Vale Edward (Ted) Brennan 1935-2014

Edward (Ted) Brennan 1935-2014 (Photo: Courtesy of Pam Brennan & Family)

Edward (Ted) Brennan 1935-2014 (Photo: Courtesy of Pam Brennan & Family)

This month we were saddened to hear of the passing of Ted Brennan on the 13 April 2014.

Edward (Ted) Brennan was born on 30 November 1935, and during his years at the Newcastle University College (precursor to the University of Newcastle) in the early 1950s, was one of its key student leaders and activists.

Ted Brennan's First Day At University, 1952. (l-r) Unidentified, 'Blue' Cunningham, Terry Piggott, [?] Watson and Ted Brennan. [Photo Credit: Ted Brennan Published in Blood and Bandages A History of the University of Newcastle Sports Union, 1996]

Ted Brennan’s First Day At University, 1952. (l-r) Unidentified, ‘Blue’ Cunningham, Terry Piggott, [?] Watson and Ted Brennan. [Photo Credit: Ted Brennan Published in Blood and Bandages A History of the University of Newcastle Sports Union, 1996 (Page 3]

He was a also a core member of the Newcastle University College Students Association (NUCSA), first appearing in the official minutes as one of two ‘guests’ on the 22 July 1954. By the next meeting on the 21 August 1954 he was an active mover of NUCSA business. He would later to be made an Honorary Life Member.

Honorary Life Membership for Ted Brennan "in view of his outstanding contributions to that body's activities overa number of years" - From NUCSA Minutes Vol 2, 8th Council 1959-1960 Archives Location B10947)

NUCSA Honorary Life Membership for Ted Brennan “in view of his outstanding contributions to that body’s activities over a number of years” – From NUCSA Annual General Meeting Minutes 4th August 1960, in Volume 2, 8th Council 1959-1960 (Archives Location B10947)

He campaigned among the mining workers right across the Hunter district urging them to support autonomy for the University of Newcastle in the early 1960s. This was probably enabled through the networks of his father, Michael (Mickey) Brennan, a prominent coalfields trade unionist during the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Ted Brennan as one of the Newcastle representatives at the National Union of University Students in Melbourne (Photo: Courtesy of Pam Brennan & Family)

Ted Brennan (Hon. Secretary, NUSCA) and Adrian Nelmes (President, NUCSA) with the Newcastle representatives at the annual conference of the National Union of Australian University Students (NUAUS) in Hobart [1960] – “It must have been a lively one” – Pam (l-r Paul Walmsley, Ted Brennan, Adrian Nelmes, Katrina Sutton) (Photo: Courtesy of Pam Brennan & Family)

Torch Procession to Newcastle Town Hall 1961

Torch Procession to Newcastle Town Hall 1961

According to Don Wright’s Looking Back A History of the University of Newcastle (1994) p.78:

“On the night of 12 April 1961 they held a freedom march from the Tighes Hill site to the City Hall (about five kilometres) to take part in a public meeting organised by the Lord Mayors Committee. Estimates of the numbers involved vary from fifty to 200. Led by the mercurial Godfrey Tanner, later Professor of Classics, they marched the distance shouting, cheering, waving flaming torches and banners carrying slogans like Burn Baxters Empire, Big Baxter is Watching You, Baxters Bargain Basement, Let Newcastle Fiddle while Baxter Burns. Outside the City Hall, they set alight their banners and tossed them into a blazing heap before moving inside to join 250 of Newcastles more sober citizens in a public meeting to demand immediate autonomy.”

Wright continues on p.79:

“Ted Brennan and the other student leaders argued their case to the workers of the district, addressing pit-head meetings and otherwise trying to convince workers to support autonomy in the interests of their children. In July (1961) the students took their protest to Sydney. One hundred Newcastle students and their Sydney supporters marched along Macquarie Street to present to the Minister for Education, Ern Wetherell, a petition in favour of autonomy signed by 32,000 Newcastle citizens. Wetherell told them that autonomy was ‘everyone’s ultimate aim’ but the timing could not be decided until the Price Committee had reported, nor could it come before the move to Shortland. Work could not begin there until 1964 for financial reasons.”

Opus-Tharunka 27 July 1961

Opus-Tharunka 27 July 1961

Click to see FULL COPY OF OPUS THARUNKA 27 JULY 1961 (26MB PDF FILE)

Edward Brennan graduated on Friday 13 April 1962 with a Bachelor of Engineering from the Department of Applied Geology, Newcastle University College, under the auspices, at the time, of the University of New South Wales.

Ted Brennan at Graduation (Photo: Courtesy of Pam Brennan & Family)

Ted Brennan being presented with his degree by  Professor M. Chaikin at Graduation Ceremony (Photo: Courtesy of Pam Brennan & Family)

 

Ted Brennan at Graduation (Photo: Courtesy of Pam Brennan & Family)

Ted Brennan, Mr David Lyon McLarty, Engineer and Director of the NSW State Dockyard, and Adrian Nelmes.  (Photo: Courtesy of Pam Brennan & Family)

 

First 'rag' (or kind of muckup day), Ted Brennan in pram and Harold Boffinger on penny farthing. (Photo: Ted Brennan)

First ‘rag’ (or kind of early NUC muckup day), Ted Brennan in on the extreme left of the photo in the pram. (Photo: Ted Brennan)

 

Autonomy was santified with a bonfire described in Don Wright’s Looking Back A History of the University of Newcastle (1994) p.89:

“On 1 January 1965 there was a bonfire on the Shortland site, about where the Great Hall now stands. It was presided over by Mike Nelson, a well-respected student, and by Godfrey Tanner, forever totally immersed in the affairs of the collegium. The joint presidency of the event was a symbol of the well-attested camaraderie of staff and students throughout their days of struggle and adversity, while the flames of the fire symbolised both the joy in the attainment of a long sought destiny and also that confidence in the future which Auchmuty had communicated as he taught all to believe that they were privileged to lay the foundations for a centre of learning whose enduring influence would increase with the passing generations.”

Ted at the University Ball (Photo: Courtesy of Pam Brennan & Family)

Ted at the University Ball (Photo: Courtesy of Pam Brennan & Family)

We contacted Ted Brennan back in 2002, because we were very interested in getting his side of the University’s history. This would include his recollections of the early history of the University College up to the gaining of Autonomy in 1965. He was very interested in recording his knowledge of the early history, since,  in his opinion,  much that had been written was “a fictional version dream’t up by (Professor J.J. ) Auchmunty aimed at enhancing his own stature.”

Ted Brennan with Helen Featherstone at the Newcastle University College's first cabaret. (Photo: Ted Brennan)

Ted Brennan with Helen Featherstone at the Newcastle University College’s first cabaret. (Photo: Ted Brennan)

He believed that there were extensive records dating back to NUCSA (i.e., The Newcastle University College Students’ Association) foundation in 1954 but that since 1964, most had been destroyed in the move to the Shortland SRC Office. (Email correspondence 2002). Fortunately, contrary to that belief, the NUCSA  Council Minutes did survive, and are very comprehensive, dating from its first annual meeting held on the 29th April 1953.

First Volume of Bound Minutes of the Newcastle University College Students' Association. (UON Archives: B10946)

First Volume of Bound Minutes of the Newcastle University College Students’ Association. (UON Archives: B10946)

Unfortunately by 2012, Ted’s health had deteriorated to such an extent that he couldn’t be too far away from his local hospital, making a trip down to Newcastle an impossibility. Our plan B in attempting to fly a researcher up to Queensland to interview him also fell through. So, our hope to record everything he had wanted to tell us about the student role in the gaining of autonomy and the establishment of the University of Newcastle never came to fruition.

Ted playing the "pretend" piano at the Throsby Creek Regatta, circa 1960. (Photo: Ted Brennan)

Ted playing the “pretend” piano at the Throsby Creek Regatta, circa 1960. (Photo: Ted Brennan)

 

Ted Brennan at the piano at the Throsby Regatta, circa 1960s. "The fellow facing him is Bill Jonas. I don't know who the others are." - Pam Brennan (Photo: Courtesy of Pam Brennan & Family)

Original photograph of Ted Brennan at the piano at the Throsby Regatta, circa 1960s. “The fellow facing him is Bill Jonas. I don’t know who the others are.” – Pam Brennan (Photo: Courtesy of Pam Brennan & Family)

 

Edward (Ted) Brennan 1935-2014 Obituary (Courtesy of Journal of the Australian Institute Of Mining and Metallurgy)

Edward (Ted) Brennan 1935-2014 Obituary (Courtesy of Journal of the Australian Institute Of Mining and Metallurgy)

 

Ted Brennan in Christmas Island, 1966. "He was there as the first geologist for the British Phosphate Commissioners. We spent about three years there." - Pam Brennan (Photo: Courtesy of Pam Brennan & Family)

Ted Brennan in Christmas Island, 1966. “He was there as the first geologist for the British Phosphate Commissioners. We spent about three years there.” – Pam Brennan (Photo: Courtesy of Pam Brennan & Family)

We contacted Dr Bernie Curran to relay the sad news. Over the phone he began telling us all about Ted; his involvement in the making of the Blood and Bandages A History of the University of Newcastle Sports Union 1996; being a student leader; his close association with Godfrey Tanner; his playing the ‘pretend’ piano with a ‘pretend’ band on one of the makeshift rafts in the Throsby regatta, (much before his time), and, how wonderful it is that the Godfrey Tanner Bar, the Brennan Room and the Derkenne Courtyard are all in close proximity to one another within the physical architectural space of the UON Student Union. It is a lasting remembrance and acknowledgement of the legacy of these three men and their services to enhance the quality of life of the future students of the University of Newcastle.

If you have any recollections, thoughts or comments that you wish to share, please do not hesitate to contact us on archives@newcastle.edu.au or leave a comment below.

On behalf of the University of Newcastle, we wish to convey our sincere condolences to Ted Brennan’s wife, Pam Brennan, and to his family, friends and colleagues. We also thank Adrian Nelmes for taking the time to notify us of his passing.

Kind Regards,

Gionni Di Gravio
University Archivist

One thought on “Vale Edward (Ted) Brennan 1935-2014

  1. I worked with Ted Brennan at BHP Ore Department. 1960-1966. When Keira was born my husband and I often baby sat her either at the Darby St apartment or at my Mum’s house. My Mum typed up Ted’s Thesis once. When we were married Ted and Pam gave us a lovely set of Orrerfos champagne glasses which we still have. On the way back from our honeymoon in 1965 from Gold Coast we stayed overnight in ?Tingha with them. Bought Keira a doll. Would love to get in touch with Pam. Often think of Keira, have a photo of her. Sorry if this isn’t relevant to Uni. Felt I just had to say how much I respected Ted and how he helped me in my work.

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