Naremburn Personalities

[Updated 29 April 2009]

When the 85 year old Eric Wilksch passed away a chapter in Naremburn’s, and indeed Willoughby’s, history was completed.

Born and educated in the Barossa Valley of South Australia, Eric served with the RAAF during WWII and then worked until his retirement with the NSW Department of Agriculture, also being seconded to the Commonwealth Departments of Primary Industry and Plant Quarantine.

In 1950 Eric and his wife Violet, settled in Market Street, Naremburn. He became involved in many community activities. Eric was the longest serving President of the Naremburn Progress Association (NPA) - 1960 to 1990. Through the Naremburn Amenities Development Association (NADA) he worked to establish a Hall, a Children’s Library, Public Gymnasium and Baby Health Centre.

He was founding President of the Crows Nest Gardening Club, serving 30 years in that position, and, a founding President of the Willoughby Environmental Protection Association (WEPA) as well as a member of the Flat Rock Area Conservation Action Society. Eric worked strenuously to preserve bushland in the Flat Rock Creek area, recorded its flora and helped build what is called Wilksch Walk from Brook Street end of the Gully to Tunks Park.

Eric was a foundation member of the Willoughby District Historical Society and Museum and a member of the Willoughby Bicentennial Community Committee. His book The Naremburn Story was published as part of the Bicentenary and is available at our Naremburn Library. Eric also completed a history of St Cuthbert’s Anglican Church.

In 1984 Eric Wilksch received the Willoughby Municipal Council Citizen of the Year Award for services to the community.

A heart attack and triple bypass in 1996 slowed him down. At his passing in 2002, Willoughby Mayor Pat Reilly said:

“Eric’s passing is a very sad day for Willoughby. He made a great contribution to the area not only in the historical recognition of places of interest; but his heavy involvement in environmental issues, especially around Naremburn”.

In addition to Wilksch Walk in Flat Rock Gully, a lane in west Naremburn honours his name.

[Updated 29 April 2009]

William Prentice was born in Ermington Sydney, one of six children.

Like his four brothers, Bill attended St Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill, completing his Leaving Certificate in 1936. With the benefit of a scholarship, he enrolled in Arts and Law at Sydney University where he joined the University Regiment, and, as a man of duty, volunteered for service at the outbreak of WWII. He was sent to the Middle East with the 2/33 Battalion. He was recalled to support the militia in the defence of Australia and was involved in the ferocious Owen Stanley Campaign and fought on the Kokoda Track. Bill returned on one of the undefended troopships that Prime Minister John Curtin brought home. He was mentioned in dispatches and was awarded an MBE.

In 1946 he married Mary Dignam, a teacher and a member of an Eastern Suburbs family well known in the legal profession. Bill was admitted to the bar in 1947. After the war, he continued his interest in Papua New Guinea and its people. He became a member of the Council of PNG Affairs that was responsible for the promotion of legal education for Papua New Guineans. He was influential in the establishment of the Faculty of Law at the University of PNG. As Independence approached he encouraged young Papuan New Guineans to study law. Many in the pursuit of their degree stayed in the Prentice home in Olympia Road, Naremburn.

In 1970, he was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of PNG, serving on that court for ten years. He was knighted in 1977 becoming PNG’s first Chief Justice in 1978 after Independence. His time on the bench transacted the momentous years of change through Self Government, Independence and Post Independence. Bill was responsible for many leading judgments, particularly in the area of constitutional interpretation, that have had a profound effect upon the development of the law in PNG. When he resigned as Chief Justice in 1980 he returned to Australia where he served as a senior member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Bill called Naremburn home and was known for his love of cricket, reading, robust Friday night debates and an aversion to television, ironic considering the family home lay in the shadow of the Channel 9 tower. Bill and wife Mary had a great love for the Australian Bush and were pioneers of the native suburban garden.

Both he and his wife were people of deep faith and compassion and were actively involved in the St Leonard’s Catholic Parish of Naremburn. As a member of the St Vincent de Paul Bill visited the needy and lonely. Mary was a relief teacher at St Leonard’s, assisted in remedial reading programmes and helped set up the library at Marist Brothers North Shore. In February 1997 both Bill and Mary joined the Naremburn Progress Association.

A park between Olympia Road and the freeway in west Naremburn was named in honour of Sir William and Lady Mary Prentice on 18 August 2007, in the presence of WCC Mayor Pat Reilly, Naremburn Ward Councillors Lamb, Thompson and Coppock, the Member for Willoughby, Gladys Berejiklian MP, His Excellency Charles Lepani, PNG’s High Commissioner to Australia, and the Prentice children Damien, Toby, Felicity and Jacinta, his brother, Gordon, and members of the Naremburn Community.

Gordon Prentice, an NPA member, still lives in Glenmore Street.

[Updated 29 April 2009]

In the commemorative centenary booklet, Naremburn Public School 1888-1987, is stated:-
“Despite the small enrolment, results in inter-school competitions were good. This was the time when, arguably our most famous ‘old boy’ Fred Stolle was making his mark. He was already beyond schoolboy standards in tennis, so devoted his talents to cricket and football."

It was in tennis that Fred was to become a legend and belatedly recognised for his academic achievements.

Born in Hornsby, NSW, in October 1938, Fred completed his education at Naremburn achieving his Intermediate in 1953. The rest is history. Stolle went on to win eighteen Grand Slam Championships ranking seventh on the all time list of Champions. A member of Australia’s Davis Cup team from 1964 until 1967, he won thirteen of his fourteen matches while playing on four victorious teams. His tremendous talents earned him the world number one ranking in 1966. His career spanned the amateur and open eras. He was in the world Top Ten for four years from 1963 and turned professional in 1967. With the nickname ‘Fiery’ he won the French and US Opens and was twice a singles finalist in the Australian Open, three times Wimbledon Singles Finalist in 1963, 1964 and 1965.

Fred was an accomplished doubles player with sixteen Grand Slam titles including the US Open, two US mixed doubles, two Wimbledon doubles, three Wimbledon mixed doubles, two French Open men’s doubles, three men’s doubles and one mixed doubles at the Australian Open.

When the Naremburn School Centenary Committee was sifting through old records they came across a number of unclaimed Intermediate Certificates. Unaware that Fred Stolle, tennis legend, was an ‘old boy’, a number of phone calls revealed that the unclaimed certificate in the name of ‘Frederick Sydney Stolle’ was that of THE Fred Stolle. Fortunately Fred, who was then based in Miami, Florida, was due to visit Sydney. He was able to claim his 1953 Intermediate Certificate from the Principal, Mr Bill Shea, and the seven members of the Centenary Committee, “in the congenial surroundings of the Manly Pacific Hotel”. One of the seven, Jann Hoyos, still lives in Dalleys Road.

Fred’s son, Sandon, born 1970, became a tennis pro and represented Australia in the Davis Cup. He won one Grand Slam event, the US doubles, and in 2001 reached a two ranking in world double play.

Fred is known to us today as a tennis commentator and analyst on Channel 9’s Wide World of Sport.

Places of Interest

A decision to build a bridge over Flat Rock Creek was first made on 1 November 1866 when Willoughby’s first Councillors, elected in 1865, observed “That the Chairman (Mayor) be directed to call for tenders for erecting a Bridge over the creek at North Sydney.” At this time Willoughby was known as North Sydney in contrast to St Leonards, (now North Sydney). The first bridge was built in 1868 but a flash flood washed away the rocklined northern approaches.

The present bridge – constructed in 1886 and designed by JS Wigram – still bears the inscription “erected 1886 H Fleming Mayor.” The bridge has been rebutressed (1890) and strengthened (1896) to support a tramline which ran to the corner of Penshurst St and Willoughby Rd. In 1960 it lost the two sandstone pillars at each end, and today is one of Sydney’s few remaining sandstone bridges.

Observing deterioration of the structure the NPA in 2006 made representation to our Loval Member Gladys Berejiklian. After repeated letters to the Minister for Roads, the bridge has been cleaned and repointed (2008).

Naremburns first Catholic Church and School was founded in 1894 in Market St alongside the first Church of England on lots 38 & 39. On Sundays the school became a Church Hall. A new school/Church was built in 1904. However a building for exclusive use as a church was required and a site on the corner of Willoughby and Donnelly Roads was selected. This was part of the Alexander Dodds Estate, section of the original grant of JS Ryan in 1849 and popularly known as Dodd’s Picnic Grounds. The central section of the Church, capable of seating 600 was designed by JT McCarthy, builders, Messers Brown & Haynes of Marrickville and was completed in 1913.

It was placed under the patronage of St Leonard of Port Maurice (Feast Day 26 November). A Francescan Friar born in Genoa, Italy. Plans included twin spire towers but these were changed to a single spire which was ultimately completed in 1955 and stands as a landmark for our district.

The present school was built in 1932. Most of the materials were recycled from the Market St building, including 39,000 briicks. The school closed in 1996. Currently there are meeting with Members of Willoughby Council, representatives of the Catholic and State Education Offices, the NPA and local concerned residents. Naremburn looks forward to its own school.

St Leonards was the last parish to welcome the World Youth Day (July 2008) Cross and Icon and played host to 600 Dutch Pilgrims who gathered there for special instruction and worship.

Gordon Prentice, an NPA member, still lives in Glenmore Street.

The Naming of the Lanes of Naremburn

In 2008, un-named lanes within the Willoughby City Council Local Government Area (LGA) were named; 16 Naremburn lanes now honour some of our past residents who contributed to our community.

Barnes Lane: A privately owned bus service, commenced by Stanley Francis Barnes in the 1920s, operated from Naremburn, and was run by his son, Harold F J Barnes.

Broome Lane: In 1916, John Broome was appointed Headmaster at Naremburn Public School and held the position until 1932.

Bucknall Lane: Charles H Bucknall (LLCM) sought pupils for pianoforte tuition. A concert pianist (gold medallist), he resided at 116 Northcote Street

Burke Lane: John Burke, a founding member of our Progress Association.

Carden Lane: Carden Lane Sign Edwin Edward de Baskerville Carden presided over the public meeting at the Temperance Hall in Central Street on 27 November 1901, for residents who showed concern for Naremburn’s future welfare. A builder and leading figure in the community, when the meeting decided to form itself into a Progress Association, he declined the position of President in favour of another public-spirited citizen, Harold McBurney.

Corbett Lane: Corbett was an early member of the Naremburn Progress Association.

Crowley Lane:; Jeremy Crowley was the first Treasurer of the NPA

Faunce Lane: A D Faunce of Garland Road, an Alderman, Deputy Mayor 1964-66; President of the NPA; also President of the NPA sponsored Naremburn Amenities Development Association (NADA) when the Baby Health Centre, Public Hall and Library were opened on 18 October 1958. His wife, Ivy, was awarded Willoughby Council’s Citizen of the Year 1973 for her outstanding charity work.

Furnedge Lane: Furnedge was an early member of the NPA.

Hutton Lane: An early member of the NPA and an Alderman of Willoughby Council.

John Allen Lane: John Allen lived in Olympia Road; a member of the NPA, he held various office-bearer positions in the NPA; also President of the Federation of Willoughby Progress Associations (FWPA) from 1995 until his death in September 2007; to read more about John Geoffrey Allen, see Naremburn Matters issues for December 2007 and June 2008 on this website.

Kershaw Lane: H J Kershaw was a founding member of the NPA

Medlands Lane: The Medlands Cup was for the Annual Gents’ Singles Championships held at was known as the Remah Tennis Courts, in Grafton Avenue; the courts were laid down in 1928. The trophy went missing for many years and eventually turned up in a box of odds and ends left for a charity white elephant stall.

Schultz Lane: C Schultz, a local builder, was elected Auditor of the 1901 NPA

Swann Lane: William Swann, foundation Headmaster, Naremburn Public School, 1887.

Woodcock Lane: Easter’s Grocery was in business on the corner of Rohan Street. Later this shop was conducted by Joseph Woodcock as a family business; the whole family was a driving force in the Congregational Church and Joseph Woodcock was recognised with a Life Deaconate in 1947.