Wednesday 3 July 2024

70th Anniversary - Reunion of Members & friends @ The Goulburn Club, Sunday 26th May 2024 - memories

Click images for larger size.

Welcome by President Sharyn Mattern

Sharyn at Wilberforce Pioneer Village, 2014 (Sandra Nixon photo) 

Welcome everyone to today’s 70th anniversary celebration.

Little did I realise that, when I joined the club over 40 years ago, I would be taking part in this milestone event.

I also doubt if those in the original Reedy River cast and production team, realised what an amazing story that they were starting. Some of the original cast members are still with us but, unfortunately, are unable to join us today. We thank the founding fathers and members (past and present) for their vision and passion.

The Bush Music Club has always had a strength of purpose and a sense of pride in pursuing its principal objectives - to collect, publish and popularise Australia's traditional songs, dances, music, yarns, recitations and folklore. This is still relevant today as it was in the early years.

But 70 years brings change, like women joining the men in the Monday night sessions, especially the slow sessions where we learn about the music, our instruments, the scales and playing as a group. I would like to thank George Bolliger and Ralph Pride for their patience and sheet music production. We are all very grateful.

One of my initiatives is the Marrickville Music Group. We meet during the day on the 1st Wednesday of the month…bring sheet music to share…bring your lunch (to share or not to share)…and, with the guidance of Eric Eisler, join together and play a variety of music styles.

Recently 5 brave members went live on the Australian Spectrum Show on Alive 90.5fm with Ross M Fear for 3 hours. I would like to thank Ross for having us and those volunteers and, also, the following performers for wishing the BMC a “Happy 70th Birthday and stated that the BMC has given so much to Australian music over the years”…Roger Corbett, Bushwackers; Mick Conway, Captain Matchbox; John Schumann, Redgum; Kevin Johnson; John Littich of The Water Runners; Mick Pealing, Stars; and Pat Drummond (who phoned the studio to wish the club all the best)

Of course, none of this is possible without committee members, volunteers, members and friends … both past and present. Thank you – each and everyone of you for helping to keep the vision, songs, dances, music, yarns, recitations and folklore alive for 70 years.

Finally, thank you to Karen and Elaine (the 70th Anniversary Committee) for the amazing job in getting this year organised!!!

Well done everyone and have a wonderful day.


Alex & Annette Hood @ Duke's Place, Nov 2014 (Sandra Nixon photo)

Alex Hood - Bushwhacker & Founder Member

I was about 17 years old when I met Chris Kempster at a party and heard him singing some old Australian songs and was quite taken in, I particularly liked The Dying Stockman and Reedy River.

So, when I heard that he was in the New Theatre play I wanted to go along and see it. And from the very first time I saw the Bushwhackers there as part of the Reedy River show, it was “Wow!! This is GREAT!! - I knew that I just wanted to be part of it. After that, I just kept turning up - I was happy to just go and help in any way I could, build sets, whatever.

Finally on one night someone didn’t turn up so I got my opportunity to be up on stage - as one of the extras - it was wonderful - I learnt all the lines - I was just like a sponge!! - because I knew that this was what I wanted to do.

Chris and I became closest mates - when he was off doing some of his army training, I took his part in Reedy River for a couple of weeks and also then eventually moved into the role of Bob the Swaggie - leading the Ballad of 1891.

Later on, I was asked to be part of the Bushwhackers Band outside of the play and I was part of the group when the BMC was formed. I remember being part of the group that went into the ABC studios when we recorded Click go the Shears, Bullockie’s Ball and Drover’s Dream.

I was playing bones at that stage and remember being made to play outside the studio door when we were recording because I was too loud!!

That’s when I also did my first recording - singing the lead on The Hut that’s Upside Down.

There’s a picture of the Bushwhackers on stage in the middle of the Sydney Showground playing for 1,000s of kids and people and I recall we had no microphones!! Not really sure how they expected us to be heard.

I also remember we all went out to Lithgow to do a show one night, all packed in to Jack Barrie’s old Studebaker - the rest of us didn’t drive so Jack used to have to ferry us all over the place - I can remember John saying, “Keep your eyes and the car on the road Jack, no looking at the views!!”

In 1958 the Bushwhackers broke up and Chris, Harry and I did some work together as The Rambleers and also did some recordings with Wattle Records.

And lots of other things were happening around the place by then - the folk boom had kicked off.

They were a great bunch of fellows - I’ll be ever grateful to the BMC and the members of the Bushwhackers for accepting me and what I could contribute.


Phyl @ The Loaded Dog June 2010 (Bob Bolton photo) 

Phyl Lobl

My interest in writing started from days learning classical guitar because I started writing words to the exercises because they were so boring.

That led me to write Dark-eyed Daughter and I started singing in coffee lounges and churches - thru this singing I met Glen Tomasetti, Martyn Whyndham-Read and Brian Mooney and was also introduced to members of the Victorian BMC.

So, once I moved to Sydney and met folk from the BMC here I felt quite at home because I was talking to people with similar interests and beliefs - although there was one amusing difference between the two groups - I remember being told in Sydney that I could not be on the same concert program as Marion Henderson because “you can’t have TWO women in the same concert!!”

Still, I really enjoyed being able to play at concerts and festivals and also that wonderful feeling of belonging to a group and being around people that cared about the things that I cared about

I believe that the history that people sing about - lived experiences - based on real events - is what folk music is all about - that the content of the song is more important than the singer - these days I call myself a CULTURAL MAINTENANCE WORKER and I reckon that those who are involved in Folk / Bush Music are maintaining a culture when we utilise or create Folklore.

I admire what the club has done and what it continues to do for folk culture - because folk culture is the bedrock of the national culture………and long may it continue!

Leave you with this quote:

“Folkitis is an orally transmitted disease - if singing persists, see a folklorist!!"


Saplings at Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival, 2019 (Sandra Nixon photo) 

Helen Romeo on Saplings, Bush Music Club 70th Reunion, 26th May 2024 held at the Goulburn Club

It was about 12 years ago when I was sitting with Kerry Doherty and we were talking about the Bush Music Club and that our members were getting older and there were not many young people joining. Kerry said “do you know that the Irish Government pay for Irish musicians to come out to Australia to teach our children to play Irish music?” Well, I did not and we then spent the rest of our time talking about how we could address this imbalance. We then spent many, many hours on phone, email and together and came up with a proposal which with Tony’s help we presented to the BMC Committee and Saplings was borne. In 2014 we went to our first National Folk Festival, had our first Master Class and Afternoon Session.

Part of that Proposal said: “Remember The Past and Look to the Future”

Our aims are to have fun, entertain and give young musicians an awareness of Australian collected music with a desire to play the tunes. Also, we wanted young people to be aware that music can be a lifetime activity and can be enjoyed with others at whatever level they chose to play at.

A long-term goal was for the Bush Music Club to be known as “a centre of excellence” in presenting collected music to young people.

The proposal also included “this is also an opportunity for The Bush Music Club to grow and develop as an organisation as we hope this programme will continue past the 60th anniversary and that Saplings will generate regular events on the BMC calendar.”

In the past 10 years we have been to numerous folk festivals, held Master Classes, a family camp, Zoom sessions and we are now extending into Regional Saplings. We have had well over 300 children, many attending many times. We have established an instrument loan programme, have developed a Tutor Handbook and are working on our Children’s Safety Plan. I also have a succession plan in place.

Children grow up and so we now have older Saplings becoming tutors and our more regular musicians forming the BMC Youth Bush Band who have played magnificently over the past 3 years for bush dances at the National Folk Festival.

We continue to achieve our aims and I would like to thank everyone involved with Saplings from the original collectors who gathered our music, the Saplings Sub-committee, the BMC Committee for their support, all our tutors particularly Dave for providing music and writing easier versions of tunes for beginners so everyone can join in and play together, both Beck and Dave for our online presence, parents and grandparents for bringing children to us and particularly our Saplings who I know will be here celebrating more BMC milestones in the years to come. And to finish up I would like to ask the Saplings who are here today to join together to play a tune for you.

Thank you


John Meredith, Duke Tritton, Virginia & Chris Woodland (Woodland collection) 

Extract from JOHN MEREDITH - THE MAN I KNEW, by Chris Woodland. For the BMC 70th Anniversary, Goulburn, May 26 2024.

John was always experimenting and trying new things. One weekend visiting Walden' I elected to do the washing and drying-up after breakfast, and by mistake almost emptied the scraps into a bucket standing by the sink. My wife Virginia almost did the same thing again at lunchtime. John later explained to us that he was brewing the traditional Welsh drink methaglyn (fermented honey) in that bucket! (At a later sampling I decided it tasted somewhat like cough medicine, albeit stronger; his Scottish Athol Brose was tar more enjoyable.)

At Walden it was the open fire where we relaxed most memorably--that altar for all people and cultures since time began. Around it we yarned, sang, recited, played and drank. One night, Merro read Oscar Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol to me; the whole 109 verses!

When we first met, John was working in the cosmetic industry and living at Agar Steps in Sydney’s Rocks area. I usually drove him home from the Singabout workshops on Tuesday nights, and we would chat on till sometimes quite late, often accompanied by a gradually emptying flask of whisky. Regularly we saw the 'Lady with the Pram', who would walk the quiet streets collecting bottles and one wonders what else. This familiar Sydney identity was a contemporary of Arthur Stace. the reformed derelict who scrolled 'Eternity’ on the city's footpaths

When Virginia and I married in 1966, we received 10 books as gifts from Merro - all Australian classics. Accompanying the books was a card expressing best wishes for the day and the future. John had made it from a Billy Tea packet, the front page bearing the well-known illustration with the tree, campfire, kangaroo, and a bushman saying to the marsupial: Hello Mate! I thought you were only a Billy Tea advertisement. John was always thoughtful to his friends. When Virginia and I went to visit Lord Howe Island in 1994 he sent us a couple of pages he had prepared titled THE SAGA OF THE LORD HOWE ISLAND WOODHEN - Expressly Compiled for the Woodies on the Occasion of their Visit. The booklet collected detailed information on the sorry plight of that unique bird.

Merro and I shared many fires over the years, each one of them memorable: at Araluen Creek; the open fireplace in the slab hut on the Deua River; Cooper's Creek, and derelict Numbardi homestead on a (usually dry) tributary of the Paroo River; at spiritual Gunderbooka; as well as at Walden', and finally his home at Thirlmere. It was always with good companionship, fine tales and music, often with some delicious meal simmering away in the camp oven.

We spent nearly a week at old 'Numbardi in the Paroo country, where I had once worked. We did something there which we had wanted to do for some time, and it was a great experience tor us both: we lived off the land (although we did take our own vegetables). Merro did the cooking and I did the hunting and preparation. Every morning we enjoyed yellowbelly fish from the ground-tank on Kulkyne Creek. We had rabbit, ‘roo-tail and wild goat. (Merro called his goat kebabs 'billy-babs.)

Another time we went to Innamincka in outback South Australia. At the hotel there we entertained tourists, who began dancing to the tunes emanating from Merro's windjammer and my less-significant mouth organ. To keep us playing, the publican kept supplying us with 7-ounce glasses of port. It was a great evening, but the following morning was not Merro's brightest; I was somewhat better off, as I had ensured the publican added lemonade to my port. A coach driver invited us to come along the following night to the tourists' camp on Cooper's Creek, to play for them for a few drinks and a five-course camp-oven meal. Though tempted we had to refuse, because it was 17 June, Henry Lawson's birthday - and we had our own celebrations planned. On Lawson's birth date, Merro saw his first bustard (plains turkey), and it was probably the first time he saw brolgas.

We had camped about 400 metres away from the legendary Dig Tree. As the sun went down, a crimson cloak veiled the sky through the coolabahs along the creek reflecting nature’s artistry in the heavens. On the banks of that creek we placed a couple of camp stools, a bottle of red with a couple of pannikins, and paid tribute to Australia’s greatest bard. I know that that memorable evening etched indelibly into Merro’s mind, as it did into mine.

At Hungerford – on the New South Wales/Queensland border – Merro insisted that I photograph him enacting a scene from Lawson’s yarn of the same name, where a character spits from Queensland into New South Wales, then spits from New South Wales into Queensland – all the while making derogatory remarks about all the Australian colonies.


Dave at the Hut, 2013 (Sandra Nixon photo) 

 Dave Johnson on The Heritage Ensemble

The inaugural Heritage Ball, called the Heritage Week Colonial Ball, was held in the Sydney Town Hall on Friday 27th March 1981. It was a huge success. The music was provided by Southern Cross (Mk1) and Ryebuck Bush Band. This event was organised by the Bush Music Club, in conjunction with the National Trust and the Royal Historical Society of NSW, with sponsorship in the form of the provision of Sydney Town Hall provided by Caltex Australia.

In 1982 the BMC opted instead to run a concert also in the Sydney Town Hall with Caltex picking up the tab for the venue. The programme included Alex Hood, The Sundowners (a reworked version of the Bushwackers who had split up) and Pinchgut Colonial Band. The publicity was devolved to a Balmain promoter who failed us monumentally. The attendance was abysmal and we were decidedly red-faced.

In 1983 we returned to the idea of a colonial ball which was again very successful, again with the support of NT and RHS. The band was formed by the invitation of strong players from most of the Sydney bands that were performing at that time. I, as Musical Director, coordinated the line-up , the music, the rehearsals and the performance again in the Sydney Town Hall. In Mulga Wire it was described awkwardly as Dave Johnson’s Bush Band Orchestra. There were eleven musicians.

It is interesting to note by referring to the Mulga Wire for accurate information how scant the reporting of these major public events was. As a means of documenting the history of the club Mulga Wire has been sadly lacking.

The drawing together of musicians for the annual Heritage Ball continued though the name Heritage Ensemble was not used until 1987. That year also saw the withdrawal of financial support from Caltex. We continued to use the Sydney Town Hall in 1987 and 1988 but the jump in hire rates after a refurbishment sent us elsewhere: UNSW RoundHouse, Town Halls in Petersham, Willoughby, Ryde, Cumberland Hospital, Bundanoon, Parramatta, and finally in Goulburn.

The composition of the Ensemble was relaxed in 1989 and since then it has served as a musical forum for established musicians to perform together and maintain friendships and for newer musicians to be introduced to the joys of playing for a major dance function. To give some idea of the scope and influence of the Heritage Ensemble – there have been over a hundred different musicians play under its banner, with about 15% being young players (often offspring of older players). Some have been constant from the beginning, some have stayed for a few years and others just one year. Some have arranged tunes, composed harmonies, written out music, researched suitable dances and tunes, liaised with committees, or organised PA.

Players who have stood out as contributors to the Ensemble over the years should be acknowledged:

  • Ralph Pride who probably planted the initial ideas in my head

  • Wayne Richmond – keen to see our music well organised and documenting the years photographically on his website

  • Helen Romeo – always there to prompt me about band costume and rehearsal dates

  • George Bolliger – reliably on the tunes and happy to let me know which sets he didn’t like

  • Bob Foggin – serious about playing the music well and the butt of our gentle humour (rules for Ensemble playing)

Then there have been the many stalwarts whose contribution and support has been truly amzing and yet humbling

  • Steve Lockwood, Chris Poleson, Simon Farugia, Bob Bolton, Jill Stubington, Eric Eisler, Richard Evans, Micheala Simoni, Don Brian, Samantha O’Brien, Tony and Jude Stuart, Bec McCullum, Les Love, Wilga McDonald, Nancy Nicholls, Bill Montgomery

All have played in a wonderful spirit of musical cooperation. 

The documentation of the Heritage Ensemble rightly belongs on the BMC website. In the meantime a gallery of the many iterations of the Heritage Ensemble is on my website. Many other wonderful photos, documenting the Heritage Ensemble, were taken at rehearsals and performance by Wayne Richmond and are on his website 

A belated attempt to note who has performed with the Heritage Ensemble is also given on the website. It is not possible to guarantee the accuracy of these tables and shortcomings and inaccuracies are my responsibility. A missing name should not taken as a personal slight, but rather the result of befuddled and belated perusing of lists and photos.

I hope this has given you some idea of the history and background to the Heritage Ensemble and its place in the story of the Bush Music Club’s 70 year history.


Rules for Playing in the Heritage Ensemble

  1. A wrong note played timidly is a wrong note. A wrong note played with authority is an interpretation.

  2. Tuning your instrument before playing is optional, better to stand out from the crowd.

  3. If you play a wrong note, give a nasty look to one of your neighbours.

  4. If everyone gets lost except you, follow those who get lost.

  5. Markings for slurs, dynamics and ornaments should not be observed. They are only there to embellish the score.

  6. Scottish snaps are optional.

  7. If you are completely lost, stop everyone and say, "I think we should tune."

  8. When everyone else has finished playing, you should not play any notes you have left. If you have notes left over, please play them on the way home.

  9. Happy are those who have not perfect pitch, for the kingdom of music is theirs.

  10. Stop at every repeat sign, and discuss in detail whether to take the repeat.

  11. Listen carefully for the page number of the set being played and ask at least twice which page we should be on.

  12. Tell your neighbour a different number, they’ll appreciate the humour later.

  13. Everyone should play the same piece, however starting times are best when varied through the ensemble.

  14. Take your time finding pages.

  15. The right note at the wrong time is a wrong note (and vice versa).

  16. A true interpretation is realized when there remains not one note of the original.

  17. If a passage is difficult, slow down. If it's easy, speed it up. Everything will work itself out in the end.

  18. If the ensemble has to stop because of you, explain in detail why you got lost. Everyone will be very interested.

  19. Strive to get the maximum NPS (notes per second). That way you gain the admiration of the incompetent.

  20. Keep a fingering chart handy. You can always catch up with the others later.

  21. When the conductor is smiling at you you have done the right thing, unless you are in the fiddle section.

  22. When the conductor smiles at the fiddle section it is sarcastic and they have just missed an introduction or solo section.

  23. Expression, phrasing and vibrato are damaging to the collective and are irrelevant.

  24. The conductor is right, even when he is wrong.

  25. Rests are provided in the music to allow you some space for individual musical expression.

  26. Don’t follow Bob Foggin.

  27. EVER!

  28. Rehearsal of arrangements has nothing to do with the peformance. Just do your own thing.

  29. Make up your own dance tempo. The conductor has his back to the dancers, so what would he know.

  30. Don't ever turn up on time; no-one else will be there.

  31. Ignore the conductor - he's only swatting at flies.

  32. Appreciate the race for beat supremacy between the piano and percussion.

  33. Torment the wind section by offering them sweets just before it's their turn to play the lead introduction.

  34. Introductions should never be played at the tempo set by the conductor.

  35. Introductions should be barely audible so the full band sounds really good when (and if) they join in.

  36. The frilly bits organised at rehearsal are optional in performance.


Margaret Bradford at Chris Kempster's wake (Ros Young photo) 

Margaret Bradford’s BMC memories 1983 to 2024

I have some wonderful memories of the Bush Music Club at Tritton Hall in Addison Road Marrickville, meeting the renowned folklorist, collector of Australian traditional music and artifacts, John Meredith, as well as participating in the many BMC events

In that 30+ year period I sang with and shared the stage with musicians such as Chris Kempster, Dave de Hugard, Alex Hood, Margaret Walters to name just a few and Bob Bolton whose photos have left an amazing record of BMC memorabilia, and the inevitable popular Friday Night concerts followed by dances in the little hall, which was a must most Friday nights for us for many years

We often enjoyed and participated in Margaret Walters popular Friday Theme Nights for years.

In October 1985 I was awarded first prize in the song, tune and verse writing competition for putting the poem, “Song of the Shirt” by Thomas Hood to music  and in the same competition in the category of ‘Old tune New music’"section I gained a Highly commended for putting a tune to the poem “The Last Mail has been Run” (may have been write by Henry Kendall)?

In 1989 I participated in the BMC Festival in Parramatta Park amphitheater in association with Parramatta Foundation week along with Allan Scott, Vince Brophy, Jim Haynes, Sonia Bennett, and Craig Edmondseo plus many bands. It was an Open Air weekend celebration, free to the public.

The chorus and harmony singing workshop I ran at the 1992 BMC Festival held at Glebe Public school proved to be very popular. At the same festival I had a concert spot in the evening. There were also many other items on the programme such as the European Influence On Australian Dance, Music for Beginners,  String workshop and the annual Early Members Reunion.

In 2015 at one of the many popular Friday night “Australian Songs in Concert and sessions at Dukes Place” I sang. Some of the other performers who featured on these concerts were Robin Connaughton, Gary Tooth, Margaret and Bob Fagan, Mike Martin, John Warner, Chris Maltby,

These are just a few of the many wonderful memories I have of the BMC festivals and concerts at Tritton Hall

Unfortunately I cannot be at the grand 70th BMC Anniversary celebrations at Goulburn. I know it will be very special event.  I will be in Norfolk Island catching up on some very early Australian history!



Margaret Bradford


Frank on Bush Bass, 1963. (Maher collection)

Frank Maher's memories, read by his daughter Helen Golak as Frank could not be present. 

to be added



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