Arthur Oliver

(Much of the story below comes from Lewis Oliver, youngest son of Arthur and Catherine Oliver, and edited and added to by myself - Stuart Oliver)

Arthur 'Pop' Oliver

This is only a temporary story of Arthur and Catherine Oliver, as their history is steeped in mystery and conjecture at this point in time.

Arthur Oliver was born in Redfern, Sydney, NSW, 1 April 1883, the second child of John George William Oliver and Sarah Woods.

In 1906, at Waverley, Sydney, he married Catherine (Kate) McGrath, who was born at Boorowa, NSW, 4 July 1887, probably the fourth child of James McGrath and Margaret Jane West.

Arthur lived in Dulwich Hill, Sydney, and was apprenticed to the Sydney Morning Herald daily newspaper, which operated near Circular Quay.

Arthur said he used to walk to work, which would be no mean feat, even for a young man.

He said that he had to go past some sort of asylum, and he used to fill his pockets with stones to throw, in case someone (a "maddy" he used to call them) chased him.

Arthur was apprenticed for seven years, and said he spent 7 years as a horse, as the apprentices had to pull a cart full of papers all the way from the Quay to Central Railway.

At the end of his apprenticeship he, and other apprentices, were automatically sacked for 12 months, with their jobs returned to them at that time. (This, apparently, was the custom.)

His youngest son, Lewis, told me:

"Dad went to New Zealand and got a job building roads.

"There he met one of the Cavill's whom Dad always said was the first man to swim the English Channel.

"The Cavill's are, of course, at Surfer’s Paradise, and I can remember when Cavill’s Hotel used to be on its own there. Cavill Avenue is named after them.

"Cavill borrowed two pounds off Dad and gave him a ring with a whitish sort of stone, which Dad wore for the rest of his life.

"Mum had it made into a Brooch, but where it is today, I do not know. I think Joyce (my sister) had all that stuff - photos and such - but I think she gave all of it to Gail (my sister Mazel’s daughter) who was interested, but, of course, she died leaving about 6 children who, I assume, just chucked it all away.

Lewis Oliver [left] with wife, Molly Rees [centre] and Margaret Oliver

"Dad came back to the Sydney Morning Herald and received 2/6d per week (25c). He said he got a pint of beer and a big billy of soup for 3d (3c).

"He and three others came up to Tamworth and started the Northern Daily Leader newspaper. Albert Joseph had the money; Dad had the mechanical skills, as he was taught by the Linotype people themselves, and the other two I have forgotten.

"I will always remember Dad sitting at the Linotype Machine, always wearing a waistcoat with a couple of little spanners in the pockets to change the moulds on the machine. He was the only one I knew who used all his fingers on the Linotype keyboard."

(I learned my trade as a Linotype Operator under a man named Harry Viles, who in turn learned from Arthur, and always told me that Arthur was the fastest Linotype operator he ever knew.-Stuart Oliver)

My memories of "Pop" Oliver are of a gentle giant. He was a large man in every way . . . big of frame, and big of heart. A very jovial man.

I have been told that, unfortunately, he liked a "drink", and that he would come home drunk and my "Nan" would have to be spirited away through the fence to the neighbour's home until he had settled down.

Not that he violent; just large and clumsy when drunk. As with most men like him, the next day would see him most contrite.

He was always prepared to give us kids a good time, and I remember one "cracker night" in particular. This would be in the early 1940’s, shortly after the Japanese entered the Second World War. (I judge the time because Bert Brennan, Mazel’s husband, had just arrived home on leave from the Middle East, prior to being sent north - I think - to fight the Japanese.)

Anyway, they had been digging out fence posts at the rear of the house, preparing to replace them. Crackers in those days came in all sizes

from Tom Thumbs to giant bungers 6 inches long and 1 inch in diameter, and we would spend weeks building a huge bonfire in the backyard of Pop Oliver’s home.

Sometime during this particular evening, he lit one of these giant bungers and threw it towards the back fence. It landed in a hole around one of the fence posts they were removing and it blew it out of the ground.

Naturally, we kids never got to play with these "big bungers"! I guess they were just for the big kids!

All three of Arthur’s sons followed him in working for the Northern Daily Leader.

"Pop" with grandson, Bobby Brennan.

Staff of Northern Daily Leader, 1920's   Left: Staff of the Northern Daily Leader taken in early 1920s, showing Arthur at rear, son Arthur James at left, and owner Albert Joseph in front.