Who Am I?

If you can guess who this person is, just leave your answer by clicking on ‘comment’ below… if you get it right you can win a free Alumni subscription for a year (worth $20!)… yes… we are the last of the big spenders! 

Note: Committee members are ineligible to enter, financial members can nominate a friend to get the free subcription….  good luck

Clue 1:

Primary school at St Josephs, Numurkah

Clue 2:

My favourite classes at school were Maths & Science and I was really appreciative of the super dedication of teachers Ian Woodgate and Steve Mitchell.

Clue 3:

I did work experience at the CSIRO

Clue 4:

For further clues… click on ‘comment’ below….

Remembering the February 7 Firestorm

– by Daryl Taylor – Year 1978

This is a lengthy read, but a great one, so make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, settle back and enjoy…..
We first moved up to Kinglake from St. Andrews, on September 8 nearly 8 years ago, 3 days before 9/11. It is etched in my memory. We were still shifting in, and I’d just hooked up the T.V. I’d had a broken nights sleep and in a stupor flicked on the box at 4:00am. I watched, incredulous, as CNN replayed the vision of the first tower being hit.

20 years ago I traveled around the states with my mate Mick and spent time in New York City. Mick, an actor, moved there to work off Broadway and make movies.

I’ve come to realise there are interesting parallels between the Feb 7 Firestorms and the Sept 11 Terrorist attacks.

New York is a tough town; at least it was in 1990. No one ever looked you in the eye. Everyone was intent on getting where they were going in the shortest time and with a minimum of hassles. One did not feel a whole lotta love in the city. The incredible outpouring of emotion after their disaster, and the wonderful displays of courage, caring and conspicuous humanity were at odds with New Yorkers pre-9/11 experiences.

When people ask me what it was like in the fires, the thing that recurs is the profound experience of community in the aftermath. Out of the charred rubble arose raw human emotion and an unprecedented willingness to help each other out. The fire melted away entrenched differences and old rivalries. We embraced each other as one community. I have never had so many hugs.

Our area has a history of among the highest rainfall in the state (though there was no evidence of this in the weeks and months leading up to Feb 7). We bought a small mud brick cottage about 500 metres from the centre of town on the south side of the ridge. Our home was surrounded by tall Mountain Ash, Stringy Bark, Manna and Peppermint Gums. Under the canopy, grew luscious temperate rainforest tree ferns.

We regularly traversed the short distance to the Kinglake National Park. Every day we encountered possums, wombats, wallabies, kangaroos and lyrebirds. Occasionally we’d see a phascogale or an echidna or hear the bellow of a koala far below. The treetops and early mornings resounded with bird song.

Three years ago we had our initial experience of fire. Bushfires were raging in the state forests and national parks to the north. The Bureau of Meteorology had forecast a hot dry day with wind gusts expected to exceed 120km/hr. We battened the hatches.

The state government and the CFA acted quickly. There were 67 fire trucks parked in the open space between the Kinglake Bakery and the CFA Fire Station. Elvis and his companion fire dousing helicopter hovered overhead.

My father, Ian, brought us a back-up mobile water tank and pump from the Strathmerton Lions Club. My partner Lucy took our daughter Maggie to the house of a close friend in Hurstbridge. Ian and I waited, well-hydrated and well-prepared, but still anxious, while the fires lapped at the northern edge of town.

Circumstances conspired to save us and our town in 2006. A strong southerly change blew in after three long days and nights of hyper-vigilance. The predicted hot northerly didn’t eventuate.

Instead a strong southerly brought rain … relief … and some long overdue sleep.

We’d all heard the unprecedented dire warnings early in the preceding week … first from the Bureau of Meteorology … on Thursday from the CFA, and then on Friday from the Premier … 46 degrees and very strong hot northerly winds. After nearly two weeks of 40 plus temperatures, and ten years of extended El Nino drought, the stage was set for the worst fire conditions in living memory.

We learned subsequently that Victoria’s Fire Risk Warning System kicks in with Total Fire Bans at 50 points. The conditions we endured on Black Saturday, were nudging 250 on the same scale. Until now, no thought had been given to a warning system for Catastrophic Fire Risk.

The same late southerly that brought rain and spared Kinglake in 2006, was to obliterate our community in 2009.

We were fairly well organised. We spent Saturday making final preparations. Raking leaves away from our house, watering the garden, plugging up and filling all the gutters, filling buckets, wetting towels and mop-heads, sealing doorways and windows, checking the pumps, listening intently to the 774 ABC Radio updates. Our concrete water tank was two-thirds full. We agreed we had enough water. Earlier in the week, my wise father had traveled up from Strathy to check and fix our main fire pump.

About 2:30 Les, a close neighbour and fellow community fire-guard member, dropped over to ensure we knew it was time to activate our fire plan.

We’d all heard there were fires around Kilmore. All our CFA trucks and volunteer fire fighters had left the mountain to help protect Wallan, which is 55 km below us to the south-west on flatland. A hot northerly was blowing. We hadn’t fathomed we might be at risk. Not once had the radio mentioned Kinglake. Any fire would have to cross the Hume Highway. Below us to the south-west was a lot of open space and grazing farmland and many sparse cleared new urban-fringe residential estates.

Around 5:00pm the southern skyline began to fill with great plumes of smoke.
We looked at each other. Was the wind changing?

We paused and listened … there were more cars than usual out on Main Road. People were evacuating!

At fireguard meetings, we’d all agreed that the prospect of a fire from the south was frightening beyond imagination. But there had never been a major fire from the south. We are only about 20 miles from the edge of the city. Beyond our forest lie the suburbs. Given enough warning we all agreed we would evacuate.

The Kinglake Ranges escarpment sits above Strathewen and St Andrews. The 15km former goat track up from St. Andrews has 187 bends and is a favourite among mountain cyclists and hell for leather motor bike riders. It was the training route of choice among Commonwealth Games cycling teams in the lead up to the Melbourne Games in 2006. We are at the beginning … or the end … of the Great Dividing Range. Our ridge, we call it “the mountain” rises up 70 degrees in places, and some 1600 feet, from the verdant river valleys below.

The sky was orange. Lucy’s car was still at Jodie and Duncan’s place after dinner and a few too many drinks the night before. We picked up Lucy’s car. She started loading it with precious possessions and clothing. I got up on the roof to get a better view of what was unfolding. There was no fire below, but the sky looked ominous. We argued about what we should do. We were ready to protect the house and each other, but a fire roaring up from the mountain from the south was an unprecedented risk. We were in completely new territory.

A good friend, Anna, phoned Lucy. She lived less than a kilometre away. She was pregnant and at home with her partner Will and two year old toddler Ollie. She asked us what we were going to do. Lucy wanted to go over to Anna and Will’s place, rationalising there was safety in numbers. I followed Lucy in my car. I didn’t have much petrol so I went via the service station to fill up, just in case. I was fourth in line when the power went out. Smoke had descended on Kinglake.

Headlights on high beam, I drove my car home and then joined Lucy at Will and Anna’s to quickly nut out a revised plan of action. I stepped inside their front door and was handed a wet towel. “Seal all the doorways” Anna ordered, “We’ve still got a hell of a lot of work to do.”

And then it started, embers began pummeling the roof and the south-facing house front.

The firestorm had begun.

Lucy and I looked at each other. We knew we weren’t going to get back to our place. I looked at my mate Will. He was distracted and obviously very scared. We all were!

“Get the kids and Anna into the back room.” “Grab the carpet rugs and make a shelter.” “Wet yourselves down.” “Put on long pants and jumpers … now!” “‘Maggie, please look after Ollie” “Keep him down low … just like they told you at school.” “Is there water in the bath?” “Where’s your pump?” ‘Where are the hoses?” “Have you got any mops or hessian bags?” “Seal all the windows quickly … and the doors!” There was a hail of anxious questions, instructions and embers.

The sky had turned black. It was midnight in the middle of the afternoon. I looked out the front window to the south and was momentarily transfixed by the beauty of the circling bright red glowing embers, ubiquitous and incessantly searching for a vulnerable place to infiltrate the house’s defenses and satisfy their increasing desire for fuel. It was as if we were inside the nucleus of an atom looking out at electrons dancing around us.

I shut the heavy curtains and ran to help Will with the pump. The noise was intense, much louder than standing on the tarmac in front of a jet engine. The little shack next door was ablaze and fire had entered the east side of the house through the laundry window. The rafters were alight and there was a wall of fire between us and the pump. Try as might we couldn’t even get out to the pump to pull the cord to set it in motion. Not that it would have made much difference anyway. Anna and Will’s three plastic water tanks, which I’d helped them install six months earlier, had all melted.

There was now no water other than the six inches or so left in the bottom of the bath. We re-soaked every available towel and filled every vessel at hand as the fire took over the laundry and the bathroom and entered the roof cavity. Lucy saw a wall of flames outside Ollie’s bedroom and hastily escorted Maggie and Ollie from Ollie’s back bedroom through the hallway into the open lounge area, where they re-constructed their makeshift protective structure – a couch on its side acting as a barrier, covered by saturated heavy woven floor rugs.

None of us have any conception of how much time passed while we were defending the house. We acted in concert and in flow. There was no time for thoughts or conversation. The most urgent tasks just got done. Cooperation and responsiveness to simple non-verbal cues and constantly changing conditions was profound. With the hall door shut between us and the fire, we were now in the last remaining refuge.

Fire lapped the clerestory windows to the north. Then the kitchen window. Will and I battled to keep them at bay. To put this fire out we would have to venture outside. The laser-light verandah was on fire too. We looked at each other in our ill-fitting wet tea towel masks and headed for the back door. The melting laser-light dripped on top of us as we hacked at the fire with our bathroom towels. It was too hot and too dangerous to keep this up for very long. We retreated to the house. 

It dawned on us that we had survived outside. We weren’t going to be able to shelter in what was left of Anna and Will’s house for much longer. I looked out to the south through the front window. Lucy’s 1983 Laser ‘Tink’ was miraculously still intact. Deciduous trees on the left of the driveway had buffered her from the worst of the fire. The next door neighbour’s collection of vintage Saabs had all perished. It was obvious it was much safer on the south side of the house, or in the car, than out the back or inside. I looked to Anna and Will. For the first time they both realised they were going to lose their house. When I suggested it was time to evacuate, they looked at each other for a moment, then down to Ollie and Maggie under the couch. Will lifted Ollie to his chest. I grabbed Mag. We were off.

Lucy’s car started first go. Will and Anna’s car although badly damaged had been sheltered by their carport. Miraculously it started too. I reversed out so fast I nearly drove backwards over the embankment six feet above the road below. I heard my father’s voice reciting one of his oft repeated mantras ‘Less haste, more pace.”

A poorly executed 5 point turn saw us out of the access road and on to Main Road. There were burnout cars and burning buildings everywhere. “Let’s head for the open space beside the pub in front of the CFA,” Lucy suggested. We did! Will, Anna and Ollie followed. We rounded the corner into Main Street. The General store and Service Station were already gone. Cappa Rossi’s Italian Restaurant was gutted. We were all running on adrenaline and in shock as we watched our town burning around us.

We looked to the end of the street. It is a rare occasion indeed when I can’t get a park in front of the Pub. The street was strewn with burnt out and crashed cars. Beyond the chaos, people were assembling in front of the CFA. The Sharps land, a large open allotment next door to the Mountain Monthly publishing offices was already filled with cars. A curious mix of those who had tried to ride out the firestorm in their cars and those, who like us, had escaped their burning houses in the nick of time.

The air was full of smoke, so it was only in their cars where people could draw some fresh air. A man in a fluoro vest was directing traffic. There had been more than enough accidents, understandable given that panic had been the predominant emotion. We were escorted to one of the few remaining spaces. We quickly jumped out and our eyes darted around to see if other close friends had survived. “Have you seen Sue?” “What about Simon and Tracy?” “Has heard anything about Duncan?”

Never had we been so glad to see people who we hardly knew. We embraced mere acquaintances, sinking into their arms and feeling the life and love reverberating from much relieved hearts. Our bonds were now life-long, having survived what was to later to become known as the worst natural disaster in our nation’s history.

I kissed Lucy and hugged Maggie, saying “I’ll be back in a few minutes.’ Lucy knew where I was going. I had to see how our house had fared. I didn’t realise when I left her that it would take another 20 hours before the last of the flames that had entered our ceiling, after a smouldering ember sat too long on the mud brick window ledge above our shower and adjacent to a red gum weight bearing post, would finally be extinguished.

Yesterday I had lunch with Christine Nixon and members of the Victorian Bushfire Recovery and Reconstruction Authority she chairs. I was elected last week at an Australian Electoral Commission endorsed Community Ballot to be part of the Kinglake Ranges Representative Group that will facilitate community engagement and community communications and consultation with the various local, state, federal and non-government bodies involved in rebuilding our community.

I hope when our work is finally complete, we are able to state with confidence that we have made the best of a terrible situation. I hope the spirit of cooperation engendered in the immediate period after the fires will carry on into our communities’ negotiations with Council, Government, Business and ‘Not for Profit’ peak bodies.

Today we head down to Diamond Creek for the last of the Kinglake Memorial Services. This one is for Mac and Neve Buchanan, a friend of my eight year old daughter Maggie.

Thank you to everyone in Moira Shire who has inquired about our welfare through Ian, Nancy and Heather. Your kind thoughts and generous gifts have been a great consolation to Lucy, Maggie and I throughout this most trying of times.

Reunion 1989-1994 Group

This group is planning a reunion on the 6th & 7th June 2009 (long weekend).  The Saturday arrangements are a 3 course dinner (at The Mary McKillop Centre St Joseph Primary School Numurkah)  and the College will open briefly on the Sunday for people to have a look and reminisce the good and the bad…  Sunday will also be a family day so we can casually get together over lunch and meet all our families .   A fantastic walk down memory lane.  Nicole Watson (maiden name Austin) is planning the weekend and can be contacted on 0438623701 or ndkaca@bigpond.com for further details.

1993-1998 Reunion

This group held a gathering on Saturday 6th December 2008 at the Shamrock Hotel in Numurkah @ 7pm.  Skye Kirne was the organiser and she can be contacted on 0437 086 063 if you don’t want to be left out of the next gathering.  Skye can also be found on Facebook if you want to look her up that way….

Christie News


We were recently holidaying in Egypt and while there visited El Alemain, as this was where my grandfather served with the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force during WWII.

While paying our respects in the Allied War Cemetery, I happened to pass by the grave of one VX48605 Captain J.S. Christie. As a past student of NSC the name rang a bell and I snapped a photo, unsure if it was the one and the same. On returning home and looking up the service record, I was surprised and pleased to find it was!

Please see attached photo, I’m happy to report that the cemetery was very well looked after, though so far from home.

Cheers, Cameron Patrick, Class of 1997

Cossens, Margaret (Watts) – Memories

In 1953 I began my HS education – easy transition, as we came to the same building:

  • HS rooms were the 4 rooms at the front of the Primary School facing Quinn St
  • Room 1: the Music room, because the piano was here, though it was a general classroom.  Music was actually “ “singing; Mr Terrill taught us many songs, and when I joined the School Choir we practised here.
  • Room 2: The Library – 2 or 3 bookcases at the back of a classroom.  I often borrowed 2 books a day, reading through recess and lunch and on the bus, and usually finished them both to return them the next day.
  • Room 3 – general classroom – I spent a lot of time here in Forms 1 and 2
  • Room 4: Science room
  • An army hut at the front of the school opposite the tennis courts and the Methodist manse was divided into the Needlework, Art and Commercial rooms, while Cookery was taught in a stand alone building which is now incorporated into the Library wing and is used for Art. 
  • A 2nd building, now demolished, was the Woodwork and Metalwork rooms. 
  • Of course, Cookery and Needlework were girls’ subjects and Woodwork/Metal for the boys.

One of my most vivid memories was learning to dance on the quadrangle facing Grey St.  Mr Nicol and Miss Moore (now Mrs Joan Guymer) armed with a portable record player, taught us the Barn Dance, Pride of Erin, Foxtrot and Waltz.

The School Social, held in the Town Hall at end of each term, was, of course, the reason for this activity.  We used to get dressed up after tea and ride back to the bus stop to catch the bus – no supervision, but the bus driver’s word was law and I think the most exciting thing that ever happened was that a few of the Form 4 students had a “snog” on the way home.  Actually, my brother John had a good technique – he’d sit with one girl and if she got off before him, he’d survey the remaining girls and invite another one to sit with him.

In Form 1 and 2 I was paddling along in the middle of the class academically, but found Maths totally benumbing, finally gaining my worst ever mark in my Report Book, 32%.  I persuaded Mum to come in to see Mr Rogers to request I go into 3C, the Commercial stream, the following year.  He was concerned that I might suffer later by not having French or Science, because they disappeared along with the Maths in 3C.  However, assured that I had no academic pretensions, Mr Rogers allowed me to change into 3C in 1955, and I blossomed academically!  Without the fear of Maths hanging over me I found the work enjoyable.  I think Shorthand became my “language” and Arithmetic, which I had previously regarded as another sort of Maths, was now achievable.  From Form 3 I was dux of my form every year.

Form 3 was an interesting year, as the new building was being erected on Tocumwal RD.  In Term 2, the two Form 6 girls, Anne Gladstone and Pam Farrell, Form 4C, John’s class, and my form moved into the C wing of the school, and building of the school continued around us.  We had all our general subjects and Shorthand and Typing here and were bussed to the old building for the Practical subjects.  The teachers made their own way at first –  Pam Farrell’s school magazine account tells it like it was!.

At this time and the following year, when all students moved to the school, though the Art and Gym were still to be built, the grounds were a sea of mud in winter and baked hard in summer.  Ghastly portable toilets were reached over duckboards, but finally, in 1957, the school, the only one to be completely built to its full plan, was opened.  I remember the opening vividly, as my Form 5 Domestic Science class had to cook the lunch, and as the official party was taking their seats in the dining room, we were dishing up pea soup.  To our horror, were didn’t have any soup for the final plate. Without getting flustered, Miss Richardson grabbed a saucepan of peas, strained some of the cooking water into the plate and said, “Don’t serve this to any of the staff; the visitor who gets it will be too polite to say anything.”

I was fortunate enough to gain a Junior and later Senior Scholarship each year from Form 3, but I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do.  I never gave Uni a thought; my real interest was in being a Librarian, but I knew Mum and Dad couldn’t afford to put me through the course, let alone pay for my board.  Then an Education Dept officer spoke to the scholarship holders in I think Form 4, and mentioned that after a 2 year PS training course, top students had the chance to complete a Librarian’s course.  I had my name down for that immediately, without discussing it with anybody, but Mum approved and so did Dad, though he said nothing to me.  Mum told me later that I was the 1st person in his family to go on to Tertiary training, and the 2nd in hers. I was awarded a Studentship at the end of Form 6.

It was really only in the senior school that I became friendly with a number of students.  In Primary school I spent some time with Elizabeth Ellis and in High School I was saved by palling up with Pam Cherry, the daughter of the headmaster at Katunga PS.  When she left I experienced real loneliness, but gradually the girls in Form 5 and 6 became my close friends.  Form 6 was a wonderful year, taking subjects I loved (English, Literature, Aust. History and Geography and Commercial Principles & Practice).  Mr McKean suggested I do this, noting that I could go to Uni if I didn’t get into T P T C and do Commerce.  I sat in the back of his Form 5 class and worked on my own with his input when it was needed.

The 4 girls in Form 6, Glenda Hooper, Wilma Martin, Pam Johnson and I had a lot of fun together.  We were elected Prefects and enjoyed the responsibility, and the freedom of the Prefects’ Room, and bossed the only boy in the year unmercifully.

I passed all my subjects and entered Coburg Teachers College the following year.  With a Studentship, I was paid $7 a week, and a living away from home allowance of another $7 – wealth indeed to a girl who never received any pocket money, just spending money when I went out.  I was boarding at Moreland Hall, a Methodist Girl’s Hostel which had been a girls reformatory the year before – but that’s another story!

Class of 1956

Numurkah High School 1956 Class Reunion.  Saturday, 27th March, 2010

Our 2nd Class Reunion will be held at The Olive House Restaurant, G. V. Hwy, Kialla, from 10.30am till 4.30pm.  Please keep this date free to join us for a midday meal.  Mail outs are going out now.  If you missed out please call Wendy Gilchrist 03 58269593 & Elaine Trickey 03 58662658.  Partners are most welcome and bring along your old  photos, etc.

For Returnees still about on the Sunday 28th,  you are encouraged to join with other past students and staff and attend a casual get together at the Numurkah Secondary College (BYO eats & drinks –BBQ supplied).   Organised annually on the last Sunday in March by the Past Students Club for the benefit of all past students, staff, and their partners.   The College will be open and  tours will be arranged.  A great way to conclude your weekend of memories.

Article from “The Numurkah Leader” June 11 2008

“The Numurkah Secondary College’s class of 1956 held a reunion at the Olive House Restaurant in Kialla on the last weekend of March (2008).  The two organisers, Wendy Gilchrist and Elaine Trickey, said 26 former students attended the reunion and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

“It was just the best time,” the women said.

“We had several apologies and some others, mainly local, didn’t come for unknown reason, but we had such a good time we’ve decided to hold another one at the end of March in 2010.  So those who missed out this time can come to the next one”.  Wendy and Elaine beamed.

They said some travelled from Queensland, the Mornington Peninsula, and Bairnsdale in Gippsland, as well as the local area.

If other classmates want to find out more about the 2010 reunion they can contact Wendy on 58269593 or Elaine on 58662658.

Photo’s will be posted sometime in the future (I hope!).  If you attended the Reunion and would like to leave some comments.. please feel free….