No longer listed? Wollongong heritage mouldering…

In my travels yesterday I noted the Masonic Temple at 88 Smith Street, Wollongong.



Obviously derelict, so I investigated. Yes, there is a new Masonic Temple in Gwynneville.

This building was Heritage Listed, but does not appear to be now. When it was listed it was described thus: “Victorian Free Classical style. Inscription reads 1887. Single storey. Corrugated cladding to gable roof. Painted cement rendered brick walling to façade. Side and rear is face brick. The item has group, architectural, townscape and aesthetic value. The item has cultural and social value. The item has representative value.”

There is an approved development application (PDF file).

DA-2002/1374/B-Lot 13 DP 613775 No. 88 Smith Street, Wollongong. Renovation of existing masonic temple comprising of 3 X 1 bedroom loft terraces with parking for 4 cars and the construction of 24 X 2 bedroom units over 6 levels with basement parking for 30 cars

No sign of action yet.

Freemasonry was a very significant part of New South Wales history, but today it is in decline. Vacant temples appear on a number of Real Estate listings. One even achieved some notoriety a few years back.

SBS, despite criticism that it has become bland since adopting advertising during programs, does continue to put out highly significant programs. This coming week there are two of interest.

temple1. Temple of Dreams (Tuesday 8.30) — “Fadi Rahman runs the self-funded ICRA Youth Centre, operating out of a converted Masonic Temple in the heart of Sydney’s Muslim community. When the Cronulla riots take place in December 2005, Fadi realises the need to accelerate and increase the programmes for Muslim youth made possible by ICRA. In the meantime, the local council has ruled that the location of the Youth Centre contravenes zoning regulations. The film follows Fadi and his team of dedicated volunteers for over 18 months. A couple of ambitious youth projects are successfully realised, while in the background the fight to retain the Centre’s premises goes on.”

— 2007 post


See Whatever happened to… the Freemasons and W Bro Richard Num on Freemasonry in Australia.

The Woolpack Hotel in Parramatta was originally (1798!) The Freemason’s Arms. And in Wollongong in the past: Freemasons Arms/Hotel, Crown and Keira Streets, Wollongong, 1878-1934. Formerly Caledonian Hotel. And: Freemasons Hall/Hotel, Market Square, Wollongong, 1856-1864.


Nice bit of local history (PDF linked to title page above) courtesy of Wollongong University.

Paul Sheehan rides again



In the 1990s Paul Sheehan wrote a tendentious, sensationalist and superficially rational heap of shit called Among the Barbarians. It was very successful. Now I knew it was a heap of shit at the time, cashing in on our thing then about being “swamped by Asians”, because I was working with such Chinese students as the ones Sheehan gave the treatment to, had met the author of the book Sheehan selectively quoted, and was living with a Shanghainese.  I really despised that book and, at the time, its author.

Even Anne Henderson at The Sydney Institute in 1998 rather despised the book too.

My first remembered encounter with Paul Sheehan was at a function in Sydney. Without introduction he approached and criticised my short haircut. The longer version was more flattering. His comments were dogmatic and overly familiar, but when I observed that my hair was my business and his taste somewhat old fashioned, Sheehan seemed affronted. Understanding the prickly Sheehan helps when reading Among The Barbarians.

This is a book with axes to grind and scores to settle. It’s lucidly written and has a clever style. It is also a confusing mix of overstatement and understatement, a tract rather than a considered thesis; much preaching and not too much research.

And it’s already a best-seller. In two weeks, Random sold 20,000 copies, by mid-June 55,000, echoing that right-wing best-seller of 1992 – Brian Wilshire’s The Fine Print (self-published).

Paul Sheehan is a Sydney Morning Herald journalist who returned to Australia in 1996 after a decade in the US and, according to his book he liked what he found: “The overt culture of the nation – its language, cuisine, music, writings, film, dance, architecture, design, sport – all, at their highest expression.” Australia, Sheehan believed, had triumphed from a cultural revolution…

What makes Among The Barbarians a disturbing book is Sheehan’s defensiveness and obsessive selectivity, matched with conspiracy theories. Despite years of key conservatives as regular commentators in Australian newspapers, more than a decade of Hanson-style voices filling talkback radio on race, immigration and indigenous issues, saturation propagandising by top rating radio presenters like Alan Jones and Stan Zemanek, Sheehan earnestly believes that, under Labor, “so strong and so ruthlessly imposed were the protocols constraining discussion of racism, discrimination, affirmative action and immigration, it would be a foolish move to smash through and express, with undisguised resentment, the unpleasant fears felt in much of the electorate”.

Among The Barbarians is a skewed Australian canvass, self-justified as setting the record straight. Just one side of the debate on the grounds that it’s never been heard. Sheehan picks at topics rather than digests them, often relying on a handful of opinions to support his…

Well, he’s back.

Riding his hobby-horse:


Grinding his favourite axe:


And, just as he did in 1998, channelling xenophobia, whatever the superficial meaning of what he says:


And of course the message is that those evil so-called asylum seeker illegal bastards with funny coloured skin and unAustralian cultural traits are playing us for suckers, and even if it has been comprehensively shown that the email purporting to show that asylum seekers in Australia are living like Lotto winners is a hoax yet, according to Sheehan, it is still true! As that woman said on QandA…

Sheehan’s remarkable logic – and not the first time he has employed such mental gymnastics as Marcellous once noted – may be read in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. I am not going to quote it: go there and make up your own mind.

See also the very funny Among the barbarians: Nick Possum and the Victims of Political Correctness Inc. (1998)  and among my posts Pub talk, reality TV, reality and “Go Back to Where You Came From” (2011), About last night’s “Send them back…” and Paul Sheehan (2011), A rather odd argument? (2009).


Kind of related: John Menadue — Updating the Malaysia solution. And click on the cartoon above.

How to read Paul Sheehan

1.  Realise as fifteen years and more of reading him has taught me that his “objectivity” is a pose. I formed this impression from his shit book because I knew the people who he was hurting then and I knew who thought he was “wonderful” and why – and that has not changed.

2. In reality he is Pauline Hanson in male drag with polish, and he without fail will demonise, often on the basis of highly tendentious selection of evidence, whichever Other it is currently fashionable to decry. And never underestimate how much I deplored/continue to deplore Pauline Hanson.

3, There is nothing about today’s article – which I have indeed read as steam from my ears built to higher and higher pressure – that is inconsistent with the character who wrote the shit book.

4. That said, I acknowledge the difficulty of coming to a reasonable and equitable policy on asylum seekers who get on boats. Hence my link to Menadue, and a number of things I have written lately.

5. Taking Sheehan at face value, however, is a big mistake. He is an absolute master of the dog whistle. He is a polemicist NOT an objective commentator.

See also Four Corners replies: cop this Paul Sheehan and “Illegal immigrants” Press Council ruling: Why is Paul Sheehan is allowed to say it while Greg Sheridan is not?

And this is something related to look forward to:

Respectability achieved–and rapscallions left behind?

Here’s a bit of history.

The demands for self-government by the free settlers of New South Wales and the other colonies were largely met when the Imperial Parliament passed the Australian Colonies Government Act of 1850. This authorised the Legislative Councils in the Australian colonies to pass bills establishing themselves as bicameral legislatures. In 1853, proposals were submitted to the Imperial Parliament from the New South Wales Council. After some amendments, the Imperial Parliament passed a Constitutional Statute in 1855, (Imperial Act18 & 19 Vic. No.48 Cap.54). This authorised Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, to assent to a bill passed by the Legislative Council of New South Wales (New South Wales Act 17 Vic. No.41) giving New South Wales a fully responsible system of government, with two Houses of Parliament.

It was not, however, fully representative government. The franchise was still property and gender based, with only men able to vote; but it was a very low property qualification and it was a poor man who could not vote. To register, potential voters had to be male adults of over 21 years who owned freehold property of at least 100 pounds per year, or leased property with an annual value of at least 10 pounds per year, or occupied lodgings or rooms with a rent of at least 10 pounds per year or had an income of at least 100 pounds per year. In the nineteenth century, women were not considered capable of making a rational choice at the polls, so were therefore not given the franchise.

The property qualification for Members was lowered, but because Members of Parliament still received no salary, only those who were wealthy could afford to run for Parliament.

The first New South Wales Parliament established under this new Constitution met on 22 May, 1856. The population of the colony was approximately 300,000.

And here is a very respectable looking chap:

FotoSketcher - william1a

That’s William Whitfield, born 16 Mar 1812 in Cootehill, Drumgoon Parish, Cavan, Ireland and died 12 Oct 1897.  He had arrived in Sydney 11 Apr 1826 on the Thames, master Robert Frazer, from Cork, Ireland. By 1856 he was in Picton, NSW.


This is my branch of the Whitfields, and we have been fortunate in having a great family historian in Bob Starling. “Jacob Whitfield’s journey from Cootehill County Cavan Northern Ireland to the land down-under : embracing the Whitfield family history /​ by Robert Starling… Research relating to Jacob Whitfield (convict) transported from Ireland 1822. Jacob’s wife Mary and four children migrated on the ‘Thames’ in 1826. Mary and two children died on the voyage. William, the only son of Jacob to survive was responsible for the Whitfield name propagating to towns of Picton, Braidwood and the NSW South Coast.”

Now the old Jacob was, it appears now, a horse thief. (See Family stories 3 — About the Whitfields: from convict days. This is very messy, having just grown over ten years and more. Make sure you trawl through the comments!  Also, in 2008 I walked Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills, formerly Macquarie Street South, “Looking for Jacob”.  I kind of found him in what is left of “Market Lane”…


According to this, William and his wife, Caroline Philadelphia WEST, lived in Elizabeth Street from 1836 to 1846. Jacob, we know, had a hut in the area – all of this in that yellow square.

Ramana in Pune will be interested in what is on the Elizabeth Street frontage now, as he recently told me in Facebook about going there once!

One of the remaining mysteries about Jacob concerns his final years. On Trove I have tracked down the latest mention of him in a case where he wasn’t the defendant!



The rest of that paper is rather devoted to the subject of gold…

So Jacob remained in Market Lane until at least the second half of 1851. In a 2011 comment on “About the Whitfields: Convict Days” Bob Starling wrote:

For some years I have been searching for Jacob Whitfield’s death. It was noticed that Jacob gave his religion as a Quaker on one of his applications to marry. With this fact the Quaker society in Sydney has carried out some research and came up with the following piece of information:

“In searching the incomplete records we have of burials in the Friends Burial Ground within the old Devonshire Street (Sandhills) Cemetery, I came across a reference to:
“Burial Notes missing of … Jacob Whitfield” Unfortunately, there is no indication of his date of death or burial. Burials took place in the Friends Burial Ground from about 1837 through to about 1880.”

Whilst we can now accept that Jacob died in Sydney, probably between 1851 and 1856 we cannot quite put him to rest until we find an exact date.

He was certainly around for a long time.


From Bob Starling

Bit of a villain though, it seems.



It turns out there is another Whitfield family altogether extant – and with Shire links.

Perilous Seas: The Whitfield Family – Ancestors & Descendants England & Australia 1605-2012

The Whitfield family farmed in the Tyne Valley of Northumberland before moving to iron works on the Derwent River in Cumberland where two daughters drowned in separate accidents. Descendants experienced contrasting fates. One, James Whitfield made a fortune on the Australian goldfields before becoming a successful entrepreneur in Workington. His siblings lived and worked in industrial towns and the youngest, William Whitfield became a master mariner in Australia, experiencing a number of misfortunes before returning to Hull, Yorkshire, leaving his Australian family behind.

Now that is interesting, because my father used to say his Aunty Jessie and one other family member had traced the family to Hull, and there was allegedly a lost fortune there… That must be this family, but there is no doubt there is no close connection.  I suspect OUR Whitfields arrived in Ireland in the 17th century as part of the “plantations”.

And as for Jacob? Given the respectability his son William achieved I am beginning to think he was simply left behind when William and Caroline went south. Certainly he was erased from the family memory as I first encountered it in Picton in the 1950s with yet another William Whitfield – Dad’s Uncle Bill.

You will recall that we “found” Jacob, my convict ancestor, or we at least found the part of Sydney where he is known to have resided in the second half of the 1830s through early 1840s. By the 1860s the family had moved on – Braidwood, Picton… My grandfather was born in Picton in 1867. Him I remember. Just. He died in 1948. His brother William I remember more clearly, because he survived well into the 1950s. That William – son of William, the son of William, the son of Jacob – was still riding horses and ploughing his orchard almost to the year of his death. I remember his house, with its (to citified me) rather magic rural air, and tales of this one and that one, and timber getting, and horse breaking, and blacksmithing, and bullock teams… And Sao biscuits with tomato and cheese…

The tales never went back more than about one generation…

I think I can see why, for several reasons. Sometimes my father would mutter about the Old Testament curse on “the sins of the fathers”… Perhaps too, given what the area they had left behind in Surry Hills had become by 1900, you will see why it didn’t figure in the stories… Anyway, it was not part of my grandparents’ generation’s personal memories. They had become country people.

It’s on!

Yesterday they were getting the big screen ready down at Wollongong Mall.


And this morning? Well, I didn’t get up before dawn, but did turn on the TV just now to see…



Seems to have been a good Opening Ceremony – and I am sure I will see it during the day…

Hard to believe it is so long since Sydney, and even harder to believe that I BLOGGED IT! That was such a good time!  It is easy to be cynical about the Olympic Games, and much of that is justified. However, I can’t be bothered watching Gruen Sweat either: you can overdose on cynicism.

And I have the bug and have had especially since 1972:



My cousin Beverley. I coached her, you know – in English for the School Certificate. So I have held that gold medal in my hand.

Sadly, died of heart failure in 1996.

Temps perdu–Whitfield’s, not Proust’s–1 — 20th century

The first thing to come my way was a special edition of Aero Magazine.


Now I need to refer you to Closely watched planes 1 and About the Whitfields: loss in my “Specials” archive.

14390 Cpl. Whitfield J. N.
Group 833

My Darling Wife

I came to work this morning thinking it was just another day, another hot steaming day, after a terrific thunderstorm last night. About nine o’clock a chap came in with some demands that had to be attended to and on dating them the realisation struck me, this was no ordinary day to me, but a very special one, the anniversary of the day when I made my very bestest pal in all the world mine for keeps, for worse or better…

Thus begins a letter from Port Moresby reproduced on the second of those two pages.


One of my father’s wartime photos

Sadly many more have been lost over the years

Now I am not absolutely sure which squadron my father was in, or if as a “carpenter-rigger” – so described in his discharge papers – who appears to have been involved in salvaging bent aircraft – I have seen a file of correspondence with the higher-ups in the RAAF my father was engaged in, including some recommendations of his that seem to have been adopted – he was attached to several. His discharge papers don’t say. One thing I do know is that he rather specialised in Kittyhawks. 82 Squadron seems a possibility.


So I was drawn to a photo in that copy of Aero.


Now the more I look at the guy in the cockpit the more convinced I am that it is my father!



I guess I will never be sure.

The same issue has this photo of someone I once met and talked with for an hour or more: Richard Cresswell. As I mentioned in “Closely Watched Planes”:

I met Wing Commander Cresswell — as he became — purely by chance one night at the Sydney Intercontinental Hotel in 1988 and had quite a long conversation with him; but that’s another story.



Australia’s Amateur Hour/Got Talent 2012

There is no doubt that AGT didn’t attract the following it did last year, but even so last night’s Big Decider – the spectacular during which the winner is announced – was a very good show.


And the winner:


After illness forced him to leave chart-topping 90’s R&B group CDB in the 90’s, AGT was singer/songwriter Andrew’s last chance to try and resurrect his music dreams and the opportunity to share his catalogue of original songs with the nation. Tonight he proved victorious with a symbolic welcome back to the industry, topping the public vote and triumphing over Tasmanian country band, The Wolfe Brothers.

Andrew was overwhelmed by the result “It was just an amazing moment. This is all a dream… I feel amazing. It’s just such a beautiful way for it to come to an end and in a way it’s actually a new beginning.”

Andrew paid tribute to runners up The Wolfe Brothers saying, “I was so happy to be up there with those guys, I have much so respect for them. It’s real music as well, so for both of us to be up there together is incredible and such a positive achievement for original Australian music.”

UPDATE: On Andrew De Silva.

As a song writer, live performer and a session musician, Andrew De Silva is constantly busy. In the hard to penetrate local music industry De Silva’s vocal diversity is an in-demand asset that has seen him work with some of the biggest names of the Aus music landscape, across various genres and projects. This, along with his command of the guitar and bass guitar has served to cement De Silva’s reputation as an all-round musician. Whether it’s playing bass on stage for Guy Sebastian or providing vocals as part of the in-house band on Australia’s Got Talent, De Silva’s resume includes performance work across most areas of the entertainment industry. – 2011

See also his own website.

We have become bored with the talent shows, opines today’s Sydney Morning Herald. The Australian version of The Voice, having garnered almost constant publicity during its run, seems to have been the exception. Poor old AGT12 had hardly any publicity at all this year.

The talent show is in fact a venerable genre.


That’s Terry Dear in 1956 on Channel 9 in the TV version of a long-running radio show, Australia’s Amateur Hour. Click on the image and you will see some remarkable footage of Channel 9 1956-7, with The Amateur Hour snippet at 4:35.

We liked our announcers posh and British-sounding in those days, even on commercial radio – though as the Channel Nine footage shows the late 50s represent a transition perhaps. What follows is a 1952 radio Amateur Hour featuring a guy who went on to become a legend in country music circles.

The program was very popular during the war years. During this time radio became an important form of communication and entertainment as people largely stayed at home and there were blackouts. Over time the show had three comperes: the last of these, George Alexander Dear (known as Terry) described the impact the show had during the war years:

When Sammy Dobbs, the great power-that-was at Lever Bros, started up Amateur Hour, he first got Harry Dearth to do it, and he was very good indeed. Then when he joined up, Dick Fair took over and carried it through the war years. That’s when the show got its tremendous popularity. People couldn’t go out; there were blackouts and no street lights and since everybody stayed at home, the radio was the best means of communication. Amateur Hour wasn’t just made in Sydney. It was broadcast from all over Australia. So if a listener heard Dick saying, ‘Good evening, this is Amateur Hour from Cairns in Queensland’, this was real glamour. It was also comforting: the show was still there and still going on, even when the Japs came into the war and people were afraid Australia might be invaded. Dick left he show in 1950, and that’s when I took over. When I did, we were at show number 423 or something like that, and when I finished ten years later we had done something like 930 shows. I was there the longest of the three of us.

The Amateur Hour audience was invited to ring in and vote on the best act. There was a switch board of 10-15 ‘girls’ supplied by Lever Brothers taking down votes. People could also write in. Sometimes people would phone in 50 or 60 votes from a pub for one act. The phone ‘girls’ judged by the background noise whether to accept the votes. Amateur Hour compere Terry Dear describes the tabulation system:

We had a switchboard of ten to fifteen girls supplied by Lever Brothers, taking down votes, or people could write in. There were many ways they could vote, and we sometimes had colossal totals. Sometimes people would ring with a huge number of votes for one act. We wouldn’t know how many people were putting them in, but if there was a lot of background noise, we could assume that they were in a pub. If they put in, say fifty-seven votes, we accepted them. The Amateur Hour organisation was very good, believe me.

The show kept a register as a theatre agent, and would provide performers from the show. Performers such as Bobby Limb, Donald Smith and Rolf Harris appeared on the show, and got work that way.

And Johnny O’Keefe, it appears.

Proust: visiting a demented relative?

I refer to the opinion of Germaine Greer:

If you haven’t read Proust, don’t worry. This lacuna in your cultural development you do not need to fill. On the other hand, if you have read all of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, you should be very worried about yourself. As Proust very well knew, reading his work for as long as it takes is temps perdu, time wasted, time that would be better spent visiting a demented relative, meditating, walking the dog or learning ancient Greek.

In Search of Lost Time, or Remembrance of Things Past, as Proust’s "novel" is variously titled in English, is widely touted as one of the favourite books of the 20th century, second only to The Lord of the Rings. Fans of Tolkien can certainly handle a marathon read, as can Harry Potter addicts; but whether they have stayed the distance with Proust seems to me highly doubtful.

But I have to confess getting into my seventieth year now while remaining to this point a Proust Virgin! Thanks to eBooks (Adelaide University) I now have the whole thing – free — on computer and Kobo. Yesterday I took the plunge.



I feel that there is much to be said for the Celtic belief that the souls of those whom we have lost are held captive in some inferior being, in an animal, in a plant, in some inanimate object, and so effectively lost to us until the day (which to many never comes) when we happen to pass by the tree or to obtain possession of the object which forms their prison. Then they start and tremble, they call us by our name, and as soon as we have recognised their voice the spell is broken. We have delivered them: they have overcome death and return to share our life.

And so it is with our own past. It is a labour in vain to attempt to recapture it: all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) which we do not suspect. And as for that object, it depends on chance whether we come upon it or not before we ourselves must die.

Many years had elapsed during which nothing of Combray, save what was comprised in the theatre and the drama of my going to bed there, had any existence for me, when one day in winter, as I came home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called ‘petites madeleines,’ which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell. And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, but individual, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory — this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it was myself. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, accidental, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I was conscious that it was connected with the taste of tea and cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could not, indeed, be of the same nature as theirs. Whence did it come? What did it signify? How could I seize upon and define it?

I think I am hooked. And one virtue, for me, of the eReader is that the Himalayas I am now ascending seem less daunting somehow screen by screen. Why, I am 20% through Swann’s Way already!

And even if the interviewer seems to be stoned:

There is a very handy cheat page in Wikipedia.

Critical reception

In Search of Lost Time is considered the definitive modern novel by many scholars. It has had a profound effect on subsequent writers such as the Bloomsbury Group. "Oh if I could write like that!" marveled Virginia Woolf in 1922…

Literary critic Harold Bloom wrote that In Search of Lost Time is now "widely recognized as the major novel of the twentieth century."  Vladimir Nabokov, in a 1965 interview, named the greatest prose works of the 20th century as, in order, "Joyce’s Ulysses, Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Biely‘s Petersburg, and the first half of Proust’s fairy tale In Search of Lost Time." J. Peder Zane’s book The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books, collates 125 "top 10 greatest books of all time" lists by prominent living writers; In Search of Lost Time places eighth. In the 1960s, Swedish literary critic Bengt Holmqvist dubbed the novel "at once the last great classic of French epic prose tradition and the towering precursor of the ‘nouveau roman’", indicating the sixties vogue of new, experimental French prose but also, by extension, other post-war attempts to fuse different planes of location, temporality and fragmented consciousness within the same novel. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon has called it his favorite book.

Proust’s influence (in parody) is seen in Evelyn Waugh‘s A Handful of Dust (1934), in which Chapter 1 is entitled "Du Côté de Chez Beaver" and Chapter 6 "Du Côté de Chez Tod." Waugh did not like Proust: in letters to Nancy Mitford in 1948, he wrote, "I am reading Proust for the first time …and am surprised to find him a mental defective" and later, "I still think [Proust] insane…the structure must be sane & that is raving.")

Since the publication in 1992 of a revised English translation by The Modern Library, based on a new definitive French edition (1987–89), interest in Proust’s novel in the English-speaking world has increased. Two substantial new biographies have appeared in English, by Edmund White and William C. Carter, and at least two books about the experience of reading Proust have appeared by Alain de Botton and Phyllis Rose…