Margaret Henry Oral History Archive

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.


Margaret Henry 1980s at UON

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.

Dr. John Turner and Margaret Henry (History), the University of Newcastle, Australia - 1985

Dr. John Turner and Margaret Henry (History), the University of Newcastle, Australia – 1985

Margaret Henry

Margaret Henry. Image courtesy Gregg Heathcote in 2014

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 fund-raise for soldiers going off to WWI.  You can listen to a

About Place 

There are interviews and stories associated with various places, such as Coon Island in Lake Macquarie, TorontoMorpeth, Paterson, Belmont,  Belmont South, Awaba, Green Point, Greta, and Buttai, Tighes Hill and Islington, Mosquito Island, Port Stephens, Tanilba Bay, Lambton, Wickham, Charlestown, Muswellbrook,  Singleton, Murrays Run,  Stockton, Morisset“Porphry” property at Seaham, Raymond Terrace and dairy industry, Newcastle East, Jerry’s Plains,

Indigenous Stories

Interview by Shay Kelly with her mother Annie Whilamena Kelly about her life. Annie was born in 1909 at Callaghan Swamps near Inglebar and was brought up by her grandmother Sarah Wright, marrying Richard Kelly. They moved out of their tribal area between the New England tablelands and Kempsey to Newcastle. Horice “Horrie” Saunders talks about the history of Purfleet an Aboriginal Reserve near Taree, NSW. Horrie an Aboriginal man was born at Wararah, a suburb of Newcastle in 1929, and moved to Karuah and later Purfleet at a young age. He describes what it was like to live on the Mission, the sports they played, their favourite swimming holes and the Aboriginal school he attended.

Local Identities 

Some of the regions well known identities are also interviewed, Ray Cummings is interviewed about his wife Joy Cummings (1923-2003), former Lord Mayor of Newcastle. Joy Cummings was the first woman Lord Mayor in Australia, Ray speaks of his wife’s activities and highlights whilst at the Newcastle City Council.  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 1Part 2).  Harry Boyle OAM, esteemed historian of Maitland and the Hunter Valley.

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. Joy Gageler talks about the history and development of the Family Planning Association of NSW, in Newcastle. Janet Budge also talks about the Friends of Wallsend Hospital. Mary Louisa Corke (nee Pike) talks about her nursing career and position at Kurri Kurri District Hospital from 1939.


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 StorerDorothy Temperley talks of her school days and memories of Kurri Kurri. Kathleen Stewart in 1986 about her life as an educator, working at Newcastle Church of England Grammar School for Girls.


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. Marlene Kennedy talks about her life at the St. Elizabeth’s Girls’ Home Singleton 1944-47. 98 year old Ivy Easthope speaks about the Seventh-day Adventists at Cooranbong, Lake Macquarie.  Phyllis Foster speaks about the Salvation Army.

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.

Pioneer Families 

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. Arthur and Doris Eggelton and Les H Savage about the early settlers to the Port Stephens area and the Australian Agricultural Company. There is also the wonderful story of pioneer Walter Edwin Bramble whose family would establish Brambles as told by his grand-daughter Betty Anderson. James Arthur Latham about his family history, Newcastle history and the harbour. Hilma Maybury (nee Hancock), born at Islington in 1912, she describes her great great grandparents Thomas and Mary Hancock who came to NSW in 1832, he was in charge of convicts and stationed at Paterson.

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. Bill Payne former owner of the Melvic Theatre at Belmont speaks about his family become interested in theatres.  The history of Newcastle Printmaker’s Workshop is told by its Foundation Chair Robin Winston.

Betty Lind 1980s

Betty Lind talks about Newcastle Newcastle Dramatic Arts Club. Image Courtesy Betty Lind.

Maritime & Shipping 

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 former Director of the NSW State Dockyard talks about the history of NSW Government shipbuilding and ship repairing activities in the port of Newcastle. Born in Newcastle in 1913 he served his apprenticeship with engineering firm Morison & Bearby. He recalls his parents taking him to Walsh Island in 1920 to see the launching of the “Eurelia”, little did he realise he would become involved in that industry years later. Frank Neat also speaks about the Dockyard.Captain Ken Hopper former Harbour Master Newcastle from 1966 to 1980 he discusses the Newcastle Harbour 1947-1980.   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.   As well as Sidney Ayerst about working as a diver at the port of Newcastle. Jim Smith a boilermaker who worked at the Newcastle State Dockyard from 1966 to 1976 speaks about 20 ships that were built there.  Claude Mann discusses shipbuilding in the Manning District of NSW. Betty Wilkinson was former secretary at the Newcastle State Dockyard employed for approximately 27 years (1954 – 1982) and worked with Mr D Lyon McLarty. D.F Gray speaks about Coal, Shipping and the Port of Newcastle from the 1930s. Terry Callen talks about the shipwrecks of Newcastle.

Industry & Manufacturing

Douglas Bradford about the Cardiff Railway Workshops, and Clarrie McLennan talks about his days working at Zaara Street Power Station. 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.    David Bowtell talks about the first Masonite factory in Australia, the Masonite Factory at Raymond Terrace. Ross Lindsay & Terry Warnaby speak about the fall and rise of the Newcastle Abattoirs that opened in 1915 and were located at Mayfield West. Ken McTaggert discusses Rylands Bros. Pty Limited (Australia) that began in 1921. Alfred Mitchell & George Pain about the growth and development of the fishing industry in Nelson Bay. Ian Sherman about the history of cordial manufacturing in Newcastle and the Hunter Region. Mr Delbianco about the Allco Steel manufacturing company, he came to Australia from Italy in 1955 and establish one of the most successful Steel Fabricating Companies in Newcastle. Retired oyster farmer Gordon Holliday talks about moving to Port Stephens area as a child in 1910s. He speaks about his life as an oyster farmer.


Gordon Sutherland about the Mayfield Telephone Exchange. Gordon started work as a technician assistant at Post Master General Department in 1949, based at the telephone exchange behind the Waratah Post Office. He describes the changes in technology and services and the division of postal services from telephone services in 1975, and formation of Telecom. John Bracken speaks about the Australian Broadcasting Commission (former 2NC) in Newcastle. Barrie Baker about Nobby’s Signal Station. Jean Chapman speaks about newspaper reporting during WWI and the Great Depression. Twink Edwina Story (nee Ford) speaks about her career as a female radio program director and on-air personality at 2HD Radio station at Sandgate, in Newcastle, in 1940s.

Coal Mining & the Hunter Coalfields 

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. Thomas Parkinson speaks about coal mining in the northern coalfields.  Bill Shepherd talks about growing up  the Minmi and Killingsworth areas and work at Stockton Borehole. Wal Partridge was a ‘wheelman’ at Stockton Borehole, her speaks about coal mining in Newcastle in the 1950s. Frank Manning speaks about coal mining in the Hunter Region, Rothbury riot and the Miners’ Federation. Frank was born in 1902 in Ireland, and came to Weston, NSW in 1912. He attended Abermain Convent School and left school at 14 to become a “pit top boy” at Hebburn No. 1 Colliery. Arthur Goodwin spent over forty years in the mining industry around the Rothbury and Branxton areas. Wilfred Dews talks about the Teralba and Stockton Borehole collieries. Ben Gumbleton discusses coal mining industry in the Hunter Region. Eunice Elliott about the North Rothbury Mine lock out in 1929. Alan Murnain about coal mining in Newcastle.


Norman Kelty speaks about the changes from trams to buses in Newcastle. Charles Watters was a driver of a Store Bread Van, working from 1937, he describes the the route taken with his horse ‘Nugget’from Clyde Street, North Lambton. Les (Casey) Jones retired train driver joined the Railway Department in 1943, he speaks about history of trains. Leonard Young started work with the railway department in 1954, at Port Waratah. In 1966 he became a fully qualified driver working on the class 38 engines, he speaks about the 3801 “Newcastle Flyer”. Emily Mahoney, Len and Stella Smith speak about trams and the Hunter Street Mall, Newcastle. Douglas Bradford about the history of Cardiff Railway Workshops.

Unions & Politics

Interview with Hon. C.K Jones M.P. O.A. (Charles Keith Jones) about history of trade unions and politics in Newcastle. Jones was Lord Mayor of Newcastle in 1956, Federal Minister of Transport and Sate Member for Newcastle (PART 1 & PART 2). 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 DawsonHugh McCarthy discusses the Federated Ironworkers Association 1935-1950. Eileen Penglaze, wife of a coal miner during the 1949 coal strike speaks about the Miners Federation of Australia and national miners stoppage of 1949. Bruce Mackenzie about the Local Government in Port Stephens Shire. Neville Cunningham a retired seaman discusses the Seaman’s Working Conditions and the seamen’s union.

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). Jim Husband, returned serviceman in the Australian Army and member of the Newcastle Vietnam Legion describes the Roll of Honour for those had served in the Vietnam War from the Hunter Region.

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. Margaret Hughes talks about tailoring in Newcastle during the late 1930s where she worked at Hayman’s military factory making uniforms for the soldiers. Later she served an apprenticeship tailoring at Alex Peate’s workrooms located at 79 Hunter Street, Newcastle. Pearl Hickey talks about the Newcastle Women’s Movements. Mary Calcott who worked at the Working Women’s Centre at Mayfield in 1975. Moia De Martin (Bowman) speaks about women at work in industry during the Great Depression. Melissa Cameron former employee of the Newcastle Co-Operative Society Store talks about her work with the Australian Women’s Army Service (1921-1988). Marjorie Brown about her business life in Cessnock. Rita Borger and Mildred Baxter talk about the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS). Barbara Bushell (1927-2015) about the Country Women’s Association in the Hunter Region.

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. Doris Blatchford discusses EH Blatchford whose husband Eric opened a small bakehouse at the height of the Depression, later opening a shop at 182 Beaumont Street, Hamilton.  Interview with Gordon Edwards about his Hairdressing Salon in Pacific Street, Newcastle, he tells the history of hairdressing in the region.

Retail & Co-operatives

Esme Allan talks about the Newcastle and suburban Co-Operative Society, became affectionately known as “The Store”. After an 83 year lifespan, The Store closed its doors on the 10th April, 1981. At its peak the store dominated the local retail trade.  Sue Vandervalk speaks about retailing and her business ‘West Terrace Menswear’ in King Street, Newcastle. The business started in 1972 and was situated in “The Terraces”. Marie Maddrell former employee of Winns speaks about the history of Winns Ltd 1878-1980. Selma Hare & Maisie Sharp about retailing at Scott’s Department Store from a Woman’s perspective.  Mrs Abercrombie (Jeweller) about the fluctuations in the retail industry in Cessnock.

Migrant Histories

There are fascinating interviews with people who were at the Greta Migrant Camp, such as Anna Buldecki,  Elly Slechter and  Bazil Manunczak.Felix Dangel also speaks about the Greta Migrant Camp. Luka Dejanovic about the Croation community in Newcastle. Interview by Judy Gavrilis in 1989 with “Toula” about the Greek Community in Newcastle, as well as Bob Tsousis and Michael Karaberidis about their Greek heritage in Newcastle. Gisela Noll, Violet and Jim Woodward talk about immigration in Newcastle.

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 LithgowJohn 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.

Tom Farrell

Tom Farrell speaks about early Newcastle & the environment

The Great Depression

Josephine Leis talks about the Depression in Newcastle and reflects on her family life and move from Singleton to Newcastle. Doreen Maher speaks about Depression resilience and how the Great Depression affected Newcastle woman and their education. Kathleen Jones speaks about Newcastle’s Relief Organisations and unemployment camps during the Depression. Joyce Staley (nee Cummings) about single working women in the Great Depression. Victor Stamford also speaks about the Great Depression in Newcastle. Ernie and Ellen Fenly of Thornton discuss the Great Depression. Agnes ‘May’ March about her early years and memories of the Great Depression. Joe Chappell on surviving the Great Depression. Olive Convery and Neville Lavender talk about Happy Valley Depression Camp, East Cessnock.

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

The Battle for Newcastle:Heritage and the Earthquake. By Margaret Henry, 1991.

The Battle for Newcastle:Heritage and the Earthquake. By Margaret Henry, 1991.

Project compiled by Dr Ann Hardy for Cultural Collections, University of Newcastle Library

2 thoughts on “Margaret Henry Oral History Archive

  1. Pingback: The Margaret Henry Oral History Archive | Starving in a Garret

  2. Pingback: Lost Newcastle Oral History Project | Cultural Collections, UON Library

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