Monday, 2 July 2018

Tom Bass AM -sculptor

Whether you know it or not you have probably seen a sculpture by the artist Tom Bass. His works are not hidden away in art galleries but forever on public display outside company buildings, universities, hospitals, churches, wineries, parks and other open spaces across Australia and overseas. John Macdonald called his sculptures “part of the fabric of the city.” Much of that cloth was cut from the very earth of Minto.

Born in Lithgow in 1916 Tom’s father was an unsettled man. Constantly moving, the family ended up in the then slum of Erskineville. During the depression, Tom remembers they would shell almonds around the dinner table to earn money. Later employment included "shop boy" at the Mick Simmons store alongside fellow shop assistants Don Bradman and Stan McCabe who signed cricket bats to sell. He became a rouseabout, sandblaster, swaggie, golf course rubbish collector, pottery designer, mannequin maker and model to Norman Lindesay.

His local story, though, begins in 1937 when he met fashion artist Lenore Rays whose parents lived on a farm in Minto. During their romance, Tom would cycle from the Rocks at 5:00 a.m to arrive at Minto at 7:30, just after milking, for breakfast.
Tom found the sweeping countryside of Minto idyllic and the food heartening after experiencing a “hunger backlog” for much of his life.

After national service he married Lenore and they spent their honeymoon at the “Good Intent’ hotel which he always felt “seemed right”. With just five pounds, no job and living at Lenore’s parents’ the couple took a stroll one morning into the village of Minto where they met a man by his broken down car. Hearing that Tom was a painter, the stranger gave Tom a job. Walking a little further along Ben Lomond Road they discovered a vacant house for rent and so their two major problems were solved with one leisurely walk - though house painting wasn’t what Tom had had in mind! In 1948, with three children to look after, he graduated art school.

Tom’s life would, in so many ways, be shaped by pure happenstance. Needing a new chimney the Bass’ hired bricklayer  Jack Porter. Now ‘Old’ Jack was also a brick maker and knew the couple were artists. He asked if they’d ever worked with the local clay. They went outside and Jack pointed some out in the soil.

Tom’s passion for creation ignited and with a bucket of clay from a nearby hillside he fashioned a bowl which, though never fired, he kept the rest of his life.

During the 40’s through to the 60’s Bass won a myriad of commissions and worked to evolve a number of sculptural techniques at his Minto studio, first creating clay maquettes and then using “grass roots engineering” to deposit copper electrolytically for large scale sculptures when bronze casting was simply not available. Tom’s projects grew ever larger and when in 1953 he needed to cast a forty-foot high falconer for the Uni of NSW he rented half a barn from a neighbouring farmer.

The neighbour needed a dam and so Tom struck a deal – he used the farmer’s plough, scoop and horse and dug the dam for him in exchange for the clay he found there. Tom would use and re-use this clay for the rest of his working life.

In 1963 one sculpture, for shipping company P&O, courted controversy over its form. Recently opened by Prime Minister Robert Menzies it soon featured on the cover of Oz magazine. Tom Bass’ P&O wall fountain was described as an attractive urinal with a continual flushing system with basins set conveniently at different heights. Nor did you immediately have to spend a penny to use it, you could P & O!

Cover of Oz magazine from February 1964 

Editor Richard Neville and his colleagues were charged with obscenity and put on trial. Tom Bass was called – for the defence and had pleasure in commenting that he thought it witty and a “fair comment.”

In 1967 Tom embarked on a major work Over two metres high, twenty-one metres long and comprising three tonnes of copper the giant lintel would hang over the doors of the National Library of Australia in Canberra.

Tom works to complete the fittings on the underside of a lintel sculpture. c1967.
Jones Collection (Campbelltown City Library)

Tom talks to Minto Public School students about his sculpture in 1968 before it begins it's journey to Canberra.
Jones Collection (Campbelltown City Library)

Minto Public School pupils on excursion to the nation's capital view the Tom Bass sculpture in situ above the entrance to our National Library. 
Jones collection (Campbelltown City Library)

 After being unable to teach the way he wanted at the National Art School Tom spent a year cleaning up a warehouse in Sydney and in 1974 began the Tom Bass Sculpture Studio School where he taught very late into his life. It still holds classes and the students still use the clay he dug from Minto all those years ago.

Tom wrote that the hard times of his life were “parts of my process of learning” and seemed even grateful for them on reflection. Tom died in 2010 aged 93 having said, ‘we will sleep well knowing we are all used up’

Elizabeth Macquarie Memorial, Mawson Park, his last major work inspired by his keen love of history.
Officially unveiled in August 2006 when Tom  was 90 years of age.

Written by
Michael Sullivan


- Tom Bass retrospective -Sydney celebrates the sculpture of Tom Bass", December 2006
- Tom Bass Totem Maker by Tom Bass and Harris Smart 1996
- Search for meaning Caroline Jones ABC radio.
- University of Wollongong

Monday, 18 June 2018

Leslie G. Rouse - man of the turf

In 1923, "Blairmount" was purchased by Leslie G. Rouse, a well-known racing identity from Sydney. Leslie was born in Mudgee to parents Richard and Mary. His family owned Biraganbil and Guntawang stations at Mudgee, and they had become prosperous through the production of fine wool and beef cattle. Perhaps more important was their reputation as breeders of some of the finest racing and carriage horses in the colony. Their "Crooked R" brand inspired Banjo Patterson when he wrote 'A Bushman's Song', declaring that there were no better horses than those that wore the 'Crooked R'.
Leslie followed in his father's footsteps as a "top notch gentleman jockey" and he rode in amateur races as a young man. He studied to become a solicitor and was admitted in 1894, practicing law in Armidale and Gulgong. In 1897 he was appointed coroner for Gulgong, but his love for horses and horse racing was still a driving force in his life. He resurrected the Gulgong Races in 1899 and acted as handicapper, and was elected as an officer of the Mudgee District Racing Club the same year. The Mudgee Guardian described him as 'a young man with plenty of go'.
Leslie was appointed as a Stipendiary Steward for the A.J.C. (Australian Jockey Club) in 1904, and in order to fulfil this role he sold his Gulgong legal practice. The same year he married Hilda Bowman of Merotherie Station. Leslie devoted himself to the A.J.C. and in 1913 was appointed Keeper of the Stud Book and Registrar of Racehorses. His love of breeding, bloodlines, and racing made him the ideal person for this job, in which he remained until his untimely death in 1928.
Leslie G. Rouse (Photo Sydney Mail 22.6.1927)
Leslie used Blairmount as a breeding establishment for fine thoroughbreds, and he regularly submitted yearlings to the annual Yearling Sales in Sydney. After his death at the age of 58, the stud was dispersed, and the 11 broodmares who had produced beautiful foals for Leslie were sold at the William Inglis & Sons Easter Sale in 1929. Blairmount, perfectly set up for horse breeding, was then sold to Frank Young, who also bred horses, though of a very different type - Clydesdales!

Written by Claire Lynch


Wednesday, 6 June 2018

A Pestilent Problem

The property "Blairmount" on Badgally Road has an interesting history with many associated stories. One of these is that of brothers Vic and Clive Ducat who lived at Blairmount (which at the time was called 'Belmont') in the 1920s, running a dairy herd. Vic served as an Alderman on Campbelltown Council. The brothers sold the bulk of the property in 1923, but retained some land in the area until 1929.
It was during the 1920s that Prickly Pear, an introduced noxious plant species, was having a devastating effect on rural properties, infesting over 60 million acres of land in Queensland and New South Wales. The problem was so serious that the Prickly Pear Destruction Committee was set up. In 1926 the Camden News reported that Prickly Pear was steadily insinuating itself throughout the districts of Campbelltown, Picton and Camden. The answer to eradicating this problem plant came in the form of the cactoblastis cactorum, commonly known as the Cochineal bug, the larvae of which draws food and moisture from the Prickly Pear, ultimately killing it.

from 1987 booklet "Prickly Pear Pest in NSW". An infestation of Prickly Pear. 
 Vic Ducat, whose property had been invaded, wasted no time and took up the challenge of ridding his property of the pestilential plant. After trying many methods to diminish its rapid growth, it was reported in The Campbelltown News in June 1926 that Mr Ducat had "made exhaustive enquiries throughout this and the Queensland State, and learned of the Cochineal Insect, and with fervent haste, procured a supply of this combating enemy". The insect was applied, despite local skepticism, to a portion of the offending plants, and within 18 months, the results were being reported as "a huge success at little cost". The story continued with "...the results are conspicuous. The patch is now dying and the insects have traversed 60 to 100 yards in every direction."
This biological control agent was so successful that by the 1930s all large infestations of Prickly Pear in Australia had been successfully reduced. Vic Ducat played his small part in one of the most successful stories of weed control in Australia.

Written by Claire Lynch
"Campbelltown's streets and suburbs : How and why they got their names" by Jeff McGill, Verlie Fowler and Keith Richardson
Grist Mills Vol. 9 No.1
"Badgally Road Campbelltown : The other side of the line" by Marie Holmes

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

How to Renovate and how NOT to Renovate!

Two of Campbelltown's most historic and treasured buildings both underwent renovations in the 1960s. Campbellfield at Minto and Macquarie Field House both had work done to them. In the case of Macquarie Field House, the renovations saved the house from demolition or falling down. In the case of Campbellfield, the "renovations" almost completely destroyed one of the most valuable examples of colonial architecture and construction, not only in Campbelltown, but the entire country.

Campbellfield at Minto was built on a grant of 800 acres made to Dr William Redfern in 1811. Redfern came to the colony as a convict in 1801 and became a medical practitioner and respected colonist. He retired to his farm at Campbellfield after 1816 and built this house before 1820.

In the mid 1960s crude and disastrous renovations were carried out on the cottage. The first lot of alterations and additions saw a detached kitchen and stables demolished as well as closing in of the rear veranda and the house extended at the northern end. Further renovations virtually destroyed the building, leaving only the stone flagged veranda, a chimney and stone cellar intact. Redfern expert and historian Arthur Jones, who was a teacher at nearby Minto Public at the time, was told by his pupils that Redfern's house had been pulled down. When he went to see what happened at recess, he found that most of the building had been demolished.

Now for the good story. Macquarie Field House in the early 1960s was in a sad state of decay. At one stage it faced likely demolition. In fact it had fallen into such a state of dilapidation that it was almost beyond restoration. A melancholy ruin on a lonely hilltop and mercifully mostly hidden by trees. Enter David Jamieson. He leased the property from the Department of Agriculture and between 1962 and 1963 completely restored the house, entirely at his own expense. It was restored to the requirements of the Government Architect and the National Trust. What a pity Campbellfield didn't have the same requirements. It became Jamieson's home and arrangements were made by the Trust to make periodical inspections. Today this grand old colonial house stands proud on that same hilltop adjacent to the new suburb of Macquarie Links.

An interesting fact about the restoration of Macquarie Field House was that the house's missing fireplace mantles were replaced by marble mantles from "Subiaco", one of the finest colonial homes built in Sydney. It was located at Rydalmere and built between 1833 and 1836 and demolished in 1961.

Below are before and after photographs of Campbellfield and Macquarie Field House after their renovations.


Campbellfield, Guernsey Avenue, Minto
A Heritage Study For the Ministerial Development Corporation, February 1996

Campbelltown-Ingleburn News, 15.7.1975

Sydney Morning Herald, 22.9.1961

Macquarie Field House and it's restoration- notes from James Munro's Notebook

Macquarie Fields House to be saved- newspaper extract from CAHS Dr I. G. Thomas estate.

Monday, 14 May 2018

The Drunk's Express

In the 1940s an old liquor law was re-introduced that meant anyone was forbidden to drink at a hotel on a Sunday unless they travelled more than 25 miles. They were regarded as "weary travelers". Occasional raids were made by police to check identity cards which would prove where they lived. As Campbelltown was 32 miles from Sydney it was seen as a prime target for drinkers. This was good news for hoteliers looking for business and thirsty out-of-towners after a weekend drink, however it also proved to be a nightmare for hotel owners at the same time. It was also understandably unpopular with thirsty locals.

The train that the town came to dread was the arrival of the 1.30pm at Campbelltown Station. It became infamous as the "Drunk's Express" or the "Ghost Train" as it was packed with hundreds of loud-mouthed city louts that invaded Campbelltown every weekend. One hotel that attracted these louts was the Royal, located inconveniently or conveniently depending on your situation, next to the railway station. The licensee of the time, a Mr Knap, commented "They're the roughest crowd I have ever seen in my life. They come in hundreds. I slam and lock my doors at 3pm on Saturdays, and they stay locked until 5.15. By then they are nearly all gone again, but in the meantime, they nearly kick my doors in."

In January 1944 a sailor and two female companions travelled on the 'ghost train' for a drink at the Good Intent Hotel. They ended up spending a night in the lock up after they were charged with various offences after a boozy brawl. Newspaper reports describe there being about seventy people inside the pub and several waiting to get in. The magistrate for the hearing said "that shortly there will be a beautiful argument about the question of bona-fide travelers. It is apparent that most of these people come to Campbelltown only to get drink, and I have very grave doubts about most of them being bona-fide travelers."

The Good Intent Hotel was one hotel that attracted huge numbers of 'travellers' in the 1940s (Steve Roach Collection)


Truth, 16 January 1944, p22

Campbelltown Clippings by Jeff McGill 1993

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Nurses and Hospitals

It's hard to imagine that up until fairly recently it was expected that when a woman got married she would give up her career. This was certainly the expectation in nursing. Recently we interviewed Elsie Evans, who began her nursing career in the early 1940s.
"...I went from that to the theatres and I stayed in the theatres until about '48, and then I moved over to King George which was the obstetric hospital attached to PA. I stayed there until I was married because then you had to resign."
One way for these women to continue their nursing career was to set up a private hospital. Elsie explains - "That's why you saw a lot of these obstetric hospitals set up by nurse so-and-so. They would just get a house and set it up as an obstetric hospital but you couldn't work in the public system."
Historically Florence Nightingale had given the vocation of nursing respectability for women. She had also, supported by Sir Henry Parkes, been in favour of the idea of matrons managing hospitals, not being subordinate to doctors.
With no hospital in Campbelltown, one of the earliest of these private hospitals was at Mrs Huckstepp's home "The Pines", in Innes Street. Run by Nurse (Mrs) Rachel Huckstepp, it provided maternity facilities for expectant mothers. Mrs Huckstepp's eldest daughter would be sent to fetch Dr Mawson when a birth was anticipated, and Mrs Huckstepp would also accompany Dr Mawson to more distant properties when he attended women giving birth at home.
Rachel Huckstepp (photo CAHS, donated by Judy Coppini)

A number of other hospitals were operating, including "Kyla" in Lithgow Street, run by Nurse Newbury, from the beginning of WWI and "Norma" in Warby Street, under the care of Nurse Brock and Nurse Wilson in the 1920s. Nurse Wilson would later move to "Nattai" in Lindesay Street.
Two of the more well known private hospitals were "Avro" in Coogan Lane, and "Milby" in Queen Street. "Avro" operated during the '30s to the '50s and "Milby" from the '20s to the '50s. "Milby" was primarily a maternity hospital but did take other types of patients.
Also in the '50s were "Bramwell" and "Braemar".
If anyone has any memories of these early private hospitals we'd love to hear from you!

Written by Claire Lynch

Elsie Evans oral history - Campbelltown City Library
Grist Mills Vol.12 No.1 "The Huckstepp Family"
Campbelltown - The Bicentennial History - Carole Liston
From Nightingale nurses to a modern profession : the journey of nursing in Australia - Dr Georgina Willetts

Monday, 23 April 2018

Hack Races

What better way to spend an Easter weekend in Campbelltown than to attend a hack racehorse meeting. Run on the course opposite the King's Arms in 1848, a number of races were set down for the Easter Sunday for the amusement of the townsfolk. Each race involved untrained hacks that had never won a prize. When "Jackey" won the first race on the card however there was much speculation over his credentials considering his great superiority over his rivals. Having survived the enquiry, 'Jackey" was declared the winner. The best riding of the day went to Hugh Byrne.

According to "Bell's Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer" the following day witnessed a few sports, such as running for watches, hunting a grunter with a shaved tail, and other amusements, which, coupled with the exhilarating draughts of Tooth's entire, effectually dissipated any appearances of ennui. If anyone can shed any light on what running for watches involves, please let me know!

The day was spent in good humour and it was hoped to run a similar one for the "Whitsuntide" and the next holiday season. For the record, the course opposite the King's Arms would have to have been the site of today's Mawson Park. The King's Arms was on the site of today's City Hotel on the corner of Queen and Cordeaux Streets.


Bell's Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer, 29 April 1848, p2