Sunday, November 11, 2012

Neucleus days - Part One

I do get easily sidetracked! In yesterday's post on the New England Australia blog, Diary of my Armidale trip, I said in part:

From Boo Books I went up to the Express to meet my new editor, Lydia Roberts. I am always interested in seeing production facilities. It seems a very long time since fellow blogger Winton  Bates and I were co-editors of the now defunct Neucleus, the UNE student newspaper, and indeed it is. But it does mean that I have been in at least part charge of the production of a newspaper in the pre-computer age. So I watched with interest as my column was set up for print. Then we used scissors and paste to set up pages. Now its so very different!Neucleus Office

That reminded me that the Wikipedia entry on Neucleus was still just a stub and at one stage I said that should do something about fixing that up. Reminded, I did some digging and ended up on something of a nostalgia trip that I thought I might share with you, in part because it also says something about Australian social history.

Just to set the scene, the photo shows the old sub-lodge on the UNE campus. The building dates from the time when Booloominbah was the headquarters of one of the White family pastoral empires. Paul Barratt's Booloominbah tells the story of those early days.

This was the Neucleus office when Winton and I worked for the paper. As I commented before, it was a wonderful spot for parties! The dark room was on the left, the room on the right was the main staff office and workroom. The building is now the Overseas Students Association office. As we shall see in a moment, that's kind of appropriate.

In my search, the first person I wanted to find was Soo Khoo, who was editor when Winton and I first joined the paper in 1963 as young first years, became co-editors when SoSoo Koo Hay setting Neucleuso Khoo stood down. I struggled to find much until I realised that I should be searching on Khoo Soo. Then, bingo. 

The first photo is from the National Archives. The year is 1960. The caption reads: Malayan student, Khoo Soo-Hay, of Penang, has no accommodation worries in Australia. He is attending Australia's only fully residential university, the University of New England in Armidale, NSW. Editor of the student newspaper, Ross Pengelley, and Khoo Soo-Hay do the layout of the next edition in the printing room of the Armidale Express.

I really loved this photo because it captures the old now vanished newspaper world, illustrating the differences I referred to in my opening quote between page setting then and now. In Ross, we can now add another person to the editor list. I tried to find out more about him via web search, but drew a blank.

Digging further, I found another 1960 photo of Soo Khoo from the National Archives, this one illustratingOverseas students UNE 1960 Overseas Week another aspect of UNE life at the the time, the importance and visibility of the overseas student community.  

The caption on the photo reads: Overseas students at the University of New England, Armidale, Australia, recently organised an 'Overseas Week', during which they presented something of the cultures and customs of their own countries to Australian students. Overseas students arranged an arts and craft exhibition for 'Overseas Week'. From left: I Made Nitis, Teluk Padang, Miss Heng Poh Saing, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Nguyen Huu Bong, Khoo Soo-Hay, and Neoh Choo Lin.

I am not sure when Soo Khoo became editor, 1962?, but I would be pretty sure that he was the first overseas student to edit an Australian student newspaper. He was not the only overseas student on the Neucleus team. Our cartoonist, Adhi Hendranto, came from Indonesia.

When Winton and I first joined the paper, he was I think on the reporting and editorial side, while I became (of all things) business manager! My primary role here was to sell advertising space to local stores. I also had to collect the advertising copy for insertion in the paper.  I am not sure that I was very good at it, but it actually wasn't a very hard job because most of the stores advertisErecting community kindergarten hall 1963ed regularly.

For 1963, I found another set of photos from National Archives including Soo Khoo that illustrate further aspects of UNE life.  The caption on this photo reads: During the long summer vacation students from India, Borneo, Sarawak and many other South-East Asia countries studying in Australia, held a work camp organized by NUAUS [National Union of Australian University Students] in Armidale, northern New South Wales and helped erected a community kindergarten hall for Aboriginal children. Donations towards expenses were received from the Australian Department of External Affairs, local graziers and shop keepers while the Department of Education supplied the building - tea break (foreground) Will Dennis, camp Director with Ting Wei Ling (centre) from Sarawak and Khoo Soo Hay (right) from Malaya.

This photo manages to combine a remarkable number of elements relevant to Australian social history.

One was the role of the National Union of Australian University Students. Formed in 1937, NUAUS was quite important to UNE students. The UNE campus wasn't especially active in political terms. It was noted as an especially religious campus, and was indeed the only University campus in the country where the Country Party commanded a voting majority to the sometimes despair of Labor leaning staff members! The social changes and ideological divides that would become important during the 1970's and which would ultimately polarise and then destroy much of the effectiveness of NUAS still lay ahead.

UNE students may not have been especially active in party political or ideological terms, but it was still a very active student body measured by participation in student activities, far more active than would later be the case. University societies of all types proliferated. By the standards of the time and indeed today, the prevailing student ethos can best be described as small l liberal. Students therefore participated actively in NUAS activities including fund raising for WUS (World Universities Services) Week and Abschol.

UNE staff and students were early and actively committed to causes associated with Aboriginal advancement. Both the University and the Armidale Teachers College were already playing pioneering roles in Aboriginal studies. This kindergarten was one of the first if not the first constructed for Aboriginal children in NSW. The needs were coUNE buying food NAUAS campnsiderable; the hut on the right of the photo indicates then living conditions.

The last photo of Soo Khoo with fellow Arts student Barbara Wilkins, again from the National Archives, shows them buying food for the camp.        

I have included the photo because it shows a domestic scene with the food available at the time. UNE's overseas students started changing the availability of food in Armidale long before such changes really happened elsewhere. The changes were slow, but 1963 you could actually buy some Asian food in Armidale because the market was just large enough.

And what happened to Soo Khoo and indeed Adhi Hendranto?

Soo Khoo, I probably should say Khoo Soo Hay, returned to Malaysia. There, among other things, he became a poet while pursuing a career in management. This is the start of a poem written in September 1999 on the death of Brother Ulrick Currie, a (and I quote) "well beloved Christian Brother Teachers of St. Xavier's Institution, Penang, who died on 17th September 1999. ...who used to teach English. He became blind for many years before he passed away".

When the sun sets on my life,
When I can no longer feel
The rain drops on my head,
Nor see the stars at night,
Then shall I feel no more
The cool breeze from the sea,
Nor hear the lapping waves at the shore,
On the beach at Batu Ferringhi.

In a further note on his writing, the UNE recorded in 2009:

Khoo Soo Hay, UNE alumnus, joined other distinguished poets, such as the National Literature Laureate Prof Muhammad Salleh, at recent celebrations of UNESCO's World Poetry Day at Wawasan Open University (WOU) in Malaysia. His poems, published in an anthology titled “In Ancient Ayuthia”, touch on environmental, social, political, religious issues, and romance, satire, and whimsical pieces. Some of this writing was completed while a student at UNE in the 1960s when Khoo Soo Hay was resident in Wright College.

And Ahdi? This one is more difficult. I last had news of him on an official trip to Indonesia in the 1980s. But unless I am very much mistaken, you will find a translation of Ahdi's LinkedIn page here.

I will complete this post tomorrow, talking (among other things) of Winton as the old thunderer! 


In a comment, kvd correctly spotted that in the last line in the quote from Soo Khoo, "On the beach at Batu Ferringhi", the Ferringhi is another variant of the word I referred to in Franks, Firinghi & Farangs. The Wikipedia entry on Batu Ferringhi says that the name means Foreigner's Rock.

Winton has also come up with additional detail that suggests that my memory is imperfect. The present issue in question is the role of Hugh Spencer as editor. Winton remembers Hugh as editor when he joined, but I don't when I joined.

Hugh's bio suggests that he came to UNE from Maitland High in 1960 on a TC scholarship then, and I quote, "got involved in student politics (silly naive bugger) - left with tail between legs to complete degree at ANU." Hugh started work in 1965 at Monash University. Depending on the exact date, my feeling is that Hugh's last year at UNE was 1963.

I know that all this must sound very arcane, but this post and the next now in preparation are in part history pieces. I  am confident that I am capturing the feel of the time, but as history pieces I really want the facts to be accurate.     


Winton Bates said...

Well done, Jim.
I don't think Soo Koo was editor in 1962. I will try to think who was.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, Winton. Please do! It will fill in some gaps.

Winton Bates said...

I got my years mixed up. Soo Khoo may have been editor in 1962. Hugh Spencer was editor in 1963, when I arrived at UNE.
Mathew Jordan's book might help, but I seem to have put my copy away so carefully that I can't find it.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Winton. Mathew Jordon's book is pretty hopeless in this area.

So with Hugh Spencer we have another name. Memory is such an imperfect beast. I was pretty sure that Soo Khoo was editor when I joined. That may have been later than you, perhaps. My memory also is that Soo Khoo was editor just before us. At the moment, I don't have a memory of Hugh Spencer at all.

On line, I found one reference to Hugh Spencer in the Maitland Boys High School 50 year reunion class of 58-59 - He must have come in 60, but went to ANU in, it appears, around 1963 to complete his degree. This raises another question in my mind.

I have always assumed that you started in the same year as me. But did you in fact start in 62? Then we might have Ross as editor, followed by hugh and then Soo Khoo. I am pretty sure that SK was editor just before us.

Anonymous said...

Lovely story Jim. A side note on that poem you quote: it ends with a reference to "Batu Ferringhi". Is that Ferringhi anything to do with that earlier post you did on the spread of languages? The word seems familiar but I can't find the reference at the mo'


Anonymous said...

Sorry, should have persisted. This is your earlier post I was referring to

Different spelling, I now see.


Winton Bates said...

Hi Jim
I did start at UNE in the same year as you. I was there as an undergraduate from 63 to 66.

My recollection is that Hugh Spencer was editor for the whole of 1963, but I might be wrong about that. I was editor for the first issue of 1964 and then you and I were joint editors for the next few issues.

After we resigned (on a matter which no longer seems like high principle) Bob Graham took over.He may have been editor until May 1966, when George Atkin and Allan Young had their first edition.
Lesley Barnard became editor in September 1966.

For reasons I can't understand I have copies of editions published in 1965 and 1966, but not those for earlier years.

Jim Belshaw said...

Well spotted, kvd. It is the same word.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Winton. Very interesting. It's good that you have those editions. I did have our editions and a few earlier. I agree with you on the principle issue. Could you email me with your recollections of exactly what happened here? I remember some key details, but I do not remember the exact transition events. I have the strong impression that Bob actually became editor through something of a political coup!