Nostalgia


My Grandad Ron

By Erin Norton

This is my Grandad Ron receiving a medal of honour from the Queen Mother in 1975. According to my Nan, she smiled at him and remarked “A Gordon for me”. Ron stood up so straight that a button of his uniform came flying off!

This is how I would like to remember him: a proud, humble, and respectful soldier with an infectious sense of humour- a trait that he has passed on to my Dad. 

Unfortunately, he passed away in 2013 and as my grandparents lived in Spain, I have few memories of Ron. I remember he had wrinkly tattoos on his chest and a silver tooth but until now, I did not know the extent of his military career. Looking at the old pictures and reading the reports from his fellow soldiers and students, I can see that Ron was loved dearly by everyone, especially my Nan Sandra. It has been an honour to write this article and reconnect with an important figure in my family’s diverse and complicated history.

So, let us start at the beginning (with the help of some official documents).  

Roy “Ron” Alexander Norton was born on the 12th of May 1937. He started boxing when was 8 years old and left school at 15 to join the Merchant Navy. He stayed with the Navy for a couple of years but then changed tack and enlisted in the now legendary Gordon Highlanders. 

The Gordon Highlanders were one of the finest regiments in the British Army, spanning over 200 years until their amalgamation in 1994. Consisting of fishermen, farmers, university students and labourers, the Highlanders were ordinary people with a strong sense of duty and drive to serve their country.

Ron enlisted in 1963 and completed his basic training in Fort George, a tiny town near Inverness in Scotland. That same year, Ron and his fellow Highlanders embarked on numerous tours of duty in Kenya, Mombasa, and Swaziland and then moved on to Borneo and Cyprus.

During his time with the Highlanders, was revered by his colleagues who referred to him as “Mush”. He was described as a short man but one who walked tall and was brimming with the self confidence of an “old soldier” and loved canoeing and boxing. His stern and sometimes ominous exterior concealed a man who would light up a room with his endless supply of jokes, making the dullest moments entertaining.

In 1972, Ron married the love of his life, Sandra in Grays, Essex, England. Shortly after the wedding, the newly weds with my Dad in tow moved to Northern Ireland where Ron completed a tour of duty, assisting the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUI) during “The Troubles”, a series of riots and terrorist attacks by the Irish Republican Army. During the late 70’s and 80’s, the trio moved around a lot and journeyed to many far off and exotic places like Singapore, Penang, and New Zealand.

But after years of service to the Highlanders and the British Army, Ron retired from military life in the summer of 1981 taking up a job in Industrial Security Management. After my Dad was all grown up, Ron and Sandra moved from England to the idyllic seaside town of Mazarron, Murcia, Spain, which provided a perfect place for retirement.

Throughout his later years of life, he became even more of an inspiration by joining the local Karate community, teaching a number of students at the Dominoes Martial Arts Self Defence Club as “Sensei Rocket”.

My Grandad Ron was a hero, a true gentleman, a husband, and a father. He touched the hearts of many throughout his life and I am honoured to say that I am related to him. Love you forever.


The origin of waste management in Australia

BY KIARA BLINCO

In the year of 1932, the Richards family saw a service that needed to be filled.

The waste industry in Australia was a seemingly small service that not many people wanted to interact with since it mostly had to be dealt with by hand.

1962 Garbage Cupboard Wagon.
Photo: Courtesy of Idwall Richards.

Joseph Joe Richards Snr successfully gained a contract to work in the Murwillumbah Municipality and J.J Richards & Sons was born.

George Winterbon, the Mayor of Murwillumbah at the time, became the guarantor that allowed the Richards family to obtain this three-year contract and have the money to begin working.

In 1939, after some initial gruelling years, they were able to expand to the whole of Tweed Shire.

Joe and Dorothy Richards had six children, all of whom assisted them in their business.

Idwall Richards, born May 31st, 1930, often helped his father with the designing and building of workshops for their business.

He built his first shed when he was just 10 years old, alongside his father.

Idwall was so proficient in this area that his father suggested he get a job as an architect.

Not really knowing what else to do, Idwall moved in with his Aunt in Sydney in 1947 to hopefully start his career in the industry.

After a year of labour, Idwall realised it wasn’t meant to be and moved closer to home in Brisbane in a similar job but caught the train to Murwillumbah each weekend to help his family at J.J Richards & Sons.

“In that time, the only way to get to Murwillumbah was by train to Southport and then everyone got on a bus that ended in Murwillumbah, I did that for many years,” Idwall said.

By the mid 1950’s, Idwall had quit his job in Brisbane and extended family like cousins and in-laws joined the business.

As family members joined, the business gained another contract in the Shire of Uralla and Walcha.

Idwall’s father, Joe, passed away in the year of 1959. This is when his children took over and expansion to Toowoomba, Queensland occurred.

This was a major move, allowing more growth in Queensland, they continue to hold the contract in Toowoomba to this day.

It was in 1960 that Idwall and his partner, Jill moved into his late father’s home.

The passing of his father also motivated the family to continue his work and expand the business even further.

Joseph Jnr took to rural Australia and created J.R Richards. While Idwall and Tom continued the hard yards in Chinderah.

Since then, Idwall has seen drastic changes to the waste industry including the implementation of side loading-trucks in 1968, instead of rear-loaders. A version of which is still in use today.

1990’s side-loading garbage truck.
Photo: Courtesy of Idwall Richards.

In fact, with inspiration from a Sydney-made garbage compactor, It was Idwall who designed the side-loaders at that time.

Chinderah remained the centre of these milestones until Tom created his own facility in Brisbane in 1990, leaving Idwall to tender the Tweed Shire area for himself.

Tom and sister Joyce bought out Idwall’s share of J.J Richards & Sons and that’s when it changed to Solo Resource Recovery in the areas of and surrounding the Tweed Shire.

Idwall’s children, Gillian, Rhys and Robert, have since joined the business as well. Bringing their children with them as well.

Since then, rapid expansion has occurred. Since the family has proven to be innovative and reliable, the Richards name can now be seen all over Australia and even in New Zealand or the United States.

“It’s great to see what was just a little company in 1932, become what it is today.”

As a man in his 90’s, Idwall can no longer practice golf each week like he did since the 60’s. Instead, he plays tennis twice a week with friends, on his home court.

Idwall Charles Richards in 2003. Photo: Courtesy of Idwall Richards.

Other than this, he has no intention of retiring any time soon, he continues to work hard week to week and says he plans to go straight upstairs from there


The Interesting Life of Hilda Fletcher – Part 3

By Talitha Organ Fletcher

Part 3 – The War Effort

Injuries were no excuse to not do your part during the war. Everyone had a job to do to ensure the country still functioned successfully and Hilda Fletcher (known as Hilda Morris at the time) was no exception. Read more »


The Interesting Life of Hilda Fletcher – Part 2

By Talitha Organ Fletcher

Part 2 – The Bombing

“I remember waking myself up screaming.”

Having a well paying job at the Vickers Armstrong Aircraft factory before the war even started, Hilda had her daily routine down pat. Read more »


The Interesting Life of Hilda Fletcher

By Talitha Organ-Fletcher

Part 1 – Growing Up

January 29 1921, Edwin and Emelia Phillips welcomed another baby girl in their family but at the time, no one had any idea of the extraordinary life that she would go on to lead. She would travel the world, join the army, emigrate halfway across the globe and survive a direct bombing by German forces in the second world war. At 97, Hilda May Fletcher, has seen and experienced enough love, loss and adventure for two lifetimes but finds herself with a wonderful legacy and one incredible life story. Read more »


A Nurse’s Tale

By Isabella Neal

Balmain, Sydney. 1975. A young, dedicated woman by the name of Katrina Singh, pins on her nurses’ cap and walks down the corridors of Balmain Hospital to begin her shift. Read more »


Home is Where the Heart Is

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Crystal clear beaches, white sand between toes and a relaxed, homely feeling is what Tugun and Currumbin is all about. Many people say they are hit with a wave of nostalgia and flooding memories when going back to a place they love and for a long time I didn’t believe that feeling was possible… Read more »


John “Jack” McMullen

By Caitlin Matticoli Edited by Jake Watson

John ‘Jack’ McMullen was a man of strength and toughness. He joined the Royal Australian Navy in his early 20s as an engineer. As my great-grandmother Margret used to say, “Jack was straight forward. What you saw was what you got”. Read more »


Barry Boyd – A self-made man and his birds

By Kate Grant

Barry Boyd has been a regular customer at the Chinese restaurant I’ve worked at for the last six years. He’s almost the only reason I’ve kept the job for this long. He sticks out as my favourite customer because he is genuinely interested in the little things I’ve been up to during the week, and isn’t shy of a bit of banter. I love hearing about the odd jobs he’s been working on, how his lawn mower is performing, and his vast collection of exotic birds.
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From Glasgow to Sydney

By Madison White

The RMS Orion was, and still is, considered by many as one of the more famous British passenger ships. Even its launch was considered an important moment in maritime history for the British, being one of the first of their ships to be launched wirelessly; the Duke of Gloucester was in Australia, where he pressed a button to launch the ship, while the Orion itself was in the UK. Read more »