xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: A retiring sort of chap

Thursday, 13 December 2012

A retiring sort of chap

Ten years ago, on Friday, December 13th, 2002,  I made this speech at my retirement function at the Doubleview Civic Centre.
Like most of my speeches it turned out to be a fairly long winded affair. 
However, it would have been much, much  longer if other speakers had not already mentioned my comings and my shortcomings in Donnybrook, Three Springs and the Scarborough, Swanbourne and Joondalup Education Districts.
Ten year later, Lesley and I now have eight grandchildren and I am still very  happily involved in education with Edith Cowan University and the Western Australian Primary Principals Association. It is only very  part time consultancy work that I do but I really enjoy it and it is keeping "Old Timers' Disease" at bay.

It is ironic that I am here today celebrating 44 years in education because I never wanted to be a teacher.
In my primary years at Christian Brothers Highgate, where I spent 6 of the happiest years of my life, I wanted to be a stage comedian. Up on the stage, singing, dancing, cracking jokes, telling funny stories and making people laugh.
In my secondary years at Aquinas College, where I spent five of the happiest years of my life I wanted to be a journalist but not because I wanted to bring the Truth to the people.My cousin Maurie Carr was just starting his career on the Daily News. On Saturdayafternoons in winter I would go to Perth Oval and there would be Maurie sitting  in the warm press box, out of the wind, the rain and the cold.
At half time he would drink tea or coffee and eat the cream buns, cakes or hot buttered scones provided by the East Perth Ladies Committee. Not only that, he didn't have to pay to get in to the game and, what is more, he was actually being paid good money by the newspaper to go and watch the game.
Now that to me was the perfect job.
However, I was not successful in gaining a cadetship to the West Australian or Daily News and was not sure what to do next.
My mother suggested teaching. She said that in earlier times back in Ireland the family, at one stage, had had seven children who all went in to teaching. I just did not think that teaching was my line of work.
However, in those days students at Teachers College were paid a fortnightly allowance and that was definitely attractive to me. All of my friends were in paid work and I didn't fancy going to university for three or four years and being dependent on my parents.
The allowance was called a Scholarship by the Education Department but it was called The Bond by the students because, if you accepted it, you signed on to teach for one more year than you were paid to study.
I figured I could give teaching three years and then I would get a "Real" job.
I went to Graylands Teachers College where I spent two of the happiest years of my life and met some wonderful people...some of whom are lifelong friends.
One in particular is my good friend Sean Walsh. Sean left teaching many years and is  now Premier Geoff Gallop's Chief of staff. But that is not his main claim to fame.
Oh, no!
Sean and I are the undefeated Bucketball Champions of the world and have been for the last thirty five years.
Those of you unfamiliar with Bucketball can meet Sean and me at the bar afterwards where we  will be signing autographs and only too happy to recount our glorious victory.
Funnily enough, in my second year at Graylands College, the Student Council asked me to be the Editor of the College newspaper, The Klaxon.
So I did get into the newspaper business after all. I had a further taste of the newspaper business in Donnybrook when I was the football writer for the South West Times from 1975 to 1981. In 1979 I became the founding editor of the Donnybrook-Balingup News. It was a freebie published monthly and proved quite popular with the locals.
After I left Donnybrook in 1982, this paper was taken over by the Collie Mail, at that time owned by Robert Holmes a Court, and now published as the Donnybrook-Bridgetown Mail.

In my last weeks at Graylands College I was initially posted to North Inglewood Primary School, however, a few weeks before graduating I received a letter from the Commonwealth Government telling me that I had won the Birthday Ballot and was to report to Campbell Barracks in the following January to do my National Service.

In those days, at the end of the 1950's, "Nashos" consisted of three months of intensive basic training and two years in the Citizens Military Forces. Two of the best years of my life, though I didn't think so at the time.

At Campbell Barracks I was placed in the 3rd Field Regiment of the Royal Australian Artillery.
I was in Number 6 Platoon in Hut 28. Here I struck up a life long friendship with my good friend Tony Jones. Tony had been a student at Claremont Teachers College and our paths had crossed a few times at college.

During my life I have often been able to come up with a quick reply to fit the circumstances but there was one occasion in National Service when Tony set the benchmark for repartee. In Hut 28 when someone snored too loudly it became a practice for four soldiers to get at each end of the offender's bed and carry him out of the hut. Our hut lead directly onto the company parade ground, so the snoring soldier would be placed in the middle of the parade ground. In the morning at Reveille we would watch with much amusement as the bemused and bleary eyed soldier woke and tried to figure out where in the heck he was.

This practice came to the attention of the Commanding Officer. At one of our weekly battalion parades, Regimental Sergeant Major Bandy said that this practice was to cease forthwith. It was a disgrace to the traditions of ANZAC and Australian mateship. It was bringing the army into disrepute and ridicule.

It seems the soldier sleeping in the parade ground could be clearly seen by passengers in cars and busses as they travelled along West Coast Highway. Not an edifying sight, especially, as at the height of summer, most nashos kicked off the bed clothes and were not too particular about wearing pyjamas.

Sergeant Major Bandy informed the troops that anyone guilty of putting a soldier on the parade ground would be surgically removed from some quite useful parts of his anatomy, spend the rest of the training period in close confinement and doing hard labour at the end of which he would be dishonourably discharged. Or words to that effect.

About a week later a fellow named Don Cumber began  snoring fit to wake the dead. He woke me. He woke Tony Jones and quite a few others. We endured it for a few minutes. Then someone said, maybe it was me, " Sergeant Major Bandy will never know who did it."

With that Tony and I and a couple of others jumped out of bed and started taking the snoring sleeper outside. We had just moved out of the door and were heading for the parade ground when we heard "scrunch, scrunch, scrunch.." The dreaded sound of military boots on gravel. Around the corner of Hut 28 came the Officer of the Watch. He was wearing a bright white lanyard that shone in the moonlight. Just behind him was the Sergeant at Arms carrying an upright sabre at arms length. Behind him were two SAS Infantrymen bearing .303 rifles with glistening bayonets attached.
Clearly our little party of bed movers was in big trouble.

"What's going on here?" said the Officer of the Watch. I was petrified. However, before I could throw myself at the feet of the Officer of the Watch and beseech his mercy, Tony, as cool as ice said, "Oh, Sir, some rotten sods have put our friend, Don, out on the parade ground and we are just bringing him back in."

"Very good, carry on" said the Officer of the Watch and led his guard party on to the next row of huts.

Before I finished Nashos I was appointed to Bunbury Central School.
Bunbury. What a hardship post. A beach resort and just a great place to have fun with your friends.
Fortunately, Tony Jones was also posted to Bunbury and later on I met Murray Paddick who was to become another great lifelong friend.

I started teaching the 54 children in Year 4 at Bunbury Central and made a wonderful discovery. I really liked teaching. You see, I could stand in front of the class and sing and crack jokes, do funny tricks, tell funny stories. The children were not stupid. They new it was in their best interests to laugh.
I would wake up each morning and just couldn't wait to get to school to be in front of my captive audience. Fortunately there were some great teachers and a very strong headmaster at Bunbury Central and I gradually picked up a few ideas about teaching.One of the good teachers was my friend, David Ashcroft.

One day a few of us were sitting idly by, engaged as usual  in deep philosophical discussion. I think we were at the Sunday morning session at the Highway Hotel. David, who had been born in England, suddenly stated that he was going to apply for Leave Without Pay so that he could travel to England and see his relatives.

"What a great idea" thought Tony, Murray and I. We will all apply for Leave without Pay, set off with Dave an "Do " Europe.

Dave got his leave but our applications were  knocked back.Of course, at that time there was a shortage of teachers. Especially good teachers like us!
However, we were quite incensed and during the August holidays arranged a meeting with Trevor Lloyd, the Managing Secretary of the Teachers Union to see what he was going to do about it.Well, Trevor, quite rightly, pointed out that the Department was under no obligation to grant leave to everyone and needed to maintain its teaching workforce to cope with all the baby boomers overcrowding the primary schools.

As a result, the three of us decided to resign from the Department and set off  boldly on the adventure of a lifetime.

But not straight away. I figured I would need at least a year to save for the trip.I decided to apply for a transfer back to Perth so that I could spend one year with my family before setting sail. Of course it was also much more economical living at home.

I received a transfer to Koongamia which was in the foothills outside Midland Junction and quite a long way from my parents home in Mt Lawley. The journey each morning took about forty five minutes. Although I enjoyed teaching at Koongamia my mind was pre occupied with travel.
One redeeming feature of the long and boring drive to Koongamia each day centred around the Guildford railway station.

There was a bus stop in front of the station. As I approached it each morning I would often see a beautiful pair of sexy, slender legs sticking out from the side wall of the bus shelter. Naturally I had to stay in the line of traffic and couldn't slow down as I passed the shelter. However, a quick sideways glance showed me that these attractive legs belonged to a beautiful girl who was always smiling and always wearing a pair of enormous sunglasses.

This became a feature of my day. Sometimes the bus shelter was vacant and I would drive on feeling quite let down. On the days when the girl with the beautiful smile and the shapely and slender legs was there it set up my day and I drove on feeling that all was right with the world.

The following year, on January 24, 1962, I sailed to England in the SS Strathnaver. There were six of us in the group, including Tony, Murray and David Ashcroft. We were in a six berth cabin on F deck...two decks below the propeller shaft. We couldn't open the porthole or the sea would rush in. Well that's what we told people who were interested. We told them even if they weren't interested.

We had a ball. The ship was filled with young Aussies and Kiwis off on the grand adventure.
We arrived in England in February and it was impossible to get a teaching job in those days before Relief Teaching was invented. I finished up working as a Cost Clerk for Regent Oil...the English version of ESSO. Murray Paddick also worked there.

Eventually, I obtained a teaching position at a beautiful place called Cookham in Berkshire, right on the Thames between Maidenhead and Henley. Diana Dors lived in a riverside mansion nearby. Sadly I never caught a glimpse of her.

In England in those days teachers were paid monthly and I was really hanging out for my first pay cheque. My life style was rapidly using up all of my meagre savings. One of our friends in London had bumped in to a nurse who we knew from Bunbury. She was living in a flat in Shepherd's Bush with three Australian nursing friends. The flat was actually one complete floor of a large four story Edwardian house in Shepherd's Bush. It contained many rooms and even had access to a flat roof.

My smooth talking mate had managed to move in with these four nurses. So it was no wonder that each Friday I would travel in from Cookham to spend the weekend in London with my mate.

This was the swinging sixties and the living was great...but very expensive.Finally, my first pay cheque arrived. It was actually a thin, long, ribbon like computer printout.At the far left it told me how much I had earned. Then it told me how much tax  had been removed, how much National Health Insurance had been removed, how much superannuation had been removed and how much teachers union fees had been removed. At the far right it told me how much money I was actually allowed to keep. I was staggered to find my month's pay wasn't much more that my fortnightly pay in Australia.

I was mortified. I calculated that it would take me forty years to earn enough to get back to Perth.
Fortunately, Tony Jones had a brother working in Toronto and he had always intended to visit him before heading home. So Tony and I became New Canadians and migrated to Canada.Teaching in Canada was magic.I'd never had so much money in my life.

Funnily enough I taught in the Scarborough District on the lakeshore, east of downtown Toronto
We had great times in Canada with weekend visits to New York, Montreal, Ottawa, Cape Cod, Buffalo, Boston, Niagara Falls and of course the wonderful hinterland of Ontario, which someone told me had 250 000lakes. Most of them extremely picturesque. 

A major highlight was a nine week car trip in the northern summer of 1963 with  Murray, Tony and his brother, Mike, down the east coast to Florida, across through to  New Orleans and San Antonio, down to Mexico City, back into the USA to San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.Then we followed the famed Route 66  to Chicago and back on home to Toronto.

Teachers in Canada didn't get paid over the summer holidays and in my final summer I got a job on Toronto Island as a bar tender at the Queen City Yacht Club. Living on the island was a little like being on Rottnest and I made a lot more money being a bartender than I ever did teaching.

Eventually, at the end of August, 1964, Murray and I headed west to Vancouver we were booked on the SS Iberia. We called at a car yard in Toronto and asked if they needed any cars ferried to the west. They gave us brand new 1964 Chevvy Corvair convertible to deliver to a dealer in Vancouver. We set off, the male equivalent of Thelma and Louise, except we didn't shoot anybody, we didn't steal any food or drive off a cliff. All we had to do was pay for the gasoline and enjoy the scenery as we travelled across the prairies and over the Rockies. We did the trip in an unhurried four days.

After a month in Vancouver we boarded the Iberia in September, 1964, and headed for Fremantle via San Francisco, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Manila, Sydney. Melbourne and Adelaide. We were on board for 42 days.The ship was full of young Aussies returning home and Canadians and Yanks on the start of their big adventure. The cruise of a lifetime.

I arrived back in Perth in November, on a Friday. On the Monday I was offered a job in Broome to fill a sudden vacancy. I told the Education Department's Staff Clerk that, after three years overseas, I had just returned to my family and if I was in Broome I may as well be back in Canada. He promised me that if I took this urgent posting I would get a metropolitan appointment in the new year.

True to his word I finished up at Tranby school in February, 1965. This was to be a life altering experience, because here I met the beautiful Lesley Young.  Tranby was a big school and Lesley and I didn't really meet or become friendly until the latter part of the year. When we started going out I found out that Lesley had started her teaching career at Caversham School. Each morning she would catch the bus at the Guildford Railway Station.

 The Guildford Railway Station!

After three years travelling around the world, God had finally brought me face to face with the girl of my dreams. I knew almost straight away that she was the girl for me. After a lot of persuasion on my part, Lesley (after actually transferring away from Tranby) agreed to be my wife, making me the happiest and luckiest man alive. We  married in August, 1968. Thank you so much Lesley.

I left Tranby in 1969 and spent two years at Mt Lawley where I became one of the first supernumerary teachers when the Department, for the first time, began putting  more teachers into schools than the actual number of classrooms.

As a supernumerary I taught science throughout the school and used to give demonstration lessons to the students from the newly built Mt Lawley  Teachers College.

In 1972 I was invited to join the staff at Graylands College, lecturing in Mathematics and Science. It was great to return to Graylands and see the place still had that friendly spirit.

In 1974 the colleges separated from the Education Department and became the autonomous West Australian College of Education (WACAE) which eventually blossomed into Edith Cowan University. I chose to stay with the Education Department and in 1974 was invited to work in the  Teacher Education Branch as a Liaison Officer. Teachers College autonomy meant that the Education Department now had hundreds of teacher trainees studying in tertiary institutions that it no longer controlled.

My job was to represent the Director General in the five teaching colleges, liaising with the college principals, college bursars, the heads of the professional practice departments and keeping tabs on and assisting the hundreds of "bonded" Education Department students.

It was a great job but I wanted to get back into schools and in 1975 I obtained a special promotion to Donnybrook were I spent 7 of the happiest years of my life as Clem (Combes) has already recalled.
Then it was three happy years in Three Springs, where I was the longest serving principal by far. Prior to my arrival, Three Springs had had 10 principals and acting principals in 12 years.
After that it was Doubleview, where I have spent 18 of the happiest years of my life, working with wonderful teachers, happy smiling faced children and very helpful, hard working and supportive parents.

I shall miss the comradeship and the great fun it was working with the staff at Doubleview. A few weeks ago they put on a wonderful surprise dinner for Lesley and me at the Matilda Bay Restaurant. It wasn't necessary for them to do that, but I really appreciated it and it will be a memory I will treasure forever.

On Tuesday, December 10, we had my retirement assembly at school and the staff again were magnificent in a "Noel Bourke, This is your life" presentation.  I thank all of the staff, including some former staff member that are present here today.

I particularly thank my Deputy Principal and today's MC, Ted King. Ted is a gifted teacher who leaves a big imprint on all his students. He has been my deputy for 17 years and I have really appreciated his support and his enthusiasm over the years. Thank you Ted.

My other great helper in the administration of the school has been our wonderful Registrar, Leonie Ryding. Leonie is also in her 18th year at Doubleview. When she started in 1985 the School Secretary's job was nothing like the complex and responsible role that Registrar's now play in our schools.
Soon after I first became primary principal at Donnybrook Disrict High School in 1975, I attended a meeting in Bunbury. There I met a wise old principal named Geoff Baker who said to me, "Noel, if ever you get to school in the morning and find out that the secretary is sick, or not coming in for some reason or other, then you get straight back in your car and drive home. If you don't, all day long people will come up and ask where things are or how things work or when things should happen and you won't know. And you're the principal."

Fortunately for me Leonie has had very few absences. Thank you, Leonie, for your loyalty, your support and your hard word and for making my job such a pleasure over those 18 years.

I am a very lucky man to be have been born into wonderful family. As I've raised my own family, I have marvelled more and more at the sacrifices and efforts my own parents made to raise my two sisters and me during and after the war years. And, of course, I had two wonderful sisters who appreciated that I was the best brother they ever had.

And now I have my own beautiful family. Lesley has been a magnificent wife and mother and we are both very proud of our beautiful daughters, Jane, Sarah and Emily, our sons in law, Denis Belliveau and Carl Barrett, who are like true sons to us and of course  our beautiful six week old grand daughter, Sophie Emma Belliveau.

Lesley and I are looking forward to learning to be great grand parents to our little treasure. Somebody once said, “Retirement is like holiday in Las Vegas. You want to have as much fun as possible but you're dead scared you'll run out of money." Well, I'm really looking forward to retirement with Lesley and my wonderful family.

I've had great innings with the Education Department, but it is time to go. ...but I have not retired hurt. I have enjoyed it immensely and I take with me wonderful memories and treasured friendships.
Forty years ago, as a young man, I was at Fremantle Harbour, about to board an ocean liner and sail off on a great adventures.I was very sad to be leaving my loving family and friends, but eager and excited to commence my journey into the great unknown.I guess retirement is a bitter sweet experience like that.

I am really looking forward to it.Thank you all so much for coming.

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