New England's History

Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Monday, November 12, 2018

The folk tradition in Australia's New England - a methodological note

New England folk group, The Horton River band, 1997. Dave Game, Mark Rummery, Chris Sullivan, Lionel O'Keefe. Photo: Bob Bolton

My current series of columns in the Armidale Express is a preliminary exploration of New England's folk traditions. I wandered into this area almost by accident. I had been picking up references to various elements in the folk tradition. Then while I was reading Russel Ward's autobiography, A Radical Life (Macmillan, South Melbourne 1988), I came across the story of champion clog dancer Harry Macklin Shaw. I knew of Russel's interest in Australian folk songs, he taught me, but had never heard of Shaw. My attention was caught, and I decided to try to pull together some material on folk traditions with a special focus on New England.

I did so with some caution. I am not especially musical, I am a very bad dancer and also knew enough to know that the area was something of a mine field. Still, I pushed ahead and now find that all my reservations had substance! Just understanding different forms of dance is itself itself a significant challenge.To help me, I decided to do a methodological note to supplement the columns.

The note itself is a work in progress, a placeholder for recording material, ideas and issues as I go along. So I will post some initial stuff now and then update it on a weekly basis as I go along. Later when I bring the necessarily short columns up on the blog, this post will provide supplementary information.


My columns have a special but not exclusive focus on the Northern Tableands. However, my broader focus remains on the broader New England, the tablelands and the surrounding river valleys.

At this point, I am focusing on the post European settlement period,  The deep and extensive Aboriginal folk tradition is a different story, although there are later interlinks between the two.


As normally understood, the folk tradition is an oral and demonstration tradition, one in which knowledge and skills in things such as song, dance, music or children’s games pass directly from person to person. This simple definition includes a number of problems.

To begin with, who are the folk?  Wikipedia, for example, defines a folk museum as "a museum that deals with folk culture and heritage. Such museums cover local life in rural communities. A folk museum typically displays historical objects that were used as part of the people's everyday lives."  So rural and local, excluding urban communities. This narrow definition is reflected to some degree in the discussion on folk traditions where the folk are thought of in terms of working and especially rural people as compared to those in the middle and upper classes and especially those who live in metropolitan areas.    

However, Wikipedia also defines folklore in a way that is much broader:
Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions common to that culture, subculture or group. These include oral traditions such as tales, proverbs and jokes. They include material culture, ranging from traditional building styles to handmade toys common to the group. Folklore also includes customary lore, the forms and rituals of celebrations such as Christmas and weddings, folk dances and initiation rites. Each one of these, either singly or in combination, is considered a folklore artifact. Just as essential as the form, folklore also encompasses the transmission of these artifacts from one region to another or from one generation to the next. Folklore is not something one can typically gain in a formal school curriculum or study in the fine arts. Instead, these traditions are passed along informally from one individual to another either through verbal instruction or demonstration.
This broader group based definition includes urban as well as rural groups. It allows for transmission between groups and between generations. It tries to specify the scope of folklore. However, it retains a focus on oral instruction or demonstration, where traditions are passed along informally. Here we come to another set of problems.

Non-literate societies use both formal and informal learning to pass on lore, knowledge and various forms of expression. We can see this in traditional Aboriginal societies where certain lore was passed on in a highly structured way through formal learning, while other skills and knowledge were acquired less formally. In the Celtic bardic tradition, bards were trained in a variety of skills to entertain and pass lore on. So in both cases, we actually have a mix of formal and informal learning.

The emphasis on oral instruction or demonstration raises different issues. Does a tradition cease to be a folk tradition if is is written down and passed on partially in that form? Some folk song purists have seemed to argue something close to that. They have also argued that new songs composed and then spread are not folk songs.

Neither position strikes me as especially sensible. Not only do transmission mechanisms vary, but I find it hard to think of Mike McClellan's Saturday Dance, his There is a Place or Gary Shearston's Shopping On A Saturday as other than New England folk songs. To my mind, the critical issues are neither source nor transmission but tradition, the extent to which folk traditions broadly defined are carried down through the generations.

to be continued


Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Curley Brydon flies to new heights

No. 78 Squadron members: Squadron Leader "Curley" Brydon, Jack Gibbons, probably Corporal Alfred John Gibbons, and Arthur Jones. Photo: Australian War Memorial.

After so many history columns, I am sometimes asked how I can still find things to write about. Part of the answer is that I am a bower bird, constantly looking for new sticks or trinkets to add to my ever growing nest!

In today’s case, it was the Tamworth Aviation Facebook page that informed me that on 25 October 1944, Squadron Leader Adam Howie “Curley” Brydon was awarded a Bar to his Distinguished Flying Cross. Attention caught, I started digging.

Adam Howie Brydon was born in Armidale on April 14, 1921, to Dr Adam Gibson Brydon and Marjorie (nee Mallam) Brydon. The couple were well liked and very active in community activities, while Dr Brydon was also The Armidale School (TAS) doctor.

I do not know where Curley went to primary school, but he enrolled at TAS in June 1931. There he was involved in the model aero club, was in the swimming team and played in the TAS 2nd Fifteen.

Curley left TAS in 1939. When War broke out in September, he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), completing flying training at Point Cook.

The Air Force suited Curley who seems to have had a love of fast planes and fast cars.

The Armidalian records that just after the War he decided on impulse at 9pm that he must visit Armidale. Leaving at 3am in his black MG, he arrived in Armidale for breakfast. The next year, the magazine records that he had come second in the Bathurst road race for the second time!

Curley served first in Number 8 Squadron and then in number 78 Squadron. Number 8 which flew Hudson light bombers took heavy casualties during the Japanese invasion of Malaya and then the Netherlands East Indies. forcing retreat to Australia for retraining and re-equipment.  

Number 78 Squadron was formed in July 1943 as one of the new squadrons being equipped with Kittyhawk fighters and took an active role in the fighting over New Guinea.

By October 1944 when Curley received the Bar to his Distinguished Flying Cross, he was Squadron Leader in charge of Number 78, the youngest Squadron Leader in the RAAF.

The citation for the award read in part: “Squadron-Leader Brydon displayed outstanding courage, keenness and initiative in carrying out extremely hazardous operations which have proved of inestimable value”.

At the end of the war, Curley joined the Fleet Air Arm before moving to the private sector. After establishing Diners Club in Australia, he joined News Limited holding multiple senior executive positions first in Australia and then the United States.

Curley died in September 1986. It had been a long and varied journey from the quiet streets of the Armidale streets of his birth in 1921.

Update 10 November 2018

In comments on the Armidale Families Facebook page, Ken Williams wrote "Howie made fame by setting a new record for road travel from Sydney to Armidale in his MG TC, just after the end of WWII. My recollection was that he made the trip in 6 ½ hours. Not impressed? Remember - hardly any bitumen then!"

Reading Ken's comment, I was taken back into my past when I spent a lot of time driving on dirt roads. I could imagine him pointing the car and drifting round the corner! Susie Dunn who knew him well remembered him flying spitfires as well. I hadn't picked this up from the squadron material. 

Another commenter said that Dr Brydon was the doctor when she was born.    
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 31 October 2018. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017, here 2018 . 

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

The families of the New England University College

Workmen, Booloominbah 1938. There was great pressure to get the College open quickly. Alterations were still underway as the first staff and students arrived.  

This year marks the eightieth anniversary of the foundation of the New England University College in 1938, the first university institution in Australia outside the capital cities. As part of the anniversary, over October 2018 I ran a short series of columns on the families of the College.

Institutional histories focus on the institution. That's understandable. However, the NEUC could not have survived without the sacrifices made by the wives. For most, they were far removed from family support and had to manage with uncertainty and sometimes primitive conditions. The children of the NEUC families, the siblings, grew up in an amalgam world that was intensely local while also being global. Sydney was remote, more remote in fact than Oxford or Cambridge or Manchester.

This post gathers the family columns together so that you can follow the story through. Many things are left out, suppressed in order to fit within tight newspaper word limits, but they will give you a taste of a small but unique part of Australia's history. I have also included some links to earlier pieces that tell a little of the history of the NEUC, as well as a short UNE video made to celebrate the College's anniversary.

The family series is:
Earlier in 2018, I completed the first part of a series of columns on the Pacific Belshaws. This includes a number of columns on the early days of the NEUC.
On 1 November 2018, the University held a morning tea for the alumni of the NEUC This is the short video prepared for the occasion. I note one error. In redoing a short grab I said that my mother, Edna Belshaw, was David Drummond's grandaughter. She was, in fact, his daughter. Felt a bit silly when I spotted it later!

Monday, November 05, 2018

The Spanish Flue Epidemic in New England - a note

Spanish Flue Quarantine Camp Wallangarra 1919

I have come across glancing references to the impact of the Spanish Flue epidemic across New England, but hadn't really focused on it. This short note is by way of a placeholder.

Its genesis lies in my discovery that over 2018–19, the Royal Australian Historical Society is encouraging local, special interest and family history organisations to research the historical impact of the ‘Spanish’ influenza pandemic of 1918–19.

As part of this project, Dr Peter Hobbins has been running a small series of workshops across NSW to encourage community interest and to energise local research. Two of these were held in the broader New England, one at Port Macquarie, a second at Tenterfield (and here also in the Tenterfield Star). For those on Twitter, the hash tag is #anintimatepandemic.

The project strikes me as a worthwhile one.

The National Museum of Australia has a very useful short summary on the pandemic. A PhD thesis by Patrick Hodgson looks at the Queensland experience while this is a general list of some Trove newspaper articles.


Regular commenter JohnB pointed me to this piece in The Conversation by Richard Gunderman, The ‘greatest pandemic in history’ was 100 years ago – but many of us still get the basic facts wrong 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

University college 'siblings' experience a rich life

Overseas Students' Week 1960: The Columbo Plan brought many international students. By the early 1960s, they formed a significant part of the student body.This is the fourth and final of a short series telling you a little of the story of the wives and children of the New England University College. 
This last column in my present series focuses on the siblings, the children of the early University College academic staff.. I don’t know when this word first emerged, but it does capture one element of life, the interaction between children linked though their parents. There weren’t a lot of us; we were of differing ages and of different interests; but many of the links created survive to this day.

Life wasn’t always easy for the siblings. This was an intensely local world. We were new fish in a still small pond, the children of academics. This sometimes created expectations at school that we would, somehow, be brighter than average, expectations that I resented.

We also had to navigate our way through the social structures of life in Armidale and the broader New England beyond. This was a complex stratified world with varying interests and connections. How were we to fit in? What did we talk about to people whose backgrounds were so different to ours?

We managed as best we could, with varying degrees of success.

Our immediate world may have been intensely local, but it was also international in a way that is less true today, despite easier travel and greater media coverage. Sydney seemed and was remote. Our connections were more global.

In some ways, it was a remarkably privileged world, one that I have struggled many times to explain.

We had access to very good education for the time, with many of us following the same route from the Misses Coopers’ Kindergarten through Armidale Demonstration School or Ben Venue, both demonstration schools, to Armidale High or sometimes TAS for the boys and then to university. Many of us met people and had access to experiences that were not available to most Australians. 

In my own little world, I sat and listened to the political and economic arguments about decentralisation, about state and national politics. I listened to intellectual debates on academic and cultural topics. I listened to discussions about the events in the University College or young University. There were books, papers and current periodicals everywhere..

Then there were the visitors who had to be entertained at home in the absence of local restaurants. I was allowed to sit in on the early parts of dinner and to ask questions. I met people such as Spanish intellectual Salvador de Madariaga or the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal who was a particular favourite of my father’s.

We also mixed with students and staff, including the growing number of overseas students and young staff who came to Australia with the Columbo Plan. This introduced many of us to new foods and cultures.

In all, it was a remarkably rich if sometimes difficult experience, one unique to a particular place at a particular time. 
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 24 October 2018. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017here 2018 . 

Monday, October 29, 2018

The story of the Armidale Museum

Armidale Folk Museum today
In 2016 I wrote a short series of posts telling the story of the Armidale Museum established in 1933 as the first municipally operated museum in NSW and then the Armidale Folk Museum in 1958, one of the early Australian folk museums. The posts are:
The story of the Armidale museum sits at the intersection, the overlap, of a number of different threads in Australian and New England history.

One is the museum movement, a global movement where museums were seen as as fulfilling scientific as well as historical and educational purposes. The later rise in interest in folk museums was a particular manifestation of this movement, one that focused on the life of ordinary people.

The movement had particular Australian manifestations where it over-lapped, interconnected with rise of interest in Australian history in the decades leading up to Federation. Within those Australian manifestations, New England has its own place and traditions.

Looking back over my posts in this area, I find that they are more fragmentary than I had realised, requiring consolidation and amplification. However, pending that, the following posts may give you you a feel for some of the history:

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Dedicated beginnings to New England's college

 Beginnings: This now faded 1939 photo shows the first directors of the newly formed New England University College Union.To mark the 80th anniversary of the foundation of the New England University College in 1938, this is the third of a short series telling you a little of the story of the wives and children of the new College. 
Growing up in Armidale, the interacting rhythms of town, gown and country set the patterns of my early life.

Town patterns included school and church, the shops, the local play, sport, the events such as the show. Country patterns included the rhythms of pastoral and agricultural life, the regular visits to town by country people, lambing and shearing. Gown patterns were set by the rhythms of life in the young College and then University; the three terms still carrying their old English names; the examination cycle; the major academic ceremonies; the various university functions including games and fetes; and the academic visitors who had to be entertained and shown the district

In the University College period in particular, the lives of the wives and growing number of children of the academic staff centered around the College. If you lived in Sydney, you could choose to live away from the University, to create a separation between family and work. That was not possible in Armidale.  

The early academic staff had multiple roles.

They were building a new institution from scratch, creating structures, culture and patterns that mirrored their conception of a university. They were actively engaged in university outreach activities that fitted both their conception of the role of a university and the dreams and aspirations of the College’s founders. They were trying to maintain their own research.

Most of all, they were trying to educate, although not all were good teachers. Here they had a very particular role,

Today, there is a renewed focus in Australia on bringing university education to those who have not had access to it, who are missing out on the university option. When the College was founded, that was the dominant student body.

At Sydney University, most students came from middle class Sydney backgrounds, many were studying part time for career reasons.

At the College, students were drawn from across the North. They were generally young, the first in their family to attend university and had had no contact with university life. In many cases and especially for girls, their parents were actually distrustful of university education.

In these circumstances, teaching at the College involved far more than the delivery of courses, of lectures or seminars. It was a total immersion experience intended to give students the broader skills. attitudes and understandings required to succeed in academic life and beyond.

This made for a remarkably powerful university experience. On average, New England students had lower entry level qualifications than those going to Sydney. On average, they had significantly better examination results. During the period 1938-1953, the life of the University College, 441 students took their degrees. Of these, 88 graduated with honours, 27 with firsts of whom more than half took out university medals.

That's not a bad result. 
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 17 October 2018. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017here 2018 . 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Armidale's university family grows

A Young James Belshaw outside the family home in 1948. Housing was very scarce in Armidale until the 1950s. To mark the 80th anniversary of the foundation of the New England University College in 1938, this is the second of a short series telling you a little of the story of the wives and children of the new College. 
In 1938 Armidale may have been classified as a city because of its bishoprics, it was already a recognized educational centre, the prospective capital of a new Northern state, but its population was only 7,000.

It was also a remote place, especially for those drawn from elsewhere to the new University College. There were no air services, road connections were bad and cars scarce. The night trains to Sydney and Brisbane provided the transport backbone.

With the exception of Isobel Blanch, the academic staff from that early period (1938-1940) were all male. Most were already married, some already children. Only two married local girls.

In 1939 Jack Somerville (Physics) married Muriel Naylor, while in 1944 Jim Belshaw (History and Economics) married Edna Drummond. Edna had been in charge of the new College library, marking the first, but certainly not the last, marriage within the university community.

In 1938 it was normal for women to give up work upon marriage. When Edna became engaged to Jim Belshaw in 1943, she resigned her College position.

Of the early wives, only Gwenda Davis maintained career interests finally becoming a staff member after husband Consett Davis went to war and then died. The University playing fields now carry his name.

The wives who came to Armidale were in a difficult position. Unlike Muriel Somerville or Edna Belshaw, they had no family support locally. They had to fit into a sometimes strangely alien community.

They also struggled with sometimes difficult conditions.

The College was founded on the dawn of war. Between 1938 and 1950, building materials were in very short supply. There were limited properties to  rent or buy, limited materials or labour to modify once purchased.

202 Marsh Street, the home my parents purchased, was a slightly bigger if some what nondescript California bungalow. However, there was no insulation. The howling winter westerlies came through the cracks in the weatherboard. The toilet was outside, as was the laundry.

The wives also had to cope with insecurity and limited financial resources.

The College may have been a college of Sydney University, but the staff were not employed by Sydney University.

As the war deepened, the Army tried to take over the College, Had that happened, the College would have closed and the staff lost their jobs. This created a wearing insecurity as the women worried about their men and the growing number of children in the College family.

The threat was averted, but it helped build links and cohesion among the College family, husbands, wives and the children who became known as the siblings. 
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 10 October 2018. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017here 2018 .

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

New England University College: building an academic institution

New England University College matriculation ceremony 1939. Behind the work creating a new university lay the families of the academics. To mark the 80th anniversary of the foundation of the New England University College in 1938, this is the first of a short series telling you a little of the story of the wives and children of the new College
It is eighty years this year since the foundation of the New England University College, Australia’s seventh oldest university institution and the first founded outside a capital city.

On 18 April 1998 at a celebration to mark sixty years since the College’s foundation, some of the siblings, the children of the College’s early academic staff, met for the first time in a number of years. We came to be called the siblings because of the intense shared experiences from that early period.

Ten years later, Jenny Browning (Janet Howie) published a social history, Four Wives. This  focused on the experiences of four of the wives – Ella Howie, Gwenda Davis, Phyllis Voisey and Hilda Crossley – who came to Armidale with their husbands.

Later that year, UNE’s Dixson library mounted a special exhibition, Families of NEUC: A Social History as part of the celebration of the College’s 70th anniversary of the College. This examined the early days of the University through the eyes of the families that accompanied the first academics to their teaching posts in Armidale and the families of the staff that supported the running of the College

With the passage of time, those with living memories of NEUC as staff, students or children of the College have necessarily diminished. The College itself has begun to vanish into the mist of the past, becoming a simple addendum to the early history of the University.

That’s a pity. The early staff were all highly qualified and committed to building a new institution. They had to be, for the obstacles were considerable.

Today, the university takes pride in the fact that it has achieved maximum student satisfaction ratings for thirteen consecutive years, something no other Australian university can match.

It should, but we should not forget that it was the during the sixteen College years that the ethos of the place was created, an ethos that has continued despite sometimes turmoil in the later institution.

Under pressure and with limited resources, the College out-performed the mother university in teaching, research and community outreach. Staff knew that they had to be better just to survive, and in many ways they were.

But in all this, what about the wives? Jenny Browning makes a convincing case that without them, the College would have failed. They had to deal with insecurity, loneliness,. financial pressures, with multiple roles as they supported their husbands and families.

Over the next few columns I want to take you back into that now vanishing past, telling you about the wives and children of the College, of what it was like to be there.

I do not pretend that this will objective history. Rather, I want to capture the feel, the taste, of that time. 
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 3 October 2018. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017here 2018 .

Saturday, October 06, 2018

New England higher education 1 - Seventh Day Adventists and Avondale College 1897

Avondale College, Cooranbong, NSW, 27 August 1908. Photo Ralph Snowball (1849-1925). University of Newcastle Cultural Collections

The genesis of the Seventh Day Adventist Church can be found in the Millerite Movement of the 1840s in upstate New York, a phase of the Second Great Awakening, a Protestant religious revival that began around 1790 and then peaked around 1850. As part of this revival, Baptist preacher William Miller (1782-1849) formed the view based on his bible studies that Jesus Christ would return to earth between the spring of 1843 and that of 1844 for the biblical Day of Atonement. The failure of this prediction (the Great Disappointment) left Miller and his followers confused and disappointed. A search began for new answers, for an explanation.

In the discussions that followed many Millerites came to believe that Miller’s calculations based on Daniel 8:14-16 were correct, but that his interpretation that Christ would come to cleanse the world was flawed. Daniel foretold Christ’s entry into the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary rather than his Second Coming. This understanding of a sanctuary in heaven developed into the doctrine of the investigative judgment, an eschatological (end of days) process that commenced in 1844 in which every person would be judged to verify their eligibility for salvation and God's justice would be confirmed before the universe.

In parallel, other ideas were being developed or reinforced including the importance  of the Sabbath and the importance of a holistic approach to the person, to diet and lifestyle. I haven’t tried here to discuss Adventist beliefs in detail. At this point, I would simply note that in time they would translate to an emphasis on education, health and food in institution building. In an Australian context, this would include Avondale College and Sanitarium foods.

The Adventist movement had begun as small loosely knit groups from different churches. From 1849, a periodical called The Present Truth now Adventist Review provided a unifying vehicle. It’s editor James White (1821-1881) along with his wife Ellen G White (1827-1915) would now become co-founders of a new church. Ellen White came to occupy a particularly central role; her many visions and spiritual leadership convinced her fellow Adventists (among other things) that she possessed the gift of prophecy. She wrote extensively, providing the new church with an extensive  body of work that remains important today. 

On May 21 1863, a meeting formally established the church with its headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan and a membership of 3,500. From the 1870 it turned to missionary work and revivals. Membership increased to 16,000 by 1880 and then 75,000 in 1901. By this time the church operated two colleges, a medical school, a dozen academies, 27 hospitals, and 13 publishing houses.

Mission to Australia

On May 10, 1885, a party of eleven Americans including three pastors, a printer and a bookseller as well as two wives and four children set sail from San Francisco on the Australia with hopes to “open up a mission in Australia”.

The party arrived in Sydney on June 6, 1885. Leaving two pastors in Sydney, the others took the three day coastal steamer to Melbourne which had been chosen as initial headquarters. On 10 January 1886, the first Seventh Day Adventist church was formed with 29 members. Now events occurred that were to give Australia and indeed Northern NSW a place in church history.

James White had died on 6 August 1881, leaving wife Ellen and two surviving boys, James Edison and William Clarence, both of whom had been brought up in the church. Ellen, a powerful preacher, had continued their work. In 1891, she and William received a call to Australia, sailing at the end of the year.

William Clarence White , often known as W C or Willie to his friends, was born in Rochester, New York, August 29, 1854. On 11 February 1876 he married Mary Kelsey. Both were active in the church, with William serving in a number of leadership roles. Mary died from tuberculosis in 1890 at the age of 33 She contacted the disease while the couple were working in Switzerland on church business.

From his father’s death, William had worked closely with his mother. They made a considerable team. Now they left for Australia on what would be a nine year posting, initially leaving William’s daughters behind at Battle Creek.

Once in Australia, William divided his time between helping his mother and establishing the work in the new country. In 1894, he was named to lead the Australian Union. He exercised this responsibility until 1897 when he asked to be released from executive responsibilities to better support his mother’s literary work.

While in Australia William met and in married a Tasmanian woman, Ethel May Lacey. They appear to have had five children together.

Establishment of a new College

With Ellen’s guidance, a small bible college was established in Melbourne in 1892. However, she preferred a rural location and in 1893 a search began for suitable land. The problem was to find a block that the still small church could afford. The sources are silent on the matter, but I imagine the economic crash in the early 90s would not have helped.

Eventually the committee searching for the land found a 1,450-acre (5.9 km2) block of land at Cooranbong near Lake Macquarie 50 kilometres south west of Newcastle. The land was low priced, $3 per acre, because it was "poor, sandy and hungry". Asked to inspect the land, Ellen White gave her approval. The block was purchased in the Spring of 1895, with the Avondale School for Christian Workers opening in 1897. As illustrated in the lead photo, the early buildings at Avondale were built in the American New England architectural style rather than the Australian style.

While work continued on the Avondale buildings, construction began on a house for Ellen White. The Sunnyside Historical Home as it’s now known was completed in 1896 and still stands.

Sanitarium Health Food Company

Two major food companies are associated with the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Kellogs and the Australian/New Zealand Sanitarium health food business. Both reflect the early interest in diet in the church.

Upon his arrival in Australia, William White convinced Seventh-day Adventist Edward Halsey, a baker at John Harvey Kellogg's Battle Creek Sanitarium to immigrate to Australia. Arriving in November 1897, Halsey rented a small bakery in Melbourne, and produced granola (made of wheat, oats, maize, and rye) and Granose (the unsweetened forerunner to Weet-Bix). The product was sold door to door as an alternative to fat-laden or poor nutritious foods popular at the time.

In 1899, a bigger factory was opened at Cooranbong next door to the college. With further growth, a major new and rather striking factory was built in 1937. The world changes. In 2015 Sanitarium, while still owned by the church, announced that it was closing the plant over three years because the maintenance costs had become just too high!

The Whites return to the US

In September 1900, Ellen, William and his family returned to the United States after their nine years in Australia, terminating the direct connection. 

Evolution of Avondale College

In 1911 its name was changed to Australasian Missionary College, making it’s still limited purpose clear. Courses covered teaching, business, and biblical and mission studies. By the early 1950s students could study, B.Sc through the external program of the University of London, a BA through Pacific Union College, California and an MA through Andrews University Michigan. The 1960s were a time of expansion. In 1964 the institution was renamed Avondale College, while the men’s residence and first year’s women’s residence were completed.

In 1974, Avondale received Government accreditation to offer and its own bachelor degrees. From the 1990s it was allowed to offer its own master’s degrees with doctoral degrees offered from 2006. In 2010,  Council changed the name to Avondale College of Higher Education. as an interim step to achieving full university status. In December 2014, Avondale was granted self-accrediting status by the Australian Tertiary Education Quality & Standards Agency.

The past decade has seen significant development in staff qualifications and research output. Four research centres and an academic press have been established. There has been increasing interaction, including collaborative research with Australian universities, industry, and the professions. Scholarly activity has been facilitated by policies providing generously for staff research and professional development.

Avondale remains a small college by Australian tertiary standards, but not one without ambition.

Note on sources

As textual analysis would make clear!, this piece is drawn especially from assorted wikipedia entries, edited and consolidated.