Tap dancing and african drumming in Abbotsford

Snap! by Lauri Apple, a temporarily New Yorker and law student.

I put what success I have had in my career down to the claim on my curriculum vitae that I was the co-founder of the Melbourne University African Drumming Club. As far as I know, that is still going strong. And having travelled through West Africa to Timbuktoo, and listened, entranced to a guy singing along to the accompaniment of his own kora playing in a petrol station in Dakar, I read with particular interest in The Age today about the African drumming and dance academy within a couple of hops of my house, in Hoddle St, Abbotsford: Continue reading “Tap dancing and african drumming in Abbotsford”

Two nuns formerly of Abbotsford Convent get a big interview in The Age

The Age has a big full page spread today on the Convent in general, Catherine Kovesi’s book on the history in Australia of its Sisters of the Good Shepherd, and in particular, two former nuns, Sister Monica Walsh who entered the order aged 18 in 1963 and Sister Noelene White, neither of whom these days live in nunneries or wear habits but are, nevertheless, still nuns. There have been no additions to the order in the past 20 years. It’s really worth a read; I commend it to you.

Abbotsford Man wins Australia Day Award for Lentil as Anything

Shanaka Fernando (left), Lentil As Anything‘s founder, is celebrating winning the Metropolitan Local Hero Award in the Australian of the Year Awards, 2007. According to the Herald Sun, he was last year living in a tent on the Elwood foreshore. His is an interesting life. He was raised a buddhist in a wealthy Sri Lankan family and came to Australia in 1989 to study law. He founded Lentils after travellling extensively through Africa, Asia, and South America. More about him anon.

Growing Up in Collingwood 1934-1955; A Memoir by John Ventura

On Monday I was frustrated again when I headed down to Babka for lunch. It was closed too.  Still hungry, I was diverted by Grub St Bookstore, where the genial bookseller looked very pleased when I asked him if he had any books on the history of Collingwood. He went out the back and returned with Growing Up in Collingwood, an A4 paperback self-published by John Ventura last year. It looks like a bloody brilliant social history. It is so unedited, so full of graphic design faux-pas, that it positively vomits authenticity. It has many photos, and the most classic hand-drawn diagrams of the author’s favourite childhood haunts, his family’s residence above the family fishmonger at 262 Jhonston St, and the like.

Ventura was schooled at St Euphrasia in the Abbotsford Convent:

“Sometimes we ordered our lunch via a brown paper bag with lunch money enclosed and our order and name written on teh bag. These were sent to the milk bar around the corner opposite the Yarra Falls knitting mill. At 12 o’clock, the bell would ring and we would all stand up to say the Angelus prayer. After dismissal, we all raced down to the milk bar to collect our lunch.”

He used to go to the first Coles Store, and to Foy & Gibson’s on Smith St:

“G.J. Coles’ first variety store opened in 1914 and in 1919 they advertised nothing over 2/6. I remember the glass tops over the goods displayed, probably stop us kids pinching things. Mum bought my stationery here and I also scored a metal frog that made a clicking noise. Remember those?

I think next door to Coles was the large retailer ‘Foy & Gibson’s’ a quality trader who begain in 1891. They made goods in a factory and mill complex between Wellington and Smit Streets. They had a variety of goods, Manchester, clothing, furniture, leather goods, soft furnishings, hardware, books, toys and sweets.

It was just magic for a 6-year-old to wander through the store. I well remember the systems of overhead cables in Foy and Gibson’s when you bought something, the sales assistant would place the money and docket into a brass container. This was then fitted into a bracket hanging from the cable. A quick flick and the container was propelled along the carrier to the upstairs office where the money was removed, checked, and the change and receipt returned by the same process. Meanwhile your purchase was wrapped neatly with string and your change refunded.”

John Wren Exhibition at Federation Square Reviewed by The Age; An excellent ABC transcript about Wren’s Tote

Here is an article by John Harms in The Age which, if not quite a review of the Wren exhibition at the Victorian Racing Museum, is at least prompted by his visit to it, and is well worth a read.

Details: John Wren 1871-1953 – Glory Glory Glory, Champions – Australian Racing Museum and Hall of Fame, Federation Square, daily until January 31, 2007. Adults $8, concession $5, family $20.

And here is a little piece Michael Cathcart did on the ABC’s Rewind programme about Wren, Hardy, and the (and you will see where I stole the photo from). Extracted below is a lovely evocative passage about just how the police-proofing of the Tote was achieved: Continue reading “John Wren Exhibition at Federation Square Reviewed by The Age; An excellent ABC transcript about Wren’s Tote”

Barry Dickins to talk on Squizzy Taylor: 16 November 2006

Barry Dickins is to speak about Squizzy Taylor on at the Collingwood Library on Thursday 16 November 2006 at 6.30 p.m. (bookings 1300 650 444). The library is in Abbotsford, next to Collingwood Town Hall on Hoddle St and Collingwood Station. Dickins’s play “Squizzy Taylor” has apparently just completed a successful season at the Carlton Courthouse Theatre, but I missed it. I’m glad it was successful because this lover of Smith St sounded a bit down on the writing side of things in this article. Joseph “Squizzy” Taylor was born in 1888 and shot dead in 1927, aged 39, having married at St James’s Fitzroy, committed murder at Glenferrie Station in 1923, and died at St. Vincent’s after a Carlton shootout. According to the brilliant online edition of the Australian Dictionary of Biography:

“Between 1913 and 1916 Taylor was linked to several more violent crimes including the murder and robbery of Arthur Trotter, a commercial traveller, the burglary of the Melbourne Trades Hall, in which a police constable was killed, and the murder of William Patrick Haines, a driver who refused to participate in the hold-up of a bank manager at Bulleen. Taylor was tried for the murder of Haines and found not guilty. Although rarely convicted after 1917, Taylor remained a key figure in an increasingly violent and wealthy underworld. His income came from armed robbery, prostitution, the sale of illegal liquor and drugs, as well as from race-fixing and protection rackets. With Paddy Boardman, he conducted an efficient and lucrative business in rigging juries, a service of which he made regular use. …

‘Squizzy’ was a colourful figure in the drinking and gambling clubs of Fitzroy, Richmond and Carlton. A dapper little man who dressed loudly, he strutted through the courts, race-courses and theatres. While hiding from the police, he wrote letters and verse to the press. Yet he had few redeeming qualities. Taylor won lasting notoriety by imitating the style of American bootleggers; he never matched their influence or immunity from the law, and at the time of his death could no longer command fear or loyalty from the underworld.”

Racing Victoria’s John Wren exhibition

The Good Ol’ Age has alerted me to the fact that from 7 September 2006, the Victorian Racing Museum in Federation Square is holding an exhibition about John Wren, pictured, at one time Australia’s richest man. Born in Collingwood in 1871, he died in Fitzroy in 1953 aged 82, having lived across the river in Kew, in what is now Xavier’s junior school, Burke Hall (then Studley House), a man who would have been an avid reader of Abbotsford Blog (but not its reviews of pubs and bars, for he was a teetotaller) had he only lived to see the day. He had toured the virtuosic violinist Fritz Kreisler, set up an opera company, owned The Criterion restaurant opposite St Paul’s, built a racecourse in Richmond, supposedly given two million pounds to charity over 5 years, bet his life savings on a legendary Melbourne Cup winner, Carbine, owned the 1904 Caulfied Cup winner, Murmur, built a public pool on the Yarra at Abbotsford, preferred the Collingwood Football Club to the Melbourne Club, and promoted boxing and cycling. What else he did besides is a matter of some controversy, though he did get right up the nose of my relative, Bill Judkins (one of Keith Dunstan’s favourite wowsers). The Judster was a Methodist lay preacher who, according to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, saw “Wren, drink, gambling and Catholicism all combined into one terrible evil.” Short, bandy and sharp-featured, the Wrenster and the Judster were apparently frequently mistaken for one another to their mutual embarrassment. Continue reading “Racing Victoria’s John Wren exhibition”