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Friday, March 8, 2024

Armidale: The Gang of 4


This can be a visitor put up by Gordon Forth, a fellow scholar at Armidale Lecturers Faculty, who began there in 1962, a yr after me. Gordon writes: Please discover hooked up my considerably scurrilous account of my time at ATC. I actually had a beautiful time at Faculty, however was immature, a quite lazy scholar, who simply managed to graduate. It might give a few of my fellow college students a chuckle.


Although I didn’t be taught a lot, the 2 years I spent in Armidale was essentially the most influential time of my adolescence. I assume the transfer to this nation location at seventeen was my first tentative step to discover the broader world. To an extent, it concerned breaking ties with my household and pals and beginning a brand new life. Decisions opening up earlier than me had a fantastic deal to do with the truth that I’d be residing in a scholar residence.

The northern regional metropolis of Armidale with its church buildings, the College of New England, Armidale Lecturers’ Faculty and a number of other non-public colleges, promoted itself in my thoughts because the Athens of the North. Shifting there at seventeen marked a turning level in my life. Although tame by right this moment’s requirements, my determination to go to school there appeared fairly adventurous on the time.

After spending two years in Armidale and three instructing in a distant a part of the Snowy Mountains, I spent the following seven years in Sydney. In 1975, my then spouse Penny and I moved to Warrnambool in South West Victoria. Over the following thirty years, I taught and undertook analysis in Eire, China and america. Since my retirement in 2001, Penny and I’ve undertaken common abroad journeys. However I’m getting forward of myself right here.


In March 1963, I caught the in a single day practice from Hornsby to Armidale. My household, pals and, in tears, my girlfriend Vanessa, lined up on Hornsby station to see me off. On the practice I met Paul Coghlan and Andy Miller, additionally commencing the first instructing course at Armidale. Paul and I had been to stay lifelong pals, whereas Andy was finest man at my first wedding ceremony. One other dozen or so Sydney girls and boys on that practice had been additionally beginning the instructor training course at Armidale. By the point the practice arrived at Armidale the following morning, I used to be assured Paul, Andy and I’d be pals. The three of us shared a taxi to Newling Home, the boys’s scholar residence. On the entrance we had been met by second yr college students, who carried our suitcases to our rooms. My roommate Dick Clark hailed from the northern New England city of Glen Innes. Tall and well-built, Dick was a star swimmer. We obtained on as roommates however had been by no means pals.

One other first yr scholar, Dave Martin had been allotted the room subsequent to mine. Tall, darkish and good wanting, Dave was from the north coast city of Murwillumbah, the place his stepfather Stan owned a banana plantation. Supremely self-confident and personable, David was engaging to girls and knew it. After Introducing himself, he enquired if I used to be any good at wrestling. I replied I most assuredly was. Smiling, he challenged me to do battle with him on the grass outdoors our rooms. Having boasted of my prowess, I may hardly refuse. After a preliminary skirmish, I utilized my tried-and-trusted headlock, assured of bulldogging this cocky nation bumpkin to the bottom. Nevertheless, Dave, who was extraordinarily sturdy, bent low and used his hips to throw me over his head…twice!! Finally, I learnt to lock one leg behind his knee to make this unsportsmanlike tactic much less efficient. It was an uncommon solution to start what grew to become an in depth friendship.


Most Armidale Lecturers Faculty college students had been from coastal northern NSW and knew one another by means of inter-school sporting occasions. There have been established cliques most notably one consisting of former college students from Woodlawn, a Catholic boarding college in Lismore. Nearly all of college students had accomplished the Leaving Certificates at coeducational nation excessive colleges. Fairly a couple of hoped to return to show and settle of their residence cities. For these college students, it was this prospect in addition to being awarded a academics’ school scholarship that led to their determination to decide on instructing as a profession.

College students from Sydney had been outsiders and tended to group collectively. We met up on the practice travelling to and from Armidale. Through the holidays a number of of us met at Sydney’s Tatts Resort. One among these was Denis Area the youngest son of a working class Catholic household from the internal western suburb of Enfield. Socially inept, and one thing of an harmless, Denis was a very good natured, likeable character. His two older brothers, Maurice and Lionel, had been each highschool academics. Denis’s father was often known as “Joe the Header” as a result of his love of Two Up. As an older instructor, Denis featured within the Sydney press, having repeatedly sued the NSW Schooling Division. Working together with his solicitor, he sought compensation after being hit by a cricket ball whereas supervising college sport and later falling down on a college bus. After his spouse Kathryn died, Denis posted pictures of himself on Fb with busty younger girls on the Sydney Crown On line casino. Inside weeks, Paul, Andy, Dave and I had been an in depth knit “Gang of 4”. Clomping round in driving boots, I used to be now often known as “Hoss” or “Horse”. A flashy desk tennis participant, Dave was “Ping Pong” or simply “Ping”. Andy, together with his skinny bony face, was lower than ecstatic at being known as “Cranium”. Paul was “Cog”, although after a public efficiency, his personal wild model of the American dance The Hucklebuck, he grew to become “The Rocking Ostrich”.


A cynical hedonist, Ping rejected the conformist attitudes of most school college students. Perpetually stressed and randy, Ping didn’t seem to take himself or anybody critically, together with our main instructing course lecturers. Evening after night time, he went out on the prowl, with mischief, consuming and intercourse on his thoughts. Ping satisfied Paul, Andy and me that we didn’t want to hitch the plodders slaving away at their assignments after tea. Relatively, he persuaded us to hitch him on his nocturnal rambles. On one regrettable event, this concerned scary outdated women strolling by means of a neighborhood park. After one such journey, Ping returned residence within the small hours, figuring out a serious task was due the following day. He set his alarm clock for 5am with a purpose to end the task. Nevertheless, when the alarm went off, Ping — affected by an absence of sleep and a hangover — smashed the offending clock in opposition to the wall. Relatively than flip up for breakfast within the eating corridor, Dave’s most well-liked to start out the day sitting up in mattress, smoking and munching Maltesers. Too lazy to be bothered washing his garments, he merely gave them a jolly good dusting with Johnson’s Child Energy.

One Saturday afternoon, after turning out for a Faculty rugby workforce, I showered and pressed my finest shirt, trousers and sports activities coat earlier than setting off for the pub. I laid my garments out on my mattress, intending to alter into them for the dance that night. Alas, after I returned from discussing philosophy within the pub, my clothes had vanished. I managed to borrow a sports activities coat and an ill-fitting pair of strides, and simply made the 9pm deadline for admittance to the dance. There, amongst the waltzing throng was a smirking Ping ,wanting resplendent in my garments lining up one more conquest. Once I remonstrated with him about his evil deed, hemerely laughed and stated I ought to be grateful that he deemed to put on my crappy garments.

Ping was careless about cash, his personal and different folks’s which he had no hesitation in borrowing. His methods for elevating further money included auctioning his garments and hustling in pubs. His chosen venue was Armidale’s down-market Membership Resort, which boasted a desk tennis desk in the principle bar. With a half smoked cigarette and a glass of beer on the desk, Ping and I performed a set with a number of patrons wanting on. Because the straight man, my position was to defeat him with ease. A seemingly drunk Ping then challenged any one of many onlookers to play him for a few quid. As soon as his problem was accepted, he immediately sobered up and proceeded to demolish his opponent.

One other time, Ping positioned cash on the bar, then challenged anybody current to a “better of three” arm wrestling contest. Although evenly constructed, he had extraordinarily sturdy forearms and gained simply. On one event he defeated a stunned older opponent. It was apparent that the person’s tough-looking mates had been intent on exacting retribution on this youthful conman and his confederate (me). We fled the scene and thought it finest to present the Membership a miss in future. Ping was conscious that his “opportunistic” methods weren’t all the time appreciated by his pals. With the intention to discover out what they actually considered him, he hid amongst the faculty hockey tools saved within the prime of his wardrobe. My position was to collect his pals to his room and encourage them to air their grievances concerning his character flaws. All of them, together with his roommate Andy Miller, enthusiastically embraced this chance. To a person, they agreed that Ping was a grimy rotten scoundrel. This was an excessive amount of for Ping, who jumped down from his hiding place and began semi-playfully strangling a shocked Cranium. In equity, Ping was loyal to his pals when it actually counted. When an eighteen plus stone Goliath “Invoice Constable” threatened Andy, Ping unhesitatingly confronted the Bull from Belligen. Twice he managed to throw Invoice over his shoulder onto the ground, smashing a mattress within the course of. Nevertheless, on his third try, Ping slipped and ended up with an enraged Constable choking him. I grabbed a hockey stick and threatened to rearrange Invoice’s bovine head if he didn’t launch his choke maintain. He did.

Although intelligent, Ping went out of his means to make sure that he failed. He was not less than partly accountable for Paul and Andy having to repeat second yr at their very own expense. I’ve little question that, had they not been below Ping’s affect, each would have handed. Paul and Andy actually needed to graduate, whereas Ping didn’t care. At first of 1 annual examination, Ping crammed within the cowl sheet, stood up and walked out smiling.


After leaving Faculty, I caught up with Ping within the mid-sixties, after I was instructing at a rural college within the Snowy Mountains. I used to be enjoying rugby for Cooma, which meant travelling to Canberra each second weekend. At the moment, Ping was employed on the Commonwealth Division of Statistics in Canberra. I used to be finest man at his wedding ceremony, when Ping, not too long ago voted “Mr. Statistics”, married Barbara, “Miss Statistics”. She was conventionally engaging, however boring and useless. Understandably, Barbara didn’t recognize Ping and I mocking her. Their hasty marriage solely lasted a couple of months. Over the following few years, I met a number of of Ping’s girlfriends. I bear in mind one telling me that she knew the connection with David wouldn’t final, however was blissful to benefit from it whereas it did.

Within the early Nineteen Seventies, after I had moved in with Penny at Rose Bay, Ping turned up driving a brand new Datsun 240z sports activities automobile. It turned out he had gained fairly a big sum within the lottery. That night, whereas having a beer with him at a Kings Cross pub, he identified two engaging mini-skirted girls sitting throughout the room. He defined that he had paid for them to have a twosome with me. I thanked him, however politely declined. After I moved to Warrnambool, I misplaced contact with Ping, however typically questioned what occurred to this personable, flawed human being.

Like Ping, I did the minimal quantity of labor at Faculty, preferring to spend my time enjoying billiards, desk tennis on the pub and courting. Other than Paul, I misplaced monitor of my school pals after we moved to Warrnambool in January 1975. I used to be stunned and slightly harm that Andy didn’t invite Paul, Ping or me to his wedding ceremony. Probably, he was involved, and with good purpose, that considered one of us, in all probability Ping, would get drunk and begin calling out “Cranium” or one thing worse on the reception. Andy had been a simple goal for Ping’s merciless mockery. In our put up school careers, Paul and I had a lot in widespread, having accomplished postgraduate levels and moved onto secondary and tertiary instructing.

When Penny and I are in Sydney, we typically meet with Paul and his spouse Nola for a meal and reminisce about our Armidale days.

 Born   July   1944, Gordon attended Beecroft   Major, St Andrews Cathedral Choir Faculty and Epping Boys Excessive. Having  graduated  from Armidale  Lecturers Faculty,  Gordon  was a main then secondary instructor,  earlier than taking on tutorial appointments at UNSW after which Deakin College. Gordon  holds a B.A and M.Litt (UNE), M.Ed UNSW, and a Ph. D (Monash). He has been a visiting  scholar  at Trinity Faculty, Dublin,  Nanjing  and  Kansas State universities. Since  retirement, Gordon   has  labored as a advisor,  and authored a lot of commissioned histories.   He and spouse Penny, with their  two whippet canines,  reside  in  Warrnambool.

Photograph: Andy, David (Bing) and Gordon with an unnamed feminine scholar on the Farewell Dance in 1963. The 4th member of the gang, Paul Coghlan, isn’t within the photograph.

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Armidale: The Gang of 4 was final modified: June thirteenth, 2022 by Anne Skyvington



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