The Margaret Henry Oral History Archive is a collection of audio tapes, transcripts, summaries and essays that were part of the Open Foundation Course (1986-1989). The wider collection of Margaret Henry Oral History Archive containing over 220 interviews in total held at Cultural Collections, University of Newcastle Library. The oral histories have been digitised and will continue to be uploaded to SoundCloud over coming weeks. They contain many stories of Newcastle, the Hunter Valley and its surrounds and records voices describing the Regions cultural, intellectual and social life. It is an incredible legacy to Margaret Henry who passed on 9 September 2015. The project is funded by the Vera Deacon History Fund.
Who was Margaret Henry?
Margaret was born in New Lambton in 1934 and lived most of her life in Newcastle. She attended Newcastle Girls’ High, trained as a History/English teacher furthered her study gaining a Masters degree in History. For most of her professional life (1969-1990), she worked as an academic – mainly within the Department of History at the University of Newcastle and then in the Department of Community Programmes where she was responsible for the Open Foundation course. As an academic at Newcastle University, she is remembered very fondly as a mentor and supportive influence by hundreds of mature aged students and in particular women students. She was responsible for the establishment of innovative new courses within the Department of Community Programmes. Additionally, she involved the department and her students in many local social and environmental campaigns. She is especially remembered for mentoring indigenous students and her active involvement in the establishment of indigenous studies at the university.
Was a great mentor and supporter to many in the community, sharing her tremendous knowledge about Newcastle’s past. She encouraged generations of Novocastrians to engage in history and cultural heritage of the region. She loved for people to share their stories, was a good listening, and these oral history interviews are testament to Margaret’s passion for history, and her vision to have these important ‘voices’ documented.
The Oral History Collection
Cultural Collections, UON Library has digitised several hundred oral histories from the 1980s. The Margaret Henry Oral History archive records voices describing the Region’s cultural, intellectual and social life.
The collection is diverse and contains over 600 hours of recording, many of the interviews relate to the Great Depression, stories are told sporadically about the Depression because of the significant impact it had on people’s lives.
The oldest interviewee is Veronica Phillips (nee Harper) born in 1884 and aged 105 at time of the interview and is an exceptional and rare interview because the interviewee not only recalls pre-1900s but describes years during WWII and later decades. Veronica recalls the recalls the great drought in 1898, the “suffragettes” movement, “unsinkable Titanic” and helping fundraise for soldiers going off to WWI.
Health and Medicine
There are interviews about health and medicine of the region, with interviews with Dr Roy Mills (Chest physician), Dr Ferguson well known General Practitioner in Mayfield, Matron Punton speaks about Wallsend Hospital, and Sr. Mary Barnabas Paediatric Care at the Newcastle Mater Hospital. Beryl Clinton speaks about the history of Rankin Park Hospital, the place and the people.
There are interviews and stories associated with various places, such as Coon Island in Lake Macquarie, Toronto, Morpeth, Paterson, Belmont, Belmont South, Awaba, Green Point, Greta, and Buttai, and Islington, Mosquito Island, Port Stephens, Tanilba Bay, Lambton, Wickham, Charlestown,
Some of the regions well known identities are also interviewed such as Howard Williams and Neville Wheeler about ’95 years of law in Newcastle’, Neville ‘Ned’ Andrews well known sporting identity, worked at the State Dockyard and President of the Federated Ironworkers Union, Clem Ashford innovator of the fast food culture in Newcastle, and Alice Ferguson known who taught thousands of people to swim at Merewether Beach. Also Roy Whalan, well known horticulturalist recollects his early life and how he got into the nursery business. Helen Taylor’s family came from Czechoslavakia and came to Australia in 1949, Helen is fondly remembered for her long association with Tanilba House and her care in looking after the historic property. Hon. C.K Jones M.P. O.A. (Charles Keith Jones) is interviewed about history of trade unions and politics in Newcastle. Charles Jones was Lord Mayor of Newcastle in 1956, Federal Minister of Transport and Sate Member for Newcastle, (Part 1 – Part 2)
Education Lottie Stewart was a former teacher at Hunter Girls High School speaks about the changes in the education for girls. Dorothy Temperley speaks of her school days in Kurri Kurri. Early education in Newcastle and the UON’s Open Foundation Course is discussed by Mildred Storer.
Religion Religion is also a theme, Sr Catarina Heffernan talks about the Dominican Order of Nuns (at Rosary Convent Waratah), Fr Harold Campbell about the Diocese of Maitland, and Ivy Easthope about the Seventh-day Adventists at Cooranbong. Phyllis Foster talks about the history of the Salvation Army in Newcastle.
Sport & Recreation Ray Williams about the Stockton Surf Life Saving Club. Ray was born in 1905 and resided in Stockton for most of his life, joining the Stockton club at aged 15 in 1920. In 1987, at the age of 82 years Ray was still working as a beach inspector at Stockton, “probably the oldest inspector in Australia”.
Community Events Bob Johnston talks about his memoirs of the Maitland Show from age of 5 in 1930. The Maitland Show is one of the oldest shows in Australia, first held in 1844.
Interviews of some pioneers families such as the Marks, Boydell , Dillon and Elliott families are told by their descendants. Charles Lewis about his memories of working in the Hunter Valley Timber Industry during the 1920s and 1930s.
Arts & Theatre
There are a number of interviews about Newcastle’s dramatic scene and theatres, there is a delightful interview with Betty Lind about Newcastle Dramatic Art Club, Peter and Shirley Bloomfield speak about the Newcastle Repertory Theatre, and Del de Glorion and Peter Whipper Snr each talk about their family’s involvement in Newcastle Theatre. And an interview with Agnes James about the Abermain Eisteddfod. The history of Newcastle Printmaker’s Workshop is told by its Foundation Chair Robin Winston.
Many interviews are about the development of the coalfields and other large industries such as the State Dock Yards. John Aubin discusses the State Dockyard in Newcastle from 1942 to 1962. Harry Harding talks about the history of Shipbuilding in Newcastle, Douglas Bradford about the Cardiff Railway Workshops, and Clarrie McLennan talks about his days working at Zaara Street Power Station. As well as Sidney Ayerst about working as a diver at the port of Newcastle. Other interviews about large business include Ken Millington on the Electric Lamp Manufacturers, and Clarrie Withers on John Lysaght (Australia) Limited, Robert Burns about Goninan & Co. Ltd, and the history of ABC (2NC) radio in Newcastle by John Bracken. There is also the wonderful story of pioneer Walter Edwin Bramble whose family would establish Brambles as told by his grand-daughter Betty Anderson. Carlton ‘Carl’ Parrott talks about stevedoring on the Newcastle Waterfront. The early shipping history along the Williams River is discussed with Mr RL Ford. Maritime history and Newcastle’s Customs House is discussed by Captain James Fletcher.
Coal Mining Jack Ambler and Jock Redding are interviewed about coal mining in the Hunter Region. Jack commenced work in the mines in 1941 and retired in 1984. He worked for that time at Stockton Borehole Colliery, the Waratah Colliery (the Gully Pit). Jock started in the mines in 1952, became a Deputy, and retired late 1980s, some of his working life was spent at Burwood Colliery. Clyde Jones and Mick Jurd are interviewed about the years in the mines, Clyde starting at the ‘pit top’ at age of 15 in 1927 at ‘Bellbird’, and Mick working in the ‘pits’ at Bulli in the 1940s before coming to Killingworth in 1949 and in 1970 working at the Lambton Colliery. David Bowtell talks about the first Masonite factory in Australia, the Masonite Factory at Raymond Terrace.
Transport Norman Kelty speaks about the changes from trams to buses in Newcastle.
Unions & Politics Keith Wilson was an active participant in social issues and talks about the emerging role of Newcastle Trade Hall Council. And Thomas Graham talks about the Federated Ironworkers’ Association (FAI) and the Newcastle iron and steel industry (1917-1950). Local Government in Maitland is discussed by former Alderman Fran Dawson.
Military & Defence Keith Sullivan discusses the RAAF Airbase at Williamtown, he joined the airforce in 1947 and later became a warrant officer at Williamtown. In 1981 was part of the No. 26 Squadron ‘The City of Newcastle’, he describes the changes at the airbase and the various types of aircraft and equipment. Melissa Cameron speaks about years in the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS).
Law & Order Keith Parsons & Doug Lithgow speak about the history of policing in Newcastle. Police in Newcastle were housed in the building known today as the Lock Up Cultural Centre. Keith is son of retired Sergeant Ewen Parsons and Doug the son of retired Superintendent George Lithgow, they each reflect their father’s views about the police force.
Women’s History There are several interviews about women, Kathleen Blackett describes the years she worked at Rylands during WWII and that there was often resentment towards women doing manual jobs. Joyce Staley reflects on the life as a single woman during the Great Depression, the hard times and having to be self-sufficient, as does Doreen Maher. Pearl Hickey talks about the Newcastle Women’s Movements. Mary Calcott who worked at the Working Women’s Centre at Mayfield in 1975.
Family Business’ Family business’ of Newcastle and the Hunter also feature in the collection. Stephen Simpson talks about his trade as a bootmaker and establishing Simpson’s Shoes at Lambton. Also listen to Eric Merrion about ‘Merrion’s Cardiff Bakery’ a family business 1922-1977. Bill Payne owner of the Melvic Theatre at Belmont talks about setting up the theatre, and Keith McGill talks about following him his father’s footsteps to become a butcher. Alec Young of Young & Green car dealership, and Miss Nancy Morison talks about her family’s pioneering engineering firm Morison & Bearby, Arthur Dodd about the business he established Dodd & Co. Pty Ltd. Similarly John Sobb speaks about establishing his own retail store. Although not a family business, the history of Newcastle and suburban Co-Operative Society, community lead stores are discussed by Esme Allan. Colin Johnston talks about the growth of High Street, Maitland, and the family business Johnston’s Shoe Store. Marjorie Brown speaks about her years as a business person in Cessnock, owning a Milk Bar and several businesses. Frank Baker Jnr. talks about the family business ‘Baker’s Bakery. Interview with Gordon Edwards about his Hairdressing Salon in Pacific Street, Newcastle, he tells the history of hairdressing in the region.
About the Environment There are interviews with the environmentalist such as Tom Farrell and Selby Alley speaks of the rise of environmental awareness in Australia. The history of the Northern Parks and Playground Movement and conservation in Newcastle is discussed by Doug Lithgow. John Lineham talks about the Toorumbee Creek Community, an alternative life-style movement, the aim was to “settle the country and develop a self sufficient life-style based on appropriate, mainly soft technology”. The attraction was to get away to the pristine isolated environment, to the tranquility, an escape from technology and industry. Joyce Bond is interviewed about her involvement in the Newcastle Hill Residence Group.
These histories record the public memory at a certain time, memories that can be mapped in time and place. Hearing the past can inspire us, provide new knowledge so we can better understand, and plan our future.
The oral history tapes have been digitised by Cultural Collections, UON Library and made freely available to the wider global research community thanks to the generosity of The Vera Deacon Regional History Fund. For further interviews in the Margaret Henry Oral History Project go to Margaret Henry Oral History Project (1986-1989) on SoundCloud.
Milsom, Rosemary (10 Sept 2015) OBITUARY- ‘Margaret Henry- City loses its ‘conscience’ Newcastle Herald.
Virtue, Robert (18 September, 2015) Remembering Historian Margaret Henry – a collection of oral histories compiled by the late Margaret Henry have been digitised. 1233 ABC Newcastle
Henry, Margaret (1991)‘The Battle for Newcastle’- Margaret Henry
Project compiled by Dr Ann Hardy for Cultural Collections, University of Newcastle Library