Tuesday, 28 March 2017


Logo of the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts.jpg

Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts

Is that a name you are familiar with? If not, you're not alone... after all, it was founded in 1833 as a non profit organisation with the aim of making a difference through learning. It was also known as the Mechanics' Institute and is known as the oldest continuous lending library in Australia.

There is a lot more about this particular institute on Wikipedia...
It was a great step forward when  the first dedicated building was established. Prior to it's inception in Pitt Street, Sydney, in 1837, meetings had been held at various places around the city. There were to be many changes ahead. 

From TROVE...

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW / 1876 - 1954)  Thu 3 Feb 1898  Page 7 

School of Arts Buildings were built across the country... they varied enormously in size, some started out small and were added to as funds permitted. Around our home town other School of Arts were in Raleigh, Coff's Harbour, Bellingen and Dorrigo, to name just a few..

They were used for so many purposes including town meetings, meetings for numerous organisations, for libraries, for council offices, even for the visiting bank officers. Weddings and all manner of receptions were held in them, as well as dances and balls, flower shows, concerts, travelling shows, e.g. such as Col Joye and Judy Stone, the hypnotist, Ron Rico, Slim Dusty and so many more.

Some were used for showing the early picture shows. There were even boxing bouts in some, including Coffs Harbour.

When we left our small town, in 1960, like many others who were well known in the town, we were given a farewell evening.. a few speeches, some entertainment, including my young brother whistling "Bimbo" while smiling... his party trick, encouraged by Dad's great friend, Stan Morris. Then there was the supper, provided by the community who 'brought a plate'. I don't recall what my parents were presented with as a farewell gift, but I do recall my father and mother being very embarrassed, as they didn't expect it. My Dad's family had been in Urunga since 1927.. his sister lived there still till her passing in 1987.

These are just a few examples of how popular they were, and in many cases still are...

The Raleigh Sun(Bellingen, 
NSW/1898-1918) Fri 26 May 1911.

From Our Correspondent
On Saturday last in the School
of Arts the Oddfellows' Minstrel
Troupe, under the conductorship of
Mr. Claude Hefren, played to an ex-
ceptionally large house and was a
complete success. The performers
were as follows Mr. W. Smedley
(centre man), F. Atherton, W. Kay,
R. Wilson, and C. Larsen (corner
men). The above artists caused
considerable amusement which was
well appreciated by the audience.
Mr. M. J. McGrath (Secretary) must
be congratulated on the success of
the concert, also the performers who
performed their parts very well in-
qeed, especially R. Wilson and F.
Atherton. Mr. Claude Hefren acted
as conductor and stage, manager. The                              
concert ended with a very laughable
farce, called "The Telephonograph"
which had the house in fits of laugh-
ter. The proceeds amounted to about
£20. Very creditable to the per


A lucky escape for the Urunga School of Arts
Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW / 1876 - 1954)  
Thu 28 Nov 1929  Page 7  URUNGA BLAZE

Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW / 1907 - 1942; 1946 - 1954)  Tue 7 Jun 1949  Page 7 

The School of Arts was run by trustees, the group changed over the years but it was always in the good hands of community minded citizens...

1911... trustees

1925.. trustees  Daily Examiner (Grafton, NSW / 1915 - 1954)  Sat 24 Sep 1927  Page 2  URUNGA

In later years, the original School of Arts became the Urunga Museum and was shifted from it's first position to another site.. the large hall that was added many years ago, remains where it was opposite the              bottom of the school, across the road from the War Memorial.

  From the Bellingen Urunga Museum..

Photo courtesy of Lynne Sanders-Braithwaite

 Long may the now museum bring back memories to all who love history, especially that of Urunga. For me, it will always be the School of Arts and the memories of the very first library I ever saw will stay with me always.

 I would love to hear if your community has a School of Arts and what it is/was used for... Feel free to leave a comment below...

Tuesday, 21 March 2017


"Greeks Who Have Made Good Here"

Having paternal Greek heritage, I couldn't help but take notice of the headline..   "Greeks Who Have Made Good Here". Then to read the subheading '..vital to remember there are 20s. in £' was so similar to what I was taught as a child, that I had to read on. In our house, we were often told to look after the pennies and the pounds would look after themselves'.. same theory, but we were closer to the pennies than the shillings.

My own grandfather, Theodore Catsoulis,  left the Greek island of Kythera/Kythira in 1904, to secure a better life for himself and his young bride, Chrisanthe, nee Coroneo. Chrisanthe remained with her family while Theo set out to make enough money to send for her. This certainly wasn't unusual, many of his fellow Kytherians did the same, as did others from various Greek islands and the mainland.

Theo first worked for others, in a cafe in Glen Innes, took up farming after acquiring land via a ballot in Whiporie,  then in partnership, in cafes in Grafton and Bellingen, then sole owner in Bellingen, with some years on his farm in Aberdeen. Eventually, the now quite large family of eleven, settled in Urunga on a farm, which spread to a few farms. Two of the sons had a cafe in Dorrigo for some years. #
Store in Bellingen owned by Kytherian cousins, Theo & Michael Catsoulis c. 1916

This article lists just a few who became successful, including very close family friends, the Gleeson brothers of Urunga and Coff's Harbour. They owned the Ocean View Hotel, in 1927, rebuilding the first after it was burnt down. The hotel remains in the family over very many years.

National Library of Australia       http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229483898  

 (you can click on the images to enlarge.)

The Ocean View Hotel became the centre of the community in many ways, it was the place to stay when travelling between Sydney and Brisbane... being half way. It was also often filled with visitors and holiday makers as it provided great accommodation and meals. Many a wedding reception was held there, as well as various community meetings. It was the place for sporting clubs and other organisations to meet and the Gleesons were known for their generosity in supporting the community. 

The Catsoulis and Gleeson families certainly had some laughs....


                                        Dorrigo Hotel owned by Mick Feros c.1924

In the original article, you will see that John Kouvelis owned the Lennons Hotel in Brisbane, among others...Many other immigrants worked hard to become the 'lucky ones'... as the old saying goes, the harder you work, the luckier you become'...

Old Lennons Hotel from the 1889 Post Office directory

There are many stories of the success achieved by Greek immigrants, not all started off as this group did... Greeks feature well in the National Archives, and therefore in TROVE..


A quick search of TROVE using just      Greek immigrants   brings up 31,633 entries... 

We know them as cafe owners, owners of fish and chip shops, fruit shops, all manner of retail, but they have so much more to offer...
Just browse through Kythera-family.net  or through the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Greeks feature well in the Arts... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Australian_actors_of_Greek_descent

 They fought for Australia... The Greeks who fought for Australia | Neos Kosmos

Names that used to be thought of as tongue twisters, are commonplace these days...we've embraced the people, the culture (who loves panayiri?), the food... have you tried all these?

# you can read more about my family here  and here

 Australia has been known as a land of milk and honey, as a country who rode on the sheep's back and so many other things, including as a land of opportunity. It is all those things and so much more. It is a land of freedom... a country where hard work brings success, a country that encourages good ideas.. and a country that values mateship and honesty. We welcome those who take pride in our country.. and our values, no matter where you came from. 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017



For a small town like Urunga, NSW, losing three long time residents within a few days, all unrelated, was something that affected many in the town. I was too small to have known these particular people, but I did know the family names, mostly the AINSWORTH and the VAUGHAN names... 
friends of my parents.

 That got me searching to see if I could find out more about at least one of them. Following the trail through TROVE and other resources, I managed to discover quite a bit more about Cecil Ainsworth.

CECIL GEORGE AINSWORTH.. the article tells us that he was a returned soldier of WW1. That is an easy place to start...
record search.naa.gov.au

As he was in WW1, all the service records are digitised and free to read/download. Firstly, he didn't show up as Cecil George, so just looked for Cecil... This is the first page of his 12 page record...
It gives us quite a bit of information.

He has just given his name as Cecil Ainsworth. His address .. just Urunga, NSW. It was a small town, more a village, so that is all that would be needed to find his family.

He is a British born subject, aged 19 years and 8 months, occupation looks to be 'horse driver'. He had never been an apprentice, nor had he been married. His next of kin was Mrs. Lousia Ainsworth, his mother, of Bellinger River, NSW. We can see that he joined up on 19 September, 1916. Looking back at the top of the page, he was in Unit 23 of the 15th Battalion. His service number was 6932.

 Without uploading all pages, the next page tells us that he enlisted in Lismore. The next, see below, gives his physical description.

Very precisely, his height is stated as 5'9 1/8 inches. I don't recall seeing anything quite that precise before. Weight 11stone, 10lbs, dark complexion, brown eyes and brown hair and of Roman Catholic (RC) religion. He did have a distinctive mark.. a scar on back right hand.

( If you wish to read the whole lot, you can go to record search and look for the following.. Barcode 3023281 Ainsworth C Series number B2455 or just Ainsworth Cecil WWI )

He enlisted twice, rejected the first time...though I have yet to find the reason.

On the second and successful time, according to the records, Cecil was sent to England, but never saw the firing line, despite his 14 weeks training. In 1923, he sent this letter to the Army...

He was refused ...


but on return to page 4, it seems that that decision was overturned...


Cecil was born to George and Louisa J Ainsworth in the Macksville District in 1896. He married Eva Miles in 1921 in the Bellingen District.

TROVE: Nambucca and Bellinger News Fri Jan 21, 1921

A few days before Cecil enlisted for the second time, he attended the Bazaar at Urunga... and won a prize.. Wonder if his mother was the recipient of this treasure?

This brings us back to the beginning.. Cecil George Ainsworth, former soldier, admired footballer, community minded resident, husband and father, passed away on May 5, 1950 aged just 54 years. He rests in Urunga Cemetery. His wife, Eva, died in 1962.

Image courtesy of Reg McDonnell, creator of austcemindex
Information sourced from TROVE, naa.recordsearch.gov.au, NSW BDM, austcemindex

Tuesday, 7 March 2017



As a child growing up in Urunga, NSW, I often visited the cemetery to visit my beloved Papauli. He had died when I was just five... I adored him and wasn't going to let him think I'd forgotten him. I mostly went there with my Aunt Mary. She didn't think it was at all strange that I would tuck little notes and drawings and always flowers, even if only dandelions, beside the beautiful headstone. 

Of course, being curious, I would wander all around the cemetery seeing who was where and trying to work out who had been dead the longest, who was the oldest, who was the youngest.

The year after my grandfather died, we saw a new grave... covered with numerous flowers and of course, I asked my Aunt who it was. She had tears in her eyes as she told me that it was a young boy called Noel, who should never have died, but he did something silly. I didn't learn the details for some time, but the sadness of his passing stayed with me. I was heartbroken losing my grandfather, and couldn't imagine how hard it was for this boy's parents.

 Wandering through TROVE, I came across this article... from January 1954. The tears flowed as I was taken back and seeing my Aunt crying..

Urunga Cemetery
Noel Ross Bracken
Died 27th January, 1954
Aged 13 years 

Noel was the son of Hugh Eric and Elsie May Bracken
Rest in Peace. 
Never forgotten.