened. I remember attendances over 60,000 at Sydney Cricket Ground – lots of standing, a few on the Bob Stand roof and some even next door on the Showground stand.

Do you see the running rail space before the leading horse in the picture above? That was approximately Ern’s special spot to take the next picture below.

Ern's Image: "Around the Bend"  – literally, not metaphorically.
Ern’s Image: “Around the Bend”  – literally, not metaphorically.

The stewards gave Ern permission to enter the area near the winning post. Photos were important PR and the racing staff trusted him. There he went then, lugging the heavy camera of the time with telephoto added. When the field thundered around the bend, Ern was there. Well not precisely there. He, with the basic (non-digital) tools of his time, including a telephoto lens, was 410 yards  away at the other end of the Straight (beside the winning post).

Here is that finish, taken from the same place I showed you, but this time amidst the thunder of the hooves and without telephoto.

Ern Winning Post

When the last desperate breaths of horse and rider exploded at the winning post, to the beat of the whips, Ern was there with the permission of the stewards, resting just behind that winning post railing.

My grandfather on my mother’s side had a favourite saying: “I’ll be there when the whips are crackin’.” When I grew up a little, I really understood that was the kind of place a miner from far away Cobar knew about. That was where fates were decided.

.

NeilMcKenna
That picture.

So there you have it. Jockeys are human. Neil McKenna, distinguished trainer of the post war period, taking the place of a parent.

How much those jockeys needed love and care. They were children playing the role of adults in one of the toughest communities on Earth. You will see what I mean if you patiently enlarge the image of the press cutting on this site I have given you (Trove).

Every day  for the jockey children was filled with early rising, hard work, danger and insecurity. Only a few succeeded. Many of them alas, shrivelled away into insignificance.

So many of them, however, who completed the struggle successfully, were friends of Ern.

Their stories are worth sharing. A few of them we shall share here in what space we have.

Before we do, here is another of Ern’s glimpses into the life they led.
Harry Darwon

Here’s a nice little tale about Harry Darwon by the distinguished journalist Max Presnell.

The press photographer of those times was a vital source of communication in Australia. Newspapers then ruled the roost now occupied by the social media and probably television. Managers, publicity agents and spin doctors were largely clutter for the future. For trainers, jockeys, stewards, owners, bookmakers and others, the photographer then was an important link, your pathway to public awareness.

Most worked willingly with Ern and with a common interest. Ern knew so many, and very often as a good friend. The jockeys: Darby Munro, George Moore, Athol Mulley and so many more worked with him for years. So too the trainers: Tommy Smith and daughter Gai. It was sad to discover that Bragger, Tommy’s horse that gave him his start as a trainer, died from a road accident. Tommy’s failure to save him, with the help of vets, broke his heart.

Tommy and Gai

Gai is still blooming as a trainer so I will leave discussion of her to a later time.

Here is another of Ern’s pictures of her with another great colleague. Th image is overflowing with the human effort and tension of their work.

Bart Gai Old

This McQuillan image of the brilliant Bart reveals a great rapport between photographer and the horse-training genius.

Bart Cummins

There are so many more trainers on our list; so many more.

Owners too : “Azzalin the Dazzlin” Romano, Jim Bendrodt. many more of them too.

Other personalities teemed in Ern’s life. “Hollywood” George Edser, Joe Taylor, Perce Galea (the three to be discussed more in a later post) and still more. Space here is totally inadequate.

 Let us focus on more of the pictures. The visual record of the stars of the racing world meant lots of early rising for the photographer.

Bernborough returning from trackwork.
Bernborough returning from track-work.

Many race meetings had to be attended as well. Here is a shot of two great friends, triumphant in the 1946 Newmarket Handicap.

Bernborough and Mulley return to scale in triumph.
Bernborough and Mulley return to scale in triumph. 1946 Newmarket, Flemington with 9 Stone.13. What a career this was!

I am lucky as a teenager to have seen this giant red horse thunder down the long straight at Randwick. To meet someone in my old age, who knew the horse and rider so well, somehow makes you feel that old age is not such a grim affair after all. Which brings me to another remarkable pattern of Fate. Ern had close and continuing contact with owner Romano as well.

One of the great social advantages of press photography was a strong link with some of the most important people of our age. In his work for The Australian Womens Weekly, for example, Ern photographed Queen Elizabeth’s first step on Australian soil and later shook her hand. Another example lies in his societal work at Sydney’s leading restaurants.

Take “Dazzlin’ Azzlin” Romano for instance, the man who bought Bernborough and set him on his 15 consecutive win journey.

"Dazzlin' Azzlin" Romano
“Dazzlin’ Azzlin” Romano

This photo we have through the magic of the National Archives of Australia. You can have similar adventures with so many images HERE if you want to.

I first saw that shot on another wonderful site, Pittwater Online News. The links I have given are really worth following.  They deal beautifully with the two big-time restauranteurs in Sydney around the time of World War II: AO Romano and J C Bendroit.

I have discussed elsewhere the significance of Romano’s purchase of Bernborough. It changed the horse’s life as it did for the new owner. Court cases revealed that at least some of the funding for the purchase came from sly grog selling in the Martin Place Restaurant (Castlereagh Street entrance). But the Italian immigrant of the Twenties was a master of restaurant procedures. Whenever a really significant guest was on the premises — Gracie Fields, Frank Sinatra, Maurice Chevalier, Vivien Leigh or even a special, local star —” “Dazzlin’ Azzalin” would be on the phone to Ern  with an invitation to do a Womens Weekly story. Words with the rich and famous were a constant outcome, together with a “Why don’t you stay for (a free) lunch?”

So Malcolm Fraser got it wrong. There was such a thing.

Things were very similar in Jim Bendroit’s Princes Restaurant, just a little way away in Martin Place. The free lunch was there too. In my younger days I used to ice skate at Bendroit’s Ice Palais in the old Sydney Showground. The crowded Trocadero, with its dance band music swinging through the night, was also known to me. As for the owner of both places, he might have lived on another planet. To talk now with someone who knew him so well, is in my twilight, a strange experience.There is no more space here to dwell on that remarkable life.

I want to finish here with just a brief mention for now of some jockeys.

Ern knew at first hand the gentle courtesy of the brilliant Neville Selwood, killed eventually in 1962, at the age of 39, in a fall in France.

Selwood’s riding skill was well summed up by his popular title “Nifty.” “He was always quietly polite and willing to cooperate,” Ern told me.

I remember “Nifty Neville” was my grandfather’s favourite jockey. He followed him closely and from what I could gather “Nanny” was in the black as a result. Many of us felt we had lost a friend when Neville died in France, as so many Australians had done in earlier times. Because this great craftsman was a leading jockey, Ern photographed him and shared words with him many times.

It is hard to shut Athol George Mulley out of your thoughts.

A GEORGE Mulley
A. GEORGE Mulley (with thanks to Wiki Commons).

Here is a good account of that life. He apparently hated “Athol” as a name. He preferred his second one, GEORGE.

He spoke more than once on the bond between rider and horse. Bernborough and he were one. The horse knew who it was when Mulley mounted in the enclosure. A welcoming and reassuring pat on the neck usually followed.

Ern was at Mulley’s wedding to his lovely wife June. He knew the rider as a struggler with practical things, such as getting to the right race meeting on time, but as a dedicated family man. You will gather the truth of this statement if you visit this valediction.

More evidence: this present for his lovely daughter.

Michelle Mulley

The caption from the old press cutting is hard to read. Here it is more legibly:

Little Michelle, Denise Mulley (2), daughter of Australian Jockey Athol Mulley, brought back this walking-doll Anne, larger than herself, when she arrived in Sydney from Singapore by B. O. A. C. with her mother at the weekend. Mulley has been riding in Singapore.Some More on the Racing Giant, Darby Munro.

Darby on Rogilla in the 1933 W S Cox Plate
Darby on Rogilla in the 1933 W S Cox Plate, (with thanks and respect to Les Haigh)

Ern tells me Darby was a strong, determined person to talk to. No airs, but a means business kind of chap. This cutting might show you that even in the last century, when money didn’t rule EVERYTHING, if you were brilliant in your profession, your opinion was both sought and heeded.

Darby Views

Jack Thompson I remember well.

Apprentice Jack Thompson
Apprentice Jack Thompson

“Quiet,” says Ern, “Always cooperative. The tallest jockey I have ever seen.” Darby Munro supported him in his apprenticeship years. Downplayed his height and praised his timing. During that apprenticeship, Darby forecast a bright future for Jack. He was right.

An example of Jack Thompson's skill.
An example of Jack Thompson’s skill.

I myself remember a frightening day at Rosehill when his horse collapsed and died under him, and Jack Thompson broke his leg. Remember my earlier comment about the jockey’s harsh world?

Ray Selkrig is another interesting and quite inspiring thought here.

Ray Selkrig

… his greatest triumph was in a moderate Kembla Grange race on a sprinter, Hot Chestnut.

”He was one of those horses who watched shadows on the ground,” Selkrig recalled last week.

”As we were near the post he seen this brown patch and propped. He just threw me straight out of the saddle. He kept going, I held on to the mane and rein and my feet hit the ground.

”Being dragged I looked over my shoulder and wouldn’t let go until I passed the winning post.”

Objections were lodged and punters, myself included (Max Presnell), who backed the runner-up, trained by Jack Denham, were confident of being awarded the race, despite Selkrig’s courage and commitment, later confirmed as he had cracked his pelvis in three places.

”Stewards reckoned the horse done a harder job pulling me than carrying me,” Selkrig explained, and the result stood. 

The full story is beautifully told by Max Presnell, with a brilliant picture. His site is truly worth a visit.

One more image: Darren Beadman after a taxing ride.

Press photographers, unlike the rest of us, saw the humanity of the stewards rooms. This has changed now through the power and intimacy of television.

Reluctantly I leave our jockey tales. More to come in later posts. There are so many wanting to be told.

A Special Ern McQuillan Picture

Back to horses briefly. Click the picture for a better view.

The first Australian triple dead heat. Ern was there. This is his visual record.
The first Australian triple dead heat. Ern was there. This is his visual record.

“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever,” said Keats in his poem “Endymion.” I can’t help thinking of poetry here. Remember this image was not taken digitally. With the camera of the time it was one click and that’s it. The camera was heavy too, as I’ve said elsewhere. I have seen other pictures from different angles, but this is Ern’s.

More poetry leaps out at you, don’t you think?  William Blake’s words from “The Tiger” come easily into my mind:

What immortal hand or eye      
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

Another comparison surges from D H Lawrence’s striking description of horses in his novel The Rainbow.

But the horses had burst before her. In a sort of lightning of knowledge their movement travelled through her, the quiver and strain and thrust of their powerful flanks, as they burst before her and drew on, beyond.

… She was aware of their breasts gripped, clenched narrow in a hold that never relaxed; she was aware of their red nostrils flaming with long endurance, and of their haunches, so rounded, so massive, pressing, pressing, pressing to burst the grip upon their breasts, pressing for ever till they went mad, running against the walls of time, and never bursting free. Their great haunches were smoothed and darkened with rain. But the darkness and wetness of rain could not put out the hard, urgent, massive fire that was locked within these flanks, never, never. (pp. 722-3 Kindle Edition)

To return to more routine matters, here are the details of horses and riders.

Source: Victorian Racing Archives
Source: Victorian Racing Archives

I have been reading, in David Hickie’s wonderful book Gentlemen of the Australian Turf (1986, Angus and Robertson, Sydney) about race caller Joe Brown’s involvement in the event. One of the judges, Stan Shannon, rang Joe to advise him it was a triple dead heat. The announcement brought a loud roar from the crowd and there was great confusion and delay with payouts. The official semaphore frame had space for only TWO numbers. Another judge, Dudley Zillman, had to hold up a number next to the other two (p. 317).

Here is a nice story about this event. I have a friend I won’t embarrass with name disclosure. Like me he was a teacher in 1956 in an isolated bush school. He told me recently that, when school was over on that day, he rang another friend to see who won the Hotham. He was delighted to find his horse, Ark Royal, had won. Joy soon turned to sadness however when he heard of the other two winners. He actually lost on the race.

Incidentally, do you know why we use the term DEAD heat? In the early days of Australian racing (and no doubt elsewhere) three race (heat) contests were common to decide the best horses. If there was a tie, that heat didn’t count. It was declared dead and had to be run again. The re-runs died out but the name lasted.

I want to conclude with mention that our indigenous brothers and sisters have inspired me with their deeds in many sports. I have taught many in my fifty years as a teacher, and I am still delighted by their speed and skill and by the radiance of so many of their smiles. All this is why I want you to visit web site linking us to the history of indigenous jockeys. Ern has talked to me about Darby McCarthy, whom he met quite often.

No pictures. Just an ongoing dream of admiration.

Now a momentary word to the kind people who have started to “follow” me. Thank you for the encouragement. I am so sorry I have not been more in touch but, you see, I am so busy writing to share all that I want to share before “weight’s right” for my involvement in the human race, that I just haven’t had the time to reach out to you. I long to do this and promise to try to reach you soon. In the meantime, good going and more thanks from octogenarian me.

Thank you for your visit. I am working on my post re. Ern McQuillan’s Melbourne Cup experiences. I hope to finish in time for Tuesday November.

Regards,

Royce

♦♦♦♦♦

ALL IMAGES ON THIS SITE ARE MY OWN OR FROM WIKI COMMONS or public domain since 1955 or McQuillan copyright. IF THERE IS ANY ERROR, PLEASE TELL ME AND I WILL FIX THINGS IMMEDIATELY. ALL MY THANKS TO THE WONDERFUL WIKI SERVICE, AND THE ARTISTS WHO SHARE. ANY VARIATIONS TO IMAGES and comments ARE FOR MY OWN POETIC PURPOSES AND ARE UNKNOWN TO THE ORIGINAL AUTHORs.

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The Further Adventures of Ern McQuillan OAM

We continue the Ern story as promised.

Imagine you were the one wanting to be a press photographer in the early 1940s.

This seems a good place to resume the story.

You see, the Second World War had started for us school kids when Ern made his debut in the press photographer business…

Enemies were everywhere! For wider experience I recommend this site: http://www.pinterest.com/lordchelsea/propaganda/
Enemies were everywhere! For wider experience I recommend this site: http://www.pinterest.com/lordchelsea/propaganda/ .

In the Thirties, Forties and Fifties Newtown was so different from the rejuvenated, expensive, rising class suburb of today.  Back streets were back streets then, yards were small, King Street’s trams rattled determinedly on through pedestrians and other traffic, and paperboys, swinging like Tarzans from the running boards, sold you for but a penny or two, tomorrow’s fish and chips wrappings.  This is where the journey we are tracing, began.

Transport for the poor and the poor planet.
Normal and cheap transport for the poor!

Let’s start close to the beginning. Remember the time: c. 1942 amidst World War II.

What a moment in history to start a newspaper career!

Talk to us surviving people from that time.  You will find memories still vivid.  We might mention the blackouts – no neon lights in the city, only shadows and uncertainties.  Things you had taken for granted suddenly became very scarce. 

The Probe of the Threatening Dark.
The Probe of the Threatening Dark.

Petrol became a major problem. 1940 was an election year.  The Government dithered and delayed with petrol rationing, afraid of losing votes.  The motor industry also fought hard against petrol rationing for obvious reasons. Petrol licenses were eventually given to more than a million people.  Two thousand miles per year were considered a fair maximum allowance.  It was later doubled for votes.

War Really Worked Then To Save Petrol.
War Eventually Had Some Success With Efforts To Save Petrol. The Charcoal Burner Invention.

Petrol rationing filtered through the various states from June 1940 to December.  There were a few arguments between governments.  As children, we were often startled to see motor cars with strange boxlike contraptions on their hoods.  As adults we came to understand the research to create another fuel from charcoal was not enthusiastically supported by the petrol companies.

From December, 1941 Australia was placed under total war preparedness. We kids had a joke we were rather proud of: “Don’t panic; remember Pearl Harbour!”

Fear , Then as Now – A Proven Way To Control People's Actions
Fear Then as Now – A Proven Way To Control People’s Actions

Prime Minister Curtin promised “equal sacrifice” for all, and pegged wages and prices on February 11,1943. 

High Motivation For Car Sharing
High Motivation For Car Sharing

Other shortages began to change the world for us.  Chewing gum and rice, for example, disappeared completely. Radios, vacuum cleaners and bottled beer drifted out of sight. 

Gradually the public swung into action to promote the war effort. Metal products and silver paper were brought into schools, to be collected and turned into weapons of war, or so it was said.  Penny-lines were placed around school playgrounds to be converted into war capital.

We All Thought We Were Helping!
We All Thought We Were Helping!

Austerity became another war-cry. My young brother, Victor Henry Levi,  won a prize at our school fancy dress ball as “Austerity.” He wore a sugar bag, neatly stitched together by a loving mother Marjorie Levi, and featuring bottle-top buttons.

To reinforce the drive for austerity, bicycles suddenly became attractive.  Horse-drawn ploughs became more common in rural areas.

The economy was soon focused totally on war production.  Mind games also began.  People who over used their cars were publicly maligned. The States openly competed to protect their financial interests, especially against Federal Government income tax access because of the war.

Identity cards and ration books (with their precious coupons) also became a part of life. So too did the Black Market. Rationing was strict.  All people from 9 years upwards were required to register for rationing. The “waste-makers” were temporarily cured during that war. 

In 1942 really serious restrictions began: March 30, tea; May 9, clothing; August 31, sugar; and in June, 1943 butter and drapery were rationed.  On January 17, 1944 meat was rationed.

Things were tough for all but the very rich during those early war years. Black Markets existed too, by the way. Political change was in the air though for us ordinary people.  Widows pensions and child endowment belong to those years. Labor’s 1943 National Welfare Fund, involving invalid pensions, funeral benefits, and maternity allowances for all, was new ground for Australia.  Also the proposal for a national health scheme was another first. 

There were many other new experiences during the war.  Railway stations had their names taken away to help invaders become lost. Air-raid shelters were built by home owners everywhere – an apparent government regulation.  At night we children loved to watch the searchlights darting among the clouds.

Searchlights Of An Earlier Time. Things Change Little.
Piercing The Dangers Of Darkness

Also at night, if you looked out to sea, you would see the flashes of gunfire, like lightning in the sky.  This was practice sometimes, and at others the real thing. 

The Tweed Heads and District Historical Society, a fine source of knowledge today in the twenty-first century, tells us that 41 Allied ships were sunk off our coasts during the war, by submarines, ships, mines and Japanese aircraft (mainly to the north and in 1942). These losses included HMAS Sydney off Geraldton, Western Australia on November 19, 1941 with the loss of all 645 sailors, and the hospital ship AHS Centaur of the east coast on May 14, 1943 with the loss of 268 lives.

Merchant sailors died too.

Just a Symbolic Image. One of Countless Similar Pictures. My thanks to Bundesarchiv, DVM 10 Bild-23-61-17 / CC-BY-SA.
Just a Symbolic Image. One of Countless Similar Pictures Down All The Years. My thanks to
Bundesarchiv, DVM 10 Bild-23-61-17 / CC-BY-SA.

We children of the time knew little of these imminent dangers to us.  Nor did we know of submarine sightings by fishermen such as Claude Edds, who sighted a submarine off Tweed Heads in 1943 and told the authorities.  Many merchant sailors died off the eastern coast, from such ships as the Wollongbar which was sunk off Coffs Harbour with the loss of 32 crew, and the BHP ore-carrier Iron Crown, sunk of Gippsland’s coast in Victoria, with the loss of 37.

Partial Source: http://www.bigvolcano.com.au/stories/THDHS/index.html  Date accessed: 18/5/12 at 6.38 AM.

Life at that time was exciting for Ern — until he broke his leg, one miserable sports day, in a school football match on Erskineville Oval. It was a bad break. It meant a year of school without football.

Now Ern was a good Rugby League player. Played on the wing. He loved the game. He was fit and fast and fearless. Under those conditions the game loved him.

Ern's Heroes: Newtown's 1943 Sydney Competition Winning Team. You can find more on this here, if you are interested.
Ern’s Heroes: Newtown’s 1943 Sydney Competition Winning Team. You can find more on this photo here, if you are interested.

When the break came in two places on his leg, the prospect of a break from the game as well, for a whole year, was a dire prospect for the teenager. He was quite good at schoolwork but Rugby League was his real passion. Without it, life was incomplete.

That was why he asked his father, Ernest Edward McQuillan, OAM — the famous coach of 60 boxing champions, and a man of some influence — to try to get him a job as a press photographer. Ern Senior did that for him.

Ern became a “copyboy with a camera” with Truth And Sportsman Limited, under the mentorship of Ezra Norton and his staff.

This photography copyboy was chosen, among other things by Fate, to help found Sydney’s Daily Mirror. Thus began the “golden apprenticeship” which led to this story.

Such was the world Ern was plunged into. In those early years with Truth and Sportsman Limited, he learnt his craft well. He had good teachers.

Work for Ern was definitely not child’s play.

No elaborate equipment in those days. The film for your day’s work was savagely rationed. No digital cameras or electronic transfer of your photos. No multiple images to choose the best from. It was one shot and you’re out! No cutting and pasting. At the end of the day you had to return to head office, develop your prints and then hand them to the editors.

Public transport was all you had. An early Packer rule was that en route to Head Office you alighted from the tram at the end of one particular section and walked the rest, to save a penny or two.

♦ ♦ ♦

Come with me now and share a little more of Ern’s life. It’s quite fascinating simply to take random samples from the jobs he did, from the meetings he had  –  mere small parts of the historic infinity that was his new existence.

 Darby Munro was the most inspiring jockey in my lifetime.

Ern has told me that Darby said to him one day in 1952, “Hey Ernie! I want you to do your best quality close-up picture of me.”

What his reason was I certainly don’t know. But this picture was the result. You will find it in many places, scattered throughout the sporting archives of the twentieth century. Somehow it reveals more than words can do, the intractable spirit of both the jockey and the photographer.

Darby Munro – "The Demon Darb!"
Darby Munro – “The Demon Darb!” He and Ern were good mates

Here too are Darby’s Racing Hall of Fame details, a brief but fair summary of a special life,

Here is the1955 Maitland flood I was trapped in, as a Raymond Terrace dweller.

If you visit the link on the flood, you might be interested to hear that I saw the surf boat working on its way to the place mentioned, Millers Forest.

Ern's Picture
Ern’s Picture

Ern took the flood picture from a Gypsy Moth. His pilot was A J “Titus” Oates, the distinguished World War II air ace. Ern spent four years with him photographing Australian landscapes. Once they sighted a crashed and missing paper delivery plane in the Barrington area of NSW. They landed in a paddock. A bull put a horn through the plane’s wing fabric, during another “unconventional” landing. “Titus” patched the hole with glue, fabric and paper.

Such was that life of Ern and his friend. It’s an honour to record it here.

 and now the queen.

Yes, the kid from Newtown, sparring partner of his father’s champion boxers, photographer for the first edition of Sydney’s Daily Mirror, and former military photographer, was honoured by a meeting with a new Queen in 1954. Ern Junior shook a royal hand.

Her Majesty's First Visit To Australian Soil
Her Majesty’s First Visit To Australian Soil. Ern’s camera noted that very first step.

One of Ern’s earlier duties was to create images for The Australian Women’s Weekly. During the first Royal visit he worked with distinction to create a historic record of the Royal Visit we can now admire in the National Library’s Trove, as well as other social events down the years. You can see this archive, via the magic of modern technology, here, here, here and here.

then there was “the queen of the night.”

Nobody knows the truth of the saying, a picture is worth more than a thousand words, better than newspaper proprietors. Their evidence dates back even beyond Joseph Pulitzer and Randolph Hearst. In the pre-Australian television days, press photographs were crucial and extremely powerful. Ern therefore found himself a frantically busy “I’ve been everywhere man.” In these many daily duties, he was part of history.

Characters of every description were part of his job. That is why I have found, in my chats with Ern McMillan, stories of amazing links with our Australian past. One of those stories involves the legendary Matilda (Tilly) Devine.

"Tilly"
“Tilly”

That name, “Tilly” Devine is the stuff of gangster folklore. She suits many storytellers, especially in television, as an attention-getting element of wickedness. She was part of the recent, Australian TV Underbelly series.

Ern, however, found something different. Accounts of Tilly’s childhood in England filled with suffering and danger. A violent marriage and immigration to Australia in her teens, to be caught up in the slough of despond and despair of Sydney’s Darlinghurst neighbourhood. Suffering, rivalry, police convictions and punishment were all part of her norm.

Ern has told me she was friendly, pleasant and easy to talk to. A kind of soft compassion for the underprivileged she seemed to have, especially towards her brothel “girls.” No pretence. Just a quiet understanding of the way life is.

I myself feel a different person, having talked to Ern about “Tilly.” As a teacher I have often had to search for that little bit of good that is in the worst of us.

♦ ♦ ♦

Now I have so much to choose from, writing here that I can be selective, for the fun of it. So why not this one to start with?

Bernborough: ruler of the 1940s racetrack.

 

This is another underworld story, of sorts. Bernborough, as you may have noted from the link, was virtually hidden for his first six racing years in Toowoomba, Queensland because of a shady deal by his first owner. That owner had a horse called Daylate, whose death he forged and whose victories under another name in beginners’ races earned the owner a very long ban! It also meant that Bernborough was not allowed to race outside Toowoomba. There, racing authorities could check his entry into races and make sure the original owner was not illicitly using a substitute owner for himself. Outside Toowoomba they felt less confident.

 

Two Champions: Bernborough and Athol Mulley, both very good friends of Ern.
Two Champions: Bernborough and Athol Mulley, both very good friends of Ern.

All this limitation changed when Dazzlin’ Azzalin Orlando Romano, the sly-grog Sydney restauranteur bought the horse. Also a string of 15 victories began for the remarkable stallion. I saw one of them at Randwick, from the Flat (no longer available) where the poor people went. How could you forget the thundering red giant coming from last in the Straight to comfortable triumph.

Here are some more of Ern’s glimpses of Bernborough.

Two Champions at work: Mulley and Bernborough.
Two Champions at work: Mulley and Bernborough.

One of 15 Consecutive Triumphs: The Newmarket, 1946.
One of 15 Consecutive Triumphs: The Newmarket, 1946.

I’ve read quite a bit of Shakespeare. His words come back to me now when I think of Bernborough. Or Tulloch for that matter, another of Ern’s friends.

…When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk:

The Flight Of Tulloch

he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it …

Henry V Act 3, Scene 7

There is no space at all here for a complete file of Ern’s Press Duty contacts. No room for all his friends either. To complete this post, I choose but a few names.

The first is  Joseph Patrick Taylor (1908–1976). Joe Taylor was a long time friend of the McQuillan family. When the Newtown Hub was a “normal” cinema and not a porno haunt, there was always a free seat on a Saturday night for the two “Newtown kids” Ern and his brother Allan. At Christmas, there was regularly a treat for the whole family.

Joe was quite a character in the world of his day. Grade Rugby League, restaurant and nightclub ownership and racehorse ownership and illicit gambling were all part of that mix. He also described himself at one of his weddings as “bookmaker and shipwright.”

He owned a number of racehorses and served on the committee of City Tattersall’s Club for more than ten years. His horse Birthday Card won the 1962 Sydney Turf Club’s Golden Slipper Stakes. He gave away most of his winnings and lost the rest on another of his horses which ran last in the last race of that day.

During the Forties, in the war years, Joe linked up with ‘Thommo’s’ Two-up School. George Joseph Guest, the original owner was an actor. When he opened the illegal venue in 1910, he use his acting name Thompson to protect his identity. In 1954, when Guest died, Taylor became “the Boss” at Thommo’s. It was quite a place, that two-up school. Illegal clients were dutifully protected. If you had a big win, no other player was allowed to leave for twenty minutes after you left the establishment. A gunman with a criminal record was available to accompany you home on request.

It’s very hard to find images of Thommo’s. I suppose that is understandable, considering it’s nominal illegality. The Australian National Library gives us this link which may satisfy some of your curiosity.

Bouncers needed understandably to be tough in such a place – capable strongmen. Jack Gibson, the famous League player and coach was one for a time.

Ern visited Thommo’s only once. His father, Ern Senior, forbade further visits as he was afraid Ern Junior’s trigger camera finger would endanger the secrecy of the establishment. He need not have worried too much as the “secret” establishment was actually well known in the real world, frequented by such public figures as Jack Davey or Errol Flynn,

Errol Flynn in the very early film Operation Burma
Errol Flynn in the very early film Operation Burma

State Premier Bob Askin,

Premier Askin, as Private Askin in World War II
Premier Askin, as Private Askin in World War II

or, as an example of the reality of things, by a leading Sydney cleric of the period. Ern worked for Ezra Norton, another frequent visitor to Thommo’s. The archives reveal that the secrecy of the “invisible casino” also had considerable support from the media and the police force.

The fascinating thing however, is that Ern had personal contact with with so many of Thommo’s attendees: Davey, Flynn, Askin and  so many  others. He said so much more to them than “Smile” or “Say cheese.” Tales to tell elsewhere.

In the golden days of Ernest Mervyn McQuillan, Arch Press Photographer, managers and agents were relatively rare. Ern’s camera with jockeys, for example, was clearly a “ticket not to Ryde but to ride.” His publicity was so often a source of future engagements.

Another fascination for me now is to listen to Ern talk about his meetings with the famous in various other places as well. He has given me a much better understanding of their personal qualities – the kind of understanding you don’t get from media glimpses.

When Joe Taylor died in 1976, the funeral procession of cars took a long time to arrive at Sydney’s Catholic Cathedral. The largest wreath was spectacular. It contained affectionate words from “Thommo’s” stating how much “Boss” would be missed.

For Joe Taylor I found, among others, these sources interesting and well worthy of your visit:

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/twoup-taylors-chequered-career-20110531-1few1.html My visit: 29/9/14 @10.05 AM

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/taylor-joseph-patrick-11830 My visit: 29/9/14 @10.21 AM

http://forums.leagueunlimited.com/archive/index.php/t-393413.html My visit: 29/9/14 @10.25 AM.

The fascinating thing however, is that Ern had personal contact with with so many of Thommo’s attendees: Davey, Flynn, Askin and  so many  others. He said so much more to them than “Smile” or “Say cheese.” Tales to tell elsewhere.

In the golden days of Ernest Mervyn McQuillan, Arch Press Photographer, managers and agents were relatively rare. Ern’s camera with jockeys, for example, was clearly a “ticket not to Ryde but to ride.” His publicity was so often a source of future engagements.

Another fascination for me now is to listen to Ern talk about his meetings with the famous in various other places as well. He has given me a much better understanding of their personal qualities – the kind of understanding you don’t get from media glimpses.

When Joe Taylor died in 1976, the funeral procession of cars took a long time to arrive at Sydney’s Catholic Cathedral. The largest wreath was spectacular. It contained affectionate words from “Thommo’s” stating how much “Boss” would be missed.

For Joe Taylor I found, among others, these sources interesting and well worthy of your visit:

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/twoup-taylors-chequered-career-20110531-1few1.html My visit: 29/9/14 @10.05 AM

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/taylor-joseph-patrick-11830 My visit: 29/9/14 @10.21 AM

http://forums.leagueunlimited.com/archive/index.php/t-393413.html My visit: 29/9/14 @10.25 AM.

Second last, I choose a tragic pair of contacts.

Harold and Zara Holt
Harold and Zara Holt

Ern met them a number of times. As with all Press people, he was involved with the disappearance and consequences.

♦♦♦

I thought I might end with a special event for us ordinary folk. 

 I invite you to visit this lovely, fascinating, historically significant site:

ROUND OFF THIS POST.

This is the one of the many fine pictures here, picture really important to us. Ern took it. It shows his great awareness of time in our lives. I hope you enjoy its social significance. Be sure to look at the clock.

"Ladies and Gentlemen. Two minutes to a lovely closing time."
“Ladies and Gentlemen. Two minutes to a lovely closing time.”

More of my thanks to you for coming here.

Royce

Another plea:

Where are you publishers? Film makers?

Ern and I need you.

If you lose our stories, you’ll be sorry, I think.

My Books

My How To Write Books (For Sale At Amazon Kindle For $3.99)

All images on this site are my own or from Wiki Commons. If there is any error, please tell me and I will fix things immediately. All my thanks to the wonderful Wiki service, and to the artists who share their strength and bring us joy.

 A Welcome From Me

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