Category Archives: Heidelberg

Exhibition: A Brush with Heidelberg

Here I am, writing about other people’s exhibitions and I don’t think I’ve mentioned the exhibition I’m most closely involved with- A Brush with Heidelberg, at the Heidelberg Historical Society closing on Sunday 27 November 2016.


As you would know if you live in Melbourne, Heidelberg has a long connection with artists.  Most famously, the ‘Heidelberg School’ of Australian Impressionists (Roberts, McCubbin, Streeton, Withers etc)  stayed in Eaglemont during the 1890s and painted ‘en plein air’ in Heidelberg and the surrounding districts.  Then, there’s Heide, named for Heidelberg, across the river where John and Sunday Reed attracted modernist painters like Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker and Joy Hester.

But other artists- some well known, others less so- have been attracted to Heidelberg, painting the river and its surroundings and also the quaint village of Heidelberg which somehow retained some of its earlier charm.

This exhibition has reproductions and original paintings of Heidelberg scenes, juxtaposed where possible with photographs of the same vista today.  If you know Heidelberg at all, you’ll see familiar buildings and landscapes, and perhaps learn about the history of the building or the painter.

The exhibition, located at the old courthouse in Jika Street (opposite Heidelberg Gardens) is open on Sundays between 2.00 and 5.00 p.m. Entry is $5.00. The exhibition is on for only a few weeks more, closing at the end of November on Sunday November 27.

And we were delighted to receive a commendation for our exhibition at the 2017 Victorian Community History Awards.


A Call to Peace- Heidelberg Chorale Society


I went to a beautiful concert last night by the Heidelberg Chorale Society.  It was the world premiere of a piece called ‘When the Bugle Calls’ written by Australian composer Nicholas Buc to a libretto by one of the chorale members, Leigh Hay.  It commemorates two battles: the July 1916 battle at Pozieres, and the battle only fifty years later at Long Tan.  The motifs of the bugle, the army chaplain and the nurse combine the two battles, and the spine-tingling final movement asks:

They fought for home and country, not for an empty fame

Ask of your hearts, which shall we do- rejoice or mourn for them?

It’s a strange feeling, knowing that you’re hearing something performed in public for the first time.  It’s a beautiful piece- and you can hear it again at the Melbourne Recital Centre next Saturday 20th August, along with Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace. They sang a couple of pieces from that last night, too, and I realized that I had heard fragments of it before.  It should be a lovely concert and you can find out more about it here.

There’s an associated photographic exhibition at Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar school this week until Thursday 18th in their Hillsley Centre, Noel Street Ivanhoe. Called Cameras at War, it features an exhibition from Bendigo RSL of  WWI images taken by the local Grinton brothers, which were discovered in a biscuit tin in a farm shed ninety years later. These photographs are supplemented by images from Long Tan, including some of the Little Pattie and Col Joye concert that was held that very day (I hadn’t realized that), and photographs from Heidelberg Historical Society showing the military presence on homefront Heidelberg during WWI.  It’s on between 15-18 August inclusive between 10.00 and 3.oo.

Banyule Homestead: Fit for an Ex-PM

We’re about to be invited inside Banyule Homestead for Shaun Micallef’s new 6-part series The Ex-PM, starting on ABC1 on 14 October (tonight). And a thoroughly appropriate setting, I should imagine!

My website on Banyule Homestead still floats around in the ether. Why not pop over and have a look?  It’s at

‘A Camera on Gallipoli & Recollections’ Hatch Gallery until 30 May 2015

Hatch Gallery, 14 Ivanhoe Pde Ivanhoe Tues-Sat 10.00 a.m -5.00 p.m, until 30 May 2015. Free entry

An inordinate number of your taxpayer dollars have been directed towards the commemoration of Gallipoli and there have been many enticements to community groups to participate at a local level in the centenary. Banyule City Council put up its hand and its display will be open until 30 May- so only a couple more weeks to view it.


The HATCH Gallery is a fairly new venture located in a small hall behind the iconic Heidelberg Town Hall in (perversely) Ivanhoe. It is on two levels, as is this exhibition. The ground floor features a travelling exhibition mounted through the Australian War Memorial of the photographs of Sir Charles Ryan, while upstairs is a more localized display of artefacts and stories of local men who enlisted.

Sir Charles Snodgrass Ryan (1853-1926) was a scion of many early Port Phillip pioneers.  His father was Charles Ryan, who along with Peter Snodgrass were part of the ‘Gallant Five’ who helped  capture the Plenty Valley Bushrangers. His maternal grandfather was Joseph Cotton; his uncle, Albert Le Soeuf was the pioneer director of Melbourne Zoo and his sister was the artist Mrs Ellis Rowan.  After starting medicine at the University of Melbourne, he finally qualified through the University of Edinburgh.  While touring Europe and undertaking postgraduate qualifications, he saw an advertisement for medical officers to work for the Turkish government. He  worked in a medical capacity with the Turkish armies in the Turko-Serbian war of 1876 and the Russo-Turkish campaign of 1877-78. He would have only been quite young, and this serves as a reminder to us that the Balkans and Ottoman regions were heavily contested long before World War I.  On return to Australia he was appointed an honorary surgeon at the Royal Melbourne Hospital where, among other patients, he had the care of Ned Kelly to ensure that he faced trial after the Glenrowan siege.  When WWI broke out, he volunteered for the position of Assistant Director of the AIF Medical Service, aged sixty. He took with him his camera and the black and white images in this display are the result.

Perhaps because of his administrative and hence logistic role, many of these photographs show the supplies stacked along the small beach at Anzac Cove. It hadn’t particularly occurred to me that the task of supplying the troops continued during the months that the troops were there. He took photographs of the men in the trenches and swimming at Anzac Cove- it was certainly no Bondi Beach. In many of the photographs, men were sleeping in the trenches in broad daylight. This reminded me of the comment that Peter Cundall made at the ANZAC Eve commemoration I attended that soldiers often slept because of both physical and emotional exhaustion. One of the photographs depicts Lt Col Robert ‘Dad’ Owen, who had fought in the Sudan in 1885 with the NSW contingent and now led the 3rd Battalion at Gallipoli. His son fought in the same battalion and died in Belgium in 1917.

On 24 May 1915 after particularly heavy fighting, the corpses were piling up, rapidly putrifying in the sun. A truce was called and, against orders, Ryan took him camera with him to photograph the bodies. There is a story that he was challenged by Turkish officers who saw his Turkish medals from his youth, but they were mollified and then intrigued when Ryan conversed with them in Turkish (I assume), regaling them with stories of the war that their fathers and grandfathers had fought.


Source: Australian War Memorial site

These truce photographs are disturbing a hundred years later, and would have been even more so at the time, had they become public. In fact, I don’t think that I’ve often seen so many photographs of dead bodies and there is certainly none of the nationalistic ra-ra that makes me uncomfortable about much Anzac commemoration.  You can read historian Frank Bongiorno’s speech in opening this travelling exhibition in Canberra in 2014 here.

Upstairs there is a small theaterette that has a rolling, silent loop of photographic images of the war (although I must confess to feeling somewhat sated by the display downstairs). Another room contains artefacts donated by local families whose grandfathers and great-grandfathers fought during the war with biographical panels alongside.

This is a well-laid out exhibition that combines the national with the very local. It hasn’t really received a great deal of publicity, and given that it closes soon, you’ll need to visit soon to catch it.

Stopping to smell the roses

From my study window, I can see everyone who walks along our street [cue maniacal laughter].  The room has an L-shaped window, so I can watch walkers as they pass several houses either side of me.  Unfortunately for my thesis writing, I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time looking out the window.

I’ve just seen a young man walking past the house across the road.  It has a white picket fence, behind which is a beautiful array of old, multicoloured roses.


He stopped, put his bag down, and smelled the roses.  Then he picked up his bag and kept going.

Somehow I don’t think that anyone will ever stop to enjoy a pebble garden with cordylines.

Vale Jim Keays

Vale Jim Keays. You signed your name on my left wrist about forty years ago, and for weeks and weeks afterwards I kept it there, with the occasional touch-up to keep it legible. I don’t remember ever washing it off- perhaps the summer spelled the end of it, or perhaps it began to look so over-written that it lacked authenticity. When I heard of your death last week, I realized that though the signature has faded, my affection for you hasn’t.


Left -Right: Glenn Wheatley, Jim Keays, Colin Burgess, Doug Ford

You burst into my life at the Banyule High School social, held at Scots Church Hall in Burgundy Street in 1969. Looking back, it must have been the junior social because Scots Church Hall was a small, rather unprepossessing hall where I had bumbled my way through calisthenics two years previously, and it couldn’t possibly have accommodated a school social for a school nearing 1000 students. Nor do I remember the presence of those impossibly cool 4th, 5th and 6th formers who drifted through the corridors so confidently who, had they been there,  would have dominated any whole-school social event.

In your autobiography “His Master’s Voice” you described the mad rush on Friday and Saturday nights between locations at town halls and venues all over Melbourne in a manic round-robin with other bands of the day: Zoot, Town Criers, Axiom etc.. This mid-week gig wasn’t like that: you were the only act on stage and you stayed all night. You’d just released ‘5:10 Man’. And there I was, probably too shy and inhibited to dance, pressed up against the stage watching you gyrate in your skin-tight black leather outfits. In your book, you explained that you saved a fortune by not having your clothes ripped off every night. All I can think of now is that those leathers must have absolutely reeked. It was probably my first exposure to raw adult male sexuality, flaunted so provocatively.


And so began my Tuesday night ritual, walking around to the St James Rd shops to pick up Go Set to find out where your songs were on the charts and what you were up to this week. The St James Rd shops at that time boasted two milk-bars (the ‘top’ milk-bar and the ‘bottom’ milk-bar), a wool shop, a two-aisle grocers, a butcher, a hairdresser and a fruit shop. [Today, beyond a massage centre and a closed reptile shop, it’s all just small offices.] I received 25c pocket money a week, with which I could buy Go Set for 20c and twenty Tarzan jubes at four a cent. I’d walk home slowly, reading Go-Set as I went, with its very wonky printing, manic layout and its columns by Lily Brett and Molly Meldrum. Apparently, a friend tells me, I was enraged enough to write to Molly to take him to task for attacking you- something I have no memory of at all. Occasionally there would be a colour poster, and it would join the other pictures of you that I had sticky-taped onto the inside of my wardrobe door because I wasn’t allowed to sticky-tape pictures to the wall lest I damage the pink paint.

You’d appear on television, all decked out in your leathers, miming away to your own songs on Up-Tight and Happening 70, shambolic four-hour shows on a Saturday morning that became a much-missed feature once I got a Saturday-morning job at a hardware store.

I joined the Masters Apprentices fan-club and each afternoon arrived home from school hoping that there would be a newsletter. There rarely was, although when one finally did arrive, it was a bulky, typewritten, black-and-white roneo-d and stapled production that gave much pleasure. At one stage ‘Denise, Di and Mrs G.’ put on a function at their house in the eastern suburbs somewhere (Bayswater maybe?) and what seemed like hundreds of girls crammed into their small house, spilling out into the backyard with a fibro garage. Some time later there was another function, this time at Croydon Park, and this time I achieved my dearest wish- you kissed me (along with hundreds of other clamouring fans).


I bought your 45s as soon as they were released and eagerly awaited your L.P. Masterpiece – the first full-price  ($5.95) L.P I ever purchased (having been lured until then by the K-Tel Happening Hits compilations). But I must admit that a little bit of the magic must have been fading by now. I can remember listening to the track ‘Titanic’, with the unforgettable chorus

Ti-tan- IC! Ti-tan- IC! Ti-tan- IC!

The unsinkable sank.

The sound of bubbles being blown into a glass of the water as the song faded out was a whimsical touch that even then struck me as rather ridiculous.

Then you went to England, and although Go-Set continued to report on you, you sailed out of my life. But I still always followed your career, and was delighted to re-encounter you at Melbourne Zoo as part of Cotton, Keays and Morris, and again right in my own home territory at Sills Bend, just down the street from that Scots Church gig some forty years earlier. By now you were one of the elder statesmen of the 1970s rock scene, and performing in combination with Darryl Cotton (now also deceased) and Russell Morris (who just keeps getting better and better), I think that I was more appreciative of your talent than I ever was at the time.  You’ve been ill for a number of years, but still rocking on, almost right to the end.  You recently described your music as ‘garage punk’ and I look back at myself in wonder that I could ever have enjoyed such a genre.

So, thank you Jim Keays. My fourteen-year-old self adored you; my fifty-something self admires you,  and we both regret your passing.



Off to the Anzac Day footy

It’s a beautiful, 20 degree late autumn Anzac Day, so off to the footy we go….

No, not that confected, corporate spectacle at the MCG- we’re off to the REAL footy down at Warringal Park with the Heidelberg Tigers playing the Northcote Park Cougars.


Real footy. Where ‘the boys’ are all called Johnno and Jacko.  Where the numbers on the backs of jumpers go up to 71.  Where the cars still front-park around the oval and horns are tooted when a goal is kicked.  Where a bloke does his hammy and has to hobble off the field alone clutching the back of his leg, sit on the sidelines for a minute or two, then limp off to sit on the bench without a single trainer or physio [are any such people even attending?] in sight.


Real footy.  Where at half time and three quarter time everyone streams onto the ground to have a bit of kick-to-kick or to crowd around to hear what the coach has to say.  Where the little league kids form a line and clap the team back onto the ground after half-time, before they go up to get a sausage and a drink, “only after yer tell Mum and Dad where y’are!”  Where the winning tickets for the slab of beer and the meat tray are displayed on the scoreboard, and the winner can pick them up at the bar. Where kids ride their bikes around the outside of the oval, where dogs are tethered on leads attached to the fence, where you can get a snag in bread for $2.50 and a VB that doesn’t come in a plastic cup.

You remember, real footy.   Go Tiges!!