Presidents Report

President’s 2021 Report

I suspect that anyone giving an annual report about this time, will say what an ‘unusual’ year it has been. I certainly did not think that I would spend much of the year cancelling events due to Covid- 19 but that is what happened. 2020 was the Society’s 50th anniversary and we had planned a special event for November outside Carss Cottage with the Governor of NSW as guest of honour. We waited until September before making the decision to cancel, but in the end the restrictions on numbers and spacing made it too difficult. It was disappointing but fortunately we were still able to celebrate our 50th with the launch of a wonderful book on the History of the Society, written by Beverley Earnshaw and launched by our patron, Kevin Greene, Mayor of Georges River Council, at the annual Christmas lunch.

Meetings were suspended from March to September and the Cottage closed for several months. During this time we kept in touch with members through monthly updates, either mailed or emailed and the Committee continued to meet each month through hook ups or Zoom. The newsletter also continued, edited by Beverley Earnshaw, who in this 250th anniversary of James Cook’s arrival at Botany Bay, gave us four articles on aspects of his voyages, the last one taking him home to England.

Our competition for Primary Schools on Sailing with Captain Cook was affected by the coronavirus and there were a disappointing number of entries. However, a winner was chosen and a visit made to present prizes and certificates of participation to boys at Scots College Preparatory School.

Numbers have remained stable but we lost four treasured members this year – Joan Fairhall, Graeme Schroeder and Beryl and Norm Butters. Beryl and Norm were foundation members and it is fitting that Council has renamed the Oatley Seniors Centre after them.

School of Arts
Face to face meetings at the School of Arts resumed in September, under COVIDsafe conditions, and it was pleasing to see the enthusiasm of members to come together – in fact on occasions we reached the maximum allowed in the hall. Our speakers this year were Barbara Appleton, Tracking Mr Sharpe; Edith Ziegler on New Italy in Northern NSW; Ian Macfarlane on 10 Remarkable Australians and last month Gillian Lewis on James Cook’s Endeavour and the search for her wreck. It takes a number of people to make these meetings happen and thanks are due to Neil Gould for technical support, Robert McGarn & Glynn Pulling who help set up, Judy Reynolds who always comes early to help, Elaine Filewood and Pat Young who do the afternoon teas and Miryam and Niver Rodriguez who make people feel so welcome when they come in and generally assist on the day. A special mention should be made of Betty Goodger who never fails to come up with appropriate remarks when invited to give a vote of thanks to the speaker.

The Museum
The Museum is a major focus of the Society and it was disappointing to have to close for several months. The coronavirus has meant that we have had fewer group tours than usual – five in all and only two Mondays at the Museum. Heritage Stoneworks visited in September and demonstrated their work with sandstone which was most interesting and in November Bob and Laurel Horton from St Peter’s Heritage, dressed in colonial dress, gave us The Social History of Tempe House. We still open on Sundays from 1pm – 5pm in summer months and 1pm – 4pm in winter. This year we had our Carss Park brochure translated into Mandarin and this has proved to be very useful. The grant we received to assist in publicising the Wedding Dress was used to copy videos and to install mirrors and better lighting to improve the display of the dress. In all we have had 381 visitors this year, well down on last year. We have missed having a band playing once a month on a Sunday at the Cottage and hope we will be able to organise this to start again. COVID restrictions and the retirement of Ed Starr both contributed.

Despite the closures, we managed to put up a new exhibition in the Cottage on Kogarah’s Amazing Achievers and thanks are due to Beverley Earnshaw who did the majority of the preparation for this and also managed to get publicity in the Leader. The Committee has had three working bees at the Cottage, tidying and de-accessioning some items that were more suitable for other organisations or surplus to our requirements. There are many volunteers at the Cottage – in addition to the Committee, Harvey Langford, Joe Spinelli, Heather Campbell and Miryam and Niver Rodgriguez are on the regular roster for Sunday afternoons. Niver is a good handyman and Miryam even took home all the lace curtains and washed them this year. Wendy Agzarian has assumed major responsibility for the Museum, booking group tours, improving displays etc and we now have a Collections policy and a new cataloguing system.

Georges River Council
Our lease on the Cottage has expired and we await an invitation to put in an expression of interest to continue running Carss Cottage as a Museum. The Committee is seeking a meeting with Council to clarify several issues relating to our tenancy. Council is aware of the heritage listing of the Cottage and as such maintains the exterior and took immediate action after the Cottage was damaged by vandals. Repairs were made and Council has now installed sensor lights for which we are grateful.

We put in successful nominations for historic plaques, the most notable being for the Edith Blake reserve. Our campaign to call the small green area opposite the private hospital after Edith Blake, a WW1 nurse, was successful and a sign has been erected. When the historic plaque is installed we hope to hold a small ceremony with relatives of Edith.

The Committee
The Society is well served by this committee and I would like to thank them all for the efforts they have made over the past year. Particular thanks to Cath Sullivan who is stepping down after 21 years as Treasurer but I am pleased to say has agreed to stay on the Committee. All the Committee volunteer at the Cottage – Glynn Pulling is a wonderful help and seems to be able to turn his hand to anything, Robert McGarn is always available to assist and does the minutes for meetings, Adele Ryan, Vice President, co-ordinates Mondays at the Museum and is at every working bee. I have already mentioned Wendy Agzarian and her role and the many skills of Beverley Earnshaw. Elaine Filewood is always a willing worker, Pat Young rose to the occasion and took over the catering for Mondays at the Museum assisted by Barbara Davids. Anne Williams as the newest member of the committee is now an integral part of it and is taking on a big responsibility in accepting nomination as Treasurer. I must also thank Fred Scott, who is not on the committee but does a sterling job in maintaining our website, an essential for organisations in this day and age.

I hope that 2021-2022 will be a successful year – it is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Museum so with as much confidence as one dares to have in these times – expect an event to celebrate. May we all have a happy and healthy year and the Society continue to prosper and grow.

Gill Whan

President March 2021