When the Queen came to Newcastle in 1977, she met prime minister Malcolm Fraser on the Royal Yacht Britannia.
It’s part of Newcastle folklore that when Mr Fraser arrived at the harbour to board the vessel to meet the Queen, protesters pelted his vehicle with tomatoes.
The protest was against the threatened closure of Newcastle State Dockyard and the federal government's shipbuilding policy.
Mount Hutton’s John Ure was reminded of the incident when he read Steve O’Brien’s recent article about “radical Newcastle” and a subsequent letter to the editor.
John recalled that a bloke by the name of Reg Date had a pacifying effect on history that famous day at the docks.
Reg, who died in 1995, was a famous Newcastle-based soccer player, who was dubbed “the Don Bradman of Football”.
He scored 664 goals in his career and represented his country. In 2000, he was selected as a member of the Australian team of the century, alongside the likes of Ray Baartz, Ned Zelic and Mark Bosnich.
John said Reg was also famous for having once broken the bar of soccer goalposts, with a bullet-like kick.
Anyhow, in his later years, Reg ran the Albion Hotel at Wickham.
“We used to call it the Wickham Hilton,” John said.
On the day of the Queen’s visit to the docks, John was keeping an eye on things – working as a plainclothes police officer.
“A gang of dockyard workers marched down Hannell Street,” he said.
Reg caught wind of the planned protest.
“He put a sign out the front of his pub, ‘Free beer in honour of the visit of Her Majesty’. Half the protesters went in there and got on the turps,” John said.
“So only a relatively small contingent got to the wharf. There was no trouble at all really. That was his contribution to peace. He was a really good bloke.”
Don’t you just love it when life imitates art. Or, in this case, when life mocks a sign.
The sign, in Union Street in Newcastle West, says “Life Without Barriers” – reflecting the name of a non-profit organisation that helps disadvantaged people.
But have a look at the bottom of the photo. There you’ll see a yellow and black barrier.
It’s funny how the truth almost always has a way of coming out.
There’s been a bit in the news lately about women’s rugby league.
This sparked a memory for Lambton’s Phil Mahoney. Phil coached a girls’ rugby league side in 1972 in Newcastle. They were known as the West Rosettes.
“I was coaching for Wests juniors. The secretary asked me if I could put together a women’s team,” he said.
The team played a match against the Leichhardt Wildcats at Kentish Oval in Lambton.
“It was the toughest game I’ve ever seen. One of the Wildcats grabbed one of our girls by the ponytail, as she raced for the try line,” Phil said.
“It was reported the next day in the Newcastle Herald that a new tackle had been invented called the ‘ponytail tackle’, which was guaranteed to stop an opponent dead in their tracks.”
The next time this ponytail puller ran with the ball, two Rosettes “got this woman in a sandwich tackle and flattened her”.
A doctor entered the field of play to check on the woman, who was found to be OK.
“He was a funny doctor. He was a smoker and drinker. You’d go into his surgery and he’d be smoking,” Phil said.
Phil is looking for old photos of the match. If you have some, send them to email@example.com and we’ll pass them on.
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